Cuba

As of today, Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church has a new leader – a changing of the clerical guard that matters more on the communist island than it did in years past.

The departing Havana Archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, is 79 and has wanted to retire for a few years now. But the Vatican needed to retain his diplomatic skills. Ortega helped broker the recent normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S.

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

I’m eating crow on both sides of the Florida Straits today.

I owe an apology on this side to the Carnival Corporation. And one al otro lado to the Cuban government.

I wrote a column this week predicting it would snow in Havana before Cuba changed a rule that barred anyone born in Cuba, including those living in the U.S., from entering or leaving the island by ship.

File photo / El Nuevo Herald

Carnival Corporation's Fathom brand ship will cruise to Cuba May 1 as planned and Cuban-Americans will be welcome on board.

Cuban state media are reporting this morning that starting next Tuesday, anyone born in Cuba will now be allowed to enter and leave the island by ship. Until now, all Cuban-born persons - even those living in the U.S. - were barred from doing so under Cuban migration policy.

Ismael Franco / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

Does the Carnival Corporation know something the rest of us don’t?

Because if it doesn’t, its Fathom cruise ship may not be heading to Cuba for a long time.

American businessmen, lawyers and government officials – in their eagerness to make hay from the normalization of U.S.-Cuba ties – too often forget a paramount rule about striking deals with communist Cuba:

It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s politics, both there and here.

Jose Luis Magana / AP via Miami Herald

This week Cuban-Americans here in South Florida have protested against a Cuban law that bars them from entering Cuba by ship. Thursday they got high-level backing. Presidential cabinet-level.

Susan Walsh / AP via Miami Herald

Luis Almagro is the Secretary General of the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS). As the head of the largest intergovernmental body in the Americas, Almagro has his eyes on a number of crises these days  not least of which is the possible impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff this week. But he does see one unusually bright spot in the Americas: The normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations.

And he hopes the two countries keep the ball moving forward.

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

On Saturday, Cuba’s communist leaders will launch their seventh party congress – a gathering to set the island’s future political and economic course. It will run through Tuesday, April 19.

The last congress was held five years ago – but since then, Cuba has normalized relations with its sworn cold-war enemy, the United States.

When a man claiming to have on a suicide vest demanded to be flown to Cyprus this week, it wasn't terrorism as we know it. Instead, it was reminiscent of the skyjackings once commonplace in the U.S.

In his book The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking, Brendan Koerner writes that from 1961 to 1972, nearly 160 planes were hijacked in the U.S. Those early hijackings all had one thing in common: Cuba.

Tom Hudson / WLRN.org

In his historic speech from Havana last week, President Obama called for a number of changes in Cuba. More human rights. More economic reform.

But the one that seemed to elicit the most applause from Cubans was his call for more Internet – which Obama said “should be available across the island so that Cubans can connect to the wider world – and to one of the greatest engines of growth in human history.”

Only 5 percent of the island’s 11 million people have full household access to the Web. That’s one of the lowest –and slowest – Internet coverage rates in the world.

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

It’s been 15 months since President Obama placed a phone call from the Oval Office in the White House to Havana, Cuba. He was calling Raul Castro. That conversation upturned more than a half century of American foreign policy as relations have moved from silent isolation to a presidential visit. A lot of history has been made in those short 15 months. Here's some of that history by the numbers:

 

88 • number of years since a sitting U.S. president visited Cuba

WhiteHouse.gov

COMMENTARY

Shortly after Barack Obama’s historic speech in Havana Tuesday morning, I met a smart, 34-year-old Cuban accountant named Kariel González in the Vedado district.

He’d listened to President Obama on the radio, and he was cheering the U.S. leader's last line – ¡Sí Se Puede! – a Spanish rendering of his iconic campaign slogan, Yes We Can!

González said he'd already heard Cubans repeat the soundbite on the sidewalks. “It’s the sort of thing that makes Obama so popular on the island,” he told me.

Cubans Embrace President Obama's Call For Change On The Island

Mar 23, 2016
Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

It's fairly apparent that President Obama's historic speech to Cubans yesterday was received positively on the island.

Obama called for democracy, free expression and a freer economy during his 35-minute speech at the Gran Teatro in Old Havana Tuesday morning. Obama even directly addressed Cuban leader Raúl Castro, who was in the audience, telling him the U.S. presidential visit means he no longer needs to fear Cuba's Cold War foe.

"I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas," Obama declared in perhaps the linchpin line of his speech.

  President Obama's speech in Havana.

M
Jason Margolis

On first impression, Radio and TV Martí looks and feels pretty much like any other newsroom. Emilio Vazquez shows me around, and we stop and watch two radio broadcasters behind a thick pane of glass.  

“We have a morning show known as ‘El Revoltillo,’ which is like an on-air swap market type of show, where people call in and offer different products and services for sale on island,” says Vazquez.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Rubén Valladares just might be one of the most important entrepreneurs in Cuba.

No, he’s not a tourism tycoon. He’s not a tech titan.

Truth is, he makes…paper bags.

“But we are the biggest provider of bags in Cuba,” says Valladares, a slender, middle-aged man who finishes his sentences with the sort of raspy chuckle that helps people get through each trying day on this island.

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