Italy: Diplomatic tensions flare as migrants head to Spain

CATANIA, Sicily — Italy escalated its standoff with France over migration Wednesday, challenging Paris to take in more asylum-seekers and demanding an apology after the French president accused the new populist Italian government of cynical, irresponsible behavior by refusing entry to a rescue ship with 600 people aboard.

Italy summoned the French ambassador for consultations and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini chided French President Emmanuel Macron by name during a speech before Parliament’s upper chamber.

Salvini said France had taken in only a fraction of the 9,816 migrants it had pledged to welcome under a 2015 EU relocation plan to relieve frontline countries Italy and Greece of the burden of caring for newly arrived migrants.

“So I ask President Macron to pass from words to action and tomorrow morning welcome the 9,000 France promised to welcome as a sign of concrete generosity and not just words,” Salvini said to applause in the Senate chamber.

“I speak in the name of a government but I also have the ambition of speaking for a people who have nothing to learn from anyone about generosity, volunteerism, welcome and solidarity,” he said.

Italy has defended its decision to refuse to allow the Aquarius rescue ship to dock, saying it has never abandoned the ship and is escorting it to Spain. Spain stepped up and offered the Aquarius safe harbor in Valencia after Italy and Malta both refused.

The standoff over the Aquarius appeared a clear tactic by Italy’s new government to force Europe’s hand at the upcoming summit of EU leaders in Brussels June 28-29. Italy for years has complained that it has been left largely alone to manage Europe’s migrant crisis, but the new government says its tactics have finally gotten the point across.

Salvini has accused European aid groups of essentially operating taxi services for Libya-based human traffickers, and has said Italy will now refuse their rescue ships entry. Italian maritime vessels, however, are still docking in its ports: on Wednesday, an Italian coast guard vessel docked in Catania, Sicily with 932 migrants aboard.

The Diciotti was greeted in Catania’s port by activists criticizing the new policy, with a banner draped at the port saying “Stop the attack on refugees.”

French President Emmanuel Macron had blasted what he called Italy’s cynicism and irresponsibility in turning away the Aquarius, which is operated by the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee and the French-founded Doctors Without Borders.

Macron’s office said Tuesday that France doesn’t want to “start a precedent” that would allow some European countries to breach international laws and rely on other EU member states to take in migrants.

In his speech, Salvini shot back and said France had turned back 10,249 migrants at Italy’s northern border since January “including women, children and disabled people.” The border crossing point at Ventimiglia has been the scene of protests and desperation for years as France has refused to let in migrants, many of whom are seeking to reach family in France or Germany.

Under the EU’s asylum laws — currently the subject of revision amid a major political dispute — migrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe. In practice, this has placed a heavy burden on Italy and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of people have entered in recent years. Some countries feel justified in stopping migrants from entering when they should have registered elsewhere.

Salvini also demanded that France make good on its pledge to relocate migrants under a 2015 EU scheme that never fully got off the ground.

France was to have accepted a total of 19,714 migrants from Italy and Greece; in all, it accepted 4,677. Across the European Union, only a third of the 98,255 migrants that were supposed to be relocated under the scheme had been relocated by the time it ended last year.

Salvini’s League campaigned during the March 4 national election on a strong anti-migrant agenda that included promises of mass expulsions of migrants already here. According to government figures, Italy has accepted 640,000 migrants since 2014, but the number of arrivals this year is at a five-year low: 14,441 since January.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy began plummeting last year after the Italian government under the center-left Democratic Party negotiated controversial deals with Libya that beefed up its capacity to better patrol its coasts and discouraged land-based smugglers.

Earlier Wednesday, Salvini accused France of having caused the instability in Libya that has allowed smuggling networks to thrive by spearheading the 2011 NATO-led military campaign that led to the downfall of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

The Aquarius and two Italian ships that have taken some of the migrants are now expected to arrive in Valencia on Saturday night, weather conditions permitting, said SOS Mediterranee’s co-founder Sophie Beau. The port is some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from where the ship had been on standby since Saturday night.

“It’s a relief for everyone, our teams and of course above all for the survivors to know that they are finally allowed to head to a safe port in Europe,” Beau told reporters in Marseille, France.

  • Published in World

Italy, Cuba Sign an Agreement to Promote Clean Energy

The Ministries of Energy and Mines of Cuba (MINEN) and the Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea of Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding here to promote the use of safe and clean energies.

The agreement was signed by the Director General of Sustainable Development of the Ministry of Environment of Italy, Francesco La Camera, and by his counterpart of Renewable Energy of MINEN, Rosell Guerra.

This tool, declared Guerra, is an important contribution to the fulfillment of the objectives of the policy approved in Cuba for the Perspective Development of Renewable Sources and the Efficient Use of Energy, whose strategy foresees the reduction of dependence on fossil fuels and the elevation of environmental sustainability.

Guerra also revealed the implementation, as soon as possible, of joint projects to apply photovoltaic solar energy, with the aim of improving electricity service in some rural areas of Cuba.

It also meant the advantages that can be derived from it in the exchange of practical experiences between Cuban and Italian specialists, training, technology transfer and technical assistance.

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Cuban Music Continues Success with Gente de Zona

Havana, May 24 ( Prensa Latina) Cuban duo Gente de Zona surprises again today in social media with another of their usual featuring, this time with Italian trio Il Volo and the theme ''Noche sin día'', a preview of the summer concerts.

Members Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca anticipated during the past days the return of the group to the world market, after referring to some details of the new album with unpublished songs, which will be launched May 25.

Despite the surprising news about the collaboration of the three tenors with Gente de Zona, one of the most listened to Latin American groups of the moment, Michele Torpedine, manager of the trio anticipated Il Volo's new project will follow the path of pop and Latin sound.

'That trajectory will surely allow the group to enter the South American market, but we never reject any collaboration with renowned performers or groups, and Gente de Zona is currently doing a laudable job,' Torpedine said.

The new plate aims to conquer the countries where Il Volo (The Flight) is already established, their manager remarked.

The album, whose title and official launch date are unconfirmed, was recorded in Latin America.

Il Volo is planning several concerts in Italy in June. It is a vocal trio formed in 2009 by male singers and composed of baritone Gianluca Ginoble and tenors Ignazio Boschetto and Piero Barone.

The Italian trio makes an incursion into the classic crossover or lyrical pop genre. In 2015 they won the San Remo Song Festival and represented Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest of the same year, where they won third place.

  • Published in Culture

Eight Cuban players to play pro baseball in Italy

Eight Cuban baseball players will sign their contracts next Friday to professionally play in the Italian Baseball League (IBL).

Several of the athletes to play in the European nation are local aces such as left-hander pitcher Ulfrido Garcia (Parma Baseball A.S.D), and right-handed pitchers Erly Casanova (Parma Baseball A.S.D) and Bladimir Baños (Polisportivo Padule), in addition to catcher Frank Camilo Morejon (Parma Baseball A.S.D).

The list also includes infielder Yordany Alarcon (Polisportivo Padule) and RHPs Eddy Abel Garcia (Cagliari Baseball A.S.D), Frank Montieth (A.S.D Athletics Bologna) and Jose Pablo Cuesta (B.C. Sala Baganza).

  • Published in Sports

Italy-Cuba Friendship Association Congress Closes in Parma

With the approval of the final documents and the election of the new board of directors, the twelfth congress of the National Association of Italy-Cuba Friendship (Anaic) concludes here today.

For three days, 120 delegates representing the 3,500 members of the organization, belonging to 68 circles throughout the country, evaluated the work done in the last four years and aimed at new goals in the sustained work of support and solidarity with the Cuban people and their Revolution.

Speaking on the eve of the plenary session, the first vice president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), Elio Gámez, underscored the important role played in defense of the Revolution by Anaic, one of the first institutions of its kind founded in Europe, 57 years ago.

He highlighted the footprint left in the history of the organization by men and women, physically disappeared, who for almost six decades gave themselves to solidarity with the island from Italy, including Giovanni Ardisone, a young medical student killed in Milan during a demonstration on October 27, 1962.

He also stressed the importance of continuing with this active solidarity, bearing in mind that despite the release of the five anti-terrorist fighters and the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States, the US blockade against the Caribbean nation remains intact, and even it intensifies.

He also clarified that in the conversations of his country with the United States and the European Union, 'never have been put on the table or one of our principles of internal and external policy,' including their internationalist vocation.

Gámez put special emphasis on the preservation of the unity of the solidarity movement as an indispensable element to achieve the effectiveness of their actions, regardless of political affiliation, religious creed, sexual orientation, skin color or origin of those who develop them.

  • Published in Cuba

Yovani Aragon amid his toughest game

The commissioner of Cuban baseball talked with Escambray about strategies, hiring, and projections of our national sports.

None of the games he played for Sancti Spiritus in 16 seasons or with the national team in 1998, when he was Cuba’s MVP in the World Championship held in Italy, is being more difficult for Yovani Aragon than the challenge of heading the National Commission of Baseball in Cuba.

Surrounded by a soccer invasion, baseball is bleeding to death among players’ defections. International titles vanished. Fans are bored. U-23 tournament does not meet fans’ expectations. Some, unhappy, target the tournament held prior to the National Series because players have not been paid a dime for what they did last season. But used to tough moments, the native from Sancti Spiritus threw his slider and wipes the sweat away. Escambray follows him play-by-play.

“We are not as bad as they say. We have witnessed a tournament with acceptable technical level. We have witnessed kids motivated and it means health for the sports. Next year, we start over with the U-12 category. It is sort of a guarantee to have this concentration in a single place (EIDE –School for Sports Initiation) since existing scarce sources can be allocated there.”

But there is lack of gloves, bats, balls, stadiums…

Baseball in Cuba is not safe from the lack of resources our country is experiencing. But we have reached municipalities with balls, bats, and jerseys. We use the money earned by the Federation not only for international tournaments and representing Cuba.

Today people playing baseball are not those who love it, but those who can afford it

We know the economic conditions of some families and baseball kits are expensive. We appreciate trainers, parents, and commissions’ efforts and we suggest all provinces to go to remote places. There are talents in Cuba, we just need to go and find them.

How does the National Commission assess desertion in lower-level categories?

It is a problem. Three or four players remain in Cuba from the teams that won the U-15 World Championship and the U-18 Pan American tournament each. We insist on parents and athletes not to be deceived. Not all of them can reach the Big Leagues. We have seen some of them abandoned in the world. No country in the world gives them the attention and love they get here. Most of those who decide to return are reinstated. They have the option of being hired. Some, like Oscar Luis Cola, Raidel Martinez, and Leandro Urgelles, are very young.

What is the policy with those coming back?

Those who left legally —they had the right and did not renege on their provinces— can play the provincial tournament and then the national series, if call up. If not, those players must wait one year because there is indiscipline. One season is not too much for athletes who abandon their provincial teams amid one tournament. Let’s take into account the sacrifice of trainers who teach athletes until they have 18-19 years old and then defect.

Are Japan and Canada the only options?

The Can-Am league is not the Major Leagues, or the Japanese League. But it has very good level with former big leaguers and other players who played AA and AAA. Cuba’s U-18 team will train in Quebec for the world championship. There are other events like the one in Rotterdam, the Cuba-USA friendly match, and the U-15 Pan American competition. Japan has increased its hiring and we have some in Italy. These are the options.

Do you agree Cuba should learn more about signings?

We have been dealing with signings three or four years now and we have done it with already experienced leagues. There are lots of clauses, legal issues that we must learn. We are training personnel so that every contract may be stronger. We are doing good business. We insert protective sections. Therefore, we are not far from the right path.

Any lights on the possibility of playing in Latin American leagues? Where are we in the talks with the Big Leagues?

Caribbean leagues or other leagues related to the MLB cannot hire any Cuban player due to the US blockade. We are still talking with the MLB. Perhaps we are not making great strides, but certain agreements are in place with mutual respect and interests.

Our stance is the same: Cuban players should be able to play that baseball and then return to our country like Mexicans, Venezuelans, and Japanese…Now, those who betrayed our country in any international event cannot represent Cuba yet.

Signings are good but hurt the National Series

We cannot be isolated. The signings are opportunities and most of the time they are positive. Most of them return and play the second stage of the postseason. The National Series will be always played with 16 teams. And there will be a time to group the quality. Cuba is baseball. Do you see a province without a baseball team?

Is it the U-23 tournament the sort of baseball the Cuban Baseball Commission aspires?

The fans are following it with other perspective. But we should understand that this is a tournament for player development.

Do you agree that baseball in Cuba is not in its prime?

No, I say it again: I do not think we are that bad as many believe we are. We played the World Baseball Classic where teams like South Korea and Venezuela —better placed in the world ranking and with big leaguers in their rosters— could not advanced. And we did it with Cuban-born players. It is true there are problems. But we do achieve things and we praise the work of trainers and workers. We are an athlete-producer machine.

But almost all stadiums remain empty, except in the postseason. Day games are hurting baseball players.

The most important thing is that we must demand more efforts from players. It is not about baseball kits or fields. Regarding the game time, we decided to unify the time. However, we are open to allow that provinces can change the time according to their needs. We are planning to change the lights in stadiums.

There are small sample of 90+ pitchers. How do you go to Japan?

Strategies, signings, young players, everything prepares us to face this new cycle to look for the qualification ticket in the Pan American Games. Japan is our goal. We have 90+ pitchers in the U-23 tournament. We are projecting a national pitching school to achieve a more specialized work.

To some, the Commission has lost credibility and authority

I do not know anything about such opinion. The Commission is working hard. Not all you read on social media is true. Everyone has his/her own opinions, and we are open to talk and help Cuban baseball.

Is this your toughest game?

This is a tough one. But we are trying to do the same we did in crucial games: to get opponents out with everyone’s help. I trust we can win this game.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / Cubasi Translation Staff

Cuban Symphony Orchestra in Concert with Italian Artists

Havana, Apr 4 (Prensa Latina) Italian orchestra director Francesco Belli will direct the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra (OSN) next Sunday, in a concert to be performed at the Covarrubias Hall of the National Theater of Havana, in which they will perform works written by famous authors like Beethoven, Schumann and Stravinski.

The concert will receive the debut of Italian young violoncello player Elena Cappelletti, for the first time to perform in Cuban theaters, invited by the OSN.

According with the program, Cappelletti will be the soloist of the concert for violoncello, by Schumann, one of the masterpieces written by the composer towards the end of his career in a stage of rest and happiness, while he was residing in the German city of Düsseldorf.

The repertoire of the concert will be completed by the Egmont Overture, by Beethoven, and The Bird of Fire, of Stravinski, based on Russian folk histories on the magic bird of intense sheen that both a blessing as much as a curse for its captor.

The Cuban Symphony Orchestra has shared the stage with Foreign artists, such as Swiss flute player Antipe d' Stella, Haitian pianist haitiana Micheline Laudun Denis and her current orchestra director, Tido Dejan.

  • Published in Culture

8 people found alive under snow after avalanche hits hotel in Italy

Almost two days after up to 30 people were feared dead when an avalanche hit a hotel in Italy, eight people were discovered alive under the snow.
 

The first woman and her daughter have been pulled out of the rubble, and is being evacuated to safety, ANSA agency reported. 

Rescuers are now working to recover other survivors from snow, fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari said, as cited by Reuters.

“They are alive and we are talking to them,” he told the agency by phone.

In a conflicting report, AP cited a local policeman talking from the scene by radio, who put the number of survivors at five, adding that choppers had been requested for the rescue operation.

Rescuers worked through the night, in extreme conditions, with temperatures well below zero, ANSA reported them as saying.

“Since yesterday evening we are working in difficult conditions in the search for survivors. Dogs often sniff odors but we must dig to over 4, 5 meters before reaching the ground,” Matteo Gasparini, head of the rescue team, said.

Up to 30 people were declared missing on Wednesday afternoon, and were feared dead for many hours.

As of now, two of the victims’ bodies have been found, and two others have been located, according to local media.

The avalanche, which was triggered by a string of earthquakes, struck the base of the Gran Sasso mountain range near the Rigopiano di Farindola hotel. There were about 20 guests and seven staff members at hotel at the time of the disaster.

  • Published in World
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