News and Facts about Cuba

To Cuba, for haute cuisine

To Cuba, for haute cuisine
UCSD-based think tank sponsors tour of Fidel’s and politics
By Matt Potter, Dec. 4, 2014

As rumors of an impending thaw in relations with Cuba make the rounds,
some well-heeled tourists affiliated with a UCSD-related think tank had
planned to set off this weekend on a seven-day, $6100-a-person haute
cuisine tour of the island. The excursion is now on hold, which can’t be
said of a flurry of diplomatic intrigue involving the long-embattled island.

According to a November 26 report in the Christian Science Monitor,
recent moves by the Obama administration, including the dispatch of
confidential messages to Cuban officials via the Spanish foreign
minister, “have some Republicans fretting that the White House aims to
move even further from decades-old policy of isolating communist Cuba.”

Florida GOP senator Marco Rubio — whose campaigns have drawn financial
backing from U-T San Diego publisher Douglas Manchester and his
Russian-born second wife Geniya — is leading the charge against
liberalization of Cuba policy.

“The thing that concerns me is that I haven’t heard you say point-blank
that, absent democratic openings, we’re not going to see actions on the
part of this administration to weaken the current and sanctions
on Cuba,” Rubio told Obama deputy national security adviser Antony Blinken.

A key concession from the Cubans said to be sought by Obama is the
release of Alan , a subcontractor of the U.S. Agency for
International Development who has been in a Cuban since December
2009 after being accused by the Cuban government of smuggling satellite
communications equipment to dissidents under the guise of a . He
is serving a 15-year sentence.

Gross, who repeatedly traveled to Cuba before his arrest, had previously
warned his employer about the dangers of his “discreet” mission but was
ignored, according to a November 30 account in the Miami Herald.

“This is very risky business in no uncertain terms,” said a memo from
Gross. “Provincial authorities are apparently very strict when it comes
to unauthorized use of radio frequencies…. Detection usually means
confiscation of equipment and arrest of users.”

According to his lawyer, Gross’s long captivity has caused his mental
state to deteriorate. “We must remember that Alan was in Cuba serving
the U.S. government [USAID is part of the State Department],” Scott
Gilbert, who recently saw Gross in Havana, told the Herald. “Alan is
about to give up, and we are running out of time.”

According to the paper, Gross staged a nine-day hunger strike in April
but has since regained 23 of the 110 pounds he lost.

Meanwhile, the group that was about to embark from San Diego on Sunday,
December 7, appeared to be armed with a hearty appetite, according to a
“notional itinerary” of the trip, sponsored by the non-profit Institute
of the Americas at UCSD.

The first night on the island was to be spent at the Hotel Parque
Central, “the best hotel in Havana.” Dinner was scheduled at San
Cristobal. “About a 10‐minute walk from Parque Central, this cozy
‘paladar’ — a privately owned — provides great food in an
elegant 1940s ambience.”

On Monday, the group was set to huddle with an architect and urban
planner before heading off for lunch at Doña Eutimia. “Famous for its
ropa vieja and frozen mojitos, this paladar made Newsweek Magazine’s top
100 restaurants in the world in 2012.”

That evening was to be set aside for an economic discussion with a
foodie spin.

“Cocktails and tapas at Café Madrigal with English‐speaking graduate
students from the University of Havana in the fields of economics,
international relations and law. Students will offer their opinion about
everything from the higher system to the country’s future to
the delicate relationship with the United States.”

On Tuesday, meetings with a foreign Cuban diplomat and a representative
of the Catholic church were to be interspersed with “a traditional Cuban
meal overlooking the Straits of Florida at the Hotel Nacional, Cuba’s
most famous hotel, with a great view of the malecón, Havana’s sea wall,
and the Morro, the Spanish fortress built to protect the harbor.”

Dinner at Chef Ivan y Gusto was scheduled to be with “third country
diplomats serving in Cuba.”

The next day, a “visit to a Cuban home and local market for discussion
of ration card and purchasing power” was to be followed by “Lunch at El
Aljibe restaurant, famous for its roasted chicken and black beans.”

Then it was to be off to the Latin American School of Medicine before a
stop at Prive, “a hip new trova bar, for a musical discussion with Frank
Delgado, a renowned singer and songwriter, about the nueva trova
movement in Cuba, followed by a musical performance. We will enjoy light
appetizers and cocktails along with the show.”

Thursday presentations by Cuba experts from Canada and the U.S. are to
be accompanied by a trip to La Finca Vigía, the historic home of writer
Ernest Hemingway, and dinner at Paladar Atelier. “This restaurant is
equally known for its atmosphere and exquisite cuisine.”

On Friday, the group was scheduled to make a “stop at a cooperative farm
along the way” to Cienfuegos, including “sandwiches en route.”

In the afternoon, it would have been “Music and cocktails with the local
chapter of UNEAC, the National Union of Artists and Writers of Cuba,
featuring an interactive discussion with photographers, musicians and
other locals, followed by live music and dance….

“Orlando Garcia, of the Cienfuegos chapter of UNEAC, will
discuss of and UNEAC’s efforts to ensure more pluralism.”

The day before heading back to San Diego there was to be a “discussion
with [a] local priest regarding church‐state relations, religious
freedom, social programs and current events” along with a “Conversation
with artist Yami Martínez at her gallery, La Casa de los Conspiradores.”

“Yami has achieved international recognition for her art depicting the
strains of life on Cuban women. She will discuss her art, as well as her
experiences running both a gallery and a ‘casa particular’ (bed and
breakfast) out of her home.”

Reached by phone on Wednesday, December 3, Institute for the Americas’
vice president S. Lynn Walker said the long-awaited tour had been put on
hold for a future unknown date. She provided no information regarding
the reason for the abrupt postponement.

Source: To Cuba, for haute cuisine | San Diego Reader –
http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2014/dec/04/ticker-cuba-haute-cuisine/#

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