Thursday, May 15, 2014

U.S. and Cuba Take Tentative Steps Toward Greater Marine Science Collaboration

14 May 2014 3:15 pm
On a mission. Marine scientists Fabián Pina Amargós (left) and Julio Baisre were part of a Cuban delegation that met yesterday with U.S. officials and scientists to discuss collaboration.
Courtesy of David Guggenheim
On a mission. Marine scientists Fabián Pina Amargós (left) and Julio Baisre were part of a Cuban delegation that met yesterday with U.S. officials and scientists to discuss collaboration.
After more than a year of preparation—and some last-minute visa hiccups—scientists and policymakers from the United States and Cuba met yesterday to discuss ways the two estranged nations can better collaborate on marine science and conservation.
“We are neighbors,” says marine scientist David Guggenheim, president of the nonprofit organization Ocean Doctor and one of the pivotal players in organizing yesterday’s meeting in Washington, D.C. “Neighbors don’t always get along, but when something happens in your neighborhood, you have to find a way to rise up and work together.”
Guggenheim has spent the past 14 years doing research in Cuba, which has not had formal diplomatic relations with the United States for some 50 years and is the subject of a U.S. trade embargo. Despite that breach, scientific research in the waters shared by the two countries has been one of the few areas of quiet cooperation. “We’ve worked for years without the U.S. government at the table,” Guggenheim says.
In 2010, however, the Cuban government reached out to U.S. officials with the idea of forging a more formal agreement that would help facilitate collaboration in marine science. Yesterday’s meeting, which included Cuban and American scientists, government officials, a U.S. senator, and congressional staff, marks a step toward that goal, Guggenheim says. “[We] are on to the next page,” he says.
At the meeting, which was hosted by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D–RI), a vocal advocate for ocean science, participants heard briefings on ongoing projects and discussed future possibilities. One topic: drafting a new bilateral agreement that would declare that working together is a priority for marine science and conservation, that it is in both countries’ national interests to do so, and that they will commit themselves to facilitating collaboration. A key part of the declaration would be aimed at making it easier for U.S. scientists to obtain licenses for their work from the U.S. government, which must approve cooperation with Cuba, and to make it easier for people and scientific equipment to move between the two nations.
“Getting scientific equipment to Cuba is very challenging because of the embargo, but also because Cuba is on the [U.S.] list of terrorist nations,” Guggenheim says. Now, U.S. researchers obtain permission for a temporary export of equipment through the U.S. Department of Commerce and are expected to bring back all of their equipment—a task that can be problematic for items like disposable tracking tags placed on fish.
Whitehouse will take the lead in drafting the declaration, Guggenheim says. Any deal is likely to ultimately need approval from the White House, sources say, perhaps through an executive order issued by the president, and a sign-off from senior officials at several departments.
The group is also looking to set the stage for collaborative projects, including a proposal for an ocean “peace park,” such as the one established by Jordan and Israel in the Red Sea, or an international network of connected marine protected areas. Guggenheim also believes that having an agreement in place will make it easier to procure funding for projects in Cuba from philanthropic donors. And it could pave the way for an international exchange program to educate kids about marine science. “What we’ve tried to do is use marine science as a form of diplomacy,” Guggenheim says.
The meeting came amid other signs of growing marine science links between the United States and Cuba. Late last week, the U.S. State Department invited Dr. Fabián Pina Amargós, director of Cuba’s Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research, to participate in a high-profile “Our Ocean” conference that Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting in June. According to Guggenheim, the invitation represents the first time a Cuban has been invited to such a U.S.-hosted event.
As if to underscore the challenges facing U.S.-Cuba collaboration, yesterday’s meeting was supposed to have been held on 8 May—but had to be rescheduled after bureaucratic tangles prevented two Cuban researchers from receiving timely travel visas.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Inside Contemporary Cuban Film  
November 23-27, 2014

Americas Media Initiative (AMI) is organizing a special delegation in collaboration with OFAC licensed Anthropologie Consulting that will focus on contemporary filmmaking in Cuba from November 23-27, 2014.

AMI has brought new tools to the cultural and policy landscapes that have defined U.S. – Cuba relations for decades. AMI is organizing groundbreaking Cuban film programs in the U.S. that use the power of film to forge landmark cultural exchange between U.S. and Cuban citizens.

In addition to our innovative work in the U.S, AMI has brought important U.S. films and filmmakers to the Cuban provinces for the first time, collaborating with key cultural institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the PBS documentary series, POV.

This will be the first delegation that AMI has organized to Cuba and will provide insight and access that is rarely available for U.S. visitors interested in contemporary Cuban film and its shifting landscape. Due to the close working relationship AMI has with many young filmmakers, delegates will meet with independent documentary and fiction filmmakers and animators. We will visit the offices of independent film production houses such as 5ta Avenida and Central Productions. Delegates will meet with staff of the Muestra Joven (Young Directors Film Festival). We will engage in conversations with filmmakers in a variety of settings about their push to legalize independent production in the context of the new economic reforms that are taking place in Cuba and how they see their role in the future of Cuban film.

This delegation is geared for filmmakers and film business professionals. All events will have English interpretation. AMI Director, Alexandra Halkin will be present for the entire visit and will share her insights and analysis.

For further information about the delegation please contact Anthropologie Consulting: jepp23(at)

Struggling to Film in America's Chokehold. Cuban Moviemakers Feeling Burden of U.S. Embargo

By Victoria Burnett. April 4, 2014

Stories that Resonate: New Cultures of Documentary Filmmaking in Cuba

By Sujatha Fernandes and Alexandra Halkin

Licensed travel for Havana Marathon

Insight Cuba unveils Havana Marathon tours

By Gay Nagle Myers
Insight Cuba received an amateur sports license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to allow Americans to participate in the Havana Marathon and half marathon on Nov. 16.

The company, which offers a number of people-to-people programs to Cuba, created three tourssurrounding the event.

"Sport and athletic competition continues to be the great global conduit to bring people, cultures and countries together," said Tom Popper, president. "This year, we can finally realize the dream of Americans running side by side with our island neighbors through the neighborhoods of Havana."

The tours include the Havana Marathon four-day tour from Nov. 14 to 17; the Havana Marathon and People-to-People eight-day warm-up tour from Nov. 10 to 17; and the eight-day Cool-Down tour from Nov. 14 to 21.

Prices range from $2,495 to $4,395 per person, double. Roundtrip charter air from Miami is extra.

All three programs include accommodations at the Melia Cohiba in Havana; meals, including a pre-marathon lunch; services of a Cuban guide; marathon and half-marathon entry fees and bibs; Insight Cuba guided sightseeing and people-to-people encounters with Cuban runners and local residents; and training tips from columnist and coach Jenny Hadfield, who will lead a pre-race shakeout run for participants.

Niceville Valparaiso, Florida Chamber of Commerce

Chamber partners on travel opportunity to Cuba

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Special to the Daily News
Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 17:17 PM.
NICEVILLE — The Niceville Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce has partnered to offer an additional group travel opportunity, A Taste of Cuba.

Chamber Explorations, a group travel provider specializing in working with Chambers of Commerce throughout the United States, will oversee the planning and arrangements for the six-day excursion to Cuba, which features quality accommodations and sightseeing opportunities.

This is the second time the Niceville chamber and Chamber Explorations have partnered to organize a trip to Cuba. The two partnered last year for trips to Cuba, which 15 local residents signed up for.

The dates available for A Taste of Cuba are Oct. 2 and Nov. 13. Chamber Explorations has been issued a specific license by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which authorizes registered guests of their programs to visit Cuba legally for a cultural and educational experience.

Trip package includes quality hotel and resort properties among the best in Cuba selected for a combination of comfort, amenities, service, and location.

Additional excursions are also available to Canada and Ireland.

For more information about these opportunities contact the Niceville Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce for details along with a schedule of activities and highlights of the trip that is being offered. You may also visit the Chamber office at 1055 East John Sims Parkway in Niceville to pick up a full color brochure that includes all the details of the trip and pricing information.