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Embassy of Cuba in New Zealand Newsletter 27th June 2015

Embassy of Cuba in New Zealand
No.25 27th June 2015

In this issue:
US bill to lift the travel ban has 43 senatorial sponsors
Cuban economy meets expectations for first half of 2015
Double anniversary—battle and barracks celebrated
Chucho Valdés brings Irakere back to life
Tropicana of Santiago de Cuba ready for great feasts
“We are very proud of what we have done together”
Recovery of Cuban parrots through captive breeding
Cuba-EU talks move forward
Visa waiver agreement signed with Singapore
Argentina and Cuba express willingness to strengthen ties
Cuban five in South African province of Gauteng
Cuban vice president receives Chinese vice prime minister
Defence minister calls to expand South Africa-Cuba links
Cuban authorities stress foreign investment in tourism
Easier travel between Kuwait and Cuba
Cuban biotechnological products protect against 26 diseases
Cuban cholera vaccine in second phase of clinical study


US bill to lift the travel ban has 43 senatorial sponsors

Traveling to Cuba for tourism continues to be banned in the United States. Getting there for approved purposes remains needlessly difficult and expensive according to a New York Times editorial.

The ban, the only travel prohibition American citizens are currently subjected to, never made sense, and it's particularly misguided in an era of broadening engagement between the United States and Cuba, says the NYT.

A bill introduced early this year by a bipartisan group of senators who want to repeal the travel ban is the most worthy of the flurry of legislative initiatives sparked by President Obama's decision last December to re-establish diplomatic relations with Havana.

The bill would rescind provisions in laws passed in 1996 and 2000 that barred travel by Americans as part of a strategy to punish and isolate Cuba in hopes of bringing about democratic change in that country. The free flow of people, goods and ideas is far more likely to lead to meaningful reforms on the island.

The bill, introduced by Senators Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, and Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, has 43 co-sponsors. New York's senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, have not yet signed, but their offices said they would both do so next week. On the other side of this issue, a loud, but dwindling, cadre of lawmakers, who appear unwilling to let the Cold War era go, are pushing initiatives that would prolong, and in some instances intensify, the web of sanctions the United States imposes on Cuba.

Some, for instance, have introduced provisions in bills that would restrict the State Department from spending any money to upgrade its old diplomatic mission building in Cuba as the two countries formally re-establish full diplomatic relations.

In coming weeks, Senate and House lawmakers will have to reconcile their visions of Cuba policy as they negotiate the annual foreign aid bill. The House has set aside $30 million for pro-democracy programmes, $10 million more than the Obama administration requested. That's unwise according to the NYT.

Since 2009, the State Department has managed to spend just $66.5 million of the more than $114 million Congress has set aside for those programs. Washington has struggled to spend the money because American pro-democracy programs that seek to encourage democratic reforms are unlawful in Cuba, and some have involved subterfuge.

Sanctions that remain in place limit banking transactions, making it enormously hard for Cubans to do business with the international community.

The trajectory is unmistakable. Public opinion polls show that a majority of Cubans on the island and Americans favour engagement. Congress should wait no longer to do its part, says the NYT.

Also, it says, the Cuban American for Engagement Group that supports the improvement of relations between both countries plans to continue its lobby in Washington it calls the Cuban Consultation.


Cuban economy meets expectations for first half of 2015

The country’s Gross Domestic Product grew slightly more than 4 percent in the first half of 2015, according to a report presented at a June 19 Council of Ministers’ meeting by Marino Murillo Jorge, minister of economy and planning. The report included an evaluation of the economy’s performance during the first months of the year, and projections for the rest of 2015.

All areas of economic activity showed increases, as compared to last year, with the highest growth rates noted in the sugar industry, manufacturing, construction and retail sales. Projections were not met in transportation, wholesale warehousing and communications.

The trade balance was maintained at a positive level during the first part of the year, Murillo said, although concerns continue to exist in this regard.

He indicated that the presence of some food items in the country’s network of higher priced stores had been unstable, as a result of shortfalls in national production and imports, identifying specifically cheese, chicken and processed meat products. With the objective of resolving this deficit, an additional 40 million dollars is to be allocated for the acquisition of these items.

Also emphasized were problems in freight transportation which negatively impacted the economy. Murillo explained that, through March, $2.1 million had been spent on ship and container overstays, many resulting from problems with railroad and truck transportation of freight to final destinations.

The minister indicated that these problems were the result of a number of factors including the failure to complete investments planned for 2014 and 2015; a lack of replacement parts and accessories; problems in service workshops; organizational problems; and the low rate of availability of truck and railroad equipment.

The council therefore agreed to conduct a comprehensive review of the organization and provisioning of freight transport; the repair and maintenance of truck and railcar fleets; and the functioning of port transportation operations.

Murillo recalled that, as has been the case in previous years, the bulk of 2015 investments are scheduled for implementation in the second half of the year, but that a 7.7percent shortfall is already being forecast. Murillo indicated that this reflects the need to improve planning, and ensure that required steps are taken during the previous year, so that the first months of the year are not lost waiting for resources.

The minister stated that projections indicate that the state plan for housing construction will be completed. Some 6,000 dwellings were completed by owners in the first half of the year, and the goal of 17,000 in 2015 is expected to be met, an increase, as compared to last year, of over 5,000. Renovations and repairs by homeowners are progressing, and projections are expected to be surpassed, which is associated with an increase in sales of construction materials, he said.

Reviewing the country’s water supply, Murillo reported, “At the end of May, reservoirs held 3.363 billion cub m of water (37percent of capacity), which represents 1.347 billion cub m less than last year,” and emphasized the need to save water in all provinces, not only in those where the situation is most critical, which includes Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo and Pinar del Río.

Employment during the first part of 2015 was equal to the 2014 level, during this same period, Murillo reported, while the average salary increased, fundamentally as a result of higher wages in the healthcare sector. The productivity of labor rose 5.3percent, he said, adding that productivity and average salaries are favourably correlated with the state enterprise system. He also reported that earnings in state enterprises are expected to surpass projections.

Murillo Jorge next discussed pre-planning underway for the 2016 budget, reporting that the fiscal deficit should be lower than that approved, with the current projection being 4.2percent of the GDP, as opposed to the 6.2% originally forecast.

Regarding 2016, he commented that goals are being set which depend on steps which must be taken now, directed toward creating infrastructure; increasing construction and transportation capacity; and supplying resources which contribute to the development of renewable resources, export producers and the substitution of imports with domestic products. Toward this end, he said, a number of measures had been approved.

The economy is functioning at a good growth rate, Murillo reported, saying that the country is in a position to finish the year well, but that continuing to work hard is imperative.

2014 STATE BUDGET CLOSED Income to the 2014 state budget reached 47 billion pesos this past year, 103 percent of the amount projected, reported Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, minister of finances and prices, during her presentation of the final report to the Council of Ministers on last year’s state budget.

The greatest portion of total income came from taxes on motor vehicles, sales, and earnings. Total spending was reported as 49 billion pesos, 98percent of the amount projected. Budgeted activities were allocated 33 billion, which included nine billion for public healthcare, eight billion for education, and 1.6 billion for culture, art and sports.

Referring to the social security budget, Pedraza indicated that spending totaled six billion pesos, explaining, “Sixty-six percent of this was covered by social security contributions (from active workers), in accordance with Guideline no.165 approved at the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, which proposes reducing the participation of the state budget in financing social security.”

The Council of Ministers approved the the 2014 state budget close-out, to be presented to the National Assembly of Peoples’ Power during its upcoming session.

Next came a report from comptroller general Gladys Bejerano Portela, who indicated that her office had conducted 117 audits of the 2014 budget close-out and the proposed 2015 budget. She reported that law no.117 had been respected for the most part, although shortcomings persist. She explained that most of these emerge at the local level and are associated with bookkeeping, supervision and analysis of budgets, which negatively impact the efficient use of resources.

Bejerano reported that insufficient training of personnel working in municipal finances and prices offices, and of those in charge at budgeted entities; turnover among professionals and directors; and understaffing in general, were noted during the audits.

In this context, she recommended that the Ministry of Finances and Prices design work procedures to improve the process of developing the proposed state budget; update internal auditing methods; and continue training for directors and officials involved in this work.


Double anniversary—battle and barracks celebrated

The historic site of the Moncada Barracks is being prepared to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the heroic deeds lead by Fidel Castro on July 26, 1953, and also the 500th anniversary of the founding of the city of Santiago.

Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, in the midst of the prevailing excitement surrounding the visit of the president of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping, announced on July 23 last year in Céspedes Park, that both events would be celebrated this year at the same time as the assault of 1953.

A year later and with just a month to go before the celebrations for the National Day of Rebellion (July 26), the former barracks, today a school and museum, continues to undergo maintenance works, despite the care with which its 305 employees and 2,380 students have maintained the installation since repairs were carried out for the 60th anniversary of the assault.

Marlene Muguercia Marén, director of the emblematic institution, told Granma that both externally and internally the distinctive “barrack yellow” paint is being reapplied, and where necessary repairs are being undertaken to the woodwork in line with the style of the former fortress, while the electrical system and gardens are also being tended to.

Muguercia Marén added that all works are being carried out without interrupting the educational process and other day-to-day activities, with 273 different areas having been restored since January to date, including classrooms, laboratories, offices, kitchens, dining rooms, and the entire area corresponding to the Provincial Directorate for Education.

She acknowledged the support of the Communist Party and local government in the province, while stressing the collective participation of workers in the sector from the Santiago municipalities as well as the voluntary work of the local community to ensure everything is completed on time.

Regarding July 26 Historical Museum events, located in the same facility, director Leydis López Sola noted that general maintenance is also being undertaken in all the rooms, with repairs to important air conditioning equipment.

According to recent information from the architect Omar López Rodríguez, director of the City Curator’s Office, in addition to the Moncada Barracks, the Abel Santamaría Museum and Park (former Saturnino Lora Hospital), the Palace of Justice and other facilities relating to the events of 26 July, 1953, are also being prepared for the celebrations.


Chucho Valdés brings Irakere back to life

Musician Chucho Valdés has decided to record an album of emblematic Irakere tracks, offering up an explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical and a wide range of traditional Cuban music.

Winner of five Grammys and three Latin Grammys, the Cuban pianist, composer and arranger is the most influential figure in the modern history of Afro-Cuban jazz.

Recently hopes were raised for reuniting the original members of the Cuban band Irakere, 42 years after its debut. But many of the founders have passed away while others are located in distant countries.

In view of all these difficulties Dionisio Jesús Valdés Rodríguez, better known as Chucho Valdés, has decided to record an album of emblematic Irakere tracks, with a small big band, offering up an explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical and a wide range of traditional Cuban music, including instruments and rhythms of Afro-Cuban religious ritual music, in a gesture of reverence to these musicians who made history from 1973 onwards.

Thus the Havana pianist brings Irakere into the 21st century. It is an idea that was well received last year, during the jazz festival held in Barcelona, Spain, where novice musicians played well-known numbers by the band.

The album will be recorded by young musicians during a concert in France, and should be ready for release by July, Chucho Valdés revealed from Colombia, where he performed at the Jorge Eliecer Gaitan theatre in Bogota.

Chucho believes it could prove to be a novel initiative, since young musicians wish to play their own versions of the singles which were hits across the world.

Chucho’s projects for the rest of 2015 include organizing several tours of Europe and the United States.

The musician, now over 70, has released almost 100 albums and features on a long list of Grammy nominations and Awards.

The Afro-Cuban Latin jazz icon has prepared himself both mentally and physically for these changing times.

Chucho belongs to that distinguished group of musicians who were huge stars in instrumentation, composition, musical arrangements and conducting.

In this list we can include Pérez Prado (The King of Mambo), Bebo Valdés (The King of Batanga), Antonio María Romeu (The King of Danzón) and Israel "Cachao" and Orestes López (The Kings of New Rhythm).

Taking stock of these memories, that first phase of Irakere faced all kinds of misunderstandings, they were criticized for the use of drums of African heritage in the new jazz, but they were always resolute and their success soon proved them right.

I remember — how could I forget? — when they first travelled to the Polish Jazz Festival in 1970. On my return, I met Chucho, at the Festival of Popular Song of Varadero 1970, and there I saw them full of joy over their success in the presence of Dave Brubeck, a US pianist and jazz composer and one of Chucho Valdés’ musical idols.

“Before Brubeck, we played Misa negra, our emblematic work, we played with everything we had, it was our big chance. The crowd cheered like crazy, stamping on the ground. All this euphoria scared us. People asked us to play another and another. In the end Brubeck hugged us and told us we were doing something new, different, and that this would open up a path for us into Latin jazz. We all began to cry.”

Chucho and Irakere were predestined to reach the peak of international success. The band was demonstrating the contributions of the new school of Cuban music that was beginning to bear fruit.

Then came that decisive year for Irakere, 1977, with the arrival of the Daphne cruise ship in Havana, bringing Dizzy Gillespie and a cohort of established jazz musicians: Stan Getz, Earl "Fatha" Hines, David Amram, Ray Mantilla, Anne Brackeen, Billy Hart, Rudy Rutherford, John Orr, Eddie Graham and the singers Marva Josie and Ry Cooder. The tour ended with a concert at the Mella theatre.

Then came the big break, the big moment for Irakere, with non-stop contracts to appear at the 1978 Newport Festival and Carnegie Hall, before McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans and Mary Lou William. This was followed by the Festival of Montreux (Switzerland). CBS released an album of five tracks by the group, including Misa negra (17 minutes) taken from their performances in Newport and Montreux.

This first LP entitled Irakere (CBS-EGREM) won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Recording in 1979.

The band’s successes grew, with a long list of Grammy nominations and awards, apart from those that Irakere musicians won as soloists. Leonardo Acosta deserves a special mention for his theoretical support, album notes and recording of the history of the band over the years.

Chucho Valdés and all the musicians who over these past 42 years have contributed to Irakere deserve our recognition. Let’s hope they continue to bring glory to Cuban music.


Tropicana of Santiago de Cuba ready for great feasts

Cabaret Tropicana in Santiago de Cuba gets ready in a special way for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the foundation of this city, second in importance on the island.

This night club is a replica of the famous Havana Tropicana, founded in 1939. The one in Santiago will host one of the celebrations of the 500 anniversary with a new programme, announced this weekend by producers and artists.

Santiago will mark next July 25 its half millennium. It was once first capital of the island as well as having a rich history, cultural traditions, and above all, a musical heritage.

Every year the Feast of Fire — a combination of dancing, music and culture that attracts performers from all the Caribbean — takes place.

As part of the 500 years celebrations, Tropicana Santiago will propose a renewed show to welcome tourists from all over the world, including passages of the most important historic moments of the city in a musical named Frenesi (Frenzy).

The show will have a script by Vladimir Martinez, artistic direction is by Andres Gutierrez and the co-direction by Antonio Perez, together with fashion designer Abraham, so popular in this country and abroad.

Considered the biggest cabaret in Cuba, Tropicana Santiago was opened on August 5, 1991 with the presence of sports authorities and athletes participating in the Pan American Games held that year in Havana with Santiago as second venue.


“We are very proud of what we have done together”

The 70th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Cuba and Canada will be celebrated this June weekend with a concert in Havana’s Plaza Vieja, featuring the renowned Canadian group, Sam Roberts Band and singer-songwriter Carlos Varela, known for classics such as “Monedas al aire” and “Como los peces.”

Regarding this important date, Granma spoke with Canadian ambassador to Cuba, Yves Gagnon, who also referred to the meeting between the prime minister of his country, Stephen Harper, and Cuban president Raúl Castro, Canada's role in the process of restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States, Cuba's participation in the forthcoming Pan American Games in Toronto, and the large numbers of Canadian tourists travelling to the island, regarding, among other topics.
Read in full the interview


Recovery of Cuban parrots through captive breeding

A conservation project that seeks to recover Cuban fauna is to preserve the parrot and the tocororo (Priotelus tennurus), the national bird of the Caribbean country and other threatened species.

The National Centre for Laboratory Animal Production (CENPALAB) performed artificial breeding for parrots, tocororo and partridge (blue-headed quail-dove, Starnoenas cyanocephala), an endemic bird species considered a jewel of Cuba, now endangered; the catey (Aratinga euops), the quail (Collinius virginianus) and the cartacuba.
Biological Sciences’ Dr Nidia Fernandez told media at the International Scientific Congress CNIC 2015 that reproduction and adaptation in captivity, with a diet focused on replacement of their natural diet of pigeons and other birds, like the tocororo was key to success.

The breeding programme also includes squirrels, said a geneticist from CENPALAB, a centre dedicated to the production of laboratory animals, which are used in Cuban research centres.

That productive scientific institution is dedicated profile science laboratory animals to as well as the design of intensive farming systems integration projects and advanced technologies in other areas of the economy.

CENPALAB filed a commercial portfolio at the congress including veterinary vaccines, notably Ganma hyperimmune canine parvovirus, immunoglobulins and serums, explained Yudit Montano, legal adviser of the centre which also produces lines of rats, mice, hamsters, Mongolian gerbil, dogs, primates ovejos and macaca fascicularis, rhesus and Cercopithecus aethiops, all showing at the trade fair 'Biopharmaceuticals: Challenges of the Third Millennium", associated with the event.

The forum was attended by some 300 scientists from over 60 institutions from Cuba, and 250 scholars from more than 30 nations.


Cuba-EU talks move forward Delegations of Cuba and the European Union (EU) have held technical talks on human rights issues at the Sixth Session of the political dialogue, at ministerial level between delegations of Cuba and the EU, chaired by Stavros Lambrinidis, special representative of the European Union for Human Rights, and Pedro Nunez, director general of multilateral affairs and international law of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This technical dialogue on human rights is one of the results of the sixth session of the political dialogue at ministerial level, held on April 22. As the Cuban foreign minister said on that occasion, the dialogue is a continuity of the extensive exchanges on human rights both Cuba and the community bloc have maintained. The Cuban representatives confirmed their view that talks can contribute to an effective, constructive and non-discriminatory treatment of the human rights issue; and based on full respect for the sovereign equality, reciprocity, independence, self-determination and non-interference in the internal affairs of the parties. The Cubans also emphasized the need to observe a proper balance between issues in the spheres of civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights; as well as in the universal, indivisible and interdependent nature of human rights and that all categories of human rights must be addressed in a fair and equal manner, on an equal footing and giving them all equal weight. The confrontation against racial discrimination; the human rights of vulnerable groups, such as migrants, including treatment to them, religious and ethnic minorities; the protection of human rights in the context of the struggle against terrorism; the right to privacy in the digital era; and the guarantee and exercise of economic, social and cultural rights, were also issues of concern to the international community. The Cuban delegation reaffirmed to media its willingness to continue these exchanges based on the recognition and respect of existing conceptual differences, as well as its willingness to address any topic, on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual respect. Further meetings will take place.


Visa waiver agreement signed with Singapore

Singapore's foreign minister, Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, said he had a more general vision from his own experience of the situation in Cuba, after four days of his official visit.

He considered the political and economic relations with the island, after meeting with several authorities, as in good shape.

Shanmugam, also justice minister, talked yesterday with Cuban economy and planning minister Marino Murillo, who described as very important the visit by the Singapore's foreign minister, with a consequent strengthening of relations.

He also expressed satisfaction for the results the nation has shown, and reiterated that continuing and deepening in the study of that country's progresses was healthy for Cuba.

The ministers signed a visa waiver agreement between the two countries. Cuba and Singapore established diplomatic ties on April 18, 1997.

Shanmugam carried out a tour of the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where he witnessed the Caribbean island's progress in medicine, science and technology, which showed interesting areas for collaboration.

He also reaffirmed his nation's support against the economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed by the United States.

In the second city of Cuba, about 800 kilometres away, he met the president of the People's Power Provincial Assembly, Reinaldo Garcia, who explained the structure and functioning of the National Parliament.

He also met his Cuban peer, Bruno Rodriguez, who highlighted the favourable development of the bilateral relations, above all in the economic sphere, where ties are increasingly growing.

Rodriguez also pointed out the support of Singapore to Cuba at the United Nations against the economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed by the United States.

Shanmugan, who will meet with other Cuban government officials, said he was pleased with his stay and the opportunity he had to promote international and bilateral relations.

Cuba and Singapore established diplomatic ties on April 18, 1997.


Argentina and Cuba express willingness to strengthen ties

Deputy foreign ministers Eduardo Zuain, from Argentina, and Marcelino Medina, from Cuba shared congratulations with the excellent state of bilateral ties and the need to revitalize them in the economic, commercial and cultural fields.

Zuain welcomed Medina and the delegation of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the San Martin Palace.

The meeting sought to assess the agreements previously signed at a diplomatic level while envisioning new projects to strengthen the good relations that the two Governments have been developing.

It was also to identify and propose areas in which the governments could work together and coordinate a common standpoint for the two countries at international forums, as well as analyze the national and regional situation.

Argentina and Cuba share common views on various aspects of world issues such as the need to settle the colonial occupation of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) by the United Kingdom and the lifting of the blockade set by the United States on Cuba, among others.


Cuban five in South African province of Gauteng

The Cuban five are visiting historical places of the South African province of Gauteng, after being in Cape Town.

Yesterday, the reception for Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González y René González was very warm: a crowded hall began to applaud in the middle of the typical South African chants.

The Cuban five have been involved in an intense programme since they got to this country last Sunday.

Gerardo, on behalf of the Five, reiterated the promise that the Cuban revolution has with solidarity, especially in the African continent. He also asked for support in the fight to end the blockade.

The stay of the Cuban Five in South Africa concludes on July 3rd, when they will go on to visit Namibia and Angola, their last stop in their African tour.

Gauteng is the smallest province in South Africa. It has over 12 million inhabitants, according to the Census of 2011. Its name means "Land of Gold", as a reference to the gold industry settled there after its discovery in 1886.


Cuban vice president receives Chinese vice prime minister

As part of a state visit to Cuba vice prime minister of China Wang Yang has held official talks with vice president of the Council of Ministers of Cuba, Ricardo Cabrisas.

After paying tribute to Cuban National Hero Jose Marti at the memorial bearing his name in Havana, Wang was also received by Cuban minister of foreign trade and investment, Rodrigo Malmierca.

During the meeting, the parties highlighted the favourable development of diplomatic relations between their two nations, as well as the intention to continue working to strengthening them.

Cabrisas commented that Wang's first-time presence in Cuba is a milestone in the continuity of economic and cooperation exchanges between the two countries.

Wang appreciated the invitation made in April by the Cuban Government to visit the Island and thus broaden China's horizon regarding Latin America and the Caribbean.

In this regard, an economic and technical cooperation agreement, including a donation to Cuba, was signed by Cuban deputy minister of foreign trade and investment, Ileana Nuñez, and her Chinese counterpart Zhang Xiangchen.

Nuñez said the donation will be used to fund bilateral cooperation projects, reaffirming China as Cuba's main economic partner.

Wang's visit comes on occasion of the 55th anniversary of the establishment of relations between China and Cuba.


Defence minister calls to expand South Africa-Cuba links

South African defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has called for extending and expanding links with Cuba and said she appreciated the historic internationalist cooperation of the island.

The relationship between the peoples of South Africa and Cuba started many years ago and should continue to become closer, she told media.
It was a relationship that began when South Africa was still not free, and the Cuban people were there to give us all the support we needed, said Mapisa-Nqakula.

Stressing her gratitude towards the island, she stressed that the Caribbean country gave 'education to thousands of South Africans' at a difficult stage and gave 'that love, gave us the skills and education needed'.

“For that reason” — she added — 'for me the relationship between Cuba and South Africa is very political and revolutionizing. I know we have much to learn from the Cubans. I feel very excited and we are deeply grateful,” she concluded.
Cuba/South Africa cooperation is expanding on various sectors. In the field of health alone Cuba contributes a 210-strong team while some 2,500 South Africans are studying medicine in Cuba.


Cuban authorities stress foreign investment in tourism

The business director of the Cuban Ministry of Tourism (Mintur), José Daniel Alonso, has highlighted the important role of foreign investment in the development of the Island's recreational industry.

He pointed out that during the first half of this year, the Cuban tourism grew a 15 percent in terms of international visitors. In particular traditional markets like Germany and France, it grew up to a 25 percent.

Currently there are 27 joint companies operating in Cuba, of which 11 run 5 592 rooms. There are 73 signed management contracts with 18 foreign hotel chains. It represents the 51.8 percent of the country's room total numbers.

Alonso quoted among examples of tourism development direct flights from China to Cuba, starting in September. It will enhance the connection with travellers from Asia in general.

Mintur gives priority to diving and nautical activities, as well as enhancing city tours, circuits and nature trips.

The 10th seminar, meeting at the Jose Marti International Institute of Journalism includes talks and tourist tours.


Easier travel between Kuwait and Cuba

The governments of Kuwait and Cuba have signed a reciprocal visa-exemption agreement for those with official, diplomatic, service and special passports, a diplomatic source reported today.

A press release by the Cuban embassy in Kuwait City said the agreement was signed by the local foreign ministry undersecretary Khaled Al Jarralah and Cuban ambassador to this country Andres Gonzalez Garrido.

The two nations thereby ratify their willingness to continue seeking ways to extend and diversify their bilateral relations, the Cuban diplomat told media.

Kuwait and Cuba established diplomatic relations on May 13, 1874 and currently maintain cooperation relations in the areas of health and sport.

Kuwait also cooperates with projects to restore the aqueducts in the cities of Havana, the Cuban capital, and Santiago de Cuba and Holguin, in the eastern end of the island.


Cuban biotechnological products protect against 26 diseases

The Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, staging the scientific congress CNIC 2015, displayed products that help prevent, diagnose and treat 26 diseases.

The forum takes place this week in the Palace of Conventions of Havana. 300 researchers from more than 60 Cuban institutions as well as 250 scientists from over 30 nations are participating.

Iris Lugo, head of communications at the centre told media that the portfolio shown in the international fair "Biopharmaceutical Products: Challenges of the Third Millennium" associated to the congress, treated affections like Hepatitis B and C, as well as Hib meningitis.

Also, chronic myeloid leukaemia, multiple Myeloma, melanomas, cutaneous basal cell carcinoma, cutaneous and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, kidney and bladder cancer, anemia, and haemorrhagic conjunctivitis.

In addition, it fights acute myocardial infarction, diabetic foot ulcers, cellular immunodeficiency, Herpes simplex, Herpes zoster, and burns.

She added that this institution produced the means to diagnose HIV, rotavirus, Hepatitis C pregnancy and celiac disease. It has 236 health records approved in 57 countries as well as exports to more than 35 nations.

Lugo explained that there are over 50 research and development projects in the biomedical areas, farming and animal health. These include human and animal vaccines, recombinant proteins of therapeutic use, synthetic peptides and monoclonal antibodies.

She highlighted Heberprot-P, a unique medicine to treat diabetic foot ulcers, and diminishes the risk of amputation of extremities, and a suppository helps to treat crises hemorrhoidal.

Hebervital, a stimulating factor that restores the number of white cells in the blood and improves the life quality in patients, vaccines against cervical cancer caused by human papillomavirus, dengue, combined therapy for multiple sclerosis as well as for the cerebral infarction.

As a part of the agricultural biotechnology projects there was Acuabio, a growth stimulant in fish, HeberNem, a biological product effective in nematodes control and Gavac, against ticks in bovine animals.


Cuban cholera vaccine in second phase of clinical study

Cuban cholera vaccine candidate is in phase 2 of clinical development, Rafael Fando, from the National Scientific Research Centre (CNIC) has told media.

"The results of clinical tests have been good," he said during an international scientific congress in session at the Havana Convention Centre.

The oral vaccine is administered in a single-dose, sodium bicarbonate-buffered solution and has a softened living microorganism as active ingredient, which makes easier its entry into the gastrointestinal tract to generate a protective immune response against cholera, said the doctor.

"The future vaccine will contribute above all to fight cholera epidemics in poor countries," he said.

Fando added that the vaccine is set to pass phase three of clinical tests soon, which is the longest, most difficult stage.

And larger facilities are needed, as the ones we have now can only produce some 50,000 doses a year, and we are working on an investment at the Finlay Institute in order to be able to make up to 250,000 doses a year.

The 16th International Congress of CNIC is being attended by some 300 researchers from over 60 Cuban institutions and some 250 experts from more than 30 nations.

Upcoming events

10th International Convention on Environment and Development

Second Latin-American Congress of Alternatives Methods to the Use of Animals in Education, Research and Industry (COLAMA 2015)

Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in New Zealand

76 Messines Rd, Karori, Wellington 6012

Visit the Embassy of Cuba in New Zealand Facebook page

Text edited by David Reade of International Public Relations ( on behalf of the Cuban Embassy, Wellington, from Cuban news agency sources

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A clean, technology driven dystopia. A representation of our techno future. These were the introductory descriptions to a piece by science fiction author William Gibson on Singapore for Wired in 1993. “Imagine an Asian version of Zurich operating as ... More>>

How It All Went Wrong: The Global Response To COVID-19

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response was never likely to hand down a rosy report with gobbets of praise. Organised by the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last May, the panel’s gloomy assessment was grim: the COVID-19 pandemic could have been avoided... More>>

The Conversation: Is Natural Gas Really Cheaper Than Renewable Electricity?

Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change... More>>

Keith Rankin: The New Zealand Government’s 'Public Finance Rabbithole'

Last week, out of left field, the government placed a three-year embargo on normal public sector wage bargaining, essentially a salary freeze. While there has been a certain amount of backtracking since, it is clear that the government has been ... More>>