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CUBA: FIDEL CASTRO TURNS OUT TO VOTE FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2006 The ex-president of Cuba, Fidel Castro voted on Feb. 3 at a Habana polling station, participating in the national parliamentary and provincial assembly elections for the first time since 2006.The Cuban state television broadcasted Castro’s hour-long meeting with the local news media. During the meeting, he spoke about the “modernization” of the socialist economic model being implemented by his brother, President Raul Castro. Fidel Castro said “that it is an obligation to modernize and improve the Cuban economic model without committing errors.” He referenced the recent Summit of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), where Cuba ratified the CELAC commitment to Regional Integration. He stated that the organization is an advance in Latin America that can be attributed to the work of many people, including that of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. Fidel Castro’s last appearance in public was in October of 2012, after meeting with Venezuelan Ex-Vice President Elias Jaua.

FRENCH GUIANA: CAMPAIGN INITIATED TO STOP GOLD EXTRACTION An international campaign was initiated to reverse the authorization of gold extraction in the center of Amazon Park in French Guiana. The authorization was adopted Oct. 26, 2012 by Arnaud Montebourg, minister of production, in Paris—as French Guiana has been an “overseas region” of France since 1946. Residents, environmentalists and researchers initiated the protest in Saul, a town located in the heart of the tropical forest. Organizers argue that the excavation would authorize REXMA, a mining company, to utilize cyanide and mercury—highly toxic chemicals—on the Limonade River. These chemicals would heavily contaminate the environment, and so the campaign is seeking to have the authorization annulled by the French Government.