Friday, March 26, 2010

Cuba's 'Ladies in White' receive support from Miami marchers, Gloria Estefan

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Tens of thousands of Cuban exiles wearing white, and carrying gladioluses and flags marched for blocks along Calle Ocho with singer Gloria Estefan in support of Cuba's Damas de Blanco, Ladies in White, the peaceful dissidents who last week were attacked by government security forces in Havana.
In an unprecedented turn of events, the Ladies in White marched at the same time along Havana's famous seawall, stopping in front of the Hotel Nacional to release a dozen doves.
"¡Libertad! ¡Libertad!" the women chanted.
They were soon hassled by a mob that chanted: "Fidel! Fidel!"
In Miami, the throng of marchers, which included different generations of exiles and other Latin Americans, also chanted "¡Libertad!" and displayed placards with photographs of jailed dissidents and the Ladies in White. "Obama, yes, we have a dream, too," one sign said.
It was a rare show of unity in a community often divided over how to bring democracy to Cuba, and Estefan, whose appeal crosses several generations of Cubans, seems to have emerged as its strong new voice.
"Thank you, Miami," Estefan said as she took the podium. "This shows we're one people. We are the people that love and defend freedom."
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Cuba looking abroad to revive sugar industry

2010/03/26 04:30:00

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HAVANA–Cuba may open sugar production to foreign investors for the first time since the 1959 revolution as it seeks to reverse the once proud industry's relentless decline, business sources said this week. Talks between investors and the government have come and gone with little result for years, but what is shaping up as perhaps the island's worst harvest in a century has increased interest in bringing in foreign partners, the sources said. Their money and management know-how could help revive a sugar industry that has collapsed from neglect and the decapitalization of mills and plantations, local experts and foreign traders said. President Raul Castro, who took over from ailing brother Fidel Castro two years ago, is trying to right Communist Cuba's cash-strapped economy by increasing exports and cutting imports. Sugar, once the driver of Cuba's economy, now accounts for less than 5 per cent of Cuba's foreign earnings, but prices have been driven up by ethanol demand, so Cuba is turning to it once again. A Cuban source with knowledge of the sugar industry said the government has been seriously exploring foreign participation for several months. Foreign banking and other business sources confirmed talks were advancing toward agreements that would have investors jointly administer several mills and share in the production for a limited number of years.
S:Toronto/TheStar/Reuters News Agency

Cuba tourism down on weak Canadian market

HAVANA (Reuters) – The number of tourists coming to Cuba during the first two months of 2010 fell 3.4 percent from last year due to a decline in visitors from Canada, Cuba's top tourist provider, the government said on Thursday. But a jump in arrivals by Cuban-Americans after the Obama administration lifted restrictions on their visits home likely helped offset the drop in Canadians. A slump in tourism is bad news for President Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel Castro two years ago and is grappling with an economic crisis. Tourism and related businesses brought more than $2 billion to the communist-run Caribbean nation in 2009, or about 20 percent of its foreign exchange income. The National Statistics office reported on its website ( that 513,000 tourists arrived in January and February, down from 531,000 during the same period in 2009. Canadian arrivals dropped to 243,800, from 270,400 in 2009. Tourism industry experts outside Cuba said a pricing spat with a major Canadian tour operator contributed to the decline. Other destinations, including the Dominican Republic and the Mexican resort of Cancun, also are drawing away tourists with lower-priced packages, they said. Arrivals from the United States and some other countries under the category of "other" rose 11.6 percent to 99,500 for the two-month period, the statistics office said. Most of that increase is probably Cuban-Americans because operators of U.S.-Cuba charter flights say their business is booming due to a flood of Cuban-Americans going to their homeland. Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama did away with restrictions that had limited them to one visit every three years. Most Americans cannot legally travel to Cuba due to the 48-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the country. Slightly more than 2.4 million tourists visited Cuba last year, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2008. Despite the increase, tourism income declined 11.1 percent as visitors spent less in the midst of the global economic recession. (Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Tom Brown and Xavier Briand)

US senator says Cuba could help end travel ban

US senator says Cuba should free American contractor to help end travel ban


On Friday March 26, 2010, 7:58 am EDT
CANCUN, Mexico (AP) -- A U.S. senator urged Cuba on Thursday to free a jailed American contractor to help persuade Congress to lift a travel ban that ended American tourism to the Caribbean island in 1962.
Cuban officials have been holding Alan P. Gross, a Maryland-based U.S. contractor, since December, accusing him of spying. The man's family says he is a development worker helping Cuban Jewish groups.
A 1962 travel ban sharply restricts visits by U.S. citizens to communist-governed Cuba. The law requires U.S. government permission to spend any money there.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, said he would like to see that ban lifted, but said the detention of Gross is problematic.
"I think it's just plain wrong that Cuba is the only country in the world that the U.S. government says it's criminal to visit without a license," Dorgan said at a U.S.-Cuba tourism conference in Cancun.
President Barack Obama has indicated interest in easing restrictions, as he already has for Cuban-Americans traveling to the island -- but in exchange for human rights improvements.
Cuban officials say 2.4 million tourists, including about 41,000 Americans, visited the island last year. They anticipate 1.7 million U.S. citizens would come if restrictions were lifted.

Video...Gloria Estefan ...March in Miami...