Photo: Claudio Pelaez Sordo

Article on egalitarian marriage in draft of Cuban Constitution modified

The committee preparing the draft of the new Cuban Constitution modified the article that opens the door to egalitarian marriage, after detecting the opposition to this issue during the popular debates on the reform of the Magna Carta that have taken place in the last three months. "The Committee proposes deferring the concept of marriage, that is, to leave it out of draft Constitution as a way of respecting all opinions. Marriage is a social and legal institution. The law will define the rest of the elements," the Cuban Parliament reported on its Twitter account. The initial proposal was to modify the concept of marriage that appears in the current Constitution (1976), where it is defined as the union between a man and a woman, a meaning that was proposed to be replaced by "the union between two people with legal capacity for it," without specifying gender. This change was announced during the meetings of the committees prior to the plenary session that the National Assembly will hold next Friday and in which it is expected that the constitutional draft will be put to the vote, with the incorporated proposals made by the citizens during the process of the text’s...

The presidents of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel (c-r) and of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro (c-l), during ALBA’s 16th Summit of Heads of State and Government held on December 14, 2018 in Havana. Photo: @CubaMINREX / Twitter.

ALBA advocates more “integration” amid the right’s advance

The countries grouped in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America (ALBA) commemorated last Friday in Havana the fourteen years of formation of a bloc that faces one of its most complicated moments, in the face of the return to the right that the region is experiencing and the United States’ open hostility. In its final declaration, the 16th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the ALBA advocated a greater commitment to "political consensus", "conscientious cooperation" and "integration." The members of the bloc also bet on building a new international order characterized for being "democratic, inclusive, fair and equitable." Read Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tweet The intergovernmental meeting brought together the presidents of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro; Bolivia, Evo Morales; and Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, among others, who together with their Cuban counterpart, Miguel Díaz-Canel, agreed to call for unity in the face of the conservative advance and Washington’s interference. In this new regional political cycle, the ALBA has lost what became one of its main supporters, Ecuador - President Lenin Moreno withdrew his country in August in response to the Venezuelan migration crisis - while Saint Lucia did not send anyone to the Havana meeting, in what...

Cubans use their phone to surf the Internet in Havana, on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in a test conducted by ETECSA. Photo: Desmond Boylan / AP.

3G mobile Internet service begins in Cuba on December 6

Since last Thursday Cubans have been able to access the Internet for the first time through the 3G mobile service put in place by the state telecommunications monopoly in Cuba, ETECSA, which will offer four data packages. ETECSA executives announced last Tuesday on a Cuban television program that the users of that company must have a terminal or cell phone device that supports 3G technology in order to contract this new long-expected service by Cubans. As explained by the vice president of ETECSA, Tania Velázquez, the telephone company would send a personalized notice to its customers with the offer of the four packages available to access the service. The official explained the rate of the new mobile data service that for the 600 MB download package will have a monthly cost of 7 convertible pesos (CUC, equivalent to 7 dollars). In the case of access to the free Internet connection with 1 GB the price will be 10 CUC (10 dollars), if it is 2.5 GB it will go up to 20 CUC (20 dollars) and whoever chooses to buy the larger package of 4 GB will have to pay 30 CUC (30 dollars). Velázquez indicated that each of...

General view of the constitutive session of the 9th Legislature of the Cuban National Assembly of People’s Power. Photo: Alejandro Ernesto / EFE.

Cuban National Assembly to debate in December final draft of new Constitution

The Cuban National Assembly of People’s Power last Saturday summoned its second and last period of sessions of the year for December 16-21, when it will debate and foreseeably approve the final draft of the new Constitution, a step prior to the February referendum. In the announcement published in the official media, the speaker of the Assembly, Esteban Lazo, indicated that the 10 Standing Parliament Committees will meet from Sunday 16 to Thursday 20 of this month to hold “regular work and study meetings on the Draft Constitution.” On Friday December 21, the Cuban legislative body will hold its last plenary meeting of the year, out of the two traditionally summoned in July and December. Last July the Assembly already approved a first draft of the new Constitution, which incorporates to the still in force 1976 Magna Carta 224 articles divided into 11 titles, 24 chapters and 16 sections. The MPs will now analyze the modified text after three months of popular consultation, in which almost nine million resident and expatriated Cubans participated. The most debated subjects were those related to the presidential term in office, the modification that will open the way to same-sex marriages on the island,...

Novelist Leonardo Padura shows his diploma that confirms him as a member of the Cuban Academy of the Language this November 26, 2018, in Havana. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE.

Padura christens his seat in the Cuban Academy while preparing his new novel

Writer Leonardo Padura, considered Cuba’s author with the greatest international projection, this November 26 was named a member of the Cuban Academy of the Language, where he expects to contribute his personal way of understanding literature while he prepares his new novel. “I’m working with a way of understanding the language that has to do with the street, with life, with evolution, the revolution that language represents,” Padura (Havana, 1955) said in an interview with the EFE agency after the official ceremony to enter the Academy, where he will occupy seat U. The writer, father of detective Mario Conde who is the main character of his detective novels and the author of the famous El hombre que amaba a los perros, recognized that what differentiates him from the other members of the Academy is “not being an academician,” which is why he promised to contribute in that institution his “work as a writer.” He will combine it with the preparation of his next novel, of which he gave some previews: it will be called El clan disperso, the title of an unconcluded manuscript by Alejo Carpentier, and it will deal with “the Cuban dispersion, that of my generation,” that is,...

Spanish Government President Pedro Sánchez (l) with Minister of Industry Reyes Maroto and president of the Spanish Federation of Business Organizations, Antonio Garamendi, in a meeting in Havana with Spanish businesspeople who have interests in Cuba. Photo: JuanJo Martin / EFE.

Cuba to give priority to Spain in its railroad and airport projects

Spanish corporations have established themselves as preferential candidates to restore the short route railroad network and to manage four airports in Cuba, according to sources from the Spanish presidency in Havana. “Cuba has made a commitment to send a list of prioritized projects it wants to set aside for Spain,” the source revealed to EFE after Government President Pedro Sánchez highlighted during his visit that promoting Spanish companies’ business in Cuba was the special objective of the first official trip to the island of a leader from Spain in 32 years. Among the projects that would be assigned to Spain, in addition to several initiatives in agribusiness and renewable energy, the source referred to the railroad and revealed that “there is a commitment that the long routes be made by the Russians and the short ones will go to Spain.” The negotiations of this possible agreement have been led by Spanish Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism Reyes Maroto, who traveled to Havana as part of Pedro Sánchez’ delegation and last week participated in a business forum with 300 businesspeople present or interested in Cuba. Cuba and Russia already signed in December 2016 a project to develop the railroad...

In this photo, taken on September 30, 2018, a woman presents her point of view about an issue during a public meeting in Havana about the constitutional reform. Photo: Desmond Boylan / AP.

Almost nine million Cubans participate in debate on new Constitution

Almost nine million Cubans participated in the popular consultation on the draft of the new Constitution, the island’s media reported after the results of this process were published. The Commission that drew up the draft, led by ex-President and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) Raúl Castro and which is also made up by President Miguel Díaz-Canel, met for five days, during which the result of the consultation carried out between last August 13 and November 15 was announced. A total of 133,681 meetings were held during the process of the debate of the draft that will replace the Magna Carta in force (1976) to analyze the constitutional draft in workplaces, educational centers and barrios, which were attended by 8,945,521 persons, specified the official report. Cuba has some 11.2 million inhabitants and more than a million Cubans live abroad, who were given the possibility of participating. Cubans made 1,706,872 interventions during the meetings in which there emerged 783,174 proposals, 666,995 modifications, 32,149 additions, 45,548 eliminations and 38,462 doubts were presented to the draft constitutional reform. The Commission was also informed about the 2,126 proposals made by Cubans residents outside the island. The document proposed as the...

Bean cultivation in the state-run Cítricos Ceiba agricultural enterprise, in the Cuban province of Artemisa. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Cuba’s GDP will again grow 1 percent in 2018

The Cuban economy will maintain a growth rate of a bit over 1 percent for the 2018 plan, in which it will not meet the goals for incomes in the tourism, sugar and mining sectors, according to a report published yesterday by the island’s state-run media. Cuban Minister of the Economy and Planning Alejandro Gil presented a report on the 2018 economic plan in the last meeting of the Council of Ministers presided over last Tuesday by President Miguel Díaz-Canel before his tour of Russia and several Asian and European countries. According to that assessment, the growth rate of the Cuban economy this year will be slightly over 1 percent. Last July, Díaz-Canel reported that the country’s economic growth in the first semester had registered a “discreet” 1.1 percent due to “adverse factors,” among which he cited the tense situation in foreign finances and the non-compliance of the planned incomes for exports, tourism and sugar production. For 2019, Minister Gil indicated that the drawing up of the sector’s plan has as a priority reducing the import of products that can be produced in the country. “It is necessary that we adjust expenditures to the incomes we have available and that...

Stand of the Mariel Development Zone in the Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2018) on Tuesday October 30. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE.

Mariel Special Zone attracts all-time foreign investments in 2018

The Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM), Cuba’s star project for attracting foreign capital, in 2018 has attracted an all-time 470 million dollars’ worth of investments, the heads of that zone reported. The figure, which corresponds to the capitals committed since November 2017 to date, supposes a strong advance compared to the average of four years ago of some 300 million dollars a year, according to data given this Tuesday by Wendy Miranda, director of the ZEDM’s One-Stop Window System. During the opening of a business forum in the Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2018), the representative of the Special Zone offered the annual balance of this macro industrial polygon, located some 45 kilometers to the west of the island’s capital. The ZEDM, whose investments accumulate 1.66 billion dollars since its opening in 2013, has authorized businesses to 41 foreign companies and joint ventures from 19 countries, of which 15 are operating and two already have the installations and the permits to imminently do so. One of the companies that plans to start working in a few months is the Spanish Grupo TGT, a cheese distributor. “We will supply the hotels and individuals in Cuba, although our objective is to...

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela (r) and Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade Rodrigo Malmierca (l) during the inauguration of Panama’s pavilion on Tuesday October 30, 2018 on the second day of the 36th Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2018). Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE.

Panama starts giving Cubans tourism card for 30 days

Panama started giving out the tourism card that allows Cubans to remain 30 days in that territory to shop, announced this Tuesday in Havana Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, who affirmed that he maintains “total communication” with the Cuban government. “It already started yesterday (Monday) and the first cards were given, because simply any Cuban citizen who has traveled abroad and has a passport already has access to the card,” the president explained after inaugurating his country’s pavilion at the Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2018). The new card, created by the Central American country to promote shopping tourism, can be acquired for 20 dollars in the Panamanian consulate in Havana. Varela, who is on an official visit to the island, insisted that the new simplified migratory process “will strengthen Cuba’s economic opening,” always “following and respecting the rules” of the country. When asked about the Cuban government’s reaction, Varela affirmed that during this Monday’s meeting with his Cuban counterpart Miguel Díaz-Canel he perceived there was “a total communication.” “It is an important step taken by Panama and there is going to be total communication to ensure that the decree’s objective meets its purpose, which is to promote tourism...

The Meliá Marina Varadero Hotel will receive the first visitors who opt for the new health tourism agreement between Cuba and Canada. Photo:

Cuba-Canada agreement on health tourism

Cuban and Canadian companies agreed this Tuesday in Havana to start up a program called “For a happy age,” devoted to medical care on the island for elderly tourists from that North American country. The health tourism program will cater to groups of senior citizens, autonomous, aged between 75 and 85 in good physical and mental conditions who visit Cuba for two or three months during the winter season, explained the vice president of the state-run entity Cuban Medical Services Marketing Company (CSMC) S.A., Yamila de Armas. After signing the agreement, the executive of CSMC, belonging the island’s Ministry of Public Health, announced that the first group of Canadian visitors will arrive in November to Varadero beach resort, Cuba’s principal sun and beach tourist destination. The medical-tourist package aims to promote healthy lifestyles and will also include nursing medical care and transportation from and to the airport, a report from the Cuban News Agency (ACN) specified. Meanwhile, secretary of the Canadian COGIR travel agency – specializing in elderly people - Bruno Desautels commented that his country’s population is aging and people want to travel and there aren’t sufficient projects to attend to them. He explained that this program in Cuba...

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