Travellers’ Choice 2018 names Varadero among the best beaches of the World

Varadero —Cuba’s prime beach resort— was elected the third best beach of the world according to a list revealed by the 2018 TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards.

This portal revealed that such award is based on the opinion of millions users from different nationalities during the last twelve months.

Varadero was the third place among the top 25 beaches of the world just behind Grace Bay (Turks and Caicos), and Baia Do Sancho (Brazil).

Tours on catamaran, sport fishing, diving, and excursions, are some other options visitors may enjoy in Varadero, about 120 km east of Havana.

The so-called spa town treasures 52 hotels according to data released in November by the delegation of the Ministry of Tourism in the province of Matanzas.

Cuba welcomed 4.7 million tourists last year and expectations are 5 million foreign visitors for the first time in history in 2018.

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

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ETECSA Enhances Connectivity to the Rest of the World with SES Networks

Cubans and visitors to Cuba will have additional access to reliable and uninterrupted connectivity throughout the main island of Cuba as ETECSA, Cuba’s national telecommunications operator, signed a deal with SES Networks for satellite services, SES announced today.

“Our unique network capabilities and suite of managed services allows ETECSA to guarantee their customers access to the best satellite internet technology available.”

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SES Networks will augment ETECSA’s existing terrestrial infrastructure with its high-performance fibre-like medium earth orbit (MEO) capacity and improve connectivity for end-customers of the Cuban operator.

“By working with SES Networks, we are ensuring that our customers across the main island will have a new way to access high-performing Internet at all times through this innovative satellite system. Our collaboration with SES Networks highlights ETECSA’s mission of providing telecommunications services that meet the current and future needs of Cuban citizens and our customers, as well as contributing to the country's socio-economic growth,” said Ing. Mayra Arevich Marín, executive president of ETECSA.

“The opportunity to work with organisations such as ETECSA that are consistently looking for ways to bring more reliable connectivity to their people is incredibly rewarding,” said Steve Collar, CEO of SES Networks. “Our unique network capabilities and suite of managed services allows ETECSA to guarantee their customers access to the best satellite internet technology available.”

ETECSA provides public telecommunications services throughout the territory of the Republic of Cuba.

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Murillo and Cabrisas receive Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia

Marino Murillo Jorge, a vice president of the Council of Ministers and Head of the Permanent Commission for Implementation and Development of Cuba’s Economic and Social Policy Guidelines, received the Deputy Prime Ministerand Minister of Interior of the Slovak Republic, Robert Kaliňák, on Monday, February 19.

During the meeting, the two authorities exchanged on the importance of continuing to strengthen mutual knowledge in their respective areas, and develop projects in sectors of common interest. They also addressed topics related to public administration, including the optimization of processes and structures and the possibilities of applying efficient management systems.

Participating on the Cuban side were the Minister of Finance and Prices, Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, and other officials.

The distinguished visitor was later received by the Minister of Economy and Planning Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, a vice president of the Council of Ministers, with whom he reviewed the state of bilateral economic and financial relations.

With the participation of the Slovak Finance Minister, Peter Kazimir, and Health Minister, Tomás Drucker, both parties confirmed the satisfactory progress of the agreements signed in the energy and health sectors. Specifically, they referred to the progress in the reconstruction of block six of the Mariel thermal power plant, and the Felton thermoelectric plant. They also noted results in the first steps of the application of the Cuban drug Heberprot-P in Slovak patients.

The Minister of Finance and Prices, Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, Minister of Energy and Mines, Alfredo López Valdés, Deputy Minister of Public Health, Marcia Cobas Ruiz, and other authorities were present during the encounter.

At the end of the meeting, the Action Plan for the year 2018 was signed by Ministers Lina Pedraza and Peter Kazimir.

  • Published in Cuba

Raul Castro receives US lawmakers on visit to Cuba

Cuban President Raul Castro received a bipartisan delegation of US lawmakers, who are visiting the island with the alleged "acoustic attacks" against US diplomats on their agenda.

"During the meeting they discussed matters of interest to both countries," the Cuban government said in a statement.

The delegation, led by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, arrived in Cuba Sunday to address various issues including the mysterious supposed attacks in Havana.

The issue has hit US-Cuba relations, with Washington withdrawing half of its diplomats from Cuba and expelling 15 officials from the Cuban embassy in the US capital.

The Cuban foreign ministry's US director, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, met with the congressmen Monday assuring them that "no evidence that attacks occurred against US diplomats in Cuba exists," according to his deputy Johana Tablada.

Accompanying Leahy on the visit are senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Michigan's Gary Peters, along with representatives Kathy Castor of Florida, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Susan Davis of California.

Leahy has been one of the most active politicians inside the Capitol in advocating the improvement of US-Cuba relations, which defrosted somewhat in 2014 under Barack Obama after half a century of tension.

The US delegation will end its stay in Cuba on Wednesday with a press conference.

At least 24 Americans, a mix of US embassy personnel and their dependents -- suffered headaches, hearing loss, disorientation and some loss of cognitive ability between November 2016 and August 2017.

Some recovered from the most acute symptoms, but the severity, range and recovery time was mixed and it's not yet clear whether any have suffered permanent injury.

US press reports suggest that FBI agents dispatched to Havana have been unable to find any evidence to support a theory that the staff were attacked with an acoustic or sonic weapon.

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Cuba Prepares For March 11 Elections

Cubas 24,470 polling stations will be administered by more than 200,000 polling stations for the country's March 11 national elections. 

Cuba is assuring the quality and transparency of its upcoming elections by training some 200,000 people to administer the over 24,000 polling stations where voting will take place March 11.

RELATED: 
US Congressmen Arrive in Cuba to Address 'Sonic Attacks'

In total, there will be 24,470 polls set up throughout the country for citizens to cast their ballots, 141 of which will be set up to attend to an above average quantity of voters. 

National Electoral Commission spokesperson, Marina Capo Ribalra, says the stations will include full lists of candidates, ballots and computer equipment to facilitate people's voting.

Cuba's 8 million people will vote for 605 national parliamentary delegates and 1,265 representatives to represent its 15 provinces in the Popular Power Assembly. 

The country's current parliament has the world's largest number of women representatives. Candidates for this parliamentary cycle are over 40 percent mestizo or Black. 

Cuba's newest president will later be elected by a parliamentary committee.

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St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

The 2017 St. Petersburg-Habana Yacht Race was celebrated as more than a competitive regatta to Cuba’s capital city of Havana.

The relaunch of the maritime competition cancelled since 1959 was hailed as a reflection of the detente started under President Barack Obama.

The event returns for a second consecutive year on Feb. 26 and again mirrors the political climate, but on the opposite end of the spectrum.

More than 70 vessels competed in last year’s event.

This year, 20 will start the journey, beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and ending 278 miles later at Havana’s Marina Hemingway.

"We were hoping for more but the political scene caused by our president impacts what happens," said George Pennington, race chairman and regatta general of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club that hosts the race.

No policy has been passed forbidding Americans from participating in athletic competitions in Cuba, under which the regatta falls. But relations are more strained under President Donald Trump than his predecessor.

For instance, Trump has banned Americans from staying at hotels managed by the Cuban government, a decision limiting lodging options in a nation where the armed forces control up to 70 percent of the tourism industry.

Plus, the State Department issued a travel warning on Cuba due to the mysterious health attacks against American diplomats in Havana.

These decrees coupled with the Trump’s harsh words for the former Cold War enemy, according to leaders in the Cuba travel industry, have been enough to diminish the number of Americans visiting the island in recent months.

The "new approach of the Trump administration to U.S.-Cuba policy based on rumors and unproven accusations" has created enough confusion and fear to chase away boaters, said Vicente Amor, Cuba-born vice president of the Tampa travel company ASC International USA working with the yacht race.

Those "accusations" to which he referred are the health attacks. Amor is among those who believes the Cuban government’s assertion that they did not target the American government workers.

Tony Barrett, one of 11 captains who competed in 2017 and will do so again this year, admits politics likely played a role for some who won’t return. But not, he said, in all cases.

That the 2017 race was the first since 1959 likely drew increased interest from those who were not avid racers but rather just wanted to be part of history, said Barrett, who will helm the 33-foot Soverel yacht named Back Off.

"They could have lined up 150 last year if they allowed it," he said.

He predicts that in time the race will average 30 to 40 yachts like other local distance races. St. Petersburg’s 50th Regata del Sol al Sol to Mexico’s Isla Mujeres held this April, for instance, currently has 30 entrants.

Regardless, chairman Pennington promised the Havana race will be back next year, though "cannot state in what format it will be."

Due to the lighter lineup, competition classes will be limited to spinnaker and cruising. In 2017, there were also non-spinnaker and multi-hauling classes.

Politics has a history of affecting local yacht races to Cuba.

The first St. Petersburg-Habana Yacht Race in 1930 featured 11 boats and was meant to be a promotional event to help St. Petersburg recover from the Great Depression. It grew to include more than 30 vessels a year and succeeded in bringing international acclaim to the city. But the contest was canceled after the rise of communism in Cuba.

From the late 1990s through the early 2000s, a different race known as the Havana Cup was run from St. Petersburg to Havana and drew more than 200 vessels each year. But that was cancelled when — under political pressure from hardline members of the exile community — the U.S. government issued cease-and-desist orders to the event’s organizers.

Among the regular entrants in the Havana Cup was Barrett, who said that during those trips he made friends in Cuba. But it was not until last year when the St. Petersburg-Habana Race returned that he went back to the island.

While there, he stopped at a restaurant he once frequented and whose owner was a friend. Despite it being 16 years since Barrett last ate there, the owner recognized him and called common friends to join them for drinks.

"We were a little grayer, but it felt like we’d never missed a day," Barrett said. "The people in Cuba are so friendly. I can never get over that."

  • Published in Sports

Cuba's Sanchez Brings The Boom To Open Cerro Pelado Women's Tournament

Home-nation representative Yudari SANCHEZ (CUB) was magnificent on the first day of women’s wrestling at the Granma Y Cerro Pelado, earning three early-stoppage wins at 68 KG.

It was a quick, first-period fall over Saidy Loena CHAVEZ (HON) for Sanchez to begin the day. She then reeled off technical fall victories over Soleimy CORABALLO (VEN) and Yariannys MARIN (CUB) to position herself a single win away from the gold medal.

Sanchez, a junior world silver medalist and U23 world bronze medalist last year, takes on Diana MIRANDA (MEX) in tomorrow afternoon’s session. Miranda was a fifth-place finisher at the 2015 World Championships and will no doubt be a tough out for Sanchez.

Montero was upset in her last-of-four round-robin matches by Maria FERNANDA (CUB), 4-1.

Montero, a recent Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix bronze medalist, completed her tournament with a 3-1 record. Both Fernanda and 2016 Pan American bronze medalist Alejandra ROMERO (MEX) can finish 3-1 with wins tomorrow and force criteria to determine the 57 KG champion.

Cuba has two more women who are the only undefeated wrestlers left in their respective round-robin brackets. Returning Cerro Pelado silver medalist Milaimys MARIN (CUB) can take the 76 KG gold with a win over 2017 junior Pan American champion Mabelkis CAPOTE (CUB). Similarly, Hangelen LLANES (CUB) needs a win over 2018 Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix bronze medalist and six-time Pan American medalist Yakelin ESTORNELLA (CUB) to finish unscathed.

The remaining four weight classes, while also round-robin in nature, will feature pseudo gold-medal matches between unbeaten women tomorrow.

Two-time Pan American champion and London Olympian Kelsey CAMPBELL (USA) impressed with a pair of shutout wins at 59 KG. Next, she meets up with the talented Dayselis RODRIGUEZ (CUB), winner-take all.

At 53 KG, three-time Pan American bronze medalist Betzabeth Angelica ARGUELLO VILLEGAS (VEN)
seeks perfection against Amanda HERNADEZ (CUB).

Dual Cuba-on-Cuba finals round out the list of gold-medal contenders in women’s wrestling. 2016 junior Pan American champion Yusneylys GUZMAN (CUB) will battle last year’s Cerro Pelado bronze medalist Leanne MENDOZA (CUB) at 59 KG. Lesser known Cubans Yayneli SANZ (CUB) and Laura HERIN (CUB) will vie for the 55 KG crown.

The women’s wrestling day two session will begin at 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday. Complete results and a live stream of all the action can be found at unitedworldwrestling.org.

RESULTS: http://uww.io/4gTea

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U.S.’s ‘Cuba Internet Task Force’ exposed as attack on Cuban sovereignty

Washington, D.C. — This Workers World reporter was able to intervene in favor of socialist Cuba as the new Cuba Internet Task Force held its inaugural public meeting on Feb. 7 in the U.S. State Department headquarters here.

The task force’s conclusions are set up to promote the same violations of Cuba’s sovereignty practiced since Cuban revolutionaries toppled the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship in 1959.

Those U.S. tactics, aimed at regime change, have failed. The mission description of the State Department’s task force admits its goals in euphemistic language: “The task force will examine the technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba including through [U.S.] federal government support of programs and activities that encourage freedom of expression through independent media and internet freedom.” This means the U.S. aims to encourage those hostile to the Cuban government to use the internet for these goals.

It’s no surprise the U.S. Agency for Inter­national Development sits on the task force. USAID contracted Alan Gross to install military grade covert communication devices in Cuba in 2009. Gross was arrested in December 2009 and spent 5 years of a 15-year sentence in a Cuban prison.

The U.S. government initiated and funded the TV/Radio/Internet propaganda media, given the misappropriated name of Cuba’s national hero, José Martí. This media group has a seat on the task force, as does its oversight agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Initially, 10 slots for 3-minute public comments were planned for the Feb. 7 public meeting. Five speakers of the original 10 opposed the task force objectives and its attack on Cuban sovereignty.

WW reporter speaks at meeting

Besides covering the public meeting, Workers World participated; this reporter’s remarks are published here:

“Even after the last presidential election, Pew Research polls demonstrated that 75 percent of people in the U.S. support diplomatic relations with Cuba and 73 percent support ending the U.S. blockade of Cuba. I am one of them. The statistics hold for Cubans in the U.S., too. One hundred and ninety-one of 193 countries voted to oppose the blockade just last November at the United Nations General Assembly.

“The Federal Register announcement says the purpose of the Cuba Internet Task Force is ‘to examine technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba.’

“Have any of you been to Cuba? When you go, you will see as I have with my own eyes the Cuban people communicating using smartphones at the expanding number of hotspots. They are talking with friends and relatives in the U.S. and other countries. Home internet is beginning. Public notice is given about the plans for reducing internet prices. And the prices really do go down. Cubans use Facebook and Twitter and email.

“In 2009, I was with a group of British union officials in Havana when their cell phone rang — their phones worked in Cuba, but mine did not. Canadian phones worked in Cuba. Now my phone works in Cuba, too. The Cuban telecom company ETECSA has agreements with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and Google. Those agreements became possible when this government — not the Cuban government — this government stopped blocking them.

“After 120 years, the United States must come to grips with the fact that Cuba does not belong to the United States. How is it proper to sit in the U.S. State Department and discuss this matter as though Cuba is not a sovereign country?

“Do you want to assess challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access? Let’s start with my city, Detroit. The FCC reported as recently as 2015 that 40 percent of my city’s residents have no access to the internet. Let’s use the budget for this Task Force and the previous radio/TV and internet regime change projects dreamed up in Washington for infrastructure to bring quality, affordable internet access to all in cities like Detroit and rural areas, too.

“So to improve internet access in Cuba, negotiate with the Cuban government in a respectful and equal way, end the blockade and travel restrictions, and return the occupied Guantánamo territory to the Cuban people.”

  • Published in Cuba
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