Cuba helps put out fire at U.S. Guantanamo naval base: authority

Units from the Cuban army helped put out a fire which broke out last week on the perimeter of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in the southeast of the island, local media reported Wednesday.

The official daily Granma quoted officials as saying that Cuba provided personnel, vehicles and a helicopter that dropped water from the air to extinguish the flames.

The situation, which saw the evacuation of a part of the American personnel, was brought under control on Feb. 22, despite the "logistical and practical complications" due to the "illegal" U.S. occupation of Cuban territory.

"In recent years, a level of communication has been maintained between Cuban and American authorities for emergency situations on the Naval Base," wrote Granma.

This facility was opened in 1903 and constitutes the oldest U.S. military base on foreign soil.

Cuba has repeatedly demanded the return of this territory, considering it an illegal occupation, where Washington has maintained a prison since 2002.

Despite pressure to close it, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 30 to maintain the prison open.

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Around 400 Cuban Athletes to Compete in the 2918 Barranquilla Games

Cuba has 396 athletes that classified in 219 competitions for the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, as reported by Antonio Miranda, director for High Performance at the Cuban Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation.

The expert said the places for Cuban athletes were distributed among 218 men and 179 women that will compete in 24 disciplines in the aforementioned Colombian city from July 19 to August 3.

Miranda explained that the goal is to include approximately 500 athletes, a number that exceeds in more than 20 the places in the previous edition of the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz .

For that purpose, there are still classification tournaments left in several disciplines, such as taekwondo, boxing, karate, wrestle, racquetball and dive, which will be fought in March.

The last places in swimming, athletics, tennis and triathlon will be disputed in June.

The official announced that the games in Barranquilla will grant tickets in 15 sports for the 2019 Pan-American Games in Lima.

  • Published in Sports

Internet: Who Benefits from the U.S. Plans for Cuba?

A "task force" is a U.S. military term and defines a temporary unit settled to work in an operation or specific mission.

Following the guidelines outlined by president Donald Trump in his Presidential Memo of last June 16th, the U.S. government announced in late January the creation of a new Internet Task Force dedicated to subvert the internal order in Cuba.

According to the official statement issued by the Department of State, that Operative Group is made of government and non-government officials, with the objective of "promoting the free flow of information" in the neighboring Island.

Why aren’t we surprised? It’s because we Cubans will never forget our history. How to do so before machinery designed to manufacture subversive projects aimed at a “change of régime” and the permanent destruction of the Cuban Revolution?

For decades, along the United States –Cuba feud, sentences like to "work for the freedom of speech" and "expand the access to Internet in Cuba" has been used by Washington to mask destabilizing plans with the use of new technologies.


Certainly, these subversive plans are not new; they are from many years ago. Apparently, they present projects that might seem attractive, but in their core there is a meddling character, a cheating and subtle attempt of breaking the political system established in Cuba for more than half a century.

We Cubans know well that several North American agencies use the social networks as facades for the propaganda, the deceit, the massive messaging and the construction of fake stories. We already saw it in other countries of the world: in the first stage supposedly "regular" messages are sent like sport news, music and culture; and later they begin to introduce others with marked political content that encourage civil turmoil.

As for the files on the entities in charge of promoting the Internet Task Force against Cuba are scandalously shameful.

Internet: Who benefits from the U.S. plans for Cuba?

Certainly, it’s revolting that according to the official presentation, this group created by Washington has the task of analyzing "the technological challenges and the opportunities of widening Internet access in Cuba to help the Cuban people to enjoy a free and not regulated flow of information".

If the concern were true huge, why don't they explain that while a brutal and permanent media campaign tries to accuse the Cuban State of not increasing Internet service and other communication services; the United States blockade against Cuba prevents a greater and better access to Internet?

With many technological limitations, there’s a sovereign policy passed by the Cuban government that establishes the increasing computerization of society. There is still a long road ahead in the use of new technologies; but let nobody in Washington think that Cubans are a naïve people.

Internet: Who benefits from the U.S. plans for Cuba?

Cuba has repeatedly denounce that aggressions like these and other ways of unconventional war will never be able to stop the Cuban government's efforts to use new technologies seeking the common well-being, the economic, cultural and social development of its nation.

The new Internet Task Force dedicated to subvert Cuba’s domestic order is nothing but another chapter in the violent and shameful politics of the United States against the Cuban nation.

Washington put together this task force in a moment that firm steps are taken toward the computerization of society, with a vision that gives priority to the social access and protects Cuba’s sovereignty, despite the economic limitations.

As a sovereign decision, without conditions, or impositions, the Cuban government has reiterated that it will continue moving forward its strategy of computerization of society and the gradual increase of Internet access for the citizens.

Cuba and Chile hold migration talks

Cuba and Chile held their first bilateral Round of Migration Talks this week in Santiago de Chile, which were highlighted by the island's Foreign Ministry.

Working sessions held on Monday by the two parties were held in a frank and cooperative environment, the Ministry said as cited by PL news agency.

Both sides considered the current migration flow between the two countries and affirmed their willingness and commitment to take joint action to guarantee safe, orderly and regular migration.

The Cuban and the Chilean delegations also agreed to the need of fighting illegal events, such as smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons.

During the talks, both parties began the negotiation of a Memo of understanding in migration issues.

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Tributo 2018, First Cuban Smoked Rum

Tributo 2018 is the first Cuban smoked rum, produced in a limited edition with only 1,500 bottles for the whole world.

This edition of Tributo, honor the experts's contribution of a barrel for the rum, allowing to discover nuances given by the barrel wood. It also has a special case that looks like the white oak wood, said Cristiasn Barre, director-general of the company Havana Club International Inc., during the presentation.

This year, he explained, we will expand the production of the product and reach 21 countries, but not the amount of bottles.

During the presentation ceremony, held in the context of the 20th edition of the Habanos Festival, which is developing in this capital until March 2, Abel Alvarez, sales director to the company, highlighted that the rum was a jewel among the Havana Club rums, designed to be tasted while smoking Habanos.

We have great expectations, based on the success of the editions Tributo 2016 and Tributo 2017, he said before specifying that there were 330 bottles had been set aside for Cuba.

Cuban rum expert Asbel Morales announced that there would be new surprises in 2019, especially due to the emphasis we will make on the making of the rum.

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Carnival Cruise Line To Offer New Cruises To Cuba From Miami In 2019

Carnival Cruise Line will offer 17 new sailings to Cuba aboard Carnival Sensation in 2019.  The five-day Cuba voyages will be the line's first to operate round-trip from Miami and feature a day-long call in Havana as well as stops at popular Caribbean and Bahamian ports,  including Grand Turk, Grand Cayman, Nassau, and the private destinations of Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays.

The voyages complement a series of voyages to Cuba departing from Tampa aboard Carnival Paradise taking place in 2018-19.

"Our inaugural cruises to Cuba aboard Carnival Paradise from Tampa were met with exceptional guest response and we're thrilled to expand upon the program with our first Cuba cruises from Miami featuring Havana and some of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean and The Bahamas," said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. "Cuba is a sought-after destination and we're delighted to provide our guests with even more opportunities to experience and explore this fascinating island," she added. 

Carnival Sensation's Cuba schedule includes:

  • four five-day sailings to Havana and Grand Turk departing May 20, Sept. 9, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16, 2019
  • five five-day voyages featuring Havana, Nassau and Half Moon Cay departing June 17, July 15, Aug. 12, Sept. 23, and Nov. 4, 2019
  • a five-day cruise to Havana, Nassau and Princess Cays departing April 22, 2019
  • seven five-day cruises to Havana and Grand Cayman departing May 6, June 3, July 1 and 29, Aug. 26, Oct. 7 and Dec. 2, 2019

The 2,052-passenger Carnival Sensation underwent an extensive multi-million-dollar dry dock last year that added a variety of popular food and beverage concepts, including Guy's Burger Joint developed in tandem with Food Network star Guy Fieri, the poolside RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar, BlueIguana Cantina serving authentic tacos and burritos, the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar, and the Cherry on Top sweets shop.

These complement the ship's diverse array of onboard features, including a WaterWorks aqua park, a Serenity adults-only retreat, 24-hour pizzeria, fun supervised programs for kids in three age groups, and the Seuss at Sea program operated exclusively with Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Guests sailing on Carnival's Cuba cruises can select from nearly 20 different shore excursion experiences that showcase the island's vibrant culture, majestic beauty and centuries-old architectural landmarks.  A variety of Cuban-themed activities and entertainment, including the sizzling A mor Cubano:  A Caribbean Dance Romance Playlist Productions show, Havana-inspired deck parties, trivia contests and salsa lessons, are also offered.  There's also a lecturer on board who discusses the country's rich history and culture.

The visits to Havana comply with regulations of the U.S. Department of Treasury that permit travel operators to transport approved travelers to Cuba to engage in activities as defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Foreign Assets Control.

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SA needs Cuban medical model

In July, 1,000 more South African medical students who have spent five years studying medicine in Cuba will return to complete their sixth year, graduate and start practising as doctors.

If I had my way, I would send them all to the Eastern Cape, train them for their final year and employ them in the province once they graduate.

These are precisely the kinds of doctors needed throughout the province and country, because Cuba's excellent medical schools pursue a comprehensive approach that focuses equally on the four pillars of medicine - disease prevention, health promotion, treatment and rehabilitative medicine.

The Cuban system produces well-rounded specialist family physicians who are appropriately trained for South Africans' medical and health needs. They are trained to practise in diverse communities, from the cities to the deep rural areas.

The system also produces super-specialists, such as Dr Khanyisa Makamba, who was among the first cohort of South Africans to be trained in Cuba and subsequently went on to specialise in urology in SA. He is now head of urology at the Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital. He could practise anywhere in the world but he has a strong social commitment and he chooses to use his skills in his home province to help the many public sector patients who cannot afford private medical care.

SA can and should learn from Cuba, where 80% of medical practitioners are comprehensive or specialist family physicians and only 20% are specialists in other areas of medicine or are super-specialists. In SA it is the reverse, with many in private practice or emigrating.

Cuba has eight medical practitioners per 1,000 population, while most westernised countries have two to three per 1,000. SA has 0.77 per 1,000, with 50% of the 0.77 practising in the private sector.

SA sent medical students to Cuba in the first instance because the country is simply not producing enough doctors. The Department of Health looked at the number of doctors produced by universities and realised that producing fewer than 2,000 doctors per year was not matching the rapid population growth and these numbers could never reach a ratio of two doctors per 1,000 population. The department therefore increased the number of doctors by sending many more students than in previous years to study in Cuba from 2012, as per the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration.

There was much resistance from us as medical academics regarding sending students to Cuba. One of the major reasons for this is that training in SA is mainly suited for practice in the West, hence graduates are able to work internationally. What is not adequately addressed is whether they are trained to meet the health needs of the majority in SA. And what does the majority require?

In developing the curriculum for the country's newest medical school, Nelson Mandela University has taken great pains to address this question. What has informed its curriculum, which also informed Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's decision to have our students trained in Cuba, is the need for medical students to be trained in a comprehensive manner. That is, not only with a curative or treatment emphasis, which is the main approach in SA, but with an equal emphasis on health promotion, disease prevention, treatment and rehabilitative medicine.

As a paediatric cardiologist and health sciences academic, I was sceptical about this approach until I visited Cuba in 2017 and the penny dropped regarding the appropriateness of comprehensive medical training to SA's needs. The efficiency and professionalism of their system speaks for itself in Cuba's health statistics: life expectancy in Cuba for the population is superb at about 80 years, while SA's is about 60 years; infant mortality is two per 1,000, while SA's is 30-40 per 1,000.

How did they get it right? Through their comprehensive healthcare system, based on the four levels of care, everyone in the health system focuses on advancing health rather than only on treating disease.

Home-based care and local clinics are efficiently aligned to polyclinics, or what are called community health centres in SA. Every polyclinic has a section of complementary medicine - including acupuncture, homeopathy and traditional medicine - and each patient is advised on the relative merits.

Every polyclinic has as a basic minimum a comprehensive or specialist family physician-nurse team and a range of health professionals, as well as necessary equipment, including X-ray machines, certain laboratory facilities and ultrasound.

These are efficiently matched with secondary hospitals (district, regional and tertiary hospitals in SA) and national institutes that specialise in specific diseases, such as neurological diseases and oncology.

There are similarities between the structure of the Cuban public health system and SA's system, but there are also stark differences, notably in Cuba's far superior level of efficiency, professionalism, staffing, equipment and national emphasis on the four levels of care.

To cover all four levels, the entire health team plays a key role, starting at the community level where it is the role of community health workers to visit every individual in their area and to ensure that every individual goes for a medical check-up at least once a year, and to identify any health issues and why, for example, they have not gone to the clinic for their regular check-up.

The Cuban community health workers know each individual personally; one community health worker looks after about 50 people in his or her community, and they know every person's health status, disease status, medication, the names of the pills, and whether they are running out of medication. They educate the patients about their health, their disease condition and the medication they are taking.

They work with a team of health professionals, from doctors and physiotherapists to psychologists and dieticians to focus on all four levels of care.

In SA, with National Health Insurance in the wings, the country has to look at new health system models, such as Cuba's. While SA is well recognised for training world-class healthcare practitioners and it is important to maintain the country's high standards, it should also introduce new populationwide approaches to health. This includes increasing taxes on substances that can undermine health, such as tobacco, alcohol and sugar.

Cuba's health system model is working. The death rate in that country is seven per 1,000. Brazil implemented the Cuban system in the early 2000s and its death rate dropped from 9.5 per 1,000 to six per 1,000 in one year (from 2002 to 2003). It now has a better life rate than the UK and the US (nine deaths per 1,000). SA's death rate is 17 per 1,000, except for the 16% of its population on private medical aids, whose life expectancy is comparable to the West.

Cuba is spending about $500 per capita per year on health, while SA spends $1,000 per capita per year. The US spend is 3,000 per capita and other First World countries are spending $1,000-3,000.

In terms of GDP, most countries spend 10%-15% on health, with the US at 15%. SA spends 8% and only half of this is spent on the 84% of the population that is without private medical aid.

The private medical aid industry has a R160bn turnover per year in SA, and this is spent on only 16% of the population.

As a nation SA has to start looking after the health of the 84% of the population in far more comprehensive, holistic ways and the four pillar system is the best population-wide and budget spend approach.

SA should therefore embrace the medical students when they return from Cuba and ensure they get the best possible reintegration assistance into medical schools throughout SA.

There is so much more SA can do to improve population health, quality of life and length of life, and these students can help the country to achieve it.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuban Women Federation Announces Call to Conference

Cuban Women Federation (FMC) Secretary-General Teresa Amarelle announced that it would publish, on March 8, its call to the organization''s 10th Conference.

In the event, scheduled from March 5-8, 2019, the members will discuss issues as inequality, young women in Cuba, the FMC role in the process to update the Cuban economic system, and the work by the organization in communities.

Amarelle urged all women to celebrate their international day on March 8, hosted by the central province of Sancti Spiritus, according to a media report.

The official said that the organization would call the population on the same date to participate in the general elections on March 11.

Currently, the FMC has 91 percent of affiliation throughout the country.

  • Published in Cuba
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