Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

As publisher of HavanaJournal.com and avid reader of all Cuba news items I find, get from RSS feeds and sent to me each day from a variety of sources, I figured I would post in one place the Cuba news articles I have read so far today.

Also, since I haven’t put out a recent issue of our Cuba Watch newsletter, I figured I would take this post and put it out to the subscribers to they can be right up to date with these Cuba news items.

In no particular order:

Cuba sharply hikes tax on imported goods in blow to small business owners, other islanders

By Associated Press

Cuba has announced the imposition of stiff new import taxes that could substantially affect private entrepreneurs trying to get new businesses off the ground and many others who rely on informal shipments of merchandise from overseas.

Starting in September, Cubans who come in and out of the country more than once a year will have to pay the equivalent of $10 a kilogram ($4.50 a pound) or more for imports, a fortune in a country where salaries average the equivalent of about $20 a month. Non-residents, including Cuban-Americans visiting relatives, would have to pay the new rates even if they only make one trip to the island.

About a quarter of a million Cubans have started new businesses under free-market reforms instituted by President Raul Castro at the end of 2010. Many have opened cafes, repair shops, clothing stalls and outdoor stands that rely on products brought in from abroad.

Cubans with permission to travel often fund their trips by acting as mules, coming back with bags stuffed with clothes, electronic goods, diapers and other things that are hard to find on the island. Until now, they would pay only pay about $0.50 a kilo ($0.25 a pound) in import duties, with set fees for big-ticket items like televisions and microwave ovens. Food imports were free until earlier this year, when the government began charging duties.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

The new phone books are here! - First look at Havana yellow pages

Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

The new Havana yellow pages are circulating through Havana.

The quality is what you would expect from any major city yellow pages but it is very thin at only 3/8” thick and just under 200 pages.

The Paginas Amarillas/Directorio Telefonico de Cuba, La Habana edition is an interesting subject read for many reasons.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

Jatropha seeds to be grown for new Cuban biodiesel - ‘bellyache bush’

By Agence France Presse

A new biodiesel plant in Cuba—the first of its type—is turning seeds from the so-called “bellyache bush” into a green energy source, it was announced July 16.
Jatropha seeds are rich in oil but toxic for human consumption, explained Jose Sotolongo, director of the province’s Center for Applied Technology for Sustainable Development.
“It’s a major change to the widespread paradigm in global biofuel production,” Sotolongo said, explaining the industry has so far mainly used edible vegetable oils, such as sunflower or soybean.
The jatropha plant offers the additional advantage, he added, “that its cultivation is feasible in areas of low or no agricultural value.”

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

Cuba opening door to more private enterprise

By Peter Orsi | Associated Press

At first blush, Mama Ines seems to be just the latest in a long line of private restaurants that have opened in Havana as part of President Raul Castro’s fledgling free-market reforms.

But a tiny sign on the facade, easily overlooked, tells the tale: “Tenant of the Office of the Historian.”

The government’s Havana historian, Eusebio Leal, has long overseen the capital’s colonial core with unusually wide latitude to call his own shots.

Now he’s out in front of other state agencies again — this time by leasing government-owned buildings as retail space to Mama Ines and a handful of other private small businesses: here a beauty salon, there a massage parlor, down the street a nursery specializing in bonsai.

Until now, most independent restaurateurs have been operating out of their own homes, restricting their access to good locations and forcing them to cannibalize their living space.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

Cuba, India seek expanded cooperation in energy, telecom, tourism

By Xinhua

India has expressed interest in expanding cooperation with Cuba in the sectors of energy, telecommunications and tourism, media reports said here Friday.

Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said during his ongoing visit here that his country was also interested in working together with Cuba in the areas of pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, sugar, agriculture, agrochemicals, mining and services, according to Cuba’s official daily Granma.

Scindia, head of a visiting Indian business delegation, said India has extensive experience in developing information and communications technologies, and is keen to cooperate with Cuba in that area.

India had launched a global push to promote tourism over the past years,Scindia said. The industry is “very important, not only as a source of foreign revenue, but also for employment,” he said.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

Palestinian leader hoped plea to Cuba for Alan Gross would free up aid

By JUAN O. TAMAYO | McClatchy Newspapers

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Cuba to free jailed U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross in hope of persuading Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtninen to release a $147 million grant to the Palestinian government, according to a news report.

Abbas’ intervention on behalf of the Jewish-American man came to light in a report Sunday by Ma’an, an independent Palestinian news service. It was based on leaked emails between Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin and Palestinian officials.

Baskin, who reportedly was involved in last year’s swap of one captured Israeli soldier for 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, described Gross as a Cuban “hostage” and suggested Abbas should telephone Cuban ruler Raul Castro and urge him to free Gross.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

Cuba Hits Wall in 2-Year Push to Expand the Private Sector

Jose Goitia for The New York Times

Nearly two years into the Cuban government’s economic overhaul aimed at slashing public payrolls and bolstering private enterprise, the reforms have slowed so much that many Cuban entrepreneurs and intellectuals are questioning the aging leadership’s ability — or will — to reshape one of the world’s last Communist systems and shift nearly half of the island’s output to private hands.

Those awaiting measures to create even more opportunity for private business got the opposite last week, when news spread of a little-advertised government decision to charge steep customs duties on the informal imports, from Miami and elsewhere, that are the lifeblood of many young businesses.

“This could have a huge impact,” said Emilio Morales, president of the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, who said state-owned shops in Cuba were losing business to street vendors. “It shows the state isn’t ready to compete with the private sector.”

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

The Conspiracy Theorists

Armando Chaguaceda | Havana Times

Over the past several day there have appeared in various blogs from the island, and in their international replicas, accusations pertaining to the counterrevolutionary, conspiratorial and mercenary character of different cultural and media projects – including Havana Times.

The casual repetition of the attack has generated indignation and alarm among those of us who participate in this medium. This has led to a series of personal and collective responses that are seeking to curb or reverse those accusations and their possible effects.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE and see my comments about how there is no “conspiracy”, just facts that HavanaTimes.org is, at the very least, influenced in a major way by the Cuban government despite attempts to deflect the truth.