Posts Tagged ‘science’

Over Three Million Patients Benefit From Operation Milagro

August 9, 2013

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More than three million patients have recovered vision thanks to the Operation Milagro. The second phase will expand the attention to the African peoples without decreasing the number of operations on patients from Latin America and countries of the ALBA
By: Osviel Castro Medel

CARACAS, Venezuela.- More than three million patients across the world, especially in Latin America, have benefited from the Operation Milagro created on July 8, 2004 by Commanders Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

Venezuelan Gabriela Soler, national coordinator of this program, which has restored the sight to so many people for free, noted that these figures are due to the quick increase after the initiative was given a new official thrust last June.

Soler said that the second phase comprises of the installation of optics and workshops to carve crystals or lenses, new equipment for some of the surgical centres, a plan to continue to train ophthalmologists and opticians in Venezuela, the establishment of a statistics centre to register the patients’ pathology and those who are prone to undergo eye surgery, among other measures.

In addition, 22 hospitals in Venezuela are expected to serve as pilot headquarters of the operation in this second phase. The goal of this program is to also provide attention to the criminal population in penitentiaries, disabled people who have not been registered and indigenous inhabitants in their regions.

The social program not only includes surgery, but also implies the supply of corrective lenses, inquiries to add people with visual disabilities and a project to prevent eye problems.

The most common health conditions under treatment by the ophthalmologists through these nine years are: cataracts, pterygium, glaucoma and strabismus.

In the act of re-launching the operation, celebrated two months ago, Venezuela’s Executive Vice-president Jorge Arreaza, said that this project, which will entail giving more attention to the African people without reducing the number of patients from Latin America and countries of the ALBA under medical attention, will be under the rectorship of Virginia, Hugo Chavez’ daughter.

The Vice-president praised the professionalism of the Cuban health personnel, which has been the heart of this operation, considered a pride and joy for Commanders Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

The Operation Milagro, created in 2004 to treat Venezuelan patients in Cuba, spread to Latin America and across the planet when in August 2005 Fidel and Chavez signed the Sandino Pledge in both countries to assist six million people within ten years – especially from the Third World- with different visual difficulties.

Translated by ESTI for JuventudRebelde

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Cuba’s 1st solar farm a step toward renewables

August 3, 2013

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By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ — Associated Press
CANTARRANA, Cuba — It’s like a vision of the space age, carved out of the jungle: Thousands of glassy panels surrounded by a lush canopy of green stretch as far as the eye can see, reflecting the few clouds that dot the sky on a scorching Caribbean morning.Cuba’s first solar farm opened this spring with little fanfare and no prior announcement. It boasts 14,000 photovoltaic panels which in a stroke more than doubled the country’s capacity to harvest energy from the sun.The project, one of seven such farms in the works, shows a possible road map to greater energy independence in cash-poor Cuba, where Communist leaders are being forced to consider renewables to help keep the lights on after four failed attempts to strike it rich with deep-water oil drilling and the death of petro-benefactor Hugo Chavez.”For us this is the future,” said Ovel Concepcion, a director with Hidroenergia, the state-run company tasked with building the solar park 190 miles (300 kilometers) east of Havana in the central province of Cienfuegos.”This is just like having an oil well,” he told The Associated Press on a recent tour of the facility.Outside experts have chastised Cuba for missing an opportunity to develop alternative energy sources; just 4 percent of its electricity comes from renewables. That lags behind not only standard-setter Germany (25 percent) but also comparable, developing Caribbean nations such as the Dominican Republic (14 percent).Located on rural land unfit for farming, the solar park at Cantarrana, which translates roughly as “where frogs sing,” is a tentative step toward redressing that oversight.Construction began at the end of last year, about the same time that officials announced that a fourth exploratory offshore oil well drilled in 2012 was a bust and the only rig in the world that can drill in the deep waters off Cuba under U.S. embargo rules set sail with no return date.In April, the solar farm came online and began contributing the first solar power to the island’s energy grid. Cuba already had about 9,000 panels in use, but all of them were for small-scale, isolated usage such as powering rural hamlets, schools and hospitals.The solar farm now generates enough electricity to power 780 homes and had saved the equivalent of 145 tons of fossil fuels, or around 1,060 barrels of crude, through the end of July. Peak capacity is expected to hit 2.6 megawatts when the final panels are in place in September.That’s just a drop in the energy bucket, of course.Cuba gets about 92,000 barrels of highly subsidized oil per day from Venezuela to meet about half its consumption needs, according to an estimate by University of Texas energy analyst Jorge Pinon.But hopes are high that solar can be a big winner in Cuba, which enjoys direct sunlight year-round, allowing for consistent high yields of 5 kilowatt-hours per square meter of terrain.”The possibility of solar energy on a large scale could contribute to the island’s future energy security,” said Judith Cherni, an alternative energy expert at the Imperial College London Center for Environmental Policy who is familiar with Cuba’s efforts.Six other solar parks will come online in the coming months in Havana and the regions of Camaguey, Guantanamo, the Isle of Youth, Santiago and Villa Clara, though Concepcion did not specify their size.Concepcion did not say how much the Cantarrana park cost, but said the industry standard for a facility of its size is $3 million to $4 million. The government, which controls nearly all economic activity in Cuba, financed construction, and the panels were manufactured at a factory in the western province of Pinar del Rio.Cantarrana is already saving the island around $800 a day and Concepcion said it should pay for itself after a little more than a decade into its 25-year expected lifespan.The project is a notable change in mindset for a country that relies on imports for half its energy consumption and is vulnerable to the political ebb and flow in other countries.After the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc in the early 1990s, a loss of Soviet subsidies plunged Cuba into a severe crisis. Blackouts sometimes darkened Havana for 12 hours at a time.Chavez’s election in Venezuela in 1998 helped ease the crunch, but his death this March made clear that Havana can hardly depend on the tap staying open forever.Chavez’s handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, has vowed to maintain the special relationship with Cuba. But he won election by a razor-thin margin, and the Venezuelan opposition will almost certainly cut the Cuba subsidy if it wins power.Pinon, of the University of Texas, predicted it will be at least three to five years before serious deep-water oil drilling can resume in Cuba.Cuba’s fuel uncertainty apparently prompted President Raul Castro to issue a decree in December creating seven working groups to chart a 15-year plan to develop alternative energy including solar, wind, biomass and others.Cuba already has a handful of experimental wind farms and some small, isolated hydroelectric facilities, though experts say Cuba’s shallow rivers are not ideal for large-scale power generation. The island has had the most success burning biomass from sugarcane, but harvests have fallen in recent years.According to a government report from May, the island hopes to get 10 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030.”The reality is that cheap, abundant oil is over, and we have to turn toward these technologies,” said Vicente Estrada Cajigal, a specialist on regional alternative energy initiatives and the former president of Mexico’s National Association for Solar Energy. “That treasure in the Gulf (of Mexico), I have my doubts.”Estrada Cajigal said the cost of solar panels has fallen by 80 percent in recent years, making it an ever more attractive option.But other experts were cautious about how much photovoltaic energy can contribute to the island.Mexican energy consultant Francisco Acosta said that the shaky Cuban economy’s intricate ties to fossil fuels are not easily undone, and the country has no choice but to continue to rely heavily on petroleum and derivatives.Solar “is a good idea, but to a certain point. … In a country like Cuba, stable energy is that which comes from hydrocarbons,” Acosta said.Cherni said unanswered questions remain about how Cuba will fund its alternative energy ambitions. But she said the island’s goal for 2030 seems about right, given that more-developed nations with greater resources are committing to 15 or 20 percent from renewables by 2020.”So 10 percent is a good start,” Cherni said.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/08/01/2708483/cubas-1st-solar-farm-a-step-toward.html#storylink=cpy

Four principles of social medicine

July 22, 2013

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by Richard Horton

Although officially classed as an upper-middle-income country, the American embargo against Cuba continues, punishing not only a government but also an entire people. (Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that “No persons may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties…are prohibited.”) The Cuban Assets Control Regulations were established 50 years ago this month (on July 8, 1963) under the US Trading With The Enemy Act. It is a violation of those regulations if an American citizen travels to Cuba, engages in any kind of trade with Cuba, or even brings back goods of Cuban origin. There is a complex bureaucracy around the supply of medical products, which limits their supply and use. 50 years of trying to hurt 11 million people enough to encourage an insurrection to overthrow their government has taken its toll. Infrastructure in Cuba is fragile. Incomes are low. The Castro regime—Fidel or Raul, it is the same party that has been in power since the Revolution of 1959—is struggling to open up an economy without suffering the depredations that plunged its one-time banker, the Soviet Union, into criminal mayhem. (When the Soviet Union imploded, the GDP of Cuba collapsed by a third within 24 hours, a moment Cubans, with seemingly wry humour, call the “Special Period”.) Yet, despite Cuba’s problems, there are few public protests. The government does not fire rubber bullets at its citizens. It does not need tear gas. Why? Could it at least partly be thanks to universal health coverage?

Cuba was the first Latin American country to implement a comprehensive primary health care system. The vice-minister for health spoke last week in Havana of her government’s priorities. Her first concern was “user satisfaction”, followed by quality and efficiency. Reducing maternal mortality was her overriding objective. Could universal health coverage be a political instrument for national peace, order, and stability? That is certainly the explicitly stated objective of China’s health reforms. But the reason the Cuban people do not riot, the reason they endure the American embargo without condemning their government, and the reason they seem to accept the absence of freedoms usually seen as litmus tests for legitimate political regimes elsewhere goes beyond the health system (although it is linked to it). Ever since the 1950s, when the USA exploited Cuba as a playground for gambling and corruption, and for over 400 years of colonial rule before that, the goal of Cuba’s leaders has been to restore the dignity of their people by winning independence and autonomy. Cuba’s Government is certainly imperfect. But its imperfections are considerably fewer than its successes. Castro won independence and autonomy. He restored dignity. He established highly effective health and education systems. Under his brother, Raul, Fidel’s victory must now meet the challenge facing all nations (and health systems)—sustainability.

Within that challenge lies one approach to health that does make Latin America distinct from other regions of the world. As part of a symposium to review the hidden contributions of Latin America to our understanding of health, Nila Heredia, a former Minister of Health in Bolivia, set out a view of social medicine that makes western notions of public health seem anaemic by comparison. Heredia described four principles of social medicine, all of which one can see intimately connected to Cuba’s success under the Castros. First, health is a fundamental right. Second, health is socially determined. Third, health can only be achieved through universal (non-discriminatory) policies. Fourth, health can only be achieved through social participation at all levels. These four principles are influenced by four additional forces—interculturality (how rarely we take culture seriously in western medicine), gender, labour, and the environment. At the heart of this notion of social medicine lies our attitude to health—is health a good to be traded and exchanged or is health a right? Here is the most important lesson of all from Latin America—it was the only region of the world that took the 1978 Declaration of Alma Ata seriously. 35 years after Alma Ata, and after 50 years of American sanctions against Cuba, perhaps it is time to look again at why universal health coverage is the most powerful force to achieve human dignity, equity, and self-realisation.

taken from TheLancet.com
This week’s column in The Lancet by the journal’s editor Dr. Richard Horton, referring to Cuba, Latin America and the right to health.
The Lancet will publish a 2014 supplement on Latin America’s contribution to advancing universal health coverage, for which MEDICC Review will produce the Spanish edition.
Last week, Dr. Horton met with guest editors and authors, as well as MEDICC Review editors, in Havana.

Mariela Castro : Socialism can not be homophobic

June 22, 2013

LA JIRIBILLA No. 628 – Año XI, Havana, Cuba -18 de mayo al 24 de mayo de 2013
Interview with Mariela Castro
Socialism can not be homophobic
Helen Hernandez Hormilla • Havana, Cuba
Photo: R. A. Hdez
A CubaNews translation by Wallace Sillanpoa.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.

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The movement has gained momentum due to actions undertaken by the National Center for Sexual Education [CENESEX] which, since its creation in the closing years of the 1980s, has done much to promote sexual diversity. Part of the work has assumed concrete form through the creation of National Days of Struggle against Homophobia which, since 2008, have taken place each ear around the 17th of May in recognition of that date in 1990 when the International Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

With every passing year, the National Days of Struggle Against Homophobia grow in duration and outreach to the extent that major activities now stretch beyond those undertaken in the capital to include the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and – this year, 2013 – Ciego de Ávila. Both the coverage by the mass media and the driving force of citizen activism marked this sixth edition of the “Day” which began in Havana on May 9th. This was followed by academic exercises, community panel discussions and artistic activities from May 14th to May 19th. As mentioned, similar activities also took place this year at the center’s headquarters in Ciego de Ávila.

With a Master’s degree in Sexual Studies and currently CENESEX Director, Mariela Castro Espín could be found at almost all the above-mentioned activities. Mariela Castro has emerged as the major proponent in Cuba of the demands of LGBT people. To the abbreviation, LGBT, Mariela prefers to add H [heterosexual] given that many heterosexual women and men are involved in this struggle. Moreover, since Mariela remains convinced that socialism is unattainable without a fight against homophobia, as a professional and as a deputy in Cuba’s National Assembly, she consistently champions decisions intended to achieve more equitable public policies by uniting all battles against discrimination.

Seeking to elicit and broaden responses to the question of cultural conditioning which determine many of the aspects of the LGBT community’s concerns on the island, La Jiribilla recently exchanged ideas on these thorny issues with Mariela, the woman primarily responsible for these National Days of Struggle Against Homophobia:

WHAT ARE THE CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL FORCES THAT, IN THE CASE OF CUBA, CONSTITUTE THE UNDERPINNINGS OF HOMOPHOBIA?

As with any form of discrimination, homophobia has much to do with cultural values generated in most known societies rooted in domination. This raging hunger for social power and control earmarking the history of humankind expresses itself through different forms of discrimination since, in order to dominate, it is necessary to formulate supportive arguments and ideologies. This “social imaginary” has congealed over time to constitute prejudices passed on unconsciously. Such prejudices continue to be generated even if people decry them. Above all, the continuation of such prejudices acts to the detriment of those who find themselves in the most disadvantaged of situations.

Different tendencies of thought such as feminism, sociology, gender studies, feminist anthropology, the sociology of sexuality, psychology, and medical science, among others, have contributed elements and evidence describing these instances of discrimination. It is the machinery of power that generates prejudice. The history of misogyny, for example, can be located in the case of European witch-baiting.

Meanwhile, on our continent we are witness to a history of colonial violence. Nevertheless, this very machinery continues to be employed in order to demonize people and rob them of their resources as with Muslims or the First Peoples of the Americas, both branded as heretics.

Reviewing these theoretical and methodological elements together with a re-examination of Marxist thought I garner resources helping us look at situations from within what has been the history of Cuba and the Revolution. This review helps to contribute to our social project that ponders the persistence of certain prejudices.

Apparently, some people used to embrace the illusion that revolutionary Cuba existed almost on another planet, and that in the ’60s and ’70s Cuba wasn’t as homophobic as the rest of the world. It would have been marvelous had that been the case, but such would have been impossible to expect of the Cuban people at large in an era in which medical science continued to pathologize homosexuality and transgendered people, and when many religions continued to demonize homosexuals. Prevailing ideas still tend to devalue these individuals and deny them equal opportunities. Moreover, in today’s world these same people are often the victims of hate crimes at rates so alarming as to warrant an international appeal so that policies might be established address ing this situation.

Homophobia in Cuba and throughout the world is manifested through acts of both physical and psychological violence. Nevertheless, the many years of the Revolution have succeeded in instilling a certain sense of the value of social solidarity and the necessity of a positive reaction when countering injustice. And these factors contributed to our discomfort at initiating the struggle we are looking at here. For, when someone is suffering, when a person is feeling humiliated we do respond even when all the elements necessary for a concerted struggle are not present. We acquire those necessary elements in the very course of struggle.

We went in search of what to say, what to do, how to enter into dialogue with the general public so that homosexual and transgendered people would not be discriminated against and no one would feel superior to another on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Cuban Revolution offers an example of what is possible in achieving a society both recognizing and respecting sexual diversity, be that within capitalism or within socialism . Such recognition and respect is most in keeping with the case of a country engaged in socialist transition. Moreover, when inaugurating the National Days Against Homophobia in 2008, Cuba was likewise signaling its desire to re-visit its history. In effect, such appears to me a most valuable undertaking and marks the first instance in what continues to be a revolution in these areas.

When I was in Philadelphia and San Francisco, two cities of great importance to the North American LGBT movement, I came to realize how much these processes we are discussing here have been intimately connected with other civil rights struggles and the struggles for women’s rights and independence. All these experiences provided vital tools to the LGBT movement.

After the victory of the Revolution, Fidel had in hand the Moncada Program which laid out and identified various problematic social considerations and all those involved began their work on the basis of this program. No question of sexual diversity was to be found in those deliberations, nor was any recognizable international movement favorable to social changes in this area even discernible. Presently, as part of this great new global village, we continue to make awareness of these innovations part of our over-all project.

We have taken care not to just copy modes of operation or initiatives in other countries but rather, to study the manner in which these struggles are carried out so as to adopt those we deem valuable and which may be introduced within our own, actual contexts. When a particular style or tendency is uncritically imported from afar, a movement results that is rather superficial and thus incapable of affecting real social change. We prefer to adapt all innovations to our social realities, grounded in participatory undertakings and calling upon various social institutions in the construction of projects involving all Cubans. This approach has facilitated our dialogue with all entities and with the Communist Party of Cuba.

The six years that have passed since the first National Day bear witness to an ever-increasing level of visibility.

Even without taking into consideration the impact of the National Day Against Homophobia, our research confirms our perception that substantial change has occurred. Previously, there was little discussion of these matters and when discussion did occur, it was only to dismiss, indeed, exclude LGBT people. But today Cuban society is engaged in discussing and and exposing many points of view, doubts and contradictions. Even the opposition our project generates is very beneficial to an extension of the discussion.

Many people have come to recognize what homophobia is and they are searching for new approaches. So many families as well as the general population come to us seeking assistance.

In addition, today you can see a change in the policies of mass media in regard to these issues. We have noted that this year more journalists and the media in general have expanded their coverage so as to initiate a greater social diffusion of many of our messages. For example, insofar as the opening within CENESEX of greater space calling attention to judicial issues around discrimination, more and more people are coming to us in search of assistance.

WHAT CONTRIBUTION DO YOU THINK THE CUBAN LGBT MOVEMENT OFFERS TO CIVIL SOCIETY?

A strong dose of spontaneity infused the start of this movement. It emerged from the lesbian group, THE ISABELS, in Santiago de Cuba who, in 2002, sought help from CENESEX around issues of sexual and reproductive health. From this undertaking a group formed in Havana, then one of transgendered people and thereafter, little by little, new ideas and initiatives emerged whose purpose was to form a network of homosexual men and youth. The interesting thing is that these newly formed groups turned to CENESEX for assistance. This social, communitarian network is meanwhile beginning to expand thanks to ever-growing participation in the provinces. All those prepared as activists presently engage energetically according to their own criteria and suggestions in what could be called the Cuban LGBTHI Movement.

ON VARIOUS OCCASIONS YOU HAVE SAID THAT YOU CAN’T CONCEIVE OF A SOCIALISM WITH HOMOPHOBIA.

Right, I can’t imagine it. For this reason, when we were conducting the street parade last year in Cienfuegos the slogan was: “Socialism Yes! Homophobia No!” The fact remains that the very experimentation that is Socialism can tolerte no discrimination of any kind.

HOW THEN ARE WE TO READ GESTURES LIKE THE INCLUSION OF THESE ISSUES IN THE CONFERENCE PROGRAM OF THE CUBAN COMMUNIST PARTY, OR THE PARTICIPATION OF CUBAN VICE-PRESIDENT, MIGUEL DIAZ-CANEL, AT THE GALA EVENING AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA HELD AT THE KARL MARX THEATER?

The country’s leadership is cognizant of the fact that these realities have to be part of our policies and our ideological perspectives. Our job consists in transforming ways of thinking that have to be then passed on through education and with the support of all people and institutions.

THE CUBAN ARTS COMMUNITY HAS ALWAYS BEEN IN THE FOREFRONT OF THIS CAUSE.

In all ages, the arts are ahead of the sciences in communicating these realities or social concerns. This happened likewise in Cuba, and these contradictions – in one way or another, depending on the artists’ points of view – were always reflected in works of art and literature.

My formation is in pedagogy and I always found in art a resource for educating and for communicating much more interesting than simple talk. For this reason, in our work at CENESEX, we muster the help of artists since such assistance is much more effective in communicating our message and often with greater impact.

To launch the National Day against Homophobia we went to the Ministry of Culture, UNEAC [the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists] and the Association of Saíz Brothers [AHS] to solicit support. In order that our project succeed, we needed a coming together of all those people who had in any way taken up similar initiatives. In order to struggle for full respect for all sexual diversity we have to unite as a country, a nation and a society. Isolated, we get nowhere. And the Cuban arts communities are at work full force in this struggle for social transformation.

MUCH HAS BEEN DONE TO PROMOTE THE NEED FOR A NEW FAMILY CODE WHICH ENCOMPASSES CONSENSUAL UNIONS BETWEEN PERSONS OF THE SAME SEX. HOWEVER, ONCE SUCH A MEASURE IS APPROVED, WHAT MIGHT BE OTHER LEGAL DEMANDS?

Much remains to be done, and for this I say that the new Code is not the end point, but rather one of our activities which is going to facilitate in advancing LGBT rights. But, again, it is not the only one. Laws by themselves do not guarantee human rights. The latter must be reinforced through other expressions of political will.

We have also prepared the rough draft of a proposal for a Decree Law in regard to gender identity and we are reviewing forms of legislation from other countries so as to include in our proposals those elements most in keeping with our own situation and in accordance with struggles against all forms of discrimination. The Penal Code is also going to change as will the Labor Code. And at the moment when the Constitution comes up again for revision, we shall have already looked ahead for inclusion of provisions that will facilitate broad coverage in the area of LGBT rights.

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Twelfth World Wind Energy Conference Underway in Cuba

June 4, 2013

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(acn) The development and prospects of the use of renewable energy sources in Cuba will capture, from today until Friday, the attention of the participants at the 12th World Wind Energy Conference.

This event, based in the Havana Conventions Centre, will also exhibit the Cuban achievements in this area, which allow the replacement of a portion of the fossil fuels used in electricity generation.

As is traditional in the meetings of the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA), experts from its various working groups will show results and challenges, Conrado Moreno , president of the organizing committee, told reporters.

The involvement of universities and scientific institutions in the search for solutions to the oil depletion and the rise of the international financial crisis will be announced to the more than 600 delegates from 40 countries.
UN entities, such as UNDP , UNESCO and UNIDO, will attend this global forum.

The event’s program includes the presentation of members of ¨La Colmenita¨ children group who will perform allegorical acts to environmental protection and the use of renewable energy sources.

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(Prensa Latina) Cuba will show its progress at the 12th Congress of the World Wind Energy Association and Renewable Energy Exhibition (WWEC2013), which begins today at the Conference Center in Havana.

The theme of the event, specially focused on the Caribbean and Central America region, is “Opening the Doors to Caribbean Wind”, with presentations, exchanges, and discussions of knowledge on wind energy and renewable energy sources in general, according to organizers.

Cuba plans to build at least 10 percent of its electricity generation through alternative sources by 2030, according to Dr. Conrado Moreno, director of the Center of Study for Renewable Energy Technologies.

Over the past few years, Cuba has increased its development of wind-based energy and renewable energy in general, and despite being at an economic disadvantage with other countries, has a program that it will be exhibiting during sessions of this international meeting, starting today through June 5.

The objective of WWEC2013 is to support the development of integrated strategies in business, government and local communities, to harness the immense potential of wind energy and other renewable energy sources, according to the organizing committee.

The program includes panels and presentations focused on models, business, politics, finance, regional integration of renewable energy sources, technology, human resources training, among others.

The World Wind Energy Association (WWEA), the Center of Study for Renewable Energy Technologies of the Jose Antonio Echeverria Polytechnic Institute in Havana, the Ministry of Basic Industry, and the Latin American Wind Energy Association, among others, are organizing this event.

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Raul Castro Stresses Saving of Resources as Important Income Source

May 13, 2013

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The President of the Cuban Councils of State and Ministers, Raul Castro, stressed the saving of material resources as the main income source of Cuban economy, which is not always regarded to as such.

During a meeting of the Council of Ministers on Friday, Raul Castro said that the solution to the country’s problems cannot be based on importing products, which can be produced on the island.

The meeting analyzed vital issues for the update of the Cuban economic model, as participants agreed that the actions must focus local limitations and inefficiency in domestic sectors.

Raul insisted in the training of directives and workers who, in the end of the day, are the ones that implement every measure approved, in order to boost the dynamics of the process.

Mistakes usually lead to the loss of millions, said Raul as he referred to the problems that the country’s investment process has faced over the past few years.

Economy minister Adel Yzquierdo presented the principles of a policy designed to improve the country’s investment programs, which aims at updating and unifying legal regulations on the issue in an effort to improve efficiency.

Yzquierdo referred to a series of difficulties related to the under-exploitation of human capacities, the lack of the necessary authority of investors and inappropriate contracting procedures.

The policy drawn up by the Council of Ministers describes investors as the main actor of the whole investment process, which must be integrally assessed, including the productive chains and all management modalities.

The meeting also addressed the strategy for the efficient use of equipment and tools. In this regards, Raul Castro insisted in the need to recover and repair used equipment and meet maintenance schedules.

The members of the Council of Ministers approved a proposal on the performance and structure of the Food Industry Ministry. The structural changes include the separation of state from entrepreneurial functions in the ministry, which includes the food and the fishing industries.

The meeting also approved legal strategies to keep reinstating the order in Cuban society. Justice minister Esther Reus said that the new policy concentrates in a single legal norm that includes all behaviors that constitute violations, as well as the measures or fines to be imposed, since at present there are over 80 legal regulations, a fact that leads to contradictions and a large dispersion of legal norms.

The head of the Implementation and Development Commission, Marino Murillo, explained about the commercialization of agricultural products based on a new experience underway in the western provinces of Havana, Artemisa and Mayabeque.

Murillo said that centralized prices are being applied to the collection of a group of staples, while farms can directly sell produce to state entities, to get rid of middle actors, and after meeting their contracts, these producers can sell their goods to third parties.

Murillo also referred to the performance of a wholesale market, where state entities can get their products, and he said that agricultural markets, which sell produce to the population, will be managed by the state and by cooperative farms.

The country’s General Comptroller Gladys Bejerano referred to main control actions carried out in 2012, whose results are very important to address major causes for inefficiency, indiscipline, illegalities and corruption acts.

Bejerano described as crucial the action and training of executives and managers, since they are committed to their duties and legality.

The export of services have become the main hard currency source for the country, with huge potential for its further development, said Foreign Trade and Investment minister Rodrigo Malmierca during the meeting.

In this regard, the Cuban President acknowledged the noble work of Cuban doctors, who have gained prestige around the world, since they go to those places where nobody else go to assist the people.

The Foreign Trade and Investment minister also addressed irregularities in the operations of some businesses set up with foreign capital and on international contracts, which have affected the country’s economy. Major causes for these problems are related to lack of control in the businesses, as well as misbehaviors and inappropriate attitudes by directives and officials involved, either due to lack of knowledge, incapacity or ethical violations.

Addressing other problems, Economy minister Adell Yzquierdo referred to criminal actions affecting the commercialization of fuel. The theft of fuel takes place in refineries, transportation centers, and gas stations due to lack of control and equipment, or the uncertified use of such fuel dispensing instruments.

The minister referred to individuals who, after illegally getting the fuel, benefit from its illegal traffic by reselling it at about 60 percent below the official prices. In order to face this situation, Yquierdo mentioned measures such as a progressive upgrading of fuel collection, storage and distribution systems, the verification of measurement equipment, the conclusion of investment projects in local refineries aimed at increasing control and automation levels in loading stations, among others.

Also on the agenda was the ongoing processing of information collected during the latest Population and Housing Census. In this regard, Marino Murillo, announced that all activities are going at good pace and that the definitive figures will be handed over to the government as scheduled, on June 30.

ACN – Habana may 13

W. Lippmann comments:
Many interesting elements in this report. Notice that the theft
of gasoline has become a problem again. This time they aren’t
talking about putting social workers out at the gas stations
and other distribution points was done the last time around.

Here’s the long GRANMA feature on which this ACN report is based:
http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu/2013/05/13/nacional/artic08.html,

FAO Sends Congratulatory letter to Fidel Castro

May 6, 2013

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José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO), sent a congratulatory letter to Fidel Castro, historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, from Rome, Italy, on April 29, which we reproduce in full below:

Dear Commander:

I have the honor to address you in my capacity as Director-General of the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO), to sincerely congratulate you and all the Cuban people for having fulfilled the goal set in advance by the World Food Summit, held in Rome in November 1996, and that he proposed to halve the number of undernourished people in each country by the year 2015.

As you may recall, you honored us with his presence in that Summit and delivered a brief but powerful speech, which still lingers in the collective memory of our Organization. You concluded by saying: “the bells that toll today for those who die of hunger every day, will toll tomorrow for humanity if it refused, failed or could not be wise enough to save them.” And they say that you said in the press conference that followed the Summit that even if the target were achieved we would not know what to say to the other half of humanity if it would not be freed from the scourge of hunger. They are concepts that until today still retain its meaning and value.

It’s been 17 years since then and now I have the great pleasure to inform you that the decision of its members and for the first time in its history, the FAO Conference, to be held next June in Rome, take the total eradication hunger as the number one goal of our Organization.

At that time, we will pay a tribute to Cuba and 15 other countries that have been most successful in reducing hunger. To all of them we will give a certificate of recognition for having met the target of the Summit in advance. The countries that accompany Cuba are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chile, Fiji, Georgia, Ghana, Guyana, Nicaragua, Peru, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Thailand, Uruguay, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Besides reiterating my congratulations on the significant success achieved by your country, I wish you well-being and success for you and all the Cuban people.

Yours with great esteem and appreciation,

José Graziano da Silva

Why Is Cuba’s Health Care System the Best Model for Poor Countries?

April 25, 2013

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Cuba has become a world-class medical powerhouse with very limited resources, while “the US squanders perhaps 10 to 20 times what is needed for a good, affordable medical system.” As a result, the Cuban infant mortality rate is “below that of the US and less than half that of US Blacks,” and Americans can hardly claim to have a health care system.

by Don Fitz*

“Cuban-trained doctors know their patients by knowing their patients’communities.”

Furious though it may be, the current debate over health care in the US is largely irrelevant to charting a path for poor countries of Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Islands. That is because the US squanders perhaps 10 to 20 times what is needed for a good, affordable medical system. The waste is far more than 30% overhead by private insurance companies. It includes an enormous amount of over-treatment, making the poor sicker by refusing them treatment, creation of illnesses, exposure to contagion through over-hospitalization, and disease-focused instead of prevention-focused research.

Poor countries simply cannot afford such a health system. Well over 100 countries are looking to the example of Cuba, which has the same 78-year life expectancy of the US while spending 4% per person annually of what the US does.

The most revolutionary idea of the Cuban system is doctors living in the neighbourhoods they serve. A doctor-nurse team is part of the community and know their patients well because they live at (or near) the consultorio (doctors’ office) where they work. Consultorios are backed up by policlinicos which provide services during off-hours and offer a wide variety of specialists. Policlinicos coordinate community health delivery and link nationally designed health initiatives with their local implementation.

Cubans call their system medicina general integral (MGI, comprehensive general medicine). Its programs focus on preventing people from getting diseases rather than curing them after they are sick

This has made Cuba extremely effective in control of everyday health issues. Having doctors ‘ offices in every neighbourhood has brought the Cuban infant mortality rate below that of the US and less than half that of US Blacks. Cuba has a record unmatched in dealing with chronic and infectious diseases with amazingly limited resources. These include (with date eradicated): polio (1962), malaria (1967), neonatal tetanus (1972), diphtheria (1979), congenital rubella syndrome (1989), post-mumps meningitis (1989), measles (1993), rubella (1995), and TB meningitis (1997).

“Programs focus on preventing people from getting diseases rather than curing them after they are sick.”

The MGI integration of neighbourhood doctors’ offices with area clinics and a national hospital system also means the country responds well to emergencies. It has the ability to evacuate entire cities during a hurricane largely because consultorio staff know everyone in their neighbourhood and who to call for help getting disabled residents out of harms way. At the same time New York City (roughly the same population as Cuba) had 43,000 cases of AIDS, Cuba had 200 AIDS patients. More recent emergencies such as outbreaks of dengue fever are quickly followed by national mobilizations.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Cuban medicine it that, despite its being a poor country itself, Cuba has sent over 124,000 health care professionals to provide care to 154 countries. In addition to providing preventive medicine Cuba sends response teams following emergencies (such as earthquakes and hurricanes) and has over 20,000 students from other countries studying to be doctors at its Latin American School of Medicine in Havana (ELAM, Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina).

In a recent Monthly Review article, I gave in-depth descriptions of ELAM students participating in Cuban medical efforts in Haiti, Ghana and Peru. What follows are 10 generalizations from Cuba’s extensive experience in developing medical science and sharing its approach with poor countries throughout the world. The concepts form the basis of the New Global Medicine and summarize what many authors have observed in dozens of articles and books.

First, it is not necessary to focus on expensive technology as the initial approach to medical care. Cuban doctors use machines that are available, but they have an amazing ability to treat disaster victims with field surgery. They are very aware that most lives are saved through preventive medicine such as nutrition and hygiene and that traditional cultures have their own healing wisdom. This is in direct contrast to Western medicine, especially as is dominant in the US, which uses costly diagnostic and treatment techniques as the first approach and is contemptuous of natural and alternative approaches.

“At the same time New York City (roughly the same population as Cuba) had 43,000 cases of AIDS, Cuba had 200 AIDS patients.”

Second, doctors must be part of the communities where they are working. This could mean living in the same neighbourhood as a Peruvian consultorio. It could mean living in a Venezuelan community that is much more violent than a Cuban one. Or it could mean living in emergency tents adjacent to where victims are housed as Cuban medical brigades did after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Or staying in a village guesthouse in Ghana. Cuban-trained doctors know their patients by knowing their patients’ communities. This differs sharply from US doctors, who receive zero training on how to assess homes of their patients.

Third, the MGI model outlines relationships between people that go beyond a set of facts. Instead of memorizing mountains of information unlikely to be used in community health, which US students must do to pass medical board exams, Cuban students learn what is necessary to relate to people in consultorios, policlinicos, field hospitals and remote villages. Far from being nuisance courses, studies in how people are bio-psycho-social beings are critical for the everyday practice of Cuban medicine.

Fourth, the MGI model is not static but is evolving and unique for each community. Western medicine searches for the correct pill for a given disease. In its rigid approach, a major reason for research is to discover a new pill after “side effects” of the first pill surface. Since traditional medicine is based on the culture where it has existed for centuries, the MGI model avoids the futility of seeking to impose a Western mindset on other societies.

Fifth, it is necessary to adapt medical aid to the political climate of the host country. This means using whatever resources the host government is able and willing to offer and living with restrictions. Those hosting a Cuban medical brigade may be friendly as in Venezuela and Ghana, hostile as is the Brazilian Medical Association, become increasingly hostile as occurred after the 2009 coup in Honduras, or change from hostile to friendly as occurred in Peru with the 2011 election of Ollanta Humala. This is quite different from US medical aide which, like its food aide, is part of an overall effort to dominate the receiving country and push it into adopting a Western model.

Sixth, the MGI model creates the basis for dramatic health effects. Preventive community health training, a desire to understand traditional healers, the ability to respond quickly to emergencies, and an appreciation of political limitations give Cuban medical teams astounding success. During the first 18 months of Cuba ‘ s work in Honduras following Hurricane Mitch, infant mortality dropped from 80.3 to 30.9 per 1000 live births. When Cuban health professionals intervened in Gambia, malaria decreased from 600,000 cases in 2002 to 200,000 two years later. And Cuban/Venezuelan collaboration resulted in 1.5 million vision corrections by 2009. Kirk and Erisman conclude that “almost 2 million people throughout the world” owe their very lives to the availability of Cuban medical services. ”

“US medical aide which, like its food aide, is part of an overall effort to dominate the receiving country.”

Seventh, the New Global Medicine can become reality only if medical staff put healing above personal wealth. In Cuba, being a doctor, nurse or support staff and going on a mission to another country is one of the most fulfilling activities a person can do. The program continues to find an increasing number of volunteers despite the low salaries that Cuban health professionals earn. There is definitely a minority of US doctors who focus their practice in low income communities which have the greatest need. But there is no political leadership which makes a concerted effort to get physicians to do anything other than follow the money.

Eighth, dedication to the New Global Medicine is now being transferred to the next generation. When students at Cuban schools learn to be doctors, dentists or nurses their instructors tell them of their own participation in health brigades in Angola, Peru, Haiti, Honduras and dozens of other countries. Venezuela has already developed its own approach of MIC (medicina integral comunitaria, comprehensive community medicine) which builds upon but is distinct from Cuban MGI. Many ELAM students who work in Ghana as the Yaa Asantewaa Brigade are from the US. They learn approaches of traditional healers so they can compliment Ghanaian techniques with Cuban medical knowledge.

Ninth, the Cuban model is remaking medicine across the globe. Though best-known for its successes in Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean, Cuba has also provided assistance in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Cuba provided relief to the Ukraine after the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, Sri Lanka following the 2004 tsunami, and Pakistan after its 2005 earthquake. Many of the countries hosting Cuban medical brigades are eager for them to help redesign their own health care systems. Rather than attempting to make expensive Western techniques available to everyone, the Cuban MGI model helps re-conceptualize how healing systems can meet the needs of a country’s poor.

“Many ELAM students who work in Ghana as the Yaa Asantewaa Brigade are from the US.”

Tenth, the new global medicine is a microcosm of how a few thousand revolutionaries can change the world. They do not need vast riches, expensive technology, or a massive increase in personal possessions to improve the quality of people’s lives. If dedicated to helping people while learning from those they help, they can prefigure a new world by carefully utilizing the resources in front of them. Such revolutionary activity helps show a world facing acute climate change that it can resolve many basic human needs without pouring more CO2 into the atmosphere.

Discussions of global health in the West typically bemoan the indisputable fact that poor countries still suffer from chronic and infectious diseases that rich countries have controlled for decades. International health organizations wring their hands over the high infant mortality rates and lack of resources to cope with natural disasters in much of the world.

But they ignore the one health system that actually functions in a poor country, providing health care to all of its citizens as well as millions of others around the world. The conspiracy of silence surrounding the resounding success of Cuba’s health system proves the absolute unconcern by those who piously claim to be the most concerned.

How should progressives respond to this feigned ignorance of a meaningful solution to global health problems? A rational response must begin with spreading the word of Cuba’s New Global Medicine through every source of alternative media available. The message needs to be: Good health care is not more expensive — revolutionary medicine is far more cost effective than corporate controlled medicine.

*Don Fitz is editor of Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought. He is Co-Coordinator of the Green Party of St. Louis and produces Green Time in conjunction with KNLC-TV 24.
(taken from cubandemocracy)

Equality Forum Calls on State Department to Allow Mariela Castro to Visit Philadelphia during U.S. Visit (LGBT rights)

April 25, 2013

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Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization, calls on the U.S. State Department to allow Mariela Castro, a Cuban LGBT civil rights activist, to visit Philadelphia for Equality Forum 2013. The State Department issued a visa to Ms. Castro to visit New York for U.N. meetings, but did not authorize Ms. Castro to travel to Philadelphia to participate in Equality Forum 2013 with Cuba as the Featured Nation.

“Over the past 11 years, Equality Forum has invited leaders of the featured nation to attend. For those who needed a visa, all past visas have been approved,” stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director, Equality Forum. “It is shocking that our State Department would deny Ms. Castro travel to a civil rights summit – especially one held in the birthplace of our democracy that enshrines freedoms of speech and assembly.”

Equality Forum 2013 with Cuba as the Featured Nation will be held in Philadelphia on May 2 to 5. Equality Forum presents an annual national and international LGBT civil rights summit with a featured nation. The featured nation is not being honored, but presents an opportunity to explore the rights and challenges of that nation or region’s LGBT citizens. Past featured nations include Canada, Russia, China, Gays and Lesbians in the Muslim World, Germany, and Israel, among others.

Several months ago, Ms. Castro accepted Equality Forum’s invitation to speak on the Cuba: Featured Nation Panel (Saturday, May 4 at The University of the Arts) and to receive the International Ally for LGBT Equality Award at the International Equality Dinner (Saturday, May 4 at the National Museum of American Jewish History).

“Mariela Castro runs the leading Cuban LGBT organization that offers support and services to LGBT youth and seniors, provides HIV and STD education and prevention, and combats homophobia,” said Lazin. “These are shared values that deserve the right to be heard regardless of political systems.”

Equality Forum 2013 has over 30 programs with over 35 regional, national and international nonprofit organizations and religious and educational institutions. The programs can be found at http://www.equalityforum.com.

Equality Forum (www.equalityforum.com) is a nonprofit and 501(c)(3) organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum coordinates nationally and internationally LGBT History Month, produced three award-winning documentary films, undertakes high impact initiatives and presents annually a national and international LGBT civil rights summit.

Cuba Met Most of the Millennium Goals

April 17, 2013

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Cuba met most of the United Nations Millennium Goals, in spite of the immense economic and social cost of the U.S. blockade against the island, points out a report published by the Human Rights Council.

In 2012, its infant mortality rate was 4.6 per every 1,000 live births, the lowest of Latin America, while maternal mortality rate was 21.5 per every 100,000, among the lowest internationally, specified the text, adding that Cuba will present its Universal Periodic Study on May 1 st.

The Caribbean island guarantees universal and free access to public health and its vaccination program has one of the widest coverage in the world, since it allows for the prevention of 13 diseases.

In spite of the restrictions imposed by the U.S. blockade on the island for the purchase of resources and technologies, the country deepened research work on vaccines against cholera, dengue and HIV and prioritizes plans of high impact, among them those of cardiology, cancer, nephrology and the transplant of organs.

In addition, Cuba also reached the millennium goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and achieving universal primary teaching.

Cuba was the first country to sign and the second to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

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