Published on 31 December 2015 by Granma
'The history of our Revolution is full of glorious chapters in the face of challenges, risks and threats', the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, stated during his speech closing the Sixth Ordinary Session of the Eighth Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power, December 29.
The Cuban head of state noted that despite the economic crisis and the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba, the island’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 4% this year, and will continue to grow in 2016, albeit at a slower pace.
He also noted that the number of foreign tourists visiting the country this year rose to 3.5 million; the highest number recorded to date; and reaffirmed the Cuban government’s intention to honor its commitments resulting from the agreements reached in the renegotiation of the island’s debt.
Regarding the issue of relations with the United States, President Raúl Castro stressed that Cuba has repeatedly advised the U.S. government that in order to normalize bilateral relations, the blockade must be lifted and the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base must be returned, “as I explained in my statement in the Council of Ministers on the 18th, during which I also reaffirmed that Cuba should not be asked to abandon its independence cause, or renounce the principles and ideals for which generations of Cubans have fought, for a century and a half.”
With just a few days to go, before the celebration of the anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution, Esteban Lazo, president of the Cuban parliament, acknowledged the people’s contribution in efforts to build a prosperous and sustainable socialism. He highlighted the work of deputies and delegates in response to proposals, complaints and suggestions from the public.
Likewise, he reiterated that the right to independence, sovereignty and self-determination are essential to the defense of the Cuban people. He reaffirmed that “economic, diplomatic and political relations with any other state can never be negotiated in the presence of aggression, threat or coercion by a foreign power.”
Marino Murillo, a member of the Party Political Bureau, a vice president of the Council of Ministers and minister of Economy and Planning, explained that Cuba's GDP grew by 4% this year, mainly due to the acquisition of cash advances, contracts to secure credit, as well as a downward trend in the price of imports.
He noted that all sectors have seen an increase with respect to 2014 and referred specifically to the sugar industry, which grew by 16.9%, construction by 11.9%, and manufacturing by 9.9%.
Published on 15 December 2015 by Granma
In line with changes being applied to the national education system in Cuba, Special Education is undergoing an extensive improvement process, looking to perfect comprehensive education for students with special and learning needs, with a key focus on diversity, noted Dora Laborí Kindelán, a special education methodologist from the Ministry of Education (Mined).
Educational support for students with varying needs and circumstances, the role of specialists and staff training programs, are all important aspects of this process.
Experimental initiatives focused on areas such as support for pupils with severe learning disabilities and work with blind and visually impaired students, are currently being applied in six of the country’s provinces. The results of these experiments will later be extended throughout the rest of the country.
“Today every school is designing its own institutional educational scheme, working on the basis of a more flexible and context specific curriculum,” the Mined methodologist stated.
Another proposal is to restructure the assessment system and aim toward providing quality education in a school which must continually work to be more inclusive.One of the aims of the Special Education program during this stage of the improvement process is to have a learning agenda focused on the potential of every student. “The impact of the social and educational factor is far more important than any biological limitation the student may have,” Laborí Kindelán noted.
Published on 16 December 2015 by Granma
Dr. Norberto de Jesús Ramos González believes that one reaches the height of humanism when offering medical care to victims of catastrophic events, caused by natural disasters or epidemics.
A dentist by profession, he first served as head of the Cuban medical brigade in Equatorial Guinea, Africa; and later in the Caribbean islands of Haiti and Dominica, in addition to previous short periods of work in several other countries.
Although Cuba has been offering solidarity support to Equatorial Guinea for 40 years, in 2000 the revolutionary government decided to send more collaborators to establish the Comprehensive Health Program, an initiative previously undertaken in Central America, which included medical assistance in remote areas and human resource training.
“Our main challenge in Africa was malaria and the 146 members of our brigade fell ill with the disease in the first or second year of the mission. The Cuban authorities were very concerned about the situation, which is why we received a visit from the Minister of Health and other deputy ministers. Luckily no deaths occurred,” commented Ramos González to Granma International.
Describe the process of creating an internationalist brigade?
Published by 17 November 2015 by Granma
Over the last few days, a complex situation has developed involving more than 1,000 Cubans who have arrived in Costa Rica, from other countries in the region, with the intention of traveling to the United States.
These persons left Cuba in a legal manner to travel to various Latin American countries, meeting the requirements established by Cuban migratory regulations. In an attempt to reach United States territory, they have become victims of traffickers and criminal gangs which unscrupulously profit from their control of the passage of persons through South America, Central America and Mexico.
Cuban authorities have maintained ongoing contact with the governments of the countries involved, with the goal of finding a rapid, appropriate solution, which would take into consideration the wellbeing of the Cuban citizens.
The Ministry of Foreign Relations would like to emphasize that these citizens are victims of the politicization of the migration issue on the part of the United States government, the Cuban-American Adjustment Act, in particular, and the application of the so-called “wet foot-dry foot” policy, which gives Cubans differentiated treatment - the only one of its kind in the world - which admits them immediately and automatically, regardless of the route or means used, even if they arrive in an illegal manner to U.S. territory.
This policy encourages irregular immigration from Cuba to the United States, and constitutes a violation of the letter and spirit of Migratory Accords currently in effect, in which both countries assumed the responsibility to guarantee legal, safe, orderly emigration.
Published on 17 November 2015 by Granma
Under a new action plan, the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industry Group BioCubaFarma, is looking to promote potential businesses related to providing medical services, and making a multi-faceted contribution to the development of the Cuban economy. The island’s greatest export potential lies in its healthcare products and services, enhanced by international recognition of the country’s medical care (in accordance with cooperation projects across 60 countries) and results of over three decades of scientific efforts, production and research for the treatment of chronic illnesses.
Increasingly comprehensive, cost effective and aimed toward diversification and constant growth, these exports promise to make a positive change in the health systems and quality of life of citizens in beneficiary nations.
According to BioCubaFarma’s director of Trade, Business and International Collaboration Policy, Mayda Mauri Pérez, comprehensive care for diabetic patients, diagnosis and rehabilitation of cardiovascular illnesses and cancer prevention, research and treatment feature among priority demands.
Other projects include the detection, analysis and treatment of hearing disabilities; early identification of neurodevelopment disorders in infants; comprehensive pre and neonatal research; and epidemiological surveillance.
Published on 11 November by Cuba Solidarity Campaign
A historic ruling by the Court of Appeal on Tuesday 10 November has opened the door for René González to visit Britain, despite twice being denied a visa by the British government in 2014.
René González is one of the five Cuban nationals who served long sentences in the US for attempting to prevent terrorist attacks by infiltrating Florida based groups responsible for violent actions against Cuba. International human rights organisations, politicians, religious groups and campaigners have expressed serious concerns about the convictions and the fairness of the trial. René was freed in 2011 after completing his 15 year sentence, and the remaining members of the Five were released on 17 December 2014 as part of rapprochement talks between the Cuba and the US.
Published on 8 November 2015 by Telesur English
Cuban doctors have served over 29 million Hondurans and saved at least 250,800 Honduran lives over the past 17 years, according to local media.
Since arriving in the Central American country in 1998, Cuban doctors have focused on serving rural areas with little or no access to healthcare, the Cuban Medical Brigade leader Orlando Alvarez told Honduras’ La Prensa.
The Cuban Medical Brigade was initially sent to Honduras in 1998 by former Cuban President Fidel Castro to help respond to the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. The tropical storm impacted all of Central America but hit Honduras the hardest, killing at least 7,000 Hondurans and leaving at least 1.5 million more homeless.
Honduras and Cuba later agreed to lengthen the stay of Cuban health professionals in the country to provide healthcare to underserved regions.
Washington voted against the resolution despite the recent renewal of diplomatic ties with Cuba and the push by President Barack Obama to lift the embargo first introduced a year before he was born.
The draft resolution urges all member states to “refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures” that furthering the blockade, and those that have such laws to “repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.” It specifically cites the 1996 Helms-Burton Act as one such law, which affects the sovereignty of other states and legitimate interests of their citizens, as well as the freedom of trade and navigation. Helms-Burton penalizes foreign companies for doing business with Cuba.
Of the 193 member states at the General Assembly, 191 voted in support of the resolution, titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
Washington imposed the blockade in 1960, after Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro overthrew the regime of Fulgencio Batista, a US-backed dictator. It has been in place for over 55 years.
“The time has come to put an end to this unilateral embargo," said the Paraguayan representative, speaking on behalf of Mercosur, a free trade block of seven South American nations.
“The continuation of the embargo is unjustifiable, and counters Cuba’s effort to achieve sustainable development,” said the Iranian representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
President Obama announced in December 2014 that he would be changing the US policy on Cuba, arguing that the blockade had not produced the desired effect. In May 2015, the US removed Cuba from the list of countries accused of sponsoring terrorism. The Cuban embassy in Washington reopened in July, and the US embassy in Havana followed suit in August.
Published on 13 October 2015 by Mark Weisbrot
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.