Italy-Cuba Friendship Association Congress Closes in Parma

With the approval of the final documents and the election of the new board of directors, the twelfth congress of the National Association of Italy-Cuba Friendship (Anaic) concludes here today.

For three days, 120 delegates representing the 3,500 members of the organization, belonging to 68 circles throughout the country, evaluated the work done in the last four years and aimed at new goals in the sustained work of support and solidarity with the Cuban people and their Revolution.

Speaking on the eve of the plenary session, the first vice president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), Elio Gámez, underscored the important role played in defense of the Revolution by Anaic, one of the first institutions of its kind founded in Europe, 57 years ago.

He highlighted the footprint left in the history of the organization by men and women, physically disappeared, who for almost six decades gave themselves to solidarity with the island from Italy, including Giovanni Ardisone, a young medical student killed in Milan during a demonstration on October 27, 1962.

He also stressed the importance of continuing with this active solidarity, bearing in mind that despite the release of the five anti-terrorist fighters and the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States, the US blockade against the Caribbean nation remains intact, and even it intensifies.

He also clarified that in the conversations of his country with the United States and the European Union, 'never have been put on the table or one of our principles of internal and external policy,' including their internationalist vocation.

Gámez put special emphasis on the preservation of the unity of the solidarity movement as an indispensable element to achieve the effectiveness of their actions, regardless of political affiliation, religious creed, sexual orientation, skin color or origin of those who develop them.

  • Published in Cuba

Yovani Aragon amid his toughest game

The commissioner of Cuban baseball talked with Escambray about strategies, hiring, and projections of our national sports.

None of the games he played for Sancti Spiritus in 16 seasons or with the national team in 1998, when he was Cuba’s MVP in the World Championship held in Italy, is being more difficult for Yovani Aragon than the challenge of heading the National Commission of Baseball in Cuba.

Surrounded by a soccer invasion, baseball is bleeding to death among players’ defections. International titles vanished. Fans are bored. U-23 tournament does not meet fans’ expectations. Some, unhappy, target the tournament held prior to the National Series because players have not been paid a dime for what they did last season. But used to tough moments, the native from Sancti Spiritus threw his slider and wipes the sweat away. Escambray follows him play-by-play.

“We are not as bad as they say. We have witnessed a tournament with acceptable technical level. We have witnessed kids motivated and it means health for the sports. Next year, we start over with the U-12 category. It is sort of a guarantee to have this concentration in a single place (EIDE –School for Sports Initiation) since existing scarce sources can be allocated there.”

But there is lack of gloves, bats, balls, stadiums…

Baseball in Cuba is not safe from the lack of resources our country is experiencing. But we have reached municipalities with balls, bats, and jerseys. We use the money earned by the Federation not only for international tournaments and representing Cuba.

Today people playing baseball are not those who love it, but those who can afford it

We know the economic conditions of some families and baseball kits are expensive. We appreciate trainers, parents, and commissions’ efforts and we suggest all provinces to go to remote places. There are talents in Cuba, we just need to go and find them.

How does the National Commission assess desertion in lower-level categories?

It is a problem. Three or four players remain in Cuba from the teams that won the U-15 World Championship and the U-18 Pan American tournament each. We insist on parents and athletes not to be deceived. Not all of them can reach the Big Leagues. We have seen some of them abandoned in the world. No country in the world gives them the attention and love they get here. Most of those who decide to return are reinstated. They have the option of being hired. Some, like Oscar Luis Cola, Raidel Martinez, and Leandro Urgelles, are very young.

What is the policy with those coming back?

Those who left legally —they had the right and did not renege on their provinces— can play the provincial tournament and then the national series, if call up. If not, those players must wait one year because there is indiscipline. One season is not too much for athletes who abandon their provincial teams amid one tournament. Let’s take into account the sacrifice of trainers who teach athletes until they have 18-19 years old and then defect.

Are Japan and Canada the only options?

The Can-Am league is not the Major Leagues, or the Japanese League. But it has very good level with former big leaguers and other players who played AA and AAA. Cuba’s U-18 team will train in Quebec for the world championship. There are other events like the one in Rotterdam, the Cuba-USA friendly match, and the U-15 Pan American competition. Japan has increased its hiring and we have some in Italy. These are the options.

Do you agree Cuba should learn more about signings?

We have been dealing with signings three or four years now and we have done it with already experienced leagues. There are lots of clauses, legal issues that we must learn. We are training personnel so that every contract may be stronger. We are doing good business. We insert protective sections. Therefore, we are not far from the right path.

Any lights on the possibility of playing in Latin American leagues? Where are we in the talks with the Big Leagues?

Caribbean leagues or other leagues related to the MLB cannot hire any Cuban player due to the US blockade. We are still talking with the MLB. Perhaps we are not making great strides, but certain agreements are in place with mutual respect and interests.

Our stance is the same: Cuban players should be able to play that baseball and then return to our country like Mexicans, Venezuelans, and Japanese…Now, those who betrayed our country in any international event cannot represent Cuba yet.

Signings are good but hurt the National Series

We cannot be isolated. The signings are opportunities and most of the time they are positive. Most of them return and play the second stage of the postseason. The National Series will be always played with 16 teams. And there will be a time to group the quality. Cuba is baseball. Do you see a province without a baseball team?

Is it the U-23 tournament the sort of baseball the Cuban Baseball Commission aspires?

The fans are following it with other perspective. But we should understand that this is a tournament for player development.

Do you agree that baseball in Cuba is not in its prime?

No, I say it again: I do not think we are that bad as many believe we are. We played the World Baseball Classic where teams like South Korea and Venezuela —better placed in the world ranking and with big leaguers in their rosters— could not advanced. And we did it with Cuban-born players. It is true there are problems. But we do achieve things and we praise the work of trainers and workers. We are an athlete-producer machine.

But almost all stadiums remain empty, except in the postseason. Day games are hurting baseball players.

The most important thing is that we must demand more efforts from players. It is not about baseball kits or fields. Regarding the game time, we decided to unify the time. However, we are open to allow that provinces can change the time according to their needs. We are planning to change the lights in stadiums.

There are small sample of 90+ pitchers. How do you go to Japan?

Strategies, signings, young players, everything prepares us to face this new cycle to look for the qualification ticket in the Pan American Games. Japan is our goal. We have 90+ pitchers in the U-23 tournament. We are projecting a national pitching school to achieve a more specialized work.

To some, the Commission has lost credibility and authority

I do not know anything about such opinion. The Commission is working hard. Not all you read on social media is true. Everyone has his/her own opinions, and we are open to talk and help Cuban baseball.

Is this your toughest game?

This is a tough one. But we are trying to do the same we did in crucial games: to get opponents out with everyone’s help. I trust we can win this game.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / Cubasi Translation Staff

Cuban Symphony Orchestra in Concert with Italian Artists

Havana, Apr 4 (Prensa Latina) Italian orchestra director Francesco Belli will direct the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra (OSN) next Sunday, in a concert to be performed at the Covarrubias Hall of the National Theater of Havana, in which they will perform works written by famous authors like Beethoven, Schumann and Stravinski.

The concert will receive the debut of Italian young violoncello player Elena Cappelletti, for the first time to perform in Cuban theaters, invited by the OSN.

According with the program, Cappelletti will be the soloist of the concert for violoncello, by Schumann, one of the masterpieces written by the composer towards the end of his career in a stage of rest and happiness, while he was residing in the German city of Düsseldorf.

The repertoire of the concert will be completed by the Egmont Overture, by Beethoven, and The Bird of Fire, of Stravinski, based on Russian folk histories on the magic bird of intense sheen that both a blessing as much as a curse for its captor.

The Cuban Symphony Orchestra has shared the stage with Foreign artists, such as Swiss flute player Antipe d' Stella, Haitian pianist haitiana Micheline Laudun Denis and her current orchestra director, Tido Dejan.

  • Published in Culture

8 people found alive under snow after avalanche hits hotel in Italy

Almost two days after up to 30 people were feared dead when an avalanche hit a hotel in Italy, eight people were discovered alive under the snow.

The first woman and her daughter have been pulled out of the rubble, and is being evacuated to safety, ANSA agency reported. 

Rescuers are now working to recover other survivors from snow, fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari said, as cited by Reuters.

“They are alive and we are talking to them,” he told the agency by phone.

In a conflicting report, AP cited a local policeman talking from the scene by radio, who put the number of survivors at five, adding that choppers had been requested for the rescue operation.

Rescuers worked through the night, in extreme conditions, with temperatures well below zero, ANSA reported them as saying.

“Since yesterday evening we are working in difficult conditions in the search for survivors. Dogs often sniff odors but we must dig to over 4, 5 meters before reaching the ground,” Matteo Gasparini, head of the rescue team, said.

Up to 30 people were declared missing on Wednesday afternoon, and were feared dead for many hours.

As of now, two of the victims’ bodies have been found, and two others have been located, according to local media.

The avalanche, which was triggered by a string of earthquakes, struck the base of the Gran Sasso mountain range near the Rigopiano di Farindola hotel. There were about 20 guests and seven staff members at hotel at the time of the disaster.

  • Published in World

Irish in avalanche-hit province urged to 'make contact with family' as up to 30 people believed dead

Up to 30 people are believed to have been killed in an avalanche in Italy, according to media reports.

An Italian rescue official said that the avalanche was supposedly triggered after a quake which hit the Abruzzo region in Central Italy on Wednesday.

(19gen-8:30) , Drago54 sta calando ora squadre soccorso con verricello su obiettivo

Rescuers battled extreme conditions overnight to reach the hotel which is located close to the Gran Sasso mountain.

Several Italian news websites are quoting the president of the province's statement on social media in which he said the Hotel Rigopiano was buried in snow. car drives along the main road to Monterale, after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the region, on January 19, 2017. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLAROANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

"There seem to be victims, but it all needs to be confirmed. There were 20 guests in the hotel," provincial President Antonio Di Marco said at the time.

More than 12 hours after the wall of snow smashed into the hotel, only two survivors had been accounted for.

Antonio Crocetta, the head of a group of Alpine police that was trying to reach the cut-off hotel, said; "There are many dead."

Emergency workers now fear the hotel will collapse.

 "We haven't been able to do too much. The structure has collapsed. It's more like a pile of rubble than a hotel," said Antonio Crocetta, a member of the Alpine Rescue squad who was on the scene.

"What is left of the hotel is in danger of collapse. The hotel is almost completely destroyed. We've called out but we've heard no replies, no voices. We're digging and looking for people," he told Reuters speaking by telephone. ski resort is located approximately 180km east of Rome

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told that they are aware of an avalanche in Abruzzo, Italy but there are no indications of any Irish people being involved.

"There are no indications of any Irish citizens being involved," a spokesperson said.

"Irish citizens in the area should make contact with their family and follow the advice of local authorities.

"Anyone with serious concerns for Irish citizens in the area can call +39 06 585 2381/+353 1 408 2527."

The resort is located approximately 180km east of Rome.

Video footage showed rescuers with shovels digging through a wall of snow, and at least one man being led through the cleared path.

An ambulance was blocked several miles from the hotel, according to Sky News.

Earthquakes hit the region on Wednesday, including one with a 5.7 magnitude, but it was not immediately clear if they triggered the avalanche.



  • Published in World

5.4-magnitude quake hits central Italy, felt in Rome

A 5.4-magnitude earthquake hit a rural region of central Italy on Wednesday evening, with the impact felt as far away as Rome. The emergency services are inundated with calls, but there are no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The earthquake was detected at 7:11pm local time, about 66km to the southeast of Perugia, striking a mountainous part of the Marche region and lasting several seconds.

@INGVterremoti ML:5.4 2016-10-26 17:10:36 UTC Lat=42.88 Lon=13.13 Prof=9Km Zona=Macerata.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) initially stated the earthquake magnitude as 5.6, but figures from Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology revised it down to 5.4. The exact epicenter of the tremblor remains unclear, but it was relatively shallow, at about 10km below ground.

A video posted by a Huffington Post journalist shows rubble strewn through the streets of Visso, a commune less than 10 km from the epicenter. There are no functioning street lights, suggesting that electricity has been cut.

@clapaudice Chiesa di Visso, crolli

Within an hour of the earthquake, there was a series of small but noticeable aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from 2.5 to 2.8.

@DanielePinto Civil Prot Agency says so far no reports of injuries following 5.4M in central Apennines. Panicked people in streets.

@JackieMilesiF Earthquake 5.4 in Central Italy, I felt it as my chair & table moved as if we were at sea, a wave sensation for a few seconds...

Eyewitnesses reported a powerful tremor in the capital on the western side of the country, saying that centuries-old buildings were shaking.

Wednesday’s quake occurred less than 70km to the north of Amatrice, a village in the seismically unstable central Apennines region that was hit by a series of earthquakes in August, resulting in nearly 300 deaths. The strongest impact there was a 6.2 earthquake on August 24, followed by more than a dozen aftershocks over the next several days.

The latest quake is part of the same seismic process as the temblor that destroyed the town of Amatrice this August, local media reported citing seismologists.

  • Published in World

Caravaggio exhibition reveals master of dark and light

An exhibition celebrating the work of the Italian renaissance painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, who was hailed as the master of dark and light, opened on Thursday at the National Gallery in London.

The exhibition, titled "Beyond Caravaggio," consists of 49 paintings, exploring the work and influence of Caravaggio (1571-1610), who is regarded as one of the most revolutionary figures in Western art.

His original, emotionally charged paintings, with their intense naturalism, dramatic lighting and powerful storytelling, had a lasting impact on his successors.

Caravaggio did not have pupils or travel extensively, and he died at the relatively young age of 39, and yet his influence was widespread.

From 1600, artists from across Europe flocked to Rome to see his work, and many went on to imitate his naturalism and dramatic lighting effects. These included artists such as Orazio Gentileschi, Jusepe de Ribera and Gerrit van Honthorst.

Paintings by Caravaggio and his followers were sought after in the decades after his death, but fell out of favor by the middle of the 17th century.

Letitzia Treves, exhibition curator, told Xinhua: "Caravaggio breathed fresh life into familiar subjects and so was totally new. In his own day, his manner of painting was revolutionary. His novel aspect is his use of light, and his very particular use of light chiaroscuro."

"He used real models and painted real people. So, this combination of dramatizing scenes with strong lighting effects and painting real people in historical and biblical subjects made these pictures come alive," he added.

The exhibition runs at the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square until Jan. 17 next year.

  • Published in Culture

Van Gogh paintings stolen from Amsterdam found in Italy

Italian police have recovered two Van Gogh paintings stolen during a dramatic raid on an Amsterdam museum in 2002.

The works were recovered from the Naples mafia, they said.

The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam said the works were found during a "massive, continuing investigation" by Italian prosecutors and organised crime officials.

The paintings were taken when thieves used a ladder and sledgehammers to break into the museum.

They were eventually found wrapped in cloth in a safe in a house in the picturesque seaside town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Pompeii.

The works were among assets worth millions of euros seized from a Camorra organised crime group linked to cocaine trafficking, Italian reports said.

Months earlier, police had arrested several suspected drug traffickers who had invested their proceeds in Dubai, Spain and the Isle of Man. They were reportedly linked to one of the biggest mafia clans in the Scampia area of northern Naples.

Among those arrested in January were suspected drugs gang leader Raffaele Imperiale and Mario Cerrone. It was Mr Cerrone who apparently told investigators about the two paintings. Gogh's father was a minister at the Reformed Church in Nuenen / Van Gogh museum 

The theft of the two works, valued by investigators at $100m (£77m; €89m), led to criticism of security at the world's major art museums.

The thieves broke into the museum through the roof during the night of 6-7 December 2002 and used sledgehammers to break a first-floor window.

They took the paintings off the walls of the main exhibition hall. Experts were baffled at the time of the theft because guards had been on patrol and infra-red security systems were in place.

Neither work was insured at the time, and both were on loan to the Van Gogh museum from the Dutch government. Two Dutch citizens were jailed for theft but always maintained their innocence.

The museum said it was so far unclear when the works would be returned to Amsterdam but in a statement it said they appeared to be in "relatively good condition".

Dutch and Italian ministers were overjoyed by the news, and praised Italian investigators.

Naples mafia develops taste for Dutch masters - by James Reynolds, BBC News, Rome

The Camorra crime organisation of Naples is not known for its understated good taste. Police raids on members' homes have often revealed a preference for ostentatious, kitsch decoration.

Naples police say they found the two stolen artworks in the possession of the Amato-Pagano clan, which they call one of the most dangerous clans in the region. Gogh museum director Axel Ruger (C) appears more delighted than the Guardia di Finanza officers on either side

We don't yet know how the clan got hold of them, nor whether its members had been planning to sell the works on the international black market.

The art works are now in the hands of Italy's specialist financial police whose officers, during a brief display, stood on either side of the recovered works. They managed to disguise any admiration they may have had for Van Gogh's brushstrokes.

Why are the paintings significant?

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is widely considered the greatest Dutch artist after Rembrandt.

Seascape at Scheveningen was one of only two seascapes he painted while he lived in the Netherlands. Van Gogh painted Seascape at Scheveningen on a gusty day and grains of sand were embedded in the wet paint / EPA 

It shows a foaming, stormy sea and thundery sky, and was painted in 1882 while he was staying in The Hague.

Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen (1884) was painted for Van Gogh's mother, but also partly for his father, who had become a pastor at the church in 1882. When his father died in 1884, Van Gogh added churchgoers, including a few women wearing shawls used for mourning.

Van Gogh committed suicide in France in 1890.

How did Van Gogh find colour?

Van Gogh's ear

Digital makeover for Van Gogh's bedroom

Recovering stolen masterpieces

The 2002 Van Gogh museum raid was one of a series of thefts that shocked the art world.'s 1893 work The Scream was found two years after it was torn from a museum wall in Oslo in 2004 / AFP 

In 2004, two Edvard Munch masterpieces, The Scream and Madonna, were seized by armed men who raided the Munch museum in Oslo. Several men were jailed and the paintings later recovered after painstaking detective work in 2006.

Another version of The Scream was stolen from the National Art Museum in Oslo in 1994 and that too was later recovered in a sting operation by UK detectives.

In 2012, seven artworks were stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum, including paintings by Picasso, Monet and Matisse. Two Romanians were later jailed, telling a Bucharest court that security at the museum had been lax. Some of the paintings were destroyed in an oven.

Earlier this year, four paintings out of a haul of 24 stolen from a Dutch gallery in 2005 were recovered in Ukraine.

  • Published in Culture
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