Big News From Havana

Affects Region & World
      This photo was taken at a very important news conference in Havana yesterday. On the left is Marcela Duran, a spokesperson for the government of Colombia. Next to her is FARC rebel Marco Calarca. FARC is the Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. At this news conference Ms. Duran and Mr. Calarca announced a peace agreement. That's big news...really big news!! Since 1964...for over five decades...Colombia and FARC have fought a bloody civil war that has killed about 250,000 people and displaced over five million. American taxpayers have contributed tens of billions of dollars in helping the Colombian government's attempt to wipe out FARC, which has never happened. But since November of 2012 Cuba has hosted peace talks designed to finally...finally...end the war. At the above news conference in Havana, Duran and Calarca announced a peace agreement to end the hostilities. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will attend the official signing ceremony, as will luminaries such as Michelle Bachelet, the President of Chile, because the conflict has affected the entire world and, especially, Latin America.
     Cuban President Raul Castro has brokered the peace talks between Colombia and FARC for four years. This Luis Acosta/AFP/ Getty Images photo shows Castro forcing a handshake between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, better known as Timochenko. The peace agreement reached this week is a positive Cuban contribution to the region that even the mainstream media in the United States should acknowledge. President Santos said, "We are adversaries, but we are advancing in the same direction." Timochenko said, "The agreement creates a propitious environment."
     From 1964 till 2014, the fighting was fierce and often ruthless on both sides in the FARC-Colombia Civil War. By 2014, when the peace talks in Havana began producing positive results, the fighting tapered off. And then this week -- June, 2016 -- President Santos and FARC leader Timochenko have made peace.
      Over 15,000 FARC guerrilla fighters are still considered terrorists and criminals but the FARC negotiators in Havana have insisted that they be pardoned or given amnesty if they agree to stop fighting.
        This photo shows Judith and Isa, FARC guerrilla fighters. Young females from poor Colombian families, believing they have been discriminated against by a government catering to rich Colombians, have always made up a significant proportion of the FARC armed forces. Hopefully, the Cuban-brokered peace terms will make life much better for all Colombians, including Judith and Isa in their war-ravaged homeland.
       Since 1962 the U. S. embargo against Cuba has prevented commercial airplane flights from the U. S. to Cuba. Thanks to President Obama's bold, brave and astute defiance of the U. S. Congress, that will change drastically on September 9th, 2016!! That's when hundreds of daily flights from the U. S. mainland to Cuba will commence. American Airlines has just announced its initial fares to the Cuban cities of Cienfuegos, Holguin, Varadero, Camaguey, and Santa Clara. The round-trip rates will be $286, including all taxes, on flights from Miami, Boston, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Tampa, and Washington, D. C. The price will be $400 for flights from Houston, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth. And for flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco the price will be $500. All major U. S. airlines are chomping at the bits to fly into Havana but the Cuban government is already almost overwhelmed with flights to Jose Marti Airport in its capital city.
       The CEO of Southwest Airlines, Gary Kelly, is also interested in the Cuban market. He says the U. S. has approved two Southwest routes to secondary Cuban cities but he is still awaiting his application for flights to Havana. He says, "Commercial flights from the U. S. to Cuba haven't been allowed for half-a-century, so it's uncharted territory. Also, the embargo still prohibits everyday Americans from visiting Cuba strictly as tourists but there are 12 reasons Washington now recognizes, but how that shakes out is quite problematic."
         Southwest Airlines is America's 4th largest carrier based on traffic but it is the biggest U. S. domestic hauler. The airline industry in the U. S. is booming and Southwest is setting earnings records this year as it strives to cautiously enter the emerging Cuban market and analyze the new U.S.-Cuban rapprochement.

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