Act of Solidarity With Venezuela on XIII Anniversary of Alba

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Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is present in Cuba at the event to reject interference and aggression against the South American nation.

Dec 14 (teleSur) An act of solidarity with Venezuela is being celebrated in Havana, Cuba, during the commemoration of the XIII anniversary of the Bolivarian Alliance – Treaty of Commerce of the Peoples (ALBA-TCP).

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his Cuban counterpart Raúl Castro are present at the ceremony, being held at the Havana Convention Center.

The celebration of the anniversary of ALBA is framed in reiterating its support for Venezuela before foreign interference and to pay tribute to the revolutionary leaders Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. It also serves as the culmination of the XVI Political Council of ALBA.

At the beginning of the event, the notes from the anthems of Cuba and Venezuela were heard and immediately a documentary was presented by journalist Irma Shelton, from the Cuban television news system, who told the story of the friendship between Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro and the emergence of the project for the integration of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, on December 14, 2004.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez read the declaration of the XVI Political Council of ALBA, in which he reaffirmed the principles of respect for the self-determination of the peoples, the non-interference in their internal affairs and reaffirmed the need to strengthen the Community of Latin American States and Caribbean (Celac).

Likewise, the text defends the sovereignty and development of the peoples with respect to the declaration of Latin America as a zone of peace. “We reiterate our support and solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution, led by President Nicolás Maduro in the face of the interventionist and unilateral actions that threaten the Government and people of Venezuela,” said Rodriguez.

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Glauber Rocha Award Jury Meets in Havana

Havana, Dec 14 (Prensa Latina) Some few hours after the conclusion of the 39th Festival of New Latin American Cinema, the foreign press accredited in Cuba will select today the film to receive the Glauber Rocha Award, sponsored by Prensa Latina News Agency.

Foreign media correspondents will select the fiction feature film that deals with a high artistic level the social reality of the region and the struggle for human improvement.

The award will be delivered tomorrow suring the collateral awarding ceremony of the 39th edition of the Festival, taking place in this capital, from December 8 to 17.

Founded in 1985, the award was intended to encourage the New Latin American Cinema movement, which emerged in the 60s of the last century in search of a decolonized visual image.

Its promoters decided to give it the name of the late Brazilian filmmaker, Glauber Rocha, one of the pioneers of that movement and director of about 15 documentaries and full-length figure films, among them classics such as ‘Antonio das Mortes’ and ‘Dios y Diablo en la tierra del sol’ (God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun).

The award consists of an accrediting diploma and a giclée printing of ‘El beso’, an original painting by prominent Cuban artist, Arturo Montoto.

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Isle of Youth, Cuba

One of our travelers engages with school kids on main street in Nueva Gerona, Isle of Youth, Cuba.

Dec 13, 2017 – Harmony V, Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic

We awoke in the sleepy harbor of Siguanea Bay under a beautiful clear sky as our day of exploration started in the Isle of Youth.  We boarded a local boat that brought us to shore.  The Isle of Youth is hardly developed and scantly populated.  There are stories of this island’s enchantment to have inspired many throughout history because of it’s beauty and remoteness.

Our party departed on a local bus to our first destination: the infamous Modelo Prison.  This prison, built in 1939, housed thousands of prisoners, but perhaps the most famous was Fidel Castro himself.  The large rounded buildings now abandoned served as a perfect backdrop to spectacular imagery and a stellar photo opportunity to all.  We learned about its history and were quickly enamored by the mystery of the entire social context for which it once functioned.  We were delighted to have a picture perfect day for photography and history.

Following our visit to Modelo prison we arrived just before lunch to a clinic that supports pregnant woman at risk. We engaged in a deep discussion of childbirth, prenatal care and statistics in the Isle as well as Cuba.  We visited several woman who happened to be patients at the clinic and were politely greeted by the patients and the staff.  It was important to have this close encounter with people in need, and to learn about the medical system that supports them.

After a tasty lunch, we strolled into the capital of the Isle of Youth, Nueva Gerona.  We had multiple people-to-people interactions as we walked down the main boulevard.  We spoke to locals walking the streets, those working as barbers and businessmen, students and store keepers.

Our walk finally led us to the provincial art school, center for art and creativity for kids ages 6 to 16.  We visited the music and dance rooms, witnessed rehearsals by the students, and were engaged in a vibrant atmosphere as we exchanged conversation with students and teachers alike.

After our visit we boarded the bus and headed back to harbor where we embarked on the small boat that took us to Harmony V as the crew greeted us with cocktails, short recaps by the Lindblad staff, and dinner.  A great day indeed.

About the Author

Fabio Amador

Fabio Amador

NATURALIST/CERTIFIED PHOTO INSTRUCTORFabio (Fe) Amador is a Senior Program Officer for the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program, which is dedicated to funding exploratory research around the world. He has traveled and worked extensively throughout Latin America and is presently collaborating with research projects in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Peru, El Salvador, and Madagascar. He has also traveled regularly to Cuba over the past five years on educational and scientific missions for National Geographic. As a trained archaeologist, his interest in Taino Indian culture (which spanned the Greater Antilles, including Cuba) is focused on the sacred landscape and the use of caves for ritual activity. In his role at National Geographic, Fabio uses imaging and visualization technologies to provide new ways of capturing data and to document the experience of conducting research and exploration. His initiative in supporting worldwide research has resulted in a workshop titled The Art of Communicating Science. This capacity building initiative is aimed at students, scholars, explorers, government agencies, and stewards of the cultural and natural patrimony, so that they can be trained in how to develop, design and use imaging technology to document, protect, and communicate the importance of their heritage through exploration, discovery, and storytelling. Fe’s continued effort in communicating science has allowed him to use photography, cinematography, and other multimedia tools to reach large audiences through his public lectures at universities, presentations at international scientific and professional symposia, publications in scholarly journals and on National Geographic’s Explorers Journal and NatGeo News Watch online blogs.

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Cuba exports medicine to dozens of countries. It would like the U.S. to be one of them

Biotech 01 EKM

Merardo Pujol Ferrer, business development director for Heber Biotec, and Manuel Raíces Pérez-Castañeda, the scientist in charge of business development at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana, talk about recent studies at the center. Emily Michot

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written by Rebecca Shapiro December 15, 2017  for Intrepid Travel – The Journal

Dady Marcos grew up in what she calls a “pretty standard family” in Cuba. Her grandparents were farmers. Her parents got divorced when she was four years old. “It was a struggle,” she recounts to me during the long, lush drive from Santa Clara to Havana.

Dady, however, is not a woman to be pitied. She studied a course that would enable her to become a translator, but quickly realized the travel industry was a better fit for her skillset (more lucrative, too) and discovered a job she loves. We sit by side on the bus, on day eight of the Hola Cuba tour she’s leading, and reflect on her close-to-10-years as a guide with Intrepid.

We’re on a trip that consists solely of American travelers (Intrepid Travel is one of the only licenced operators for trips such as these). She struggles to remember how many tours of this type she’s led since joining the company. “Wow, I don’t know exactly. We’ve only been running them since last year. 40 or 50, maybe?”

Judging by just how many perceptions are challenged on my group alone, this is no small feat.

Cuba tour group hiking

Intrepid travelers with a local leader, en-route to a waterfall near Trinidad

You’d think that delving too deeply into US-Cuban relations on my trip would be awkward. To say the two countries have had a tumultuous relationship is quite the understatement. Yet, time and time again the transformative power of travel becomes apparent. For both leader and travelers, Cubans and Americans.

“At first I was so scared about Americans coming; I didn’t know what to expect,” Dady remembers. “The itinerary was so busy I thought it would be a challenge. But I’m very grateful – we haven’t had a bad or difficult group at all, just interested, interesting people.”

“The best thing is,” she says, “I think we’re making a difference. As a company. For Cuba.”

And the travellers themselves? They hail from all over America – Seattle to Houston, New York to Los Angeles – and represent every age – from 20-something to 70-something. Together we visit organic farms and pottery centers, we hike to waterfalls and drink more rum than is strictly necessary. We watch cookery demonstrations by local chefs and try our hand (with varying levels of success) at salsa dancing. Not only are we encouraged to chat with locals, but we stay in Casa Particulares run by them.

Tobacco farm cigar

An Intrepid traveler at a tobacco farm, enjoying a cigar with a local

And by the end of the nine-day trip it seems that any initial misgivings or fears the group felt about visiting had dissipated. Jill from Oakland speaks for all when she says on our last breakfast, “Given the history of our countries, I didn’t anticipate such genuine warmth and openness”. Her father Kent echoes Dady in admitting to me that, “I didn’t know what to expect. It was my first time coming to a developing country. But the Intrepid trip took us into the heart of it.” He adds that, “I think Americans should be encouraged to come, I think it’s great to know your neighbors”.

And then, “It’s a small world. This trip helped make the world smaller. That’s important.”

He’s not the only one to feel this way. As a group, we progress quickly from small talk to deep chats. We have no wifi to distract us, and there’s no country more soulful, more beautiful in which to ponder humanity. We discover that even when political realities can invite frosty relations, people – whether from Havana or Houston, Vinales or Virginia – are ultimately the same in their hopes and their fears, their struggles and their dreams.

Vinales Cuba dinner

Deep chats with the Intrepid group over a picturesque dinner in Vinales

This discovery, undoubtedly, is aided by Dady herself. She speaks honestly and openly about Cuban life, giving us an inside perspective into both the good and the bad.

Take, for instance, the struggle that comes from living off a Cuban salary. “My best friends are doctors and surgeons. They have no debt but they get paid 20 to 30 CUCs a month”. This, she says, is why tourism is so “needful” for the country. Why? Well, her story is evidence in itself. “Coming from a farmer family I never would have had the chance to have my own house. But thanks to Intrepid, I own a house in Trinidad. I’m renovating it so I can leave my six-year-old son something.”

Not that working in tourism is all plain sailing. “I call my land the land of inconsistency,” she tells me. “The hardest thing for a tour leader in Cuba is not being responsible or knowledgeable, it’s trying to keep client expectations low. Cuba is unpredictable, it’s different from other destinations”.

Havana colorful

Havana, dazzling in all its multicolored hues

That’s part of the charm, but undeniable, too. And things certainly don’t all go to plan, even on our short trip. It’s why having a sense of humor is so vital here. Of the construction causing chaos in Vinales she remarks, “I’m outraged. But hey, it’s Cuba! No-one cares”. On the topic of food, she exclaims, “Why is cooking a challenge? Because we have nothing!” (But she offers up a more nuanced view, too – handing her ration card around one bus journey and explaining that everyone has the basics to get by.)

At age 40, Dady also gives the group’s twenty-somethings a run for their money with her ability to handle late (rum-filled) nights in Trinidad until the early hours, as they do. The next day her extensions and make-up are as immaculate as ever.

Cuban local smiling

Dady sitting in one of Havana’s parks

Is this carefree attitude why so many Cubans seem so happy? I think to myself that I can’t be alone in noticing the joy that permeates so many streets.

“Cubans have overcome such hard periods of time that we’re able to do anything. We are absolutely not shy. We’ve tried so hard to survive that it makes us feel strong. That’s what gives us such confidence.”

“On top of that,” she adds, laughing, “We know we’re good looking!”

Dady, quite simply, is fantastic. One guy on my tour calls her a local celebrity. She reacts modestly, but he’s not far off. Everywhere we go she sees people she knows, all of whom greet her warmly. Even guidebook writers seek her out. Yet she’s still not impressed by what Lonely Planet writes about Cuba. She tells me she could do a better job and, quite honestly, I don’t doubt her.

Local tour guide Havana group

Dady in action: sharing her local expertise with our Intrepid group in Havana

This all comes down to her love for Cuba and its people. On the first morning, we prepare to depart from Havana. She introduces Will the driver with the utmost warmth (“an excellent driver and an even better friend”) and has only enthusiasm for our next destination (“you’ll love Vinales – the charisma, the people, the charm”).

A week later and we’re back in Havana for the farewell dinner and final night. There are speeches, there are toasts, there are emotions running high.

Dady has already told me that when every group finishes a tour they say to her, “We had a view of Cuba and we’re leaving with a different view”. She’s also warned me that every time this happens, she cries (“I’m a romantic!”). Yet even after years on the job, she reacts to our similar refrains with only heartfelt tones.

Mia from Texas tells me that Dady was the highlight of her trip. “You can go on a tour and it’s just a tour. But this was different, I really feel like I got an authentic experience.” Dady utters a simple “Thank you”, before saying to us all that “You have been one of the greatest groups. I don’t say that to every group”.

And, in all honesty, even if she does say that to every group, it doesn’t matter. It’s the country, the experience, and the people that do.

Inspired to see Cuba for yourself? Check out Intrepid Travel’s range of small group adventures.

American? Don’t worry, we have a 9-day tour that’s just for you!

(All images c/o Rebecca Shapiro, taken on Intrepid Travel’s Hola Cuba tour.)

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Venezuela: Chavismo Virtually Wipes US-Backed Opposition From Municipal Map

Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro and Venezuela

Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. | Photo: VTV

This is the worst electoral defeat for the opposition in Venezuela since 2005.

Dec 12 (teleSur) by Arturo Rosales – Dec. 10 will not only go down as a date to remember in the annals of Venezuelan history for the Battle of Santa Inés of 1859 during the Federal War, but will also be bitterly remembered by the bourgeois opposition for the electoral hammering they received at the hands of Chavismo in the municipal elections held on that fateful day in 2017.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV, painted the municipal map deep red by winning 327 of 335 (97.6 percent) mayoralties democratically contested leaving the arrogant and stubborn opposition with a bloodied nose as their destabilization strategy fell apart. The major opposition parties such as First Justice, Popular Will and Democratic Action did not postulate candidates and recommended abstaining to their supporters – which they duly did – handing these nationwide elections on a silver platter to President Maduro.

Voter turnout was 47.2 percent or just over 9.3 million votes. This was no surprise as opposition voters followed the example of lemmings plunging over a cliff and stayed at home blindly adhering to their leaders’ abstention advice and not supporting the democratic process.

This was a repeat of the 2005 parliamentary elections when the opposition withdrew its candidates and handed all 165 congressional seats to Chavismo. Besides the example of the 2005 abandonment of the democratic process, the opposition also preferred not to participate in the election of the plenipotentiary National Constituent Assembly on July 30 and handed all 545 seats to Chavismo and its sympathizers.

The opposition leadership never learns from its mistakes as it has become abundantly clear that the man in the street wants democratic rather than violent or U.S. invasion solutions to the country’s problems.

Farías makes history

In Libertador municipality that encompasses most of Caracas, PSUV candidate, 45 year old Erika Farías Peña romped home with over 493,000 votes (65 percent+ – an all time record) and became the first woman mayor of the city in its 450 year history since it was founded in 1567.

Farías is former governor of Cojedes state in the Venezuelan plains and an experienced political campaigner. She effectively wiped the floor with Nicmer Evans (5 percent of the vote), a former chavista intellectual, who founded the Socialist Tide Party and who, ironically, was lauded as a “democrat” by the opposition since they thought it could fracture the critical unity of Chavismo and the PSUV.

The opposition wins just one state capital

The only major mayoralty won by the opposition was in the frontier state of Tachira where the once leading Social Christian Party, COPEI, with its candidate Gustavo Delgado, won the state capital’s mayoralty in San Cristóbal.

All other state capitals, including that of Zulia state in Maracaibo fell to the PSUV tsunami as well as the bonus of the PSUV winning the governorship of the nation’s biggest voting state, Zulia, thanks to a solid campaign by new governor Omar Prieto.

This is the worst electoral defeat for the opposition in Venezuela since 2005 and indicates that massive swathes of the voting population are not interested in backing politicians that have asked for sanctions by President Trump on their own country and who are known to be behind the economic war that is gradually destroying the economy and health of the nation.

With three landslide electoral victories by the PSUV  in 140 days – Constituent Assembly, State Governors and Mayoralties – it is hard to paint Venezuela as being non-democratic no matter what tripe is written in the New York Times, Washington Post, the BBC or the Guardian. Over 30 million people turned out to vote in these elections despite opposition calls to abstention in two of them.

The population of Venezuela is about 30 million and the percentage of voters turning out in “third world” Venezuela is far superior to equivalent elections in EU countries and many neighboring countries of the Americas.

The 335 mayoralty results were published and confirmed while poor Hondurans were still waiting for the results of their presidential elections held more than two weeks ago.

Democracy is alive and kicking in Venezuela – just ask the U.S. Transition Office in their bunker Embassy built into a hillside in Caracas after the “kicking” they and their lackeys received at the ballot box on Dec. 10, 2017 – all but wiping them off the electoral map.

Arturo Rosales writes from Caracas, Venezuela for Axis of Logic.

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Canada Supports Cuba in Agricultural Projects

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Havana, Dec 14 (Prensa Latina) Canada”s international cooperation with Cuba is currently increased by supporting the implementation of three agricultural projects.

According to Hilary Syme, head of Cooperation at the Canadian Embassy in Havana, Canada and the World Food Program, along with the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture (Minag), implement a project aimed at increasing the production of beans in the municipalities Union de Reyes and Niceto Perez.

Syme told the Prensa Latina news agency that the projects will be carried out in those territories of the provinces of Matanzas and Guantanamo, in the west and east of the country, respectively.

Syme said that another project, in which the organizations Care and Oxfam participate along with the Soil Research Institute of Cuba, is carried out in five municipalities of the provinces of Mayabeque, La Habana and Artemisa, focused on the development of urban agriculture.

Meanwhile, a project was recently implemented to boost the production of fruits, to increase particularly mango, guava and papaya productions in five municipalities of the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Artemisa, whith a $4.8-million USD investment made by Canada.

The project has been implemented by Minag, the Agricultural Business Group and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

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Cuba Revitalizes Medicine with Proven Therapeutic Efficacy

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By Martha Cabrales Arias

Santiago de Cuba, Dec 14 (Prensa Latina) The Policosanol or PPG master plan is underway to revitalize this natural medicine of Cuba, which has a remarkable therapeutic efficacy, 20 years after the beginning of its generalization.

Dr. Rafael Gámez, director of Laboratorios Dalmer SA, which produces this medicine born in the National Center for Scientific Research (Cenic), explained that it is about responding to the growing international and national demand despite the time elapsed.

This strategy responds, stated the expert, to the fact the patents have an expiration date so they require a renewal to face the increase of requests of that formula that maintains its proven beneficial qualities for the human health.

Gámez comented they have signed contracts with companies in China, Korea and Australia until 2021, with considerable sales volumes amounting to millions of dollars and reaching tens of millions, mainly to independent groups.

To sustain that rising slope after that year, pointed out the director of Dalmer SA, it is necessary to find new applications, formulations and combinations with other products that give added values and contribute to maintain it in the fullness of its properties.

The specialist insisted that this process should also lead to the achievement of a PPG plus, with a new formulation or a new way to make it more effective and powerful preserving its essential attributes or treasures that are its security and tolerability.

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Cubans will be able to send SMS to the United States

Havana, Cuba, Dec 8.- The Telecommunications Company of Cuba, S.A., ETECSA, announced that, from December 8, 2017, from any mobile phone in Cuba, it will be possible to send international messages (SMS) to any mobile phone in the United States.

Until today, the United States was the only country that Cubans were not able to send the SMS, though they could make phone calls both to cell phones and landlines. The cost of this service will be 0.60 CUC, similar to the rest of the international destinations.

For the sending of text messaging to the United States, the user must, at the time of entering the telephone number, dial, the “+” sign, the United States code, 1, the locality code and the cellular number.

The US area codes can be found in the Yellow Pages of the Cuba Telephone Directory. (ACN)

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Silva and la Cruz best sportspeople in Cuba in 2017

Havana, Cuba, Dec 13 (Radio Cadena Agramonte) – Pole vaulter Yarisley Silva and boxer Julio César La Cruz were chosen as best athletes of individual sports in Cuba in 2017, in women´s and men´s categories respectively, in a meeting that took place at Havana´s Sports City Coliseum.

The same honor, but in team sports, went to beach volleyball player Lidiannys Echevarria and ballplayer Alfredo Despaigne, according to the votes of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER by its Spanish acronym) and the specialized press.

The prize to the most outstanding team was granted to the Cuba Domadores boxing squad.

Boxing deserved the award as best individual sport, and the also boxer Andy Cruz earned the condition of rookie of the year, while volleyball won the distinction of best team sport.

Boxers Erislandy Savon, Yosvany Veitia, Yohanny Argilagos and Roniel Iglesias led, in that order, the top 10 list, followed by cyclist Arlenis Sierra, gymnast Manrique Larduet, rower Angel Fournier, boxer Lazaro Alvarez, cyclist Marlies Mejias and wrestler Oscar Pino.

Special mentions were received by canoeists Serguey Torres and Fernando Dayan Jorge, judokas Kaliema Antomarchi, Idalis Ortiz and Alex Garcia; and westlers Alejandro Valdes and Yowlys Bonne, as well as a special recognition to the also wrestler Mijain Lopez.

In the category of physical education teacher, the winner was Ceidel Torres, from Mayabeque province; while Raal Rojas (athletics) and Jorge Niebla (baseball) were the best national and international referees, in that order.

Erick Hernandez and Jhoen Lefont, both in ball control, excelled in special sports, the last one with a mention.

The prizewinners among disabled athletes were Omara Durand (most prominent), escorted by Suslaidis Giralt and Luis Felipe Gutierrez, in all cases in the sport of athletics.

Finally, the awards in the junior category went to the girl Marileysis Duarthe and Jordan Diaz (boy), from athletics both, while the top 10 list was led by Lianna de la Caridad Montero and Yudari Sanchez (both wrestlers), followed by Miguel Angel Lopez (volleyball), José Ramon Pelier (canoeing), Miguel David Gutierrez (volleyball), Osniel Melgarejo (volleyball), Adrian Goide (volleyball), Liliana Naranjo (canoeing), Javier Octavio Concepcion (volleyball) and Juan Carlos Nuñez (canoeing), in that order. (acn)

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