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Major U.S. hotel groups sponsor tourism investment meeting in Havana
17 May 2017 - The annual Latin American Hotel and Tourism Investment Conferences meeting opened in Havana this week and the list of sponsors read like the who's who of the U.S. hotel industry. The head of the organization, Arturo Garcia, told Reuters it was no accident that the likes of Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Choice, and Wyndham were supportive. (more)

Cuba ballet festival reflects diplomatic pas de deux with U.S.
31 October 2016 - A woman in a floaty dress wrestles a minotaur who reflects her inner demons in 'Errand into the Maze', one of the Martha Graham Dance Company works that made its Cuban premiere this weekend to thunderous applause at the Havana ballet festival. The troupe was performing in the Communist-run island for the first time since 1941 and is one of seven American companies participating in the 10-day event, underscoring greater U.S.-Cuban cultural exchange in the wake of the countries' detente. Dancers and companies representing sixteen countries in total will participate in the 25th Havana ballet festival, including for the first time South Korea's Universal Ballet Company and the lead dancer from the National Ballet of Mongolia. (more)

Historic commercial flight from US lands in Cuba
31 August 2016 - The first commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than a half century landed in the central city of Santa Clara on Wednesday morning, re-establishing regular air service severed at the height of the Cold War. Cheers broke out in the cabin of JetBlue flight 387 as the plane touched down. The arrival of the flight out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida opens a new era of U.S.-Cuba travel with about 300 flights a week connecting the U.S. with an island cut off from most Americans by the 55-year-old trade embargo on Cuba and formal ban on U.S. citizens engaging in tourism on the island. (more)

Cuba scrambles to keep pace with U.S.-fueled tourism boom
4 May 2016 - The number of U.S. visitors to Cuba has nearly doubled this year, its tourism minister said on Wednesday, as the island races to build hotels and expand Havana airport to keep up with booming demand. Tourism has taken off since Cuba and the United States announced they would work to bury the Cold War hatchet in December 2014. Overall satisfaction with Cuba as a destination was high, reflected by the fact that nearly half of last year's tourists were return visitors, he said. (more)

Cheering Cubans greet first cruise ship from US in decades
2 May 2016 - The first passengers to cruise from the U.S. to Cuba in nearly 40 years streamed Monday into a crowd cheering the rebirth of commercial travel on waters that served as a stage for a half-century of Cold War hostility. Many watching the festive arrival praised a Cuban government decision to drop a longstanding ban on Cuban-born people returning to their homeland by sea, a step that allowed 16 Cuban-Americans to make the journey from Miami. (more)

Cuba's organic honey exports create buzz
14 February 2016 - Cuba has added organic honey to its list of key agricultural exports, creating a buzz among farmers as pesticide use has been linked to declining bee populations elsewhere. 'All of (Cuba's) honey can be certified as organic,' Theodor Friedrich, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) representative for Cuba, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 'Its honey has a very specific, typical taste; in monetary value, it's a high ranking product.' (more)

Cuba's Raul Castro to visit France on February 1
18 January 2016 - Cuban President Raul Castro next month will make the first visit to France by a Cuban head of state since his brother in 1995 as he tries to carve out a larger role for the Communist-run nation since improving ties with the United States. French President Francois Hollande in May became the first Western President to visit Cuba in more than 50 years. (more)

Cuba and the US agree to re-establish direct mail service
11 December 2015 - Cuba and the United States announced Friday they have struck a deal to re-establish direct mail service, which was cut in 1963 at the height of Cold War tensions. Both countries said that they would launch a pilot program to test direct service. They gave no date for the permanent resumption of service, but indicated that it would not be imminent, saying that technical, operational, and safety aspects remained under discussion. (more)

Cuba's organic farmers aim for rich soil
9 December 2015 - At last week's Cuba Summit conference in Washington, DC, Fernando Monzote, Cuban farmer-entrepreneur, said organic farming is having an impact and creating opportunity in Cuba. According to the United Nations, Cuba's transition or organic agriculture has had a positive impact on people's livelihoods by guaranteeing a steady income for a significant proportion of the population under embargo contitions. The UN says the lack of pesticides for agricultural production will have a positive long-term impact on Cubans' wellbeing since such chemicals are too often associate with various adverse health implications such as certain forms of cancer. (more)

Cuba: Agreements on flights to US likely in coming months
10 November 2015 - Cuban officials said Tuesday that negotiations on the normalization of relations with the United States are likely to produce agreements on regularly scheduled airline flights and three other areas in the coming months. U.S. officials have been appealing to Cuba to help produce concrete results in the normalization talks in order to solidify President Barack Obama's opening to Cuba announced late last year after more than 50 years of official hostility. (more)


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Lack of customers dooms many Cuban businesses
27 December 2013 - The Associated Press recently checked in with nine small business owners whose fortunes it first reported on in 2011 as they set up shop amid the excitement of President Raul Castro's surprising embrace of some free enterprise. Of the six ventures that relied on revenue from cash-strapped islanders, four are now out of business, their owners in more dire financial straits than when they started. While the sample size is small, the numbers point to a basic problem that economists who follow Cuba have noted from the start: There simply isn't enough money to support a thriving private sector on an island where salaries average $20 a month. Even in developed countries where entrepreneurs have access to capital, loans and a wide pool of paying customers, startups are risky ventures. According to the US Small Business Administration, about half of all new establishments in America close within five years, and two-thirds are gone within a decade. (more)

Cuban academic says corruption is island's big threat
16 April 2010 - Corruption at the highest levels of government -- not the meddling of a small band of dissidents -- is the greatest threat to Cuba's communist system, a leading academic said in a highly unusual opinion posted Thursday on a state Web site. The article by Esteban Morales crossed a number of red lines in tightly controlled Cuba. Mr Morales said some top Cuban officials are preparing to divide the spoils if Cuba's political system disintegrates, like the shadowy oligarchs that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Morales never singled out Fidel or Raul Castro for blame, but he said cronyism is rampant in the system that has developed 51 years after their revolution won power and said some officials are waiting for a chance to grab the country's resources. Morales is a prominent intellectual who only Monday appeared on a state television programme defending the government on another topic. (more)

Cuba looks to women to boost sagging cigar sales
22 February 2010 - With anti-smoking laws and the global recession causing sales to fall, Cuba wants to develop a largely untapped market for its famous cigars -- women. Habanos SA executives said on Monday sales fell 8 per cent to $360 million in 2009, so they have created the Julieta, a smaller, milder version of the Romeo y Julieta cigar, aimed specifically at female smokers. The Julieta is an attempt to overcome perceptions among women that Cuban cigars are made up of 'only strong tobacco for men', said marketing director Ana Lopez. Habanos is a joint venture between Cuba and British tobacco giant Imperial Tobacco Group Plc. (more)

US rights group finds abuses rife in Raul's Cuba
21 November 2009 - Human Rights Watch says conditions in Cuba have not improved under Raul Castro and in some ways are worse than they had been when his brother Fidel was President. In a report released Wednesday, the group accuses Raul Castro's government of systematic repression and creating 'a pervasive climate of fear among dissidents and, when it comes to expression of political views, in Cuban society as a whole.' Cuba contends it protects human rights much better than most countries because its communist system provides free health care, education through college, housing, and basic food. It says it holds no political prisoners. The government says dissident groups are mercenaries of Washington. Human Rights Watch rejects that argument, but criticizes the United States for its decades-old embargo. (more)

Cuba: US embargo 'still standing' despite new law
23 March 2009 - Cuba's state-controlled media on Monday downplayed eased US rules on family ties with Cuba, calling the measure a defeat for the communist government's foes that still left Washington's 47-year-old trade embargo intact. The article in the Communist Party newspaper Granma was the first official mention of the Cuba clauses in a package signed into law by President Barack Obama on 11 March, nearly two weeks prior. US law still bars most trade with and travel to Cuba. 'These steps don't restore the rights of Cuban residents of the United States to travel freely to Cuba or approve the rights of citizens of that country to visit a neighbouring island,' the paper said. (more)

Cuba: President Raul Castro dashes expectations for new reforms
27 July 2008 - Cuban President Raul Castro dashed expectations he would announce new economic reforms on Saturday in a speech that instead warned Cubans not to get used to hearing good news. The speech marking the 55th anniversary of the start of the Cuban revolution broke little new ground as Castro stressed austerity for Cuba and appeared to dampen rising expectations. Cubans had said they hoped Castro would say more about how far and how fast he wants to take Cuba down the road of reform. (more)

International banks shun Cuba under US scrutiny
20 July 2007 - Heightened scrutiny of banking transactions by the United States since the 11 September attacks has led European and Canadian banks to curtail dealings with Cuba, bankers and businesses say. The result --perhaps intended -- is that Western businessmen in Havana are having nightmares moving funds in dollars to and from Cuba because banks are increasingly refusing their business. (more)

Cuba summons troops, citizen soldiers
1 December 2006 - Communist Cuba's military is rolling out its olive green Soviet-era hardware this weekend, summoning 300,000 troops and citizen soldiers for a show of strength in times made uncertain by Fidel Castro's illness. The parade's most obvious purpose is to warn the United States against taking advantage of Castro's illness to attack the island. (more)

Cuba readies troops
5 August 2006 - Former revolutionaries promised to keep fighting for Cuba as the island beefed up security, saying it fears a US attack during Fidel Castro's health crisis. The government, under control of Castro's brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro, has mobilized citizen defence militias. (more)

Cuba's President Fidel Castro: Al-Zarqawi killing a 'barbarity'
11 June 2006 - Cuban President Fidel Castro called the United States airstrike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi a 'barbarity,' saying The United States acted as 'judge and jury' against the leader of the al-Qaida in Iraq. (more)

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