Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's Official: Beyonce and Jay Z Trip Was Legal

Beyonce, Jay Z Cleared of Violating Sanctions Laws in 2013 Cuba Visit

The Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a nine-page report saying pop stars Beyonce and Jay Z did not violate any U.S. sanctions laws during their visit to Cuba last year.
The couple traveled to Cuba in April 2013 for their fifth wedding anniversary, which prompted immediate criticism that they engaged in tourist activities that are illegal under the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
Beyonce and Jay Z were found not to be in violation of U.S. sanctions laws when they traveled to Cuba in 2013. (Photo by Mason Poole/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images)
Under current law and regulation, travel to the island nation is permitted under license. Treasury’s OIG said their visit was properly licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control under the so-called “people-to-people” educational exchange program.
It’s possible to get a people-to-people license to Cuba and then abuse it by engaging in too many tourist activities, or otherwise straying from allowable licensed activities. But the OIG found that Beyonce and Jay Z’s activities in Cuba did not violate the terms of the license.
“Based on our review of available documentation and applicable regulations and guidance, we found no indication that U.S. sanctions were violated, and we concluded that the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s decision not to pursue a formal investigation was reasonable,” the OIG report said.
While the trip happened during the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary, the report said the trip adhered to the terms of the license, which included a welcome dinner, a walking tour of various Cuban neighborhoods, and trips to see student artwork and theater performances.
“For example, one article reported the trip included a visit to a children’s theater group and several clubs, where the couple heard live music and occasionally took to the dance floor,” the report said. “According to the article, they also toured Cuba’s top art school, where they met with young artists, and ate at some of Havana’s privately run restaurants, known as ‘paladares.’ ”
But it added, “all of these activities serve the U.S. foreign policy goal of heeling the Cuban people by facilitating exchanges with them and supporting the development of independent activity and civil society.”
The couple, whose legal names are Shawn Carter and Beyonce Knowles-Carter, are reportedly preparing to divorce.
Read the OIG report here:

Travel by Mega Yacht

US Office of Foreign Assets Opens Up Another Way for Americans to Tour Cuba

August 20, 2014 at 3:09 PM | by  Comments (0)
It wasn't too long ago that travel to Cuba was near impossible but, slowly, opportunities are opening up for Americans.

Group IST has been granted a license by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets allowing the travel agency to offer an exclusive eight day People to People exchange program of Cuba throughout 2015.

The Havana to Cienfuegos tour will be based on the mega-yacht S/C Panorama from which travelers will explore the western part of the country.

Cuban experts and interpreters will help Americans explore the country and meet the locals. The program includes excursions to the UNESCO–designated Biosphere Reserve region and the eco-community of Las Terrazas, walking tours of Old Havana, a visit to the Sea Turtle Breeding Center and Endangered Species Protection program on Cayo Largo with coral reef and conservation experts, a tour of Cienfuegos, and more.

Havana to Cienfuegos starts at $4490, including seven nights on the S/C Panorama, all meals, a Cuban visa, mandatory Cuban medical insurance, and transportation.
To learn more, visit

OFAC Licenses Participation in Fishing Tournament

Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament

SHARCommodore Escrich (second right) and Dr. Moisés Hernández (far right) with first and third place competitors
Commodore Escrich (second right) and Dr. Moisés Hernández (far right) with first and third place competitors
The 64th ‘Ernest Hemingway’ International Billfish  Tournament, (EHIBFT) one of the oldest sport fishing events in the world, brought together 22 teams from the United States, Sweden, France, England, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Latvia, Spain, Russia and Cuba. During four days of fishing, from June 9th to 14th, 20 blue marlin and six white marlin were tagged and released.
Finishing in first place and named Overall Champion was the Cuban boat Santi, they tagged and released three blue marlin and one white marlin and added to their score with five dorado. This was an historic moment for the tournament as Santi represented the fishing community of Jaimanita (adjacent to the Hemingway Marina), and it marked the first time a team of Cuban fishermen have represented a village community.
Noting Santi’s achievement, José Miguel Díaz Escrich, Commodore of the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba and IGFA representative, said his goal was to see more communities take part in the 65th tournament, especially those north of Havana, and fishermen from the Cjimar community where Ernest Hemingway used to dock Pilar and where his captain Gregorio Fuentes lived.
Tensions between the USA and Cuba have long denied American sport fishermen access to the EHIBFT, but this year a thawing of relationships between the two countries saw greater participation by US Anglers.
Dr. Moisés Hernandez, a Miami resident and the first Cuban-American to participate in a Hemingway tournament, fished aboard the boat that finished third in the Tag & Release category. At the awards ceremony, Dr. Hernandez thanked Commodore Escrich, noting that thanks to him he could now participate in the tournament. He added that, as the first to take part, he would join in the efforts of Commodore Escrich to make it possible for more Cubans living abroad to enjoy the great festival of sport fishing that will be the 65th tournament.
Again showing that restrictions on travel between the US and Cuba may be easing was the participation of a group of U.S. fishermen. They were there thanks to efforts by the Florida-Cuba Environmental Coalition, with which the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba has entered into a partnership. The group received permission from the US Treasury Department to travel to Cuba and be present at the event.
This is first time the US government has granted a permit to US anglers to travel to Cuba, by air, for this event. The next step is to allow fishermen to sail aboard their yachts and participate in the 2015 tournament.
Four anglers from the Lighthouse Point Saltwater Sportsman Association carried a banner of partnership to Commodore Escrich. Accepting the banner, Commodore Escrich said he will work to bring more teams to the next tournament, from fishing clubs and associations worldwide.
This year’s event celebrated the life and work of the American writer Ernest Hemingway who, 60-years ago, received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novel The Old Man and the Sea. The tournament also marked the 80th anniversary of Hemingway’s first crossing from Key West, Florida to Havana on his yachtPilar.
The 65th Ernest Hemingway Billfish Tournament will be held May 25th –30th 2015
Champions Tag & ReleaseBoat: Santi
Country: Cuba
Second PlaceBoat: Odds and EndsCountry: USA
Third PlaceBoat: Tag & Release
Country: Cuba-USA
Largest DoradoBoat: Santi
Country: Cuba
Largest TunaBoat: Rebel YellCountry: Spain

Friday, August 15, 2014

Marine Industry Trip

Industry tour of Cuba set for early 2015

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

Marina consultant Richard Graves and Associates is planning a U.S.-sanctioned industry tour of the country for Feb. 18-22, directly after the Miami International Boat Show, to help interested parties save on airfare.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association also has a small delegation of select members touring the island now who are interested in learning more about its industry potential, the NMMA confirmed to Trade Only Today.
“I firmly believe the embargo will soon be lifted. It doesn’t make sense and solves nothing. In fact, most people don’t even know how it started over 50 years ago,” Graves and Associates principal Richard Graves told Trade Only Today. “In recent surveys the majority of Americans believe the embargo should be lifted. It is also interesting to note that most Cubans in the U.S. under 40 also believe the embargo should end.”
Graves told Trade Only that he fears the United States will be left out of potential growth and development if it doesn’t lift the embargo sooner rather than later.
“Spain is building the marinas, France is building the hotels, the Chinese are investing, and even Putin is offering help in the construction of their shipping port—and the U.S. is left out,” Graves said. “Raul Castro has even made an overture to the U.S. to renew relations.”
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and the 16th-largest island in the world.
Anticipating the end of the travel ban, Cuban state enterprises responsible for marine infrastructure have begun an unprecedented push to prepare the island nation for yacht tourism and U.S. boaters. Although there are only 15 marinas with 789 slips, there are plans to add 23 more marinas with more than 5,000 slips, Graves said.
The expansion of Marina Gaviota at Varadero, 90 miles from the Florida Keys, is intended to help augment facilities for large recreational vessels.
Accompanying the marina will be a five-star villa hotel development. Plans show a marina complex akin to Atlantis at Nassau in the Bahamas or St. Tropez in France, only larger.
After extensive renovations and a massive expansion, Marina Gaviota Varadero will become Cuba’s largest and most modern marina. When complete, it will accommodate about 1,200 boats. An official opening is planned for 2015, but vessels are using the marina now.
Last year, Cuban President Raul Castro announced the end of travel restrictions, making it easier for millions of Cubans to leave the communist country.
Parties interested in participating in the tour with Graves must submit paperwork and be approved by Oct. 1.
“NMMA facilitated a [U.S.-sanctioned] research trip to Cuba on behalf of its members with the objective to understand the market and make meaningful contacts and connections that may benefit recreational boating,” NMMA spokeswoman Ellen Hopkins told Trade Only.
The NMMA does not have an official position on the current or future status of the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba and continues to abide by the trade restrictions the United States has imposed, she added.


Cuban Marinas prepare for the future and the lifting of the U.S. Travel Ban for Boaters.

Now is the time for the U.S. Boating and Marine Industry to develop contacts and relationships with its Cuban counterparts through people to people exchanges. In order to introduce the U.S. Industry to the Cuban Marine Industry, Richard Graves & Associates in cooperation with “Other Cuban Journeys”, an OFAC licensed tour organizer has developed a four night/ five-day itinerary that will allow interactions with the Cuban Marine Industry and its experts. This trip will give rare access to marinas and contact with its workers. It will also immerse the traveler in the rich Cuban culture and its people.
According to one estimate, 60,000 U.S. vessels over 25 feet LOA will visit Cuba in the first year after the end of the travel ban.
Anticipating the end of the travel ban, Cuban state enterprises responsible for marine infrastructure have begun an unprecedented push to ready the island nation for yacht tourism and U.S. boaters.
• According to one estimate, 60,000 U.S. vessels over 25 feet LOA will visit Cuba in the first year after the end of the travel ban. Though the number may seem high, the possibility is worrisome to business and government leaders in the Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean, who fear losing marine revenue to a revitalized Cuba
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and the 16th largest island in the world
• Although there are only 15 marinas with 789 slips, plans are to ad 23 additional marinas with more than 5,000 slips. The expansion of Marina Gaviota at Varadero, 90 miles from the Florida Keys, is intended to help augment facilities for big recreational vessels. Accompanying the marina will be a five-star villa hotel development. Plans show a marina complex more akin to Atlantis at Nassau in the Bahamas or St. Tropez in France, only larger. After extensive renovations and a massive expansion, Marina Gaviota Varadero will become Cuba’s largest and most modern marina. When complete, it will accommodate about 1,200 boats. An official opening is planned for 2015 but vessels are using the marina now.
The above is only a brief view of what is happening in the pleasure boating industry in Cuba.
CONTACT INFORMATION: Richard Graves – 954.401.4096 – Email: rvgraves@rgassoc. – Web:
Source: Richard Graves & Associates – 1000 SE 4th Street – Fort Lauderdale. FL 33301

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Wheels Journey: A Bicycle Tour of Cuba

Duration: Duration: 10 days
Location: Cities: Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad
Price: $3,500.00
Book Now!
Dates: August 1-10, October 10-19, and December 12-21
This cultural bicycle journey immerses the participants in Cuban culture at the same level of most of the island’s nationals. The bicycle, a common means of transportation in Cuba for most everyone, is the point of departure, allowing participants to scrutinize Cuba from a different angle and enabling them to have daily meaningful interactions with Cubans along the route.
Package includes: 
OFAC License to travel to Cuba
Cuban Visa
Cuban Health Insurance
Round Trip Airfare (Miami – Havana)
9-night hotel stay at 3-star hotels in Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner according to program
Personalized concierge assistance (AC study leader and Cuban guide) throughout the
Guest speakers’ fees
Private bus transportation throughout the program
Fees for all scheduled visits and excursions
Cuba Information Package and consulting fees
Final Itineraries and Program Contracts will be sent to those who make a deposit
towards their program participation.
Visits and Activities
A lot of bike riding through cities, towns, and off-the-beaten-track roads with the
opportunity to engage in conversation with Cubans from all walks of life as you
come across them.
Walking tour of Old Havana, led by architect involved in the process of preservation and
renovation of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites
Fuster’s Art Studio and Community
Visits with at least 3 other artists
Farmers’ Market and Craft Market
Numerous music venues
Callejon de Hamel Rumba
Visit to local schools and family-doctor offices
Day excursion to Topes de Collantes and El Nicho Waterfalls
Visit to the Scale Model of the City Center
Guest Speakers 
Gisela Arandia, scholar and community activist, will discuss issues of race and gender in
the context of current Cuba.
Jorge Mario Sanchez, economist, will dissect the Cuban economy and provide insights
into the economic future of Cuba.
Miguel Hernandez, Plastic Surgeon, on a presentation on the Cuban Health System
The listed activities and guest speakers is just a sample of the activities that will be
included in the final itinerary. Many more activities and speakers will be added. Final
program and itinerary will be provided to those who make a deposit towards their
participation in the trip.
Packages does not include: 
Cuban Airport Exit Tax
Gratuities in Cuba
Personal expenses
Cost of excess luggage on any air carrier

The contents of this program and itinerary are the intellectual property of Jose
Pineda and Anthropologie Consulting, LLC., and carry the international trademark
of Anthropologie Consulting, LLC.

The Kitchen Journey

Louisiana Cajun Fiddler Visits Cuba

Cuba and Louisiana: Similarities only go so far

by The Town Talk
In the dead of this past winter, Michael Doucet of the two-time Grammy-winning Cajun band BeauSoleil found himself on an island just 94 statute miles from the southernmost point of the Florida Keys.
That island is Cuba, the land of Fidel Castro and Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. But it was things like the Buena Vista Social Club that brought Doucet to the island's shores.
"It was mostly for musical and cultural research. We heard all kinds of music. Even French music and that's what I was really interested in because that's where it is," said Doucet. "If you look at Cuba, all the way on the eastern side there's Santiago, that's where the Creoles came from Haiti after the revolution."
And from there, many Creoles found Florida and Louisiana and not only can you hear it, you can see it, too.
“Not only does the architecture remind you of a little bit of New Orleans and St. Augustine, but I’ve always been looking into the music,” said Doucet, which included music from Haiti, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
“We’ve been playing folk Cuban music for years and to really get into it and to see how they do it, which is just how we do it,” Doucet said, who took the trip sans BeauSoleil through Festival Tours International. “It’s totally a folk music, the turn of the century music.”
Doucet was staying at a colonial hotel with big shutters that overlooked a square. One morning, Doucet said he grabbed some breakfast and another cup of coffee � “the coffee’s great, I always drink coffee” � and headed back to his room to chill.
“And I heard this incredible music. Man, I thought I had gone to heaven. I was listening to Dennis McGee orchestra hits,” said Doucet. So he opened the shutters and there in the square “was an orchestra right under my window.”
The orchestra had two violins, a viola, a clarinet, a trumpet, a trombone and the requisite percussion.
“They were playing turn of the century Cuban music called Danzon and it was so much like the music of turn of the century music of New Orleans,” said Doucet. “You could see where the similarities are because there’s such a connection.”
Doucet said there’s a Spanish cultural and music connection between Havana and New Orleans that has been around since colonial times.
“It was just amazing just to hear that,” said Doucet, adding that he recorded and videoed the concert on his iPhone “and then lost my iPhone.”
Although there may be rations and such on the island, Doucet said music is all over the place, from high school kids playing, to poets and trios “who’ve been playing together for, like, 40 years,” he said.
“There was music every day, all day and all different kinds of musicians,” he said. “I had a chance to play with a bunch of people and read music with them and perform with them. It was just wonderful.”
Festival Tours International specializes in tours where music is the objective. Doucet went with a group of almost two dozen others who were “hip to music and ideas of culture,” he said, noting his fellow tourists included Hollywood producers, doctors, musicians and regular folks.
“For everybody, it was just to go and experience this country of music,” Doucet said. “Everybody was music lovers and experienced this country before it changes, because it has changed a lot, and I think it will continue to change.”
One thing that hasn’t changed too much since the mid- to late 1950s’ revolution are the automobiles.
“There’d be a whole car, like an Oldsmobile ’58 and then after that there’ll be like some kind of funky wagon hauling about 20 people on it by a mule,” said Doucet. “And then there’ll be like a Russian car, which looks like a Fiat, that’s falling apart and then there’ll be Chinese bus. Then there’ll be another old car.
“So that’s how it goes,” he said. “How they keep it running, I imagine they all have Russian parts by now. But there are some beautiful cars over there � from Cadillacs to Chevys � probably ly the latest ones are probably the ’60s and things like that.”
Doucet said the guide told them before the trip to bring anything they could to leave for the Cuban people.
“So I brought a lot of violin strings, guitar strings, music � people just don’t have that,” said Doucet. “Clothes. I brought a suitcase and basically left my suitcase. Everything just means something to them. They’re very creative.”
The fiddling front man also brought a bunch of baseballs, courtesy of St. Thomas More High School.
“And man, I was the biggest hit. I threw a lot of baseballs to kids, and we’d play catch and everything,” he said. “They love baseball over there.”
Doucet saw similarities between Cuba and his hometown in their attitude toward music.
“The music is so rich. In Louisiana, everybody plays music,” he said. “Well, it’s pretty much the same way there. And they just do it.”
The comparisons, however, only go so far.
“If they want to learn music, education is just given to them no matter how high they go, it’s free. Just like health care,” said Doucet. “But then it’s in kind of in that socialist form. They’re free in a certain way. They’re free to think and do whatever, but not so much they don’t want to let them get on the Internet and stuff like that.
“They don’t want them adjust to the outside world and be accustomed to that,” he said. “But the outside world is there.
“Culturally, that’s a whole different subject, but very strange and different,” Doucet continued. “It’s like a Third World country. It’s beautiful and the people are totally educated and totally nice because there’s a big elephant in the room that keeps them down.
“People watch you. People can’t leave,” he said. “And that’s how it is.”