Vilma’s struggles more necessary than ever

The Federation of Cuban Women remembered Vilma Espín yesterday, June 18, 11 years after her death, and 25 since she participated in the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna

June 19 (Granma) Equality, condemnation of gender violence, and recognition of the rights of women have been the topic of debate and struggle for decades, in which Cuba, with the leadership of Vilma Espín, has played a leading role, members of the Federation of Cuba Women (FMC) recalled yesterday, during a press conference.

During the Vienna World Conference, held June 14-25, 1993, the issue of violence against women was addressed for the first time at this level, with the notable participation of Vilma and other FMC members.

“In this conference, it was recognized that all rights are universal, indivisible, and interdependent, related to each other, and thus this was made explicit in the Vienna Declaration and Action Plan,” explained Yamila González Ferrer, vice president of the Union of Cuba Jurists and member of the FMC National Committee.

Likewise, “It was clarified that the human rights of women and girls are an inalienable and indivisible component of universal human rights, and moreover established that every state, regardless of its political system, has the duty to promote and protect them,” she added.

At the Vienna Conference, Cuba was able to proudly share the achievements of the Revolution in terms of protecting women’s rights, “Although, at that time, much remained to be done, the country showed that when there is political will, the road to gender equality is much more expedite,” González stated.

“Twenty-five years since the World Conference on Human Rights, we cannot say everything has been accomplished. Every day we must join forces and continue Vilma’s example and struggles, that are today more necessary than ever,” concluded FMC Secretary General Teresa Amarelle Boué, also a Party Political Bureau and Council of State member.

A SHINING EXAMPLE

On the anniversary of her physical death, Vilma was also honored at the Frank País Second Front Martyrs and Heroes Mausoleum, with a ceremony and the placement of a floral wreath in the name of the Cuban people at the site where her remains rest.

Young women from the Camilo Cienfuegos Military School in Santiago de Cuba, chosen for their achievements, conducted the honors with the presence of hundreds of residents from Mayarí Arriba, who marched from the town to the cemetery as they do every year on this date.

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US-Cuba Relations to Be Addressed at 13th Tourism Seminar

Havana, Jun 19 (Prensa Latina) Relations between the United States and Cuba will be the main theme of the 13th International Seminar on Journalism and Tourism that will take place in this capital next week.

The Seminar, scheduled from June 25 to 30 in the halls of the International Institute of Journalism José Martí, counts with the presence of 40 journalists, especially from Latin America and the United States.

The first conference of that meeting will be held by Professor Paolo Spadoni of the University of Augusta, Georgia (United States), under the title: Impact on tourism, in the Caribbean, of the new measures of the current government of the United States.

On this inaugural day, there are also topics such as Caribbean competition or integration, by Cuban expert José Luis Perelló, and the presentation of the book Por el Mar de las Antillas: 50 años de Turismo de Cruceros en el Caribe, written by a North American and Cuban collective of writers.

The main organizer of the meeting, Hilda Prieto, told Prensa Latina today that this meeting includes journalists from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Argentina, Colombia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Uruguay, Peru, Mexico, the United States and Cuba.

The 13th International Seminar on Journalism and Tourism that will take place in this capital will also address heritage, culture, and tourism development.

Prieto, Cuban television journalist and head of the tourist press group of the Union of Journalists of Cuba (UPEC), confirmed that another topic that will be on the table is the 500th anniversary of Havana (November 16, 2019).

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Senate Farm Bill Contains Amendment to Enhance Trade With Cuba

Senate Farm Bill Contains Amendment to Enhance Trade With Cuba

June 19 (Radio 570 WNAX) South Dakota – The farm bill passed by the Senate Ag Committee includes an amendment that would enhance agricultural trade between the United States and Cuba. It authorizes the USDA Market Access and Foreign Market Development Program funding to go toward trade servicing in Cuba, as well as technical assistance and trade promotion activities. North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne says that will help his state’s farmers.

The biggest problem trading with Cuba has been financial barriers and Watne says this amendment helps clear that up.

He’s hoping the Senate farm bill gets full approval soon and pushes the House to pass their measure.

Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and John Boozman of Arkansas sponsored the Cuban amendment.

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U.S.-Cuba: Between Backing Down and the Willingness to Better Links

By Martha Andres Roman, Washington (PL) One year after President Donald Trump’s decision to reverse much of the rapprochement with Cuba, two realities finally emerge: the backward step in links and the interest of many sectors to improve them.

The two countries’ ties had already developed for two and a half years after their respective governments announced the beginning of a process of normalization of relations, but on June 16, 2017 the U.S. President announced that it would eliminate some of the progress made.

‘With immediate effect, I am canceling the completely unilateral treatment of the last administration,’ Trump said that day in a Miami theater before an unrepresentative group of Cubans whom the President addressed as if they embodied all the people born on the island.

Even when polls on the subject showed the majority support of the U.S. people to closer ties with the neighboring country, the Republican signed the Presidential National Security Memorandum on the Strengthening of the United States Policy toward Cuba.

This document announced future restrictions on travel by the Americans to the Caribbean nation and further obstacles to economic, commercial and financial transactions.

In a speech marked by numerous interventionist demands, the head of State ratified then the validity of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by Washington to Cuba more than 55 years ago.

Months after that speech, on November 9, the announced restrictions entered into force, including that people subject to U.S. jurisdiction are prohibited from conducting direct financial transactions with some 180 Cuban entities and sub-entities.

It was also determined that the trips of Americans to the island would continue restricted to 12 existing categories, none of them for tourist purposes, but the educational visits between individual citizens -without academic character- were eliminated, among other measures.

The Cuban government rejected such regulations and affirmed that the White House’s decision confirmed a resurgence of the blockade, a policy condemned again in the UN by 191 countries only a week before.

At the same time, while some legislators welcomed the measures and others like Republican senator Marco Rubio said they had to go further, several Congress members and economic sectors rejected them.

Democratic representative Kathy Castor considered that such regulations are part of Trump’s retrograde stance to return to failed isolationist policies against the island and its people.

Meanwhile, Republican congressman Mark Sanford said the ban on travel to Cuba, enacted at a critical moment of the Cold War, was outdated and an unfair limitation of American freedom.

Before the measures announced by the President in Miami take effect, another chapter began that also strongly affected bilateral ties. Continue reading

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North American Composer Charles Fox to Perform in Cuba

Havana, Jun 19 (Prensa Latina) The North American composer and singer Charles Fox, author of the hit “Killing me softly with this song”, will give a concert on July 1 at the Gran Teatro de La Habana ”Alicia Alonso”, organizers reported today.

The performance by renowned film and television soundtrack writer Fox, entitled Havana Dreams, is the first stop on a tour of several cities around the world to celebrate 55 years of his artistic career.

Fox will take a tour of his extensive repertoire, accompanied by several generations of local musicians.

Among the guests were Cuban diva Omara Portuondo, who will play Killing me softly with young Cristian Alejandro; trumpeter Juan Kemell, saxophonist and clarinetist Javier Zalba, and violinist Rafael Lay, director of the Aragón orchestra, among others, according to a statement sent by the organizers to Prensa Latina.

Prior to the concert, Fox will meet with artists from the island on June 24 at the Cultural Center on 31 and 2 Streets, located in Vedado Havana, and three days later at Fábrica de Arte Cubano.

Fox’s professional career began in the second half of the 1960s with arrangements for musicians from different sound fields, and curiously enough, his work for salsa icons Ray Barretto and Tito Puentes stands out at this stage.

However, it is in the composition of soundtracks for film and television that he becomes famous, and under his signature appears the music of the series Love, American Style, Happy Days, and Wonder Woman; and the films The Last American Hero, Foul Play, and The Other Side of the Mountain, among others,

His Grammy winning song Killing me softly with this song put him at the top of the charts, and since 1972, when he composed it, it has been performed by a long list of artists, the best known version being that of American singer Roberta Flack.

Fox is a two-time Emmy Award winner, nominated for an Oscar on an equal number of occasions, and a three-time Golden Globe winner, and has been a member of the Composer’s Hall of Fame since 2004.

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Cuba Mourns Death Of TV Ballet Icon Iraida Malberti Cabrera, 81

An art director, choreographer, script writer and filmmaker, Malberti found fame with her version of classical ballet and folk dances.

An art director, choreographer, script writer and filmmaker, Malberti found fame with her version of classical ballet and folk dances. | Photo: Cubadebate

Asked if she would ever retire, Malberti answered: “I am 81 years old and I cannot stop working. If I stop doing it, I will die of sadness.”

June 17 (teleSUR) After dedicating 70 years to the arts and youth education, Cuba’s Iraida Malberti Cabrera was laid to rest early Saturday morning at the age of 81 years.

A ballet icon and director of a national television program, Malberti’s contribution to Cuban culture will be remembered with fondness in the arts community.

Just one year after the revolution in 1959, the choreographer joined forces with her brother, Juan Carlos Cremata, to launch the first episode dubbed ‘The World of Children,’ starring Carmen Solar and Edwin Fernandez.

In an interview with Cuba Debate, Malberti explained: “I started at the age of three years; my mom took me to the ballet. I went through the Supreme Court of Art, I became a Doctor in Pedagogy in 1962.

“I am a teacher of Ballet and Folkloric Dances thanks to an emerging course organized by Chely-Ramona de Saá, and I am a television director.”

An art director, choreographer, script writer, filmmaker and mother of three talented children, Malberti made a name for herself with her take on classical ballet and folk dances which debuted on TV. Most notable were the prohgrams ‘Tía Tata Tells Stories,’ ‘The Circus,’ ‘And Says A Butterfly’ and ‘When I Grow Up.’

Malberti told Cuba Debate one of her favorite experiences was filming a program which celebrated anniversaries in various countries, entitled ‘Variedades’ (Varieties).

“We had to investigate tenaciously. Some countries did not have anything written – there was no Internet – we went to and fro, they were the songs and the games of the children in each of the regions.

“Once I had to interview a Scandinavian diplomat. When I arrived he said: ‘I do not have anything, I do not have children’s songs’ and I said: ‘But you have to remember when you were a kid.’

“He was a very tall man, a huge fishing rod, very serious. And it was comical, because that man ended up jumping, singing and dancing in his office. He taught me the games and the songs that he himself enjoyed when he was little. And the repetitions several times, comical.”

Asked if she would ever retire, Malberti answered: “I am 81 years old and I cannot stop working. If I stop doing it, I will die of sadness.”

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Cuba Industria Convention Begins Today

Havana, Jun 18 (Prensa Latina) The third edition of Cuba Industria opens today under three guidelines focused on the development of strategic sectors, sustainable industry, and foreign investment.

Promoting productive chains, using new materials from renewable energy sources, exports replacement and fostering ties with universities are also priorities of the Convention and International Exhibition of Cuban Industry, Cuba Industria 2018, to be run until June 22.

The event, with an extensive program, will be held at the Conference Center and Pabexpo fairground, both in Havana, where an associated exhibition will be held in parallel.

According to the organizers, about 11 associated congresses, an investment forum, five roundtables and exchange panels are part of the agenda.

One of the objectives of the congresses will be to express clearly and precisely the projection of the industrial development for the coming years.

Those Congresses are the 3rd Congress of Industrial Maintenance, the 15th International Congress of Recycling, the 3rd Congress of Packaging, the 18th Congress on Metallurgical Industry, the 3rd Congress of Metalworking, the 3rd Congress of Management of the Quality and Environmental Protection and the 3rd Congress of the Chemical Industry.

The 3rd Congress of Electronics and Automation; the 3rd Congress of the Fashion, Furniture, Environments and Styles Industry; the 3rd Congress of Technological Management and Organizational Innovation; the 6th Congress of International Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Renewable Energy; and the 2nd Congress of Design Forum, will be held parallel to them.

The exhibition will have representations on recycling, packaging, metallurgy, metalworking, electronics and automation; as well as renewable energy sources, medical equipment, chemistry, light industry and professional services.

Under the slogan ‘On the path of sustainable industrial development’, Cuba Industria will be a favorable scenario for technical scientific exchange, strengthening technological associations between national and foreign industries, promoting exportable lines and strengthening national productions.

The participation of 31 countries is so far expected in this edition of Cuba Industria, among them, Spain, Italy, China, Russia and Germany.

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Nicaragua’s Crisis – the Latest Stage in a Permanent War

A demonstrator holds a homemade mortar during a protest against the government of Nicaragua

A demonstrator holds a homemade mortar during a protest against the government of Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, in Managua, Nicaragua June 17 2018.

The current crisis in Nicaragua is an intense escalation of the long-term US and allied strategy to destroy the Sandinista Front for National Liberation, very much part of the unrelenting regional assault on Cuba and Venezuela.

By: Tortilla con Sal 

June 17 (teleSUR) Nicaragua’s opposition paramilitary intimidation and media terror campaign have brought fear, insecurity, and hardship to around 30 of Nicaragua’s 153 municipalities. Only President Daniel Ortega’s commitment to peace has prevented an even worse conflict. Almost as disturbing as the extreme sadism of the opposition paramilitaries in Nicaragua is how their supporters and media displace opposition crimes by attributing them to the government. On June 14th Nicaragua’s Commission for Truth Peace and Justice, sworn in by the country’s National Assembly, reported 168 people dead and over 2100 injured.

Without assigning blame, the Commission’s figures included 8 police killed with over 200 injured and also reported the appearance of torture and kidnapping among the abuses. Until the extremist opposition provoked the current crisis, such crimes have been unheard of in Nicaragua since the war of the 1980s. Like their counterparts in Venezuela, the Nicaraguan opposition exhibit all the classic characteristics of psychopaths. Opposition political representatives are obsessed with imposing control by force and unwillingness to compromise. Opposition paramilitaries lack any empathy and attack with brutal sadism. The opposition media trademark is relentless, insistent, cynical deception.

On Saturday, June 16th, 6 people in Managua died in a fire started by opposition paramilitaries. Elsewhere in Managua, two people were murdered, one of them set on fire in the street. Opposition representatives, supporters and media attribute all those deaths at the hands of their paramilitaries, to the government. As a condition of the national dialogue Nicaragua’s police withdrew to their quarters. But opposition paramilitaries then besieged them in Masaya, Matagalpa, Jinotega, Mulukukú and elsewhere, killing and wounding police officers while shamelessly accusing the police of attacking them.

On the evening of June 13th, Sandinista student leader Leonel Morales was kidnapped by opposition paramilitaries, tortured, shot and subsequently left for dead dumped in a drainage canal. He was found barely alive and remains in hospital in intensive care. Morales participated in the national dialogue as elected leader of the UNEN student body in the private UPOLI university, until recently a base for opposition paramilitaries and at least one allied criminal gang, whose leaders are now under arrest. On June 15th, health Minister Sonia Castro reported 55 ambulances damaged or stolen, numerous health centers and hospitals damaged and 4 hospitals invaded by opposition paramilitary gangs.

Even those attacks and abuses the opposition media attribute to the government, along with many attacks on government and municipal offices and dozens of opposition paramilitary murders. Similarly,  in contrast to the Nicaraguan Truth Commission’s June 14th incomparably more professional presentation, the June 13th communique of the Inter-American Commission for Human Right restated the systematic false witness of opposition human rights organizations. The IACHR communique avoided any condemnation of opposition paramilitaries and aggressively accused the government of most of the violence.

For its part, the Nicaraguan government energetically condemned the IACHR communique as “biased, not impartial and lacking objectivity by untruthfully attributing to the State deeds it did not commit.” The horrific incidents on the morning of June 16th will be a real test of the IACHR’s veracity. The victims were all Sandinista supporters while the attackers were clearly opposition paramilitaries and associated delinquents. If the IACHR parrots opposition falsehoods that the crimes were committed by supporters of the government, it will greatly undermine confidence not just in the IACHR but in the broader Organization of American States mission of advice and accompaniment.

Despite everything, the national dialogue advanced on June 15th when the government again confirmed its readiness to receive international missions to help solve the country’s political crisis. After much stonewalling, the opposition and the bishops mediating, perhaps influenced by the presence of the new Vatican emissary to Nicaragua, finally accepted the government’s insistence on an agreement to remove the roadblocks paralyzing Nicaragua’s economy. But almost immediately, on the evening of the 15th, the opposition held a press conference in which they denied the roadblocks would be removed. On the morning of the 16th came the horrific terror attacks in Managua. Both events were clearly aimed at sabotaging the national dialogue. Even so, on the afternoon of the 16th, an agreement was reached on the agenda for discussion to begin on June 18th of potential electoral and judicial changes.

The opposition will probably delay dismantling the roadblocks and continue their terror attacks to extort maximum concessions from the government. But opposition extremists also hope to provoke the use of security forces to clear the roadblocks, kill the national dialogue and offer a pretext for international condemnation or some kind of intervention. This follows the model of the US controlled but volatile opposition in Venezuela. While some observers suggest the US government does not want Nicaragua to collapse, fearing even more migration to the US and increased organized crime, few believe the US power elites and their government worry about the well-being of people in Central America.

No single factor explains what is going on in Nicaragua, where a shifting kaleidoscope of interests makes events confusing and unpredictable. While the Sandinista government is negotiating in good faith, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Bob Corker’s June 11th visit to Managua offered another example of splits between mainstream US Republicans, the erratic Trump administration and the sinister US anti-Cuban mafia supporting Nicaragua’s opposition extremists. Nicaragua has strong relations with Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, whose business communities are probably lobbying against destabilizing Nicaragua. Caribbean nations in the OAS are probably also defending Nicaragua, just as most of them have defended Cuba and Venezuela.

Since the Nicaraguan opposition is as divided as their Venezuelan opposition counterparts, it may suit the US elites not to push for elusive outright regime change. The US elites’ Nicaraguan allies provoked the current crisis because they have failed electorally. By insisting on a political solution instead of deploying the country’s security forces, the Sandinista government has probably kept intact Nicaragua’s recent structural electoral loyalties whereby around 50% support the FSLN, 30%-35% support the opposition and 15%-20% are independent. The opposition needs all the independent votes to win the Presidency or a majority in the legislature, theoretically possible but hardly likely.

The national dialogue is discussing bringing forward the elections scheduled for 2021 and external factors like US sanctions or OAS intervention will tip Nicaragua’s electoral politics in favor of the opposition. But the crisis may backfire against the opposition in electoral terms depending on how susceptible people are to the constant psychological warfare. The opposition does not have a viable candidate nor do they have any social policy proposals, while their economic proposals have been banal, self-serving neoliberal gobbledygook. So the opposition may choose to argue for elections in late 2019 or early 2020, giving US elites time to create the necessary electoral conditions for an opposition victory.

Another obviously important factor in electoral calculations is security and organized crime. For the foreseeable future, the extremist opposition will continue a policy of provocative attacks and intimidation, creating uncertainty and insecurity that may shape electoral intentions in unpredictable ways. Security policy counteracting organized crime and opposition terrorist violence should work in favor of the government because people want peace and stability. More fundamentally, the government will focus on domestic productivity and ensuring food security to counter economic consequences of the crisis such as higher unemployment, more migration, lower investment, capital flight and higher business costs resulting from the crisis.

The government will also try and shape patterns of consumption and investment so as to prevent a damaging balance of payments crisis forcing resort to the International Monetary Fund. Another obvious intention of the US instigated crisis has been to attack the popular economy and the government’s capacity to maintain subsidies. Cuts in current subsidies to electricity and transport for low-income families would seriously diminish the value of the annual minimum wage increases since 2007. The same applies to the government’s successful social programs, health care and education. All these factors will affect any electoral outcome.

The current crisis in Nicaragua is an intense escalation of the long-term US and allied strategy to destroy the Sandinista Front for National Liberation, very much part of the unrelenting regional assault on Cuba and Venezuela. The US elites’ defeat in Eurasia forces them to consolidate control in the Americas and prevent a Chinese controlled Nicaraguan canal, as well as countering Russian influence. The US elites also want to crush Nicaragua’s economically successful, socialist-inspired, redistributive popular economy and its integrationist regional policy which threatens US control.

The US power elites’ failure overthrow Venezuela’s government has made changing or weakening Nicaragua’s Sandinista government more urgent. Regime change in Nicaragua would also remove its obstruction of global US and allied foreign policy goals in relation to, for example, Venezuela and Cuba or Palestine and Iran. The current coup attempt in Nicaragua is not merely a short-term political event but rather an intensification of the US elites’ permanent war on the impoverished majority in Latin America. The immediate priority for Nicaragua’s Sandinista government is to avoid armed conflict, achieve a peaceful settlement and endure.

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UN Demands Independence for Puerto Rico; Cuba Presents Draft Resolution

United Nations, Jun 18 (Prensa Latina) The claim for Puerto Rican independence reaches today the United Nations, whose Special Committee on Decolonization will start debating once more the situation of that territory still submitted to U.S. colonial rule.

The draft resolution presented by Cuba in that organization reaffirms the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence.

It also reiterates the Latin American and Caribbean nature of that territory, with its own and unmistakable national identity, and urges the United States government to promote a process that allows Puerto Ricans to exercise their right to self-determination, independence and decision-making.

The document shows concern about the measure by the U.S. Congress to impose a Financial Oversight Board for Puerto Rico to exercise full powers over executive and legislative officials in fiscal, economic and budgetary matters.

It also notes with concern the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on that Caribbean island, which, one year after it stroke, remains in a deep humanitarian crisis.

The demand for independence for Puerto Rico is widely supported by personalities, governments and political forces in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Several statements by the leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP) also reiterate the inalienable rights of the Puerto Rican people.

This will be the resolution number 37 -the majority presented by Cuba- which is analyzed in the UN Special Committee on Decolonization about the question of Puerto Rico.

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Pennsylvania state senator wants U.S. to open up to Cuba for trade

On March 21, 2016, Cuban President Raul Castro (left) hosts U.S. President Barack Obama at a welcoming ceremony at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba. Obama’s visit to Cuba was the first by a U.S. president since 1928. Some in Harrisburg are looking for more commerce between the two nations. – Associated Press

He said that it should be a good market for U.S. farmers.

WRITTEN BY BETH BRELJE, Reading Eagle

HARRISBURG, PA — MONDAY JUNE 18, 2018

The Engage Cuba Coalition, an advocacy group working to open trade and travel between the U.S. and Cuba, says the longtime embargo on Cuba is hurting Pennsylvania farmers and businesses.

The Washington-based coalition launched its 18th state council during a media presentation last Monday in the Capitol in Harrisburg.

“We are facing a crisis with American agriculture,” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba. “While trade is a contentious issue, one thing is clear: There is bipartisan support for opening up new areas of trade for American products, and this is what Cuba represents for the commonwealth and the agriculture industry as a whole.”

It is the same for manufacturing businesses, he added.

Pennsylvania has a sweet connection with Cuba. Both have towns named Hershey.

“Milton Hershey started Hershey, Cuba, to build a chocolate empire and this is where he sourced much of his sugar,” Williams said.

Hershey, Cuba, is about an hour east of Cuba’s capital, Havana.

There is also cultural exchange between Cuba, Penn State and other state universities.

The U.S. started sanctions against Cuba in 1960 in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution.

“During the Cold War, Cuba was tied to the Soviet Union,” said Robert Portada, associate professor of political science at Kutztown University. “In 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a move to make restrictions more stringent.”

The embargo was codified into law so it would take an act of Congress to change it. However, the president has limited power to change some things such as broadening agricultural sales.

“Cuba does not produce enough food on the island,” Portada said.

Cuba does buy food from the U.S but because of restrictions it must pay cash.

“The Cuban government does not have a lot of cash and they don’t have credit,” Portada said. “That is what American farmers want.”

At the end of President Barack Obama’s second term the U.S. was moving toward this, but it is moving back toward an adversarial relationship under President Donald Trump, Portada said.

Trump has reimposed restrictions on trade.

“If we lift the embargo, experts say $6 billion in additional exports and services would be gained as a result,” Williams said. “But it is also the right, moral thing to do. It is the right thing for the Cuban people. We’ve been doing this for almost 60 years, and it has not worked.”

State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, an Allegheny County Republican, said the U.S. is nearly alone on the world stage regarding Cuba, and noted that Cuba imports nearly 80 percent of its food, chiefly dairy, poultry and soybeans.

“Why should Cuba import dairy from halfway around the world when Pennsylvania is ready to export it now?” Reschenthaler said. It doesn’t make sense.”

For its part, the U.S. Department of State cites agriculture as an area of openness with Cuba.

“Although economic sanctions remain in place,” the department’s website says, “the United States is one of Cuba’s primary suppliers of food and agricultural products, with exports of those goods valued at $247 million in 2016.”

But, according to a Senate resolution Reschenthaler co-sponsored, U.S. exports to Cuba are hampered by the need to get permission from the U.S. Department of Commerce and numerous federal export regulations.

The resolution urges Congress to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba and eliminate trade barriers.

Cuba has requested over $6 billion in foreign investments to revitalize its domestic manufacturing sector.

“Right now, American manufacturers can’t even bid on these projects,” Reschenthaler said.

Miguel Fraga, first secretary at the Cuban embassy in Washington, the island-nation’s second-highest ranking diplomat to the United States, speaks in the Capital News Center in the state Capital in Harrisburg. He advocates opening trade and travel between the U.S. and Cuba. – Associated Press

Miguel Fraga, first secretary at the Cuban embassy in Washington, the island-nation’s second-highest ranking diplomat to the United States, said the Cuban people want better relations with the U.S.

“We have to start today. We have been waiting for almost 60 years,” Fraga said. “Americans can go where ever you want, but not to Cuba. You need a license to go to Cuba. Why?

“We buy $2 billion of food every year. We buy things in Canada, we buy things in Asia and Europe. Why not here, in the United States? That can help your farmers. That can help our people. That is the reason we are here. We believe we have more in common with the United States.

“We believe relations with goodwill and respect is the path we want to follow.”

“I hope one day we can trade rum for chocolate. That would be a good thing.”

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