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Embassy of Cuba in NZ Newsletter - No.4 31st January 2015

Embassy of Cuba in New Zealand
Newsletter
No.4 31st January 2015

DIGEST

Cuba makes it very clear there is ‘no surrender’ on her principles in any trade-off with the US for the lifting of the US/Cuba blockade. President Raúl Castro explains. We follow with more Blockade stories: how US senators of both parties are seeking to liberalise travel restrictions and shut down the Marti propaganda media. Celac fellow-members again condemn the blockade and lay down a a 94-point Declaration as Ecuador takes the up 2015 presidency to set up an ambitious programme for the year. In our Diplomacy section Cuba and China have signed five new agreements — in agriculture, telecoms, trade, finances, industry and transportation — while Cuba and the European Union have express their mutual interest in advancing bilateral relations including the ongoing negotiation of an accord for political and cooperation dialogue. Under Tourism, Iberia will fly Madrid/Havana from June 1 and expects high returns from its business class seats. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways are all looking for opportunities to fly to Cuba and AmEx, MasterCard and Visa likely to supply credit card facilities from March 1.

In this issue

• Lifting blockade essential before normalising links with USA is possible
• US senators try to eliminate travel restrictions
• Washington Post highlights US talks with Cuba
• Bill in US Congress condemns illegal transmissions to Cuba
• Latin America and the Caribbean condemn US blockade on Cuba
• CELAC: another step toward Latin America-Caribbean unity
• Agreement China-CELAC a ‘Costa Rican achievement’ — Correa
• New president of CELAC urges unity
• Cuba and China strengthen economic relations
• Cuban foreign minister meets with EU vice-president in Costa Rica
• Cuba implements new regulations for foreign investment
• Cuba ratifies open-door policy to tourist investments
• Iberia expects high profitability Madrid-Havana
• Major US airlines and credit card companies eager to operate in Cuba but tourism not included
• Cuba, Ecuador, assess cooperation project on child development

BLOCKADE
Lifting blockade essential before normalising links with USA is possible

Cuban president Raúl Castro has stated, before the third CELAC summit began last week in Cuba, that the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States won't be possible as long as the US economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba exists as well as other issues.

The resumption of diplomatic relations was the start of a process towards the normalization of bilateral relations, but this would not be possible as long as the blockade stayed in place, unless the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base is given back to Cuba, radio and television propaganda broadcast stop and fair compensation was given to the cuban people for human and economic losses.

It would not be ethical, just, or acceptable to demand something from Cuba simply in exchange for lifting the blockade.

If these problems were not solved, this diplomatic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States would be senseless, said the Cuban leader, in reference to talks held last week in Havana between representatives of the two nations.

Besides, no one should expect from Cuba to negotiate the above-mentioned topics in exchange for interference in our internal affairs, which are absolutely sovereign, he added.

President Barack Obama could use his broad executive powers to substantially modify the implementation of the blockade, within his gift even without a Congressional decision, noted the Cuban president.

Raul Castro said the two countries were able to advance in this recent negotiation because "we treat each other with respect, as equals. It will have to be this way in order to continue advancing," he stressed.

Regarding the talks, he said the results show that governments with profound differences can find a solution to problems through respectful dialogue and exchanges based on sovereign equality and reciprocity to benefit their respective nations.

"As I have repeatedly said, Cuba and the United States must learn the art of civilized coexistence based on respecting differences between both governments in cooperation on issues of mutual interest that contribute to the solution of challenges faced by the hemisphere and the world," said Raul Castro.

But he made it clear that no one should hope that Cuba would have to give up its ideas of independence and social justice, give up in any of its principles, or yield an inch in the defence of national sovereignty.

“We will not let anyone provoke us, and never will we accept any intention of putting pressure on our internal affairs,” he said, added “We have earned this sovereign right with great sacrifices and at the cost of great risks.”

He wondered if diplomatic relations could be restored without resuming financial services to the Interest Section of Cuba and its Consular Office in Washington, which were cut off as a consequence of the US financial blockade.

Raul Castro also wondered how to achieve the resumption of diplomatic relations without erasing Cuba from the list of nations that sponsor international terrorism.

He also wondered what would be from now on the behaviour of US diplomats in Havana regarding the observation of standards established by international conventions for diplomatic and consular relations.

The current situation opened a modest window of opportunity to the hemisphere to find new, superior forms of cooperation to benefit the Americas, he said, adding that this would contribute to solve urgent problems and pave new ways.

Read the speech in full (link)

BLOCKADE
US senators try to eliminate travel restrictions

Republican senator Jeff Flake and six other legislators have presented a bill to put an end to legal restrictions preventing US citizens from traveling to Cuba.

The effort is supported by legislators from the two parties and from sectors of the business community interested in lifting the economic, commercial and financial blockade.

“US citizens must have the freedom to travel everywhere they want,” said Flake, backed by his fellow party members Jerry Moran, Mike Enzi and John Boozman, as well as Democrats Dick Durban, Patrick Leahy and Tom Udall.

A similar initiative will be introduced in the House of Representatives next week by Republican Mark Sanford and Democrat Jim McGoverrn.

“It is easier to change the laws that prevent travelling to Cuba than those keeping in force the rest of sanctions, and what we are seeking in this bill is to win the broadest support possible from Congress members,” said Senator Moran.

“The text presented today intends to eliminate the remaining restrictions in the wake of modifications that came into force on January 16, issued by the Treasury Department, establishing a dozen categories of US citizens that are allowed to visit the Island without a licence.

“Those provisions also modify part of the limitations on bilateral business in certain sectors, but keep in force the laws that regulate the blockade,” he said.

BLOCKADE
Washington Post highlights US talks with Cuba

The first round of talks between the United States and Cuba, in Havana, was productive, positive and respectful, in spite of "profound differences" between the parties involved, said the Washington Post last week.

This conclusion agrees with the summary made at the end of the talks yesterday by the two delegations, led by general director for US Affairs in the Foreign Ministry of Cuba, Josefina Vidal, and the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson.

The journal, which led with the topic on its on-line edition, also highlighted Jacobson's expressed will to “get over” more than 50 years of relations that was not based on confidence, and on Vidal's emphasis on basing the rapprochement on sovereign equality and on avoiding any interference in Cuba’s internal affairs.

The Washington Post said that the Cuban official made clear to the journalists that a restoration of diplomatic relations would be "very difficult to explain" as long as Cuba remained on the list of countries that sponsor international terrorism.

On this regard, the journal noted that President Barack Obama has the prerogative to erase Cuba from that list, if he determines to do so.

The Washington Post also recalled that the Cuban party considers the total lifting of the US blockade essential for a normalization of links — an issue President Obama expressed willingness to discuss with Congress.

BLOCKADE
Bill in US Congress condemns illegal transmissions to Cuba

US Democratic congresswoman Betty McCollum has introduced a bill that plans to eliminate the budget for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) based in Miami, which controls Marti radio and TV stations.

She told Congress that those stations, denounced by the Cuban authorities as illegal, are outdated instruments of the Cold War, and constitute a outdated method in the new context of what is on the horizon for relations between the United States and Cuba.

McCollum said that US taxpayers should not fund these propaganda media, whose average cost exceeds US$27 million per year.

During the past three decades the stations have spent more than $770 million USD, she said, announcing the submission of her proposal to the Capitol this week.

McCollum reiterated her support for the decision announced on December 17, 2014 by President Barack Obama to restore diplomatic relations with Havana.

She added she will work in the Congress to lift the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against Cuba for more than five decades.

Other US political leaders against these transmissions argue that the broadcasters are hardly tuned in to Cuba due to the lack of audience interested in the topics they cover and because the signals were blocked by the Cuban authorities from the outset.

Cuban president Raul Castro Ruz pointed out at the Celac summit that to achieve the normalization of bilateral ties the radio and television broadcasts that “violate international standards" must cease.

SOLIDARIDAD
Latin America and the Caribbean condemn US blockade on Cuba

The 33 member nations of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) have reiterated the region's heartfelt rejection of the blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba for over half a century.

In the Political Declaration of Belen, the Costa Rican city that hosted the third Celac summit, the presidents urge President Barack Obama to use its broad executive powers to modify substantially the implementation of the blockade.

They also reiterated their rejection of unilateral lists and certificates drafted by developed countries that affect nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly those referring to terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and others of similar nature.

In this regard, they rejected the inclusion of Cuba in the list of countries that allegedly sponsor international terrorism, as imposed by the US Department of State.

The leaders also expressed satisfaction at the decision of presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama to resume the diplomatic relations broken by the United States in 1961.

The demand to end the US economic, commercial and financial blockade on Cuba was included in all the speeches of leaders and high ranking officials attending the summit.

The Declaration approved today includes, in 94 points, the regional commitment to multilateralism, to dialogue among nations, to peaceful solution to disputes and to the unrestricted support to the UN Charter and International Law.

The text acknowledges the inalienable right of every country in the area to choose its own political and economic organization and fully supports the respect for independence, self-determination, sovereignty and peace.

In this third CELAC summit Ecuador assumed the presidency until January, 2016.

SOLIDARIDAD
CELAC: another step toward Latin America-Caribbean unity

The third summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), recently held in Costa Rica, created a clear reflection of the new times for the region, where calls for unity with respect for diversity prevailed.

In fact, it was a further step toward integration of the 33 countries in the region — the dream of unity of Simon Bolivar.


The meeting, held this week at the new El Pedregal Event Centre, about 10 kilometres west of this capital, San José adopted a political declaration from the leaders outlining their positions.


‘We reaffirm that Celac is the forum for dialogue and political cooperation par excellence of the 33 countries in the region, in which our unity in diversity is expressed, and the common positions and exchange of experiences in many areas, both regional and global, are encouraged,” reads the document.


“We reiterate our commitment to continue working on the basis of consensus, highlighting the multiethnic, multicultural, multinational and diverse community character in its work; and guide our regional work towards the implementation of actions with regional impact vocation that allow us to find common solutions to common challenges and problems, they add.


The policy expressed in the text reflected the good atmosphere among the leaders at the conclusion of the meeting and the transfer of the presidency to Ecuador, to Rafael Correa, by his Costa Rican counterpart, Luis Guillermo Solis.


In his speech Correa called for acceleration of the process of integration and unity. 'We have advanced, but we must go faster", he said.


Correa said that the region was experiencing a new era, leaving behind the era of disunity before the founding of Celac on December 3, 2011 in Caracas, Venezuela.


He said it was imperative to work towards a position where people never got tired of their leaders attending frequent summits, while the poorest part of the population continued into the abyss.


“Our people expect us to have clean hands, concrete solutions,’ he stressed after arguing that the benefits of integration must reach the inhabitants of the member countries.


In that sense he reiterated proposals subscribed to by President Solis, to advance plans that promoted the improvement of the living conditions of the population.


One initiative sought to eliminate extreme poverty in the short term, for which Correa said the region had sufficient resources.


The fight against poverty was the theme chosen by Costa Rica at the summit ,and the need for its eradication was ratified by the leaders, who said that despite the progress achieved there was still a huge challenge in this field.


Common positions were arrived at on other important issues for the region, including the demand for the US to end the embargo imposed on Cuba described by Correa as a criminal imposition. Cuba's president, Raul Castro, said “Our America has entered a new era and has advanced.”


It developing unity in diversity, the cohesive performance and respect for differences would remain our primary purpose and an unavoidable necessity, because the world's problems were compounded, he said.

SOLIDARIDAD
Agreement China-CELAC a ‘Costa Rican achievement’ — Correa

Ecuador president Rafael Correa has said that the Celac agreement with China, was probably the greatest achievement of Costa Rica during its presidency, adding that among the main achievements was reaching concrete agreements with China in the bilateral forum recently held there.

In an interview with several local television channels, the Ecuadorian president said that for its size, China can be considered as a region, and deepening the relationship would be beneficial for the Celac countries.

Beijing was the “principal financier of the world” and to achieve agreements to finance projects aimed at the development of Latin America and the Caribbean Project was “a great success,” he said.

Correa, now pro tempore president of the regional bloc, said that at the current stage of development of the region, what was needed was financing.

“We no longer need,” he said, “the alms like those given by NGOs who come to construct little schools, because we can do that.

“What we need is science, technology, technology transfer to help us create our human talent, and China can give those to us,” he added.

Correa considered it was a complementary relationship between equals, given that China needs energy, oil and food, which could be obtained from Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Four priority areas were identified for the work of the new presidency: reducing extreme poverty, establishment of a new international financial architecture, development of science and technology, and road, productive and energy infrastructure.

Speaking yesterday to presidents and senior representatives of the 33 CEAC countries Correa proposed to establish the goal of eliminating extreme poverty within five years, which he considered perfectly realistic.

SOLIDARIDAD
New president of CELAC urges unity

Ecuador president Rafael Correa has called for the Celac member countries to unite and win a solid presence on the international scene.

"Only unity will make this region big," he said in a speech before presidents and high ranking officials attending the Costa Rican summit of Celac.

Taking over the pro tempore presidency of the bloc, Correa pointed out that Celac must always try to act in harmony "to make our voice heard" and speak together as one before the United Nations to make Celac stronger as interlocutor in the international scene.

Correa announced that this intention to try increase the role of Celac as a bloc would be one of the five axes of work or priorities during Ecuador’s 2015 presidency.

Other priorities included: curbing extreme poverty and inequality, education, science, technology and innovation, environment and climate change, and funding for infrastructure and connectivity.

Correa expressed his country's commitment to continue working to strengthen the pro-integration process in the region, and thanked Costa Rica for achievements made during its term at the helm of the bloc.

DIPLOMACY
Cuba and China strengthen economic relations

Cuba and China have signed five new agreements — in agriculture, telecoms, trade, finances, industry and transportation — confirming both countries’ interest in strengthening and expanding their economic relations.

This was the result of the 27th Intergovernmental Commission Cuba-China held last week which also made official the postponement of the starting date of payment of the credit given by China through the Economic and Technical Cooperation agreement.

During the meeting the parts also reviewed the protocols of delivery and reception of equipment and spare parts for Yutong buses.

Both parties agreed to carry out a special session in four months to examine the bilateral economic agenda and the processes of implementation of the signed documents.

The 27th Intergovernmental Commission also reviewed 29 cooperation and economic agreements signed during the visit of Chinese President, Xi Jinping on July 22 last year.

The documents dealt with the concession of a line of credit for the construction of the multipurpose terminal in the port of Santiago de Cuba, in the eastern region of the island, among other facilities.

Deputy minister of foreign trade and investment Ileana Nuñez said the agreements would attract more revenues to sectors like tourism, mining and construction.

She underlined the favourable conditions and level of mutual relations, which grow, deepen and expand the interest of more Chinese investors.

China is the second biggest trading partner of Cuba and Cuba is China´s major partner in the Caribbean, while Cuban tobacco and marine products gain ground in Asia.

Assistant trade minister of China Zhang Xiangchen ratified their intention to honour commitments and strengthen economic and trade relations with Cuba.

The trade relationship of both nations exceeded 1.4 billion dollars in 2013 and after signing the latest agreements, it could increase by 26 percent, according to official estimates.

DIPLOMACY
Cuban foreign minister meets with EU vice-president in Costa Rica

Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez and the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policies, Federica Mogherini, have held a meeting at the Celac conference in Costa Rica.

According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Rodriguez and Mogherini corroborated mutual interest in advancing bilateral relations between the European Union and the island, particularly the ongoing negotiation of an accord for political and cooperation dialogue.

Mogherini, who is also vice-president of the European Union, thanked Cuba for its contribution to the peace talks for Colombia and its training of specialists to fight the Ebola virus.

The Cuban foreign minister reiterated his country´s willingness to build a mutually beneficial relationship with the European Union on reciprocal and non-discriminatory grounds.

Mogherini and Rodriguez were accompanied by the director for the Americas of the Foreign European Service, Christian Leffler and by Cuban deputy foreign minister Abelardo Moreno.

INVESTMENT
Cuba implements new regulations for foreign investment

Cuba has begun the implementation of the regulation of the investment process, and other complementary legal regulations, through which the existing legislative dispersion in this area is concluded.

Published in the Official Gazette under Decree 327, the provision updates and modifies current conditions along with the different regulations that relate to the process of opening to the participation of foreign capital in the country's economic development.

For this purpose deputy minister of economy and planning Oscar Acuña Noriega, told media that the regulation included all investments that are being run in the country by state agencies, 100-percent Cuban business corporations, joint ventures, international economic partnerships, and totally foreign-capital companies.

He said that from now on all concepts are unified, and investments must meet essentially the provisions of this decree.

Although, he said, exceptions are provided, such as Special Development Zones and projects of the Office of the Historian of Havana.

Acuña explained that thereby the progress of foreign investment was regulated, so that it satisfies the remaining legal standards of the investment process.

Among the specifics he mentioned the fact that the investor was the main subject of any investment, the definition of the roles and those of the other subjects that are part of the process: projector, supplier, manufacturer, builder, operator and contractor.

The deputy minister of economy and planning said that a new element stipulating that all investors would be trained systematically, and also earn a degree without which they would not be able to perform their duties.

The participation of all forms of management was also considered, whether state or non-state, and within the latter, both regarding natural persons as well as legal entities, he pointed out.

Similarly, it was planned that all subjects, with the exception of the designer, should be “natural persons.”

Another important aspect was that the decision to invest would be gradually decentralized to all levels of management, something applied since last year in the business system.

Currently 85 per cent of investment was approved at central level, either at the Ministry of Economy and Planning, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, or at the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers.

Now authorization was available for corporate managers to be able to approve certain investments without making inquiries, including retrofitting and the maintenance of its functions.

TOURISM
Cuba ratifies open-door policy to tourist investments

Cuba has ratified at the International Tourism Fair in Madrid (FITUR) that the country maintains open doors to investments and businesses in the tourist industry, as it heads towards a substantial expansion of options and capabilities.

When updating business people, tour-operators and representatives of airlines in Spain the conditions of the sector, tourism minister Manuel Marrero stated that the growth of the industry continues, supported by a renewed interest of investors.

A substantial increase of visits by Spanish and European citizens, as a result of decisions recently adopted by airlines, among other factors, is outlined along with it, Marrero said during a Cuban gala on occasion of the International Tourism Fair in Madrid.

With the reopening of the Iberia-Cuba route as of June 1, the confirmation of operations by Air Europa and Cubana de Aviación, and the expansion of Evelope Airlines, there will be about 16 weekly flights from Madrid to Havana, the minister said.

According to estimates, this will represent from 25,000 to 30,000 travellers more in the year from Europe, most of them Spanish citizens.

Marrero also verified an explosive increase in requests for investments after the adoption of a new law for the sector and maintaining the annual growth rate of rooms to some 2,500, as well as other infrastructure projects.

Among the latest ones is the construction of a water park in Varadero and real estate complexes with golf courses complementary to the country's tourist offer.

Another project is the opening of a business pavilion in the coming Cuban Tourism Fair, from May 5 to 7 in Jardines del Rey resort, designed to encourage a high level of investment proposals, he said.

TOURISM

Iberia expects high profitability Madrid-Havana


Iberia expects high returns from the Madrid-Havana air link to be reopened on June 1, its director of communications and institutional relations of the company, Juan Cierco told media. He said that besides a high occupancy factor, Iberia hopes to attract good presence in business class reflecting the island’s economic prospects of the island.

Coincidentally, Cuba’s ambassador in Spain, Eugenio Martinez, considered today's announcement of the return of the company to the Caribbean island was “big news.”

“I was informed by the presidency of the reopening of Iberia which was a historic route that joined Cuba-Europe for years, which today is reconstituted for the benefit of travellers between the Iberian Peninsula and my country,” he said.

In his opinion the number of visitors from Spain, which grew just over five percent in 2014, may be higher this year. Cuba, he said, is a safe destination, full of unforgettable experiences, with friendly and educated people, offering a welcome to passengers from this new flight schedule.

Asked about the reasons for restoring the route, Cierco said that this had been canceled for economic reasons, when Iberia was in a very difficult situation, but the changes undertaken in the company, now would ensure profitability.

A new cost structure and agreements with representatives of workers and pilots, changed the situation and made Iberia a company no longer rooted in the past, unable to compete.

Regarding the prospects of incorporating not only Spaniards on route to Cuba, Cierco explained that the 65 percent of passengers passing through Madrid Iberia make connecting flights and only 35 percent fly point to point.

“We reset the route to Cuba with the knowledge that many of the passengers in Europe use Iberia flying to Havana, especially Italians, French, Germans and British,” he said.

TOURISM
Major US airlines and credit card companies eager to operate in Cuba but tourism not included

US companies like American Airlines and American Express have told of their expectations about operating in Cuba following the reestablishment of relations between Washington and Havana.

American airlines president Scott Kirby said on Tuesday that "We don't have anything to announce today, but we will be anxious to start serving Cuba as soon as it's legally allowed," Associated Press reported.

The list of carriers that are looking at relations with Cuba include Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways.

New US travel rules put down a licence requirement, but the trip is authorized only to 12 travel categories, while tourism as such is not yet included on the list.

Meanwhile, American Express said it would launch operations in Cuba following President Barack Obama's decision to ease US sanctions pertaining to the blockade.

According to Reuters news agency, Marina Norville, a spokeswoman for American Express, confirmed in an email that AmEx also planned to start business activities in Cuba.

And MasterCard said last week it would allow its cards issued in the United States to be used in Cuba from March 1 as Washington eases restrictions on travel, trade and financial activities though Visa has not yet revealed its plans for Cuba.

EDUCATION
Cuba, Ecuador, assess cooperation project on child development

Cuba and Ecuador are assessing the results of a cooperation agreement on comprehensive child development, as part of which Cuban professionals trained about 15,700 people for the latter.

The agreement between the Cuban Education Ministry and the Ecuadorian Economic and Social Inclusion Ministry ensured that Cuba’s staff provided advice to strengthen the public policy of comprehensive child development in children up to the age of three.

The results of the joint activity were discussed in which about 405 workshops were developed, some 15,700 people were trained, and nearly 387 visits were carried out to Children's Centres of Good Living.

Representatives from both sides will also share some recommendations about the project, which involved training teachers and coordinators in issues as comprehensive development stimulation, nutrition, and joint responsibility.

Monitoring results will be analyzed in the daily educational practice of the implementation of what they learned in training.

The Latin American Reference Centre for Preschool Education was the Cuban institution responsible for that training.

ENDS

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