Archive for March, 2011

PRESS CONFERENCE BY JIMMY CARTER IN HAVANA

March 31, 2011

  

South Journal–Before concluding his three-day visit to Cuba, Jimmy Carter gave a press conference about his agenda on the island, of which we bring you a wrap-up next:

 

In his introductory statement he said that when he was in office he did all possible efforts to improve diplomatic links between the United States and Cuba. He said he lifted all Cuba-travel restrictions for US citizens and along with Fidel Castro he worked in the setting up of interest sections both in Washington and Havana.

 

Carter said the US commercial “embargo” on Cuba should be lifted immediately as well as the limitations on US citizens to travel to Cuba and vice versa. He said he wanted to learn about the upcoming Communist Party Congress, to be held in April and that he has been given information on the future plans for Cuba.

 

He told the reporters that he had met with President Raul Castro and with Fidel Castro, whom he saw enjoying good health; he also met with some groups that criticize the Cuban government and he added he hoped that some of their complaints will receive a response from the Cuban authorities in the future.

 

As to the case of the five Cubans incarcerated in the United States since 1998, the former US president said that their imprisonment has no sense since American courts have shared doubts about it, as have human rights organizations around the world. They have been in jail for 12 years now, he said and added he hoped that they can be released in the near future. Carter also met with two of the mothers and three of the wives of the Cubans imprisoned in the U.S.

 

He explained that on Wednesday morning he was able to meet with Alan Gross, a man he thinks is innocent of posing a serious threat to the Cuban people and government and that Gross was sentenced to a long prison term. He said he hoped he will soon be released too.

 

Carter stressed that there are many things both countries can do to improve relations and have normal links in all possible ways. And he reiterated his gratitude to Raul Castro and other government officials for having allowed him to visit and talk with them.  

 

During the Q/A Session Carter replied to an AP question about the possibility that he could take Alan Gross back to the U.S. with him and if he considered that an exchange of Gross for the five Cuban was possible. In this regard, Carter said he had not traveled to Cuba to coordinate any kind of exchange and that the cases of Gross and the Five are different and must not be related. He considered that Gross should be released because he is innocent—Carter explained—and that the five Cubans should also be freed because they have already been 12 years in prison. In the case of Gross, Carter said an appeal would follow or a possible executive order could be given in the future to release him on humanitarian grounds. His daughter is very sick, while he has lost other family members, said Carter. But he did not expect to take Gross back home with him he said and recalled that Cuban officials had made it clear before he left the United States that Gross would not be released.

 

Responding to a question by Associated Press Television about a meeting with Obama after this trip to Cuba, Jimmy Carter explained that he will do so to express his opinion he gave the press and about other confidential issues.

 

Referring to what each country could do to improve relations, Carter said he wished that US travel restrictions to Cuba be lifted as well as limitations on the transfer of humanitarian funds to Cuba. He recalled some meetings with members of the diplomatic community in Havana who said they have found it quite difficult, over the past two years, to bring humanitarian aid to the Cuban people through normal channels because the United States limits the transfers. This was also corroborated by European Union leaders, and this lifting of restrictions could be immediately done by the President of the United States, Carter noted.

 

He also said he wished to see the complete abolishment of the Helms-Burton Law because in his opinion the approval and signing of it by former President Bill Clinton was a serious mistake.

 

As to other actions, Carter hopes that Mr. Gross be released and that the five Cubans return home.

 

Any effort on the part of the United States aimed at improving the life of the Cuban people based on financial assistance or other means is a suspicious act, according to the Helms-Burton law, because the legislation is aimed at putting an end to the “Castro regime”. In his opinion that law is counterproductive because when he was president he could do anything he wanted with respect to the travel restrictions and the reestablishment of relations.

 

As to the congress people of Cuban descent he said they are acting in a very counterproductive manner by trying to blame or punish the Cuban government, when in fact they are punishing the people of Cuba by backing these restrictions.

 

To the question that if he would agree to be a mediator between the two countries, Carter replied that there is slight chance that he can be asked that kind of service, though he would be happy to help.

 

Carter also told reporters that he believed Cuba should be taken out of the US list of countries sponsoring terrorism. He said he has learned about a close cooperation between Cuban and US intelligence services to fight threats by Al Qaida and other organizations in the gulf region. The only allegations made by the United States against the Cuban government are related to some groups in Colombia like the FARC and ETA from Spain. But such allegations about Cuba sponsoring terrorism have no grounds so the US President could put Cuba out of the list.

 

And responding to BBC if he tackled issues like the freedom of expression, the freedom to travel, the economic changes to be analyzed by the upcoming Communist Party Congress, during his meetings with Raul Castro and leader Fidel Castro, Jimmy Carter recalled that when he visited Cuba nine years ago he addressed the people on TV and on the radio and that the Granma newspaper published his statements just as he made them, which expressed his wish about those topics and carried his recommendations.

 

He said that although he was not very familiar with the details or aspects of the text to be analyzed by the Communist Party Congress, he was informed that some 8 million Cubans gave their opinions on the document. Carter added that the Cuban foreign minister told him that thousands of amendments proposed to the text and that over 65 percent of the paragraphs had been modified on the basis of such proposals.

 

Finally, Carter said that the members of “dissident groups” he met in the morning told him that many of them had abstained from expressing any requests on personal liberties, because they did not want to be linked to the procedure, since they are in disagreement with its integrality. While others did express their requests, though he said he was not familiarized with the document or with what is trying to be achieved.

 

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Cuba Highlights Need to Use All Legal Means for The Five

March 30, 2011

By Prensa Latina / Wednesday, 30 March 2011
The President of the National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba, Ricardo Alarcon, said it is necessary to use all legal means possible in the appeal process of The Five anti-terrorist Cuban fighters held in US prisons since 1998.
Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez are serving harsh sentences, including double life plus 15 years, for informing about criminal plans of anti-Cuban groups based in Florida.
According to the television news program, the memorandum presented in the case of Antonio Guerrero requests the annulment of the trial and focuses on certain aspects, including the US government manipulation of evidence.
Alarcon said that the US Government failed to provide all the evidence it had. It concealed, manipulated and distorted the evidence, he said.
The second very important aspect of the document, he said, is that this same government that excluded most evidence that would have benefited the defendants, organized a real plot against them through Miami-based media.
Alarcon explained that according to reports, since 2006 the federal government had paid tens of thousands of dollars to journalists who launched the campaign against The Cuban Five during the trial.
I’m referring not only to the media campaign, but also to those who harassed the members of the jury, threatened lawyers and staged provocations even in the halls of the building of the court.
The memorandum gives details of the names and the amounts of money paid to those journalists, who were in charge of influencing public opinion in and out of Miami. / PL

Solidarity Actions with Cuban Five Worldwide

March 30, 2011

(acn) The conviction that the five Cuban
antiterrorist fighters will return to their country land because they are
innocent was reiterated in Miami, US and Rio San Juan, Nicaragua and Europe.
  In a meeting held in Miami in a tribute to American lawyer and civil
rights activist Leonard Weinglass, who recently passed away, Cuban Five
supporters discussed about the case and the international campaign for
their release.
   At the moment of his death, Weinglass was the defense attorney for
Antonio Guerrero’s, one of the Cuban Five.
  Guerrero, as well as Rene Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino
and Fernando Gonzalez has been imprisoned in the US since 1998 for having
pentrated Miami-based anti-Cuba organizations to prevent terrorist actions
against the Cuban people.
  Speakers at the Miami meeting were Max Lesnik, Radio Miami director;
and Andres Gomez, national coordinator for Antonio Maceo Brigade,
according to the www.antiterroristas.cu website.
  On related news, Rio San Juan was the venue for the Sandinistas Women
Congress in which a statement demanding Washington the release of the
Cuban Five was approved, says a report on the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s
website www.cubaminrex.cu,
  Similar actions were taken by the Cuba-Sweden Friendship Association
and the Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five in the European nation.
  The Swedish organizations announced that in the next few days, they
will lead meetings with personalities, religious leaders and students to
spread the truth about the case of the Cuban Five, one of them will be in
Stockholm on Saturday and it will be broadcast live over internet.
  Meanwhile, a plastics art exhibition titled “Free the Five” will be
unveiled in Austria at the Educative Cultural Center of the Communist
Party of Styria, where a Committee in support of the Cuban Five will be
officially created.

Bardach in Wonderland

March 30, 2011

El Paso Diary: Day 34 of the Posada Carriles Trial

Bardach in Wonderland

By JOSÉ PERTIERRA

Winter said its goodbyes to El Paso last night.  Spring is here.  But the equinox doesn’t bring flowers to El Paso: only dust, lots of dust.  Forty-mile-an-hour winds blew through this border town this afternoon.  Leaving the courthouse exhausted from an afternoon of cross-examination by Luis Posada Carriles’ attorney, Ann Louise Bardach confronted the storms from the Chihuahuan Desert that blew sand in her eyes as she leaned into the wind to return to her hotel.

This is her fourth day on the stand.  Bardach is now confident and self-assured as a witness.  Her husband Bob gave her a kiss on the cheek, and with a brisk step she took her place, ready for battle.

Her testimony today established that Posada Carriles admitted to her 13 years ago that he was the mastermind of the bombing campaign in Havana in 1997.  She also testified that Raúl Cruz León, the Salvadoran who was tried and sentenced in Cuba for having placed several of the bombs—one of which killed the Italian tourist Fabio Di Celmo—worked for Posada Carriles.  Under grueling cross-examination, Bardach defended the articles she had written for the New York Times in July 1998 as faithful to the statements that Posada Carriles had given during the interview in Aruba a month before.

The censored version of the interview

The interview lasted more than 13 hours and took place over three days.  But only six and a half hours were recorded, because every time they touched on details about what Posada Carriles called “delicate” matters, he asked Bardach to turn the tape off.  Sometimes, said Bardach, Posada himself turned it off.

Before trial, the defense attorneys negotiated with the prosecutors over the censoring of certain parts of the interview that had nothing to do with the El Paso trial against Posada Carriles.

Posada Carriles is not on trial for terrorism or murder.  This means the jury is not allowed to learn about the downing of a passenger plane in 1976 that killed all 73 persons on board.  They are not permitted to hear of Posada Carriles’ service to the CIA that lasted more than three decades, nor of the era at the beginning of the 1970s when he was chief of special operations for the Venezuelan intelligence service (DISIP), nor of the violent operations he carried out for Jorge Mas Canosa in the organization called the Representación Cubana en el Exilio—with the training and support of the CIA—in the 1960s.

The jurors will also not learn here that Posada Carriles was a key player in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, nor of his secret relationships with the paramilitary organizations of El Salvador and Guatemala, also in the 1980s.  The details of the assassination attempt on Cuban President Fidel Castro in 1997 at Isla Margarita are also beyond the scope of what the jury may be told.

To keep the jury members in the dark, the court edited the recordings from six and a half hours to two hours and forty minutes.

The charges

Three of the charges against Posada Carriles in El Paso have to do with the bombings in Havana.  One charge of perjury accuses him of having lied under oath when he said that he had not solicited the assistance of other people to place bombs in Cuba.  Another charge, also perjury related, alleges that he lied when under oath in saying that he had not made arrangements to send Raúl Cruz León to Cuba with explosives.  The third count is for having obstructed a federal investigation into international terrorism by denying the statements he’d previously made to the New York Times in 1998.

The three charges are closely tied to the interview by Ann Louise Bardach in Aruba.

The confession

The jury clearly heard Posada Carriles’ voice admitting to involvement with the bombings in Havana hotels.  The exchange went like this:

Luis Posada Carriles: In the … bombs in the … hotels …

Ann Louise Bardach: hm mmm.

LPC: …we tried … to put small explosives … We didn’t want … because we didn’t want to hurt anybody.

A few minutes further in the recording Posada Carriles told Bardach that Fabio Di Celmo is the “unluckiest in the world,” because the shrapnel cut his jugular vein.  “We can’t stop,” he told Bardach, just “because that Italian was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Alice in Wonderland

The defense attorney, Arturo Hernández, has the difficult task of convincing the jury that during his conversation with Bardach, Posada Carriles said what he meant—but didn’t mean what he said.  The defense argument is reminiscent of the conversation between Alice, the March Hare, and the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.  Lewis Carroll wrote that Alice’s solution was “to say what you mean…[or] mean what [you] say—that’s the same thing, you know.”

“Did Posada Carriles explicitly say to you that he had written the Solo fax?” asked Hernández.  “Yes,” answered Bardach.  “Where in that recording did he say those words?” he asked again. “Where did my client say, ‘I wrote the Solo fax’?” he added.  “Isn’t it true that he never uttered those words?”

Bardach answered with irritation: “I asked him if he wrote the Solo fax and he answered ‘yes.’  Afterwards, we talked about that for several hours.”

“Isn’t it possible that he didn’t actually say ‘yes,’ but laughed instead?” asked Hernández.

“He said yes while he laughed.  We’d been talking about his use of the alias ‘Solo.’  It was his favorite.  That’s why he laughed,” answered the witness.  Yesterday she’d explained that Posada’s favorite alias comes from a character in the 1960s TV program, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Hernández tried to plant a seed of doubt in the jurors’ minds concerning Tony Álvarez, the Cuban-American businessman who intercepted the fax from Solo in his office in Guatemala and who heard Posada Carriles say that he knew a mechanic at the Guatemalan airline who could take explosives to Cuba.

“Didn’t you suspect that Tony Álvarez might have been the one who wrote the Solo fax?” Hernández suddenly asked Bardach.  “Frankly, no,” Bardach answered bluntly.

Realizing that he was not getting anywhere with this plan of attack, Hernández tried another.  “Don’t you think it’s inconsistent that Posada should have written the fax but also told you that he didn’t know the people whose names appeared on the fax?” he asked.

“No.  It’s not inconsistent in the least.  Mr. Posada protects his collaborators in order not to hurt them,” said Bardach.  “Furthermore he told me that he was the boss, the mastermind.  It’s in the tapes.”

Raúl Cruz León

Raúl Cruz León is a Salvadoran who was convicted in Cuba for planting the bomb that killed Fabio Di Celmo at the Copacabana Hotel.  The defense attorney tried to exploit Posada Carriles’ statement to Bardach that he didn’t know Cruz León personally. “Don’t you believe that it might have been a violation of the journalistic code of ethics to say in the New York Times that Cruz León worked for Mr. Posada?” asked Hernández.

At that, the witness had had enough.  Bardach straightened in her chair, raised her voice and answered, “Mr. Hernández, he did work for Posada.  Posada told me so himself—‘I’m the boss,’ ‘el jefe,’ ‘the mastermind’—the one ‘in charge of the operation.’”  She added, “Lots of CEOs don’t know who their employees are.”

Who is “the guy”?

Hernández was persistent.  He began to read the part of the transcript where Posada Carriles said that “another guy” hired Cruz León.  “Another guy!  It could have been anyone who hired him,” said the lawyer, without following his statement with a question.

Bardach responded with annoyance, “I know who the guy is, you know who the guy is, they [the prosecutors] know who the guy is.  Everyone knows who the guy is but we can’t say who the guy is.  You don’t want us to say who the guy is,” said Bardach.  “Let’s call him Mister X.  This guy would never have hired Cruz León without Posada wanting him to hire Cruz León.”

The “guy” is Francisco Chávez Abarca.  He was tried, convicted and sentenced in Cuba for terrorist activities.  Chávez Abarca confessed to hiring a number of Guatemalans and Salvadorans, including Raúl Cruz León, to carry out terrorist actions in Havana on behalf of Luis Posada Carriles.  But last December the judge ruled that she would not allow Chávez Abarca to be deposed in Havana.  The jury, therefore, will not learn of the important link between Posada Carriles, Chávez Abarca and Raúl Cruz León.

The defense attorney continued to press Bardach on the subject.  “Where did you get that information [about “the guy”]?” he asked.  “The entire recording is saturated with it,” answered the witness.  “Posada was the boss.  Cruz León worked for him.  He hired Mister X.  This is typical of paramilitary operations and organizations,” said Bardach.

“Play the whole thing”

“It’s not in the transcript and this case has to go strictly by the evidence.  Where is it in the transcript?” said the attorney.

“If it’s all about the transcript, then why don’t you play the entire transcript for the jury?  All six and a half hours,” answered Bardach.  “Play the whole thing, including the parts you censored, and show them the articles from the New York Times as well,” she challenged.

Of course Hernández has no interest in doing any such thing.  He prefers to confuse and obfuscate so that the jurors will mistrust their lying ears, and instead think that Posada Carriles didn’t mean what he said or say what he meant during the interview.

The attorney’s espresso maker

The case hasn’t gone well for Art Hernández in recent days.  First, Tony Álvarez established that Posada Carriles was involved in the bombing campaign in Havana, and now Ann Louise Bardach has made it clear that Posada Carriles admitted to the New York Times that he was the boss and mastermind behind the terrorist campaign against hotels and restaurants in Havana in 1997.

Back at the hotel, things have not been much better.  Hernández’s wife sent him a small espresso maker to make Cuban coffee in his room.  “I turned it on and went to sleep.  When I woke up, the room was filled with smoke.  I had to change rooms.  I nearly burned down the hotel,” he told prosecutor Timothy J. Reardon this morning.

Spy, lover and …

The cross-examination of Ann Louise Bardach is not yet finished.  In her book, Cuba Confidential, she recalled that some radio stations in Miami had attacked her character after her articles about Posada Carriles were published in the New York Times.  She said that they had called her a spy, Fidel Castro’s lover and a pot-smoking lesbian.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Art Hernández does the same tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s cross-examination will be toxic and virulent.  But as a Mexican poet said, “el sabor de la primavera, que es el sabor de la vida, mitiga la amargura de los malos momentos.” *

José Pertierra practices law in Washington, DC.  He represents the government of Venezuela in the case to extradite Luis Posada Carriles.

* “The taste of spring, that is the taste of life, softens the bitterness of our worst moments.”

Translated by Machetera and Manuel Talens.  They are members of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity.

Spanish language version: http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2011/03/22/diario-de-el-paso-bardach-en-el-pais-de-las-maravillas,

PARTS ONE AND TWO OF VIDEO ABOUT A U.S. PROJECT AGAINST CUBA

March 30, 2011

Cuban Agent Reveals U.S. “Humanitarian” Project against Cuba (1 and 2)

South Journal–A Cuban State Security Agent recently revealed his identity and exposed US plans against the island hidden behind the curtains of “humanitarian aid.” Cuban TV showed the case in a documentary film. We now bring you the first and second parts of the documentary with English captions.

It all began in late 2000, when Jose Manuel Collera Vento headed a freemason´s institution through which some people from the United States approached him after being introduced by citizen Gustavo Pardo Valdes. Seemingly, they were united by common feelings linked to the fraternal organization, and they expressed Collera their interest in promoting a humanitarian project. “However, as relations developed other objectives became evident.”

The South Journal welcomes your comments about this issue.

VIDEO PART I

VIDEO PART II

More Chicanery in the Cases of the Cuban Five

March 29, 2011

In his new International Policy Brief (PDF), Wayne S. Smith, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Cuba program, discusses the Cuban Five case. On March 22nd, new exculpatory evidence was presented in the case. In his brief, Smith discusses why all of the Cuban Five should be released. ( W.L. )

More Chicanery in the Cases of the Cuban Five
March 2011
At a press conference on March 22, new exculpatory evidence was presented in the cases of two of the Cuban Five. Many Americans seem to believe the now-famous Cuban Five were spies working for Havana against the United States and therefore deserve what they got – years in prison. But that is far from the truth. In fact, while they were indeed members of the Cuban Intelligence Service, they had been sent to the U.S. not to spy on the U.S. government or any of its entities but, rather, to penetrate certain Cuban exile organizations and gather information on the terrorist activities they were conducting against Cuba. The idea was then to provide that information to the FBI so that it could move to halt those activities, as it should have done.
Three representatives of the FBI were indeed invited to Cuba in June of 1998 to receive what the Cuban agents had come up with and returned with sixty-four folders of pertinent information. The Cubans had rather expected that the U.S. would then quickly take action against the terrorists. They were to be disappointed. Rather, apparently able to determine the identity of the sources from the information they had been handed, they arrested the Cuban Five, who in 2001 were put on trial in Miami— a hotbed of anti-Castro sentiment. In hopes of beginning in a more impartial atmosphere, the Defense asked for a change of venue. But it was denied. …

To read the full brief download the PDF here
http://ciponline.org/pressroom/articles/032811_Smith_IPB.pdf,

Mensaje de René por Leonard Weinglass

March 29, 2011

Amigos y afectos de Leonard Weinglass:

La eventualidad de un “lock down” -parte de este via crucis al que a poner fin dedicó sus últimas energías- me impidió conocer en su momento de la irreparable pérdida de nuestro imprescindible Lenny.

En una sociedad en que el egoismo es virtud, Leonard Weinglass cultivó el extraordinario mérito de consagrarse a dar de sí mucho a cambio de muy poco, y guiado sólo por una privilegiada vocación de justicia dedicó su vida a cultivar la verdad como única medida de conseguirla en el estéril terreno que le tocó: el decadente sistema de justicia norteamericano. Lo hizo con pasión, entrega, altura, honestidad, inteligencia y valentía ejemplares.

Para los Cinco, que tuvimos el privilegio de ser el foco de sus últimos esfuerzos, entrar en contacto con este hombre tan grande como humilde fue tan simple como abrir la puerta a un hermano mayor, que por derecho natural se convirtió en uno más de nosotros.

Algún día será así de natural, para cualquier norteamericano, tocar a las puertas de Cuba. Cuando eso suceda se recordará el valor de los que lo hicieron cuando se requería de coraje, altruismo, elevados principios, claridad intelectual y visión humanista.

Entre ellos, en destacado lugar, figurará nuestro hermano Leonard Weinglass.

Con profunda admiración.

René González Sehwerert.

28 de marzo de 2011.

 

CUBAN AGENT REVEALS US “HUMANITARIAN” PROJECTS AGAINST CUBA.

March 29, 2011

I always knew, from the very beginning that behind their unquenchable search of material needs was something fishy. Photo: Ismael Francisco.

South Journal—Cuba´s Granma newspaper published an article about the recent disclosure by a Cuban State Security Agent of US plans against the island hidden behind the curtains of “humanitarian aid.” We now bring you the article written by journalists Deisy Francis Mexidor, Marina Menendez and Jean Guy Allard.

Behind False Apparel
Hiding behind a “humanitarian” façade, some NGOs are being the instrument of direct subversion against Cuba. Jose Manuel Collera Vento, Gerardo for Cuban State Security, exposes US attempts to penetrate the religious community.
It all began in late 2000, when Jose Manuel Collera Vento headed a freemason´s institution through which some people from the United States approached him after being introduced by citizen Gustavo Pardo Valdes. Seemingly, they were united by common feelings linked to the fraternal organization, and they expressed Collera their interest in promoting a humanitarian project. “However, as relations developed other objectives became evident.”
It soon became noticeable that those individuals “had strong influence and presence in social, cultural and political circles in the United States.” However, what was really interesting was freemasonry was not the real link for them.
Furthermore, why was the US Interest Section in Havana and its officials interested in the terms of such a planned “assistance”? Somehow, some of those officials were always present in the meetings with the representatives of the NGOs that would send the humanitarian aid.
By the year 2002, Collera had fluent relations with Canada´s Donner Foundation, used by the enemies of Cuba to camouflage the financing of subversive plans against the island, and with the Pan-American Development Foundation (FUPAD), created by the Organization of American States (OAS), whose major income came from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Collera, along directives of those NGOs, visited the US Interest Section in several occasions in the times of Vicky Huddleston, James Cason and Michael Parmly, former heads of that office.
That way, he had relations with figures like Curtin Winsor, former US ambassador to Costa Rica, heading the Donner and who, along freemason Akram Elias, ex-Grand Master of Washington´s Grand Lodge, introduced Marc Wachtenheim to Collera. Wachtenheim was a CIA collaborator linked to CIA official Rene Greenwald. These two latter persons made a detailed study of the technological capabilities of information and communication networks in Cuba. Until 2010, Wachtenheim was the director of the Cuba Development Initiative program with the FUPAD, which also received money from the National Endowment for Democracy.
The thing is that “they began talking about information technologies, then about libraries, independent drugstores, all out of state jurisdiction…” and in the end, Collera saw himself sitting in Washington in 2005, in front of hawk Otto Reich, former undersecretary of State.
The conversation “was mainly aimed at listening to his opinions on the situation in Cuba. Reich was interested in counterrevolutionary Gustavo Pardo and in a possible ´change´ translated into the toppling of the government.” Though “they were quite afraid that such a change took place abruptly because—in their opinion—such a situation would lead to a mass exodus to US territory, which ´was not convenient to them.”
Since they are ignorant about the real Cuban civil society, they planned to create a parallel society according to their subversive interests and in that context—Collera deduced—they imagined that freemasonry was a fraternity organization to emerge as a leader in such “transition.”
At that point, Collera, felt that too much importance was given to him as a person because “meetings came and go.” He recalled a meeting “at Winsor´s place with a visceral enemy of the Cuban Revolution: terrorist Frank Calzon,” who said he would send Collera “medications and means, particularly short wave radios, something he never did.”
However, he did tell Collera that Calzon supported and maintained relations with local counterrevolutionaries, as he did with Pardo, a man who, since very young cooperated with the CIA in sabotage actions and life attempts against Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, for which he was punished by Cuban courts.
One surprise after the other followed Collera during his stay in the United States. He was received even at the National Security Council, where they “only sat to listen to me, they would not give any opinion,” and this made Collera somewhat uncomfortable.
He finally understood that they were actually trying to use him, as they were looking for information about the subject that keeps awake those who, in Washington, wish to topple the Cuban Revolution: his criterion “about the possibilities for a change in Cuba and which the objective situation for that aim could be.”
On the other hand, during all these meetings Collera was able to corroborate the understanding by the US government that “there are no leaders among the so-called dissidence because, in the first place, the visible figures lacked acknowledgment in the small “opposition” circle and because they did not constitute a political reality.”

VIDEO

http://www.youtube.com/v/9UqLce8Yx6c&rel=0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3,

http://www.youtube.com/v/2c4CoJVQakw&rel=0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3,

SAME OLD STORY
The arrival at the White House of a Democratic administration did not translate into any change for the deteriorated relations between the United States and Cuba.
Although President Barack Obama has tried to portray a different image in that sense, he has only favored cosmetic modifications by lifting some of the draconian measures imposed by George W. Bush, while by using a lower tone in his discourse he has stiffened the blockade of Cuba.
Since he took power, there´s been an increase of fines against those who have tried to avoid the barriers imposed by the economic siege, and this indicates that such policy keeps prevailing with its entire rigor.
The recent confirmation of the allocation of another 20 million dollars in 2011 for espionage and subversion against the island has placed Obama closer to the reactionary sectors of the Florida-based rightist circles. His behavior is consistent with the heritage of the Bush Plan in its 2004 and 2006 versions.
The role that would be played by the NGOs to lead to a “change” in Cuba is precisely well detailed on Chapter 2 of such an annexationist project, as it reads about transferring to Non-government organizations and churches many of the responsibilities currently in the hands of the socialist state in the procurement of basic services, and intends to accuse the Revolution of not meeting the most important humanitarian needs of the population. For the transition “ideologists”, this scenario would only take place in a post-Castro era.
As to the FUPAD, its actions against Cuba have undergone diversification and have expanded to sectors such as the intellectuals and the religious people. Making use of the US tax-payers´ money, they support those citizens they try to tap for the execution of their subversive plans inside our country.

SINISTER PLANS
Jose Manuel Collera was increasingly becoming aware that such postulates were behind the NGOs that had approached him. In their desperate intentions to undermine the social project in its inside, they could resort to just any method, Collera understood this.
On September 18, 2006, he corroborated that idea as the Miami Medical Team Foundation—an organization linked to USAID—proposed him to “find people that were fully reliable” to undertake a big job. This organization was trying to boycott Cuba´s international aid to other countries, by promoting actions aimed at achieving the desertion of experts in the health sector.
It was a ridiculous proposal that they made to Collera: looking for fully reliable people skillful and with knowledge in Information Technologies to “cause the breakdown of the computer system in the airports of Miami and Atlanta, by using information technologies out of government control,” although they also talked “of another 13 possible airports with high traffic in US territory.
They were thinking of a possible cybernetic attack which, if achieved, would have led to a “real disaster” in the eyes of the world and it would provide the pretext for a direct military intervention in Cuba. “Cuba would be accused and they would have the perfect justification for a “response” armed action against our country.”
Two days later, during a meeting with Manuel Alzugaray—current president of Miami Medical Team Foundation—Collera corroborated that they were playing big.
Alzugaray, an individual who left Cuba in the beginnings of the Revolution and who has a large terrorist background, told Collera that they had set up “a special team at the White House, led by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with the support of the Southern Command; its objective was that of prompting the end of the Cuban government. “
So, Collera was supposed to undertake the task of “organizing the reception of “humanitarian aid”—according to indications—through the doors of the freemasonry,” and he was also informed about a new factor to step up the process: overriding his condition of being a physician, they stated the idea of “spotting scientific institutions and hospitals in Cuba working on radioactive isotopes”, and they insinuated that the Havana-based Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center was a possible place where these isotopes could be found.
This indication was directly linked to the US concern that in the event of a military attack on Cuba, American troops could be affected by the use of the so-called radioactive dirty bombs.
Collera felt that all this was beyond his personal forces and he was staggered. How far could these ONGs with humanitarian façade really go?
But that same day of September, he also met with officials trusted by Rice.
Of course, the questions were the same: What was Cuba´s situation like? What could happen in the near future? How could his institution get help in the event of a political situation linked to a “transition”?
That same afternoon, as he traveled to the Miami airport on his way back to Cuba, Collera also received confirmation that the chief of the US Interest Section in Havana would meet him after he arrived in Cuba to give him a permanent visa, which had been requested by Robert Blau, who then was the political and economic counselor at the Interest Section.
Contacts increased in level, while the conversations went beyond philanthropy.

HE WHO KNOWS HOW TO HEDGE HIS OWN BETS
All that time, Jose Manuel had no other choice than resorting to cold blood, since it was so difficult for him to maintain an indulgent response and at the same time listen at occasions, without showing disturbance, the plans that were in the works.
Even once, he was proposed to take part in a rally at the Kennedy Center, in New Jersey, where he would be granted a diploma by Lincoln Diaz-Balart.
He was introduced as “a Cuba who will say here what he cannot say there.” But he smelled a trap in those words and rapidly thought he had to be careful in his statements.
He took the microphone and without addressing anybody in particular, “I said I would say there the same thing I could say here,” to later add an idea that left the audience in doubt: “freedom is inside of us; freedom does not depend of our context.” What was he referring to? They must have wondered.
With no time to spare he began to “praise” the figure of Diaz-Balart and he found the way to not betray himself, “because he is one of the bloodiest enemies of the Cuban Revolution.”
The solution he found was describing the man as “one of the pillars of the differences between a big nation and a small one,” without saying who was right.
When Collera concluded, people in the audience congratulated him by saying “how nice you words about Diaz-Balart!” However, the subtle words did not pass unnoticed for Diaz-Balart who told the organizers of the ceremony that “the little guy knows how to hedge his bet.”

CLOSING THE CIRCLE
Trips back and forth increased in number, contact did as well. Collera made about six trips to the United States in a short period of time and he witnessed the visits to the island by FUPAD officials and emissaries.
“There was lot of talk there about the absence of the Commander in Chief (Fidel Castro) due to his disease,” which was taken as “a good moment to give steps towards “democracy”, since they considered that there was lack of leadership in the country.”
In October 2008, US John Heard and Colombian expert in logistics, communications and informatics Hector Cortes Castellanos—both sent by the FUPAD—arrived in Havana to “explore the field and not undertake any project before assessing well the way to use and manage the resources,” as indicated by Wachtenheim.
Once in Cuba, Heard—an International Relations graduate who got involved in the USAID since 1983—was interested in knowing about the “penetration” levels by the State Security in different population groups. He also expressed his wish to meet in western Pinar del Rio city with counterrevolutionary Dagoberto Valdes and with the staff of the Convivencia magazine, of the same nature. “We also visited a writer called Raul Capote,” Collera recalls.
On that occasion, “Valdes was given a laptop and a package of medicines, and he suggested a meeting with counterrevolutionary Carmen Vallejo who, since 1988, set up a project to allegedly assist children and youths suffering from cancer with the material and financial support of the US Interest Section and some European embassies.”
Now, having involved Collera, without FUPAD authorization, in these meetings with all their contacts in Havana, cost the emissaries their “out of the scene.” Seemingly, “they violated a key compartmentalizing rule, thought both used their own clandestine measures to obtain information at the style of Special Services. Therefore, they photographed the notes from their contacts, and destroy the papers later and hid their camera memory card.
For this role he was given, Collera “needed to increase his personal contacts with people from all provinces so that, when appropriate, he could activate a network of collaborators from Guantanamo to Pinar del Rio,” once the alleged humanitarian aid began to arrive in the country, which operated as the facade used by the US-manipulated NGOs to get “their stuff” in Cuba. The assistance would also have the seal that it was destined to the most vulnerable sectors of the Cuban population.
At this point in time, Collera had the doors open to Washington. In September 2009, he was received at the Cuba Bureau, belonging to the State Department, when he went for the extension of his visa. On that occasion he was accompanied by Humberto Alfonso Collado, a FUPAD emissary and Wachtenheim.
While assisting him, they assured that he “would not have any more difficulties to get a visa and that it would no longer be a problem every time he wished to travel to the United States.”

LET´S PUT IT STRAIGHT
While in one of his many meetings with Marc Wachtenheim, Collera was asked “a characterization of the social and political situation of the country and also, that he should try to get access to a cell phone and the Internet in order to facilitate bilateral communication.”
The man also suggested that Collera “should try to invest in an illegal business in which he could earn some money, perhaps as a smoke screen for the money he received from the FUPAD.”
But, he must have his numbers straight. Even the director of the Cuba Program with the Foundation indicated that he should send back the bills or receipts about his expenses, as he said on 3 March 2009.
December 2009 was the last time Collera met with Wachtenheim, who gave him “one hundred Euros for personal expenses, an external drive, a scanner and a cell phone that the man had used in Cuba with an over 100-dollar call credit.”
The interests shown by the man and his personal conditions, left no doubt in Collera that he was a CIA agent, and that the alleged “humanitarian assistance was penetrated, controlled, led and monitored” by the US Interest Section in Havana, in a manner that “everything was out of Cuban institutional context.”
It was so much so that, following the agreement of Interest Section official Joaquin Monserrate and Wachtenheim, FUPAD emissaries held a meeting at the Interest Section building on December 4 to evaluate the development of their subversive projects.
On the agenda were, among the tasks assigned to Collera, the “setting up of a computer Internet network with a particular detail: it should be out of the control of Cuban authorities; boosting the so-called independent libraries; giving the green light to the supply of medications through the so-called mini-drugstores and organizing lectures on specific subjects.
“They would finance the trips inside and out of the country and help upgrade printing machines at the Grand Lodge of Cuba.”
Wachtenheim promised Collera that he would return to Cuba for some masonry-related activities in the early 2010; however, he received an unexpected phone call indicating to momentarily suspend all the plans. “Not long ago, I had a new contact with him. He told me he had got out of the FUPAD, but that he was doing the same job and he would create his own team for that aim, which would allow him to be more independent.”

FACE TO FACE
Jose Manuel Collera Vento is a pediatric doctor by profession; he graduated in 1970. He was born in farmer family in Western Pinar del Rio province. He met an internationalist mission in Angola between 1983 and 1985. He was a directive of the Grand Lodge of Cuba, where he occupied different responsibilities since 1975, even he headed the Lodge for some time. Also in 1975, he began cooperating with the Cuban State Security.
According with the characterization made of Collera, he could become a great agent due to his personal qualities and his prestige in the masonry circles. He confirmed that characterization 30 years after it was made.
Now he smiles about this evaluation and sort of joking he recalls that “we did something good, because the United States gave me the Medal of Freedom, which is considered—as I learned—the highest “honor” granted by the Republicans in the US Senate.”
For nearly 30 years Collera was “Duarte” for the State Security. Due to operative reasons “I changed my pseudonym and they let choose it; so I thought of our five brothers (in US jails) particularly in one of them. And from that moment on I have been Gerardo.”
Now as he rises from obscurity, Collera says he feels in peace, because “I think I fulfilled my duty, something that we all—in one way or the other—have to do for our long history of struggles, which come together in only one. I am a fully committed man, both as a Cuban and as a patriot. I am a fervent follower of Jose Marti and of Carlos Manuel de Cespedez. And as a freemason, I acted to protect all those whom I love and defend.”

JIMMY CARTER: A GREAT PLEASURE TO VISIT THE CUBAN PEOPLE

March 29, 2011

Speaking with Havana´s Historian Eusebio Leal

lchirino | March 29, 2011
South Journal— In his second day in Cuba, former US president Jimmy Carter visited the Havana-based Belen Convent, accompanied by the city´s historian Eusebio Leal and Cuban government officials. He learned of the Belen community project which particularly assists local senior citizens.
In statements to reporters, Carter said they came here to visit the Cuban people and government representatives and that it was a pleasure for them visiting the people of Cuba. He expressed his wish for improved relations between Cuba and the United States based on these meetings.
Responding to a question about US citizen Alan Gross, Carter explained that they have talked with some people about the case, but that he did not come to get Gross out of the country.
The visitor toured the facilities in the convent like the rehabilitation and physiotherapy ward, the craftsmanship workshop, the cultural center and he also spoke with senior citizens who go to the Convent every day. He enjoyed Cuban tunes sung by the elderly.
Before leaving the convent, the former US president wrote in the guests´ book:  “A wonderful place for people of the same age as are we.”
Carter was accompanied by his wife Rosalynn, the president of the Carter Center Dr. John Hardman and by the director of the Program for the Americas of that Center, Jennifer McCoy.
The visitor and his companions arrived in Cuba on Monday, on the invitation of the Cuban government. He already visited the Jewish Community Center and he met with the Archbishop of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
Jimmy Carter is expected to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro Tuesday afternoon.
SJ

Sexual self-determination in socialist Cuba

March 28, 2011

 An interview with CENESEX director Mariela Castro Espín
 

March 23, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — In Cuba, there is a LGBTT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, transsexual] movement whose gestation is found at the intersection of the state and organised civil society. This movement seeks to tackle the main themes of LGBTT reality from the perspective of human rights, health and social integration, while inserting itself into the national project of a just society. Historically, the space for its existence was provided by the country’s women’s movement, which was largely responsible for making Cuba, in 2008, the first country in the Americas to have sex-change operations included in the universal health-care system. 

In January 2011, Amsterdam-based political scientist Antonio Carmona Báez interviewed Mariela Castro Espín, president of the Havana-based National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) and a bulwark for the nascent LGBTT movement in Cuba. Daughter of the country’s current president, Raúl Castro, and of the late feminist revolutionary Vilma L. Espín Guillois, Mariela is a professional and intellectual in her own right, championing the rights of sexual self-determination. She shares some reflections on the broad educational strategy adopted for combating homophobia, including its origins, and the building of a socialist LGBTT movement.

* * *

Antonio Carmona Báez: Could you identify an historical moment in Cuba that sparked a serious interest in sexual/gender diversity?

Mariela Castro Espin: With regards to sexual diversity, there were many contradictions during the revolutionary period and in Cuba’s entire history, the same as in the rest of the world. But institutional attention was drawn in 1979, by the National Working Group for Sex Education (GNTES) that later became CENESEX – by the initiative of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). It began tending to transgender people, when the first person requested sex change, due to the incongruence between their gender identity and genitals. Back then, it was called transexuality, at least in psychiatry.

From then on, experts in the existing sexual counselling and therapy group decided to create a more specialised and multidisciplinary subcommittee that would conduct research on this reality. We visited some European countries, information was sought and, after analysing the literature that dealt with the issue, we adopted the same standards of care that were established by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA), as it was called at that time. Thereafter, they set the protocols of treatment in trans-sexuality, which was considered to be first a gender dysphoria, and then a gender identity disorder as is it currently categorised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

This past year [2010] we established a consensus within the scientific community to promote the de-pathologisation of transexuality because we do not consider it a mental disorder, nor do we have sufficient data indicating that it is a disorder. Rather, it is a human reality that deserves attention, especially in the field of rights.

Contact with this reality was born out of an explicit demand for medical care from people who wanted surgery and hormone treatments, most of whom had already begun hormone treatments by themselves without medical attention. That is, we started with a biomedical approach that has characterised the transsexual problematic, by treating transexuality. It was not until 2004 that we began to take another approach based more on human rights, after a group of transsexuals and transvestites came to seek help because they had been harassed by the police and some residents of Havana.

It was then that I approached this group to request their participation, together with CENESEX, in the evaluation of a comprehensive care strategy that speaks to the reality they were living. This was not only covering the specific health claims they wanted, but also aspects related to the exercise of rights for which we had agreed with various state institutions and civil society organisations. That is how we built the strategy of comprehensive care for transgender people, it evolved over time and even got us modifying the terms by which we identified people and processes.

We no longer say that we diagnose transexuality, or even that we make a study to diagnose as we said before. What we do now is accompany the person to help them identify what’s going on. In other words, to identify whether a person is transsexual or is homosexual living with elements of transvestism or is a cross dresser of heterosexual or bisexual orientation. That is to say, to help the person decipher what is happening. Not everything “that happens” has a name because the issues are so diverse, there are many nuances, but at least we help people to integrate into society, not to feel sick, not to feel depreciated, not to feel inferior and to find in our institution a support base and space for constructing knowledge. Because who better than people living these experiences to bring awareness to and their socialisation among the entire population?

From this point, we proposed to prepare them first in advocacy and promoting sexual health, with emphasis on HIV prevention, because it was a way to integrate and link our tasks, making them visible in their humanitarian and social work. We teach them to be generous with those who had not received this experience from society; we give them an opportunity in learning to be generous and in helping to promote sexual health.

Subsequently, we began training them as sexual-rights activists with an emphasis on civil rights, using Paolo Freire’s methodology of popular education – a participatory method that also promotes very important human values in the relationships they build with other people. We also encouraged raising their level of education, in order to find better places of employment, and we have negotiated with state institutions to provide them with the opportunities to study and work without prejudice mediating their decisions.

We have created a group of activists who meet twice a week here. In other cities, other groups have also been created. Additionally, we organised a group of families aimed at improving family relationships, to eliminate the sense of culpability and stigma, and this has really helped them a lot.

What are the main obstacles in achieving the acceptance of sexual diversity in Cuba?

The obstacles are related to the deep ignorance and prejudice that exists concerning sexuality and gender. That is why we supported the creation of an educational strategy to promote respect for sexual orientation and gender identity as a principle of social justice and equality.

In this year-round strategy, we also support educational activities of film clubs, debates, theatre shows, conferences, lectures, participatory programs, particularly in public service campaigns that have their most significant moments during the week of May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia.

For a whole week, we bring the debates to various places and institutions, schools and universities in several cities, where they have already created the conditions and demonstrated the willingness to do so. We have succeeded in creating a network of activists involved in these activities, we organise shows, artistically well prepared.

We do not have a gay pride parade. We make a Conga, a Cuban dance form which is very satisfactory and more pleasuring from a rhythmic and sound standpoint, visualising among the population the need to work-off prejudice. We do not uphold “gay pride” because there is also heterosexual pride, lesbian pride, the pride of trans people, we do not see just gay.

We focus the eyes of the population on homophobia, that is what we believe should be changed; you must unravel homophobia in order to articulate the full respect for the dignity of individuals. Furthermore, homophobia is closely linked to other forms of discrimination that LGBTT people also experience, namely: racial discrimination, discrimination by geographical area, between those living in rural and non-urban areas, in being an immigrant and not native, as a non-white person, as a woman, age etc.

Thus, there are many forms of discrimination and we identify homophobia as a form of discrimination that has not been sufficiently dealt with, and it is not yet contemplated by international and national law; and where it is recognised, it is not sufficiently treated by law.
Internationally, the struggles related to sexual and gender diversity have emerged from social movements. From your point of view, how did the struggle surface in Cuba?

The main stage for the struggle of sexual and gender diversity in Cuba was the 1959 revolution. The revolution was the start of a process of emancipation in all senses of the word, bringing into question, those human relations based on exploitation and that have historically been learned. In this process of socialist transition, we are articulating new relationships, new kinds of relationships, by taking down myths and prejudices, especially on issues of class, race and gender.

However, the issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, which did not satisfy patriarchal and heteronormative criteria, faced more resistance to change. It was not understood that these were also early forms of injustice and discrimination. Then, the FMC, the women’s organisation that has advocated for and worked on rights of women, introduced the gender approach. It envisioned the need to work on the hegemonic masculinities that created many difficulties for men of any sexual orientation. This also opened the way to find the arguments that brought into the scientific-academic and political debate, the problems of people with non-heterosexual orientation and other related themes… The revolution was the setting for social justice and equality. The work of the FMC, as organised civil society, was a key factor opening the way to introduce into the institutionalised sexual education program the reality of gay or transgender people, in terms of prejudice and rights.
Can we say that there is a movement of sexual diversity, organised or not, in Cuba?

It was from within the women’s movement that we started to work on LGBTT issues. Now CENESEX, that is the state sector, coordinates a national sexual education program that integrates state institutions and civil society organisations; through this it is creating a LGBTT rights movement. That is the peculiarity of the Cuban experience.
Let’s talk about your personal motives for being involved in this work. What has motivated you to become a defender of sexual and gender diversity?

Since childhood, I received these values from my family, my father and my mother. Especially my mum, who led the movement in promoting sexual education through the FMC. She fought for a lot for the rights of LGBTT people, and she faced resistance more complex and much more rigid than the one this generation or I have faced. Next to this, my professional career allowed me to find opportunities to present arguments on this problem in Cuban society, from the institutions where I have worked.

Therefore, what motivated me was precisely the awareness of social justice that my family and this society have given me, especially in the schools and at the university. Throughout all the complexity of Cuban society, we were given values, established by the revolution. We were educated to fight for social justice.

All this experience allowed me to realise that sexual/gender diversity was an area that had not been sufficiently addressed previously in our struggles for social justice. This, in turn, was supplemented by a knowledge of history and Marxist philosophy, which gave me the tools to understand the situation from the experience of socialist construction in Cuba, to be introduced in our social practice.

[Antonio Carmona Báez lectures political science at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and is author of State Resistance to Globalisation in Cuba (Pluto, 2004).]


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