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Feb. 6/2003 - Cuban Daily News Digest

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      Cuban Daily News Digest
      " A compilation of news articles about Cuba - distributed since 1993
      in an effort to promote investment in the Republic of Cuba "

      Cuban Investment? Here are four of many:
      - real estate ... several apartments in Havana for private sale;
      - a tourism business in the marine sector;
      - a company in the medical/pharmaceutical/biotech sector intending to
      go public in Canada;
      - a company that is already supplying medicine and other products to Cuba.
      Unlike most Cuban investment opportunities, you do not need $millions
      to participate.
      Two would be permissible for US individual or company participation.
      If seriously interested, contact me.
      The Daily News - A ferry that runs between Nova Scotia and Maine
      during the summer may soon be taking passengers from Florida to Cuba.
      Yucatan Express, which operates the 320-cabin Scotia Prince, hopes to
      offer weekly voyages from Tampa, Fla., to Matanzas, Cuba, starting
      Feb. 25. If the company can get permission from both governments, it
      will be the first ferry service between Florida and Cuba in 41 years.
      "If we get permission, we'll go. And if we don't, we won't," Yucatan
      Chairman Matthew Hudson said yesterday. "If we take the ship to Cuba
      and we don't have permission from the American government, we can't
      bring the ship back again." During the winter months, the Scotia
      Prince now operates between Tampa and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
      Hudson also heads up Scotia Prince Cruises. He was born in Ontario,
      and has homes in both Virginia and Victoria Beach, Annapolis Co. Even
      if the Cuba route is approved, Hudson promised the Scotia Prince will
      continue running between Yarmouth and Portland, Me., during the
      summer months. "It's our raison d'etre," he said. "That's what we do.
      The rest of this is to find something for the ship to do in the
      wintertime." The venture isn't solely aimed at making a profit. "We
      have offered to take all the humanitarian goods that anybody wants to
      send for nothing," Hudson said. The 145-metre Scotia Prince could
      make the trip in about 20 hours. The round-trip fare would be $755
      Cdn. Ferry trips between Cuba and Key West were common before Feb. 7,
      1962, when U.S. President John F. Kennedy imposed an embargo. Even
      now, more than four decades later, the average U.S. citizen cannot
      travel to Cuba. John Kirk, a Spanish professor and Cuba expert at
      Dalhousie University, applauds the new ferry service. "I think this
      is a terrific move by the owners of the Scotia Prince," Kirk said. He
      said it's "unclear," though, whether Hudson's plan will win approval
      from U.S. authorities. "The U.S. policy towards Cuba is defined by a
      piece of legislation called the Trading with the Enemy Act," Kirk
      said. "The U.S. government has tried to assassinate Fidel Castro a
      whole bunch of times, has tried to invade Cuba using Cuban exiles,
      and has made life pretty miserable in many ways." But last year, the
      U.S. allowed Cuba to buy $250 million worth of food from the United
      States, he said. "The pressure on the U.S. government to shed its
      Cold War rhetoric has been mounting for the past three years," Kirk

      Granma International - Gustavo Rollé, president of the National
      Wrestling Federation, informed Granma International that the Cuban
      Greco-Roman wrestling team was denied entry visas for the United
      States on January 31 to take part in the Concord Tournament in
      Colorado Springs on February 1. "Our wrestlers were unable to obtain
      visas to participate in the competition despite efforts made by the
      U.S. federation for us to arrive on time," stated Rollé. "Now we are
      hoping that the documents will arrive in time for members of the
      Greco-Roman and free wrestling teams so they can go to Colorado
      Springs on February 5 to compete in the David Schultz tournament from
      February 7 to 9 month and the competition in San José, California in
      the 13 through 15," added the federation president. The United States
      and Cuba are the continental leaders in these disciplines; the former
      leads in the free wrestling category whilst Cuba is number one in the
      Greco-Roman group. "We're rivals in the ring, but outside of it we're
      friends," Alexis Rodríguez, world runner-up in the 120-kilogram free
      wrestling category, told us. Following a working session in Havana's
      Cerro Pelado training center Rodríguez explained that "the rivalry
      between us and the U.S. athletes is special and it's important that
      each team gains experience of the other. They admire the results that
      we achieve under difficult conditions". Yoel Romero, world and
      Olympic runner-up in the 84-kilogram class added, "My aim is to heal
      the wounds of the Pan-American games of 1999 when I was beaten in the
      title fight by a U.S. wrestler." Along with Rodríguez and Romero, the
      other members of the Cuban team are René Montero, world champion in
      the 55-kilogram class; Yandro Quintana, 60 kilograms; Geandri Garzón,
      66 kilograms; and Daniel González and Wilfredo Morales, 96 kilograms.
      Pedro Val, trainer for the national Greco-Roman team told us: "In the
      60-kilogram category, Roberto Monzón, Pan-American champion in 1999,
      has a bone to pick with Denis Hall from the United States, who has
      beaten him in the last two world championships where he's had to
      settle for the bronze." He also added that Luis Méndez, 1999 world
      and Pan-American champion in the 84-kilogram category, was defeated
      in the Sydney semi-final by U.S. wrestler Mark Li Lan. Other athletes
      selected to compete in the U.S. tournaments are Filiberto Azcuy,
      twice Olympic champion in the 74-kilogram class; Lázaro Rivas and
      Jorge Luis Marén, Olympic runners-up in the 55 kilograms and 66
      kilograms respectively; Ernesto Peña, world runner-up in the
      96-kilogram group and Mijail López in the 120 kilograms.

      Jamaica Observer - Thirteen principals from rural schools have been
      selected to attend an international education conference in Cuba from
      February 2 to 8. Project manager for the Jamaica All-age Schools
      Project (JAASP), Patricia Johnson, said the main objective of the
      conference was to expose the principals to another education system
      within the Caribbean region, and to see what lessons could be
      integrated into the Jamaican system. The teachers are expected to
      examine the theme, "Instructional Leadership and Supervision".
      Johnson said the teachers would also pay special attention "to what
      is happening in the area of literacy development, share best
      practices with their Caribbean colleagues and benefit from the system
      there". According to Johnson, since 2000 there have been links with
      the United Kingdom in different areas, including special education,
      literacy development, planning, school/community relation, and
      guidance counselling. She added that conferences in the UK have been
      attended by officers from the Special Education Unit in the Ministry
      of Education, Youth and Culture, lecturers from teachers' colleges,
      senior teachers from the School of Hope, regional directors,
      education officers, community relations officers and guidance

      Granma Intl. - Havana - Juan Contino Aslan, former National
      Coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution
      (CDR), has been elected president of Havana's Provincial Assembly of
      People's Power, a position equivalent to that of mayor. After
      acknowledging his labors in the CDR movement for more than eight
      years, particularly in the function and application of cadre
      policies, the organization's national administration relieved Contino
      of those responsibilities. According to electoral law, the 1,999-plus
      provincial delegates voted in at the January 19 national elections,
      met on February 2 to constitute the higher agencies of state power in
      each of the country's 14 provinces, including City of Havana and
      Santiago de Cuba.

      KEY WEST - keysnews - John Henry Cabanas walks slowly through the Key
      West-Cuba Heritage Institute's newly remodeled offices and
      classrooms, talking excitedly about the institute's challenges and
      future. "People-to-people is what it is all about," he said from the
      417 Angela St. location. "Exchanges between the people of the Untied
      State and the people of Cuba. The people of both countries have
      always had good relations and people-to-people contact will put us
      above politics." Cabanas points proudly at a faded old
      black-and-white photo of Cuba's father of independence, José Martí,
      as Martí talks from the balcony of where La-Te-Da and Alice's
      restaurant are today. Cabanas, chairman and CEO of the institute, and
      Richard Reposa, vice president and CFO, have been licensed by the
      U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control to promote and
      sponsor people-to-people educational exchange programs to Cuba
      through the institute. The institute's OFAC license authorizes
      American citizens to travel to Cuba to participate in one or more of
      the institute's approved programs. "Right now, we have eight OFAC
      approved programs," Cabanas explained as he sipped from a small cup
      of strong Cuban coffee. "And we have applied for others and expect to
      be licensed for them this year." The itineraries now are
      "Architecture in Colonial Cuba: Havana and Trinidad." There are two
      different architecture agendas that can be taken separately or
      together. "Medicine in Cuba" also has two agendas. Both "Tobacco: Its
      history and meaning in Key West/Cuba relations," and "Cinema in Cuba
      1897-2000," have three agendas. The institute's bylaws state that the
      purpose of the institute shall be people-to-people exchanges in order
      to "sponsor, organize and promote people-to-people contact through
      educational exchanges. ..." The institute wants to identify and
      develop studies on historical links between Key West and Cuba.
      Cabanas' father, Julio, was president of the San Carlos Institute
      from 1951 to 1961 and he is able to trace his family's migration to
      Key West from Cuba to 1854, when Richardo Cabanas came to Key West.
      "The history between the two islands is long," Cabanas said. "The
      Instituto San Carlos and many other clubs in Key West were
      established by the Cuban community to foster the independence of
      Cuba." The institute's tobacco agenda begins -- as does its other
      agendas -- with a sightseeing trip down the Overseas Highway the
      first day and the second day includes tours of historical Key
      West-Cuban interests. "We will stop at the Gato Cigar Factory and the
      Teodoro Pérez house where José Martí spoke to the cigar workers from
      its balcony," Cabanas said. The tour will also include a trip to the
      San Carlos Institute before the group leaves for Miami and a flight
      to Havana on the third day. "The institute was founded to preserve,
      study and celebrate the shared cultural heritage of Key West and
      Cuba," Reposa said. "Our programs are designed to prepare Americans
      to understand the history of Cuba and Key West from the perspectives
      of centuries of cultural exchanges." "Key West and Cuba do not simply
      offer a tale of two islands," Cabanas added, "but a shared history
      and heritage." Growing tobacco and rolling cigars is an old art in
      Cuba. The Cuban habanos industry arrived in Key West in the late
      1800s as the workers who hand-rolled the cigars and constructed the
      cedar boxes fled the Spanish-controlled island, which was in
      revolution. Tobacco factories or tabaquerías, with their
      corresponding labor force from Cuba, flourished in Key West. The
      institute's trip to Cuba will trace the history of tobacco and cigar
      making on the island. Participants will meet with people who are part
      of the tobacco industry in Cuba today, many of them with years of
      experience. During the seven days of the agenda, participants -- 10
      to 20 Americans, maximum -- will interact with Cuban nationals -- six
      to 15 Cubans from the tobacco industry will meet with the group each
      day. That number of Cubans does not count the tour guides and other
      Cuban workers who will be involved daily with the visitors. After
      checking into the hotel, the institute's guests will spend the week
      visiting Institute of Tobacco Research in San Antonio de los Banos,
      the Partagás tobacco factory, the Museo de Bellas Artes, travel to
      Pinar del Rio to tour a tobacco farm, and participate in many other
      tobacco and historical aspects of the industry in Cuba, including
      roundtable discussions. During the week, the visitors will have the
      opportunity for open discussions with experts in the tobacco and
      cigar-making fields. All the institute's trips involve American
      citizens meeting with Cuban citizens to discuss topics of interest
      such as tobacco, medicine, architecture and cinema. The institute's
      programs average about $3,500 per week. The price includes round-trip
      airfare to Havana, hotel accommodations, meals, transportation, Cuban
      visas, medical insurance while in Cuba, and all American and Cuban
      arrival, departure, airport and security taxes and fees. Also
      included are all field trips, pre-departure reading materials on
      Cuban history and U.S. Cuban relations. All field trips are guided
      and offer opportunities to meet and talk with Cuban citizens,
      officials and experts in the field of the chosen agenda. Cabanas and
      Reposa like to talk of their trips to Cuba and how the Cuban people
      are curious about Americans and there is no hate toward Americans.
      "There are controversies between the two countries," Cabanas said,
      "but not between the people. Our trips will enrich both peoples as
      they meet and learn from each other." "I have always been impressed
      by how I am greeted by the Cuban people I meet," Reposa said. "I went
      there the first time not knowing what to expect and I want to share
      the surprise and pleasure with others on their first trip to Cuba."
      Visiting Cuba, both men said, will only help the citizens of both
      countries understand each other. By choosing areas of the academic
      seminars, American and Cuban people who share the same passions and
      concerns in those fields will get to talk to one another. "People to
      people," Cabanas said. "Americans will experience the Cuban people
      and this is just the beginning. We will grow as a base for education
      and I hope that our children -- Cuban and American -- will grow out
      of the mistrust the governments have."

      OTTAWA - (CP) - Canada renewed an agreement with Cuba on bilateral
      co-operation in sport on Sunday, allowing the two countries to
      exchange information and develop a joint program of sport activities.
      Secretary of State for Amateur Sport, Paul DeVillers, signed the
      agreement with Humberto Rodriguez Gonzalez, president of Cuba's
      National Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Recreation in
      Havana, Cuba. The first memorandum of understanding on sport was
      signed by the two countries in 1976. "It is important to continue the
      dialogue and relationship of sharing between our countries to promote
      participation in sport and to ensure that there is a level playing
      field for athletes to pursue excellence in a safe and fair sport
      environment," DeVillers said in a statement. The memorandum of
      understanding between the two countries will focus on issues such as
      anti-doping, sport medicine and research and development-level sport.
      Cuba and Canada will also exchange information on public policy
      development, sport for athletes with a disability and promote
      opportunities for women in sport. The two countries are expected to
      create a joint committee to implement the agreement and will develop
      a two-year program of activities. DeVillers will also participate in
      the annual Terry Fox Run while in Havana, according to the statement.
      For the first time, the five-kilometre run is being held
      simultaneously in 150 locations in the country, with funds donated to
      cancer research in Cuba.

      Newsday - Tourists are blamed for damaging everything from the Great
      Wall of China to coral reefs off the Florida Keys. But there are
      places on Earth that haven't been spoiled yet, thanks to smart
      management and considerate tourists. Some of these places got their
      just awards recently. Clean, green New Zealand, whose landscapes
      provided the "Middle-earth" backdrop for the Lord of the Rings films,
      was picked as the top hot spot for 2003 by the travel magazine Lonely
      Planet. Moviegoers are being inspired to visit the scenic spots,
      according to Don George, the magazine's global travel editor. Other
      top picks were Cambodia, China, Turkey and Cuba.

      Rolling Stone - Mongo Santamaria, an internationally renown
      percussionist, died on February 1st at a hospital in Miami. The
      Cuban-born bandleader was eighty-five. Santamaria's propulsive skill
      as a conguero was a trademark of more than four decades of recording
      and performing, and punctuates his classic 1963 cover of Herbie
      Hancock's "Watermelon Man," an unlikely, pre-Beatles hit in 1963 that
      hit Number Ten on the pop charts. Santamaria may be better known in
      improvisational circles as the writer of "Afro Blue," a beautiful,
      melodic composition that worked its way into the repertoire of jazz
      mainstays from Dizzy Gillespie to John Coltrane. The latter took a
      particular shine to the song, using it as a touchstone for his
      developing sound: From early, faithful and pretty interpretations
      circa 1963 to a 1966 free jazz deconstruction in Japan. Ramon
      Santamaria was born in Havana on April 7, 1922. His professional
      start came in the city's legendary Tropicana Club in his twenties,
      before moving to New York in 1950. There Santamaria learned to swim
      in the deep end of the pool, first performing with legendary Cuban
      bandleader and King of the Mambo Perez Prado, followed by stints with
      fellow percussionist Tito Puente and vibraphonist Cal Tjader. Fusing
      the Latin rhythms that were practically his birthright with
      Americanized styles like R&B and jazz, Santamaria made his first
      recordings as a bandleader in the late Fifties with Yambu and Mongo.
      With the cover of "Watermelon Man," Santamaria found himself
      garnering the acclaim of his former mentors. He would even visit the
      pop charts once again -- a feat that, among his mentors, only Prado
      ever accomplished -- in 1969 with "Cloud Nine." And he recorded
      prolifically through the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, before
      slowing things down last decade. But with the success of 1996's Buena
      Vista Social Club album, more eyes turned to the music of Cuba.
      Santamaria's music drew attention four decades after its start, with
      the release of several compilations, including Rhino's
      career-spanning, two-CD Skin on Skin: The Mongo Santamaria Anthology
      and Legacy's The Best of Mongo Santamaria, which put a light on his
      late-Sixties output. "I have two sons, one's named Mongo and the
      other is Tito," Grammy-winning Latin percussionist Pancho Sanchez
      told Rolling Stone in 2001. "You know how much you respect a man if
      you name your son after him. Everything I do and have done can be
      traced back to those two men. They're my heroes."

      Business Week - Beyond the beauty of Old Havana, tourists can't
      escape Castro's central planning -- or the ongoing impact of U.S.
      sanctions. Continental Flight 4880, the 8 a.m. departure from Miami
      for Havana, has an unorthodox check-in. The flight isn't listed on
      any of the departure screens. Passengers must report to a makeshift
      desk run by the charter travel company that sells the tickets. There,
      downstairs by the baggage carousels starting three hours before
      takeoff, boarding passes are distributed on a first-come,
      first-served basis. It all seems a metaphor for under-the-radar
      relations between America and Cuba. Despite travel restrictions on
      U.S. citizens and other hassles, tourism is growing -- albeit more
      slowly than Cuban officials had hoped. Every year, more than 200,000
      Americans -- politicians, businessmen, artists, journalists,
      academics, and legions of Cuban Americans visiting relatives --
      manage the trip, 90% with the approval of U.S. authorities. The rest
      enter illegally via places like Canada and Mexico. I became part of
      that 90% when I toured Cuba for 10 days in December with 28
      classmates from Stanford Business School. Every year, MBA students
      propose visits to foreign countries, and when Cuba was approved as
      2002's destination, I found the prospect of visiting the Western
      hemisphere's last communist bastion in the company of my B-school's
      card-carrying capitalists to be irresistible. We ended up seeing the
      island and meeting with officials from various government ministries
      involved with tourism, as well as foreign hotel owners, beach-resort
      developers, and former CIA agent Philip Agee, now operating a Havana
      travel agency for Americans. Unfortunately, Fidel Castro was ill and
      couldn't meet with us. Americans represent only a small part of the
      nearly 1.2 million visitors who come to Cuba every year, mainly from
      Canada, Spain, France, Germany, and Britain. They pour nearly $2
      billion into the economy, outstripping revenues from sugar and other
      core crops such as tobacco. Despite U.S. travel restrictions, Cuba's
      tourism receipts are comparable to other popular Caribbean
      destinations like Jamaica and Costa Rica. "Until September 11,
      tourism grew at a compound annual rate of an astounding 25%,"
      explains leading Cuban economist Omar Everleny. All this would seem
      to put tourism on a path to dominate the island's economy. Cuba's
      appeal is evident as the plane descends on Havana and a vista of
      stunning countryside and sweeping beaches that cover the longest
      coastline in the Caribbean fills the window. On the ground, the
      weather is almost always balmy, and you can't help being entranced by
      the infectious musical rhythms on every street corner, constant salsa
      dancing, and seductive aromas of the island's legendary cigars and
      superb rum. Given Cuba's physical and cultural attractions, it's not
      surprising that in the late 1950s more than 30 flights a day made the
      90-mile hop from Miami. Americans by the thousands tanned themselves
      on the beaches and gambled in the notorious casinos of its capital
      city. The Castro regime quashed all that on January 1, 1959, when
      mobs stormed the gambling palaces, smashing roulette wheels and craps
      tables. But many years later, the desperate need for dollars after
      the fall of the Soviet Union made attracting tourists an imperative.
      When Soviet support ended, what Cubans know as the island's "special
      period" from 1990 to 1993 saw a 35% decline in gross domestic product
      -- a decline that Mark Frank, editor of the Economic Eye on Cuba
      newsletter, says "could only be comparable to a country after war."
      To rescue the economy, Castro decided to accept the U.S. dollar as
      legal tender, privatize small businesses, court foreign investment
      from countries like Spain and Canada, and boost tourism, which was
      generating a mere $250 million in 1990. Perhaps the most prominent
      sign of tourism's revival is Habana Vieja (Old Havana), the proud
      project of Eusebio Leal, an architect-historian who 10 years ago
      reinvigorated efforts to preserve the district, which was declared a
      UNESCO World Heritage Site in the early 1980s. Once a grand and
      stately neighborhood, the quarter-mile-square district fell into
      disrepair after Castro took power. Leon talked Castro into allowing
      him to run a company, Habanaguanex, which raises funds -- mostly
      foreign ones -- to renovate buildings, generate cash from tourists,
      and pour profits into more rebuilding. More than $200 million has
      been raised since 1994, with the current goal being to renovate 25
      hotels by 2005. The new Old Havana already has scores of recently
      refurbished stores, cobblestone streets, piazzas, and restaurants,
      all attracting the musicians and entertainers who bring the
      neighborhood alive. Critics of Leal's project abound. The most
      charitable dismiss it as a façade thrown up for the cruise-ship crowd
      (Havana is a significant port for European ships). U.S. travel
      restrictions remain the most daunting challenge facing Cuba's tourism
      industry. Old Havana's renovation and the construction of beach
      resorts at places like Varadero were undertaken in anticipation of an
      influx of Americans. But the Helms-Burton law passed by the U.S.
      Congress in 1996 not only crimped the flow of U.S. visitors but also
      continues to curtail foreign investment by penalizing in the U.S. any
      outfit also doing business in Cuba. Sol Melia had to relinquish its
      U.S. holdings to become a player in Cuba. U.S. policy affects tourism
      in other ways as well. Much to the surprise of many first-time
      visitors, Cuba isn't cheap. American staples -- things like steak and
      shampoo, for example -- are scarce, and imported substitutes
      expensive. Additionally, prices are regulated and taxes high. It's
      not uncommon to pay $10 for a cocktail, a small bottle of water costs
      $2, and seats at the Tropicana nightclub start at $70. Author Isadora
      Tattlin, who spent four years in Cuba and recounted her experiences
      in Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana, tells of Spam going
      for $50 a can. With the government collecting most of the profits,
      the few private Cuban-owned tourism companies have dwindled.
      Paladares, the tiny restaurants operated by Cuban citizens in their
      homes, once numbered some 1,500. Now a mere 200 remain. And despite
      high prices, heavy taxes have forced many of the remaining small
      businesses into the red. Still, given that the Castro regime exerts
      an iron grip on the rest of Cuba's economy, many Cubanos are rushing
      into tourism -- a trend that has caused a brain drain in high-skill
      professions. Thanks to hard-currency tips, educated Cubans can
      multiply their incomes by switching to tourist-industry service jobs.
      For example, the taxi driver who brought me from the airport was an
      aeronautical engineer, and one of our hotel's bartenders was a
      doctor. Tourism continues to inspire high hopes among some investors.
      "I believe that Cuba could be to America like Hong Kong is to Asia,"
      says Enzo Alberto, the Canadian-Italian CEO of ICC, a major investor
      in the island's Internet infrastructure. Perhaps. But not until the
      U.S. trade embargo ends and the Cuban government loosens its
      stranglehold on the economy.

      Madrid - (PL) - Cuban authorities are extending the circulation of
      euro in several tourism resorts, Cuban Tourism Vice-Minister Marta
      Maíz informed in this capital. The official, heading a Cuban
      delegation to FITUR 2003 -International Tourism Fair- told Prensa
      Latina that this currency will begin circulating in Holguín, Santa
      Lucía, and Covarrubias resorts, in Cuba"s east. The currency first
      began successfully circulating in the famous Varadero Beach Resort
      and the no less important resort in the northern key group in central
      Camaguey, she explained. For the tourism industry, the inclusion of
      the euro is another incentive for visitors, who mainly come from
      nations where this currency circulates. Neuris Barzaga, Tourism
      Ministry representative in Holguín, said that its circulation in the
      zone will begin June 1st. The Holguin Tourism Resort was presented to
      specialized tour-operators and journalists attending FITUR 2003 as
      part of the Cuban representation at the event. In only a few years,
      Holguin has become the Cuban tourism industry"s third most important
      resort. To reinforce this strategic position, Cubana Airlines will
      open Madrid-Holguin direct weekly flights from July 1 to September
      16. Oscar Pau, Cubana Airlines representative in Spain, announced
      that the DC-10 will leave from this capital at 5 PM, thus meeting the
      increasing demand of Spanish tourism to Cuba"s east. This new service
      will have the collaboration of the Sol Melia chain, with several four
      and five stars hotels on the Holguin beaches, as well important
      tour-operators such as Guamá, Sol y Son, Melia Tour, and Politours.
      The Holguin tourism resort currently has over 4,500 rooms, and
      features an excellent sun-beach package as well as such attractions
      as nature and cultural tourism. It was in the Holguin locality of
      Bariai that Christopher Columbus arrived to Cuba, thus adding more
      attraction to the region. The country"s most important archaeological
      deposits are there, with valuable indigenous examples.

      HAVANA - (AP) - Four decades after being handed his first pair of
      sticks at the Hotel Nacional, Cuban drummer Amadito Valdes was back,
      this time to launch a solo album. Long known among musicians in Cuba,
      Valdes was catapulted to international fame in the late 1990s by Wim
      Wenders (news)' documentary "Buena Vista Social Club," which featured
      him among a group of veteran Cuban musicians. His first solo album,
      "Bajando Gervasio," is also aimed at an international audience,
      having recently been released in Spain, Portugal, Japan and the
      United States. On stage in late January at the Hotel Nacional,
      playing the little drums known as timbales, the 67-year-old Valdes
      became a man possessed, eyes tightly shut, face grimacing as the beat
      flowed through him. "I've never forgotten that night," he said,
      thinking back to his debut here. "Someone even told me then that I
      would become a good timbalero." Timbales frequently accompany the
      Caribbean island's mix of Spanish melodies and African rhythms.
      Valdes, soft-spoken and contemplative, is known as the Golden Sticks
      of the Buena Vista Social Club. In the movie, he sits at a deserted
      Havana bar, sipping a soft drink and talking about his love of Cuban
      music. "Thanks to `Buena Vista,' Cuban music is everywhere now, even
      in uncommon places like Iceland or Japan. People are eager to
      rediscover the roots of our music," Valdes says. "For me Cuban music
      is the greatest thing in the world." The documentary followed
      American guitarist Ry Cooder on a trip to Cuba in the late '90s in
      search of veteran performers who helped make pre-revolutionary Havana
      one of the world's music capitals. Cooder formed a group of
      musicians, and they called themselves the Buena Vista Social Club
      after one of the few big Havana nightclubs that admitted blacks
      before the 1959 revolution. The film documented the group's
      recording sessions and a triumphant concert at New York's Carnegie
      Hall. Cooder later produced several albums with the group, including
      the Grammy-winning "Buena Vista Social Club," which sold more than 2
      million copies. Cooder has called Valdes "one of the major figures
      of the drums still alive." Valdes' recent concert drew several
      hundred fans, most of them tourists but also a few Buena Vista
      celebrities such as diva Omara Portuondo, and vocalists Ibrahim
      Ferrer and Pio Leiva. The audience interrupted constantly with
      applause, while TV cameras swirled around the musicians and Valdes
      pounded out different rhythms: bolero, danzon, cha cha cha. "Amadito
      proves with this personal work why he is one of the most successful
      Cuban contemporary percussionists," said composer and musical
      director Juan de Marcos. Valdes said he was grateful for the Buena
      Vista phenomenon. "I've finally been given recognition," he said.
      "But I'm the same person I ever was. The only thing that has changed
      is that I now have a better car." On the Net: www.amaditovaldes.com
      In 1999, OFAC (The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United
      States Department of the Treasury in Washington, D.C.) confirmed that
      it had previously issued an opinion in 1994 which stated that a U.S.
      company or individual could make a secondary market investment in a
      "third-country company" that had commercial dealings with the
      Republic of Cuba as long as the investment in the "third-country
      company" was not a controlling interest and the "third-country
      company" did not derive a majority of it's revenues from operations
      in Cuba. (therefore, if structured correctly, U.S. citizens and
      companies can invest in a private or public Canadian company doing
      business with Cuba)
      James Hitchie
      Cuban Daily News Digest
      email: info@...
      Web site: http://www.cubaninvestments.com

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