Cuba’s Soccer Fans Ready for the World Cup

Cuba will be one of the more than a hundred countries that won’t have its national soccer team playing in the World Cup in Russia, but that won’t stop soccer fever from taking over the island’s sports enthusiasts.

Traditionally, Cuban fans mostly choose to support Argentina and Brazil, because of the Latin blood they share apparently, but over time support grows for the teams of Germany and Spain, who have done well in previous events, as well as France and Holland, although Holland didn’t qualify for the Russian competition.

Fans of the different teams form groups to come together and cheer their squad as already happens with the different teams in the other national and continental soccer leagues. When the World Cup comes along you can see special initiatives to enjoy the matches.

This weekend, official Real Madrid and Barcelona clubs in Havana played a friendly game at the Eduardo Saborit sports center, to make it clear that even though they support different teams, there’s no bitterness between them. It was also a mixed affair as each team had to sign up one woman to their team.

Anyway, getting back to the World Cup… some places in Havana have already advertised to fans to come and enjoy their favorite team’s matches there; for example, restaurants 1830 and La Chorrera, whose managers are fans of the German team are planning to gather all their fans together there. Restaurant 1830 also has the German Embassy in Havana for support and will be the kind of “official” for their fans.

Tony, a Bayern Munich and German football fan, told us that he won’t miss one of the matches. “I go to 1830 a lot to watch Bayern matches throughout the year, especially on the weekend because of work. Now, I’ll also try to go every time Germany plays, if work allows me to. A group of people that we’ve all known for some time meet up there and we really enjoy the games.”

Meanwhile, another Bavarian supporter, Alfredo, told us a little bit about his expectations. “Germany hasn’t been playing very well in the lead up friendly matches up until now, but that’s because they’ve been up against big teams and they’ve played with a lot of different line-ups. When the World Cup starts, things will be different and I predict that they’ll finish first in their group. Afterwards, in the knockout stage, everyone knows that it’s very hard to beat them, so I think they can be the champions again.”

Raulito, an Argentina fan, has a very different opinion: “This World Cup belongs to (Lionel) Messi. It’s about time that Argentina won a tournament. It was really close to winning in another World Cup and in the Copa Americas, so I think it’s time has come. Messi needs the team to keep up with him more because he can’t do it all on his own.”

“This is a never-ending story, my brother,” Alfredo tells him. “It’s time you look for another team. Those Argentinians don’t have what it takes to win. When it counts, their legs get soft and nobody scores. That (Gonzalo) Higuain needs his head checked: he misses the easiest goals when it’s the final, and the same thing happens in the Champions League, both when he was at Real Madrid and now at Juventus.”

“I believe that Argentina is considered a favorite just because of Messi,” Alejandro says. “Because the truth is that as a team they aren’t that extraordinary. They at least need to put (Paulo) Dybala on the field and put aside that foolishness that he can’t play alongside Messi, because if they don’t, Argentina won’t go anywhere.”

“Forget about Argentina,” Ulises interrupts. “This World Cup is Brazil’s and the Golden Boot award is Neymar’s (da Silva). No other team has the Brazilians’ skill and they have been unbeatable for a while now, ever since Dunga was let go as trainer because they weren’t going to go anywhere with him. Neymar definitely doesn’t get rattled when the time comes and I’m sure he’ll be a champion with this team. Plus, they’re coming back with a vengeance after they lost in 2014, so I don’t think they will lose.”

“It’s true, Brazil is good,” Julita says, “but don’t forget Spain, who are also making their mark in the friendlies and kicked Italy out in the qualifiers. This team is also very good, with star players playing nearly every position. What they need is for Diego Costa to score goals with Spain like he does when he plays for Atletico, because if he did there’s no one who could beat the Spanish.”

“Guys,” Abelito says, “don’t forget about France. If we take a look at each and every player, I think they are one of the best bets and they have also really stood out in the exhibition matches, in spite of the line-up having been changed quite a lot.”

“But, it’s the same with France like it is with Argentina,” Alejandro cuts back. “If they weren’t able to win the UEFA European Championship at home, against Portugal which isn’t a particularly great team, and they didn’t even have Cristiano Ronaldo playing that day, then do you really think they can win the World Cup?

In my opinion, that (Antoine) Griezmann is a lot like Higuain, when the game gets critical, he gets nervous and they can’t win the World Cup like that.”

This improvised group didn’t end up agreeing, like what normally happens, and they each passionately bet on their own teams, just like they used to when they discussed baseball in the old days. We will see who’s right as time goes on, or there might even be a surprise and an unexpected team makes it all the way. In this sport, you never know…

  • Published in Sports

If Temer falls, who is going to take his place?

Writing nowadays about Brazil is a problem because…where to begin? There are lots of things going on right now inside the South American giant that demand our attention. Such events certainly show how the Empire is messed up in its own actions aiming for a change in democratically-elected governments and therefore, rooting for governments that follow neoliberal standards.

You may ask yourself: why is still Temer there? Taking into account that his “popularity” fell somewhere between 3% and 7%. Not to mention that 80% of the electorate disapproves his work, even Center-Right voters.

Backed by the U.S., following the orders, he has been loyal to everything Washington has commanded in order to avoid Brazil joining efforts with China and Russia —BRICS members— to spread the positive influence of trade and investment.

Brazil’s subdued economical growth —barely more than 1%— during Temer’s two years in office, was achieved thanks to a severe fiscal adjustment that limited public spending, including those meant for health and education.

Temer implemented a labor reform fought off by labor unions that limited the rights earned decades ago by Brazilian workers. He also insisted on other unpopular reform to change the pension systems that finally did not see the light of day.

The recovery of the Brazilian economy, nonetheless, has not been evident to the population. The number of unemployed citizens grew from 11,4 to 13,7 millions in two years.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office demanded two judicial processes against him, but the Supreme Court was prevented from doing so due to the Chamber of Deputies, where Temer has strong support and has the final word on any demand against the Head of State, closed both cases.

The Prosecutor’s Office is working on a third cause against Temer due to corruption and his two years in office coincided with the leak of a witness testimony who claims to have given high sum of money in cash to the office of a man close to Temer.

However, these sorts of men rarely face trials and go to jail and it happens when they are not useful to the Empire anymore. Others are in jail without substantiated evidence because they are annoying to Washington, and feared by the country’s oligarchy and owners of its wealth. We are talking about former president Inacio Lula da Silva, who has the green light —legally— to run for Brazil’s presidency next October.

Lula should serve a 12-year sentence for confusing crimes, with no substantial evidence against him and handled by even sworn enemies. He has the highest approval and popularity rate and even though he is still in prison, the main political parties of the opposition fear him, including Temer’s.

Temer has thought about running for the office again. But he would only take the job under false pretences. Nevertheless, the strong candidature of Lula, the growing opposition movement and the Empire’s dealings to find a “decent” successor, are against his wishes.

The deaths of disabled people in places where they must have had special care as well as the deaths of young people in a fire inside a detention facility portray the degree of abandonment in which Brazil is immersed in. Not to mention the “illegal” truck drivers’ strike, men who protest against the rising diesel fuel prices.

According to the statement from the Oil Workers’ Federation (FUP), one of the goals of the strike is “to lower the prices of cooking gas and fuel”, and thus, to prevent the privatization of PETROBRAS.

The mobilization, led by FUP and related labor unions, already achieved the resignation of PETROBRAS chairman, Pedro Parente, who “plunged the country into an unprecedented crisis.”

The union members of oil companies announced that cuts and delays will be experienced in four oil refineries and fertilizer plants that are under a sale process.

There is much to be said about Temer. He is clearly backed by the Empire, but a new successor must be found in a hurry. Its faithful and loyal collaborator in the illegal “soft coup” to bring Dilma Rousseff’s government down cannot stand it any longer.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz // CubaSi Translation Staff

TANDARA HELPS LIFT BRAZIL IN AN EPIC AGAINST CHINA

Brazil's Tandara Caixeta led the way with 19 points as her side carved out an epic 3-2 (19-25, 25-23, 27-25, 10-25, 16-14) victory over China in women's third-round action at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League on Tuesday.

It was a result that could have gone either way right until the death and had the crowd inside the Jiangmen Sports Centre screaming to the rafters. But Brazil stole a small break in the last - and held on for dear life with wing spiker Caixeta's heroics being ably supported by middle blocker Adenizia Da Silva( 14 points including seven blocks) and wing spiker Amanda Francisco (13 points).

Brazil coach José Roberto Guimarães wisely saw a Chinese finger touch the ball and questioned the call that decided the match. But there were heroic efforts from both camps across the court.

China's superstar spiker Zhu Ting had stepped up when in mattered against her team's arch-rivals, registering a sensational game-high 34 points that included 27 spikes and five blocks. Her efforts were backed by middle blocker Yuan Xinyue with 16 points and another promising effort from the 18-year-old opposite spiker Li Yingying who picked up 12 points - and plenty of court time.

China coach Lang Ping has been experimenting with her line-up over the course of the first three rounds of the VNL - and even allowed Zhu a break from all action entirely over the first two. But such is the strength of the teams they have drawn for this fourth round - added to the fact that they are playing in front of their faithful fans - that the smart money is on China giving their main stars plenty of chances to shine this week.

Centre of all the attention will of course by the 23-year-old Zhu and she was in the thick of things from the first set, using her incredible reach and leap to punish Brazil with some powerful spikes.

But there's no doubt Brazilian memories still reach back to the Rio Olympics and the marathon 3-2 loss to the Chinese that is now part of volleyball lore.

That China also came in on a four-match winning streak over the South Americans was also reason for them lift, if indeed any more was needed.

Brazil clawed their way back into the match in the second set - an enormous stuff block from Da Silva to make it 9-10 was a highlight - and gradually their defensive work started to gel. It was another disputed call that swayed the third set - right when it looked China's for the taking.

The Brazilians benefited from a ball that looked to graze a fingernail only at set point to China, before edging their rivals 27-25.

But the call only seemed to inspire China, and Zhu especially, as they powered through the fourth.The tension in the last was palpable - and the Brazilians held their nerve.

The reward for Brazil (9-1) is an encounter on Wednesday with fellow table toppers the USA (9-1), while China (5-5)) will next face Russia (6-4).

  • Published in Sports

Brazil: 'I'm Calm, But Outraged,' Lula in 1st Letter Behind Bars

"I'm so grateful for your resistance,” former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio 'Lula' da Silva told his supporters.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio 'Lula' da Silva has released his first public message since being imprisoned at the federal police headquarters in Curitiba, Parana over the past nine days. Addressing supporters through a letter delivered to the president of the Workers' Party encamped outside the prison walls Monday, he said “I've heard your songs. I'm so grateful for your resistance and presence in these acts of solidarity.”

RELATED: Brazil: 'Free Lula!' Protests Continue in Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte

Speaking from his cell, Lula's lawyers continued writing his words. “I'm certain that it won't be long before justice will be worth its name. That is, whomever committed crimes will be punished. And those who did not committ a crime will be absolved. I continue to challenge the Federal Police involved in the Car Wash (investigations), the Public Prosecution involved int he Car Wash (investigations), (judge Sergio) Moro and those involved in my second conviction to prove the crime that they allege that I committed.”

Lula concluded that despite the judicial and mainstream media he has suffered prior to, during and after his conviction, he continues to believe in justice. “Hence, I'm calm, but outraged, as all innocent people are outraged when they are wronged. A big hug and thank you very much.”

The message was read by the Worker's Party President Gleisi Hoffman to Lula's supporters encamped in front of the federal police station in Curitiba.

Lula was sentenced to 12 years and one month in prison on corruption charges by Brazil's Fourth Regional Federal Court. The Supreme Court of Justice rejected two habeas corpus appeals submitted by his defense team.

Legal experts and observers attribute his case to a salacious media campaign coupled with 'lawfare,' where political foes use loopholes in the judicial system to their advantage, neutralizing their opponents.

Despite his conviction and imprisonment, Lula has topped every 2018 electoral poll conducted by Ibope, Vox Populi, Datafolha, Data Poder 360, Instituto Parana, the National Confederation of Transportation/MDA and Ipsos.

Lula's two terms in office were marked by a slew of social programs, lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty and removing the country from the United Nations World Hunger Map. He left office with a record approval rating of 83 percent in 2011, according to Datafolha.

  • Published in World

Venezuela Gov't: 'Lula's Imprisonment Directed by US Empire'

"The aggression against the former Brazilian leader is a continental movement directed by the intelligence services of the United States," the National Assembly said.

Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly (ANC) has approved a resolution demonstrating solidarity with Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the Brazilian people.

RELATED: Brazil: 'Free Lula!' Protests Continue in Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte

Constituent Assembly President Delcy Rodriguez said: "The aggression against the former Brazilian leader is a continental movement directed by the intelligence services of the United States to criminalize social movements against the expansion of the North American empire," Prensa Latina reports.

The head of the Workers' Commission in the ANC, Francisco Torrealba, said: "Working through the continental right-wing United States does not only attack the constitutionality of Venezuela."

The ANC leaders agreed that Lula is being attacked judicially because he represents the progressive option in the Brazilian elections, and his imprisonment is designed to prevent him securing victory at the polls.

During an ordinary session of the ANC, members decided to deliver the resolution to Lula in order to reiterate to Brazilians that Venezuela accompanies them in their struggle for defense of the Constitution and their right to self-determination.

The Brazilian Workers' Party founder was imprisoned this past weekend after Brazil's Supreme Court denied his first habeas corpus plea to remain free while he exhausts his appeals.

Lula was convicted last year on corruption charges in connection with the Operation Car Wash investigation, although he and his lawyers insist he is innocent.

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  • Published in World

Brazil: 'Free Lula!' Protest Continue in Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte

Demonstrators marched through the country's largest city chanting "Free Lula Now!"

Demonstrators, including trade union and political party representatives, marched through Brazil's largest city Sao Paulo late Wednesday chanting “Free Lula!”. The protesters are a continuation of the series of protest, which began last week, calling for former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio 'Lula' da Silva be freed from prison.

RELATED: Brazil: Lawmakers Fear for Lula's Safety, Health in Prison, Call for Probe Into Helicopter Audio

Adding to the hundreds of persons, who protested in Sao Paulo, thousands more, including members of social movements and unions, also took to the streets of Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais state, to demand Lula's release.

Minas Gerais state congressman Rogerio Correia, said “only the people are capable of overcoming the crises that the 2016 coup brought to Brazil. It's impressive how more and more people are attuned to the elite's plot and showing their discontent by defending Lula, fulfilling the Constitution and democracy.”

Lula was sentenced to 12 years and one month in prison on corruption charges by Brazil's Fourth Regional Federal Court. The Supreme Court of Justice rejected two habeas corpus appeals submitted by his defense team. Legal experts and observers attribute his case to a salacious media campaign coupled with 'lawfare,' where political foes use loopholes in the judicial system to their advantage, neutralizing their opponents.

After delivering a rousing speech on the grounds of the ABC Steelworkers Union headquarters in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Paulo on Saturday, Lula was hoisted in the air by hordes of supporters. He then complied with the arrest warrant issued by Judge Sergio Moro and was transported by federal authorities to Curitiba last Sunday.

Amid concerns for public safety, Marshalls of the Federal Police Union of Parana requested that the former head of state be "immediately transferred" to a military prison. The Workers' Party (PT) and Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) have also expressed concern for the health and safety of the former president as he remains in prison.

  • Published in World

Brazil: Social Movements to Rally for Lula

The activities, which will be held all over the country, are scheduled to run from April 8 to May 1. The Popular Brazil and People Without Fear (Povo Sem Medo) movements released a letter stating their intention to participate in demonstrations against the incarceration of the Lula.

Lula turned up a detention center in Curitiba in compliance with a federal warrant demanding his arrest to begin serving a 12-year sentence for corruption – a warrant both Lula and his lawyers insist is illegal.

During an exclusive interview with teleSUR, Joa Pedro Stedile, leader and co-founder of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) says the number of people taking part in the vigil outside the Federal Police headquarters will increase in the next hours.

Stedile said the group intends to maintain a presence at the are indefinite. He also added that mention another group of Lula supporters will establish a permanent vigil in Rio de Janeiro, to be followed by large demonstrations at Copa Cabana beach on Sunday as well as outside the Supreme Court in Brazilia on April 11.

The gathering, MST leader said, will pay homage to Lula and also honor the memory of Mariele Franco, recently murdered black feminist activist. Stedile urges international social movement to join the cause, asking the groups to organize demonstrations outside Brazilian embassies worldwide from April 11 to 14.

The slogan for the demonstrations will be “Mariele vive; Lula livre,” the social movement chief said, adding “we won't rest until our leader Lula is free again.”

Both Popular Brazil and People Without Fear social movements explained that the actions against Lula are similar to political coups, which started in 2015 with the ousting of ex-President Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached.

“The detention of Lula is an essential part of the coup that is ongoing against the Brazilian people. The conservative offensive that led the impeachment against President Dilma, led to the murder of Marielle Franco, also manifested in the prison of President Lula.

“Lula is a political prisoner, his imprisonment inaugurates a new coup cycle and challenges us to expand our capacity for struggle and resistance,” the release said.

The planned activities of the social movements are:

April 8: Defend Lula Libre in Rio de Janeiro.

April 11: National Day of Mobilization in Defence of Lula Libre.

April 11: Demonstration at all Brazilian embassies abroad.

April 10 and 11: Act with jurists in Brasilia.

April 17: National Day of Mobilization against Red Globo.

April 26: Act in defence of Petrobras in Rio de Janeiro.

May 1: Day of the worker in defence of Rights and Freedom for Lula.

  • Published in World

Minrex: Cuba expresses solidarity and support for Lula


Declaration from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' director general for Latin America, Eugenio Martínez Enríquez.

The Federal Republic of Brazil's Federal Supreme Court rejected the habeas corpus appeal presented by the defense team of the country's former President and leader of the Workers Party, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva.

As has just been confirmed, this decision opens the door to Lula's possible immediate detention, an act that would be extremely serious.

The decision is a new expression of the ongoing, unjust campaign against Lula, against the Workers Party, and progressive, left forces in Brazil.
Polls indicate that Lula is the overwhelming favorite in upcoming Presidential elections. Photo: TELESUR

Lula continues to enjoy broad popular support, international recognition and affection, as a result of the successes of his administration that benefited the vast majority, who are now facing an attempt to deny them the right to elect him again as President, to open the way for neoliberal forces and reverse his accomplishments.

Once again, we express our solidarity and support of compañero Lula.

  • Published in Cuba
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