Tuesday, 19 May 2009

CUBAN NEWS BLOG


WE NOW HAVE A NEWS BLOG FOR ALL STUFF CUBAN AT

http://ssp-cuba-news.blogspot.com/


TAKE A LOOK !!

Sunday, 22 February 2009


La Conchita
Tues 10th Feb

The Conchita brand is something of a national institution with its range of juices, sauces, and canned goods featuring in the majority of Cuban kitchens. Its canning factory is source of pride for the Pinar del Rio and employs around 550 local people.

On arriving at the factory, you’re struck by the political murals, particularly the one at the entrance reminding everyone of the ongoing campaign to free the Miami five. We were met by the director (and a glass of their own pineapple juice) who showed us around the site and introduced us to some of the workers. Unsurprisingly, La Conchita was affected by the massive hurricanes last year and work was continuing on repairing their facilities. However, their crop yield seemed to have increased with the soil apparently becoming more fertile as a result of the weather.

During most of our visits we have asked how the US blockade has affected things. The response tends to be that while the blockade no doubt hampers life and prevents the economy from reaching its potential, the political will is there to ensure that Cuba will not be defeated and we have seen ample evidence of how enterprises and public services are getting by impressively. This was our first visit where we could see it having an impact. The factory is 60 years old and much of its technology is old- the blockade is prevented from importing the necessary equipment for modernising and expanding production.

That said, production is continuing to increase, and with 10% of profits going back into the factory’s facilities (the other 90% to the government) they are confident that they can continue to make gradual changes to keep things ticking over. How much easier things would be though if they didn’t have to operate with their hands tied behind their backs.

Saturday, 21 February 2009


Fidel’s meeting with Michelle Bachelet

During her recent visit to Cuba, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet met with Fidel for approximately one and a half hours.

In his "Reflections," Fidel highlighted his satisfaction at the Chilean president’s friendly visit.

We present our readers with photos of the occasion.


http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2009/febrero/mar17/Fidel-Michelle-Bachelet.html
PHOTOS

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25612750@N02/


HERE IS A SELECCTION OF PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP

Friday, 20 February 2009

TRABAJADORES SOCIALES

Our second full afternoon involved a meeting with social workers at one of Cuba's four training school on the outskirts of Havana. The journey to the social work school was memorable because we were all still very much taken by the billboards celebrating 50 years of revolution or calling for 'Victory for Socialism' that dotted the motorway.

The Cuban Social Workers we met represented each of Cuba's regions. I was struck by the relative youthfulness of the Social Workers (turns out the average age of SW'S in Cuba is 24) and surprised, to say the least, that they appeared to be wearing t-shirts advertising what they were! Turns out they are highly visible (and don't have lynch mobs chasing them) within their communities and are also encouraged to return to where they grew up once they have completed their training. We exchanged stories about how Social Work was often scapegoated by the media and government in Scotland and how communities, or sections within communities, often regard Social Workers as 'the enemy'. Hence why a social work 'uniform' wouldn't necessarily be popular amongst Scottish social workers.

Cuba's dedicated Social Work Service is only 9 years old, hence the young average ages of S.w's. Functions carried out by social workers now, were previously carried out by the Federation of Cuban Women.Currently there are 42,000 Social Workers in Cuba who describe themselves officially as 'Doctors of the Soul'! They make a moral commitment to work as social workers for ten years (this isn't compulsory though !). It did sound a bit evangelical to me but I don't live in a society that operates a form of socialism and therefore shapes individuals and motivations differently.

The biggest undertaking they have achieved is the weighing and measuring of all children under 16. This was done in the earlier part of the decade and gave a comprehensive overview of the health of the nation's young people. This undertaking was partly as a result of the 'Special period' in the 90's, a period of severe shortages, rationing and subsequent health problems due to the collapse of the Soviet block and thus an 85% drop in foreign trade.

Three Golden Rules are applied to social work in Cuba 1) Be friends with everone in your community 2)Never work with statistics, know people's names 3) Never wait to be asked for help, seems reasonable to me I thought. They have seperated some of the more difficult tasks that Social Workers are often directly involved in e.g. involvement in taking children into care, thus allowing them to retain, in their words, a friendlier and more trustful relationship within their communities. A combination of time, magnified as everything was in translation, and lack of understanding about their System prevented questions being asked that scratched beneath the surface though, questions such as 'who makes these difficult decisions?

The meeting was enjoyable and boded well for the rest of the trip as the people we met seemed open, friendly and ready for a bandolier of questions in English. I was too shy to ask for a social work t-shirt as we'd only really just arrived and were unsure of the protocol, if the meeting had been at the end of the trip then I would have definately begged, borrowed or stolen one to wear to work.

Thursday, 19 February 2009


LUNCH WITH OSCAR

Unusually, the lunch today is a formal occasion, in that we are dining with Oscar Martínez Cordovés, deputy head of the international relations department of the Central Committee of the the Communist Party of Cuba (Cubans like their titles !!!) and Teresita Trujillo, Official of the Foreign Relations Department of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. the first thing to say is that meeting Teresita is always like meeting an old friend and Oscar, despite his position is friendly, down - to- earth and chatty. This is going to be the most informal of formal lunches !!

Our hosts are interested in information about the SSP and we discuss our upcoming conference, where Luis Marron will address the party on the 50 anniversary of the Cuban revolution. they want to know what issues we will be discussing and we outline some debate we have had on our election strategy and changes in our party structures over the last couple of years.

For the delegation, one of the big questions is , what would the Cubans like us to do when we return to Scotland - Teresitas reply ? "I have a list !!!"

Oscar and Teresita went on to explain that solidarity with Cuba is very important and they thank the SSP for its support but that would not be enough if people in Scotland did not have the information about Cuba and, maintaining contacts with the central committee directly and through Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign is vital. Teresita explained that a practical example of this would be for us to contact all US senators and representatives with a Scottish background or family history, to give them information about the appeal process of the Cuban 5. At home, contact with our own MP's, MSP's and MEP's would put the pressure on the political establishment in the UK to support the return of the unjustly imprisoned Cubans.

The delegation were quite pleased that there was a practical direction that we could all channel our enthusiasm when we get home. We were told earlier that this SSP delegation was an unusually large delegation (9 people) and that we have stayed for a longer period of time (15 days) typically a delegation is 2-3 people and come for 2-5 days. we have been occupied with many meetings, information gathering and travelling, but still we have only scratched the surface, but with all the political stuff comes so much kindness from our hosts that one of the delegation has coined a new phrase joining holiday and delegation to describe our trip as a "holigation" which I think sums up the trip nicely.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


ALIMAR URBAN AGRICULTURAL CO-OP

At around 6'4" and taller than most Cubans, the president of the Alimar urban agriculture project, that we had come to visit cut an imposing figure in his camouflage work gear and gaucho hat.

as we gratefully gathered in the shade of the projects' café we were glad to accept another of the small intense coffees we have come to appreciate at each visit. clearly accustomed to international visitors and obviously a very busy guy he got straight down to business.

The project is a co-operative, democratically run, producer of food and medicinal plants. The president, along with the executive committee are elected by the members in a secret ballot for a five year term. The co-op is able to provide, fresh organic fruit, vegetables etc a a low price to the people in the surrounding community. employing 170 workers, who receive shares in the co-op, the salary is 4 times higher than the average salary.

The president outlined the importance of changing attitudes and raising the status of working on the land, professionalising a job that was traditionally viewed as unskilled and unattractive.

As we have travelled through the different regions of Cuba, we have noticed smaller urban co-ops. a minimum of 6 friends or neighbours in an area. the land is leased free of charge and tools and seeds are provided to help these groups make a start.

He said " food production is of vital importance in Cuba" . Through necessity the huge state farms were broken up, during the "special period" in the 1990's and today between 70% and 80% of all agricultural land organised under some kind of co-operative system.

historically, Cuba was the biggest sugar growing country in the world, but when the soviet bloc collapsed , so did Cuba's ability to export her crop and had to go through a period of diversification which had a huge impact on food production around the country leading to food shortages.

Now food co-ops, like the Alimar project, help provide some of the local community's needs , giving food to the local schools and nurseries but also provides for other community development including employment, access to financial loans, free meals three times a day for workers and training paid for by the profits of the co-op. but unlike other co-ops. Alimar, receives EU funding, but has rejected funding where the criteria could not be agreed on however, the two remaining EU partners are respectful of the projects aims and continue to fund the project without interference and as the co-op president said," one of the biggest frustrations for we Cubans is that we know the way but lack the resources"

The Cuban rebels' attack on the armoured train in Santa Clara has been given a new found fame recently due to the first part of Steven Soderberg's two part biopic of Che' Guevara. This gave our tour of the battlefield (complete with original wreckage and recreations) a new twist as the guide was keen to point out the historical inaccuracies of the film. I wouldn't have wanted to be Steven Soderberg at the films Cuban premiere when some of the original combatants showed up and started pointing out where they were actually standing slightly to the right of at no point crouched down during the course of the battle. An example of the inaccuracies in the film, was that the train is only five carriages long, seventeen less than the actual number. This detail may seem petty but when it was explained that these twenty two carriages full of soldiers, weapons and ammunition was captured by only twenty three men, it does sound far more impressive. Although the photograph of Batista's soldiers when they realised they had just surrendered to a handful of bearded, cigar smoking guerrillas a fraction of their own number indicates that they did not appreciate the audacity of the plan. One of the surprising details of the attack on the armoured train is that despite derailing a train by ploughing up the tracks and prolonged gunfire afterwards there were no fatalities in the incident, something that pleased the pacifist wing of the delegation. The location of such a historic monument in the heart of the town, in the original place where the battle took place helps to keep history alive in Cuba and helps to keep the sense of revolution an ongoing process even fifty years after the fall of Batista.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

thanks to all those who have left comments - we have been getting our cuban hosts to read them !! and the occupation of glasgow uni has been passed on to the university students union here in havana and to the university of pinar del rio.

hasta siempre la victoria



They like their titles in Cuba.

To ascertain the role of women in the Cuban revolution and indeed in wider Cuban society, the SSP spoke to Eneyda Lopez Peralta who has the very impressive title of Head of International Relations of the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba in Villa Clara.
The province takes in the town of Santa Clara which is of course famous as the final burial place of Che Guevara.
His remains are located in a monument in the town along with those of 34 other revolutionaries who died fighting alongside Guevara in Bolivia.
One of these included a woman named 'Tanya' and it is her and a host of other women including Celia Sanchez - one of Fidel Castro leading comrades - and Vilna Espin, a founder of the womens organisations in Cuba, who Eneyda refers to when explaining women's part in shaping Cuban history.
Standing at just over five feet, Eneyda Lopez Peralta exudes warmth and affection.

However, once the topic turns to politics it is clear this 'Guevara gran' retains a great deal of revolutionary zeal.
"Women have always played a prominent role in the history of the Cuban struggle," Eneyda explains in very expressive and animated terms.
She continues, "It goes all the way back to the wars of independence with the Spanish, to the struggle with the Batista dictatorship in which individuals such as Melba Hernandez and Heydee Santamaria played crucial parts and were involved in guerilla warfare.
"And women's' influence in Cuban society continues to this day."
The statistics do paint an interesting picture.
For a country often accused of being macho, Cuba appears to have an impressive number of women on prominent and influential positions in its society.
In general employment, less than two per cent of Cuban women are unemployed.
Women account for:
Almost 64 per cent of all general doctors.
Over 51 per cent of all researchers.
Over three quarters of all social workers.
Over 25 per cent of the self employed.
In education women account for 65 per cent of all university graduates of which over 45 per cent are technical and professional graduates and 40 per cent are scientists.
The political and legal institutions are no less populated with women making up over 43 per cent of the parliament of which 38 per cent are in leading positions and 30 per cent of vice ministries - though disappointingly they account for only 12 per cent of Cuban ministers.
Over 70 per cent of all attourneys in Cuba are women, over 60 per cent are judges, and 47 per cent are judges in the supreme court.
Eneyda concludes: "When I think about what woman have done for Cuba and what they are achieving, it makes me proud to be a woman in Cuba."


*** A FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW ABOVE WILL APEAR IN THE SCOTTISH SOCIALIST VOICE SOON (or as soon as we can write it down !!!)

WEATHER

Just as the weather seems to be a hot topic of conversation back in Scotland, it is also the case here in Cuba.
However, the chat does not concern the blanket of snow currently covering Caledonia, but the hurricane which devastated Cuba in September 08.
Winds of up to 140 mph wreaked havoc across the entire island, leaving scars in the shape of ripped off roofs visible to this day.
The weather - or rather the hurricane - is what we mainly hear about when Marbel Pilotes Hernandez, a member of the Executive Bureau of the Provincial Party in Pinar del Rio, welcomes the SSP delegation to the area.
The province is the most western in Cuba with a population of 731,000.
Two of its main industries are agriculture and tobacco, which makes it easy to understand why the people of this area share the Scottish fascination with the weather.
Joining Marbel Hernandez is Nestor Rodriguez Maury, a member of the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party.
He says through an interpreter: "We have seen on our news how the weather is affecting the UK.
"We had a similar severe weather experience with the hurricane.“
He is far too polite to point out that the current Scottish experience is merely an inconvenience and that it has not left our country devastated, but it's one we are aware of.
Marbel Hernandez continues: "Over 113,000 homes were damaged and 30,000 were completely destroyed.
"Naturally our agriculture was severely affected but we are recovering."
Other interesting nuggets of info we learn about the province include the fact it has one doctor for every 215 people and 100 per cent of its students finish their studies.
Following the welcome we head off into central Pinar del Rio, for a tour of the area.
The day concludes with us (well some of us. Okay me and Steve) drinking ridiculously cheap rum until 4am before Alison chases us off to bed.
Like the hurricane, there is a heavy price to pay afterwards.

The Appliance of Social Science

The INPUD factory in Santa Clara has been producing domestic appliances for the country since it was opened by Che in 1964. Today it can boast that at least one of its products- coffee makers, pressure cookers, ovens, fridges, fans- is in every home in Cuba.

However, it's not been straight forward over the 45 years. They were hit hard during the special period due to a lack of raw materials, 90% of which used to come from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. However, given the lack of availability of petrol, the factory was re-equipped and the workers retrained to make bicycles, which contributed to its continued productivity and met a new need.

During the visit, we met Ruperto Chinea Martinez who has worked there since it opened and is known to his colleagues as the 'Father of the Factory.' He talked about the feeling of belonging to a family and the satisfaction of benefiting directly from something they have produced themselves.

We next met with Pedro Manuel Mendoza, the General Secretary of the Trade Union in the factory. He explained their role in ensuring that the health and safety of the work force and some of the other benefits they have secured such as medical facilities, full payment during times when the factory is unable to open (eg following hurricanes), and its own educational facilities where workers can study, amongst other subjects, for a degree in industrial engineering.

We also met with the Marketing Director, Marisel Montero Lago. She explained that she had studied at university before starting work on the shop floor of the factory. When asked how much more she earns in what we would consider to be a senior management role her answer was quite surprising. "My wage is capped at 500 pesos per month. [Workers on the shop floor] can earn up to 800 pesos, but that's only fair because they're doing the producing."

CHE MEMORIAL

During the latter part of the Cuban Revolution, Che' Guevara, with little over 300 men under his command, liberated the city of Santa Clara. This was a pivotal point in the revolution as it left the path clear for the rebel army to march upon Havana and hastened the departure of the dictator Fulgencio Baptista who fled the country soon after, taking refuge in Franco's fascist Spain. The people of Santa Clara have never forgotten their liberator and the city is a fitting location for his final resting place. The Che' Guevara memorial is everything it should be, striking and imposing yet dignified and respectful. The large statue that stands atop the memorial complex is a symbol of his connection to Santa Clara. It gazes towards the mountains from which he and his brave guerilla fighters approached the city and wears a sling just as Che's had on that day to cradle his broken arm. The statue is cast from bronze many of which came from objects personally donated by the citizens of the city to be melted down and included in the formation of the statue.

Below the statue a complex houses a museum dedicated to Che' and also his mausoleum. The museum is filled with many of Che's personal belongings and photographs less well known than Alberto Korda's iconic picture. It allows an insight into the man who became a legend. When entering the mausoleum the reverential atmosphere is striking. The room is filled with green vegetation, decorated with a smooth stone floor and intricate wood panelling in the ceiling which is somewhat lower than would be expected. All of these ingredients combine to create the serene enclosed atmosphere of a jungle. The memorial is not just the final resting place of Che' but also for the brave guerillas that died with him in the jungles of Bolivia. Their faces are carved on stone markers behind which those whose remains have been recovered are interred. Che's marker stand forward from the wall in front of his comrades, symbolically leading his men even after death.

As a socialist it isn't really the done thing to have heroes. However I find it difficult to think of any other way to describe how I feel about Che' Guevara. The visit to his memorial was one of the most profound and emotional experiences of my life and is the closest thing to a religious experience that I am ever likely to encounter. Che' remains a symbol of defiance for millions around the world and as long as there are people willing to fight against poverty, tyranny and inequality then the spirit of Che' Guevara will live on, hasta victoria siempre!

David McClemont
Thursday 5th February

Good Health!

With an average life expectancy of 78.2 years and an infant mortality rate of around 2 in a 1000, the advancement in health care is one of the proudest achievements of the Cuban Revolution. This morning we were taken to visit the Chiqui Gomez Polyclinic, one of eight in Santa Clara, to see first hand some of the work they do.

Most of the polyclinic patients are referred there by a family doctor to see a specialist and, because they are much more localised than the hospitals, they are much more convenient for the patients. However, they are also available to walk-in patients and emergency facilities are ready if required.

Among the areas we were able to see were the dental facilities, complete with fully modern equipment and 24 hour emergency care. As in Scotland, patients are encouraged to attend every 6 months for check-ups; unlike Scotland, patients are not charged for the privilege.

Of course, one of the most impressive aspects of the Cuban health system has been their ability to share these resources with other countries including Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Angola. When asked why they did this given the scant resources available, Clinic Director Pedro Ruiz Alvarez told us that, as doctors, they believe that poor health care anywhere was "ethically unacceptable."

In Pinar del Rio, where I am as I update this, there is one doctor to 215 people, compared to a UK average which is closer to one for every 500. It is this investment in 'human resources' to which Pedro credits the success of the system. The blockade obviously has an impact on their resources, but he insisted that they were learning to live with it, adding, "In the long term, the blockade will be more of a loss to the [US] government."
WOMEN ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES - CUBAN STYLE

Our first meeting of today was at the national headquarters of the federation of Cuban women(FCW) , where we met with Ana Milagros Martinez, who is head of international relations.

The federation is an NGO which is the national body for the advancement of women in Cuba and involves more than 4 million women. following the 4th world UN conference, a national plan of action was adopted.

Ana outlined the main areas of work carried out by the FCW. The FCW have established a woman's study centre in Havana which offers training and education in gender studies and other subjects relating to women's issues. These are not only accessed by Cuban women but by many others throughout Latin America.

Ana spoke next about the FCW's role in the promotion of women in decision making. for example, women in parliament make up 43%, whilst 47% of the judges and 71% of all attorneys are women.

The FCW interact with other women's organisations, academia, and women in the media. They produce educational materials and publish a 3 monthly magazine for women and also one for young girls.

Another vital part of the FCW's work is community work. This is undertaken through a national system of "counselling houses" of which there are 175 throughout Cuba. These centres offer support and advice on a diverse range of issues. They are a space for women and their families, introduced in the early 1990's in response to that difficult period of time for Cubans. They offer a range of services, advice and support on domestic violence, parenting skills, HIV, sexuality and family problems.

After there was a discussion about women's role in the Scottish Socialist party and in Scottish life in general and finished with an invite from the federation for a group from the woman's network to come and visit soon !!!
CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE CUBAN COMMUNIST PARTY

The Cubans are clearly hell-bent on acclimatising us to the political situation before our bodies can get used to the extreme heat as on day one, meeting one, we are to meet the central committee of the Communist Party. No pressure then.
As we all brought formal wear for such an occasion, the shorts and t-shirts remain in case for a little longer as shirts, ties, dresses and kilts are worn instead.
We set off convinced in our own heads we each resemble the fine figure that adorns porridge boxes. However, the looks from ordinary Cubans suggest we are more Charles Haughtry in Carry on Up the Kyber and it's more 'good grief' than Scottish beef.
To add to our identity crises, our meeting turns out to be an informal discussion with Teresita Trujillo, the secretary of the CP's international committee. It is no less informative as the two hour meeting proves to be completely fascinating.
Even though we are accompanied by our translator David or 'Davide', Teresita speaks perfect English and his services are not required.
She explains in depth the situation Cuba currently finds itself in and the period it has just come through.
She tells how following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Cuba's battle to adjust to the situation with the loss of much of its income and market, the country spent the best part of a decade simply trying to survive and protect the gains of the revolution.
This led to some economic reforms which resulted in to some concessions to the private sector particularly with regards to farming.
Once Cuba came through what is referred to the 'special period' the government felt sufficiently empowered to look at social planning within Cuba.
It has now in the process of improving and upgrading Cuba's infrastructure, dealing with roads and transportation.
Being international secretary, Teresita also dwelt on the international situation, however other topics discussed included climate change, the global credit crises, Cuba's political system, education and the political situation in the UK and Scotland, which she knew a great deal about.
Asked on how Cuba's political system involves ordinary people, she explained how trade unions and work places are all consulted and invited to amend government legislation.
Following the meeting we are given a tour of the Jose Marti museum and some of us also decided to visit the hugely impressive museum of the Revolution.
It is then back to our unimaginatively named 'Hotel 41' for our evening meal - the amount of food bestowed on us is frightening and actually leads to us asking if we can get less.
Like all good Scots, we then head for the pub and meet some very friendly Cubans who ply us with beer, Cuba Libre and salsa steps.
When the tab arrives, the reason for their hospitality beams on us all like the morning sun through an un-shuttered hotel window.
We empty our pockets and wander back to the hotel with faces longer than Fidel's with his beard at its grandest.
Our acclimatising is clearly not restricted to sun and socialism.

hola

sorry to all the comrades that were expecting daily updates - access , technical difficulties ensued and the communist party have keeping us on our toes with 2-3 meetings a day so loads to tell you all but have got the companeros to write some stuff up about some of the meetings. sufice to say we have been treated extremely well and have seen and met many amazing people. a special mention to david and Landy our guides ( and friends) and Happy birthday to landy (26 today)

still not solved all of the tech problems so cant upload any photos at the moment. and will try and work how to cut and paste on cuban computers

fingers crossed !!!!!!!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

OFF WE GO !!!

2.30 am Sunday morning . Time to go to pick up Morag and head off to Glasgow airport. Fairly smooth run through apart from the M8 closed in the middle of Glasgow and a short but confusing diversion. Arrived just before everyone else started to arrive. Check-in was fairly painless as I had used the on-line check-in facilities.

The flight to London was quite quick but felt a bit sick on the way down so a cabin crew member gave me a travel sickness pill which seemed to help. Gatwick . That's where the problems began.

First of all we arrived early so our stance wasn't free , we were directed to another one but when we got off there was no wheelchair assistance and we had to cross to the other terminal, which we did as fast as we could, when we got there the (very unhelpful and grumpy) person on the desk told us the the flight booking was closing and that we were lucky we were getting on !!!! "didn't you know you had to be here 90 minutes before the flight?" that would be a no !!! when we explain about the wheelchair assistance not turning up. we were told that the assistance were up on the next level. lift broken - two flights of stairs - very helpful !! the rest of us were told to run or we wouldn't make the flight.

Gate 19, a 5-10 minute jog was full of people when we got there, we checked in and Morag, Steve and Alison arrived a few minutes later by buggy. we all made it !!

Then we waited, and waited , and waited. all told in the lounge and sitting on the plane, we left over two hours late but at least we were on our way!! the cabin crew were really nice and seem to be giving us food every 5 minutes but it still felt much longer than the 10 hours.

we arrived in Cuba 2 1/2 hours late and were met by David (pronounced daveed) who is our interpreter. he met us off the plane and took us through customs were we were marched to the front off the queue to our total embarrassment and the other tourists consternation, who had been standing in the queue for some time.

we collected our baggage and were taken out to the minibus. Here we met our driver and Landy our official from the Cuban communist party. A quick stop at an hotel to change our money into Cuban dollars and then on to our "communist party facilities". it was a small complex of rooms which were really comfortable and we each got a room to ourselves apart from steve and Alison , who we requested a double room and Danny and David who i guess were unlucky!! the only criticism that we have so far is that they feed us too much - 3 courses for breakfast, lunch and dinner. so we had to ask that they give us something light for lunch. Monday's lunch included lobster, which was a bit unexpected. the puddings are a bit strange too, the first night we had mango coulée with a slice of Edam-type cheese in it. it was a bit bizarre to say the least although separately delicious !!

we have a little get together in the bar after dinner to talk about the first couple of days events and our role in them. we reckoned that the meeting with the central committee tomorrow will be formal, although we are not sure the format of the meeting. we opt for smart formal dress, ie kilts suits etc.

Saturday, 31 January 2009


CUBA HERE WE COME!!!!!

3AM in the morning we leave fife for Glasgow airport where we will meet up with all the others on the delegation.

checked in online this morning it took nearly 5 hours !!! british airways were pretty straight forward but virgin atlantic was another matter.

first of all they have a different ref. no. which the travel agent didn't give us. the call centre workers were really helpful but it took 25-30 minutes to get through each time. ref. no. in hand tried to check in but the website wouldn't let us check in all nine - another phone call to the call centre, so split the group and booked in the first 6 but when we came to the second part of the group it didn't recognise one of the group - another call - given a second ref. no. and checked in the last three of the group. but one of the group, who has a disability is given a seat in another part of the plane and wont let me move her!!! another call - the call center worker managed to move her.

yay !!! all finished ???? NO . wouldn't print the boarding passes for the last three but told we can get them at the airport!!!

off for a wee catnap now before we leave.

véale en Cuba (see you in cuba)

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

WISH YOU WERE HERE !!!

New campaign launch - 'Wish you were here'
Time for a UK ministerial visit to Cuba

The new ‘Wish you were here’campaign targets the British government and calls for a high level ministerial visit to Cuba to improve relations between our two countries.

We want thousands of action cards to be sent to the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, calling on him to visit Cuba in 2009.

REQUEST YOUR CARDS TODAY
‘Wish you were here’ action cards are available from the CSC office on 020 8800 0155 or by emailing finance@cuba-solidarity.org.uk

Please request them for distribution among your friends, family, work colleagues, and union branches today.
..........................................

After 50 years of the Cuban Revolution, CSC believes it is time for the the British government to respect the popular choice of the Cuban people and to increase efforts to improve UK relations with the island. The clearest message that our Government could give would be a high level ministerial delegation to discuss, without preconditions, issues of mutual interest as well as differences of opinion.

Right now there are many positive developments in international relations with Cuba, and it is important the UK is not left behind.

For example, in 2008 the EU lifted remaining sanctions which had previously restricted high level government exchanges.

Not only has Spain had exchange visits between Cuban Foreign Secretary Felipe Perez Roque and sent his counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos, they have also hinted that a visit by Spanish President Jose Zapatero is a possibility in 2009.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, has just announced that he would make a formal visit early in 2009, a host of Latin American leaders plan to visit within the next few months, and more are sure to follow.

There is no reason for David Miliband not to consider a formal visit to Cuba in 2009.

Such a visit would have many benefits for the UK. Positive engagement would allow our government to distance itself from the aggressive policies of the outgoing Bush administration that the UK was so often associated with.

Millions of UK citizens have visited the island on holiday and 200,000 British tourists visit Cuba every year. Like those visitors, David Miliband would be better able to see for himself many of the achievements, as well as the problems faced, and would be in a position to strengthen relations with Cuba and beyond into Latin America.

In a time of worldwide recession, Britain could be well placed to develop relations with the island that would benefit UK companies as well as Cuban ones.

Time for Change
The illegal US blockade remains a real obstacle. The world still waits for an end to this cold war policy, despite its condemnation by a record 185 countries at 2008’s UN vote.

However, there are signs of a shift in the US position. In a letter to president-elect Obama, an influential coalition of US business groups called for "the complete removal of trade and travel restrictions on Cuba."

Obama has said that he will loosen restrictions on travel and remittances for Cuban-Americans and indicated that he would discuss issues directly with the Cuban government. This is a welcome departure from Bush's approach.

Why wait for a US lead?

A UK Ministerial visit in 2009 would be a real chance for the UK to show once and for all that it does have an independent foreign policy.
Please ask David Miliband to make an official visit Cuba in the 50th anniversary year of its Revolution and break with the US driven policies of the past.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Sign the ‘Wish you were here’ action card today
- Ask your friends, colleagues and family to sign the card today
- Get unions/organisations you belong to distribute the card too

‘Wish you were here’ action cards are available from the CSC office on 020 8800 0155 or by emailing finance@cuba-solidarity.org.uk

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

CUBAN BLIND PEOPLE JOIN LITERARY CREATION


Havana, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) More than 800 Cuban blind people have joined literary creation by means of around one hundred workshops, the Cuban National News Agency (AIN) reported on Monday.

They participate in meetings, organized by the National Association of Blind People (ANCI) at all levels, and Gilda Guimera outstands in Havana province. She will present her story "Es Mejor la Noche" in the 18th International Book Fair venue in Artemisa town, according to the AIN.

She lives in Guanajay town, Havana province, and was the country's most outstanding writer during the most recent national blind writers' meeting, held in Holguin province in late 2007.

Other wiriters, as Jose Miguel Ramos, from Havana, Tomas Gonzalez-Coya, from Villa Clara province, Nadaisa Rojas, from la Tunas province, and Ada Mirta Bonfil, from Guantanamo, also excelled. That development has been possible, due to educational programs to this sector of the population, creation of libraries and special areas for the blind to read, braille printer's, and training of amateur writers by the ANCI and the Cuban Culture Ministry as well.


www.juventudrebelde.co.cu

Monday, 26 January 2009

CUBA PROGRAMME

This is the programme from the Cuban Communist Party for our trip. it looks brilliant !!!


PROGRAMME FOR THE GROUP OF THE SCOTTISH SOCIALIST PARTY

Day 1

14:00 hrs. - Welcome at the “José Martí” International Airport

- Lodging at the Hotel.

19:30 hrs. - Dinner.


Day 2

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast.

09:00 hrs. - Visit to “José Martí” Memorial.

10:00 hrs. - Meeting at the headquarters of the Central Committee of the

Communist Party of Cuba.

12:00 hrs. - Lunch.

14:00 hrs. - Visit to the School of Art Instructors.

19:00 hrs. - Dinner


Day 3

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast

09:00 hrs. - Meeting with the National Leadership of the Federation of Cuban

Women. Briefing on the main tasks of the organization.

11:00 hrs. - Visit to a counselling house for women and family.

12:00 hrs. - Lunch.

14:00 hrs. - Visit to the School of Social Workers. Briefing on the programme

of Social Workers and meeting with the Young Communist Union

to exchange on the main tasks of the organization.

19:00 hrs. - Dinner.


Day 4

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast.

08:30 hrs. - Departure for Villa Clara province.

11:30 hrs. - Visit to the “Che Guevara” Memorial.

15:00 hrs. - Visit to the Armoured Train.

19:00 hrs. - Welcome dinner.


Day 5

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast.

09:00 hrs. - Visit to al health centre.

11:00 hrs. - Visit to the INPUD factory.

13:00 hrs. - Lunch.

- Tour of the city. Free afternoon.

19:00 hrs. - Dinner.


Day 6

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast.

09:00 hrs. - Departure for Havana City province.

12:30 hrs. - Lunch at the Hotel.

14:00 hrs. - Continuation of the trip to Pinar del Rio province.

16:00 hrs. - Lodging at the Complex in Pinar del Rio.

19:30 hrs. - Welcome dinner.


Day 7

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast.

09:00 hrs. - Meeting at the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of

Cuba for a briefing on the province.

Tour of the city.

13:00 hrs. - Lunch.

15:00 hrs. - Free afternoon.

19:00 hrs. - Dinner.

20:30 hrs. - Visit to a Committee for the Defence of the Revolution.

Day 8

08:30 hrs. - Breakfast.

09:30 hrs. - Departure for the Viñales Valley.

13:30 hrs. - Lunch.

Free afternoon.

19:00 hrs. - Dinner.


Day 9

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast.

09:00 hrs. - Visit to a school.

10:00 hrs. - Visit to a cigar factory.

12:30 hrs. - Lunch.

15:00 hrs. - Visit to “La Coloma” Fishing Complex. Meeting with workers.

19:30 hrs. - Dinner.


Day 10

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast.

09:00 hrs. - Visit to the University. Meeting with the students and leaders of

the Federation of University Students (FEU)

13:00 hrs. - Lunch.

15:00 hrs. - Visit to “La Conchita” canning factory. Meeting with trade union,

party and youth leaders and with workers.

19:00 hrs. - Dinner.


Day 11

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast.

09:30 hrs. - Departure for Havana City province.

10:15 hrs. - Visit to “the Terrace” community.

12:00 hrs. - Continuation of the trip to Havana City.

13:00 hrs. - Lunch and Lodging at the 41 Hotel.

19:00 hrs. - Dinner.


Day 12

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast.

09:30 hrs. - Visit to the Alamar Urban Agricultural Project. 12:00 hrs. - Lunch.

14:30 hrs. - Meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Presentation on Cuba cooperation with the Third World.

19:00 hrs. - Dinner.


Day 13

08:00 hrs. - Breakfast.

09:00 hrs. - Presentation on the Energy Revolution.

11:00 hrs. - Visit to the Metropolitan Park.

12:30 hrs. - Lunch.

14:00 hrs. - Meeting with Elio Gámez, Deputy President of the Cuban

Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

Day 14

08:30 hrs. - Breakfast.

10:00 hrs. - Tour of Colonial Havana.

13:00 hrs. - Lunch.

15:00 hrs. - Visit to the International Book Fair.

18:45 hrs. - Dinner

19:30 hrs. - Cultural activity.


Day 15

08:30 hrs - Breakfast.

- Free morning.

12:00 hrs. - Lunch.

- Departure for the “José Martí” International Airport.


Sunday, 25 January 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ROBERT BURNS




Happy birthday to Rabbie Burns - 250 years old and still having a birthday party !!

AULD LANG SYNE

Original scots version

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne ?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
And surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,
Sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
And gie's a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

CHORUS

English translation

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old times since ?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
And surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

Cubans Celebrate Upcoming Anniversary of José Martí

More than 500 messages were received on Thursday morning during this event which forms part of the activities organized by the Young Communist League (UJC) to celebrate the 156th anniversary of José Marti’s birth.

By: Dora Pérez Sáez

Email: digital@jrebelde.cip.cu

2009-01-23 | 17:59:00 EST
Photo: GoogleZoom

The Palacio Central de Computación (Computer Club Headquarters) hosted specialists on Marti who answered messages sent from the 611 Youth Computer Clubs across the country and discussed the legacy of Marti’s work for the new generations .

Armando Hart Dávalos, director of the José Martí Program Office, said that he will send a message to the Cuban youth on January 27, the eve of Marti’s birth date.Ana Sanchez, director of the Center for José Martí Studies, presented two new digital programs on Marti that will be available on line at www.jovenclub.cu.

The first, A chronology of Jose Marti, is based on the work of Ibrahim Hidalgo and won the National Prize for History. It was developed by graduates of Mathematics and Computer Sciences from the Enrique José Varona Pedagogical Institute and by workers at the José Marti Publishing House.

Sanchez said the chronology marks out the main events in Marti’s life, and features a geographical index showing the places Marti travelled to or wrote about; a gallery displaying photos of Marti and his family, drawings by Martí; and a brief virtual visit to the house where he was born.”

The second multimedia, titled Martí para todos (Marti for all), was made to mark the 30th anniversary of the Center for José Martí Studies. It includes Cuadernos Martianos, the latest edition of the three volumes of his Selected Works as well as methodological tools for teachers written by Cintio Vitier and Fina García Marruz.”

Julio Martínez, the first secretary of the UJC, said that “only by really learning about our history, will Cubans be able to defend our Revolution.”

“These efforts are aimed at bringing José Martí closer to new generations of Cubans. As we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, it is important to remember the importance of Marti´s work and life and to pass this on to the Cuban youth, enhanced by these new technologies which are much more attractive for them.”


Communist youth newspaper


more on Jose Marti here

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Fidel praises Obama's 'honesty'

Fidel Castro. Photo: 18 November, 2008
Fidel Castro had not been seen or heard of for five weeks

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has praised US President Barack Obama for his "honesty" but says he has many questions to answer.

Mr Castro broke a five-week silence, writing an opinion column on a state-run internet site.

The 82-year-old's silence, after months of column writing, had contributed to speculation about his health.

His brother, President Raul Castro, said earlier that Mr Obama "seemed like a good man" and wished him luck.

But he cautioned that the new US president might be raising "hopes too high".

'Noble intentions'

Fidel Castro's essay on the www.cubadebate.cu site came hours after the president denied rumours that his health was worsening.

He did not give any reason for not writing columns, or "reflections" as he calls them, since 15 December, after averaging nine a month in 2008.

Mr Castro, whose Cuban revolution has survived 10 US presidents, had warm words for Mr Obama.

"I expressed that personally I had not the least doubt of the honesty with which Obama, the 11th president since 1 January, 1959, expressed his ideas, but in spite of his noble intentions there remained many questions to answer," he wrote.

Mr Obama has said he wants to meet Cuban leaders and improve US-Cuba relations. He has indicated he will ease restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba but maintain the 46-year US trade embargo on the island.

The Cuban president has also said he is willing to talk with Mr Obama, as long as there are no intermediaries and as equal parties to the dialogue.

If they met, it would be the first between leaders from the neighbouring nations in five decades.

Fidel Castro also confirmed that he had met Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Wednesday, near the end of her three-day visit to Havana.

President Fernandez said earlier that Mr Castro seemed healthy after she spent an hour of talks with him in Havana.

No pictures of the talks have yet been released.



bbc website

Obama orders Guantanamo closure



US President Barack Obama has ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp as well as all overseas CIA detention centres for terror suspects.

Signing the orders, Mr Obama said the US would continue to fight terror, but maintain "our values and our ideals".

Mr Obama has also ordered a review of military trials of terror suspects and a ban on harsh interrogation methods, which critics say amount to torture.

About 250 suspects have been held at Guantanamo Bay for years without trial.

At Mr Obama's request, military judges have suspended several of the trials of suspects at Guantanamo so that the legal process can be reviewed.


see full article



A step in the right direction , this should have be done years ago. but will he hand back guantanamo to the Cuban government who are the rightful owners ? - Gerry

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Historical record of 2.319 million tourists broken


For the fifth consecutive year, Cuba has received more than two million visitors It is expected that 2.35 million tourists will have visited the island by the end of 2008, according to Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero in his report to deputies

Susana Lee

A new historic record has been established today, breaking the 2005 record of 2.319 million visitors, announced Manuel Marrero, minister of tourism, during his report to the National Assembly of People’s Power, attended by President Raul Castro.

Presenting his report, the minister stated that, despite the impact of the hurricanes, which halted the growth trend of 13.4% accumulated by the end of the second quarter and damaged many facilities, the nation has received more than two million visitors for the fifth consecutive year. He estimated that the year will close with a figure of 2.35 million visitors.

Marrero outlined tourism in Cuba since the beginning of Revolution and the development process with the construction of new hotel facilities after the disappearance of the socialist camp in the 1990s. He also highlighted how, as a result of this policy, there has been an 11% annual average increase in the number of visitors from 1990 to 2007.

He also noted that the number of hotel rooms (62% of which are in four- or five-star establishments) rose from 12,900 in 1990 to 46,500 last year, signifying an annual average increase of 8%; that 13 international groups have management and administration hotel contracts, operating 62 facilities with 24,000-plus rooms, and that 5,700 are linked to joint ventures. There are also direct flight links with 39 cities throughout the world, thanks to 94 scheduled and charter airlines and 10 international airports linked to tourist resorts in the industry.

Over the past 17 years, the number of visitors has increased sevenfold, the number of rooms has tripled and income generated is up eight-fold. The work force has also doubled.

Other issues tackled were problems related to the sector, such as the need to ensure greater participation of national products in this industry. Although the situation has improved to some extent, it should not been seen as an issue that has been resolved. There is instability in relation to supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables, carbonated drinks, dairy products and pastas. There have also been difficulties with elevators, air conditioning systems and maintaining beaches.

The minister also referred to the policy on joint ventures, which has resulted in 37 projects in the negotiation phase and 21 at an advanced stage, in spite of slow process with respect to the constitution of new links.

He also outlined the development program over the 2007-2010 period, for which, despite slow progress due to a shortage of construction workers and, in certain cases, project preparations, the Ministry has drawn up medium-term plans for the renovation of existing facilities, hotel and leisure investments, and the infrastructure of highways and road signs, water supplies and waste disposal, as well as an action plan designed to reduce waiting times at the island’s airports.

He referred to the global tourism panorama and noted that although international tourist movements rose by 5% in the first semester of this year, the industry cannot escape from the international financial crisis and forecasts for the end of 2008 will not exceed 2%. At the same time, it is estimated that there will be a negative impact with respect to demand during 2009.

Mentioning the additional impact on the Caribbean region of hurricanes that forced large-scale evacuations of tourists to their countries of origin, he highlighted the recovery tasks that immediately went ahead in Cuba in order to promote the tourism industry, guarantee success during the high season for resorts most affected by these phenomena, and to ensure that the national tourism industry was ready to receive those visitors who had chosen our country as a vacation destination.

With respect to principal economic indicators for the year, he highlighted that income from tourism rose by 13.5% in relation to 2007, utilities by 16.7% and contributions to the national economy by 16.3%

Some 110,000 workers are directly employed by the industry, of whom 41.22% are women and more than one third are 35 or under; 57.14% have passed 12th grade and 20% are university graduates.

Finally, after mentioning the battle being waged against illegalities and corruption, and work related to personnel training, he affirmed that the tourism industry will continue to consolidate itself, prioritizing involving all workers in solutions to insufficiencies that still exist, as well as learning from errors committed.

Translated by Granma International


http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2008/diciembre/sab27/Historical-record.html

Cuban Vaccine to Treat Prostate Cancer Shows Promise

Camagüey, Jan 10, (RHC).- The Cuban Center for Medicine Quality Control has approved the first stage clinical trials for a new therapeutic vaccine against hormone-sensitive prostrate cancer.

Lab tests have proven the new vaccine to be safe. If approved for human use, it would be help curtail the number of men who die every year in Cuba from prostate cancer which is the second leading cause of death among Cuban males.

The vaccine has been named Heberprovac, and it was developed by medical researchers at Camagüey's Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center, and it was already successful tried on patients at the Marie Curie Provincial Oncology Hospital.

Its effectiveness on advanced prostate cancer is yet unknown. However, though the vaccine is not a cure for cancer, it may significantly improve the patients' quality of life and their chances of survival.


http://www.periodico26.cu/english/health/jan2009/cancer-vaccine011009.html

Popular Cuban Director Premieres New Film


Juan Carlos Tabio

The Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) began a nationwide showing Thursday of the film El cuerno de la abundancia (The Horn of Plenty) by director Juan Carlos Tabio. The film won third prize as best fiction film in the recent 30th edition of the Havana New Latin American Cinema Festival.

The movie is playing in the capital at the Yara, Payret, Acapulco, Infanta, Alameda, Ambassador, Lido and Regla theaters as well as in all provinces.

The comedy is about a family in the imaginary town of Yaraguey and revolves around a supposed large inheritance. Among the actors and actresses are Jorge Perugorria, Laura de la Uz, Mirta Ibarra and Vladimir Cruz.

Tabio’s filmography includes: Se Permuta (1985), Plaff (1991), Strawberry and Chocolate (1993), El Elefante y la Bicicleta (1995), Guantanamera (1997) and Waiting List (2000).


http://www.periodico26.cu/english/culture/jan2009/film011609.html

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Opening to Cuba can give Obama momentum internationally

by Wayne Smith, Centre for International Policy
01 January 2009


Former head of the US Interests Section in Havana, Wayne Smith, argues that a more sensible approach to Cuba would be one of the quickest and easiest ways for Obama to signal a change in US foreign policy and encourage support for broader foreign policy objectives in Latin America.
Read the article in full

Film on Human Rights in Cuba Presented in Sweden

http://www.juventudrebelde.co.cu/



HAVANA, Cuba, Jan 14 (acn) A documentary about human rights in Cuba made by Argentinean filmmaker Carolina Silvestre was presented in Stockholm, Sweden as part of a wide program in homage to the 50th anniversary of the 1959 triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

The name of the film is "Hechos, no palabras. Los derechos humanos en Cuba," (Facts, not Words. Human Rights in Cuba.) During the presentation of the material, Cuban Ambassador to Sweden Ernesto Melendez Bachs answered several questions asked by the people in the audience, most of whom agreed on the need to play the documentary for different sectors of the Swedish society.

Bolivia declared third illiteracy-free Latin American nation

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia. - Bolivian President Evo Morales has declared this country the third in Latin America to be free of illiteracy.

Bolivia declared third illiteracy-free Latin American nation According to the president, the eradication of this social ill constitutes a triumph over colonialism, which rejected that social commitment.

Neither internal nor external colonialists wanted to end illiteracy, Morales said in remarks at the Coliseum of the Coronilla, a building in Cochabamba that was the venue of the event to celebrate Bolivia’s attainment of that status, joining Cuba (1961) and Venezuela (2005).

The president described that achievement as one of commitment to continue driving forward on education and other social projects.

In his speech, the leader of the Movement toward Socialism thanked Cuba and Venezuela for their help with the campaign.

More than 820,000 Bolivians learned how to read and write with the Cuban audiovisual instruction method "Yo sí puedo" (Yes, I Can).

According to the president, it should be emphasized that almost 30,000 of those who have learned how to read received instruction in their indigenous languages, Quechua and Aymara.

The ceremony was attended by Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, Cuban Vice President José Ramón Fernández, representatives of different international agencies, and the ministers of education of Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela.

Translated by Granma International

http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2008/diciembre/lun22/bolivia.htmlZ

UNESCO director general begins visit to Cuba

UNESCO director general begins visit to Cuba

KOICHIRO Matsuura, director general of UNESCO, has arrived in Havana on an official visit.

Matsuura, who is visiting the island for the first time, has headed UNESCO since November of 1999.

During his stay, he will meet with Cuban officials and tour sites of historic and cultural interest.

Cuba has been a member of UNESCO since August 29, 1947 and since the triumph of the Revolution has qualitatively boosted its contributions to different aspects of the organization, principally related to education, the sciences and the cultural heritage.


http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2009/enero/lun19/unesco.html

Monday, 19 January 2009

SEE FULL ARTICLE HERE

SUGAR AND SOCIALISM — CUBA’S ECONOMY

Brian Pollitt is a lifelong socialist activist and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow. Brian spent many years in Cuba and in this article he looks at the challenges facing the Cuban economy.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Release of Cuban Five Depends on International Support



CIEGO DE AVILA, Cuba, Jan 17 (acn) The release of the Cuban Five, unjustly imprisoned in the United States, will depend on international public opinion, said Rosa Aurora Freijanes, the wife of Fernando Gonzalez on Friday.
Along with relatives of the other four Cuban Five members, Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, Rosa Aurora told young people from several nations studying in the central Ciego de Avila province that it’s necessary to break the wall of silence around the case.
She said that spreading around the world the legal and human rights violations committed in the case will help people understand the situation of these Cuban men who worked to prevent terrorist attacks against their country.
Rosa Aurora noted that the defense attorneys of the Cuban Five are currently preparing the arguments they will present before the US Supreme Court at the end of this month. She added that after the refusal of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of Atlanta to reconsider the case, there’s hope that the Supreme Court will accept to review it, although there’s no assurance that will take place.
Fazi Saif Galib, of Palestinian nationality and president of the Ernesto Che Guevara Cuba Friendship Brigade at the Jose Aseff Yara University of Medical Sciences, insisted that it’s necessary to reach all US citizens so they know the true face of their government.
He pointed out that it Release of Cuban Five Depends on International Support

DEMIAN BICHIR

Actor Playing Fidel Castro Praises the Cuban Revolutionary Leader
Mexican actor Demian Bichir, who in recent films on Ernesto Che Guevara plays the role of Fidel Castro, praised the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution on Thursday and spoke highlight of the achievement of such a genuine social project.



Demian Bichir




HAVANA, Cuba, Jan 16 (acn) Mexican actor Demian Bichir, who in recent films on Ernesto Che Guevara plays the role of Fidel Castro, praised the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution on Thursday and spoke highlight of the achievement of such a genuine social project.
In spite of the US blockade of Cuba for almost 50 years, there’s something undeniable in the archipelago: everybody eats and they all have access to health and education, stated Bichir in an interview with the Reforma newspaper.
The actor said that time has proven Fidel right, and that Fidel has led a country that’s superior to others in many indicators, like that of the infant mortality rate in children under one year of age, which on the archipelago is almost four times less to average in Latin America.
The Spanish news agency EFE stated that the film - Che, el argentino (Che, the Argentinean) - will be premiered in Mexico on Friday. Along with Che, el guerrillero (Che, the Guerrilla), it depicts the life of the defender of the causes of the peoples, since his meeting with Fidel in Mexico to his death in Bolivia 41 years ago.
The film, by US director Steven Soderbergh, has already been exhibited in several countries, like Spain, the United Kingdom, France and Argentina, as well as in the United States , in a limited way.

http://www.juventudrebelde.co.cu/culture/2009-01-16/actor-playing-fidel-castro-praises-the-cuban-revolutionary-leader/