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April 15, 2014
News Americas, PHILADELPHIA, PA, Weds. April 16, 2014: Caribbean nationals in Philadelphia are gearing up for the first Caribbean Youth Summit under the theme: ‘Reclaiming Our Caribbean Identity.’
The Caribbean Youth Summit Planning Committee will host the event on April 25,2014 from 6-9 p.m at First District Plaza, Philadelphia PA.
With the purpose of creating a platform for youth of Caribbean descent to engage on topics related to the Caribbean and its Diaspora, the inaugural Caribbean Youth Summit will launch the dialogues with the fundamental question: Who are we?
The panelists will include Fulbright Scholar Marielle Barrow, who was born in Trinidad & Tobago and is a a Cultural Studies PhD candidate at George Mason University and a visiting scholar at Columbia University; Genymphas Higgs, a Bahamas-born PhD candidate at Drexel University who focuses on improving the performance of orthopedic implants; Haitian-born entrepreneur Florcy Morisset of the Vivant Art Collection and Jamaican researcher and campaigner for social and economic justice, Javed Jagai Aajri.
The Summit will also feature a performance by Jamaican recording artist, Cezar, spoken word poet Sofiya Ballin and a one-on-one with David Mullings, CEO of RealVibez Group, followed by a networking session.
Local groups participating will include: the Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia, Students Organized for Caribbean Awareness (Temple University), Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. (Drexel University), Caribbean American Student Association (University of Pennsylvania), and the African and Caribbean Business Council of Philadelphia.
For more information visit facebook.com/CaribbeanYouth.
April 14, 2014
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, April 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Seaborne Airlines, the fastest growing airline in the Caribbean, has announced it is making travel even cheaper and easier! We are offering $1,200 of travel for each $1,000 for the next three weeks when customers add funds to their Seaborne accounts. There is no limit to the amount you can add to a travel account, so the more money added to an account, the more money you will save! Seaborne will provide you with a $200 gift certificate for each $1,000 added to your account. The gift certificates can be used for travel through December 31, 2014 with no restrictions or blackout dates.
Amount Added to Travel Account Value of Seaborne Gift Certificates
Unlike “coupon books” offered by other airlines, Seaborne travel accounts, and the gift certificates, can be used to book travel to any city served by Seaborne through an online account. The coupon books offered by other airlines also don’t come with the 20% discount Seaborne is offering.
With service to 18 airports throughout the Caribbean; connecting service to American, JetBlue and Delta at San Juan, Puerto Rico; two pilots on every flight; a flight attendant on our new Saab 340 aircraft and the outstanding dependability Seaborne is becoming known for, the Seaborne Travel Account offers the greatest value in air service in the Caribbean.
Seaborne travel accounts have been especially popular with travelers in the Virgin Islands where Seaborne operates up to 30 flights a day between St. Thomas and St. Croix – three times as many flights between the islands as the next largest airline.
Existing Seaborne Travel Account customers can add funds to their accounts by contacting Seaborne toll-free at 866-359-8784 or by sending an email to email@example.com and new customers can create an account by calling Seaborne toll-free at 866-359-8784.
About Seaborne Airlines
Seaborne Airlines has been operating in the Caribbean for over 20 years, carrying over two million customers safely. Seaborne operates over 2,100 monthly departures throughout the Caribbean to San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Vieques, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Dominica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, La Romana, Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, Santiago, St. Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis.
April 13, 2014
Invest Caribbean Now’s Sheila Newton-Moses, centre, at the Global Russia Business Meeting in Valencia, Spain on April 7, 2014. (ICN Photo)
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Mon. April 14, 2014: Russia can learn a lot from the Caribbean on branding itself as an inbound tourism destination after Sochi.
That’s according to new Invest Caribbean Now President, Sheila Newton-Moses, who along with Invest Caribbean Now Founder and Chairman, Felicia J. Persaud, were the lone Caribbean representatives at the invitation only Global Russia Business Meeting held from April 6-7, 2014 in Valencia, Spain.
Newton-Moses was among a six-member panel entitled “Unlocking The Tourist Potential” at the event and told delegates gathered from around the world that Russia has to work on creating a brand that is beyond the current political image its known for around the world.
“In the Caribbean we have mastered the art of tourism and it is a billion dollar industry,” said Newton-Moses. “Russia needs to learn from the Caribbean and look at marketing its culture and history globally to transcend and repair its current image.”
The Global Russia Business Meeting brings together a host of eminent business leaders to discuss Russian firms’ role in the global economy annually and is organized by Dr. Frank Richter of Horasis: The Global Vision Community. Similar exclusive investment summits around the world on China, India and the Middle East are also held annually.
Invest Caribbean Now’s historic appearance at the five-year-old global investment event comes ahead of the presence of Russian investors on the summit’s ‘Global Trends and the Caribbean’ panel that is set for June 4th, 2014 from 11:30 a.m. at the prestigious Harvard Club in New York City.
Russian investments in the Caribbean have been growing in recent years while tourists from Russia are also increasing to the region especially to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
This year’s fourth Invest Caribbean Now summit will also feature numerous global professional investors, entrepreneurs, and business leaders including a delegation from China; the Industrial Commerce Bank of China, American CryoStem Corporation, Lugano Group, Damoola, Merrill Lynch, Nomura, Aegis Capital, Island Global Yachting, Blocadi Capital, K&L Gates, True Value Building & Hardware Ltd & Emerald Vista and representatives from Sir Richard Branson’s the Carbon War Room.
Also attending will be Caribbean government ministers and dignitaries from across the region; chairman of the billion-dollar, privately-owned Jamaican-based empire that today includes 24 Caribbean properties, Appliance Traders Ltd. and The Observer media company, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart; Sergio Millian, President of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce; Colin Childress, CEO/Founder, Global MedChoices, Turks & Caicos; Paul Angelchik, M.D., Founder and CEO, American World Clinic – Barbados; Anthony A. L. Adjasse of the Allied African Nations Chamber Of Commerce; Jamaica’s Ambassador to the UN, Courtney Rattray and several CARICOM consuls general to New York; Hollywood actor Malik Yoba, Hollywood fashion designer, Woody Wilson; Qahir Dhanani, private sector development specialist of the World Bank Group; Leigh Moran, manager, International Diaspora Engagement Alliance” or “IdEA,” a partnership of the US State Department and USAID; Brian Lilly, founder of One Caribbean Television and CEO of Lilly Broadcasting; Caribbean scholar Dr. Isaac Newton; Anthony Phills, founder of the Caribbean Commerce Magazine/Media and Blinglet Inc. and Irwine Clare of the Jamaica Diaspora, North East among others.
Multiple Award Emmy winning TV Anchor, Ernie Anstos, will emcee the Summit while One Caribbean Television weatherman, Joey Stevens, and his famous side-kick, Bob, will wrap up the event by hosting the ICN Awards Reception, set for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Partnership sponsorship and advertising opportunities for this event are available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by logging on to ICN’s summit page atInvestcaribbeannow.com.
An exclusive Diamond Dinner has been added to this year’s summit for only 20 people who will include Malik Yoba, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart and Woody Wilson among other top Chinese, Caribbean and Russian delegates. Only ten tickets remain available and can be obtained by contacting Joe Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presenters for ICN 2014 include: Hard Beat Communications, The Caribbean Tourism Organization, One Caribbean Television, The Woody Wilson Collection of Beverly Hills, The PR Newswire, the Caribbean Commerce Magazine, Blinglets, The Caribbean Council for Economic Development, the Chinese Business Development Center, Woody Wilson Fine Clothing, CaribPR Wire, News Americas Now, the Jamaica Observer, CaribSeek, WINN-FM and GCaribbean Magazine.
SCENES FROM VALENCIA
April 11, 2014
The Chemistry, Food & Drugs Division of the Trinidad & Tobago Ministry of Health has approved the introduction of Abiraterone Acetate.
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago, April 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The Chemistry, Food & Drugs Division of the Trinidad & Tobago Ministry of Health approved the introduction of Abiraterone Acetate to the country, the first – orally administered androgen synthesis inhibitor (testosterone) medication for the treatment of patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Clinical trials have demonstrated that this new therapeutic resource for the standard therapy of patients with hormone-resistant tumors reduces the risk of death by approximately 35%. Abiraterone Acetate is available in Trinidad & Tobago under the trademark Zytiga™.
According to the National Cancer Registry of Trinidad & Tobago, prostate cancer leads cancer statistics in the population with 22% of all cases. Amongst males, prostate cancer accounted for 42% of all new cases of cancer. Worldwide, prostate cancer is the second type of cancer most frequently diagnosed in men, and the fifth type overall. Near 1.1 million new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed worldwide in 2012, and more than 300,000 men died because of the disease.
This type of cancer is the result of the malignant transformation of certain cells of the prostate, a gland located underneath the urinary bladder in men, one of the functions of which is to produce a part of the seminal fluid. Although a slowly developing disease, some prostate tumors may be very aggressive and extend quickly to invade other organs (metastasis).
Abiraterone Acetate is a new therapy administered orally as a single daily dose, which prevents androgen from being produced at their three sources: Testes, adrenal glands, and the tumor itself, through the strong block of the CYP 17 enzyme.
Androgens are hormones that promote both male development and sexual features, and prostate cancer cells have been shown to need them to grow.
“Abiraterone Acetate is an androgen synthesis inhibitor (testosterone) treatment that reduces the risk of death by approximately 35% of patients already treated with hormone therapy and chemotherapy. Approximately 20% of all patients with prostate cancer progress to a severe stage of the disease and could now benefit from this new therapeutic alternative”, stated Dr. Carmen Martinez, Medical Director of Janssen for Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean.
One of the most salient aspects of Abiraterone Acetate that distinguishes it from other oncologic treatments is that it possesses a novel mechanism of action, with a benefit as to the overall survival rate, and a tolerable toxicity profile. Additionally, Abiraterone Acetate also provides relief for bone pain that often afflicts patients at advanced stages of the disease.
“Before the appearance of Abiraterone Acetate, after progressing to chemotherapy most patients received either a second unsuccessful line of therapy or merely supportive, palliative treatment” added Dr. Martínez.
The treatment of this condition depends on its stage at diagnosis. Prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate), hormone block, or radiotherapy, are some therapeutic possibilities available for the treatment of this disease.
The primary objective of treatment in patients with advanced prostate cancer is to block the action of androgens such as testosterone, since this may result in the regression of the tumor whose development is stimulated by this hormone. However, with passing time many patients who had initially responded to treatments aimed at blocking the production of testosterone, start to produce the hormone again, which reactivates the disease.
Chemotherapy is used in those cases in which the disease has become castration-resistant, that is, that the prostate cancer has kept progressing despite treatment, thus exhausting the possibilities to carry out or to continue the hormone block.
Some treatments available for these patients are intravenous chemotherapies, with this group including only docetaxel and mitoxantrone until 2010.
Janssen is a company devoted to research to provide innovative products that help protect and improve the lives of people, to face and solve the most significant and still unmet medical needs in the areas of oncology, immunology, neurosciences, and infectious, cardiovascular, and metabolic diseases. Through the different companies of the Johnson & Johnson group, our staff is united in the passionate search for solutions through science, for the benefit of our patients. With presence in more than 50 countries, we share the commitment of the founders of our company to innovate in ideas, products, and services for our patients all around the world.
April 11, 2014
PEMBROKE PINES, Fla., April 11, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Registration is now open for the 2014 FCCA Cruise Conference & Trade Show, taking place in St. Maarten from October 6-10, 2014. The event will gather over 1,000 stakeholders from all sectors the cruise tourism industry, along with over 100 FCCA Member Line cruise executives, presidents and CEOs.
Attendees will have access to these key decision makers during a four-day series that balance business sessions and networking opportunities. These include one-on-one meetings with cruise executives of attendees’ choice, which offer a chance to promote a product or receive individualized input; social functions that foster interaction in a laid-back, engaging atmosphere; and workshops focused on current issues with panels comprised of knowledgeable industry professionals and cruise executives, along with the presidents and CEOs heading a roundtable discussion.
In addition to these resources, attendees have access to St. Maarten’s exciting setting and activities, with the Port of St. Maarten, the government and local businesses linking to present a WOW factor and show what cruise passengers can experience during a stay-over visit. Together, this creates the perfect forum for exchanging information and industry trends, sharing ideas, and cultivating valuable business relationships. Plus with an attendance of about one cruise executives per 10 attendees, attendees have one of the best chances to target and gain insight from cruise lines’ key decision makers who influence what goes onboard and where ships call.
The Trade Show expands this target, allowing exhibitors to capture the attention of this prominent audience. Any booth puts their product, company, or destination on attendees’ and executives’ minds, but special destination pavilion options provide the greatest impact at the Trade Show. They showcase a destination product as a team—from vendors and tour operators to destination ministries and port operators.
So if you want to establish or grow your cruise industry business, mark your calendars for October 6-10 and book your tickets for St. Maarten.
To register and/or learn more, please visit www.regonline.com/fccastmaarten.
April 11, 2014
By Nan Staff Writer
News Americas, Miami, Fl, Fri. April 11, 2014: Three U.S. Congressmembers, back from a bipartisan congressional delegation trip to Haiti, are calling on the government there to hold elections there soon.
CongressmembersMario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Frederica Wilson said the Haitian government is more than two years behind on holding elections for the Senate, local municipal councils, mayors, town delegates, and other posts.
“We commend all parties, including the Catholic Church, for working together to get consensus on a positive path forward for elections to be held in October. We urge the Haitian Senate to now swiftly pass the necessary elections legislation,” the three, writing in the Miami Herald on their trip, said.
Balloting in Haiti is scheduled for Oct. 24 but several changes to the country’s electoral laws need to be made. On Monday, Haitian President Michel Martelly sent an amended electoral law to the Senate and lower chamber of deputies as part of a package of laws to be voted on. Senate President Simon Desras said while be believes the new law will pass, he still doubts the executive has the political will to stage the balloting, scheduled for Oct. 24.
The lawmakers also insisted that more actions are needed to root out corruption and improve transparency and accountability in Haiti.
This they say is necessary to help attract more private sector investment in order to improve the Haitian economy and create more educational opportunities that lead to jobs need to be created to foster economic development.
Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen and Wilson also described as “discouraging” the fact that US Agency, USAID, has decreased the projected number of houses built in Haiti, which resulted in less people being helped and that a majority of the funds for Haiti had not been disbursed.
“USAID spent years studying if we could build a port in northern Haiti, but instead now, it will be looking at making infrastructure improvements at the existing port in Cap-Haitien,” the lawmakers said. “We commend the new change of strategy, but unfortunately, we lost many years in the process.”
The visit came more than four years since the worst natural disaster in recent memory occurred in Haiti—the Haiti Earthquake of 2010. Despite heavy investment in Haiti, many projected goals have not been met and the Michelle Martelly government continues to face challenges resulting from the earthquake and other natural disasters, with droughts causing food shortages in the northwestern part of the country.
April 11, 2014
By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. April 11, 2014: Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), says she is concerned by the lack of action by the Barack Obama administration against the human rights abuses in Venezuela.
Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the statement at a Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere hearing Thursday.
Her comments came as Venezuelan opposition leaders began a late-night meeting with President Nicolás Maduro and his cabinet in a possible first step toward ending two months of anti-government protests and street clashes.
The meeting was broadcast live on Venezuelan television and radio, at the insistence of the opposition, and was attended by mediators from Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and the Vatican.
The representative of the Holy See in Venezuela, Aldo Giordano, opened the meeting by reading a written statement from Pope Francis urging both sides to put aside differences and summon the courage to reach an agreement.
Ros-Lehtinen said with 41 people reportedly dead; nearly 60 reported cases of torture; more than 2,000 people unjustly detained; and hundreds injured, all that the world has gotten from the administration is “almost absolute silence!”
“It is shameful that the Obama Administration continues to neglect the suffering of the Venezuelan people,” said the congresswoman.
“The President has issued an Executive Order to sanction Russian violators of human rights abuses and even up to last week … the President issued an Executive Order authorizing sanctions for South Sudan. So I ask, why can the Administration not issue the same order today on Venezuela and hold human rights violators accountable?”
Her comments came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testified in the Senate that the U.S. does not want to act in Venezuela because of bogus negotiations.
But Ros-Lehtinen says the protests in Venezuela have been going on for two months.
“It is shameful to have this silence because (President Nicolás Maduro) hears the silence. Now we’re going to use the excuse of this new negotiations period, but this negotiations ruse is a new trick, because the protests have been going on for weeks and we have not done anything,” she added.
April 10, 2014
Former US Secretary of State, George Shultz, under President, Ronald Reagan, and Former Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, A.N.R. Robinson, r., pose for photographers during a photo-up, before their bilateral meeting on 9/28/1987, at One UN Millennium Hotel, in New York City. (Hayden Roger Celestin/File Photo)
News Americas, PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Thurs. April 10, 2014: Trinidad & Tobago nationals took to message boards yesterday to salute Arthur Napoleon Raymond (ANR) Robinson, their third President and Prime Minister, minutes after news broke that he had passed away at the St. Clair Medical Centre in Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad.
The Tobago-born Robinson, who survived being shot in the leg and beaten during the 1990 coup d’état attempt by the Jamaat al Muslimeen, passed away at around 6 a.m. on Wednesday April 9, 2014. He was 87 and had been suffering a number of health ailments including a stroke and prostate issues.
On the Trinidad Express website, Trinis from around the world added their condolences even as the country’s current prime minister ordered the national flag to be flown at half-mast and declared a period of national mourning.
Robinson, who was also former chairman of the Tobago House of Assembly, was described as a “fallen solider,” a “great Prime Minister and President,” an “outstanding statesman” and a “man who demonstrated high moral and spiritual values” by T&T nationals .
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Wednesday said T&T has lost one of its “outstanding sons and an elder statesman” while she has lost “a friend and political mentor.”
“Mr. Robinson’s passing is a deep and tragic loss for our country, but the legacy he leaves behind shall surely live on to inspire today’s and tomorrow’s generations,” said the PM before visiting the home of the former head of state to sign a book of condolence in honor of Robinson in the presence of his daughter, Ann Margaret, and grand-daughter, Anuska.
T&T opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley said the late President and Prime Minister has left a legacy of leadership which has come to immortalize the words “attack with full force.”
“Even in the midst of what has become known as one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history, he was resolute in his role as leader,” said Rowley.
Secretary-General of CARICOM, Irwin LaRocque, said “the Caribbean Community has lost one of its truly great sons who will always be remembered for his historic role at the landmark Grand Anse Meeting in 1989, where the decision was taken to significantly deepen our integration.”
T&T’s National Security Minister Gary Griffith has said a state funeral is being planned for the man who held the distinction of being the first active politician to be elected president.
Robinson was elected to the Federal Parliament of the defunct Caribbean Federation in 1958 and to the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament as a representative for Tobago in 1961. He served as the first Minister of Finance of Trinidad and Tobago after Independence and later as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
He broke with the People’s National Movement (PNM) party following the Black Power disturbances in 1970 and founded the Action Committee of Democratic Citizens (ACDC). In conjunction with the Democratic Labour Party, Robinson led the ill-fated “No-vote” campaign of 1971.
Following the election, Robinson founded the Democratic Action Congress (DAC) which won the two Tobago seats in the 1976 and 1981 elections.
In 1981 Robinson joined forces with the United Labour Front (ULF) under the leadership of Basdeo Panday and the Tapia House Movement under the leadership of Lloyd Best to form the National Alliance. This group entered an Accommodation with the Organisation for National Reconstruction under the leadership of Karl Hudson-Phillips to fight (and win) the Local Government elections of 1983. Building on this victory the four parties combined to form the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) which won the 1986 elections by a margin of 33-3 and Robinson was appointed the first non-PNM Prime Minister.
Prior to the 1986 elections Robinson was instrumental in setting up the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and was its chairman from December 1980 to 16 December 1986. This local government entity was established in 1980 to strengthen the position of Tobago within the unitary state of Trinidad and Tobago. His party, the DAC (and later the NAR), controlled the THA from 1980 until 2001, when the PNM gained control of the body.
During the 1990 coup d’état attempt by the Jamaat al Muslimeen the Prime Minister Robinson and much of his Cabinet were held hostage for six days by gunmen under the leadership of Yasin Abu Bakr.
When instructed to order the army to stop firing on the Red House (the seat of Parliament where they were held hostage) Robinson instead instructed them to “attack with full force,” an action that earned him a severe beating from his captors. He was also shot in his leg.
Robinson served as the country’s third President from March 19, 1997 to March 17, 2003 and as Trinidad and Tobago’s third prime minister from December 18, 1986 to December 17, 1991.
His life was punctuated with numerous accolades, gaining international recognition for his proposal that eventually led to the founding of the International Criminal Court.
Robinson was also bestowed the following honors during his life time: Distinguished International Criminal Law Award, International Criminal Court Foundation 1977, Distinguished Merit Award for International Diplomatic Achievement 1986.
His name will live on in the annals of history including flying high on Trinidad & Tobago’s airport, which in 2011 was renamed the A.N.R. Robinson International Airport.
April 9, 2014
MIAMI, April 9, 2014 /PRNewswire/ – Due to its outstanding worldwide success, HBO announced the renewal of its original series Game of Thrones for a fifth and sixth season. Based on the bestselling fantasy book series by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones is an epic story of treachery and nobility set on the continent of Westeros, where summers and winters can last years, and only the lust for power is eternal. The award-winning series recently launched its 10-episode fourth season on Sunday, April 6th.
In addition to new characters this season, returning cast regulars include Emmy® and Golden Globe® winner Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Charles Dance, Aidan Gillen, Jack Gleeson, Kit Harington, Diana Rigg, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Alfie Allen, Jerome Flynn, Conleth Hill, John Bradley, Gwendoline Christie, Liam Cunningham, Stephen Dillane, Natalie Dormer, Iain Glen, Kristofer Hivju, Sibel Kekilli, Rose Leslie, Rory McCann, Michael McElhatton, Iwan Rheon and Carice van Houten.
Game of Thrones is executive produced by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger and Bernadette Caulfield; co-executive produced by Guymon Casady, Vince Gerardis and George R.R. Martin; and produced by Chris Newman and Greg Spence.
About HBO Latin America
HBO Latin America is the premium television network leader that, in addition to being recognized for the quality and diversity of its original programming, films and documentaries, also provides services with the highest technology in SD and HD formats in more than 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean through its channels HBO, HBO2, HBO Signature, HBO Plus, HBO Family, HBO Caribbean, HBO On Demand, HBO GO, Cinemax, MAX, MAX Prime, MAX HD and MAX Caribbean.
April 8, 2014
News Americas, LONDON, England, Weds. April 9, 2014: On March 29 Cuba’s National Assembly passed a new foreign investment law. Its content has far reaching implications for the future economic organisation of the country. It has also stimulated a lively public and private debate in the rest of the Caribbean about whether it represents a new economic challenge to others in the region.
Unusually, the changes that the new law contains had been widely trailed in Cuba’s national and provincial media before its passing. This was because of its contentious nature within Cuba and the challenge it offered to many Cuban conservatives’ belief in the need to maintain full control over national sovereignty and economic decision making.
The result was slow progress as sometimes challenging political and technical discussions took place in provincial assemblies and in consultations with mass organisations such as the trades unions.
At these meetings various concerns were expressed. Particularly contentious was whether the same investment rights would be granted to Cuban Americans; who, having left the island, significant numbers of Cubans believe, should not be able to benefit. There were also voices at the liberal end of the debate questioning whether the law should enable investment by a small group of increasingly wealthy Cubans living in Cuba and paying taxes.
The passing of the new investment law marks a clear victory for President Raúl Castro and those at high levels within the Cuban Communist Party who recognize the need for change. It reflects too a view that fundamental reforms within Cuba are more likely to take place during the period up to 2018 while Raúl Castro remains as President and retains the moral authority to argue for and ensure change. The lengthy debate speaks also to the fault lines that continue to exist between those who are seeking to maintain a more pure socialist line and those who believe Cuba has no option but to reform and modernize.
Details of the new law have been well publicized, but in essence the new legislation will modify the existing foreign investment law that dates back to 1995, bringing it in line with the government’s broader project of updating its socialist economic model.
According to a front page article in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, the legislative proposal is intended to increase the rate of economic growth and increase funds for investment so as to ‘accelerate the development of prosperous and sustainable socialism’. It allows for foreign investment in all sectors except education, health and ‘armed institutions’ and will offer tax exemptions to overseas companies.
In a break with the past, the new law establishes foreign investment as a priority for the future development of Cuba; aiming to revive local industry and making Cuban goods competitive on the world market through new financing, and access to advanced technology and know-how in key areas, such as agriculture, industry, tourism, biotechnology and renewable energy.
Under the new law, investors will be exempted from paying tax on profits for eight years upon the signing of an agreement; investors will be exempted from income tax; 100 per cent foreign ownership will be allowed, but such companies will be denied the same tax benefits afforded to joint ventures with the Cuban state or associations between foreign and Cuban companies; the new law does not specifically exclude Cubans living abroad; and state-run companies, private farm and non-farm cooperatives can be authorized to form ventures with foreign investors.
One of the interesting side effects of the law’s passing has been a debate in parts of the rest of the Caribbean about the possible negative effects of Cuba’s emergence at some future date as a significant beneficiary for foreign investment and its potential to out-compete near neighbors.
The comments, while understandable, perhaps say more about much of the region’s continuing failure to understand that competition is not a zero sum game; that the rest of the region has had more than fifty years to prepare while Cuba has been economically isolated; the lamentable failure of CARICOM to create a viable single economy or to address the economic imbalances between its smaller and larger members; and many nations’ continuing failure to recognize that to succeed it is first necessary to identify where future competitive advantage might lie.
Cuba’s unusual process of trying to adapt the reality of market economics to the needs of its unique social model should therefore be a moment not for hand wringing in the Caribbean, but a change to be welcomed if as seems likely it portends further gradual and stable change.
Whether, however, what has been agreed will transform Cuba or as seems more likely, as with much of the Cuban economic reform process, may involve a kind of learning through doing process rather than change through planning, remains to be seen.
As the year goes on, at least two leading US private sector associations are expected to take high level delegations involving a number of major US corporations to Cuba. Although many pressures still surround the process of US economic re-engagement it is clear that US business is acutely aware of the potential opportunity now opening up.
This seems to have spawned an increasingly aggressive approach on the part of the US Treasury which, by placing pressure on the international banking system and individuals in Europe and elsewhere, is apparently seeking to reserve the future Cuban market for US business alone.
For its part, Europe is in the process of re-engagement through negotiations for an association agreement that could lead eventually to a freer trade and development relationship. The first formal exchanges on this are expected to take place very soon.
That said, the biggest challenge now lies within Cuba itself as it weighs how flexibly and rapidly it will implement its new law and how its seeks to balance competing interests between a future improved relationship with Washington, which it genuinely wants; a closer relationship with Europe; an interest in deepening ties with Russia; and its desire to see stability return to Venezuela.