Setting the Course to Puerto Rico’s Skeleton

While Donald Trump increased in 54 billion USD his military budget, Puerto Rico is still experiencing the disasters of hurricane Maria, which hit the island several months ago.

Last February 1st some Puerto Rican organizations, based at New York, protested about the privatization of the electric system in Puerto Rico.

Several groups in the country such as the one named A Call to Action on Puerto Rico showed that the management of the colonial administration after the passing of the hurricane was a complete failure.

Indeed, this organization weighed that there was even a criminal intent, which certainly led to the collapse of the physical infrastructure: roads, bridges, docks, electric power systems, aqueducts, schools, agriculture, and housing.

“Scavenging vultures from Wall Street seized the opportunity to go into the plundering and occupation of our nation.”

Likewise, “we denounce the deterioration of the political, economic, and social situation of our country.”

According to this organization, there is a chaotic situation in Puerto Rico.

Lorraine Liriano, spokeswoman of Call to Action on Puerto Rico, noted that 45 thousand jobs were lost. More than 1.2 million citizens are still without electric service. Near 30% of small business have closed. Half a million of Puerto Rican have been forced to flee abroad.

Norma Perez, professor at New York city, said that the announcement of the shutting down of 305 schools would render unemployed thousands of professors and thus, an important number of children will not take classes.

Not to mention the 400 million USD cut to the budget of the University of Puerto Rico.

Here we have the agony experienced by several Puerto Ricans. Therefore, it is harder for them to believe they are a Free Associated State.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz / CubaSi Translation Staff

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Cuba Parliament reaffirms Palestinian solidarity

Cuba’s Parliament has reaffirmed its solidarity with Palestine during a visit by a delegation from the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The delegation arrived at the headquarters of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP), led by Fahed Sulaiman, its deputy secretary general.

“The Palestinian cause is also ours,” said Ana Maria Mari Machado, vice president of the ANPP, at the meeting, adding that this is why, in foreign policy affairs, Cuba lends its support to Palestine.

Machado continued to say that the Caribbean island will always be on the side of justice, reaffirming that the country still rejects U.S. President Donald Trump’s December decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The leader also stressed the necessity for unity among people, to achieve success in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, recalling the example of the late revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, who stood by the principle.

The PFLP, have, in turn, expressed solidarity with Cuba on numerous occasions.

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President Raul Castro chairs unveiling of Jose Marti's sculpture brought from NY

Cuban President Raul Castro unveiled here on Sunday a sculpture of Cuban national hero, Jose Marti, a replica of the original one located in New York's Central Park.

Castro was accompanied by First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, other local government and political officials, as well representatives of New York's city government, among other invited American personalities.

In the speech, Havana's official historian, Eusebio Leal, stressed that this statue is an absolute copy in every detail of the original work by the American artist Anna Hyatt Huntington, which was finished in 1958.

The famous sculptor made it at the request of the Cuban government of the time as a gift to the U.S. However, due to political differences, the sculpture was not inaugurated until 1965. It now stands close to statues of other Latin American heroes, Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin in the Central Park.

Joseph Mizzi, Chairman of the Bronx Museum of the Arts, stressed the honour he felt at attending the ceremony on behalf of his colleagues.

Mizzi defined the event as a great gesture for the peoples of Cuba and the U.S., and expressed his gratitude at the donations received by over a hundred people for the realization of the project.

"We have shared with friends, close and far, the idea of bringing to Havana an exact replica of Jose Marti's statue in New York, which is our homage to one of the greatest Latin American intellectuals," he said.

The original sculpture is the only one known to date, depicting the figure of Marti at the time of his fall in action at the battle of Dos Rios on May 19, 1895 in eastern Cuba.

It is based on a missing painting by the Cuban painter Esteban Valderrama and weighs three tons, stands 5.67 meters tall, and made in bronze, with a black marble pedestal.

Marti was born on January 28, 1853 and struggled from a young age to free Cuba from Spanish colonialism, until his death in battle at the age of 42.

The 165th anniversary of his birth has been marked with several celebrations this week throughout the country.

The sculpture of Jose Marti is seen during the unveiling ceremony in Havana, Cuba, Jan. 28, 2018. Cuban President Raul Castro unveiled here on Sunday a sculpture of Cuban national hero, Jose Marti, a replica of the original one located in New York's Central Park.

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Cuba is a safe, peaceful and healthy country.

Statement to the press by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for U.S. Affairs.

In the morning of January 9, a hearing of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations was held, which was organized by Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator for Florida and co-chaired by Robert Menendez, the Democrat Senator for New Jersey, who have a vast work history against the betterment of relations between Cuba and the United States and are promoters of all sort of legislative and political proposals that affect the interests of the Cuban and U.S.  peoples and only benefit a minority that is increasingly becoming more isolated and that has historically made profits out of the aggression against Cuba.

The very title, “Attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba”, evidenced that the real purpose of the hearing to which three high-ranking officials of the Department of State were summoned, was not to establish the truth, but to impose by force and with no evidence whatsoever, an accusation which they have been unable to proof.  

Nobody is surprised by the unwarranted allegations, or the fabrications made up by the Anti-Cuba senators, whose sole political agenda throughout the years has been to lead our two countries into a confrontation, regardless of the consequences.  Their complete unscrupulousness and lack of credibility is well known. The great victim of today’s hearing has been the truth. 

The Cuban government regards as unacceptable the irresponsible declarations made by Francisco Palmieri, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. 

Dr. Charles Rosenfarb, Medical Director of the Bureau of Medical Services of the U.S. Department of State said that there are a multitude of symptoms that are not attributable to a specific cause and that there is a lack of certainty on the causal agent. Todd Brown, Assistant Director for International Programs of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service stated that experts have been unable to identify the cause or the perpetrator. And Mr. Palmieri used on several occasions the term attacks. It was made clear that this is an unwarranted accusation against Cuba.
The Department of State has no evidence whatsoever that allows it to affirm that there has been attacks against its diplomats in Havana, or that Cuba could be responsible for or be aware of actions carried out by third-parties.

On the contrary, months of thorough probes have proven that there has been no attack.

I categorically reiterate that the Cuban government has no responsibility whatsoever in the health conditions reported by U.S. diplomats. Cuba has never perpetrated nor will it ever perpetrate any act against the physical integrity of any diplomat without exception, and has never permitted nor will it ever permit any actions by third parties for that purpose. The Cuban government is mindful of its responsibilities and complies with them in an exemplary manner. 

Once again, I affirm that the investigation conducted by the Cuban authorities, the results of which have been made available to the Department of State and the U.S. specialized agencies for their wide and systematic access, have concluded that there is no evidence leading to the occurrence of the alleged incidents and that no attack of any sort has been carried out.

Nothing in the information provided by the U.S. government throughout this period or even today leads, based on evidences, that the health conditions reported by the diplomats may have had their origin or cause in Cuba.

We reject the politicization of this issue and the unwarranted measures adopted by the U.S. government, with a high cost for our population, the Cuban immigration and the U.S. people. 

We also denounce the political manipulation of these events by Anti-Cuba elements who seek to aggravate the bilateral climate, with the sole purpose of returning to a confrontational stage with negative consequences for both countries and the region. 

Cuba is a safe, peaceful and healthy country for Cubans, foreigners, accredited diplomats and for millions of people that visit us every year, including Americans.

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US: The trite book on Trump

The columnist of El Nuevo Herald, Alejandro Armengol, wrote on Saturday that the US government is a sort of episode where stars are constantly exchanging blows.

He wrote so after reading Michael Wolff’s most recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

Armengol also refers in his article that “this is the portrait of the chief of liars inside the White House in his uneducated, grotesque buffoon’s role. It is the book he deserves.”

The journalist also states that the book could trigger record sales, multiple rushed translations and the controversy of the hour.

And he also added that any attempt made by Trump’s lawyer requesting the author and the publishing house “to stop the revelation or dissemination” of the book has done nothing but speeding up the launching date.

According to the article, the book reveals 200 testimonies of high-ranked officials within the White House and an interview to the President.

Armengol points out passages of the book have been leaked to the press, and highlights Washington is the center of madness.

Trump, favored by Republicans, must start his second year in office, which promises to be tougher than the first one.

Thus, while some came up with this book to break the current Republican administration, it could certainly weaken even more the already depressed image of multimillionaire President of the United States.

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

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Jeff Flake says no evidence of ‘sonic attacks’ in Cuba

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake says the U.S. has found no evidence that American diplomats in Havana were the victims of attacks with an unknown weapon.

Flake, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, met with high-ranking Cuban officials in Havana on Friday. He spoke with The Associated Press on Saturday morning.

The Cubans told Flake the FBI has told them its agents found no evidence that mysterious illnesses suffered by U.S. diplomats resulted from attacks, despite the Trump administration’s description of the incidents as attacks.

Flake says classified briefings from U.S. officials have left him with no reason to doubt the Cuban account. The U.S. has pulled most of its staff from Havana in response to the incidents.

Cuban and FBI officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Iran’s Attorney General Names CIA Mastermind Of Iran Protests

Attorney General Montazeri on Thu. revealed that the mastermind behind the eruption of protests in the country was a US-Israeli-Saudi think tank that had been plotting for the rallies since four years ago.

Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, Iran’s Attorney General, revealed the details about a think tank responsible for the week-long protests in several cities across the country, saying “the mastermind of the project was an American named Michael D’Andrea, former Chief of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center [current head of the Agency’s Iran Mission Center], and an operations room composed of three sides, namely the United States, Zionist regime and Al Saud, was formed for leading the unrest. The project was funded by Saudi Arabia and mainly planned by D’Andrea and an intelligence officer affiliated with [Israel’s intelligence agency] Mossad.”

He went on to add that the think tank conducted years of research and finally decided on launching campaigns inside Iran under the titles, ‘no to price hikes’, ‘no to paying bills’, and the campaign of the retired and those who lost their money in bankrupt financial institutes.

The think tank finally decided on executing the Libyan plan, i.e. moving from the margins toward the center, he added. …”

Last June, The New York Times ran an article about Michael D’Andrea called “C.I.A. Names the ‘Dark Prince’ to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a Tougher Stance”:

“WASHINGTON — He is known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike, nicknames he earned as the Central Intelligence Agency officer who oversaw the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the American drone strike campaign that killed thousands of Islamist militants and hundreds of civilians.

Now the official, Michael D’Andrea, has a new job. He is running the C.I.A.’s Iran operations, according to current and former intelligence officials, an appointment that is the first major sign that the Trump administration is invoking the hard line the president took against Iran during his campaign.

Mr D’Andrea’s new role is one of a number of moves inside the spy agency that signal a more muscular approach to covert operations under the leadership of Mike Pompeo, the conservative Republican and former congressman, the officials said. The agency also recently named a new chief of counterterrorism, who has begun pushing for greater latitude to strike militants. …

But he has invoked his hard line on Iran in other ways. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has described the deal as a failure, and Mr. Trump has appointed to the National Security Council hawks eager to contain Iran and push regime change, the groundwork for which would most likely be laid through C.I.A. covert action.”

Asked whether Mr. D’Andrea’s appointment was a sign that the C.I.A. planned to take up a more aggressive line toward Iran, Mr. Eatinger said, “I don’t think it’s the wrong read.”

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Cuba exports medicine to dozens of countries. It would like the U.S. to be one of them

Cuba now exports vaccines, diagnostic kits and drugs developed by its Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology — the largest research center on the island — to 51 countries. But except for a small shipment for a clinical trial, the United States isn’t one of them.

Scientists at this sprawling research center in Havana’s Cubanacan section would like to change that. They see the United States as a natural market where diabetics and those suffering from various forms of cancer are losing out on treatments developed at the pioneering center that is known by its Spanish acronym as CIGB.

For cash-strapped Cuba, the equation is simple: The United States is not only close but has an enormous number of patients that could benefit from drugs and vaccines developed against all odds at the island’s premier research center — and exporting those products to the U.S. market could generate revenue.

“Sometimes I don’t understand why our countries aren’t taking advantage of such a good opportunity to work together,” said Manuel Rafael Raices Perez-Castaneda, a biologist and business development director at the center. “We face similar problems. Why not focus on the problems we can solve together and not the differences?”

Cuban researchers have been able to develop treatments that are showing potential around the world — and despite the embargo and the chill in U.S.-Cuba relations, they’re very interested in the U.S. market. The first clinical trial of a Cuban-developed vaccine for lung cancer is underway at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.

Even though 99 patents for Cuban biotech products had been approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office through December 2015, no Cuban drugs are currently registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or sold in the United States.

The registration process is complex and expensive, so Cuba has chosen to enter other markets where it is easier to gain access. Despite Cuba’s desire to get its medicines into the U.S. market, the country has been experiencing domestic pharmaceutical shortages for months and it needs investment to ramp up its pharmaceutical industry.

Cubans say they often get up before dawn and stand in line trying to fill prescriptions or resort to the black market. A recent article in Cuba’s Bohemia magazine blamed the shortages on lack of financing for production, shortages of raw materials, “indiscipline” in the supply chain and lack of controls at the pharmacy level.

Meanwhile, research continues at the CIGB. A vaccine for hepatitis B (Hebernasvac) and Cuban treatments for diabetic foot ulcers and skin cancer are among the Cuban medical innovations that researchers say have the most potential in the U.S. market. But before they can be commercialized, they must undergo U.S. clinical trials approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Cuban scientists say one of their most promising products is Heberprot-P, which is injected as a treatment for diabetic foot ulcers. More than 30 million Americans — about 9.4 percent of the U.S. population — are diabetic, and Cuban researchers say Americans need Heberprot-P as a way to prevent one of the most devastating complications of diabetes: deep ulcers that can penetrate to the bone and lead to gangrene.

One in four U.S. diabetics will develop foot ulcers at some point in their lifetime.

Diabetes often causes nerve damage (neuropathy), and because diabetic patients often lose sensation in their feet and legs, they may not notice a blister or sore until it is infected and difficult to treat. Ulcerations are one of the leading causes of hospitalization for diabetic patients and are often a precursor to amputation.

Every year there are about 108,000 Americans who reach this point and have amputations due to diabetic complications, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Using Heberprot-P could prevent an enormous number of amputations in the United States,” said Merardo Pujol Ferrer, business development director for Heber Biotec, the marketing company for CIGB products. Heberprot-P has won patent approval in at least 18 countries, including the United States.

Heberprot-P, which contains recombinant human epidural growth factor (EGF), is injected deep into the wound and essentially creates a non-diabetic micro-environment in the foot that aids in healing. Cuban clinical studies have found that it accelerates healing with no serious side effects and reduces the chances of amputation.

A study of 61 randomly selected diabetic patients by doctors at the Diabetes Ambulatory Care Center at United Christian Hospital in Hong Kong found that using human EGF in combination with good foot care “significantly enhances diabetic foot ulcer wound healing and reduces healing time.” Scientific studies in Turkey, Greece and Vietnam had similar results.

The Cuban scientists were eager to show their before and after pictures. The first showed a gaping red ulcer on a patient’s foot. The second, taken after 83 days, showed that it had cleared up. Over the past three years, around 13,000 patients have been treated with Heberprot-P in Cuba and there have been fewer than 500 major amputations, according to CIGB researchers.

More than 50,000 Cuban patients have been treated with the product overall and nearly 250,000 patients worldwide.

Entrepreneur Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, is among the advocates of Heberprot-P.

“Put simply, Americans are losing lives because they can’t access the scientific development in Cuba, while Cubans are losing opportunities for further advancements through collaboration with the U.S.,” Branson wrote in a November blog post. “By putting health and science over politics, a lot of lives could be saved.”

Branson was introduced to the Cuban research by none other than Fidel Antonio Castro Smirnov, one of the late Fidel Castro’s grandsons and a nuclear physics professor at the University of Computer Sciences in Havana. He filled Branson in during the serial entrepreneur’s recent trip to Cuba.

Cuba began using Heberprot-P injection treatment domestically in 2007. “We’re cutting off the fire before it reaches the forest,” said the CIGB’s Raices. Now hardly anyone in Cuba has these big ulcers because when they’re still small they go running for the doctor.”

Diabetes, if not adequately controlled, can cut people’s life span by a dozen years, said Raices. But the Cuban program, he said, has reduced the life span reduction to only 1.2 years.

Over the years, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control granted a few licenses to import Heberprot-P for clinical trials, but it’s unclear if any research was actually carried out in the United States.

In 2013, former South Florida Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia supported efforts to bring Heberprot-P to the U.S. for trials. Although Garcia caught political flak from fellow members of the Cuban-American congressional delegation, he said at the time: “This is something that can maybe save lives. This is about medicine. I’m not going to be the guy who decides that people will suffer because of the embargo.”

More than 100 members of Congress signed a letter to former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urging OFAC authorization for the clinical trials as well as a separate authorization for future sales.

But under a change in regulations in October 2016, a U.S. company no longer needs to request a specific OFAC license for importation of Cuba pharmaceuticals if the FDA approves trials or if it greenlights commercial sales. A few months before last year’s rule change, OFAC granted a small Ohio company, Mercurio Biotec, a license to import the diabetic ulcer therapy for clinical trials. Herald efforts to reach the company via email and phone for comment were unsuccessful.

Cuba held its first international congress on controlling diabetes and its complications in 2010. Six doctors from the United States attended. During the latest congress in 2016, there were 51 U.S. doctors. By the next congress in 2018, Raices said, he’s hopeful a clinical trial of Heberprot-P might be underway in the United States.

“Evidently it’s a lot more difficult now (with the Trump administration),” he said. “Before, the door was open.”

John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said lack of market access is at least partially Cuba’s fault. “I’m incredulous that they’d like to have more opportunities for their exports. They had two years with the Obama administration and the Cuban government did virtually nothing when they could have made something happen.”

Kavulich said the Obama administration also could have done more to foster business relationship with Cuba. “So little was done that it has allowed the Trump administration to have a landscape in which it can be disruptive” and erode the relationship, he said.

Despite the U.S. trade embargo, there is some trade in medicine and medical equipment between Cuba and the United States. But it’s not easy.

Although cash-in-advance payments are no longer required for health care products, there are conditions such as on-site verification and certification that exports are to be used only for the benefit of the Cuban people that make some companies shy away from the additional hurdle. U.S. law also requires a reasonable expectation that any U.S. export not be used for torture or human rights abuses.

During a November speech at the United Nations, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez complained that in the last year Medicuba, Cuba’s importer and exporter of medical supplies, had made requests to purchase supplies from 18 U.S. companies that had refused or never responded to Cuban inquiries.

Those who did respond often cited the embargo as the reason they couldn’t do business with Cuba, he said. But under exceptions to the embargo, food and agricultural products and medicines and medical equipment and supplies have been eligible for export to the island since 1992. Last year, $6.12 million worth of U.S. healthcare products were exported to Cuba, and through October this year $4.59 million worth of such products were sent. Currently there are no imports of Cuban drugs except the CIMAvax for the clinical trial.

“To take it to the next level, Cuba needs to link up to global pharmaceutical and biotech companies,” said Richard Feinberg, a professor of international economic policy at the University of California, San Diego.

Besides Heberprot-P, the CIGB scientists also would like to see these Cuban innovations in the U.S. market: a therapy for non-melanoma skin cancer (CIGB-128) that contains alpha and gamma interferons and is injected three times a week; a hepatitis B vaccine that is widely used in Cuba and has reduced the annual cases of the disease to only about two dozen; and Proctokinasa, a treatment for hemorrhoids.

CIGB-128 is now being used in Cuban policlinics that see a lot of agricultural workers who spend many hours in the sun. “In 60 percent of the cases the lesions disappear,” said Raices. “You know we could create a very positive relation between Cuba and Florida for these treatments.”

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