Thursday, February 4, 2016

Too Limited Regulatory Change

Obama Needs to Stop Playing Small Ball With Cuba
Obama Needs to Stop Playing Small Ball With Cuba
On Jan. 26, the Obama administration rolled out a new slate of regulatory reforms that further relax the embargo against Cuba — the third such action since Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced their intention to normalize relations in December 2014. The goal is to stimulate commerce and create a constituency in the business community that will defend Obama’s legacy of better relations with Cuba — even if there’s a Republican in the White House in 2017.
The Obama administration’s recent moves lower some long-standing barriers to U.S.-Cuba commerce. The big changes include one that will license U.S. firms to privately finance authorized exports, and another to allow sales to Cuban state enterprises, so long as the sales “meet the needs of the Cuban people,” as determined by the Department of Commerce. Another obstacle that will disappear: the ban on letting Cuba buy U.S. products on credit, which has put U.S. exporters at a major disadvantage to competitors in Europe and Asia. Under the new rules, this restriction will now be lifted across all sectors of approved trade except in agriculture, where credits are still prohibited by the 2000 Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act.
By allowing U.S. firms to sell to state enterprises so long as these sales benefit the Cuban people, the new regulations open a potentially wide field of exports, although the exact scope of what is permissible has been left intentionally vague. Among the examples of eligible goods are those for artistic endeavors, education, food processing, public health and sanitation, and residential construction — by no means an exhaustive list, but one can imagine that most consumer staples might be eligible for export.
But despite opening these important new avenues for business, the regulations did not go nearly far enough to calm the fears and remove the regulatory obstacles that still impede U.S. business deals with Cuba. Without some notable commercial successes, the business community could lose interest in Cuba and in lobbying Congress to lift the embargo, leaving Obama’s normalization project dead in the water.
Like the dog that didn’t bark, several anticipated regulatory changes were left out of the new package. The prohibition on U.S. investments (except in telecommunications) remains intact, as does the prohibition on almost all imports from the island, rendering trade with Cuba a one-way street that the government in Havana is loathe to accept as normal. From low-end commodities like sugar and nickel to high-end luxury goods like rum and cigars, Cuban products would find a ready market in the United States.
U.S. financial institutions are still barred from processing most international dollar-denominated transactions between Cuba and foreign firms or banks (so-called u-turn transactions). This extraterritorial extension of the embargo has led to billions of dollars in fines against foreign banks, hampered Cuba’s reintegration into the global economy, and angered U.S. allies. President Obama could have issued a general license for U.S. banks to process these transactions. That would ease the fears that many banks, both foreign and domestic, have of doing business with Cuba because the current financial regulations are so complex. Finance is the lifeblood of commerce; if funds cannot be easily transferred, business will not get off the ground.
In addition, people-to-people travel to Cuba is still limited to prepackaged trips by traveler providers like National GeographicRoadScholar Adventures, and Classic Journeys. Individuals cannot organize their own educational program or travel independently. To be sure, travel providers have concocted tours for every imaginable interest, but these package tours are not cheap. If, as Obama contends, “the best ambassadors for American values and interests are the American people,” they should be free to exercise their right to travel to Cuba with their own itinerary. The President could have issued a general license for self-directed people-to-people educational travel.
President Obama is proud of his opening to Cuba, mentioning it as a signal achievement in each of his final two State of the Union addresses. But this chapter of his legacy is not yet finished, and if he isn’t careful, a Republican in the Oval Office could write its closing.
Most of the Republican presidential candidates oppose Obama’s opening to Cuba — Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz most stridently. On Jan. 26, Rubiodenounced the new regulations as “one-sided concessions” intended to give the Cuban regime an “economic windfall.” When the United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations last July, Cruz accused Obama of “unconditional surrender.” (Donald Trump has hedged his bets, declaringthat a deal with Cuba isn’t necessarily a bad idea in principle — but that he, of course, would have gotten a better one!)
If a Republican wins the White House in November, his conservative instincts and his hard-line Cuban-American base in Florida will predispose him to roll back Obama’s opening to Cuba. And a new president could do it with the stroke of his pen? Why? Because all of Obama’s actions have relied on his executive authority, since Congress has done nothing in response to his calls to lift the embargo.
In my recent conversations with U.S. and Cuban officials, the one thing that both sides agree on is that deeper, broader commercial relations offer the greatest hope of creating powerful political constituencies in both countries willing to defend normalization — making rapprochement irreversible. “We have a window of opportunity here,” said David Sepulveda, State Department coordinator for international communications and information policy, during a recent trip to Cuba to discuss telecommunications. “We need to have some solid wins to give [U.S. business] confidence.”
Yet, very few deals have been signed so far, in part because of the limits on commerce still imposed by the U.S. embargo. That’s the political context in which the new regulations have to be understood: Obama is trying to jump-start business deals to forge economic ties between the two countries that will be hard for his successor or Raúl Castro’s (when he steps down in early 2018) to sever.
But time is short, and skeptical bureaucrats in Washington and Havana alike are slowing progress. In Havana, every business proposition is approached with suspicion, as if it were the Trojan Horse of capitalism. When Google offered to blanket Cuba with Wi-Fi at little or no cost, for example, Cuban officials were leery of entrusting their digital infrastructure to a U.S. company when Washington has tried repeatedly in the past to use the internet to foment opposition to the Cuban government. In Washington, meanwhile, every proposal to further relax the embargo is subjected to microscopic legal and political nitpicking inside the executive branch bureaucracy. Rather than pushing the limits of presidential executive authority now, so that commerce has time to flourish before the next president takes office, the Departments of Commerce and Treasury are rolling out piecemeal changes which are necessary but will not get the job done.
To break through the timidity of the Washington bureaucracy, the White House must stay on top of the issue, continually reminding officials from cabinet secretaries on down that advancing relations with Cuba is a presidential priority, and that their marching orders are to find ways to get it done, not find excuses why they can’t.
President Barack Obama has less influence over Havana’s bureaucracy, but there is one way he could put U.S.-Cuban relations at the top of the Cuban government’s agenda: Go to Havana to make the case in person.

The Caution of Banks

US banks cautious despite new Cuba trade relaxation

AMERICAS / 03-02-16 / BY 
Old Havana Street Cuban Flag_News

Whereas in the past, American products sent to Cuba had to be paid for in advance or shipped via a third country, the revised rules make it possible for banks to finance exports of any product other than agricultural commodities, which remain under embargo. They are now authorised to handle both open-account sales and letters of credit.US President Barack Obama has announced the relaxation of financing restrictions for trade with Cuba, but banks are likely to remain cautious.
Additionally, items that have been banned for years, such as textbooks, construction cranes or sanitation equipment, can now be approved by the American government on a case-by-case basis, opening the way for infrastructure projects.
These latest changes form part of President Obama’s drive to restore normal relations with Cuba after decades without any collaboration.
But the series of steps recently taken by the American administration seems to have left US banks dubious. Contacted by GTR, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said it was not in a position to comment. JP Morgan, BNY Mellon and Citi were not immediately available for comment.
“Beyond seeking to understand the political and commercial risks inherent in these markets, banks’ legal departments are going to take the time to examine any such rulings closely – as well as remaining US sanctions, international law, and implications in today’s regulatory environment – in order to assure the avoidance of any possible penalties or other downsides for their institutions.
“Similar levels of due diligence may be anticipated from large corporates, credit insurers, and other US companies hungrily eyeing these new markets,” Gary Mendell, president of US trade finance company Meridian Finance Group, tells GTR.
The press surrounding President Obama’s announcement of changes to the Cuba policy has been a lot more dramatic than the changes themselves. Timothy O’Toole, Miller & Chevalier
According to Timothy O’Toole, an export control specialist at law firm Miller & Chevalier in Washington DC, banks are right to be careful. “The press surrounding President Obama’s announcement of changes to the Cuba policy has been a lot more dramatic than the changes themselves.  The embargo remains, tourism in Cuba by US persons is still prohibited, and a huge number of restrictions still exist on US corporates and banks who want to do business in Cuba,” he says.
“US banks are still very limited in what they can finance; for the most part, the loosening of finance restrictions have corresponded with the loosening of restrictions of on travel and trade. In other words, as regulators have allowed more US/Cuba travel and trade, they have allowed US banks an increased role in financing that authorised travel and trade. But most other restrictions on US banks remain in place,” he adds in an email to GTR.
Banks have been extremely conservative regarding Cuba, for fear of violating sanctions, but there are also concerns about the durability of the new US/Cuba relations, with an opposition-led Congress that has so far refused to lift the embargo, and the possibility of a Republican president taking office early next year. It is likely American banks will wait for further confirmation from the government before resuming trade finance activities with Cuba, despite the increased corporate enthusiasm for the country.
“My clients have two concerns.  One is that they don’t want to be late to the Cuba trade. The countervailing concern is the continued risk from violating the embargo, particularly given the political uncertainty surrounding how long any changes in the Cuba policy will last. So far, I think the latter concern about continued risk is prevailing, and caution is winning the day. But I think each step being taken by regulators to encourage additional Cuba trade and travel is starting to convince companies and individuals that a new day is really here, and if they wait any longer they’ll be late to the party,” adds O’Toole.

Mendell explains that Meridian can proceed “somewhat more nimbly” than banks, and that the company has engaged partners in the credit insurance and trade finance communities, as well as legal counsel, to determine what kind of business it can undertake in Cuba. “When new opportunities arise we’re keen to get out in front of the curve… but in this case we intend to do so only following plenty of due diligence and with appropriate caution,” he says.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Impact of Tourism Surge

Surge of Americans tests limits of Cuba's 

tourism industry

  • Cuba's tourism industry is under unprecedented strain and struggling to meet demand with record numbers of visitors arriving a year after detente with the United States renewed interest in the Caribbean island.
  •  Its tropical weather, rich musical traditions, famed cigars and classic cars were for decades off limits to most Americans under Cold War-era sanctions, but those restrictions are fading.
Once a rare sight, Americans are now swarming Old Havana's colonial squares and narrow streets along with Europeans and Canadians.
Entrepreneurs and hustlers have responded by upping prices on taxi rides, meals, and trinkets. Cuban women who pose for pictures in colorful dresses and headwraps while chomping cigars are now charging $5 instead of $1.
Cuba received a record 3.52 million visitors last year, up 17.4 percent from 2014. American visits rose 77 percent to 161,000, not counting hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans.
Industry experts worry the island will be unable to absorb an even greater expected surge when scheduled U.S. commercial airline and ferry services are due to start this year.
As it is, foreigners face extreme difficulties booking hotels and rental cars, and those who hoped to discover Cuba before the hordes arrive realize they are too late.
"Cuba is over the top with tourists right now. I've seen so many Americans, it's not even funny," said Ana Fernandez, 44, of Nashville, Tennessee.
Gisela Hoiman, 46, a schoolbook editor from Berlin, hoped to see Cuba "before it changes" but was disappointed to find long airport lines, ubiquitous hucksters and masses of tourists. She was stranded in Havana when she was unable to get a spot on the bus leaving for the eastern city of Santiago."It was too much to handle, too many other tourists. We stood in line and were sent back and forth to different counters," she said from an Old Havana cafe with her large backpack parked on the floor. "I don't think Cuba is prepared."
The United States and Cuba agreed in December 2014 to end five decades of animosity and have since restored diplomatic ties, igniting international buzz about Cuba.
The opening has benefited Cuba's small private sector, which offers restaurants and rooms for rent in family homes.
But the tourism infrastructure, with just 63,000 hotel rooms nationwide, is still largely a function of the state and has languished under decades of U.S. economic sanctions and underdevelopment.
"From offloading at the airport to restaurant availability, infrastructure is maxed out," said Collin Laverty, founder of Cuba Educational Travel, which organizes tours for legally permitted travel for Americans.
A select number of foreign-run hotels, such as those of Spain's Melia Hotels International SA (MEL.MC), fill up fast, leaving many visitors with little option but tired state-run motels or rooms in private homes.
Some have been priced out or bumped from hotels, especially in Havana, where high-end U.S. groups reserve blocks months in advance and pay higher prices.
"It is kind of a slap in the face as it has been the Canadian and European tourists who have helped keep the Cuban economy afloat for the past 25 years," said Keri Montgomery, owner of Vancouver-based Finisterra travel.
The government is seeking more foreign investment and has plans to reach 85,000 hotel rooms nationwide by 2020, but the pace is slow and development has mostly favored beach destinations rather than Cuba's cultural centers.
Cuban officials did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
American tourism is still banned under the U.S. trade embargo but U.S. citizens and residents are allowed to visit under 12 categories including for religious, sporting and educational exchanges.
In one of his first moves after rapprochement, Obama made it easier for those 12 categories of travelers to go to Cuba.
The increased presence of Americans is especially noticeable in Havana, and because there has been little enforcement of the tourism ban, some are also enjoying Cuba's beaches and bars with little effort to disguise their intentions.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control has not fined any Americans for visiting Cuba since Obama took office in January 2009, its database shows.
Under President George W. Bush, OFAC fined hundreds of individuals for embargo violations, mostly for travel. More than 800 people received penalties including nearly $1.1 million in fines in 2004 and 2005 alone, according to a 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service.
California native Tony Pandola, 33, who has been leading Americans around Cuba for three years, said once-intimate experiences are now plagued by crowds.
"On this really beautiful, quiet farm there were six giant tour buses with their diesel engines running and a couple of minivans and taxis all waiting to have the same experience with the tobacco farmer," he said from Viñales, a picturesque valley west of Havana.
While many budget travelers can usually find accommodations even without booking, some are left stranded.
"I talked to a cab driver in Viñales who said they were offering tourists to sleep in the back of their car for $10," Pandola said.
Leonardo Diaz, 34, who has been working in tourism in his hometown of Viñales since he was a teen, said every room was booked in December.
"A lot of tourists have stayed in the park. That had never been seen before," he said.
Havana's international airport lacks sufficient infrastructure such as luggage trucks and passenger stairs to handle the influx, causing bottlenecks.
"It's total madness," said Roniel Hernandez, who works at the terminal receiving U.S. flights. "The airport employees are doing everything possible to satisfy visitors, but the equipment is very old and needs to be replaced."
Retired teacher Joanna Sarff finally came to Cuba after dreaming about it for 50 years, so she refused to let the inconveniences spoil her trip, saying she was more focused on plans to dance on the tables at a Buena Vista Social Club concert than the crowds.
"For me, this is a great way to experience the culture, the people, the food, the mojitos, and the cigars!"
(Reporting by Jaime Hamre; Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Kieran Murray)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Chinese Community

Fri Jan 22, 2016 9:00 am (PST) .

 Posted by:

"Abel Gonzalez Alayon" amauryglez2003  

Jan 22 (acn) The Chinese community in Cuba will mark the New Lunar Year,
from Friday January 22nd through February 7th, with a large
array of cultural activities.

The event, also known as Spring Festival, is being sponsored by the Confucius Institute
at the Havana University, the Chung Wah Casino Federation and the Center of
Chinese Arts and Traditions; these two latter ones based at Havana€ ¦´s

Teresa Maria Lee, who leads the Center of Chinese Arts and Traditions, told reporters
that the event is considered one of the most important ones in China and it is
marked by Chinese communities in many countries.

The festival includes a photo exhibit sponsored by the Chinese embassy in Havana; Martial
Arts exhibitions, as well as colorful parades of symbolic Chinese characters
such as lions and dragons.

Havana´s Chinatown, close to the old section of the city, boasts of a series of
services like restaurants and centers that help keep Chinese cultural traditions
alive for the descendants of the immigrants from that nation and also for the
enjoyment of all the people.

Abel González Alayón

Chief-Editor Language Department

Cuban News Agency

Thursday, January 21, 2016

IIE, NAFSA and AASCU Initiatives

IIE Delegation to Cuba Explores Educational Partnership Opportunities

NEW YORK, November 11, 2015—U.S. university officials who took part in a historic delegation to Cuba from October 25 to November 1 led by the Institute of International Education found that Cuban higher education officials expressed a resounding desire to develop partnerships with their U.S. counterparts. The delegation, which is part of IIE’s Cuba Higher Education Initiative, was a first step toward cultivating relationships and exploring potential areas of cooperation. The U.S. campus representatives have returned to their colleges and universities with the intent to develop strategic plans for increasing partnership activities with Cuban institutions. Expected outcomes include new study abroad programs, faculty exchange, joint conferences or symposia, joint publications, and faculty-led courses to Cuba.

As an immediate result of the delegation, U.S. university representatives will be sharing their impressions and priorities for developing partnerships during an IIE National Conference Call on expanding US – Cuba academic collaboration on November 17th. To register for the Conference Call, please go to the IIE Cuba Higher Education website. Dial-in information will be provided after registration.

The delegation was led by IIE’s President and CEO, Allan E. Goodman, and included of a diverse group of 12 U.S. higher education institutions: the Associated Colleges of the Midwest; Central Washington University; Indiana University; Lehman College, CUNY; Oberlin College; Rutgers University; SUNY New Paltz; University of Arizona; Montclair State University; University of Tampa; Virginia Commonwealth University; and West Texas A&M. The thirty-four delegates met with high-level officials from six Cuban universities, including the Universidad de La Habana, Instituto Superior de Arte, Instituto Superior Politécnico José Antonio Echeverría (CUJAE), University of Ciencias Médicas de la Habana (UCMH), Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" de Las Villas, and the Universidad de Ciego de Ávila Máximo Gómez Báez (UNICA). In addition, the group heard from the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education and the new Chargé D’Affairs from the U.S. Embassy. All of the Cuban universities voiced interest in academic cooperation and affirmed their belief that recent steps to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations may make the creation of partnerships easier to establish in the near future.

A number of key learning outcomes from this exploratory delegation revolve around the partnership priorities from the Cuban perspective, and the mechanics of how to initiate new linkages. Priorities from the Cuban perspective focus on graduate-level and faculty exchanges in fields such as agriculture, water management, environmental studies, energy/renewable energy, and public health, although they noted that they are also open to collaborating in all fields, including the arts and humanities. Like higher education institutions around the world, these priority areas demonstrate a growing emphasis on using international cooperation to address wider global concerns regarding food, water, and energy security, along with protection of the local environment.

Cuban institutions have a rich history of international collaboration. A majority of the international students that study in Cuba come from Central and Latin America, Africa, and Europe, and are especially prevalent in the medical universities. Despite a dearth in U.S. – Cuba academic partnerships, Europe, Latin America, and Canada have been working with Cuban counterparts for decades and serve as helpful models for U.S. colleges and universities. Meeting with Ambassadors from Norway, Spain, Canada, Belgium, Brazil, and the European Union provided the IIE delegation with helpful insight on the strong history of collaboration between these countries and Cuban higher education institutions.

While the present moment provides a unique opportunity to increase U.S. – Cuba institutional partnerships, they will not be without their challenges. Cuban institutions discussed what they see as a lack of financial and infrastructure resources, and many institutions made clear that they do not have the funds to send Cuban faculty and students abroad. The embargo has contributed to a lack of modern equipment and other resources that are essential for conducting research at Cuban institutions, in many cases requiring universities to use outdated equipment. Despite these challenges, U.S. institutions are planning to pursue a variety of opportunities, including developing a possible U.S. consortium that will work with Cuban counterparts on discipline-specific issues, such as climate change or water management. They plan to initiate new faculty-led courses, connect researchers, and invite visiting lecturers to the U.S. for short-term appointments.

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,400 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.

About the IIE Cuba Higher Education Initiative

IIE’s Cuba Higher Education Initiative includes the International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP), a series of briefing papers, and national conference calls to discuss ways to expand cooperation in higher education between the U.S. and Cuba. IAPP provides U.S. colleges and universities with a guided strategic planning process to expand cooperation with Cuban counterparts. In addition to the delegation to Cuba, IAPP Cuba connects all participants with expert mentors who provide expert advice to participants as they work to achieve their partnership goals.

NAFSA Launches New Initiative To Expand Relationships Between U.S. & Cuban Higher Education Institutions

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, on the one-year anniversary of President Obama's historic announcement to begin normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba, NAFSA: Association of International Educators announces the NAFSA Cuba Engagement Initiative, a new program designed to promote sustainable partnerships between U.S. and Cuban academic institutions. The planned initiative consists of two interconnected projects that will lead to sustainable academic partnerships and mobility between the United States and Cuba: the Cuba-U.S. Higher Education Dialogue Project; and the Educators for Cuba Campaign.

NAFSA's Cuba-U.S. Higher Education Dialogue Project will provide on-going teaching and learning events for participants to gain insight about the Cuban and U.S. higher education landscape. In addition, NAFSA will provide travel grants for Cuban education leaders to attend the NAFSA 2016 and 2017 Annual Conferences and other international education events.

In conjunction with the Dialogue Project, NAFSA's Educators for Cuba Campaign will provide advocacy leadership for those in higher education seeking to support the ongoing U.S.- Cuba normalization process and to end the U.S. embargo. NAFSA will also continue to partner with other organizations such as the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Latin America Working Group, Civitas Global Educational Services, the Washington Office on Latin America, and Engage Cuba to mobilize political support for easing trade and travel restrictions with Cuba.

"As the U.S. and Cuban governments continue the historic process of normalizing relations, it is important that people and cultures that have been separated for more than 50 years have a structured and meaningful framework in which to engage and learn from each other," said Marlene M. Johnson, NAFSA's Executive Director and CEO. "International education and partnerships have always played an important role in building understanding and collaboration between nations, and we now have an opportunity to positively impact this historic process."

The NAFSA Cuba Engagement Initiative redoubles NAFSA's longstanding commitment to the use of academic exchanges and partnerships to build a more globally engaged United States and develop new opportunities for U.S. and Cuban international higher education leaders to collaborate. The program will complement NAFSA's continued work with 100,000 Strong in the Americas, the NAFSA Latin America Forum, and a decade of advocacy efforts.

"It's important that this be a two-way dialogue, and that the partnerships meet Cuban—not just U.S.—needs," said Kevin Hovland, NAFSA Deputy Executive Director of Conference, Academic Programs, and Internationalization Services. "NAFSA's Cuba-U.S. Higher Education Dialogue Project is centered on this mutual learning and respect for what both countries' higher education institutions have to offer."

Activities related to NAFSA's Cuba Engagement Initiative will begin in 2016. NAFSA's annual Advocacy Day, scheduled for March 14 and 15, will focus on urging Congress to lift the embargo and travel restrictions. Several high visibility events are already planned for the NAFSA 2016 Annual Conference in May, including several integrated sessions.

"Although the Obama Administration has done as much as possible to restore academic exchanges, the embargo still impedes educational partnerships and innovative research collaboration," said Jill Welch, NAFSA Deputy Executive Director for Public Policy. "Ultimately, Congress needs to act to lift the remaining travel and trade restrictions if we are to truly utilize education as one of the greatest foreign policy and economic tools at our disposal. By coordinating efforts amongst higher education stakeholders, NAFSA aims to create the tipping point needed to reverse the embargo."

For more information and to learn how to get involved, visit  
Sample tweet: . @NAFSA launches initiative to expand  #USCuba  #HigherEd relationships &  #EndTheEmbargo  #EndTheTravelBan:

About NAFSA: With more than 10,000 members, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education. Visit us at To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit and @ConnectOurWorld on Twitter.

AASCU Cuba Presidential Mission Sets Stage for Joint Collaboration

AASCU, representing its more than 400 members, and the Ministry of Higher Education of Cuba, representing the country’s universities and research centers, signed a memorandum of agreement on September 10 at the conclusion of AASCU’s presidential mission to Cuba.

The agreement focuses on the creation of a joint task force that will be responsible for implementing several goals, including: developing mutually beneficial opportunities for faculty professional development, increasing student mobility, and for joint research at the undergraduate and graduate levels; promoting “Universidad 2016” Congress among AASCU members; creating an academic collaboration framework with specific steps and actions to be signed at “Universidad 2016” Congress; and continuing to support lifting the U.S. commercial, financial and economic embargo of Cuba, which impedes mutually beneficial academic collaboration.

AASCU President Muriel Howard and José Ramón Saborido Loidi, first vice minister, Ministry of Higher Education for Cuba, signed the memorandum on behalf of their respective constituencies. “We believe there are significant opportunities for collaboration between our members and the Cuban universities and research centers,” said AASCU President Muriel Howard. “The discussions we had with their presidents and ministry officials were productive and provided insight into how students and faculty in both countries can benefit from academic exchanges.”

AASCU presidents and chancellors who participated in the mission are: James Anderson, chancellor, Fayetteville State University (N.C.); Donald Betz, president, University of Central Oklahoma; Katherine Conway-Turner, president, Buffalo State (N.Y.); Steve Michael Dorman, president, Georgia College & State University; Cheryl Dozier, president, Savannah State University (Ga.); John Ettling, president, State University of New York College at Plattsburgh; William V. Flores, president, University of Houston-Downtown; Willie Hagan, president, California State University, Dominguez Hills; Karen S. Haynes, president, California State University San Marcos; Sue Henderson, president, New Jersey City University; Steven Jordan, president, Metropolitan State University of Denver; William LaForge, president, Delta State University (Miss.); Leroy Morishita, president, California State University, East Bay; Bruce Murphy, president, Nicholls State University, (La.); Frank Pogue, president, Cheyney State University (Pa.); and Gregory Weisenstein, president, West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

In addition to President Howard, other staff representing AASCU included Dorcas Colvin, vice president for leadership development and member services; Arlene Jackson, associate vice president for global initiatives; and Sufei Li, academic leadership and change staff member. A news release issued by the Ministry of Higher Education said that the delegation was “one of the largest to visit the island since December 17 last year, when a new chapter began in the relations between the two countries.” It also noted, “One of the Cuban interests is establishing internships for Cuban professors in the U.S. and vice versa…and there is a desire for exchange possibilities at the postgraduate level including shared research projects…”

Thursday, January 14, 2016

May Music Festival

Cuba Hosting Musicabana Music Festival

04:30 PM Wednesday 1/13/161  |
Musicabana Foundation is celebrating improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba by putting on a special event in May – the “first international music festival produced by American and Cuban partners in 30 years.” The nonprofit organization has also booked a March gig with Major Lazer.
  • Sean Paul
    B96 Pepsi SummerBash, Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.
    June 16, 2012
    (Adam Bielawski /
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While the U.S. waits for Congress to follow through on President Obama’s suggestion to “lift the embargo,” Cuba is ready to party.
Major Lazer gets things started with a March 6 show on Havana’s waterfront at La Tribuna José Martí. The EDM group – made up of Diplo, Walshy Fire and Jilionaire – plans on meeting with Cuban music students and sharing its stage with up-and-coming DJs.
“For as long as I can remember, Cuba has played an influential role in my love of music – Cuba has such a powerful cultural impact all over the world, and for me, especially growing up in Florida, it became one of the biggest cultural centers for music to evolve from,” Diplo said. “I was lucky enough to visit Cuba a few years back with my friends Calle 13, and during my four days there, my mind was blown by the people, depth of culture and their way of life. Going back to perform in 2016 and to be a part of the culture once again is a huge blessing, and I couldn’t be more honored to bring the Major Lazer project there.”
The festival, simply called Musicabana, is scheduled May 5-8 at Havana’s Plaza San Francisco de Asis, Salon Rosado of la Tropical, and La Piragua.  The multi-genre bill, which will feature more than 25 artists and DJs, is topped by Jamaican rapper Sean Paul and Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown.
An announcement boasts that the festival has put together “the largest gathering of Cuban artists in a generation,” including Pablo Milanés, Carlos Varela, Los Van Van, Orquesta Aragón, Habana d’Primera, Pedrito Martinez, Yoruba Andabo, Juana Bacallao & Tiembla Tierra, Interactivo, Kelvis Ochoa, and Adonis & Osain del Mont.
Both Major Lazer’s show and Musicabana will be free to the Cuban public. What about amigos in the U.S.? The festival’s website says, “All American citizens will be able to legally attend Musicabana events and concerts by purchasing customized travel packages that are fully compliant with applicable U.S. rules and regulations.”

CNN reports that while general tourist travel to Cuba is still illegal for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, you can visit if the purpose of your trip qualifies for one of 12 travel categories. CNN points out, “Fortunately, it seems that with the right spin, almost anything can.”
Travel packages go on sale Jan. 15 at 12 p.m. EST. for more information.