News from Cuba

Exploring and Living in Cuba

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Thursday, 19 October 2017 09:28

Cuba will not make concessions to its sovereignty and independence, nor negotiate its principles or accept the imposition of conditions

Havana’s anticipated next leader, Miguel Diaz-Canel, has refuted calls by Washington to change the island nation’s ways, declaring that “changes needed in Cuba will solely be carried out by the Cuban people,” in a stark rebuttal to US political and economic demands.

After stating his intention to step down in 2018, current Cuban President Raul Castro is expected to be replaced by the Caribbean island nation’s First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Speaking on Sunday, Diaz-Canel unambiguously castigated the US for its heavy-handed economic, military and diplomatic tactics.

At a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, who participated in a Bolivian revolt that echoed the 1959 Cuban overthrow, Diaz-Canel reminded his listeners that “imperialism can never be trusted, not even a tiny bit, never.”

In an apparent response to US President Donald Trump’s assertion that the US embargo on Cuba would not be fully lifted until Havana adopts Washington’s version of Western democracy and capitalism, Diaz-Canel said, “Cuba will not make concessions to its sovereignty and independence, nor negotiate its principles or accept the imposition of conditions,”

“The changes needed in Cuba will solely be carried out by the Cuban people,” the popular 57-year-old politician added, cited by Reuters.
 
WITH NO DIRECT ELECTIONS FOR NATIONAL OFFICE IN CUBA, DIAZ-CANEL IS PROJECTED TO BE THE LIKELY APPOINTED REPLACEMENT TO ICONIC FIGURE FIDEL CASTRO’S YOUNGER BROTHER RAUL, NOW 86, AND WOULD MAKE THE RELATIVELY YOUNG LEADER THE FIRST CUBAN HEAD WITHOUT THE CASTRO NAME SINCE THE MID-20TH CENTURY.
 
The US president claimed in June that sanctions on Cuba would be ratcheted back up to pre-Obama levels while concurrently gutting the staff at the US embassy in Havana.

Trump’s administration has issued travel warnings to US citizens seeking to vacation in the once-popular island nation.

“Some unnamed officials are propagating unusual nonsense without any evidence, with the perverse aim of discrediting the impeccable reputation of our country as a safe destination for foreign visitors, including from the United States,” Diaz-Canel claimed.
Thursday, 29 December 2016 20:22

Cuba will respect Fidel Castro's dying wish that no statues be erected in his honor and no streets be named after him. Despite his omnipresence that endured for decades, the late communist leader always said he did not want any monuments in his honor on the island."There is no cult of personality around any living revolutionary," Castro stated in 2003. "The leaders of this country are human beings, not gods."

Consequently, Cuba’s National Assembly approved the law, which “bans commemorative statues of Fidel Castro and naming monuments and public places after the former leader.

Despite Fidel’s sentiments, Raul told the Assembly that “His fighting spirit will remain in the conscience of all Cuban revolutionaries, today, tomorrow and always,” Some have predicted that Fidel’s legend will grow even more despite his death, much like Che Guevara.

There a couple exceptions to the law banning the use Castro’s name in public places. The term Fidel Castro may used as a name for any institution created to study his role in Cuban history. The law also does not ban using his image, photo or likeness for public acts, Cuban military institutions, and educational or cultural entities.

Thursday, 15 December 2016 10:26

An agreement signed between Google and the Cuban government Cuba aimed at improving its internet speed. The deal will allow the internet giant to provide faster access to its data by installing servers on the island that will store much of the company's most popular content. The deal will now give Cubans access to a network called Google Global Cache that stores data and content on servers located a relatively short distance from the island nation. Now Cubans will have access from sites that Google administers like Gmail, Google Drive and YouTube.

However, home connections remain illegal for most Cubans and the government charges the equivalent of a month's average salary for 10 hours of access to public wi-fi spots with speeds frequently too slow to download files or watch streaming video.

Cuba has one of the lowest Internet speeds and connectivity in the world. It’s no surprise Cuba is considered the “least connected” country in the Americas, with the Geneva-based ITU ranking the country 125th out of 166 countries worldwide in telecommunications development.

The Google deal was announced less than a week after Cuba gave three US cruise companies permission to begin sailing to the island next year. Officials familiar with the negotiations say other deals, including one with General Electric, are in the works.

Thursday, 08 December 2016 12:25

In the first part of this article I discussed the possible scenarios in the wake of Fidel’s death since many are questioning if the Cuban Revolution will be able to survive. Now I would like to talk about possible successors once Raúl steps down in 2018. So who will follow him? At this time everything seems to point to Miguel Díaz-Canel taking over the reigns of the island nation.

It appears that for the first time in half a century a person who did not fight in in the revolution or without the last name of Castro will be at the helm. Raúl had to select someone who would ensure the perpetuity of the only communist country in the hemisphere and Díaz-Canel seems to be the logical choice at juncture.

The 56-year-oldDíaz–Canel is an electrical engineer by trade with political experience and who is known to wear bluejeans and not military uniforms. He supports the opening up of the Internet and stated in a recent speech, “Today with the development of social networks and the Internet, to prohibit something of the type is virtually impossible and makes no sense at all.”

In contrast to the Fidel and Raúl, he is strikingly tall and claims to be a man of simple tastes. Some say he resembles the actor Richard Gere because of his full head of gray hair and good looks. However, he is not known to be a great orator. “Comrade Díaz is by no means a political novice,” stated Raúl when the former was appointed to the second most important political position in Cuba.

Although Díaz-Canel is the odds on favorite to succeed Raúl, there are a couple of other names that have been mentioned. Cuban Chancellor, Bruno Rodríguez’s name has come up. In addition, Marino Murillo, the mentor of Cuban economic reforms is in the mix, as is Raul’s only son Alejandro Castro Espín. But when all is said and done, Díaz-Canel appears to be the most likely choice unless something unforeseen occurs to change Raul’s mind between now and 2018.

At one time it was thought that either Vice President Carlos Lange or ex-chancellor Felipe Pérez Roque would eventually take over control of the country. However, both fell out of favor with the government.

Tuesday, 06 December 2016 11:12

For many Cubans, Fidel Castro for all practical purposes was dead and buried years ago. Therefore, many of them have had their eyes and minds turned toward the future in an effort to move on from Fidel. There are no statues to Fidel in Cuba but his slogans can be found painted on the side of many buildings and billboards. So, it will be difficult to forget him altogether since his name will still be on the lips of those who loved him and others who blamed him for all of the island’s ills.

Nevertheless, with the death of Fidel the country’s political situation should open up and become more flexible. Raúl will have an enormous weight taken off his shoulders. He will no longer have to deal with his older brother’s overwhelming personality, persona nor his opinions. Fidel’s omnipresence will no longer be looming in the shadows.

The Cuban people can only hope for some type of change for the better, especially with the closer ties and improved relations with the U.S. Alejandro López Levy, a specialist in Cuban affairs at New York University’s of Global Studies, stated “After Fidel’s death there should be reforms designed to eradicate the aspects of communist politic’s that are not practical.” "The impact and nature of the posible reforms will be limited to Raul’s vision since he has the last word in these matters and the fact that he has vowed to be true to the essence of the Cuban Revolution.” He has already made progress in reforming the country since her took over in 2008 by allowing small businesses and the sale of homes in an effort to stimulate the economy.

If the United State’s policy of normalization continues in the direction it is currently moving, the prospect of of change on the island should continue. Let’s hope that President-elect Trump will not roll back the progress that has already been made in U.S/Cuba relations. By continuing the progress toward normalization of relations with Cuba Mr. Trump has an chance to make Cuba part of his foreign policy legacy as well.

As stated in the Huffington Post, "A candidate who based much of his campaign on leveling the playing field for US trade should encourage, not undermine, the American companies that after 57 years of being locked out of the Cuban market, can finally have access to that market. Donald Trump ran as an agent of change. After fifty years of a failed embargo, normalization of relations with Cuba is the right kind of change."

Monday, 28 November 2016 14:13

While many leaders around the world begin their preparations to visit Cuba, to pay their respected to Fidel Castro, one person will not be there: Juanita Castro, Fidel’s sister who has been in exile in Miami for 51 years.

In 1964, Juanita accused her brother of turning Cuba into “an enormous prison surrounded by water’.

Despite expressing sorrow over the death of her brother, she said on Saturday she wouldn’t be returning to Cuba in her lifetime. She also put rumors to rest that she would be heading to Cuba for the memorial and said she will remain in the United States, the Miami Herald reported.She said she remained committed to the Cuban exile community and opposed to the dictatorship her late brother imposed on the island when he seized power in 1959.

Exiled in Miami since 1964, Juanita, 83, said in a statement that she was upset by the news early Saturday. At the same time, she hoped that his death at age 90 is a turning point in which all Cubans find common ground.

‘In light of the bad rumors that said I was going to go to Cuba for the funeral, I want to clarify that I have never returned to the island, nor do I have plans to do so.

‘I have fought alongside exiles, arm and arm, during their most active and intense stages of struggle in past decades, and I respect the feelings of all,’ Juanita said in a statement.

‘I do not rejoice over the death of any human being, much less when that person is someone with my blood and surnames.

“I’ve been in exile in Miami for 51 years, like all the Cubans who left to find a space to fight for the freedom of their country,” Juanita Castro said. “I have never changed my position even though I had to pay a high price for the pain and isolation.”

“For decades, I confronted the system in Cuba and also those in exile who unfairly did not forgive that my surnames were Castro Ruz and who attacked me ruthlessly,” she said.

She asked for understanding for her pain and expressed hope that her brother’s death brings about an understanding among all Cubans.


 

Monday, 28 November 2016 14:01

On November 25, 2016 at 10:29 pm Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, better known as Fidel Castro or “ Fidel,",died. His death was greeted with cheers of joy by most of the Cuban community in exile, especially those in Miami’s Little Havana. In Cuba the mood was more somber and without any celebration.

La Historia lo Absolverá (History will absolve him)

After taking power in 1959 following the Cuban Revolution, Castro oversaw vast improvements in providing of basic services, such as health care and housing, as well as education and advances in literacy across the island. 

La Historia lo Condenará (History will condemn him) 

Despite these achievements in areas of social policy, Fidel Castro’s government was characterized by a ruthless suppression of freedom of expression, severe economic hardships and widespread suffering.  Over the years hundreds of people were arrested for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Repressive tactics used by the authorities have changed in the last years with fewer people sentenced to long-term prison for politically motivated reasons, but the control of the state over all the aspects of Cubans’ life remain a reality.

The Cuban  government continues to limit Internet use as a way of controlling access to information and freedom of expression, with just 25 percent of Cubans having access to the Internet and barely 5 percent of homes connected to the global computer network.

Initially, Fidel promised liberties to the Cuban people but ended up betraying them. He decimated one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America, destroyed the business class and pulverized the country’s productivity. Three generations and seventy percent of the people on the island today have never know any other leader but Fidel Castro. He improved the country’s education and health care systems but failed to provide the country’s healthy and educated  people with a means whereby they could be productive, have incentives, better their lives and be part of a middle class. 

During Castro’s forty-seven years in power he executed thousands of his adversaries and kept political dissidents and opponents in jail for many years. He harassed and even prosecuted people for listening to foreign music and for reading books and for even being homosexuals. Because of his policies twenty percent of the Cuban population ended up living in exile. 

Thousands of Cuban soldiers died as cannon fodder in foreign countries like Angola in an effort to spread the Cuba-style revolution and ideology to other countries. Castro was responsible for the rise of Latin American wannabes like Hugo Chavez, his successor Nicolás Maduro, and the likes of Daniel Ortega who has not done anything to improve Nicaragua  and keep it from being the second poorest country in the Americas after Haiti.

Now that the cloud and omnipresence of Fidel is no longer looming over Cuba there is hope that the country’s plight will improve in the not-too-distant future. Although Fidel officially retired in 2006 due to illness, his presence was always in the background. With his death the political system will eventually open up because Raul Castro should finally have the weight of Fidel off his shoulders. He will have more freedom and room to make changes without his older brother influence. However, Fidel’s death will surely lead to to many conflicts between Raúl and his political opponents as to what direction the country should take. But one really has to wait and see what happens after Raúl is expected to step down in 2018.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016 10:20

It depends if we look at Trump the businessman or Trump the polititian. Trump is a successful businessman first so he will probably see Cuba in that light and realize that it is not in the interest of the U.S. firms that are currently involved there to reverse Obama’s policies. In fact, in 1998 Mr. Trump researched business opportunities in Cuba despite the restrictions of the embargo. So, the question is whether Trump the businessman or Trump the politician will prevail when it comes to Cuba policy.

As one recent article pointed out, “Since the normalization process began, a Miami-based cruise line has begun to sail to Cuban ports, U.S. telecom companies have established roaming agreements with Cuba, commercial airlines are flying from U.S. cities to Cuba, Marriott has entered into a joint venture to manage some Cuban hotels, and Cuba has become Airbnb’s fastest growing market.”

“A pharmaceutical joint venture is about to begin clinical trials in the United States, other U.S. companies are in various stages of trying to close deals with Cuba and travel to the island by Americans has greatly expanded.”

These ventures and expanded travel were all made possible by executive orders and regulatory changes since President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro began a process of rapprochement on Dec. 17, 2014 and would be affected by any abrupt change in U.S. Cuba policy.

“Changing Cuba policy also would mean we are turning our backs on them,” said Carlos Gutierrez, who served as secretary of commerce under George W. Bush and has traveled to Cuba numerous times since the rapprochement began.

Trump would kill many deals if he reversed Obama’s policy. He won big in the Midwest farm states that want to sell agricultural products to Cuba and are pushing to have a financing prohibition lifted so their products will be more competitive.

Canceling out everything that Obama has done would not be a good thing; it wouldn’t be wise for American business as one businessman pointed out.

Sunday, 16 October 2016 13:24

First baseball, then diplomacy and now soccer or fútbol as it is known in the Spanish speaking world. After nearly 70 years the U.S. and Cuba played a friendly soccer match or partido amistoso. The U.S. played Cuba in World Cup qualifiers in 2008, and the two teams have since met in the Gold Cup, but this was the first friendly match between them since 1947. In that year, when the two countries enjoyed normal relations and before Fidel Castro’s ascent to power, the Cuban team prevailed by a score of 5-2.

On March 22, 2016 Barack Obama and Raúl Castro attended an exhibition baseball game between the Cuban all star team and a professional team from the U.S. Sports have always played a role in normalizing strained diplomatic relationships between long-time adversaries.

This time instead of a baseball game it was a soccer match that helped the two countries mend their fences.

It was expected that the U.S. would humiliate Cuba with their superior team since Cuba is ranked 139 and the U.S. 22nd according to the sport’s governing body, FIFA.

The game took place at Havana’s Pedro Marrero Stadium was played amid a backdrop of thawing political relations between the two countries as they work towards normalizing relations. The field that in no way resembled a playing surface where an international match should have been played. The unpredictable bounce made ball-control difficult, contributing to a forgettable first half. In fact, the field was in such bad shape that the U.S. Coach worried that one of his players might get injured. As one reporter said, the bumpy, dusty, hard, uneven and altogether unplayable surface made it impossible to forge anything remotely resembling international-level soccer".

Both Cuba and the U.S. had opportunities to score during an uneventful first half. In the second half the team from the United States came to life and lived up to its potential — winning 2-0 with goals by Chris Wondoliwsky and Julian Green in a game that will certainly not be part of any soccer highlight films.

The unspectacular game, however, was a showcase for Cuban players, some of whom would like to play internationally as the sport grows.

The U.S. team now has focus on preparing for its upcoming World Cup qualifying game against Mexico on November 11.

Thursday, 15 September 2016 15:25

This prize-winning work should be required reading for anyone who wants to spend a lot of time in Cuba, especially those who want to live or retire there someday. Cuban school children have to read it as part of their education.

In the 1930s, Hemingway lived in Key West, Florida, and later in Cuba, and his years of experience fishing the Gulf Stream and the Caribbean provided an essential background for the vivid descriptions of the fisherman’s craft in The Old Man and the Sea. In 1936, he wrote a piece for Esquire about a Cuban fisherman. This story was an obvious inspiration for the tale of Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea

I just finished reading this incredible book in Spanish for the second time. I originally read it years ago but decided to reread it because my son was reading it in English. As I immersed myself in the story again I realized even more how it paints a graphic picture of Cuba through its language and story.

The book is written with both simplicity and narrates the story of Santiago an old fisherman whose luck has run and and who faces perhaps the greatest challenge of his life: a struggle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba. The story opens with Santiago having gone 84 days without catching a fish, and now being seen as “salao”, the worst form of unluckiness in Spanish. On the eighty-fifth day of his unlucky streak, Santiago takes his small boat into the Gulf Stream, sets his lines and, by noon, has his bait taken by a big fish that he is sure is a marlin. Unable to haul in the great marlin, Santiago is instead pulled by the marlin for two days and nights with Santiago holding onto the line. Although injured by the intense struggle and in pain, Santiago expresses a compassionate appreciation for his adversary, often referring to him as a brother.

On his way in to shore, sharks are attracted to the marlin's blood. Santiago kills a shark with his harpoon, but he loses the weapon. He makes a new harpoon by strapping his knife to the end of an oar to help ward off the next line of sharks; some are killed and many others are driven away. But the sharks keep coming, and by nightfall the sharks have almost devoured the marlin's entire carcass, leaving a skeleton consisting mostly of its backbone, its tail and its head. Santiago knows that he is really unlucky now, and defeated, tells the sharks of how they have killed his dreams. Upon reaching the shore before dawn on the next day, Santiago struggles to his shack, carrying the heavy mast on his shoulder, leaving the fish head and the bones on the shore. Once home, he slumps onto his bed and falls into a deep sleep dreaming of his youth.

Thursday, 18 August 2016 16:42

With recent thaw in Cuban and U.S. Relations, American tourists are now flooding the island. Among them are the famous who have descended on the country.

TV host Conan O'Brien spent several days shooting an episode of his late-night TBS show in Havana in February 2015. It was the first visit by a U.S. talk show host to Cuba in more than five decades. While he was there and made some hilarious videos like this one

The Rolling Stones played a free concert in Havana on March 25, which the biggest act to play Cuba since its 1959 revolution. The Stones played in Havana's Ciudad Deportiva three days after President Obama visited Havana.

Madonna just celebrated her 58th birthday in Havana.

Rihanna visited Havana in May 2015, where she shot a Vanity Fair cover.

Pop star Katy Perry visited Cuba in October 2015, and wrote that the country is "one of the COOLEST vibes alive" and called it a "Disneyland for creatives minds.”

NBA basketball star Carmelo Anthony visited Cuba with Vice Sports in 2015 to explore street sport culture in the country. Here is a good video of his trip. http://www.cbsnews.com/ media/stars-who-have-visited- cuba/11/

Now, almost anyone can is it the country under one of these categories the most important of which is the “People to People” which is designed to help the much-in-need Cuban people. 

1. Family visits
2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
3. Journalistic activity 
4. Professional research and professional meetings
5. Educational activities
6. Religious activities
7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
8. Support for the Cuban people
9. Humanitarian projects
10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Media

Monday, 15 August 2016 10:37

Yesterday, August 27, Fidel Castro turned 90 years old. He is undoubtedly one of the most controversial figures of our time. Both hated and worshiped Castro has turned out to be a survivor. It has been 57 years since he took power, 54 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis which almost caused World War III and ten years since he turned over power to his brother Raúl due to a personal health crisis.

In 2011 Castro stated, "I never thought I’d live so long. Soon my time will come just like everyone else.”

He was 32 years old when he triumphantly marched into Havana after defeating an army of 80,000 men with a smaller guerrilla force and driving then dictator, Fulgencio Batista into exile.

Over the years Castro has survived despite at least 634 plots to kill him and overthrow his government, according to Fabián Escalante, the ex head of Cuban Intelligence.

Thursday, 06 August 2015 09:00

I remember that I had a entrepreneur friend, Roberto Arévalo,  who in the 1970s purchased vintage cars in Argentina and then sold them in the United States for a big profit. He would have probably tried to do the same thing in Cuba if it had not been for the embargo. Cars from the 1940s and 1950s,  still make up a significant form of transportation in Cuba. With the recent improvement of relations between the U.S. and  Cuba, there is a fascinating is new a television series about the country's old cars.

"Cuban Chrome is a groundbreaking new docu-series that explores the fascinating time warp that characterizes Cuban car culture. This is the first American television series to be produced entirely on location in Cuba and will be simulcast in English on Discovery Channel and in Spanish on Discovery en Español."

"After the 1959 Cuban Revolution and the subsequent United States embargo, it has been illegal to import American cars to the island nation -- as a result, Cuba's vintage American vehicles are frozen in time. For Cubans, these cars are not just a means of transportation, but a way of life. Cuban Chrome will give viewers an intimate look into this rarely seen country as they meet the men and women who put everything on the line to keep these classic cars running."

"Today, thousands of classic American cars can be found in Cuba, each of them with a unique story to tell. This show takes viewers on a ride through Cuban culture and into the world of A Lo Cubano Car Club, a passionate group of car enthusiasts, restorers, mechanics and apprentices who work together to restore classic cars and maintain the ones they already own (and depend upon) though the odds are stacked against them."

"With unprecedented access granted by the Cuban and United States governments, Cuban Chrome chronicles the adventures of A Lo Cubano Car Club as they go to extreme measures to preserve their treasured cars and pass them down from generation to generation. Through the club's innovative car restorations and repairs, the series explores the challenges and joys of life in Cuba, presenting an authentic look into their culture of passion, grit, determination and ingenuity."

At the beginning of this article I mentioned a friend who used to buy and sell old cars, Contrary to popular belief, car collectors will not be descending on Cuba to buy up the thousands of antique American cars still on the road in the Caribbean nation. The intrinsic value in collector cars is in the originality of its parts, especially original body, panels, engines, and transmissions. It doesn't take long for an expert to see that there's little that's original left in the American cars on the roads of Cuba, except the body.

One car aficionado from the U.S. remarked, "When I visited Cuba, I jumped in a 1956 Cadillac, and it looked really good. The guy turned the key and it had a Peugeot diesel engine. The expert likened the Cadillac to a "Galapagos Island" of cars. "Because they've been cut off for so long, they've morphed into their own species. It's not a Cadillac. It's something else."

On our Discover Cuba Tours you will see a lot of the old cars and even have a chance to ride in a couple of them.
Thursday, 15 January 2015 22:07

By Matt Spetalnick, David Adams and Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON/HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba has released all 53 prisoners it had promised to free, senior U.S. officials said, a major step toward détente with Washington.

The release of the remaining prisoners sets a positive tone for historic talks next week aimed at normalizing relations after decades of hostility, the officials said.

They described the Cuban government’s release over the weekend of the last detainees on the list as a milestone but said they would keep pressing Havana to free more people the United States considers political prisoners.

The officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, did not say how many prisoners were released over the weekend or identify them. But the White House will provide the names of all 53 to Congress and expects lawmakers to make them public, the officials added.

There had been questions over whether Havana would release all 53 prisoners as part of the deal Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17 to restore diplomatic ties that Washington severed more than 50 years ago.

Monday, 12 January 2015 21:54

The restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States unlocks new prospects for the island’s economy. Some steps, including the removal of the U.S. trade embargo, are prohibited by the Helms-Burton Act, adopted by the U.S. Congress in 1996. But the renewal of Cuba’s membership in the International Monetary Fund is a real possibility.

Cuba was one of the IMF’s 40 original members. It was involved in much of the preliminary planning for the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, and had an active delegation there. As early as 1941, Cuba worked together with other Latin American countries in an unsuccessful attempt to establish a monetary role for silver, alongside gold. Later, it helped to secure greater voting rights for small states and a special status for Latin American countries on the IMF Executive Board.

After Cuba joined the IMF (and the World Bank) in 1946, it played a positive role in the Fund for the next 12 years. In 1954, it became the 10th country to accept the full obligations of the Fund’s Article VIII, eschewing the use of foreign-exchange restrictions on international trade. In 1956, it took a routine loan from the Fund, repaying it the following year. And then the trouble began.

Saturday, 10 January 2015 21:50

HAVANA, Cuba – At least 30 Cuban political prisoners have been released in the last 48 hours, dissident leaders said Thursday, as Cuba moves towards normalizing ties with the United States.

Washington and Havana announced a historic bilateral rapprochement in mid-December in which Cuba agreed to free 53 political prisoners as part of a deal to end a five-decade standoff with the United States.

“So far we’re counting a total of 30 releases, including 24 from the UNPACU,” said José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), a dissident group based in the communist island’s east.

Monday, 29 April 2013 08:48

Cuba is  professional boxing

HAVANA (AP) -- Cuba is breaking a five-decade ban on professional boxing and joining an international semipro league. Fighters will compete for sponsored teams, box without protective headgear and earn $1,000 to $3,000 a month.

The country has a long and storied boxing tradition and is usually a force at international amateur tournaments. This move represents a big step for the island's Communist authorities, who long ago decided pro sports were not in keeping with Marxist social ideals.

The new format, the World Series of Boxing, consists of 12 squads from across the globe that square off in a series of five fights using a point system similar to the pros.

The World Series of Boxing is organized by the international boxing association known as AIBA. The competition begins in November.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 11:13

Cuba says the U.S. trade embargo against the island has toughened under President Barack Obama.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said Wednesday that enforcement of the 48-year embargo, which Havana calls a "blockade," has become stricter in some areas. He said since Obama took office, the United States has levied larger fines and applied sanctions more vigorously.

Rodríguez said the embargo has cost the island $751 billion and Obama has not lived up to expectations for U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Last year, President Obama called for a new beginning in relations with Cuba and eased restrictions on travel and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to family in Cuba.  However, he left the trade embargo in place, saying it is up to Cuba to take the next step.

The United States and Cuba do not have diplomatic relations.  They have interests sections that are technically part of the Swiss embassies in each other's capitals.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 11:10

Cuba's government plan to lay off half a million state workers and encourage them to move into private sector jobs is part of a sweeping economic reform. Economic experts say Cuba faces several challenges in fostering private businesses.

For months, President Raúl Castro has been warning about inevitable layoffs in the state sector, which represents 95 percent of Cuba's economy.  He says the state is struggling because too many workers are redundant and have low productivity.

Monday, the Cuban Workers Confederation unveiled a plan that includes cutting more than 500,000 state employees by April.  The labor union group says the government cannot continue to support entities with inflated payrolls and losses that drag down the island's economy.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010 10:28

Spain says Cuba's release of dozens of political prisoners would improve its relations with the European Union and the United States and could eventually lead to the lifting of the long-standing U.S. embargo against the Communist-led island.

Speaking Wednesday in Madrid, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos told Parliament that the releases would have "political consequences" in U.S. relations with Cuba and prompt a shift in EU policy toward the island.

Moratinos' remarks coincided with the arrival of a 12th freed political prisoner in Madrid.  Another eight are expected in the Spanish capital this week.  Cuba has agreed to release 52 political prisoners in a deal involving Madrid and the Roman Catholic Church.

Monday, 24 May 2010 09:43

By Patricia Grogg

HAVANA (IPS) - Talks between the government of President Raúl Castro and leaders of the Catholic Church in Cuba may alleviate internal tensions and lead to the release of political prisoners, although the dialogue should be extended to include other social sectors in the country, religious leaders and analysts told IPS.

Castro met Wednesday with the archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and with the head of the Cuban bishop's conference, archbishop Dionisio García, to discuss "matters of common interest" and the "favourable development of relations between the Catholic Church and the Cuban state," according to official sources.

The meeting, requested by the Church, went on for over four hours, and touched on topics like conditions of prison inmates and the Ladies in White, who hold a peaceful protest march every Sunday demanding the release of their husbands and sons, who they consider political prisoners.

In early May the cardinal successfully interceded with the authorities for the silent protests to be allowed without hindrance.

Monday, 05 April 2010 11:08

By Jonathan J. Levin

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House of Representatives may pass a bill next month that would ease restrictions on agricultural exports to Cuba and lift a ban on travel to the island, the measure’s sponsor said.

Congressman Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said he needs backing from one more lawmaker to assure the panel will pass the legislation. He expects to secure that pledge after Congress’s Easter recess, and for the measure to get approval by the full House.

“Cuba used to be one of our big markets,” Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, said in a telephone interview yesterday. The bill “would help us get those markets back.”

Thursday, 25 February 2010 15:30

By Ben Dummett
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES 

TORONTO (Dow Jones)--Leisure Canada Inc. (LCN.V) hopes to start construction before the end of the year on what would be Havana's first hotel/conference center built to North American building standards, expecting a continued thawing in Cuba-U.S. relations to spur an influx of visitors to the Caribbean island.

Located on the beach in the area of Havana known as Embassy Row, Leisure Canada's Monte Barreto development will consist of a 750-suite hotel, a conference center and vacation club, including a fractional ownership component. It will be built to Florida hurricane standards, and meet the room size and other standards used by the Hiltons and other well-known hotel operators, said Robin Conners, Leisure's chief executive.

Thursday, 24 December 2009 09:48

The Seattle Times editorial board calls for the end of the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

embargo of CubaSEN. Maria Cantwell calls our attention to a law, signed by President Obama, allowing Cuba to buy U.S. farm produce and pay after the goods are shipped. The law reverses a Treasury ruling during the Bush years that Cuba had to pay in advance ˜ a ruling that stopped the trade altogether.

This page favors the new law, which will allow a few of our state's farmers to make a little bit of money. But we would go much further. We would end altogether the embargo, which was imposed under President Kennedy almost a half-century ago.

Monday, 31 August 2009 00:00

By James Anderson (AP)
August 28, 2009 SAN FRANCISCO DE PAULA, Cuba —

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday that he's just a governor on a trade mission and carries no message from the U.S. government as he visits Cuba this week. But he does plan to report his impressions to President Barack Obama.

Richardson spoke outside Havana while visiting Ernest Hemingway's former home, where he donated a replica of a telephone used by Hemingway to curators on behalf of his state. He said all U.S. citizens should be able to visit such cultural gems. "I think enhancing cultural and artistic and educational ties is a prelude to diplomatic and commercial ties. It always happens that way," Richardson told The Associated Press. "I'm for enhanced tourism travel for Americans." Richardson said that travel should go beyond the so-called people-to-people educational and cultural contacts promoted by the Bill Clinton administration.

Thursday, 04 June 2009 13:20

BY  Anahi Rama
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras  (Reuters) 

The Organization of American States lifted its 47-year  suspension of Cuba on Wednesday in a move backed by Washington, but Cuban  state-run TV said Havana had no interest in rejoining the  group. "Cuba has  not asked for nor does it wish to return to the OAS, which is steeped in a  submissive and shady history," said anchorman Randy  Alonso.

There was no immediate  reaction from officials of Cuba's communist-run  government. But former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in April that  Cuba had no desire to  rejoin the OAS, which he has criticized as an instrument of  U.S. policy, and did not want  to "hear the vile name of that institution." The 34-member hemispheric  body, meeting in Honduras, unanimously scrapped a 1962  decision at the height of the Cold War that barred Cuba as revolutionary leader Fidel Castro  took it toward communism and an alliance with the Soviet Union. While leftists in Latin  America hailed the OAS vote as a diplomatic victory for Cuba, Washington  said it had succeeded in ensuring that Cuba could not rejoin the group  without moving toward democracy and respect for human  rights. U.S. President Barack Obama  has taken steps toward a more open relationship with Cuba, lifting restrictions on travel and  cash remittances to Cuba for Cuban-Americans with  relatives on the island. But his administration had  said Havana should not be allowed to return to  the OAS until it embraces democratic principles and makes progress on  human rights.

Thursday, 07 May 2009 14:10

Qatar and Cuba on Wednesday launched a joint $75 million project to create a five-star resort on the Caribbean island, officials said.

The gas-rich Gulf state is set to become the first Arab country to invest in Cuba's booming tourism sector, after representatives inked the deal in Havana.

The 450-room upscale hotel complex is to be built in the south of the island and is expected to be completed by 2015.While Cuba already receives millions of visitors from Europe, Latin America and Canada each year, officials hope improving ties with the United States will soon spell an influx of American tourists.

U.S. citizens have effectively been barred from traveling to Cuba for nearly a half century. In 2008 the communist island received 2.3 million tourists.

AFP.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009 08:20

By Doreen Hemlock |  South Florida Sun-Sentinel

President Barack Obama's newly unveiled plans to ease U.S. travel and telecom links with Cuba drew widespread attention, but how much that translates into real business remains a question.

A lot depends on how Cuba's communist government reacts to Obama's overtures and how much it opens to Cuban-American visitors and to U.S. travel and telecom companies, business leaders and analysts said.

Companies also want to see the fine print from U.S. agencies on how the new programs will be implemented, since red tape has snarled their Cuba plans before, analysts add. "Potentially, the news is important for business, but right now, it's abstract," said Jake Colvin, vice president at the National Foreign Trade Council in Washington, D.C., a pro-trade group. "U.S. companies are generally taking a wait-and-see approach."

Tuesday, 21 April 2009 07:57

The former Cuban  president Fidel Castro yesterday met members of the US Congress in an  attempt to improve relations between Cuba and Washington. Castro – who was  described as "very healthy" and "very energetic" – asked what he could do to help the  US president, Barack Obama,  improve bilateral relations. Representative  Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, said Castro talked with her and two  other members of the congressional black caucus for nearly two hours  yesterday.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009 07:49

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Two-thirds of those surveyed say U.S. should lift travel ban on Cuba
Americans banned from traveling to Cuba, although some do from other countries
President Obama has said he is in favor of changing the relationship with Cuba
But some members of Congress are against opening relations

(CNN) -- A new poll shows that two-thirds of Americans surveyed think the U.S. should lift its travel ban on Cuba, and three-quartershink the U.S. should end its five-decade estrangement with the country.

According to the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted April 3 to 5, 64 percent of the 1,023 Americans surveyed by telephone thought the U.S. government should allow citizens to travel to Cuba.

And 71 percent of those polled said that the U.S. should reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, while 27 percent opposed such a move.

Monday, 20 April 2009 12:10
By Jim Lobe*


WASHINGTON, Feb 23 (IPS) - Monday's call by Sen. Richard Lugar for a major re-assessment of Washington's nearly half-century effort to isolate Cuba increases the likelihood that U.S. President Barack Obama will make substantial changes in policy toward Havana beyond those he promised during his election campaign, according to experts here.

"What's significant is that this is the senior statesman for foreign policy in the Republican Party, someone who doesn't have a long track record of advocating for changes in Cuba policy, who has decided to come out and really put his stamp on this issue by saying that the U.S. embargo doesn't favour our national interest," said Daniel Erickson, a Cuba specialist at the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank here.

"The fact is that Lugar has pre-empted Obama with his own proposals for changing the policy and in so doing creates a context that is much more favourable to changing the policy beyond the narrow of issue of lifting restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances" to the island, added Erickson, author of 'The Cuba Wars,' a recently published book on U.S.-Cuban relations.

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