Cuban Tourism Has Ambitious Projects for Growth

Madrid, Jan 21 (Prensa Latina) Cuba announced its goal to close 2011 with 2.7 million foreign visitors as part of an ambitious project of development of this booming industry that grew 4.2 percent last year.

We have concluded 2010 with good results within the complex situation of the world, with about 2.53 million international visitors, pointed out Jose Manuel Bisbe, commercial director of the Cuban Tourism Ministry (MINTUR).

Bisbe explained that a growth above eight percent this year implies 200,000 more visitors than in 2010.

It is a strong goal, above all considering world expansion in the sector of about 4 and 5 percent, the official told Prensa Latina.

Regarding the prospects for the industry in the Island, the official said that work is ongoing to incorporate new hotel accommodations in destinations such as Cayo Santa Maria in the central province of Villa Clara, as well as refurbishing the beach resort of Varadero, Cayo Coco and Holguin.

We are undertaking important works in the infrastructure that supports tourism in the historical center of the Cuban capital and in patrimonial cities such as Trinidad, Remedios, Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Santiago de Cuba and Baracao, he said.

He indicated that the Cuban government is involved in improving the quality of all the services in a small group of cities which are of interest for the Spanish market.

Among attractions for the visitors from Spain he mentioned new programs related to the Hispanic presence in Cuba such as the route of the Catalans, Asturians, Galicians and from the Canary Islands, just to mention a few.

Another product linked to this market is the cruisers with arrivals in Cuba that began last November in the ship Gemini of the Spanish Group, Quail Travel.

He explained that the Madrid fair has become an event of importance for many of tour operators who work in the Caribbean to meet with suppliers of services in the area.

Fitur is an excellent instrument of work because it gathers in one place and in a short time many contacts as well as serving as a showcase to observe what the rest of the world is doing and how to sell other destinations in our environment, he concluded.

Spanish Travel Agents Meet in Cuba

Oct 24 (Prensa Latina) Inspired by the growing spiral of Cuban tourism, the Spanish National Travel Agents Association (AEDAVE) announced on Sunday that it would hold its 21st congress in several Cuban cities.

The event will be held from October 26 to November 1 in Santiago de Cuba and Bayamo and the Guardalavaca beach resort in Holguin, all in eastern Cuba, according to a press release from the Cuban Tourism Ministry.

The note said that more than 150 travel agents, guests and personalities from the Spanish tourism market had confirmed their attendance at the congress, which includes professional seminars on October 27 at the Santiago de Cuba Melia Hotel.

The top leaders of AEDAVE will attend, as will personalities of the world of tourism, and participants will learn directly about the potential of eastern Cuba as a tourist destination.

It is the second time Cuba will host an AEDAVE congress, taking into account the importance of the Spanish market for the development of the Cuban tourism industry, the Tourism Ministry press release said.

Cuba set to free 52 dissidents: church officials

HAVANA (AFP) – Cuba has agreed to release 52 political prisoners, including five dissidents to be freed within hours Wednesday, after breakthrough talks led by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

If the move goes ahead it would be the biggest prisoner release since President Raul Castro took over the reins of power from his hardline brother Fidel in 2008.

The remaining 47 dissidents will be freed within the next three to four months by the island’s Communist authorities, Roman Catholic church officials said in a statement.

The statement did not identify the political prisoners to be freed, nor did it mention high-profile dissident Guillermo Farinas, who is said to be near death from a months-long hunger strike.

But the news of the dissidents’ imminent release came after Spain’s top diplomat met with Cuban leaders in a bid to free the political prisoners and save Farinas’s life.

Moratinos met in Havana with President Raul Castro, dissident leaders and top church officials to achieve the breakthrough.

The statement from Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the archbishop of Havana, said Ortega was informed that in the coming hours, the five prisoners “will be released and will leave shortly for Spain in the company of their families.”

The dissidents were among 75 people arrested in 2003, many of whom now are in ill health.

Farinas’s deteriorating condition has been reported, unusually, in the official communist party newspaper Granma in what observers say is an attempt to defuse international criticism should he die.

He has been refusing food since February while demanding the release of 25 political prisoners with failing health.

After the start of the church mediation, Farinas said he was willing to end his fast if 10 to 12 prisoners were released, but on Wednesday his spokeswoman Licet Zamora told AFP Farinas was waiting for official news.

“I just spoke with him by telephone, he is skeptical and in disbelief,” she said. “No one has communicated anything officially, the church has not contacted him. Until such time, he will not consider ending the hunger strike.”

The Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission (CCDHRN) — an outlawed but tolerated dissident group — estimates there are 167 political prisoners in the Caribbean nation of more than 11 million people.

The church began a dialogue with the government on May 19 in the face of hunger strikes that drew attention to the plight of dissident prisoners. As a result of the talks, one prisoner was released and another 12 were transferred to facilities closer to their families.

Moratinos has said if his visit was a success, it would help toward lifting the EU common position on Cuba, which has, since 1996, conditioned relations between the European Union and Havana on progress in human rights here.

The news was welcomed by Cuban dissidents living in Spain, who said it was a “positive gesture” as long as the prisoners were not forced into exile.

If they are forced to leave then the releases would “only be a smokescreen aimed at convincing the European Union to change its stand,” said Ernesto Gutierrez, head of the Spanish Federation of Cuban associations.

Spain wants a bilateral cooperation agreement with Cuba, but many other EU nations have opposed taking a softer stand to Havana. – Luxury villa rental in Havana, Cuba

Spain wants EU-Cuba agreement in first half of 2010

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Spain will seek to establish a new bilateral agreement on EU-Cuba ties, including human rights, in the first half of 2010 when it will hold the EU’s rotating presidency, its foreign minister said Saturday.

Spain’s Miguel Angel Moratinos stressed his country’s intentions after a European Union meeting with Cuba, represented by its foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez.

The talks were the fourth of their kind since Europe established a political dialogue with Havana last year.

Spain has been in the forefront of efforts to boost relations with Cuba. Madrid wants to see an end to the European Union’s Common Position on Cuba, adopted in 1996, which calls for human rights and democracy progress as a condition for normal relations with the European bloc.

The Spanish government “hopes to initiate during its presidency,” in the first half of next year “a bilateral cooperation framework” with Cuba, Moratinos told reporters after the meeting in Brussels.

The current common position “is only the unilateral position of the European Union,” he underlined, whereas under a bilateral deal Havana would have to make commitments, including on human rights.

He promised that if the Spanish initiative went ahead “there will be a strong chapter” on human rights.

Saturday’s meeting was also attended by EU Development Commissioner Karel De Gucht, and Frank Belfrage, state secretary for foreign affairs for Sweden, which currently holds the EU presidency which it will hand over to Spain at the end of the year.

Cuban minister Rodriguez agreed with Moratinos that ties with Europe were heading in the right direction, saying he was convinced that “the majority of EU nations are in favour of standardising relations.

Rodriguez reiterated however that the EU’s common position is an “insuperable obstacle” that should be scrapped as soon as possible.

The EU suspended ties with Cuba after a major roundup of 75 dissidents in March 2003, but resumed aid cooperation in 2008.

Spain’s policy on Cuba shifted in 2005 after Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero came to power the previous year. His conservative predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, had adopted a policy of isolating the Communist island.

In 2007 Spain and Cuba, a former Spanish colony, renewed ties. – Luxury villa rental in Cuba

1000´s of Spanish exporters to Cuba fall prey to an ingenious method to default on payments

The Cuba Blog: Shocking news

from Valencia Spain reveals today that 90% of companies who have exported goods to Cuba have not been paid in over 12 months.

This situation, which has also occurred in other areas of Spain, appears to be the knock on effect of Cuba stripping its banks of money from foreign company´s accounts. The Valencian Chamber of Commerce has urged the Valencian Financial Institute (IVF) to create a special emergency line of credit to cover commercial transactions while transfers the Cuban central bank has failed to make on behalf of foreign entities are investigated along with Cuban entities who have ordered the payments which have not been processed.

Cuba is located in thirty-fourth place in Valencian destinations of exports, with sales growing, which in 2008 exceeded 77.6 million, according to sources in the Foreign Trade Institute (ICEX ). Most of these sales have remained unpaid because Cuba has recently stalled wire transfers from the island (see previous article) and told those firms with offices in Havana that they can “request” transfers to be made from their accounts but there is no date when they will be made by Cuba´s central bank.

Over the past four years exports have increased to Cuba, but have now encountered the problem of lack of payment and will probably cease depriving Cuba of the goods it needs.
This circumstance is suffering the virulence with particular sector of machinery and mechanical appliances, which accounts for the bulk of exports from Spain.

Manufacturers of electrical equipment and appliances, with 7.4 million, with manufacturing plastic (5.6 million), paintings (5.1 million) and footwear (4.7 million), also part of the list of Cuba’s victim’s of payment delinquencies.
A total of thirty sectors send part of their international sales to Cuba. Valencia is also the fourth largest Spanish autonomy that exports to Cuba.

Specialists advise, it appears that Cuba´s has modified its strategy concerning non payments to obvert the impossibility of attracting imports, due to past unpaid debts. Previously Cuban companies would be used like chess pawns to delay payments to exporters worldwide and become the proverbial scapegoats of the central government. But, as 1000´s of foreign companies who exported to Cuba have boycotted the island through lack of payment, cutting off supplies of essentials, Cuba has used a new strategy since late 2008 and 2009 where it guarantees payment upon arrival of goods but ONLY into the importers local Bank account in Cuba but, when the importer attempts to repatriate the funds back to his country to pay for the imported items he is unable to transfer the money. Transfers are being placed on “a list” which must be approved by the central bank so; while the money is technically paid it cannot be withdrawn or transferred from the island. Cuba also introduced a law this year under the guise of anti money laundering where it prohibits cash withdrawals from foreign held accounts on the island. Most consider this law was introduced to compliment the transfer restrictions to stop foreign entities simply withdrawing the monies therefore, the money in the accounts is technically confiscated, albeit hopefully temporarily.  It is thought that 1000´s of companies with over 100 million Euros in goods have fallen for this new strategy to obtain imports but not pay for them. – Cuba travel, hotel booking, car rental, cuba flights

Hundreds of Cubans apply for Spanish citizenship

India News: Hundreds of Cubans are applying for Spanish citizenship as part of Madrid’s new ‘law of grandchildren’, which comes into force next week, EFE reported Saturday.

The new law makes provision for grandchildren of Spaniards born in Spain or exiled during the regime of Spanish dictator late General Franco.

According to estimates of the Spanish consulate in Havana, in the two or three years that the law will be in force, some 100,000 Cubans a year could obtain Spanish nationality.

Spain’s Law of Historical Memory opens the possibility for grandchildren of Spaniards to acquire Spanish citizenship either by showing that a grandparent was a Spaniard born in Spain, or by being the grandchild of someone exiled from the Iberian nation after Gen. Franco’s victory in the 1936-1939 civil war.

‘We have to be ready for anything. That’s what you have to do to win at anything,’ Francisco, a 48-year-old Havana resident, told EFE.

Francisco wants to become Spanish thanks to the right given him by being the grandson of a Spaniard and with the idea of seeking his fortune in Spain, where he has Cuban friends.

For Teresa, the 56-year old granddaughter of natives of Spain’s Basque region, the Spanish passport will enable her to travel to the United States because ‘you don’t need a visa.’

Others, like William, 38, do not make secret their opinion that Spanish citizenship for them is the chance to leave Cuba and find a better life, because in Spain ‘you can work, make money and live comfortably’.