French Congressman Lambert labels Blockade on Cuba Unacceptable

French Congressman Francois-Michel Lambert said today that the economic blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba is unacceptable and deserves international rejection.

In statements to Prensa Latina, the legislator for the southern department of Bouches-du-Rhone stated that this measure cannot be accepted due to its impact on the population and its extraterritorial character, expressed in the recently activated Title III of the Helms-Burton Law.

'The blockade causes difficulties for a normal life on the island and it is the people who suffer most,' he said in this capital shortly after receiving Abel Prieto in the National Assembly.

According to the president of the France-Cuba Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group, the tightening of the siege by Donald Trump's administration must be fought, taking into account its reach beyond the Greater Antilles.

We want to organize in France and in Europe a counteroffensive against the blockade and Title III, said the representative in the National Assembly of the group Liberties and Territories, who stated as a concrete objective to organize a meeting of parliamentarians.

According to the politician, there is still no definite date for the project that would bring together -preferably before the end of 2019- legislators from France and countries of the old continent, as well as Members of the European Parliament against that U.S. policy.

In Lambert's opinion, one thing to highlight in the case of the US blockade is that in France this measure is clearly rejected regardless of political positions.

  • Published in Cuba

Protests to greet G7 leaders as they talk Amazon fires, trade

The leaders of the G7 club of rich countries meet in southwest France on Saturday, a gathering clouded by the burning Amazon, diving stock markets and their own stark divisions, giving little grounds for optimism.

US President Donald Trump, who landed in France around midday, faces a mass protest outside the Atlantic resort of Biarritz where the summit is taking place, though 13,000 police have been deployed to keep them far from view.

Thousands began rallying Saturday some 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the G7 gathering at the border town of Hendaye for a march over the Bidassoa River toward the Spanish town of Irun.

Red, white and green Basque flags waved above a crowd that included anti-capitalists, environmental activists as well as a few dozen of France's "yellow vest" anti-government protesters, according to AFP journalists at the scene.

"It's important to show that people are mobilised and do not accept the world they're offering us," said Elise Dilet, 47, of the Basque anti-globalisation group, Bizi.

Police said 17 people had been arrested as of Friday night amid clashes with protesters camped out near Hendaye.

The summit was already shaping up to be a difficult encounter with Western relations badly strained by Trump, but images of billowing smoke above the Amazon rainforest have lent it a new, even darker mood.

AFP/File / Nicolas ASFOURI Summit talks will also be dominated by US President Trump's trade war with China

"The Amazon is burning and it's something that concerns everyone," Macron told the Konbini website on Friday.

He has led international pressure on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the fires, telling him Paris would block efforts to seal a major trade deal between the EU and Latin America.

He has called for emergency talks at the G7, which runs until Monday, to find "concrete measures" to tackle the crisis.

"We are going to try and mobilise everyone to raise funding for reforestation as quickly as possible," Macron added on Friday.

- Trade threat -

Talks in the beach resort, known for fierce rainstorms that blow in from the Atlantic, will also be dominated by the darkening clouds over the world economy.

Wall Street stocks tanked on Friday after Trump escalated his trade war with China that is seen as responsible for a global slowdown.

AFP / Key facts on the G7 member countries, ahead of a summit in Biarritz, France on August 24-26.

"We don't need China and, frankly, would be far... better off without them," Trump tweeted on Friday, saying US companies were "hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China."

His outburst came after China imposed tariffs on US imports worth $75 billion in response to an earlier round of American measures.

But Trump hit back immediately, raising tariffs still further.

"We see trade tensions as the single most important threat to global growth," a top EU official told reporters ahead of the G7 summit on condition of anonymity.

And as he left for Biarritz, Trump also fired a salvo at France, threatening to slap heavy tariffs on its wine in response to its move to impose a sales tax on tech giants like Facebook, Apple and Google.

"Those are great American companies, and frankly, I don't want France going out and taxing our companies. Very unfair," he told reporters outside the White House.

"And if they do that, we'll be taxing their wine... like they've never seen before."

- Johnson debut -

Though the Amazon fires and trade will dominate the agenda, the G7 meeting will also be the full international debut of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He will meet Trump for the first time as leader and is expected to discuss the UK's impending exit from the European Union, which the US president has enthusiastically backed.

AFP / Ben STANSALL The summit will also be a debut for Britain's new Prime Minister Boris Johnson

"My message to G7 leaders this week is this: the Britain I lead will be an international, outward-looking, self-confident nation," he said on the eve of the summit.

But though Johnson needs Trump's support for a free-trade deal, he is at odds with him on a range of issues including the Iran nuclear crisis, climate change and global trade.

"Trade tensions are unsettling the global economy," a British official told reporters. "There are differences with the US about how to resolve global trade imbalances."

Trump will find himself under pressure from the Europeans, particularly Macron, to ease off on his policy of "maximum pressure" on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Since pulling out of the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement limiting Tehran's nuclear programme, Trump has slapped crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Macron wants him to put a "pause" on the policy, an aide said recently, which would enable talks to find a new diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told AFP on Friday that Macron's "suggestions" to find a way out of the current impasse were "moving in the right direction."

  • Published in World

French Professor and Writer Warns of US Position against Cuba

The policy of hostility against Cuba by the US government is based on criteria that condemn it to failure, warned French academician and essay writer Salim Lamrani there Thursday.

In an interview with Prensa Latina, Lamrani, a French with experience on studies about Cuba and its society, history and relations with the northern neighbor explained that Washington's position appeals to the confrontation, even with its allies, in the attempt to destroy the Cuban Revolution.

According to the professor at the University of La Reunion, located in the French overseas department with the same name, in the case of the administration of President Donald Trump, the actions against the Caribbean country are framed in their erratic behavior.

In his opinion,the United States continues to demonstrate that 'it suffers from that inability to accept the reality of a free and independent Cuba.'

Since his arrival in the White House, in January 2017, Trump has opted for the resurgence of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed almost six decades ago, with the use of unilateral sanctions and the escalation in the extraterritorial component of the fence.

Particular aggressiveness represents the activation this year of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, section that seeks to prevent the access of Cuba to the necessary for its foreign investment development, within the objective of choking it to achieve the change of regime.

Regarding this, Lamrani said that Washington does not cease to ignore the fundamental principle of the right of peoples to self-determination, and 'the United States must accept that the destiny of Cuba, its system and its orientation are the exclusive powers of Cubans.'

For the academician, another aspect to consider in the analysis of the hostile behavior of the superpower towards the small island is the use of an unbelievable rhetoric to justify it.

'The reality is different: Washington does not accept that a small country decides to take to the letter an inalienable right of humanity, which is to decide its own destiny,' he said.

  • Published in Cuba

French Violinist Performs Concert with Cuban National Symphony

The Month of French Culture in Cuba closes Sunday with the concert of the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the renowned French violinist Remy Ballot.

The concert will be performed in the National Theater from 11:00 local time, the recital offers a tour of classical pieces of the French repertoire such as Debussy (Nocturnes, La mer) and Ravel (Ma mere l'Oye; Bolero).

Prior to the event Ballot starred in a concert at the Literary Cabaret of the French Alliance of Prado, in Havana with the violinist Iris Schutzenberger, as well as the recital of this renowned violinist with the Cuban pianist Mayte Aboy.

In the coming days, he will be presented at the oratory San Felipe Neri, located in the historic center of this city, to conclude with this series of special concerts.

A well trained violinist, Ballot, also studied music theory, management and pedagogy in Paris. Thus, he has a wide repertoire which ranges from baroque music to contemporary creation.

The 4th Month of French Culture in Cuba began on May 17 and will run until June 30 in Havana with a varied sample of music, dance, exhibitions of decorative and plastic arts, among several events.

The artists Joelle Ferly (from Guadeloupe) and Nathalie Muchamad (from New Caledonia) participated as part of these days of exchange with the French-speaking culture, in the 7th International Colloquium Cultural Diversity in the Caribbean.

The Arroz con Mango project was a great success, an initiative that combines dances, writing, workshops, games, photos, music and diverse culinary offerings, as well as creators of both nationalities.

  • Published in Culture

Notre Dame celebrates 1st Mass since devastating April fire

The archbishop wore a hard-hat helmet, burnt wood debris was still visible and only about 30 people were let inside, but Notre Dame Cathedral on Saturday held its first Mass since the devastating April 15th fire that ravaged its roof and toppled its masterpiece spire.

Exactly two months after the blaze engulfed the landmark Gothic building in the French capital, the service was celebrated by Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit in a chapel behind the choir, a place confirmed by construction experts as safe.

French Culture Minister Franck Riester said this week the cathedral remains in a "fragile" state, especially its vaulted ceiling, which is still at risk of collapsing.

For security reasons, only about 30 people — mainly priests, canons and church employees — were admitted inside the cathedral for the service, while Aupetit and others wore construction worker's helmets. Some of the workers rebuilding the church were also invited.

Other worshippers could watch the Mass live on a Catholic TV station. The video showed some burnt wood still in the church but a famous statue of the Virgin and Child appeared intact behind wooden construction planks.

The annual Dedication Mass commemorated the cathedral's consecration as a place of worship.

"This cathedral is a place of worship, it is its very own and unique purpose," Aupetit said.

One French priest called the service "a true happiness, full of hope."

"We will rebuild this cathedral. It will take time of course — a lot of money, lot of time, lot of work — but we will succeed," Father Pierre Vivares told The Associated Press outside the cathedral. "Today it's a small but a true victory against the disaster we have had."

It is still unclear when the cathedral will reopen to the public.

French President Emmanuel Macron has set a goal of rebuilding it in just five years, which many experts consider unrealistic. In the meantime, the French parliament is debating amendments to a new law that would create a public body to expedite the restoration of the cathedral and circumvent some of France's complex labor laws.

  • Published in World

PSG President charged with corruption over bidding process for 2019 IAAF World Championships in Qatar

Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, one of the most powerful men in sport, has been charged with corruption over the bidding process for the 2019 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Doha, according to a French judicial official.

As reported by the Associated Press, the official said the preliminary charge of "active corruption" had been filed in mid-May. 

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he or she was not authorised to talk about the investigation publicly.

Al-Khelaifi is also the chief executive of Paris Saint-Germain, the Ligue 1 club owned by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), the country's sovereign wealth fund, as well as chairman of television network beIN Sports, which has its headquarters in Doha.

He was recently elected by the European Club Association as club representative on UEFA's Executive Committee.

In March he was reportedly placed under the status of "assisted witness" by the National Financial Prosecutor's Office for alleged "corruption" and "aggravated money laundering" in relation to Doha's bid for the IAAF World Championships. 

At the heart of the investigators' suspicions are two bank transfers, French newspaper Le Monde has reported. 

These money transfers were allegedly made on October 13 and November 7 in 2011 for a total amount of $3.5 million (£2.8 million/€3.1 million) to a company located in Senegal, Pamodzi Sports Consulting, which is owned by Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack. 

These payments were provided for in a Memorandum of Understanding with Pamodzi Sports Consulting that Oryx Qatar Sports Investments pledged to purchase sponsorship rights and television rights for $32.6 million (£25.8 million/€29.3 million) provided that Doha was awarded the 2017 IAAF World Championships. 

Khalifa International Stadium will host the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha ©Getty Images
Khalifa International Stadium will host the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha ©Getty Images

It is claimed that Oryx Qatar Sports Investments is not part of QSI and is owned jointly by Al-Khelaïfi and his brother Khalid. 

Doha was overlooked for the 2017 IAAF World Championships – which were awarded to London – but in November 2014 was chosen to host this year's event ahead of rival cities Barcelona and Eugene. 

In Switzerland, Al-Khelaifi has been under investigation since 2017 for allegedly criminally bribing the former FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke to buy television rights to World Cup tournaments in 2026 and 2030.

Al-Khelaifi has denied the allegations. 

It comes just a day after it emerged that beIN Sports chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly is facing allegations of "active corruption" over Doha's bid for the IAAF World Championships. 

Al-Obaidly, a Board member of Paris Saint-Germain and QSI, has been under investigation since March, along with Lamine Diack, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. 

Investigating magistrates in Paris are considering charging Al-Obaidly with having participated in the negotiation of bribes, it has been claimed. 

Lamine Diack is expected to act as a key witness in the matter and will be charged with "passive corruption", AFPreported.

Al-Obaidly has denied the claims. 

beIN Sports chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly, pictured with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy ©Getty Images
beIN Sports chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly, pictured with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy ©Getty Images

"I voluntarily attended an appointed meeting as part of a preliminary investigation," Al-Obaidly said in a statement sent to insidethegames by his lawyer. 

"The allegations raised are not only utterly baseless and unsubstantiated, but they have been – quite remarkably – leaked to the media.

"For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, the allegations are completely and categorically denied and will be vehemently challenged using the full force of the law.

"It would not be appropriate to say anything further."

Earlier this week, AFP reported that Diack and Papa Massata may go on trial in a separate matter, for allegedly obstructing sanctions against Russia for doping in return for payments.

Prosecutors have recommended Diack, President of the IAAF from 1999 to 2015, be tried for corruption and money laundering.

In another case, Tsunekazu Takeda has been forced to announce he will resign as President of the Japanese Olympic Committee and stand down as a member of the International Olympic Committee after he was implicated in a vote-buying scandal linked to Tokyo's successful bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It involved a Singapore company called Black Tidings associated with Papa Massata Diack. 

This year's IAAF World Championships are due to take place at Khalifa International Stadium between September 27 and October 6.

  • Published in Sports

Eiffel Tower Celebrates 130th Birthday

Paris, France: The Eiffel Tower has celebrated its 130th birthday in Paris, with the city marking the anniversary with a light show at the famed monument.

Built for the 1889 World's Fair, the tower -- which soars to 324 metres in height and weighs 7,300 tonnes -- still attracts nearly seven million visitors every year.

Despite calls for its demolition in the years after the exhibition, it soon became the most iconic feature on the Paris skyline and is France's most visited monument.

"The Eiffel Tower is a must," said Laurie, a tourist from Canada.

Christophe Girard, overseeing cultural affairs at Paris's city hall said the recent fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral -- which destroyed its spire and most of its roof -- had awakened people to "the importance of our heritage", and that it "can disappear or be damaged".

The tower was the tallest structure in the world for 41 years until the construction of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930.

A section of stairs from the tower sold for almost 170,000 euros last year.

  • Published in Culture
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