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Trade

Panama Prepares The Final Transfer Of Cubans To Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario
Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 29 April 2016 — The Panamanian Foreign
Ministry has begun to take a census of more than 670 Cuban migrants in
the hostel of Los Planes in the province of Chiriqui, in anticipation of
their transfer to Mexico in the coming days. Another three thousand
Cubans, most stranded on the border with Costa Rica, will also benefit
from this operation, the last of its type, according to the Panamanian
president, Juan Carlos Varela on Thursday.

"Starting from the completion of transfer operation of the Cubans
counted in the census, those who enter later will have to make a
decision about what country they want to return to; we can't become a
permanent logistical support for the trafficking of migrants," warned
the Panamanian president.

According to the regional director of migration, commissioner Alfredo
Cordoba, the transfer of more than 200 migrants in various shelters to
the Los Planes encampment began yesterday afternoon. "This mainly
involved pregnant women and families with children, who need to be
brought to a place with the attentions they deserve," he said.

The official told this newspaper that the purpose of this measure is to
"concentrate all the migrants in one area where their basic needs can be
met, taking into account their rights as people."

Cordoba said that right now there are 3,704 Cuban migrants in the
Republic of Panama, who should be gradually transferred to Gualaca,
where a joint task force–which includes the National Civil Protection
System (SINAPROC), the Panama National Migration Service, the State
Border Service (SENAFRONT), and the National Police–have mobilized to
address the humanitarian crisis.

"I believe we are in the final stretch, at least they are already making
photocopies of our passports, and that's something," said Angel Chale,
one of the stranded who came through Ecuador. Chale decided to abandon
the old Bond warehouse, in San Isidro, a mile from the Costa Rican
frontier, where she shared the floor with 400 other Cubans in the most
precarious conditions.

Both Angel and Leslie Jesus Barrera have spent a week at the Los Planes
shelter. "This place where we are now is pretty fun. Usually we play
baseball, dominoes or we dance," says Barrera. "We help when they ask us
to collaborate with some chore and for the rest, it's like camping." He
added that he is very grateful for the treatment he has received from
the Panama government, which right now includes free medical care.

The godmother of Cubans

Angela Buendia is the director of community organizing for SINAPROC, but
migrants have dubbed her "the godmother." As she herself says, "They
call me that because I identify with their needs and all the pain they
have gone through."

Buendia says she learned to deal with migrants from the island in the
last crisis and since then sympathizes with the plight of "these
thousands of people who have to leave their land and often go through
very intense trauma." She stresses that, even after spending weeks in
Panama, many still live in fear.

According to her, the migratory flow does not seem to stop, although
official statistics indicate a decline. "Every day we receive between 20
and 60 Cuban migrants in Chiriqui. This is why we decided to prepare
this camp."

Buendia explained that Los Planes was originally built to shelter Swiss
workers who worked on a local dam. "It's a ten acre site with a fresh
landscape and all amenities," she added. She also stressed that "the
only prohibition is not to leave at night, and this is for their own
security." She said they will have free WiFi, but right now they can use
data connections on a local network.

"The biggest problem I've had with the Cuban people is that when they
come here, having come from a place without freedom, they feel
completely free and clear, sometimes confusing liberty with license,"
she said.

Not everyone wants to be in the shelter

But not everyone wants to go to the shelter in Los Planes. "The problem
that I see to this place is that it is very far away. From the Milennium
one can at least work 'under the table' and earn a few bucks," said
Dariel, who prefers to omit his last name for fear of discovery. His
work as a carpenter, a trade he learned in Cuba, allows him to cover his
expenses and at the same time, he confesses, save something "for the end
of the journey."

"Here there were even Cubans who were whoring and charge less than the
Panamanians. Those were the smart ones, because in the end, they managed
to get together the money and now they're in the [United States]," says
the migrant.

In overcrowded rooms, hallways, or simply in tents put up at dusk in the
doorways of neighboring houses, hundreds of Cubans have preferred to
stay near the Costa Rican border.

"It's a problem that affects communities that often find themselves
overwhelmed by the number of migrants arriving," says Commissioner Cordoba.

Many of the local inhabitants, from Puerto Obaldia to Paso Canoas, have
seen a business opportunity in the Cubans. With the flow of migrants,
businesses have flourished from hostels to simple restaurants where the
prices are usually double for inhabitants of the island.

"I don't want to go to the Gualaca shelter because it's very far away, I
prefer to stay here because I'm in a village and at least I can fend for
myself," says Yanieris, a 35-year-old Cuban woman who arrived in Panama
from Guyana. "It's hard, sure, but if I want to go with a coyote
tomorrow, there will be no one to stop me."

The coyotes prowl…

Juan Ramon is one of those Cubans stranded in Panama who decided not to
wait any longer to reach the United States. After collecting $1,400 from
family and friends in Miami, he left one night sneaking across the Costa
Rican border, along with six other companions under the guidance of a
coyote. "In each country a coyote handed us off to another, and we have
gone all the way: through the jungles, rivers, lakes… it is very hard,"
he said.

The worst thing for the young man was the moment they ran into a
military checkpoint in Nicaragua, where "a thug assaulted us, sent by
the same guide, who robbed us of everything we had. He even took our
cellphone. It was a terrible experience because it could have cost our
lives and nobody would have known about it," he told this newspaper.

After more than 12 days on the road, Juan Ramon found himself at the
border crossing station of El Paso, Texas, hoping they would process his
documents to enter the United States under the "parole" program.

To try to circumvent the army and police control on the borders of Costa
Rica and Nicaragua the migrants use unique measures such as hiding
themselves in a water pipe or hiding in a boat to pass through the
dangerous coastal regions of the Pacific Ocean.

In November of last year, Daniel Ortega's Sandinista government closed
the borders of his country to Cuban migrants using Central America as a
path to the United States.

The measure worked like a plug, leaving 8,000 people stranded in Costa
Rica, which in turn also closed its border transferring the problem to
Panama. Following an agreement with Mexico, both countries managed to
build a humanitarian bridge that allowed the orderly exit of a great
part of the migrants.

The coyotes, or human traffickers, have turned the migration to the
north into a huge business that generates millions of dollars. From
October of 2014, almost 132,000 Central Americans and around 75,000
Cubans reached the southern border of the United States.

The Cuban government has reiterated that all the migrants have left Cuba
legally and so can return to the country.

Source: Panama Prepares The Final Transfer Of Cubans To Mexico /
14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/panama-prepares-the-final-transfer-of-cubans-to-mexico-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 29 April 2016 — The Panamanian Foreign Ministry has begun to take a census of more than 670 Cuban migrants in the hostel of Los Planes in the province of Chiriqui, in anticipation of their transfer to Mexico in the coming days. Another three thousand Cubans, most stranded on the border with … Continue reading "Panama Prepares The Final Transfer Of Cubans To Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
"The opposition has not matured," Laments Martha Beatriz Roque /
14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 28 April 2016 — Martha Beatriz Roque
has returned from Miami after receiving a permit from the Cuban
government in late February, which authorized her to leave the country
one time. The activist was one of the seven former prisoners of the
Black Spring of 2003 who benefited from this permit. She returns with a
certain pessimism and a critical impression of the state of the Cuban
opposition.

Lilianne Ruiz. You returned from abroad after permission from the Cuban
government, which allowed you to make only one trip. What impressions
did you bring back from your stay outside the country?

Martha Beatriz Roque. I come back with a tremendous pain in my heart
about what I have seen there. In Miami there is the historic exile, who
love their country, their fatherland, who talk about democracy, who
think about Cuba constantly and who have a great nostalgia for the
island, but this historic exile, unfortunately, is getting old and some
of its members have died.

However, many people who are coming to Miami through different
countries, including now through Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama, are
turning their backs on Cuba, they even want to forget that they are
Cubans. These are people who are a part of a social fabric here that is
broken, who have no ethics, no formal education and they are
contaminating Miami.

LR. What do you think has been the outcome of Barack Obama's visit to Cuba?

MBR. Obama has his agenda and within it is defending the interests of
American citizens, as is natural, because that is his country. He has
made it clear that the problems of Cuba have to be solved by Cubans and
that is important. The people had a great lesson with Obama's visit: for
the people it has meant hope, which the Communist Party Congress
subsequently tried to annihilate.

LR. And the opposition?

MBR. In Cuba there are opponents, but an opposition, as such, does not
exist. An opposition exists in Venezuela, because it has been capable of
uniting despite its disagreements. We are not capable of something like
that yet. Here the unity lasts seconds.

LR. Did the 7th Congress of the Communist Party frustrate you, or were
you were expecting something like what happened?

MBR. The Party Congress was going to be postponed to another date but it
was held to try to counter what Obama said to the Cuban people, and
because of this they didn't have any finished [guiding] document. Some
said, after the Congress was over, "We were right, Obama has achieved
nothing." Others say that the Congress was a way of demonstrating the
failure of what Obama is doing, but I would not say that. Much less do I
think it is a failure, because there are things that have been
accelerated with Obama's visit.

LR. Like what?

MBR. In the specific case of the eleven members of us from the [Black
Spring] group of 75 who remain in Cuba, we were not allowed to leave the
country and, at least in this moment, they allowed us one trip abroad.
There have been solutions to some problems that you couldn't say are
changes, without the reestablishment of rights. This has to be seen as
something satisfactory, not as something negative. In the not so distant
future other solutions will have to come, because the economic, social
and political situation of the country is unbearable.

LR. Will it be the self-employed who change Cuba?

MBR. The Cuban regime will not allow any self-employed to export,
because that, they will say, is reserved for the businesses of the
Ministry of Foreign Trade. The United States government is trying to
have direct relationships with the self-employed, but that is not going
to be allowed. Right now, when some self-employed turn their faces just
slightly to the north, they're going to cut off those businesses they're
going to stop everything.

LR. Can access to the internet help make the changes occur?

MBR. The regime does not allow it because they know that the internet is
a source of knowledge, of the transmission of news and possibilities.

LR. What is the Cuban opposition lacking to be able to call forth the
people?

MBR. First of all, it lacks leadership. Unfortunately, here everyone
wants to be a leader, no one wants to be in the line, everyone wants to
be at the head of it. It also lacks the exile,, which is capable of
manufacturing a leader and putting forward a project with resources, but
this does not solve anything.

LR. Do you see any chance for the opposition to influence the
constitutional referendum announced by the government?

MBR. The opposition has not matured, it is still the same, generating
documents, projecting itself abroad, meeting abroad, telling people what
they have to do. But if the opposition doesn't take advantage of this
moment to work jointly with the people, it's simple, nothing is going to
happen. If they don't work with the people, if they don't raise
awareness among the people, what does it matter that they go to meet the
Pope in Rome, it's all the same, it is simply not going to solve anything.

Source: "The opposition has not matured," Laments Martha Beatriz Roque /
14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-opposition-has-not-matured-laments-martha-beatriz-roque-14ymedio-lilianne-ruiz/ Continue reading
British foreign minister visits Cuba in first such trip since
AFP | London
April 29, 2016 Last Updated at 05:22 IST

Britain's foreign minister has arrived in Cuba in the first such visit
since 1959, to hold talks on cooperation in "financial services, energy,
culture and education", London announced.

It follows last month's landmark visit by President Barack Obama to the
Caribbean nation as part of a historic rapprochement between Cuba and
the United States after 50 years of enmity stemming back to the Cold War.

"As the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Cuba since before the
Cuban Revolution in 1959, this is an opportunity to hear for myself what
Cuba thinks about its present challenges and where it sees its future,"
Philip Hammond said in a statement yesterday.

He is to hold a series of meetings with his Cuban counterpart Bruno
Rodriguez and other government leaders, according to Britain's Foreign
and Commonwealth Office.

Hammond is also to sign a "bilateral agreement restructuring Cuba's debt
to the UK" and agree on future cooperation in a range of areas from
financial services to energy and education.

The foreign minister also hopes to raise the issues of social and
economic changes in Cuba, human rights, trade, and the response to
health issues such as the Zika virus.

"Britain and Cuba have outlooks on the world and systems of government
that are very different," Hammond said in a statement.

"But as Cuba enters a period of significant social and economic change,
I am looking forward to demonstrating to the Cuban government and people
that the UK is keen to forge new links across the Atlantic.

"That is why Cuba and the UK are set to reach new cooperation agreements
on energy, financial services, education and culture, to the benefit of
both our nations."

Hammond will also meet representatives from Cuban civil society and the
British business community in Havana, according to the ministry.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini became the
highest-ranking EU official ever to visit Cuba when she travelled to
Havana in March.

During her trip she signed a deal to normalise relations with Cuba,
including an agreement on the delicate issue of human rights, in yet
another step towards ending the communist country's status as a pariah
in the West.

Source: British foreign minister visits Cuba in first such trip since |
Business Standard News -
http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/british-foreign-minister-visits-cuba-in-first-such-trip-since-116042900078_1.html Continue reading
Poliquin, Pingree want to let Cuba-bound planes refuel in Maine
By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff

Posted April 27, 2016, at 4:19 p.m.
PORTLAND, Maine — Maine's U.S. Reps. Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree
have introduced a bill in Congress to allow planes bound for Cuba to
stop and refuel at U.S. airports, such as Bangor International Airport.

In a joint statement, Maine's two U.S. representatives said Bangor's
airport loses out on refueling and restocking an estimated 200 flights
originating from other countries and bound for Cuba each year.

"Thousands of tourists are passing over the United States on their way
to Cuba every day, and if they have to stop somewhere, why not let it be
Bangor?" Pingree said in a news release.

Both lawmakers called the policy preventing such "technical stops" at
U.S. airports "outdated." Poliquin said that flights that might
otherwise choose to stop in Bangor or other East Coast airports are
landing instead at Canadian airports.

"In many cases, airlines would prefer to use American airports for these
stops, but are restricted because of current rules," Poliquin said.

In their statement, they added that airlines tend to prefer using the
same airport for their technical stops and many have moved those stops
to airports in Canada.

The representatives said the bill would not make any change to the
status of the trade embargo with Cuba and would not allow passengers
destined for Cuba to clear immigration or legally depart from the U.S.

The bill on Wednesday was given the number H.R. 5071.

Source: Poliquin, Pingree want to let Cuba-bound planes refuel in Maine
— Politics — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine -
https://bangordailynews.com/2016/04/27/politics/poliquin-pingree-want-to-let-cuba-bound-planes-refuel-in-maine/ Continue reading
U.S. Tour Operators Rethink Future of People-to-People Tours in Cuba
Dan Peltier, Skift - Apr 26, 2016 6:45 am
@djpeltier

The tour companies that have been guiding U.S. tourists through Cuba up
to now will eventually evolve or go away, but right now when restaurants
are full and beds are, too, they may be more valuable than ever.
— Dan Peltier
Individual U.S. travelers can go to Cuba, though many U.S.-based tour
operators — even those helping organize individual travel — say going
solo spells disaster.

This milestone, announced last month, allows U.S. travelers to forgo
people-to-people group tours, those approved by the U.S. government that
meet restrictions for American travel to Cuba.

President Obama began relaxing rules for to travel in Cuba in 2011 and
momentum has been building since then to open up individual tourism for
Americans. Under the looser restrictions, people-to-people activities
such as seminars and cultural meetings with local entrepreneurs are
still required. And while U.S. travelers don't legally need a tour guide
by their sides, individual travel in Cuba creates a catch-22 for
Americans, at least until all restrictions are lifted. Many of the
people-to-people activities are exclusively offered to tour operators
who've built relationships and trust with Cuban businesses and cultural
organizations. Without a guide many U.S. travelers likely wouldn't find
these people or get meetings with them, making it more difficult to
justify their trips to the U.S. state department.

"A lot of positive things have come out of the mandatory cultural
restrictions," said David Lee, owner of Cultural Cuba, which leads
groups of fewer than 12 people from the U.S. to Cuba. "I've done several
'guys trips' and these trips have contained other things that no other
guys trip would have done. Usually with guys trips, their main concern
is trying Cuban cigars and rum. But, most of my clients end up saying
these people-to-people activities are the most memorable things they did
in Cuba."

"It's hard to get a bunch of guys to sit in a room for an hour and
listen to a lecture during their vacation. But one time we met with a
key renovator who's renovating Old Havana, this guy is fascinating and
it changed the whole idea of what my clients were thinking this would
be. They were totally engaged the entire time and loved it. That's one
of the concerns I have, that these kinds of experiences will disappear."

A video below this story shows a Havana-based dance company that Lee
takes his tours to see. Lee has worked with the company for several
years and also helped organize their first trip to perform in the U.S.

Challenges With Going as Individuals

In reality, some U.S. tour operators in Cuba provide little reassurance
to clients about their trips. Most Cuban hotel reservations are still
made through the Cuban government, for example, since the government
owns most hotels. Bureaucratic processes in both Havana and Washington,
D.C. make trip-planning particularly meticulous for tour operators, let
alone individual travelers.

Wendy Perrin, founder of WendyPerrin.com, is testing U.S. tour operators
in Cuba to find ones she'll recommend to clients. Perrin's found that,
"so many people are frustrated even working with tour operators in Cuba
because they can't get answers."

"A tour operator isn't necessarily the answer to all your problems.
There are a lot of travelers who will start the ball rolling with a tour
operator but then will never get any answers. They'll book their travel
but then never get any documentation. It's like this big abyss of
information, and then maybe a few days before you're supposed to leave
you'll finally hear back from the tour operator with documents and
confirmation. And on top of that, travelers may end up being charged a
much larger amount than they ever thought they'd have to pay."

Lee has received mostly positive feedback from Perrin's clients. He sees
individual travel as an opportunity rather than a threat to his tours
business and has had several requests for custom or private tours, for
example.

"Cuba isn't really ready yet to be an unguided destination," Lee says.
"Even if you could just completely go without restrictions, you're not
going to get as much out of going to Cuba right now without a good Cuban
tour guide and that goes for Europeans and Canadians, etc, as well. The
renovated section of Old Havana is quite small, only about 12 city
blocks. It used to be that summer months were the off-season, because
summer is hot in Cuba. Now what we're finding is that there is almost no
low season anymore. Even hurricane and rainy season during August to
October, most of our tours are sold out for months in advance. Before
you could plan more last-minute during those months"

Meals are challenging for individual and group bookings alike, even with
restaurants accustomed to serving larger groups.

"For the most part these places are small and have fewer than 10
tables," said Edward Piegza of Classic Journeys, which leads U.S.
travelers to Cuba and other destinations. "Big groups just don't fit and
you have to make reservations months in advance. I remember sitting down
with a group in one of these restaurants and the chef comes to the table
to tell me that they have 10 entrees available that night. I said,
'that's great.' Then he told me, 'no, I mean we only have 10 plates of
food available,' and there were more than 10 people in my group."

Lee said many Cuban restaurants are at a turning point, "With the
restaurants, there is a revolution right now. Restaurants all used to be
state-owned but now you have many that are privately owned by local
entrepreneurs. Some are great and some are untested. No one is coming
from Miami to help Cuban chefs build out these restaurants."

Cuba has some 108,000 hotel rooms in the pipeline through 2030,
announced by Cuba's ministry of tourism this week, but it's not clear
how many rooms Havana will add.

"Building 108,000 hotel rooms in 14 years is obviously an ambitious
goal," said Piegza. "With 10,900 added in the last five years in Cuba,
that works out to 2,180 per year. Adding 108,000 in 14 years would equal
7,714 per year, so about triple the current pace. Of course, with Cuba
tourism up 75 percent in the last year and infrastructure growth
significantly lower than that, a commitment to adding needed
infrastructure is welcome."

"Manuel Marrero, Cuba's minister of tourism, notes that these rooms are
going to be focused on areas with marinas and golf courses. So that
sounds a lot like the types of all-inclusive properties along Varadero
Beach and Cayo Santa Maria that typically cater to Europeans. Since the
trade embargo is still in effect for the U.S., beach and golf vacations
are still a no-no in Cuba."

Creating Itineraries for Individuals

Group tour interest hasn't subsided. According to data from digital
marketing firm iQuanti, U.S. travelers made about 6.2 million Google
searches for search terms related to group tours, travel agencies and
packaged deals in Cuba between March 2015 and March 2016. In comparison,
there were a little more than 741,000 Google searches during the same
window for search terms related to researching individual travel, such
as booking flights, hotels and activities.

Some tour operators, like Insight Cuba, are already adjusting their
offerings to create tour products designed for individual travel. Tom
Popper, president of Insight Cuba, said he's been "waiting for quite
some time" for individual travel to be approved and that he has many
clients looking to go individually. But most of his U.S. clients are
still confused with what's considered legal travel to Cuba.

"We're going to keep escorted tours exactly as is because they've been
so successful for us and still remain in high demand," said Popper. "But
we're also working with Cuban travel agencies and authorities to develop
a version of our product that works for the individual traveler. We're
hoping to have those released in the coming weeks."

"Last month the Obama Administration announced that any American tour
company can work with any Cuban tour agency. Before we could only work
with three, so that changes the landscape," Popper said. "The real
challenge that remains is being able to guarantee guests flights and
hotel rooms. Cuba won't just authorize something just because the U.S.
says it's ok to do now. Even some of the largest hotel chains in Cuba
are now starting to allow direct bookings on their websites. But because
of banking regulations, a lot of that is done through third party sites
so there are challenges with direct bookings to make sure that a booking
is really a booking."

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Unlike European and other tour operators in Cuba, U.S. tour operators'
future in Cuba is contingent upon the U.S. Congress lifting the five
decade-plus trade embargo. The tour operators Skift spoke to feel the
snowball effect makes stopping the current progress of U.S. hotels,
airlines, and cruises entering Cuba, nearly impossible to reverse.

"This is a movement that won't be turned back," said Piegza. "It might
go faster or it might go slower but we already have a direction in which
it is going. My gut is that we've gone so far now that regardless of
whoever wins on whichever side of the aisle, we'll keep moving forward."

More opening is inevitable, Popper said, regardless of which party
controls the White House next January, "The pendulum has really swung in
the direction that we're finally looking at a long-term solution to
travel to Cuba. In all the years past, it really hinged on presidential
politics. Everyone assumed that whenever a Republican got into office,
travel would be carved out and we'd take a bunch of steps backwards.
Regardless of who will be in the White House next year, there's so much
momentum going towards travel right now and things are really looking
bright. Although while things are moving quickly on the U.S. side,
things will move slowly on Cuba's end."

Source: U.S. Tour Operators Rethink Future of People-to-People Tours in
Cuba – Skift -
https://skift.com/2016/04/26/u-s-tour-operators-rethink-future-of-people-to-people-tours-in-cuba/ Continue reading
A year after Cuba trip, New York waits for returns
Despite rekindled ''friendship,'' returns unclear
By Matthew Hamilton Published 10:56 pm, Monday, April 25, 2016

Albany
After he became the first U.S. governor to set foot in Cuba since the
former Cold War foes began to normalize relations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo
said his mission was not about making new friends.
"We have had a friendship that went on for decades," Cuomo said last
April as he readied to board the plane home. "It is about rekindling a
friendship."
A year later, measuring what the renewed friendship has meant for New
York requires several sets of measurements. Some point to a lack of
exports from New York companies that made the trip to the Caribbean as
proof of a small return on such a highly anticipated initial investment.
Others say one 24-hour trip isn't about bringing home spoils for New
York, but should be seen as the beginning of what needs to be a
long-term relationship.
To hear state officials tell it, the trip was exactly what it needed to be.
"We knew going in that Cuba did business in a very different way from
the United States," said Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of the Empire
State Development Corp. and an attendee of the Cuba trip, which
unceremoniously celebrated a one-year anniversary last week. "We also
knew going in that there is a trade embargo that is still in place. But
in fairness, if you wait until all of those things are removed and the
Cuban economy changes, then you will have waited too long because you
will have proven to be too risk-averse and you would have missed the
opportunity."
John Kavulich takes a different approach. The president of the U.S.-Cuba
Trade and Economic Council points to the data he has been able to cobble
together that show no exports from the New York companies Chobani,
Regeneron, Pfizer and Cayuga Milk Ingredients. An analysis released last
week showed that Infor, an information technology company, reported
three information technology agreements to sell health care-related
software to a Cuban company. MasterCard was waiting for legal
clarifications and operational changes from federal officials in both
countries, as JetBlue awaited a decision on new routes from the U.S.
Department of Transportation before they moved ahead with flights.
"What we attempted to do was not criticize the fact that the companies
have not achieved anything," Kavulich said of the report. "It's just to
recognize that they haven't achieved anything. The fact that nothing's
happened isn't the fault of Gov. Cuomo."

The administration has pointed to nominal benefits from the Cuba trip,
however. The Buffalo News reported in January that Cuomo's 2016-17 state
budget proposal was the first in years that did not cut aid to the
Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. There seemed to be a
correlation, the News reported, between Roswell Park's CEO having taken
the trip with Cuomo and the staving off of further cuts. Roswell Park
signed an agreement on the trip with Cuba's Center for Molecular
Immunology to develop a lung cancer vaccine with clinical trials in the
United States.
SUNY also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the University
of Havana to, among other things, increase study-abroad opportunities.
While some companies have been able to export their products despite the
embargo on many goods that remains in place for both countries —
agricultural commodities, for example, have been eligible for export
since 2000 — there is a recognition that robust trade takes far more
than a year to foster.
"The Cubans are the ones that are deciding who they are going to be
doing business with, so the governor's trip can only go so far," said
Antonio C. Martinez II, a New York-based attorney and chief operating
officer of Cuban Strategic Partnerships Inc. "Doing business in Cuba is
all about the follow-through and requires a medium- to long-term basis."
ESDC said it has continued to meet and talk with Cuban officials
regularly. ESDC said the trip also generated activity for other New York
companies, though it declined to elaborate, citing the right to privacy
for those companies "not to conduct their business in public."
Cuomo and Zemsky met privately with Cuban President Raul Castro at the
United Nations last September.
Since last April, New York and New York-based companies haven't been
alone in seeking to enter the Cuban marketplace. The governors of
Arkansas, Texas and Virginia have embarked on trade missions of their
own. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's wife, Georganne, also visited the island
nation a month before the New York trip in January, according to the
Washington Post. "It's now incumbent upon us in America to make sure
we're opening that door wide enough." Gov. Terry McAuliffe said.
At least one elected official in Washington is looking to assist the
states: President Barack Obama made his own trip in March after a year
in which Cuba had been removed from the State Department's terrorism
list, embassies had reopened in the nations' capitals, and an agreement
was signed to allow commercial flights between the countries.
"Through the governor's office and representatives in Washington, they
have made the governor's position clear (that the embargo should be
lifted)," Zemsky said. "What the will of Congress is is not going to be
determined by New York state alone."
mhamilton@timesunion.com • 518-454-5449 • @matt_hamilton10

Source: A year after Cuba trip, New York waits for returns - Times Union
-
http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/A-year-after-Cuba-trip-New-York-waits-for-returns-7358140.php Continue reading
Norwegian Cruise Line CEO sets sights on sailing to Cuba by end of year
Published April 25, 2016 Fox News Latino

Norwegian Cruise Line wants to offer cruises to Cuba by the end of the
year, its CEO announced.

The chief of the Miami-based company, Frank Del Rio, said he is seeking
approvals to sail there. Norwegian's move comes on the heels of rival
Carnival Corp.'s announcement last week that it had reached an agreement
with the island's government, which dropped a policy banning Cuban-born
people from arriving by sea.

The agreement, which applies to merchant and cruise ships, led Carnival
to proceed with plans to send the first cruise ship from the U.S. to the
island in a half-century in May.

Last year, Del Rio, who is Cuban-American, said in an interview with The
Street that Cuba was a desirable destination for the cruise industry.

"Florida and Cuba are only 222 miles apart," said Del Rio. "That's what
makes it so exciting. God put that body of land in the right place for
the cruise industry."

The CEO also spoke of the anticipation many people feel about going to
Cuba, an enigma to many Americans because of the decades-old U.S.
embargo of the island. Ever since President Barack Obama and President
Raúl Castro announced at the end of 2014 their intention to restore
diplomatic relations, Obama has eased trade and travel restrictions.

Only Congress can lift the embargo – an unlikely move at the moment with
so many in the Republican Party, which controls both the House and
Senate, opposed to removing it as long as the Castro regime opposes
making democratic changes.

"It's the pent-up demand," Del Rio said. "Cuba is more than a sandbar in
the Caribbean. It has history. It has culture. We think of the music. We
think of the arts. It has multiple ports, too."

Del Rio acknowledged the challenge facing Cuba to improve its
infrastructure to accommodate a rise in American tourists traveling there.

But he said the cruise industry is not faced with the logistical
problems others in the tourism business must grapple with when dealing
with the island.

"The great thing about the cruise industry is that we bring our own
infrastructure with us," Del Rio told The Street. "When we visit Cuba,
we don't need anything. Just a couple of buses, so we can bring people
to the sites."

Carnival will begin making regularly scheduled trips to Cuba from Miami
every other week starting on May 1.

Del Rio said in a statement: "I am very much looking forward to sailing
to Cuba soon aboard one of our ships in the company of many fellow
Cuban-Americans and other fellow Americans who wish to share in the
excitement and passion that cruising to Cuba brings."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Norwegian Cruise Line CEO sets sights on sailing to Cuba by end
of year | Fox News Latino -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/money/2016/04/25/norwegian-cruise-line-ceo-sets-sights-on-sailing-to-cuba-by-end-year/ Continue reading
… CITY -- Last month, Mark Cuban said the Mavericks certainly will … why we have doctors,†Cuban said. “It’s definitely … Continue reading
Government Announces Reduction In Basic Good Prices as of Friday / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 21 April 2016 — The Cuban government has announced a
reduction in prices of food and other basic products sold in stores in
Cuba convertible pesos (CUC) and Cuban pesos (CUP). The measure, which
comes at a time of growing popular discontent over the rising cost of
living and shortages, takes effect Friday in the state retail sales network.

A note read on Cuban TV primetime news on Thursday, announced that sales
of products such as toilet paper, milk, soap, peas, toothpaste, chicken,
corned beef, cookies, instant soft drinks and seasonings, will range
from 20 centavos to 2 Cuban convertible pesos.

The move comes a few days after the conclusion of the 7th Congress of
the Communist Party and seek to gradually increase the purchasing power
of the Cuban peso in the short term, said the official note.

The text clarifies that the price cuts respond to the Central Report of
the party conclave where Raul Castro reiterated that "wages and pensions
are still insufficient to meet the basic needs of the Cuban family."

The regulations provide for a decrease of 6% in the retail price of
chicken sold in boxes using a single price in the so-called Hard
Currency Collection Stores (TRD) managed by the Ministry of Domestic
Trade (MINCIN). The product will experience a drop from 7 to 5 CUC per
kilogram.

The so-called "cold light" fluorescent lightbulbs, will also benefit
from a 40% discount, dropping from 1.00 CUC to 0.60 CUC while the
popular floor mops for household cleaning, will cost 20 cents less.

Among the products most in demand that will have a new price is cooking
oil, which will drop from 2.40 CUC a liter to 1.95 CUC.

Among the main complaints of the Cuban population are the high prices
that do not correspond to salaries. As reported in the last session of
the National Assembly, which met last December, the average monthly wage
in the country was 640 pesos, the equivalent of $26 (US) or 26 CUC.

The digital site CiberCuba published the list of prices that will be
effective this Friday which appears under the logo of the Ministry of
Finance and Prices, although the official announcement said that the
list will only see the light this Friday.

The announcement includes the price controls that have been implemented
at a growing number of agricultural markets since the beginning of the
year. A measure that has not managed to reduce popular discontent.

From the early hours of Thursday afternoon the rumor had spread
through Havana's neighborhoods and customers delayed their purchases to
benefit from cheaper food which comes into effect tomorrow.

However, the "definitive" solution to the "complex reality" of prices
will only be achieved with "increased productivity and efficiency" in
the national economy, explains the official note.

Source: Government Announces Reduction In Basic Good Prices as of Friday
/ 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/government-announces-reduction-in-basic-good-prices-as-of-friday-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 21 April 2016 — The Cuban government has announced a reduction in prices of food and other basic products sold in stores in Cuba convertible pesos (CUC) and Cuban pesos (CUP). The measure, which comes at a time of growing popular discontent over the rising cost of living and shortages, takes effect Friday in … Continue reading "Government Announces Reduction In Basic Good Prices as of Friday / 14ymedio" Continue reading
If the number of U.S. visitors to Havana booms as expected, Cuban authorities will have to find a solution to relieve the bottleneck at Terminal 2 of José Martí International Airport. With neither cash nor time for a major upgrade, the top option would be to divert part of the U.S. flights to other, already crowded, terminals. But there's another alternative, at least temporarily. Continue reading
Quebec wants to open a permanent office in Cuba
'We have to seize moment,' says International Relations Minister
Christine St-Pierre
By Ryan Hicks, CBC News Posted: Apr 18, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated:
Apr 18, 2016 6:45 AM ET


Quebec wants to seize the opportunity presented by the thawing of
diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States to open a
permanent office in Havana.

"It would be a very concrete gesture to show our determination to
establish [a] sustainable and permanent relationship with Cuba,"
International Relations Minister Christine St-Pierre told CBC News in a
one-on-one interview.

Cuba, U.S. to restore diplomatic relations after 50-year rift

Barack Obama thanks Canada for hosting Cuba-U.S. meetings

Canadian tourism in Cuba: Will American travellers affect the experience?

An office in Havana would help Quebec businesses hoping to break into
the island nation's economy and help develop relationships in education,
science and culture, St-Pierre said.

"Ideally, it would happen fairly quickly," said the minister. However,
talks with Cuban authorities and the federal government need to take
place before the province can establish a firm presence.

First official visit last November

St-Pierre accelerated steps to solidify the relationship after her
official trip last November — the first by a Quebec international
relations minister.

She said realized Quebec needed to act quickly in order to take
advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen relations
with Cuba, only a three-and-a-half hour plane ride from Montreal.

Fifty countries were present at the trade fair in November, St-Pierre
said, and many had the same idea.

"The Chinese are there," she said. "The Germans are there, and they
definitely want to do business with Cuba."

After the mission, she expanded the responsibilities of Quebec's mission
in Mexico to include Cuba, as a first step towards developing stronger
and more stable ties.

Quebec's relationship with Cuba dates back to the 18th century, when
French-Canadian explorers first travelled to the island. Today,
Canadians make up a third of tourists in Cuba, with Quebecers making up
40 per cent of them.

Quebec already has 26 offices in 14 countries around the world. It
opened a mission opened in Dakar, Senegal on March 4.

Under the decades-old U.S. embargo of Cuba, American authorities have
the right to penalize foreign companies with U.S. business interests in
Cuba.

This has prevented some Quebec companies from entering the Cuban market.

However, the recent thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba is a
signal that the Americans may eventually lift the embargo. This is why
"Quebec [is] moving forward," said St-Pierre.

Cuba's human rights record

When it comes to Cuba's record on human rights and freedom of speech,
the minister believes Quebec can help promote democratic values by
further developing its relationship with Cuba and its government.

"If you want to show what you are doing in your own country and the
protection of values, democracy, human rights, I think it's the best way
to be with them and help them understand," she said.

"They can see what we have in Canada. We have freedom of speech, and
it's very, very important in a democracy."

'No-brainer,' says Cuba expert

Quebec and Canada have a "natural advantage," when it comes to
capitalizing on Cuba's economic opening, says John Kirk, a Latin
American Studies professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, because
of the relationship both governments maintained with the country despite
U.S. policy.

However, he says, until now, Quebec and Canada have not taken full
advantage of that position.

"This is a no-brainer," says the author and editor of 16 books on Cuba.

"While Ottawa has been asleep at the switch under Stephen Harper and has
frittered away its natural advantages, other countries have not," he said.

"The government of Quebec is taking the lead, and I sincerely hope
people in Ottawa will take notice and do the same thing themselves."

Source: Quebec wants to open a permanent office in Cuba - Montreal - CBC
News - http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-cuba-office-1.3538078 Continue reading
USDA agricultural economist specializing in trade and rice to discuss potential for restoring rice trade between U.S. and Cuba... Continue reading
The trade embargo being lifted will certainly benefit U.S. agriculture and provide Cuba with quality food. But might the benefits to the U.S. farmer also be the flow of knowledge from Cuba to our shores... Continue reading
U.S. should get off the sidelines and restore trade with Cuba, says Arkansas congressman who introduced new bill for expanding trade with Cuba... Continue reading
The Mariel Overruns
PABLO PASCUAL MÉNDEZ PIÑA | La Habana | 12 Abr 2016 - 10:12 pm.

From the town of Mariel, in the distance one can make out the giant
cranes at the container terminal, like specters beckoning us over to
hear their confessions, while Marcello, the character from the
Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet, bursts into our imagination with his
famous line: "Something is rotten in Denmark."

The maritime facility [See location on the DDC News Map] built by the
Brazilian multinational Odebrecht, a company tarnished by corruption
scandals and with ties to the state monopoly Petrobras, the
investigation of which led to an earthquake that shook a major number of
business, banking and political structures in the South American giant,
is also enshrouded in suspicions of irregular practices.

Two years after its inauguration by the presidents Dilma Rousseff and
Raúl Castro, and despite the serious suspicions uncovered by the Lava
Jato anti-corruption operation, neither the Cuban nor the Brazilian side
have published a master plan breaking down the container terminal's
construction costs, or the contractual contents of the project carried
out by Odebrecht and the Cuban-Venezuelan joint entity Quality S.A.

The big question is how to explain the $957 million price tag for a
wharf facility that, according to official sources, covers an area of ​​
just 28 hectares, has a 700-meter mooring line, 4 super post-Panamax STS
cranes, four Rubber Tire Gantry Cranes (RTGs), 22 tractor trailers, two
tugs, and a maneuvering dock measuring 520 meters in diameter, and with
just 9.75 meters of draft. This, in addition to the renovation of just
over 30 kilometers of roads, the construction of only 18 kilometers of
motorways, and almost 13 kilometers of railway lines; plus a limited set
of civil works and the manpower provided by the over 6,000 Cuban workers
who participated in the construction, for a paltry total of $20 million
for three years of work.

So, where did the 957 million figure come from?

The figure of $957 million was taken from an article by the Brazilian
portal Spotniks, dated October 20, 2014 and entitled: "20 obras que o
BNDES financiou em outros countries" ( "20 works that BNDES financed in
other countries"), authored by Felippe Hermes, which reveals the
Brazilian financial contribution towards the construction of the Mariel
Container Terminal (TCM), coming to $682 million, or 71 % of the total.

The source used by Hermes was the request filed by the representative
Vanderlei Macris with Brazil's Minister of Development, Industry and
Foreign Trade to clarify before the Executive Branch the data and
constitutionality of said contribution.

However, information from the Master Plan for the Limón / Moín (Costa
Rica) complex, drafted by Filip Augustyns and approved by Ronald Moor,
with project number 9R4672.21, studied several offers that, when
examined in relation to the cost of TCM, arouse suspicions of a serious
cost overrun on the already controversial megaport.

Comparing the list with the costs

In said document one can find an offer featuring Anglo-Canadian
financing that the American Gateway Development Group (AMEGA) proposed
to its Costa Rican counterpart for the construction, to the west of the
city of Moín, of a container terminal to receive megacarriers (with a
capacity for 5,000 to 12,500 TEUs, and drafts of 14 to 15 meters,
respectively), in order to use the central American nation as a transfer
and distribution center, with one eye on the expansion of the Panama
canal. The proposal would feature a dock long enough for five berths,
with 10 super post-Panamax cranes, an 800-meter breakwater, a 40-hectare
embankment zone, gained from the sea; a 300-meter access channel with a
depth of 19 meters, and infrastructure including warehouses, roads and
railways, at a total cost of $650 million – representing 67% of the
total cost of the Mariel Terminal.

The breakdown of expenses – according to the above-named master plan –
would be: $370 million for civil works and infrastructure; 170 million
USD for equipment; and another $110 million for additional items.

The proposal was rejected by the experts because it did not meet the
nautical, port, economic, social and environmental demands called for by
the tender.

The controversy over Mariel's costs intensified when in a press release
from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Jean-Paul Rodríguez, a
PhD in Transport Geography at the University of Montreal, stated that
the funding for the Moín/Limón project came to $992 million, exceeding
the cost of Mariel by a narrow 4% margin.

According to Rodríguez, in the project's first stage a ​​40-hectare
island was built 500 meters from the coast, to feature a 600-meter
multipurpose dock with 14.5-meters of draft. Another pier was also
built for a 1,500-meter container terminal, duplicating the length of
the Mariel Terminal, with six super post-Panamax STS cranes and a draft
of 16 meters at the berths, to operate with vessels ranging up to 15,000
TEUs.

To complement the information, according to the Master Plan for the
Limón/Moín Complex, added to the list of work elements was another dock
for conventional cargo and bulk liquids (fuel); the renovation of the
dock for bananas and refrigerated goods - as Costa Rica is the world's
leading exporter of fruit, a maneuvering dock measuring 600 meters
across; the retrofitting of the Limón port to accommodate cruise ships;
the construction of a breakwater; the relocation of the mouth of the
Moín River; the construction of warehouses, socio-administrative
facilities, buildings, workshops, paving, dredging, etc. It is worth
mentioning that the dredging involved a 1.5-m elevation of the subsoil
as the result of an earthquake in 1991.

The cost of all this infrastructure work was estimated at $500 million.

The FOB prices in USD of the equipment, by unit, were: super
post-Panamax STS cranes: 9 million; RTG cranes: 1.6 million; tractor
trucks: 150,000; reach stacker: 600,000; forklifts: 300,000; reefer
connections: 3,000; tugs: 7 million; and piloting vessels: 1.5 million,
among others.

A bad deal or the scam of the century

The Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES)
granted funding for the Mariel project in the amount of $682 million,
with interest ranging from 4.44% to 6.91%, payable in 25 years, while
the International Economic Association (AEI) contributed the remaining
capital (275 million USD), according to the EcuRed encyclopedia.

In order to grant funding for construction abroad the BNDES requires
that 85% of the equipment be built in Brazil, in order to guarantee jobs
for its citizens. Although it grants funding to purchase equipment that
the work requires that is not manufactured by its industries.

According to the official Cuban press, the largest ship that the Mariel
megaport has received is the Chinese freighter Zhen Hua 10, measuring
244 meters, 39 across and with a draft of 8.5 meters, which transported
the four super post-Panamax STS cranes installed in the spring. The
post-Panamax category was due to its beam, exceeding 32.5 meters.

The payment of $957 million for a port that does not even meet the draft
requirements to accommodate post-Panamax and super post-Panamax
megavessels means that the master plan for Mariel container terminal
ought to be published for the public's consideration.

Taking as a reference the costs of the Moín / Limón master plan and its
constructive complexities, we estimate that, conservatively – with the
help of specialists who requested anonymity – the cost of the
infrastructure and civil works for the Port of Mariel should not have
exceeded $300 million. To this number we can add 150 million for
equipment and another 100 million for additional items, which would
yield a total amount of 550 million – an estimate aggravating suspicions
of a cost overrun, to the tune of $400 million.

If this concern were to be substantiated we could state that the Port of
Mariel was either a terrible business deal or, in the worst-case
scenario, a transaction concealing criminal activity.

Source: The Mariel Overruns | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1460495556_21631.html Continue reading
Pure Cuba: Classic American cars, a necessity not a luxury
By MERCEDES MEJIA

All around Cuba, vintage American cars from the 40s and 50s are still in
use, mainly because newer ones are hard to come by. The majority today
are used as taxis.
Locals and visitors get around in the almendrones (almonds), as they are
called because of their shape, and ride sharing is common.
Cubans will pay as little as 10 cents for a ride. Tourists pay anywhere
from $3 to $5 or more.
Almost all of the classic cars have new engines under the hood and
diesel is a popular choice.
Taxi driver Carlos Zamorra owns a 1952 Chevrolet Belair with a Nissan
Jeep engine from 1995. "This car was my grandfather's car, and then my
father's and now it's mine."
Zamorra says motor belts are difficult to find so he has a friend send
certain parts from abroad.
After the Cuban Revolution of 1959 the government began to import
Hungarian and Russian cars like the Lada.
Today you'll find newer vehicles that are mostly owned by government
workers, but many find their way to citizens. Among the others are Fiat,
Renault, Peugeot, Hyundai, Kia, and the Chinese Geely.
Another taxi driver, Mario Espinoza says he can make more money driving
than he can working for the government.
"Stuck in time," is a phrase you often hear in reference to Cuba. Most
people agree that's due to the trade restrictions between the U.S. and
Cuba. But it's hard to find anyone who harbors bad feelings toward the U.S.
Sergio Torres bought his 1954 Pontiac for $250. "The car didn't run, the
vinyl was falling apart and it didn't even have a steering wheel," he
remembers.
The car now has a Hyundai engine. It took over a year and nearly $3,000
to get it in good working condition. An investment he's made with
friends and family.
Torres works daily from early morning into the evening. Some days are
better than others he says.

Source: Pure Cuba: Classic American cars, a necessity not a luxury |
Michigan Radio -
http://michiganradio.org/post/pure-cuba-classic-american-cars-necessity-not-luxury#stream/0 Continue reading
IF ANY moderate Republicans appalled by Donald Trump tuned in to the Democratic presidential debate held in Miami on March 9th, what they heard cannot have made it easier for them to consider lending their vote—for one election at least—to Hillary Clinton. From the start Mrs Clinton was under pressure to tack to the left and woo her party’s core supporters in this, her last scheduled TV debate with her populist rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. On some big questions, and especially on immigration, she gave in to that pressure and staked out radical positions which she can expect to see played in Republican attack ads again and again, once the general election is under way.Some of the pressure on Mrs Clinton was exerted by recent events. Just 24 hours earlier she had suffered a surprise defeat in Michigan’s presidential primary election, with Mr Sanders notably buoyed by support from voters who told exit polls that they think free trade costs America jobs. Though the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is still on course to be her party’s nominee, her underwhelming performance in a big, Midwestern rustbelt state underlines her weakness among the trade-union members and working-class white voters who have been drifting away from the Democrats for years.Some of the pressure came from the debate’s main host, Univision. A Spanish-language television ... Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — With Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Agriculture Secretary John Vilsack, and Small Business Administration chief Maria Contreras-Sweet — as well as the First Lady and his two daughters — in tow, Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Cuba March 21. His two-day visit, the second ever […] Continue reading
Rep. Kathy Castor is leading a seven-member bipartisan Congressional delegation to Cuba that examines progress made since the restoration of full diplomatic relations last year Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — In another round in the gradual easing of U.S. sanctions, the Obama administration published amended regulations effective today that allow U.S. companies to sell a broader range of goods to Cuba — including on credit and to state companies — and permit airlines to interact with Cuba on a broader base. After publishing easing measures in January and September […] Continue reading
Until Wednesday, April 29, when intense rains fell on Havana, Agustin — a private-sector farmer who grows chard, lettuce and peppers on a patch of parched land on the outskirts of the capital — was looking skyward to see if … Continue reading Continue reading
A CURIOUS asymmetry exists across the 90-mile (150km) Straits of Florida that divide Cuba from the United States. This month American businessmen won permission from their government to start plush new ferry services to Cuba for the first time since the United States trade embargo was imposed in 1960. Moving in the other direction are thousands of impoverished Cubans in makeshift boats and rafts, risking their lives to flee the communist island despite a five-month-old thaw in relations with America that both governments hope will bring more prosperity to Cuba. In the first quarter of the year the number of Cuban migrants arriving in America more than doubled, and 2,460 have been apprehended at sea since October. Why this gap between rhetoric and reality? The exodus is probably being stirred by American immigration policy itself—or more precisely by the fear that it will change if rapprochement continues. As a legacy of the strident anti-communism of past American policy towards Cuba, Cuban immigrants to the United States are treated more leniently than those of other countries. If they touch dry land in America, they can automatically apply for permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship. But in order to prevent a flotilla of Cuban “boat people” (such as the Mariel boatlift of 1980), the Coast Guard returns almost all those it catches at sea to Cuba. The ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div> Continue reading
… investment into Cuba." Gilbert receives no payment from the Cuban government … to the Jewish community in Havana. “I was like most Americans … the Cuban people I met actually liked Americans.” “The Cuban people, in Cuba … of CubaNow, an organization that supports trade and diplomacy with Cuba, lauds … Continue reading
The Expo-Holguin fair and trade grounds will host on May 21st the Seventh Provincial Forum of Biotechnology (Biotechnology and Diagnostics), sponsored by the Council of the Provincial Administration and Continue reading
Hola Havana Potential for agriculture market expansion if U.S. lifts Cuban trade ban We've all seen the headlines across social media about the potential for Cuban Cigars to be legalized. That's because Continue reading
Deportees in Their Own Country / Cubanet, Reinaldo Cosano
Posted on May 18, 2015

Cuban Apartheid, suffered by families who abandoned their homes and went
to Havana in search of a new life

Cubanet.org, Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alen, Havana, 15 May 2015 – Rodolfo
Castro, from Santiago de Cuba, met with three other young men detained
at the Guanabo police station east of Havana. Driven to the Central
Train Terminal in a patrol car – so that they could not escape – they
were put on the train and deported to their provinces, following
imposition of a fine of a thousand Cuban pesos – some 50 dollars – each.
So says Osmany Matos, of Guanabo, arrested for a traffic offense who
witnessed the incident.

The "Palestinians" (as they ironically call those who come from the
eastern provinces) Yordanis Reina, Maikel Cabellero and Edilberto
Ledesma, from the rural area El Parnaso; and Amaury Sera, from the
Manati township, all in the Las Tunas province, explained to Graciela
Orues Mena, independent trade unionist:

We went to work at Guira de Melena in Mayabeque province, because here
either we don't work or they pay a pittance, always hired by a farmer.
One afternoon we were walking through the city with work clothes covered
in red dirt, when two police officers asked us for identification. We
were arrested and deported for the crime of 'being illegal.' They put us
on the train with the warning that if we came back we would wind up in
the courts. They didn't let us collect our pay for the time we worked or
change clothes or get our belongings. We spent so many hours hungry on
the train, without money. An abuse."

The Crime? Not having a registered address in Havana.

Independent lawyer Rene Lopez Benitez, resident of Arroyo Arenas in
Havana, explains: "The Law Decree 217 of April 22, 1997, Internal
Migratory Regulations for the City of Havana and its Contraventions,
better known as the Internal Immigration Law, tries to control
immigration to Havana (also to the capitals of the western provinces).
They justify its application because of the dire housing situation,
difficulty getting work, public transportation crisis, the supply of
water, drainage, electricity, domestic fuel, sanitation, the low level
of quality in the provision of other services, which put great pressure
on the capital's infrastructure. The Decree arranges for the eradication
of illegal persons and settlements in Havana and the other provincial
capitals with work of the Interior Ministry and the National Housing
Institute. They have carried out thousands of deportations, forced
evictions. Appeals to the Government and the Communist Party for legal
protection are a waste of time. The evictions seriously undermine the
integrity of entire families, including children and elderly people, who
had achieved labor, social and personal stability."

Slums surround the country's western cities. There are onslaughts of
demolitions "in the name of urban order and discipline in the charge of
the Institute of Physical Planning, whose director is the Division
General Samuel Rodiles, which intends to eradicate the slum areas that
have emerged in the face of the government's construction paralysis. Now
– with the failure of the state initiative – they are trying to increase
housing construction through their own efforts and a policy of bank
credits and subsidies," adds Lopez.

Acts of rebellion across the island against the evictions have managed
to paralyze some removals and building collapses.

Resolution 267 of Internal Immigration is at odds with recent laws
related to self-employment and Housing. Says Lopez:

"On October 7 of 2010 the Minister of Employment and Social Security
issued Resolution 32-2010 arranging for the Regulation of the Practice
of Self-Employment by which the restrictions of Law Decree 217 – among
other reasons because of lack of work – do not have justification. Many
go to the capital to work for themselves in the most varied trades to
provide services in construction, plumbing, house cleaning, child care,
health care, agriculture, trade, agricultural supplies, farming. Also
the essential requirement of proving legality in housing in order to get
a license to work is facilitated through Law Decree 288 from the October
28, 2011, Modifications to Law 65, General Law of Housing, in reference
to the conveyance of property by buying and selling, inheritance and
gift; and it supports the leasing of dwellings, rooms and spaces. All of
which, in fact, would annul the restrictions of migration to the capital
and decrease the record 'floating population' of almost half a million,
according to the Housing and Population Census of September 2012."

The most important thing would be to eliminate, above all, the inhumane
deportation. People and even whole families abandoned their homes in
order to work, study and try to move forward, but then they were
deported like pariahs.

The Internal Immigration Law denies Article 13, Paragraph 1 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948): "All people have the right
to freely move and to choose their place of residence within the borders
of a nation."

The construction industry, prosperous until 1958, was in rapid decline
thereafter. Internal deportation for political reasons was used by the
colonial Spanish government in the 19th century. Carlos Manuel de
Cespedes (1819-1874), Founding Father, was banished to Contramaestre,
near Bayamo, his hometown.

Source: Deportees in Their Own Country / Cubanet, Reinaldo Cosano |
Translating Cuba -
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Diplomats, business people flood Cuba amid warmer US ties
By ANNE-MARIE GARCIA Associated Press

Tourists in shorts and sandals aren't the only foreigners flooding
Havana these days.

Top diplomats from Japan, the European Union, Italy, the Netherlands and
Russia have visited the island in recent months in bids to stake out or
maintain ties with an island that suddenly looks like a brighter
economic prospect amid warming U.S.-Cuba relations.

On Sunday night, Francois Hollande becomes the first French president to
ever visit communist Cuba, bringing along five ministers and two dozen
business people, including the heads of Pernod-Ricard, Cuba's partner in
exporting Havana Club rum, and grain exporter Soufflet.

"It's impossible to deny that diplomatic detente between Washington and
Havana has accelerated the process of normalization between Cuba and
Europe," said Salim Lamrani, a Cuba expert at France's University of La
Reunion.

Cuba was once accustomed primarily to visits from leftist Latin American
partners and smaller allies in Africa and the Caribbean.

Now, virtually all of the visiting diplomatic delegations are
accompanied by high-powered business people interested in Cuba's push to
draw more than $8 billion in new foreign investment as part of a
broader, gradual economic liberalization. The delegations are also
working to ensure that Cuba doesn't forget its old friends in what
eventually could be a new era of increased business with the United States.

"We've never stopped believing in and betting on Cuba," said
Jean-Francois Lepy, the commercial director of Soufflet, which has been
in Cuba for 30 years. Sixty French firms have active operations on the
island.

Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and France are Cuba's biggest trading
partners within the European Union, which is the island's second-largest
economic partner with a combined $4.65 billion a year in trade in food,
machinery and other goods. Top partner Venezuela accounts for $7
billion, mostly highly subsidized oil.

Like virtually all European business people who have established a
foothold in Cuba despite its labyrinthine bureaucracy and unpredictable
business environment, Lepy said the U.S.-Cuba warming represents "a risk
and a challenge" for his business.

That will be even more so if agricultural interests and other U.S.
businesses successfully push Congress to lift the half-century trade
embargo on the Caribbean country.

"If the embargo is lifted, the U.S. market, so much closer to Cuba, will
be an important competitor for us and our exports to Cuba might go
down," Lepy said.

As a backup plan, his firm is also looking at ways to export processing
technology and know-how to Cuba instead of just grain, he said.

Many foreign business people see the U.S. less as a competitor than as a
potential source of jet-fueled future growth for the businesses they
have established, or hope to establish, in Cuba.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida became the highest-level Japanese
official to visit Cuba this month when he brought several dozen
representatives of his country's automotive, finance, health and tourism
industries on a trip aimed at increasing business.

A British business delegation led last month by Lord Hutton of Furness,
head of Britain's non-governmental Cuba Initiative, announced $400
million in new agriculture, energy, tourism and other projects. Cuban
state media reported Friday that the Ministry of Tourism had just signed
a deal with China to build a golf course east of Havana.

A French presidential spokesman told reporters this week that while his
government expected no immediate economic benefits from the
highest-level European visit since the Dec. 17 announcement of detente,
"it's important to be the first."

"It would be absurd to throw oneself into a race with the United States;
the ties that we have aren't the same, they're not even the same scale,"
the French spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity.

---

Michael Weissenstein in Havana and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to
this report.

Source: Diplomats, business people flood Cuba amid warmer US ties |
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The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) will export the country's business know-how to Cuba, one of four nations it has not established diplomatic relations with yet. Cuba has recently been Continue reading
May 10--WASHINGTON -- Ranchers Bud Adams of Fort Pierce and John Parke Wright IV of Naples have done business in Cuba, but have different attitudes about the prospect of new opportunities there. Full Continue reading