Archive for May, 2010

U.S. Government Paid Miami Reporters to Be Biased against Cuba

May 30, 2010

Washington, May 29 (Prensa Latina) A civic group will shortly disclose evidence on how the U.S. Government covertly paid tens of thousands of dollars to Miami journalists working for major media outlets to incendiary stories against Cuba and five Cuban antiterrorists.

The evidence has been uncovered by the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, which next June 2 will make it public at a press conference.

The stories were published during the federal government’s politically-charged Miami prosecution, the organizations denounces in a press release.

Fernando Gonzalez, René Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero, internationally known as the Cuban Five, are serving sentences varying from 15 years to double life, after being convicted of charges including unproven espionage conspiracy.

The press conference will reveal names of journalists, payment amounts, and will have available notebooks highlighting articles and propaganda by supposedly-independent journalists who were covertly on the payroll of the U.S. Government.

Speaking at the press conference will be attorneys with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) that have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the National Committee.

The litigation filed by the PCJF asserts that the Broadcasting Board of Governors and its Office of Cuba Broadcasting are withholding information that will show that they have engaged in activities in violation of federal law, specifically the Smith-Mundt Act, which prohibits the BBG from seeking to propagandize the U.S. public, and may be continuing to do so.

The press conference will announce that a coalition of organizations is initiating a nationwide campaign that will call on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to take immediate action to provide remedy and relief to the Cuban Five based on the U.S. Government’s misconduct and covert operations which deprived the Five of their fundamental right to a fair trial.

Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the Cuban Five committee who will speak at the press conference, said, “Many of the articles and commentaries by the government-paid journalists were highly prejudicial and biased, with the obvious aim of negatively influencing the Miami public and the jury pool, convicting the Cuban Five, and depriving them of the fundamental right to a fair trial.”

Spanish Women Ask Michelle Obama to Support Release of the Cuban Five

May 30, 2010

More than a hundred Spanish women are appealing to United States First Lady Michelle Obama to intercede in the case of five Cuban antiterrorists being held since 1998 in the United States for their efforts to stop terrorism. The letter asks Michelle Obama’s help to convince Washington to allow two of the imprisoned men’s wives — Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva — to visit their husbands

MADRID, May 27.— More than a hundred Spanish women are appealing to United States First Lady Michelle Obama to intercede in the case of five Cuban antiterrorists being held since 1998 in the United States for their efforts to stop terrorism, reported Prensa Latina.

The letter asks Michelle Obama’s help to convince Washington to allow two of the imprisoned men’s wives to visit their husbands, and is signed by 115 women.
Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva have attempted in vain for years to visit their husbands, Gerardo Hernández and René González respectively, but they have been repeatedly denied visas to travel to the United States.
In a trial plagued with irregularities and held in a highly biased Miami court, the Cuban Five —Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero and René González— were given harsh sentences ranging from 15 years to consecutive life terms plus 15 years.
The five Cubans were working to uncover information about terrorist activities being planned and carried out against Cuba by ultra-rightwing organizations based in southern Florida with a long record of terrorist actions against Cuba and the Cuban people. When they turned their information over to authorities they were arrested and have been in jail ever since.

The letter written by the Spanish women states that the denial of visiting rights is a form of psychological torture. The text reads that it is now up to President Obama to rectify the wrong that was carried out against the five Cubans.

A UN Working Group reviewing the case of the Cuban Five determined that the trial did not take place in a climate of objectivity and impartiality, which is required in order to conclude on the observance of the standards of a fair trial. The UN report also charges that the Cuban Five were wrongfully held for seventeen months in solitary confinement after their arrest, and that their lawyers were deprived of the opportunity to examine all of the available evidence before the government invoked the Classified Information Protection Act.
Shortly following the UN ruling, on August 9, 2005, a three judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of Atlanta issued a 93-page reversal of the initial conviction as well as nullified the sentences. In response to the reversal, the Bush administration and Attorney General Gonzales vehemently pushed for the US Solicitor General to appeal the verdict of the three-judge panel’s decision before all twelve judges of the 11th circuit in Atlanta. This time the court bowed down to pressure from the Bush administration and reversed the previous pro-Cuban Five ruling by a vote of 10-2.

Empire against Democracy

May 29, 2010

by Frei Betto and João Pedro Stedile
After the Second World War, from which the Allied forces emerged victorious, the government of the United States sought to make the most of its military victory.  It structured the Assembly of the United Nations to be led by a Security Council composed of the seven most powerful countries, with veto power over decisions of the rest.  It imposed the dollar as international currency, subjecting Europe to the Marshall Plan of economic subordination, and installed 300 military bases in Europe and Asia, whose governments and media never raise their voice against this low-intensity intervention.
The entire world didn’t bow to the White House only because there was the Soviet Union to balance the relation of forces.  Against it, the United States waged an unlimited war, till its defeat, politically, militarily, and ideologically.
Beginning in the 1990s, the world fell under the total hegemony of the US government and capital, which went on to impose their decisions on all the nations and governments, treating them as colonial vassals.
When all seemed quiet in the global empire, dominated by Uncle Sam, there arose resistances.  In Latin America, joining Cuba, other nations elected anti-imperialist governments.  In the Middle East, the United States had to resort to military invasions in order to maintain its control over oil, sacrificing the lives of thousands of Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, and Pakistanis.
It is in this context that there emerged in Iran a government that refuses to submit itself to the interests of the United States.  It has built nuclear plants within the framework of its policy of national development, and that is what the empire finds intolerable.
The White House does not accept democracy among nations.  What matters that all countries have equal rights?  It doesn’t accept national sovereignty of other nations.  It doesn’t allow each nation and its government to control their respective natural resources.
The United States transferred nuclear technology to Pakistan and Israel, which today have nuclear bombs.  But it doesn’t tolerate Iran’s access to nuclear technology, even for peaceful purposes.  Why?  What justifies such imperial exercises of power?  Some international convention?  No, just its military supremacy.
In Israel, more than twenty years ago, Mordechai Vanunu, who worked at a nuclear plant, concerned about the insecurity for the whole Middle East that it represents, made it public that the Israeli government already had nuclear bombs.  Result: he was kidnapped and condemned to a life sentence, though commuted to 20 years after major international pressures.  To this day, he lives under house arrest, prohibited from contacting any foreigner.*
All of us are against arms buildup and foreign military bases in our countries.  We are all opposed to the use of nuclear energy, due to its high risks, and the waste of so much economic resources on military expenditures.
The government of Iran dares to defend its sovereignty.  The US government hasn’t militarily invaded Iran only because the country has a population of 60 million, it is a major oil power, and it has a nationalist government.  Its conditions are very much different from the quagmire called Iraq.
Fortunately, Brazil and other governments have diplomatically engaged themselves in this conflict.  We hope that the rights of Iran will be respected, like those of any other country, without military threats.
We can only keep our fingers crossed that campaigns for military and nuclear disarmament will grow all over the world.  May the resources formerly destined to military expenditures be used to solve problems such as hunger, which afflicts more than a billion people.
Social movements, environmentalists, churches, and various international institutions recently met in Cochabamba, at the world ecological conference convened by President Evo Morales.  There it was decided to prepare to hold a world referendum in April 2011.  People will be called upon to reflect and vote on whether they agree to the existence of foreign military bases in their countries; whether they approve of excessive military spending; and whether the countries of the South should continue to pay the costs of damages to the environment caused by the polluting industries of the North.
This struggle will be a long one, but this week we can celebrate a little anti-imperialist victory.

*  Translator’s Note: Since the publication of the original article in Brazil, Mordechai Vanunu has been sent back to prison, for unauthorized meetings with foreigners.  He is now serving a three-month sentence.
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Frei Betto is a writer and João Pedro Stedile is a leading member of Via Campesina.  The original essay “O império manda, as colônias obedecem” was published by Jornal do Brasil on 18 May 2010.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

World Health Organization Praises Cuba’s Health Assistance to Haiti

May 28, 2010

HAVANA, Cuba, May 28 (acn) The representative of the World Health
Organization (WHO) in Haiti, Henriette Chamouillet, praised the assistance
that Cuban health professionals have been providing to the Haitian people
for several years.
   Chamouillet, who is also an envoy of the Pan American Health
Organization (PAHO), said Cuba has excellent cooperation ties with this
regional organization in a common effort to provide free health services
to the most vulnerable groups of the Haitian population, Granma newspaper
reported.
   “We are working together in three fields of cooperation. The first
program was implemented over a year ago and it aims at providing free
health care to pregnant women before, during and after labor, and also to
the newborn babies,” the WHO official added.
   She noted that the second area of cooperation with the Cuban medical
brigade in Haiti is a vaccination program that emerged late last year when
an epidemic of diphtheria hit the country although the vaccination
campaign includes other diseases.
   The expert pointed out that Cuba and PAHO are also working to expand
health services and to guarantee better access to these services. She
added that two Cuban specialists have joined her team to work in the areas
of mobile clinics and health-care statistics.

WITH CUBA, IN THE FACE OF THE NEW CAMPAIGN OF INFAMY AND LIES

May 25, 2010

Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America-OSPAAAL

 “Friends make the world strong and beautiful.”

 “Cuba: to whoever loves it with me, I cry out: brother.”

José Martí
On the 115th anniversary of his fall in combat

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(NOTE: THE PRESENT BULLETIN HAS BEEN DELAYED FOR TECHNICAL REASONS. WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCES AND APPRECIATE YOUR HELP IN DISSEMINATING IT AND YOUR SUBSTANTIAL SUPPORT TO THE CAMPAIGN IN FAVOR OF CUBA.)

STATEMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL POETRY FESTIVAL OF HAVANA
We, the poets that organized the International Poetry Festival of Havana, can not stay silent after learning about the declaration of the so called “Platform of Spanish nationals for the Democratization of Cuba”.
Cuba has built its own legitimate democracy backed up by the vast majority of its people.
Together with well known  spokespersons of the anti-Cuban campaign, honest people, perhaps without the necessary information and knowledge, influenced by the “fierce and painful” mass media campaign against Cuba, are accusing us, and by doing so, assume a posture that attempts to harm the sovereignty of our country, and provides support to the eternal enemies of the island, that have not ceased, for the past 200 years, cuddling  their annexational and colonial dream.
They pretend to keep Cuba tied to the stand of the accused.
The words democracy, liberty and human rights have been sequestered. They are using empty arguments with the purpose of imposing, into the first headlines, the vision of our country that is wanted to be sold.
Cuba is not only a name under the pointing accusing finger. Cuba is a culture, an ethics, a history, a powerful identity, a mystique born from poetry and imagination.
This Spain where a few pretend to attack us, is not the Spain that we have always loved and admired: the Spain of Juan Ramon Jimenez, of Antonio Machado and Leon Felipe; the Spain of Federico Garcia Lorca, Rafael Alberti and Miguel Hernandez; of Maria Teresa Leon and Maria Zambrano; of Pablo Casals and Pablo Picasso; the Spain of contemporary intellectuals and artists always fraternal; of an inexhaustible number of friends who accompany us on a day to day basis with their solidarity.
The Spain that left us the heritage of a powerful culture cannot judge or condemn us for defending our own notion of culture, beauty and justice.
Presidency of the Festival
Aitana Alberti; Miguel Barnet; Víctor Casaus; Pablo Armando Fernández; Eusebio Leal;  Waldo Leyva; César López; Virgilio López Lemus; Omar Felipe Mauri; Edel Morales; Nancy Morejón; Carilda Oliver Labra; Alex Pausides; Juan Ramón de la Portilla

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Statement of the Organizing Committee of the Feast of Iberian American Culture in Cuba
Friday, May 14, 2010 – 21:09
The organizers of the Feast of the Spanish American Culture in Cuba, gathered in the House of Spanish America of the city of Holguín, reject the new stratagem of the mass media campaign against our fatherland, now entitled “Platform of Spanish Nationals for the Democratization of Cuba”, which pretends to revive the image of an isolated country with a totalitarian regime, only a few days prior to the celebration of the upcoming European Union-Latin America and the Caribbean Summit.
Rejection to a Mass Media Wave
During the last 17 years we have received more than 1,500 delegates from all Spanish America, who even traveled as members of cultural brigades in solidarity after the scourge of the devastating Ike hurricane; they visited and performed in our neighborhoods and communities such as Banes, Gibara and Antilla and saw with their own eyes what we consider a democratic and open country, a State that does not leave its citizens unprotected and defends its cultural—and therefore political—independence as its best shield in the new century.
Our brothers and sisters from Spain do not arrive from Madrid in comfortable first class seats obtained from obscure sponsorships, nor does anyone pay for their travel expenses or reward articles or frenzied statements against the Island. As true artists and promoters, they bring the spirit of Spain from the most diverse autonomic capitals of that country, to show that in Galicia and Catalonia, in Andalusia and Asturias, in Castile La Mancha and Cantabria, in the Canary Islands and the Basque Country, throughout the entire Iberian peninsula we have mutual bridges of brotherhood, because they are loyal friends and intellectuals who acknowledge the words of Eduardo Galeano: “The maps of the soul have no borderlines”.
They are an essential part of those who will arrive next October to celebrate in Bariay with all respect the meeting more than 517 years ago of cultures from the Old and New Worlds; and they do it from a position of solidarity and anti-colonialism. The seventeenth international edition of the Feast of Spanish American Culture and the Sixth Spanish American Congress of Ideas, dedicated to the bicentenary of the independence of our America, will renew the dialogue between our regional cultures as opposed to the hegemonic discourse of the imperial metropolis, in the same way that the festival “The Spanish Trace” in Havana has been defended at all costs and the centennials of Rafael Alberti, Luis Cernuda, Antonio Machado, Manuel Altolaguirre and María Teresa León have been recalled with commemorative activities.
The monuments in Holguín to Don Quixote and to the meeting of the two cultures, and in the center of Havana to the great poet and revolutionary García Lorca, assassinated by the Fascists; the International Book Fair traveling throughout Cuba, which celebrated Miguel Hernández’ birth centennial with readings of his poems and biography; the traces left in eastern Cuba by Antonio Gades, coherent and incorruptible until his very last day, show our defense of the best of Spanish culture in favor of the emancipation of mankind.
Our Handicraft Fair on Spanish Art, the Audiovisuals Show of all Spanish America; the visual arts exhibitions coming from Valencia or Madrid; the Spanish Cultural Center, where Spanish nationals and their offspring from six Spanish communities established in Havana are evidence that we are not lying and reject any other spirit that intends to destruct what we so lovingly have built.
Those who wish to confirm with their own eyes our permanent exchange of culture and solidarity exchange will find open doors at the Feast of Spanish American Culture. But those who, in Madrid or Miami, persist in attacking our right to exist as an independent country, will find our black and white hands building a huge wall beyond the horizon, at the place where the first Europeans to arrive in our continent said they had found the most beautiful land that human eyes ever saw.

ORGANIZING COMMITTEE OF THE FEAST OF SPANISH AMERICAN CULTURE
Tatiana Zúñiga Góngora, cultural promoter and editor
Alexis Triana Hernández, promoter and journalist
Jorge Hidalgo Pimentel, artist and journalist
Julio Méndez Rivero, artist and cultural promoter
Lourdes González Herrero, writer and editor
Esneider Gutiérrez Reyes, socio-cultural researcher
Ernesto Angulo Mesa, cultural promoter
Maribexy Calcerrada Gutiérrez, psychologist and researcher
Nelson Osorio Duranel, university professor
Ronel González, poet and socio-cultural researcher
Yailén Campaña Cisneros, philologist and promoter
Alanys Toranzo Matos, promoter
Ketsia Verdecia Palmero, promoter
Maiyel J. Gasel Guillén, promoter
Alexander Pérez Diaz, promoter
Hiram Pérez Concepción, historian
José Abreu Cardet, historian and researcher
Luis Caissés Sánchez, poet
Maricel Godoy, dancer and choreographer
Martín Arranz, actor and lyrical promoter
Lauro Echevarria, artist and sculptor
Georgelina Miranda, promoter and historian
Humberto González, university professor and film critic
Alfredo Aguilera Torres, teacher and school director
Luís Cruz Sierra, teacher of art trainers
Fabio Ochoa Olivera, university professor and journalist
Daniel Alejandro Benítez, journalist
Isabel García Granados, university professor and journalist

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The Disarmed Infamy
A large, blurred lens is the media machinery set up against the Island by the European Union and the United States, that Spanish intellectuals— signatories in their opinion of a platform to “democratize our country— now attempt to reinstall
By Kaloian Santos Cabrera  
A new fraud is being signed by a group of Spanish intellectuals who publicized a “manifesto” to “democratize” our country.
In the midst of the complicated situation, Alfredo Guevara, president of the International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema, has sent a letter to “the sisters and brothers of the New Latin American Cinema, and filmmakers and film fans from all over the world”.
The renowned Cuban intellectual, starting engine of the Havana meeting that this year arrives to its thirty-second edition as example of “integration of all arts and regions of Latin Americans and US Latins”, draws attention to the siege implemented “by a guided media campaign as part of that psychological war that pretends to isolate and force to surrender those who have conquered independence and practice sovereignty. That profound contradiction that imposes the monopolist use of communications as calculated and timely intensive disinformation compels us to face it well-informed. It is essential to restore truths, criteria and nuances always hidden by that Fascist-like, neocolonial avalanche of calumnies, lies, forgeries and labels”.
The lucid Guevara touches a key point also glimpsed at in the statement of the young Cuban artists, made by the leadership of the Hermanos Saíz Association (AHS).
“The immediate purposes of this media show—reads the AHS document—become explicit in the statements of the few signatories who attended the meeting, in which they insistently refer to the Sixth European Union-Latin America and the Caribbean Summit to be held next week in Madrid: ‘We cannot allow this summit to be used to soften the relations with the Castro brothers’”.
The Organizing Committee of the Feast of Spanish American Culture, which for the last 16 years has been convoking the Spanish cultures to meet in Holguín every month of October, likewise declares the following in response to this infamous crusade:
“Our brothers and sisters from Spain—who will join us in the upcoming Feast—do not arrive from Madrid in comfortable first class seats obtained from obscure sponsorships, nor does anyone pay for their travel expenses or reward articles or frenzied statements against the Island. As true artists and promoters, they bring the spirit of Spain from the most diverse autonomic capitals of that country, to show that in Galicia and Catalonia, in Andalusia and Asturias, in Castile La Mancha and Cantabria, in the Canary Islands and the Basque Country, throughout the entire Iberian peninsula we have mutual bridges of brotherhood, because they are loyal friends and intellectuals who acknowledge the words of Eduardo Galeano: ‘The maps of the soul have no borderlines’.”
“They are an essential part of those who will arrive next October to celebrate in Bariay with all respect the meeting more than 517 years ago of cultures from the Old and New Worlds; and they do it from a position of solidarity and anti-colonialism.”
“The seventeenth international edition of the Feast of Spanish American Culture and the Sixth Spanish American Congress of Ideas, dedicated to the bicentenary of the independence of our America, will renew the dialogue between our regional cultures as opposed to the hegemonic discourse of the imperial metropolis, in the same way that the festival “The Spanish Trace” in Havana has been defended at all costs and the centennials of Rafael Alberti, Luis Cernuda, Antonio Machado, Manuel Altolaguirre and María Teresa León have been recalled with commemorative activities.”
Also poets like the National Prizes in Literature Nancy Morejón, Carilda Oliver Labra, Miguel Barnet and Pablo Armando Fernández, organizers of the International Poetry Festival of Havana, together with other prestigious intellectuals like Aitana Alberti, Eusebio Leal and Víctor Casaus, among others, have not remained silent in the face of the manifesto of the so-called Platform of Spanish Nationals for the Democratization of Cuba.
In their declaration they state that “together with well known spokespersons of the anti-Cuban campaign, honest people, perhaps without the necessary information and knowledge, influenced by the “fierce and painful” mass media campaign against Cuba, are accusing us, and by doing so, assume a posture that attempts to harm the sovereignty of our country, and provides support to the eternal enemies of the island, that have not ceased, for the past 200 years, cuddling their annexational and colonial dream.
And conclude explaining that “Cuba is a culture, an ethics, a history, a powerful identity, a mystique born from poetry and imagination”.
“This Spain where a few pretend to attack us is not the Spain we have always loved and admired: the Spain of Juan Ramón Jiménez, Antonio Machado and León Felipe; of Federico García Lorca, Rafael Alberti and Miguel Hernández; of María Teresa León and María Zambrano; of Pablo Casals and Pablo Picasso; the Spain of contemporary intellectuals and artists always fraternal; of an inexhaustible number of friends who accompany us on a day to day basis with their solidarity.
“The Spain that left us the heritage of a powerful culture cannot judge or condemn us for defending our own notion of culture, beauty and justice.”
In turn, the friendship and solidarity associations of Spanish-origin nationals in our country also “reject energetically the vile media campaign against our people”. The assertion is contained in an open letter which also states that “Cuba does not pretend to impose or export its concept of democracy, and consequently, does not accept the imposition of other people’s concepts”.
With that purpose they argue:
“No one can ignore that governments throughout the planet with ideologies akin or different from ours vote every year and in a growing number against the continuation of that absurd and inefficient policy (the blockade). An example of this is the most recent voting in the UN General Assembly, in which 183 governments pronounced themselves in favor of the Cuban proposal against that measure.”
“The Cuban people endure all kinds of restrictions and shortages on account of this. Nevertheless, Cuba shares its few resources with other brotherly peoples through the cooperation of its medical and personnel as well as other specialists in different fields. A recent example is the solidarity evidenced after the devastating earthquake that scourged the neighboring Haiti, a support that was being granted before that event and continues up to the present.”
“In our country there are no tortured or missing persons, and in spite of the fierce, genocidal blockade, our people have received all possible welfare while developing, among many others, the world-known achievements in education and health.”
And indeed, the Spanish signatories, distant from our reality, adopt a “critical judgment” in a brief calling. Paragraphs containing common, permanent phrases: “fierce dictatorship”, “human rights”, “freedom…” But as usual, never a single line to speak of the greatness of this blockaded country.
Already last March, the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano had warned in Mexico: “A huge magnifying glass is being used against Cuba that praises everything that occurs there whenever it suits the enemy’s interests, drawing attention to what is happening in the Revolution, while the magnifying glass ceases to pay attention and fails to see other important things that the media do not care to inform”.
A large, blurred lens that blinds those who hold it is the media machinery set up against the Island by the European Union and the United States, which now, almost rusty from lies, is to be reinstalled by Spanish intellectuals.
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Los artistas cubanos hacen un llamado a los intelectuales y artistas del mundo para rechazar las nuevas maniobras anticubanas. En el mismo sentido, la OSPAAAL y otras instituciones cubanas se encuentran recogiendo firmas de otras personalidades, representantes de movimientos sociales y políticos y personas de buena voluntad para el apoyo a Cuba y el rechazo a estas nuevas maniobras: Si usted está de acuerdo, por favor envíe su firma a las siguientes direcciones:
ENVÍE SU FIRMA EN SOLIDARIDAD A:
edhcuba@cubarte.cult.cu
http://www.porcuba.org/

 CUBA NO ESTÁ SOLA,TODAS Y TODOS SOMOS CUBANAS-OS

Cuban Artists Urge Intellectuals around the World to Reject New Anti-Cuba Maneuvers. In the same way, OSPAAAL and other Cuban institutions are collecting firms from political and social movements’ representatives, other personalities and people of good will to support Cuba and to reject this new Anti-Cuba Maneuvers. If you are agreeing, please send your firm to:
SEND YOU SIGNATURE IN SOLIDARITY TO:
edhcuba@cubarte.cult.cu
http://www.porcuba.org/

 CUBA IS NOT ALONE,WE ARE ALL CUBANS

Human Rights Campaign” Against Cuba

May 23, 2010

You’ve probably been reading some of the bad press on Cuba lately.  So you might find of interest this little article I wrote to try to counter it.  
  Venceremos,   Cliff

  The “Human Rights Campaign” Against Cuba
  by Cliff DuRand     May 20, 2010
  Miami and New Jersey are the home bases for the most rabidly anti-Castro Cuban-Americans.  They would do anything to bring about regime change in Cuba and for 50 years have been able to count on support from the U.S. government, and still can, even though sentiment in the Cuban-American community has shifted away from their hard line position.  Whenever a new administration comes into office in Washington they create a way to make any rapprochement with Havana politically impossible.  For instance, when Bill Clinton became president they feared a warming of relations with Cuba.  To head that off they created an incident.  Miami based Brothers to the Rescue planes flew over Havana, dropping anti-Castro leaflets.  Cuban authorities warned them and U.S. authorities that this was an unacceptable violation of sovereign air space.  Imagine what would have happened if Cuban planes had done the same over Washington D.C. !  Well, Cuba responded in the same way.  The next time three Brothers to the Rescue planes entered Cuban air space two of them were shot down.  That made it politically necessary for the Clinton administration to adopt a hard line on Cuba and we got the Helms-Burton law.  Mission accomplished.  
  We are now seeing a similar scenario with the Obama administration.  Fearing that the new administration might live up to his promise to actually talk with leaders with which the U.S. has differences and his pledge to respect the independence of countries of the hemisphere (at a time when they all were calling on the U.S. to end its embargo of Cuba), the Miami mafia realized that something had to be done to head off this danger.  And so we are now seeing a concerted campaign against “Cuban human rights abuses.”  Minor incidents are hyped into something major and trumpeted through the mass media, especially in the U.S. and Europe.  Let’s look at some of these incidents we’ve been hearing so much about.
  There is the case of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner in a Cuban jail who died February 23 after a prolonged hunger strike.  He is proclaimed to be a political dissident protesting the Castro dictatorship.  In fact he was a petty criminal who had been in and out of jail for various actions (the most serious of which was whacking someone with a machete) none of which were in the least bit political.  His hunger strike was because prison authorities refused his demand that he be given a cell phone, a TV and a kitchen in his jail cell.  Dissidents seized upon his protest to present him as a fellow dissident and even got Amnesty International to declare him “a prisoner of conscience.”  He became the dissident’s poster child for political repression in Cuba, especially after he died in spite of receiving the finest medical care available.  
  Who then are these political dissidents in Cuban jails?  Doesn’t that prove political repression?  What’s wrong with that conclusion is that they are imprisoned not for their political views or even for expressing those views, but for violating a law against taking money from the U.S. government.  The same act in the U.S. – being an unregistered foreign agent – would land you in jail here too. (1)  But when in 2003 Cuba arrested, tried and sentenced to jail 75 dissidents for being agents of a foreign government sworn to bring down the Cuban government, this was portrayed by the U.S. as a human rights violation.  I attach an article I wrote on this matter at the time.  
  These 75 dissidents have come back into the news of late.  Their wives have been having peaceful marches every Sunday after church asking for the release of their husbands.  Calling themselves Damas en Blanco, this small group of women walk silently down Fifth Avenue in the Miramar section of Havana.  These demonstrations, which have been going on virtually unnoticed for seven years, have now suddenly become major international news.  This is because some Cubans, angered by the media campaign against their country, have been conducting counter demonstrations to repudiate the Ladies in White.  That has led to some ugly confrontations that have been portrayed as serious human rights violations by the Cuban government.  You can view pictures of these confrontations on the Miami Herald website.  http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/03/18/1534853/protesters-punched-drag…   Remember, this is a newspaper hostile to the Cuban Revolution and thus expected to show the most damning photos. But if you look closely at what seems to be going on in these pictures you will see two things the police are doing.  1. They are restraining the angry crowd, protecting the Ladies in White.  2.  They are loading them into a bus, removing them from the scene.  The Ladies in White are not arrested or thrown into jail.  They are removed for their own safety and freed to return the next Sunday for another demonstration.  There is no evidence of police brutality.  The Ladies practice passive resistance, going limp so they have to be carried away by the police.  But there are no scenes of beatings, no police clubs, mace or tasers.  
  Now, as one who has himself practiced nonviolent civil disobedience, I cannot help but admire the women’s quiet courage and determination in the face of a hostile crowd.  But that does not make their cause a just one.  Nor does it make their removal a violation of human rights.  But that is the way it has been presented in the international media campaign to discredit Cuba.
  So why does the suicide of this one prisoner in Cuba – the only one in many years – become major news when there are more suicides by U.S. soldiers every week?  Why do demonstrations against protesters in Cuba become major news when in Honduras death squads are killing leaders of the opposition to the coup engendered government (but U.S. backed) government there?  It’s not that these events in Cuba are not news, it’s the hyping of them out of all proportion that concerns me.  It certainly appears to be part of a campaign to dampen any prospect of a rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba by discrediting the Cuban government.  
  In this narrative Cuba is presented as intolerant of criticism and unwilling to change.  The reality is very different from this caricature.  What this ignores is the lively debate now going on in Cuba about a number of key issues.  But these are debates about how to improve socialism, whereas what the dissidents seem to be proposing (in so far as they have any program at all) is a return to capitalism.  That’s why they are supported by the Miami mafia and by the U.S. government.  And that is why they have no real following with Cuba.  
  Rafael Hernandez, editor of Temas, Cuba’s leading journal of social analysis, gives us a helpful list of the issues in the real public debate:
  decentralization; participation and effective political control of the bureaucracy by the Popular Power; reordering the economy and making it more efficient; enlarging the private sector; extending cooperatization; improvement in income levels consistent with work and buying power; an end to generalized subsidies and bonuses; new social policies for the most at-risk sectors; public opinion reflected in the media; enlargement of spaces for free expression; strengthening of laws and constitutional order; and the democratization of institutions (including political institutions).  (2)  
  This is the real civil society in Cuba.  It is alive and well and does not need “strengthening” by the U.S.  It simply needs to be accepted and left alone by our government and its allies in Miami who long for a return to a neocolonial and capitalist Cuba.  For the Cubans, that option was decisively rejected a half century ago.  

  NOTES  
  1.  The US Penal Code, under Chapter 115 entitled “Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities,” Section 2381 stipulates that any US citizen who “adheres to” or gives “aid and comfort . . . within the United States or elsewhere” to a country that US authorities consider to be an enemy “is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000.”
  2.        Rafael Hernandez, “The Cuban Opposition’s Resources”  (March 29, 2010)  
Cuba-L Analysis (Albuquerque) http://cuba-l.unm.edu/?nid=76929&q=RafaelHernandez&h=,

Cuban elections and medialies

May 21, 2010

The Elected Delegate and the Dissident in Cuba’s Municipal Elections
By Arnold August, May 20, 2010
The municipal elections have come to a close on May 19 with the constitution of the Municipal Assemblies and the election by the delegates of the presidents and vice-presidents from amongst the newly elected delegates.
Prior to this last step, thousands of neighbourhood nomination meetings took place between February 24 and March 24 in all 169 Municipalities across the island. From among those nominated by the citizens, a secret universal suffrage ballot election took place on April 25 to elect the 15,093 delegates for all municipalities from among the more than 45,000 nominated directly by the citizens. On that Sunday a candidate, from a minimum of two to a maximum of eight nominees in each constituency (riding or ward), would have to garner at least 50% of the valid votes in order to be elected.
A second round took place on May 2 in those constituencies which none of the candidates garnered at least 50% of the valid votes. In these cases, the two candidates getting the most votes advanced in a run-off second round. In cases where there was a tie vote between two candidates, these two candidates also advanced to the second round. This is a normal situation and takes place in all of the fourteen municipal elections which have been organized since 1976.  (There occurred one unusual instance this year in which a candidate passed away just prior to the April 25 elections and so a new nomination meeting had to took place after April 25; the electors in this constituency thus went to the polls for the first time on May 2.)  For all these reasons, a total of 14% of the constituencies (2,107) had to go into a second round on May 2. 
In these elections on May 2, three constituencies ended up in a tie among the two candidates who went into the second round, and so a third round took place on May 5 in which a winner finally emerged in all three, completing this phase of the municipal partial elections; this set the stage for the constitution of the municipal assemblies on May 19.
Elected were 15, 093 delegates 16 years and older (minimum age requirement to vote and to be elected at the municipal level.) Aside from a very small portion (for example the president and vice-president of the Municipal Assemblies, and some presidents and vice presidents of the People’s Councils), all delegates do their work as an elected citizen on a voluntary basis, with no pay or remuneration of any kind while maintaining their regular job. In the exceptional cases in which some delegates become full time as indicated above, they will receive the same wage as they had been receiving in their work place, not a cent more. For the overwhelming proportion that is non-professional, their work as a delegate takes place in the main after work hours and on the week-end.
One of the most intriguing aspects of investigating the Cuban electoral process and Cuba’s type of democracy is finding out in detail the history of the elected and what they do in their political, professional and personal life. This captivating feature of research applies not only to the municipal delegates but also for example to the elected deputies in the National Assembly of People’s Power (parliament). While several deputies are well known throughout Cuba and internationally, the vast majority are not as is the case of virtually all the municipal delegates (who according to the Cuban Constitution constitute up to 50% of the national legislature). Even the most well know national legislative deputies (such as Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, Ricardo Alarcón and others) who are known nationally and internationally, outside of Cuba their real main characteristics, features and historical evolution are in the main kept from the international public eye or completely distorted to the point of these political leaders being victims of defamation of character.
Cubans in the main know their elected local municipal delegates because they are neighbours and are used to seeing each other almost every day or at least quite often. However, as a result of the media disinformation and black-out, for people outside of Cuba in general the local elected delegate remains a mystery: A blank page. Instead of foreign journalists providing non-Cubans with some portraits of who are the 15,093 elected citizens with several examples, neither exaggerating the positive points nor highlighting only negative experience, there seems to be an effort by the international mass media to hide this feature of the Cuban political system from international public opinion. As a result of the failure to carry out this serious journalistic work, these elected delegates, human beings like you and I, are eliminated from international public knowledge. This is more often than not carried out by using catch phrases such as “branding” them as being members of the Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC) or the Communist youth wing of the party.  The intention is clear: to present their nomination and election as being conditioned by their party affiliation which is far from being the reality.
In addition, there are many people nominated and eventually elected to the municipal assemblies who are not members of the party or of its youth wing. Just to take one example: I know personally of one who is not a member of the party but in all the elections for which he was nominated and later elected during 25 years, all the other candidates were indeed members of party. This person, who lives in Plaza de la Revolución Municipality of the Province of Ciudad de la Habana, has been nominated and then elected as a Municipal delegate for almost 25 years; he was also a provincial delegate for 8 years and served as a president of a people’s council for 5 years. In fact after the April 25 municipal elections, the total results for the 15 municipal assemblies in the province of Ciudad de La Habana, indicate that only 56 % of the elected delegates are party members, in itself showing that it is not obligatory to be a party member in order to be nominated and eventually win the approval in secret ballot elections.
In this context it was quite disappointing to read an article by Fernando Ravsberg, BBC Mundo journalist stationed in Havana for many years. The article is entitled “Cuban dissidents in an electoral campaign.”   The main focus of the March 13 article, as the title suggests, is the role of a dissident who decided to participate in the local nomination procedure in constituency number 47 of the Punta Brava Consejo Popular located in the Municipality of La Lisa, one of the 15 municipalities to be found in the Province of Ciudad de La Habana. 
The article seems to be written in such a way as to provide a false atmosphere of repression and fear exercised against those who do not agree with the revolution but who participate in elections in one way or another. For example, Mr. Ravsberg writes that the local nomination meeting was calmly taking place with no signs of “repression”. The journalist opens the door for a qualification when he refers to this single policeman present as a sign of “repressive” forces, even though he writes that the policeman was diverting traffic so as to avoid interference in the nomination meeting; these meetings very often take place outdoors and normally spill into parts of the street.  (Would the Bobbies in London directing traffic be tagged as being part of the “repressive forces” by BBC Mundo?)
However, even this “moderate” indication of the absence of signs of “repression” is negated in the very same article when the journalist quotes the dissident. The word of the dissident is once again taken as a truth when the journalist allows the dissident to contradict the writer’s own observation, namely that there was only one policeman in the area. The article in question then indicates that the dissident claimed that there are in fact “more policemen in the area”, but “they are not in view”, once again taking the dissident’s word as a fact. In the same manner while the article admits that the situation at the nomination area meeting was calm with no apparent pressures, the same dispatch asserts according to the claims of the dissident that in other nomination assemblies there were indeed pressures exercised against dissidents, but with no facts to back it up. And once again this unsubstantiated allegation comes from the mouth of the dissident and presented as a truth in the article.
I have attended dozens of nomination meetings and secret ballot voting at the local level and the national general elections level in 1997-98, 2000 and 2007-08. All these steps in the political process are carried out in the utmost calm; there are no signs of police or anything else of this nature. Investigation has also shown that those who call themselves dissidents can participate in elections in any way they see fit within the context of the laws as all other Cuban citizens who have their rights. There are probably very few countries in the world where voting nomination days and voting days are so calm. Of course we cannot compare nomination meetings because in no other county in the world aside from Cuba do citizens have the legal right to propose directly from among their own neighbours who they believe should be candidates for elections and to propose themselves. The false accusations of “repression”, “forcing people to vote”, etc are often simply used as a pretext to avoid exposing the very poor showing of the dissidents in the nomination procedure when they choose to participate.
Mr. Ravsberg, while paying utmost attention to the dissident and his electoral campaign, Silvio Benítez, as if he was the center of Cuban politics on that day (and perhaps with this goal in mind, present him as the most newsworthy element in the municipal elections) what did he write about the citizen who eventually was nominated and then voted by her neighbours to be a candidate for the April 25 municipal elections? All he had to say is that she is a member of the PCC, a doctor, and on the staff of a regional public health enterprise. And in fact the whole article is written as if the nomination by a show of hands vote was between the “PCC candidate” versus the “dissident.”
In the Cuban electoral system, the PCC and its youth wing cannot propose nor nominate people for elections; only individual citizens have this right. In order to add to the fabricated image of the PCC controlling everything to the detriment of the citizen’s rights, contrary to what is stipulated in the Cuban Constitution and Electoral law, Mr. Ravsberg’s comments objectively serves to denigrate the following important notion:  sovereignty resides in the hands of the people even though the Cubans at all levels always strive to improve this aspect which is not perfect.
By so doing, the journalist misinforms the readers on this issue, whether this is his intention or not.
In the same vein, the article claims that one elderly person (therefore according to the preconceived notion, a veteran die-hard revolutionary) spoke against the dissident with the goal of barring him from being nominated.

On April 30, 2010 I interviewed the “other nominee” who had been elected as a delegate on April 25.   The interview with Dr. Daysi Victores took place in Havana on a pleasant Friday afternoon, in the very modest office of the Consejo Popular Punta Brava, in the presence of the equally modest president of the Consejo Popular of Punta Brava Armando Nelson Padrón Alfaro and Juanita Mejías Carbonnell, Secretary of this consejo popular. This grass-roots consejo is one of the seven consejos populares within the Municipality of La Lisa; like all other municipalities in Cuba they are decentralized in this way in order to, among other reasons, more efficiently strive to solve local problems and provide more power to the elected delegate. This goal is still on the agenda to be improved, as the Cubans themselves assert.
Dr. Daysi Victores, now 66 years old and retired, was born in Camagüey into a very poor family. Her father was a worker and her mother a housewife. The couple had four children. In 1961 Daysi went to eastern Cuba as part of the literacy campaign carried out by the new revolutionary government. Upon her return to her native Camagüey, she then went to school in Havana with a scholarship, eventually taking up medicine in the capital. Her three brothers and sisters were also able to study and take up various professions as have done Daysi’s own children. She declared that “becoming a doctor would not have been possible for a daughter of a very humble family if it was not for the revolution.” She eventually stayed in Havana. During her career as a doctor, aside from practicing at the local level as a family doctor, given her talents and devotion, she also took up various responsibilities over the years. In 1974 for example she was the director of the polyclinic in Punta Brava and later in other health centers such as in Arroyo Arenas. In fact, she was sent as a trouble-shooter to several polyclinics in order to help solve problems in these places. She was later Vice Directress of Medications in the La Lisa Municipality from which she retired. Amongst her other accomplishment: she was in Ethiopia as part of an internationalist mission in 1981 as a health professional.
Daysi was elected as a delegate on April 25, 2010 for her fourth mandate. Given that each municipal mandate is for two and half years, this means that she has already served over seven and a half years as a delegate before this year’s elections.  All municipal assemblies are divided into a series of permanent working commissions in which each delegate participates on an ongoing basis. In the last mandate she was President of the Permanent Working Commission responsible for Health and Hygiene in her municipality.  (All these commissions and their participants have to be renewed once the municipal assemblies had been established on May 19.) Daysi is a member of the PCC since 1980, nominated and elected that way by her fellow workers at her place of work, that is, the Medication enterprise where she worked.  PCC membership in Cuba is based on selection in the places of work or study, and not on neighbourhood where people live.
Daysi, and the two officers of the consejo popular present in the interview were proud to point out the achievements of the local people’s power, at the same time mentioning the limitations in what they would like to accomplish. In order to solve problems, or at least attempt to do so, each local delegates works collectively with other delegates and the consejo popular and its president. They also collaborate with the corresponding governmental administrative entity, a process which in turn strengthens the work of the municipal assemblies, the most important state and government organs in the municipalities. Among the improvements brought about:  improving availability of drinking water in collaboration with the governmental enterprise Aguas Habana responsible for this necessity, the complete renovation of the sewer system and water supply for the population, lighting system for the public, renovations of the funeral parlour, bank and post office, complete renewal of the children’s park, improvements in polyclinic services as well as recreation and sport activities for the youth.
The interview turned out to be a balanced account as they also pointed out shortcomings. For example, “it is true that there is much to be accomplished, we have important problems in restaurant services, even though these services have improved.”  In another instance they point out that while they are striving to construct a small shopping center with a butcher shop and other convenience stores, “however the economic situation imposes limits.”
Hopefully readers are beginning to see through the anonymous presentation by the mass international media regarding elected people in Cuba; these media simplify the whole issue by branding them as communists as if this was the kiss of death.
Given this situation, on the basis of an impartial look, it should be evident to appreciate something very important. While there are many accomplishments, Cuba is passing through the current situation when there exists a somewhat fertile ground for opportunists to play on, given the fact that as mentioned above, there are still shortcomings and goals to accomplish in order to satisfy the demands of the population. This was something that was not ignored by the dissident in his electoral campaign.

What happed on March 11, 2010, at the nomination meeting which Mr. Ravsberg describes in his article, and the two previous assemblies held on March 4 and March 8 in which the dissident was not involved and which was not a subject of an article?
The BBC Mundo article admits that the dissidents were in an electoral campaign, presenting candidates in various constituencies, even though it is well known that campaigning is not legal in Cuba.   However, the journalist even quotes the dissident Silvio who says that his campaign work is based on “going from house to house as do the Jehova Witnesses.”  According to the interviewees in Punta Brava, Silvio was an employee in some places of work, but was dismissed from his jobs. After this, they say, he started to work as a dissident. They say that while he does not work, he lives very well. Regarding his electoral campaign for the March 11 nomination meeting; what did it consist of?  According to the interviewees, there are a certain amount of people in the constituency who have alcoholic addiction problems and in some cases linked with that, economic issues. Alcoholism, although not as widespread as most other countries, definitely exists as a problem in Cuba. Silvio approaches these people who are desperately in need of money to support their habit and secondly and/or are in many cases quite void of political awareness. The interviewees claim that the dissident pays them to come out and vote for him in the nomination areas.
This is not hard to believe seeing as that the US State Department recently released figures of how the 20$ million of USAID is being spent in Cuba in order to subvert the constitutional order through their paid agents. The funds are distributed covertly so as not to expose the recipients. To provide just two examples: of the 20$ million, 750,000 $ is designated to promote “human rights and democracy” in Cuba, and another 400,000$ to try and “identify local leaders” who can later carry on activities at the local level.   Almost all of the categories of financial help can apply to someone like Silvio and his political party who are presenting candidates.
But demagogy goes along with the use of funds in Cuba. According to the Mr. Ravsberg’s report, Silvio intends to expose the “lies and manipulation of the government.”  However, in the nomination area meeting, he apparently spoke in the name of Raúl Castro and the necessity to bring about changes! After the meeting and voting took place, when it had became more evident what had happened, some citizens approached the Constituency Electoral Commission and told them that they were sorry they voted for Silvio because they did not see through the manipulation.  As the Secretary of the Consejo Popular, Juana Mejías said “he proposed himself because he considered himself to have the condition to respond to the people´s needs taking into account the words of Raúl. In this way, he really manipulated the notion of changes to which we aspire and to which aspires Comrade Raúl Castro. These changes are positive changes to improve the economic life in the country, but for more socialism and more democracy.”
Furthermore, it is not true to say as the reporter claims that an elderly person spoke in favour of the “communist” candidate. The interviewees said that in fact three people spoke in her favour: one was a representative of the association veteran fighters, to which Mr. Ravsberg disparagingly referred to as an elderly person. The two others who spoke in favour of Daisy were not elderly. In addition, it is not true that their intervention was geared to veto Silvio’s right to nomination. Even though he nominated himself which is his right, all the interviewees said that it is his constitutional right to present himself.
Furthermore, the interviewees confirmed that no one who proposed Daysi did it on the basis that she is a member of the PCC. All the arguments in favour of Daysi as a nominee were based on her record in the neighbourhood.
In all the nomination meetings that I attended over the last 12 years or so, no one was ever presented as a candidate of the party, nor was any one opposed as a potential candidate because the person was not a member of the party. In fact I had witnessed several occasions in which non-party members won a nomination and eventually the secret ballot voting for delegate. These and other examples flesh out the statistics for the 15 municipalities in Havana as indicated above, namely that only 56 % of the elected delegates are party members.
Admittedly, the issue of the party’s role in the society, the political system and within that the electoral process is very complicated; it is thus beyond the focus of this short article and will be dealt with in another work.
However, let us look at another important aspect. What is the dissident’s standing in the neighbourhood?  Daysi claimed in the interview that this citizen never participates in any meeting, or political and recreation activity. Armando Nelson Padrón, the president of the consejo popular, added that Silvio is a person “who does not work, he has never done anything for his neighbours or any other citizen in this town. He never moved even one grain of sand to improve the life of this population. It is for this reason that he has no following in the nomination assembly and this is why people did not vote for him in as a candidate.”
In the Ravsberg article, the whole tone of the journalism and the figures provided give the impression that the dissidents won a victory. It says that the dissident got 14 votes while the “Communist Party Candidate” got 50 votes and that there were many abstentions. (Abstentions are not called for or counted in these meetings; citizens are asked to vote in favour or against each nominee and can vote for only one of the proposals. The show of hands votes are counted after each proposal and the one who gets the most votes is declared to be a nominee from that assembly.)
In the case of constituency # 47 in Punta Brava, there were two other nomination meetings. Upon request, figures were provided to me by the Electoral Commission of the La Lisa Municipality.   While it is true that many of the electors present did not vote for one or the other (Daysi or Silvio), the official count shows that Daysi got 71 votes and Silvio 13 votes.

Before going on to the official results in the other two nomination assemblies, let us examine these results even if it is in a summary fashion. Silvio had all the advantages. Firstly, he participated in a campaign which is not only illegal in Cuba, but goes against the political culture since 1959. Daysi did not campaign thus following the electoral procedures. This was the case in all other elections which I have followed, showing widespread adherence to the Cuban people’s ethics.  Secondly, Silvio used funds to buy votes. Thirdly, since Daisy does not live in the area comprised in the March 11 assembly, she did not attend, while Silvio lives there amongst his closest neighbours and did attend. She therefore could only count on others to propose and speak for her, while Silvio was supposedly in his element. Fourthly, the general tendency in Cuban municipal elections is not to mechanically or automatically vote for those delegates who have completed a mandate. For example, every year since 1976, speaking in average approximate figures, less than 50% of the incumbents are re-elected. There are several reasons for this phenomenon at the level of nomination even before elections take place: for example, the incumbents decide not to run again; or they have recently moved or about to move from the constituency and therefore no longer eligible; or the citizens were not satisfied with the delegate thus no one nominated the incumbent; finally even if an incumbent is proposed as a nominee by a citizen, the proposed person does not win the majority of votes for the nomination in any of assemblies.
Despite this unlevel playing field in favour of Silvio, Daisy got 71 votes against 13 for Silvio. And as mentioned above, several of these 13 regretted their vote because at the time they did not see though the demagogy used by the dissident (speaking in the name of Raúl and changes.) The dissident campaign can back-fire because the Cuban people do not like petty politics and the use of funds, a phenomenon characteristic of the neo-colonial republic under US domination and which the Cubans left behind them with the revolution.
It should be noted that Silvio self-proclaimed himself president of his Liberal party of Cuba even though this is not legal, yet he has not been arrested and nor tried. He seems to have complete freedom to carry out his activities including proposing himself in a nomination meeting!
What is even more telling, are the nomination assembly results in the other two nomination area meetings in Constituency # 47:
March 4. The only nominee, Jorge Luis Pérez, who is not a dissident, got 60 votes. Daisy was not nominated and so Jorge Luis won as that area’s choice after a show of hands vote in his favour.
March 8. Of the 170 participants in this area in which she lives, Deisy got all 170 votes, 100%.
The two nominees for elections were thus Deisy and Jorge Luis. And so why all the fuss about the 13 votes for Silvio?

What about the elections that took place on April 25, according to the figures provided by the Municipal Election Commission? Mr. Ravsberg continued with a follow-up article on the April 25 island-wide voting for candidates who were earlier nominated.
In this article he once again places quite a lot of emphasis on the dissidents in the form of a) the Damas de Blanco and b) Silvio and his neighbourhood. He reports on polling station # 1 which was the only one reported by Mr. Ravsberg. He writes that there were 14 spoiled ballots and 39 blank ones, and adding together the ones who do did not vote, concludes that this represents 20% of the electorate in this neighbourhood, more than in previous elections. According to the electoral commission figures, Daysi received 118 votes versus 110 for Jorge Luis. In polling station # 2, a total 94.7 % of the citizens on the electoral list voted.  Daysi got 145 and Jorge Luis 144. There were 12 (3.6%) blank ballots and 21 (6.3%) spoiled ballots.
The total for the entire constituency comprising the two polling stations: Daysi got 273 votes and Jorge Luis got 254. There were 22 blank (3.67%) and 60 spoiled (10%) ballots, once again higher than the national average. (In another article, I deal with the Municipal election results, especially the speculation by the foreign press on the issue of blank and spoiled ballots.
However, just some questions:  what is the significance of Silvio’s 13 votes in the nomination area meeting which lead to his defeat in comparison to the nomination victories of both candidates, Daisy and Jorge Luis, and the large number of votes for both of them in the actual elections on April 25? Daisy’s showing is quite good taking into account that on a national level only a bit less than 50%  of those who were already delegates in the previous mandate were voted in on April 25, a tendency which follows the voting trends over the years.
In order to get at the heart of the issue, I met with Fernando Ravsberg on May 2 in Havana. We did not know each other. It was quite a pleasant informal discussion even though we disagreed on the facts and analysis of the Cuban political system and its form of democracy. It is true, as even some Cuban journalists say that he is not as bad as many other accredited foreign correspondents on the island.
In the conversation, one theme repeated itself over and over again. As Mr. Ravsberg’s articles quoted here indicate, he perceives many key political issues on the island as a conspiracy of the PCC, using it as a euphemism for “control” and “repression”, pitting the PCC and the historical leaders of the revolution against the people.
What impacted me as well is the following: when I asked Mr. Ravsberg if he had attended the May 1 demonstration the previous day in Havana in order to report on it, he responded “No”. When I asked why, he answered that he does not consider this event to be a news story because there are lots of May 1 demonstrations all over the world, for example in Venezuela. At the same time, he said that he attended the Damas de Blanco activity earlier that day (May 2) in order to report on it.
What struck me most about the two interviews, the April 30 one in Punta Brava and May 2 in Mr. Ravsberg’s home, are the following two points:
What hit me was the complete lack of respect exhibited on the part of Mr. Ravsberg for people such as elected delegate Daisy, for the reasons indicated above and his disdain towards the tens of thousands of Cuban women who formed an impressive block on May 1in Havana as well as being interspersed throughout the demonstrations in Havana and across the island comprising millions of people.
Why do I believe this indicates denigration? For the simple reason that for months on end including May 1 and May 2, virtually all of his focus is on the Damas de Blanco. His refusal to cover May 1 in any way, shape or form while covering every move and expression of the Damas de Blanca on May 2 to the exclusion of millions of Cuban women is an indication of disdain. In a similar manner, every word and unfounded accusation by the dissident Silvio regarding the nomination area assembly is reported with the utmost respect while the candidate and eventual elected delegate, Daysi, remains faceless for the readers.
Mr. Ravsberg could have interviewed Daisy later on or even easier yet, conversed with at least some of the electors in the nomination area meeting in order to get some ideas about the candidate Daysi in order to inform readers. According to the interviewees, he did not even speak to any of them which would have allowed international public opinion to know who these elected delegates are in Cuba; instead he apparently concocted a smokescreen of “communist candidate versus the dissident” coupled with all sorts of fabricated accusations of “repression”.
For those opposing the media war against Cuba, this is a serious problem in journalism: the very selective choice of what is reported on and what is not. The same applies to other countries or leaders who are demonized such as Hugo Chávez and Venezuela.
The current media campaign against Cuba lead by the right-wing in Europe and the USA is to use the “dissidents”, an irrelevant factor in Cuban politics as we have seen above. However, their presence on the island is amplified to the extreme by much of the monopoly media, Washington and Brussels. The goal is to discredit Cuba and its political system, to build a case against Cuba’s type of democracy by calling it repressive or totalitarian or a dictatorship. All this is geared to serve as a pretext for further foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Cuba. Lines are being drawn in the international public opinion on this issue.
It is not a question of appointing an accusing figure against any one of the monopoly media or a specific journalist, but rather contributing to a debate on this issue.

Cuba : different farmers, different country

May 20, 2010

In Cuba: A different farmers congress
By Jorge Gómez Barata-progresoweekly
I followed with interest the work of the Congress of the Small Farmers Association (ANAP), also called “the Peasants’ Congress.” The effort was worthwhile because novel and bold ideas were heard, things that I knew were verified, and things that I anticipated were outlined.
A farm leader said: “The peasants did not go to the Congress to ask for land or schools. They didn’t demand doctors or teachers, roads or highways, because they have all that.” A woman delegate said that “one CSC (Credit and Service Cooperative) can have 15 farms and each farm is an enterprise.” Finally, someone said it! The peasants’ congress also was a meeting of agricultural entrepreneurs.
Peasant is a sociologic category, part of the social and class structure that exists in the Cuban countryside. Until the Revolution, it was formed, among other strata, by hacendados (ranch owners), latifundistas (large-estate owners), terratenientes (landholders), ganaderos (cattle ranchers), colonos (tenant farmers), absentee owners of sugar mills and their high-level employees who operated and managed the mills, farm workers and, in last place, the peasants.
The peasants that Fidel and Raúl Castro knew in the past, the fathers and grandfathers of those who met at the recently ended Congress, and for whose benefit the 1959 Agrarian Reform was enacted, were the last card in the deck and lived under miserable conditions closer to indigence than to production capability.
According to a 1957 survey by the University Catholic Association (ACU), “only 11.22 percent of them drank milk, 4 percent ate meat, 3.36 percent ate bread, 2.2 percent ate eggs and fewer than 1 percent ate fish. Barely 8 percent had access to medical care furnished by the State.”
Through an effect that has lasted 50 years and goes on despite the repeated setbacks in the State-run agriculture’s efforts to trim the social structure in the countryside from the top, the peasants who gathered in cooperatives advanced consistently, occupying economic spaces until they displaced the State from first place in the volume of production, land yield, and ability to cope with climate adversities.
With 40 percent of the land, the cooperativistas (cooperative members) create 70 percent of the values. I don’t know what percentage of the machinery, fuel, fertilizers and pesticides, water, transportation, agronomers and veterinarians the cooperative members utilize to accomplish this, although one could suppose that the amounts are considerable fewer than those used by the State sector.
Because of the combined effect of the failed agrarian policies of the ministries of Agriculture and Sugar, the climate adversities, the crisis that followed the fall of the socialist bloc (which was devastating for Cuba’s State-run agriculture but not for the peasants), the social structure in the countryside has experienced a mutation. An example of this is the introduction of the usufructuarios, many of them city folks to whom the State has leased several million hectares of idle land. These farmers-in-usufruct have added to the entrepreneurial nature of the Cuban countryside.
According to the current trends, the State could soon be replaced not only as the leading farm producer but also as the majority holder of land. It is difficult to predict the impact of the phenomenon created by the so-called “process of actualization of the Cuban economic model.”
Among the topics dealt with during the Congress was the commercialization of the peasants’ production. Production is something the peasants know how to do, but the State – which owns the means of transportation, the fuel and the distribution hubs, hires, buys and sells in the retail network – is reportedly not handling the commercialization well.
Along with the commercial side of the business, the peasants paid special attention to the contracts, the prices, the availability of supplies, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, water and other aspects of an entrepreneurial activity that, because of its technical profile, they could deal with anywhere on the island, not just in Havana.
For his part, the Minister of the Economy, without being critical, revealed that these “peasants” hire as many as 100,000 farm hands to whom they reportedly pay higher wages than the State. However, these new rural entrepreneurs don’t pay taxes or assume obligations in terms of social security for their farm hands.
Because of the topics discussed and the results achieved, the Congress of the Small Farmers Association seems to me to be a magnificent exercise and a demonstration that the Revolution – through an institution like the ANAP that is solidly established and committed to its work – has permitted the political leadership to monitor and efficiently manage those processes.
The fact that these “peasants” work the land and sweat while doing it puts them on a par with millions of micro-, small- and midsize-entrepreneurs worldwide. Nevertheless, their hard work will ease as their revenue increases and they can devote more time to management and planning and, along with their families, can enjoy their prosperity.
Maybe the peasants’ Congress – a gathering of agricultural entrepreneurs to perfect society and its basic structures – can be considered a kind of rehearsal for an improved version of socialism. In this new version, the mercantile efforts and the citizens’ economic initiative, which is a commendable variant of their participation, will coexist with the high goals of social justice and collectivism contained in the socialist ideal.

The New Country comes by mail
By Aurelio Pedroso-progresoweekly
In Havana, a group of dissidents has just issued a proposal to create a new group, this one called “The Charter of the New Country.”
The birth of this peculiar document took place recently in an apartment overlooking 23rd Avenue and proceeded without incident, except for a moment when the loud sound of sirens was heard on the well-traveled boulevard. Some attendees were startled, but it wasn’t police cars on a mission. It was just fire fighters celebrating National Fire Prevention Day who by happenstance stopped their truck a few seconds in front of the building and sounded their sirens to open up a lane for the vehicle.
I’ve lost count of the overwhelming number of parties, associations, federations, labor centrals or trade guilds that have been formed by the opposition, but it could reach 200.
Some of them have only two members: the president and the vice president. God knows which of the two is the G-2 agent, because what our dissident movement has is an extraordinary facility to admit all kinds of moles.
That’s not the only important attribute. Then there’s the very native obsession everyone has with being a chief. The big problem with unity among Cubans dates back to José Martí, whose death in combat 115 years ago is celebrated this month, on the 19th.
Ever since, it has been impossible for any three Cubans to devise a plan or strategy without each one of them wanting to be the leader – so he doesn’t have to work too much.
This can be seen on occasion in construction work on the street. Two men are working, ramming a power drill into the pavement, and five are issuing orders or instructions. That’s the way we are. Shall we continue to be like that?
For now, I don’t see much future for The Charter, although I do acknowledge that the country needs in-depth remodeling in all aspects. The Charter will have the same fate as the Varela Project, although the republic’s Constitution could help the promoters in their task.
The signers of the Charter – so far, about 100 persons living on the island and in the United States – propose a “Basic Basket” consisting of radical changes in alimentary security, a thorough review of property rights, and the ratification of pacts signed by the authorities at the United Nations.
Among the signers are journalists, writers, lawyers, farmers, physicians, architects, historians and painters. Even a forest ranger and a retired mariner.
Actually, considering the notorious inefficiency of our postal service, where a letter from Havana takes one month or two to reach Santiago de Cuba, The Charter of the New Country will be stuck in some post office somewhere, even though it says things that are quite worthwhile, if we’re talking about the future of the island.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF JOSE MARTI’S DEATH

May 19, 2010
THE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF JOSE MARTI’S DEATH
Reflections by comrade Fidel
Leaving aside the problems afflicting human beings today, our Homeland had the privilege of being the cradle of one of the most extraordinary thinkers born in this hemisphere: Jose Marti.

Tomorrow, May 19th, will be 115th anniversary of his glorious death.

It would not be possible to appreciate the scope of his greatness without bearing in mind that the drama of his life was written with such extraordinary personalities as Antonio Maceo, an everlasting symbol of revolutionary firmness and the protagonist of the Baragua Protest, and Maximo Gomez, a Dominican internationalist and a teacher of Cuban combatants in the two wars of independence in which they took part. The Cuban Revolution, that for more than half a century has endured the battering of the most powerful empire that ever existed, was the result of the teachings of those predecessors.

Despite the fact that four days of entries to Marti’s diary have remained out of reach to historians, what is reflected in the rest of that carefully written personal diary and other documents belonging to him suffices to know the details of what happened. Just like in the Greek tragedies, it was a discrepancy among giants.

On the eve of his death in combat he wrote to his dear friend Manuel Mercado: “…Every day now I am in danger of giving my life for my country and my duty –since I understand it and have the spirit to carry it out—in order to prevent, by the timely independence of Cuba, the United States from extending its hold across the Antilles and falling with all the greater force on the lands of our America. All I have done up to now and I will do is for that. It has had to be done in silence, and indirectly, for there are things that must be concealed in order t o be attained: proclaiming them for what they are would give rise to obstacles too formidable to be overcome.”

When Marti wrote these lapidary words, Marx had already written The Communist Manifesto in 1848, that is, 47 tears before Marti’s death, and Darwin had published his book on The Origin of Species in 1859, just to mention the two works that, in my view, have most influenced the history of mankind.

Marx was so extraordinarily selfless that perhaps his most important scientific work, The Capital, would have never been published if Frederic Engels had not collected and ordered the materials to which the author devoted his entire life. Engels did not only do that but was also the author of a work entitled Introduction to the Dialectics of Nature, where he anticipated the moment when the energy of the sun was depleted.

Man did not know then how to release the energy contained in the matter which Einstein described in his famous formula nor did he have the computers capable of performing billions of operations per second and of collecting and transmitting the billions of reactions per second that occur in the cells of the tens of pairs of chromosomes equally contributed by mother and father, a genetic and reproductive phenomenon that I learned about only after the victory of the Revolution, as I was looking for the best characteristics to be used in the production of food of animal origin in the conditions of our climate, which can be applied to plants subjected to the same heredity laws.

The incomplete education that the people with more resources received in school, –mostly private schools which were considered the best education centers– made us illiterates with a little higher level than those who could neither read nor write or who attended public schools.

On the other hand, the first country in the world that attempted to implement Marx ideas was Russia, the least industrialized in Europe.

Lenin, who established the First International, believed that there was not any organization in the world more loyal to Marx’s ideas than the Bolshevik fraction of the Social Democrat Workers’ Party of Russia. Although a large part of that immense country lived in semi feudal conditions, its working class was very active and extremely combative.

Lenin was a restless critic of chauvinism in the books he wrote as of 1915. In his work Imperialism, Higher Stage of Capitalism written in April 1917, –months before the Bolshevik fraction of that Party seized power from the Menshevik fraction– he showed that he was the first to understand the role to be played by the countries subjected to colonialism such as China and other very important nations in various regions of the world.

At the same time, Lenin’s courage and audacity showed in his acceptance of the armored train that, for reasons of tactical convenience, the German army offered him to travel from Switzerland to the proximity of Petrograd. Due to this action his enemies, both inside and outside the Menshevik fraction of the Social Democrat Workers’ Party of Russia, would soon accuse him of being a German spy. But if he had not used the famous train, the end of the war would have found him in distant and neutral Switzerland thus missing the optimal adequate minute.

Somehow, chance would have it that, thanks to their personal qualities, two sons of Spain would end up playing a prominent role in the Spanish-American War: the chief of the Spanish troops in the fortification of El Viso, which defended the access to Santiago from the heights of El Caney, an officer who fought until he was mortally wounded and who caused more than three hundred casualties among the Rough Riders –tough American riders organized by then Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and who were forced by the hasty landing to leave their ardent horses behind—, and the Admiral who, following the stupid orders of the Spanish government, set sail from the Santiago de Cuba bay carrying on board the Marine Corps, a selective force, and left with his squadron the only way he could, that is, parading his ships, one by one, in the narrow access in front of the powerful Yankee fleet, which displayed its armored ships with its powerful cannons to shoot against the much slower and weak Spanish ships. As it was only logical, the Spanish ships with their combat troops and marines were sunk in the deep waters of the Bartlett Trench. Only one of them could make it to a few meters from the border of the abyss. The survivors of that force fell captive of the United States squadron.

Martinez Campos was arrogant and vindictive. As he was full of hatred for his failed attempt at pacifying the island like in 1871, he supported the vile and rancorous policy of the Spanish government. Valeriano Weyler was his replacement in command of Cuba; this man, in cooperation with those who sent the warship Maine looking for a justification for an intervention in Cuba, decreed the concentration of the population, an action that brought great suffering to the Cuban people and served as a pretext to the United States for the imposition of its first economic blockade, which caused a great shortage of food and the death of countless people.

Thus were facilitated the Paris negotiations where Spain renounced every right of sovereignty and property over Cuba after over 400 years of occupation in the name of the King of Spain, since mid October 1492, when Christopher Columbus said: “This is the most beautiful land that human eyes ever saw.”

The Spanish version of the battle that decided the fate of Santiago de Cuba is more widely known; and, undoubtedly there were shows of heroism. This is clear from the number of officers and soldiers involved and the ranks of the former. They all defended the city in the most disadvantageous situation thus honoring the fighting traditions of the Spaniards who had defended their country from Napoleon Bonaparte’s experienced troops in 1808 or the Spanish Republic from the Nazi fascist attack in 1936.

An additional disgrace fell on the Norwegian committee that awards the Nobel Prize when in the year 1906 it looked for ridiculous pretexts to grant that honor to Theodore Roosevelt, who was elected President of the United States twice, in 1901 and 1905. His true involvement in the battles of Santiago de Cuba leading the Rough Riders was not even clear, and there could have been much legend in the publicity he later received.

I can only bear witness to the way in which the heroic city fell in the hands of the Rebel Army on January 1st, 1959.

Then, Marti’s ideas triumphed in our country!

Fidel Castro Ruz

May 18, 2010

 

Gerardo Hernandez’ Defense Team to Apply for Habeas Corpus

May 17, 2010
The habeas corpus will be presented to Miami’s Federal Court Judge Joan Lenard, who sentenced him in 2001
2010-05-15 | juventudrebelde
The defense team of Gerardo Hernandez, one of the five Cuban antiterrorists imprisoned in the United States, will apply for habeas corpus before June 14, in favor of the prisoner, who was sentenced to double life and 15 years in jail.

The habeas corpus will be presented to Miami’s Federal Court Judge Joan Lenard, who sentenced him in 2001, reported Prensa Latina.

The defense expects the court to reconsider the case of Hernandez, currently serving the harshest sentences. Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez, who was sentenced to 15 years, were excluded from the resentencing hearing held in late 2009 in Miami, in which Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez received new sentences.

The habeas corpus aims to ask the court to at least lift Hernandez’ double life imprisonment.

In a statement after the resentencing hearing for Labañino, Guerrero and Gonzalez, the three men reiterated their innocence and said that the Cuban Five, as they are internationally known, were punished for accusations that have never been proven.

They added that while three sentences were partially reduced, the Cuban Five are still all subject to a grave injustice. More than anything, the three men spoke about the injustice in the case of Hernandez, who was confined to a maximum security prison in Adelanto, California.

In a trial plagued with irregularities and held in a highly biased Miami court, the Cuban Five were given harsh sentences ranging from 15 years to consecutive life terms plus 15 years. The five Cubans were working to uncover information about terrorist activities being planned and carried out against Cuba by ultra-rightwing organizations based in southern Florida with a long record of terrorist actions against Cuba and the Cuban people. When they turned their information over to authorities they were arrested and have been in jail ever since.

A UN Working Group reviewing the case determined that the trial did not take place in a climate of objectivity and impartiality, which is required in order to conclude on the observance of the standards of a fair trial. The UN report also charges that the Cuban Five were wrongfully held for seventeen months in solitary confinement after their arrest, and that their lawyers were deprived of the opportunity to examine all of the available evidence before the government invoked the Classified Information Protection Act.

Shortly following the UN ruling, on August 9, 2005, a three judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of Atlanta issued a 93-page reversal of the initial conviction as well as nullified the sentences. In response to the reversal, the Bush administration and Attorney General Gonzales vehemently pushed for the US Solicitor General to appeal the verdict of the three-judge panel’s decision before all twelve judges of the 11th circuit in Atlanta. This time the court bowed down to pressure from the Bush administration and reversed the previous pro-Cuban Five ruling by a vote of 10-2.
The Five have been in jail since September 12, 1998.


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