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Daily Archives: May 14, 2016

Con el lema “Socialismo sí, homofobia no”, se realizó en La Habana la Conga Cubana Contra la Homofobia y la Transfobia

Son parte de un grupo de más de 20 cubanos varados después que Panamá cerró su frontera a los migrantes cubanos

Dicen que se fueron de la isla por la persecución, no por problemas económicos

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Carlos Alberto Montaner

Dilma Rousseff afirma que le dieron un golpe de Estado. No es verdad. Le aplicaron la Constitución con saña política, pero dentro de los márgenes de la ley. Los poderes legislativo y judicial la desalojaron de la Casa de Gobierno mientras se lleva a cabo un proceso de impeachment. En 1992, con la entusiasta ayuda del Partido de los Trabajadores (PT, el de la señora Rousseff), fue expulsado el presidente Fernando Collor de Melo por el mismo procedimiento. El que a impeachment mata a impeachment muere.

La salida de Dilma tiene (al menos) tres tremendas consecuencias políticas y sociales.

En el plano internacional se descabeza el loco proyecto del Socialismo del Siglo XXI. Aunque Brasil no formaba parte del núcleo duro (Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia y Nicaragua), el godfather de esa banda era el profesor marxista Marco Aurelio García, fundador y arquitecto del Foro de Sao Paulo, amigo de las FARC, gran consejero de Lula da Silva y de Dilma Rousseff y hombre muy cercano a los servicios cubanos de inteligencia. Ello ocurre en el peor momento para la corriente populista en América Latina, hoy en caída libre.[[QUOTE:Sucede tras la imputación por cohecho a Cristina Fernández de Kirchner y a su hijo Máximo]]

Sucede tras la imputación por cohecho (recibir sobornos) a Cristina Fernández de Kirchner y a su hijo Máximo, por lo cual pueden acabar en la cárcel, y junto a la inmensa crisis venezolana, que arrastrará a Nicolás Maduro si la oposición consigue que se cumplan las leyes y logra llevarlo a las urnas por medio del proceso revocatorio.

Acaece poco después de la caída en picado de la popularidad de Michelle Bachelet por la corrupción de la que acusan a su hijo, y de la sacudida económica que estremece a Ecuador, cuyo Gobierno, carente de recursos, ya consume un 44% del PIB nacional (era un 22 cuando Correa llegó al poder).

La segunda consecuencia importante de la salida de Dilma tiene que ver con la reevaluación de los programas asistencialistas ejecutados por el Gobierno del Partido de los Trabajadores. Se suponía que el plan de ayuda “Bolsa Familia” (en realidad, creado bajo otros nombres por Fernando Henrique Cardoso) era un modelo para la inclusión social y el fin del hambre y la pobreza en el país, pero cada año son más los brasileños que solicitan la asistencia del Estado.

En sus inicios, unos doce millones de personas recibían una cantidad en metálico, sujeta a que vacunaran a los hijos y los enviaran a la escuela –lo que es una magnífica idea–, pero hoy percibe ese dinero un 26% del país: más de 50 millones de brasileños. ¿Cómo puede proclamar el PT, como si fuera un triunfo, tras más de una década en el poder, que hay menos pobres y se ha terminado el hambre, cuando el número de personas adscritas a “Bolsa Familia” se ha cuadruplicado? Eso, en gran medida, es un contrasentido.[[QUOTE:¿Cómo puede proclamar el PT, como si fuera un triunfo que hay menos pobres, cuando el número de personas adscritas a “Bolsa Familia” se ha cuadruplicado?]]

Hay un elemento perverso en medir la calidad de los gobiernos por la intensidad del gasto social en que incurren. Siempre es necesario y justo ayudar a quienes lo necesitan, pero el objetivo de cualquier sociedad basada en la existencia de la propiedad privada y el mercado libre (como es Brasil teóricamente) debe ser crear las condiciones materiales y subjetivas para que cada familia sea capaz de sostenerse adecuada y responsablemente sin necesidad de acudir a las transferencias de recursos de quienes lo han conseguido previamente.

Dicho sea de paso, Lula da Silva y Dilma Rousseff no inventaron el populismo ni la corrupción en Brasil. Se limitaron a llover sobre mojado. El gigante latinoamericano tiene una vieja tradición populista en la que comparecen todos los ingredientes del mercantilismo: clientelismo, capitalismo de amiguetes, proteccionismo y un largo etcétera que inevitablemente desemboca en la corrupción.

Afortunadamente, la tercera e importantísima consecuencia tiene que ver con eso: el surgimiento de la conciencia de que hay que luchar contra la corrupción, no sólo porque esa práctica nefasta encarece todos los bienes y servicios que la sociedad adquiere, sino porque pudre el sistema político y los fundamentos morales en un país que ya estaba especialmente predispuesto y anestesiado.

¿Para qué esforzarse en estudiar y trabajar si todo lo que hay que hacer es mediar entre el Gobierno y la corrupta empresa privada (Odebrecht) o pública (Petrobrás) para conseguir una buena tajada que debe repartirse con los políticos y funcionarios? El joven juez federal Sergio Moro se ha convertido en un ídolo nacional y la operación que dirige, Lava Jato, en la urgente llamada de atención sobre la corrupción, un mal cuyo alivio no puede esperar un día más.

¿Será Brasil, por fin, el país del futuro? Esta crisis puede ser un buen punto de partida. Ojalá así sea.

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  DERECHOS HUMANOS

Mariela Castro, quien encabezó una marcha acompañada por la actriz transexual estadounidense Candis Cayne, afirmó que en la isla hay “mayor conciencia de la población, y un mayor sentido político en la lucha por los derechos LGTBI”



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  ACERCAMIENTO

El régimen ha cometido un error de cálculo. Para ellos ha pesado más la ideología y la letanía propagandística que la buena voluntad de edificar una nación moderna y democrática



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El gobierno de México les otorgó a los 3,500 migrantes cubanos varados en Panamá un plazo hasta el 20 de mayo para recibirlos en ese país y que puedan llegar a la frontera de Estados Unidos como es su intención. Continue reading
14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca, 13 May 2016 – Like a good Brazilian novel, where the best scenes are reserved for the end, the Brazilian left is finally exiting the stage of that South American giant. This Thursday, having first served successive terms in the Chamber of Deputies and later the Federal Senate, Dilma Rousseff was … Continue reading "Brazil And The Decline Of Latin American Left-Wing Populism / 14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca" Continue reading

(EFE).- España quiere tener un papel de acompañamiento y liderazgo en la etapa de deshielo entre Cuba y la Unión Europea abierta con el reciente acuerdo de diálogo político y de cooperación, según dijo hoy en La Habana el ministro español de Asuntos Exteriores en funciones, José Manuel García-Margallo.

"España lo que quiere es acompañar al proceso de acercamiento entre Cuba y la Unión Europea. Se acaba de ratificar el acuerdo entre la Unión Europea y Cuba, ahora continúa el diálogo entre las dos partes y España tiene que jugar un papel de liderazgo en esa negociación", dijo García-Margallo, quien cursa su segunda visita oficial al país caribeño.

En el actual escenario de apertura internacional y económica que vive la isla caribeña, el jefe de la diplomacia española destacó que el papel de su país en Cuba "es el que ha sido siempre: unas relaciones bilaterales muy estrechas y cierta misión de liderazgo en la Unión Europea por razones obvias, históricas, culturales y de afinidad".

El pasado 11 de marzo, La Habana y Bruselas cerraron, tras dos años de negociaciones, un acuerdo de diálogo político y cooperación que permitirá superar dos décadas de "posición común", la restrictiva política europea que condicionaba la relación con la isla a avances en derechos y libertades y que fue impulsada en 1996 por el entonces jefe de Gobierno español José María Aznar (PP, conservador).

El ministro de Exteriores arrancó este sábado su agenda en La Habana con un acto de homenaje en el emblemático Castillo del Morro al comandante de la Armada española Luis Vicente de Velasco, héroe de la defensa de esa fortaleza durante la invasión inglesa de 1762.

En ese histórico emplazamiento, García-Margallo depositó una ofrenda floral ante la placa que recuerda la gesta de De Velasco, en un acto en el que el ministro estuvo acompañado, entre otros, por el el embajador de España en Cuba, Juan Francisco Montalbán, y oficiales del buque escuela "Juan Sebastián de Elcano", entre ellos su comandante, el capitán de navío Victoriano Gilabert.

La visita de García-Margallo coincide con la estancia del Elcano en La Habana, donde atracó el pasado 11 de mayo como parte de su 87 crucero de instrucción.

Tras una visita privada al Capitolio de La Habana y al Museo de la Revolución, el ministro mantuvo también hoy un encuentro con el cardenal Jaime Ortega, quien hace pocos días se jubiló de su cargo como Arzobispo de La Habana en cumplimiento de lo establecido en el derecho canónico.

En declaraciones a medios españoles previas a ese encuentro, García-Margallo definió al cardenal Ortega como una "figura muy importante de la vida cubana" y recordó que su relación de amistad con el arzobispo emérito se remonta al año 1990.

Mañana domingo, el ministro español tiene previsto asistir a una jura de bandera a bordo del "Juan Sebastián Elcano", que el lunes se despedirá de La Habana rumbo los puertos estadounidenses de Miami y Baltimore.

Será el lunes 16 de mayo cuando García-Margallo desarrolle la agenda oficial de su visita a Cuba, parte de ella junto a la ministra de Fomento, Ana Pastor, quien llegará el domingo por la noche a la isla.

Ese día, el titular español de Asuntos Exteriores se reunirá con su homólogo cubano, Bruno Rodríguez, tras cumplir con la protocolaria ofrenda floral al héroe independentista José Martí, en la Plaza de la Revolución de La Habana; mientras que la ministra de Fomento tiene previsto mantener sendos encuentros con los titulares cubanos de Construcción y de Transportes.

García-Margallo y Ana Pastor se reunirán además con el ministro de Comercio Exterior e Inversión Extranjera, Rodrigo Malmierca.

Una de las incógnitas de la segunda visita de García-Margallo a la isla es si esta vez podrá ver al presidente de Cuba, Raúl Castro, que no le recibió en su primer viaje oficial a la isla, en noviembre de 2014.

Tras las visitas de García-Margallo y Pastor -que regresarán a Madrid el lunes por la noche- dos días después se celebrará en La Habana el Comité Bilateral Empresarial organizado por las cámaras de comercio de ambos países y que contará con la participación del secretario de Estado de Comercio de España, Jaime García-Legaz, en su tercer viaje a Cuba en los últimos trece meses.

Esta intensa actividad diplomática de España en Cuba se produce después de la firma el pasado 4 de mayo en Madrid del acuerdo para reestructurar la deuda a medio y largo plazo de la isla, monto que en octubre del año pasado ascendía a los 2.444 millones de euros y que estaba íntegramente impagada.

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El desfile de Chanel en Cuba dejó múltiples interrogantes

¿Es Chanel la avanzada del Caballo de Troya del mercado?

Cuba pasó de lo prohibido a lo obligatorio y Chanel entra en esta última categoría

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Con música, plumas y brillos de colores, varios centenares de personas marcharon este sábado en La Habana a ritmo de conga en la IX Jornada contra la Homofobia y la Transfobia, que culminó con la celebración de bodas simbólicas entre parejas del mismo sexo para reivindicar ese derecho, reporta EFE.

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"Hay mayor conciencia de la población, y un mayor sentido político en la lucha por los derechos LGTBI (Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales, Bisexuales e Intersexuales)", afirmó a la prensa la directora del Cenesex, Mariela Castro. Continue reading
Cientos de personas con música, plumas y lentejuelas de todos los colores participan en una conga por los derechos LGTBI, en la 9 jornada contra la homofobia y la transfobia hoy, sábado 14 de mayo de 2016, en La Habana (Cuba). … Click to Continue » Continue reading
El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación, José Manuel García-Margallo, ha llegado a Cuba procedente de Ecuador en lo que supone su segunda visita oficial a la isla, en la que tiene previstos encuentros con los titulares de Asuntos Exteriores, Bruno Rodríguez, y Comercio Exterior e Inversión Extranjera, Rodrigo Malmierca. Continue reading

El ministro español de Asuntos Exteriores en funciones, José Manuel García-Margallo, afirmó este sábado en La Habana que España "tiene que jugar un papel de liderazgo" en la negociación entre la Unión Europea y el Gobierno cubano, en la etapa que se abre tras el acuerdo de diálogo político alcanzado por ambas partes, informa EFE.

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  ACERCAMIENTO

El ministro realizó estas declaraciones durante el homenaje al comandante de la Armada española Luis Vicente de Velasco, que lideró la defensa del Castillo del Morro de La Habana durante la invasión inglesa de 1762



Leer todo   -   Cuba Continue reading

Con música, plumas y brillos de colores, varios centenares de personas marcharon este sábado en La Habana a ritmo de conga en la IX Jornada contra la Homofobia y la Transfobia, que culminó con la celebración de bodas simbólicas entre parejas del mismo sexo para reivindicar ese derecho.

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14ymedio, Havana, 13 May 2016 – Less than three years after it opened, the El Trigal agricultural market closed its doors this Friday after it was announced on primetime television news last night by the vice president of the provincial government, Luis Carlos Gongora Dominguez. Located in Havana’s Boyeros municipality, the center had been heavily … Continue reading "El Trigal Wholesale Agricultural Market Closes Its Doors / 14ymedio" Continue reading
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Era considerado un modelo de fraternidad socialista: el primer tren bala de América del Sur, con tecnología china, que llevaría progreso a zonas rurales de Venezuela. Ahora que el proyecto ha quedado prácticamente abandonado, ha pasado a simbolizar el colapso de la economía y de una relación estratégica, reporta la AP.

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… :42Havana, May 14 (Prensa Latina) Cuba on Saturday started the drill … be carried out. Since 1986, Cuban authorities has organized and conducted … Continue reading
… considered an ambassador of traditional Cuban music in the world, will … the Karl Marx Theater in Havana, the band will completes its … to take traditional music from Cuba to all five continents. Although … tour in Havana, because we love to sing for the Cuban audience … Continue reading
In the Dark / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 13 May 2016 — The municipality of Old
Havana had its ancient underground water and electrical systems
renovated last year. The streets were dug up to replace the pipes and
wiring. Beyond the mess and the dust, these works have brought the
residents two precious services, services without which it is
unthinkable to live in a modern city. But the happiness has not been
felt everywhere.

Residents of #2 Bernaza Street, between Obispo and O'Reilly, were
victims of an accident caused by the Electric Company at the site of the
repairs. An overload destroyed electrical appliances; a few stabilizers
managed to protect a few. The jolt didn't even spare many appliances
protected by their owners' surge protectors.

The building remained dark for several days and the residents organized
to complain. The Electric Company blamed the Havana Water Company, which
was able to prove its innocence, so the Electric Company was obliged to
replace—"when there is availability"—the burned out appliances and to
extend new wiring to the meters.

From the meters onward, that is to every apartment, is being
litigated, so the majority of the residents, watching the days tick by
without power, decided to resolve it themselves and to pay the Electric
Company workers under the counter to connect their homes. With the
wiring outside, almost all the residents have had makeshift electrical
service for months now. But there are stubborn residents, or those who
don't have the 100 CUC (roughly $100 US) that it would cost to pay the
electrical workers, and with faith in the power of justice, they have
decided to take their case through institutional channels.

Those who have now lacked electricity for six months are finding the
institutions unresponsive. The delegate to the People's Power showed up
on the day of the accident, but is surely engaged in the many other
problems of her constituency. There was silence in response to letters
to the Municipal and Provincial People's Power. Silence in response to
the section for complaint letters at the newspapers Juventud Rebel and
Granma. Silence in response to a letter to the similar section at the
Havana Channel. And silence in response to letters to the Electric
Company. All this correspondence has been the victim of these residents'
"darkness syndrome," and they haven't received even an acknowledgement
of receipt.

Only the Prosecutor took the time to rule that the residents are right
and that the Electric Company is responsible, but this has not resulted
in any change for those affected.

And in an event that is not without irony, the electric bills, which
should show a "zero" for electrical usage, have arrived with an
"approximate use" calculation, which after the accident caused by the
Company last November is applied to the residents who have connected
themselves to the electricity. Sparking new trips to the Basic
Electricity Office in Old Havana to explain to them what they should
obviously be very aware of.

One of the residents rests his hopes on managing to get an interview
with the Minister of Basic Industry, which controls the Electric
Company. His effort began through a friend who has a friend who is a
friend of the minister, but after waiting three months for this
improbable event, he went to the ministry in person and asked for an
interview. He was assured that even though it is delayed, the minister
deals with cases like his, so he feels optimistic that the blackout he
is suffering will be resolved.

After learning about this event, we can make some inferences that go
beyond who is responsible and what the deadlines for resolution are:
-Most of the neighbors have no confidence in the institutions and
decide to resolve the problem on their own
- The pathetic complaint mechanisms available to citizens do not work
- The capacity of some to resign themselves to such things is worthy of
a study that could explain certain social behaviors, well beyond those
related to a simple outage

Source: In the Dark / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/in-the-dark-14ymedio-regina-coyula/ Continue reading
Coppelia Puts Makeup on the Shortages / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Those who knew the centrally located ice cream parlor during its first
decades of life complain that after the remodeling the presentation,
variety and taste of the products on offer has not improved. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 May 2016 – Havanans enjoyed a certain
freshness twice this weekend. Not only did the thermometers drop a few
degrees, but the emblematic Coppelia ice cream parlor, located in the
heart of the capital, reopened its doors after being closed for repairs
for several weeks. The work is part of the 50th anniversary celebration
of this famous place, which is commemorated on the 4th of June.

The reopening of Coppelia has given rise to many reports in the official
press. Last Friday, the place was visited by a select group of officials
and later the public was allowed in. The customers could see that after
a new coat of paint and the revitalized green areas, the quality of the
ice cream sold in Cuban pesos continues to be low.

On Tuesday afternoon, a long line extended under the sun outside what is
commonly called the "Cathedral of Ice Cream." However, those who knew
the centrally located place in its first decades of life complained that
the remodel has not been accompanied by an improvement in the products,
either in its presentation or in its flavor and variety.

A man about 60 commented that the ice cream was "watered down," he had
tried the combination known as a "salad" which is five scoops and some
cookies. The man couldn't stop laughing when near his table a young man
exclaimed he was amazed that Coppelia had returned with "a pile of
flavors<' because on the menu you could read that they are selling
chocolate, curly chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.

Melancholy, the customer then evoked the original menu that
distinguished the most famous Cuban ice cream parlor, when there were 26
flavors and 24 possible combinations. The difference is not in the
quantity, but in the deterioration of the quality of the ice cream, that
sometimes has bits of ice in it, little flavor and no pieces of natural
fruit, like the strawberry, the orange pineapple and the mango they used
to have.

To the annoyance of the customers, the place keeps some traces of the
"workers diner" that it was during the Special Period. For example, you
have to share the tables, there can't be any vacant chairs, and it is
not always pleasant to sit with strangers.

On the top floor, known as The Tower, and beautifully designed by the
architect Mario Girona, they still limit sales to "two specialties per
person" according to an employee. However, with a couple of bill slipped
into the right hands, a customers can take home all the ice cream they
want, always with the stealth of "not filling the cups in view of the
bosses," says the waitress.

One of the new features much appreciated after the closing is the white
earthenware dishes in The Tower that replace the plastic ones, which,
however, remain in the so-called "courts" down below. In the first week
of the reopening, all the employees who serve the ice cream haven't
learned how to serve the ice cream in hollow scoops, a unique specialty
of selling ice cream in Cuba, and that has characterized the celebrated
ice cream parlor for years.

"Let's see how it is three weeks from now," said a distrustful mother
who took her two little kids to have ice cream at 23rd and L, the most
famous corner in the capital, this Tuesday. The woman sneered that "the
cookies that are supposed to go with the ice cream are where they're
supposed to be, on the plate," but "in a few days they'll be back in the
hands of the resellers outside the courts selling for extortionate prices.

A group of tourists naively asked customers why they were lined up a few
yards from a completely empty area selling the most varieties of ice
cream. A young college student, who was with a group of students from
the philosophy school, explained to the foreigners the difference
between consuming things in Cuban pesos versus Convertible pesos. "The
one in chavitos (convertible pesos) is better, but there's no one who
can afford it," said the young man.

The areas that are refurbished now are the The Court and The Tower,
along with the imposing white staircase that leads to the upper level,
the dome, the roof, and the typical wood and glass windows, also located
on the upper level. The refurbishment program includes spaces such as
the bar on the ground floor and the bathrooms, which will begin to be
restored in the coming weeks.

However, for many customers the improvements should not remain in the
physical appearance of Coppelia, but should be targeted to recovering
the prestige it once enjoyed, now "watered down" like its ice cream,
poor quality, unprofessional treatment by its employees and the absurd
measures implemented in its services, including the closure of the
beautiful passage to passersby. From now on, you can only enter after
standing in the long line outside the Cathedral of Ice Cream that seems
to have lost its way.

Source: Coppelia Puts Makeup on the Shortages / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/coppelia-puts-makeup-on-the-shortages-14ymedio-luz-escobar/ Continue reading
Hundreds of Cuban Migrants Are Stuck in Panama Without $805 to Travel to
Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 13 May 2016 — More than 300 Cuban
migrants cannot pay their passage to Mexico or have only part of the
money, a source in the Panamanian government who requested anonymity
told 14ymedio on Friday. The migrants are in a temporary shelter
prepared by the authorities in Gualaca (Chiriqui province), and so far
it has not been decided what will happen with those who don't manage to
get together the $805 that Panama's Copa Airlines is asking to take them
to Ciudad Juarez.

Yuneisis Martell, a woman from Villa Clara stranded in Panama, says
chagrined, "The majority have already left, those of us who are left are
those who have nothing."

"I don't know what they are going to do with us, the problem is that
many of us here lost money on the way, with the assaults, and what we
had left went to paying for the stay and food in Pasa Canoas," on the
border with Costa Rica.

In recent days, more than 1,000 Cubans have flown to Ciudad Juarez, or
are in the process of doing so, according to sources in the National
Migration Service. Last Monday, the Panamanian government started the
transfer of more than 3,800 Cubans who had been stranded in their
country, as part of an agreement with Mexico.

Xiegdel Candanedo, representative of Caritas' Social Pastoral in the
Chiriqui province, told 14ymedio that this organization, belonging to
the Catholic Church, will continue to support the Cubans. According
Candanedo, the ministry has so far donated food, medicine and clothing,
collaborating with the National Migration Service and the National Civil
Protection Service.

Candanedo said his organization "is not in a position to spend thousands
of dollars to help Cubans to reach the United States," but said that at
least four or five passages have been paid for by private donors through
Caritas. "Today we have learned of the case of a family that has the
resources to buy tickets for the parents, but needs to find the money
for the passage of the child," he said.

For Keila Ortega the hours in Gualaca don't pass. Every time she sees a
compañero leave the refuge, while she remains stuck there, she feels
more desperate. "My friends have turned their backs on me and those who
could help me right now are in a very difficult situation. They've
already done enough."

The women fears that in the end she'll remain trapped in Panama. "There
are those who say the Cuban-American members of Congress can't help us.
I would like anyone reading this to remember that they, too, came from
Cuba in the same situation as we are in, and it might touch their
hearts," she said.

A Miami businessman is making efforts to collaborate with helping these
migrants, although he declined to comment as long as his plans aren't firm.

Source: Hundreds of Cuban Migrants Are Stuck in Panama Without $805 to
Travel to Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/hundreds-of-cuban-migrants-are-stuck-in-panama-without-805-to-travel-to-mexico-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading

Los albergues de la ciudad fronteriza de El Paso (Texas) se preparan estos días ante la previsible llegada de 4.000 inmigrantes cubanos en las próximas dos semanas.

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… usage of the Main Ingredient-with Cuba Gooding, Sr. on lead vocals-as … . Gooding released "The First Cuba Gooding Album" and … children for awhile. I think Cuba Gooding, Jr., is experiencing the … Omar and Cuba, Jr., work on a project together. Cuba is an … Continue reading

El ministro español de Asuntos Exteriores en funciones, José Manuel García-Margallo, afirmó este sábado en La Habana que España “tiene que jugar un papel de liderazgo” en la negociación entre la Unión Europea y Cuba, en la etapa que se abre tras el acuerdo de diálogo político alcanzado por ambas partes.

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14ymedio/Agencies, Havana, 13 May 2016 — The suspension of the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, is bad news for Cuba, which, despite detente with Washington, is feeling the effects of the recession affecting its allies in South America and Africa. Brazil will review its short-term policy toward the island, as revealed on Friday to Reuters, by a … Continue reading "Rousseff’s Ouster Will Have a Negative Impact On The Cuban Economy / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Dicen los vecinos que la Paladar de Santiago, de las más caras de Cuba y situada en Jaimanitas, es frecuentada casi a diario por los hijos y nietos de los Castro. Continue reading
La Guayaba de Cartón: Elián en fuga por el ciberespacio Posted on 13 mayo, 2016 Por Wilfredo Cancio Isla Era previsible pero ya está oficialmente confirmado: la información de que “Elián González abandonó el país” es falsa. La Agencia Cubana de Noticias (ACN) se encargó del tácito desmentido a los “rumores” que el miércoles echó […] Continue reading
Cierran importante mercado de productos agropecuarios de La Habana Posted on 13 mayo, 2016 Por Redacción CaféFuerte El mercado mayorista de productos agropecuarios El Trigal, ubicado en el municipio de Boyeros, quedará cerrado a partir de este viernes, anunciaron las autoriades gubernamentales de La Habana. Según informó al Noticiero Nacional de Televisión (NTV) el vicepresidente […] Continue reading
Pastor bautista califica de “secuestro”su detención arbitraria en Cuba Martinoticias.com Mario F. Lleonart aseguró que civiles dirigían a las tropas especiales que los detuvieron a él, su esposa y un activista de derechos humanos en la carretera de Santa Clara a La Habana. El pastor bautista Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso calificó de “secuestro” la detención […] Continue reading
Hoy, frente al Malecón, regata EEUU-Cuba Martinoticias.com La regata de embarcaciones ligeras se disputa a doble vuelta en el tramo comprendido entre la embajada de Estados Unidos y el Hotel Deauville. Embarcaciones ligeras con tripulaciones de Cuba y Estados Unidos celebran este sábado la Regata Copa de la Amistad frente al malecón de La Habana, […] Continue reading
Un total de 24,527 cubanos han ingresado a EEUU por Texas mayo 13, 2016 Martinoticias.com En febrero, un promedio diario de 18 cubanos entró a Estados Unidos por los puertos fronterizos de El Paso y en marzo pasaron a ser 25 al día, de acuerdo con cifras del servicio de Aduanas y Protecci’on Fronteriza en […] Continue reading
Ecuador: Cubanos en proceso de deportación mayo 13, 2016 Jorge P. Martínez / martinoticias.com “El domingo, 15 de mayo, a las 10 a.m. en la Avenida América, donde se encuentra el monumento a Jose Martí vamos a hacer una reunión en la que van a participar también los medios de prensa, para solidarizarnos con la […] Continue reading
Cuba's push to attract tourists to beaches considered benefit not burden
for Florida
Posted: Yesterday 2:24 p.m.
By Maria Perez of the Naples Daily News

VARADERO, Cuba — With the waves of the turquoise Florida Straits behind
them, Brissia Bezada and Melissa Figueroa pose for photos they take with
smartphones and a selfie-stick.

Both from California, the women traveled far to this long, narrow
stretch of beach along Cuba's northern coast to vacation with a friend
in a place they have long wanted to see.

They are not alone. As the clouds pass and the sun beams down, more
tourists flock to the beach from nearby resorts, from Havana and from
other countries like Germany, Canada, Switzerland and Colombia. They lie
on deck chairs or towels spread out over the white Cuban sand on a lazy
afternoon. They sleep, chat, read and sip drinks from coconut shells
under a tiki umbrella with palm trees reaching high in the background.

It's vacation time in Cuba.

Cuban beaches and resorts have been a powerhouse in the country's
tourism for more than two decades, drawing crowds of Canadians,
Europeans and even some Americans searching for a Caribbean-flair
vacation. And although it's Havana where travelers struggle the most to
find a place to stay — the city's hotels and private rooms were booked
solid during the season's peak in March — the beaches also are drawing
their share of tourists.

March brought another record number of tourists, with the highest number
of travelers for any month in 30 years, according to data from the Cuban
National Office of Statistics and Information. Holy Week and spring
break typically draws big crowds, but the month also attracted tourists
to Cuba to see President Barack Obama, the Tampa Rays baseball game with
the Cuban National Team and a free concert from The Rolling Stones.

Many of those travelers spent at least some of their vacation on Cuba's
beaches, and the island hopes to draw even more visitors to its coast.
International hotel chains already operating in Cuba are talking
expansion on the beach, and that's a much needed addition to a limited
choice of hotels and resorts, many in desperate need of a face-lift that
cater to travelers seeking cheap vacations.

"Cuba continues to be a sun and beach destination, influenced by the
vacation travel packages sold by tour operators that have traditionally
commercialized Cuban tourism," said José Luis Perelló, tourism professor
at Havana University.

That's something Southwest Florida can understand, and the push in Cuba
after Obama's efforts to improve U.S. relations with the country is seen
less as a threat and more as an opportunity for Florida tourism.

Visit Florida Chief Marketing Officer Paul Phipps sees improving
relations with Cuba and the resumption of regular flights as a boost for
Florida's tourism business. Cubans will have an easier time traveling to
Florida, especially Miami, he said.

"I am not as concerned about them picking Cuba over Florida," he said.
"I think they may say, 'Let's go to Florida, and spend two days in Cuba.'"

***

Bezada, 31, and Figueroa, 33, two Mexican-Americans on vacation from
California, said they traveled to Cuba from Tijuana with an American
passport. Bezada works as a paralegal and studies law, so they decided
to visit during spring break.

"I have always wanted to come here," Bezada said.

They came for the Cuban culture, like Old Havana and its architecture.
They came for the nature of Viñales, the drinks, the traditional food.
They came to see how some Cubans create small art galleries in their
homes, and to learn how they keep old cars working. They wanted to see
the old Cuba before crowds of U.S. travelers change the country forever.

"It's like putting a film in pause mode," Bezada said of Cuba.

But Bezada and Figueroa also love the views from the beach in Varadero,
where their Cuban friend brought them. Varadero, a resort-town in a
narrow peninsula about a two-hour drive from Havana, is also the Cuban
destination for all-inclusive beach hotels. They were mostly built since
the 1990s to attract the international tourist and to generate revenue
for Cuba's struggling economy after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Some tourists eat at Xanadu Mansion, a small hotel built as a lavish
beachfront vacation residence around 1930 by U.S. businessman Irénée du
Pont, and nationalized after Castro came to power. No one plays in its
18-hole golf course that overlooks the straits, a course that offers
deals to play starting at $120 and going up to $900. At the other end of
the beach stands an all-inclusive, 490-room hotel shaped like a flower
of six petals in the style of a pyramid.

With travelers rushing to visit the island before U.S. firms arrive,
cultural, nature and city tourism are on the rise. U.S. tourists still
need an education, cultural or some other allowed purpose to visit Cuban
beaches, due to remaining travel restrictions. But international hotel
chains already on the island are betting on the coasts, planning to
expand there.

The number of Americans — excluding Cuban Americans — who visited the
island in the first quarter of the year doubled over last year's first
quarter number, reaching 73,139, Perelló said.

The tourists who visit the beaches tend to purchase all-inclusive
packages, travel with mass-tour operator programs and have middle or
lower purchasing power. But that may not be what Americans, who are
increasingly visiting the country, are seeking.

"The American, even if he visits the beach of Varadero or the Keys in
the north of Cuba, which have great beaches and hotels — with
all-inclusive regime — will prefer city, nature or cultural tourism," he
said.

***

The Varadero beach is clean and quiet, lined by bungalows and hotels
offering hundreds of rooms. There's no promenade or boardwalk along the
beach with restaurants, ice cream parlors or souvenir shops. Restaurants
can be found in the nearby hotels or a shopping center a short drive away.

This is not the future for Cuba's beach tourism envisioned by early
promoters, according to writer Rosalie Schwartz. She traces the first
Cuban tourism boom to the 1920s in an excerpt from "The Invasion of the
Tourists" included in "The Cuba Reader."

"Tourism promoters envisioned thousands of moneyed visitors who would
spend their dollars in Cuba's hotels, restaurants, shops and nightclubs,
or at the casino and racetrack," Schwartz wrote.

Investors imagined Cuba as an American Riviera, catering to wealthy and
thirsty U.S. travelers in the time of the Prohibition, Schwartz says.
The idea prompted du Pont to build mansions for himself and other
wealthy U.S. businessmen.

That boom, Schwartz writes, ended with the Great Depression, Cuba's 1933
Revolution and the end of Prohibition. But it reappeared in the 1950s,
opening the island to the masses, bringing the middle and working class
with paid vacation time and disposable income, Schwartz wrote. Varadero
lost its 20s elitism.

A new tourism surge today for Cuba could draw more visitors to the
region, including Florida. Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples,
Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau, said increasing
tourism to Cuba is an opportunity for Collier County.

"Overall, we are certainly excited about the possibility of tourism
opening more between Cuba and the U.S.," he said.

If direct flights to Cuba open from Fort Myers or Naples, Canadians and
others visiting the island could consider stopping in Southwest Florida,
maybe on their way back home, Wert said.

"I don't think we will lose business in our area to Cuba," he said.

Silver Airways and Sun Country Airlines have asked the U.S. Department
of Transportation to allow their commercial flights to Cuba from
Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers.

The decision on whether Fort Myer's airport will get commercial flights
to Cuba will influence Choice Aire's decision to resume a charter flight
to Havana that was ended in November, said Danny Looney, Choice Aire's
CEO. The charter flights won't resume if commercial flights are awarded,
he said.

***

Sitting on a towel at the Varadero beach, Figuera said she wanted to
travel from California to Cuba before McDonalds and Starbucks open for
business.

She and Bezada were thrilled though when they got to see Obama in March
a few hours after he landed in Cuba.

"It's something I can write down in my diary," Bezada said.

But there have been disappointments on their trip to Cuba. Their hotel
in Havana has many floors under renovations. It's difficult to find
food, so much so that Figueroa and Bezada are thinking of setting up a
restaurant that mixes Cuban and Mexican cultures.

It's easy to find tourists who complain about Cuban hotels or what's
available in the country.

The increase of international tourists, including 27,000 U.S. visitors
in March, posed a challenge to Cuba's hotel capacity, especially in
Havana, Perelló said.

Cuba's tourism sector has faced growing pains in the face a continued
U.S. trade embargo, he said, including lack of financing, inability to
buy products from abroad, and commercial and credit restrictions,
Perelló said. The normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba
could resolve those problems, bring agreements with U.S. hotel chains,
and help improve and expand the island's tourism infrastructure, he said.

Some progress is underway.

The Brazilian Odebrecht is in charge of expanding the international
terminal at Havana's Jose Marti Airport to double its capacity, which
could be used for regular flights between the U.S. and Cuba and allow a
higher volume of visitors.

Starwood Hotels already has deals to operate three hotels in Havana.

Hotel chains already present in Cuba are expanding to respond to the
demand. Spanish multinational hotel chains Meliá and Iberostar, and
travel group Globalia, which owns a hotel chain and an airline, are
expanding in Varadero.

Globalia is opening a new airport route this summer from Madrid to
Varadero that will travel twice a week, and added a new hotel in
Varadero, reaching 781 hotel rooms.

Iberostar, another chain with a big presence in Cuba, expects to open a
new 5-star hotel in Varadero this year.

Hotel improvements would be welcome by some travelers.

Ann Rhodes, 70, and Marily Asofsky, 76, are among those Americans who
visited Cuba for cultural attractions and because they wanted to see the
island before it changes. Rhodes and Asofsky, from Boca Raton, had an
afternoon free in Varadero as they traveled with about two dozen others
on a Road Scholar People to People trip. They loved the country and the
people, but the hotels, not so much.

They were supposed to spend five days at the Hotel Nacional, a flagship
in Havana. But on the second day of their stay in March, they were moved
to another because of space needs to accommodate Obama's visit to Cuba.
That hotel, they said, left a lot to be desired.

"You had to close your eyes," Rhodes said.

***

As the sun goes down, two male Cuban dancers teach salsa dancing to four
women in their early 20s on vacation from Mexico. Wearing beach clothing
and in bare-feet, the women take turns dancing without music with their
instructors on a terrace of tiles by the sea.

"You start with the right foot behind, and then the left one," said one
of the dancers.

When Ildemar Rodríguez and Osvaldo Batallan play Los Van Van, a Cuban
timba group, the girls try to follow their steps. They laugh, have
missteps, and focus on the choreography and the hip movements.

One of the friends, Atziri Pimentel, asks her teacher if he has ever
traveled abroad to perform. He says he hasn't yet.

"Well, if you want, we get married and you come to Mexico," she said
jokingly.

The friends know what they like about Cuba: its architecture and
history, yes. But also dancing reggaeton, lying on the beach, and
partying with Cuban boys.

"We are having a great time," said Karen Lara, a 23-year old psychology
student.

They have already toured Old Havana and went out to a private bar in the
city full of foreigners. They also went to a Buena Vista Social Club
salsa show where they drank mojitos, danced and sang Celia Cruz songs.

They have taken so many photos that they don't have much memory left on
their phones.

And before the sun sets, the friends leave their day on the beach behind
for Havana.

"The night is long," Pimentel tells the dancers. "We have to dress up
and go party."

Source: Cuba's push to attract tourists to beaches considered benefit
not burden for Florida -
http://www.naplesnews.com/news/local/cubas-push-to-attract-tourists-to-beaches-considered-benefit-not-burden-for-florida-30d97d32-3e16-07--379417641.html Continue reading
Northeastern to establish co-op programs in Cuba
By Mina Corpuz GLOBE CORRESPONDENT MAY 13, 2016

As the United States and Cuba work to repair strained relations,
Northeastern University will collaborate with a Cuban foundation and
college to establish co-op programs in the country by 2017, school
officials said.

Students will have the chance to research marine science and the
environment at the nongovernmental organization called Fundación Antonio
Núñez Jiménez, or study at the University of Havana School of
Communications.

"It's a significant new step that goes beyond the standard study abroad
by US universities," said José Buscaglia, a Northeastern professor who
helped establish the partnerships. "It really opens the doors to really
substantial relations, people to people contacts, and cooperation to
develop a more open society in Cuba."

Delegates from the school and foundation in Cuba met with officials from
Northeastern this week to sign agreements for the partnership, Buscaglia
said. The foundation program will start as early as spring 2017 and the
one at the communication school will begin in fall 2017, he said.

Students will spend a semester — about four months — living with a host
family and working in the private sector or on research projects.

For one of the programs, a team of students from different academic
areas will collaborate on a project at Zapata Swamp in a large mangrove
forest. At the School of Communications, students will study the media
and other areas such as government that encompasses the aspects of Cuban
society, Buscaglia said.

Buscaglia said a handful of students may sign up for the inaugural
co-op. The program has the potential to grow because of the desire to
study in Cuba and demand for people to work there, he said.

Mina Corpuz can be reached at mina.corpuz@globe.com. Follow her on
Twitter @mlcorpuz.

Source: Northeastern to establish co-op programs in Cuba - The Boston
Globe -
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/05/13/northeastern-establish-programs-cuba/5oW3ztwCrbWfAQaU2NmNuL/story.html Continue reading
Fathom is a cruise to Cuba with a social purpose

Fathom is Carnival's new social-impact cruise line

It offers sailings to Cuba and the Dominican Republic

The Dominican itinerary emphasizes volunteer tourism; the Cuban one
focuses on people-to-people exchanges
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

SANTIAGO, CUBA
After the Madrigalista Choir finished a performance for a group of
American travelers in this Cuban city, they answered questions about
their lives, then cajoled the Americans onto their feet to the
syncopated beat of a conga Santiaguera.

The American travelers, who were circumnavigating Cuba on the Adonia,
also chatted with the operators of El Fígaro, a private restaurant in
Havana. They then climbed 52 marble steps to visit a private barbershop
— an enterprise that has spurred neighbors all along the street to go
into business for themselves.

Two weeks prior and some 335 miles to the east near Puerto Plata,
Dominican Republic, Adonia passenger Joy Steinberg of North Carolina
planted seedlings in compost, learned to make paper from recycled
materials and worked on hands-on with volunteer projects.

Two different countries, two different approaches to social-impact
tourism. Both itineraries are being offered by Carnival Corp.'s Fathom
line as it tries to provide an experience that brings cruisers closer to
the people and places they are visiting. Fathom's single ship, the
704-passenger Adonia, alternates between week-long cruises from Port
Miami to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

In Cuba, where the Adonia made its maiden voyage May 1, the emphasis is
on deep cultural immersion and people-to-people connections. The ship
calls in three cities: Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago, allowing
passengers to see different regions of the country without unpacking
their bags.

Most passengers on the Cuba cruise were in the 40-65 age group. Fathom
officials said that those on the Dominican cruise were much younger,
about half the age of the Cuba cruisers, and the majority of them had
never cruised before.

The Dominican itinerary offers more hands-on activities, with cruisers
working alongside Dominicans on sustainable projects that focus on
education, the environment and economic development. Projects include
installing home water filters, replacing dirt floors with more sanitary
concrete, and helping a women's cooperative mold and package chocolate bars.

Once the Adonia reaches the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, it
remains anchored at Amber Cove. Passengers use it as their base as they
fan out into the neighboring region to participate in projects from
Tuesday to Friday when the ship is in port.

While the Dominicans welcome volunteer tourism, or voluntourism, the
Cuban government isn't interested in such hands-on involvement in its
social institutions, so the programs on the island have been structured
differently. "The Cuban government is not saying to the world 'come and
help us,' " said Arnold Donald, Carnival Corp.'s chief executive.

Tara Russell, president of Fathom, said she wants to make a difference
in the world. While the Dominican projects may be small-scale, the hope
is that month after month, working alongside Dominicans in the same
projects, slowly lives will begin to improve, she said. With continued
English lessons, for example, students may eventually be able to land
jobs in the tourism industry, she said.

"Travel is a really incredible form of connection and transformation,"
Russell said.

The tally of accomplishments for the first two weeks of Fathom sailings
to the Dominican Republic: 100 water filters installed in homes, more
than 4,700 seedlings planted, concrete floors installed in five homes,
10,300 chocolate bars wrapped and more than 1,530 sheets of recycled
paper produced, putting more money in the pockets of the women who form
an arts-and-crafts enterprise and ultimately allowing them to expand
their business.

"We're about a holistic experience; we're not just a ship," Russell said.

The experience extends to selling products aboard ship made by Cuban and
Dominican artisans. Cabins are stocked with fair-trade toiletries such
as Brazil nut oil body lotion and cane sugar shampoo and a special
Cuban-Dominican menu at the Ocean Grill, the ship's fine-dining restaurant.

It includes selections such as mofongo, fish in a coconut sauce, an
upscale sancocho, and very good beans and rice for an upcharge of $25
per meal.

"We really wanted to source products for the cabins, the food and wines,
and for the stores, from companies that had a sustainability story,"
said Ted Howes, Fathom's director of product/experience.

The ship, which was previously positioned for British cruises, has the
feel of an English country manor rather than a cruise ship plying
Caribbean waters. Think lots of dark wood, a paneled lending library, a
faux fireplace in one of the lounges and electric teapots in the cabins.

The Adonia has a swimming pool, spa and gym. An added perk are the
chimichurri burgers that are served poolside during afternoon barbecues.
But there are no elaborate stage shows, a casino, or frills like
ice-skating rinks or rock-climbing walls found on larger ships.

There's a New Age feeling to the shipboard experience with
social-innovation workshops, message boards outside each cabin that
encourage passengers to list their super heroes and spirit animals, dawn
meditation sessions, and early-morning yoga if you're interested.

Workshops where passengers are encouraged to tell their own stories and
learn the elements of great storytelling also are part of the experience.

On the Cuba cruise, salsa and Spanish lessons were offered. Two Cuban
bands entertained. Activities even included a domino throw-down.

Working on a vacation might not be everyone's cup of tea, but Steinberg,
a market researcher from Chapel Hill, N.C., is so enthusiastic about
voluntourism that the Fathom cruise was her eighth international
volunteer experience.

While cruisers are in port in the Dominican Republic, they can take part
in as many or as few volunteer activities as they want. Steinberg signed
on for a full schedule of four activities but also had time to snorkel
and go on a catamaran excursion.

Unlike her previous vacations, she said, where she had to pick service
or leisure, the Fathom cruise combined the two.

Her favorite activity was working at RePapel, a women's recycling co-op
where she not only learned the process of making recycled paper but also
worked with women making jewelry from coffee beans and candles from
recycled products. "The music was going, and we had an opportunity to
really talk with the women about their vision for growing the business
and helping their families," she said.

The highpoint for Lynette Standley and her husband, Patrick, was a few
hours in a classroom teaching a group of kids basic English phrases and
greetings and working with them on flash cards. "They were so excited to
see us. I could have stayed all day," said Lynette Standley. "My husband
is an engineer and kind of a black-and-white type of guy, so it was nice
to see him interact with the kids and get outside his comfort zone."

The couple, who are from Boise, Idaho, also volunteered at the chocolate
factory and planted seedlings.

In the past, Standley said she and her husband have been to beautiful
places but often felt the tourism experience was disconnected from the
lives of the people in the destinations. "This program acts as bridge.
You're going out with the locals and really experiencing the Dominican
Republic. There's a much deeper connection," she said.

Standley also liked being able to return to the comfort and amenities of
the ship after a day of volunteer work. "It really is the best of both
worlds," she said.

While the Dominican program has been developed over several months in
conjunction with two established Dominican development partners, Entrena
and the Dominican Institute for Integral Development, Fathom's Cuban
program is still very much a work in progress. Its maiden voyage to Cuba
on May 1 was the first cruise by a U.S.-home-ported ship directly to
Cuba in more than 50 years.

Some of the passengers said the onshore programs in Cuba still felt too
much like conventional tours and didn't provide enough opportunities for
exchanges with Cubans. "I felt like I could learn more about Cuba if I
went on my own," said Michael Rolfes, 25, of Newport Beach, Calif. "I
would have liked to free-range more."

To comply with U.S. regulations, Fathom must offer passengers a
full-time schedule of activities that promote people-to-people
engagements in Cuba.

Many of the Cuba passengers said they enjoyed the musical performances
they experienced everywhere from concert halls and restaurants to street
corners, but it left them hungering for more personal contacts.

Among the problems is trying to create intimate encounters for 700
people while juggling the logistics of ferrying them around ports of call.

"We've had a short amount of time since we got Cuban approval for the
cruise [March 21]," Russell said. "We have a lot of work to do on the
Cuba product." Over time, she said, Fathom hopes to develop more
customized tours with its Cuban partner, Havanatur, that might feature
conversations with artists, a classic car experience, and visits to the
shops and workshops of more private entrepreneurs.

Source: Fathom is a cruise to Cuba with a social purpose | Miami Herald
- http://www.miamiherald.com/living/travel/cruises/article77540512.html Continue reading
Viñales: The Cuban town that works on its own

A thriving tourism economy spurs residents to be their own bosses
Private guest houses and restaurants line the streets
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

VIÑALES, CUBA
María Pérez sells little wooden birds and straw hats to the tourists who
visit an open-air market near this small town's main street, but she and
her husband dream of adding a room to their home so they can cash in on
the tourism boom.

The draw is the scenic Viñales Valley. With its caves and stalactites,
flat-topped limestone mogotes, mineral baths, springs and archaeological
digs, it has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

You could also call nearby Viñales the town of cuentapropistas.
Self-employment has really bloomed in this community of about 28,000
people that lies 130 miles southwest of Havana.

Along Calle Salvador Cisneros, the main drag, you can have your pick of
cuisine at the many paladares (private restaurants) and bars that have
sprung up in old tile-roofed buildings. There's El Olivo that advertises
"a Mediterranean diet," the Mar Mágico seafood restaurant, a vegetarian
restaurant, pizzerias, and the sleek black-and-white-themed La Cuenca,
which serves a mix of Cuban and international cuisine.

At the 3J Bar de Tapas, the blenders behind a bar flooded with pink
light are whirring as two barmen churn out piña coladas, mojitos and
caipirinhas.

The corner property — the second-oldest house in Viñales — had been
vacant for 15 years when Jean Pierre Rojas bought it three years ago. It
was a wreck, but the price was right, he said. And the serial
entrepreneur was up for the challenge.

"People thought I was crazy when I bought it," he said. But he turned it
into a stylish place with exposed brick walls and crystal chandeliers.
The thick wooden doors of the original house remain and open up onto the
front walkway where a few more tables have been set up.

Even on a weeknight, the 3J was full of patrons munching on seafood
tapas, barbecued lamb, ravioli and croquetas.

Rojas also runs a restaurant that serves typical Cuban food and rents
out rooms. Between all his enterprises, Rojas employs 35 people.

His biggest problem, he said, is getting the basic supplies he needs to
run his businesses. "I go to Havana twice a week to hunt for things,"
Rojas said. He even buys the baguettes for his sandwiches in the capital
because no one bakes them in Viñales.

"We're very happy to have these opportunities, but I think if I were
running a business like this anywhere else in the world, it would be
four times easier," he said.

"This was a very poor area before tourism," Rojas said as he surveyed
the lively scene at the 3J, which takes its name from the beginning
initial of his first name and those of his two sons. "I think this is
great. The moment has arrived."

With only a few state-run hotels — the Horizontes La Ermita, where
guests gather on the lawn to watch sunsets over the valley, the Hotel
Rancho San Vincente and the bright pink Hotel Los Jazmines that sits
near an overlook with spectacular views of the mogotes — entrepreneurs
have sprung into action.

Private homes painted brilliant hues of lime green, pink, sky blue,
sunshine yellow, turquoise and coral offer rooms and apartments for
rent. Some boast fanciful names: Casa Arcoiris (Rainbow House), La Casa
de las Sonrisas (the House of Smiles) and Villa Musical, but they're
generally named after their proprietors.

On some blocks, nearly every home offers rooms, and one enterprising
group of neighbors in a row of two-story homes has joined forces and is
offering their homes as a package so that larger groups — up to 20
people at a time — can be accommodated.

Airbnb, the San-Francisco-based home-stay company that launched
operations in Cuba in April 2015, has 200 listings in Viñales. Only
Havana and Trinidad have more Airbnb hosts. The average Cuban host makes
$250 per booking, making the casa particular business far more lucrative
than most Cuban jobs — even if hosts get only one booking per month.

But there are many more casas particulares in Viñales that aren't in the
Airbnb network. Fernando García, who has listed his casa on the
outskirts of Viñales on Airbnb, estimates that there are more than 1,000
casas particulares in and around the town. And he says there are more
than 50 private restaurants.

"The competition here is fierce," he said. In the past year alone, he
said hundreds of additional rooms have come on the market.

In this crowded field, the casas compete by offering extra amenities and
services. A welcome mojito is pretty standard, but other casas advertise
salsa lessons, hiking excursions, horseback riding and bicycle tours.
Others tout their rooftop bars, massages, barbecue or special vegan
menus. These services and extras are often provided by other
cuentapropistas.

García, who also runs a restaurant and bar, knows the importance of
differentiation and puts an emphasis on customer service. When his
guests arrive, he offers them juice, coffee or a cocktail. "They always
like to have something on the house," he said.

His extensive gardens that produce fresh fruit and vegetables for his
guests, his tasty barbecue, the prime views of the valley from his
property and his location — rural yet only about 6/10th of a mile from
town — help set him apart, García said.

Since joining Airbnb, he's been booking a lot more American travelers,
and recent guests have come from as far afield as Australia and
Switzerland. His wife and niece help out, but juggling the restaurant,
bar, rooms and gardens is a lot of work, he said.

García said he could have far more reservations if he had Wi-Fi at his
house. Every morning, he goes into town to the office of ETECSA, the
state telecom company, where he checks email and his reservation
requests. But he knows he is losing business — especially from guests
who want instant confirmation that a room is available — by not having
better-than-once-a-day internet access.

Within six months, he hopes to add at least another room, but perhaps as
many as four. "It all depends on how things work out," he said.

This is the crowded club that María Pérez aspires to join.

During the week, she works for a cuentapropista who owns the stall where
she works; on the weekends, she works at her home giving fancy
manicures. She and her husband share a bedroom with their baby son, but
they're trying to fix up a room to rent out. "I'm trying, but it's hard
working so much here," she said.

"Everyone here rents a room," Pérez said. "It's because there's so much
tourism."

She used to have a job at an air-conditioned state store, but she much
prefers working at the street fair selling carved wooden spoons, magnets
and other souvenirs because the pay is better.

Along Calle Salvador Cisneros, other cuentapropistas have taken
advantage of the foot traffic and restaurant-goers to set up shop. One
man repairs cellphones; another, watches. Nearby, a young woman awaiting
an al fresco manicure soaks her hands in a plastic basin while a man
hawks pots and pans and hardware he has spread out on a cloth on the
sidewalk.

The cuentapropistas are even more imaginative at Los Jazmines overlook,
which provides panoramic views of the valley, the mogotes and Los
Órganos mountain range in the distance.

Yohan Alejandro Ulloa, an actor and street performer, has perfected the
art of sitting statue-still as he portrays Tite, El Chichiricú, a famed
tobacco roller from Pinar del Rio. He wears bronze makeup from head to
toe, and even his cigar-rolling table and instruments are bronzed.

He's so realistic as a bronze statue, right down to the tiny bronzed
curls of hair that he makes by rolling thread around a pen and them
applying a gum, that he often startles visitors when he changes position
or opens his eyes. He has pre-bronzed his clothes, but it still takes
him about a hour each day to apply his makeup.

"I've been doing this art for more than two years," he said, adding that
he's a legal independent performer with "all the relevant government
permits. I prefer to work on my own, rather than for an organization,
because economically it works out better."

You might think the grizzled guajiro who works the parking lot at the
same overlook and offers rides on a saddled ox for about $1 is an
enterprising cuentapropista, as well. No, he said, he works for the state.

Ulloa used to work in a tobacco factory in Pinar del Rio — the
provincial capital where he lives — portraying, but cameras weren't
allowed inside the factory, cutting into his earnings potential with
tourists.

It's lucrative enough and there are enough tourists at Los Jazmines
overlook that he's willing to make a daily 40-minute trek from Pinar del
Rio.

But that commute may start to take longer. On a recent day, several tour
buses and classic cars clogged the road leading out of town in front of
El Campesino, a popular paladar known for its barbecued chicken. Viñales
is starting to have traffic jams.

Source: Viñales: The Cuban town that works on its own | In Cuba Today -
http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article77418227.html Continue reading
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En una cadena de radio y televisión, Maduro firmó el viernes por la noche "un nuevo decreto de estado de excepción y de emergencia económica".

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