Cuba and Italia to Strengthen Exchange on Surgery

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov 3 (acn) The Cuban Surgery Society (CSS) and the Italian Association for the Development of Surgical Sciences penned a letter of intent to develop technical and scientific exchange efforts between both countries.

The document was signed as part of the 11th Cuban International Conference on Surgery underway at the Convention Center of Havana with 300 experts from 15 countries in attendance.

The event includes a Cuba-Italy day and the Regional Meeting of the Latin American Surgery Federation.

As part of the Conference, the CSS named Pascual Berloco and Maximiliano Mungo Members of Honor of the Society. The two personalities are the first members from the Italian Association to receive the honorary title.

Italian ambassador to Cuba Marco Baccin and Senator Domenico Gramazio,
vice deputy chairman of the health commission of the Italian Parliament attended the ceremony.

Cuba to add new docks, terminal at Cienfuegos port

HAVANA – Cuba will build three additional loading docks and a terminal large enough to accommodate modern supertankers by 2014 at its port in Cienfuegos, part of the communist government’s effort with Venezuela to rehabilitate and modernize the area’s oil refinery.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a self-described socialist and close friend of Fidel Castro, attended the December 2007 re-inauguration of the Soviet-era facility on central Cuba’s southern coast, and since then it has refined 55 million barrels.

Cuba and Venezuelan plan to expand capacity there to 150,000 barrels refined per day and the new berths and terminal will ensure tankers carrying more oil can come and go more freely, said Luis Medina, director of Cuba’s national port authority, at a news conference Friday in Havana, 185 miles (300 kilometers) northwest of Cienfuegos.

Chavez’s government ships more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba in exchange for island doctors who provide free medical care in his country and other social services. The expanded capacity at Cienfuegos will allow Venezuela to ship more petroleum products that can be refined on the island.

Cuba independently operates its largest oil field, the Varadero field discovered by Russian scientists in 1971, but the communist government relies on energy companies from Canada, Spain, Norway, India, Malaysia and China for other drilling operations.

The government has laid out zones in the Gulf of Mexico where private energy companies, mostly from Canada and Europe, have said they could one day drill deep-water test wells searching for crude.

A 2004 test well by a Spanish company was not considered commercially viable, however, and Washington’s 48-year-old trade embargo prohibits U.S. companies from investing in Cuban oil exploration and production, even though the island’s Gulf waters are close to the Florida coast.

A meeting of U.S., Mexican and Cuban scientists wrapped up Wednesday in Sarasota, Florida, with an outline for a plan to better protect the Gulf of Mexico and western Caribbean through collaborative management and conservation.

It includes actions that scientists in each country will undertake to conserve coral reefs, marine mammals, sea turtles and shark and other fish populations. Examples include a regional monitoring protocol for sea turtles to make sure results are compatible among nations and continued research expeditions focused on sharks.

Brazil offers Cuba help to develop small businesses


Brazil’s foreign minister says his country has offered to help Cuba develop small and medium businesses as part of a drive for economic growth.

Celso Amorim was quoted as describing Cuban plans to lay off half a million public-sector workers in the next six months as “very courageous”.

He said Cuba could learn from Brazil’s successful experience in fostering entrepreneurship.

Mr Amorim met Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana on Saturday.

He was speaking to reporters in New York on Monday, ahead of the 65th UN General Assembly which opens on Thursday.

Last week Cuba announced plans to lose a million workers from the public-sector payroll – half of who will go by next March.

The government currently controls almost all aspects of the Cuba’s economy and employs about 85% of the official workforce, an estimated 5.1 million people. There is also a burgeoning black economy.

The lay-offs are being seen as the latest – and one of the most dramatic – attempts to revive the island’s struggling economy.

‘Ready to co-operate’

Mr Amorim said Brazil had successfully developed small and medium businesses and reduced the informal economy, and could share this expertise with Cuba.

“It doesn’t pay off for Cuba to move 500,000 workers out of the public sector if they fall into the informal economy,” Mr Amorim said, according to news agency Reuters.

He said the lay-offs were “very courageous”, adding: “I believe Cuba’s evolution – and I use this word deliberately – is a process that will increase opportunities.”

“We’re ready to co-operate,” he reportedly said.

Analysts say Cuba’s move is being undertaken after long consultation with trade unions and other bodies.

They say many of the laid-off workers will not become unemployed but will become self-employed or be offered alternative employment in workers’ co-operatives.

Cuba sees more Russian visitors

Russia has become one of the fastest growing tourism source countries for Cuba with over 23,000 Russians visiting the Caribbean island state in the first half of 2010, up 25 percent year on year, the National Statistics Office (NSO) said Friday.

The increase can be attributed to Cuba’s efforts to explore new tourism markets such as Russia, China, Mexico and Cubans living abroad after visitors from traditional tourist source countries like Spain, Germany and Italy, declined due to the global financial crisis, it said.

The measures included opening new direct flights, among which are twice-a-week direct flights between Moscow and Varadero, a major city in Cuba.

Cuba also held the 30th International Tourism Fair in Havana to strengthen the ties among tour operators between Russia and Cuba.

According to the NSO, 1.4 million visitors came to Cuba in the first half of this year, an increase of 1 percent year on year.

Tourism is Cuba’s second largest industry, contributing about 20 percent to the island’s total foreign currency income each year.

Hotel opening in Shanghai highlights Cuban expansion


Putting the spotlight on a recent expansion of Cuban economic activity abroad, tourism Minister Manuel Marrero traveled to China for the opening ceremony of a Chinese-Cuban five-star hotel towering over Shanghai’s booming financial district.

Owned by Chinese state company Suntime International Techno-Economic Cooperation Group and Grupo Cubanacan, the 686-room Gran Meliá Shanghai is operated by Spain’s Grupo Sol Meliá. The $250 million project — considered a key element of Cuban-Chinese cooperation — began in 2003.

No details about the cost or ownership arrangement have been released, nor have the partners explained what exactly Cuban companies have contributed to the project. The construction division of Chinese state company CITIC Group led the design and construction phase; Shanghai Bank, and Eximbank provided and guaranteed the funding.

Cuba’s first large hotel investment abroad is the first of more joint ventures to come between Suntime and Cubanacan, Marrero said during the ceremony. The next project will be construction of a “similar” hotel in Havana, the minister said. The partners reportedly are planning construction of a $150 million hotel at Marina Hemingway, in a western suburb of the capital.

Marrero said the partners had to overcome “great obstacles” to get the project in Shanghai done. He didn’t specify.

Sol Meliá was chosen, among others, because it is the biggest hotel operator in Cuba, with nearly 20 years of track record.

Making the ceremony a trilateral summit, the opening was also attended by Sol Meliá President Gabriel Escarret, Suntime Chairman Yue Shiron, Cubanacan Director Luis Miguel Díaz, as well as Spain’s ambassador in China, the designated Chinese ambassador to Cuba, and the mayor of Pudong, Shanghai’s financial district.

Designed with Feng Shui principles by Sol Meliá house architect Álvaro Sans, the 30-floor hotel is the highest in the Shanghai skyline. It includes a Cuban bar.

Splashed with Cuban art

More the 3,500 sculptures, paintings, and decorative objects by 60 Cuban artists are splashed over nine floors in the hotel. The presidential suite on the 27th floor features four paintings by Roberto Fabelo; a mural by Rigoberto Mena decorates the lobby.

Havana-based art gallery La Acacia held an exhibition opening parallel to the hotel opening ceremony.

Broader tourism agenda

While in China, Marrero met in Beijing with tourism officials to boost marketing of Cuba as a destination in the fast-growing Asian source market. He also talked about additional investment projects, including preparations for the construction of the Suntime-Cubanacan hotel in Havana.

In addition, Marrero met with potential investors, as well as with Chinese travel agency and tour operator executives, and tourism media representatives.

Cuba and China Pen New Accords

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 18 – Cuba and China signed new cooperation agreements in fields including seismology, port rehabilitation and the sale of sugar and nickel at the close of the 21st Intergovernmental Commission meeting held in the island’s capital. Bilateral trade surpassed 2.6 billion dollars in 2007, only surpassed by the Caribbean country’s trade with Venezuela.