Long-lasting friendship ties between Vietnam and Cuba further strengthened


VietNamNet Bridge – The Cuban President has declared that the Vietnam-Cuba relationship founded by former presidents Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro will be further promoted by current and future generations.

During a visit to Cuba, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong met with former President Fidel Castro and held talks with the President of the Cuban State Council and the Council of Ministers, Raul Castro on September 6, who affirmed the long-lasting friendship between the two countries will develop further with new achievements.

Meeting with Fidel Castro, Mr Trong conveyed best regards from Vietnamese leaders– he is a great friend of Vietnam and Mr Trong said he hopes under the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party and State, Cuba will overcome its challenges and difficulties to gain more achievements in its national construction and development. He affirmed that Vietnam will further consolidate its traditional friendly relations with Cuba.

Fidel Castro expressed his delight at meeting with old friends and sincere thanks for the sentiment and supports for Cuba from the Vietnamese leaders and people. He reaffirmed that Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh will be great friends and comrades of Cuba forever. He said he hoped that there will more co-operative projects between the two countries, helping to promote mutual socio-economic development.

Receiving NA Chairman Trong, President Raul Castro praised Vietnam’s achievements and the results of talks between Mr Trong and the Chairman of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alacon,

For his part, Mr Trong said Vietnam always supports the Cuban revolutionary cause. To mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries, Vietnam has been organizing a number of activities to educate the young generation about the special ties. Vietnam has directed a Vietnamese sub-committee to prepare practical co-operative programmes for the 28th session of the meeting of the inter-governmental committee in La Habana in late September.

On September 7, NA Chairman Trong and the NA delegation left La Habana for home, ending their official visit to Cuba.

“For Vietnam, Cuba would gladly shed its own blood,” said the Chairman of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alacon, repeating former Cuban President Fidel Castro’s saying while receiving his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong on September 6.


At the reception, both parties expressed their delight at the level of bilateral cooperation between the two national assemblies, and the two countries in general. They reaffirmed that they will work closely to enhance their solidarity, and comprehensive cooperation in a spirit of mutual trust.

They also promised to continue supporting each other on diplomatic issues, especially at international forums such as the United Nations (UN), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)

Both NA chairmen agreed to boost exchanges in legislative and supervisory work, aimed at helping the two governments step up their multifaceted cooperation.

They highly praised the operations of the inter-parliamentary committee and recommended effective measures to boost cooperation in economics, commerce, investment, and science and technology.

Mr. Alacon said that the visit was significant for both countries as they would review their time-honoured relationship over the last 50 years.

By the end of 2008, the turnover of two-way trade between both countries had reached US$497 million and cooperation in other fields including culture, science and technology, healthcare, education and training, agriculture, and oil exploration had grown stronger.

However, Mr. Alacon said that Cuba and Vietnam need to educate the young generations on their traditional relationship.

Mr. Trong said he was happy to visit the heroic and beautiful country and expressed his belief that the Cuban people will overcome their differences and succeed in their revolutionary cause.

He added that Vietnam will spare no effort to strengthen its ties with Cuba, considering it a top priority in Vietnam’s diplomatic policy.

Nguyen Van Son, Chairman of the Vietnam NA Committee for External Relations, said that Vietnam is always eager to share experiences in legislation, supervision, and decision making with Cuba on important issues.

Ranon Rezferro, Chairman of the Cuban NA Committee for External Relations, said that Cuba and Vietnam will do their best to improve their economic cooperation.

On the same day, NA chairman Trong laid a wreath at the Jose Marti Memorial and visited former Cuban Ambassador to Vietnam, Melba Henandez, who is Hero Mocada and chairwoman of the Cuba-Vietnam parliamentary friendship group.

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Cuba’s golf future, promising but still far off


Reuters:

If Cuba plays it right, thousands of tourists could eventually be swinging their clubs at an 18-hole golf course overlooking the turquoise waters and golden beaches just east of Havana.

They will moor their yachts at a swank marina and drive electric carts to luxury villas built around the course’s scenic artificial lake.

The project, one of at least a dozen awaiting a thumbs-up from the island’s communist authorities, appears closer than ever to becoming reality after Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero said last month that Cuba will go ahead with the construction of golf courses and marinas.

www.cubaluxuryrent.comLetters of intent have already been signed between Cuba’s state-owned tourism company Palmares and several investors from countries such as Spain, Canada, Britain and even communist ally Vietnam, said a source close to one of the deals.

Cuba currently only has two courses. But sitting just 90 miles off the coast of the United States — the world’s biggest golf market with 27 million fans — its potential as a golf tourism destination is huge and so are the potential revenues.

“Cuba can be one of the strongest golf destinations in the Caribbean,” said Peter Walton, chief executive of the London-based International Association of Golf Tour Operators.

In the half century since Fidel Castro’s revolution turned Cuba into a communist state and its golf courses into art schools or military camps, the only well-publicized golf match has been between two guerrillas who hardly knew how to play.www.cubaluxuryrent.com

Castro and Che Guevara, who was a caddy in his boyhood days in Argentina, played golf in their military fatigues and boots in 1961 to thumb their noses at the U.S. government.

But even if today’s Cuban leadership has overcome its long-time ideological prejudices against the most capitalist of sports, the fine print regulating future joint ventures and real estate ownership remains a mystery.

Golf courses are generally financed by surrounding real estate developments, so the first thing investors will be looking at is Cuba’s willingness to sell or lease land to foreigners. To justify the investment, leases will have to extend for at least 50 years.

“They seem ready to accept the real estate developments. But at this point nobody knows the terms of the leases or the conditions Cuba may attach to the contracts,” said a foreign businessman involved in one of the projects.

PERCEPTION OF RISK

Over the years, several projects have been pitched to the Cuban government, including proposals by British architectural firm Foster + Partners, French construction company Bouygues Batiment International and, more recently, the Vietnamese Housing and Urban Development Corporation.

Most of the developments are planned along Cuba’s northern coast, including Havana and up-market resorts such as Varadero and Cayo Coco.

Besides villas and apartments, some of these projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars include full-scale, Western-style restaurants, supermarkets and shopping malls so far non-existent on the communist-run island.

But to see the rough hillsides of a suburb in Havana turned into smooth greens filled with foreign putters will probably take more than just reasonably long lease terms, says KPMG analyst Andrea Sartori.

“You need to have certain stability and guarantees to property ownership that I think the country currently doesn’t have,” said Sartori, the head of Golf Advisory Practice, a Budapest-based division of KPMG specialized in the industry.

“It is very much an issue of the perception and risk that an international investor will have in leasing a property in Cuba today.”

Although Cuba’s 1995 foreign investment law foresees the sale of real estate to foreigners, the experiment in the late 1990s was soon halted after limited sales of apartments.

Business sources say Cuba would seek to create joint ventures in which it would provide land in exchange for 51 percent equity, Foreign partners would then be responsible for a huge cash injection, a model similar to the one used two decades ago to develop the island’s hotel industry.

“That tends to bring down the returns (on assets) to foreign investors below the 15 to 20 percent they will be looking for,” said a businessman with experience in Cuba.

To break into the regional golf circuit Cuba would need to develop a cluster of at least 10 courses, foreign experts say.

YANKEE INVASION

Even if nobody says it, the investors behind these projects are betting on a future opening of American tourism currently prohibited by a Cold War-era U.S. ban.

President Barack Obama has lifted restrictions on the visits of Cuban exiles to the island but a Congressional bid to end the travel ban affecting other Americans seems stalled amid renewed political tensions.

“These golf projects will take time to develop and the relationship with the U.S can improve a lot in the next two or three years,” said Tony Zamora, a Miami-based Cuban American lawyer familiar with some of the deals.

But the challenges facing Cuba’s future golf tourism industry may also derive from the island’s own domestic problems.

Before building thousands of luxury villas for foreigners, a businessman says, Cuba will have to address its overwhelming housing deficit to deflate potential social tensions.

“The key ingredients of a successful golf destination are there — The climate, the proximity to a major market, the flavor,” said KPMG’s Sartori. “However there are key issues that need to be resolved.”

www.cubaluxuryrent.com – Villa rental in Havana, Cuba

Cuba cash crunch eases as payments resume to Mexico exporters


MEXICO CITY, Mexico (Bloomberg) — Cuba resumed payments to Mexican exporters after holding back on foreign currency transfers for months, signaling that a cash crunch in the communist island’s $49 billion economy may be easing.

President Raul Castro’s government stopped paying some construction and electronics companies for imports this year after $10 billion in hurricane damage and the global recession stunted growth, Rogelio Granguillhome, head of economic relations at Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, said in an interview. Cuba restarted transfers to Mexican exporters last month after halting payments about eight months ago, he said.

The resumption of payments may mean that a liquidity crisis has touched bottom, said Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, a Latin American studies professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The cash crunch led the government to cut local budgets and urge Cubans to reduce their energy use.

“They may have turned a corner,” Benjamin-Alvarado, who travels to Cuba and has written about the country’s energy needs, said in a phone interview. “This means they probably have sufficient cash flow to meet their debt obligations.”

The Cuban government has expressed its willingness to honor the country’s obligations, said a Cuban official who declined to be identified because he’s not authorized to speak about the subject. Cuba’s Foreign Ministry did not a return phone call or e-mail sent by Bloomberg News.

Cuba’s economy may shrink 1 percent this year and grow 2.1 percent in 2010, down from a previous estimate of 3.5 percent, as the need to meet overdue payments to foreign exporters limits government stimulus efforts, the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a Dec. 10 report. The economy will expand 4.1 percent in 2011, the EIU forecast.

A revival in the island’s economy would represent another turnaround for Castro and his brother, Fidel, who have ruled the country since taking power in a 1959 revolution. The two have survived a US trade embargo put in place by President John F. Kennedy, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the biggest global slowdown since the Great Depression. Raul formally succeeded his brother as president last year.

Cuba’s economy and the government’s cash flow were strained during the past two years by lower prices for exports such as nickel and damage from three hurricanes in 2008. The island nation has the world’s fourth-biggest reserves of nickel, a metal used in rechargeable batteries and steel, according to the US Geological Survey.

Former Economy Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez said in an undated speech posted on the ministry’s Web site that 2008 was “without a doubt, one of the most difficult” since the US trade embargo against the island began almost fifty years ago. Rodriguez was ousted in a Cabinet shake-up in March.

The government in July reduced its forecast for economic growth this year for the second time to 1.7 percent. Officials had originally predicted growth of 6 percent.

The resumption of payments “gives us an idea that the issue is being resolved and that it will be definitively resolved in the coming months,” Granguillhome said Dec. 15 in Mexico City, without specifying the amount of delayed payments or the companies affected by the change.

Mexico’s efforts to seek payments for its exporters is part of President Felipe Calderon’s plan to boost trade with Cuba and to improve relations that were strained under former Mexican President Vicente Fox, Granguillhome said. Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa visited Havana earlier this month and said Calderon may meet Raul Castro in Cuba next year.

Latin America’s second-biggest economy exported $310 million to Cuba in 2008, up from $190 million in 2007, and was the island’s 11th largest trade partner, according to Mexico’s foreign ministry and Cuba’s National Statistics Office.

“The most important thing is to strengthen economic relations,” said Granguillhome, who was part of the delegation to Havana. “This is part of a broader policy to strengthen political dialogue between the two countries.”

Still, recent payments to Mexican companies may not mean that the country is settling debts across the board, said Daniel Erikson, a Latin America analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. Instead, the island may only be paying companies from select countries with which it wants to improve diplomatic relations, he said.

“I think you need more data points before you can call this a trend,” Erikson said.

www.particularcuba.com – Travel to Cuba

Inversiones Pucará Gains Ground on Cuban Market


DTCuba: Havana.- The company Inversiones Pucará S.A., which commercializes wines, has operated in Cuba for eight years.
According to firm executives, the company distributes 300 brands of high-quality wines in Cuba’s tourism market.
Inversiones Pucará S.A. has a staff of sales experts in Havana, Varadero beach, Holguín and central Cuba.
Eighty percent of the company’s turnover comes from the Chilean winery Concha y Toro.
Inversiones Pucará S.A. also represents the Spanish wineries Rioja y Rivera del Duero, Matarromero y Enate, as well as firms from France, Italy, South Africa and Argentina.

www.cubaluxuryrent.com – Luxury vacation rentals in Havana, Cuba

Cuba Prepares 27th Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2009)


More than 250 Cuban companies will take part in Havana’s International Trade Fair, which will take place in November at the Expocuba exhibit complex in the capital.

Preparations are in full swing to host 251 Cuban export enterprises that will exhibit a wide array of goods and services during the 27th annual trade fair, to be held November 2nd through the 7th.

Feria Internacional de Havana

Feria Internacional de Havana

The announcement was recently made by Miriam Martinez, director of fairs and exhibits with the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, an institution which is part of the fair’s organizing committee along with Havana’s Convention Hall and Expocuba, where the annual event is usually held. The organizing committee is headed by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment.

As a first activity in the context of the fair, once all 108 Cuban stands are ready, experts with the Chamber of Commerce and the Foreign Trade and Investment Minister will meet with the national and foreign press about details of the fair. The Cuban exhibit ground will occupy a 3,000-square-meter area.

The Cuban companies represent all the country’s economic sectors involved in trade and export activity. An important part of the national sample will include local biotechnology and health products and services, medical equipment, goods and items from the light, the basic and the food industries; also present will be other advancements in the areas of information technologies, sciences and the environment.

As is customary, the fair will also include entrepreneurial encounters, the launching of new products and services, and the announcement of other specialized trade events like the 8th International Construction Fair, FECONS 2010, according to the director of fairs and exhibits. Other scheduled activities are the presentation of Cuban Foreign Trade, a publication of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Journal of the Fair, which contains reports on the major events that take place during the commercial gathering.

Over 15 official delegations from countries of all continents of the world have thus far confirmed participation at the fair, Martinez announced. These delegations include several chambers of commerce and institutions related to foreign trade and commerce, as well as groups of business people that usually come with such delegations.

The organizing committee will soon give more information about the foreign participation at the fair, which will take place at the time when the world is plunged into a deep economic and financial crisis, though it is good to bear in mind that last year, when the effects of the economic depression were already being felt, over 1,000 companies from 54 nations attended the Havana event.

www.particularcuba.com – business with Cuba

Wagon Pars sells 550 wagons to Cuba


Tehran Times:

TEHRAN – Iran’s Wagon Pars Company has exported 550 train wagons for carrying containers, fuel and cement to Cuba Railroad Company, Wagon Pars Company’s managing director said here on Sunday.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting quoted Gholam-Reza Razzazi as saying “The wagons were designed and built domestically at the cost of $60 million.”

Wagon Pars Company annually produces 1,500 cargo train wagons, 40 locomotives, and 250 passenger and metro train wagons

www.particularcuba.com – Fly & Drive in Cuba

Sanofi-Aventis drug company opens office in Havana Cuba


Havanajournal.com:

In June, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis said it would establish an office in Havana — a vote of confidence for Cuba’s biotech industry by the largest drugmaker in Europe.

Antoine Ortoli, Sanofi’s inter-continental vice-president, said his company hopes to use its Cuban presence to boost sales of its pharmaceutical products to the Cuban medical establishment.

Since 2001, Sanofi-Aventis has been selling the Cubans — through its Sanofi Pasteur unit — vaccines and medicines to treat epilepsy, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases, among other ailments.

Ortoli told Spanish news agency EFE he intends to pursue joint ventures with Cuban biotech entities to conduct clinical trials and manufacture vaccines and drugs for the Latin American market. “It’s more than a commercial presence [in Cuba].

It’s to embrace industrial and scientific-technical cooperation based above all pn the talent and proven capability of the Cuban doctors who, in my experience, are the best in the world,” he said. Ortoli hinted to a French media source he thinks the embargo will be lifted before President Obama leaves office. “The Cuban market is going to open. Our presence there is strategic,” he said. Pedro Arranz, a company spokesman, wouldn’t give CubaNews further details on Sanofi’s new venture in Havana — even though Cuban state-run magazine Opciones confirmed his attendance at the opening of the Sanofi office in Havana’s Miramar district.

Ortoli explicitly told Opciones his company would like to pursue biotech projects with renowned Cuban biotech center CIGB. One reason for Sanofi’s reluctance to talk: in May, the company won a $190 million order from the U.S. government to make a swine flu vaccine.

Sanofi is awaiting a green light from the Food and Drug Administration to begin commercial production of the vaccine. Perhaps Sanofi-Aventis is afraid that raising its Cuba profile in Washington circles could raise the ire of conservatives in Congress, particularly Cuban-American lawmakers, who would presumably take a dim view of Sanofi’s Cuba activities.

Sanofi Pasteur currently has an influenza vaccine production facility in Swiftwater, Pa.

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