Helms-Burton Law Threatens Peace, Cuban President Warns


Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel has warned the Helms-Burton Act threatens peace, solidarity, peaceful coexistence and friendship.

'It's a law enacted to neo-colonize and enslave,' he further wrote in Twitter about Washington's barring the Peace Boat from docking in Cuban ports, as a result of restrictions recently enforced on US private vessels and planes.

Due to such punitive measures that are hurting the Cuban people, the NGO Peace Boat, with headquarters in Japan, won't be able to touch Cuban land as it was scheduled next June 13 because the vessel is US property.

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The cruise ship was reportedly carrying donations given by the Cuban community living in Japan and by Japanese individuals and organizations for the victims of the killer tornado that violently hit municipalities of Havana on January 27.

The peace-promoting NGO has visited Cuba 19 times as part of its itinerary around the world, carrying a message of peace, love and against nuclear weapons.

The Peace Boat came to the island twice last year, and its members participated at a forum dedicated to Cuban historical leader Fidel Castro and paid homage to the thousands of victims the two US atomic attacks caused in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Diaz-Canel Calls to Tackle Housing Problem after Tornado

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has called to tackle housing problem caused in Havana by a devastating tornado and expedite construction and repair.

During a summary of the Council of Ministers meeting held on Tuesday to follow up the recovery, the President insisted on going into detail in the communities hit by the tornado, so all damages are identified.

The Cuban Statesman informed participants to guarantee the quality of the technical data of each affected house, in order to avoid mistakes to resolve the problems created by the January 27 tornado.

Diaz-Canel demanded an effective functioning of the mechanisms activated to respond to the damage in houses, particularly the procedures offices and the points where the affected people can buy the construction materials.

Construction Minister Rene Mesa said during the meeting that more than 4,800 homes were affected, 380 of which suffered total collapses.

According to the minister, the identification of damages, recovery works, roof assembly and wall lifting continues after the lashing of the tornado in the municipalities of Regla, Guanabacoa, Diez de Octubre and San Miguel del Padron.

The restoration of communications was also analyzed. Communication Minister Jorge Luis Perdomo stated that the works continue in Diez de Octubre municipality, where, in addition to recovering damages, a new investment is being carrying out to replace wiring.

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President of Cuba Rejects Interference from the United States

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel condemned the United States interventionist policy, following the decision to suspend for only 45 days the application of Title III of the Helms-Burton Law.

We strongly reject this new interventionist, threatening, arrogant provocation, in violation of international law. The US government demonstrates its contempt for the rest of the world, the president wrote on his Twitter account @DiazCanelB.

Also, Díaz-Canel rejected all types of political blackmailing and actions to intensify the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba.

We will not allow political blackmail; we have enough and legitimate reasons and truths to face so much hostility and contempt. With our convictions, he stressed in another message.

The day before, the US State Department announced the suspension for 45 days of the aforementioned title of the law that came into force in 1996.

This section establishes the authorization to American nationals to present before US courts lawsuits against any foreigner who 'traffic' with American properties that were nationalized in Cuba in the 1960s.

After hearing the news, the Cuban Foreign Ministry issued a statement in which it states that 'the government of President Donald Trump threatens to take a new step that would reinforce, dangerously, the blockade against Cuba, would flagrantly violate International Law and attack directly the sovereignty and interests of third countries.

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Cuba's President Ratifies Commitment to E-Government

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel ratified Monday e-government as a priority for strengthening ties with the population and boosting Cuba's socioeconomic development.

The President, speaking at the National Assembly of People's Power's Service Attention Commission, stressed that this kind of management represents a key component of society's computerization, along with electronic commerce.

Diaz-Canel said that establishing e-government involves computerizing all processes and the presence of entities on the Internet, through websites and social media.

We expect to close this year a first step, consisting on the creation of digital websites of Central State Administration agencies, although not all of them offer immediate interaction opportunities with citizens, he said.

The head of state insisted on the importance of sites activated for e-government being updated, complying with good practices of computer platforms and ensuring positioning and exchange of criteria with the population, as well as facilitating future procedures.

The positioning issue is vital, when searching in Internet information on certain country issues or specific territories and subjects, it is not the manipulated or distorted information to be imposed, Diaz-Canel warned.

According to the Cuban president, in 2019 the country needs to take steps toward the other key aspect of the computerization of society, related to e-commerce.

Regarding social media, he said it is a space in which all revolutionaries must be present.

The social media constitute an ideological combat instrument against imperialism which tries to impose its values, or rather its anti-values, destroying people' identity, he stressed.

Diaz-Canel illustrated his comment with the battle in social media to explain the reality of Cuba's decision not to continue participating in Brazil's More Doctors program, in response to President Elect Jair Bolsonaro's threats and conditions.

We faced a lot of manipulation and scamming, but thanks to the struggle in social media the justice of our position was known, he said.

The Commission for Service Attention focused its debates Monday on the computerization of society, a session in which some 15 MPs took part, among them the Minister of Communications, Jorge Luis Perdomo.

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Diaz-Canel invites Putin to visit Cuba in 2019

President of Cuba’s Council of State and Council of Ministers, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to pay a visit to Cuba in 2019.

"Considering the importance of your visit, we would like to invite you to pay a visit to Cuba once again in 2019, which will mark five years since that moment (Putin’s last visit to Cuba - TASS)," he said during the talks in the Kremlin.

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The Cuban leader pointed to the high level of relations between Russia and Cuba describing them as fraternal.

The Russian delegation at the talks includes Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov and Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak.

Putin and Diaz-Canel will sign a joint statement after the negotiations and make a statement for the media.

The Kremlin press service earlier reported that the two countries’ leaders planned to discuss the current state and prospects for deepening bilateral strategic cooperation in various areas and exchange views on pressing global and regional issues.

According to Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Putin and Diaz-Canel will also raise the issue of military-technical cooperation. He declined to comment on whether providing loans to Cuba for the purchase of military equipment would be discussed during the talks.

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Spanish President to Visit Cuba in November

The president of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sanchez, will pay an official visit to Cuba on November 22 and 23, local media reported.

Sanchez's trip was agreed upon at the meeting he held with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in New York on September 25, during their participation in the United Nations General Assembly, EFE news agency reported.

It will be the first official visit to Cuba by a Spanish president since 1986, when his fellow social democrat Felipe Gonzalez visited the Caribbean island, according to the newspaper El Pais.

'That a Spanish president has not visited Cuba in 30 years where our companies are shows that politics lags behind reality,' Sanchez said at a forum held on September 27, during his visit to New York.

'What we will do with this official visit is to normalize those relations that we traditionally had in several sectors,' he added before expressing excitement over the trip, which will allegedly 'normalize' traditional ties between Spain and Cuba in the economic, social and cultural fields, he noted at the time.

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Parliament gives the green light for consultation on the draft Constitution

The National Assembly of People's Power approved on Sunday the holding - from August 13 to November 15 of this year - of a popular consultation on the draft Constitution of the Republic, a transcendental step before the final referendum.

At the Havana Convention Center, after the two-day debate on the constitutional draft, in which more than a hundred legislators took part, the Parliament unanimously, approved the proposed Magna Carta, as amended.

The popular consultation will be the ideal opportunity for citizens to express their views and suggest changes to the normative document, a genuinely democratic and uncommon step in the international arena where the Constitution is presented to the people only to say Yes or No in a referendum, without the opportunity to actively participate in the construction of the text.

Esteban Lazo Hernández, president of the National Assembly of People's Power, acknowledged the efficient, profound and fruitful work of the temporary committee, made up of 33 deputies, who worked since June 2 on the draft Constitution, which had been worked on by legal experts for five years.

He stressed that the discussion in the legislature - broadcasted live on Cuban television - helped to bring the people closer to the legal concepts and particularities of the process of total reform of the Law of Laws, which will allow for deeper debates in society.

With the presence of Army General Raúl Castro, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, and the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, the two-day parliamentary debate, marked by the plurality of criteria, took place on the basis of respect, scientific arguments and the search for a more inclusive country.

In exclusive statements to the Cuban News Agency, Darianna Beatriz Acuña, deputy for Matanzas, reaffirmed that the discussion of the draft bill in the Assembly was the first step for the people, the highest exponent of the Cuban State, to express their opinions on the draft Magna Carta.

The people will have the responsibility of giving continuity to the study of the text, which should be carried out with moderation and responsibility, in order to issue criteria on the socialist project, he argued.

Sonia Garcia Osmin, also a representative of Matanzas, agreed that it is essential to take into account the perspective of the citizens of the island to reach a consensus on the new Constitution.
For Anabel Tetro de la Paz, deputy for the province of Villa Clara, the most important aspect of the process is the discussion that will be held from now on in the communities, student centers and workplaces.

In these spaces, the population will have the possibility of contributing with their criteria to perfect the Constitution and thus exercise their right, he added.

On the democratic and singular character of the popular consultation process, Deputy Jorge Crespo, for Pueblo Nuevo, in Matanzas, commented on the genuine nature of this step for constitutional reform.
Cuban legislators on Sunday provided assessments of the rights, duties and guarantees included in the draft Constitution, including those related to marriage and the replacement of the concept of "freedom of speech" with "freedom of expression".

Speaking at the conference, Daicar Saladrigas, a deputy for the municipality of Camagüey, suggested modifying the term that appears in Article 53 of the current Magna Carta, endorsed in 1976.

Her proposal, accepted by all those present, raises the need to transform the wording of this paragraph so that it is written "freedom of expression", in line with its use in international standards, and in line with the recently approved communication policy in the country.

That the constitutional reform contemplates a more inclusive vision based on the human rights of marriage is a wonderful achievement, the result of learning from the Cuban revolutionary process, said Mariela Castro Espín, director of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX).

After an in-depth debate on the issue during the second day of work of the National Assembly, the expert highlighted the fact that the deputies debated the issue and accepted article 68 of the preliminary draft of the Magna Carta.

This paragraph recognizes marriage as "the voluntary consensual union between two persons with legal aptitude for it", which is a sign of the sustained work of the politics of the Revolution.

There was broad support for the debate on the preliminary draft, which, according to the Cuban intellectual Miguel Barnet, marks the beginning of a new era.

The proposal for a new Constitution is dialectical and modern, which breaks traditions, because to break tradition in a revolutionary act and in Socialism there is no room for any kind of discrimination against human beings, he stressed.

According to Homero Acosta, secretary of the Council of State, who led the debate on the text in Parliament, among the regulations that must be adapted after the total reform of the Constitution are the Electoral Law, the Family, Civil and Criminal Codes, and the laws of the People's Courts and National Defense.

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U.S.-Cuba Bilateral Commission to meet for first time since U.S. withdrew embassy personnel

The first round of bilateral meetings between the U.S. and Cuba since Washington permanently withdrew personnel from the embassy in Havana will take place on Thursday in Washington, DC.

For some, it will take heightened significance with the backdrop of the recent historic meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, where Kim agreed to denuclearize in exchange for better relations with the U.S. In the case of Cuba, tensions between the two countries intensified after Trump rolled back on some of former President Barack Obama’s historic détente with the island. A draw down in U.S. embassy personnel following mysterious incidents that have affected the health of U.S. diplomats and their families has further strained relations.

The Bilateral Commission will be the seventh meeting the two countries have held since restoring relations in 2015. The last meeting was in September 2017 and it was the first time they met under the Trump administration. It took place under different circumstances than the previous meetings. The health incidents had been reported a few weeks prior and Trump had announced a rollback in Obama’s policy a few months before.

After the meeting, the Cuban Foreign Ministry released a sharply worded statement protesting critical comments made by Trump to the U.N. General Assembly while the Bilateral Commission was in session. Trump had called Cuba “corrupt and destabilizing” and said he would not lift the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba until it made “fundamental reforms.”

The Bilateral Commission is the platform through which the U.S. and Cuba identify, prioritize, and schedule initiatives, including specific dialogues and working group meetings. Some of the topics covered are dialogues on human rights, law enforcement, claims, and migration, according to a State Department spokesperson for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

John Creamer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs will lead the U.S. side. The State Department did not confirm who would be leading the Cuban delegation, but sources familiar with the meeting said it is Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, who has replaced Josefina Vidal as director of U.S. affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry. She was Cuba’s chief negotiator during the opening toward Cuba and is now the Cuban ambassador to Canada.

The State Department did not respond to requests for comment about whether the U.S. would press Cuba about the unexplained health incidents during the meeting.

Last week, the U.S. withdrew two more people from the embassy due to health concerns. They are considered potential new cases but have not yet been medically confirmed. If confirmed by doctors at the University of Pennsylvania, where others affected have been treated, they will mark the 25th and 26th confirmed cases in Cuba.

The incidents were first disclosed last year. The confirmed patients have a range of symptoms and diagnoses including mild traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss.

In February, the U.S. made permanent its decision to withdraw 60 percent of its diplomats from Cuba, citing its need to protect American personnel.

The U.S. has said it does not know who is behind it, but has argued Cuba is responsible for protecting diplomats on its soil. Cuba has denied any involvement or knowledge of the events.

The U.S. and Cuba continue making strides in some areas. Direct mail service was recently reestablished after a trial run. The two countries held three meetings in Washington during February focused on law enforcement issues, according to a State Department spokesperson. One was on money laundering and denying criminals financial safe havens abroad and two were on trafficking persons

But Cuba still views the trade embargo on the island as the major obstacle in advancing relations between the two countries and in the development of their stagnant economy. Lifting the embargo still faces domestic opposition in the U.S.

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