Archive for May, 2011

Cuba: Facts and realities

May 27, 2011

Enlightening the president and press

By Saul Landau and Nelson Valdés

“No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver” – Spanish saying

(There is no worse blind person than the one who does not wish to see.)

On May 13, Miami newspaper headlines and TV leads should have said: “Obama makes fool of himself.” The “leads” would have referred to his statement: “I would welcome real change from the Cuban government.”

Obama’s conditions? “For us to have the kind of normal relations we have with other countries, we’ve got to see significant changes from the Cuban government and we just have not seen that yet.”

A clever tabloid might have headlined, “Obama Goes Blind – Can’t See Changes Right in Front of His Eyes!”

If Granma had a sense of humor its editorial would have begun with: “President Obama stands for ‘Change we can believe in,’ but does not stand for change Cuba’s leaders believe in.”

Indeed, changes in Cuba have come fast and furious over recent months, but apparently Obama has his own definition of the word “insignificant.” Or, maybe his advisers did not inform him that Cuba has freed all the “political” prisoners it arrested in 2003 and some others as well.

“The bottom line is political prisoners are still there who should have been released a long time ago, who never should have been arrested in the first place,” Obama said. (Univision May 13, 2011)

Did he ignore the words of his Secretary of State? “Let those political prisoners out. Be willing to, you know, open up the economy and lift some of the oppressive strictures on the people of Cuba. And I think they would see that there would be an opportunity that could be perhaps exploited. But that’s in the future, whether or not they decide to make those changes.” (January 13, 2009, Senate Confirmation hearings)

Did no one inform the President that the United States now has more political prisoners in Cuba than the Cuban government? Did he not hear from the government of Spain that they refused to accept nine of the remaining 46 Cuban prisoners because they had committed terrorist acts?

The President also remained blissfully unaware that he had vowed shortly after his inauguration to close the U.S. prison in Guantanamo where the political prisoners – more numerous than those held by Cuba – have not enjoyed even the basic rights of the Magna Carta. Cuban prisoners have all heard accusations against them, had lawyers and trials. No one at Guantanamo can claim any of those formal processes.

Obama also ignored the vast economic changes. “The economic system there is still far too constrained,” he told Univision.

Again, his advisors went to sleep at the switch and neglected to inform him that in agriculture alone, the Cuban government vastly reduced the number of state farms and simultaneously increased the number of private holdings as well as the amount of acres individuals farmers can control. Thus far, the state has turned over 63% of uncultivated lands to the private sector. By mid May, individual farmers and cooperatives had received 1,191,000 hectares. (1 hectare + 2.47 acres) And private farmers now can employ as many workers as they can afford – not allowed since 1963.

The state also increased the price tenfold for farmers selling beef and three times for milk. In addition, farmers can now sell more easily to consumers.

The state retained price controls on 21 agricultural commodities; all the rest follow supply and demand. For farmers, access to bank credit has become much easier; the rates lower.

Oh, people may soon be able to buy and sell homes and cars, and go into business for themselves in many areas.

Obama, however, is fixated on Fidel. “If you think about it, (Fidel) Castro came into power before I was born – he’s still there and he basically has the same system when the rest of the world has recognized that the system doesn’t work,” Obama said.

Fidel left power in 2006 as we know and ironically Cuba possesses the only system that still can claim some semblance of old-fashioned socialism – despite a 50-plus year economic war against it by Washington.

Interestingly, in declaring Cuba’s systemic failure, Obama did not mention the U.S. recession, the double digit unemployment in several states, the millions of people homeless and hungry, with many more facing foreclosures and job loss. Indeed, for two centuries the U.S. economic system has broken down cyclically, and in this best of all possible systems millions of homeless people stare at vacant homes and apartments and hungry people cohabit with billionaires. And this well-working system does not suffer from having on its economic throat the boot of the largest economic power – as Cuba endures.

Is Obama’s word frivolity simply a product of the perfect system’s rhetorical demand at pre-election time? After all, only a year and half remains before the next presidential contest and the “Miami-Cuban vote” counts.

“Creating Incidents” in Cuba: America’s Design to Trigger “Regime Change”

May 18, 2011

By Arnold August
 Global Research, May 17, 2011

The Granma Editorial – A Key Question for Cuba and her Real Friends

I have read with a great deal of interest and enthusiasm the Granma newspaper Editorial entitled Fabricating Pretexts, dated May 15, 2011. I was following with much concern the latest provocations from Madrid, Miami and Washington. On April 1, 2011 Aznar, whose roots are to be found in the worst of the Franco tradition, was complaining according to Europa Press that “it is not fair to do one thing in Libya and the opposite in Cuba… to protect lives.” Cuba’s enemies never have let up in their pernicious activities against the Cuban people. However, since this latest statement, a new series of equally aggressive actions just as defamatory has begun. For example, the program of Telephone Without Fear (Háblalo Sin Miedo) was set up by mercenary bloggers in the US and Cuba in order to give the impression that “disturbances” are taking place in Cuba and that “the Cubans” are clamoring for help from Washington and its allies.

There is also the latest program of “civic activism” being developed by mercenaries in Madrid, Miami and Cuba. Some of its representatives had recently visited Washington to solicit support. The goal is to create incidents in Cuba. Amongst those most involved are those who had recently been released from prison and their collaborators.

Who can believe that in Cuba there are pacific “dissidents” or mercenaries? In the first place the violation of Cuban laws has the objective, as they themselves have openly declared on more than one occasion, of “regime change” in Cuba. This is far from constituting a pacific goal. Secondly, the participation of almost all the tendencies in the “opposition” in one way or another in this “civic activism” activity shows that there exists a new phase of provocation which is characterized by a danger of violence. And so the Granma newspaper has every right to ask the following:

In the past, there have been attempts to isolate Cuba or provoke internal disorders in order to create a pretext for U.S. intervention. What is the object of these campaigns? Just to denigrate or something worse? Could it be that those pulling the strings and their paid internal agents would be delighted to invoke the “protection of civilians” in order to bomb Havana?

Based on 52 years of experience and heroic struggle, Cuba knows how to respond with serenity and firmness in the face of mercenary actions. In the same manner, honest people throughout the planet support the right to self-determination of Cuba, an entitlement which should apply to any nation in the world even though this displeases the heads of the Imperial powers.

These questions raised by Granma, which are crucial Cuba, are also fundamental for the world: there is no room for vacillations with respect to the defense of Cuba in the confrontation with the forces of the Imperial powers.

Peoples and governments which are genuinely moved by a spirit of respect for international justice on all continents, insist that Washington and its allies respect the sovereignty of Cuba. Once again, as always, today we are not leaving Cuba alone.

Response to Financial Times article ‘Cuba Libre?’

May 18, 2011

Helen Yaffe

Here is my unprinted response to the whole-page article about recent developments in Cuba which appeared in the Financial Times, 25 April 2011:
With typical journalistic hyperbole you claim that changes to the employment structure in Cuba amount to ‘a structural adjustment so harsh it would make even advocates of the “shock therapy” meted out in the former Soviet bloc wince’ (John Rathbone and Marc Frank, ‘Cuba Libre?’ 25 April 2011). You are mistaken.

Cuba’s workforce is 5.2 million. The one million workers identified as ‘surplus’ or unproductive will not be abandoned as prescribed by neoliberal ‘shock therapy’, but given the option to take up employment in agriculture (state, cooperative or private), construction or industry, join cooperatives or enter self-employment. State institutions must provide these alternatives. Their sluggishness in doing so prompted Cuban trade unions to demand (and achieve) a delay in restructuring.

Prior to the changes, 15.4% of Cubans worked in the non-state sector, most in agricultural cooperatives whose production features in the central plan. Just 140,000 Cubans or 2.7% of the total workforce were self-employed. Add the 200,000 new licenses issued since October 2010 and still less than 7% of Cubans will be self-employed, all in non strategic or marginal occupations, from pet-grooming to trades.

Cuba’s ‘bloated’ payrolls are the legacy of the crisis following the collapse of the Soviet bloc which exacerbated the US blockade. The loss of 80% of trade and investments saw GDP plummet 35%. It was politically and socially important for the government to maintain employment, even as production contracted and infrastructure ground-down. The correlation between salaries and productivity was lost. Then-President Fidel Castro began introducing measures to redress this in 2005, the year that Cuban GNP recovered its pre-crisis levels. He set Cuba on the path to achieving ‘the dream of everyone being able to live on their salary or on their adequate pension’ (Fidel, 17 November 2005), echoing Marx’s vision that under socialism ‘the individual producer receives back from society – after deductions have been made – exactly what he gives to it.’

Fidel revealed the long-term plan of eliminating the ration book, undermining the parasitic layer in Cuban society, those who can work but won’t and announced that state subsidies would be reduced, while medical provision, education and so on would remain free and universal. Measures announced by Raul Castro consolidate that process. It is erroneous to assert that Raul has a ‘desire to assert his differences from Fidel’.

The introduction to the reform document approved by the Cuban Communist Party Congress, which you describe as introducing a ‘more market-orientated system’ states that ‘planning will be supreme, not the market.’ Following public debates about the proposed reforms in the three months prior to the Congress modifications were made most of the proposals.

Behind the current measures is a long-run improvement in the Cuban economy, coupled with the short-term balance of payment crisis since 2007/8, resulting from world food and fuel price rises, three devastating hurricanes and the fall in Cuba’s export earnings.

In the former USSR, once the profit motive becoming the determinant of production and distribution, state welfare disintegrated. In ten years, life expectancy fell by 15 years. Conversely, during Cuba’s crisis in the 1990s the proportion of GDP spent on social programs increased by 34%. The number of doctors increased 76% and day-care centres for older people by 107%; worth considering as we brace ourselves for the dismantling of welfare provision in Britain. Cuba resisted the neoliberal option during a far more severe crisis in the 1990s. It will continue to resist ‘shock therapy’ today.

Fabricating Lies

May 16, 2011

South Journal—Cuba´s Granma daily today published an editorial denouncing destabilizing campaigns against the Cuban government. Next up we publish the full text of the leading article:


Fabricating pretexts

THE Cuban Revolution has been the object of hundreds of disinformation campaigns, usually orchestrated by the U.S. government with the complicity of European allies in conjunction with the powerful forces and interests which control the corporate media. However, they have not been able to divert Cubans from their ideals of independence and socialism, nor confuse the peoples of the planet who, despite everything, are led by wisdom and instinct to the truth. They are campaigns without political or ethical constraints which come up against the moral force of Cuba and merely tarnish their authors.

The most recent, which came from their prizewinning informants, was deflated in 72 hours. Lying politicians, the media which slandered out of political interest and journalists who reported an incident which never took place without even attempting to confirm it, must not be given impunity. At the very least, they should admit their error and apologize to the family whose grief they failed to respect.

Curiously, all of them remain silent in the face of the millions of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan which they define as “collateral damage,” as well as in the face of extrajudicial executions with drone aircraft in sovereign countries.

They have maintained a prudent silence in relation to the use of torture, have covered up the existence of secret U.S. prisons in Europe, have prevented investigations into the crimes committed in Abu Ghraib and the Guantánamo Naval Base – this latter usurped from Cuba – and the CIA secret flights transporting persons kidnapped in other states.

They remain unmoved at the brutal way in which European governments are inflicting the consequences of the economic crisis on the poorest members of society and immigrants. They look the other way when the unemployed or students in those wealthy societies are repressed with exceptional violence.

However, they are constantly hunting out pretexts for denigrating Cuba, and when these are lacking, they fabricate them.

They shamelessly converted a case of acute pancreatitis into political murder; a justified detention by police of less than three hours for public order offenses without any use of force into a fatal beating; a person with a criminal record sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for a common crime into a political dissident and the victim of a lengthy prison term.

The Cuban people share the protests of the family whose pain has been offended and the indignation of doctors virtually accused of complicity in a homicide. The world has more than sufficient examples of the humanistic vocation of our doctors, who have been unstinting in their efforts and, risking their own lives, have provided and are providing health services in many parts of the world.

American legislator David Rivera, famous for electoral corruption and his extremist campaigns to eliminate the right of émigré Cubans to travel to their country of origin, and who just a few weeks ago, accused former President Carter of being a Cuban agent, affirmed under oath in the U.S. Congress that the dead man was beaten to death in Villa Clara’s central Vidal Park last Sunday.

He didn’t even take the trouble to verify what even the most ill-intentioned acknowledge, that the deceased was in the park before and after his brief detention on Thursday, May 5, not on Sunday, when he was already in hospital. It is not surprising that Rivera should lie, but that he should do so with such stupidity.

Salafranca, a Euro deputy from Spain’s Partido Popular (PP), known for his anti-Cuban and pro-yankee attitudes, and who has said that reports on the CIA secret flights do not contribute any additional information and refrains from any condemnation of them, affirmed in the European Parliament that the individual “died after his detention and from a beating by the Cuban police.”

El País, from the Spain of the Prisa Group and PP conspiracies, published a cable titled “Cuba dissident dies after police beating.” The ABC, historically in the service of the worst causes, stated “Cuban opposition member dies after a beating from Castro’s police.” They are not interested in confirming the veracity of the alleged incidents and have not even bothered to disguise the conspiracy with different titles.

Even President Barack Obama himself, in response to a question from the highly tendentious Univisión network in Miami, referred to the events in Vidal Park which never took place, while stating that the details were not as yet clear.

It is strange that Obama, always so busy, retained in his memory the case of a person arrested in a Cuban park to which he was able to return shortly afterwards. However, he has not said anything and possibly does not even recall the anguished face or the account of young Iraqi Samar Hassan, published in The New York Times on May 7, concerning the terrible experience of the murder of her parents by a U.S. patrol when they were returning from the hospital after her little brother had received treatment for injuries.

But, in the case of Cuba, the worst offense is not the constant fabrication and reproduction of lies. What is unpardonable is the censuring of the great truths and the history of a heroic and blockaded people, who have been capable of achieving what for the great majority of humanity is still a dream.

In the past, there have been attempts to isolate Cuba or provoke internal disorders in order to create a pretext for U.S. intervention. What is the object of these campaigns? Just to denigrate or something worse? Could it be that those pulling the strings and their paid internal agents would be delighted to invoke the “protection of civilians” in order to bomb Havana?

Our people will not allow themselves to be confused by internal counterrevolutionaries who are seeking a media pretext in order to promote a conflict with the United States, and they know how to respond with serenity and firmness to the actions of these mercenaries.

The arguments of the Cuban Revolution are not fabricated like the lies of our enemies, they are constructed with the dignity and integrity of our people, who have learnt that the truth is the cleanest weapon of humanity.

Translated by Granma International

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