Melia Keeps its Commitment to Cuba Despite Helms Burton Act

President of Melia Hotels International, Gabriel Escarrer Julia, assured on Tuesday that the hotel group keeps its commitment to Cuba and trusts that Washington´s tussle has a resolution respecting international law.

He pointed out that despite "disagreements with the U.S. administration, which has also been part of Cuban history, I am sure that this new dispute will have a respectful resolution under the principles of international law."

President of Melia Hotels International and founder of the hotel chain in Cuba remembered the chain´s history in the country and "the deep bond" that joins the company with Cuba.

He affirmed that "he had never regretted having opted on Melia´s tourism breakthrough throughout these 31 years of history."

The head of the Spanish chain said that from the beginning Melia had a clear vision of what Cuba could represent for holiday tourism.

"We find ourselves with a unique, inimitable country with extraordinary assets on account of its nature and its beaches, its culture, its heritage and something very valuable for tourism: security and stability", he remarked.

  • Published in Cuba

Spain and Portugal to conduct analysis on possible bid for 2030 FIFA World Cup

A joint bid from Spain and Portugal for the 2030 FIFA World Cup has moved a step closer but will not seemingly not include Morocco after the two Football Associations agreed to conduct an "in-depth" analysis on the possibility of entering the race.

In a joint statement, the Royal Spanish Football Federation and the Portuguese Football Federation confirmed they had held meetings on a possible bid.

The two organisations claimed the Spanish and Portuguese Governments "have been properly informed about this process, given that they will have a key part to play in its development".

Spain and Portugal, having failed with a bid for the 2018 World Cup, were previously said to be involved but the North African nation was not mentioned as part of their plans.

It came after UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said he opposed a cross-continental candidacy for the tournament.

Čeferin has also urged European members to unite behind one bid from the continent.

 UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said he opposed a cross-continental candidacy for the World Cup following suggestions Morocco could join Spain and Portugal ©Getty Images
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said he opposed a cross-continental candidacy for the World Cup following suggestions Morocco could join Spain and Portugal ©Getty Images

Britain and Ireland are thought to be mulling over a joint candidacy, while Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Romania could also team up to bid for the event.

China are among the other countries interested at this stage, alongside a combined effort from Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay to mark the 100-year anniversary since the latter nation hosted the first World Cup in 1930.

It is not clear whether China, awarded the hosting rights for the 2023 Asian Cup earlier this week, will be eligible to bid as Qatar is staging the tournament in 2022.

Previously, Confederations have been excluded from the next two bidding processes once they have staged the World Cup, which would prevent an Asian country entering the race until 2034.

But FIFA's statutes prohibit continents from entering the race for only the next edition after they have played host.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino opened the door for a Chinese bid last week and said the ruling Council would discuss the timeline for 2030 at its next meeting in Shanghai in October.

  • Published in Sports

Alicia Alonso Awarded Insignia of the Valencia College of Architects

The Cuban prima ballerina assoluta, Alicia Alonso, HAS received on Friday the insignia of the Official College of Architects of Valencia, Spain.

According to a letter sent by the Dean of this center, Luis Sendra Mengual, the insignia is granted in recognition of Alicia Alonso´s professional and personal career, and in defense of the Fine Arts.

As stated in the letter, such merits are supported, among other distinctions, by the declaration of the prestigious National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) as Cultural Heritage of Cuba and international intangible cultural heritage.

The professor, academician and President of the Science Commission of the Valencia Culture Council, Jose Maria Lozano, awarded Alonso with the insignia at the house of the Cuban dancer, in Havana, where she was born 98 years ago.

I find it too hard to talk. Dancing is what I really love the most, said the BNC director before thanking repeatedly the distinction and gift of the first 15 copies of a new edition of the book entitled Alicia Alonso, Beyond Technique, by Maria del Carmen Hechavarria.

With such a reissue, the Polytechnic University of Valencia commemorates the 20 years of the Doctor Honoris Causa awarding to this living legend, and to differentiate the work she enriched it so as to present a bilingual volume (Spanish-English) and with some bibliographic updates.

  • Published in Culture

Spanish Socialist Party Might Win Upcoming Elections, Polls Show

Madrid, Apr 4 (Prensa Latina) The Spanish Socialist Workers'' Party (PSOE) might win the general elections on April 28, although without the necessary majority to establish a government by itself, the newspaper El Pais predicted on Thursday.

According to an average of the latest polls conducted by the Madrid-based newspaper, the PSOE, led by President Pedro Sanchez, is consolidating as the first option in the upcoming elections.

The PSOE would win the legislative elections with 28.6 percent of votes and would get some 126 seats, but it would be very hard for the party to rule in a coalition with Unidas Podemos, an alliance between Izquierda Unida and Podemos.

That parliamentary group, which supported Sanchez in the latest initiatives by his administration, would be less represented in the Congress of Deputies, according to a summary published in the influential newspaper.

Unidas Podemos will see its representation reduced from 71 seats in the June 2016 elections to 30 lawmakers (12.1 percent), in a Lower House made up of 350 members and an absolute majority established in 176 seats.

  • Published in World

Spain launches disobedience probe into Catalan leader over pro-independence symbols

Prosecutors in north-eastern Spain have launched an investigation into Catalan leader, Quim Torra, for his apparent failure to remove pro-independence symbols from government buildings in the region.

If found guilty, Torra could be removed from office for up to two years, for failing to adhere to a request by Spain’s electoral committee to remove the symbols, which it deemed political propaganda, ahead of elections on April 28.

Yellow ribbons have been hung from apartments, benches and other spaces across Catalonia in solidarity with twelve political and civic leaders currently on trial for sedition after a failed independence drive in 2017.

Also on 'Test of democracy': Catalan leaders on trial amid political turmoil for Spanish government...

The Catalan government had also joined in hanging yellow ribbons from government buildings, as well as flying the estelada, the flag of Catalan independence. A banner written in both Catalan and English was also hung from the government’s headquarters in Barcelona bearing the demand: “Free political prisoners and exiles.”

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Strike, Protests Mark International Women's Day In Spain

Madrid: For the second year running, Spanish women went on strike today for International Women's Day, with several protests kicking off over what has become a hot topic in the country's election campaign.

"If we stop, the world stops." Armed with this slogan, Spain's largest unions CCOO and UGT organised a two-hour work stoppage -- the first starting at midday -- while smaller unions have called for a 24-hour strike.

Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena, prominent journalists, nuns and company employees are among hundreds of women who have pledged to take part in a strike that seeks to recreate an unprecedented two-hour work stoppage that took place on the same day in 2018.

It was as yet unclear how many women were participating.

International Women's Day is being celebrated around the world today, with marches and other actions expected.

Hundreds of protests and gatherings are planned across Spain. In Barcelona, demonstrators blocked a major thoroughfare, some wearing purple wigs -- the colour long associated with gender equality.

Unions, feminist associations and left-wing parties are hoping to draw hundreds of thousands of people in big marches later in the day in Madrid and Barcelona.

As snap general elections near on April 28, women's rights has become a crux theme of left and right-wing parties' election campaigns, with all pledging to do their bit for inequalities.

hutpl1doProtesters shout slogans while holding signs during a demonstration in Madrid. (AFP)

The gender pay gap stands at 14.2 percent according to the latest EU statistics, two points below the EU average.

And gender violence continues to take its toll on women, with 47 killed by their partners or ex-partners last year and at least 975 dead since 2003, according to government figures.

"Us women need to be seen, because there is still a lot of work to do," Ana Pastor, the conservative parliament speaker, told Spanish television.

"Women don't have real power."

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who has made women's rights one of the central themes of his campaign, tweeted that he wanted "a feminist Spain."

"Only with feminism will we end violence against women and achieve real equality," he said.

Spanish media is awash with stories about women's rights and gender inequality.

On Thursday, the national police force announced it was working on a "non-sexist language guide for its agents."

Dissenting Voices

But there are increasing dissenting voices against what some conservative groups believe has gone too far.

The conservative Popular Party won't take part in the Madrid protest, considering the manifesto that called the demonstration "unacceptable."

This calls on people to mobilise "in the face of the right and far-right that have placed us women and migrants as a priority target of their ultra-liberal, racist and patriarchal offensive."

Centre-right party Ciudadanos, meanwhile, has lashed out at what it considers an attempt by the left to appropriate feminism to get more votes on April 28 general elections.

q41dm7jgStudent protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in Barcelona. (AFP)

The "Women of the World Global Platform," a Spanish initiative that groups together conservative associations from around the world, has also called for a counter-protest in central Madrid on March 10.

International Women's Day "has converted into a day for those who reject femininity as well as masculinity, complementarity, maternity and dedication to the family," spokeswoman Leonor Tamayo said in a statement.

Small far-right party Vox, which opposes a law against gender violence that it feels is "ideological" and "discriminatory" towards men, has also been gaining ground.

Pastor, though, retorted that "this is not about parties."

"There are thousands of women in Spain who don't vote, who don't identify with parties... A day like today is more about speaking as people, above all as women."

  • Published in World

Burnt tires & clashes with police as pro-independence protests grip Catalonia (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Pro-independence activists in Catalonia are venting their anger at Madrid’s trial of the region’s provincial leaders. Baton-wielding police scuffled with some of the demonstrators as people also blocked roads and set tires ablaze.

The group behind the protest is called the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDRs) and has been involved in demonstrations against Spain’s central government for months. The goal of Thursday’s action is to ‘paralyze everything,’ as the group put it.

One of the columns in front of the Barcelona’s University. The strike against the trial is a Huge Success all over Catalonia

The protesters managed to disrupt traffic on several major roads with barricades of burning tires. They also interfered with the work of local railroads and occupied an office building in Girona, a city some 100km (62 miles) northeast of Barcelona.

Catalonia’s president Torra said to his supporters: “Push!”, and calls them to strike today Watch them acting accordingly Peaceful people indeed

Blockade of burning tires: Pro-independence Catalonian activists disrupt...

  • Published in World

Cuba To Welcome 5 Million Visitors In 2019

This year could be a banner year for Cuban tourism.

As the Caribbean island continues to court foreign vacationers, the tourism ministry announced that they expect over five million visitors in 2019.

If the island hits their goal, it will be the 12th consecutive year of growth in tourism numbers for the Pearl of the Antilles, with 7.4% growth between 2018 and 2019, said the ministry. Tourism incomes are estimated to exceed 3 billion dollars in Cuba in 2019 , according to the ministry.

Experts say that the expansion of accommodation choices – including five-star hotels in Havana – as well as the increase in competitively priced hotels and casa particulares has resulted in more interest for vacationers. Additionally, in November, Havana will celebrate its 500th year anniversary.

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“Five million is realistic,” said John McAuliff, executive director of Fund for Reconciliation and Development, in an email. “Americans are slowly waking up to the reality that they are still free to travel independently under the Support for the Cuban People license.”

Continuing, he said that “the number could go even higher if Congress ends all restrictions on travel by Americans. Under Democratic control, the House could match bipartisan support in the Senate to allow normal travel and agricultural sales.”

The top two tourism markets remain Canada and the United States, although Americans are still prohibited from visiting Cuba for tourism explicitly. (Americans can still travel to Cuba legally under one of these 12 permitted categories.)

Cuba has also launched promotional campaigns recently to attract more travelers from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain as well as emerging markets like China, Vietnam and South Africa.

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Although regulations dictate that Americans are not allowed to go on a ‘typical’ beach vacation while exploring the country, Steve Powers, owner of Hidden Treasure Tours in Long Beach, New York, said during last month's New York Times Travel Show that traveling to Cuba legally remains a great deal as compared to the rest of the Caribbean, thanks to cheap, commercial flights from the US.

In 2018, the island welcomed 4.78 million visitors with less than one million of those travelers arriving by cruise ship.

  • Published in Cuba
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