Statement by White House Press Secretary on President Obama’s trip to Cuba and Argentina

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President Obama and the First Lady will travel to Cuba on March 21st and 22nd and Argentina on March 23rd and 24th. In Cuba, the President will work to build on the progress we have made toward normalization of relations with Cuba – advancing commercial and people-to-people ties that can improve the well-being of the Cuban people, and expressing our support for human rights.

In addition to holding a bilateral meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, President Obama will engage with members of civil society, entrepreneurs and Cubans from different walks of life. This historic visit – the first by a sitting U.S. President in nearly 90 years – is another demonstration of the President’s commitment to chart a new course for U.S.-Cuban relations and connect U.S. and Cuban citizens through expanded travel, commerce, and access to information.

In Buenos Aires, the President and First Family will meet with the new Argentine President, Mauricio Macri, to discuss President Macri’s reform agenda and recognize his contributions to the defense of human rights in the region. The President will deepen efforts to increase cooperation between our governments in a range of areas, including trade and investment, renewable energy and climate change, and citizen security. It has been nearly two decades since the last bilaterally focused visit by a U.S. President to Argentina, Latin America’s third largest country.

Cuba to Raise US Occupation of Guantanamo During Obama Visit

Cuba has maintained that the full restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries depends on the satisfactory resolution of issues like the blockade and Guantanamo.

“Therefore, for us, discussing matters such as this and others, form part of this effort we are making to build a new relationship with the United States,” said Vidal.

After five decades of tension between the two countries, with diplomatic relations normalized only in the last year, anticipation for Obama’s visit to the island is growing.

“The U.S. president will be welcomed by the government of Cuba and its people, with the hospitality that characterizes us,” said Vidal. “We believe it will be an important opportunity for him to have direct contact with the Cuban reality and everything we have been doing in recent years in our country as a result of the sovereign decisions of the government of Cuba.”

 

#Adele is Really, Really Mad at Donald #Trump and Here’s Why

“Adele has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning,” her spokesman said.

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump may have terrible hair, a history of cutting off finances to disabled family members and an outright racist attitude towards Mexicans and Muslims, but you have to hand it to him: his music taste is top-notch.

The property tycoon, who is leading in Republican opinion polls, has been playing British superstar Adele’s hits “Rolling in the Deep” and “Skyfall” at his political rallies. But the Londoner—evidently not a fan of Trump’s particular brand of greed and misogyny—has followed several other artists in telling Trump to stop using her music for political gain.

“Adele has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning,” her spokesman said. The Grammy winner has never been one for conservative politics, calling British Prime Minister David Cameron a “wally” in 2011. Neil Young set the ball rolling when he slammed Trump as a “hypocrite” for using his “Rockin’ in the Free World” to launch his presidential campaign. Continue reading “#Adele is Really, Really Mad at Donald #Trump and Here’s Why”

Thousands of Bikers Demonstrate for Peace in #Guatemala

Each year, thousands of leather-clad bikers take off on an annual pilgrimage to pay homage to the Black Christ of Esquipulas.

Some 50,000 motorcyclists rumbled through the streets of Guatemala City this weekend as part of their annual two day pilgrimage to the border, while this year they are making a special plea for peace in Guatemala.

The majority of the bikers, also known as the Caravana del Zorro (the Caravan of Foxes), took off from Guatemala City’s center Saturday and traveled to the town of Esquipulas near the borders of Honduras and El Salvador. Scores of others met up with the caravan along the way.

The 225 kilometer journey is part of an annual pilgrimage by the bikers to visit the Black Christ of Esquipulas, a particular image of Jesus crucified on the cross that is revered by thousands of Christians in Central America.

This year, the caravan will make a special request to the spiritual figure for peace in Guatemala – one of the most violent regions of the world, and where almost 53 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to Guatemala’s Ministry of Social Development.

“We will ask for peace, progress and employment [for Guatemala] to the Lord of Esquipulas,” said Edy Villa de Leon, also known as the ‘Grand Zorro,’ before heading off Saturday morning. Villa de Leon is also the son of the founder of the annual caravan tradition, which began 55 years ago.

Guatemalan’s President Jimmy Morales also spoke before the caravan departed from Guatemala City, saying the thousands of motorcyclists showed that “when there is national unity, you can do amazing things.”

The Caravana del Zorro pilgrimage takes place every year on the first weekend of February. The bikers come from all over the Americas, including Central America, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and even the United States, according to local media.

Haitans Protest Arrival of ‘Interfering’ OAS

Protesters march during a demonstration against the electoral process in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Opposition presidential candidates say the visit will deepen the crisis instead of resolving it.

Thousands of protesters filled the streets of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince once again Sunday against the arrival of the Organization of American States (OAS), who demonstrators say should not interfere with the country’s already contentious elections.

The term of President Michel Martelly ends Feb. 7, but after canceling elections last Sunday the Washington-based OAS have been called in to supervise the resolution of the political crisis.

The delegates are expected to discuss how to conduct the next round of elections which have been indefinitely postponed. But opposition presidential candidates say the visit will deepen the crisis instead of resolving it.

According to the eight opposition presidential hopefuls, the OAS seek dialogue with those the organization considers to be the “principal social and political representatives” and not with the people in general, who demand electoral justice and a peaceful transition.

Furthermore, protesters argue that the interference of the OAS not only helps the president in his plans but they blame the organization for fomenting instability in Haiti.

A protester carrying a banner reading “Down with the OAS” told teleSUR. “Martelly had four years to do the elections, but he didn’t do them. He’s got the support of the international community, and he still didn’t do it. Now he has to call the OAS to bring a solution to the crisis. Us Haitians, we are going to find the solution.”

On Wednesday, OAS approved a resolution on sending a special mission to Haiti in order to moderate the ongoing conflict between the opposition and the government, one week before the president is due to leave office. As the elections last Sunday were canceled at the last minute, current President Michel Martelly asked the Washington-based organization to send a mission in order to avoid a power vacuum and to “preserve democratic rule.”

Martelly supported his request with the Inter American Democratic Charter, as article 17 states that when the “government of a member state considers that its democratic political institutional process or its legitimate exercise of power is at risk, it may request assistance from the Secretary General or the Permanent Council for the strengthening and preservation of its democratic system.”

Although the resolution was officially approved “by consensus” without a vote, during the four-hour debate Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil and Honduras opposed the idea that the OAS made a decision that day, as most Latin American leaders were attending the CELAC Summit in Quito, Ecuador.

#Cuba Military Cooperation with #US in the Caribbean

Since December 2014, Cuban and U.S. officials have been working to mend bilateral ties. In less than one year, important breakthroughs have been achieved. A Cuban military delegation participated in a historic three-day long security conference sponsored by the United States military’s Southern Command, according to reports by the Associated  Press news agency. Continue reading “#Cuba Military Cooperation with #US in the Caribbean”