‘In Cuba, health care is a human right. Why not in the U.S.?’

Two major health care unions have endorsed the Third “Days of Action Against the Blockade” scheduled for Sept. 11 to 16 in Washington, D.C.

As U.S. workers see threats to existing health care support, this action raises a vital question: “In Cuba, health care is a human right. Why not in the U.S.?”

National Nurses United and the New York State Nurses Association have joined the action project initiated by the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity.

At the center of events are two Cuban health professionals, Dr. Jesús de los Santos Renó Céspedes and nurse practitioner Eduardo Gonzalez Copello. They are emblems of Cuba’s profound commitment to international solidarity, as well as examples of Cuba’s dedication to prioritizing the wellbeing and development of all people, particularly children.

Dr. Jesús de los Santos Renó Céspedes.

Dr. Renó is head of pediatrics at the National Institute of Oncology and Radiology in Havana. He is a professor, researcher and specialist in pediatric oncology and also a member of the International Society of Pediatric Oncology.

Copello has specialized in infectious diseases, such as leprosy, and sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, and teaches at several educational institutes in Cuba. In 2014, he went to West Africa where he worked with victims of Ebola.

Five U.S. medical students from Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) will join the Cuban medical professionals in Washington for a packed week of meetings with medical school students and public events. Swedish and U.S. doctors will join advocacy teams in the halls of Congress to press the need to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba.

A major public event at Calvary Baptist Church on Sept. 14 will host Cuban Ambassador Jose Ramon Cabanas. In addition, Canadian author Stephen Kimber and Dr. Margaret Flowers, a U.S. pediatrician and health care activist, will join the ambassador and the Cuban medical professionals and students.

Public programs are scheduled daily, including screening a new film about U.S. graduates of ELAM: “Dare to Dream: Can One Medical School Change the World?” Filmmaker Jennifer Wager will lead a question-and-answer discussion after the viewing. Find the full schedule of events at tinyurl.com/y8ud6nkb.

Initial endorsers include Health over Profit for Everyone (HOPE), Health Care Revolution (student organization at Georgetown University), Institute for Policy Studies, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, Clinica Martin-Baro, Labor Campaign for Single Payer, Birthing Project USA, Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and Do No Harm Coalition.

Organizers are asking for help in spreading the word: “No stone should be unturned in the struggle for universal health care to be in the U.S., as it is in Cuba, a human right.”

  • Published in Cuba

1 dead as Harvey spins deeper into Texas; full scope of damage is unknown

Harvey spun deeper into Texas and unloaded extraordinary amounts of rain Saturday after the once-fearsome hurricane crashed into vulnerable homes and businesses along the coastline in a blow that killed at least one person and injured up to 14.

Throughout the region between Corpus Christi and Houston, many people feared that toll was only the beginning. Authorities did not know the full scope of damage because weather conditions prevented emergency crews from getting into the hardest-hit places. And they dreaded the destruction that was yet to come from a storm that could linger for days and unload more than 40 inches (100 centimeters) of rain on cities, including dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation's fourth-largest.

In the island community of Port Aransas, population 3,800, officials were unable to fully survey the town because of "massive" damage. Police and heavy equipment had only made it into the northernmost street.

"I can tell you I have a very bad feeling and that's about it," said Mayor Charles Bujan, who had called for a mandatory evacuation but did not know how many heeded the order.

Some of the worst damage appeared to be in Rockport, a coastal city of about 10,000 that was directly in the storm's path. The mayor said his community took a blow "right on the nose" that left "widespread devastation," including homes, businesses and schools that were heavily damaged. Some structures were destroyed.

Rockport's roads were a mess of toppled power poles. A trailer blocked much of one major intersection. Wood framing from ripped-apart houses was strewn along Route 35 on the town's southern end.

Harvey's relentless wind tore the metal sides off the high school gym and twisted the steel door frame of its auditorium.

"We're still in the very infancy stage of getting this recovery started," said Aransas County spokesman Larry Sinclair.

Rockport Mayor Charles "C.J." Wax told The Weather Channel that the city's emergency response system had been hampered by the loss of cellphone service and other forms of communication.

A day earlier, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios offered ominous advice, telling people who chose not to evacuate to mark their arms with Sharpie pens, implying that the marks would make it easier for rescuers to identify them.

As many as 14 people suffered minor injuries, including slips and falls, scrapes and a broken leg, Aransas County Judge C.H. "Burt" Mills Jr. said. The lone fatality confirmed so far was a person caught in a fire at home during the storm, Mills said. He did not identify the victim.

About 300,000 customers were without power statewide. Gov. Greg Abbott said it would probably be several days before electricity is restored.

Meanwhile, the storm slowed to a crawl of only 2 mph (3 kph). Rainfall totals varied across the region, with Corpus Christi and Galveston receiving around 3 inches (8 centimeters), Houston 7 (18 centimeters) and Aransas 10 (25 centimeters). Tiny Austwell got 15 inches (38 centimeters).

Elsewhere in the storm's immediate aftermath, Coast Guard helicopters rescued 18 people from boats and barges in distress, said Capt. Tony Hahn, commander of the Corpus Christi sector.

The Corpus Christi port was closed with extensive damage. Because the city is the third-largest petrochemical port in the nation, the agency will be on the lookout for spills, Hahn said.

The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade came ashore late Friday about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Corpus Christi as a mammoth Category 4 storm with 130 mph (209 kph) winds.

Harvey weakened to a tropical storm by midday Saturday. At 6 p.m., its maximum sustained winds had fallen to about 60 mph (96 kph). The storm was centered about 70 miles (113 km) southeast of San Antonio, the National Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane posed the first major emergency management test of President Donald Trump's administration.

Trump met with his Cabinet and other senior administration officials to discuss the federal response to the damage and flooding, the White House said Saturday in a statement.

The president held a video conference from Camp David in which he instructed departments and agencies to "stay fully engaged and positioned to support his number one priority of saving lives," the statement said.

Trump, who on Friday signed a federal disaster declaration for coastal counties, also reminded department heads that the full impact of the storm will not be apparent for days. On Twitter, he commended the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for his handling of the disaster.

In Corpus Christi, the major city closest to the storm's center, wind whipped palm trees and stinging sheets of horizontal rain slapped against hotels and office buildings along the seawall as the storm made landfall.

Daybreak revealed downed lamp posts and tree limbs and roof tiles torn off buildings. Along Interstate 45 leaving Galveston, the rain was so intense that drivers stopped under bridges because they could not see in front of them.

Rain fell on Houston at nearly 3 inches (8 centimeters) an hour, leaving some streets and underpasses underwater. The many drainage channels known as bayous that carry excess water to the Gulf were flowing freely and rising.

"Flooding is a minor issue so far," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the chief administrator of the county that includes Houston, said. "Most of the watersheds are well within banks, but we're not out of this."

Francisco Sanchez, with the Harris County Emergency Management Office, said the storm would be around for a while.

"Someone is going to get those very high rainfall totals," he said. "Hopefully it's not us, but we're in that possibility area."

South of the city, about 4,500 inmates were evacuated from three state prisons in Brazoria County because the nearby Brazos River was rising.

The turbulent weather extended into southern Louisiana, where motorists were cautioned about the potential for high water, road hazards, high winds and tornadoes.

Harvey came ashore as the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961's Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

The storm's approach sent tens of thousands of people fleeing inland.

Just hours before landfall, the governor and Houston leaders issued conflicting statements on evacuation.

The governor urged more people to flee, but Houston officials recommended no widespread evacuations, citing greater danger in having people on roads that could flood and the fact that the hurricane was not taking direct aim at the city.

The last Category 4 storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Charley in August 2004 in Florida.

  • Published in World

Building bridges with Cuba Illinois educators share agricultural knowledge

Among Mario Pablo Estrada García’s souvenirs from his trip to Southern Illinois University is a stack of books including “A Compendium of Corn Diseases” and “A Farmer’s Guide to Soybean Diseases.”

The Cuban biotechnology researcher also collected a stack of papers from SIU College of Agricultural Sciences researchers on the latest soybean herbicide systems, no-till productivity and even one on the advantages of double cropping wheat with pumpkins.

But it was at the end of the university’s Belleville Research Center Field Day when Estrada found a wealth of information. He met around the center’s kitchen table with researchers, faculty and university officials sharing ways to help Cuba improve agriculture and entrepreneurship.

“There are many important things that I can take back,” Estrada said.

“The university takes into account the teaching of the farmers’ and the publics’ knowledge of agriculture, nutrition and vitamins. People use this information to increase production, and what this makes is very good for society. We can produce more and better. It’s a very exciting opportunity,” he said.

Working Together

Estrada is director of agricultural biotechnology research for the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana. He was at SIUC as part of the SIU/U.S. Embassy — Havana Grant Program “Connecting Cuban Entrepreneurs.”

The program has established a collaboration involving a team of faculty and business development and entrepreneurship staff from SIU and those from the Universidad de Pinar del Río in Havana. Cuba also has a similar relationship with the University of Pennsylvania.

The program’s goal is strengthening Cuba’s entrepreneurship and small business development educational programs and support system while providing technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small business owners, explained Kyle Harfst, SIUC executive director of economic and regional development.

He said other future activities also will include the Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos, the Universidad de la Habana and other entities in Cuba.

Earlier in the week, Estrada shared a presentation about his center’s research and innovations.

He first pointed out that Cuba’s literacy has been 100 percent of the population since 1961 and the life expectancy has risen from 62 to 78.5 years in 40 years.

  • Published in Cuba

Astonished to watch mass hysteria among US politicians: Russian Foreign Minister

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that he is astonished to see how many U.S. politicians are prone to mass hysteria regarding what he termed as "Russophobia." "We understand how uncomfortable it is now in Washington for those who are trying to demonstrate common sense on the backdrop of epidemic, paranoid Russophobia in the absence of any probe or at least asingle evidence over the months to prove Russia's interference into America's affairs," he said in an interview with the Kurdish television, according to TASS. "I have never thought that American politicians could be that prone to mass hysteria," he added.

He reminisced that he worked with many of them in New York saying, "Maybe many of those who have yielded to this furor, which is abnormal for the US' political life, understand that it is not normal and is to be stopped some way." Lavrov added that Moscow and Washington are playing a unique role in the solution of highly complicated problems in different parts of the world and no one else can replace them in the international arena.

The Foreign Minister also blamed the previous U.S. administration for undermining the Russian-American relations as he said, "We've inherited a huge heap of problems from the Barack Obama Administration. There are real time bombs and simply subversive acts that outgoing administration took in an agony when it was fully incapacitated by the results of the election and when it decided to spend the remaining time in the White House doing all sorts of unspeakable things in a bid to undermine the Russian-American relations."

  • Published in World

Bipartisan Support for Ties with Cuba Continues in U.S.

The bipartisan support to engagement with Cuba has strongly increased in the United States over the past two years and we will continue seeing it in the future, said the president of a coalition that promotes ties with the Caribbean island.

The president of Engage Cuba, James Williams, regretted the announcement made last month by President Donald Trump on the reverse of some aspects of the opening to Cuba, which he described as a step back on the path to the normalization of bilateral relations.

However, he pointed out that amid that situation, the effusive support to continue seeking more engagement with the neighboring country, with which the United States reestablished diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, was notable.

We are having a dialogue on Cuba that we had not seen for a long time and that is very different even from the one that existed two years ago, Williams said in an interview with Prensa Latina.

According to Williams, it is a great achievement for the two countries, and for people on U.S. territory who think that engagement is the best path after 55 years of a failed policy of restrictions.

He pointed out that although hard-line politicians want to reverse things, it is evident that the context is not the same as in other times, because steps have been taken in matters like more U.S. citizens visiting Cuba, travels by airlines and cruises, business interests.

If the Trump administration does not involve constructively in the engagement, others will have to take the place and continue building bridges, said Williams, whose organization seeks the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade that Washington has imposed on Cuba.

'I think that we are seeing that and that we will see even more, more members of Congress and governors will go to Cuba, as well as other people who see the vacuum of leadership in that regard and want to fill it,' he noted.

Asked about the coalition's work after Trump's decision, Williams stated that they have focused on regulations that must be announced in the next few months.

When he signed the Cuba policy memorandum, the president said that travels by U.S. citizens to Cuba would be limited and that economic, commercial and financial transactions between U.S. companies and Cuban firms linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the intelligence and security services would be prohibited, among other measures.

The announcement on June 16 was a speech and a presidential policy directive, but the interpretation of how those measures will be regulated is what will have a real impact, Williams explained.

According to the president of Engage Cuba, they are interested in listening to the voices of the Cuban people, including the private sector, and that they are not only rules designed offstage by political groups in Washington.

Our hope would be that the leadership at the bipartisan level includes that and that the White House, after making deals in the shadows before, comes to the fore, listens to experts from both sides to have a real conversation, he noted.

It would be the best path, that the two governments can sit at the table and talk, that the peoples dialogue with each other and that the process is not guided by only few, he added.

However, he described as uncertain the role to be played by the agencies in charge of the new measures, because they were already marginalized when the Cuba policy was reviewed.

'Will they play a role now? I hope so, their technical experience is essential to prepare those regulations, but that does not mean necessarily that the administration will listen to them,' he stated.

Williams noted that Engage Cuba is making efforts to explain why relations are important to the largest universe of people possible, in the Capitol, in the White House, the agencies or the state governments.

He pointed out that most of those involved are waiting for new guidelines to come into effect three months after the president's announcement, but anything might happen until then, because the federal agencies accumulate lots of tasks, staff problems and many other important matters to attend to.

Anyway, he said, we have a limited window of time; therefore, we are working on the matter of bilateral ties with Cuba as if there is no tomorrow.

  • Published in Cuba

Bulls in Cuba

Cuba was the first country in Latin America where bullfights took place.

Last weekend, in Havana, you could almost hear the snorts of the fevered animal and the olé shouted by hundreds of fans, always rewarded with some challenging pass of the bullfighter.

The exhibition “Cuba brava. El toreo en la memoria historica de Cuba”, hosted by the House of Mexico, was unveiled in Havana. Paintings, pictures, posters, customs, documents and other related articles recalled the long and unknown bullfighting tradition in Cuba.

It is easy to realize that Spanish conquerors were the ones who introduced here and other Latin American countries the bullfight shows. Such shows are being criticized due to the cruelty with which these animals are treated.

According to Spanish Placido Gonzalez Hermoso, the first bullfight in Cuba took place in 1514 and Friar Bartolome de las Casas witnessed the event in his “Historia General de Indias.”

The first bullring in Cuba was built in 1769.

Twenty seven years later, the inhabitants of the village witnessed the second bullring built in Monte and Egido Streets. Bulls and bullfighters were brought from the metropolis.

Among the first documented bullfight festivities, the one held in 1569 to honor Saint Christopher is well-remembered. To honor the crowning of Carlos III, it was held a resounding one in 1759.

To honor this king, the bullring “Carlos III” or “La Infanta” was opened in 1885. Such bullfights were even broadcasted by the television for ten years, but it could not capture the audience’s attention, though.

However, this bullfights environment did not quit easily and they won the government’s approval to allow bullfighting in Havana on the exceptional condition of not killing any animal. The aforementioned bullfight took place at the Tropical Stadium before 13,000 fans in April 27th, May 4th, and May 11st 1941.

Not even Mazantin the Bullfighter

You can listen to some of our grandparents the phrase “This cannot be done by even Mazantin the bullfighter.” And some of our young people use the same expression.

manzantini

Perhaps, they do not know that Mazantin the bullfighter was the very famous Luis Mazzantini y Eguia, a Basque born in 1856.

He was unique due to his elegant and refined art of behaving inside and outside the bullring. He liked opera, social talks, and hanging out with the Spanish high society, where he returned after a long stay in Italy.

He starred a total of 16 bullfights in Cuba. And the bullring located in Belascoin Street, between Virtudes and Concordia Streets was the place where he boasted great skills.

Mazzantini left his mark in the island’s fashion and customs as well as one cigarettes’ brand.

Four decades later, the bullfighter vanished from the daily life of Havana.

In 1899 and after the Maine’s wrecking, the U.S. interventionist forces prohibited bullfights by military order. If any failed to comply with that order, a 500 Cuban pesos fine was executed.

The art of bullfighting in Cuba left like Mazzantini after four centuries. It happened once but those times will never come back again. It may be seen only in exhibitions like the one taking place in Havana.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz / CubaSi Translation Staff

Cuba Defends Lula, Maduro at Sao Paulo Forum in Nicaragua

The 23rd Sao Paulo Forum meets in Managua this week to advance the unity of Latin America's left in the face of renewed attacks by global capitalism.

The Cuban delegation at the 23rd Sao Paulo Forum reaffirmed their support for Venezuelan President Maduro and former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva Sunday, claiming both leaders were victims of an “imperialist offensive."

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In an interview with Prensa Latina, Jorge Arias, deputy head of the Department of International Relations of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, emphasized the Cuban delegation's solidarity with Lula and Venezuela's Bolivarian process.

Arias argued the attacks against Maduro's government and the recent ruling against Lula were part of an “imperialist offensive” waged by the oligarchic right to besiege the region and reverse the gains made by the left during the past two decades.

Arias' comments come just days after former Lula's politicized conviction on corruption charges and in the midst of continuous attempts to derail the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, which faces a crucial democratic test later this month as representatives are elected to the country's National Constituent Assembly.

The Cuban delegation was joined by delegates representing social movements, popular bases and leftist parties across Latin America and the Caribbean at the 23rd Sao Paulo Forum, convened Sunday in Nicaragua's capital Managua.

The objective of the three-day conference is to further advance the regional, ideological and practical unity of the continent's left in its fight to consolidate its national liberation goals in the face of a renewed offensive by global capitalism against the peoples of the region.

Upon arriving in Managua Saturday, Puerto Rican independence leader and recently-released political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera stressed the importance the forum in remarks to reporters.

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"My freedom was achieved due to the solidarity of people like (those in) Nicaragua, who love freedom and justice," said Lopez Rivera, who was released in May after spending 36 years in prison for his fight to liberate Puerto Rico from U.S. colonialism.

The forum will also officially adopt the Consensus for Our America, a 24-page document dedicated to late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro that lays out the principles, purpose, objectives and priorities of the forum's participants. The forum's participants hope that the text, drafted collectively in past work sessions, will serve as a key programmatic document for progressive forces in not only Latin America, but the entire globe.

“The accumulation of capital is leading to the concentration and centralization of it (through) neoliberal policies focused on privatization and private appropriation of state enterprises, as well as the use of public funds to socialize the losses of private enterprises,” the document points out, adding that global capitalism seeks to eliminate any progressive or leftist presence from the world's social, institutional and political spaces.

Founded by the Worker's Party of Brazil in 1990, the Sao Paulo Forum was established in a bid to unify the efforts of the world's major leftist forces in the wake of Soviet socialism's collapse and the advance of neoliberalism, which stripped workers and poor people of hard-fought gains while privatizing previously off-limits sectors of national economies and the global commons alike.

The forum will entail various working groups and plenaries before ending Tuesday, a night prior to Wednesday's celebration marking 38 years since the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution. The revolution deposed U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza and brought the Sandinista Liberation Front to power, ushering in a period of sustained economic progress, poverty reduction, peace and stability in the Central American nation.

  • Published in Cuba

Three pairs with two victories in Varadero

VARADERO, Cuba, July 14, 2017 – Three men’s teams of the fourteen taking part in competition scored two victories in opening day of the fourth stop of the NORCECA Beach Volleyball Circuit at Barcelo Solymar Arenas Blancas Hotel.

Jeremy Casebeer/John Mayer of USA-B defeated compatriots Skylar del Sol/Jon Mesko of USA-B 2-0 (21-19, 21-16) and Cuba-D of debutants Daniel Duran/Hermes Quevedo 2-1 (17-21, 21-16, 15-10) to lead Pool D.

Other teams who dominated in both outings were in Pool C, Rosso Bonneau/Fecteau-Boutin of Canada-A and Luis Reyes/José Luis Aguilera of Cuba-C, the latter in their first international experience, who swept the teams of Suriname and Guatemala.

The champions of the three previous stops, Karell Peña/Daisel Quesada of Cuba-B defeated Ruben Mora/Dany Lopez of Nicaragua 2-0 (21-15, 21-15) and the Dominicans Victor Castillo/William Sanchez over the same Central Americans 2-0 (27-25, 21-14) in the only matches in Pool B.

One of the teams favored to win the gold, Sergio Gonzalez and Nivaldo Díaz of Cuba-A didn’t have problems in Pool A to sweep Sylvester Hodge Penny/Rohan Jeffers of St Kitts and Nevis 2-0 (21-11, 21-10) in 27 minutes.

The latter were also victims of Fiodar Kazhamiaka/Sergey Grabovsky of Canada-B by scores of 21-11, 21-7 so they will face on Saturday the fifth placed at the Olympics of Rio 2016 to close the preliminary phase ahead of the quarterfinals.

Men’s Results on Friday:

Pool A: CAN-B d SKN-A 2-0 (21-11, 21-7); CUB-A d SKN 2-0 (21-11, 21-10).

Pool B: DOM d NCA 2-0 (27-25, 21-14); CUB-B d NCA 2-0 (21-15, 21-15).

Pool C: CUB-C d SUR 2-0 (21-17, 21-10); CAN-A a GUA 2-0 (21-19, 21-17); CUB-C d GUA 2-0 (21-14, 21-19); CAN-A d SUR 2-0 (21-7, 21-13).

Pool D: USA-B d USA-A 2-0 (21-19, 21-16); CUB-D d CRC 2-0 (21-16, 21-14); USA-A d CRC 2-0 (21-9, 21-8); USA-B d CUB-D 2-1 (17-21, 21-16, 15-10).

  • Published in Sports
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