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Cuba marks 60 years of revolution amid changes

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By AFP
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Cuba, long a source of inspiration for leftist Latin American governments, celebrated the 60th anniversary of its revolution on Tuesday facing increasing isolation in a region dominated by a resurgent right.

The first such anniversary of the post-Castro era coincided with the inauguration in Brazil of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, whose recent election victory is one of several for right-wing governments across the region.

Bolsonaro, who had made a point of not inviting Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Venezuela’s Socialist leader Nicolas Maduro to his inauguration, unfolded his nation’s green and yellow flag in Brasilia and proclaimed: “This is our flag, which will never be red.”

Like Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru have all swung to the right in recent years, unseating leftist governments.

Maduro paid tribute to the “heroic Cuban people” in a tweet, lauding their “resistance and dignity” in the face of “60 years of sacrifices, struggles and blockade.”

Another surviving leftist leader, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, said Cuba’s revolution gave birth to “the light of hope and invincible will for the liberation of the people.”

The symbolic commemoration was set for late afternoon in the island’s southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba, the so-called “cradle of the revolution.”

Ex-president Raul Castro was slated to give the keynote speech at the tombs of national heroes Jose Marti and Fidel Castro.

For the first time since 1976, Cuba’s president is not a Castro. Miguel Diaz-Canel, 58, took over in April as president from Raul Castro, who retains significant influence.

“Today the date is with Raul in Santiago,” wrote Diaz-Canel on Twitter.

“The brave and noble people of Cuba” will be honoured — with Fidel, Raul and “all those who have fought, and fight, to keep the homeland free, sovereign and happy.”

The streets of Santiago were adorned with flags and posters. In one, a vigorous Fidel raises a rifle next to Raul, with the legend “60 years of victories.”

Concerts and dances were held across the island on New Year’s Eve, and a 21-gun salute rang out across Havana Bay to usher in the anniversary of the revolution.

Diaz-Canel wasn’t even born when Fidel Castro declared victory for his revolution on January 1, 1959.

US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista had fled the country earlier that day, opening the way for Castro to install a one-party communist system.

Last week, a defiant Diaz-Canel wrote on Twitter: “The Cuban revolution is invincible, it grows, it lasts.”

But not everyone is convinced.

Dissident Vladimiro Roca, whose father Blas Roca served as a high-ranking official under Fidel Castro, insists that “the revolution died a long time ago.”

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Abroad, Cuba’s government has faced heavy criticism for its authoritarian nature, intolerance of opposition and persecution of detractors. Vladimiro Roca was jailed from 1997 to 2002 for his protests.

And while US-Cuba relations thawed under Barack Obama, the Caribbean island of 11 million people has had to contend with an increasingly hostile administration under President Donald Trump these last two years.

Change is coming, though.

In February, the communist regime is to submit to referendum a new constitution that will officially recognise private property, markets and foreign investment.

‘Castrism without a Castro’

However, the document also ratifies communism as the nation’s “social goal,” insists the country will “never” return to capitalism, and defines the Communist Party as by nature, single, and the “supreme political force of state and society.”

Economic changes are coming as well. One deal, between Major League Baseball in the US and the Cuban Baseball Federation, will allow the island’s top talents to sign multimillion-dollar deals with MLB clubs.

“For sure, a new cycle is being opened. This cycle is continuity and change,” academic Arturo Lopez-Levy, from Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, told AFP.

That’s not the view of Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.

“For now, it looks like Castrism without a Castro” in power, he said.

Vladimiro Roca, for his part, believes the revolution “will blow itself out” due to the indifference of the new generations and a lack of outside support.

Russia and China remain allies, but neither has shown willingness to subsidize the country’s economy in the way the former Soviet Union did for 30 years.

Diaz-Canel has repeatedly said that the “most important battle is the economy,” which has grown barely one percent in recent years, not enough to support its population.

For many Cubans, their hopes for an improved life depend “on whether they can work for themselves or emigrate,” said Duany.

Once the world’s primary exporter of sugar, Cuba recently had to import that commodity from France, while over the last few weeks, eggs, rice and flour have disappeared from supermarket aisles.

It leaves “Diaz-Canel and his team with the challenge of applying a contradictory policy,” said Lopez-Levy.

The country is institutionalizing the revolution in a time of economic crisis, while the Communist Party creates a market economy allowing inhabitants to get rich in a society based on egalitarian principles.

“The challenge is to square the circle in order to avoid sinking,” said Lopez-Levy.

It’s not a hopeless dream, though, in a country that has resisted a US-led embargo since 1962 by showing “its ability to adapt, identifying and applying policies that manage to meet the challenges,” he said. 

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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