Biodiversity in Cuba

Both the Cuban trogon (left) and Cuban tody (right) are endemic to the island nation. The trogon is also the country’s national bird. © G. Bartley/AGE Fotostock; © G. Bartley/AGE Fotostock

Although the U.S. embargo on Cuba has not yet been officially lifted, due to the Obama administration’s decision to re-establish diplomatic relations between the two countries at the end of 2014, scientist around the United States are clamoring for opportunities to explore the biodiversity of the largest Island in the Caribbean. According to an article in Scientific American the reasons for this enthusiasm are numerous:

“[Cuba has] a treasure trove of more than 6,000 species of plants, 140 species of reptiles, 1,400 species of mollusks and 70 species of amphibians—and most of these species are endemic. Also, the bulk of Cuba’s flora and fauna thrive in vast, unspoiled areas that are not under threat thanks to its low population density (most of Cuba’s 11.2 million people live along the coast of the 1,250-kilometer-long island) and the fact that there are few large-scale industrial developments. There are also 211 protected areas covering 20 percent of the national territory.”

Additionally, Cuban and American scientists alike are excited to develop new collaborations and it is likely that many new species will be discovered as more funding becomes available for fieldwork and embargo restrictions are continued to be relaxed. This is an exciting opportunity specifically for researchers interested in the tropics, but it is also a reminder that studying and documenting biodiversity is a dynamic, on-going process.

The original article can be found here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cubas-biodiversity-emerges-from-the-shadows/

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Make space at Havana Harbor: Pearl Seas Cruises joins the cruise frenzy to Cuba

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Professor Teresita Levy Establishing Education Partnerships in Cuba

teresitaunissProfessor Teresita Levy at University of Sancti Spiritus in Cuba with on left, Provost, Dr. Martín Santana Sotolongo, on right, Professor of History, Jorge Francisco Rodríguez Hernández

Professor Teresita Levy recently returned to Cuba for a third time since 2015, in a continuing effort to create Lehman College partnerships with the island’s most prominent universities.

Levy, the director of international programs and global partnerships  at the College and an associate professor in the Latin American, Latino and Puerto Rican Studies department, says that on the most recent trip between October 22 and November 4, she established relationships with the University of Camagüey (UC) and University of Sancti Spiritus (UNISS), that could lead to the first partnerships with Lehman by January 2018.  The goal of the partnerships is to create classes accessible to both Lehman and Cuban students, and to pave the way for educational travel to the island for Lehman students.

Laying the groundwork for these partnerships began last February, when Levy attended “Universidad 2016,” a five day international higher education conference in Havana, where she met officials from UNISS and UC. Lehman signed letters of intent with the universities; informal agreements acknowledging mutual interest. Continue reading

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Debates Regarding Protection of the Ozone Layer Begin in Cuba

f0015235Ciego de Ávila.— On December 6, Cuban experts began an exchange of experiences and lines of work relating to the protection of the ozone layer, given the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation to life on Earth.

The event will run through December 10 at the Tryp Cayo Coco Hotel, located in the tourist resort of Jardines del Rey, north of Ciego de Ávila, with delegates from all provinces of the island.

Yeinic Cruz, a specialist from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment in this territory, noted among the main themes measures to eliminate the use of substances harmful to the ozone layer. Continue reading

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Cuba wants to sign accords with U.S. before Obama exit: officials

The hands of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are seen during a news conference as part of Obama's three-day visit to Cuba, in Havana March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The hands of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are seen during a news conference as part of Obama’s three-day visit to Cuba, in Havana March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Cuba said on Wednesday it hoped to sign off on at least half a dozen agreements with the United States before businessman Donald Trump, who has threatened to derail detente between the former Cold War foes, becomes president on Jan. 20.

Cuban and U.S. officials held talks in Havana to discuss what more could be accomplished during President Barack Obama’s remaining weeks in office, agreeing to arrange more high-level visits and technical meetings.

The more Cuba and the United States deepen their detente, the more irreversible it will become, analysts said.

“At the moment we are negotiating 12 more (accords) with the aim to be able to conclude and sign a majority of them,” Josefina Vidal, the Cuban foreign ministry’s director of U.S. affairs, told a news conference.

The accords would be in areas such as seismology and meteorology, she said, adding that Cuba and the United States had already signed a dozen accords in the two years since they agreed to normalize relations, ending decades of hostility.

They have also opened embassies, restored commercial flights and opened travel options.

But some fear all that is now at stake, given Republican Trump has said he would seek to reverse the opening unless Communist-ruled Cuba gives the United States what he calls a “better deal”.

Vidal declined to comment on Trump’s statements but said she hoped his administration would recognize that the detente had the backing of most Cubans and Americans.

“Cuba would hope the new U.S. government takes into account the results we have achieved… that are backed by the majority of the Cuban population (and) U.S. citizens,” she said.

Cuba was willing to continue improving relations but “within the respect of the existing differences and without having to make any kind of concession to the principles in which Cuba firmly believes,” Vidal added. Continue reading

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Cuba will Be Your Monument

Neither squares nor streets with your name. No effigy to lay flowers. Detached from the coldness of statues. Distanced from marble and bronze which, inert, erode with time. Your ideas multiplied in men and women, that will be your monument. You loathed any semblance of a personality cult, any excess of veneration, for it is something of the greats to not appear to be so, and leave the glories, sublime or epic, trapped in small kernels of corn. The continuity lies in planting them.

I am one of those who imagined at least one sculpture, dressed as a guerrilla, atop a mountain in the Sierra, looking out into the distance, some say into the future. There where you used to come and go.

During your pilgrimage through every place that the caravan once baptized with liberty, the legend of your immortality grew, of your eternal presence, beyond exaltations or idealizations that forget the material with which heroes are made: flesh and bone. It became clearer just how a man becomes a people, how history reveres him and how his ideas, all of them, are born of what is just.

And for me, that singular space where I could adore you became less necessary.

After all, milimetrically designed, it will not exist, beyond that rock with a heart of your ashes. But there will be an entire Cuba to cast your lot with, with each of her corners and streets to remember you.

When we see an unusual gathering or a long queue, we will ask ourselves whether you are going to speak; when we hear of some injustice or delayed response we will say that in your time, that would not have happened, at least if you knew about it; when we want to go to the root of problems, understand everything, and risk everything to save it all, we will say that is what you did. And you will continue to be born in everything that appears fatuous to us, in every perfectible work that will dignify us.

Long before your departure, there were many who, hanging your picture on the wall, asked you for miracles as one asks a god, or asked a god to take care of you, to give you health and a long life, because your existence was an anchor to their faith. Now there will be little to ask for and much more to do. And we will have to build the “miracles” with our own hands.

In his song to you, which has become an anthem during these days, Raúl Torres said that he had seen striding “in front of the caravan, slowly without a rider, a horse for you.” And Changó, that orisha of strength and justice that the Yoruba religion celebrates, rode on horseback, just as you decided to imbue a rock with the life of a warrior.

There will be no school, hospital, or avenue with your name. A country will be your monument. A country moving forward.

Yudy Castro Morales, Periodico26.cu

December 6, 2016

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More than 60% of the families affected by hurricane in Cuba have received resources to repair their houses

A little more than two months after Hurricane Matthew crossed Cuban eastern region, 63 percent of the families affected in Baracoa municipality have received the necessary resources to repair their homes.
Carlos Martínez Turro, Vice-President of the Provincial Administration Council for Investments, told the press that about one-third of the families affected by the storm have already repaired the roofs of their houses and a similar figure has the materials to do it.
The significant recovery of the houses in this territory, he said, has been possible thanks to the availability of 62 and 48 percent of asbestos cement and zinc tiles, respectively, arriving from the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Artemisa, Matanzas and Las Tunas, which productive poles contribute to the recuperative tasks.
The official commented they have implemented several workshops to process the wood and seven mini-industries for the local production of construction materials, so the territory has nowadays a production capacity of five thousand blocks per day, and they are also working in the construction of new facilities for the manufacture of materials for floors and roofs.
Martinez Turro also mentioned another project concerning the construction of some 700 houses in rural areas, which construction will combine blocks and timber in similar proportions.

Cuba Headlines, December 7, 2016

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Cuban and US officials to meet in Havana on Wednesday

Delegations from Cuba and the United States will meet in Havana tomorrow, December 7, for the fifth session of the Bilateral Commission, Cubaminrex site reported. The Cuban delegation is chaired by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Director General for the United States in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and its US counterpart is headed by Mari Carmen Aponte, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. The agreements of the fourth meeting, held on September 30 in Washington, will be reviewed and a balance will be made on the results achieved since the creation in August 2015 of the Bilateral Commission as a mechanism to follow up on the ties between the two countries, after the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. In addition, there will be defined actions to be held in coming weeks to progress in the process of improving relations, including high-level visits, new cooperation agreements in areas of common interest, technical meetings and dialogues on issues of bilateral interest. The representatives of Cuba will ratify that the lifting of the financial, economic and commercial blockade; the return of the territory illegally occupied by the Naval Base at Guantanamo; and the elimination of subversive radio transmissions will be essential to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States.

Cuba Headlines, December 7, 2016

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Who Are Those ‘Gusanos’ Who Celebrated Fidel’s Death?

While millions mourned the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, Cubans in Miami who abandoned the island decades before, celebrated.

In a grotesque display of insensitivity, some Cubans in Miami celebrated the death of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, carrying “Trump / Pence” signs, hoping to “Make Cuba Great Again” by destroying the Cuban Revolution and bringing back the racism, neocolonialism and fascism of the Batista dictatorship.

“Gusanos,” or worms is the term Fidel used to describe the first 1960’s waves of wealthy white former landowners who fled Cuba to the United States after the overthrow of U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

These Cubans were welcomed, nurtured and harbored by successive U.S.administrations, establishing themselves as the most vocal force against the Cuban Revolution, taking part in military operations and terror campaigns against Cuba and of course backing the U.S. blockade against the Cuban people.

The gusanos were behind the 1961 U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, which Havana was able to defeat in 72 hours, capturing hundreds of mercenaries, many of whom Cuba identified as plantation owners, Batista’s ex-military men, factory owners and businessmen.

In 2011, declassified CIA documents showed that one of the key figures in the 1976 terrorist bombing of Cubana Flight 455 was Luis Posada Carriles, a right-wing Cuban who had fled the island after the revolution.

Posada Carriles, now 88, was also part of the failed Bay of Pigs assault and was an informant for the CIA. Orlando Bosch was another CIA agent who helped mastermind the attack on the civilian plane.

The documents also show that Bosch received a phone call from the bombers saying “a bus with 73 dogs went off a cliff and all got killed.” He is also connected to terror attacks on Cuban hotels in 1997.

Bosch is well connected to the Bush family, having been personally championed by Jeb Bush, when he was the governor of Florida, and released from U.S. custody by former President George H. W. Bush.

Another leader of the gusanos is Felix Rodriguez, who is an ex-CIA agent known for having participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion. He was sent by the CIA to Bolivia to kill revolutionary leader Che Guevara in 1967.

He ordered that Guevara be “shot below the neck” so that it would look as though he had been “killed in combat.”

These Cuban terrorists are seen as heroes by the counter-revolutionary Cuban community in the U.S., whose ties to the murder of innocent Cubans has no bearing on their conscience.

These gusanos are also among some of the most right-wing politicians and celebrities in the U.S. and the state of Florida. Rafael Diaz-Balart, who served as a deputy interior minister in the Batista’s regime is the father of U.S. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, both Republicans.

Another infamous member of the right-wing Cuban community is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican U.S. Congresswoman who in 2014 proposed a bill calling for sanctions on Venezuela. Meanwhile, former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero III is the very grandson of Batista.

Also of note is the Estefan family in Florida. Pop singer Gloria Estefan’s father was Batista’s bodyguard and participated in the Bay of Pigs failed invasion.

But Fidel’s Cuba could not stand by and allow the U.S.-backed gusanos to meddle with its internal affairs and terrorize the Cuban people.

Five Cubans were sent by the government to the U.S. to monitor Miami-based terrorist groups plotting to attack Cuba to avoid a further loss of lives.

The Cuban 5, as they came to be known worldwide, were imprisoned in the United States in 1998 and sentenced in 2001 on espionage charges.

After years of an international campaign calling for their release, the last of the five was released in December 2014, coinciding with announcements from Cuban President Raul Castro and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama that the two countries would begin to re-establish ties.

The Independent-New York Times
by teleSUR / mh-RT-mk

teleSUR, December 6, 2016

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Cuban Film Festival To Open, Will Pay Tribute to Fidel

The festival will present 427 Latin American films in 10 days.

Cuba will hold its 38th annual International Festival of New Latin American Cinema from Dec. 8-18 in Havana, the most important cinematographic event in the country.

The organizers of the festival, in a statement on Nov. 28, mourned the death of their revolutionary leader Fidel Castro: “From the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana we join in the pain of the physical loss of one of our great founders and thinkers in Latin American cinema as a movement that still unites us today … (Fidel’s) idea of promoting culture, and especially the cinema as the major way of liberation for Latin America, has been present in each one of the editions of the festival. The special screening of the film ‘La Batalla de Jigüe’ … is a special occasion to recall the struggle that he led that turned Cuba into a beacon of freedom for all the peoples of the world.”

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