Obama Criticises Congress over Guantanmo

December 27, 2016

US President Barack Obama has harshly criticised Congress for wanting to retain the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, despite his multiple efforts to close it.

On Friday, President Obama signed into law a US defence policy bill that authorises $611 billion for the military in 2017 and lauded its focus to sustaining momentum in countering the militant Islamic State group. But the bill forbids him from closing the prison.

In his first election campaign in 2008, the outgoing president pledged to close the prison but he completes his second and final term on Jan 20 without fulfilling this desire. In February, he submitted a shutdown plan to Congress, but Republican lawmakers, who dominate both chambers, rejected the proposal.

Instead, they informed the Democratic administration that they want to keep the facility as a permanent feature in the war on terrorism. Since the incoming president is also a Republican there’s little doubt that the lawmakers will achieve their target.

Obama nominiates first US Ambassador to Cuba

September 27, 2016

More than a year after the United States Embassy in Havana reopened, President Obama has taken yet another step in ‘normalizing’ relations with Cuba by nominating Jeffrey DeLaurentis as ambassador to the country.

“Having an ambassador will make it easier to advocate for our interests, and will deepen our understanding even when we know that we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government,” Obama said. “He is exactly the type of person we want to represent the United States in Cuba, and we only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an Ambassador. If confirmed by the Senate, I know Jeff will build on the changes he helped bring about to better support the Cuban people and advance America’s interests.”

DeLaurentis has been at the State Department since 1991, serving as a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He is currently acting as the chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Cuba.

Wi-Fi to be installed on Malecon Seafront

September 21, 2016

Plans to install wi-fi along 8km of Havana's iconic Malecon seafront have been announced by the Cuban government.

The move will make the popular area for tourists and young people into the largest hotspot on the island.

Only about 5% of Cubans enjoy web access at home and the government still heavily restricts content, although many social media sites are available.

Since last year the government has installed dozens of wi-fi hotspots in public areas, charging $2 an hour.


Although the price of wi-fi access in public places has recently dropped, it is still prohibitive for the vast majority of Cubans. The average state salary remains about $25 (£19) a month. But for better off Cubans, the move has proved popular.


The government said last year it had 65 wi-fi hotspots in service and expected 80 more to open before the end of 2016.

US - Cuba commercial flights to resume 31 August

August 25, 2016

Regular commercial flights between Cuba and the United States will be re-launched on August 31, Cuban Deputy Transport Minister Eduardo Rodriguez has announced.

The first direct flight, run by US airline JetBlue, is set to take off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on August 31. It will fly to the Cuban city of Santa Clara.


It will be the first direct commercial flight between the two countries since the 1960s.


July 20 marked the first anniversary since the United States and Cuba reestablished full diplomatic relations by reopening embassies in their respective capitals after 54 years of hostility.


The warming of relations came after US President Barack Obama announced in December 2014 that his administration would pursue a path toward normalizing relations with Cuba.

Fidel Castro celebrates his 90th birthday

August 11, 2016

Friends and allies of Fidel Castro, the founding leader of communist Cuba and its former president, are celebrating his 90th birthday.

The revolutionary leader looked frail as he attended the celebrations on Saturday in the capital Havana with his brother, Raul Castro, and the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

"I want to express my deepest gratitude for the shows of respect, greetings and praise that I've received in recent days, which give me strength to reciprocate with ideas that I will send to party militants and relevant organisations," Castro wrote in a letter about his birthday.

"Modern medical techniques have allowed me to scrutinise the universe," added Castro, who stepped down as Cuba's president 10 years ago after suffering a severe gastrointestinal illness.

The country has a month of festivities planned to honour the former president, including photography exhibitions and documentaries - as well as a Guinness World Record breaking 90-metre cigar to represent each year of his life.

Nespresso to bring Cuban coffee to the U.S.

June 21, 2016

The Nespresso coffee brand has announced it will sell Cuban coffee in the U.S. for the first time in half a century, a move that gives a boost to Cuba's coffee export.

As a result of regulatory changes in the U.S., allowing independent Cuban entrepreneurs to export their coffee to the U.S., Nespresso says it will make coffee made from the Granma and Santiago de Cuba available at Nespresso retailers starting in the fall of 2016.


The Nespresso Cuban coffee, which is being called Cafecito de Cuba, will only be available to make in the company’s specialized Nespresso OriginalLine machines.


Nespresso says it is working with a nonprofit to explore how best to work with farmers in Cuba and that the initial line would be limited.

Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party Inaugurated

April 15, 2016

The Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) was inaugurated at Havana's Convention Centre, with a strategic agenda for the socio-economic development of the country in the long term.

Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Central Committee of the PCC, addressed participants in the meeting to explain organizational details, and declared it officially opened.

The election of the presidency of the four working committees for the discussion of documents, the agenda and the program of the meeting will be the first actions of delegates at the meeting.

Delegates will also adopt internal regulations, voting norms and the Commissions of documentation, mandate and appeals.


courtesy of: Cuban News Agency

Cuban immigrants banned from sailing home

April 11, 2016

Carnival Corp.’s maiden voyage to Cuba next month will be filled with almost 700 cruisers looking to spend time assisting in economic, environmental and community development there. The one thing the boat won’t be carrying, however, is any Cubans.

Raul Castro’s government prohibits native-born Cubans from returning by sea, and makes other forms of travel difficult for them as well, a remnant of discord that remains unaltered by U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent visit. Into the middle of this now comes the U.S. cruise industry. Faced with the choice of waiting for Castro to lift the prohibition or gaining access to Cuba immediately, companies such as Carnival have chosen the latter. The argument is that engagement may help facilitate change--but not everyone is happy with that calculus.

“Something precious is lost when a foreign government dictates what kinds of U.S. citizens can sail out of the Port of Miami,” Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago, who is Cuban-American, wrote after she was denied a ticket for Carnival’s new Fathom cruise to Cuba.


Carnival said it asked Cuba to reconsider the regulation. “We understand and empathize with the concerns being voiced and will continue to work the issue with Cuban officials,” Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell said in a statement. “It is our hope and intention that we will be able to travel with everyone.”

For the moment, Cubans may not. The rule dates to the 1980s when that nation loosened some restrictions to allow immigrants to return to see family, said Wilfredo Allen, a Cuban-American immigration attorney in Miami. He said enforcement is spotty, with the closest scrutiny aimed at Cuban-Americans, not those who live in Mexico, the Caribbean or elsewhere.


Carnival officials signed agreements with Cuba last month during Obama’s historic two-day trip, allowing the MS Adonia, leaving from Miami May 1, to arrive the following morning in Havana. It will be the first U.S. cruise liner to land there in more than 50 years.


courtesy of: Justin Bachman, Bloomberg

Thirsty Americans drinking Cuba dry

April 11, 2016

Since President Barack Obama relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba in February, American tourists have descended on the country in ever-increasing droves, apparently bringing a prodigious thirst that’s put a strain on Cuba’s supplies of national beers Cristal and Bucanero.


Bucanero sales exec Mayle Gonzalez says the brewer needs a new plant to keep up with demand. (Bucanero also manufacturers Cristal, the country’s leading brew.)


Cuba’s breweries have apparently signed on to deliver over 33 million cases of beer in the upcoming months, considerably more than their current production capability will allow.


Bucanero is reportedly planning to import 3 million cases of beer from Dominica to keep up with demand.

Cuban migration to US said to have nearly doubled

April 11, 2016

New U.S. statistics show nearly twice as many Cuban migrants reached the United States by foot and sea in the last three months of 2015 compared with the same period the year earlier, an exodus apparently fueled by the restoration of diplomatic relations between the former political foes.


Department of Homeland Security figures show about 17,000 Cubans reached the United States from October through December. Slightly more than 9,000 Cuban migrants arrived during the same months in 2014.


The exodus has been driven in part by Cubans' fears they could lose privileges that now let them stay in the United States if they reach American soil.


The Obama administration says it doesn't plan to change U.S.-Cuba immigration policy, but some lawmakers want to end privileges for Cuban migrants.

Rolling Stones to play Havana

March 22, 2016

The Rolling Stones have announced they are to give a free open air concert in Havana later this month.


The Havana concert will come three days after an historic visit to Cuba by Barack Obama – the first by a US president since 1928.


The concert is a milestone event in a country where the communist government once banned the British rock group’s music as an “ideological deviation”.


After the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro, the brother of current President Raul Castro, to power, Cuba censored the London group in 1962 as well as the Beatles and Elvis Presley.


The Stones say they view their forthcoming appearance on March 25 as a land mark in their careers.

Obama to attend baseball game in Havana

U.S. President Barack Obama plans to attend the Tampa Bay Rays’ exhibition game in Cuba on March 22.


Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and speech writing, tweeted the news after Major League Baseball and the players’ association announced arrangements had been finalized for the game against the Cuban National Team in Havana.


“It adds a great dimension to the trip, and it’s going to shine an even greater spotlight on the events and on Major League Baseball,” Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said.


It will be MLB’s first trip to the communist island nation since the Baltimore Orioles played there in 1999.

President Obama to visit cuba

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced that he will visit Cuba in March.


The historical visit will continue the steady process of closer relations between the two nations.


Since the announcement in 2014 that Washington would begin the process of normalizing relations with Havana, the two countries have reopened embassies and high-level U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have visited the island.


Travel restrictions have also been loosened and U.S. airlines are now battling to secure routes between the two countries with commercial flights set to resume for the first time in more than five decades.


President Obama will meet with Cuban leader Raul Castro as well as entrepreneurs and other members of Cuban society.

Cuban government eases travel restrictions for dissidents.

The Cuban government has eased travel restrictions for some of the country's best-known dissidents.


Activists said seven members of a group known as the Black Spring were told they would be allowed to make one journey abroad for good behaviour.


One of the seven, Marta Beatriz Roque, said she believed the move was a concession ahead of next month's (March) visit to Cuba by President Obama.


The US government has been pressing for more freedom for Cuban dissidents. "It appears to be some kind of gift they want to present to Obama, but in reality it is nothing concrete because when we come back we will return to legal limbo," said Martha Beatriz Roque.

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