North American Activist Calls for Ending Blockade Against Cuba

The coordinator of the National Network of Solidarity with Cuba in the United States, Cheryl Labash, demanded today that her country''s government lifts the blockade it maintains on the island for more than 50 years.

We are here to support the people of the Caribbean nation and corroborate our rejection to the economic, commercial and financial siege against Cuba, Labash told Prensa Latina.

She arrived in Havana as part of the 13th International May Day Solidarity Brigade.

According to the activist, the United States is one of the most represented countries within that solidarity bloc with more than 70 brigade members.

Labash also highlighted the need that the U.S. government returns to Cuba the territory illegally occupied by the naval base in Guantanamo, east of Cuba.

The detention center, opened in 2002 and had about 800 inmates -now 41-, is designated by international organizations as a place where torture and systematic violations of human rights against prisoners were committed.

Speaking about the worsening of Washington's policy toward Havana, Labash expressed her rejection to the interventionist positions by U.S. President, Donald Trump.

The activist will participate with almost 300 brigade members from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Canada in the central activities for the International Workers' Day, an event that includes a massive parade at the Revolution Square in Havana and in the provincial capitals.

Received yesterday at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp, in Artemisa, the 13th International May Day Solidarity Brigade will complete an intense two-week agenda in Cuba.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuban Consulate in US Hosted Travel Agencies Executives

The Cuban Consulate in the USA held a meeting with more than half a hundred executives of travel agencies and charter flight companies on the island''s migration policy.

According to a report on the Embassy's website, Consulate staff provided broad information on the new regulations passed as part of the updating process of Cuban migration policy, in particular on the paperwork associated with it.

The two sides talked over the needed quality to improve efficiency and reducing time, as well as on bettering Consulate services.

Cuba's Consulate continues functioning despite hardships created by the unilateral decision of the Trump Administration to reduce its staff from last October, the diplomatic report underscores.

Links between Cuba and the US have suffered a reversion since the two countries agreed in December, 2014, to start improving relations, due to Trump's imposing restrictions and a harsher line in January 2017.

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Hillary Clinton attacks Trump for 'all-out war on truth, facts and reason'

Hillary Clinton has excoriated Donald Trump, telling an audience in New York press rights and free speech are “under open assault” under an administration she compared to an authoritarian regime that threatened “the end of freedom”.

“We are living through an all-out war on truth, facts and reason,” Clinton said at the PEN America World Voices Festival in Manhattan on Sunday.

“When leaders deny things we can see with our own eyes, like the size of a crowd at the inauguration, when they refuse to accept settled science when it comes to urgent challenges like climate change … it is the beginning of the end of freedom, and that is not hyperbole. It’s what authoritarian regimes through history have done.”

The former presidential candidate, secretary of state, senator and first lady was delivering the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write lecture. She began by discussing threats to press freedom and free speech including in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But she soon turned her remarks to the US under Trump, saying such freedoms were “in the most perilous position I’ve seen in my lifetime”.

“Today we have a president who seems to reject the role of a free press in our democracy,” she said. “Although obsessed with his own press coverage, he evaluates it based not on whether it provides knowledge or understanding, but solely on whether the daily coverage helps him and hurts his opponents.

“Now, given his track record, is it any surprise that according to the latest round of revelations, he joked about throwing reporters in jail to make them talk?”

The reference to revelations from memos by former FBI director James Comey was Clinton’s only reference to Comey, who was fired by Trump.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clinton’s remarks were followed by a conversation with novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Under friendly questioning, Clinton was asked if she had “hit back” enough during the campaign – a reference to a childhood episode in which, Clinton has written, her mother gave her permission to hit back at a bully.

“I now think that I didn’t,” Clinton said. She described the much-discussed moment when Trump was “stalking me on that debate stage”. She recalled thinking: “What do I do? Do I turn around and say: ‘Back up, you creep?”’ But then, she said, “the coverage would have been, ‘She can’t take the pressure, she got angry.”’

And so, she said she told herself: “You just have to be calm and in control. Because ultimately what the country wants is someone who is not blowing up in the Oval Office.”

“Well, you know that did not work out so well,” she said, to laughter.

  • Published in World

Cuba Is Attracting More Cruise Visits as Traditional Travel Gets Complicated

While Americans lost some of the ability to explore Cuba on their own due to restrictions put in place by the Trump administration, cruise ships are offering organized trips approved by the U.S. government. That seems to be working out well for operators, who are eager to increase their presence in the destination.
— Hannah Sampson

Nearly two years after cruise travel between the U.S. and Cuba restarted following a decades-long break, demand for the destination — at least as part of cruise itineraries — is showing no sign of cooling.

Cruise lines continue to add more visits, in some cases doubling the number of ships they send, and travel agents report higher interest among clients.

“Cuba has been terrific, I think, for the industry. For our particular company, it’s been very, very good,” said Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, at an industry conference last month. “I defined it as a home run — so much that we’re doubling capacity in 2018.”

The continued growth in cruising comes as the rules governing travel to the island have tightened under President Donald Trump, who last year resurrected some of the restrictions his predecessor eased.

U.S. citizens who travel to the island must go as part of organized groups that comply with rules that dictate the types of travel that are allowed; they are no longer permitted to take those trips on their own with just a promise that they will stay in compliance.

The number of American travelers in Cuba rose 18 percent in 2017 to 619,000. Citing a tourism expert at the University of Havana, the Associated Press reported that the number of cruise passengers visiting Cuba increased from 184,000 in 2016 to 541,000 last year, including many Americans.

But tour operators are predicting an overall drop in visitors this year under the stricter new regulations, USA Today reported.

The crackdown hasn’t been problematic for cruise lines because they offer tours that comply with even the recent rules. In fact, when the restrictions were announced last year, some in the cruise industry suggested the changes could actually be beneficial to the industry.

That suspicion appears to be proving true.

“The Trump administration tweaks that were made to travel to Cuba impacted the cruise industry very little,” Del Rio said during a panel discussion with other executives last month at the Seatrade Cruise Global event. “To some degree, we benefitted from that, though we didn’t need the benefit…because ships are full at good prices.”

Carnival Cruise Line announced this month that it is adding 20 more sailings to Cuba from Tampa on Carnival Paradise next year, on top of 11 that had already been scheduled for the ship. The brand had also previously announced 17 cruises on Carnival Sensation leaving from Miami in 2019.

The Cuban government granted Carnival the additional dates. Holland America Line, another brand in the Carnival Corp. portfolio, announced a handful of visits last year. And the operator is awaiting permission to visit with another line, a spokesman said.

In late 2017, Royal Caribbean International said it was adding a second ship, sending both Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas to Cuba. The line also added more destinations in Cuba to itineraries.

“Cruising remains the easiest way to visit Cuba, and with both Empress and Majesty sailing there in 2018 and 2019, we hope to make it that much easier for adventure seekers to experience the legendary island,” Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, said in a statement.

All cruise announcements come with destination-specific fine print: Cuba sailings offer excursions designed “to comply with the people-to-people educational exchange activities requirement as set forth in the U.S. regulations,” as Royal Caribbean put it.

Carnival’s recent release was even more specific, explaining that Havana visits comply with U.S. Treasury Department regulations and shore excursions “meet all U.S. government regulations and provide a convenient means for complying with the people-to-people requirements of cruises to Cuba.”

Lines must get permission from the Cuban government to visit the island, and today’s fleet of megaships — or even just semi-megaships — are not able to visit because of infrastructure issues. Major cruise lines have to send smaller — and in many cases older — vessels, which have been commanding higher rates than they would on sailings that did not include the island.

“We all wish we had more tonnage available to go to Cuba,” Del Rio said.

A report released by the Cruise Lines International Association earlier this month showed that nearly 43 percent of respondents said customers showed increasing interest in cruising to Cuba.

That interest was highest among baby boomer travelers, followed by Generation X.

Vicky Garcia, chief operating officer and co-owner of home-based travel agency franchise Cruise Planners, visited Havana last year during Norwegian Cruise Line’s first visit and said she wants to go back to other ports.

“Cruise Planners agents definitely still seeing an interest in Cuba and not only are travel agents still booking Cuba, but travelers are increasingly realizing the value in booking Cuba cruises through a travel agent since these trips are sure to meet the regulations that can sometimes be confusing to a traveler,” said Garcia, whose company is affiliated with American Express Travel, in an email. “There is a pent up demand and we are hearing that people want to go there sooner rather than later before things change politically or it becomes too commercial.”

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba says won't accept US threats or pressures

Cuba on Saturday slammed U.S. policy towards Latin America, calling it a return to a past of "domination and impositions," adding that Havana won't accept threats or pressure from Washington to modify its political system.

"Cuba won't accept threats or pressures from the United States. It doesn't want confrontation, but will not negotiate or cede one millimeter in its socialist principles," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said in remarks at the ongoing eighth Summit of the Americas.

Rodriguez, who was leading the island country's delegation to the meeting, highlighted that the thawing ties between Washington and Havana were maintained since 2015 until Donald Trump assumed the U.S. presidency and decided to roll back the detente.

"The U.S. economic blockade and the financial persecution continue, but at the same time Washington is further isolated when it comes to their policy towards Cuba," he said.

According to the foreign minister, Cuba is currently in the presidential election process that will last until April 19, 2019 when Cubans decide a new president to succeed incumbent Raul Castro, younger brother and fellow revolutionary of Communist Cuba's founder Fidel Castro.

In addition, Rodriguez said that the younger generations in Cuba are closely linked to the ruling Communist Party, and that they will "firmly" commemorate the Fidel-led revolutionary troops' victory in defending the island against a U.S.-masterminded aggression in the early 1960s.

He was referring to the failed Playa Giron -- literally Bay of Pigs -- invasion of Cuba in April 1961 by U.S.-sponsored mercenaries comprised of mostly Cubans traveling in exile to the United States after Fidel Castro overthrew the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.

"Cubans, especially the younger generations, closely linked to the (Communist) Party, founded by (Jose) Marti and Fidel (Castro), together with Raul (Castro), will commemorate firm, secure and optimistic victory against the mercenary aggression in Playa Giron," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez warned of Washington's aspiration to re-establish its "imperialist domination" in Latin America, imposing Cold War era policies and a return to the "Monroe Doctrine," a 19th century strategy to control the region for political and economic purposes.

"Now the objective is to restore imperialist domination, destroy national sovereignties with unconventional interventions, overthrow popular governments, reverse social achievement and restore continental neo-liberalism in a continental scale," he said.

The Cuban diplomat said Washington has returned to the "use of force" and the "imposition of unilateral coercive measures" in its policy towards the region.

"We will only advance through integration and unity within the diversity that led to the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Recent events show that the Organization of American States (OAS) and especially its secretary general are mere instruments of the United States," he said.

The official also expressed the island country's solidarity with Venezuela, saying the exclusion of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from the summit was a "historic setback" imposed by the United States.

The diplomat also condemned Saturday's missile strikes on Syrian government facilities by the United States, Britain and France.

Suspended for decades by the OAS, Cuba only returned to the Summit of the Americas in 2015 when the seventh version of the gathering was held in Panama.

  • Published in Cuba

U.S: Time Bomb?

The U.S. president has been characterized by his rhetoric so far. But his recent decisions set off alarms among the world’s most distinguished politicians and experts.

The imposition of duties to the People’s Republic of China is a major threat to the international order.

Such decision emerges when the world is going through a bloodcurdling economic crisis that has several nations unsettled. In this regard, misery, unemployment, and other social disasters are multiplied.

World observers highlight that such marked protectionism leads to limit multilateralism and affects international trade.

As soon as Trump announced the decision, the Wall Street Stock Exchange dropped and a response of the People’s Republic of China is awaited.

Thus, Washington creates a climate of insecurity, which affects some of the world’s markets.

That is, as the Spanish newspaper EL PAIS stated: “The unforeseen event or black swan that could jeopardize global growth this year. We fear it and it is happening.”

The newspaper also notes that the imposition of duties is an exercise of paranoia and a clear example of the ignorance of the elementary economic principles.

The effects of such procedure are materialized in the decline in growth, higher inflation, and unemployment.

These measures result in chaos and uncertainty in an already deteriorated international trade.

The abovementioned fact ratifies a U.S. policy that distances itself from the international economic cooperation and aims to damage the economy of million people all around the world.

The appointment of “Hawk” John Bolton as national security adviser confirms it. Bolton supports the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran and promotes a military confrontation with North Korea.

The early dismissal of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and Gary Cohn as main economic consultant in the White House corroborates the far-right trend and aggressive nationalism of the Trump Administration.

Europe will suffer the effects of such mess created by the multimillionaire in an already messy world.

There is one fact we cannot miss. There will be elections in the U.S. in November.

Therefore, most of voters, who have greatly suffer Trump’s insane notions, will have the ability to change their future.

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

Cuba rejects expulsion of Russian diplomats from U.S., other nations

The Cuban government on Wednesday expressed concern about the expulsion of a "large group" of Russian diplomats by dozens of Western countries, saying it may "threaten international stability."

In a statement, the press and communication director of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Alejandro Gonzalez, said these unilateral measures taken by Washington and other NATO member countries "are not responsive to dialogue, understanding and cooperation that should prevail in international relations."

"Cuba believes that cooperation should prevail over confrontation and rejects the application of unilateral measures that undermine international stability," Gonzalez said.

He added that these actions were even without waiting for the result of an impartial investigation into the attack of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal.

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, aged 66, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in Britain's southwestern city of Salisbury on March 4.

Britain claims they were exposed to a nerve agent and holds Russia responsible, while the Russian government has denied any involvement in it.

Following the incident, Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats, with Moscow expelling an equal number of British diplomats in response.

Earlier this week, the United States announced the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and intelligence officials, as well as the closure of the consulate in Seattle, a northwestern city of the United States.

Meanwhile, Canada, Australia and up to 16 countries of the European Union have expelled Russian citizens and diplomats from their territories.

  • Published in Cuba

Washington Allocates Funds for Subversion in Cuba

The fund includes $20 million USD for subversion against Cuba and $600 million for border security with Mexico

The omnibus spending bill approved by the United States Congress last week, to fund the government until mid-2018, includes $20 million USD for subversion against Cuba and $600 million for border security with Mexico, which President Donald Trump plans to use to build a wall.

The amount of money allocated to promote regime change in Cuba, camouflaged under the euphemistic term “democracy programs,” contrasts with the massive cuts to the State Department and United States foreign aid to developing countries.

The funds for subversion were cut by Trump in the 2017 fiscal year, although the real amount dedicated to attacks on Cuba is much greater and comes from varied sources other than Congress.

The controversial Helms-Burton Act of 1996 established the obligation to grant money to these destabilizing programs against the island. Each administration since then has varied the exact figure, which ranges on average between 10 and 20 million dollars.

Mercenary groups, scholarships to promote false leadership among young Cubans and the dirty war on the Internet are financed with part of the money from Congress, which also benefits Florida-based groups that profit from the attacks on Cuba.

Another of the budget items approved in the midst of controversy was related to border security. Trump announced on Twitter this weekend that he had ordered the immediate construction of the controversial border wall with Mexico.

While the $600 million approved for border issues must cover other expenses, the President believes that he can use those funds to begin to fulfill his campaign promise.

However, experts note that $600 million dollars is a fraction of the total cost of the project envisaged by Trump, which could cost several billion dollars.

The U.S. President’s focus on the issue of the wall contrasts with the priority of many U.S. citizens. This weekend around 800,000 young people mobilized in several cities to demand a solution to the country’s gun problem, an issue that Trump has tried to dodge.

The so-called “March for Our Lives,” the largest youth demonstration in decades, filled Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, where surviving students of the Parkland massacre last month were among speakers.

Emma González, one of the surviving Stoneman Douglas School students, was moved to tears as she read the names of the victims. Her speech lasted six minutes and 20 seconds, the same time that the attack on her school lasted, according to Reuters.

Television networks showed the young protesters filling the streets of the United States in cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Minéapolis and New York.

The issue of gun control has forced many politicians up against the ropes, especially Senator for Florida, Marco Rubio, who maintains his support for the National Rifle Association, from which he receives millions of dollars, despite the massive support of his electorate for a change in legislation to make it more difficult to buy the guns with which such massacres are carried out.

  • Published in Cuba
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