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us cuba thaw


JetBlue Flight 387 has become the first US commercial flight to land in Cuba after more than half a century.

The plane had 150 passengers, including US transport secretary Anthony Foxx.

The aircraft took off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at 09:45 EDT and landed in Santa Clara in central Cuba about an hour later.

The flight marks the latest development between US and Cuba since they restored diplomatic ties in December 2014.

The last time an American airline flew scheduled service to Cuba was in 1961 on a propeller plane, according to Marty St George, the executive vice president of JetBlue.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

To commemorate the occasion, the plane received a water cannon salute, which traditionally marks a special occasion for a ship or aircraft.

Since the US thawed relations with Cuba, embassies have been re-opened in Washington and Havana, President Barack Obama visited the island and a US cruise ship sailed to the country in May.

The Obama administration has approved 10 US-based airlines for regular passenger jet service to Cuba, offering as many as 110 daily flights.

The approved airlines include: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country and United Airlines.

Tourism to Cuba is still banned in the US, but the Obama administration eased rules last year to make it easier for Americans to access the long-isolated nation under 12 categories of “authorized travel”.


Cuba’s annual cigar festival (Festival del Habano) is being held in Havana between February 23 and February 27.

The communist island is again the venue of the largest international meeting for the enthusiasts of the best cigar in the world.

At 17th edition of the Habanos Festival American visitors are able to take cigars home legally for the first time in decades.

A thaw in US-Cuban relations means American smokers will be able to stock up on products worth up to $100.

Havana cigars have been banned in the US for more than 50 years under the terms of a trade embargo.Cuban cigar festival 2015 Festival del Habano

Hundreds of visitors are expected at the week-long festival.

The last edition of the Habanos Festival was attended by more than 1,300 delegates from 60 countries and 250 journalists.

The Commercial Fair will again be celebrated during the week of the Festival. In 2014, the Fair was attended by 60 exhibitors from 7 countries and received over 2,200 visitors from the world of cigar, luxury products and business.

Despite the recent rapprochement between Washington and Havana, most Americans are still not allowed to travel to Cuba.

However some US citizens, including relatives of Cubans or academics, are allowed to visit and take advantage of the new rules.

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According to the White House, the US will not hand back the Guantanamo Bay naval base as part of efforts to improve relations with Cuba.

Cuba’s President Raul Castro included the demand in a speech on January 28, calling also for the US trade embargo to be lifted.

President Barack Obama “does believe that the prison at Guantanamo Bay should be closed down… but not the naval base”, the White House said.

The land on which the base stands was leased to the US by Cuba in 1903.

The Cuban government which came to power in the revolution of 1959 has long demanded its return, saying it is a violation of international law, but the US points to a legal provision making the lease permanent unless it is terminated by mutual agreement.

Photo US Navy

Photo US Navy

Last month the two countries announced a thaw in relations, agreeing to restore diplomatic ties severed in 1961. Delegations have begun negotiating the re-establishment of embassies.

In his speech on January 28, Raul Castro said: “The re-establishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalizing bilateral relations.

“But this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don’t give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base.”

This condition was rejected by White House spokesman Josh Earnest in remarks to the media on January 29.

Josh Earnest agreed that President Barack Obama was seeking to shut the prison at Guantanamo Bay, as it “only serves as a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and other extremist organizations”.

“But the naval base is not something that we believe should be closed,” the White House spokesman said.

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