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Travel

Bubble Bursts for Flights Between Cuba and the United States

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 17 March 2017 — A year ago the headlines
left no doubt: Cuba was Americans' new destination and that country's
airlines fought for their piece of pie of flights to the island. After
the initial enthusiasm, several of these companies have cut back on the
frequency of their trips and others have seen a reduction in passengers.

In March 2016 the most important airlines in the United States requested
permission from the Department of Transportation to include the island
in its commercial destinations. Among them are big ones like American
Airlines and Delta Air Lines, as well as United Continental Airlines,
Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Alaska Air Group and Silver Airways.

Expectations grew and climaxed when JetBlue's 387 flight arrived in Cuba
on August 31, 2016 from Fort Lauderdale airport in southeastern
Florida. The plane arrived in Santa Clara in just over an hour,
completing the first commercial flight between the two countries in more
than half a century.

Everything was all positive predictions at the time, and the Cuban
ambassador to the United States, José Ramón Cabañas, cut the inaugural
tape of the flight with JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes. In all, the routes of
all the airlines reached 110 flights daily, 20 of them to Havana, the
most popular destination.

Earlier this year, American Airlines sounded the alarm when it cut its
daily service by 25% and decided to use smaller planes. At the end of
last year the company was operating two daily flights from Miami to
Havana, Varadero and Santa Clara and daily service to Camagüey and
Cienfuegos, but many of the aircraft flew with more than half of the
seats empty.

Americans are still banned from traveling to the island as tourists but
can travel within 12 other categories. The most used are cultural and
educational exchanges. In January 2017, Cuba received 43,200 visitors
from Cuba, a growth of 125% compared to the same period last
year, according to Cubadebate.

However, the numbers of travelers have not grown as expected. The causes
range from the slow economic changes implemented by Raúl Castro, up to
the arrival of Donald Trump and the fears that have been generated
before a possible reversal in diplomatic normalization between the two
countries.

The low number of customers also points to Cuban-Americans' caution in
visiting the island. "With the immigration changes implemented by the
Trump administration, many rumors have surfaced that exiles could have
problems if they travel," Idania Consuegra, a middle-aged Cuban living
in Miami for two decades, told 14ymedio.

Idania had plans to visit her family in the spring, but preferred to
"cancel everything until further notice, because you do not know what
will happen in this country."

For some airlines this is a test of persistance rather than
speed. "Patience is the word for now," said Gary Kelly, chief executive
of Southwest Airlines. The executive clarifies that the company had no
expectations about its six daily flights to Havana and two other cities
since this route had not be served for 50 years.

Silver Airways was forced to cut its weekly flights to six cities in
Cuba, according to Bloomberg. The inability to sell tickets to the
island through major online travel agencies such as Expedia and
Priceline are some of the causes of these cuts according to company
managers.

Frontier, a low-cost carrier based in Denver, Colorado, has announced
that it will operate its last daily flight from Miami to Havana on June 4.

The cruise ships stay afloat

On the other hand, the president of the Norwegian Cruise company, Frank
del Río, is elated due to the high sales levels of the cruises that
include Cuba in its itinerary. During the Seatrade Cruise conference
this week in Fort Lauderdale, the manager said he believes the island
"is going to be a home run" for his company.

The declarations come a few days after the company's first cruise
arrived at the port of Havana with 1,250 passengers on March 9 on
its inaugural trip to Cuba.

Norwegian plans to make nine more trips from the US during this year
with two other of the company's brands also participating: Oceania
Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

The reception of the imposing ship was the occasion for the president of
the Enterprise Cuba Travel Group of the Ministry of Tourism of the
island, Jose Manuel Bisbé, to predict an increase in the number of trips
of this kind.

According to the official, during 2016 88,000 cruise trip passengers
visited the island and in the first two months of 2017 the number is
55,000. Visitors have arrived on the twelve cruise lines that have
agreements with the country.

For the first time in its history Cuba received 4 million tourists last
year, a record that represented a growth of 14.5%. For this year it is
expected that the numbers will exceed 4.2 million visitors.

Source: Bubble Bursts for Flights Between Cuba and the United States –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/bubble-of-flights-between-cuba-and-the-united-states-bursts/ Continue reading
Change is coming to Cuba, but how quickly and for whom?
By Neal Simpson
The Patriot Ledger

HAVANA - At a small beach town on the Bay of Pigs, 27-year-old Kenny
Bring Mendoza approached to see if we needed a taxi.

We didn't, but Kenny was happy to show off his proficiency in English
and even willing to answer a few of my questions about recent economic
policy changes in Cuba, things as basic as buying cars or renting out
rooms. But Kenny wanted me to know that one of the biggest changes was
that we were talking at all.


"A couple of years ago, I couldn't be sitting here, speaking with you,"
he told me.

The fact that citizens and tourists now mingle more or less freely in
Cuba, an ostensibly socialist country 90 miles off the U.S. coast, is
just one sign that this island nation is increasingly opening itself up
to the world and, in particular, to the U.S., its longtime archenemy.

U.S. airlines now fly direct from New York to Hanava, cruise ships tower
over the city's aging piers and Americans are increasingly easy to find
among the Canadian and European tourists who have been visiting the
island for decades. Travel agents on the South Shore say they're
fielding a growing number of calls from people who want to know how they
can get to Cuba before the rest of the tourists arrive.

"It's still the unknown for people," said Susan Peavey, whose agency has
offices in Marshfield and Harwich Port. "Everybody is really interested."

I was one of those tourists last month, exploring the island nation in
the tradition of a Ledger photojournalist and editor who had visited
every decade or so to try to understand life in a place that was largely
off-limits to Americans.

What I found was a Cuba that looked much the same as it would have in
decades past despite profound economic changes that are lifting the
fortunes of some Cubans while leaving many behind. Cuba's socialist
government, under pressure to spur growth in a stagnant economy still
recovering from the collapse of the Soviet Union more than 25 years ago,
has begun to tear down many of the barriers that have separated Cubans
from the outside world. Residents can now rent out rooms to tourists,
open a limited number of privately owned restaurants, access the
internet and stay at resorts that were previously reserved for
foreigners. From Havana to Playa Girón, there's ample evidence of
President Raul Castro's effort to grow the economy's private sector,
which largely takes the form of self employment, not companies.

But some Cubans I talked with told me that thawing U.S.-Cuba relations,
and the growing number of American tourists visiting the island in the
last two years, has meant more for their personal livelihood than the
loosening of laws on personal property. They told me they'd welcome more
Americans and seemed to harbor no resentment over the Cold War-era
embargo that the U.S. continues to enforce against its Caribbean
neighbor after more than half a century.


"For me," Junior Fuentes Garcia, a 42-year-old Cuban selling books and
watches in Habana Vieja's Plaza De Armas, told me in Spanish, "the
economy is more important."

Cuba opens its doors

Arriving in old Havana at night, the city can look to American eyes like
the set of a post-apocalyptic movie set on a Caribbean island some 50
years after catastrophe cut it off from the rest of civilization. The
streets of Habana Vieja are dimly lit, narrow and filled with people who
are quick to get out of the way whenever a big 1950s Chevy or Ford comes
around a corner. The architecture, hauntingly beautiful but often gutted
and abandoned, recalls a time when Havana was the playground of wealthy
American gangsters and known as the Paris of the Caribbean despite the
extreme poverty and illiteracy most Cubans lived with before the revolution.

Havana by day is a different place, and much more difficult to
understand. Tower cranes rise over government-funded construction
projects along the Paseo de MartÍ while in the adjacent borough of
Habana Centro men labor with 5-gallon buckets and rope to keep up
dilapidated buildings that pre-date the revolution. A fellow traveler
and I walked around a gleaming white hotel that had risen on the site of
a former school building, then toured the nearby Museum of the
Revolution, where the paint was peeling off the terra cotta tiles of
what was once a presidential palace.

And of course, there were the big, beautiful mid-century American cars
that have become inextricably associated with modern-day Cuba even
though they share the country's roads with at least as many newer
Volkswagens, Kias and a variety of makes I had never seen. They are
truly everywhere, though many have been pressed into service as taxis
for tourists.

It's easy to understand why Cubans fortunate enough to have a car would
be tempted to spend their days driving tourists around. Under the Cuban
government's confounding dual-currency system, tourists use one kind of
peso pegged to the American dollar while Cuban citizens mostly use
another kind of peso that's worth closer to 4 cents each. The system,
which is meant to give the government control over American dollars
coming into the country, means that taxi drivers can charge foreigners
rates not far below what they'd pay in the U.S. and make far more than
the average Cuban wage of less than $200 a month, according to a survey
conducted last year by Moscow-based firm Rose Marketing Limited.

I talked with one taxi driver who spoke gleefully about the flood of
Americans he had seen over the last two years and the many more he hoped
were on their way. His mother and sister had moved to the U.S. in recent
years, but he said life in Cuba was too good for him to follow.


Tourism 'brain drain'

Grant Burrier, an assistant professor at Curry College in Milton who has
been visiting Cuba regularly since 2005, told me that the money-making
potential in tourism is actually becoming a problem for the Cuban
government, which has announced but not followed through with plans to
consolidate its two currencies. Burrier said the lure of the tourist
economy has created an internal "brain drain" in Cuba, tempting
engineers and other high-skill workers to leave their government jobs to
seek work in the tourism sector.

In that sense, he said the tourist trade has fueled "severe inequality"
between Cubans who have access to the tourist currency and those who do not.

"Those kinds of issues will be really problematic for the long-term
future of the Cuban economy," he said.

The socialistic ideal of economic equality is clearly far from achieved
in Cuba, but there were no signs of extreme poverty during my brief time
there. Despite its stagnant economy, the Cuban government continues to
provide its citizens with free health care and education as well as
subsidies for food. The country's infant mortality rate is lower than
that of the U.S., and its literacy rate is 99.8 percent, according to
the CIA World Factbook.

But even with all that, it's not clear whether the Cuban government can
maintain the ideals of the revolution as a younger generation comes into
power and gains a better understanding – thanks in part to the internet
– of the lifestyles and consumer goods available outside the confines of
socialism. The median age in Cuba is now 41, according to the CIA World
Factbook, meaning most Cubans were born more than a decade after the
Cuban Revolution and the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion two years
later. The median-aged Cuban was a teenager when the Soviet Union
collapsed and Cuba was left in the lurch.

"That's going to be the key struggle for the revolution going on," said
Burrier, who visited Cuba with 17 Curry students earlier this year.
"Most people you talk to in Cuba, they just want opportunity. They want
economic opportunity, they want economic stability."


American business

Many people in the United States are betting on economic opportunity in
Cuba as well. Last month, a delegation that included U.S. Reps. Jim
McGovern and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts visited Cuba and met with
representatives from Northeastern University and the Massachusetts
Biotechnology Council to discuss opportunities in the agriculture and
health sectors. Former U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat and
longtime advocate for a more open Cuba, is adamant that the island will
soon open its doors wide to American business.

"They obviously have tremendous needs and those need are going to be met
by American capitalism," said Delahunt, whose next trip to Cuba in May
will be aboard a cruise ship. "That's just what's going to happen."

But Delahunt and most Cuba watchers don't expect change to come quickly
to one of the world's last remaining Marxist-Leninist countries. The
country's leaders only need to look to their former ally, Russia, to see
what happens when a country pulls out of a communist economy too quickly.

"I wouldn't be surprised if every year we hear about one or two little
changes," said Javier Corrales, a son of Cuban exiles who teaches
political science at Amherst College, "but they're not interested in
going fast."

Neal Simpson may be reached at nesimpson@ledger.com or follow him on
Twitter @NSimpson_Ledger.

Source: Change is coming to Cuba, but how quickly and for whom? -
http://www.patriotledger.com/news/20170324/change-is-coming-to-cuba-but-how-quickly-and-for-whom Continue reading
From revolution to Raul: A brief history of Cuba
Friday
Posted Mar 24, 2017 at 2:58 PM
Updated Mar 24, 2017 at 9:54 PM

1959 – After years of fighting, Fidel Castro succeeds in overthrowing
the authoritarian government of Fulgencio Batista. Castro launches a
series of reforms, including the nationalization of private property and
business and improvements to health, education and infrastructure.
1960 – The U.S. imposes an embargo on all exports to Cuba except food
and medicine.
1961 - Around 12,000 Cuban exiles backed by the CIA land in the Bay of
Pigs in a bid to overthrow the Castro government. The invasion fails
almost immediately and Cuba eventually sends more than 1,100 captured
militants back to the U.S. in exchange for $53 million in food and medicine.
2008 – An ailing Fidel Castro announces his resignation as president.
His brother, Raul, takes over, promising in his inauguration speech to
lift some restrictions on freedom. The same year, Cubans are allowed to
use cellphones and send text messages for the first time.
2010 – Raul Castro announces the elimination of 500,000 government jobs
and promises to allow more private business licenses, signaling a shift
toward a more significant private economy.
2011 – Cuba legalizes private sale of homes and used cars for the first
time in half a century. President Barack Obama loosens restrictions on
travel to Cuba.
2013 - Cuba ends a longstanding policy requiring any citizen wishing to
travel abroad to obtain a government permit and letter of invitation.
Cuban passports are still expensive, though, leaving them out of reach
for many.
2014 - Cuba and the U.S. agree to exchange prisoners, re-establish
economic ties and begin easing some elements of the embargo. Cuba takes
steps to open the country for foreign investment.
2015 – Cuban and the U.S. reopen embassies in each other's countries.
2016 – Fidel Castro dies at the age of 90.
2017 – U.S. ends the "wet-foot-dry-foot" policy that had allowed Cuban
exiles who reached American soil to seek permanent residency.
2018 – Raul Castro is due to step down as president. His expected
successor, Miguel DÍaz-Cane, was born the year following the Cuban
Revolution.

Source: From revolution to Raul: A brief history of Cuba -
http://www.patriotledger.com/news/20170324/from-revolution-to-raul-brief-history-of-cuba Continue reading
Cuba to adopt stiffer immigration reforms against Africans
By Christabel Addo-GNA

Accra, March 25, GNA - The Information Services Department (ISD) On
Friday, issued a word of caution to the public, to desist from engaging
in any transactions with a travel and tour company dubbed "Travel to the
United States through Cuba".

The ISD in a press release explained this was a new business venture
currently operating in Accra and Kumasi where syndicates advertised
through the media and popular websites such as www.tonaton.com, with the
pretence of helping people to travel to America, only for them to get
stranded in Cuba with severe immigration complications.

Consequently, the Cuban immigration authorities had unofficially began
refusing entry to, and deporting African migrants immediately on their
arrival in the country, in spite of valid visas.

It said based on the information received from the Ministry of the
Interior, the Cuban Immigration Authority, was in the process of
adopting firmer reforms aimed at restricting the entry of African
migrants, especially Ghanaians, from using Cuba as an entry point into
the United States of America (USA), Central Americas and other Caribbean
countries.

The strict immigration reforms, followed interrogations of mostly
Ghanaian nationals and some Nigerians, who had informed Cuban
authorities that the country was being used as a conduit to the USA in
particular, it said.

The reforms were therefore intended to curtail the surge of African
migrants especially from Ghana since 2015, and to maintain international
and regional standards in human trafficking as well as migration flows.

In a related development, it said over 200 Ghanaian nationals were
currently stranded at the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan border post of Penas
Blancas, following their attempts to use the area to transit into the USA.

The Statement said a steady surge of Ghana migrants to Cuba had been
observed over the past year, especially following the commencement of
Turkish Airlines route to Havana in November, 2016.

The statement said most of the migrants were deceived by local
syndicates who claimed to have collaborators in Cuba, who could
immediately facilitate their entry into the US upon their arrival.

GNA

Source: Cuba to adopt stiffer immigration reforms against Africans |
Ghana News Agency (GNA) -
http://www.ghananewsagency.org/social/cuba-to-adopt-stiffer-immigration-reforms-against-africans-114779 Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 17 March 2017 — A year ago the headlines left no doubt: Cuba was Americans’ new destination and that country’s airlines fought for their piece of pie of flights to the island. After the initial enthusiasm, several of these companies have cut back on the frequency of their trips and others … Continue reading "Bubble Bursts for Flights Between Cuba and the United States" Continue reading
… vacation package, which included a Cuba hotel with little or no … Continue reading
Legal Process Opens Against '14ymedio' Reporter in Camagüey

14ymedio, Havana, 23 March 2017 – This Wednesday the gates have begun to
close around independent journalist Sol Garcia Basulto, who has been
charged with the crime of "usurpation of legal capacity." (In other
words, "practicing journalism without a license.") The correspondent for
this newspaper in Camaguey is facing a sentence of between three months
and a year of deprivation of liberty.

The accusation against Garcia Basulto coincides with that made against
the regional vice-president of the Inter-American Press Association in
Cuba, Henry Constantin. Both reporters are a part of the editorial team
of the independent magazine La Hora de Cuba (Cuba's Hour), which is
distributed in a digital format.

The young reporter was warned by the police about her work interviewing
and gathering information in public spaces. A task that she engages in,
according to the officials, to "misrepresent information and write
against the government."

If the process takes its course, the journalist could be tried under
Article 149 of the Penal Code which punishes those who "perform
independent acts of a profession for which they are not properly qualified."

The police did not mention the names of the possible complainants, but
warned Garcia Basulto that she was not "empowered" to undertake work as
a reporter. The young woman is being investigated and cannot leave the
country. Any travel outside her home province must be communicated ahead
of time to the police.

Last November, State Security prevented the 14ymedio correspondent from
leaving her house in the days after the death for former president Fidel
Castro, while the funeral procession carried his ashes to Santiago de Cuba.

At that time, the young woman denounced the escalating repression
against her, which started on 4 December 2015 when she tried to take
some photos and collect opinions in front of Camaguey Provincial Court
where the trial was being held for the murder of the musician Pedro
Armando Junco, known as Mandy.

The Inter American Press Association warned this week about García
Basulto possibly being charged with the same crime for which its vice
president is being prosecuted. The entity considers that such
accusations are contrary to international provisions that support "the
right to seek, receive, disseminate information and express opinions."

Source: Legal Process Opens Against '14ymedio' Reporter in Camagüey –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/legal-process-opens-against-14ymedio-reporter-in-camaguey/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 23 March 2017 – This Wednesday the gates have begun to close around independent journalist Sol Garcia Basulto, who has been charged with the crime of “usurpation of legal capacity.” (In other words, “practicing journalism without a license.”) The correspondent for this newspaper in Camaguey is facing a sentence of between three months and … Continue reading "Legal Process Opens Against ‘14ymedio’ Reporter in Camagüey" Continue reading
Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper 'Rapshela' Denounces "Fear of
Liberty" / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto

14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto, Camaguey, 22 March 2017 – Hip Hop has
become that redoubt of rebellion that other musical genres, like rock
and roll, used to embody. The Trakean2 Fesitval, which ended Monday in
Camaguey, gave voice to performers who sing as if they were shooting
truths at the public, but censorship against Cuban rapper Rashel
Cervantes – known as Rapshela – who lives in Spain, overshadowed the event.

Also missing were rappers who sing their lyrics in marginal
neighborhoods where the genre enjoys the greatest vitality. But that is
what was decided by the Brothers Saiz Association, who organized the
ninth edition of the event with 40 participating rappers, including MCs
(Masters of Ceremony), breakdancers and graffiti artists. Cockfights,
the improvised verbal confrontations between musicians, were the moments
most appreciated by the public.

Rapshela could not appear before the public in spite of having travelled
to the Island for the occasion. Problems with her cultural visa and
reproof by the organizers prevented it.

After spending her own money for the plane ticket from Barcelona, where
she lives, Rapshela ran into the cancellation of the presumed
institutional promise to pay for her travel from Havana to Camaguey. She
managed to arrive nevertheless, but the obstacles had not ended: as a
resident abroad she did not receive authorization to appear in time.

"As soon as I arrived I went to the AHS, and the organizer [Eliecer
Velazquez] told me that I could not sing because I was living abroad,"
she tells this daily. Nor was the artist included in the lodging and
food options that other guests enjoyed. A situation that she regrets
"after four months of speaking" with the event promoters.

In a gesture of solidarity, Los Compinches, a group from Pinar del Rio,
invited Rapshela to accompany them to the stage. But when the artist
began to sing, the Festival organizers ordered the microphone sound
lowered. A little later the spectacle came to an end.

The event generated an intense debate when other musicians and the
public clamored for her to be permitted to sing, but the organizers
proved inflexible. Although they declined to give their version of what
happened, Eliecer Velazquez justified himself to the artist, arguing
that it was the first time that he had organized a festival, and he did
not know "that there was so much paperwork to do." The promoter
explained to the singer that she sought the cultural visa too late and
that is why they did not grant it.

Among the attendees, many considered it absurd that a Cuban had to wait
for a cultural visa to appear in the city where she was born, so they
saw what happened as censorship masked in bureaucratic delays.

The organization also had disagreements with some lyrics by the group
Los Compinches, in which marijuana consumption is promoted and Cuba's
economic situation is criticized.

Before the microphones went mute, the spectators had shown great
enthusiasm and repeated choruses like Don't step on the herb, smoke it.
A second song increased nervousness of the authorities when the singer
explained that the video clip that accompanied the lyrics had been censored.

Joaquin Corbillon Perez, member of the group, does not explain what they
did wrong although he argues that the Brothers Saiz Association is not
responsible for the situation. "The guilty ones are much higher and are
the ones who prohibit it," he said.

The AHS director from Pinar del Rio, Denis Perez Acanda, also a member
of Los Compinches, defended the lyrics of his song and characterized as
an "act of repression" the fact that the organizers did not let Rapshela
sing.

For Rapshela the problems that she suffered transcend the music scene.
"The Cuban people are censored," she says. In her opinion "rap is a
weapon for expression" and "a window to liberty, but here they are
scared of liberty."

The organizer of the Havana female rap festival and manager of the Somos
Mucho Más (We Are Much More) project, Yamay Mejias Hernandez, known as
La Fina (The Fine One), showed her solidarity with Rapshela because "she
is Cuban, Camagueyan, and has never performed in her land. What she
wanted was to introduce herself and for her people to hear her."

Mejias Hernandez, also a feminist activist, told 14ymedio about the
festival's other problems. "It needs a little more organization, maybe
more coordination in the places where they hold the concerts at night."
She thinks that Cristo Park, a site intended to offer concerts, did not
meet the requirements for nighttime performances.

"There have to be more theoretical events like discussions, meetings,
book readings," adds Mejias Hernandez. "They need more female presence
because at this event only two female rappers appeared." The singer
asserts that throughout the Island there are many females who are
connected to the genre.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Source: Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper 'Rapshela' Denounces
"Fear of Liberty" / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/censored-at-the-camaguey-festival-rapper-rapshela-denounces-fear-of-liberty-14ymedio-sol-garcia-basulto/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto, Camaguey, 22 March 2017 – Hip Hop has become that redoubt of rebellion that other musical genres, like rock and roll, used to embody. The Trakean2 Fesitval, which ended Monday in Camaguey, gave voice to performers who sing as if they were shooting truths at the public, but censorship against Cuban … Continue reading "Censored at the Camaguey Festival, Rapper ‘Rapshela’ Denounces “Fear of Liberty” / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto" Continue reading
The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2017 – This Tuesday, the Cuban government
prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from
traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an
alleged infraction "against public adornment." Meanwhile, the
authorities accuse her of having thrown "papers in the street," which
the regime opponent clarified to 14ymedio were "leaflets."

Soler took advantage of the action to denounce the disappearance, this
Tuesday, of her husband, the activist Angel Moya. "We consider that he
is 'disappeared' because when he left the house he was being followed,"
she detailed. "Today I am calling him and his phone is shut off or
outside the coverage area."

"This morning I was supposed to travel to the United States, first to
Miami and then to California," said Soler. However, after passing
through the immigration booth and security controls at Jose Marti
International Airport in Havana, she was intercepted by an immigration
official who asked her to accompany him to an office.

The official told Soler that they would not let her board the plane
because she had not paid a fine for "throwing papers into the street."
According to Decree 272, whoever "throws into the public street waste
such as papers, wrappings, food waste, packaging and the like," will
have a fine of 50 pesos and must "pick them up immediately."

"Here, the person who owes the Cuban people freedom is Raul Castro,"
Soler replied to the accusation. She claims that it was sheets with
political slogans. "The fine is from last September, after that I went
to Panama and the United States, so I don't understand this now," the
dissident complains.

Last year, when the Aguilera Police Station informed Soler about the
fine, she signed a document informing her of the contravention with an
ironic "Down you-know-who," and threw it in the agents' faces, telling
them: "I do not accept any inappropriate fines."

Subsequently, Soler was informed that the unpaid fine could be doubled,
and it was suggested that the police could exchange each Cuba peso
(approximately 4 cents US) of the fine for one day in jail or instead
not let her travel on Tuesday.

The activist was planning to meet in California with David Kaye, United
Nations rapporteur for freedom of expression. Instead of Soler, Lady in
White Leticia Ramos will attend the meeting.

"In the report we list all those fines that they assign to us
inappropriately," reflects Soler. "They are illegal and violate the
Republic's penal code," a situation that is complemented by "the
harassment, the threat and violence that is unleashed against our
families, against our children and our husbands to try to get us to stop
our activism."

This month marks a year since the Lady in White was prevented from
attending mass at Santa Rita parish, and also blocked from attending the
Sunday marches on 5th Avenue, a traditional route that goes back to the
origins of the movement after the repressive wave of 2003, known as the
Black Spring.

Source: The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/the-government-prohibits-berta-soler-from-leaving-cuba-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba / 14ymedio,
Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 21 March 2017 — Cubans know a lot about
adulterations. For decades they have grappled with the "diversion of
resources" [i.e. stealing] from state stores and the practice of state
employees acquiring products elsewhere at low prices, bringing them into
the stores and selling them at high prices and keeping the profit for
themselves. Hence the scandal of the altered meat that involves two
Brazilian companies has hardly surprised anyone on the Island.

This Monday Brazilian meat products continued to be sold in Cuba's
retail network, where the frozen chicken of the brands Frangosul and
Perdix, from the companies JBS and BRF respectively, continue to be on
sale. According to an investigation by the Federal Police of Brazil,
both these companies adulterated these products.

In the case of chicken, the authorities have warned that it is more of
an economic fraud, consisting of adding water to the product to increase
the weight, without any risks to health.

The results of what was called "Carne Fraca" ("weak meat" in
Portuguese), confirmed the suspicions of those who warned that something
"doesn't smell right" in the world's largest exporter of these products.
Each year Brazil exports beef worth roughly 5.5 billion dollars and
chicken worth roughly 6.5 billion. This business represents 7.2% of
Brazil's Gross Domestic Product.

So far, no Cuban store or market has withdrawn the Brazilian frozen food
products. On the digital sites that offer a wide range of foods that
emigrants abroad can order for their families on the island, Brazilian
beef and chicken remain on sale.

The official media spread the news of the scandal, focusing on the
possible repercussions for President Michel Temer's government. The
Ministry of Public Health did not discuss the issue when asked by 14ymedio.

Cuba imports more than 80% of the food it consumes. For 2017, the bill
for these purchases is expected to exceed $1.75 billion, $82 million
more than the estimate for the previous year.

Each year, more than 120,000 tonnes of chicken meat are bought in the
international market, most of it hindquarters, also called "dark
parts." Alberto Ramírez, president of the Cuban Society of Poultry
Producers (SOCPA), recently confirmed to the official press that
"[domestic] meat production is practically zero."

In 2014, several representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture visited
Brazil to inspect the facilities of the dairy and beef plant managed by
JBS in Mato Grosso do Sul, with a view to importing its products to the
Island. Another 25 facilities approved for trade with Cuba are located
in the states of Tocantins, Rondonia, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul,
Goiás, Mato Grosso and Sao Paulo

The United States and Brazil are the countries supplying the greatest
amount of frozen products to the Cuban market. Faced with the lack of
supply and the lack of variety, chicken has become one of the most
common foods at the table of Cubans. Only the wealthy can afford beef.

"I came to buy a piece of top round steak," said a retired woman at the
butcher's in Plaza de Carlos III on Monday. She said, "it is a luxury
that I can only allow myself from time to time." The meat on offer in
that market comes from Brazil, according to an employee who preferred
anonymity, but who, so far, had received "no order to stop selling it."

On display in the meat case are several packages with prime ground beef,
stew meat, top round and tip steak. No merchandise specifies where it
comes from, but local workers confirm that it has been bought from
Brazil. The customers look longingly at the display; meat remains a
forbidden delicacy for many, even if it is wrapped up in
investigations and fraud.

"Here we work with Brazilian meat," explains one of the waiters at the
restaurant next to the Riviera cinema, formerly El Carmelo, on 23rd
Street. In their menu they offer sirloin, fillet mignon, fried beef
tender and ropa vieja (shredded beef in sauce), this last a very
traditional dish that is in high demand among tourists.

The select El Palco market, whose main customers are diplomats and
foreigners living in Havana, is also "especially stocked with Brazilian
meat," points out one of the local cashiers.

Some 27 people have been arrested in Brazil, and Federal Police
Commissioner Mauricio Moscardi warned of a corruption network inside the
government that allowed adulterated meat to be legalized. That chain of
infractions involved officials of the Brazilian Democratic Movement
Party, to which President Temer belongs.

The main Brazilian meat producers added chemicals to meats that were
"rotten" or unfit for human consumption. An extensive network of bribe
payments purchased approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.

"They used acids and other chemicals, in some cases carcinogenic, to
disguise the physical characteristics of the rotten product and its
smell," Moscardi explained. They treated the meat with vitamin C to give
it a more "appetizing" color, along with levels of preservatives well
above those allowed by health authorities.

Representatives of both companies have denied allegations by police
authorities, but the alarm has spread in the international market and
the companies' stock prices have tumbled sharply.

"BFR ensures the high quality and safety of its products and guarantees
that there is no risk for its consumers," said one of the largest food
companies in the world with more than 30 brands in its portfolio, Sadia,
Perdigão, Qualy, Paty, Dánica, Bocatti or Confidence.

The Chilean Ministry of Agriculture announced, a few hours ago, that it
would accept no more imports from the Brazilian beef market. Minister
Carlos Furche explained that the measure is temporary "until the
Brazilian authorities know exactly what facilities are being
investigated, and of those facilities which have exported to the world
and Chile," he said.

The Chinese authorities have responded unceremoniously. The Government
banned all such imports and prevented meat already shipped from being
unloaded in its ports. Last year the Asian country imported 1.6 billion
dollars from Brazilian meatpackers.

Europe has slowed shipments from JBS and BRF. This week the European
Commissioner for Health Affairs, Vytenis Andriukaitis, will travel to
Brasilia and the agenda revolves around the food scandal.

Cuban customers who are learning about the news coming from Brazil are
beginning to connect the dots. "The chicken no longer came with the
quality of before and had a lot of ice," complains Luisa Cordoves, a
housewife in Central Havana who says that "right now it's better to buy
the chicken boxes that come from United States, because the product
tastes better. "

She believes that the scandal will not dissuade domestic consumers from
acquiring these products. "People have many needs and there is no
choice: you take it or leave it."

Source: Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba /
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/doubtful-meat-from-brazil-continues-to-be-sold-in-cuba-14ymedio-zunilda-mata/ Continue reading
Rare poll finds Cuban citizens favor better U.S. relations
UPDATED: TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2017, 9:28 P.M.
By Emily Swanson and Michael Weissenstein
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A rare poll of Cuban public opinion has found that most of
the island's citizens approve of normal relations with the United States
and large majorities want more tourists to visit and the expansion of
private business ownership.

In a poll of 840 people taken in Cuba late last year by the independent
research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, 55 percent said
normal relations with the U.S. would be mostly good for the country.

"I'd love for the two peoples to be even closer," Rebecca Tamayo, an
80-year-old retired museum worker, said Monday in Havana. "If there were
better relations, more products would be entering the country. There'd
be more opportunity to buy things."

Among Cubans ages 18-29, approval of closer relations with the U.S. rose
to 70 percent. An overwhelming 8 of 10 respondents said they believed
tourism to Cuba should be expanded.

President Donald Trump has pledged to reverse former President Barack
Obama's 2 1/2-year-old opening with Cuba, which restored full diplomatic
relations and allowed a dramatic expansion of U.S. travel to the island.
Trump has said little about the matter since taking office, but his
administration says it is conducting a full review of Cuba policy with
an eye toward possible changes.

Critics of Obama's policy hope Trump will reinstate regulations limiting
the ability of Americans to travel to the island. U.S. travel to Cuba
has roughly doubled every year since the declaration of detente in
December 2014. Critics of closer relations argue the added revenue has
funded a repressive single-party system without helping ordinary Cubans.

The reality is more complex. New tourism revenue is being captured by
government-run tourism businesses, often controlled by the military. At
the same time, thousands of new private enterprises, primarily
bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants, are allowing many Cubans to forge
livelihoods independent of the state. Meanwhile, a drop in aid from
Cuba's main patron, Venezuela, helped push the country last year into
its first recession since 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The poll reflects this complex reality, with Cubans expressing pessimism
about the government's management of the economy while supporting better
ties with the U.S. and hoping for increased privatization.

"Tourism is improving the country's economy, but it's still not enough,
because people aren't seeing a better quality of life," Jorge Beltran, a
66-year-old retired accountant said Monday in Havana.

Forty-six percent of Cubans say the island's economic performance is
poor or very poor, and most said the country's economic fortunes haven't
changed significantly over the past three years. Still, Cubans are
nearly unanimous in saying more tourism would be good for the economy,
and nearly 9 in 10 say it would result in more jobs for local workers.

Sixty-five percent of Cubans said there should be more private business
ownership and 56 percent said they wanted to start their own business
over the next five years.

"It's been demonstrated that the market economy is more efficient than a
centralized economy," Beltran said. "People who've started private
businesses, you can see that they're happier, they have more access to a
lot of things. It's a tremendous benefit for them."

The NORC survery was conducted via in-person interviews of adults across
Cuba in October and November of last year. The survey has a margin of
sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Seventy-six percent said they had to be careful about expressing
themselves freely. Over half of Cubans said they would move away from
the country if given the chance. Of those, 70 percent said they would
head to the United States, where many respondents said they had relatives.

Nearly half of respondents said they received remittances from family or
friends overseas.

Seventy-seven percent had a positive view of the U.S.

UPDATED: MARCH 21, 2017, 9:28 P.M.

Source: Rare poll finds Cuban citizens favor better U.S. relations | |
The Spokesman-Review -
http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/mar/21/rare-poll-finds-cuban-citizens-favor-better-us-rel/ Continue reading
How the Black Market Keeps Cuba's Private Restaurants in Business
The challenge of running a restaurant "a la izquierda"
by Suzanne Cope Mar 21, 2017, 2:02pm EDT

On a recent January evening, tourists and a few Habaneros sat under a
palm frond canopy sipping rum cocktails, listening to a live band
playing Cuban folk songs — and eating notoriously difficult-to-procure
lobster, a special of the day.

California Cafe, a paladar, or newly legal, privately owned restaurant
in a country where the state has controlled almost all businesses for
the past half century, is owned by a couple who met in San Francisco.
Paver Core Broche is Cuban, Shona Baum is American, and they decided to
return to Havana to open a restaurant in February 2015, not long after
the regulations for private businesses started loosening.

"In some ways it was really easy," Baum says about the process of
opening a paladar in Havana. "You can't even open a coffee cart in San
Francisco without a million permits and tons of money, and here… we
bought the space, and applied for a license, and it didn't take that long."

But in Cuba, most businesses can't simply call up a bulk vendor or
wholesaler purveyor to place a produce order, since most means of
production are controlled by the government. The country uses two
currencies, Cuban convertible pesos (CUCs) and Cuban pesos (CUPs), the
former tied to the U.S. dollar and known as the "tourist currency," the
latter, valued at 1/25th of the CUC, used by the government to pay its
oversized labor force. (Paladares and private businesses might charge in
either.) Running a restaurant can be complicated in the best of
situations, but it's especially challenging in a country where most
aspects of daily life are tightly regulated — and where much of the
economy operates a la izquierda, or "on the left."

As California Cafe grew, both Baum (who works the front of the house)
and Broche (who cooks) had to learn to navigate the labyrinth of
sourcing food and supplies in a place where the state-run corner bodega
might have 100 imported fruit cakes on the shelf but no toilet paper.
Baum says the reality in Cuba is that product availability is sporadic.
"When they have mayonnaise, they have three million [jars of]
mayonnaise, and then it's gone and they have three million of something
else," she says.

To find many necessary items — from condiments to serving plates — one
has to travel around the city visiting various markets. That process can
quickly become time-consuming, and Broche and Baum hired a full-time
person to help with sourcing. They also rent a storeroom to stockpile
enough nonperishables to last a few weeks of service, and they plan
their menu around ingredients that are usually available. The result is
a style they call "Californian-Cuban fusion," with vegetable-heavy
dishes like pork and vegetable "California" skewers.

But the inconsistent availability of products is only one aspect of
sourcing that makes operating a paladar a complicated endeavor in
Havana. The other is the persistence of a la izquierda — the Cuban black
market. There are many ingredients and products needed by restaurants
that are either illegal to buy or else often expensive or scarce, such
as lobster or non-processed cheese. And staples like toilet paper,
vinegar, and beer can also suddenly become hard to find, or "esta
perdido," (literally "it's lost"), Baum says. Numerous restaurant owners
note that if they want to stay in business, they have to buy certain
things a la izquierda.

Alexi, a paladar owner near Cuba's second-largest city, Santiago de
Cuba, worked for many years in the state-owned hotel industry before
opening his own open-air restaurant with tented tables right on the
Caribbean. "You must be enterprising to get all of the things you need
for your restaurant," he says. "Today we have something, but tomorrow it
will be quite difficult to get that same thing … and it is illegal to
buy some things. For example, the government has made all kinds of
seafood illegal to buy. So sometimes I have to buy products other ways."

The Cuban black market works in many ways to circumvent the government's
control of goods. One is the common — and complicated — practice of
state-owned-store employees holding back certain goods to sell a la
izquierda, while accepting pay-offs for other goods — procured illegally
by individuals — to be sold in their shop instead. The government has
strict regulations on the sale of almost every food sourced, from
seafood to coffee to tomatoes, setting the harvest goals and prices for
each farmer or fisherman and prohibiting the sale of excess through
private channels. To make extra money, almost any person within the
supply chain might reserve products to be sold at a price he or she
dictates.

Buying products a la izquierda is so integrated into daily Cuban life
that it often does not look much different than most other transactions
to the average non-Cuban — these sales aren't all happening in dark
alleys with secret handshakes. Rather, there is a complex system of
bribery and separate record-keeping that many employees of both state-
and private-run businesses take part in.

Both Alexi and a former military cook, Marcus, who lives in Santiago de
Cuba, attribute this in part to the government prioritizing state-run
restaurants and hotels when they distribute the best-quality food. "If I
have a good paladar, then that means people are going to eat at my
paladar and they are not going to be a good customer for the
government," Marcus says. "That's [the government's] loss, and they
don't want that." Marcus is currently attending a military cooking
school, but hopes to soon work in a tourist hotel and eventually own his
own restaurant, a dream that wouldn't have been possible just a few
years ago.

Paladares were technically legalized in the 1990s, partially in reaction
to a mass poisoning in an illegal restaurant, when a cook accidentally
added rat poison to the food. However, they were highly regulated, and
it was difficult to obtain their required permits until the 2011
economic reforms under Raúl Castro's leadership. These reforms made
opening paladares much easier — and in 2016, the government announced
plans to ease other private ownership laws as well, paving the way for
individuals to open a variety of private businesses.

These changes, along with the revised laws allowing United States
citizens to more easily travel and send money to the island, have helped
the number of paladares swell. After President Barack Obama restored
diplomatic relations with Cuba in mid-2015, U.S. tourism to the country
hit an all-time high, with 615,000 travelers visiting Cuba from the U.S.
in 2016.

However, the support for this quickly growing class of business has not
been enough to sustain them, particularly as competition increases.
There have been reports of food shortages for locals in part due to the
demand of private restaurants (although some Cubans are equally quick to
blame farmer strikes and government disorganization over the emerging
private sector). Leo, one of the owners of the popular Havana paladar
Havana Blue, has noted the number of paladares that have already come
and gone in his quickly changing city. "There are some that open and
then close," he says. "Not because of lack of demand. It's also bad
management. Many people don't have the foggiest idea because they have
never run a restaurant before."

The government, for its part, has made some effort to support paladares,
at least in gesture. It opened a version of a wholesale market, but
multiple paladar owners question its usefulness. The prices aren't any
cheaper than a retail market, and availability is still often
unpredictable. "People pull up and the beer is gone in two minutes,"
Baum says.

Baum also says that the national bank reached out to small business
owners in the last two years to offer loans. While commonplace in the
United States, this kind of credit is mostly unheard of in Cuba. Yet
when Baum asked about interest rates, the bank associate was vague.
"'Don't worry, we'll give you a good rate!'" was the answer.

Ministry of Agriculture journalist Jose Ignacio Fleitas Adan says the
government is working to do better. "There's an intention, and also
projects and plans, to increase food production and availability," he
says, echoing the official government response. "Es complicado," he adds
with a laugh.

And that seems to be the one truism about food sourcing in Cuba,
particularly when one is running a business. Baum mentions two
restaurants nearby that were shut down recently. "They just
disappeared," she says. "Basically, they were doing illegal things. So
there's a lot of fear around what's going to happen next." She questions
whether more crackdowns are coming for those who buy goods a la izquierda.

What were those shuttered restaurant doing that was more illegal than
what anyone else is doing? Baum pursed her lips. This answer, too, was
complicado. "I spoke with someone who ate there, and they had dried
cranberries on their salad. Which is great, but clearly dried
cranberries aren't available here." She pauses. "What you realize over
time is that there are people who are really well connected, so it's
hard for the regular people like us, and all the other people in our boat."

Still, the opportunities for business owners are lucrative. A Cuban
working in the growing service industry — as a taxi driver or a
restaurant host — can earn exponentially more than the average state
wage of around 20 to 40 CUCs per month. Many educated young Cubans are
thus leaving professions like teaching or medicine to work in the
emerging private sector. When I walked into a new Mediterranean-themed
paladar with Habanero food writer Sisi Colomina, the first question she
asked the host was, "What did you do before?" The answer: psychology.

This wage disparity also makes it easy to understand why so many people
risk buying and selling a la izquierda, or starting their own businesses
in an uncertain market, to supplement their meager income. What
successful paladares demonstrate is that capitalism can work in a
country where almost all aspects of (legal) businesses have being
tightly controlled by the state for more than 50 years.

Yet while many come to the restaurant business for monetary reasons, for
others, opening a paladar is a chance to follow their passion. "It was
always my dream — illegal or legal," Alexi says. "Cooking is an art." He
also called paladars the most popular private businesses in the country
by almost any metric: They're "the most important window for showing the
possibilities to other Cubans."

And while the challenges of food sourcing can make running a private
business in a communist state complicated, Baum does appear to love her
work. We finished our cocktail as she sang along to the band and then
did a sweep of the patio to help her servers deliver food and greet
customers she had met earlier in the week. When she sat back down, she
admitted that the business had a rocky start. But now, she says, she is
"slowly falling in love with Cuba."

Suzanne Cope is the author of Small Batch and an upcoming book on food
and revolution.
Editor: Erin DeJesus

Source: How the Black Market Keeps Cuba's Private Restaurants in
Business - Eater -
http://www.eater.com/2017/3/21/14946146/cuba-paladar-private-restaurant-black-market Continue reading
Cuba were administered by the Cuban government. The hotel equipment industry in Cuba … considered an entrance into the Cuban hospitality market, having supplied extensively … historically slow Cuban travel month of February. Increased interest in Cuba, along … Continue reading
Cuban dissident leader to Trump: 'Treat Cuba like a dictatorship'
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Frustrated by what they see as "indolence" from the previous
administration, some Cuban government opponents are urging President
Donald Trump to backtrack current Cuba policy and speak out about
increased government repression on the island.

Antonio G. Rodiles and his partner Ailer González — both members of the
Forum for Rights and Freedoms — are calling on the new administration to
reset U.S.-Cuba relations and "recognize that they are dealing with a
dictatorship."

"The main thing would be for those of us who are legitimate actors on
the Cuban scene — inside and outside the island — to be part of the
policy design and part of that political process toward the island"
unlike what former President Barack Obama did, Rodiles said during a
recent meeting with el Nuevo Herald.

The couple also denounced an increase in repression since Obama
announced his policy of engagement and the restoration of diplomatic
ties with Cuba in December 2014. The situation, they said, has become
worse since the death of former leader Cuban Fidel Castro in November
with a "millimetric monitoring" of opponents' actions and harassment of
their families.

"It is important for the new administration to start taking action on
the issue and make some statement, because silence is being very well
used by the regime to try to crush the opposition," Rodiles said.

The Cuban government opponent criticized the "indolence" of the Obama
administration toward the human rights situation on the island.

"We have direct experience, including talking to President Obama, and
the direct experience was that there was a lot of indolence in what
happened with Cuba ... There was a moment when we understood that the
administration was not an ally [in the struggle for] for democratic
changes in Cuba, that they had a vision that Cuba was going to change in
the long term and that we would have to accept neo-Castroism," he said.

Although he was careful not to mention what measures taken by the
previous administration should be eliminated — such as sending
remittances or authorizing U.S. airline travel to the island, which are
popular in Cuba and within a large portion of the Cuban American
community — Rodiles said he supports returning to the previous longtime
policy of applying economic pressure against the Raúl Castro government,
a practice Obama has referred to as a "failed policy."

"If the regime is taking advantage of some of these measures, I'd cut
that economic income," Rodiles said. "Everything that is giving benefits
to the regime and not to the people must be reversed."

The frustration expressed by the activist couple has become increasingly
evident. A video published by the Forum for Rights and Liberties and in
which González exclaims, "Obama, you are finally leaving!" unleashed a
whirlwind of controversy within social media networks.

According to Rodiles, Obama asked dissidents and activists during a
meeting in Havana on March 22, 2016, to have patience with his policy of
rapprochement.

"I told him that you can't be patient when they are kicking citizens and
women with impunity," Rodiles said. The couple was among several
activists arrested during a widely reported act of repudiation against
dissidents on the same Sunday that Obama arrived in Havana for an
historic visit.

Rodiles and González dismissed criticism by those who question their
support for President Trump and claim their agenda is dictated by groups
within the Cuban exile community. They said their interest is in
readdressing Cuba issues not taking a position on U.S. domestic issues.

"Those same people who say that we are being radical and
confrontational, are extremely unsupportive. They do not report any
violation of human rights. These are hypocritical positions," González said.

As for other strategies being carried out by other opposition groups on
the island in an effort to incite change, the couple acknowledged that
there are many different ideologies and approaches, which they said was
a healthy element in the struggle for democracy.

"The most important thing," Rodiles said, "is that the regime has to
understand that 60 years is more than enough, and that it's over."

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles calls on Trump to get tough on
Cuba | Miami Herald -
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Cuba were administered by the Cuban government. The hotel equipment industry in Cuba … considered an entrance into the Cuban hospitality market, having supplied extensively … historically slow Cuban travel month of February. Increased interest in Cuba, along … Continue reading
… social media of Americanos cruising Havana in antique convertibles and puffing … hop on a plane to Havana for the weekend as if … with the paranoid and repressive Cuban state, which fails to modernize … of helping fellow Cubans -- to travel to Cuba frequently. Those flights … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2017 – This Tuesday, the Cuban government prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an alleged infraction “against public adornment.” Meanwhile, the authorities accuse her of having thrown “papers in the street,” which the regime opponent … Continue reading "The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba / 14ymedio" Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 21 March 2017 — Cubans know a lot about adulterations. For decades they have grappled with the “diversion of resources” [i.e. stealing] from state stores and the practice of state employees acquiring products elsewhere at low prices, bringing them into the stores and selling them at high prices and keeping the profit … Continue reading "Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata" Continue reading
As further US airlines exit Cuba, what does the future hold for US-Cuba
relations?
Karen Gilchrist | @_karengilchrist
Thursday, 16 Mar 2017 | 9:02 AM ET
CNBC.com

U.S. airlines Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines have become the
latest to bow out of Cuba due to weakened demand, posing new questions
about the U.S's future relationship with its former Cold War foe.

For a brief period under President Barack Obama, longstanding tensions
appeared to be easing. But now, as the White House conducts a "full
review" of U.S.-Cuba policies, diplomatic relations between the two
neighbors look as uncertain as ever.

Indications so far suggest that President Donald Trump would be loath to
continue the détente initiated by his predecessor, which sought to
loosen travel restrictions and barriers to trade implemented more than
50 years earlier. During campaigning, the now President tweeted his
condemnation of human rights abuses conducted by Cuba's totalitarian
government. Then, last week, Cuba's President Raúl Castro made his first
public retort, describing President Trump's policies as "egotistical"
and "irrational".

However, President Trump also has a pro-business agenda to ally. A
number of U.S. companies took advantage of Obama's executive order and
efforts to restrict business freedoms will not come easily. Indeed, it
would not go unnoticed that Trump built his fortune on the tourism
industry and his organization reportedly once sought to pursue possible
business interests on the island.

So where does President Trump go from here - and how should business
respond?

What are companies currently doing?

Airline carriers Delta, jetBlue and American Airlines were some of the
first to capitalise on Obama's policies. In the first year after
restrictions were lifted, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens grew 77
percent. However, a recent surplus of carriers and weakening demand have
caused some national airlines to reduce services, while regional
carriers Frontier Airlines and Silver Airways are to suspend their Cuba
services entirely.

"Lack of demand coupled with overcapacity by the larger airlines has
made the Cuban routes unprofitable for all carriers. As a result, Silver
has made the difficult but necessary decision to suspend its Cuba
service effective April 22, 2017. It is not in the best interest of
Silver and its team members to behave in the same irrational manner as
other airlines," Silver Airways said in a press note.

Trade association Airlines for America told CNBC it is currently
"working with government" to secure an adequate framework between the
two destinations.

Meanwhile, delivery services company FedEx announced this month that it
is delaying the implementation of its regularly scheduled cargo service
to Cuba by six months to address "operational challenges in the Cuban
market."

These challenges are also acutely felt by entrepreneurial start-ups on
the island. Chad Olin, president of U.S. Tour operator Cuba Candela, set
up his business to facilitate U.S. tourists under President Obama's
normalisation programme. He now faces an uncertain wait under the White
House's policy review.

"Although the new U.S. administration has introduced some uncertainty to
the continued improvement of U.S.-Cuba relations, we are cautiously
optimistic that relaxed travel rules will not be repealed," Olin told CNBC.

John Kavulich, president of the U.S-Cuba Trade and Economic Council,
regularly deals with businesses and policy makers with interests in the
U.S. and Cuba and indicated that more still are in a state of limbo.

"U.S. companies are hesitant to re-engage or engage due to the
uncertainty about what the Trump administration will or will not do with
respect to Cuba," he explained, adding indications that the White House
may intend to rescind certain freedoms.

Potential hurdles

If it is the case, however, that the new administration wishes to repeal
President Obama's executive order, it won't be without litigation issues
from current business license holders, noted Kavulich. A more likely
scenario, at least in the short term, would be a partial freeze on
issuance while the U.S. confirms its position, he said, noting
conversations heard within government and the business community.

"There is not a desire to issue further (business) licenses, but also an
acknowledgement that some license applications are and will be
legitimate," he said.

Christopher Sabatini, lecturer of international relations and policy at
Columbia University, agreed that full reinstatement of the trade embargo
would be unpopular, particularly in Florida, a crucial swing state which
helped secure President Trump's election.

"Some of the entrepreneurial concession will be hard to roll back
because people's lives rely on them," Sabatini told CNBC, referring to
Florida businesses which export to Cuba. Such moves would make the
President very unpopular, he said: "You would see protests on the
streets if they were removed."

"Big ticket" items, such as large corporates, would be easier to remove,
Sabatini suggested.

Political contention

As well as on the streets, Florida is likely to have an influential role
in policy at a Congressional level, too.

Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator for Florida, is one of six hard-line Cuban
American members of Congress who believe President Castro's government
is deeply untrustworthy and are likely to push for a retightening of policy.

"This (Cuban sanctions) is a concession President Trump can make to a
very powerful constituency in Congress," said Sabatini, who remarked
that the President may be keen to maintain his perceived favourability
among Floridians. Last month, President Trump met with Senator Rubio and
told a press conference of their "very similar views on Cuba."

Such a concession may also be necessary given the complexity of the
issue, notes Sebastian Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research
Institute at Florida International University.

"President Trump will delegate his Cuba policy to others he trusts and
he assumes understand the issue better."

"That means people like Senator Rubio or Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart
will be quite influential in defining the new policy.

"We don't know yet what such policy will look like, but based on the few
signals from the Trump administration, it will be less congenial than Mr
Obama's," Arcos noted.

A new era for Cuba?

Such hard-line members of Congress clearly criticize the reform agenda
for further embedding repression, which has dogged the island for
decades. They claim that new businesses and tourist dollars only serve
to further fund the Castro regime and aggravate segregation on the island.

Trump's adviser Helen Aguirre Ferre said last week that the
administration has not seen Cuba make any "concessions" despite "all the
things it has been given."

However, Cuba has clearly been changing. Citizens are now more globally
connected than ever before, benefiting from improved telecommunication
services and internet connectivity, and certain legacies of Obama's
reform agenda will not be undone

With citizens now more exposed to the freedoms enjoyed by democratic
societies, including more private industry and gradually increasing -
albeit still limited - access to a free press, President Trump now
stands at a crucial juncture for U.S.-Cuba relations: continue pursuing
reforms or return to isolation tactics.

President Castro has stated his intentions to step down in 2018 which
could provide President Trump with greater leverage in his aims to
create a "better deal for the Cuban people." Tactical diplomatic
negotiations could secure greater democratic freedoms for Cuban citizens
if the President is willing to engage with his political opponent – an
enviably legacy for any President.

However, it remains a big if.

When contacted by CNBC, the White House and the Trump Organization were
not available for comment.

Source: As further US airlines exit Cuba, what does the future hold for
US-Cuba relations? -
http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/16/as-further-us-airlines-exit-cuba-what-does-the-future-hold-for-us-cuba-relations.html Continue reading
Tourists, private enterprise give Cuba much needed boost
Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 11:30 am
By David Bordewyk

Running an Italian restaurant plus a small bed and breakfast keeps owner
Yucimy on her feet from sunrise to well past sunset. It's 7 a.m., and
she is already preparing omelets for her five B&B guests. Her cheerful
greeting helps everyone shake off a night's sleep.
Meanwhile, Yucimy's employees are busy moving tables and chairs to the
sidewalk outside the restaurant, which fronts the town's main avenue,
and are inviting passerbys to stop in for breakfast.
Late afternoon will have Yucimy and staff, some of whom are family, busy
pouring drinks and planning dinner menus for the B&B guests. At night's
end, Yucimy can be found with her feet up in the small living room just
off the restaurant's kitchen, catching a few minutes of TV.
All in a day's work for this privately owned business. Welcome to
Vinales, Cuba.
In Havana, Rosana Vargas welcomes visitors to her jewelry store, where
she shares her small business story. She started making fine silver
jewelry five years ago in her small apartment. Today she has more than
40 people employed in her stylish, privately owned shop along a busy
capital city street.
How much does she pay in taxes to the government for her small business
success, she is asked.
Too much," Rosana says, sounding ever like a well-seasoned capitalist.
Except this isn't Wall Street or Main Street. This is Cuba.
Along with 28 other Americans from the Midwest, I traveled to Cuba for
seven days last week on a people to people tour, a kind of
educational/tourism tour of the island nation that has the approval of
both countries. An employee of a tourism company run by the Cuban
government was our guide.
The trip gave a view of a country with compelling contrasts and
day-to-day economic struggles for many Cubans that dropped our jaws. It
also introduced us to some wonderful, inspiring Cuban people.
To be sure, Cuba remains very much a country ruled by leaders who belong
to the Communist Party. Repression of speech, assembly, and the press
remain very much in play in Cuba today. The government pulls and pushes
the levers that control much of Cuba's way of life. It's been that way
since soon after Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista regime in 1959.
Yet, doors are opening. Capitalism, entrepreneurship, and self-reliance
are no longer negatives in Cuba. They are happening today in Havana and
other parts of the country.
It will be difficult for the government to put the brakes on this
growing capitalistic wave. President Raul Castro or the next leader may
decide to encourage even more of this kind of growth. Who knows?
This is a country where the average official salary of a state
government worker is the equivalent of about $25 per month. By the way,
most Cubans work for the government or government-owned enterprises.
Teachers, lawyers, and other professionals can make more money tending
bar or waiting tables in a restaurant than they can in the jobs they
were trained and educated to do.
There is a saying in Cuba that "if you pretend to pay me, I will pretend
to work."
Pretending to work for pretend pay is nothing new in Cuba. That's been
going on for many years.
What's new is the rapidly burgeoning capitalism.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Cuban economy went into a
free fall. Within a few years, the Cubans realized that growing tourism
was necessary to help stave off collapse.
Tourism in Cuba has indeed accelerated the past 20 years. Canadians,
Germans, British, Chinese, among others, travel to Cuba. They come for
the rum, cigars, salsa music, and the sun. The number of foreign
tourists coming to Cuba has risen from about 750,000 in 1995 to 3.5
million two years ago.
And now the Americans are coming. The warming of relations between the
two countries put in motion by the Obama administration means more and
more American tourists are wanting to go to Cuba. We bumped into fellow
Americans most everywhere we went during our week-long trip.
Cubans on the street we met cheer what Obama did. They express anxiety
about President Trump.
Which takes us back to the small town of Vinales, in the heart of Cuba's
tobacco-growing region. The town has been a tourist destination for many
years with bed-and-breakfasts throughout. Today, you see construction in
much of the town. Residents are adding a room or two where they can to
their small homes to accommodate the growing tourist tide.
Will growth in tourism pull Cuba out of its many economic problems?
Probably not. Economic stability likely will take much more, given the
scope of challenges.
A personal observation that overrides the nuts and bolts of Cuba's
wobbly GDP is this: My travel experience was that Cubans are genuine,
friendly, and welcoming. They smile wide and extend a hand when you tell
them where you are from. They are willing to chat, even if language is a
barrier. (Although almost no one seemed to know where South Dakota was
located in America. The closest point of reference that rang a bell with
Cubans was the Minnesota Twins. Cubans love baseball.)
More than once I heard Cubans on the street tell me they are eager for
the day when the embargo imposed on their country by the United States
will end. They believe such a move would make lives better for average
Cubans.
In the meantime, they keep building B&Bs (casa particulares), opening
privately-owned restaurants (paladares), and welcoming more American
tourists.
David Bordewyk is executive director of the South Dakota Newspaper
Association, Brookings. He participated in a people to people tour of
Cuba along with journalists and others from the Midwest March 5-12.

Source: Tourists, private enterprise give Cuba much needed boost - Black
Hills Pioneer: Opinion -
http://www.bhpioneer.com/opinion/tourists-private-enterprise-give-cuba-much-needed-boost/article_ffbe4ce2-0d76-11e7-8f17-73c0b08841d7.html Continue reading
Airlines rushed to fly to Cuba. Here's why they've now pulled back.
Mar 20, 2017, 2:02pm EDT
INDUSTRIES & TAGS Travel & Tourism

Multiple commercial airlines in recent days have announced they will
drop their flights to Cuba, a stark reversal from the enthusiasm the
industry displayed when bidding for permission to fly those routes just
last year.

Even airlines that aren't dropping their routes entirely are adjusting
to what they're finding passengers want. Both American Airlines (NASDAQ:
AAL) and JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU) have scaled back service from what they
initially offered.

The reductions come as airline executives cite an excess of capacity and
lower sustained demand than expected. So, was the industry wrong to be
so eager to get flights to the island in the first place?

There are multiple theories about how the airline industry ended up in
this spot. One Cuba tour executive suggested to NBC News that it was a
simple matter of lack of data. Tom Popper of Insight Cuba said in that
report, "Not having any historical data for 50-plus years on what
commercial flight capacity and volume would be, everybody wanted to
apply for one of the available routes. Once all the flight routes were
granted they went to market to see what would happen."

Another theory proffered in that report is that even though the number
of Americans visiting Cuba has spiked — a state-run Cuban news source
placed it at 43,200 visitors in January, more than double the count from
a year earlier — that may be in part due to the novelty. There may have
been a good number of people interested in going to Cuba for a first
visit, the theory holds, but not nearly as interested in returning again
and again, NBC News said.

In the end, American tourism to Cuba is in a state of flux, and it's not
just airlines that have to adjust. NBC News pointed out that a relative
lack of hotel rooms on the island for the increased number of visitors
has led to inflated lodging prices. Increased taxi and restaurant prices
have come as well.

There is, however, one segment of the tourism industry that appears well
positioned for continued business with Cuba: cruises. The Miami Herald
reported that about 172,000 people are expected to visit Cuba from the
United States via ship this year.

Unlike airlines and hotels, the Herald reported, cruises are less
exposed to shortcomings with Cuba's infrastructure since their business
is already built around full-service accommodations. To be sure, cruise
lines aren't completely insulated from those concerns, the Herald said,
but for now, they're looking to grow their business to the island.

There is one additional possible complication that could be outside the
airlines' and cruise companies' control. All this tourism to Cuba is
made possible by executive policy changes put in motion by the Obama
administration, and there's no guarantee the Trump administration will
maintain those policies.

As the Herald noted in a separate story, from January, the new
administration has already said it would review the United States' Cuba
policy, and Trump himself has suggested he might end the normalization
process unless the Cuban government gives in to certain demands. That
kind of change would put a major crimp on tourism to Cuba, drastically
affecting business for multiple industries, including airlines and cruises.

David A. Arnott is the National News Desk Editor with The Business Journals.

Source: Airlines rushed to fly to Cuba. Here's why they've now pulled
back. - The Business Journals -
http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/news/2017/03/20/airlines-rushed-to-fly-to-cuba-heres-why-theyve.html Continue reading
Washington, March 18 (RHC-Xinhua) -- The U.S. Justice Department filed a brief notice saying it would appeal a Maryland federal judge's ruling that halted a key portion of President Donald Trump's revised immigration order, which was set to take … Continue reading
Biotech Mission to Cuba
BETC director Kamal Rashid hopes to develop collaborations in
biomanufacturing
March 20, 2017

As the 1950s vintage cars course through city streets seemingly frozen
in time, a vibrant biopharmaceutical sector flourishes in Cuba,
supplying most of the country's essential medicines and exporting
life-saving vaccines to developing countries.

"It was not what I expected to find," says Kamal Rashid, PhD, director
of WPI's Biomanufacturing Education and Training Center, who was part of
a Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) delegation that
traveled to Cuba in February.

The MassBio group, which also included research and business development
leaders from several companies, Harvard University, Massachusetts
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Massachusetts Biomedical
Initiatives, joined Bay State congressmen Jim McGovern of Worcester and
Seth Moulton of Salem for the three-day mission.

"With the new openness between the United States and Cuba, we want to
seize the opportunity to explore mutually beneficial collaborations in
both biologics research and biomanufacturing," Rashid says.
"Massachusetts is a world leader in biopharmaceutical development and
manufacturing, so it makes sense for both sides to begin building
relationships. And having the two Congressmen with us was very important
in terms of access and respect from the Cuban leadership. Their presence
elevated our mission."

In addition to his work at WPI, Utah State, and Penn State, Rashid has
led biotechnology research, education, and biomanufacturing workforce
training programs in 15 countries and territories, including multiple
projects in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Based on his
experience, Rashid says Cuba is "the clear biotech leader in Latin America."

"I was quite impressed with the scale of their capabilities and their
research in several programs," he says. "The Cuban government made an
early commitment to investing in biotechnology in the 1980s and they
have followed through, in spite of a very difficult economy and the
impact of the U.S. trade embargo."

BioCubaFarma is the government run umbrella organization for the
industry. It has 31 affiliated entities and 62 production centers. It
has a staff of over 22,000 people and manufactures 525 of the 849 drugs
in Cuba's catalog of essential medicines.

Rashid and the delegation met with BioCubaFarma leaders and visited
research scientists at Cuba's Center for Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology. That center has developed 21 products, including cancer
immunotherapies, a hepatitis B vaccine, and therapies for macular
degeneration.

Rashid and colleagues also met with scientists and leaders at Cuba's
Institute of Tropical Medicine "Pedro Kouri" (named for its founder),
which has operated continuously since 1937. The institute houses a World
Health Organization (WHO) and Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)
collaborative center for the study of viral diseases, with a current
focus on dengue fever, Zika, and measles.

Rashid says he saw strengths in vaccines, cancer therapies. and
medicinal plants that U.S.-based companies could help advance to larger
scale clinical trials. What the Cubans need are partnerships and access
to U.S./Western research funding, technology, and investments in
production capabilities, he notes.

"It was a first step and I believe we started some important
conversations," Rashid says. "The next step is for a group of Cuban
scientists and biotech leaders to travel here to Massachusetts. I hope
that will happen within the year."

- By Michael Cohen

Source: Biotech Mission to Cuba | News | WPI -
https://www.wpi.edu/news/biotech-mission-cuba Continue reading
… social media of Americanos cruising Havana in antique convertibles and puffing … hop on a plane to Havana for the weekend as if … , not shunning, its base market – Cuban Americans – and making it easier … sake of helping fellow Cubans – to travel to Cuba frequently. Those flights … Continue reading
Cuba's Children of Power Take Possession / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 13 March 2017 — The appointment of architect Perla
Rosa Rosales Aguirreurreta to succeed historian Eusebio Leal as head of
Havana's Office of the Historian is the most recent example of the Cuban
regime's making strategic decisions whose sole purpose is to implement a
very well-organized dynastic succession plan.

In order to further strengthen their hold on every corner of the
country, family members of high-ranking military officials and leaders
of the Cuban Revolution are inheriting key posts and strategic positions
in the political power structure controlled by the Castro family.

For example, Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, eldest child of the late Fidel
Castro, is scientific advisor to his uncle, General Raúl Castro. The
general's daughter, Mariela Castro Espín, is president of the National
Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and a deputy in the National Assembly
of People's Power, the country's unicameral parliament and supreme body
of state power.

Alejandro Castro Espín, youngest child of Raúl Castro, is an advisor to
the National Commission for Defense and National Security.

Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja — former son-in-law of Raúl Castro
and father of two of the general's grandchildren — is CEO of the
Business Administration Group and head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
Department V.

Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz — the son of Isidoro Malmierca Peoli, who was
Minister of Foreign Affairs — is the Minister of Foreign Trade and
Foreign Investment in Cuba.

Ernesto Daniel Plasencia — son of Colonel Santiago Plasencia and close
friend of Raúl Castro — is a diplomat who recently concluded a stint as
the Cuban ambassador to Qatar.

Leopoldo Cintra González — son of Army General and Revolutionary Armed
Forces Minister Leopoldo Cintras Frías — is the commercial
vice-president of the Habanos Corporation.

Listing every member of this fraternity would be impossible. However,
the case of Rosales Aguirreurreta — daughter of General Ulises Rosales
del Toro, vice-president of the Council of Ministers, founder of the
Communist Party of Cuba and member of the Politburo — stands out not
only for being the most recent example but also for being among the most
significant.

It seemed at first that the Office of the Historian would be exempt from
the hostile and ruthless takeover of Habanaguanex and Havana's historic
city center by the Cuban military.*

But the distrustful people who control the reigns of power in the
country leave nothing to chance.

The talented and very hard-working Leal, who was recently awarded an
honorary doctorate by Mexico's Casa Lamm, held an enviable position
which has now been turned over to the daughter of one of the
dictatorship's longtime generals. She is a successor with strong genetic
ties to both the party and military.

At this point it is worth remembering that in December 1988 a trilateral
accord was signed between Angola, South Africa and Cuba in which all
parties agreed to accept Namibian independence, recognize South Africa,
halt support to the UNITA rebels and pull Cuban troops out of Angola.

Three days later, General Rosales del Toro, a career military officer —
one unsuited to his career — who was not convinced of the effectiveness
of dialogue to achieve reliable results, took a proposal back to Cuba
that called for negotiations with the United States and an end to years
of hostility. Instead of receiving a response, he was ordered under
pressure to preside over the 1989 military trial of General Arnaldo Ochoa.**

"Perla, who is also known by a pseudonym I shouldn't repeat, studied in
the former Soviet Union and spent time working there. She started off in
the investment department and moved up the ladder until she evenutally
became deputy director. When Leal fell ill, she automatically took
over," says a longtime restorer from the Office of the Historian who,
for obvious reasons, prefers to remain anonymous.

"She appears to be a woman who is prepared. But she doesn't travel
alone. A few days ago, we had an emergency meeting in which we were
introduced to a new twenty-something Perla: a civil engineer who is
Perla's daughter and General Rosales' granddaughter. It seems, so we
were told, that she is a very intelligent young woman who is emerging as
another future head of this institution, which already practically
levitates on a kind of forgetfulness," says the worker in an observation
that mixes jest and resignation.

*Translator's note: The Office of the Historian is a governmental agency
dedicated to the preservation of historic buildings in Old Havana,
several of them now profitable tourist hotels. In 2016 the agency and
its restored properties were taken over by Habaguanex, a hotel chain
company operated by the Cuban military, in what some saw as a hostile
land grab.

**Arnaldo T. Ochoa Sánchez was a prominent Cuban general who was
executed by the government of Fidel Castro after being found guilty of a
variety of crimes including drug smuggling and treason.

Source: Cuba's Children of Power Take Possession / Juan Juan Almeida –
Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/cubas-children-of-power-take-possession-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida, 13 March 2017 — The appointment of architect Perla Rosa Rosales Aguirreurreta to succeed historian Eusebio Leal as head of Havana’s Office of the Historian is the most recent example of the Cuban regime’s making strategic decisions whose sole purpose is to implement a very well-organized dynastic succession plan. In order to further … Continue reading "Cuba’s Children of Power Take Possession / Juan Juan Almeida" Continue reading
Eight Truths About Cuba That the Bikini-Clad Girls Don't Know / Juan
Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 4 March 2017 — Another crazy initiative…a bit
picturesque, perhaps interesting, but totally absurd. Representatives of
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) arrive at the José
Martí Airport in Havana with the express intention of combatting animal
abuse and creating vegetarian habits on the Island.

The idea of watching young activists dressed in lettuce leaves attached
to green bikinis makes for an attractive attention-getter–and it
surprisingly reveals the enormous ignorance of many about Cuban history,
politics, culture, laws, and society.

Perhaps the authorities, as part of a "considered" neo-diplomacy, allows
these young ladies to promenade with gossamer lightness through Old
Havana, dispensing souvenirs, feeding homeless dogs, or handing out
introductory pamphlets on vegetarianism with recipes for beans and rice.
But there exists, and it is good to know this, (1) a cautionary,
provincial ordinance that more or less says the following: Anyone who
publicly goes around the Cuban capital dressed in swimwear, even when we
all know that it is a coastal city, commits a violation and could be fined.

Regarding beef, somebody should explain to the PETA activists that, ever
since July 12, 1963–creation date of the sadly famous OFICODAS (Offices
of Food Control and Distribution)–(2) Cubans have been forced to
exchange beef for chicken, 'hotdogs' and/or fish [see (4) below, there
is no fish], depending on which series is listed on the ration booklet.

In the greatest of the Greater Antilles, (3) there is as much beef
consumed as in India, where cows are considered sacred. And, besides the
facts that Cuba is (4) the only island in the world whose diet does not
feature fish and that Cubans born in that time euphemistically called
the Special Period (5) grew up without a culture of beef consumption,
(6) one pound of vegetables, in the agricultural market, competes with
pork in terms of price.

It would be useful to know who will offer lettuce to these young
lovelies because, even though Raúl Castro in 2008 started leasing
out 1.7 hectares of land in usufruct for agricultural use, (7) Cuba
still imports more than 63% of the food it consumes and the (8) fresh
lettuce offered in the restaurants of tourist hotels is not cultivated
on the Island.

A misguided plan which, save for the level of risk, is very similar to
that of the Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma–who even knowing the
fate of his ex-comrade and mentor, the Venezuelan Hugo Chávez–still
decided to travel to Havana this past 1 March to receive urgent medical
care in Cuba.

The principal enemy of people who waste time creating publicity stunts
is common sense. Now is the time for momentum, determination, and
awareness-raising about real matters, such as the disturbing rise in
the crime rate, gender-based violence, and the innumerable cases of
domestic violence. To name just a notable few.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Eight Truths About Cuba That the Bikini-Clad Girls Don't Know /
Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/eight-truths-about-cuba-that-the-bikini-clad-girls-dont-know-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Total Uncertainty Among Families Of Cuban 'Rafters' Recently Arrived In
The United States / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 16 March 2017 — A call from Cuba finally
let Yandry Perez relax. His aunt had alerted him through an interrupted
phone call from the north of Villa Clara, that for two days the
whereabouts of his mother and his two younger brothers had been unknown.
Organized in absolute secrecy to facilitate their flight, fifty Cubans
escaped last weekend in speedboats to Florida, even though they knew
they were no longer welcome there.

"For days we have been waiting for news, in complete uncertainty," says
Perez, who two years ago crossed seven international borders to seek
refuge under the wet foot/dry foot policy, cancelled in the last days of
President Obama's term.

"When we heard the news that they had caught two boats with Cubans, we
breathed a sign of relief," he adds.

Last Sunday, a 40-foot speedboat was intercepted by an operations team
from the US Customs and Border Protection. It had more than 30 migrants
on board

His mother, Marlenes Romero Leon, 47, along with his brothers Yusdiel
and Kevin, 20 and 11 respectively, boarded the speedboat as a last
option to join the rest of the family that was in the south Florida, in
a reunification process that was initiated some years earlier but was
frustrated when Romero was denied a visa to travel to the Unites States
to reunite with the father of her children.

"On television I was able to see one of my brothers, so I know they are
being detained," says Perez, who only wants to know where his family is
so he can hire an attorney to take the case.

"We believe that can ask for political asylum. On more they one occasion
they arrested my mother [in Cuba]. They didn't even let her get to beach
so she couldn't escape Cuba," he adds.

"My brother is a child, at least they should let us take care of him,"
he says.

Last Sunday, a 40-foot speedboat was intercepted by an operations team
from US Customs and Border Protection. There were more than 30 migrants
on board, five of them ran off into crocodile filled mangrove swamps to
escape the authorities but they were caught.

A few hours earlier a small boat with seven Cubans on board was
intercepted at Blackpoint Park and Marina, south of Miami-Dade. Another
boat with 21 migrants was detained in the vicinity of Cayo Largo.

"We can not give any information about the case or those involved
because it corresponds to an open investigation," an official with the
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said.

Authorities are investigating the boat operators who transported the
Cubans from the island. If it is proved that they are human traffickers
they could face severely punished charges in the United States.

Since the press announced the arrival of the Cuban migrants, Julio
Infante has not stopped seeking the whereabouts of his father-in-law,
who allegedly traveled on one of those boats.

"I've gone to several places but they always tell me that they cannot
give out information. We're desperate because we do not even know if
he's alive," he says.

The missing man is Wilber Hechavarría, 46, who left Cuba on Monday. The
relatives were supposed to call to his daughter, Yoandra, who was
waiting for the news.

"I wanted to be with her and leave Cuba. She always wanted to leave the
country because people there have to steal to eat," says Infante.

"My wife came from Guatemala a year ago crossing borders. She arrived
pregnant, we already have a family and we wanted her dad to be with us
too," he adds.

Although the migrants knew of the ending of the wet foot/dry foot
policy, they ventured to cross the Florida Straits, confident that they
would find some way to legalize their situation later in the United States.

For Infante, it's all the same that the policy that facilitated the
entry of Cubans to the United States is over.

"In the end, I would look for some way to legalize or be undocumented,
but that will always be better than staying in Cuba," he says.

Immigration attorney Wilfredo Allen comments that when Cuban rafters
arrive in US territory and do not surrender to immigration authorities,
not only will they not be eligible for the Cuban Adjustment Act after
staying in the country for a year, but they will not be able to obtain
legal status even by marrying residents or citizens.

"When a rafter or any undocumented Cuban migrant arrives in the United
States, he is obliged to appear before the authorities for processing.
The migrant can apply for political asylum if he is persecuted and fears
to return to Cuba," says Allen.

"If your case is credible you have the right to fight for asylum before
a judge and, if granted, you could then adjust your situation through
the Cuban Adjustment Act.

"If migrants who illegally entered the United States do not present
themselves to the authorities, they remain undocumented and it is very
difficult for them to legalize their status later. They are subject to
immediate deportation," he adds.

Source: Total Uncertainty Among Families Of Cuban 'Rafters' Recently
Arrived In The United States / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba
-
http://translatingcuba.com/total-uncertainty-among-families-of-cuban-rafters-recently-arrived-in-the-united-states-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida, 4 March 2017 — Another crazy initiative…a bit picturesque, perhaps interesting, but totally absurd. Representatives of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) arrive at the José Martí Airport in Havana with the express intention of combatting animal abuse and creating vegetarian habits on the Island. The idea of watching young activists dressed … Continue reading "Eight Truths About Cuba That the Bikini-Clad Girls Don’t Know / Juan Juan Almeida" Continue reading
Cuba capitalism blinds tourists from Communist reality
George Diaz
Orlando Sentinel
"So when are you going to Cuba?"

I get that a lot, maybe once a week. It's understandable, since I am a
home-grown Cubano, at least until I was almost 5 years old. That's when
my parents, in an act of ultimate sacrifice, left everything behind
except their dignity and a sense of purpose to escape Fidel Castro's thumb.

It's the Cuban-American narrative. We'll fast-forward through all the
tears and pain and hardships to get to 2017, when we are dancing on
Fidel's grave and Cuba is now an alluring tropical paradise. Grab some
sunscreen, book a flight or cruise, and order a mojito with a side of
platanitos.

Everybody is Havana Daydreamin'!

Not I. I don't begrudge anyone who wants to go. It is a beautiful place,
with a time-machine vibe. Hop on a '57 Chevy and feel the ocean breeze
as you cruise down el Malecón.

Cuba still stands still in so many ways. The "normalization" of Cuba
under the Obama administration has unlocked the keys to free commerce,
but not the chains that bind dissidents and others under Cuba's
dictatorial rule.

People still rot and die in prisons. Members of the dissident group
Ladies in White still get pummeled by cops and arrested.

Just last month, Cuban dissident Hamell Santiago Mas Hernandez died in
prison. Cuban officials called it a "heart attack," a euphemism for when
a prisoner develops kidney failure, loses 35 pounds and rots away in a cell.

The U.S. does business with a number of unsavory nations, including
China, but the difference with Cuba is that there are a lot of
Cuban-Americans taking notes. They are passionate hall monitors who
don't understand why the Obama administration didn't squeeze Cuba on the
human-rights issue in return for the perks of tourism and groovy
American pesos.

Will things change under the Trump administration? Check your Twitter
feed for updates from 45. I suspect there will be more pushback, given
this snippet from the confirmation hearings for Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson:

"Our recent engagement with the government of Cuba was not accompanied
by any significant concessions on human rights," he said. "We have not
held them accountable for their conduct. Their leaders received much
while their people received little. That serves neither the interest of
Cubans or Americans."

He has a point. The purpose of negotiating is to get something in
return, not just give away stuff.

But there's another dynamic in play here, too, that does not bode well
for Cuban tourism. The novelty is wearing off.

Silver Airways recently announced that it will scrap its service to Cuba
next month, citing low demand and competition from other airlines.
Frontier Airlines will cease its daily flight to Havana from Miami in
June. American Airlines and JetBlue have also scaled back their number
of flights.

Raúl Castro and his compadres are finding out that capitalism is driven
by market factors, and Cuba is still running the con trying to lure all
those Americanos.

The infrastructure is a little shaky, given the impact of the embargo
and other economic factors. Hotel reviews on TripAdvisor include handy
tips like "Don't forget to bring and 'USE' bug repellent!!" and "I guess
you get what you pay for."

Restrictions abound: There are 12 "authorized types" of travel to Cuba,
including educational, religious and journalistic purposes. And here's
another fun fact from the U.S. embassy in Havana:

"The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S.
citizens who are Cuban-born or are the children of Cuban parents."

That would be somebody like me. Cuba keeps meticulous notes on
journalists writing about the regime, and I probably would fill all the
checkmarks as an "enemy of the state." Without any rights as a
naturalized American citizen.

I'm afraid there will be no Havana Daydreamin' for me.

I prefer to visit my homeland one day free of restrictions. I want to
take in the ocean breeze from el Malecón without a cop asking for my
Cuban passport. I want to walk freely along the streets, without fear of
somebody monitoring my footsteps.

You don't have to be in prison to wear shackles. You just can't see them
when you disembark the cruise ship or an airplane.


gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com Read George Diaz's blog at
OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego

Source: Cuba capitalism blinds tourists from Communist reality -
Baltimore Sun -
http://www.baltimoresun.com/os-ed-cuba-human-rights-not-improving-george-diaz-20170317-story.html Continue reading
Carnival Cruise Line to start Cuba calls
by Phil Davies Mar 17th 2017, 11:47

Carnival Cruise Line has won approval to sail to Cuba with Havana
featuring on itineraries from June.

Overnight calls to the island's capital will be added to selected
Carnival Paradise voyages from Tampa.

Havana will be included on 12 four- and five-day cruises from June 29 by
the 2,052-passenger ship.

The visits to Havana comply with regulations of the US Department of
Treasury that permit travel operators to transport approved travellers
to Cuba to engage in activities as defined by the US Department of
Commerce, Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The move follows parent company Carnival Corporation's 'social impact'
brand Fathom starting cruises from Miami to Cuba last year using
revamped P&O Cruises small ship Adonia.

The Fathom ship is being returned to the UK line ahead of the summer
season with the brand being used instead for selected tours across
various of the parent company's cruise brands.

Carnival Cruise Line president, Christine Duffy, said: "Cuba is an
island jewel unique from anywhere else in the Caribbean and we are
thrilled to have this rare opportunity to take our guests to this
fascinating destination.

"The opportunity to visit Havana, combined with the fun, relaxed
ambiance and wide variety of amenities and features offered on Carnival
Paradise, will make for a truly one-of-a-kind vacation experience."

Source: Carnival Cruise Line to start Cuba calls | Travel Weekly -
http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/articles/275155/carnival-cruise-line-to-start-cuba-calls Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 16 March 2017 — A call from Cuba finally let Yandry Perez relax. His aunt had alerted him through an interrupted phone call from the north of Villa Clara, that for two days the whereabouts of his mother and his two younger brothers had been unknown. Organized in absolute secrecy to facilitate … Continue reading "Total Uncertainty Among Families Of Cuban ‘Rafters’ Recently Arrived In The United States / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
Hanoi, March 17 (RHC)-- Cuba and Vietnam have signed two … accord provides for teams of Cuban doctors and nurses to travel … and Export Manager at the Cuban Medical Services Trading Company and … Company Vinmec. It provides for Cuban health professionals to work in … Continue reading
… travel as part of a Cuban ballplayer smuggling operation. The testimony … . Trial evidence showed an existing Cuban smuggling operation that brought people … smuggling ring. They provided the Cuban players with training, food and … . despite the economic embargo against Cuba. Hernandez, attorney Jeffrey Marcus said … Continue reading
… from competition at the 18th Havana Film Festival New York, which … in Havana after it was rejected by fest backer ICAIC, Cuba’s … credits. “ “Melaza” was released in Havana in one small cinema for … festival travel for Cuban filmmakers. However, as more Cuban films are being … Continue reading
… social media of americanos cruising Havana in antique convertibles and puffing … hop on a plane to Havana for the weekend as if … Cubans thrive. Repression isn't good for business. In addition, Cuba … sake of helping fellow Cubans — to travel to Cuba frequently. Those flights … Continue reading
State of the Cruise Industry: Trump Effect, Cuba and More
by Susan Young | Mar 15, 2017 9:32am


"Demand for cruising in the last 10 years has increased 62
percent," Cindy D'Aoust, president and CEO, Cruise Lines International
Association (CLIA), told thousands attending the Seatrade Cruise Global
conference's "State of the Industry" general session at Port Everglades,
FL, on Tuesday.

Some 25.3 million ocean passengers will sail on CLIA lines in 2016, she
said, noting that more than $50 billion in new cruise ship orders are on
the books right now. That's twice as many new ship orders than what the
industry had a decade ago, emphasized D'Aoust.

What's Driving Business?

The four major cruise company executives then sat for a "State of the
Industry" discussion with reporter Susan Li of MSNBC, the session's
moderator. "What's driving business?" she asked.

"All of us have great experiences onboard our very differentiated
brands," said Arnold Donald, president and CEO, Carnival
Corporation. "People love cruising, they see it as a great value and
they can't stop talking about it to all their friends and relatives and
we all do a reasonably good job of now promoting [the experience]."

"Customers are happy, the economy is doing well and we've had the Trump
effect," said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line
Holdings,who said the stock market is at an all time high.

Dio Rio continued: "We haven't had any external shocks to the system, so
all systems are go and I think all of us are seeing that in bookings and
pricing. It's going to be a good year."

Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman, MSC Cruises, focused on the
ability of cruising to give people the freedom to travel -- to go to
places in the world they might not go to on land.

Vago said the cruise industry's focus on safety and security makes them
feel cocooned and confident to travel: "Customers think, 'I can visit
that part of the world and I can do it in a safe mode. I can explore,
and I can 'touch' places."

From the perspective of Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean
Cruises Ltd.: "For a long time, we've really been expecting this – [a
strong surge in demand for cruise vacations] -- and in the last few
years, we've had a lot of things that retarded this, but all of a
sudden, I think the understanding of what a cruise offers, seems to have
taken hold."

He said it's almost as though someone released it from a bag. "We're
seeing it in the United States, which is a tremendous market because of
consumer confidence and the economy doing well," said Fain, but added
"actually we're [also] seeing it in Europe and Asia is just exploding."
Donald added that part of the burgeoning demand is because "we've
invested a lot to create demand." He said there's "no big correlation
between economic growth and demand. One factor? The industry is all over
the world, so it has the ability to weather any recession that hits one
region or economy.

The Trump Effect

What about the Trump effect? Li asked. "What about policies that U.S.
President Donald J. Trump's administration may take that could have an
effect on corporations, such as border taxes, corporate taxes that may
be cut?"

"It's too early to tell," said Donald. "We just have to wait to see what
the taxes are." He said his company pays taxes everywhere in the world
and operates in lots of political environments…so the industry
just has to wait for specifics of any policy changes.

Donald noted that the cruise industry pays lots of taxes that other
industries don't pay, and in some cases, there are taxes the industry
doesn't pay.
Vago emphasized that it wasn't Washington as much as Brussels [the
European Union] that was impacting the cruise industry. "From the
regulatory side, Brussels sometimes is certainly more the driver for our
industry," Vago stressed.

"One of the things that is very heartening to me…is that people do
understand the economic benefit that we all contribute to the local
society," Fain said, pointing to CLIA's release of annual numbers and a
thorough economic analysis that show the local economic impact in jobs
and other factors.
For example, Fain noted that CLIA's recent numbers show the cruise
industry is responsible for 350,000 jobs, just in the United States, and
there are many more across the globe.

"When you have that kind of economic impact, governments tend to want to
help [the industry involved]," Fain said. "While nobody can predict the
future, we have some really good reasons to believe that maybe we're not
as vulnerable than some."

Del Rio said "most businesses today recognize that the Trump
administration is a pro-business government and we're all going to
benefit from a basket of initiatives, whether it's infrastructure,
whether it's less regulations, tax reform that could put more money in
consumers' pockets, and that's good for all businesses."

Today, the industry carries 25 million people across all social/economic
levels, Deo Rio noted: "So everyone is going to benefit if it's true
that these kind of initiatives come to fruition."

"I agree we have to wait and see," he added, "but at least we're talking
about the right things and that puts a bounce in everybody's step, and
has triggered the Trump Effect."

He said the stock market is up nearly 13 percent since the beginning of
the year "and that's...great for business."

But What About Cuba?

Del Rio, a Cuban American who emigrated to the U.S. when he was seven,
is now head of a company that sails to Cuba and has publicly expressed
his delight at that development. All three of his line's brands are
sailing there this year.

So Li asked Del Rio about President Trump's potential "revisiting" of
the Cuba situation – with the potential for Trump to roll back existing
policies put in place by former President Obama allowing the cruise
industry to begin service.

"Let's hope he revisits it in a positive way," said Del Rio. "I'm all
for lifting the embargo. It's been a failed policy for 57 [or so]
years." He said that after that time frame, "you'd think someone wants
to try something new."

Del Rio continued: I salute President Obama for starting that process.
All of us are going to Cuba or have already gone. It's a major market
that could develop over time."

He noted that "Cuba has infrastructure limitations today but certainly
Cuba can be a major force in the cruise business for years to come, and
I hope the administration sees that potential. They are business oriented."

As for discussing the issue, "I think it's in the best interest always
to just bring people together," said Donald. "Who knows what the
administration is going to come up with. I have no particular insight on
that."

Donald said that as long as the Cuba policy that impacts cruise travel
isn't rolled back, "we'll continue to forge forward." He agreed with Del
Rio that the embargo being lifted would be the best policy for Americans
and for the Cuban people.

"But the powers that be will discuss that," Donald stressed. "We're just
privileged and honored to be able to sail there."

He said Cuba is a beautiful country with beautiful people and "so many
Americans want to go there."

Fain found it interesting that the cruise industry is so much in the
center of the discussion about Cuba, and says it demonstrates the
industry's advantage: "Nobody's talking about, 'oh, this is great for
the hotel industry.' Nobody is talking about, 'oh, this is great for the
airline industry.'"

Cruising offers an opportunity to visit ports of call or places that
would be a little more difficult to visit, said Fain. Even though Cuba
is a fairly insignificant part of any cruise line's business right now,
"I think it says something about one of the great attributes of
cruising, which is that we bring that infrastructure with us."

China Potential

Li asked if the administration would opt to label China a currency
manipulator, what effect that would have? Doesn't that hurt businesses
that do business in China?

"China one day – it's inevitable -- will be the largest cruise market in
the world," said Donald. Probably, larger than the entire cruise
industry is today and it's just sheer numbers of people."

He added that the China market will take a long time to develop, the
industry has to build ships to serve it, and there isn't enough shipyard
capacity to make it happen in a short time frame.

"But for us again, we're in the business of travel and we can connect
people," said Donald, adding that currency manipulation as a topic for
cruise leaders to weigh in on, "is kind of beyond us."

Vago emphasized that "our assets are movable," referring to the ability
of ships to be moved to markets, based on global conditions. "The world
is the oyster," he said, pointing to the industry's three percent market
penetration, which reveals great potential.

Whether executives are talking about China or Cuba, Vago said it's
important to remember that the cruise industry's assets can move as
needed. Still, he's excited about the potential for those markets and
others across the globe.

Source: State of the Cruise Industry: Trump Effect, Cuba and More |
Travel Agent Central -
http://www.travelagentcentral.com/cruises/state-cruise-industry-trump-effect-cuba-and-more Continue reading
… social media of americanos cruising Havana in antique convertibles and puffing … hop on a plane to Havana for the weekend as if … , not shunning, its base market — Cuban Americans — and making it easier … sake of helping fellow Cubans — to travel to Cuba frequently. Those flights … Continue reading
The Nomads Of The Commerce Travel The Towns Of Cuba / 14ymedio, Bertha
Guillen

14ymedio, Bertha K. Guillen, Candelaria, Cuba, 13 March 2017 — Apples,
disposable diapers and fried foods are some of the products on display
on the stands of the traveling fairs that make the rounds of Cuban
towns. Nomadic caravans that recall the circuses of the olden days, but
without the jugglers or wild beasts.

Rosario González is 47 years old and lives in Los Palacios, Pinar del
Río. For a decade he was employed at a state coffee shop, but a few
years ago he decided to have his own business. Now he dedicates himself
to preparing and selling snacks in a nomadic fair that travels
throughout the west of the Island.

Rosario's competition is strong, and he must add new options and
products to make his offerings more attractive. At the end of February
there were some 539,952 people with self-employment licenses. Of these,
59,700 are engaged in preparing and selling food.

The license to engage in this occupation allows the seller to move from
one municipality to another and also between provinces. "I had some
neighbors who were involved in this business and I realized that it was
worth it. So I threw myself into it," Rosario tells 14ymedio.

This man from Pinar del Rio is part of a group that keeps tabs on patron
saint parties, carnivals, or any kind of local festival. They arrive at
the place and set up their improvised stands, made out of the same metal
cots they sleep on at night.

The merchants go from here to there and spend the greatest part of their
time on the highways, roads and public plazas. Some of them don't even
have homes and choose the traveling business without ties to any place
they can return to. They are this century's nomads, in a country that
has a housing deficit of 600,000 units.

"At the beginning it was a little complicated, because my previous life
was so peaceful," says Rosario. The state café where he worked was known
as "the king of the flies" because it had very few products and even
fewer customers. He then took a risky step and now he is used to the
"festive atmosphere and the crowds of people."

In a nearby timbiriche – the Cuban word for a tiny commercial stand – is
Yaumara, a jewelry seller born in Bahia Honda. She displays necklaces,
rings for all sizes, and jewelry made from surgical steel, very popular
among those who can't afford gold or silver.

"I always liked a party," the merchant confesses, so her current job "is
easier" for her.

When the swarm of vendors arrive in a town they register at the
municipal Physical Planning Office. They rent a space for their flea
market and show their licenses from the National Tax Administration
Office (ONAT), which allows them to engage in activities ranging from
the sale of good to the management of children's games.

Among the sellers bonds of friendship and family are created. In the
caravan there are several married couples and some have even found love
along the road. They take care of each other and warn of possible police
controls. When an inspector demands they report on a colleague, everyone
remains silent.

Despite the restrictions on selling imported merchandise, many products
sold at the fairs come from Panama, Russia or the United States. What
they display openly is only a small part of what they have on offer.
"Here we have something for every taste and pocketbook," says a
home-appliance salesman who also offers light hardware.

Another part of the merchandise comes from the network of hard currency
stores managed by the State. In towns where shortages are a much more
chronic problem than in provincial capitals, resale has become a
widespread practice. The merchants supply sponges for scrubbing, pens,
flip-flops and belts.

"We sell at retail and that's good because there are people who can't
afford a packet of detergent but can buy the small bags we repackage it
into," says Maurilio, who has spent at least five years "in these
comings and goings."

The group evaluates how long to stay in each village. "We see how things
are, the atmosphere of partying and how sales go on the first day, then
we decide whether to stay or not," clarifies the entrepreneur.

Most of the inhabitants of the hamlets and settlements welcome them. "I
look forward to the fair because it is an opportunity to buy things for
the house and also my children love it," says a resident of
Candelaria. However, some residents closer to the points of sale
complain that the travelers sleep on porches or take care of their
personal needs in the street.

Ernesto and Uvisneido have solved that problem. Coming from the distant
city of Guantánamo, they entered the business with a supply of toy
cars. With the profits they bought a small trailer with three bunk beds
and a bathroom. "So we do not have to sleep outdoors," says Ernesto.

"We also have a dragon toy, a small inflatable jumping structure and a
swinging chair carnival-type ride," he adds. His customers are children
who pay about 5 Cuban pesos for each turn on the ride or for a few
minutes of jumping on the inflatable.

"There is always some inspector who spoils the party, but with this work
we make out," says Ernesto. Traders who have not managed to get a
trailer to sleep in at night, set up their cots anywhere and pay a guard
to patrol the vicinity.

With the first rays of the sun, they need to begin to proclaim their
products or undertake the journey to the next town. Trade nomads know
that their business only works if they travel everywhere.

Source: The Nomads Of The Commerce Travel The Towns Of Cuba / 14ymedio,
Bertha Guillen – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-nomads-of-the-commerce-travel-the-towns-of-cuba-14ymedio-bertha-guillen/ Continue reading
Scooters Ease The Problem Of Public Transport / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta
Labrada and Mario Penton

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada and Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 8 March
2017 — Carlos began to travel to Ecuador when Cubans did not need a
visa. He brought back clothes and appliances to sell in the informal
market, until he discovered a more lucrative business: the import of
electric scooters, the flagship product of those who do not want to wait
hours for a bus or pay the fares charged by the fixed-route shared taxis
known as almendrones (after the "almond" shape of the classic American
cars widely used in this service).

At first, he sold these light vehicles discreetly from his garage on
23rd Street, centrally located in Havana's Vedado district, he told
14ymedio. He asked between 2,500 and 3,000 Cuban Convertible pesos* for
each bike, three to four times his investment. It was a "solid
business," he confesses.

"So we had several months until things went bad," he recalls, referring
to the visa controls that the government of Rafael Correa imposed on
Cubans at the end of 2015.

The visa waiver Cubans had enjoyed in Ecuador since 2008, along with the
immigration reform approved by Raúl Castro in 2013, led to an "airlift"
with thousands of trips made each year by private individuals, allowing
them to supply the Cuban informal market with products from the Andean
nation. As the Ecuadorian door closed, there were other shopping
destinations, including Russia, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

For Yamilet García, a Cuban based in Miami, the 'motorinas', as they are
called, are 'a blessing'

"It is now more difficult" to find customers who are willing to pay what
he was formerly able to charge for an electric scooters, explains
Carlos. "There are a lot of people traveling," so the number of
"scooters of different brands and colors" has soared.

In South Florida, where the largest concentration of Cubans outside the
Island is located, this business opportunity did not go unnoticed.

Yudelkis Barceló, owner of the agency Envios y Más based in Miami,
explained to 14ymedio that for the last three years they have been in
the business of shipping electric scooters to Cuba.

"The customer acquires the product and in a period of six to eight weeks
they can pick it up at the Palco agency, west of Havana. Payment is made
in Miami. The company offers Voltage brand bikes of 750 Watts and 1,000
Watts, which cost $1,450 and $1,600 respectively, plus customs costs (70
Cuban Convertible pesos (CUC) plus 400 Cuban pesos (CUP) in the first
case; and 170 CUC plus 400 CUP in the second case).

There are also other models of scooters: the Ava Aguila costs 1,950 CUC,
the Hornet is 1,850 CUC and the Mitshozuki is 1,750 CUC.

Barceló notes that the shipment of this equipment is intended for
personal use only, so his company does not violate the US
embargo. Shipments are made by sea.

"Everybody knows what transportation is like in Cuba. I sent one to my
brother who lives in Cotorro and he's happy because he doesn't have to
wait for the bus or take the shared-taxis," he says.

The Caribbean Express agency is another company that sends motorinas to
the Island.

"They are taking four to five months" to be delivered, explains one of
the sales agents who for protocol reasons prefers not to be identified.

"Only the Palco agency receives this type of product because it has the
scanner to analyze them, so there is a delay," he adds.

Another popular article among relatives who send products to Cuba are
electric bicycles, much cheaper than scooters and with speeds of between
15 mph and 30 mph.

On the Island you can buy the 60 volt LT1060 model with a three phase
1000 watt motor that the Angel Villareal Bravo Company of Santa Clara
assembles from components from China.

These are higher powered bikes compared to those previously produced by
that factory, and they are capable of reaching speeds of up to 30 mph.
They have hand controls to activate the horn, digital screen and disk
brakes, among other features.

This model "has characteristics similar to those currently imported by
many individuals" and will be sold in the government chain of "TRD
stores at a price of 1,261 CUC," Elier Pérez Pérez, deputy director of
the factory explained to the government newspaper Granma, saying they
expect to produce 5,000 units by the end of the year.

The deterioration of public transport, which has intensified in recent
months, has contributed to a rebound in orders.

Another circumstance that favors scooters is that they do not have to be
registered and can be driven with a license to drive light equipment. A
condition that many riders do not meet.

However, many motorists and passers-by complain, "If anybody hits you,
they flee and you can not even see a license plate to complain about
it," says Pascual, a driver of a state vehicle.

"I've even found children under 16 driving these things," he complains.

"I take care of it like it's my child and the truth is that it has saved
me from a thousand problems," says Maikel, a computer engineer with a
Voltage Racing bike.

His problems go in another direction. "There are few parking lots where
I can feel safe leaving the bike and the cars don't show me any respect
on the road," he complains.

However, he says that the motorina has totally changed his life by
giving him a freedom of movement that he did not have before.

*Translator's note: Cuba has two currencies. Cuban Convertible pesos are
officially worth one US dollar each, although transaction fees raise the
cost for foreigners converting money on the island. Cuban pesos are
worth roughly 4 cents US each.

Source: Scooters Ease The Problem Of Public Transport / 14ymedio,
Yosmany Mayeta Labrada and Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/scooters-ease-the-problem-of-public-transport-14ymedio-yosmany-mayeta-labrada-and-mario-penton/ Continue reading
Mexico Deports 49 Cuban Migrants / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana. 13 March 2017 – Mexico's National Institute of
Migration (INM) reported in a press release that on Monday morning it
repatriated 49 Cubans who were in the country in an irregular
situation. At 7:30 a.m. (local time) they were sent on a Federal Police
plane from Quintana Roo to Jose Marti Airport in Havana.

The migrants – 40 men and nine women – had arrived in Mexico on
different dates and were waiting to obtain a transit permit that would
have allowed them to reach the US border.

Since the ending of the previous US wet foot/dry foot immigration
policy, the Mexican government no longer gives Cubans without visas
trnsit permits, which allow foreigners without recognized nationality to
legally travel for 20 days through the country.

In contrast, Mexican authorities have since implemented a bilateral
agreement with Havana, which allows the return of citizens of the
Caribbean country, if the Cuban consulate in Mexico recognizes their
Cuban citizenship.

According to the official Cubadebate newspaper, between January 12 – the
end of the previous US immigration policy – and February 15, 264 Cubans
were deported by the Mexican INM following the same procedure.

As of February 18, a total of 680 migrants were repatriated to the
island from different countries, mostly from the United States.

Source: Mexico Deports 49 Cuban Migrants / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/mexico-deports-49-cuban-migrants-14ymedio/ Continue reading
… are getting out of the Cuba business.  According to Travel Pulse … , ROYAL CARIBBEAN APPROVED TO START CUBA CRUISES Silver’s service will … , Silver will continue to monitor Cuba routes and will consider resuming … reduce capacity for flights to Cuba. The airline downsized to smaller … Continue reading
Two U.S. Airlines Are Already Done With Cuba
Too many flights and too little demand send Silver and Frontier packing.
by Justin Bachman
March 14, 2017, 9:45 AM GMT+1

U.S. airlines that rushed into Cuba last year knew the going would be
tough. But it's turned out to be such an unexpected financial slog that
two carriers are now quitting the island.

On Monday, Frontier Airlines Holdings Inc. and Silver Airways Corp.
announced plans to drop service entirely. Citing a 300 percent surge in
airline capacity, Silver said it will end flights on April 22 to its
nine Cuban destinations, which didn't include Havana. The Fort
Lauderdale, Fla.-based company failed to win regulatory approvals last
year to fly to the Cuban capital, the biggest prize for U.S. carriers.

"It is not in the best interest of Silver and its team members to behave
in the same irrational manner as other airlines," spokeswoman Misty
Pinson said in an email. "However, Silver will continue to monitor Cuba
routes and will consider resuming service in the future if the
commercial environment changes."

Silver had already reduced weekly flights to six Cuban cities, given
what it called "too many flights and oversized aircraft" from the U.S.,
and begun to shift its 34-seat Saab aircraft to focus on service to the
Bahamas. The inability to sell Cuba flights via the major online travel
agencies such as Expedia Inc. and Priceline Group Inc. had also hurt
route performance, Pinson wrote.

Denver-based Frontier, meanwhile, said it will end its daily
Miami-Havana flight on June 4 due to overcapacity and operating costs
that were "significantly" higher than expected.

The cancellations aren't surprising, given the relative imbalance of
U.S. airline supply and traveler demand on the Cuba routes. Frontier is
regularly quick to drop underperforming service, and Silver had publicly
decried the capacity rivals were pouring into the island, even before
the new flights began.

Earlier this year, the largest carrier flying to Cuba, American Airlines
Group Inc., cut daily service by 25 percent and switched to smaller jets
on some routes. Meanwhile, JetBlue Airways Corp. has announced it will
use smaller planes on several routes to match lower-than-expected demand.

"Patience is the word for now," Gary Kelly, chief executive of Southwest
Airlines Co., told employees late last month. He said the airline didn't
set "any high expectations" for its six daily Cuba flights to Havana and
two other cities. "We went into Cuba with the idea we would stick with
them for quite some time—at least a year—and then reevaluate, give them
time to develop. We've got minimal investments with these flights, and
in the airline business, if you don't like that market you can easily
redeploy the aircraft."

Airlines flew into Cuba last autumn with only educated guesses about the
demand picture, and were overly ambitious when they jostled for the
limited routes available. With a mandate for only 110 daily U.S.
flights—20 into Havana, the most popular destination—the
carriers tumbled over each other to get a piece of the pie.

The air rush into Cuba came with "no data to give you any idea as to
what the level of demand was going to be," American Airlines CEO Doug
Parker said March 2 at an aviation conference. "We erred on the side of
putting in more seats than less, and now we've adjusted."

Still, the opportunity to serve Cuba was a risk worth taking, given the
scarcity of slots Cuban authorities allowed for Havana. And if the U.S.
embargo were to be weakened or dismantled, airlines could easily see
U.S. traveler demand—and fares—surge.

Last week, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas,
introduced a bill that would lift the trade embargo for U.S.
agricultural products, allowing farmers, ranchers, and other businesses
to sell to the Cuban market. Similar measures have been introduced in
the House of Representatives, as well as bills to end the restrictions
on U.S. travelers.

President Obama announced an opening of relations with Cuba in December
2014, calling previous U.S. policy seeking to isolate the communist
government a failure. Despite Obama's efforts, including a state visit
in March 2016, the 54-year-old U.S. embargo remains in place. The law
prohibits tourism to the island by Americans and makes financial
transactions burdensome. Today, most people traveling to Cuba
individually classify themselves as participants in "people-to-people"
exchanges, one of a dozen categories authorizing travel under U.S.
Treasury regulations.

—With assistance from Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas and Alan Levin in
Washington.

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