Irma: Vignettes from an event!

In Cuba, there is no other issue today than Irma, the strong hurricane that swept houses, roofs and crops from throughout the country. Irma has left a trail of bad memories and indelible experiences.

Once again, Cubans’ idiosyncrasy stayed afloat. The help and collaboration among neighbors, the funny comments about one of the most fearful atmospheric events that have ever hit the country, and the willingness and perseverance to overcome difficulties among all have been present. Now, I leave you with some anecdotes –as vignettes– about my neighbors from a neighborhood in Havana’s outskirts. Solidarity, obsession, carelessness summarize some of the behaviors.

Yusmaikel and his "plasma TV set"

"It only took me a tile, I have a hole in the roof, but I'm worried about the “plasma” (flat screen TV) that I bought recently. Ask Irma (coincidentally my neighbor is named like that). She saw it, tell her to tell you the size it has, it's like that window. I'm afraid it gets wet and breaks down".

And the roof?, I ask him.

“That is not my matter for the moment. I will see when it rains. The plasma TV set is the most important thing. I use it as an atari, I love it, and that entertains me. Irma has already passed, I am not concerned”.

Mercedes’s cookings…

“As I have my sister and my brother-in-love at home, I bought several things to spend these days. I had chicken, some pork beefsteaks and mincemeat in the refrigerator. And in addition, since the mango harvest was good, I also kept some.

“So the lack of electric power made me very tense, and I resorted to cook. I boiled the meats, made croquettes and cooked the fruits, because there was guava too. I have spent the whole cyclone in the kitchen! I hope no one else comes, but if it happens I am not going to keep so many things in the freezer. If lacking is bad, under these circumstances, lightening the refrigerator is better. It’s an experience to face the forthcoming ones”.

Carlos, the truck and taters

Carlos drives a truck that services agriculture. He’s a strong black man, as tall as a palm tree, and perhaps that’s the reason why, backbone pains always beset him. Therefore, when he brings home some taters, he never forgets to share them with those around him.

“Bring me a sack, a bag”, he tells me from time to time, and fills it with sweet potatoes, cassava, or some other seasonal produce.

Irma had gone, but the whole neighborhood had no power and water. The children were playing, adults were awaiting the restoration of power but that moment never came. However, Carlos brought good news. Some neighbors surrounded the track and he offered something to everybody; as if easing their pains. And he accomplished it! A while later, in the middle of the darkness of the night, the savory Creole flavor revealed that locals were cooking more than one “caldosa” (traditional Cuban stew).

Raimundo: Electricist or mason?

He works in an enterprise that offers maintenance to power stations, fixing heavy equipment, such as transformers. But in his spare time, he earns extra money doing masonry works. Few people know he is an electrician, everybody thinks he only has to do with sand and cement.

"Irma" had not arrived yet. It was around 2:00 pm, and Margarita thought there was no power. It happened that there was a short circuit in her house. Someone let Raimundo know it, and he showed up at the old woman’s home quickly. He climbed a stool on a chair and found out that some cables were really burnt. He was about to fall down, the prop was quite high.

He removed the lamp, separated the cables, and when he decided to test, then there was no power already. “Count on me for anything you need —he told the woman—, but do not tell the neighborhood that I am an electrician, because actually I fix big appliances, not small things like this one!

The kitchen door and Gloria

For months, Gloria has been suffering from the kitchen door of her apartment, located in a fifth floor. It didn’t even come to her mind that the cyclone season was about to begin. The door swelled when there was moisture, and in addition it had termite”. In short, it was an issue to be solved.

She talked to the thousand virgins, as the saying goes, until she finally managed to get one, but very far from her house. The dilemma was how to transport it from Guanabacoa to Arroyo Naranjo, two municipalities of the capital.

That night, during the passing of the hurricane, Gloria and her son spent most of the morning hours holding the door with wood. "What went in through it was a gust of wind". Fear seized them. Changing it was imminent.

After the fearsome cyclone, the boy walked around the neighborhood in search of a vehicle. But as one could figure out, his effort was unsuccessful. He found a truck stopped in front of his building. “Buddy —he said— I give you 5 CUC (convertible currency) if you take me to bring….” The man smiled and told him: “I do not have oil nor where to get it from. Cupets (Cuba’s National Oil Company) that have fuels do not have power and vice versa”.

Hours later, a phone call made them happy. “Get dressed because I am going there, I think that I can carry the door in my car”. So it was, human solidarity solved a problem that seemed to find no happy ending.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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NA leader lauds ambassador’s efforts to tighten Vietnam-Cuba links

National Assembly (NA) Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan received outgoing Cuban Ambassador Herminio Lopez Diaz on August 21, appreciating the diplomat’s contributions to Vietnam-Cuba special traditional relations during his term.

She expressed her delight at the growth of bilateral relations over the past years, noting that political ties have continually been enhanced through the maintenance of delegation exchanges at all levels between the countries’ Parties, States, parliaments, ministries, sectors and localities.

Congratulating Cuba on its political, economic and diplomatic achievements, which have helped create prerequisites for next development stages, she voiced her belief that the Cuban people will obtain even greater achievements in updating their economic model.

At the meeting, Ambassador Herminio Lopez Diaz shared the outcomes of his working term in Vietnam, as well as his sentiment towards the country and people of Vietnam.

Noting the close parliamentary cooperation, he added aside from the thriving political-diplomatic relations, the countries’ cooperation in other spheres, including health care, have also been being promoted.

[Vietnam, Cuba agree to beef up legislative ties]

It’s now a good time for the two countries to increase economic and trade partnerships, he said, adding that the Cuban Embassy and the embassies of other Latin American nations want to establish a centre of Latin American culture in Vietnam.

Chairwoman Ngan and the ambassador agreed that the Vietnam-Cuba solidarity and friendship are a precious asset that the two Parties and nations need to treasure and hand down to future generations.

Herminio Lopez Diaz promised on whichever positions he will hold after returning to Cuba, he will always support and help nurture the time-honoured solidarity and friendship between the two countries

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Mexican Activists Call for US to End Blockade Against Cuba

The solidarity group denounced Trump’s move to reverse a diplomatic opening between the two countries.

The Mexican Solidarity Movement with Cuba demanded the United States lift the blockade against socialist government Saturday, marching to the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.

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Morales Expresses Solidarity with Cuba Against Trump's Policies

MMSC denounced U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to reverse a diplomatic opening between the two countries. The group’s leader Jesus Escamilla stated that Mexicans reject the U.S. blockade and demand Trump lift it and move to normalize relations with the Caribbean island.

Members of the movement also pushed for the U.S. government to return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, which has been occupied without the consent of the Cuban people since before the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

The U.S.’s attempts to tighten the economic, financial and commercial blockade against Cuba and its people is "a failed policy by more than a dozen U.S. administrations," Escamilla explained.

In a speech in Miami on June 16, Trump announced his cancellation of former president Barack Obama’s "completely one-sided deal with Cuba."

He added that U.S. sanctions would not be lifted until Cuba frees “political prisoners” and holds “free elections.”
Under the changes, Washington will tighten rules on individual U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, who, if visiting the country for non-academic educational purposes, will again be required to only go with organized tour groups run by U.S. companies.

The new policy also bans most U.S. business deals with the military-runned Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group while still allowing airlines and cruise ships to continue services.

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'Pastors for Peace' Solidarity Caravan Arrives in Cuba from US

"Pastors for Peace has always embraced the commitment of Cuban leaders to put the welfare of their people first," Gail Walker, the director of the organization said.

The 48th contingent of the United States-Cuba Friendship Caravan, organized by Pastors for Peace, arrived in Havana yesterday to deliver a symbolic donation of important drugs and medical supplies, as well as demand the end of the “economic, political, and cultural embargo.”

RELATED: Cuba's Havana to Honor Nelson Mandela on His Birthday

The group traveled through 50 cities in the United States to do solidarity work and speak on the realities of the ongoing embargo, promoting the normalization of relations between the two countries.

The most recent caravan has traveled in the context of a renewed wave of U.S. aggression toward Cuba, as the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has rolled back several gains made in recent years toward normalization, and has heightened anti-Cuba rhetoric.

On Friday the visiting group, mostly from the United States, is paying tribute in Havana to the founder of Pastors for Peace, Reverend Lucius Walker. Reverend Walker, who died in 2010 is considered by many in both Cuba and in the United States to be a tireless fighter in defense of Cuba's revolution and against U.S. aggression.

His daughter, Gail Walker, is currently the director of the organization, and carries forward its original vision.

“Inside the United States, a campaign still persists whose purpose is to undermine Cuba and its revolutionary principles. Pastors for Peace has always embraced the commitment of Cuban leaders to put the welfare of their people first. That’s why we continue … calling upon the U. S. government to end its efforts towards regime change," she said in an interview with Cuba Debate.

Walker founded the organization as a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, and was inspired by what he saw as anti-imperialist struggles in Latin America. The project focused on solidarity efforts with Cuba beginning in 1992, sending regular caravans to the Island.

They have consistently defied the travel ban on U.S. citizens to perform their work.

When Walker died, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma, ran an announcement declaring “we do not want to think of a world without Lucius Walker.”

His final resting place is in Havana, and he is honored by a plaque at the Jose Marti Anti-Imperialist Tribune across from the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

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South African Communists Award Cuban Doctors’ Internationalism

The brigade has been recognized often and has even earned a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.

Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specializing in Disasters and Serious Epidemics are being recognized once again: this time they have been honored by the South African Communist Party, SACP.

RELATED: 
Cuba’s Internationalist Solidarity Recognized Once Again, Doctors Awarded by WHO

The award was presented by Blade Nzimande, the Secretary General of the party, to Jorge Cuevas, a member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, at the 14th SACP Congress in Johannesburg.

Cuevas said “In the name of the people of Cuba, we express our deep gratitude for this Special Recognition to Cuban doctors, particularly in the fight against Ebola in West Africa,” and added that the prize signifies a greater commitment by the Cuban people to global unity.

“Today we can say that Cuba's commitment to international solidarity is a fundamental part of the principles that have kept our Revolution and our socialism alive,” he continued.

“I am also convinced that the person who deserves this award is the principal doctor of the whole Cuban Revolution, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro,” he concluded.

The Henry Reeve Brigade was first created by the late revolutionary leader on Sept. 19, 2005.

Its first missions were in Guatemala and Pakistan, countries that faced the consequences of a devastating hurricane and earthquake, respectively.

RELATED: 
Gabonese President Pays Tribute to Fidel and Jose Marti

In May, the group was given the Dr. Lee Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health from the World Health Organization, recognized particularly for its work in combatting the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, where Cuba sent more than 250 workers when the crisis peaked in 2015.

For their work in the west African nations, the medics were also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.

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El Salvador Prepares Central American Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba

The 2nd Central American Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba will be held from July 27th to 29th in El Salvador to discuss regional actions to support Cuba and the Revolution.

The event will be seized also to share, with the example of Cuba as a starting point, the different opinions about the management of the current challenges in Latin America, particularly the media, political and judicial offensive staged against progressive governments.

'Cuba has been an example that encourages people because it has been able to withstand for so many years and has taught us that problems may be overcome with dignity and unity,' said Angel Claudio, from the Salvadoran Movement of Solidarity with Cuba.

The program includes a march from the central park Simon Bolivar until the plaza Jose Marti to pay tribute to the attack against the Moncada Barracks on July 26th, 1953, an action that is considered the driving force behind the Cuban Revolution.

The meeting, the main sessions of which will be held at the Research Center in El Salvador, will conclude with a resolution on the integration of the Central American countries to join actions of solidarity with Cuba.

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Cuba Thanks Global Solidarity in New York after Fidel's Death

Cuban ambassador, Ana Silvia Rodriguez, has thanked today the examples of sorrow, admiration and solidarity received from the five continents at the island''s Permanent Mission to the UN on the death of Fidel Castro.

The interim charge d'affaires told Prensa Latina that representatives of more than 140 UN members, senior officials of the organization and hundreds of activists of solidarity with Cuba and New York residents has gone to the embassy to pay tribute to the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution.

The mission opened between Monday, November 28th, and Sunday, December 4th, several books of condolences for the death of Fidel, on November 25 at the age of 90, records reflecting the affection and recognition of Fidel's legacy and his example for the struggles for the just causes.

Rodriguez recalled some moments of great emotion experienced in recent days, during which the messages of encouragement, the exaltation of the life and work of the revolutionary leader, the tears for his death and the commitment to follow his path in defense of the peace, justice and equity, were analyzed.

Hundreds of New York citizens from several sectors gathered for some hours in front of the diplomatic headquarters in Manhattan, where the slogans 'We are all Fidel', banners, photos of the leader and the long line to sign the books of condolences , changed a stretch of Lexington Avenue, accustomed to the constant coming and going of pedestrians and the huge car traffic.

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon; UN Secretary-General-designate as of January 1st, 2017, Antonio Guterres; and General Assembly President, Peter Thomson, as well as heads of agencies of the organization, attended the mission, the ambassador said.

She also acknowledged the work during the last week of the Cuban staff accredited here, in order to guarantee the favorable scenario for the tributes to Fidel Castro.

According to Rodriguez, the signature by the members of the Cuban mission to the United Nations of being faithful followers of the Concept of Revolution, expressed by the leader on May 1st, 2000, was another moment of great significance and symbolism.

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Cuba Insists On End To Blockade

The Cuban Ambassador to Ghana, His Excellency Pedro Luis Gonzalez, has called for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States.

He said in spite of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the USA, there remained several obstacles that prohibited free trade between Cuba and other countries of the world.

Addressing a press conference at the Cuban Embassy in Accra, Ambassador Gonzalez disclosed that the government of Cuba will table another draft resolution at the United Nations general assembly on 26 October,2016, calling for an end to the fifty-four-year-old blockade that has wrecked the Cuban economy and brought untold hardship to the Cuban people.

According to him, seven hundred and fifty-three billion, six hundred and eighty-eight million dollars ($753,688,000,000) has been lost in trade since the imposition of the trade blockade on Cuba, by the Kennedy administration on February 3, 1962. He added that between March 2015 and March 2016 another four billion, six hundred and eight million and three hundred thousand dollars ($4,608,300,000) has been lost due to the application of the sanctions.

He said in spite of the admission by the US government that its traditional policy of hostility towards Cuba had failed, and irrespective of the repeated calls on the US Congress by President Barack Obama to lift the blockade, Cuba was still treated as an enemy and there were several laws applied rigorously by US government agencies that hindered greater corporation between the two countries.

“There can be no justification for the embargo imposed on Cuba, especially as we on our part have taken every step to normalize relations with the United States. We recognize that the United States is a big country with a big economy, but we demand mutual respect from them no matter how small Cuba is.”

He described it as most unfortunate that although the United States has expunged Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, his country is still considered as an enemy of the USA, an act he considered contradictory to the very laws of the USA.

“We (Cuba) should never have been placed on a list as state sponsors of terrorism because Cuba has never committed any act of terrorism. We rather stood in solidarity with the dispossessed and offered humanitarian assistance to the marginalized people of the world.

“When other peoples of the world came to Cuba we trained them as doctors, engineers and teachers in order to create a world devoid of disease and illiteracy and to build a world fashioned on the foundations of social justice for all and it must not be forgotten that in the course of our internationalist duty, we lost many Cuban patriots who fought in solidarity to liberate Africans and other suffering people around the world from the yoke of imperialism” he said.

Ambassador Gonzalez noted that his country took a great risk when it decided to normalize relations with the United States with the awareness that the two countries practiced very different political and economic systems.

He expressed appreciation to the President and the people of Ghana for their condemnation of the inhumane economic embargo imposed on Cuba, adding that Ghana is one of the countries that have consistently supported the course of the Cuban people.

Over the past years, Cuba has sent 24 draft resolutions to the United Nations demanding the immediate lifting of the trade embargo imposed on Cuba following the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959 by progressive forces led by Commandante Fidel Castro.

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