Thursday, May 5, 2016

Wendy Guerra - The Most Unbearable Thing in Cuba is Lack of a Free Press

Wendy Guerra: The Most Unbearable Thing in Cuba is Lack of a Free Press
/ EFE, 14ymedio

EFE (from 14ymedio), Barcelona, 4 May 2016 — The Cuban writer Wendy
Guerra, who has just published the novel Domingo de
Revolution (Revolution Sunday), a sort of autofiction on her imagined
Cuba, said with regards to the future of her country, "to be healed, the
wounds must be named."

Guerra has revealed that she began writing the novel on the death of
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to whom it is dedicated and whose death she
received as 'the death of an intellectual left," and she finished it
when Raul Castro reached an agreement with United States president
Barack Obama.

"Obama, an African-American, but also, in the end, an Afro-Cuban, came
to the island, charmed us, and now we have to find another enemy, one
who is not Cuban," adds Guerra, who was born in 1970 in Havana.

The writer, who continues to live in Cuba, considers herself fortunate
to have been a student at Garcia Marquez's workshop "How to tell a
story," in San Antonio de los Baños: "Gabo gave me the gift of his
literature, as he did to everyone, but to me he also gave the gift of a
trip to the world."

Her relationship with Gabo and with Silvio Rodriguez has been "the only
proof of democracy" she has had in Cuba, she confesses, and adds, "They
have a way of talking with me and my own point of view, and I want my
country to work this way."

Guerra believes that "blogs and local papers have exposed many pains
with this provincialism, but we have to prepare something and have
something to talk about anywhere, because if we don't we get together
and we can't put forward what our country should be."

Aware that in Cuba "they will not allow us that," Wendy Guerra writes
these books, which are "spaces for dialogue."

During her presentation in Barcelona, Wendy Guerra did not tire of
demanding "dialogue and dialogue" and she hopes that, as has been said
many times, "in the future, the Cuban exile and Cubans on the island are
condemned to understand each other."

The author of Everyone Leaves, winner of the 2006 Bruguera prize,
believes that something is changing in Cuba and pointed to a possible
turning point that occurred "at the moment (Leonardo) Padura asked why
Trotsky's murderer went to live to Cuba."

She expressed her gratitude to her Spanish publisher and its Latin
American branches, because "they are greatly helping the discussion in
Cuba of what cannot be discussed," and "the value of Domingo de
Revolución has been to find a poetic voice to explain such difficult

Domingo de Revolución (Anagram) began as a short story, which was
entitled "The Spy" and sent to Ana Maria Moix, who invited her to turn
the story into a novel.

The starting point was "the belief that there was a CIA agent on the
island, while the exile thought he was being trained by Cuban
intelligence to blow up the intelligentsia in exile."

Guerra speaks of her country from autofiction and plays with the reader
using the confusion between the author and the protagonist of her novel,
Cleo, a young woman poet living in Havana who has found international
success and who narrates the end of a long revolutionary process of
nearly 60 years.

"Cleo could have existed from the 60s to now; she is a contemporary Joan
of Arc, a domestic heroine," summarizes Guerra, who shares with her
character, "a great respect for the exile, because it hurts us," but
distances herself from her protagonist: "I am neither a heroine nor a
victim, I have a great deal of fear."

Of the difficulties Guerra experiences in her country, the least
bearable is "not having a press that reports the reality," and when she
travels to promote her novels outside the country, she feels Spanish
journalists represent "their own point of view, in the face of this
absence at home."

As a good poet, she uses lyrical images to describe her narrative. "It's
like when, at the end of summer, you go back to a deserted beach filled
with footprints and in my writing I try to identify these footprints, to
know who they belonged to."

Source: Wendy Guerra: The Most Unbearable Thing in Cuba is Lack of a
Free Press / EFE, 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -

Ghost Ship Arrives In Havana

Ghost Ship Arrives In Havana / 14ymedio

14ymedio, 4 May 2016 — In its Tuesday edition, the official Communist
Party newspaper Granma commented on the arrival of the Carnival Lines
cruise ship Adonia in Cuba, with the headline: "US Cruise ship arrives
in Cuba without a single tourist on board." The contrived phrase refers
to the prohibition on Americans traveling to the island as tourists.

The artist Lázaro Saavedra has created a satire on the title in a text,
which is circulating by email. According to the controversial artist,
this information was written by "a phantom journalist for a phantom
newspaper. The phantoms of the phantom cruise ship Adonia are received
in the phantom city of Havana and walk through its streets."

The funny thing is, that while the United States government does not
permit the travelers to behave like tourists, but rather like citizens
who are fulfilling the mission of bringing the two peoples together, the
Cuban government does not accept that a foreigner coming to the island
on a tourist visit can have interactions with "politically incorrect"
people and, thus, is forced to play only the role of a "pure tourist."

Source: Ghost Ship Arrives In Havana / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -

Cuba-Mexico Agree on Return of ‘Illegal’ Migrants

Cuba-Mexico Agree on Return of 'Illegal' Migrants / 14ymedio

14ymedio, 4 May 2016 — The memorandum of understanding between the
governments of Cuba and Mexico that governs migration between the two
countries is now in force. The agreement allows, starting now, automatic
deportations from Mexico to Cuba to "strengthen cooperation between the
two countries in the fight against illegal migration, human trafficking
and smuggling." Signed on 6 November of last year, the agreement went
into effect on 1 May, as confirmed in a statement from Cuba's Ministry
of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday.

Starting now, Cuba agrees to accept the return of citizens who enter
Mexican territory illegally, or who are in Mexico "irregularly" after
emigrating illegally to countries in Central America, or "who are
temporarily abroad within legal terms established by its immigration
regulations and have an 'irregular immigration status' in the Mexican
territory, except those authorized to travel to the United States of

Returns will be made by air, or as an exception where appropriate by
sea, and the cost will be borne by the sending country. Irregular
migrants who are intercepted should be reported to their countries of
origin, which must respond within 15 days to initiate the return. This
will take effect a maximum of 15 days after receiving a response.

Since 2008, Mexican immigration legislation provides for deportations
involving the interception of boats, the capture of traffickers and the
"realization of operations to return the nationals of both parties by sea."

In practice, however, the Mexican government is awarding legal status to
a good part of the irregular Cuban migrants detained in their territory,
sheltering them under the "law of refugees and complementary
protection," approved in 2012, and guaranteeing the undocumented the
chance to not be returned to "the territory of another country where
their life was threatened or they were in danger of being subjected to
torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment," even if they
were not recognized as refugees.

In the last migration crisis, Mexico participated actively in the
agreement with Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador, receiving more than
6,000 Cubans who were offered provisional documents on humanitarian
grounds to stay in the country for 20 days and continue on their way to
the United States. Despite the agreement that has just come into force,
solutions like this could continue to happen under Article 19, which
provides for the suspension of the agreement "for reasons of protection
of public order or state security, as well as for health reasons or
force majeure," that is circumstances beyond the control of either party.

The memorandum also states that citizens of any country who are not
covered in the agreement of 1994 for the abolition of the visa
requirement, must obtain the relevant documentation and both Cuba and
Mexico agree to exchange available information.

Relations between Cuba and Mexico have strengthened in recent months,
particularly since the visit of Raul Castro to the that country in
November 2015. One result of the trip is the Binational Chamber of
Commerce, presented this Monday, which involves several collaborative
programs (academic-diplomatic, tourism and food) and a letter of intent
for technical collaboration in basic education.

Source: Cuba-Mexico Agree on Return of 'Illegal' Migrants / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -

Private Kindergartens Are Growing In Numbers

Private Kindergartens Are Growing In Numbers / 14ymedio Yosmany Mayeta

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 28 April 2016 — Kids play in
the living room with pieces of legos, wooden toys and some soft toys.
The place is bright and two specialized assistants keep each infant
under their watchful eyes. Behind the door, the license of the
self-employed owner hangs in a frame. Due to the deterioration of
state-owned day care centers, private kindergartens are growing in
number, supported by the new law.

The Government proposed to reverse this situation at the 55th
anniversary of the founding of children's day care centers. To achieve
this, it not only seeks to significantly expand the capacity, but also
totally renovate many of the sites and raise the quality of staff
training working in such a sensitive sector.

At the end of 2014, 1,078 private kindergarten were running under state
control with an enrollment of 139,878 children. As of the middle of last
year, at least 49,000 families who had applied for an opening at one of
these centers still had not gotten a response, according to insight
provided by the National Director of Preschool Education for the
Ministry of Education, Maria de los Angeles Gallo Sanchez.

The official, however, said that each year the enrollment for day care
centers increases with more than 2,000 openings, although she
acknowledged that there is insufficient growth to meet demand in the
country. Various specialists consulted by this newspaper believe that
issue is also one cause of the country's low birth rate.

In 1978, the global rate of fertility in Cuba fell below the 2.1
children per woman and in 2012 reached a worrying rate of 1.69, a figure
that it threatens to turn Cuba into the ninth most aged country in the
world. But even that fall in the birth rate has not eased the problems
for families seeking to access a place in the day care centers.

In order to be enrolled at this level of education, a child needs as an
indispensable requirement that her mother is actively working. However,
complying with that requirement does not guarantee a space. Municipal
commissions charged with allocating spaces analyze each case and grant
the opening in correspondence with the demand for economic and social
development of the territory.

Once the opening is obtained, the family must pay an almost symbolic
monthly fee for the service, which in the case of very low-income
households may be practically null.

Carmen, the electric company worker, is one of the cases of mothers who
have not yet succeeded in getting access for her daughter to one of
these state-own centers. "I filled out the application when the baby
girl was six months old, so that she would be able walk, feed herself,
and say a few words at the time of admission, but so far I have not
received a response."

With a salary that barely exceeds 500 Cuban pesos a month (about $20
US), Carmen is thinking of opting for a place at a private house
dedicated to the care of infants. It would be a significant economic
sacrifice but she says she will feel "more calm" because "there are many
well-prepared people that have left the State sector because of poor
conditions and have built their own child care businesses."

At the end of June 2015 there were 1,726 people devoted to work as
"child care assistants" in the non-state sector in the country, and 34%
of them are in Havana. They range from more modest places, like that of
Juana Núñez, a retired teacher who has opened one of these private day
care centers in her home.

"I'm retired and now I care for 12 children," comments the lady, who
lives in Arroyo Naranjo. "Here I teach them how to walk, talk, eat
alone, in addition to the basic school subjects for their age," she
explains while showing some books with illustrations, learning games and
colored crayons she has for the children to use.

The monthly fee for hiring the Juana's services is a 20 convertible
pesos ($20 US), the monthly salary of a professional. Despite the high
price, the caretaker says that she does not have enough room to respond
to the high demand. "Sometimes parents arrive and assure me that they
can pay more, but I have no space," says the educator.

The more expensive places are also almost full. A private kindergarten
under the direction of Cárdenas Yaquelin is located on the central 23rd
street in Havana. On-site employees have degrees in their respective
specialties and give courses in language, theatre, and other skills. In
addition to that they are proud of their nursing services.

The place is divided into three rooms according to the age. "Each area
can have up to 10 to 12 children with their caretaker and their
assistant. The infant room is air-conditioned and has an educator with 3
certified nannies. We take infants from their first month," details

The prices for a service like that can reach up to 80 convertible pesos
a month, according to the service agreement, which may include lunch,
snacks, uniforms and transportation.

However, Cardenas is not accepting new candidates until she does some
renovation to expand the place. "The only thing I am hoping for is that
after the end of my investment there will be a baby boom and clients
will come in abundance," she speculates. But in the Cuban case, the
stork seems to be unreliable. The most popular nest–the State-owned day
care centers–lack the space and conditions to respond to an eventual
increase in births.

Translated by Alberto

Source: Private Kindergartens Are Growing In Numbers / 14ymedio Yosmany
Mayeta Labrada – Translating Cuba -

Cuba scrambles to keep pace with U.S.-fueled tourism boom

Cuba scrambles to keep pace with U.S.-fueled tourism boom
By Marc Frank
May 5, 2016

HAVANA (Reuters) - The number of U.S. visitors to Cuba has nearly
doubled this year, its tourism minister said on Wednesday, as the island
races to build hotels and expand Havana airport to keep up with booming

Tourism has taken off since Cuba and the United States announced they
would work to bury the Cold War hatchet in December 2014. The Caribbean
island received a record 3.5 million visitors last year.

The influx has pushed capacity to the limit, prompting hotels to sharply
hike prices and raising questions about how Cuba will absorb additional
visitors when scheduled U.S. commercial airline service starts later
this year.

"With the increase in demand there have occurred problems with the
confirmation of reservations and some irritation with delays at the
airports, most of all in Havana," Minister Manuel Marrero said at the
opening of an annual tourism fair.

Still, overall satisfaction with Cuba as a destination was high,
reflected by the fact that nearly half of last year's tourists were
return visitors, he said.

The number of visitors so far in 2016 jumped 13.5 percent on the year to
1.5 million tourists, Marrero said. Of those, 94,000 were Americans, a
93-percent jump on the year, and more than 115,000 were Cuban-Americans.

Cuba's tourism infrastructure is creaking mainly in the capital, where
visits were up 37 percent this year, according to the minister. Almost
all Americans visit Havana as part of their itineraries as they are
banned from the beach.

Marrero said three new hotels were under construction around the
colonial part of the city, bids were in to renovate some existing
establishments, and more were on the drawing board.

He said an airport expansion was planned in Havana, but gave no more

"Until just a little while ago Cuba was a forbidden destination, and not
only for Americans, but for many others from various countries who
feared traveling to the island," tourism professor Jose Luis Perello, of
the University of Havana, said.

European tourism in Cuba was up 60 percent through April of this year,
said Eric Peyre, who heads up the French hospitality company Accor's
operations in the island.

Security threats in other traditional holiday destinations for
Europeans, such as the Middle East and Africa, were adding to the
Caribbean island's allure, he said.

"Air France has 11 flights a week. Last week, they signed for 28 flights
a week from France as from this November, 18 to Havana," he said.

Accor manages three hotels in Cuba, including the 188-room Hotel Seville
in Old Havana, once-favorite hangout of Chicago gangster Al Capone,
which Peyre said was sold out through the end of the year.

"Last year, a room and breakfast at the Seville cost $120, this year
$180, and beginning in November it will cost $280," he said.

(Additional reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Source: Cuba scrambles to keep pace with U.S.-fueled tourism boom -

US visitors to Cuba surge 93 percent

US visitors to Cuba surge 93 percent
May 4, 2016

Havana (AFP) - The number of Americans visiting Cuba surged 93 percent
year-on-year in the first four months of 2016, the Cuban government said

The communist island is basking in its newfound glow as a trendy tourist
destination since Washington and Havana announced a historic
rapprochement in December 2014.

Cuba has welcomed a stream of celebrities and VIPs since then, including
US President Barack Obama, the pope, the Rolling Stones and German
designer Karl Lagerfeld, who presented a Cuban-inspired runway show
Tuesday for French fashion house Chanel.

The United States still maintains a trade and financial embargo on Cuba
that forbids US citizens from traveling to the island for tourism, but
Obama has loosened restrictions to the point that the first US cruise
ship in 50 years was able to dock in Havana Monday.

The Carnival cruise liner circumvented the tourism ban by offering
passengers "cultural exchanges," including meetings with artists,
musicians and business owners, as well as dance classes and guided tours.

In all, 94,000 Americans visited Cuba from January to April, Tourism
Minister Manuel Marrero said at the opening of an international tourism
fair in Havana.

The figure for all of last year came in at more than 160,000, an
increase of 76 percent from 2014, he said.

Cuba welcomed 3.5 million tourists from around the world last year, a 17
percent increase, adding a much-needed $2.8 billion to the economy.

Regular flights from the United States to Cuba are expected to begin
later this year.

The Cuban government has announced an accelerated hotel construction
program to cope with booming demand.

Source: US visitors to Cuba surge 93 percent -

Connecting to Cuba

Connecting to Cuba

A delegation of Seattle businesses leaders traveled to Havana and
explore the opportunities of an alliance between the Northwest and Cuba.
KING 5's Jake Whittenberg was the only journalist on that trip.
Jake Whittenberg, KING 11:00 PM. PDT May 04, 2016

It's one of the most talked about countries in the world, but it's a
place you probably know almost nothing about.

Cuba and the U.S. are opening up to each other, which allowed a
delegation of Seattle business leaders to travel recently to Havana to
explore the opportunities of a Northwest-Cuba alliance.

Welcome to a place just a short flight from U.S. soil, but a world away.
Bursting with energy beyond its ancient walls, Cuba is an emotional
place, deeply rooted in music and pride in quality education.

Yet pride and poverty collide on the streets of Havana still under the
control of a Communist government, but the curtain is being drawn back
to America and the Northwest, giving a peek at what makes Cuba so special.

America's relationship with Cuba hasn't been so friendly. Since Fidel
Castro came into power and began his Cuban revolution nearly 60 years
ago, Cuba and U.S. severed ties, leaving America and Cuba cut off from
each other.

When the Communist Soviet Union fell in the 1990s, the Cubans fell
further into poverty, and decades of Cubans lived in fear of being
persecuted for their religious and political beliefs.

Six decades later and still under Castro's rule, Cuba appears frozen in
time. Classic American cars from the 1950s and 1960s are a colorful
indicator of when the U.S. embargo began.

But as U.S.- Cuban relations now thaw, we find the newer generation of
Cubans with a brighter future.

In Cuba, we met Sol Bockelie, a med student from Seattle now in his
third year at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. Unlike
most countries, education is free in Cuba, and he's learning from a
world renowned healthcare system because of the doctors' ability to
accomplish so much with so few resources.

Just in the past six months, Bockelie has noticed a change in the Cuba
he's known for two years.

"You just kind of feel a sense of excitement in the air with Cubans,
with a lot of hope," said Bockelie. "There is so much about these
cultures that we can learn from them, and they can learn from us."

And part of the excitement are business leaders from the Northwest,
organized by the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. They've traveled 3,000
miles to lay eyes on Cuba for the first time and see its potential.

"We don't know, but we are hopeful that there will be more direct trade
relations and business connections," said King County Executive Dow
Constantine. The people, the country, have tremendous value, and I
think what a lot of the Cubans I've talked to have been interested in,
is finding a way to realize some of that value."

But there is a long way to go. In the suburbs of Havana far from the
hotels, families are making do with next to nothing.

Many of them, like Raphael and his sisters, get by on meager government
food rations. Empty bottles make up their liquor cabinet, but he shows
us full rain barrels on the roof, which provide the water they need.

Even a doctor makes about $75 a month in Cuba.

But tiny examples of Western influence are weaving their way into
people's lives. The streets are filled with tourists. Famous Obispo
Street is alive with activity and abuzz with talk of much more expected
to arrive.

Cuba is bracing for as many as 10 million American tourists per year.
Yes, the communist government still rules the land, but with the tides
changing in Cuba, its people are winning.

Follow Jake Whittenberg this month as he reveals more from his
experience on streets of Cuba. Connecting to Cuba continues Thursday on
the KING 5 Morning News with a look at Cuba's amazing education system
and how you can get to Cuba yourself.

Source: Connecting to Cuba | -

What Chanel In Cuba Means To The Cubans Who Live There

What Chanel In Cuba Means To The Cubans Who Live There
MAY 4, 2016 3:00 PM

There was them and there was us: "Them" being the guests of the Chanel
Cruise 2017 show and "us" being the crowd of Cubans and camera-toting
foreigners pressed against the yellow tape that sliced between us and
the blue-uniformed Cuban police officers standing close enough to touch.
A long block stretched between their backs and the runway illuminated by
street lamps.

For many of those guests, the evening's events began at 6:15 p.m., when
a fleet of mint-condition almendrones — Havana's iconic American cars
from the '50s — began ferrying guests from the Hotel Nacional, one of
Cuba's oldest luxury hotels and former playground of the mafia, to the
show space on El Prado, a long and narrow park that bisects an avenue of
the same name. On one side of El Prado lies the tourist hub that is Old
Havana; on the other is Central Havana, which has historically been home
to lower-income families.

For the three Cuban models who walked the show — Lupe, Johana, and
Yessica — tonight's events were the end of a months-long process
involving auditions, training at a Cuban modeling academy, and waiting
to see which models the house would ultimately choose. For Cubans who
weren't invited, like jewelry designer Mayelín Guevara, the show was
nevertheless emblematic of the sort of attention Havana has long deserved.

"We have a lot of artists here too, people of great worth," Guevara
said. "It was time, no?"

Migue Leyva J., model and blogger behind this is this, put it in more
definitive terms: "Chanel is going to mark a before and and an after in
the history of Cuba," he said. "Some time in the future, if everything
goes the way it has been, we won't have just Chanel — we'll have Louis
Vuitton Moët Hennessey; we'll have Hedi Slimane presenting his
collections here."

It's interesting to note that despite this quick change (and what you
might have gathered about Cuba from Instagram), Havana is nowhere as
developed as Seoul, Dallas, or Salzburg. Currently, you're unable to
actually buy Chanel products, except from its perfume and cosmetics,
anywhere in Cuba. For 30 years after the Revolution in 1959, Cuba was
closed to foreign enterprises and private businesses were illegal. In
the 1990s, however, the Special Period that followed the collapse of the
Soviet Union and the heavily Soviet-subsidized economy forced the
government to loosen restrictions. These days, more and more tourists
are flooding into Havana, European companies are investing in hotels
across the island and Cubans are opening private restaurants. The gap
between rich and poor, greatly reduced in preceding decades, is
beginning to widen again.

Chanel is known for hosting shows in far-flung locales. This particular
show, however, was a first in many ways: Chanel's first in Latin
America, and, for Cuba, the first time since the Revolution that so many
notable people had come from abroad to collectively view a display of
what can ultimately be summed up in one word: capitalism. And unlike the
Major Lazer and Rolling Stones concerts in March, which were free and
open to the public, the Chanel show was a private event.

"That's kind of expected from this kind of fashion world, which is
really an elite thing," said Adriana Marcelo Costa, a literature
professor and book editor.

"I would prefer it, of course, to be different, but I didn't expect it
to be." Echoed Guevara, "We all want to see the Chanel show, [but] it
has to be done this way, half-closed; that's something normal."

For others, however, the fact that El Prado — normally a public park on
a street like any other — had been sealed off for the show was troubling.

"I don't understand why, if they're going to make it a private event,
they do it on El Prado," said Glensy Palay Alonso, a psychology student
at the University of Havana. "El Prado belongs to the Cuban population.
It's not something with a rate that you can rent."

Cuba's prestige has long stemmed from the emphasis it places on
equality. Free healthcare and education are two of the country's
greatest selling points on the international political stage and have
resulted in two oft-cited statistics: an infant mortality rate lower
than that of the U.S. and a 99.8% literacy rate.

"I think that [Chanel is] taking advantage of this moment in which Cuba
is in view on a worldwide scale," Palay Alonso added.

There certainly has been a lot of buzz about Cuba recently — whether, as
Marcelo Costa said, it's "because Beyoncé and Jay Z came here three
years ago, or because Rihanna took some pictures here [for the cover of
Vanity Fair], or because Obama came a month ago, or the Rolling Stones."
The fashion industry, in particular, has had a strong aesthetic
fascination with Havana.

"Right now, Cuba is scenography," Leyva said. "We're in the middle of
the Caribbean, we have marvelous architecture from a time period that is
well-preserved...And for certain people, it's exotic to come here and
find an old car, an old building. It's like, 'Let's go to Havana. We
need to use this as scenography.'"


This perspective on Cuba, Leyva said, does not bother him at all.
Marcelo Costa, on the other hand, is worried about Cuba becoming just
another tourist souvenir.

"'Exotic' for me is another word for stereotypes. It's exotic for whom?
And who decides, 'That's exotic?' [I]t's kind of a colonial attitude,
for me," she said. "Everyone wants to be in an almendrón; they want to
be photographed with a beautiful mulatta [mixed-race woman] or beautiful
mulatto, and they want to dance salsa and rumba — and yeah, those things
are really important for our culture. But my concern is that that's not
the only thing that identifies us as Cubans."

Her concern seems to have been well-founded. On the runway yesterday,
many looks featured beribboned straw fedoras reminiscent of those sold
in Havana tourist shops. The show closed with a Cuban comparsa, or
musical group, dancing down the runway with the models in its wake. A
scroll through Instagram will reveal plenty of photos from attendees
posing with local schoolchildren against crumbling buildings and inside
pre-Communist-era cars.

While the attendees were decked out in head-to-toe double-Cs, that logo
is a rare sight for Cuban citizens. If Chanel were to open a store in
Havana, there remains the question of who would be able to shop there
and who it would be built for. This is, after all, a country where the
average doctor, for example, makes $20 to 30 a month.

"[Whether a store opens] doesn't really interest me, because if they
open one, neither I nor my friends are going to buy anything there,"
said Palay Alonso. "It's not bad to like luxurious things or expensive
things. What would be bad would be treating people [differently] based
on what they're wearing."

("You should give people the option [to buy Chanel]," Marcelo Costa
said. "If you have money or you want to sell your house to [buy] a
Chanel dress, that's your deal. You should be able to do that.")

Ultimately, anxiety about what the arrival of Chanel in Cuba symbolizes
is twofold: There's apprehension about what an influx in tourism might
mean for how Cuba's multi-faceted culture is viewed on a global scale;
and there's apprehension about what the country's increasing interaction
with a capitalist world means for the world's most enduring large-scale
socialist project that, despite its many flaws, had almost succeeded in
wiping out inequality before the Special Period.

Most people would agree, however, that change is inevitable — and might
even be a good thing.

"We want a base for Vogue here. We want NEXT Models, Elite Models,
everything here. They should come," Leyva said. "Maybe we'll have a
Parsons here soon in Havana where I can study fashion — we want it, we
want it."

Source: Chanel Cuba Cruise 2017 - Havana Fashion Show -

A waiting game for companies hoping to do business in Cuba

A waiting game for companies hoping to do business in Cuba
Published 2:28 pm, Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations has many small and medium-sized
companies thinking about doing business with the nation that has largely
been off-limits for more than half a century. Most companies, however,
will have to wait.
The Obama administration has taken steps that allow companies in the
travel and telecommunications industries to work with Cuba, but most
exports and other business contacts remain prohibited under an embargo
Congress passed in 1960 in response to Communist rule in Cuba. Because
of the embargo, the U.S. exported only $180 million in goods to Cuba
last year, most of it agricultural products and medicine. By comparison,
exports to nearby El Salvador totaled nearly $3.3 billion. Only Congress
can lift the embargo, and it's not known when that might happen — some
lawmakers are against ending it because of charges of human rights
violations by the Castro government.
Greg Geronemus' travel company, smarTours, expects to run 45 tours to
Cuba this year, most of them leaving from Miami. He began planning to
increase his Cuba business two years ago, when he ran 15; Geronemus
anticipated that the administration was moving toward a normalization of
U.S.-Cuba relations.
"There is an unbelievable appetite for travel," says Geronemus, whose
company is based in New York.
Because of the embargo, Geronemus works with a Cuba-based company,
HavanaTur, and an intermediary company in Europe to handle reservations,
itineraries and payments. Trips to Cuba must be highly structured under
U.S. government regulations, with itineraries that show substantial
interactions with Cubans. For example: a visit with an artist or a tour
of a community revitalization project.
"It is still so cumbersome and it will be for a while," Geronemus says.
Another unknown is what requirements the Cuban government, which
controls most of the businesses in the country, might impose on U.S.
companies that want to sell goods and services. Maria Contreras-Sweet,
head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, found during a recent
visit to Cuba that officials and business leaders are interested in
building a relationship with U.S. companies, but they also want
Americans to understand that Cuba, which doesn't have a free market, has
a different culture and a different way of doing business.
"There's this great desire but also some apprehension. And to some
extent, they're overwhelmed by the U.S.," Contreras-Sweet says.

Small and medium-sized businesses will be competing with big U.S.
companies that want to trade with Cuba, but Contreras-Sweet expects
smaller players will find opportunities with Cuban counterparts. In
recent years, Cuba has started allowing people like small restaurant
owners, real estate agents, house painters and home builders to work
independently of the government.
As relations between the U.S. and the Castro government expand, the
Cuban people are expected to demand a better standard of living, and
that can create opportunities for American businesses, says Ronald
Recardo, managing partner with Catalyst Consulting Group in Shelton,
Connecticut. His company hopes to do business with Cuban companies.
"There's a lot of people clamoring for something beyond a subsistence
level for their families," Recardo says.
Companies that the U.S. government already allows to sell to Cuba
include technology and telecom businesses whose products can improve
communications to, from and inside the country. Revel Systems, the maker
of software for retailers and restaurants, has started selling its
products to small Cuban customers.
"They're dying for technology," says Chris Ciabarra, a co-founder of the
San Francisco-based company.
Revel makes software that allows tablet computers to be used as cash
registers. The company has sold its products to a dozen Cuban customers
who found Revel by searching the Internet. Revel delivered the software
to them using an app.
Ciabarra expects Revel's Cuban business to grow because the company
tends to get new customers through referrals from existing clients.
"It is going to be an up-and-coming market," he says.
Cuba already has a tech-savvy workforce that wants to work with U.S.
companies, says Faquiry Diaz Cala, the CEO of Tres Mares Group, a
private equity firm based in Miami. These workers are well-educated in
areas like web development and programming, Diaz says.
Lori Hirons believes that when the U.S. embargo is lifted she'll find
strong demand for her resort clothing among Cuban women. Ninety percent
of sales for her company, Island Contessa, come from other Caribbean
markets, including St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin islands, where she is
"As I read about Cuba, the people have interest in all things American,"
Hirons says.
While she waits to see what Congress does, she's learning everything she
can about Cuba. One unknown that concerns her is regulations Cuba might
impose that could make trade difficult, and perhaps impossible for her.
"It's going to depend on how many hurdles there are," she says.
One company already dealing with Cuban government restrictions is Global
Rescue, a medical evacuation company that helps people who become ill
during overseas trips. The medevac planes the company uses must get
clearance from Cuba officials to fly over the country for rescues in a
nearby country, says Dan Richards, CEO of the Boston-based company.
"We often have to avoid Cuban airspace entirely," Richards says. "We're
certainly hoping that the Cuban government changes its stand."

Source: A waiting game for companies hoping to do business in Cuba -
Connecticut Post -

UK tobacco giant Imperial to make cigars in Cuba again as communist island- state opens for business

UK tobacco giant Imperial to make cigars in Cuba again as communist
island- state opens for business
PUBLISHED: 20:56 GMT, 4 May 2016 | UPDATED: 20:56 GMT, 4 May 2016

FTSE 100 tobacco giant Imperial Brands is eyeing up a return to Cuba to
make high-end cigars now that the communist island- state has been
opened for business once more.

The US imposed a strict trade embargo on Cuba in 1962, but a visit by
President Barack Obama in March to encourage commerce and travel between
the countries heralds a thawing of relations and the possibility of
sanctions being lifted altogether.

Imperial has become the latest firm to express an interest in expanding
its business by taking production to Cuba.

It currently makes cigars for the US market in Dominican Republic. Chief
executive Alison Cooper said she sees the US as 'a big growth
opportunity' because consumers have more cash to spend because of the
low price of oil.

The cigarette industry is going through enormous upheaval as many
customers switch from tobacco to e-cigarettes.

It was dealt another blow yesterday when the European Court of Justice
approved new European Union rules that will require plain cigarette
packs, ban menthol cigarettes and regulate the growing electronic
cigarette market.

Tobacco companies had protested against the 2014 EU directive containing
the new rules, calling it disproportionate. But the EU's top court
upheld the directive yesterday.

Firms such as Imperial are now looking for new ways to boost profits.

Imperial bought US brands Salem, Winston and Kool last year, which
helped to boost sales by more than 15 per cent to £3.4billion in its
first-half results.

Cooper said: 'I am delighted with the performance of the US business.'

Imperial, whose other brands include Gauloises and Lambert & Butler
cigarettes, reported forecast-busting operating profit of £1.64billion
compared with £1.34billion in the same period of last year and said that
it is on track to meet full-year expectations.

A 10 per cent increase in the dividend was also announced.

Yesterday the shares fell 0.8 per cent, or 30p, to 3710p.

Imperial, which dropped tobacco from its title in an attempt to
diversify the business away from traditional cigarettes, said that
specialist products, such US cigars and Scandinavian chewing tobacco,
accounted for 14.4 per cent of sales and benefited from strong
performances in the first half.

Cooper was optimistic about the group's Fotem Venture e-cigarette
business, which sells the second highest number of e-cigarettes in both
the UK and US markets, although less than 5 per cent of sales are to
people switching from regular cigarettes.

Elsewhere, sliding sales in the UK as healthier lifestyles and price
rises bite, were more than offset by more smokers in Italy and Japan.

Source: UK tobacco giant Imperial to make cigars in Cuba again as
communist island- state opens for business | This is Money -

The odyssey of finding food in Cuba

The odyssey of finding food in Cuba

High food prices and meager supplies in stores and markets continues to
be a fundamental problem for Cubans on an island where one restaurant
dish can cost a month's salary. Agricultural output is not improving,
and the government is threatening to pull back on economic reforms.

Armed with the equivalent of 24 U.S. dollars and a huge dose of
patience, I focused on the task of "resolving" the issue of food in
Cuba. Just what can state employees buy with that amount of money —
which amounts to their average monthly salary?

Forty minutes after standing in a long line at a hard currency store
without air conditioning, here is what I managed to buy in late March:
four cups of yogurt, a package of hot dogs, some ground beef, a wedge of
cheese, a bottle of vegetable oil, a package of chicken quarters, 1.1
pounds of peas, spaghetti, a carton of mango juice and a bag of
cornflakes (made in the U.S.).

The store's name is Maravillas (Wonders). But the purchase did not
comprise a basic food basket because the store did not have many other
products. With a large number of shelves empty or filled with the same
product, the shortages were evident.

Finding beef was the most difficult task. An employee at the Harris
Brothers shop in Old Havana said she had not sold beef for months and
recommended going to the Los Fornos butcher shop on Neptuno Street. The
price for 2.2 pounds of top round steak? Just over 8.5 Cuban Convertible
Pesos — known as CUCs — or about 205 pesos, nearly half the island's
median monthly salary, which now stands at 460 pesos.

Hard currency stores do not sell fruit or vegetables, except in rare
cases like the exclusive Palco shop. To find those items, Cubans have to
go to agricultural markets. Some are state-owned, with slightly lower
prices, longer lines and poorer products. In the other markets, known as
"liberated," prices are set by supply and demand.

In one of the "liberated" markets in the Cerro neighborhood, pork was
selling for 40 pesos per pound — about $2. A pound of onions sold for 20
pesos, and the tuber malanga went for eight pesos per pound.

A comparison of food prices around Havana serves as a benchmark for the
socioeconomic status of people, defined by their purchasing power.

Roberto Geilbert, a state employee, usually goes to a cafeteria on
Neptuno Street to buy a soda for one peso. He says that's all he can afford.

Other "peso" cafeterias might have clients who can afford to pay as much
as 12 pesos for a pizza. But prices go through the roof at the
privately-owned restaurants, known as paladares, that attract foreign
tourists and diplomats.

The sirloin steak that President Barack Obama savored at the San
Cristobal paladar when he visited Havana in March costs 15 CUCs. For 20
CUCs, he could have ordered a grilled lobster.

The most expensive dish costs as much as the monthly salary of a state

An agriculture that does not produce

In 2008, Cuban ruler Raúl Castro approved the long-term lease of fallow
state lands to private farmers, hoping to increase agricultural
production. Although the government claims to have handed over 4.52
million acres to 214,000 people, eight years later food shortages
continue to be the No. 1 headache of many Cubans.

This year's potato harvest, despite some improvement, has been so
trouble-plagued that the arrival of potatoes in Havana markets competed
with the Rolling Stones concert on March 25 as the day's top news.

During the recently concluded VII Congress of the Cuban Communist Party
(PCC), the head of the commission in charge of implementing Castro's
economic reforms, Marino Murillo, admitted the island has imported
nearly $2 billion in agricultural products annually for several years —
even though it could grow at least half the items.

The United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization has reported that
Cuba's agricultural sector employs nearly one million workers — in an
island of 11 million people — yet accounts for barely 4 percent of its
Gross Domestic Product. Figures released by the Cuban government also
show that agricultural production fell by 2.5 percent in 2015 compared
to the previous year.

Cubans who lease state lands and other farmers were hoping the PCC
Congress would approve new measures to stimulate production. Since the
land leases were approved eight years ago, the government has been
trying to ease some of the bureaucratic delays and absurd prohibitions.
But it took four years just for the government to allow the new farmers
to build homes on the land they were working.

Cuban economist Omar Everleny Pérez wrote last year that more changes
were required "for real results to be achieved in agriculture because
the current changes are not enough." Among the reforms he proposed were
a new system for managing agriculture, creating wholesale markets for
agricultural inputs and eliminating bottlenecks in the transportation
network. He also mentioned "the urgent need to partner with foreign

But Pérez seems to have been going against the current. Just days after
the PCC Congress, he was fired from the University of Havana's Center
for the Study of the Cuban Economy.

Partial reforms do not work

The Congress, which brought together nearly 1,000 party members, heard
only complaints about the "intermediaries" in agriculture — especially
wholesalers — and a suggestion that the government could reimpose
central controls on the distribution chain through the notoriously
inefficient ACOPIO, the state procurement and distribution agency. An
"experiment" with a decentralized distribution system in the Havana
region was described as a failure.

During the Communists' gathering, Castro blasted "deviations" such as
"the reappearance of speculation and hoarding" of agricultural products
that increase prices. Although he acknowledged production was low, he
warned that Cubans "could not simply cross their arms in the face of the
unscrupulous manipulation of prices by intermediaries who want to profit
more and more."

The rhetoric brought back memories of his brother Fidel, who in the
early 1980s and again in the early 1990s allowed agricultural markets
where prices were set by supply and demand — only to shut them down
later, accusing farmers and intermediaries of illicit enrichment.

The Ministry of Finances and Prices recently announced the reinstatement
of price controls on some agricultural products — vegetables, fruit and
grains — but only when sold in state-owned markets.

Carmelo Mesa Lago, a leading expert on the Cuban economy, agreed that
the prices of agricultural products increase significantly after they
leave the farm, and that intermediaries account for part of the
increases because they have to cover costs such as transportation. But
decisions to impose price controls are "difficult to keep in place. They
are not economically sustainable."

Mesa Lago added that the low productivity and absence of strong
competition among the intermediaries also drive food prices up.

Pavel Vidal, a Cuban economist at the Universidad Javeriana in Colombia,
argued that the intermediaries are not the main problem.

The experiment to dismantle ACOPIO in the Havana region "was not
completed because authorities established a wholesale market for the
food items, but none for the required inputs, and paid no attention to
the other factors that limit the productive capacity of the agricultural
sector," Vidal said.

At the same time, the increase in tourists who can pay more for their
food has put added pressure on an agricultural industry that already
cannot meet demand.

"Agriculture continues to be a market with limitations on its ability to
increase supplies," Vidal said. "With the increases in demand from
tourists, the growing number of paladares and nominal increases in
salaries, the market reacts by increasing prices. The intermediaries are
not to blame."

Apparently trying to make up for the absence of good news out of the PCC
Congress, soon after the gathering ended, the Ministry of Finance and
Prices announced a 20 percent cut in prices in hard currency stores as
an expression "of the political commitment of the party and government
leadership to do everything possible to improve the situation of the
people, despite the existing limitations."

A liter of vegetable oil now costs between 1.95 and 2.10 CUCs, compared
to 2.60 CUCs before the price reductions.

Although the price reductions were well received on the island, and CUCs
can now buy a little bit more, a solution to Cuba's food problem remains
far away.

"The worst part is that the designers of the reforms have not been able
to continue the changes in agriculture, and have yielded to the power of
those who are resisting the changes and want to return to the
inefficient and counterproductive state ACOPIO system," said Vidal.

The economist predicted more food shortages in shops and markets,
problems that might be compounded by the ongoing political upheavals in
Venezuela that could force Caracas to trim its subsidies to Cuba.

"This will be another difficult year for Cubans," he said, adding that
the evidence from the agricultural industry "show that partial reforms
do not work."

Source: The odyssey of finding food in Cuba | In Cuba Today -

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rights Commission Counts 1,380 Political Arrests in Cuba in April

Rights Commission Counts 1,380 Political Arrests in Cuba in April / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 3 May 2016 – A report released on Tuesday by the Cuban
National Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation
(CCDHRN) announced that during the April there were "at least 1,380
arbitrary arrests for political reasons" in Cuba. A situation that
"confirms the ultra repressive policy adopted at the highest level of
the government of the island," says the document.

The independent entity questioned the attitude of the authorities which
is "aimed at trying to silence dissenting voices and any form of
peaceful public demonstrations of discontent." In the introduction to
the report an estimate for politically motivated arrests during the
first four months of the year is provided: "At least 5.351."

The CCDHRN comments on "the inability to quality the acts of repression
and the climate of intimidation against all society, a victim, also, of
massive campaigns of disinformation and diversionary propaganda." A
situation that keeps the Cuban people "in a state of complete
defenselessness and hopelessness" it says.

On 25 April, the CCDHRN published its most recent partial list of
prisoners currently incarcerated for political reasons, which included
the names of 82 Cubans imprisoned for so-called "crimes against the
state." However, in the report released Tuesday, it is reported that a
few days later that figure "had increased with four other women,"
members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) found in "provisional

The four activists added to the list are Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz
Miranda, Yunet Cairo Reigada, Yaquelin Heredia Morales and Marieta
Martínez Aguilera.

Two of them "are also members of the harshly repressed Ladies in White
movement," says the text.

The CCDHRN submitted a request for opposition detainees to receive an
"international recognition as prisoners of conscience." A request that
will extend also to "at least 20 peaceful political prisoners."

The Commission, chaired by dissident Elizardo Sanchez, will continue
demanding the "release, for purely humanitarian reasons, of 22 other
prisoners classified as counterrevolutionary who have been in the Castro
regime's prisons for between 24 and 13 years." The text details that
these prisoners are being held "under inhuman and degrading conditions."

Source: Rights Commission Counts 1,380 Political Arrests in Cuba in
April / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -

Jose Antonio Torres - “Only International Pressure Will Get Me Out Of Jail”

Jose Antonio Torres: "Only International Pressure Will Get Me Out Of
Jail" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

For background on this interview read: The Spy Who Never Wanted to Be One

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 3 May 2016 — Last week the United States
Department of State chose Cuban journalist Jose Antonio Torres to lead
off the campaign for International Press Freedom Day, this May 3rd. The
initiative denounces the crimes and abuse against information workers in
several countries. The reporter was sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in
prison for the crime of espionage, and this week spoke from prison by
phone with 14ymedio.

Yoani Sanchez: Did you know that your name was included on the list of
journalists who have suffered an attack on freedom of the press?

Jose Antonio Torres: I did not know, but I know now. I want to thank
those who have made this effort to help me here in prison, where I have
spent five years and two months. The inclusion of my name in this
campaign is proof that the Cuban press, especially the critical press
[i.e. non-Party], is doing everything possible about the injustices, to
resolve them and to resolve them immediately I am very grateful, as a
journalist and as a human being, because what has happened to me and my
family is inhumane.

YS. Does a gesture of this nature from the US government benefit you or
complicate your situation?

JAT. I can't be any more complicated that I already am. Being a
journalist with the leading newspaper in the country, with work
considered excellent and even being congratulated by Raul Castro
himself, what happened to me makes no sense. Having a contrary opinion
in this country is, at times, very difficult, but there has to be space
for all opinions. In Cuba we have to resolve our differences.

YS. Have you experienced difficult moments in prison?

JAT. I never should have been in prison with people who have nothing to
do with my conduct, with kleptomaniacs, traffickers, assasins and
murderers. I should never be with those people, because I have not
committed any crime.

YS. What prison are you in at the moment?

JAT. I'm in the so – called "trusted program" in Santiago de Cuba,
which is on the road to Mar Verde. It is called Mar Verde Trusted
Work-Study Center Work – Study Center.

YS. What is your prison regimen today?

JAT. It is a regimen of low severity and I stay here for two months,
between 45 and 60 days, then I have a pass for 72 hours to spend at
home. I have been held under these conditions since April of last year,
when Barack Obama and Raul Castro spoke at the Summit of the Americas
[in Panama].

YS. Do you harbor hopes for a reduction in the sentence?

JAT. A reduction in the sentence is very difficult, I do not think they
will do it. Only international pressure will bring me out of jail. It is
precisely the press, my colleagues, who so far have been silent, those
who could do it, those who hold the key against intolerance.

YS. Are you still maintaining your innocence?

JAT. Absolutely. Here they have said many times that there are no
political prisoners. But if there are no political prisoners in Cuba,
what am I doing as a prisoner here?

YS. Have you kept doing journalism?

JAT. I have a long article titled The Weight Of Hope that I would like
to send to the American press. Also other texts from prison on various
topics such as the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba,
from the perspective of a journalist who is captive.

YS. Do you still consider yourself a man faithful to the Cuban government?

JAT. I consider myself loyal to my country. Cubans have been talking in
Miami, Washington, Madrid and France because they do not let us discuss
the issues we have to discuss in Santiago, Santa Clara, Camagüey and
Havana. To the Government I have nothing to say, there is a phrase:
decent people can not accept a government that ignores them.

YS. What journalistic media would you like to work in in the future?

JAT. (laughs) Maybe 14ymedio would be a good space. Anyway I have an
additional sanction that says I can not practice journalism… at least in
the official press. I would like to work as a correspondent for a
foreign press, I have no other choice. To publish in The New York Times,
El Nuevo Herald or Spain's El País, that is among my aspirations.

YS. Do you plan to leave Cuba once they release you?

JAT. Where we have to live our life is here in Cuba. I have a lot of
pressure on me, but I will do everything possible because it is right
here in Cuba where one can put up a fight.

Source: Jose Antonio Torres: "Only International Pressure Will Get Me
Out Of Jail" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez – Translating Cuba -

Cubans Cheer the First Cruise Ship From Miami

Cubans Cheer the First Cruise Ship From Miami / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 2 May 2016 — The clock struck
nine as the cruise ship Adonia entered the bay of Havana. Dozens of
people enthusiastically welcomed the first pleasure boat to come to the
island from Miami in the last 50 years. The government did not need to
issue an official call for citizens to gather there, Cubans showed up
spontaneously to welcome the boat.

Traveling on the ship was Univision journalist Tony Dandrades, and the
crowd welcomed him with cheers. They shouted out his name and called out
in chorus "we love you." The greeting was a show of admiration for his
work which comes to Cuba by way of "the antenna" (satellite dishes) and
"the weekly packet." Dandrades shared a few minutes with the public and
said he was "very happy" to be here. He then assumed his role as a
journalist and said, "Now I'm going to interview you," and gathered
impressions of the day from those present.

Ana, a CubanAmerican who had been in the US for 48 years without
visiting the island, told 14ymedio she was "very emotional." With tears
in her eyes she repeated, "I am Cuban," and was received by dozens of
Cubans to whom she said, "I am optimistic about the future of Cuba and
its people."

Mily Gonzalez Martinez said she left Cuba when she was four. Born in
Ciego de Avila, she has been living in the United States for 46 years.
Also in tears, she said: "I am very excited, very happy and glad to be
here in Cuba." And then she said: "Although I live in Miami, I grew up
Cuban, my mother would not let us speak English at home." On the changes
that have recently taken place between the two countries, she said: "We
have a lot of hope that these changes are good for the future and that
this means they are beginning to open more doors for the people of Cuba."

The United States firm Carnival carried about 700 people on the cruise,
including some dozen CubanAmericans. This is an unprecedented event. In
1999, the government decreed a ban on Cubans entering or leaving the
national territory by sea, with the aim of avoiding and preventing
"terrorist actions" of which "Cuba has been a victim on numerous
occasions since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959."

The arrival of the cruise ship on the island has been marked by
controversy. Members of the Cuban exile community in Miami filed a
lawsuit for discrimination against the cruise company Carnival, the
world's largest, when it announced that on its new route to Cuba tickets
would not be sold to Cuban Americans.

The protests against the giant of recreational ocean travel led it to
reverse its decision, and on April 18 it was announced that there would
be no distinctions, all passengers would be welcome regardless of
national origin. The Cuban government also relented and allowed Cuban
Americans to arrive by sea to the island.

Travelers on the Adonia requested visas for cultural, sporting,
religious or academic purposes, given the existing restrictions in the
United States on tourist trips to the island. The cruise will also visit
the Bay of Cienfuegos, on the southern coast of the country, and
Santiago de Cuba in the east of the island.

The spontaneous welcome of the cruise passengers this Monday occurs 24
hours after the May Day parade of "confirmation and commitment" to the
Revolution, held in Havana's Plaza of the Revolution.

On the newly opened floating dock at Paseo de Paula, there were
handshakes and tears of emotions. It is an event that marks a before and
after in the long separation of the Cuban family.

An individual with an American flag was removed from the crowd by a
group of people who appeared to be members of State Security, according
to what this newspaper was able to verify

People also swarmed around the area from the Muelle de Caballeria to the
San Jose warehouses, where there is currently a huge artisan and
souvenir market. From there, many shouted with joy, captured the
historic image on their digital cameras and cellphones, and waved Cuban
and American flags.

The cruise ship 'Adonia' entering the port of Havana. (14ymedio)
The ship was escorted by several boats with 590 people on board, of
which about half were representatives of media, according to the
newspaper El País.

Passengers aboard the cruise ship disembarked after noon, facilitated by
a worker from Cuban Customs. The employee said that the "Cubans and crew
members" would be subjected to "rigorous control" to verify their visas.

Source: Cubans Cheer the First Cruise Ship From Miami / 14ymedio,
Yosmany Mayeta Labrada – Translating Cuba -

Nobody Is Welcome At The Hotel New York

Nobody Is Welcome At The Hotel New York / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 May 2016 – The roots of a bush have
grown up between the stairs and weeds hang over the marquee. The Hotel
New York, a few yards from the Capitol Building in Havana, is the very
picture of abandonment. For more than a decade its doors have been
closed to the public and since then no strains of orchestra music are
heard, no sounds of glasses clinking in the bar, no smooth sliding of
suitcase wheels across a polished floor. The "Big Apple" in the heart of
the capital city is rotten.

Until a few years ago, brass letters told passersby on Dragones Street,
between Amistad and Aguila, that the air-conditioned accommodations had
been built in 1919. The building was originally the property of Jose H.
Martines, a rich rancher who spared no expense in its design, while the
project was carried out by the firm Tella y Cuento, Architects and
Engineers. The building was leased to Jose A. Morgado to manage as a hotel.

That story can barely be glimpsed in the ruins that remain, although
some of the lost glamor remains in the memories of the hotel's oldest
neighbors. Eduardo, a retiree who proudly shows his ID identifying him
as a "combatant," has lived in the area since 1959. He tells how, when
they closed the hotel at the end of the last century, "there were many
who took away the bathroom fixtures and even the tiles."

According to the old man, it was for that reason that the authorities in
the area "bricked up all the entrances with cement and blocks." But the
incursions have continued and now, "it has been converted into a public
restroom." Barely a single Venetian blind remains, the metal railings
around the interior balconies have been torn off, and not a single piece
of glass that used to crown the doors is left.

There is a rumor in the neighborhood that the City of Havana Historian,
Eusebio Leal, rejected several offers from European companies to repair
the Hotel New York. (14ymedio)
To the left of the building, where before there was a recreational area
for guests, there is now one of those cafes where the underworld reigns.
Some tourists approach attracted by the music and end up as "prey" for
the agile denizens who populate the place. The offers can range from an
out-of-tune bolero, to a round of beers paid for by the naïve visitor,
to the most sophisticated sexual acrobats.

From that hovel one can see almost 100 rooms that sheltered the guests
staying there, arranged around two parallel courtyards. The press of the
era reported on the luxurious furnishings and an elegant ground floor
restaurant, in the style of the grand American hotels.

At the entrance, embedded in the granite floor that has resisted the
neglect, you can barely make out the initials of New York. On some of
the stairs of the stately entrance the complete name remains, standing
out amid the grime.

Across the street a modest café sells juices and snacks. The employee
says the building "is about to fall down and it could kill someone." She
remembers when it closed "several men came in trucks and took away
everything of value inside." Later, it waited to be restored by the
Office of the Historian of the City, but it was delayed so long that
"there's no longer anything to save," opines the lady.

There is a rumor in the neighborhood that the City Historian, Eusebio
Leal, rejected several offers from European companies to repair the
Hotel New York. However, despite several calls to his office, it was not
possible to confirm this information. "No one was willing to pay the
amount he was asking for," says Eduardo, an elderly combatant whose
wrinkled face resembles the cracks in the wall in the hotel. "They
wanted so much that no one was interested," he says.

The façade, which is still impressive despite the deterioration, has
four rows of windows and independent balconies. Five large Corinthian
pilasters give the exterior wall a touch of grandeur, and a ledge on the
4th story was built when the building was expanded. The whole place
seems like a little scale model of its gigantic cousins in Manhattan.

Gone is the time when you had to book in advance to spend a night in the
Hotel New York. Today, only the rats fight over the space with the
tramps, who have managed to introduce several holes in order to spend
the nights in its dark interior.

At all the "Accountability Meetings" held in the area – a routine of
taking stock of the achievements of the Revolution – residents argue
that the building has become a focus of disease and a danger to health.
Nothing that makes the People's Power delegate flinch in an area filled
with buildings on the point of collapse.

Scattered around the city, objects that were part of the Hotel New York
adorn the room of an apartment, are resold in the informal market or end
up in the trash. An old custodian of the place keeps a screen and an
antique grandfather clock that he claims he saved from the looting. "One
day when they reopen the hotel, I will return them," he says with a sly
smile, but nobody believes that music will once again echo within those

Source: Nobody Is Welcome At The Hotel New York / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar
– Translating Cuba -

3 Industries to Benefit From New Cuba Relationship

3 Industries to Benefit From New Cuba Relationship
By Ryan McQueeney

As President Obama enters the last few months of his presidency, one of
his most impactful diplomatic decisions is finally starting to take
shape. After five decades of division, relations between the United
States and Cuba are beginning to normalize again.

Back in March, the Obama family visited Cuba, marking the first time a
sitting U.S. president has set foot in the communist nation since 1959.
Just a little over a month later, it appears that visits from average
American citizens are becoming more common.

Tourism Pipeline

On Monday morning, Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) and its Fathom Adonia
luxury ship arrived at Havana Harbor. Carnival's voyage was the first
trip from Miami to Cuba in over 50 years, and the U.S. cruise business
to Cuba is officially back.

"It was a very special point of view and a very special moment – to feel
the emotions of everyone on the ship and then feel the emotions of the
people on shore too," said Carnival CEO Arnold Donald, who stood at the
bow of the ship as it pulled into Havana.

Carnival's Fathom Adonia line departs from Miami and circumnavigates
Cuba on its week-long route. The trip is a "people-to-people" trip,
meaning that passengers are encouraged to interact with local Cubans
while at port.

Besides Carnival, there are several other travel-related stocks that
should benefit. One example would be American Airlines (AAL), the
domestic carrier with the most charter flights to Cuba and a major hub
in Miami. American is in the process of launching a charter service from
Los Angeles, and the company says its ready to offer commercial flights
once they are allowed.

Another travel stock that could benefit from increased business in Cuba
is Panama-based airliner Copa Holdings (CPA). Copa is already the
largest foreign airline in Cuba, offering half a dozen flights to and
from the island every day.

Building Boom

Another logical result of increased economic activity in Cuba could be a
construction boom. One U.S. company that could cash in is Vulcan
Materials (VMC), the largest domestic producer of construction
materials. Vulcan operates a large quarry on the Yucatan Peninsula in
Mexico, potentially a fantastic location for exports to Cuba.

Vulcan just released its Q1 earnings, reporting EPS of 26 cents, which
crushed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 6 cents. The company's quarterly
revenues of $754.7 million also smashed our estimate of $710 million. As
a result, Vulcan bumped up its 2016 guidance, driven by improving
profits per ton in its Aggregates segment, as well as higher earnings in
the Non-Aggregates segments.

If Vulcan can beat the rest of the industry to Cuba, it should be able
to continue its solid performance.

Telecom Blitz

As Cuba begins to develop, the major telecom giants are also Cuba bound.
Verizon Partner Solutions, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications (VZ),
recently reached an agreement with Cuba's state-run telecom company
Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA) to offer mobile roaming
services between the United States and Cuba.

Reports also indicate that AT&T (T) is looking for an agreement with the
ETECSA. Apparently, negotiations between the two entities are underway,
while AT&T is also pushing the FCC to drop its existing
nondiscrimination rules on the U.S.-Cuba route. AT&T believes that
dropping these rules will allow for cheaper communication between the
two countries.

On the TV side of things, streaming giant Netflix (NFLX) entered into
the Cuban market last year. While only 5% of Cubans had unfiltered
access to the internet when Netflix began service in the country, the
company expressed confidence that more citizens would subscribe "as
Internet access improves and credit and debit cards become more widely

Bottom Line

Simply put, the new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba should be
good business for a lot of publicly-traded companies. Hopefully for the
U.S.-based businesses, Cuba will open its doors to tourists, while also
modernizing its infrastructure and technology, allowing for more U.S.
economic impact.

Source: 3 Industries to Benefit From New Cuba Relationship - Yahoo
Finance -;_ylt=AwrC1DGm2SlXGwMAfffQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByNXQ0NThjBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM1BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

Cuba sets price controls for fruits, vegetables

Cuba sets price controls for fruits, vegetables
Associated Press
May 3, 2016

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba says it is setting limits on the prices of fruits and
vegetables in an attempt to calm public complaints about rising food costs.

The government announced Tuesday that farm products sold in
state-controlled markets would have prices capped at levels affordable
for the average person, who earns a state salary of about $25 a month.
Tomatoes will cost 8 cents a pound in season and 17 cents a pound out of
season, several times less the current price in most markets.

The measure contains a series of exceptions for private vendors,
allowing them to continue to set prices for their goods that are often
far higher than prices in state-controlled markets.

The announcement called the price limits a stopgap measure,
acknowledging low production is the root of the problem.

Source: Cuba sets price controls for fruits, vegetables -

UA Researcher Studies Cuba’s Coastal Forests in Anticipation of Tourism Increase

UA Researcher Studies Cuba's Coastal Forests in Anticipation of Tourism
May 3, 2016

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With the 1960 trade embargo on Cuba expected to be
weakened if not lifted – President Barack Obama called for the embargo's
end at his final State of the Union address – the large Caribbean island
is preparing for an influx of American tourists.

There's little doubt that a surge of U.S. tourists would benefit the
island economically, but there is some concern about the potential
impact that an inpouring of people would have on the island's ecosystems.

In October 2015, Dr. Michael Steinberg, a University of Alabama
associate professor in New College and geography, visited the island as
part of the College of Arts and Sciences Cuba Initiative. Steinberg
approached a Cuban Park official, whom he had met two years earlier at a
scientific conference, and suggested they partner to examine and map the
coastal habitat of two of Cuba's national parks — Parque Nacional
Ciénaga de Zapata and Jardines de la Reina Marine Park.

Steinberg had completed similar work in Belize and Florida's Everglades
National Park, and he wanted to conduct a similar study in Cuba using
satellite images of the two parks from the past 20 years to determine
the extent and health of coastal mangrove forests.

Mangroves are coastal trees that are found on the fringes – between land
and water – of most tropical coastlines. They can survive a high level
of salt water and their stilt-like tangle of roots provide natural
habitat for many species of aquatic fish, crabs and shrimp. They also
serve as winter homes for migratory birds and stabilize the coast from
waves, tides and storm surges. Without them, coastal erosion often occurs.

"Mangroves are a critical building block of a coastal ecosystem, both
from a structural and ecological standpoint,"Steinberg said. "Remove the
mangroves, and environmental degradation on various levels often ensues."

Steinberg is working with Cuba's Ministry of Fisheries, the National
Park Association in Cuba and geographer Reynaldo Estrada from the Nunez
Foundation, making the study the first truly cooperative
conservation-mapping project between Cuba and the U.S. since the
embargo. At the end of the project, all maps and data will be shared
with Cuban park and conservation officials so that their information can
be incorporated into future park management plans.

Steinberg has been to Cuba twice since he and geography graduate student
Jordan Cissell started working on the project. The first time was in
October 2015. His second trip took place in March in 2016. He hopes to
take a third trip next fall.

His research is being funded by UA's College of Arts & Sciences.

"These national parks will likely be two of the most important
destination for sports fishing in Cuba," Steinberg said. "They already
draw some anglers, many from Europe, but as the embargo is lifted, there
will be many more sports fishers from the U.S. who will come and fish
here. Healthy populations of tarpon, permit and bonefish will draw
growing numbers of anglers to the parks.

"It's important to understand what the mangrove forest cover looks like
now before tourists flood into this area because there will, no doubt,
be more development and more impact on these coastal areas. Future
changes can then be measured and better understood based on our work."

Steinberg said that understanding the past and present spatial dynamics
of mangrove forest cover will also provide important baseline habitat
information regarding the management of species such as the endangered
Cuban crocodile, American flamingo and the Antillean manatee. To this
end, they're also creating a map that identifies and delineates the
range of various rare species that inhabit the parks.

"We're using publicly available satellite imagery called Landsat to
measure forest cover changes over the past 20 years," said Cissell, who
is using the project as his thesis for his master's in geography. "We'll
look for deforestation and ask 'are there no longer trees in an area
that used to have mangroves? Dr. Estrada, from the Nunez Foundation, has
also shared with us recently taken, high-resolution images of the parks
that provide a great deal of detail."

Steinberg said their hypothesis is to see more mangrove forests today
than in the past as shortly after the Cuban Revolution the mangrove
forests of Cuba became protected in national parks. But, there have been
some recent developments with the forests in the Garden of the Queens
area that are threatening to cut down mangrove numbers.

"There have been reports of some mangrove die-offs in isolated areas of
the Garden of the Queens, so we will examine and map that issue as
well," he said.

Steinberg said the research should be complete by May 2017.

UA's New College and geography department are part of the College of
Arts and Sciences, the University's largest division and the largest
liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won
numerous national awards including Rhodes and Goldwater scholarships.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is
experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality.
This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's
economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice
for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship
university, is an academic community united in its commitment to
enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

CONTACT: Jamon Smith, UA media relations,, 205/348-4956
SOURCE: Dr. Michael Steinberg,, 205/348-0349

Source: UA Researcher Studies Cuba's Coastal Forests in Anticipation of
Tourism Increase – University of Alabama News -

Czech foreign minister - Thaw in relations with Cuba does not mean

Czech foreign minister: Thaw in relations with Cuba does not mean Prague
will abandon human rights agenda
03-05-2016 14:08 | Daniela Lazarová

A thaw in diplomatic relations between the Czech Republic and Cuba
should soon see the two countries appointing ambassadors and reviving
trade ties that go back half a century. Czech government officials
stress that the "renaissance" in bilateral relations does not mean that
Prague will in future abandon the human rights agenda in negotiations
with Havana.
The fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989 brought decades of
communist brotherhood with Cuba to an abrupt end and Prague became one
of the staunchest defenders of human rights on the island. Relations
turned frosty and in 1993 diplomatic ties were downgraded to charge
d'affaires level as the two countries traded insults, Havana calling
Prague a lackey of the US. In 2001 a Czech MP and student leader were
briefly jailed by the Cuban regime after contacting members of the
opposition and four years later then-senator Karel Schwarzenberg was
expelled from the country for the same reason. The Czech Republic
continued to support the Cuban dissent and was a vocal advocate of
sanctions against the Castro regime.
However in the past twelve months bilateral relations have mirrored the
gradual thaw in Cuba's relations with the US and the EU. In the autumn
of last year Prague sent a trade mission to Cuba to re-establish
business contacts and capitalize on the good reputation of the "Made in
Czechoslovakia" label in Cuba. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek:
"The continuity in business relations was never completely severed. So
it is not like we are back to square one. There are areas of cooperation
where we will simply pick up on our long-standing business ties and in
other areas we can make use of new opportunities. The important thing is
that Czech businesses are interested in the Cuban market and were
waiting for the door to open."
Both sides have expressed interest in boosting trade and developing
closer cooperation in the spheres of culture, science and education.
According to the foreign minister the ground has been prepared to take
diplomatic relations to a new level and the two countries should appoint
ambassadors within a matter of months. In an interview for Radio Prague
Foreign Minister Zaorálek said this does not mean that Prague will
abandon the human rights agenda in negotiations.
"We made it quite clear in negotiations with Havana that the principles
which have governed our foreign policy in the past remain unchanged,
that we remain committed to human rights issues and want contacts with
all parts of Cuban society, including the opposition. At the same time
the agreement between the EU and Cuba gives us a new platform on which
to raise human rights issues."
In 2014 the two countries' turnover exceeded 600 million crowns. The
leading Czech export commodities to Cuba were electrical machinery,
turbines, motorcycles, grains, dairy products and pharmaceuticals while
it imported tobacco, coffee, cocoa and fish.

Source: Radio Prague - Czech foreign minister: Thaw in relations with
Cuba does not mean Prague will abandon human rights agenda -

Kelowna man needs help to send donated goods to Cuba after suffering stroke

Kelowna man needs help to send donated goods to Cuba after suffering stroke

For the last eight years, Rick Pogue has been on a solo mission to help
Cubans in need. But sidelined after a stroke, the Kelowna man is turning
to the community for help to continue his selfless work.

In 2007 Pogue, like many Canadians, went to Varadero on an all-inclusive
vacation. He returned to B.C. with more than a tan; he came back with a

It all started after friends suggested he bring some items to hand out
to Cubans, many of whom lack basic necessities, said son Fraser Pogue.

"He brought down some baseball gloves, sunglasses, pen and paper and
handed them out to the chambermaids," recalled Fraser.

"Then he took a taxi to town, visited a church, and handed things out to
people. He really loved it."

His dad visited Cuba a couple more times after that, toting duffel bags
packed full of donated items and shouldering the extra baggage fees.

The next year, he expanded his one-man project, working with Cuban
officials and the Catholic church to get permission to send donations
through shipping containers.

He travels around B.C., collecting donations from sports organizations
and companies.

It was an unexpected calling for the 63-year-old financial adviser, who
had no history of humanitarian work. "This is just something he wanted
to do and he took it upon himself to do it," said Fraser.

His family also pitched in. Fraser, who lives in Vancouver, and his
brother would scour local thrift stores, reuse-it centres and sports
centres for used equipment. They'd also buy sports gear on sale. The
items were then shipped about once a year to Cuba, then distributed by
the church to communities in the Varadero area.

Fraser, who has also visited Cuba as part of his dad's efforts, has seen
first-hand the impact the donations make on other people's lives.

He remembers meeting mothers moved to tears after he gave them their
first family portrait, a photo taken with a Polaroid camera; of
construction workers who toil with no safety gear or glasses; of kids
who played baseball using balls of twine and makeshift bats that were no
more than sticks.

But last October, Pogue suffered an aortic dissection followed by a
stroke, which left him unable to work.

The lack of income and medical expenses have taken a toll on his
finances and Pogue now can't afford to ship two 10 x 20-foot containers
— already filled with baseball equipment, shoes from Soles4Souls, 1,000
pairs of sunglasses from Clearly and other donations — to the Caribbean

His family has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to cover
shipping costs of $6,000 per container.

About $5,130 has been raised in the last 10 days, and they're hopeful
they will reach their $12,000 goal by May 10 in order to ship the
containers by June 1.

Fraser said the family is confident they can send at least one
container, but would like to be able to ship both.

Whether the project continues is dependent on his dad's recovery, he said.

After spending a week in intensive care, and a few more weeks in
hospital, Pogue is now recovering at home but "it's hard to say how it's
going to go," said Fraser. "He's the main driving force behind it."

Source: Kelowna man needs help to send donated goods to Cuba after
suffering stroke -

Cuba sets ceiling for prices of farm products

Cuba sets ceiling for prices of farm products
Published May 03, 2016 EFE

The Cuban government - starting Tuesday - set maximum prices on select
agricultural products with the aim of protecting both consumers and
agricultural producers, state-run media reported.

The measures will result in an "increase (in) the supply of agricultural
products in high demand and their sale to the public at maximum
established prices," says the official announcement by the Finance
Ministry published in the state-run dailies Granma and Juventud Rebelde.

The maximum price levels will apply to vegetables, grains, fruits and
common items in Cuban cooking, including plantains, beans, cassava and
taro root, mangoes, papayas and pineapples, among other products.

The new measure establishes that "the maximum prices correspond to the
top-quality products, according to prevailing regulations."

To products of slightly lower quality, a discount of 20 percent will
apply and to those of third-level quality, a 40 percent discount, the
text reads.

The announcement emphasizes that the measure is connected to a
pronouncement made at the recent 7th Cuban Communist Party Congress,
where delegates discussed the ongoing increase in prices for
agricultural goods in a country where the median monthly salary is
around $23.

At the conclave, authorities decided that the country's top leadership
would not stand "idly by amid in the face of the public's irritation
over the unscrupulous management of prices by intermediaries who are
only thinking of earning more and more."

On April 22, the government announced a reduction of about 20 percent in
retail prices for a group of basic products, in particular food items. EFE

Source: Cuba sets ceiling for prices of farm products | Fox News Latino