Sergio Paneque

Sergio Paneque

Florida port backs out of agreement with Cuban government

A major Florida port has canceled plans to sign an agreement with Cuba, one day after Gov. Rick Scott threatened to cut off its state funding if it signed the pact.

Port Everglades issued a statement Thursday that the National Port Administration of Cuba says no agreement is currently needed. The Fort Lauderdale-area port and the Port of Palm Beach are meeting with Cuban officials this week.

The Republican governor was highly critical of former President Barack Obama for allowing some products produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs to be imported. The United States had imposed a trade embargo on the communist island for more than half a century.

The first shipments arrived Tuesday at Port Everglades: two containers of artisanal charcoal.

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Minister Crnadak in an Official Visit to Cuba

Minister of Foreign Affairs of BiH, Igor Crnadak, met with the Foreign Minister of Cuba Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, First Deputy of the Minister of Health Joze Angel Portal Miranda and President of National Assembly of the Republic of Cuba Esteban Lazo Hernandez, during a two-day official visit to the Republic of Cuba.

As announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of BiH, the focus of the talks between Minister Crnadak and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba Parrilla was the development and improvement of relations between the two countries at bilateral and multilateral levels, and contractual regulation of relations.

Minister Crnadak emphasized that the two countries have no open issues, Cuba has always had a positive attitude in the international community regarding the situation in BiH, and that cooperation between the two countries should be improved especially in the area of trade.

Taking into account the touristic potential of the two countries, Minister Crnadak emphasized the possibility of developing cooperation in the field of tourism as well.

At the meeting was also agreed to launch initiatives that would lead to easing the visa regime between the two countries in the near future and the signing of the Agreement on Cooperation between the two Ministries of Foreign Affairs, which might happen as early as this year’s session of the General Assembly of the UN.

The Cuban side expressed interest in further development of political and economic relations, cooperation in international organizations, in the fields of agriculture, construction, high technologies, medical services and tourism.

Meeting with the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Cuba, Esteban Lazo Hernandez, was an ideal opportunity to discuss the possibilities of establishing a meaningful parliamentary cooperation between BiH and the Republic of Cuba, and provide support of the highest legislative body of the Republic of Cuba with efforts to establish a constructive cooperation between the executive authorities of BiH and the Republic of Cuba.

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U.S. Congresspersons Seek to Intensify Blockade against Cuba

The House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress was the scene of a new maneuver of the anti-Cuban lobby that managed to include sanctions against the Caribbean nation in the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill.

The Congresspersons -openly opposed to the rapprochement between Havana and Washington- continued their anti-Cuban campaign after managing to obtain the removal last week of amendments that would allow U.S. citizens to travel freely to Cuba and make agricultural trade viable without current conditions of payment in cash and in advance.

In the text that appeared in the House of Representatives, far from eliminating the economic, commercial and financial sanctions against Cuba, the position towards Cuba on issues such as the ban on travel to Cuba for certain educational exchanges in the called people-to-people exchanges is intensified.

Among the amendments adopted as part of the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill is the banning of imports related to nationalizations made by the Cuban government.

The ban on financial transactions involving Cuban military, as well as funds to approve the licensing of trademarks, trade names or names that have been confiscated by the Cuban government without the express consent of the United States, are also among the purposes of anti-Cuban lobby of the Capitol.

Despite the inclusion of these amendments against Cuba, the result of pressure from Congresspersons Mario Diaz-Balart -member of the Appropriations Committee-, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, there is still a long way for sanctions to become law.
As part of a debate on its own bill of financial services, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment presented by Democrat senators Patrick Leahy and Jerry Moran that seeks to allow U.S. farmers to increase private funding for the export of agricultural products to Cuba.

Another one, presented by the senators themselves and approved by voice vote, proposes to lift the ban on travel to the island.

In reviewing the texts that are shaped in the House of Representatives and the Senate on the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill, differences in letter are appreciated, so they should be submitted to Congressional Conference Committee where Democrats and Republicans will reconcile a final text that then must be voted in the plenary of both instances of the Legislature.

The fact tat the text of the senators has so far amendments that allow travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba and that restrictions are lifted in the area of exports of agricultural products to Cuba, and that of representatives measures to intensify the blockade in those areas, can be used by both parties as reasons for political fights around the budget law, taking into account many factors, including the interests of each party and the positions of the Executive regarding the topics covered.

Diaz-Balart told U.S. media that "there is bipartisan support in the House to strengthen the sanctions and reject the pacifying policy" as evidenced by the adoption of the legislative proposal that "contains multiple clauses to strengthen sanctions."

However, the congressional newspaper The Hill predicted that President Barack Obama would veto the law –if approved with its current text by Congress-, not because of travel to Cuba but because several pieces of this text put a check to important government initiatives.

Cuba is the only country in the world to which U.S. citizens are prohibited to travel as tourists, so only a limited number of them is authorized to travel to the island, under certain licenses.

Cuban authorities have said that the normalization of relations between the two countries will go through the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, which today the House of Representatives intends to intensify, and the return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. in Guantanamo, among other topics.

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Cuban VP thanks Jamaica for hospitality

The Vice President of the State Council Salvador Valdes Mesa, who headed the Cuban delegation to the 10th Summit of Petrocaribe, thanked the hospitality the delegation of the island received in Jamaica.

Thanks, Jamaica, for hosting us with the same hospitality with which you welcomed Simon Bolivar, Jose Marti and Antonio Maceo, Valdes Mesa said during the meeting of Petrocaribe.

Valdes stated that the founding initiative of Petrocaribe by President Hugo Chavez and other leaders in the region 10 years ago has been consolidated and there are already 19 countries that are part of this model of solidarity and integration.

He emphasized that if all nations do the same that Venezuela with such mechanisms, we would live in a better world.

The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, said that Petrocaribe is part of a historical essay, while acknowledging the efforts of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, and Fidel Castro in the consolidation of the regional bloc.

Maduro proposed a special action plan for the next 10 years which includes the consolidation of a special economic zone to meet the demands of the Caribbean people.

Another proposal of the Latin American president was the consolidation of the comprehensive energy security, sovereignty and stability of peoples through the creation of a complete, productive and distributive chain to ensure the safe and timely supply to countries in the region.

He also suggested the creation of a social system of comprehensive protection of the Caribbean supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in order to eradicate hunger and the creation of a system of protection against natural disasters in the Caribbean, which would be led by Cuba and Venezuela.

Petrocaribe is an energy cooperation project, based on the principles of fair trade, complementarity, solidarity, social justice and the common will to face asymmetries, serving as a real alternative for the developing countries of the Caribbean to have a safe and reliable access to various energy sources.

Besides Venezuela, main promoter of the project, this integration entity is made up by Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Granada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.

The Cuban delegation attending the events for the 200th anniversary of the Charter of Jamaica, written by Simon Bolivar, is also made up by Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla and Alfredo Lopez Valdes, ministers of Foreign Affairs and Energy and Mines respectively ; Ana Teresita Gonzalez Fraga, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, and Bernardo Guanche Hernandez, Ambassador of Cuba in Jamaica.

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