Make-A-Wish sends pediatric cancer patient to Cuba

Tyler Machado was allowed to make a wish. He could have asked for anything. But instead of a fast car or a meeting with his favorite rapper, he chose to visit his grandparents in Cuba. 

The Make-A-Wish foundation granted the 11-year-old non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient’s dream. Taylor thought he was on his way to a doctor’s visit in New Jersey when they surprised him with a red carpet and a limousine.

Tyler, a stage 2 cancer patient, remembers the surprise: “Once I saw the limo and the camera people, I was like ‘oh no!’ 

When Tyler arrived to Havana, he became the first child from the United States to visit the island with the help of the Make-A-Wish foundation since President Barack Obama lifted the travel ban. 

During his six-day trip, Tyler traveled to the small town of Caraballo, near Havana. He was in tears when he met his 92-year-old great grandfather Reynaldo Machado, who is visually impaired. 

Genesis Ramos, Tyler’s mom, said she was not surprised to see her son’s reaction.

“He has always wanted to meet his family here, see where he is from,”  Ramos said. 

Tyler has been working on his Spanish. His great grandfather, who doesn’t speak English, gave him some life advise: “To have a girlfriend and have a baby, so I can continue the last name and then he said have 5 girlfriends.”

The communications director for Make-A-Wish said the foundation is working on trips to Cuba for other children throughout the U.S.

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Immigration authorities cut Cuban Marielito’s release short

Rene Lima-Marin, 38, was born in Cuba. He was a toddler when he came to South Florida from the Communist island during the 1980 Mariel boat lift. He later moved to Denver, and he made a terrible mistake when he was a teenager that he is still paying for.

He and his friend Michael Clifton robbed two video stores at gunpoint. He was convicted of multiple robbery, kidnapping and burglary and sentenced to 98 years in prison. He was released on parole in 2008 after a clerk mistakenly recorded his sentence was to be served concurrently and not consecutively. 

Lima-Marin seized the opportunity. He worked installing glass, fell in love and got married. He and Jasmine Lima-Marin had a son, Josiah “JoJo” Lima-Marin, now 7 years old. But in 2014, authorities returned the Cuban-American father to prison. 

After a lengthy clemency process, Josiah and his step-brother Justus, 10, were expecting Lima-Marin’s release on Wednesday when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement unexpectedly got involved. Now Lima-Marin’s family fears that the Cuban-American could be held indefinitely without representation, or get deported to Cuba, a country that he doesn’t remember. 

When Lima-Marin arrived to South Florida, the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy allowed him and other Cubans who reached U.S. land an automatic path to legal residency. But before leaving office in January, President Barack Obama announced the end of that policy.

President Donald Trump’s crackdown on undocumented migrants has resulted in a surge of ICE detentions and an immigration court backlog. During Trump’s first 100 days in office, the share of those arrested who had no criminal records significantly increased. 

While Clifton, his co-defendant, was serving a consecutive 98-year sentence, the Colorado Legislature approved a nonbinding resolution urging Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to grant Lima-Marin clemency earlier this month. 

Chief Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. ordered his release from the private prison on Tuesday saying it would be “draconian” and “utterly unjust” to keep him in prison. Unfortunately for Lima-Marin and his family, the situation changed unexpectedly. 

Hickenlooper said Wednesday that the Department of Corrections released Lima-Marin to immigration authorities under an ICE form referred to as a detainer. Lima-Marin was under the radar of immigration authorities, because he never applied for U.S. citizenship. 

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Rainbow flags fly high for LGBTQ march in Santa Clara

Cuban President Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela Castro led a march on Wednesday in Santa Clara to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. 

As the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education, she said she is committed to educating Cubans about the need to accept the LGBTQ community. 

Rainbow flags were also flying on Saturday when some 2,000 demonstrators participated in a similar march in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. 

Castro has worked for about a decade to put behind the days when Fidel Castro detained members of the LGBTQ community in labor camps. 

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Rainbow flags fly high for LGBTQ march in Santa Clara

Cuban President Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela Castro led a march on Wednesday in Santa Clara to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. 

As the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education, she said she is committed to educating Cubans about the need to accept the LGBTQ community. 

Rainbow flags were also flying on Saturday when some 2,000 demonstrators participated in a similar march in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. 

Castro has worked for about a decade to put behind the days when Fidel Castro detained members of the LGBTQ community in labor camps. 

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Russians to send Cuba 1.8 barrels of petroleum products

As supplies of Venezuelan oil dwindled, Russia stepped in this month to provide Cuba with petroleum products. 

Russian oil company Rosneft will supply state-owned Cubametals about 1.8 million barrels of oil and diesel fuel. The Russian’s first delivery of 249,000 barrels arrived to Matanzas May 10.

Rosneft has also provided loans to Venezuela’s PDVSA, which offered shares of Citgo as collateral.  

Russia also has ties to the Cuban and Venezuelan military. Late last year, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai A. Pankov told lawmakers that Russia that they were working to re-establish their former military base in Cuba, according to the New York Times

Local 10 News’ Andrea Torres reported from Miami. 

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Cuban government looks to lure U.S. hoteliers with new projects

For decades, any private enterprise daring to do business in Cuba faced U.S. sanctions or loss through seized property. Now to lure U.S. companies, the Cuban government offers business partnerships. They even promise to honor property ownership rights in perpetuity to foreign investors with the proper permits. 

As the isolationist Cold War policies become a part of Cuba’s past, Starwood was the first U.S. hospitality company to risk operating the Four Points Sheraton in Havana’s Miramar district. Now Marriott and rivals Hilton, Hyatt, Wyndham and Archipelago may also want in.

The U.S. hospitality sector had a strong presence at the Latin American Hotel and Tourism Investment Conferences held on Monday and Tuesday in  Havana. They are among those willing to bet that President Donald Trump will not be preventing U.S. investment in Cuba.

Like Starwood, the companies would require a special U.S. Treasury Department license. Arturo García, the founder of the event hosting some 250 companies, said he knew several U.S.-based companies were waiting for U.S. licensing to launch projects all over the island. 

The 10th annual conference also hosted the World Travel and Tourism Council and executives from Latin America, Europe and Asia at the Meliá Cohiba Hotel. Michael Maisel, of Engage Cuba, a Washington-based lobbying group in favor of lifting the half-century U.S. embargo, also attended the conference.

“For so long, we have been disconnected and finally these relationships are coming to bear fruit after 60 years of isolation,” Maisel said. 

During Republican campaign events in Miami, the pro-business candidate criticized President Barack Obama’s renewal of relations with Cuba. He criticized him for supporting policies that strengthened the authoritarian regime and perpetuated their reported ongoing human rights violations

Fidel Castro, who bedeviled 11 U.S. presidents before dying last year, welcomed some foreign investment and allowed small private businesses after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. His brother Raul Castro stepped up the efforts when he succeeded him in 2006.

After Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez died in 2013 and his successor, President Nicolas Maduro, faced the ongoing economic crisis, the Cuban government no longer viewed U.S. capitalism as a subversive enemy force.Castro allowed the Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces’ GAESA, a conglomerate of at least 57 companies, to turn into the gatekeeper.

Sarkis Yacoubian, a Canadian who did business in Cuba, works as a consultant for those looking into dealing with GAESA. Cuban authorities deported him three years ago, after he was accused of causing economic harm to Cuba. They held him for nearly three years on a 9-year sentence and seized assets valued at $20 million. 

GAESA’s Grupo de Turismo Gaviota, promotes a parallel economy with international partners managing more than 80 percent of their portfolio. Warwick International Hotels, Iberostar Hotels and Resorts, Blue Diamond and Valentín Hotels and Resorts are some of their partners.

Most recently, they allowed the Geneva-based Kempinski Hotels to operate a 246-room five-star hotel and luxury spa. The hotel will share a historic building in Old Havana above the Manzana de Gómez, Cuba’s first luxury mall since the 1959 revolution. 

While U.S. cruise ships and airlines have been doing business with the Communist island, the Cuban government reported the number of U.S. tourists increased at a rate of about 18 percent this year partially due to Obama’s relaxed travel restrictions. 

Some of the Cuban-American travelers have limited their transactions to the new class of “cuentapropistas.” The licensed entrepreneurs operate small private businesses including the “casas particulares,” the island’s expanding private bed-and-breakfast sector mostly reliant on a dysfunctional relationship with Airbnb. 

During the Monday inauguration ceremony of the Latin American Hotel and Tourism Investment Conferences, the focus was on catering to high-end customers. Alexis Trujillo, the Cuban vice minister of tourism, touted a portfolio of new opportunities including 30 golf courses, seaside resorts and high-tech theme parks.  

Cuban officials presented 21 new mixed-use projects and said the associated infrastructure was improving. There were projects in Ramon de Antilla Peninsula in the Holguin province, Cayo Cruz island in Camaguey, and Cayo Paredon island in Ciego de Avila. 

“Slowly but surely we are learning about the conditions here and our company is working together with the U.S. authorities in this process,” Louis Alicea, of Wyndham, told Reuters.  

Choice Hotels representatives were concerned about the competitive advantage that other countries had over U.S.-based companies. A spokesperson of the company based out of Rockville, Maryland, said they were “exploring opportunities in the market and following the regulatory framework in the U.S.”

Local 10 News Andrea Torres contributed to this story from Miami. 

 

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