Cuba

Jose Goitia / AP via Miami Herald

Ramón Castro, the lesser known older brother of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raúl Castro, died Tuesday morning at age 91 in Havana.

The Cuban communist party newspaper Granma did not give a cause of death.

According to Granma, Ramón Castro was jailed by the Batista dictatorship in 1953 and helped supply the militants of the Cuban Revolution, who were led by Fidel. But after the revolution took power in 1959, Ramón largely shied away from politics and spent the rest of his life as a farmer.

Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press

This week, the White House announced President Obama and the First Lady will visit Cuba.

The trip will include meetings with a Castro as well as with Cuban entrepreneurs.

The decision for a presidential trip to Cuba comes with all the historic overtones that have accompanied the changing relationship between America and Cuba since late 2014 when the president announced a new strategy of engagement. It also came with the familiar criticism of the efforts.  We discuss the history and controversy surrounding the trip.

Carolyn Kaster / AP via Miami Herald

Back in December, in an interview with Yahoo! News, President Obama said this about the possibility that he'd visit Cuba in 2016:

“I am very much interested in going to Cuba, but I think the conditions have to be right.”

Most people thought he meant he first wanted to see more democratic and economic change on the socialist island. Since then, Cuban President Raúl Castro hasn’t announced any sort of reforms like freer political speech, multi-party elections or full Internet access.

The White House

President Obama plans to make a historic, if controversial, visit to Cuba next month in an effort to accelerate normalized relations with the socialist island. He confirmed the news Thursday morning.

Sources say Obama will visit Havana the week of March 21, most likely March 21 and 22. From there, according to media reports, he will travel to either Chile or Argentina.

According to ABC News, a National Security Council official will formally announce the President’s Cuba visit tomorrow at the White House.

mountainsoftravelphotos.com

For half a century, only charter flights have been allowed to ferry people from the U.S. into Cuba.

But today, the two cold-war foes will agree to let regular U.S. commercial flights land in the communist island: 20 a day into Havana and 10 daily into nine other Cuban cities.

“This means more people-to-people contact,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Thomas Engle told reporters over the weekend. “All to the good of mutual understanding.”

Franklin Reyes / AP via El Nuevo Herald

The U.S. and Cuba may have normalized relations, but the cold war-style defection is still common for Cuban baseball stars who want to ditch communism for the U.S. big leagues. Another one took place yesterday – and it was a double-header.

Many Major League Baseball scouts consider Yulieski Gurriel one of the best players Cuba has ever produced. Even at the age of 31, he’s a coveted power-hitting infielder. So is his 22-year-old brother Lourdes, who can play just about anywhere on the field.

City of Key West

  While the Miami-Dade County Commission recently asked the federal government not to place a Cuban consulate in that county, Key West officials are looking to strengthen ties across the Florida Straits.

  The island city now has two "ambassadors" to Cuba. One is former City Commissioner Tony Yaniz, who was awarded the title by two city commissioners. The other is Key West Yacht Club Commodore Robert Harvey — named by Mayor Craig Cates, who has frequently clashed with Yaniz  politically.

Alexandre Meneghini/REUTERS

There's rum. And then there's Havana Club.

It's a lighter style rum, distinctly Cuban.

But the label on the bottle and that word "Havana" may be just as important as what's inside the bottle.

Havana Club is a celebrated rum and a celebrated brand. So celebrated that powerful people are fighting over it: the distillers at Bacardi Limited and the Cuban government.

They've been locked in a long-running legal battle for control of the "Havana Club" brand.

Yahoo News

Currently there are 8,000 Cuban migrants making their way to the United States through Central America.

The Miami-Dade School Board  is making plans for accommodating incoming child migrants who will eventually need to enroll in classes.

Local leaders have not held back their concerns over incoming Cuban migrants from Central America. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado spoke about it at this week's school board meeting.

It won't be long until passengers will be able to take a ferry to Cuba from Miami, an idea that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago in a city that's home to Cuban exiles who fled from the Castro regime. The Obama administration approved licenses last year to companies that want to run ferries to Cuba. Several are interested. Still, it came as a surprise last week when the port of Miami said it's considering building a new ferry terminal on land that had been slated for development.

the Miami Herald

The mayors of Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami and a Hialeah commissioner are worried. They all say the county's not financially prepared for the imminent arrival of thousands of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica.

Last week,  a deal was made to airlift the  Cuban migrants stuck in Costa Rica to El Salvador so they can travel through Mexico to the U.S.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez thinks it should be the job of the federal government to take care of the migrants.  

Tim Padgett / WLRN

Ana Marrero pulls back her shirt sleeve and holds out her left arm.

“Look, in Cuban prisons I tried on various occasions to kill myself with knives,” she says.

She counts the succession of healed scars on her forearm. They look like horizontal tally marks.

“Uno, dos, tres, quarto, cinco, seis, siete, ocho,” she counts in Spanish.

Eight times.

These days, it’s a lot easier to travel between the U.S. and Cuba, but some Cubans have no interest in going back to their homeland.

Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press

“The year 2015 has seen more firsts than in 50 years,” says Tom Hudson, WLRN’s Florida Roundup host.

 

He spoke with WLRN’s Tim Padgett and Fusion’s Latin America editor Tim Rogers to discuss the pathway to normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations, the migrant crisis in Central America and Venezuela’s crumbling economy.

Latin Roots: Christmas In Cuba

Dec 24, 2015

Just in time for Christmas Eve, World Cafe heads to the tropics for a holiday-themed Latin Roots segment. Contributor Judy Cantor-Navas uses the occasion as an opportunity to look at Christmas in Cuba, with music from pre-revolutionary times right up until the present day.

Hear songs from the great Celia Cruz and more in this segment, and find even more to enjoy on Latin Roots' Cuban Christmas Spotify playlist.

Since President Obama opened a door to Cuba, there's been progress in the past year. Americans can travel there. The two countries reopened their embassies and have agreed to re-establish commercial air travel.

But on the financial front, progress has been slow. After a year, there's just one U.S. financial institution doing business with Cuba — and it's a small bank in Pompano Beach, Fla.

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