Maduro Calling for Peace and Unity Among Venezuelans


Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela February 15, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

‘Many people don’t want to listen but we’ll keep telling them no matter what – with unity and respect we need everyone,” says the Venezuelan leader.

Feb 18 (teleSUR) Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, members of his cabinet and president of the National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, made an announcement in sign language this evening to the public calling for “peace (and) unity.”

The head of state was accompanied by several cabinet members, including the minister of communication, Jorge Rodriguez, along with the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, and Vice President Tareck El Aissami, each one saying, “We want peace, we want unity, we want a Venezuela for all.”

“Many people don’t want to listen but we’ll keep telling them no matter what – with unity and respect we need everyone,” signed the Venezuelan leader.

Maduro is calling on all in the country to maintain inclusivity, “love (and) dialogue.”

The message comes as the government wraps up a two-day national event that gives all Venezuelans the opportunity to sign the Dominican Republic accords that the Madura administration and opposition parties crafted together after several rounds of mediated negotiations held in the Caribbean island.

Maduro signed the agreement, but at the last minute the opposition stalled and finally refused to sign giving into domestic and international interests.

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African, Cuban cultures blend through music at Lake Zurich library

Anna Pansard, left, Jose Vega and Don Skoog play congas Sunday during a performance of the Contemporary Music Project Percussion Ensemble at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich.

Anna Pansard, left, Jose Vega and Don Skoog play congas Sunday during a performance of the Contemporary Music Project Percussion Ensemble at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Daily Herald report – February 18, 2018

Lake Zurich, Illinois – The African influence on the culture and music of Cuba was on display Sunday when the Contemporary Music Project Percussion Ensemble performed at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich.

The ensemble featuring Donald Skoog, Jose Vega, Tim Amrein, Roberto Seif, Anne Pansard and Ed Brann entertained and educated almost 50 patrons of all ages with the performance.

Mary Peete of Huntley holds her daughter, Emily, 2, as they listen to the drums during a performance of the Contemporary Music Project Percussion Ensemble on Sunday at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich.

Mary Peete of Huntley holds her daughter, Emily, 2, as they listen to the drums during a performance of the Contemporary Music Project Percussion Ensemble on Sunday at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

For more information on the Contemporary Music Project Percussion Ensemble, visit its website at
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Echoes of University 2018: Cuba, Education as priority

Havana, feb 18 (Prensa Latina) Cuba is an example of what can be done today when there is a public policy and a will of the State that establishes the true priority of the educational system.

This was confirmed to Prensa Latina by the Higher Education Minister, José Ramón Saborido, during recent statements to journalists in the Havana Convention Center, prior to the closing of the XI International University Congress 2018. The Caribbean island has become a benchmark for the world, said Saborido, who lamented that it does not happen the same in other places, where universities ‘lock themselves in and begin to defend the concept of autonomy, especially to confront and reject wrong policies of the State.’
The event, which has a biannual character, was attended by more than 2,000 delegates from about 60 countries representing institutions, organizations, regional groupings between February 12 and 16. They were ‘impressive figures,’ he said.

He said that the congress constituted a space for debate with a common objective of the search for improvement and discussion on how to make higher education more relevant.

In addition, they analyzed how to make this and education in general ‘a public good, as we have been defending it, and a truly human right with inclusion for all,’ the minister added.

He explained that at the global level there are diverse tendencies, even from the neoliberal point of view, and in many places the criterion of elite higher education prevails, of selection, with poor access for those most in need.

This type of event, which the Caribbean nation has strengthened in the last 20 years, will be repeated from February 10 to 14, 2020, when the XII International Congress of Higher Education must be held.

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Kauai Voices returns from Cuba tour

Photo by Gene Padilla – Members of Kauai Voices with Cuban choir Sine Nomine after performing for each other in Cuba. Kauai Voices director Randy Leonard is far right; Sine Nomine director Leonor Suarez Dulzaides is fourth from right, wearing orange lei.

“We have so much more in common than not, especially how the people of both of our islands come from so many different cultures, giving us all broader world views,” Randy says. One thing that is very different, however, is that the Cuban government fully funds the arts.

By Pam Varma Special to The Garden Island | Sunday, February 18, 2018

Members of Kauai Voices returned home Wednesday after one week of singing in Cuba with three separate Cuban choirs, becoming the first Hawaiian vocal group to perform there. Twenty-two members of the 50-member Kauai ensemble made the trip, along with a pianist, bass player and percussionist. I was one of the singers.

Director Randy Leonard first began formulating this trip in 2016, when he realized the group was ready to perform internationally.

“At that time, President Obama was re-establishing relations with Cuba,” Randy says. “We didn’t know how long that opening would exist, and how long before Cuba began to change.

“I envisioned that Kauai Voices would be ambassadors of Kauai, Hawaii and the United States, to bridge our two countries through music.”

During the past week, that’s exactly what happened.

By sharing music, the Cubans we met felt our love and aloha, evidenced by their smiles, laughter and even tears of joy. In turn, we learned that Cubans’ hearts are as warm and accepting as our own.

“We have so much more in common than not, especially how the people of both of our islands come from so many different cultures, giving us all broader world views,” Randy says.

One thing that is very different, however, is that the Cuban government fully funds the arts. Members of all three choirs we met and performed with are professionals, meaning that singing is their job, literally. They practice five days per week, multiple hours per day. One of the groups requires that all members have higher education in music, and even then, they still are required to audition.

Photo by Gene Padilla – Kauai Voices director Randy Leonard, left, holding Cuban flag, with Maria Felicia Perez, director of superb 12-member Cuban choir Exaudi, after the two groups gave a joint concert.

In contrast, while Kauai Voices members are required to audition, we come from a wide variety of musical backgrounds. Some of us can read music, others learn strictly by ear. Some, like me, are somewhere in between. We rehearse one night per week as a group, and practice on our own for many hours to achieve the sound for which Kauai Voices is known. Most of us have full-time employment, predominantly in fields unrelated to music, and we fund our own participation in the choir, including paying our own way to visit Cuba.

The first Cuban choir we met with was Vocal Luna, an 11-member, all-female group. When they sing, it sounds like one angelic voice creating perfect harmony with itself. In our workshop with them, we learned one of their songs, and they learned one of ours.

Two days later, our two choirs performed a joint concert for an audience in the salon of a former presidential palace. A talented (and adorable) children’s chorus sang first, then Vocal Luna. The audience loved them both, and so did we. Most, if not all of us, were a bit concerned. How could we possibly follow those two acts? Fortunately, audience members were clearly relishing the whole experience.

We opened with “Aloha Kauai,” featuring Penny Prior dancing hula, barefoot, of course. The audience instantly connected with her and us, and with what we were conveying from Hawaii. The Cubans could not take their eyes off Penny as she danced, and some of the children emulated her as best they could.

Next we sang “Africa,” which we opened by making sounds of rain and thunder with our hands and feet. The children’s chorus, which was by now sitting in the first several rows of the audience, delightedly began imitating our hand movements.

When we sang “We Are the World,” Vocal Luna’s translator began waving her arms rhythmically in the air, others copying her. Most people in the audience knew the meaning of the words, and sang along, smiling, tears in their eyes. In that moment, we knew the difference in our training made no difference. Music connected us all.

Our second connection was with the group Exaudi (Latin for “listen”), a 12-member mixed choir, at the Hispano-American Center of Culture, their practice and performance facility. Unlike Vocal Luna’s director, who immediately felt like a sister, Exaudi’s director, Maria Felicia Perez, exuded a stoicism while we were learning a couple of each other’s songs during our workshop.

At our joint concert, Exaudi performed first. They sang all of their songs a cappella (with no musical instruments accompanying them), as did the other choirs we met with. In their second song, their voices sounded so much like a symphony, I actually looked to make sure there weren’t violins on stage. “Superb” would be an understatement. We were in awe.

Knowing we sound nothing like them, most of us were intimidated. I overheard one of our members semi-jokingly say, “Let’s just go home now.”

Unlike the concert the evening before, this audience was cooler, as if they were waiting to be impressed.

Thank goodness there were two Kauai residents, coincidentally in Cuba at the same time, sitting in the front row beaming at us, along with the handful of significant others who had traveled with us.

As we performed “Africa,” I wondered if Senora Perez would view our handmade rain sounds as if we were schoolchildren.

But while we were singing “Wade in the Water,” I spotted her in the audience, sitting forward in her chair, singing along. Two songs later, she was still leaning toward the stage, singing with us.

After we finished our performance, Randy asked Senora Perez to come to the front of the room, to be presented with gifts he brought for her from Kauai.

As she was thanking him, we saw from the stage as her expression began to change. Suddenly, overcome with emotion, her stoic exterior dissolving, she began crying while speaking.

“She told me she was so moved by the passion and energy with which we sang, that she was brought to tears,” Randy says. “The change Senora Perez experienced is a perfect example of the difference that we can make, breaking any preconceived stereotypes.”

I sense that for decades Senora Perez has held her group together, the threat of funding elimination looming constantly, and that only her steely resolve to be the most excellent group possible has allowed Exaudi to continue to exist.

“Two days later, Senora Perez telephoned me in my hotel room to tell me she was still thinking about our performance, how moved she was and how much she enjoyed our vocal quality. I felt quite honored to hear that, especially since she knew we are not full-time musicians,” Randy said.

“She also told me she loved the sounds of rain we made with our hands in ‘Africa.’ ”

On our last full day in Cuba, we met with an all-male nine-member choir named Sine Nomine. Four of their members are counter- tenors, meaning they sing as high as first sopranos, the highest female voices.

After the emotions we’d experienced performing with the first two choirs, some of us thought that simply having a workshop with Sine Nomine might be anti-climactic. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

They gave a 20-minute performance for us. They sang so exquisitely and joyfully that halfway through their first song, most of us had tears streaming down our faces. When we performed for them, they sang along to “We Are the World.” Afterward, there were hugs, laughs and photos as if we had known each other for years.

For all of us, this visit to Cuba vastly exceeded our expectations.

“We really made a difference for the people we were able to interact with,” Randy says. “To see how genuine we are, the quality of people we are and the kindness we bring from Kauai, that changes people’s minds and visions of what we Americans are.” Continue reading

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U.S. teachers Shutt, Beal to talk about Cuba trip

Carol Shutt, left and Laurie Beal with the fourth graders they taught in a Cuban school during a trip last year. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NORTHEAST HARBOR LIBRARY

February 18, 2018 – Mount Desert Islander

BAR HARBOR, MAINE — Carol Shutt and Laurie Beal will give the talk “Cuba: Through an Open Door” at the Jesup Memorial Library on Friday, March 2, at 7 p.m.

Last summer, Shutt and Beal visited Cuba for 16 days, traveling through the country, creating art and more. Shutt, an art teacher at Mount Desert Elementary School, and Beal, a Spanish teacher at Mount Desert Elementary School, will tell stories and share photographs, examples of the art made by Shutt during their time in the country.

Shutt and Beal spent time in Havana and also traveled to the towns of Cienfuegos and Trinidad on the Caribbean coast of Cuba. They taught and made art with a fourth-grade class in Havana, visited museums and historic sites, took an Afro-Cuban dance lesson, toured the city in classic cars and taxis, enjoyed the cuisine in restaurants and paladares, learned about the plants and trees native to the island and practiced their Spanish.

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Venezuelan FM Confirms Continuity of Bolivarian Revolution

Santo Domingo, Feb 17 (Prensa Latina) Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza ratified the continuity of the Bolivarian Revolution that ”the north that seeks to dominate us” will never defeat.

Arreaza was the main speaker at a meeting held at the headquarters of the Venezuelan Embassy in the Dominican Republic and attended by representatives of political organizations, government officials, Dominican solidarity with Venezuela groups, diplomats and journalists.

In his speech, the Venezuelan minister of Foreign Affairs expressed the solidarity that unites his country with the Dominican Republic and thanked the government and people of this country for everything they have done in favor of the talks between his government and the opposition.

Regarding this issue, he explained that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has tirelessly sought dialogue with the opposition and even with the government of U.S. President Donald Trump, and ‘we have not had great success, but we are committed to it because we want peace, not violence’.

He explained the reasons for his tour of Latin America and the Caribbean, called Gira de la Dignidad (Tour of Dignity), which has been very rewarding and in all the countries he has visited the signs of friendship and solidarity with his country are palpable.

Speaking to Prensa Latina, the foreign minister said that he was very happy with the trip, ‘because we have found solidarity and love in the nine countries so far, but above all, in times of attacks and siege on Venezuela, we find love in peoples and governments, and that is the most important thing’.

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Cuban Medical Team in Bolivia, 12 Years of Friendly Work

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Cuban health professionals in Bolivia celebrated 12 years of solidarity

Feb 17 – La Paz, Bolivia (Prensa Latina) After 12 years of work, the Cuban Medical Team in Bolivia continues faithful to the commitment to life and the guarantee of health as an inherent right of all human beings.

Under this premise, on February 2, 2006, the first aid workers arrived, who were part of the Henry Reeve International Contingent to deal with disaster situations, the head of the medical mission, Yohandra Muro, told Prensa Latina.

It was precisely the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, who said goodbye to the doctors who came to Bolivia to collaborate in the solution of the emergency unleashed at that time as a result of heavy floods, she recalled.

Since then, the Cuban doctors have earned with their daily work the respect and admiration of Bolivian authorities and people, who recognize the Cuban contribution to the improvement in the quality of life of the population, mainly in rural areas. The professionals are distributed throughout the national territory, even in outlying areas where previously there was no medical attention.

Arriving at those remote places, knowing that you can help and that your presence can save a child, an elderly or another person, has no comparison, she explained.

During these 12 years we have treated more than 67 million people in the Bolivian territory and we have performed more than 24,000 surgical operations, she added.

She also recalled that Cuban doctors have saved more than 100,000 lives in Bolivia, which she considered one of the most beautiful concepts of cooperation.

With respect to Operation Miracle, she said that they have performed 692,405 eye surgeries, including 59,568 for the treatment of cataracts.

We also have five ophthalmological centers to treat patients with any eye disease, he added.

The team’s leader highlighted the improvement in the quality of maternal and child care in this South American nation, with the participation of Cuban doctors in more than 153,000 deliveries.

In this regard, she highlighted the work of the Bolivian doctors of the ‘Mi Salud’ program, who together with Cuban professionals bring free medical attention to all corners of the country.

Among the best experiences of recent years, Muro identified the celebration of Health Fairs, which now totals 296 with more than 151,591 medical consultations.

These fairs were the idea of Bolivian President Evo Morales, inspired by the thought of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro and the conception of health as one of the most basic human rights.

Through these, the Bolivian government makes sure to reach those places where it is still a challenge for the country to provide quality medical care, she said.

With these fairs, the access of the most needy population to specialties such as pediatrics, cardiology, rheumatology, gastroenterology, among others, is guaranteed, which were forbidden due to lack of resources.

According to Muro, the work they do in Bolivia has the same foundation as the rest of the Cuban medical cooperation in the world.

What prevails is that solidarity, that professionalism, that love, that desire to help, to fulfill and to be able to offer the population the possibility of improving their state of health that, ultimately, is to improve their lives, she said.

The gratitude of the patients treated and the population in general, is another of the positive points achieved in the South American nation. Our mission here is to attend to those who need it and our commitment is to continue with cooperation and defend the internationalist principles inculcated by Fidel since the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, she concluded.

The Cuban medical team in Bolivia has a total of 759 health professionals distributed in all the nine departments of the country.

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Cuba, Namibia Strengthen Historic Relations

Havana, Feb 17 (Prensa Latina) Cuba and Namibia strengthened their historic ties this week, following the visit of that nation”s prime minister, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, to this capital.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who began an official visit to Cuba on February 14, was welcomed on February 15 by President Raul Castro, with whom she reviewed the progress of the excellent relations between both peoples and governments.

The two leaders ratified their mutual will to work to strengthen bilateral ties, and discussed several international issues.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila previously met with First Vice-President Miguel Díaz-Canel, with whom she also addressed bilateral and international issues.

Earlier, the prime minister paid tribute to the Cuban internationalist fighters at Havana’s Colon Cemetery, where she highlighted Cuba’s contribution to the cause of the independence of the African continent.

The Namibian leader emphasized that the contribution to her country, in particular, was unmeasurable, and recognized the ‘role played by the Cuban internationalist fighters, led by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, to change the course of history in Africa and especially in the southern region of the continent.’

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is a member of the Political Bureau of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) and has been the prime minister of Namibia since March 21, 2015.

A member of Parliament since 1995 and the minister of Finance from 2003 to 2015, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is the first woman to hold the post of head of government since Namibia’s independence in 1990.

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Cuba Calls for Inclusive Higher Education at Congress

Havana, Feb 17 (Prensa Latina) Cuba’s first deputy minister of Higher Education, Martha del Carmen Mesa, called for more inclusive, universal higher education, and committed to sustainable development, at the closing session of the 11th International Congress University 2018.

The event was held for four days at Havana’s Conference Center and was attended by more than 2,000 participants from 60 countries.

Mesa recalled that this is an exchange ‘thought since its beginnings to facilitate the meeting of the best ideas, the truth we build in our classrooms, the symbolic construction in which we put our hands every day.’

That is the way to preserve the validity of the Cordoba Reformation on its centenary, which, among other ideas, noted that ‘the real teachers in the future university republic would be the teachers of souls, the creators of truth, beauty and the good,’ she said.

She insisted on the role of universities and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), taking into account that they are ‘an indispensable element for social progress, because they are integrating and state the ways for actions that we should internalize from each of our academic and research programs.’

Higher education and knowledge and innovation capacities that it treasures are vital to work in favor of that vision of the future formulated by the United Nations 2030 Agenda, which is identified by the vision of a sustainable and prosperous nation, she said.

Mesa also denounced ‘the injustices committed against the Palestinian people and the continuous imperial aggression against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.’

She called the 12th International Congress on Higher Education, Universidad 2020, which ‘will be enriched by the experience of researchers who debate the SDGs, based on issues derived from this Agenda, which will continue to be the axis for reflection.’

Prior to the closing ceremony of the Congress, at which Olga Lidia Tapia, a member of the Secretariat of the Cuban Communist Party’s Central Committee, was present, the panel ‘Fidel Castro’s Thinking and University for Sustainable Development’ was held.

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Leahy to visit Cuba

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Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, center, discusses the US travel embargo to Cuba

Feb 18 (Rutland Herald) Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt, will head the bicameral congressional delegation to Cuba next week during the congressional recess.

A release from the senator’s office said that for two decades Leahy has been involved in efforts to replace the “failed 50-year-old U.S. Cuba policy of isolation” with a new path toward normalization. Leahy will be joined on the trip by five members of Congress — two senators and three members of the House of Representatives.

The purpose of the visit is to meet with U.S., officials from Cuba and other governments and Cubans in the emerging private sector to discuss the presidential transition in Cuba.

Other topics will include U.S. and Cuban investigations of health incidents involving U.S. government personnel in Cuba, cooperation on maritime security, search-and-rescue, narcotics and human trafficking and migration issues; the impact of the withdrawal of U.S. Embassy and Cuban Embassy personnel and of revised Treasury Department regulations on U.S.-Cuban relations; and opportunities for public health, law enforcement, scientific, environmental, commercial, educational, cultural and other engagement with Cubans.

The delegation will leave today and return on Wednesday.

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