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OnCuba Staff

OnCuba Staff

Photo by Claudia Garcia

Oceania Cruises’ first coasting of Cuba

Eight months after its debut with the Cuba destination, Oceania Cruises made a new inaugural journey to the island. On this occasion the shipping line belonging to the U.S. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Company arrived for the first time to the ports of Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. The itinerary, called “Panoramic Caribbean,” took as point of departure the city of Miami, and also included stopovers in Havana – to which the Norwegian cruise ships have traveled during 2017 -, Jamaica and Bahamas before returning to Florida. The Insignia, one of Oceania’s classic ships, was the one chosen to open a route that starting now will be included in more than 30 of the company’s itineraries until the end of 2019 and which respects the most recent regulations on the island put into force by the U.S. government. Photo by Claudia Garcia Coasting Cuba With capacity for 684 guests and appreciated for its high standards in service and comfort, the Insignia skirted the Cuban coasts after leaving Havana on Thursday November 16, precisely on the 498th anniversary of the foundation of the Cuban capital in its current settlement. While many Havana residents and visitors were waiting...

Chucho Valdés. Photo: eventsmusicbcn.com

Chucho Valdés: “I feel as if I were in a second adolescence”

Two great names of Cuban jazz from different generations, Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, cross their keyboards to give a four-hand and two-piano concert in San Cugat (Barcelona), where Chucho Valdés has arrived in top shape and full of projects, according to what he said in an interview with EFE news agency. “I feel as if I were in a second adolescence,” jokes the 76-year-old maestro, who landed in San Cugat’s Teatre-Auditori with Rubalcaba, on a tour he is sharing with other many collaborations, like those he maintains with Arturo O’Farrill or the one that has led him to publish a record with Patricia Sosa. Chucho Valdés has been playing the piano since he was three years old, influenced by his father, the very great Bebo Valdés, and he has devoted his entire life to the instrument, but he doesn’t get tired and is more active than ever, and always open to research in new fields and to new genres. On this occasion, Chucho is sharing the stage with another important name of Latin jazz, who represents a newer generation, the one that is now in its 50s. “I remember Rubalcaba from when he was starting, at that time I...

Niuris Higuera Martínez, owner of the Havana Atelier Restaurant. Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez.

Women entrepreneurs want to talk to Marco Rubio

  An association of Cuban women entrepreneurs requested a face-to-face meeting with Republican Senator Marco Rubio to explain to him the impact on the private sector of the rollback in relations with the United States. Rubio, a Cuban-American politician who supports the commercial embargo and a policy of “no contact” with the island, has advised President Trump about the road to follow with Cuba and received with satisfaction the rollback in relations after the efforts in favor of rapprochement during the Barack Obama administration. “We are greatly concerned about the current situation and we would like to share our personal story and our observations from Cuba,” points out a letter sent last month to Rubio, senator for Florida. Women have benefitted from the reforms undertaken under President Raúl Castro to do business which, according to them, took off to the extent that more Americans visited Cuba since 2015 thanks to the climate of bilateral detente. The women entrepreneurs maintain that now their businesses are declining, which is why they would like Rubio, who was born in the United States, to visit Cuba for the first time and witness the impact being caused by Washington’s policy. “We want to invite him...

Former head of communications of the White House Anthony Scaramucci in an interview with AP in Jerusalem on November 20, 2017. Photo: Ariel Schalit / AP.

Scaramucci: “I’m a defender of the president”

Anthony Scaramucci, who was director of communications of the White House but who was dismissed barely 11 days later, said on Monday that he continues in contact with the U.S. government upper echelons and that he does not rule out a return to politics. Scaramucci, who participated in Trump’s campaign and was part of the transition team, was named director of communications in July, but was dismissed a short time afterwards when he gave an interview to the magazine New Yorker in which he openly insulted several of his colleagues in the team. In an interview with the Associated Press agency, Scaramucci said that although he has not personally spoken with Donald Trump in more than a month, he “regularly” talks with the president’s closest advisors and that he could cooperate with Trump in the future. “I still have very good relations with them and it must be recalled that we were part of a team for 18 months and each one had his role. I frankly continue playing my role. I’m a defender of the president and I serve as spokesperson before the media when asked to,” said Scaramucci. Scaramucci is in Israel participating in a forum of the...

According to OFAC, AMEX has reached an agreement to pay a fine of 204,277 dollars for “1,818 apparent violations” of the sanctions against the island.

U.S. fines firm for violating embargo on Cuba

BCC Corporate SA (BCCC), a company participated by the U.S. American Express Company (AMEX), was fined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for violating the embargo on Cuba. According to what was published on the website of OFAC, a Department of the Treasury agency, AMEX has reached an agreement to pay a fine of 204,277 dollars for “1,818 apparent violations” of the sanctions against the island. According to the U.S. entity, the credit cards of the BCCC, based in Belgium and property of Alpha Card Group, a company in which AMEX owns 50 percent of the shares, were used to make purchases in Cuba from April 9, 2009 to February 3, 2014. During that period, BCCC processed 1,818 transactions that amounted to 583,649 dollars for more than 100 corporate clients who used the cards in Cuba or in operations that involved Cuba. Although Alpha Card and BCCC had control mechanisms to avoid transactions that did not comply with the embargo, they did not put them into practice, affirmed the OFAC, which reproached AMEX and BCCC for frequently having given “incorrect and incomplete” information. BCCC is the fifth entity that this year has been fined by the United...

Jeremy Guthrie, a pitcher in 13 U.S. Major League Baseball seasons, chats with Cuban children. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

A big leaguer reveals his “secret” to Cuban baseball players

  “I played every day, that’s my secret,” said Jeremy Guthrie, a pitcher in 13 U.S. Major League Baseball seasons, to dozens of children who were listening to him in Havana’s 50 Aniversario baseball field. A 2015 World Series champion with the Kansas City Royals, he surprised us with his good Spanish during the clinic he gave to school category baseball players, together with trainers and already retired Cuban figures. Jeremy Guthrie gives his autographed baseball cap to Rolando Verde. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez. The veteran pitcher also attended the clinics in the Matanzas and Pinar del Río stadiums. The visit is not endorsed by the central office of the MLB, but it is by U.S. Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA), which organized the exchange together with the Cuban Baseball Federation. “Even if it’s a single person, a single friend, we played and that way I got better. Because no one taught me as well as you are being taught,” said the baseball player, a solid opener during the major part of his 13 seasons in the Major Leagues. Jeremy Guthrie signs autographs for the children. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez. “If you...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez

Americans to Cuba: Yes, you may come!

The last two years’ boom in U.S. visitors to Cuba as a consequence of the thaw between the two countries was in the sight of the current U.S. president and his Cuban-American advisers, anxious to tighten the rope around the neck of the island’s government. Trump had advanced it on June 16 in Miami’s Manuel Artime Theater: the categories authorized to travel to Cuba would be revised, the individual “people-to-people” trips would be forbidden and a greater control would be applied to the other categories. The more than 346.000 Americans – none as tourists – who traveled to Cuba in the first semester of 2017 – a 149 percent increase with respect to the same period last year, according to a recent article in The Hill – and the more than half million that should be registered at the close of the year, were much more than what Trump seemed ready to allow. Five months later, after many debates, tensions and lobbying, the sanctions took effect and fulfilled – at least on paper – what was announced, with the denunciation of alleged acoustic attacks against U.S. diplomats in Havana and the Department of State warning to its citizens to not...

Clinic given by MLB players in Cuba in December 2015. Photo: Roberto Ruiz.

MLB clinics in Cuba

  The U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB) this week will give a clinic for Cuban children together with the Cuban Baseball Department, Cuban television reported. Stadiums in Havana and the cities of Matanzas and Pinar del Río will be the venues for the clinic, to be given November 16, 17 and 19 with the aim of “intensifying the practice of the national sport which has thousands of followers on the island.” The participants will be Cuban children aged between 8 and 12, but the news report did not reveal the possible MLB players who could take part in the clinic. Cuban baseball legends like Lázaro Junco, Pepe Estrada, Rolando Verde, Lázaro de la Torre, Omar Ajete and Giraldo González will participate in the practical classes. Ever since diplomatic relations were reestablished between Cuba and the United States – under the administration of former President Barack Obama – U.S. teams and athletes have participated in sports clinics, meets and friendly games. In December 2015, the MLB and its Players Association arrived in Cuba for an exchange and gave clinics in Havana’s Latin American Stadium and Matanzas’ Víctoria de Girón. As part of that historical moment, the delegation was made up by...

Photo by Carlos Luis Sotolongo Puig.

Airbnb and Trump’s measures against Cuba

The impact of the measures announced by the Trump administration against Cuba goes beyond the sanctions against the Cuban armed forces and government. U.S. companies and citizens are restricted by them to do business and travel to the island, and this, in the opinion of analysts and politicians from both countries, also affects the Cuban private sector, especially the one associated to tourism and its services. Among the self-employed that will suffer most directly from Trump’s measures are the owners of homes and rooms for rent for tourists, faced by a possible scenario of a drastic decrease in visitors from the United States. Many of them offer their services on the U.S. Airbnb platform, which promotes accommodations in private houses and which has experienced a notable growth in Cuba since it got to the island in 2015. A report by the company published in June – days before Trump announced the sanctions that took effect last Thursday – recognized that since Airbnb started operating on the island in the spring of 2015 more than 22,000 rooms had been included in the booking site and some 40 million dollars had been paid to the Cuban hosts. The report placed Cuba as...

A car for rent for tourists passes by the U.S. embassy in Havana. Photo: Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters.

U.S. sanctions damage Cuban entrepreneurs

  The U.S. government measures, which restrict trips to Cuba and doing business with enterprises linked to the Cuban Armed Forces and Intelligence Services, have taken effect. Cuban and U.S. analysts are of the opinion that their further effects (since they have already considerably affected the quality of bilateral relations) will damage the Cuban economy, in the state-run sector as well as the non-state: the private sector which the Trump administration says it protects is already suffering with this decision. The sanctions suppose the prohibition of doing business with enterprises like the GAESA conglomerate, which owns Gaviota – the principal Cuban tourist group with 83 hotels and five marinas –, or CIMEX, which owns the largest network of retail shops and controls around 10 percent of Cuba’s commercial exchange. GAESA also has a small participation in ETECSA, the state monopoly of telecommunications, although that firm does not appear on the “black list” of Cuban enterprises released by the U.S. government. Moreover, its influence extends to the Mariel Special Development Zone, Cuba’s star project to attract foreign capital and which has been included in the prohibition. Dr. Juan Triana, from the Center for Studies on the Cuban Economy, is of the...

U.S. President Donald Trump, today in Seoul, on his 12-day tour of Asia. Photo: EFE.

Trump’s restrictions on travel to and business with Cuba take effect

  The travel to Cuba restrictions and ban on doing business with certain enterprises on the island announced in June by President Donald Trump will go into effect this Thursday, the U.S. government announced today. The Department of the Treasury today published the new regulations for travel to and commerce with Cuba, which will be immediately implemented as part of Trump’s decision to freeze the normalization of bilateral relations undertaken by his predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama. “We have strengthened our Cuba policies to channel economic activity away from the Cuban military and to encourage the government to move toward greater political and economic freedom for the Cuban people,” said U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. As Trump had already advanced in his June 16 speech in Miami in which he announced the changes in the policy toward the island, starting now Americans will be banned from making transactions with Cuban entities controlled by military, intelligence and security services. On the other hand, individual trips by U.S. citizens to the island for people-to-people contacts that do not have an academic character will no longer be permitted, according to the Department of the Treasury. However, some of those...

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez in a press conference yesterday evening in Washington. Photo: Cuban Foreign Ministry on Twitter.

Cuban Foreign Minister: “No attack has occurred”

“No attack has occurred, no deliberate act has occurred, no specific incident has occurred. If the U.S. government says the contrary, I invite it to present evidence,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez categorically said yesterday in Washington’s National Press Club. In a press conference, the Cuban foreign minister affirmed that “the possibility can absolutely be excluded that someone carried out deliberate acts” against the diplomatic personnel accredited in Cuba or their relatives. “The Cuban government has absolutely no responsibility in the events alleged by the U.S. authorities,” he insisted. “I can conclusively affirm that those effects on health referred to cannot be due to a single origin or a single event, it has not been corroborated when they occurred, it has not been possible to know the series of clinical tests that have led to diagnoses, nor has the U.S. government shared with Cuba the names of the persons who allegedly have been victims of these incidents, which, I repeat, have not occurred,” he denounced. The Cuban official, who said he had had “a profitable meeting” with more than a dozen U.S. senators and congresspeople, assured that “it is scientifically proven that it is impossible that a cause can explain...

Vote on embargo: U.S. returns to the NO

Like every year Cuba has taken to the UN its Resolution against the Blockade. This is the 26th time in a row it has presented it. The result was 191 votes in favor, 2 against (United States and Israel) and 0 abstentions. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley gave a speech which the Cuban Foreign Ministry described as “aggressive and slanderous.” After giving his condolences “to the people and government of the United States” because of the terrorist attack that occurred yesterday in Manhattan, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez strongly condemned Haley’s speech since he considered it a “disrespectful, offensive, interventionist” address “against Cuba and the Cuban government.” He recalled that “flagrant violations of human rights” are committed in the United States, which is why “it hasn’t the slightest moral authority to criticize Cuba, a small and solidary country, a noble, hardworking and friendly people.” Rodríguez denounced that the U.S. ambassador was “lying,” using the same style that prevails today in U.S. policy, particularly toward Cuba. New victory of #Cuba🇨🇺 in the @UN against #USA🇺🇸 blockade https://t.co/eHAgf14qF4│The world said, once again, loud and clear: #UnblockCuba pic.twitter.com/B79BbePOck — Cancillería de Cuba (@CubaMINREX) November 1, 2017 Last June 16 President Donald...

“The U.S. government closes and Cuba opens”

Cuban Foreign Bruno Rodríguez has just announced in Washington a package of measures that benefit the Cubans residing abroad. The changes, which will come into force starting January 1, 2018, are the following: 1) eliminate the “Authorization” on the passport for travel to Cuba by Cuban émigrés. 2) authorize the entry to and exit from Cuba of Cuban residents abroad in recreation vessels through the Hemingway and Gaviota-Varadero International Tourist Marinas. Once the conditions are created, it would be gradually expanded to other marinas. 3) allow the entry to Cuba of Cuban citizens who left the country illegally, except for those who did so through the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo. 4) eliminate the requirement of resident so that the children of Cubans residing abroad, who have been born in other countries, can obtain Cuban citizenship and their identity document. “The U.S. government closes and Cuba opens,” said the Cuban foreign minister at the end of the communiqué. Rodríguez announced these measures at the 4th Meeting of Cubans Resident in the United States, which is being held today in Washington. The different legal regulations that will accompany the implementation of these measures will be published son in the Gaceta Oficial...

More self-employed workers

Compared to 2016, when in September there were 522,855 self-employed workers in Cuba, a year later the figure increased by 55,566 and it now adds up to a total of 578,421, according to data from Ministry of Work and Social Security published in the daily Granma. The incorporation of these new permits ratifies the tendencies of previous years ever since October 2010 when that type of activity was encouraged by the reforms being carried out by the Cuban government. Today around 25 percent of private workers in Cuba are hired by other persons who are also self-employed workers. The principal sectors where this hiring chain takes place is in the food and transportation services, and they make up a total of 150,343 permits. The second most important group is made up by 61,874 workers devoted to the preparation and sale of food products. They constitute 10 percent of the workforce in this sector. They are followed by 57,911 workers in the cargo and passenger transportation sector, and it also represents 10 percent of the workers in this sector. According to these data, 39,595 persons have permits to rent homes, rooms or other services. And 24,744 are telecommunications agents. The self-employed...

A replica of the equestrian sculpture of Martí in New York was placed in the Historic Center of Havana. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez Díaz.

New York’s Martí on a pedestal in Havana

“Facing the sea, the port of Havana, and looking at the nation he knew as few did,” announced Eusebio Leal referring to the location of the equestrian sculpture of José Martí, a replica of the one that stands in New York and that was placed yesterday in the 13 de Marzo Park in the Historic Center of the Cuban capital. Many passersby stopped to witness that moving moment. This is the only sculpture of Martí that shows him at the moment of his death in the battle of Dos Ríos on May 19, 1895, said Leal, the great promoter of the initiative of brining the reproduction to Cuba. Eusebio Leal (City of Havana Historian) talks with María Isabel Martínez in the place where the equestrian sculpture of José Martí will be placed. A similar one is in New York’s Central Park. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez Díaz. The original work was sculpted by U.S. artist Anna Hyatt Huntington by orders of the Cuban government. Concluded in 1959, it measures 5.6 meters and was inaugurated in Central Park six years later, next to the sculptures of Latin American national heroes Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín. [caption id="attachment_105665"...

Cuba expands business portfolio for FIHAV

Cuba will offer in the 35th Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2017), the island’s most important event of this type, an expanded business portfolio that includes more than 400 projects and also increases the needed investment, its organizers announced. The president of the Organizing Committee, Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment (MINCEX) Rodrigo Malmierca, explained that the updated portfolio takes into account the economic sectors with priority and the strategic areas of the development plan until 2030. Malmierca said that this year there is a “significant” advance in businesses that will be implemented in Cuba with foreign capital, according to statements published by the local media. The business portfolio presented at the Investment Forum held in the framework of FIHAV 2016 included 395 projects in 15 sectors of the Cuban economy for more than 9.5 billion dollars. A month ago, the general director of MINCEX’s Foreign Investment Department, Déborah Rivas, advanced that in FIHAV 2017 – from next October 30 to November 3 – more than 400 business projects will be presented and highlighted the importance of attracting foreign investment in key sectors like industry, agriculture and livestock, tourism, mining, biotechnology, oil and renewable energies. Malmierca specified last Thursday that...

The U.S. embassy in Havana suspended the issuing of visas to Cubans. Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez.

A pause in visas, a pause in lives

  They had already even sold their home and were planning on traveling to the United States a month ago. Leoany, 26, and her husband Ramón, 46, have their lives in pause ever since the U.S. government decided to freeze the issuing of visas and consular procedures in its legation in Havana. Like thousands of Cubans, they were in the final stage of the family reunification process, “petitioned” by Ramón’s brother who lives in Miami and they only needed for their visas to be stamped on the passport to be able to travel. Today they are breathing with relief after the Department of State announced last week that it will maintain the family reunification program, which enables the permanent residents in the United States to make a petition for their relatives in Cuba to settle over there, although it is still not known when or how it will be applied. “We already sold everything, that’s why we’re so scared. We even sold the house and are living with my mother while waiting,” said to EFE news agency Leoany, who fortunately still hadn’t resigned from her job in a day-care center. Residents in Pinar del Río, some 150 kilometers from Havana,...

The imaginary border line between the United States and Latin America. Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.

U.S.: record of immigrants in 2016

  The United States’ immigrant population, including the legal residents and undocumented, reached a record 43.7 million in 2016, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). This represents an increase of half a million since 2015; 3.8 million since 2010; and 12.6 million since 2000. However, the Department of Homeland Security estimates that 1.9 million immigrants have been misplaced by the American Community Survey (ACS) – the principal source of information about the change in population, housing and workforce in the United States – which would raise the number to probably 45.6 million. If the U.S. children born to immigrants are included – some 16.6 million with at least one parent born outside – last year’s total of persons of immigrant origin was 60.4 million. Center for Immigration Studies Statistics One out of eight residents in the United States is currently an immigrant, “the highest percentage of the last 106 years,” and Mexico is confirmed as the principal origin, added the report. The numbers are growing in relation to 1980, when the proportion was one out of 16 residents, says the report of CIS analysts Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler. Between 2010 and 2016, a total...

Embassy of the United States in Bogotá.

Cubans must process from Colombia their immigrant visa to the U.S.

  Cubans who want to apply for an immigrant visa to the United States must do so in the embassy of that country in Bogotá, after Washington drastically reduced its legation in Havana because of the “attacks” suffered by its personnel in Cuba. Sources from the U.S. embassy in Havana confirmed to EFE news agency that in the near future it will start transferring to its mission in Colombia the immigrant visa applications that are currently being processed, as well as programming interviews for the application of immigrant visas by Cuban citizens. “The U.S. Department of State has designated the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia to process immigrant visas for residents of Cuba. At this time, we are determining when we can begin scheduling Cuban applicants for interviews at Embassy Bogota,” reported a note from the diplomatic representation in Havana. “If NVC has not scheduled your case at Embassy Havana, they will schedule your visa interview at Embassy Bogota,” it specifies. NVC will send to the applicant, the petitioner, and the agent/attorney (in the case of minors or handicapped persons) a letter noting the interview location, date and time. The update status of each case can be followed through the...

Photo by Yander Zamora

Cuba: the embargo costs tourism more than 1.7 million dollars

The U.S. economic embargo cost Cuban tourism more than 1.7 billion dollars between April 2016 and June 2017. According to a report published in the state-run press, tourism is the sector most affected in this period because of the financial and commercial restrictions imposed on the island by the U.S. government. The Cuban authorities estimate that if U.S. tourists could travel freely to Cuba, the island would collect 1.5 billion dollars a year with those visits. In addition, it would obtain 15 million for the mooring of yachts from the United States with an average stay of a week, as well as other incomes that would amount to almost 1.702 billion dollars now declared as losses. After the thaw between the two countries announced in December 2014, the Obama administration relaxed some of his country’s sanctions against Cuba and approved 12 categories to make flexible the trips of U.S. citizens to the island for religious, cultural, educational, humanitarian aid reasons or personal exchange with the Cuban people, among others. He also allowed the resumption of commercial flights and cruise trips to Cuba, after half a century of being suspended. These measures brought about a notable increase of visitors from the...

In the background, the U.S. embassy in Havana. Photo: Alejandro Ernesto / EFE.

Tension between Cuba and the U.S. viewed from the two shores

  The news of recent weeks about the progressive tension in bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States have led to many sectors’ rejection on both sides of the Straits of Florida. James Williams, President of the Engage Cuba Coalition The security and the safety of all the diplomatic personnel in Cuba, and in any part of the world, is our country’s first priority. Whoever is behind these serious and inexcusable attacks against the U.S. diplomats must de arrested and brought to justice. We must be careful that our reply does not play into the hands of the perpetrators of these attacks, which clearly seek to interrupt the process of normalization of relations between our two countries. This could establish a dangerous precedent that could be used by our enemies throughout the world. It is disconcerting that the Trump administration is using this delicate moment in the investigation to advice Americans against traveling to Cuba, given that none of these attacks have been directed against U.S. travelers. We are also concerned about the Cuban people, which will be affected by this decision. Stopping the visa process in Cuba and discouraging Americans from traveling to Cuba will divide families and will...

Ludi Teatro.PhotoLa Jiribilla.

U.S.: Cuban theater company function canceled for lack of visa

The Cuban Ludi Teatro Company will not attend Chicago’s first international Latino theater festival due to difficulties imposed by the Donald Trump administration to grant visas to Cuban actors, the organizers announced this Wednesday. In a press release, the executive director of the festival, Myrna Salazar, announced the cancelation of the presentations of Ludi Teatro’s work “El espejo,” programmed for October 19-22, and affirmed the cost of the tickets would be reimbursed. “Due to the logistic changes requested by the Trump administration, and as a result of the current state of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, the process to obtain the visa for the Cuban actors has become an impossible challenge,” she said. “We did everything we could to get the visas,” Salazar explained, “but the changes were unexpected” and makes the entrance into the United States for Ludi Teatro impossible, one of the outstanding companies of the “Destinos” festival being held until October 29 and which was organized by the Chicago Latino Theatre Alliance (CLATA). “El espejo,” directed by María de los Angeles Montero Tamayo and inspired on “El peine y el espejo” – an original 1956 text by Abelardo Estorino - deals with male chauvinism,...

U.S. embassy in Cuba. Photo: Alejandro Ernesto / EFE.

Cuban Family Reunification Program will be maintained

The United States will maintain the family reunification program for Cubans, although details have not been given regarding the process after the reduction of 60 percent of the personnel of its embassy in Havana. According to the Cuban foreign minister, only one official remained in charge of consular services and visa procedures. The U.S. embassy in Havana said that the Department of State will work with its colleagues in the Department of Homeland Security to guarantee the continuation of the Permits for the Cuban Family Reunification Program and the center for the processing of refugees. The note added that soon the embassy would announce how it will proceed with the applications for immigrant visas, the Cuban Family Reunification Program (CFEP) and the persons applying to be recognized as refugees. On September 29, the government of the United States ordered the withdrawal of its non-essential personnel in its embassy in Cuba after the “acoustic attack” suffered by at least 21 Americans posted on the island and for which what was responsible for them is still unknown. In addition, it issued a warning to the citizens of that country to abstain from visiting Cuba, alleging safety aspects. The U.S. government also prohibited...

Arrival at José Martí Airport of the inaugural flight of the Pilot Plan for the reestablishment of direct postal service between the United States and Cuba, Havana, March 16, 2016. Photo: Abel Padrón /ACN.

Direct postal service with the U.S. has been held up since March

  Direct postal service for the exchange of correspondence and packages between Cuba and the United States has been held up since last March, the Correos de Cuba business group reported last week. The company’s first vice president, Zoraya Bravo, said that the services of correspondence and packages between the two nations continues, but in a limited way, since to do so it is now necessary to resort to third countries. Postal service has decreased up to 46 percent with respect to 2016, since having to resort to third countries makes the process difficult, the official explained. Direst postal service between Cuba and the United States was reestablished in March 2016, after five decades of being interrupted, as a result of an agreement signed the previous year by the Cuban government and the Barack Obama administration, in the framework of the thawing. Bravo explained that with the start of direct commercial flights – also agreed upon in December 2015 – charter flights were contracted for the shipments with three trips a week, which was later reduced to two frequencies. According to Bravo, after a year they had to be stopped since the pilot plan was about to expire, and since...

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