Atahualpa Amerise / EFE

Atahualpa Amerise / EFE

Photo: Leonardo Padura, at his home in Mantilla. Ernesto Mastrascusa/EFE.

Padura: “I don’t like radical postures at all”

In his new novel Como polvo en el viento, Leonardo Padura (Havana, 1955) narrates, through constant and temporary vertiginous ups and downs, the story of El Clan, as he calls a group of friends formed in the Cuban capital during the 1980s. The house of one of them, Clara, which for the author embodies “fidelity, love and permanence,” is the base and turning point of the different destinies of the characters and that mostly pass through the exile. The generous historical context and the disparate way in which each one of them assumes his condition of exiled, from Irving’s incurable nostalgia (“romantic, patriotic, irreverent,” according to Padura) despite falling in love with his new host city, Madrid, to the clean slate of the most radical of all, Elisa (“for her a single adjective: terrible”), give away a deep and addictive reading, the result of more than two years of research work and trips to the scenarios where the story unfolds, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Tacoma (Washington), passing through Madrid’s Parque del Retiro, Barcelona’s Ramblas or the Tarragona summer enclave of Segur de Calafell. EFE interviewed Padura in his home, an apartment full of plants, art, recognition and...

Several people line up for the purchase of second-hand cars in Havana, whose sale in freely convertible currency by the Cuban government began on Tuesday, February 25, 2020. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE.

Sale of second-hand cars at high prices kicks off in Cuba

The sale of second-hand cars by the Cuban State to individuals began this Tuesday at a dealership in Havana, where the first customers bought vehicles despite their exorbitant prices. “It is a used car from 2011, but it is in the conditions required to travel,” said to EFE Yovan Orlando, a Cuban resident in Miami after paying no more or less than 80,000 dollars for a 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser 4 × 4 marking 6,000 kilometers on the dashboard. Everything for the family, even if there’s no guarantee This customer, who spent five nights lining up to be the first to choose a vehicle, was satisfied with his purchase and the deal, although he confessed to being worried because his newly acquired Toyota “has no guarantee” and that can be a “problem.” “For my family I do anything,” he proclaimed. From a dealership in Havana’s neighborhood of Miramar, 30 second-hand car models are being sold as of this Tuesday, all at exorbitant prices such as 38,000 dollars for a Kia Picanto, 45,000 for an automatic Peugeot 301 or 63,000 for a Peugeot 4008, according to the list of the state corporation CIMEX, which does not specify year or mileage.

Marta Deus (c) talks with part of her “Negolution” work team, the only business magazine published on the island. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE.

Cuban-style Uber: young entrepreneurs determined to break the blockade

Mobile Internet got to Cuba a year ago and, just as it happened a decade ago in the rest of the world, it has changed the day-to-day life of the people. Aware of this, young entrepreneurs have rushed to replicate on the island the most popular services and applications from abroad. Cubans suffer from a double blockade: the external one, caused by the U.S. financial and commercial embargo, and the internal one, derived from the reluctance of their leaders to modernize the economy and liberalize the private sector. The delay in the arrival of the Internet is attributed to both―the first Wi-Fi points date from 2015―and, as a consequence, the inexistence of transportation or messaging applications. Until now. A group of people get in a classic car that works as a taxi, this Monday, in Havana (Cuba). Photo: EFE / Yander Zamora. Cuban-style Uber  A year ago, on the same week in which 3G arrived, four young graduates―two engineers, a graphic designer and a graduate in tourism―began working on an application identical to Uber. “We found a map, we started studying design, programming and marketing. Then we started the idea, we developed the app from scratch and launched it in...

Julio César, driver of a classic car, answers EFE’s questions, on June 4, 2019, in Havana, Cuba. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE.

Cuban entrepreneurs suffer consequences of Donald Trump’s travel ban

Every morning Julio César parks a shiny Desoto Deluxe from 1948 in front of the exit of the cruise terminal. There’s rarely a day when two or three groups of American tourists don’t get in his red convertible to tour the city at a price of between 30 and 40 dollars per hour. Until today. "You gave me bad news. When cruise ships don’t enter here, there are no customers," he says to EFE, after learning that this Tuesday the U.S. Department of State has banned travel to Cuba on these recreational vessels, in addition to restricting cultural visits by Americans. Julio César, driver of a classic car, answers EFE’s questions, on June 4, 2019, in Havana, Cuba. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE. The ban on travel to Cuba on cruise ships imposed this Tuesday by the U.S. government condemns the up to now thriving private businesses in the historical center of Havana, from restaurants and souvenir shops to emblematic classic cars, to a bleak future. Cruise companies such as Carnival and Norwegian brought to Cuba 340,000 Americans in 2018, double the previous year, which placed the U.S. as the second issuing market to the island (with a total of...

Habana Libre Hotel. Photo: Nicolás Villar / Infobae

Helms-Burton Act, Trump’s nightmare for the Cuban economy

The U.S. decision to give green light to the lawsuits against multinational companies operating on expropriated land or property in Cuba threatens to discourage foreign investment in the Caribbean country and deal a blow to its increasingly stifled economy. Starting next Tuesday, May 2, U.S. citizens (a great many of them of Cuban origin) who had their property confiscated in Cuba after the 1959 Revolution may sue in U.S. courts any foreign company that benefits from them, by virtue of Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act. In an unprecedented move, the Donald Trump administration announced on April 17 the imminent activation of Titles III and IV (the latter prevents entry to the U.S. of the defendants), which remained suspended ever since its promulgation due to the rejection of the European Union and other countries whose companies might be affected. New restrictions imposed by Trump´s Administration Spanish firms such as Meliá and Iberostar and other European, Canadian, Japanese, Russian or Chinese companies (usually under a joint venture with Cuban state corporations) operate hotels and other businesses located on properties or land that were nationalized in the first years of Fidel Castro’s government. If the lawsuits in U.S. courts multiply, they...

President of the Spanish government Pedro Sánchez. Photo: Susana Vera / Reuters / Archive.

Pedro Sánchez’ agenda in Cuba: boosting trade and investments

This week’s visit to Cuba of President Pedro Sánchez comes at a time in which Spain is seeking to enhance its investments on the island, immersed in a slow process of economic opening, and to give a definitive boost to the growing bilateral trade. “I have no doubt that the president will devote an important part of his time to economic and commercial affairs” during his stay in Havana this Thursday and Friday, the counselor of Spain’s Commercial Office in Cuba, Federico Ferrer, said to the EFE news agency. Sánchez’ trip to Havana has generated high expectations since it will be the first official visit by a Spanish head of government in 32 years – ever since Felipe González in 1986 – to a country with which Spain maintains strong historic, family and also economic and commercial links. For the time being little is known about the president’s agenda in Havana. He will be accompanied by a Spanish business delegation made up to a great extent by companies with businesses in Cuba or that are interested in entering the island’s market.  Spanish exports to Cuba reached 912.12 million euros between September 2017 and August 2018, a 5.7% year-on-year increase,...