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CNN opens bureau in Cuban hotel

Its cameras panning the sunny Havana skyline and the brilliant blue harbor, CNN on Monday became the first U.S. news organization in 27 years to open a bureau in Cuba.

Correspondent Lucia Newman's first report, on the impact of U.S. restrictions designed to put an economic squeeze on Cuba, was broadcast Monday afternoon.

CNN was one of several news organizations, including the Associated Press, to receive a license from the Clinton administration last month to operate in Cuba.

So far, CNN is the only organization to get permission from Cuba to open a bureau.

A five-person crew is stationed with Newman at the bureau in the Havana Libre Hotel, formerly the Hilton.

Cuba has assured CNN it would not censor its reports, Newman said. Her initial story reported that the economic restrictions were hurting more than the Cuban government has admitted and less than some Americans had hoped.

The London-born Newman is a veteran Latin American reporter with previous CNN assignments in Mexico, Chile, Nicaragua and Panama. She has also reported for CNN from Cuba on a temporary visa.

"It is definitely the most exciting country for any journalist covering Latin America to cover," she said in a telephone interview. "It's the last Communist country in this hemisphere and it still has an enigma about it.

"What I most want to do is to show Cuba for what it is, a country that has a lot of things to it besides the Cold War with the United States and beyond Fidel Castro."

In Miami's Little Havana, CNN is referred to by some as the Castro News Network or the Communist News Network.

Ninoska Perez, who broadcasts shortwave radio reports into Cuba for the Cuban-American National Foundation, questions whether CNN will be successful.

"Castro will have the last word," Perez said. "If they are too critical, they will be put on the plane and sent out of Cuba."