President Raul Castro Goes to Say Good By to Venezuelan Counterpart

Havana, Dec 16 (Prensa Latina) Army General Raul Castro Ruz, President of the Cuban Councils of State and Ministers, went Friday night to the José Martí International Airport of Havana, to say good by to the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro Moros, Granma newspaper reported today.

After having a conversation in the protocol room of the air terminal, Raúl -together with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla- accompanied the Venezuelan leader and the first combatant Cilia Flores to the plane’s ladder, where they said goodbye, with a big hug, adds the newspaper.

Maduro Moros had traveled to Havana last Thursday to participate in the ceremony that commemorated the 13th Anniversary of the founding of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples’ Trade Treaty.

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Alfredo Despaigne, 2017 Best Player of Cuban Baseball

Dec 15 (Escambray) Alfredo Despaigne, nicknamed ‘The Horse’ in the national and international baseball events in which Cuba has participated in years, became a member of the national champion of Cuba, Granma, and was a member of the Japanese national pro baseball champ Softbank Falcons.

He hit a total of 35 homeruns this season in Japan, with 103 runs batted in. These became records for the regular season at the Japanese Pacific League.

The Cuban baseball authorities selected team Granma -now the Cuban national champion- as Best team of the Year, and their manager Carlos Marti, as Best Manager, respectively.

Granma was the Cuban representative at the 2017 Caribbean Baseball Series in Mexico, managed by Marti, who also was the manager of the Cuban national team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

As Best Junior Player of the Year, player Cesar Prieto (batting average champion in the 28th under 18 years in the Canadian city of Thunder Bay) was chosen, after compiling 581 for a batting average -18 hits for 31 times at bat- and as second baseman, was selected the best of the tournament and a member of the All Stars Team of the competition.

The Award for Best Rookie of the Year, went to the hands of Eliecer Griñán (Ciego de Ávila). The Best Umpire, Jorge Niebla, for his results in national and international tournaments.

The list of the best 10 Cuban baseball players of the year was completed with Yurisbel Gracial (Matanzas), Lázaro Blanco (Granma), Liván Moinelo (Pinar del Río), Roel Santos (Granma), Yordan Manduley (Holguín), Alexander Ayala (Camaguey), Miguel Lahera (Artemisa), Carlos Benítez (Granma), Frank Camilo Morejon (Industriales) and Yordanis Samón (Industriales).

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UN Highlights Cuban Work in Human Rights Promotion

Image result for United Nation Human Right Council (UNHRC) Cuba

Havana (Prensa Latina) Thanks to the work done for decades, today Cuba has a wide international support in human rights promotion, which refutes repeated attempts to discredit the island.

One of the greatest evidences of respect for Cuba was its re-election in 2016 in one of the eight positions for Latin America and the Caribbean in the United Nation Human Right Council (UNHRC).

Cuba was the most supported country in the region, with 160 votes for the period 2017-2019. According to the Cuban diplomatic authorities, it was a sign of recognition by the international community of Cuban work in human rights promotion.

After the UNHRC setting up in 2016, Cuba has been elected as member country in four periods (2006-2008, 2009-2011, 2014-2016 and 2017-2019).

Cuba also assumed one of the UNHRC vice-presidencies between June 2010 and June 2011, representing the Latin American and the Caribbean region.

Only in 2012 and 2013 Cuba did not appear as a member of the Council, only because the members of the council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate reelection after two consecutive terms.

According to sources of the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations, the Caribbean island gives a high priority to international cooperation for the promotion and protection of all human rights.

They also highlighted that Cuba took an active part in both the negotiations to the setting up of the Council and the process of institutional construction of that body.

Cuba also presented various proposals to ensure the genuine promotion of international dialogue and cooperation in the field of human rights, without intervention of practices of confrontation and political manipulation that put an end to the previous Commission of Rights Humans.

According to the Cuban authorities and diplomats, the island remains committed to addressing the historic claims of the peoples of the South and of the great majorities worldwide on issues such as the effective realization of the right to development and the fight against racism, the discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances.

Wide view of the General Assembly meeting to consider the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Wide view of the UN General Assembly on Nov. 1, 2017 with 191 member nations voting in favor of the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba. UN Photo/Cia Pak

In this regard, they recalled that Cuba signed the International Covenants on Human Rights in 2008 and that it will continue its work in that area as the main sponsor of several projects in the Council.

They also stressed that Cuba remains committed to ensuring full respect for the principles of universality, indivisibility, objectivity and non-selectivity in order to strengthen cooperation in the field of human rights.

Contrary to powers like the United States, Cubans have significant achievements in the enjoyment of all human rights, whether in the field of economic, social and cultural rights, in the civil and political rights or in the so-called third generation rights or solidarity.

According to representatives of the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the UN, if they have to mention only one of the achievements, they would refer to the full exercise of their right to self-determination amid the grave obstacles and threats derived from the policy of hostility, aggression and blockade imposed for decades from abroad.

Cuban successes in areas such as health, education, scientific-technical research, culture and sports are also widely known at the international level.

However, what is hidden or distorted, is that all this has been possible precisely because the Cuban people own their political destiny and the resources of the country, exercise the power and the fullest control of the life of the nation, and actively participates as an actor of the system of democracy designed and endorsed by the people in a universal plebiscite, diplomats pointed out.

As if that were not enough, there are many in the world who knows closely the ideals supported by the Cuban people in their international actions, the commitment to the advancement of human rights and the fight against colonialism and for access to health and education.

According to official figures, more than 325 thousand Cuban collaborators have served in 158 countries, and, in terms of education, thanks to the Cuban literacy program ‘Yosípuedo’ more than nine million people have learned to read and write in thirty nations.

At the same time, the Caribbean nation has received visits from missions and officials of the highest international organization and has provided all the information necessary to respond to the requests of special procedures of the UNHRC, with which it will continue to cooperate.

In general, as a member of the aforementioned body, diplomats say, Cuba promotes its traditional initiatives on issues such as access to food, respect for cultural diversity and the promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the enjoyment of all human rights.

Likewise, the country continues its work towards the progressive development of third generation rights and, in particular, international solidarity.

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Cuban Film Sergio & Serguei Captivates in Havana Film Festival

Havana, Dec 16 (Prensa Latina) The Cuban fiction feature Sergio & Serguei, by Ernesto Daranas, closes today its premiere cycle at the 39th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, with unanimous applause from the audience of this event.

According to its director, the film speaks of friendship, of what prevails beyond political conjunctures, and although it exposes a complex period of Cuban history, it approaches it with certain nostalgia because he selected a girl as a narrator.

In this way, the producer avoids that the economic precariousness of the 1990s and the trauma that meant the disappearance of the Soviet Union for the Cuban adult generation of the moment, lead the spectator to a depression; on the contrary, he bets on human values and optimism.

The fable of a Cuban amateur radio enthusiast who communicates with a Soviet cosmonaut on the famous Mir space station is not credible, Daranas noted at a press conference, but the fictional argument allowed him to allude to several realities and to make concrete criticisms.

Thanks to the acting performance of Tomás Cao, Héctor Noas, Mario Guerra, Yuliet Cruz, Ana Gloria Buduén, Armando Miguel Gómez, Camila Arteche and Ailín de la Caridad Rodríguez, and the script of Daranas, the viewer manages to identify himself with most of the characters and to recognize the negative ones.

Many Cubans see similar experiences, reactions and feelings reflected in the film and, perhaps, the metaphors to highlight the bad things, those things that – in the opinion of the director – we should stop taking seriously because they paralyze us, may be surprising, but we do not fall in the joking, nor in any excess.

The play features the special performance of the American Ron Perlman in the role of a Jewish journalist living in New York whose investigations reveal different forms of corruption of his government. Continue reading

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Folkloric Ballet of Camaguey dances in the home of the spin

Camagüey, Dec 13 (Radio Cadena Agramonte) – The Folkloric Ballet of Camagüey (BFC) represents this province in the 13th dancing season Para bailar (To dance) in the house of the spin, which is the setting for the city of Santa Clara.

Today, at 9:00 at night, the collective which directs Reinaldo Echemendía Estrada will perform at the Leoncio Vidal Park, in the historic center of the Villa Clara´s capital, where it will present the choreography Cuba dances, cadenagramonte.cu informed the public relations of the BFC, Rachel Garcia Aguilera.

The show includes excerpts from various works of the band, as Iku Lobi Ocha, with who knows not is played and all mixed together.

Through music and dance offers various nuances of traditional popular culture, because sum songs and dances of the Cuban Santeria ritual and the congos, to finish with a rumba and facilitates the interaction of the artists with the public, something that distinguishes the Camagüey´s folk company.

For this on December 14, The Day of the worker of the Culture in Cuba, the proposal of the BFC is Oddi-Oche, in La Caridad Theater, Santa Clara, also at 9:00 p.m.

In this choreography is recreated a history with emphasis on two of the main female deities of the Yoruba pantheon: Yemaya and Ochún, which run counter to the sea and the river; the righteousness and firmness, to the seductive sensuality.

With that piece, Echemendía Estrada favors an approach to the roots of the syncretism present in Cuban Culture.

Previously, the BFC participated in the festival of Winter Moons, newly completed in Sancti Spiritus. (Redacción Digital/ Radio Cadena Agramonte.) (Photo: http://www.escambray.cu)

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Venezuelan Government and Opposition Inch Closer to Unity

On January 11 a working meeting will be held, and on January 12 the dialogue table will once again be installed in the presence of several international observers.

Dec 15 (teleSur) Dialogue between the Venezuelan government and opposition aimed at promoting peace and unity has made “great progress” and the talks are set to resume in the Dominican Republic on January 11 and 12, it has been announced.

President of the Dominican Republic Danilo Medina, who has been hosting the negotiations, held a press conference late Friday at the Convention Center of the Chancellery in Santo Domingo.

“There are six major issues that we are discussing,” Medina told the assembled international media. “Each issue has a number of subtopics. We must continue discussing some technicalities… We cannot announce the results until an agreement is reached on everything.”

Medina confirmed that on January 11 a working meeting will be held, and on January 12 the dialogue table will once again be installed in the presence of several international observers.

The talks concluding on Friday established that only two official spokesmen will be permitted to make declarations at the dialogue table: Venezuelan Vice-President Jorge Rodríguez and, on behalf of the opposition, Julio Borges.

Mexican Chancellor Luis Videgaray commented on the apparent weight of the negotiation process. “Both parties were extremely serious about the size of the challenge facing Venezuela,” he said.

Videgaray described advances in the dialogue progress as “partial and relevant,” but warned that no definitive agreement has so far been reached. “Both parties have agreed on time and methods to peacefully solve the problems,” he said.

Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz said: “There have been significant advances, although there is still technical work and a little more time is needed.” He also cited “hopes that next January 12 the agreement will be finalized and the process will be closed.”

“We have noticed a willingness to negotiate seriously,” Muñoz told reporters. “There is concrete work and we value it. It is not finished, but we are close to the goal and that is why we will be back in the Dominican Republic, so that the Venezuelans themselves reach a desired agreement and a peaceful exit.”

Venezuela’s government spokesman, Jorge Rodríguez, said the meeting was “a constructive event,” and stressed that the parties involved would reject any foreign interference in the process.

“We are happy that words and dialogue are being used to resolve the political issues in Venezuela, and we reject the U.S. communique that tries to boycott the dialogue process,” he said in response to a statement from the U.S. State Department threatening fresh sanctions against Venezuela.

“Politics must be the instrument with which we settle our issues; not weapons, economic wars or blockades. It must be with words.”

The initial December 1 and 2 negotiations between the Venezuelan government and the opposition were a watershed moment in the country’s recent political history. President Maduro had called for peace talks more than 300 times since he took office in 2013.

After the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela swept the municipal elections in October, the opposition finally agreed to negotiate.

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Cuba takes measures to face climate change

Havana, Cuba, Dec 14 (Radio Cadena Agramonte) – A group of important measures, contained in program Tarea Vida (Life Task), are adopted in Cuba with the aim of preparing the country to face the effects caused by climate change.

According to a report published today in the Granma newspaper, the island suffers the consequences of these transformations, which cause sea level and temperature rise and decrease in rainfall.

Sergio Lorenzo Sánchez, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences, pointed out that studies of geology and geomorphology confirm that there is a retreat of the coastline from 1.5 to two meters annually.

The specialist indicated that there are readings of the National Mareographic Network that show an increase of 2.14 millimeters per year in the acceleration of the increase of the mean sea level.

Such changes have caused not only a reduction of the emerged territory and the rains, but also damages in the coral reef and the reef crests, which protect the archipelago from the strong waves.

To face these dangers, it is necessary to identify and undertake actions and projects to adapt to climate change, of an integral and progressive nature, aimed at reducing the vulnerability of coastal zones.

These actions must be supported by specific legal norms, which support the execution of the state plan, ensure strict compliance and punish violators.

Special importance is given to the preservation, maintenance and integral recovery of the sandy beaches of the Cuban archipelago, with priority for urbanized and tourist use.

With a view to guaranteeing water supply and mitigating the effects of the drought, we must work on the introduction of technologies for saving and satisfying local demands and increase the hydraulic infrastructure.

The reforestation should be directed towards the maximum protection of the soils and the waters in quantity and quality, as well as the recovery of the hydro-regulatory fringes, the most damaged forests and mangroves.

It is also necessary to stop the deterioration, rehabilitate and conserve the coral reefs throughout the national archipelago, with priority for the ridges bordering the insular platform and protecting the beaches. (ACN)

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Cuba to the forefront by respect for the rights of women

By Mariela Peña Seguí/ Radio Cadena Agramonte

Dec 14 – The mere fact of being female condemns women and girls from all over the world to see violated their human rights.

Certainly, humanity has advanced in the recognition of the rights of women, but, in spite of significant legal developments, there is a huge gap between the formal recognition of those rights and the real possibility to enjoy them.

The Cubans could lead the list of achievements in terms of equity and rights of citizens of struggles and challenges, in a society that does not discriminate against women.

Their insertion in the country’s development process, both as beneficiaries and active players, should be assessed as one of the most successful social phenomena that have occurred in the last half century in Cuba.

But its prominence not only materializes in the political and economic level, but also in the social field will develop programs that benefit us, such as the mother-to-child, the early detection of cervical, uterine and breast cancer, and others that give priority to illnesses specific to women and to biological processes such as pregnancy, motherhood and the climacteric.

Cuba was the first country to sign and the second to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1979.

Today, when many women in the world still do not know their own rights as human beings, Cuba is a flag to many nations.

This country flying with pride their achievements in equity and in the struggle for a world where men and women are respected equally.

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This Cuban industry began with 6 scientists, a tiny lab — and Fidel Castro’s obsession

Manuel Raíces Pérez-Castañeda, the scientist in charge of business development at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana, talks to peptide scientists Cecilia Sagardoy and Yordanka Mascorrol about their research.

Manuel Raíces Pérez-Castañeda, the scientist in charge of business development at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana, talks to peptide scientists Cecilia Sagardoy and Yordanka Mascorrol about their research. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

Dec 14 by Mimi Whitefield – The Miami Herald 

Havana -When Dr. R. Lee Clark, then president of the University of Texas’ famed M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, visited the island in November 1980 as part of a delegation, the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro wanted to hear about the latest advance in cancer treatment.

Clark said it was interferon — a naturally occurring protein that inhibits virus development in cells. At the time interferon was thought of as something of a wonder drug that could be used as an anti-viral and for fighting various cancers.

Curiosity piqued, Castro dispatched two Cuban doctors to M.D. Anderson for training, and then in 1981 sent a small group of Cuban doctors to Finland where Dr. Kari Cantell, a virologist, had perfected a method of producing and isolating interferon in the laboratory.

Many clinical trials around the world used the expensive Finnish interferon, but Castro decided that Cuba needed its own supply. He set up six Cuban researchers in a small laboratory created in a one-story protocol house and tasked them with creating interferon from human blood.

“He used to visit the scientists almost every day. He would often come by very late at night,” said Merardo Pujol Ferrer, business development director for Heber Biotec, the marketing company for Cuban biotech products.

Surprisingly, the six scientists quickly succeeded in producing their first batch of leukocyte interferon. The Cuban interferon got its first test under fire in 1981, when an epidemic of dengue fever, which killed more than 100 children, gripped the country. Although it had never been done before, the decision was made to test interferon’s effects on hemorrhagic dengue.A study of 300 patients concluded that alpha interferon used early to treat children could prevent hemorrhagic complications.

From the modest experiment in the protocol house, Cuba’s Center for Biological Research was established in 1982. It later became part of the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), which was created in 1986 with around 300 employees.

“This center is big, but I hope the scientific results that are obtained will also be great,” said Castro at the CIGB opening. Since then it has become far larger, and now employs more than 1,700 workers.

A scientific nucleus that includes several other research institutes has grown up around it in Havana. Across the country there are now 21 research centers and 70 factories under the umbrella of BioCubaFarma, the enterprise that groups together Cuban biotech and pharmaceutical industries.

Biotech 04 EKM
The Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana now has more than 1,700 employees and sits on a sprawling campus in the city’s ‘scientific pole.’
Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

“We were talking about creating a true revolution in science with cutting-edge products,” said Manuel R. Raíces Pérez-Castañeda, a biologist and CIGB business development director.Cuban scientists were sent aboard to study in Germany, France, Japan, the Soviet Union and other countries.

The interferon research became something of an obsession for Castro, who often took a personal interest in scientific and agricultural endeavors, including a dairy cow named White Udder whose daily milk production earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, and a so-called miracle plant called moringa.

To see how Cuba was doing, Castro invited Cantell to Cuba in 1982 and Castro himself briefed him on the scientists’ work, said Pujol. “He was here with us just that once,” he added.In Cantell’s book, The Story of Interferon: The Ups and Downs in the Life of a Scientist, he writes that when he visited the island, “I saw the new institute and was astonished by its huge size. The interferon seed had grown into a biotechnology tree.”

In later years, interferon didn’t turn out to be quite the miracle drug it was initially thought to be, but it is still used in the treatment of some cancers.

However, the center made other breakthroughs. In 1988-89, when a diagnostic kit for HIV was developed, it was immediately pushed out to Cuban hospitals and blood banks to prevent HIV transmissions via blood transfusions. A third milestone came when the center developed a vaccine to combat hepatitis B and Cuba began a vaccination campaign in mid-1990.In 1991, Cuban scientists said, there were 230,000 acute cases of hepatitis B in the country. That had fallen to 100 in 2007, and it’s less than 100 now, said Pujol. “The children in Cuba are the most vaccinated in the world,” he said.

The entire Cuban population under the age of 25 is immunized against hepatitis B, and the vaccine is registered in some three dozen countries. The World Health Organization certified it in 2001.

The center also has developed vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, meningitis B and C, and influenza Type B, as well as products that fight animal and plant diseases, transgenic animals, enzymes for industrial use and medical software. It also is working on engineering more drought-resistant plants, the creation of self-fertilizing crops and the use of enzymes to produce less-fattening sugar.

With limited resources, Pujol said, the Cuban health system had to put an emphasis on prevention and introducing new products as soon as they were developed. “We had to be part of the solution, not the problem,” he said.

But Cuba’s universal access to healthcare isn’t cheap. “Where do you win? By being able to reincorporate patients back into society,” said Raices. “The indirect savings are very great. A hospital can’t operate like a McDonald’s.”

And Cuba also has been forced to take a different approach with its medicines and vaccines. Cuba, Pujol said, realized early on that it couldn’t develop a market-directed approach for its products because it couldn’t compete with pharmaceutical giants with huge marketing budgets. So, rather than trying to advance in the world market by promoting its products, he said, it promotes its results.

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Northern Feed and Bean among Colorado groups that traveled to Cuba to discuss agriculture exports

Dec 15 by Samantha Fox – The Fence Post

LUCERNE, Colo. — Colorado agriculture took a step toward a trade relationship with Cuba last month, despite the current embargo on the country.

Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown, along with members of the World Trace Center Denver, Northern Feed and Bean and others, met with Cuban leaders during a trip Nov. 12-16 to Cuba.

An embargo, placed on Cuba by President Donald Trump, reversed a decision by former President Obama. The embargo was once again placed on the nation after a mysterious sonic attack against U.S. diplomats in the country. While the source and actual cause has not been determined, Trump quickly rolled back some of the business with the country that had been temporarily opened.

Brown said the trip was open to anyone in the agriculture industry in Colorado, and the planning started about a year ago, before the embargo was put back in place.

The embargo, however, doesn’t prevent the exchange of agriculture or medicinal goods, which allows some companies, such as Northern Feed and Bean, to start a relationship with buyers in the country.

The catch? Cuba must pay up front for its goods in dealing with any U.S. company, and the country isn’t exactly in the best financial shape.

But Larry Lande, owner and general manager of Northern Feed and Bean, said the company, based in Lucerne, will continue talks with Cuba to open the possibility of a partnership.

“They have no money, so they don’t want to prepay any more than they have to, so everything else is being bought on credit with other countries,” Lande said. But it was neat, it was fun, it was interesting and we’re kind of pumped up.”

RELYING ON IMPORTS

Lande said the company hopes a partnership between Northern Feed and Cuba can happen, especially since about 80 percent of Cuba’s food is imported and the country only had black beans imported. The pinto bean market has been untapped for about 10 years, according to Lande. Continue reading

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