European Film Festival in Cuba to Screen 18 Films from 16 Countries

The third European Film Festival in Cuba will show, from June 5 to 17, in this capital, 18 films from 16 countries of the so-called old continent, organizers of the event announced today.

The programmer of the Cinematheque of Cuba, Antonio Mazón, commented in a press conference the presentation of 14 fiction feature films, a documentary and three co-productions made by Latin American filmmakers that would have been impossible without the contribution of European companies.

Most of the works are premieres in Cuba and can be seen at three venues: 23 y 12 cinema, Multicine Infanta and the Center for the interpretation of Cuba-Europe cultural relations, located at the Palacio del Segundo Cabo.

According to Mazón, the films come from member states of the European Union such as Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, France, Greece, Hungary, Denmark, Italy, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and Sweden.

Among the titles on the program are works recognized in international festivals such as The Emigrants, Different Worlds, Notes on Blindness, Magical Mystery, Rosita, Beautiful Youth and Winter.

  • Published in Culture

Europe Can No Longer Rely On US To "Protect" It: Angela Merkel

Aachen:  Europe can no longer rely on the United States to protect it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday, urging the bloc to take its destiny in its own hands.

"It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us, but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands, that's the task of the future," she said, after US President Donald Trump left traditional allies scrambling by ditching the landmark Iran nuclear deal.

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Cuba increases charcoal exports to Europe

Charcoal production was considered sometime before as a rough, poorly paid work done by the poorest countrymen in Cuba, nowadays it has changed the panorama and it has turned into an important, well-paid export that brings profits to the country and those who produce it.

With the Revolutionary triumph Cuban countrymen started to work harder on charcoal production, and there became sadly well known people devoted to this task in Cienaga de Zapata, swampy area in Cuba located in the south of the central province of Matanzas, visited by Fidel Castro almost every day with his arrival to power in 1959.

Nowadays,it has been carried out charcoal production based on Marabu (a plant from the Mimosacea family) which invaded thousands of land hectares devoted to farming.

The national campaign devoted to Marabu elimination made possible to enhance charcoal production through co-ops and state enterprises that profit the low-cost, natural raw material.

One Cuban caballeria (equal to 134202 m2) of Marabu produces 140 tons of charcoal for export, which becomes a minimum amount of 46.00 dollars, calculated on the the international market selling price near 330 and 380 dollars each.

More than 130 thousand tons of charcoals are yearly exported to Europe by the Groupo Agroforestal from the Agricultural Ministry of Cuba, which introduces new technologies to offer a higher product quality.

Such sales allow income of about 32 million dollars, said the Group Development manager, Anaiisis Zulueta, who participated at the XXI International Fair of Food and Agriculture Fiagrop 2018, which opened on Monday in Havana.

Zulueta also added that the Group is currently taking steps to introduce two bioelectric plants, oriented to the production of electricity from forest biomass and the waste from sawmills.

According to its organizers, Fiagrop 2018 aims to promote the portfolio of foreign investment opportunities and businesses in the agro-industrial sector.

(Translated by Yeney Perez Corona)

  • Published in Cuba

EUROPOL Warns About the Radicalization of 30,000 Persons in Europe

Sofia, Mar 19 (Prensa Latina) The executive director of the European Police Office, Europol, Rob Wainwright reported today about the radicalization of some 30,000 persons in the region, which currently represent a potential threat of terrorism.

The information released today by the Bulgarian broadcaster 'bTV' quoted Wainwright, who explained that the estimated figure refers to radicalized people through the Internet.

The majority of these individuals are inspired by groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS); however, it does not mean that they act under their direct command, the official added.

He also insisted on the need to stay alert, because at any moment these people 'can rent a truck and kill innocent people.'

Wainwright cautioned that it is a new form of terrorist activity difficult to fight by the European and world security services.

Adding to this situation the threats after the return to Europe of people who travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the ranks of the ISIS and other terrorist groups.

According to the executive director of EUROPOL, the comeback of these foreign terrorist fighters is a danger and represents a huge menace to the entire region.

An annual report from the European Police Office, in 2017, indicated a growth in recent years of terrorist groups.

Among the presumed radicals imprisoned, one out of four were women and one third were under 25 years old.

In addition to the arrests, EUROPOL reported on the increase in the number of judgments in the courts of the European Union, mainly in countries such as Spain and France.

  • Published in World

Habanos Festival returns to celebrate Cuban cigar industry

Cuba's annual celebration of its cigar-making industry, the Habanos Festival, will kick off on Feb. 26 in Havana, drawing cigar aficionados and buyers from around the globe.

The glamorous week-long festival features launchings of new premium brands, including this year's much-anticipated line of Cohiba Robusto Reserva, from the 2014 harvest.

Cuba's best-known brand, Cohiba was popularized by the legendary revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who was rarely seen without a cigar until he quit in his later years to encourage a healthier lifestyle among the people.

The festival, organized by Habanos S.A., a joint venture between state-owned Cubatabaco and Altadis, a French-German subsidiary of the British multinational Imperial Tobacco, which markets the cigars worldwide, also features gala dinners, tours of cigar factories and tobacco farms, and a renowned auction of custom-made humidors, with funds going to support the country's free healthcare system.

Habanos spokesperson Daymi Difurniao said this year participants will learn about the most diverse aspects of the cigar industry, and tour plantations in western Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, home to the world's best tobacco leaf.

"It is an opportunity to appreciate the beautiful plantations in San Juan y Martinez, recognized as having the best soil for attaining the leaves used to make renowned Cuban cigars," said Difurniao.

San Juan y Martinez, along with San Luis, Guane and the city of Pinar del Rio, make up the region of Vueltabajo, Cuba's prime tobacco-growing region.

In Vueltabajo, some 18,000 hectares of different tobacco varieties are planted each year. This year, production is expected to surpass 20,000 tons of leaves, more than previous harvests.

Another festival highlight is the traditional Habanosommelier International Contest, a culinary event that pairs cigars with a gourmet dish or cocktail.

This year, organizers are introducing the first-ever Habanos World Challenge, where cigar lovers from around the world will compete to test their knowledge about the world of cigars.

There will also be an evening dedicated to the history and success of the festival, now in its 20th edition.

In the past, the Habanos Festival has been attended by celebrities such as the late author and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez; American actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger; and British model Naomi Campbell, among others.

  • Published in Cuba

Catalonia sets independence referendum date, Spain seeks to press criminal charges

The Catalan parliament has greenlit a referendum on the region's secession from Spain, to be held on October 1. It followed a fierce, hours-long debate on Wednesday. Madrid denounced the move, threatening to bring criminal charges against the region’s authorities.

 
© Albert Gea

The so-called “transition bill,” designed to serve as the constitution of a sovereign Catalan state during the transition period, was championed by the pro-independence ruling coalition that submitted the motion late August. The legislation envisions the legal framework that will pave the way for a constituent assembly, tasked with laying groundwork for a brand-new Catalan Republic.

The idea, however, did not find favor with many of the local deputies, who were staunch opponents of the legislation during a gruelling 11-hour session preceding its eventual approval by 72 MPs loyal to the region's separatist government, as 52 opposition deputies of the 135-member legislature left the room in defiance.

Predictably, the outcome of the vote did not sit well with the federal Spanish government. Madrid has vowed to employ all legal means at their disposal to stop the plebiscite from going ahead, and to punish lawmakers for neglecting earlier court rulings proscribing such legislation.

READ MORE: Catalonia sets date for landmark vote on independence from Spain

 
People react at an impromptu memorial a day after a van crashed into pedestrians at Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain August 18, 2017 © Susana Vera

Spain’s deputy prime minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, announced that the government is contesting the newly adopted legislation in the country’s constitutional court, arguing for it to be declared null and void.

“What is happening in the Catalan parliament is embarrassing, it’s shameful,” de Santamaria told journalists on Wednesday, reacting to the vote, as cited by Reuters.

On Thursday, Spain’s state Prosecutor-General Jose Manuel Maza announced his office will pursue criminal charges against members of the Catalan government and the parliament for passing the law. Maza noted the charges will be presented shortly to the Catalan High Court of Justice.

Maza told reporters he had requested the security forces to investigate any move to prepare or hold the referendum.

After reading out prepared notes, the prosecutor-general said they will “continue to act with firmness, proportionality, celerity and full subjection to legality to guarantee our constitutional framework,” according to La Vanguardia.

While the vote was a success for the Catalan elite, recent polls indicate that support for the independence cause among the local public is wearing thin.

According to a June poll, prepared by The Center for Opinion Studies, only 41.1 percent of Catalans favor independence from Spain, a decrease of over 3 percentage points compared with an earlier poll conducted in March. At the same time, the number of those who do not want to part ways with Spain reached 49.4 percent, slightly higher than in March.

Separatist sentiment in Catalonia traditionally runs high, and from time to time becomes the driving force behind massive pro-independence rallies attended by tens of thousands of people. In 2014, the region staged an informal vote on independence, during which some 80 percent voted to split from Spain. However, the vote had a poor turnout: only about a third of the region’s voters came to the polls.

  • Published in World

European friends pay tribute to Che Guevara

The José Martí brigade of solidarity with Cuba visited historic sites in Santa Clara city in tribute to the 50th anniversary of Che´s fall in combat.

The tour included Ernesto Guevara Sculpture Complex, where brigaders from European countries learned about the Heroic Guerrilla; the Monument to the Taking of the Armored Train and the statue of Che.

This is the 47th edition of the contingent, made up by 86 members from Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Belgium, UK and Russia.

Young Frenchwoman Laureline Ferrère visits Cuba from the age of seven and is excited to be here, because she comes from a communist family and the example of her grandfather motivated her to come to the island not as a tourist, but as a brigade member.

Spanish Olaya Nunez, said when a teenager she felt a special attraction for Commander Ernesto Guevara, an idol for young people fighting for a better world, and this influenced her decision to study medicine, a profession she practices in her country.

For a long time I heard talking about Cuba and I wanted to come and witness the reality of this country and its Revolution and I was impressed how they fight to defend what they conquered with their effort and dedication, stated Portuguese Luisa Carvalho.

Since their arrival in Cuba on July 3, the group has undergone volunteer days in the countryside and debates with members of the Young Communist League and the Federation of University Students, they have also visited social projects, received lectures on the Cuban political and economic system and Cuba-US relations, among other activities that brought them closer to the reality of the Caribbean nation.

  • Published in Cuba

Wave of ‘more dangerous, skilled’ ISIS jihadists bound to hit Europe – UN counterterrorism chief

Europe will have to come to grips with an exodus of “dangerous and disillusioned” Islamic State jihadists, defeated in Syria and Iraq earlier this year and possibly seeking revenge, the head of the UN Security Council's counterterrorism agency has warned.

Scores of foreign Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighters, determined to come back to Europe, are “more dangerous” than previous waves of returnees, Jean-Paul Laborde told reporters on Thursday. Some may be eager to seek revenge after defeats on the battlefield, including in recent confrontations in Mosul.

 
© Dado Ruvic

The first wave of the returnees was mainly made up of young people who went to Syria and Iraq “for T-shirts and photos,” Laborde said, RTBF reported. They came back “disillusioned and dismayed.” The second wave may contain much more extreme individuals, who had more time to build contacts with criminal organizations that can assist them in committing attacks.

Between 40 to 50 percent of foreign fighters, who left for Syria and Iraq, have already left territories controlled by IS, Laborde added.

“On average, these people are much more committed, more experienced and more skilled,” he told reporters, as cited by Reuters.

“In spite of the travel restrictions ... still you will have a number of foreign terrorist fighters which will probably slip through the borders and go back, come back to these countries, especially with smuggling networks,” he added.

Over the last 18 months, the flow of departures of fighters from Europe to Syria or Iraq fell by some 90 percent, the UN official said, calling for international cooperation not only between EU member states, but also between countries involved in armed conflicts and their neighbors.

Some 5,000 EU nationals are currently fighting in Syria among the ranks of IS and other jihadist groups, a senior Syrian official said last month, warning that it’ll be a disaster for European security if these militants are allowed to return.

 
© Eric Gaillard

“We have statistics that about five thousand terrorists fighting in Syria have come from the EU countries,” Syria's Deputy Minister of Expatriates and Foreign Affairs Ayman Susan told Sputnik in mid-April.

“Imagine that these 5,000 terrorists will return to Europe ... they can do it,” the diplomat warned.

IS provides free passage to Europe to refugees willing to join the terrorist group, offering potential recruits up to $1,000 while actively infiltrating migrant communities in countries of destination, a British anti-extremism think tank warned in February.

The report by Quilliam think tank also found that underage asylum seekers are at increasing risk of being radicalized by IS preachers infiltrating refugee camps and local migrant communities.

“Groups such as Islamic State and Boko Haram recruit using financial incentives within refugee camps and work with smugglers and traffickers to facilitate the journey to asylum,” Quilliam said.

According to the think tank, IS is clearly aware of the value of migrant routes in the Eastern Mediterranean as it offers free passage and “a degree of security” to those willing to join IS.

  • Published in World
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