Embassy of Cuba in New
No.40 20th December2014
Our lead story this week chooses itself: the agreement between Cuba and the US, brokered by Canada and the Pope, to move towards better relations, with the reuniting in Cuba of all of The Cuban Five and a US embassy to return to Havana. Cubans were overjoyed with communities celebrating all over the island and congratulations came in from all over the world, especially Latin America, with a personal note from the Argentinian Pontiff himself. Cuban Parliament sends out thanks for international solidarity with ‘The Five’.
But not all was sweetness and light: sanctions against trading with Cuba among others cost German bank Commerzbank AG a billion dollars, adding to the pressure, one would have thought, on bringing Cuba back into the global trading family. The same legislation has made it difficult for the World Health Organisation to pay Cuban doctors working in Africa.
There’s praise for US diplomat Wayne Smith who stood up for Cuba in the difficult Reagan era, and we pick up on more coverage in favour of lifting the embargo from the New York Times.
The respected Inter-Parliamentary Union welcomed the rapprochement, and the United Nations Childen’s Fund has thanked Cuba for its work in Africa through secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon.
The Caribbean islands of Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis have joined the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas — Trade Treaty of the Peoples (ALBA-TCP) while studies on the Caribbean are stepping up as all member states improve their mechanisms for integration. The studies are seen as a “hinge’ mechanism to relate the Caribbean with Latin America.
of Cuba in New Zealand
No.40 20th December2014
FIHAV 2014 Investors Guide
In this issue
• Normalization of Cuba-US ties, Cuban Five all home safe
• Cuban Parliament sends out thanks for international solidarity with ‘The Five’
• Latin American leaders say new US-Cuba relations a ‘moral’ victory
• A new era
• Pope Francis pleased by relations between Cuba and US
• Washington fines German bank for its dealings with Cuba
• Blockade against Cuba stopped doctors in Africa getting paid
• Cuba pays homage to US diplomat Wayne Smith
• The NY Times calls again for political change of US toward Cuba
• Cuba-US normalization shows dialogue only way to resolve differences
• 'Thank-you, Cuba’— from UNICEF
• ALBA-TCP Incorporates another two Caribbean Islands
• Great excitement among Cuban lawmakers over return of anti-terrorists
• Cuba opens homes for elderly Alzheimer patients
• Cuba´s studies on the Caribbean highly positive
• Cuban Parliament studies environmental recovery of Havana Bay
• Key remarks by Raul Castro at the opening session of the 13th summit of ALBA-TCP
Normalization of Cuba-US ties, Cuban Five all home safe
The announcement made simultaneously by Cuba and the United States on the normalization of bilateral relations and the return home of three Cuban antiterrorists unjustly held in US prisons since 1998 made headlines in Cuba.
This week presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama took the first step towards the normalization and reestablishment of diplomatic relations, characterized by ruptures and tensions over more than half a century, and by the White House's hostile policy against Cuba.
Prior to the announcement, the three Cuban antiterrorists were released, and for to humanitarian reasons, Cuban authorities released the US subcontractor Alan Gross, who was arrested in 2009 as he was tried to create a secret subversive electronic network in the Caribbean island, as well as an unidentified spy serving 20 years.
The shows of jubilation were expressed by the broadest sector of the Cuban people, who welcomed the events.
Singer songwriter Silvio Rodriguez and essayist Graziela Pogolotti noted the importance of this historic day, and highlighted the dialogue held by the two countries as a way to settle their differences.
The United Nations post in Cuba congratulated presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama for the step they took to normalize bilateral relations. On the other hand, the return home of Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino and Antonio Guerrero brought happiness to the Cuban people, who took to the streets to celebrate their much-expected return.
Several lawmakers joined the general celebration, including the president of the International Relations Committee of the Cuban Parliament, Yolanda Ferrer, who described this day as historic.
The president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), Kenia Serrano, thanked the world for its solidarity and contribution to the return home of the antiterrorists.
“We think that it happened thanks to the decisions taken by our government and that of the United States, but other very important causes converged, including solidarity,” Serrano told media.
Here in New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully welcomed the announcement, saying “New Zealand supports this decision which is a significant step forward for both countries and the region,” adding “the trade embargo which remains in place against Cuba is a handbrake not only for economic relations between the US and Cuba but for the wider Caribbean region.”
Cuban Parliament sends out thanks for international solidarity with ‘The Five’
The Cuban National Assembly of People's Power (ANPP) is sending out a global message of thanks, decided this week in plenary session, to all parliamentarians and legislators of the world for their support for the cause of the Cuban Five.
In the presence of Raul Castro, president of the Councils of State and Ministers of Cuba, the 546 deputies unanimously approved a proposal from the International Relations Committee of Cuba as relayed by legislator Yolanda Ferrer Gómez.
“We fully support the recent speech of President Raul Castro” said Ferrer Gomez at the Havana Conventions Palace, telling of the joy felt by Cubans at the news of the return to their homeland of Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labañino, after such a long battle for justice.
She also noted that they had fulfilled the words of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro when in June 2001 he said, "They will return,” a phrase that guided so many years of struggle.
The declaration gave thanks to the governments and solidarity groups who have taken as their own the cause of The Five, who have become a symbol of dignity for the Cuban people.
This battle has been won by dint of principles, steadfastness, perseverance and international solidarity, said Ferrer Gómez.
On December 14 the 13th ALBA-TCP was held in Havana, in which the tenth anniversary of the path to closer integration was commemorated.
The ANPP welcomes that important milestone and pays tribute to the twentieth anniversary of the historic meeting between leaders Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.
The deputies also pledged to defend the founding principles of the Alliance, promoting cooperation and integration of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean in search of prosperous and sustainable development for the region.
Latin American leaders say new US-Cuba relations a ‘moral’ victory
The restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana has been described as a new era in the region.
Latin American leaders have welcomed US president Barack Obama’s decision Wednesday to restart diplomatic relations with Cuba.
“We must recognize the gesture of President Barack Obama, a brave and necessary gesture in history. He has taken a step, perhaps the most important step of his presidency,” said Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.
Maduro described Obama’s decision as a “moral” victory for the region, while left-wing leaders lined up to offer their support for the move.
Venezuela and other Latin American nations have long demanded that the United States end its embargo of Cuba.
Argentine president Cristina Fernandez said it was essential the two countries work together “without grudges,” while “recognizing the difficulty of the task and sincerely supporting it.”
Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega described the renewal of diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana as a “new era in the history of our America and the Caribbean,” while the Chilean foreign ministry said it brought the Cold War to a close.
On the right side of the region’s political spectrum, the decision was likewise welcomed.
“On behalf of all the Colombian people and I think the whole continent, we celebrate the boldness and courage of President Obama and the Cuban government to make this decision,” Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos stated.
Mexico’s president Enrique Pena Nieto said he supports the move, arguing Cuba deserves “equal rights” to the rest of the region.
A new era
When he announced the restarting of bilateral ties earlier in the day, Obama explained the United States and Cuba share a “complicated history,” and admitted that the decades-old controversial economic blockade and other policies have had “little effect.”
The step toward normalizing relations between the two countries includes opening a US embassy in Havana, after more than half a century of aggressive destabilisation tactics.
Obama also announced measures that loosen the economic embargo, including easing banking and commerce restrictions, and allowing remittances to be sent back to the island nation by Cubans in the United States.
The president also stated he will open discussions in the Republican dominated Congress about fully dismantling the embargo.
Obama’s statement was made simultaneously with one by Cuban president Raul Castro.
Other Latin American voices expressed satisfaction over the agreement reached between Cuba and the United States for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.
One of the first declarations on the issue was during the Mercosur summit meeting, where the presidents of Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and El Salvador applauded the decisions of Washington and Havana to resume direct diplomatic bilateral relations.
Washington liberated three Cubans imprisoned in the U.S. for the last 16 years, after a biased trial, charged with monitoring criminal activities of groups based in the south of Florida while Havana sent to the United States several prisoners who Washington had expressed interest in including the USAID contractor Alan Gross, sentenced for the creation of a subversive internet in the island.
All was achieved with the help of the government of Canada and the Vatican, particularly of Pope Francis.
The United Nations in Cuba congratulated both presidents for the step forward.
Angolan foreign minister Georges Chikoly applauded the event, as did the Paraguayan senate and the Portuguese government.
In Puerto Rico, the National Hostosian Independentista Movement celebrated the return to Cuba of counter-terrorist fighters Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino and Antonio Guerrero.
In Asia, the foreign ministries of China and Vietnam expressed satisfaction for the accords between Cuba and the United States.
Cuban cultural icons like singer author Silvio Rodriguez and essayist Graziela Pogolotti, celebrated this historic day and highlighted the attitude to dialogue shown by both parties as a way to solve their differences.
Several legislators also joined the general applause, among them president of the International Commission of the Cuban Parliament, Yolanda Ferrer, who described the day of the liberation of the last three of the “Cuban Five” as historic.
Pope Francis pleased by relations between Cuba and US
Pope Francis has expressed his joy at the beginning of the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, an approach where the Holy Father was a key player during negotiations.
"We are all very happy today because we have seen how two peoples, which had been distant for years, have taken a step closer," said the Argentinian pope, in front of 13 new ambassadors to the Vatican, who recently presented their credentials.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio also recognized the diplomatic efforts of both parties to reach agreement to resume relations, broken in 1961 when Washington imposed an economic, commercial and financial blockade on Havana.
An ambassador's work is a task of little gestures, little things, which end up achieving peace, bringing closer the hearts of peoples, and sowing fraternity, said His Holiness the Pope.
The leaders of the US and Cuba both thanked the pope for his 'crucial' role as mediator in negotiations.
Washington fines German bank for its dealings with Cuba
Germany’s second largest financial institution, Commerzbank AG, has been fined a billion dollars by the US government for conducting business with Cuba.
Commerzbank AG is obliged pay the sum in accordance with US provisions establishing penalties for bank agents facilitating transactions linked to Cuba through US branches.
According to the UK’s Financial Times newspaper, the German institution agreed last September to pay $650million dollars after being accused of conducting financial transactions with Cuba, Iran, Sudan and other countries under US sanctions.
The report adds that Washington launched a full-scale investigation against European banks, as potential violators of the sanctions regime.
They include German Deutsche Bank, the French Crédit Agricole and Société Générale of France, and the Italian UniCredit SpA.
The New York Times disclosed that on July 9 that the US Treasury Department fined Commerzbank more than 500 million dollars for making transfers through its subsidiaries involving Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Iran and Sudan.
The German company is headquartered in Frankfurt and is the second largest in the country after the Deutsche Bank, which is listed as the fifth most powerful bank in the world, according to the Financial Times.
Blockade against Cuba stopped doctors in Africa getting paid
The United States blockade against Cuba has prevented payment for room and board for the doctors who were sent to Africa to help fight Ebola.
According to the representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), José Luis Di Fabio, the US sanctions against Cuba blocked the attempt to cancel WHO travel expenses as agreed at first.
“The fact that they are Cuban has greatly inhibited the transfer of funds and payment,” said Di Fabio while regretting that a political problem was an impediment to saving lives worldwide.
Cuban doctors receive a contribution of about $ 250 a day in travel expenses. WHO indicated that 60 percent covers accommodation costs and the rest for food.
“There was a month that Cuba had to finance its brigade in Sierra Leone with reserve funds which had to be used to pay hotel and food because they did not receive payment from WHO and the situation was that WHO could not — not would not — pay, “ said Di Fabio.
As spokesman for the Pan American Health Organization he said Cuban medicine was recognized worldwide for its scientific advancement and strong humanitarian commitment.
Cuba sent some 256 doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry and Liberia.
Cuba pays homage to US diplomat Wayne Smith
Diplomats, poets, biologists and many other people this week have honoured Wayne Smith — the inaugural chief of the US Interests Section in Cuba — who has fulfilled one of his dreams: the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In a ceremony that took place in the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, professionals from both countries paid tribute to Smith, who served in that position from 1977, during the presidency of James Carter.
Four decades ago Smith said that the blockade was a senseless measure and that the US had to close the Guantanamo Naval Base, intellectual Ricardo Alarcón recalled; it brought him blackmail, threats and even a fine of thousands of dollars he had to pay for defamation.
Now we are here to congratulate a winner, he stated, because what he envisioned today was the preaching of the White House, when the need for change is a “newsflash.”
American university professor Phillip Brennerre called the situation when Ronald Reagan took office, which brought with it a US far-right position to Cuba that led Smith to resign in 1982.
That was for Wayne a year of losses: lost colleagues, because the State Department feared that speaking to him would harm them, loss of his diplomatic career prospects because after that he was not offered a job; he is one of the few officials in US history who gave up a senior position on principle, said Brenner.
Although he has had no official ties with Cuba for some years, the creator of the American diplomatic corps in Cuba has given himself to the defence of a number of causes, such as the return of the antiterrorism fighters to their families, an aspiration now a reality.
Removing Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism and closure of the Guantanamo naval base, are things that can be achieved with just a signature of the president, said Smith in his acceptance speech, and in the long-term Congress can take measures to eradicate the blockade.
The NY Times calls again for political change of US toward Cuba
The New York Times called again this week for a change in the sanctions policy maintained by the United States against Cuba, on its opinion page before the news broke of the rapprochement between the two countries.
After having published six similar texts from last October to November on the relations between the two countries, the NYT put the focus on the economic landscape of the Caribbean nation, undergoing a government-driven process of update and transformation.
In its article "Cuba's Economy at a Crossroads", the NYT, whose columnist Ernesto Londoño recently visited Havana in a work-trip, described this “era of transformation for the economy of the island,” in which citizens have begun to “create livelihoods that are not fully subject to state control.”
It also noted the emergence of “an intense debate on the future of the economy of the country,” which would point towards a more sustainable management in this area, without compromising the stability of the country or raise inequality.
However, NYT maintained that so far “the Obama Administration has observed the reforms with skepticism” and “has done relatively little to start lifting the network of sanctions United States has imposed on Cuba for decades.”
The newspaper suggested that the US president could influence the Cuban economic ecosystem, where there are already almost 500,000 employees of the private sector “to relax sanctions by taking steps that the executive branch can take unilaterally' and, similarly, “collaborate with the growing number of lawmakers who support the expansion of trade relations with Cuba.
“The White House could start the process by eliminating Cuba from the State Department's list of countries that support terrorist organizations.”
Although in its opinion the policy of changes in the Cuban economy “is progressing slowly,” the influential newspaper seemed to have something clear: “the continuous antagonism from Washington” did not contribute to streamlining the process.
The US blockade against Cuba — imposed more than half a century ago — had caused economic losses worth $112,534,000,000 dollars and untold human damage due to restrictions affecting services such as health and education, said the NYT.
Cuba-US normalization shows dialogue only way to resolve differences
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), based in Geneva, Switzerland, has warmly welcomed the decision by the USA and Cuba to begin normalizing relations following 18 months of brokered talks.
The decision, following an agreement on prisoner exchange and a series of steps that would ease travel, commercial and diplomatic restrictions, is a major breakthrough in more than 50 years of political and economic dispute between two neighbours.
“The decision to engage and find ways to end this long-running stalemate with enormous human costs was a long-awaited and much-needed leap of political faith and leadership,” says IPU President Saber Chowdhury. “Good relations between neighbours are essential to regional peace and security and this development is a ground-breaking first step.”
The Cuba-US move also underscores IPU’s fundamental belief that dialogue remains the only effective way to resolve conflict and ensure long-lasting solutions.
'Thank-you, Cuba’— from UNICEF
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)has thanked Cuba for the humanitarian support it provides to countries hit by the Ebola virus through its representative at the regional office in Central Africa, Brigitte Helali,.
"We are holding a series of meetings with nations that offer cooperation, like Cuba, we want to take those countries into account for next year's UNICEF aid programming in African nations,” Helali told media when she was received by Cuba’s ambassador in Equatorial Guinea, Pedro Doña, pointing out this was how a tripartite collaboration with UNICEF funds from donor countries may start.
Helali, with residence in Dakar, acknowledged the continued progress Cuba has made in healthcare overall, mainly the work with pregnant women and children under five years old, and those who need special attention due to some disability, with programmes for discussion by UNICEF, Cuba and Equatorial Guinea.
In September, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon also expressed gratitude for Cuba's contribution in the international struggle against the Ebola epidemic.
Responding to the UN claim for global support to curb the epidemic, the Caribbean country sent to Sierra Leone a contingent of 165 specialists (62 doctors and 103 nurses).
ALBA-TCP Incorporates another two Caribbean Islands
The Caribbean islands of Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis are new members of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas- Trade Treaty of the Peoples (ALBA-TCP).
Dignitaries of the nine countries that are members of the ALBA-TCP and guests to the forum approved the addition of the two nations to the regional bloc, at the suggestion of army general Raul Castro, president of the councils of state and ministers of Cuba.
“Welcome, fraternal nations!” said Raul after the applause of acknowledgement generated by the proposal, which he had announced in his opening speech at Revolution Building, and where he said that the incorporation of the two countries will be a credit to the organization and would contribute to its development.
Grenada prime minister Keith Mitchell, described the incorporation of his country as a historic moment and expressed his appreciation for the solidarity voiced by the founders of the ALBA-TCP: commanders Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.
He proposed an initiative aimed at the creation of an economic platform for the population of the region, and also expressed his satisfaction for the incorporation of Saint Kitts and Nevis to the group, which was an example of South-South cooperation and not implying dependence.
Great excitement among Cuban lawmakers over return of anti-terrorists
On hearing the news of the
release of three Cuban antiterrorism fighters imprisoned in
the United States, the deputies of the National Assembly of
People's Power, and guests gathered today in the Conventions
Palace in Havana could not contain their
Quite a few of them wept; workers, leaders, religious people, students, fighters, peasants, the self-employed, artists and journalists — every compatriot present melted into hugs, because each from their homeland, from their battle station, along with the rest of the people, had worked for the return of those fighters.
Lawmakers stressed the role of international solidarity, by many organizations, institutions, personalities and fraternal communities, including governments, for justice at last for René, Fernando, Antonio, Ramón and Gerardo, the last three now home in their beloved Cuba, as announced by President Raul Castro, president of the councils of state and ministers.
What was seen today at the Conventions Palace in Havana was a reflection of the overwhelming joy that at this time, every child, youngster, man, woman and older person, in those millions of Cubans will feel who for just over 15 years in squares, parks, meetings, media, letters, and in as many places as possible, battled along with the relatives of the Five for such a noble cause.
While representing the people who elected them, there were many times that the National Assembly of People's Power made statements in favour of the cause of the Five, not only from its ordinary sessions, but at every meeting of its members and the Standing Committee of International Relations with parliaments and legislators from other nations.
Cuba opens homes for elderly Alzheimer patients
Cuba will progressively open nursing homes in 2015 to assist senior citizens suffering from Alzheimer, while one of those institutions is already experimentally operating in Havana.
The announcement was made by the head of the National Program for the Elderly at the Cuban Health Ministry Doctor Alberto Fernandez, who noted that the first nursing home in the Havana municipality of Playa had demonstrated the positive results of the initiative.
The new facilities include a nurse specialized in the attention to persons with mental disabilities and social workers who help the sick to carry out everyday activities, such bathing themselves, putting their clothes on and taking their food.
One in every 10 Cubans over 65 years of age develops some kind of delirium as evidenced by a recent study: recent research indicate that over 270 thousand Cubans would suffer such conditions by 2030. This requires the setting up of new centres to assist Alzheimer patients during the day as their relatives meet their daily duties.
According to Fernandez, the number of nursing homes will increase to 156 with 11 954 beds and the service will prevent the relatives from abandoning their jobs, an event that happens when there is someone sick at home.
Meanwhile, the Cuban government allocated 66 million pesos to repair and give maintenance to existing elderly homes and to implement the new project.
Cuba´s studies on the Caribbean highly positive
makes notable progress in studies about the Caribbean, a
region that has stepped up mechanisms for the integration of
all member states.
President of the Regional Coordinating Office of Economic and Social Research, Andrés Serbin, described as highly positive Cuba´s knowledge about the region thorough the Department of Caribbean Studies.
Serbin told journalists that the meetings of the department work as a "hinge" mechanism to relate the Caribbean with Latin America.
The exchanges favour the creation of ties not only with Spanish speaking Caribbean countries, but also with English and French-speaking countries.
Serbin participated in the 8th International Conference on Caribbean Studies at the University of Havana, which concluded this week.
Several issues were discussed in the event, like vulnerability, challenges and cooperation among small island states, development priorities for CARICOM countries, financial services, environmental challenges, tourism and the roles of China and Russia in the region, among others.
Cuban Parliament studies environmental recovery of Havana Bay
The environmental recovery of Havana Bay, its
hydrographic tributary basin and interaction coastline was
analyzed today in the work previous to the 4th ordinary
period of sessions of the Cuban parliament.
In that zone live almost one million persons and its territorial extension includes 10 of the 15 municipalities of the Cuban capital, in an area of approximately 85 square kilometres, said Santiago Reyes, joint director of the State Work Group of Havana Bay, before the Commission of Education, Culture, Science, Technology and the Environment.
The pollution coming from the industrial sector has been reduced by 76 percent since 1998 until the present, explained Reyes to the lawmakers, during a presentation on the works of environmental, organic, chemical and bacteriological decontamination carried out in the basin.
He affirmed that at present there are 99 pollution sources, to control which were applied 1 230 measures to boost integral environmental management and the sustainable development of the Havana Bay, its tributary hydrographic basin and the coastline of interaction.
Reyes said the carrying out of diverse actions of environmental education involved the population, the communities, schools and enterprises linked to the environment.
The programme includes a study on the dangers, vulnerability and risk from climate change.
The measures include agroforestry development, environmental education and energy, as well as an ecological theme park for natural landscape reconstruction with an area for water, soil and forestry management besides primary school student facilities, pool and lookout post.
Work is being done as a strategy of entrepreneurial environmental management with workshop courses for cleaner production and services, to reduce environmental impact of the enterprises.
Several international projects in activities of environmental formation, professional exchange, technical assistance, monitoring and diagnostic, to support the realization of decontaminating actions and water treatment, added the specialist.
A master development plan of sewers and sanitisation for the tributary basin of the Havana Bay was essential to continue work of decontamination, he said.
After debates, the parliamentary commission is going to propose the creation of similar work groups to that working at Havana Bay for other bays like those of Mariel, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
They also suggested taking into account the emitters of polluting agents in Cuba´s tax policy.
Key remarks by Raul Castro at the opening session of the 13th summit of ALBA-TCP
2014, Havana, Cuba
Esteemed comrades Heads of State or Government;
Foreign Ministers and delegates of the ALBA-TCP countries;
It was exactly ten years ago that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas was born in Havana, thanks to the political vision and integrationist will of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz and President Hugo Chavez Frías, the architects of this era of changes in which our peoples and their political vanguards play a central role.
At the time, social explosions and struggles multiplied in our region in the aftermath of the long neoliberal winter. The FTAA was still operational as an instrument of domination promoted by the United States and emphatically rejected by Our America, where deep transformations could already be perceived and several progressive and revolutionary governments emerged in various countries with the will to realize the dreams of our past heroes.
Today we are also commemorating the 20th anniversary of the moment when Fidel and Chavez met for the first time, marking the beginning of a deep friendship based on the pursuit of identical goals and ideas, a friendship with a remarkable influence on the region and on the emancipation processes of the past decades.
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Text edited by David Reade of International Public Relations (ipr.bz) on behalf of the Cuban Embassy, Wellington, from Cuban news agency sources