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Published on 13 October 2015 by Mark Weisbrot

gitmo

President Obama initiated a historic change when he decided in December to begin normalizing relations with Cuba. It was an acknowledgment that more than half a century of trying to topple the Cuban government through invasion, assassination attempts, economic embargo, and other efforts - mostly illegal - had failed.

It was also a concession to the majority of the hemisphere, which had informed Washington in 2012 that there would not be another Summit of the Americas without Cuba.

It was not necessarily a change in U.S. objectives, as a number of statements from the U.S. government indicate that the goal of normalizing relations and expanding commerce with Cuba is still "regime change" by other means.

But it is nonetheless a major step forward. The United States had been globally isolated on the issue for decades, with repeated votes against the embargo in the U.N. General Assembly. In last year's 188-2 vote, only Israel sided with the United States.

Recently, the Cuban government reiterated its position that for relations to be normalized, the United States must not only end the embargo but pay compensation for the damage it has caused to Cuba and its people over the past 54 years.

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As media once again focuses on Cuba's economic developments in the wake of the restoration of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the US, we republish this 2014 article from Steve Ludlum. Published on 24 November 2014 by Morning Star

cuba-workers

Much of the recent media commentary on Cuba’s economic reforms highlights the growing private sector, implying a transition to capitalism.

This ignores Cuba’s dominant state sector, its planning system and the role of private enterprise in socialist transition. For socialists, the defining innovation of capitalism is not private property but systematic exploitation of “free” wage labour.

The reforms give management more autonomy and diversify the world of work. So what about the workers and their unions? What is in the 2014 Labour Code and other recent legislation, and what about salaries and job security?

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Published on 24 September 2015 by TeleSUR

Cristina Escobar speaks with statesman, diplomat and former National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada. Our guest doesn’t fear domination because the U.S. has finally hoisted its flag on Cuban soil, as every other country in the world has done. Cuba, he says, will continue to be a small independent nation next to a big country that poses a threat to humanity. One challenge is to strengthen democracy. How? By continuing to uphold a system of social and economic justice and equality in which the voters control the elected officials --in which the people aren’t spectators, but protagonists. 

Published on 11 September 2015 by Cuban News Agency

cuba eu

Cuban and European diplomats announced important advancements, particularly in the chapter of trade, during the fifth round of negotiations towards a bilateral accord for political and cooperation dialog, held this week in Havana.

The two sides said they are getting closer to reach understanding practically in all issues related to the chapter on commerce and they announced a next round of talks in November to deepen discussion on political issues and consider the first part of the accord and final considerations.

Cuban deputy foreign minister Abelardo Moreno stressed the advancement about cooperation and added that they opened an detailed analysis on political dialog after having identified main issues to discuss, such as the fight on discrimination, human rights, traffic of light and small weapons.

Meanwhile, the executive director for The Americas at the European External Action Service, Christian Leffler, said that the talks were aimed at consolidating documents related to cooperation, trade and economic exchange.

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Published on 4 September 2015 by Cuban News Agency

education

The demand abroad of Cuban professors of different subjects relevant to technical education has increased this year, thus bringing financial benefits to the island´s Education system.

Technical Education director Eugenio Gonzalez said that the number of countries requiring Cuban services continue to increase, with requests of professors in areas such as electricity, mechanics, agronomy, math, physics, civil construction and others.

During 2014, these academic services translated for the Cuban Education Ministry into an income calculated at 15.4 million dollars, while that figure is expected to reach 17 million dollars this year.

The directive recalled that following the latest Cuban Pedagogy Congress last February there was a diversification of subjects requested by different countries, whose requests went from methodological assistance to direct instruction services.

Some of these requests come from Central American countries, but most of them are issued by Caribbean and African nations, said the official who regretted that at times they are not able to cope with all the demands due to the language barrier.

He insisted that in order to attend to those needs, Cuban professors must particularly learn English, French or Portuguese as their mastery of these languages is later evaluated by expert commissions in the client countries.

Published on 4 September 2015 by Cuban News Agency

salaries

The average monthly salary in Cuba reported a significant 24-percent increase in 2014 with respect to the previous years, particularly for sugar workers, according to an article published on Juventud Rebelde newspaper.

While the general monthly average salary grew to 584 pesos (some 24,3 US dollars at current exchange), compared to 471 pesos (some 19,6 dollars) in 2013, the sugar sector reported an average 963 pesos (some 40.1 dollars) a month.

This salary raise was particularly due to the increase in the health sector, which employs over 400 thousand workers, as well as in some sports areas and in the foreign investment sector, meaning workers employed by companies operating with foreign capital, as part of a policy to gradually raise the salaries of state workers, the article explains and cites the National Statistics Office data on its Employment and Salary chapter.

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Published on 31 August 2015 by Granma

Dominica

A 16-strong Cuban medical brigade including doctors, nurses and epidemiologists, together with three construction engineers and two electrical engineers, left for the Commonwealth of Dominica this Monday, where they will join the efforts to assist the victims of Tropical Storm Erika.

Shortly after 7.00 a.m., the Aero Caribbean ATR 72 aircraft took off from the Jose Martí International Airport in Havana, carrying 1.2 tons of medicines, supplies and disposable materials for assistive care, together with the personnel.

Dr. Norberto Ramos, leading the brigade, stated that the team who will attend to the population in disaster areas following the onslaught of the tropical storm had been put together in just 12 hours.

He noted that among those leaving for Dominica are specialists who traveled to West Africa earlier this year to combat Ebola, as well as the earthquakes in Chile and Nepal.

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Published on 23 August by Jamaica Observer

Cuba Jamaica

A senior Cuban biochemist attached to Cuba's largest biotechnology institute has reached out to Jamaica in an effort to save the struggling country millions of dollars and simultaneously improve health care for its people.

Leading Cuban biochemist, Dr Manuel Raices Perez-Castaneda, Business Development Executive at Cuba's Center for Generic Engineering and Biotechnology, said that Jamaica was so near, yet appeared to be far away from engaging Cuba in ways that it can improve health care to hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans who suffer from various ailments.

"For a long time we have had cooperation in health care with Jamaica, and even now we have a permanent medical brigade in your country," Perez-Castaneda told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview at his organisation's offices here.

"But cooperation could be better between us. The first thing is for Jamaica, it will be a win-win situation, and personally, I get the feeling that this message is not clear.

"When you are talking about introducing knowledgeable therapists who are not in Jamaica, could be sent there, one of the things people think about is how expensive it could be in an economic scenario -- introducing new therapists that can be costly, and it's not clear of the impact that will be derived. We have an answer for that.

"When you look at health as an expense, you start making a mistake, and I am not talking about Jamaica alone. This is the first mistake a country can make, because in health you do not spend, you invest," Dr Perez-Castaneda said.

Read more ...

Published on 11 August 2015 by Granma

hepB

A Cuban medication to treat chronic hepatitis B, HeberNasvac, created by scientists at the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center (CIGB), is currently undergoing clinical trials in collaboration with the French company Abivax.

The product has been undergoing safety and efficacy tests for several years, stated a CIGB specialist.

According to Iris Lugo Carro, the clinical trials being carried out by Cuban scientists and Abivax - involving 230 patients from eight Asian countries, and the participation of 50 clinical centers - are being realized under regulation ABX 203.

To date, the study has been approved by the regulatory authorities of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand.

The trials were designed by high-level sector experts contracted by Abivax, in collaboration with Cuban scientists.

Satisfactory progress is being made in the investigation being carried out in this region of the world, where Hepatitis B prevalence is highest.

The chronic liver disease, caused by the hepatitis B (HBV) virus, is one of  the principal causes of liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and other illnesses such as ascites, esophageal varices, splenomegaly, all with high mortality rates.

HBV causes almost one million deaths every year, according to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO).

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