Solidarity Meeting With Cuba Ends in Argentina

Rosario, Argentina, Jun 17 (Prensa Latina) The 16th Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba in Argentina will conclude here today after several days of profound debates marked by the continuation of the struggle promoted by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

The event, which has been full of emotion for being held in Che's native land coinciding with his 90th birthday, will be closed with a panel discussion on the role of the media in these times and the battle of ideas in traditional media as well as in social .

Themes on how to strengthen integration and unite collective forces to defend progressive processes in the region, with Cuba as a guide, marked the days of the meeting which gathered some 150 national delegates and guests from Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela.

The word unity has been one of the most replicated in these days of debate, which included the participation of Cuban hero Antonio Guerrero, the ambassador of that island Orestes Perez, scholars and speakers such as Atilio Boron, among other personalities.

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‘We have to keep calm & win’: Messi feels ‘hurt’ but focused after bitter draw with Iceland

While Lionel Messi feels personal responsibility for his failure to convert a penalty, which led to a 1-1 draw with Iceland, the Argentine star is confident his team will shine during its next World Cup match, against Croatia.

“We have to look ahead. I think we deserved three points, but we have to be calm,” the Argentine and FC Barcelona forward said, after the fierce battle with 'The Vikings' that ended in a draw.

‘Messi is only human, the penalty miss affected him’: Mourinho on Argentina-Iceland draw (VIDEO)

In its debut game in Group D, Iceland clashed with one of this year’s World Cup favorites – Argentina. While the South American team was widely anticipated to secure a victory against the debutants, Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson worked his magic on the 63rd minute, by diving to his right and palming away Messi’s penalty shot.

 @WeAreMessi Hannes Halldórsson (Iceland): "It's been my dream to play against the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, and it was an honor to save his penalty." 

“It hurts me to have missed the penalty because it would’ve given us a decisive advantage,” the Barcelona player said after the game. “There’s bitterness from not being able to add the three points in our first match because I think we deserved it.”

After Sergio Aguero put Argentina ahead and Alfred Finnbogason equalized, Messi's miss came as a major disappointment to the fans. The 30-year-old star footballer, however, promised a better performance against Croatia on June 21.

'Somewhere, Ronaldo is winking': Social media piles in on penalty-missing Messi after poor match

“We have to be calm and stay focused,” Messi reiterated. “I think a lot of what we did was good, but in any case, we just have to try to win the Croatia match.”

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Argentina congress takes historic step towards legalising abortion

The lower house of Argentina’s congress has narrowly approved a bill that would legalise abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, in a historic victory for the country’s growing women’s movement.

Tens of thousands of women – many wearing the green headscarfs which have become a symbol of the movement – braved a freezing winter night to stand vigil outside the congress building in Buenos Aires during the marathon 20-hour debate.

The bill was finally passed early on Thursday by 129 votes to 125, paving the way for Argentina to become the third nation in Latin America – after Cuba and Uruguay – to legalise abortion.

It will now go before the country’s upper house, where it will face another tough battle. The centre-right president, Mauricio Macri, has declared himself personally against legal abortion, but has pledged to sign the bill into law if it is passed.

“It was a long night for those of us who were in the plaza, we did not sleep at all – old women, young women, forming a green tide,” said Julieta Ortega, a prominent member of the Argentinian Actresses Collective which had campaigned tirelessly for the reform. “Today we are a fairer country. We are very happy for us and for the young girls of today who will become the women of the future,” she said.

Argentina has long had some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws: even in cases where it is allowed by law – in the case of rape, or when a woman’s life is in danger – doctors are often unwilling to proceed with a termination for fear of prosecution.

But campaigners have argued that the ban only pushes women to seek unsafe clandestine terminations, a major cause of maternal mortality.

Mariela Belski, Amnesty International executive director in Argentina, welcomed the move. “New legislation could end a vicious circle where women have no option but to risk their lives, their health, and their freedom if they are sent to prison,” she said.

At the all-night vigil, campaigners watched the debate inside congress on giant screens. Some brandished posters of Eva Perón, who is still considered by many as a hero of the country’s women’s movement.

“This is a great victory for the expansion of rights and in the fight for women’s equality. Once again Argentinian civil society is the driving force behind state policies that promote respect for human rights,” said Gastón Chillier, the executive director of the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS).

The crowds of protesters wearing green bandannas prompted comparisons with the brave women in white headscarves who faced down Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship, demanding the truth about the regime’s crimes.

“This proves that we women occupying public spaces can have positive results,” said Alejandra Naftal, director of the Esma museum, a former navy base where 5,000 people were murdered during the dictatorship.

“The women who organised themselves against the dictatorship four decades ago, such as the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, paved the way for the powerful women’s movement today in Argentina.”

The vote – which would have been unthinkable even a year ago – comes after a shift in public opinion driven by a new generation of female activists who have highlighted the many cases of women who died after undergoing clandestine abortions.

Campaigners compared the result to a victory for Argentina at the World Cup.

“This is our World Cup, but there are many matches still left ahead,” said María Virginia Godoy – better known as Señorita Bimbo – a comedian and activist whose appearances on prime time television helped raise public awareness of the issue.

“There’s no going back, this is no longer the same Argentina as before. If we can organise ourselves for other issues like we did for this one, can you imagine the difference it would make? We could have whatever world we wanted,” she said.

Argentina remains a deeply conservative society and the bill was opposed by the Argentinian-born Pope Francis and politicians in the government and opposition.

But the result – a month after Ireland’s landslide vote to repeal a near-total abortion ban – is seen a proof that the country’s women’s movement can deliver victories.

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said: “As Ireland, and Chile before it, have demonstrated, Catholics can be and often are pro-choice. And indeed Catholic-majority countries can and often do support legislation for safe and legal abortion. Catholics revere individual conscience and support policies that allow all women – especially those without power and privilege – to make their own moral decisions about their bodies safely and freely.”

The vote also sends a strong signal across the region. Campaigners in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have renewed efforts to relax abortion laws in their countries – but in neighbouring Brazil, legislators tied to the powerful evangelical caucus are considering even tougher abortion laws, including jail terms of up to four and a half years for women who abort fetuses with microcephaly.

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Che Has Not Died, Says Cuban Hero Antonio Guerrero

Che has not died, he is present among us, said today the Cuban hero Antonio Guerrero on his arrival in the hometown of the Heroic Guerrilla Man, who would turn 90 tomorrow.

Excited to be for the first time in Rosario, a city full of history and symbolism, Guerrero -one of the five heroes who served a long sentence in U.S. jails for defending his country from terrorist acts- said in an exclusive interview with Prensa Latina that it is 'a great honor to be here.'

All Cubans and revolutionaries know that Che has not died, he is present among us. It will be 90 years and more, said the anti-terrorist fighter, adding that days full of revolutionary spirit are expected on this anniversary.

For Guerrero, the 90th anniversary of Che's birth is a very significant occasion. A decade ago, he said, on his 80th anniversary, my brothers and I were in prison. It was then an arduous and fighting time for our freedom, he recalled.

The Cuban hero said he arrived in Rosario to thank and embrace all the Argentines who did so much to take him and his comrades (Fernando Gonzalez, Gerardo Herandez, Ramon Labañino and Rene Gonzalez) back to their homeland.

The emotions are just beginning; it's very cold, but the warmth of solidarity is greater, said Guerrero, who stressed that these days will be full of revolutionary spirit and anti-imperialist struggle, 'of all those things that Che taught us, ideas that will never die.'

Visibly moved, Guerrero said that he is the first of the Five (as they were called in the campaign to liberate them) to be at the homeland of Che, and he does so on behalf of his brothers in struggle and the Cuban people.

On the other hand, he stressed that he will also represent the island in the 16th Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba, which will begin on Friday, a day that will highlight the support for our Revolution, socialism and all the just causes in Latin America.

Support for Venezuela, he said, for former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, imprisoned in his country, and for all those movements that can only lead to transform and build a more prosperous and free Latin America.

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Cuba’s Soccer Fans Ready for the World Cup

Cuba will be one of the more than a hundred countries that won’t have its national soccer team playing in the World Cup in Russia, but that won’t stop soccer fever from taking over the island’s sports enthusiasts.

Traditionally, Cuban fans mostly choose to support Argentina and Brazil, because of the Latin blood they share apparently, but over time support grows for the teams of Germany and Spain, who have done well in previous events, as well as France and Holland, although Holland didn’t qualify for the Russian competition.

Fans of the different teams form groups to come together and cheer their squad as already happens with the different teams in the other national and continental soccer leagues. When the World Cup comes along you can see special initiatives to enjoy the matches.

This weekend, official Real Madrid and Barcelona clubs in Havana played a friendly game at the Eduardo Saborit sports center, to make it clear that even though they support different teams, there’s no bitterness between them. It was also a mixed affair as each team had to sign up one woman to their team.

Anyway, getting back to the World Cup… some places in Havana have already advertised to fans to come and enjoy their favorite team’s matches there; for example, restaurants 1830 and La Chorrera, whose managers are fans of the German team are planning to gather all their fans together there. Restaurant 1830 also has the German Embassy in Havana for support and will be the kind of “official” for their fans.

Tony, a Bayern Munich and German football fan, told us that he won’t miss one of the matches. “I go to 1830 a lot to watch Bayern matches throughout the year, especially on the weekend because of work. Now, I’ll also try to go every time Germany plays, if work allows me to. A group of people that we’ve all known for some time meet up there and we really enjoy the games.”

Meanwhile, another Bavarian supporter, Alfredo, told us a little bit about his expectations. “Germany hasn’t been playing very well in the lead up friendly matches up until now, but that’s because they’ve been up against big teams and they’ve played with a lot of different line-ups. When the World Cup starts, things will be different and I predict that they’ll finish first in their group. Afterwards, in the knockout stage, everyone knows that it’s very hard to beat them, so I think they can be the champions again.”

Raulito, an Argentina fan, has a very different opinion: “This World Cup belongs to (Lionel) Messi. It’s about time that Argentina won a tournament. It was really close to winning in another World Cup and in the Copa Americas, so I think it’s time has come. Messi needs the team to keep up with him more because he can’t do it all on his own.”

“This is a never-ending story, my brother,” Alfredo tells him. “It’s time you look for another team. Those Argentinians don’t have what it takes to win. When it counts, their legs get soft and nobody scores. That (Gonzalo) Higuain needs his head checked: he misses the easiest goals when it’s the final, and the same thing happens in the Champions League, both when he was at Real Madrid and now at Juventus.”

“I believe that Argentina is considered a favorite just because of Messi,” Alejandro says. “Because the truth is that as a team they aren’t that extraordinary. They at least need to put (Paulo) Dybala on the field and put aside that foolishness that he can’t play alongside Messi, because if they don’t, Argentina won’t go anywhere.”

“Forget about Argentina,” Ulises interrupts. “This World Cup is Brazil’s and the Golden Boot award is Neymar’s (da Silva). No other team has the Brazilians’ skill and they have been unbeatable for a while now, ever since Dunga was let go as trainer because they weren’t going to go anywhere with him. Neymar definitely doesn’t get rattled when the time comes and I’m sure he’ll be a champion with this team. Plus, they’re coming back with a vengeance after they lost in 2014, so I don’t think they will lose.”

“It’s true, Brazil is good,” Julita says, “but don’t forget Spain, who are also making their mark in the friendlies and kicked Italy out in the qualifiers. This team is also very good, with star players playing nearly every position. What they need is for Diego Costa to score goals with Spain like he does when he plays for Atletico, because if he did there’s no one who could beat the Spanish.”

“Guys,” Abelito says, “don’t forget about France. If we take a look at each and every player, I think they are one of the best bets and they have also really stood out in the exhibition matches, in spite of the line-up having been changed quite a lot.”

“But, it’s the same with France like it is with Argentina,” Alejandro cuts back. “If they weren’t able to win the UEFA European Championship at home, against Portugal which isn’t a particularly great team, and they didn’t even have Cristiano Ronaldo playing that day, then do you really think they can win the World Cup?

In my opinion, that (Antoine) Griezmann is a lot like Higuain, when the game gets critical, he gets nervous and they can’t win the World Cup like that.”

This improvised group didn’t end up agreeing, like what normally happens, and they each passionately bet on their own teams, just like they used to when they discussed baseball in the old days. We will see who’s right as time goes on, or there might even be a surprise and an unexpected team makes it all the way. In this sport, you never know…

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Thousands protest Argentina's negotiations with IMF

Thousands of Argentines on Friday protested the government's bid to secure a credit line from the International Monetary Fund, which they blame for hardship during a past financial crisis.

Opposition parties, unions, human rights organizations and artists took part in the march near the capital Buenos Aires' emblematic obelisk, under the banner "the country is in danger."

The protest is the latest of several organized since President Mauricio Macri announced on May 8 that he had started financing negotiations with the IMF after weeks of market volatility.

The unexpected move surprised investors and stoked Argentines' fears of a repeat of the nation's devastating 2001-2002 economic collapse.

Many Argentines blame IMF-imposed austerity measures for worsening the crisis, which impoverished millions and turned Argentina into a global pariah after the government defaulted on a record $100 billion in debt.

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Argentine Opposition Warns of Crisis Amid Macri's Return to IMF

In 2001 an IMF-induced crisis left one in five Argentines without a job while people flooded the streets in protests that saw more than 20 people killed.

The block of deputies of the Peronist-Kirchnerist alliance Frente para la Victoria (Front for Victory) criticized the decision of the Argentine President Mauricio Macri to request a financing for US$30 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

RELATED: IMF to Argentina: Implement More Austerity, Privatization

"We demand from the Executive Branch that any possible agreement with the IMF, prior to its approval, be widely discussed in the National Congress, and nothing that the Fund [MF] wants to agree on has to be done behind the backs of the Argentine people," the block said in a statement.

"The decision on Tuesday means a serious setback. Within two and a half years of the Néstor Kirchner administration, Argentina canceled the debt with the IMF, 13 years later, two and a half years into the government of Mauricio Macri, [he] send us to the Fund.”

The lawmakers further warned that the IMF deals have always resulted to austerity measures and cuts to social programs.

"The agreements with the Fund have always been detrimental to our people, meaning cuts in salaries, retirements, privatizations, layoffs in the public sector and an increase in poverty among Argentines, leading the country to very deep economic and social crises," the statement added..

“The Fund” is the word used by many Argentines to refer to the IMF and carries negative connotations as many in the country associate the organization with crisis after several right-wing governments borrowed millions of dollars from it over the years. The most recent crisis was the country’s 2001 devaluation and US$100bn debt default.

The IMF-induced crisis left one in five Argentines without a job, while the country's peso, which was tied to the dollar at the time, lost two-thirds of its value and banks froze deposits. Protests engulfed the country in which at least 20 people were killed. In just two weeks, the country had five successive presidents.

That is why when President Néstor Kirchner paid off the IMF debt of almost US$10 billion in 2006, he celebrated it as a way for the country to regain its sovereignty. “With this payment, we are interring a significant part of an ignominious past,” Mr. Kirchner, who would die in 2010, said at the time.

The new IMF loan will include severe conditions, in case the government asks for funds to finance the deficit until 2019. Macri began negotiations with this body to obtain a loan to avoid a serious financial crisis in exchange for freezing retirements for two years and applying mass layoffs, according to the Argentine media El Destape.

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Cuba takes gold in Pan American cycling championship

Led by Arlenis Sierra, Cuba gave a perfect performance on the last day of the Pan American Road Cycling Championships in San Juan, Argentina.

Finishing the 80 kilometer race in a time of 1:58:30, the 25 year old athlete took first place on the podium, joined by teammates Iraida García and Marlies Mejías, who occupied second and third, respectively.

Meanwhile Claudia Baró and Yudelmis Domínguez, one of the Cuban team’s most experienced members, came in fourth and fifth in that order, with the former winning gold in the under 23 category, reports José Luis Basulto.

Although Cuba has won the road cycling competition in the past, with Sierra, world track cycling champion and Marlies Mejías both taking the top spot, this was the first time the team has achieved such a feat in a continental competition, which also saw Mailín Sánchez finish eighth.

This year’s result represents good prospects for the Cuban squad as it looks toward the upcoming Central American and Caribbean Games, Barranquilla 2018, where the cycling competitions (road and track) will take place in the city of Cali.

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