The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.
The U.S. began thawed relations with Cuba by the release of detainee Alan Gross, in an exchange of prisoners and resumption of some travel to the island nation. Cuban President Raul Castro called for an end to the embargo that would free trade in all areas, but congress has the power to effect that change, and is now in the control of the Republican party which has embargoed gains of any kind from the president they have sanctioned.
Wednesday’s announcements follow more than a year of secret talks in Canada and at the Vatican, directly involving Pope Francis.
In his televised address on Wednesday, President Castro said Cuba was willing to discuss differences that remain with the U.S. on national sovereignty, democracy and internal policies. “We should learn the art of living together in a civilized manner in spite of our differences,” he said.
The return of official U.S. relations with Cuba has opened a long closed trade in the cigars the island nation is particularly prized for, and that have continued to attract fans under the radar of regulators of that trade. Russia had already written off 90% of the debt Cuba owed to the Soviet from years of interchange between those two countries.
“Authorized travelers to Cuba will be allowed to return with $400 of general goods and up to $100 of alcohol or tobacco products. That can include cigars,” a senior administration confirmed to reporters.
Details of the thawing trade relations will shake out in coming weeks and months, but for the time being selling the tobacco product in the U.S. will remain illegal.
“That authorization is for personal consumption,” the official added, disappointing those hoping to profit from luxury brands such as Romeo Y Julieta and Montecristo.
In Havana, Cuba, Colombia’s FARC leaders declared a unilateral ceasefire. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) at the end of November had released captured Brigadier General Ruben Alzate, the highest ranking officer they had taken hostage.
Colombia’s FARC guerrillas declared an indefinite, unilateral ceasefire Wednesday, saying they would only use weapons if they came under attack by the army.
“We have resolved to declare a unilateral ceasefire and end hostilities for an indefinite period of time, which should be transformed into an armistice,” said the leftist rebels’ peace negotiators in Cuba, where they are in talks with the Colombian government to end the 50-year war.
The plummeting ruble brought on buying sprees by Russian consumers and jokes about the unsteady situation that included making a wish on that streak of falling light. Putin’s press conference today formed an attempt to add impetus to measures to firm the ruble which include raising interest rates to 17% and calling on exporting industries to convert their holdings into rubles. The European Union in response has announced sanctions against investment in Crimea.
Conusmers scooped up iPhones and iPads at prices over $100 lower than in the US . Apple’s Russian website stopped online sales “due to extreme fluctuations in the value of the ruble…”.
Currency exchanges have been overwhelmed across Moscow and local media outlets are reporting get-rich-quick schemes.