Archive for August, 2010

The Alan Gross case: Could 12 dozen = 5?*

August 30, 2010

(* For those math-challenged, like myself, a gross = 12 dozen, thus the play on words with Gross’ name )

By Saul Landau

Someone, perhaps the protagonist himself, made a mistake — perhaps an “oversight,” as Washington bureaucrats label their errors. Alan Gross, on a mission for his company (DAI) working for USAID (United States Agency for International Development) solicited a tourist visa to travel to Cuba for the purpose of “promoting democracy,” a euphemism for undermining governments that challenge Washington dictates.

Imagine the 60-year old American posing as a tourist while distributing laptops, cell phones and forbidden satellite phones to Cubans! Gross should have known he would draw the attention of Cuban state security. Or did he think he could innocuously drop-off expensive appliances at private homes, like a Santa Claus who prolonged his gift-giving night? Gross claimed he intended only to help the Cuban Jewish community upgrade its communication technology. Do most religious Jews believe God will talk to them only via satellite phone?

The atheistic Cuban government, of course, would have denied him permission to accomplish this task; so big deal, he lied and wrote “tourist” on his visa application. Not really a lie. He did hope to visit the Tropicana and spend a day at the beach in between satellite phone deliveries.

Gross knew Cuba does not allow satellite phones. A sign at the airport announces this. Satellite phones prevent tapping and could be used for sending coded messages on several frequencies. Their signals will usually bypass local telecom systems. Oh, these phones can also call in coordinates for air strikes. On the web, Motorola advertises its satellite phones at bargain prices: between $1,795 and $5,273 – not counting service.

In addition, the Cuban state phone company holds a monopoly and doesn’t allow competition. But if Gross wanted Jews to communicate to relatives abroad why not distribute phone cards in hard currency or Cuban-made cell phones with a prepaid long distance options?

How did he acquire his merchandise? Could Cuban customs, which x-rays all incoming baggage, have missed these hi-tech phones in his suitcase? Not likely. Did Gross pick them up at the U.S. Interests Section? [Note: For newcomers to the world of international intrigue and espionage, the US Interests Section is the lower-level equivalent of a consulate or embassy and its staff are considered diplomats. Diplomatic luggage and mail, by international agreements, is not searched. ]

In any case, Gross, working for DAI, a company contracted to the U.S. government, Cuba’s primary enemy, falsified his immigration form and failed to register with Cuba as an agent of the U.S. government. In other words, Cuba had him cold on immigration fraud and failing to register. Did he really think he wouldn’t get caught? Did no one in his company or at AID warn him? A Gringo going around Cuba handing out satellite phones to Jews? And there are not that many in Cuba.

Given the facts of prima facie evidence of his lying to Cuban immigration and distributing taboo products, you’d think from Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s recent remarks, that Cuba had unjustly arrested a gross of innocent Jewish Americans trying to help members of their suffering tribe. Who, by the way, already get plenty of communications help from Jewish agencies in several countries.

Clinton appealed to American Jews to rally behind Alan, who “has been held in a Cuban jail for the last seven months without being charged with any crime – because he did not commit any crime. He was in Cuba as a humanitarian and development worker and, in fact, was assisting the small Jewish community in Havana that feels very cut off from the world.” Clinton, speaking at a dinner honoring Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, [said she]raised the issue at the behest of his family: “I am really making an appeal to the active Jewish community here in our country to join this cause.” (Jerusalem Post, July 15) She probably didn’t have time in her remarks to mention one fact: Gross worked for a company contracted with an agency in her own State Department — USAID. (July 13 speech to reception hosted for the Jewish Community)

In late February, I asked three people at Havana’s largest synagogue; none knew an American named Gross. Adela Dworin, vice president of the Hebrew Community House in Cuba, “denie[d] any knowledge of Gross and says that recognized international Jewish organizations have provided them with legal Internet connections,” according to CBS News. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8300-503543_162-503543.html?keyword=Portia+Sie…z0tfoB4onk)

Alan Gross had previously set up satellite communications systems to circumvent state-controlled channels in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Like a bottom fish on the precarious food chain of subverting a foreign government, Gross got caught on a Cuban police hook. Cuba has not yet formally charged him although Cuban officials have said they “suspect him of espionage.”

Secretary Clinton, pleading for Gross’ freedom, ignored the case of five admitted Cuban agents serving long sentences in U.S. federal prisons. Like Gross, they also failed to register as foreign agents (maximum sentence 18 months); unlike him, they came to Miami to fight terrorism, not to undermine the U.S. government or political system.

The five Cuban agents admitted they didn’t register as foreign agents – their only crime. Yet, the Justice Department charged them, without evidence, of conspiring to commit espionage and other felonies. The intimidated Miami judge and jury predictably convicted and sentenced them. Gross traveled to Cuba to undermine the Cuban government.

Different motives, but hell isn’t it time for a swap? Gross for five?

 Judy Gross, his wife, could stand beside the wives of the five Cuban prisoners’ wives demanding: “free our husbands.”

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Spanish Cyclists Ride All Over East Cuba for the Cuban Five

August 28, 2010

 (acn) Spanish Nuria Berenjeno and Jordi Varela rode for over 1,000 kilometers throughout eastern Cuba to raise international
awareness on the case of the five Cuban antiterrorists unjustly incarcerated in the United States.

The two cyclists started their tour last August 13 in Santiago de Cuba city, and visited the cities of Bayamo, Manzanillo, Pilón, La Plata,
Chivirico, la Mula, returned to Santiago and departed once more this time to Guantánamo, Baracoa, Moa and Holguín

Berenjena and Varela are from the Catalonia region of Lleida, and took with them the message to the inhabitants of these Cuban cities that in
Spain many people are in favor of the release of the Cuban Five, as René González, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo
Hernández are known internationally.

Jordi Varela said this had been a little contribution to the just cause of the Five. Varela, a fire-fighter back in Spain, said they had chosen this
Cuban region for their feat because it is an area very related to Cuban independence struggles, as he learnt from books.

Bejerano said it had been a dream come true, when they rode through the same region Cuban Revolution leader Fidel Castro and his men had fought against the Batista dictatorship. “It was like living those moments again”

The Cuban Five were incarcerated after an unfair trial in the United States where they were monitoring terrorist anti Cuba groups.

Bernie Dwyer on “The Day Diplomacy Died”

August 27, 2010

ACN Interviews Journalist Bernie Dwyer on “The Day Diplomacy Died”

HAVANA, Cuba, Aug 27 (acn) Irish journalist and filmmaker Bernie Dwyer granted an interview to the Cuban News Agency on her latest documentary,
“The Day Diplomacy Died”, and its tour throughout Europe. Dwyer spoke on her reasons to make the documentary and the public reaction to it.

-ACN: Bernie can you please tell us what made you decide to direct and produce this documentary?
Bernie Dwyer: I decided to make this documentary; “The Day Diplomacy Died”
as far back as 2003, soon after a book called “The Dissidents” was
published here in Havana. This book featured interviews with former Cuban
state agents who had infiltrated various groups that were working under
the direct influence of diplomatic staff at the US Interests Section office in Havana.
Shortly before the book was published there had been a public outcry in
the international press because of the arrest and jailing of 75 so-called
independent journalists, librarians and trade unionists. This action by
the Cuban government was used to exploit the old chestnut peddled by the
right-wing press that there is no freedom of speech or assembly in Cuba.
However the same foreign press journalists that condemned Cuba did not
rush to interview the state agents to get their side of the story. So I
decided that their story had to be told. The documentary has been a long
time in the making because I suffered a serious illness and had to abandon
the project for a couple of years. However, at last it is ready.

-ACN: Why did you decide to tour Europe and launch the documentary?
B.D: I spent quite a time waiting for the right moment and place to launch
the film. As there are Cuban and US interviewees I had to arrange for
subtitles in both Spanish and English and I did this in Ireland.
I was then invited to launch the documentary at a city centre cinema in
Dublin. So on the 29th of March this year we had a special presentation at
the Screen Cinema in Dublin for an invited audience followed by a question
and answer session.  About 150 people attended. These included people from
the political, community, trade union and arts and cultural world in
Dublin. It was a very successful evening leading to interesting questions
and discussions. This is often the best part of a presentation with the
director present as questions usually cover topics as far ranging as the
medical system in Cuba to Fidel Castro’s health to the urban agricultural
practices being developed in Cuba.
After that, there were several showing around Ireland including Galway in
the west and Co. Down in the north of Ireland.

-ACN:  What countries did you visit?
B.D.: After that I went to the European Solidarity with Cuba meeting in
Sofia, Bulgaria. This was a particularly successful presentation as there
were more than 20 European countries represented. In fact after the
showing the president of the Bulgarian Friendship with Cuba group
presented a copy of “The Day Diplomacy Died” to the heads of each delegation.
A tour to Denmark, Sweden and Norway followed which took in seven showings in Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and other Swedish cities.
In May I went to Detroit to take part in the US Social Forum. More than 15,000 people attended that event. However it was very fragmented and
although we had a workshop to present the documentary, it only attracted 50 people.

-ACN: What was the people’s reaction to the documentary?
B.D: The reaction was always interesting. In a lot of cases people didn’t
really understand the situation because of the way Cuba is presented in
the foreign media but after some explanation they began to realize the
role the US diplomatic staff was playing in interfering in Cuba’s internal
affairs.
In my opinion, the discussion and question and answer session is one of
the benefits of this type of documentary. It gives people an opportunity
to ask about the reality of Cuban life and it also helps to explain the
history of US involvement in trying to bring an end to the Cuban
Revolution. This is why I use a lot of archival material as well as
personal testimony to clarify the situation.

-ACN:  You had at tremendous success on your previous tour to the US with
your documentary Mission Against Terror on the Cuban Five, are you
planning to tour the US with your new documentary?
B.D: There is tour planned with “The Day Diplomacy Died” in October for
the west coast of the US taking in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well
as other cities. The US is such a huge place that this time I will tour it
in segments. The last time in 2005 I did 28 venues in 31 days right across
the US. Yes, it was very successful but I don’t think I could do that
again health wise.

-ACN: Is there any relationship between the Cuban Five and this issue?
B.D.: Yes, the cases are just two sides of the same coin. The Cuban Five are imprisoned in the United States for the same reasons that the four
former Cuban state agents interviewed in “The Day Diplomacy Died” spent years and years of their lives posing as counterrevolutionaries by
infiltrating groups supported by the US Interests Section in Havana. That is to protect their people and their country from on-going attempts to
destabilize the Cuban Revolution.
In the case of the Five, they infiltrated terrorist groups in Miami which are already responsible for the deaths of more than three thousand Cuban
people and the injuries of another two and a half thousand. Their mission was to report to the Cuban government on the on-going and future plans of
these groups so that steps can be taken to put a stop to such illegal and horrific acts. The Cuban government has constantly asked successive US
administrations to put a halt to this violence against Cuba emanating from Florida and in the absence of any action taken against the Miami
terrorists by the White House, they had no option but to send in their own people. Unfortunately when the Cuban government presented their finding to
the FBI, the Cuban Five were arrested in Miami and the terrorists still freely walk the streets.
The Cuban state agents featured in “The Day Diplomacy Died” were working in Cuba against the so-called “internal opposition” set-up and supported
by US diplomats in the US Interests Section in Havana from the very beginning except for a period under the presidency of Jimmy Carter.
So yes, there is a huge similarity between the work of the Cuban Five in Miami and the work of the former Cuban state agents in Cuba with the same
goal; to put a stop to US interference in Cuba’s sovereign right to develop its own society at the behest of the Cuban people.

-ACN:  What is next?
B.D.: Right now I am working on distributing “The Day Diplomacy Died” as far a field as possible. I have sent copies to more than fifty Members of
the European Parliament in Brussels. There is a crucial vote coming up in the European Union on September 10th. There will be a review of the EU ‘Common Position’ on Cuba. This position was introduced against Cuba by
former Spanish President José Maria Aznar in 1996 with the support of then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and George W. Bush. After the arrests
in 2003, the ‘Common Position’ was hardened and is now up for review. I am hoping that at least those voting on the issue will take half an hour to
view the documentary to hear the other side to the story.
Although there are many subjects I would love to explore, making documentaries is very hard work when there is no money available and the
sort of films I want to make doesn’t attract any backers. That’s another reason it takes such a long time to make even one.
However I do have a long cherished project to make a documentary on Cuban
Hero Julio Antonio Mella’s mother who was an Irish woman from Cavan. It’s a wonderful story and maybe that will be my next work.

Blockade

August 26, 2010

By Silvio Rodriguez

I’ve been in the city since Saturday because of an emergency. The video card in our computer died, halting the recording of “Ojalá.”
Those cards are not sold here. Woe to any company that sells them. Million-dollar fines imposed against them. Of course, we can’t order them from Cuba. That’s our defect: we live where we shouldn’t. Because we live where we were born, we are bad, we are accomplices and, to boot, we’re boobs. The stupidity of living in our own homeland makes it hard for us to create music schools and recording studios. Even harder to maintain them.
What fool even attempts to improve the part of the professional panorama of which he’s a part? What he has to do is leave. If he leaves illegally, so much the better. To some, the only way to legitimize a project is to disqualify everything that has occurred in Cuba in the past half-a-century.
They punish us because they like us a lot. They suffer as they see us suffering on this accursed island. That’s why they tighten our screws. So we can learn to be better Cubans on the outside. And they take measures to isolate those of us who are islanders. Why do they take them? Because they are the wealthiest, the prettiest, the happiest. Why against us? Because they consider us to be quite the opposite. Who applauds? Those who sigh, wishing they could be like them.
Luckily, there are always some who manage to escape from that “free world.” Bless them.
We are a country that devoted itself to teaching people how to read, to building universities for doctors and artists. And now they want to make believe that we like to have pianos without strings and wind without sneakers.

Some imagination.

North-South meeting demanded freedom for the Cuban Five

August 25, 2010

North-South meeting demanded freedom for the Cuban Five
 
Santo Domingo, Aug 25 (RHC) The XVII North-South Meeting held at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, reaffirmed the demand for the Freedom of the Cuban Five unjustly imprisoned in the United States.
They reiterated the commitment of young people with the unity, coexistence and the spirit of solidarity.
For youngsters from San José de Ocoa, La Vega, San Francisco de Macoris, Cotuio and Santo Domingo this meeting was the proof that the union is vital to find collective solutions to national problems and challenges and to move towards a better country and a better world.
The meeting at its opening ceremony called to pay deserved homage, to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, on his 84th birthday and wished him health and long life.

 
Media War: Friends of Freedom of Information?
 
By Nestor Nuñez

The news could come as a surprise for those that are fascinated by the imperial propaganda regarding freedom of expression.
It seems that the US government tries to assume the power of cutting Internet services in its country with the excuse of a “national security threat” or undesirable disturbances in the network.
The White House will have a special office that would turn overnight into the great national censor, the work that at smaller scale is done by the editorial staff of radio and television outlets that represents the owners of the mass media and their interests.
In a few words, the current formula would be: for freedom, what I esteem…and that is it.
It is not that the information cannot flow worldwide, but we cannot be naïve or lack objectivity on the issue.
The sin in the not so hidden pretensions of US officials that not only they censor, manipulate, alter, silence or amplify as they wish: with
their dirty hands they go about the world proclaiming freedom of information while they are the first in not respecting or allowing it.
In fact, according to ADSL Zone website, the so called Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA), attempts to justify itself
with an axiom that “the country cannot wait for a cybernetic September 11 attack to take place in order to react”.
To decide what to do or not on Internet will remain in the hands of the
Cyber Security National Center attached under the executive branch, which would be the maximum authority in these cases.
Of course, for many analysts the inclusion of such law would be like the straw that broke the camels back in the control of the traffic of news on
Internet which in fact is a privilege in the hands of the powerful and prohibited to a large scale to the rest of the planet.
The creation of Internet was tied precisely to “national security” issues,
when the Pentagon looked for specific ways and almost in real time to transmit orders, learn data and process military and espionage information.
Afterwards with its development in civilian life, monopoly was
established, mainly from the US. In fact, the majority of the total number of servers is based in the US, while close to 75 percent of Internet
access is concentrated in North America and Western Europe. The rest of the planet must conform to a little over 20 percent.
If you add to this that 90 percent of the information that circulate in the world come from controlled and established news sources in the United
States and its allies, the truth is far from freedom, we are before the presence of a colossal imperial media tyranny.
Among the powerful circles there is still no satisfaction with these overwhelming totalitarian figures. If we are dealing with despotism it
must be as absolute as possible, it seems to be the plan that sustains the new US official dispositions.
Africa has some 1.5 percent of Internet browsers; Asia 15: the Caribbean 0.6; Central America 1; South America 3.5 percent and Oceania 2.8.
Without a doubt, it is a strange way of understanding “freedom of information”.

Children’s play about Cuban 5 + message from Cuban 5

August 24, 2010

Cuban Children Theater Company Premieres Play About Cuban Five in Turkey

 (acn) The world premiere of the musical Cinco Heroes
cubanos (Cuban Five) by Cuban Children Theater Company La Colmenita, in
Turkey, was very well received by the audience at the Nazim Hikmet
Cultural Center, Istanbul.
   The presentation was the last one of a tour around several Turkish
cities and it was  dedicated not only to the five Cuban antiterrorist
fighters imprisoned in the US, known as the Cuban Five, but also to the
victims of the mid-air blowing of a Cubana de Aviacion airliner by
terrorists in October, 1976, Prensa Latina reported.
   The play includes songs by Silvio Rodriguez, Carlos Puebla and Van
Van, and verses by Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet and Uruguayan Mario Benedetti.
   Before the show started, La Colmenita’s director Carlos Alberto
Cremata told the audience about the case of the Cuban Five: Gerardo
Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene
Gonzalez.
   The public sang along some of the best-known songs in the show and
some of them showed a large banner reading a slogan demanding the release
of the Cuban Five.
  At the end of the show, many people in the audience approached the
young artists to thank them for letting them know about the case since the
official media in his country don’t say anything about the issue.
   Before returning to Cuba, La Colmenita (The Little Beehive) will stage
the play in Bulgary.

Antiterrorists Imprisoned in the US Send Message to Cuban Women

 (acn) The five Cuban antiterrorists who remain
unjustly imprisoned in the United States since 1998 sent messages of
congratulation to all Cuban women on the occasion of the 50th anniversary
of the Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC).
   In their messages, read during a gala on Monday evening at the
Universal Hall of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces in
Havana, Gerardo Hernandez, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Rene
Gonzalez and Ramon Labañino —internationally known as the Cuban Five—
express their admiration and respect for women and their contribution to
the Revolution.
   “To think of you, to admire you and to love you, makes us stronger and
confident of victory,” one of the messages reads.
   “Receive our eternal gratitude for all the support you give us,” it adds.
   The Cuban Five were arrested and given harsh and unjust sentences for
monitoring anti-Cuba extremist organizations in South Florida that were
planning and carrying out terrorist attacks against the island.

Something’s cooking

August 22, 2010

 

Why the Republicans always use Cuba as example that Communism does not work?
Look at the poor countries in the Caribbeans – Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti and others. People in those republics swim to the US. Poverty is all over the place. In the Dominican Republic in particular there is no electricity for more than 12 hours a day, no cold water for days sometimes weeks. And all these countries have no embargo imposed on them. If Cuba manages to survive with the embargo it is a very good example of that Communism really works pretty well. Agree?
http://www.vapausvalitatoisin.org/,

Something’s cooking

Wednesday, 18 August 2010 By Fernando Ravsberg – From BBC Mundo
If you’re going to spy on the United States, I recommend that you do it for countries like Israel or Russia, with whom it seems Washington has some sort of “exchange agreement” whereby, if you’re captured by the F.B.I., you’ll be swiftly returned to your country.
In that case, the U.S. judiciary won’t intervene and, if some judge mistakenly does meddle, the charges will disappear as soon as the White House and the Kremlin agree to “how many of your agents for how many of ours.”
Things sour when espionage is produced between Cuba and the United States. That’s where realism and good manners end. To begin with, neither party admits that its spies are spies; on the contrary, they are all pictured as humanitarian activists.
The members of the Wasp Network – sentenced by the U.S. courts to harsh prison terms – are known in Cuba as “the Five Heroes,” men whose only task was to report on the violent acts being organized in Miami against the island.
In turn, Washington sells us Alan Gross as a kind of missionary who traveled secretly to Cuba with the noble task of helping the Jewish community to connect to the Internet. A communications fighter.
He is described as a “contractor,” a word that gives a neutral connotation to his activities. However, contractors are not members of the Peace Corps; on the contrary, there are more than 100,000 in Afghanistan right now, carrying out military and intelligence operations.
The good thing (for the spies) is that their governments never stop trying to rescue them. For the past 10 years, Havana has carried out one campaign after another; in Washington, a lot of people have been worried since Gross was captured last year.
The Cuba government even proposed exchanging the 75 political prisoners it held since 2003 for the five agents, but the White House rejected the offer. It was a logical response, since the dissidents caused more damage to the Revolution from prison than out of it.
So much so, that when the opposition reached its lowest point in activism, the only flame that remained lit was related to those prisoners – the Sunday marches by the Ladies in White and the hunger strikes.
Things have changed, however. A colleague who arrived from Washington recently, told me that all the politicians who spoke with asked him about Alan Gross. They seem much more interested now that the prisoner is an American.
The lady Secretary of State said that Washington would pressure the Cuban government, and I wondered how it would do it. A few days later, one of the five imprisoned agents was punished by being sent to “the hole” for two weeks.
The Cuban Parliament screamed bloody murder, denounced that it wasn’t a disciplinary measure by the prison but an F.B.I. directive, and demanded the immediate return of Gerardo Hernández to the “normalcy” of his cell.
Meanwhile, the word in Cuba is that Gross lost 40 kilograms since he entered prison, more than eight months ago. Still, Havana knows that, when the time comes to negotiate with Washington, the contractor “will weigh” more than all the Cuban political prisoners together.
But the suffering of the spies on both sides might be close to an end if we trust in the certainty with which Fidel Castro has announced that his five agents will be back in Cuba before December.
That prediction indicates that something is cooking and it could only be a prisoner exchange. So, Alan Gross may also be back with his loved ones very soon. It is good news for his family – and the families of the five Cubans.
It is High Time the US Ended Its Embargo Against Cuba

free opinion of Gianni Truvianni

Since the Cuban revolution took place on New Year’s eve of 1959 the United States has had 10 Presidents who have had many of the same ideas while differing on many of which but if there be one consistent it was and still is their repetition of the now ridiculous expression “Castro will soon fall!”. Yes, this will eventually happen after all who has not been born who will or has not already died so technically speaking Castro will some day fall but it will not be because of an American embargo which in its 48 years has not produced any positive results in either bringing an end to Castro’s reign or improving the lives in any way shape or form of the people of Cuba. I would even say along with many others that this policy has done the complete opposite which is to strengthen the position of Fidel Castro’s regime as the average Cuban citizen has no other choice but to depend on it for everything he or she needs to survive. Furthermore I can add that it would be an act of obstinacy rather then anything else that would lead any to continue this failed foreign policy as it does not require much astuteness on anybody’s part to see that if this strategy were going to work it would have done so already and if it has not done so after 48 years then any man or woman who has even some use of common sense can see that it is not going to. 
Sometimes or rather quit often the truth as to why things are done or not is what we need to look for ourselves specially with regards to politics were it is not always convenient for those in power to reveal it to us. Let us look at Cuba, yes it is true they are not a democratic society and do not even pretend to be one and we are told this is the reason the United States has resorted to an embargo. Of course one could seriously argue weather an embargo has ever or will ever produce changes anywhere of any kind other then negative ones for the people of the country given that those in power always manage to get by more then nicely. With regards to Cuba’s democracy or lack of which to this I would say that it is not every government that can maintain the principles of democracy as well as some of our other trading partners such as China, Saudi Arabia, Chile (under Pinochet), Vietnam and even the Soviet Union. This last country being one whom we never had an embargo (other then the grain embargo which was quickly drooped) against even during the worst tensions of the cold war. With regards to Vietnam, I can give the example of how an American Vietnam Veteran asked if America does not have an embargo against a country like Vietnam; whom we were once at war with, why does it have one against a country which technically speaking we were never at war with? I might even add it was us who tried to invade Cuba and not the other way around. 
This last point brings me to a conclusion which I feel can not be totally wrong and it being that if we look at what Cuba has. The answer would be nothing of any real value to offer the US as what it has is sugar which we can produce ourselves or buy somewhere else very cheaply. For instance The Dominican Republican which was even known to use child labor to in its production of the same commodity. Cuba has beautiful beaches which I hope to visit one day even if my country (much to what should be the shame of Americans) does not lift its embargo but then again it is not like Americans do not have beaches in the US or other nearby Caribbean countries. Cigars is another thing Cuba has to offer; which based upon my knowledge though not experience are reported to be the best in world but again as is the case with sugar; it is not that this a product which is all that vital to our economy and which we could not get in another country (though perhaps not of the same quality) like Jamaica.
Once we eliminate these three items Cuba has little to offer the American economy however I ask if they had oil as does Saudi Arabia or a huge population with costs of labor being dirt cheap as they are in China; would we then be overlooking their human rights record or lack of democracy as we conveniently do so with the above mentioned countries? This is a question which at best can be retorted with an educated guess which would come in the affirmative. 
Some would say another reason for the embargo is the “Cuban Missile Crisis” but this lacks as much sense as the embargo does because if we look at the events that lead up to this crisis it was the Soviet Union putting missiles in Cuba that created it. Cuba merely allowed its territory to be used for this purpose. A decision which perhaps might have even been forced on Castro as the Soviets were not ones to give their satellites much in the way of options as was the case with countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the DDR, Romania and Bulgaria. We may speculate weather or not Castro willingly went along with Khrushchev on that one but let us claim that for all intensive purposes, since we have not concrete proof otherwise that he did so on his own free will. If this was the case then why place an embargo on only the country that allowed missiles to be put on their territory aimed at us and not the country that actually put those missiles there in first place. Of coarse always bearing in mind that we too had missiles of our own aimed at the Soviet Union, also from countries which were close to them such as Turkey and West Germany.
As for the Castro’s government many things can be said against it but let us not forget the facts which perhaps some want to keep us in the dark about. First; Castro did win the elections in Cuba several years before the revolution which the Batista government chose not to honor so with regards to Castro taking power; this in reality one could say was done with the support of the people of Cuba. At least back then now weather he still rules with it is another issue though in Cuba there is no sign of revolt against him. Second; I speak not in favor of communism as I have seen the damage it can do specially during my time in Poland and have read about all the atrocities of Stalin and Mao but again let us recall that Batista’s Cuba was also a dictatorship with the basic difference being that the American mafia could benefit from it.
Castro on the other hand for all his” shortcomings” in human rights has lead a country which has eliminated illiteracy, has a medical system which is amongst the world’s best and this despite of the American embargo and having had Soviet founding cut over 15 years ago. As for change; Cuba is moving slowly toward a free market by allowing small private businesses to emerge much like China. I for my own can not help but think of all the further changes toward a free market and society that would have come about if the United States had seen Cuba in the same light as they do China or even Vietnam; which in not only my opinion but that of many others are clear examples of what transformations may occur when embargoes are not applied.
In all this it is fortunate for the people of Cuba that the European Union does not have to pamper to the wishes of a select few as they are taking the steps which they should have done so a long time ago by lifting their embargo of the island. Naturally this lifting of sanctions brings along strings that come in the form of requiring the Cuban government to release political prisoners, engage in dialogue with their political opposition and an overall improvement of human rights that would include a freer press. I might go further with this line by claiming that as much as I am against the institution which is the Vatican; I would have to admit though it pleases me not in the least to do so that the late Pope (John Paul II) brought about more democratic changes in Cuba with one visit then the American embargo has in 48 years. This being the case with his visit which lead to some political prisoners being released along with churches being allowed to open for the first time since the revolution.
According to polls taken in recent years and some even going back as far as the 1992 Presidential elections; most Americans are opposed to the American embargo on Cuba but it is not most Americans that are deciding American policy toward Cuba but a small group of Cuban Americans (some of which have not as much as set foot in Cuba) living mostly in Florida who have been given the undeserved right to dictate American policy toward Cuba simply because they come from this country. I say undeserved because if we look at history did any other ethnic group ever get to decide American foreign policy toward the nation they came from? Did German Americans get to decide American policy toward Germany during W.W. I or W.W. II or did Russian Americans get the same privilege with regards to the Soviet Union or did Vietnamese Americans or those who came from Vietnam get to do likewise with regards to American policy toward the country they had left? They did not and theirs was an opinion that was not even requested so I enquire why should Cuban Americans get to decide the policy of our nation as a whole toward their country of origin when other ethnic groups did not receive the same privilege. Also taking in to account that American foreign policy toward Cuba does not only effect Cuban Americans but all Americans.
This boils down to the real issue as to the reality of this absurd embargo’s raison d’être which is to obtain the votes of those Cuban Americans living in Florida that are crucial to any candidate wishing to win this vital state. I for my part claim to be of the notion that if not for a voting system (Electoral College) which is even more antiquated and senseless then the embargo I argue against; the issue would be decided by our nation as a whole who would be allowed to debate the matter. Instead of a handful of Cuban Americans who from my point of view seem more concerned with being vengeful against their country of origin then in bringing about real change. I however do not deny that there might be some Cuban Americans who wish well for their country. Therefore it is to those who truly want democracy in Cuba as opposed to those who simply want a regime change so they might get their hands on some cheap land before the price goes up that I say that history has made it clear that the way to bring about change is not embargoes or sanctions but negotiations which should not be confused with appeasement.
In conclusion I will say that if one thing I share with those who desire to prolong America’s embargo on Cuba; it is that I like they wish to see the end of Castro’s communist dictatorship but unlike them I feel the way to go about it is another. Dialog instead of sanctions or embargoes is what not only I but millions through out the United States are calling for and yet our voices are not being heard simply because we contrary to those who wish to continue the embargo can not vote in Florida.
My name is Gianni Truvianni, I am an author who writes with the simple aim of sharing his ideas, thoughts and so much more of what I am with those who are interested in perhaps reading something new. As for the details regarding my life I would say that there is nothing that lifts them above the ordinary. I was born in New York City in 1967 on May 21st and am presently living in Warsaw, Poland where I wrote my first book “New York’s Opera Society” now Available on Amazon.
Cuba plans 7 Gulf of Mexico oil test wells  
By Marc Frank -HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba plans to drill seven exploratory oil wells in its Gulf of Mexico waters over the next two years, according to a U.S. organization that visited the Communist-ruled island to discuss energy development.
Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, said meetings between energy experts she brought to the island in July and Cuba’s state oil monopoly Cubapetroleo (CUPET) left no doubt about the Caribbean nation’s determination to develop its offshore oil reserves.
“Repsol, a Spanish oil company, is paying an Italian firm to build an oil rig in China that will be used next year to explore for oil off the shores of Cuba,” she told Reuters in a written response to questions.
“Whether it’s available in commercially viable amounts we do not yet know. We were told by sources in Cuba that seven such wells will be drilled over 2011-2012. If this drilling finds significant oil, you could have production taking place as early as 2014 and as late as 2018,” Stephens said.
Her non-profit group, based in Washington D.C., says it works to improve U.S. policy toward the Americas including Cuba. It opposes existing U.S. sanctions against the island.
Cuba’s government has declared its interest in developing the country’s offshore oil resources but rarely gives details of its plans in public.
The energy analysts on the trip to Havana included Michael A. Levi, Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ronald Soligo from Rice University, and Lisa Margonelli, Director of the Energy Policy Initiative at the New America Foundation.
Cuba estimates it has up to 20 billion barrels of oil in its offshore areas, but the U.S. Geological Survey has estimated a more modest 4.6 billion barrels and 10 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Mexico and the United States, which share the Gulf of Mexico with Cuba, have been producing oil and natural gas from under its waters for decades.
Cuba currently produces about 60,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), all from onshore wells. It receives about 115,000 bpd from ally Venezuela on favorable terms.
-OIL EXPLORATION MOVES
Speculation about Cuba’s deep water exploration plans and statements concerning imminent drilling have increased since Repsol YPF drilled the only offshore well in Cuba’s untapped waters in 2004. It said at the time it had found hydrocarbons, but not in a commercially viable amount.
Industry sources blame delays in further oil development on problems with financing and fear of sanctions under Washington’s 48-year-old trade embargo on Cuba, which also put a 10 percent cap on use of U.S. technology on the island.
But they say it appears serious exploration will finally get under way next year.
Part of Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico zone is within 50 miles (80 km) of Florida, where U.S. politicians have raised fears that Cuban drilling could lead to an accident like the huge BP oil spill off the Louisiana coast.
Norway has been training Cuban personnel for offshore oil exploration for a number of years.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has said it would allow U.S. companies that handle accidental oil spills to operate in Cuban waters should the need arise.
The China-built drilling rig is expected to arrive in Cuban waters early next year and companies have begun preparations to drill once the Scarabeo 9 rig gets to the island.
Preparatory work was moving ahead at the port of Mariel, just west of Havana, the staging area for drilling operations, diplomatic and industry sources said.
Cuba has divided its share of the Gulf into 59 blocks, 21 of which are already under lease to seven companies.
Repsol has announced that its consortium with Norway’s Statoil and ONGC Videsh Ltd, a unit of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp, will drill at least one well early next year. The Indian firm has started accepting bids to sink another well on two blocks it is exploring separately.
Diplomats in Havana have said Malaysia’s Petronas is also planning to use the China-built rig.
Petronas, which has four Cuba exploration blocks, has conducted seismic work and built offices for a battery of employees who will come to Cuba for the project.
Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA has said it plans to sink its first exploratory well in Cuba’s offshore next year.
Other companies with blocks there are Vietnam state oil and gas group Petrovietnam and Brazil’s Petrobras, while firms from Russia, China and Angola are in the process of negotiating exploration rights.

I Am Optimistic on Rational Grounds

August 22, 2010

The leader of the Cuban Revolution writes that he is optimistic on rational and solid grounds. He adds, «The future worries me, but I believe evermore that the solution is within our grasp, if we are successful in having the truth reach a sufficient number of people among the billions inhabiting the planet.»

The days pass. One after another, they go by quickly. Some people are getting anxious. I, on the other hand, am calm.
I share with our workers the results they are achieving in their work, in the midst of the blockade and the other accumulated necessities.
Our country is one of those which is most prepared to face up to obstacles, and not only has it shown evidence of great self-denial but also of solidarity with other peoples, as in the efforts made in Haiti before the earthquake, and the much greater efforts after it. A few days ago, I had the honour of receiving the members of the heroic Moto Méndez Solidarity Mission that worked hand-in-hand with the Cuban Medical Brigade in Bolivia, that has provided more than 40 million doctors’ visits and has, up to yesterday, performed 543,629 eye surgeries. They overcome the ravages of climatic change, where great heat alternates with the most intense cold.
We know all too well what Russia is going through with the heat and the hundreds of fires in the forests and turf, the suffocating clouds of smoke, the late rains and, to cap it all, snow in the summertime. We saw the photos of rivers overflowing in Pakistan, and the gigantic ice floe adrift from Greenland. Everything is the result of changes in natural conditions, caused by human beings themselves.
But I am optimistic on rational and solid grounds. The future worries me, but I believe evermore that the solution is within our grasp, if we are successful in having the truth reach a sufficient number of people among the billions inhabiting the planet.

Fidel Castro Ruz, Agosto 20 de 2010
Am I overdoing it?

After referring on August 17 and 18 to the book written by Daniel Estulin, which narrates, through undeniable facts, the horrible way in which the minds of American youth and children are distorted by the consumption of drugs and the influence of the media, in connivance with American and British intelligence agencies, in the final part of my last Reflection I expressed the following: “It is terrible to think that the intelligence and the feelings of children and youth in the United States could be mutilated in such a way.”
Yesterday, several news agencies were reporting the information contained in a study published by the University of Beloit with regard to some facts never seen before in the history of the United States and the world, associated to the knowledge and habits of American university students who will graduate in 2014.
Granma newspaper reported the news using an eloquent language:
1º        “They do not wear watches to check the time; instead they use their cell phones.”
2º        “They believe Beethoven is a dog they saw in a film.”
3º        “They think Michael Angelo is a computer virus.”
4º        “They believe e-mail is ‘too slow’, used as they are to texting through sophisticated mobile phones.”
5º        “Very few of them can write cursive.”
6º        “They believe Czechoslovakia never existed.”
7º        “They think that American companies have always done business in Vietnam.”
8º        “They think that Korean cars have always been running in their country.”
9º        “They believe that the United States, Canada and Mexico have always been linked to each other by a Free Trade Agreement.”
I was stunned to realize to what extent education could be distorted and prostituted in a country with more than 8 000 nuclear weapons and the most powerful means of war in the whole world.
To think that there are still people in their right mind capable of believing that my warnings are exaggerated!

Fidel Castro Ruz, August 19, 2010

Visiting Gerardo in prison

August 19, 2010

By Danny Glover and Saul Landau

From the Ontario California airport some 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles we drove north on Highway 15, the road to Las Vegas. Cars with expectant amateur gamblers and loaded big rigs climb and descend the mountains where the Angeles and San Bernadino National Forests meet.

To the east lies the high desert, some 4,000 feet above sea level. Amidst junipers, Joshua trees and sagebrush we turn off from the man-made freeway to the jester’s creation of a shopping mall in Hesperia where we pick up Chavela, Gerardo Hernandez’ older sister.

We pass fast food joints with chain names, nail and hair salons, tattoo parlors, gas stations and mini-marts (a drive-by of American culture) going west and then north on 395 to the six-year-old U.S. Federal Penitentiary Complex, a 630,000 square foot high-security prison (it cost $101.4 million to build); designed to cage 960 male inmates.

In the institutional grey Visitors’ Lobby a guard hands us forms with numbers on top, nods at a book to sign and eye-signals to a pile of pens. We write, hand him back the forms and sit in the gray waiting room with other visitors – all black and Latino.

We wait for twenty minutes. A guard calls our number. We empty our pockets except for money. We pass through a sensitive airport-type screening machine, pick up our belts and eyeglasses that have gone through X-ray, and extend our inner forearms for stamping by another uniformed guard. Two black women and an elderly Latino couple get the same treatment. We exchange nervous smiles. Visitors in a strange land!

He passes our IDs through a drawer connected to another sealed room on the opposite side of a thick plastic window. A guard there checks the documents and pushes buttons to open a heavy metal door. The group enters an outdoor passage. Blinding, late-morning sun and desert heat shocks our bodies after the air-conditioned chambers. We wait. A guard confers through a small slit in the door of the building housing the inmates – gun towers on each side; masses of rolled barbed wire covering the tops of concrete walls.

We wait, get hot, then enter another air-cooled chamber; finally, a door opens into the visitor room. A guard assigns us a tiny plastic table surrounded by 3 three cheap plastic chairs, on one side (for us) and one on the other for Gerardo. African American and Latino children exchange places on their fathers’ laps as daddies in khaki prison overalls chat with their wives.

Chavela spots him 20 minutes later, waving and bouncing across the room smiling. Chavela, almost crying, says, “He’s lost weight.” He seems the same weight as when (Saul Landau) saw him in the Spring. Gerardo hugs and kisses his sister, embraces Saul and then Danny, thanking him for his efforts to spring him from the hole, where he spent 13 days in late July and early August.

Gerardo informs us that two FBI agents investigating an incident unrelated to this case had questioned him in prison. Right after, prison authorities tossed Gerardo into the hole, although there existed no evidence, logic or common sense that could possibly have implicated him into the alleged unrelated incident. The temperatures inside the hole rose to the high nineties. “I had to use my drinking water to keep me cool, pouring it on head,” Gerardo told us. “It didn’t help my high blood pressure. I couldn’t even take my medicine. But, I think, thanks to the thousands of phone calls and letters from people everywhere, they let me out.”

Chavela kept bringing junk food to the table – the only kind available from the vending machines. We nibbled compulsively while Gerardo told about living in a sweatbox for almost two weeks. “No air circulated in there,” he laughed, as if to say “no big deal.”

We talked about Cuba. He kept up on the news, reading, watching TV — and from visitors who informed him. He felt encouraged by steps President Raul Castro had taken to deal with the crisis. He had watched, on the prison television, parts of Fidel’s speech and the questions and answers at the Cuban National Assembly Meeting. “I saw Adriana [his wife],” who sat in the audience. His smile faded. “You know what’s painful. She’s 40 and I’m 45. We don’t have that much time to have a family together. The United States won’t even give her a visa to visit me. She’s behaved with such courage and dignity throughout this ordeal.”

Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Cuban 5, is serving two life sentences for conspiracy to commit espionage and aiding and abetting murder. Prosecutors presented no evidence of espionage at the Miami trial. The aiding and abetting charge presumed evidence, not shown, that Gerardo sent flight details to Cuba of the Brothers to the Rescue planes shot down by Cuban MIGs in February 1996 — which he did not. The charge also assumed that he knew of secret Cuban government orders to shoot them down, also not true.

The 5 men monitored and reported on Cuban exile terrorists in Miami who had plotted bombings and assassinations in Cuba. Cuba then shared this information with the FBI. Larry Wilkerson (retired army Colonel and Secretary of State Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff) compared the 5’s chance of getting a fair trial in Miami to an accused “Israeli’s chance of justice in Teheran.”

We sipped cloyingly sweet, bottled, iced tea. Chavela brought more potato chips.

Gerardo, reanimated the mood by recalling an incident when in the 1980s, as a Lieutenant in Cabinda, Angola, he had escorted top Cuban officers to a dinner-party with visiting Soviet brass. “I told my Colonel I had memorized a short Mayakovsky poem in Russian (from his school classes) and could recite it to the Soviet officers.”

He recited the poem to us in Russian. We applauded. He smiled. “They were roasting a pig and had bottles of booze, a party.”

“I recited the poem. The Soviet Colonel hugged me, kissed me on both cheeks — very emotional. I had to repeat my performance for the other officers. Finally, the Cuban Colonel told me I’d milked the scene long enough and I left.”

Two hours passed quickly. We waited for the guards to let us out. Gerardo stood at attention against a wall near the cellblock door next to another prisoner. We gave him a fist salute. He returned it. His sister blew a kiss. He grinned reassuringly – as if to remind us. “Stay strong.”

Danny Glover’s is an activist and an actor. Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow.

Fernando says He Is Confident in His Return to Cuba

August 18, 2010

Fernando Gonzalez, one of the five Cuban
antiterrorist fighters imprisoned in the United States, who is turning 47
today, ratified his confidence in their return to their home land.


Gonzalez’ mother Magali Llort, who returned to Havana last night from
Indiana, where she was visiting her son in prison, told PL that Gonzales
has lost some weight, but he is healthy and very optimistic about the
Cuban Five’s return to Cuba, especially after he knew about Fidel Castro’s
encouraging views on the future solution of the case. He said Fidel has
always spoken the truth.
Gonzalez said they (the Cuban Five) are aware of the countless actions
held around the world to achieve their release from jail and he thanked
the international solidarity movement defending their cause.
Gonzalez asked his mother to let the Cuban people and all of their
supporters know that the Cuban Five continue to be firm in their stance.
He also noted the importance of keeping the public opinion posted on their
situation and breaking the silence around the case imposed by the American
media.
Fernando asked his mother to tell him stories of her neighborhood, to
describe the building where she lives now since he hasn’t seen her new and
to tell him how are her neighbors like.
“I answered to each of his questions because that was a way to bring him
into our daily lives and make him feel like he’s here, sharing our lives,”
Llort said.
Fernando Gonzalez was resentenced in Miami last December. His initial
sentence of 19 years in jail was reduced to 17 plus nine months. Ramon
Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, other two of the Cuban Five, received new
sentences of 30 and 21 years plus 10 months respectively.
Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez were not benefited with the
resentencing process.


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