April 2014
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CUBA STANDARD — Promising to fill new hotel rooms on the island, six Mexican tour operators joined forces with Aeroméxico to offer direct flights from Mexico City to beach resort Cayo Santa María during Mexico’s summer vacations this year, the tourism ministry announced. Aeroméxico will fly once a week, from July 19 through Aug. 9, non-stop [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recommended the lecture of the latest novel by Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, official newswire Prensa Latina reported. Padura, in Brazil for a book fair to present his latest novel, The Man Who Loved Dogs, was invited to lunch with the president. After her meeting, Rousseff wrote in her Twitter [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — The administrators of the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) are working closely with foreign investors on 15 project applications, the ZEDM chief executive said during a fair in Havana, according to official media. Ana Teresa Igarza didn’t specify the investors, but she said they hailed from Spain, Russia, Italy, China and Brazil, and [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — State sugar holding company Azcuba is planning to install up to 19 biomass power plants, Prensa Latina reported. The biomass plants — some attached to sugar mills, some would be remodels of existing power plants — would generate up to 765 megawatts in electric power mostly with bagasse, a byproduct of sugar production, [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — The Association of Spanish Entrepreneurs in Cuba (AEEC) elected a new president, relieving Victor Moro Suárez who headed the 20-year old organization since 2002, Spanish news agency efe reported. The AEEC is the only association of its kind in Cuba. The new president, Xulio Fontecha, won in a 88-47 vote and will be in office [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — French Foreign Minster Laurent Fabius will arrive in Cuba this Saturday, becoming the highest-ranking French visitor to the island in three decades. Fabius’ visit comes as Cuba and the European Union have agreed to begin talks about fully normalizing their relations, and as Cuba is seeking to attract foreign investment. Fabius will witness the [...] Continue reading
By Vito Echevarria CUBA STANDARD — As the government lets Cubans set up their own micro businesses, launches an export processing zone at Mariel, and passes a new foreign investment law, at least three U.S. trade groups and think tanks, including the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC), are planning trips to Havana this spring. While U.S. [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — U.S. food and agricultural sales to Cuba continued their downward trend in 2013, with a 23.7% drop, according to U.S. trade data. U.S. agricultural and food sales totaled $348.75 million last year, down from $457.3 million in 2012, according to statistics prepared by the New York-based  U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. U.S. sales to [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Putting tourism on track to set a record this winter season, the number of travelers to Cuba grew 7.2% in the January-February period, according to data released by the National Statistics Office (ONE). Arrivals in February, the latest data available, grew 5.3%. The strong start of the year also makes it possible that 2014 [...] Continue reading
By José Manuel Pallí, Esq. For the past few days, everyone, in and out of Cuba, has been commenting on a law — Cuba’s ‘new’ foreign investment law — no one seems to have fully read yet. An American friend from Massachusetts, finding me all worked-up with that very same topic, wistfully [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD – The aspect of the new foreign investment law with the probably biggest long-term impact on the Cuban economy is the role it assigns to the more than 1 million Cubans living abroad. Although it doesn’t mention Cuban émigrés specifically, the draft law that circulated in the days before the vote March 29 seems to [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Executives of 31 Brazilian companies were in Cuba last week to explore options of opening shop at the Mariel Special Development Zone. The delegation, put together by the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) and supported by the Federação das Indústrias de São Paulo (Fiesp), follows up on the urging of the Brazilian [...] Continue reading
By José Manuel Pallí, Esq. All things Cuban seem to live in a very particular time warp. Sometimes, more often than not, time seems static; but every now and then time seems to move feverishly fast. A presentation before the press corps in Havana of the proposed foreign investment law that is to replace or supersede Law [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — The Grupo Odebrecht subsidiary that committed to operating a sugarmill in Cienfuegos province for 15 years has ambitious plans, official Website Cubadebate reported. As part of a production administration agreement with state holding Azcuba, Companhia de Obras e Infraestructura (COI) wants to boost sugar production from currently 40,000 tons a year to 150,000 [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Granting a raise to one of the most productive groups of Cuban employees, the Council of Ministers boosted the low salaries of more than 440,000 Cuban healthcare workers by more than 100 percent, to guarantee “stability and quality of healthcare services” in Cuba and help them “comply with their international commitments.” Cuban healthcare [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — After a three-year decline, world nickel prices are on the rise again, providing respite for cash-strapped Cuba. Nickel, used in stainless steel production, is Cuba’s No. 1 export commodity. Higher nickel prices are adding to a rebound in tourism this winter season for higher hard-currency revenues. Even so, anaemic GDP growth expected for this [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — In what would be the highest-level visit of a French official in decades, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced he is planning to visit Cuba ’soon.’ “I confirmed to my friend and colleague that I will soon be in Cuba, which is news,” Fabius said today during a joint press conference in Paris with [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Two committees of the National Assembly have begun preparatory work on a new foreign investment law that is expected to be passed by an upcoming extraordinary session this month, while experts throughout the island are providing input to the proposed law. The judicial and economic committees have begun a “broad and detailed process” [...] Continue reading
By Domingo Amuchastegui China and Venezuela are Cuba’s most important trading partners, representing 12.5% and 40% of Cuba’s foreign trade, respectively. In recent times, a growing number of observers have been suggesting that these two countries might, for a host of different reasons, cut down their economic ties with Cuba. There is also speculation about an [...] Continue reading
By Vito Echevarría NEW YORK – Recent concerns about the Cuban consulate’s inability to process payments for visa applications didn’t prevent participants at a March 1 seminar in New York on U.S. travel to Cuba from forecasting stepped-up U.S. licensed visits to the island. “I think there will be general licenses before the spring is over,” said John [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Without setting a deadline for currency reform, the Ministry of Finance and Prices published three resolutions March 6 that layout how state companies will determine the value of their assets under a unified currency, and how wholesale and retail prices will be set. The government announced last fall it will merge the convertible [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Three weeks after the European Union proposed negotiations with Cuba over an agreement for political dialogue and cooperation, the Cuban government officially accepted. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said he received a letter Feb. 10 from EU High Commissioner for External Affairs Catherine Ashton with an invitation to begin talks. “Cuba welcomes the proposal with [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Breaking a record in visitor numbers for the month and growing a hefty 9.3% from January 2013, 320,032 tourists visited Cuba in January, the National Statistics Office (ONE) reported. The rise is a rebound from two years of stagnation. In 2011,  January set a new record with 296,055 visitors, but in 2012 and [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD – Nearly 100 works of art were stolen from the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, Cuba’s National Council of Cultural Heritage said on its website. Calling it a ‘major loss,’ the government institution said 95 pieces disappeared from a warehouse, with no sign of forced entry. The thieves cut the paintings out of [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — In his summary of activities for 2013, Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero said that the 86 agricultural state enterprises closed the year with an overall loss, while cooperatives were profitable, according to official daily Granma. The 210 million peso (non-convertible CUP) loss of the state enterprises contrasts with an overall 211 million peso [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Doubling their number in one stroke to 452, the Council of Ministers approved the creation of 228 non-agricultural cooperatives, according to official media. As part of its economic reforms, Cuba is granting space to private enterprises in “non-strategic” sectors of the economy. The government has particularly been supporting the creation of member-owned, non-agricultural [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD – A 43-member delegation from Orlando, Florida will travel to Cuba April 2-6 as part of the ‘A Taste of Cuba’ people-to-people tour. Most of the participants are members of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce. Even so, they won’t be doing business, nor will they be meeting with Cuban officials, Chamber Vice President José Fajardo [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Brazilian ex-president Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva lectured Cuban officials in Havana on how to attract foreign investors. In a speech to government officials and state company executives Feb. 26 at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, the former president touted ”The Brazilian experience in attracting investments — the State as inducer, associate and facilitator”. “Our [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — In a speech to labor union delegates on Feb. 23, President Raúl Castro reiterated that a new foreign investment law will be discussed in a special session of the National Assembly in March. Castro told the congress of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC) Feb. 23 that the executive has been working [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Air Berlin will double its weekly flights to Varadero to four next winter season. Beginning in November 2014, Germany’s second-largest airline will offer two weekly flights each from Munich and Düsseldorf to Varadero, the airline announced. The additional flights will use Airbus A330-200.  The flights from Düsseldorf leave Wednesdays and Sundays; the flights from [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — In 1998, Illinois Gov. George Ryan became the first U.S. governor to travel to Cuba since the Revolution, and his state was in a good starting position three years later when U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba began. Even so, the agribusiness powerhouse in the Midwest fell behind peer states in organizing trade with [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — The Cuban Interests Section  in Washington announced on Friday, the day of an extended deadline set by M&T Bank for ending deposits, that it was forced to again suspend consular services, effective immediately, “until banking services resume.” The Interests Section had already suspended consular services for 13 days in November and December, after [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — In a rare Europe-based Cuban R&D partnership, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) partnered with a new company formed by French equity investment firm Truffle Capital to license a therapeutic vaccine for chronic hepatitis B for markets in Europe and Asia, for starters. Truffle said in a press release that it partnered with CIGB [...] Continue reading
An article published Feb. 9 incorrectly stated that Caricom had already taken a decision to open a trade facilitation office in Cuba. “We wish to categorically state that NO DECISION has been taken on any of the recommendations of the Consultant and more explicitly, that the Caribbean Community cannot establish ‘Trade Facilitation’ offices in any [...] Continue reading
By Philip Peters Short of Jorge Mas Canosa rising from the dead and saying, “Never mind,” it’s hard to think of a bigger shift in the Miami political landscape than the news that the Fanjul brothers have traveled to Cuba and would like to invest there. The Fanjuls are known for doing very well in sugar, a [...] Continue reading
By Vito Echevarría CUBA STANDARD – In May 2013, London-based Esencia Group reached a formal agreement with the Cuban government to build the $350 million Carbonera Club golf course community, with construction planned to begin in 2014. As the National Assembly is expected to pass a new foreign investment law in March, things have been quiet at the site just west of Varadero where Carbonera is supposed [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — A majority of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba, according to a poll commissioned by the Washington-based Atlantic Council. Nationwide, 56 percent of respondents favor changing Washington’s Cuba policy. Support is strongest among Democrats and independents, but 52 percent of Republicans also favor normalization. “The survey results indicate that Americans want a change in U.S.-Cuba policy,” [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — In January, a British company started by ex-treasury and trade minister Phillip Oppenheim signed an agreement to invest in Cuban coffee. The $4 million investment by Oppenheim’s Cuba Mountain Coffee Co. Ltd. is not only one of the first by a foreign company in Cuban coffee, but also a rare example of a foreign investor engaging private entities in Cuba. Under a [...] Continue reading
By Domingo Amuchastegui When the National Assembly gathers in late March to discuss a new foreign investment law, we should be aware of some history. Cuba’s current law (Law 77, 1995) was born with a flaw: In the course of the parliamentary debates, Fidel Castro became its Number One opponent. He said it publicly: he objected to the term “foreign direct investment” (Article 12) and [...] Continue reading
By Domingo Amuchastegui Brazil has, finally, become one of Cuba’s most important economic partners. Why now and not before? After all, since 1959 Cuba was always very much inclined to build special relations with Brazil. But post-dictatorship Brazilian presidents, from José Sarney to Fernando Henrique Cardoso, did not implement any initiatives aimed at creating a closer and economically important partnership with Cuba. Even Fidel Castro’s close friend Luiz [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — State utility Unión Eléctrica (UNE) completed a trial run of the largest new fuel-oil power plant on the island, official media reported. The new facility, near the nickel mining town of Moa in eastern Holguín province, consists of 10 generators providing a total of 184 megawatt, according to official media. It is part [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — The Caribbean Community (Caricom) plans to open a trade facilitation office in Cuba, which is not a member of the bloc. The office in Havana, together with offices in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Venezuela, will be “key to the region taking greater advantage of trade agreements with third countries,” the [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Travel is turning U.S. citizens into opponents of the embargo against Cuba, according to a survey commissioned by Friendly Planet Travel, a licensed U.S. travel provider. Friendly Planet surveyed 423 Americans who visited Cuba during the past two-and-half years as part of people-to-people programs licensed by the Obama Administration. According to the survey, 88.2% of [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Cuban state utility Unión Eléctrica (UNE) is completing the third of four turnkey fuel-oil power plants in Ecuador, in a cooperation program with state utility Corporación Eléctrica de Ecuador S.A. (CELEC) funded by the Ecuadorean government. Completion of Guangopolo 2, a 50-megawatt thermal power plant south of the capital Quito, was scheduled for [...] Continue reading
The View from Europe By David Jessop The President of the European Commission (EC), José Manuel Barroso, has confirmed that Europe is presently in the process of debating a significant change in its policy towards Cuba. Speaking recently to journalists in Madrid, Mr. Barroso, who is a former Portuguese prime minister, said that the European Union (EU) is [...] Continue reading