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

Spanish Union Rejects Government Support for Guaido in Venezuela

Madrid, Feb 5 (Prensa Latina) Spain's General Workers Union (UGT) considered the decision of Pedro Sanchez's social democratic government to recognize Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela to be wrong.

In a statement released Tuesday by several media outlets, the trade union organization - one of the two largest in this European country - said that Spanish executive support for Guaido only benefits one side of the Venezuelan conflict.

This type of actions violate international law, do not favor the necessary harmony in the South American nation and represent an obstacle to find a real commitment to a political solution, it said.

Sanchez's announcement is insufficient to 'defend a position away from the interventionism of Donald Trump and his satellite governments of the Latin American right (Bolsonaro, Macri, Duque, etc.).

The Spanish head of government's support for this political meddling is a new mistake, 'starting with the absurd ultimatum given to the government of (Nicolas) Maduro eight days ago', the note added.

For the group, it is striking that Spanish president made no mention of the role of the United States in the conflict, being the self-proclamation of the opponent Guaido 'the result of a plan drawn up with the active support of the Donald Trump government.

'Dialogue, calm and scrupulous respect for human rights and international law are the only tools to guarantee a peaceful and lasting solution' in Venezuela, concluded the UGT.

  • Published in World

Trump Admin. Pressured Spain Gov't to Support US-Backed Coup in Venezuela: Report

“The US diplomat made two demands: for Spain to immediately recognize Guaidó as the legitimate president, and to cut off all dialogue with Maduro,” El Pais reported.

The United States has exerted considerable pressure on the left-leaning government in Spain, led by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in order to come out against the Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro, recognize the opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido as the country “interim president,” and not to endorse or participate in any talks or dialogue between the opposition and the government,  the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Friday.

RELATED: John Bolton Admits US-backed Coup in Venezuela Is About Oil, Not Democracy

“We are under a lot of pressure – I won’t tell you from whom but you can figure it out – to vote against the creation of this group,” Foreign Minister José Borrell told El Pais, alluding to an EU-sponsored international contact group meant to foster dialogue in Venezuela.

The newspaper reported that in several meetings ahead of Jan 23, the day Guaido proclaimed himself the interim president, and since, that U.S. diplomats and senior officials placed pressure on counterparts in the Spanish government and other in the European Union to follow the same position as that of the United States and its right-wing allies in Latin America.

In a meeting on Jan. 22, Washington began lobbying Spain in favor of its plans in Venezuela, without specifically revealing Guaido’s plans the next day or Washington's plan to recognize him immediately

Spain’s secretary of state for Cooperation and Ibero-America Juan Pablo de Laiglesia was in Washington to meet with the assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberly Breier where the U.S. officials told the Spanish official that “important events” were expected in Venezuela in the coming days.

A day later and just hours before the Guaido unconstitutional declaration, a call was placed from the U.S. embassy in Madrid, according to El Pais, stating, “It is likely that Guaido will declare himself president today, and we are going to recognize him.”

On Jan. 24, the Spanish foreign minister met with U.S. Ambassador Duke Buchan III, and urged Spain and Portugal to take Guaido’s side because of their ability to shape the position of the rest of the EU on this matter, several sources familiar with the conversation told EL Pais.

RELATED: For Trump, Venezuela Intervention Serves 2020 Re-election Bid

“The US diplomat made two demands: for Spain to immediately recognize Guaidó as the legitimate president, and to cut off all dialogue with Maduro,” the newspaper reported.

The United States was quick to recognize Guaido as “interim president” after he proclaimed himself as such on Jan 23, in violation of the country's constitution, and Washington’s right-wing allies in the region followed suit in what the elected Venezuelan government of Maduro calls a parliamentary coup.

Since then, the U.S. has approved fresh sanctions against Caracas including economic sanctions against the country’s national oil company. Several senior U.S. officials called on the country’s military to intervene in support of Guaido. However, the country’s military has asserted its support for the constitutional government and rejected calls for a coup.

Under mounting pressure from the Trump administration, Spain and other major countries in the EU have failed to maintain an independent stance on the Venezuelan situation and have said they would be recognizing Guaido as the interim head of state within days but while calling for elections and asking for a peaceful transition. 

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New modern baseball softball stadium to be built in Spain

A brand new baseball softball stadium will be built in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, marking a huge step forward for the sport in Spain. It will be the first exclusive baseball softball facility in Gran Canaria island, since the team Capitalinos actually plays at Martinon, a venue shared with other sports.

The City Council of Las Palmas has ceded a 36,500 squared meters land next to Santa Caralina-Lomo Blanco higway, where the stadium will be placed; and the Cabildo de Gran Canaria will invest 1.5 million euros in the construction of the stadium. The construction will start in the early 2019, and the works are estimated to last between 8 months and a year.

The project includes a 400 seat stadium and two parking lots (one for the stadium itself, and the other for public use). Behind the stands will be located the locker rooms for the teams, offices, a meeting room, a warehouse, the scorers room and a batting cage.

Baseball in Spain is growing fast and strong, highlighted by the historic qualification of the U-18 National Team to the WBSC Baseball World Cup, to be held in 2019 in Gijang, Korea, coming back to the global tournament after 13 years of absence. Actually Spain is the 25th nation in the WBSC Baseball World Ranking, and is placed No. 7 in Europe.

  • Published in Sports

SPANISH PM AGREES CLOSER TIES WITH CUBA DURING HISTORIC VISIT

Spanish premier Pedro Sanchez agreed with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel to deepen bilateral political ties on Thursday, at the start of the first official visit by a Spanish leader to the Caribbean island in three decades.

The two leaders signed an agreement instituting annual high-level political dialogue meetings between Spain and Cuba, touching on an array of topics including human rights.

Relations between Cuba and the European Union have steadily improved since being formally relaunched in 2016 after a two-decade chill, even as they have festered between the island and the United States (US).

This is the first official visit by a Spanish Prime Minister since that of Sanchez’s fellow social democrat Felipe Gonzalez in 1986. Spain is Cuba’s third largest trading partner and maintains strong cultural ties with its former colony.

Sanchez and Diaz-Canel, who succeeded Raul Castro as president in April, also agreed to increase cultural cooperation on Thursday, after holding talks in Havana’s Revolution Palace.

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Sanchez, who is travelling with executives from two dozen companies, will on Friday morning inaugurate a Spanish-Cuban business forum in a hotel that the administration of US President Donald Trump recently added to a list of places banned to US travellers.

Spanish-Cuban annual bilateral commerce is already around $1.3 billion, according to Cuban data. The tourism sector is dominated by alliances between Spanish hotel chains and Cuban companies.

  • Published in World

Spanish President Pedro Sanchez Arrives in Cuba

Havana, Nov 22 (Prensa Latina) The president of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sanchez, arrived in Cuba on Thursday on a two-day official visit, during which he will hold talks with local authorities.

Upon arrival at the Jose Marti international airport in Havana, Sanchez was welcomed by Vice Foreign Minister Rogelio Sierra.

The Spanish leader was accompanied by Foreign Minister Josep Borrell and and Industry Minister Reyes Maroto.

In Cuba, Sanchez will have a busy agenda that includes a meeting with President Miguel Diaz-Canel, a tribute to National Hero Jose Marti and his participation in the signing of agreements and a business forum, as well as a tour of Old Havana.

  • Published in Cuba

Police Detained Far-Right Man Planning to Kill Spanish PM

Catalan police arrested a man who planned to kill the Socialist Primer Minister for his decision to move dictator Franco's remains.

The Catalan regional police force announced Thursday they arrested a man who was allegedly planning to assassinate the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, of the Socialist Party.

RELATED: Catalan Pro-Independence Leaders Face up to 25 Years in Prison

Manuel Murillo Sanchez, 63, was arrested in Terrassa, near Barcelona. A private security guard, who is also an expert shot, was arrested on Sept. 19 after the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police) was alerted by members of a chat group were Sanchez repeatedly spoke about shooting the prime minister and asked for logistical support from the group members.

He was reported to have 16 firearms, including a submachine gun Skorpion vz. 61 and four rifles of the highest precision, at his residence. He has confessed and is facing charges for attempting to kill the Prime Minister and for illegal possession of weapons. He is being held at a prison in Martorell near Barcelona.

The Mossos revealed his arrest through a tweet which said, "Arrested a man in Terrassa who tried to kill the Spanish prime minister @sanchezcastejon. The arrested man, who had an arsenal of weapons at home, has already entered prison."

Publico reported that the attempted assassination is a result of “hatred by the extreme right.”

Murillo Sanchez has been described as a far-right person who wanted to kill Pedro Sanchez in “vengeance” over the socialist government's decision to exhume the body of the late dictator General Francisco Franco from the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), in northern Madrid. The remains of the dictator will be given to his family to be buried elsewhere.

He reportedly said, "I am ready to sacrifice myself for Spain."

"He was the perfect lone wolf, a nobody with a gun license whose expertise marksmanship didn’t arouse any suspicion, in the same way, he didn’t arouse suspicion by carrying a pistol because he needed it for his work," a police source told Spanish daily Publico.

  • Published in World

Spanish President to Visit Cuba in November

The president of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sanchez, will pay an official visit to Cuba on November 22 and 23, local media reported.

Sanchez's trip was agreed upon at the meeting he held with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in New York on September 25, during their participation in the United Nations General Assembly, EFE news agency reported.

It will be the first official visit to Cuba by a Spanish president since 1986, when his fellow social democrat Felipe Gonzalez visited the Caribbean island, according to the newspaper El Pais.

'That a Spanish president has not visited Cuba in 30 years where our companies are shows that politics lags behind reality,' Sanchez said at a forum held on September 27, during his visit to New York.

'What we will do with this official visit is to normalize those relations that we traditionally had in several sectors,' he added before expressing excitement over the trip, which will allegedly 'normalize' traditional ties between Spain and Cuba in the economic, social and cultural fields, he noted at the time.

  • Published in Cuba
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