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      Pakistan Returns 'Unparalleled' Cuban Favor

      December 24, 2015 (teleSUR English)

      In an expression of thanks, Pakistan will donate 15,000 tons of rice to Cuba as the Caribbean nation continues to suffer from one of its worst droughts in 115 years.

      With more than 70 percent of the Caribbean island’s territory affected by either “severe” or “extreme” drought dependent on location, Cuban rice production is expected to reach just 60 percent of the amount required to satisfy national consumption.

      The decision by Islamabad to assist Cuba is a response to the latter’s humanitarianism during the deadly 2005 earthquake that devastated Kashmir, killing over 86,000 people and displacing an estimated 2.8 million.

      Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the support Wednesday during a ceremony attended by Cuban ambassador to Pakistan, Gabriel Tiel Capote.

      "Pakistan and Cuba have enjoyed longstanding cooperation based on respect and understanding,” Prensa Latina report Sharif to have said in an official document.

      "We recognize Cuba as a proven friend that has stayed by our side in tough times," Sharif also said in a separate message published on the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

      During the 2005 earthquake, Cuba dispatched 2,400 medical staff to Pakistan, setting up 30 hospitals in the field and sending tons of medical equipment to the country. Over 600,000 consultations and 5,900 surgeries were performed by Cuban humanitarian teams in 44 different locations, resulting in at least 1,300 lives being saved.

      "That example of sincerity, care and friendship towards Pakistan has few parallels in modern history," said Sharif.

      Pakistan’s humanitarian efforts follow a strengthening of ties between the two countries since the 2005 earthquake, with bilateral ties being developed in agriculture, higher education, industry and science.

      Since 2005, Cuba has also granted over 1,000 medical scholarships to the South Asian country, resulting in many qualified doctors returning to Pakistan to ply their trade.

      Venezuela's Maduro Launches Sexual Diversity Council

      December 16, 2015 (TeleSUR English)

      Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro inaugurated Tuesday a presidential council to promote sexual diversity.

      On Wednesday, the president also announced that he would approve a special law, through his enabling powers, to give judicial validity and protection to the Presidential Government Councils. The councils were elected by various social sectors and movements, such as women, indigenous peoples, youth, and so on, to be a direct voice with the president.

      The Presidential Council of Sexual Diversity will seek to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation, along with supporting women's rights.

      “We must demand respect in our mass media, and elsewhere,” said council head Ingrid Baron.

      Speaking on the president's television program, “En Contacto Con Maduro” (In Contact with Maduro), Baron called for tougher legislation against sexual discrimination.

      She argued sexual diversity rights should be a key priority of Venezuela's socialists.

      Maduro agreed, stating, “Your fight for respect has moved me, and … you can count on me.”

      Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez, was fiercely critical of Venezuela's traditionally conservative, machismo culture. He was also the country's first head of state to openly support feminism, once stating he was a “convinced socialist-feminist.”

      “All socialists have to be feminist ... capitalism is macho,” he said in 2008.

      “From childhood there is unfair treatment of boys compared to girls,” Chavez argued.

      The new sexual diversity council is part of Maduro's broader efforts to renew Venezuela's socialist revolution, which was started under Chavez.

      Since his socialist party, the PSUV, lost its majority in the National Assembly early this month, Maduro has called to reorganize and reconnect with grassroots social movements.

      In a key address days after the election, Maduro emphasized the importance of addressing the country’s current economic woes by proposing to hold a popular economic congress, which is intended to provide a platform for supporters and grassroots movements to formulate strategies to rectify the current economic challenges facing Venezuela.

      The Venezuelan leader has taken on a tone of self-reflection, calling on his party and supporters to examine the reasons behind the electoral defeat in the National Assembly.

      The election saw the opposition Movement for Democratic Unity (MUD) win a supermajority in the National Assembly.

      Syria and Cuba sign health cooperation

      December 26, 2015 (Al-Masdar News)

      Syria and Cuba signed on Thursday a framework agreement on cooperation between the Syrian Health Ministry on the one hand and the Cuban External Trade and Foreign Investment Ministry and the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industry Group (BioCubaFarma) on the other hand.

      The Cuban Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz said the agreement is a “modest contribution on the way to look for other potentials to build a strategic partnership” in the various areas of the health sector between the two countries and not just in the medicinal field.

      “It’s our duty to provide all forms of help to the Syrian people in light of the current ordeal they are going through,” he added.

      Malmierca Diaz’s remarks were echoed by Health Minister Nizar Yazigi, who described the agreement as a starting point for wider cooperation in the health domain, including in transferring biotechnology in both directions and exchanging of medicines, expertise and research.

      Earlier on the day, Minister Yazigi met with Vice President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz who affirmed that Cuba’s support to Syria under the terrorism war waged against it is firm and that Havana is serious about offering all forms of support and aid to Damascus.

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