U.S., Cuba say progress made in talks; no date for diplomatic ties

(Reuters) – Cuban and U.S. officials held a second round of talks on Friday toward normalizing ties and both sides said they made good progress, although they did not set a date for renewal of diplomatic relations that Washington severed 54 years ago.

Going into the talks, Communist-ruled Cuba pushed to be removed from a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. But Washington said that while it was reviewing Cuba’s place on the list, the designation should not be linked to the negotiations on renewing relations and opening embassies.

The head of Cuba’s delegation to the talks, Josefina Vidal, said removal from the terrorism list was not a pre-condition for renewal of diplomatic ties, but she added that it was a “very important issue” and a priority for Cuba.

READ MORE: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/27/us-cuba-usa-idUSKBN0LV0CN20150227

It’s Time to Get Acquainted with Cuba

Resultado de imagen para MALPASO COMPANY IN NEW YORK

The Malpaso Dance Company has officially landed in the United States.

And according to my sources, their landing is no secret. The performance at Dance Place in Washington is sold out, and two weeks before their arrival, newspapers and magazines were contacting the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh asking for more information.

When I contacted the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater to find out more about the theater’s interest in Cuba, and how they discovered Malpaso, Janera Soloman, the Executive Director, told me that Cuba was always on her radar. She wanted to find a way to bring Cuban artists to Pittsburgh, and to send American artists to Cuba within a frame of social justice. “Cuba is a place to take artists,” she said. And she wanted to take part in that exchange.

Much like the people to people exchanges offered by the United States as a way by which Americans can travel to Cuba, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh is participating in what resembles an artist’s exchange. They are holding a community dance class and an artist’s lunch with Malpaso, so that local artists have the opportunity to meet the Cuban dancers. They are including a post-performance discussion after Friday’s performance, and on Saturday night, they are hosting “Afrobeat,” which translates to a sort-of Pittsburgh meets Cuba dance party.
And who wouldn’t want to go to a dance party with Cuba?

READ MORE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-oberdorfer/its-time-to-get-acquainted-with-cuba_b_6747198.html

Cuban cigars: Habanos Festival and the longest unbroken ash competition.

Cigar enthusiasts smoke as they compete for the longest ash during the XVII Habanos Festival in Havana, February 26, 2015.

Hundreds of cigar enthusiasts from all over the globe head to Cuba this week for the annual Habanos Festival in Havana. The highlight of the festival is the bizarre contest for the longest unbroken ash, during which cigar aficionados delicately go through their Habanos trying not to drop the ash.

Picture: REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini.


Positive and Respectful Atmosphere in Cuba-US talks

WASHINGTON, USA, February 27, Talks between Cuba and the United States continue under a positive, constructive and respectful atmosphere, Juan Jacomino spokesman of the Cuban Interests Section in the United States told Cuban News Agency.
“Positions on the issues to be defined for the operation of embassies once the reopening of these is decided have got closer,” said Jacomino.
The talks are going well and are half the agenda for this round of talks on the process of restoration of diplomatic relations taking place in the State Department in the US capital, he said.
Cuba assists to the meeting with expectations regarding two important issues that would create the proper context for the restoration of diplomatic relations and opening of embassies: the exclusion of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism; and the resolution of the banking situation the Cuban Interests Section in Washington has gone through for its financial operations for more than a year.
In the first round of talks Cuba expressed concerns about the security and protection of human rights in the US, as part of the talks, the representation of the Island brings a concrete proposal to address the issue bilaterally on equal conditions and with respect for the sovereignty of peoples.

Josefina Vidal: We come to Bring Stances Closer

We come with a constructive spirit, trying to bring stances of the two parties closer, said in Washington on Thursday Josefina Vidal, general director of the United States Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX), who heads the Cuban delegation to the second round of talks between the island and the United States.

Vidal reiterated that Cuba hopes to receive answers about some issues that should be resolved to create the adequate context that makes it possible to formalize the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies in the two countries.
With respect to the proposal Cuba brings to these talks, refereed to human rights, the Cuban official announced that there will be discussions about how this type of meetings will be held.
In July, 2014, Cuba proposed to carry out an open, reciprocal dialogue on the issue of human rights -a proposal reiterated in January in Havana and “in that area we have things to show,” assured Josefina Vidal.
Tackled again as part of this agenda will be the issue of removing Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism, a question important to resolve to create the adequate context that allows for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.
The general director of the United States Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Cuban press that she will meet in Washington with a group of persons that have historically been interested in achieving the improvement of bilateral relations and a rapprochement between the two countries and peoples, such as representatives of the business sector of the United States, all of them very motivated with the prospect of business opportunities opened to them once the blockade is lifted; and with members of the U.S. Congress, particularly with some of the leaders that have made great efforts to improve relations between the two nations.
Talks between the representatives of Cuba and the United States will take place on Friday, February 27, at the State Department, just a few blocks away from the White House, and it is expected that on Friday afternoon Josefina Vidal and Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, give statements to the press.

Cuba’s official delegation to talks with the U.S. arrives in Washington D.C.

Image result for second round cuba and us

WASHINGTON.— On the afternoon of February 25, the Cuban delegation to the second round of conversations with the U.S. arrived in Washington D.C. The delegation is presided by Ministry of Foreign Relations Director General for the United States, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro.

This new round of conversations between Cuba and the U.S. is a continuation of the dialogue initiated in January, 2015, in Havana, regarding the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies in both countries´ respective capitals.

Ministry of Foreign Relations Director General for the United States, Josefina Vidal, and the other members of the Cuba delegation accompanying her will realize an intensive program of activities during their stay in the U.S. capital.

Conan O’Brien, America’s Comic Diplomat to Cuba.

Conan O’Brien stumbles on a street fair in Havana. Courtesy of TBS. Photo: Courtesy of TBS

One of Conan O’Brien’s favorite moments from his trip to Cuba over President’s Day weekend occurred when he was trying to learn how to sing with a “real serious Cuban band.” “I’m not quite getting it, and then I burst through using eighth-grade Spanish to improvise this song,” said Conan. “I’m saying things like, The cat is in the sky, the dog has no milk, but I’m singing full-out with great passion, and the band is really cracking up.” Afterwards, he asks his bandmates for their thoughts. They were all being very diplomatic and gave him kudos for effort. “Then I look at this one guy in the back, the percussionist, and I go, ‘What did you think?'” He looks at Conan and just shakes his head and says, “No.” “Everybody laughs at me, and I’m glad he’s getting the laugh at my expense.” Conan thinks, “I like this guy.”

This was one of the numerous anecdotes Conan O’Brien told a group of journalists over antipasti and chicken Milanese at Trattoria Dell’Arte, an Italian-American institution just south of Central Park. He was promoting his Cuba special all day Wednesday, starting with an interview with Howard Stern in the morning and ending with an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Havana excursion, which Team Coco’s editors are still furiously cutting together, represents a new form for him, an hour-long episode set to air March 4 where he is the perpetual “fish out of water” — an attempt to use comedy as a kind of diplomacy.

READ MORE: http://www.vulture.com/2015/02/conan-o-brien-cuba.html