The U.S. State of Georgia looks forward to more engagement with Cuba

Third Secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba to the United States, Yanet Pumariega, visited Atlanta (Georgia) on 2-3 December. The diplomat had the opportunity to meet with several officials there and to talk about the potentialities for and mutual benefits of improving bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States.

Pumariega was received by the Lieutenant Governor of the State, Mr. Geoff Duncan, and had a very professional and fruitful exchange on ways to move forward.

In the past, several companies from the State of Georgia benefitted from licenses granted to sell foodstuffs to Cuba, which has been limited now by a series of measures taken by the current Administration. In 2015, the World Affairs Council of Atlanta led a group of business leaders, academics and government officials to Cuba and noted endless opportunities for a two-way trade and exchanges with Cuba.

The meeting with officials of the State Department of Agriculture reaffirmed their interest in further expanding trade opportunities in Cuba, which is considered the “gateway” of the Caribbean Sea and realized that Georgia is behind other markets just because of the obsolete U.S. policy affecting their own interest.

During the visit, Pumariega also met with the Chairman of the Fulton County Commission, Robb Pitts, and the Board commissioners who coincided on a variety of areas available for mutual benefits such as joint research and the sharing of best practices in education, health and human services.

Image (From left to right): Commissioner Bob Ellis, Chairman Robb Pitts, Third Secretary Yanet Pumariega, Commissioners Natalie Hall, Lizz Hausman and Joe Carn.

The City of Atlanta Director of International Affairs, Vanessa Ibarra, also noted the existing potential for collaboration between the City and Cuba in the areas of culture, tourism and technology. Atlanta is the hometown of several companies with huge business opportunities in Cuba and of others that have been affected by the current U.S. policy, like Delta Airlines.

Image (From left to right): Atlanta City Global Engagement Officer Paulina Guzmán, Third Secretary Yanet Pumariega and Atlanta City Director of International Affairs, Vanessa Ibarra.

During a friendly meeting with State representatives and senators, it was recognized that there is plenty of room for cooperation that would benefit both their districts and Cuba. Also recognized were the outcomes that Cuba shows in health and education such as the literacy, maternal health and infant mortality rates.

Image (From left to right): Former Speaker of the House of Representatives of Georgia, Terry Coleman, Representative EI-Mahdi Holly, Senator Sheikh Rahman, Third Secretary Yanet Pumariega, Representatives and Gregg Kennard and Shelly Hutchinson.

This visit Georgia, like those to other states, has once again confirmed that the current policy of the U.S. government attempts against the interest of the majority of the U.S. citizens in more engagement with Cuba.

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Cuban leader slams 'unjust, arrogant' US sanctions

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Wednesday railed against new "unjust and arrogant" U.S. sanctions, this time penalizing ships supplying oil from Venezuela.

"Trump strikes again: 6 vessels sanctioned for shipping oil from Venezuela to Cuba. Enough of unjust and arrogant sanctions," Diaz-Canel said via Twitter.

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The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday announced it was including six vessels -- five sailing under the Venezuelan flag and one, under the Panamanian flag -- on its list of ships penalized by its Office of Foreign Assets Control for doing business with the island.

U.S. President Donald Trump has unraveled his predecessor's rapprochement policy toward Cuba and reimposed sanctions on the island.

His administration has also accused Cuba of supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose government is also the target of U.S. sanctions.

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Trump threat: Against our Beautiful and Beloved Mexico

In his usual rude language, Donald Trump said he will regard drug traffickers as illegal groups operating in Mexico.

Such statement was immediately retorted by the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Thus, the AFP repeated the essence of his words:

In his morning press conference he asked Trump for "cooperation, not interventionism in the fight against drug trafficking."

However, he rejected controversy on the eve of Thanksgiving, "a very special date for Americans."

"In my case, I don't want to discuss anything today or tomorrow. I just want to say cooperation yes, interventionism no," he said before sending a "hug to the American people."

With this position, the president further stressed the difference between a true statesman and a barbarian from the north.

What Trump said, AFP added, unleashed criticism among different political sectors in Mexico, which they even believe it "could lead to a US intervention."

Earlier, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard rejected any meddling by his northern neighbor on Twitter.

“Mexico will never admit any action that means violation of its national sovereignty. We will act firmly. ”

I have already transmitted our position to Washington, as well as our determination to fight back organized crime, Ebrard said.

“Mutual respect is the basis of cooperation,” he wrote.

AFP recalled that Mexican-American ties share a border of almost 3,200 kilometers, and both nations have experienced moments of tension during 2019, especially due to a large traffic of undocumented migrants from Mexico to the United States.

After Trump suggested the possibility of increasing the cost of Mexican import tariffs, Mexican troops were deployed to stop irregular migration.

Now, facing this new grumbling of the rumbled and brutal North that hates all of us, Mexico's honor is endorsed.

Recently exalted when that nation saved the Indian president of Latin America, Evo Morales, from the fascist claws.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz/CubaSi Translation Staff

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Amid travel restrictions, charter service adds nonstop flights from Fort Myers to Cuba

With increased travel restrictions quickly approaching, some Cuban Americans are wondering how and when they'll be able to visit family hundreds of miles away.

For Maykel Constantin, however, he can see his family in Cuba "any time I want."

Constantin is the director of operations for Naples-based air charter service Cubazul. The company, which until recently only took passengers to Cuba from Miami International Airport, has begun trips straight from Fort Myers to Havana.

The small charter service now offers two flights from Southwest Florida International Airport per week, which come just weeks before a Trump administration ban of all airline flights to Cuba except for into Havana.

According to airport spokesperson Victoria Moreland, Cubazul's new offering makes them the only flight provider with nonstop trips from Fort Myers to Cuba.

The new restriction comes shortly after the banning of U.S. cruise ship stops in Cuba and group trips under the "people-to-people" category. "People-to-people" was one of the popular permitted categories for travel to Cuba, but Americans can still get to the country via categories such as family visits and "support for the Cuban people."

Charter services, such as Cubazul, are not affected by the airline flight ban.

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"The Cuban people can go and see their family using the charter operation," Constantin said. "With the airline, they won't be able to do it."

He said, once the travel restrictions are in place, Cuban families using airlines will be forced to fly to Havana and travel by car for hours on often unsafe roads to make it to their destination.

"With the charter company, we can go directly to any area they're going to," he said. "They can go see their family. If you live in Holguin, you have to go to Havana and get a car and drive eight hours to Holguin, back and forth. You probably lose two days. This way, you can go nonstop."

Utilizing the Cubazul charter service, passengers can fly to multiple areas of Cuba, such as Santa Clara, Camaguey, Holguin and Varadero, if they are flying from Miami. This provision, which will not change after Dec. 10, allows many Cuban Americans to drive a short distance from the airport to reach their family.

The only option in the Fort Myers expansion currently are 35-minute flights from RSW to Havana, but more options are coming soon.

Before the expansion, Cuban Americans in Southwest Florida had to drive hours to make it to Miami before traveling to Cuba. This eats up a large amount of time since the Transportation Security Administration encourages passengers to arrive at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before for international flights.

Additionally, Constantin said that the Miami airport is often much more crowded than RSW.

"Over here, it's in and out," he said. "You don't have to wake up early."

  • Published in Cuba

Democrats release damning report accusing president of obstruction

Donald Trump sparred with Emmanuel Macron during a televised bilateral meeting at the two-day Nato summit in London, as House investigators released an explosive report on the impeachment inquiry back home in Washington.

It was a whirlwind news cycle during the president’s visit to the UK: as Mr Trump met with world leaders overseas, House investigators released their report finding “a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election”.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said the House had "overwhelming evidence of the president’s misconduct" and suggested the president's actions posed "a threat to the integrity of the upcoming election" as Mr Triump meanwhile denounced the timing of the next phase of the process, arguing it has been scheduled to embarrass him.

  • Published in World

Iran’s Multi-Front War against America and Its Allies

Two days before Thanksgiving, as President Donald Trump was preparing his surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif phoned Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah and met with a delegation from the Taliban. The object of both discussions was to pressure U.S. and its allies: Zarif told the Taliban representatives that Iran wants a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and offered al-Nakhalah Iran’s full support for PIJ’s “valiant resistance” against Israel.

Iran’s decisions to push the Palestinians to fight Israel and to encourage the Taliban are part of a regional policy that seeks to evict the U.S. from the Middle East and stir up trouble for Washington worldwide. This is Tehran’s answer to the “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions that the Trump administration has mounted since pulling the U.S. out of President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.

Iran fought its multi-front war against the U.S. in multiple ways. In the Persian Gulf, it twice struck at foreign oil tankers over the summer, shot down a high-tech U.S. drone in late June, and launched drone and cruise-missile attacks on key Saudi oil facilities in September. It is also seeking to use its terrorist proxies in the Gaza Strip to provoke Israel into a wider regional war. In the fall of 2018, Israel accused Iran of ordering PIJ to attack from Gaza. The Palestinian terrorist group has thousands of missiles and fighters in Gaza, but is smaller than Hamas. Its leadership lives abroad and keeps in close contact with Iran, which supports it even though it’s made up of Palestinian Sunni Muslims. (In general, Iran tends to work with Shiite groups such as Hezbollah.) Israel was concerned throughout the summer of 2019 that PIJ might be trying to push it into a war in Gaza to distract it from Iran’s efforts to gain a permanent foothold in Syria and supply Hezbollah with precision-guided rockets. In response, Israel struck a PIJ commander on November 12, prompting the group to fire over 400 missiles over the Gaza border.

Evidence for how important the Palestinian group is to Iran comes from two phone calls that Zarif made after the November 12 battles. Iran’s Mehr News reported that Zarif congratulated al-Nakhalah on November 17. Then Zarif called again on November 25. Iran’s message was clear: Keep the pressure on Israel.

At the same time, Iran was also looking 1,900 miles away from the Gaza Strip, to Afghanistan. In the 1990s, Iran and the Taliban were on opposite sides of the war in Afghanistan, to the point where Iran almost invaded the country in 1998. Once the U.S. invaded to dislodge al-Qaeda after 9/11, Iran began to reconsider its antipathy toward the Taliban. The Islamic Republic now hopes to push the U.S. out of Afghanistan by whatever means are necessary and fill the resulting power vacuum. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Tehran of being behind a May suicide bombing in Kabul. Peace talks with the Taliban and the U.S. broke down in September, and Trump’s Thanksgiving visit notwithstanding, Iran believes the U.S. is leaving Kabul and hopes to hasten the process.

Israel Prepares For War With Iranian Proxies

As Iran works with PIJ and the Taliban, it also seeks to pressure the U.S. in the Gulf, in Iraq, in Syria, and in Lebanon. In Iraq, it hopes its allies in parliament and among various Shiite militias will force the U.S. to withdraw; militia mortar and rocket attacks have hit U.S. bases in the country every month since May. In Syria, Iran-backed militias allied with Bashar al-Assad’s regime are facing U.S. forces across the Euphrates, and would like to grab the oil facilities that the U.S. is currently protecting. In Lebanon, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah wants control over the choice of the country’s next prime minister.

The Iranian regime is facing maximum pressure from the U.S. and suddenly finds itself squeezed at home, too, forced to brutally crack down on massive recent protests against a large gas-price hike. Its response has been to challenge the U.S. and American allies across thousands of miles of terrain from Kabul to Gaza. While it is cornered, it should not be underestimated.

  • Published in World

Trump launches Nato meeting with attack on 'nasty' France

US President Donald Trump launched a two-day Nato meeting on Tuesday (Dec 3) with a blistering attack on France's criticism of the alliance and on "delinquent" members that don't pay their way.

At a news conference held to celebrate Nato's success in cajoling European allies to boost their defence spending, Trump could not resist lashing out at President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron had tried to shake up the agenda for the London summit by branding the 70-year-old Western alliance "brain dead", but Trump slapped him down and warned that he could see Paris "breaking away" from Nato.

"Nato serves a great purpose," Trump said, at a joint press appearance with alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"I think that's very insulting," he said of Macron's comment, branding it a "very, very nasty statement essentially to 28 countries".

"Nobody needs Nato more than France," he said. "It's a very dangerous statement for them to make."

Asked whether the US alliance with Nato was shaky, Trump denied it, but said: "I do see France breaking off... I see him breaking off."

Trump defended Stoltenberg, boasting that Nato members have massively increased their defence spending thanks to his pressure - but then reiterated his complaints about European spending.

"When I came in, I was angry at Nato, and now I've raised US$130 billion," Trump said, referring to the sum Stoltenberg says Canada and European members will have added to defence budgets by next year.

"And yet you still have many delinquent - you know I call them delinquent when they're not paid up in full," he said. Only nine of Nato's 29 members spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence.

Trump cited in particular Germany as falling short, spending only 1 per cent to 1.3 per cent.

Leaders of the 29 allies are descending on London to lock horns over spending and how to deal with Russia in a major test of unity as Nato seeks to assert its relevance.

If the Macron comments set an angry tone for the meeting, there are also expected to be clashes with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was also furious with the French leader.

"First of all, have your own brain death checked. These statements are suitable only to people like you who are in a state of brain death," he said last week.

French officials summoned the Turkish envoy in Paris to complain while a US administration official predicted that many members would tackle Turkey over its purchase of a Russian S-400 air defence system.

Turkey, in turn, has warned it will block a Nato plan to defend Baltic countries unless the alliance recognises a Kurdish militant group as terrorists, Erdogan said before the summit.

It was reported last week that Ankara was blocking Nato's new Baltic defence plan, demanding greater support in its fight against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Nato has mooted a plan to bolster the defences of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia against a potential attack from Russia, though details remain unclear.

Macron and Erdogan will come face to face on Tuesday in a four-way meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose spokesman said he would be emphasising the need for Nato unity.

"We can see this as likely the tale of three egos," said Amanda Sloat, a former senior diplomat and a fellow of the Brookings Institution, warning that Trump, Macron and Erdogan were the figures to watch.

The summit also comes at an unexpectedly awkward moment for Johnson, with Britain in the midst of a frenetic election campaign.

Normally a summit like this would give the PM of the day a boost but with Trump deeply unpopular among many British voters, his visit is a potential banana skin for Johnson.

The substance of the meeting is thin, with only one three-hour session planned, where leaders are expected to sign off on a set of decisions already taken by Nato foreign and defence ministers.

These include making space a full domain of conflict - alongside land, sea, air and cyber space - as well as a new report on how the alliance should approach China and its growing international assertiveness.

What is likely to be more significant in the longer run is the fallout from Macron's broadside, in which he complained Nato talks too much about money and not enough about strategic priorities.

In response, Germany has suggested setting up an expert panel to look at how Nato can be adapted to address political questions more effectively.

  • Published in World

The Blockade against Cuba which According to Washington doesn’t Exist

On several occasions the propaganda of the United States has said that the blockade against Cuba does not exist.

But life proves exactly the opposite, while Donald Trump announces his intention to reinforce it.

The penultimate evidence was told this Tuesday in Miami by a journalist from El Nuevo Herald, Nora Gámez Torres.

The U.S. government “punished” the Corporation Panamericana S.A., because they helped Cubans alleviate the blockade on the oil supply.

Excuse? Working as intermediary so that certain amounts of that oil reached Cuban territory.

The event was so rude that Gámez Torres commented on the inclusion of that firm in Washington’s blacklist:

“It was executed by the Treasury Department despite being a Cuban company and without justifying it with the “embargo”.

They only grabbed the regulations related to the situation in Venezuela.

Another example, the journalist wrote, how far the Trump administration establishes a link between the two governments.

A statement from the Under Secretary of Treasury, Justin G. Muzinich, states:

"The Treasury continues to pursue evaders of sanctions to deny resources to the illegitimate Venezuelan regime."

On the other hand, the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, at a press conference said on Tuesday that the new punishment "
"Today's action will further squeeze the illegal profit-making scheme Cuba carries out to help the illegitimate dictator Nicolas Maduro,".

It was in that context that the Florida senator, Marco Rubio took advantage of Washington's new punishment to demand his European allies to do more in relation to Venezuela and Cuba.

His implicit admission that they don’t, at least, as the rotten Senator Marco Rubio wishes them to do.

By cruel coincidences in life, almost at the same time that Pompeo and his senator spoke in Washington, the young Dylan Cruz died in Colombia.

He had been seriously injured by the police from Iván Duque, faithful allies of Pompeo and Rubio.

He was 18 years old and his deadly sin was to participate in a demonstration against the murderous and pro-North American regime that bleeds his nation.

Last Saturday he was hit on the head by a bomb launched by the police.

He died at the hospital on Monday while Pompeo and Rubio forged new plans against Cuba.

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