Alicia Alonso Willing to Strengthen Ballet in Latin America

Havana, Apr 6 (Prensa Latina) Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso said thar today it is a priority to increase the presence of the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) in Latin American countries and show the skills of the region in ballet.

Alonso just returned from a tour across Costa Rica and El Salvador, where the BNC performed under her direction and was given the Doctor Honoris Causa degrees at the universities named after the two countries.

Presidents Luis Guillermo Solis, from Costa Rica, and Salvador Sanchez Ceren, from El Salvador, attended the BNC performances starred by Viengsay Valdes, Grettel Morejon, Sadaise Arencibia, Anette Delgado, Dani Hernandez, Rafael Quenedit, Patricio Reve and Raul Abreu, amid others.

During a press conference at the BNC headquarters in Havana, Alonso appreciated all the expressions of gratitude given to her and the BNC, which in her view moved the audience in the two countries with works like the second act of Giselle and a piece of the classic Don Quixote.

The BNC will perform at Mella Theater in Havana city next Saturday and Sunday, during La Huella de España Festival, an event chaired by Alonso.

  • Published in Culture

ALBA Countries Agree to Strengthen Regional Integration

Caracas, March 6 (Prensa Latina) ALBA-TCP member countries agreed to work with the purpose of strengthening the unity and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean and establishing conditions to guarantee the economic growth of this Latin American bloc.

This was proclaimed by Caracas Declaration at the conclusion of the 14th Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America - Peoples' Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP), which was held on Sunday at the Miraflores Palace, headquarters of the Government of Venezuela.

The Alliance is composed of eight countries, with two special guests and three observers. The full members are Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.

Special guests include Suriname and Saint Lucia, while observers include Haiti, Iran, and Syria.

The unity and regional integration of Latin America and the Caribbean is an urgent need in this complex environment. ALBA-TCP, along with blocs such as MERCOSUR, UNASUR, CARICOM, and others that regained their leading role in the last decade, should continue to contribute to regional integration.

'The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) is our most precious work. It is the mechanism to forge unity in diversity through political agreement. The Community has had to face the resistance of the defenders of failed Pan-Americanism. We must preserve it,' the statement stresses.

  • Published in World

Observers Praise Transparency, Deny Fraud in Ecuador Elections

Without evidence, opposition candidates have accused the government of trying to meddle with the election results, whipping up discontent.

Observers from international organizations have reported that Ecuador's elections Sunday were transparent and asked Ecuadoreans to calmly wait for the final results, as opposition candidates have launched accusations of fraud and threatened destabilization if the left-wing front-runner Lenin Moreno wins in the first round.

RELATED: Sore Loser? Ecuador's Opposition Candidate Says It's Fraud if Moreno Wins

The electoral mission of the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, said that there was no attempted fraud during the final count of votes for the presidential election.

According to the head of the mission, Alexander Vega, the delay in the release of final results is a normal vote-counting procedure and called for people to be calm and wait for the final results.

"No one has denounced a fraud," Vega said, adding that it is difficult to believe "that the National Electoral Council would have invited more than 200 observers for a fraud."

He added that the Ecuadorean system is "so transparent that whoever wins can download the transcripts, add the votes and will get the same result."

With 93 percent of votes counted, Alianza Pais' Lenin Moreno leads the race with 39.11 percent of votes, close to the 40 percent that he needs to avoid a second round, and more than 10 percent ahead of conservative banker Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing CREO party, who has 28.38 percent.

RELATED: Lenin Moreno: 'We Will Continue to Offer Our Hand to Everyone'

With those numbers, Moreno has received a higher percentage of the vote in the first round of the election than any other president in Ecuador in past 40 years, with the exception of President Rafael Correa, who won the election in the first round with more than 50 percent of the votes in 2009 and 2013.

If Moreno doesn't reach the threshold he will have to face Lasso in a runoff vote on April 2. The National Electoral Council, CNE, said the final result of Sunday's presidential election will be released by Thursday.

Moreno said that although polls say he could win in the first round, his team is still waiting for the final confirmation of the CNE, and he called on other candidates to do the same.

"It has caught my attention that some loser politician is calling for violence. That can not be tolerated, we are a country of peace, we have learned to live in peace and we want to continue like this," said Moreno.

The ballots that have not been processed yet have errors in the scanning process, are illegible, have inconsistencies, lack corresponding signatures of the members of the voting tables, or come from areas of the country that don't have the right conditions to digitally transmit results to the main processing center.

The special representative of the electoral mission of Unasur, former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, also called Ecuadoreans to remain calm and wait patiently for the results.

RELATED: Right Wing Provokes Lenin Supporters During Voting in Ecuador

"The tranquility and peace of society is such an important value that one does not realize when one loses it," said Mujica.

A total of 47 delegations for the electoral councils of 11 countries in South America participated in the elections. 

The head of the electoral mission of the Organization of American States, OAS, Leonel Fernandez, stressed that the CNE is the only institution authorized to present the final results.

He called for political parties and candidates to "act with prudence and responsibility" and to "provide citizens with truthful, timely and objective information from the CNE."

The calls for calm come as some opposition politicians, including second-place candidate Guillermo Lasso, have accused the government of attempting to meddle with the election results, whipping up expectations of electoral fraud among his supporters, which some fear raises the specter of violence in the wake of Sunday's elections.

  • Published in World

USAID-Funded Freedom House Report Casts Leftist Latin American Governments as "Not Free"

The assessment is unsurprising given the U.S. history of pushing for regime change in leftist governments in Latin America. 

The Washington-based, USAID-funded research group Freedom House recently released its annual “Freedom in the World” report, which promoted a definition of "freedom" bent towards U.S. interests in the region. The report cast Venezuela and other left-wing Latin American governments as “not free,” while marveling at Brazil’s Michel Temer government, which ousted elected President Dilma Rousseff in a parliamentary coup last year.

RELATED: Venezuelans Remember Chavez's War Against Imperialism

“Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s combination of strong-arm rule and dire economic mismanagement pushed his country to a status of Not Free for the first time in 2016,” the organization warns in their report. Its assessment of the country, however, grossly overlooks that the opposition-controlled parliament has long attempted to, and prioritized, ousting Maduro through constitutionally dubious means.

Since the report was published, leaders have spoken out against the conclusion. Uruguay’s President Tabare Vazquez quelled the mainstream hysteria surrounding Venezuela, telling Deutsche Welle Tuesday that "there is democracy because there are three powers working.”

The Uruguayan president recalled that in that country "there is a functioning judicial power, a legislative power in operation (where the opposition is majority) and there is an executive branch with its president and vice president … this is the cold figure of the Venezuelan state."

While the report rebuked Maduro’s rule and other leftist governments in the region, such as Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, it remained unconcerned with Brazil, ranking the country’s freedom with a high ranking of 79 in its 100-point ranking system.

“History may judge the impeachment itself. The process impeded government functions by absorbing executive and legislative attention for months, and it did little to resolve a broader corruption crisis,” they write of the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. The report, however, made no mention of Temer regime’s criminalization of social movements, its 20-year freezing of social spending, and Temer’s history of corruption himself.

The assessment is unsurprising given the United States’ alignment with the Temer government and history of pushing for regime change in the leftist governments in the region.

While Freedom House claims to be an “independent watchdog organization,” it is financed through “grants from USAID (US Agency for International Development) and U.S. State Department.”

RELATED: Only Progressive Governments Attended CELAC Summit

As Venezuela Analysis reported, the NGO has conducted “democracy promotion” projects across the region, funded by USAID. Between 2012 and 2015, the organization received US$2,160,000 in grants for its activities in Venezuela alone.

In leaked U.S. State Department documents from 2006, U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield explicitly laid out U.S. objectives in the South American nation: “The strategy's focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez' Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital U.S. business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.”

  • Published in World

As More Latin Americans Eat Processed Food, Obesity Rates Surge

Nearly 60 percent of Latin Americans are overweight, according to a UN report

Latin America, once plagued by malnutrition, now faces a different type of public health crisis as processed food increasingly replaces traditionally prepared dishes, leading to a surge in obesity rates, a United Nations report showed on Thursday.

Nearly 58 percent of the region's inhabitants, or close to 360 million people, is either overweight or obese, said the report by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

The rapid jump in obesity rates has crisscrossed the region, affecting Latin Americans "regardless of their economic situation, place of residence or ethnic origin," it said.

That has occurred partly as economic growth, increased urbanization, higher average incomes and the region's integration into international markets have reduced the consumption of traditionally prepared food and raised that of ultra-processed products, the report said.

The problem is greatest in countries that are net food importers.

The countries with the highest levels of obesity are the Bahamas, Mexico and Chile, with rates of 69 percent, 64 percent and 63 percent, respectively.

Still, even as obesity rates surge, Latin America is still home to the nation with the highest rate of undernourishment; in Haiti, 53 percent of the population is undernourished.

  • Published in World

8 Ex-Military Behind Operation Condor Sentenced to Life

Many human rights advocates will be disappointed by the court's failure to sentence 19 other military officials charged in the case.

A court in Rome handed down Tuesday life sentences to eight former military officers from Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay who were found guilty of the forces disappearance and death of about 20 Italian nationals as part of the bloody "Operation Condor" in South America in the 1970s and 1980s.

RELATED: Nazis Trained and Supported Chile's Operation Condor Activities

Only eight of the 27 military officers charged from the four countries received jail time in the high-anticipated sentencing hearing after a lengthy 9-year investigation.

"We are disappointed by the decision," said Uruguay's Vice President Raul Sendic, who was present at the hearing. The prosecutor had asked for life sentences for the 27 officers.

The former military men sentenced were Chile's Hernan Jeronimo Ramirez and Rafael Ahumada Valderrama; Uruguay's Juan Carlos Blanco; Bolivia's Luis Garcia Meza and Luis Arce Gomez; and Peru's Francisco Morales Bermudez, Pedro Richter Prada and German Ruiz Figueroa. 

The investigation, opened by Italian attorney Giancarlo Capaldo, initially included 140 people accused of human rights abuses, but the list was eventually whittled down to the 27 who were charged, as many of the accused had died or were found too old to be tried.

When the trial launched on Feb. 12, 2015, the case involved 34 former heads of state, military officials, police and secret services agents and other operatives of military regimes in South America int he 1970s and 1980s. 

On Dec. 28, 2016, former president and military dictator of Uruguay from 1982 to 1985, Gregorio Alvarez, died while serving a sentence for human rights abuses carried out during his reign.

The deadly multi-state Operation Condor intelligence operation was designed to destroy opposition to U.S.-backed right-wing regimes in Latin America.

Operation Condor operations are thought to have led to the death or disappearance of 50,000 people throughout Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Published in World

Venezuela 'Concerned' By Colombian Talks to Join NATO

Venezuela argues that this violates the principles of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

Venezuela expressed “deep concern” over an announcement made by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that he has begun the final discussions for his country to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

RELATED: Colombian Attorney General Says NATO Deal 'Unconstitutional'

In an official statement, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the announcement "breaks” a p made in 2010 to by Santos to late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to not join the military alliance.

"The Venezuelan government strongly rejects the attempt to introduce external organizations with nuclear capability into our region, whose past and recent actions claim the policy of war," the statement from Rodriguez said.

Venezuela argues that this would violate the principles of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, or NAM, which prohibits its members to form part of international military alliances.

"The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will use all diplomatic and political mechanisms to prevent war organizations with a pernicious record of war and violence in the world from disturbing the peace of our region," Rodriguez added.

Colombia, who chaired the NAM between 1995 and 1998, joined the movement as an observer in 1974 before becoming a permanent member in 1983 after the 7th Summit held in New Delhi. During its time as the head of the bloc, the South American nation defended the movement and promoted its modernization and strengthening.

During his Christmas speech to the army on Friday, Santos welcomed NATO's approval for the start of talks, which he considered "an acknowledgment of the country's military and police forces."

RELATED: NATO Deploys Thousands More Troops on Russian Border

The peace nobel laureate says the deal with NATO will be only for information exchange and to increase the fight against transnational crime, terrorism and drug trafficking.

NATO is the world’s largest intergovernmental military alliance, formed during the height of the Cold War to guard members states against purported “Soviet expansionism.” The pact currently has 28 member states across Europe, North America, as well as Turkey.

  • Published in World

Coming together for democracy and against neoliberalism

Activities in Cuba today, Continental Day for Democracy and Against Neoliberalism, will focus on defending the island's sovereignty.

Different sectors of Cuban society will come together today, November 4, in the University of Havana's Ignacio Agramonte Plaza to observe Continental Day for Democracy and Against Neoliberalism.

The events focused on defending the island's sovereignty were planned by organizations which are part of the city's Social Movements Articulated with the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.

Marches in several Latin American countries, including Mexico, Peru, Panama, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil have been called to protest neoliberalism, under the banner of "Not one step back! The peoples' struggle continues for integration, self-determination, and sovereignty and against free trade and transnationals!"

The decision to hold the continental day of protest on November 4 was made by participants in the hemispheric conference held on the 10th anniversary of the defeat of the U.S. sponsored Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, last year in Havana, with the purpose of demonstrating the strength and resistance of the left across the continent.

  • Published in Cuba
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