Last year, the state eliminated 140,000 jobs. This year, it is slated to eliminate another 170,000. The newly opened private sector is supposed to provide opportunities for laid-off workers, and one of the most popular areas for the "self-employed" is the food service industry.
Private eateries range from homemade pastries and pizzas sold out of a "businessman's" front door to upscale designer restaurants catering to tourists and diplomats.
(CBS News) HAVANA -- As Cuba restructures its economy, the limited private sector is claiming more public space, even making it into the new edition of the state-owned phone company's Yellow Pages.
It's a sign that private enterprise is here to stay. This phone directory, for the first time, has 12 pages of listings and advertisements for non-state businesses: From bed and breakfasts, restaurants and photo studios, to party planners, electricians and florists.
For $10, small mom & pop companies get a listing with their company name, address and phone number. But well-established enterprises such as the "Monte Barreto Bar--Restaurant" paid bigger bucks -- about $1,300 -- and took full page color ads. La Guarida, a private restaurant popular with tourists, took a half-page ad at a cost of approximately $800. But there are also large ads for beauty salons and gyms, and photo studios specializing in weddings and other social events.Continue »
(CBS News) HAVANA - The Cuban government got a rare opportunity to put its position on a U.S. contractor jailed in Havana and on hostile U.S.-Cuba relations before an American audience Thursday when CNN's Wolf Blitzer interviewed a top Foreign Ministry official.
Josefina Vidal, via satellite from Havana, said that while Cuba is ready to dialogue with the U.S. about the case of Alan Gross they are not advancing any formula, such as a prisoner swap. Instead, the head of the Cuban Foreign Ministry's North America Division declared Havana wants to sit down at the negotiating table with Washington to discuss all outstanding issues in an effort to establish normal relations.Continue »
An animated Chavez noted that it still "hasn't been six days because the operation ended on the night of last Sunday."
The recording was of Chavez surrounded by several members of his cabinet and his brother Adan Chavez. As proof that it was taped yesterday Chavez held up a Saturday copy of the official Cuban Communist Party daily "Granma," and a copy of the Venezuelan government paper Correo del Orinoco.Continue »
HAVANA -- A government note sent to foreign journalists Friday night says everything possible was done to save the life of an alleged hunger striking prisoner who died Thursday in a hospital in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.
The statement says Wilman Villar Mendoza was not imprisoned as claimed by some for political reasons but for creating a public disturbance during which he physically attacked his wife inflicting a facial injury.Continue »
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's visit to Cuba is being tightly contained. The media is not getting any chance to ask any questions despite news out of that country garnering worldwide attention: the bombing death Wednesday of an Iranian nuclear scientist; tensions with the U.S. over Iran's nuclear program; and the recently announced death sentence for an alleged U.S. spy.
Ahmadinejad waved at foreign journalists and made a victory sign on the tarmac of Havana's international airport, but his Cuban hosts steadily steered him away from the cameras and into a Mercedes for the 20 minute trip to the iconic Hotel Nacional, where he and his security-heavy entourage are staying.
Cuba is the third stop on Ahmadinejad's four-nation Latin American tour that has already included Venezuela and Nicaragua. Early Thursday morning he flies to Ecuador. The leaders of all the countries visited -- particularly Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro -- have repeatedly criticized the United States, and Ahmadinejad is enjoying support for his own anti-U.S. rhetoric during the trip, but it's unlikely that any major geo-political steps will be taken.Continue »
Updated 9:30 PM ET
HAVANA - Judy Gross, wife of jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross has reacted sharply to photos and statements made today by the leader of Cuba's Jewish community, Adela Dworin.
"It was upsetting to see the photos of Alan from his visit with Adela Dworin," says Mrs. Gross in a statement released by the family law firm. "To those of us who knew him before his incarceration began more than two years ago, he is now frail, weak, and appears decades older than the 60-year old man that we last saw on American soil," it reads.
Dworin and the vice-president of Havana's Beth Shalom temple met this past Monday for two hours with Gross who is serving a 15-year-sentence in Cuba for smuggling in illegal communications equipment intended for use in a USAID pro-democracy program. The visit was permitted by Cuban authorities at her request.Continue »
Cuba on Friday announced plans to release more than 2,900 prisoners from jails but imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross is not among them.
An official note posted on the government website Cubadebate.cu says the releases correspond to "established policy" and at the "numerous requests of relatives and diverse religious institutions, in a humanitarian and sovereign gesture."
The selection of prisoners to be released says the note is based on the "characteristics of the crimes committed, the good conduct maintained in prison, age and illnesses suffered, as well as the amount of time already served".Continue »
An equal number of flights have been coming in all week.
The number of arrivals is typical for the month of December when Cuban exiles and island Cubans reconnect to share the traditionally family-oriented Noche Buena (or Christmas Eve) dinner.
Now however, the flights are not just from Miami, but come from Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Oakland, Los Angles, New York, Atlanta and Puerto Rico.
The presence of these Cuban-Americans highlights one of the hottest topics in Cuba at this moment: the freedom to travel when and where one wants.
The head of the U.S. National Council of Churches, Michael Kinnamon, told reporters Friday morning that he discussed the case with Cuban President Raul Castro this week, expressing concern for Gross' health and that of his family and urging the Cuban leader to consider the humanitarian aspects of the situation.
HAVANA--Housewife, school teacher and eventually one of Cuba's best known political activists Laura Pollan died Friday evening just a week after being hospitalized with respiratory problems.
Pollan, 63, was the founder of Ladies in White, relatives of political prisoners who broke government controls to stage weekly protest marches in Havana's upscale Miramar neighborhood demanding the release of their loved ones.
Her widower, former political prisoner Hector Maseda told the press his wife died of a "cardiorespiratory attack". Doctors, he said, had worked unsuccessfully for nearly an hour to revive her.Continue »
Jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross shared honey cake and coffee with leaders of Cuba's Jewish community on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, according to one of the participants.
In an email sent to CBS News, Adela Dworin, president of the community, says she and David Prinstein, vice president of the Jewish Community Center had a "private" two-hour meeting with Gross.Continue »
Nyad, who marked her 62nd birthday at the end of August just weeks after giving up nearly half-way through the 103-mile swim, is spending the day preparing with her support team, packing in the carbohydrates and hitting the pool to keep her muscles loose.
"I think at the age of 62, I honestly believe, I'm in the best shape of my whole life," Nyad told the media at a marina named for Ernest Hemingway on the outskirts of the Cuban capital.
HAVANA - The Cuban Foreign Ministry fired back at former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson Wednesday night, accusing him of lying to the press and of being disrespectful to the Cuban authorities. Officials further denied that there is anything out of the ordinary with the health of a jailed U.S. aid worker.
An official statement says Richardson's visit to Cuba came "at his initiative and we received his request, on a private visit, as on other occasions in the past."
Richardson left Havana in a huff this morning, "disappointed and perplexed," he said, because he was not allowed to visit Alan Gross at the Havana Military Hospital where he is being held, and because the Cubans refused to discuss the case with him. Richardson insisted to the press that he had been invited here by the Cuban Government, told to come after September 1. He said they told him Alan Gross would be on the agenda.Continue »
Cuba blames the U.S. embargo for nearly a trillion dollars in losses to the island's economy since it was imposed by President Kennedy in 1962.
Vice Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno said that at current prices a conservative estimate of economic damages to the island up until December 2010 would be more than $104 billion. However, he added, if you take into consideration the extreme devaluation of the dollar against the price of gold on the international financial market during 2010, they would add up to nearly a trillion dollars.Continue »
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