Archive for March, 2012

Cuba Meets the Challenges of the 21st Century, Part II

March 31, 2012

Lecturer, Paris Sorbonne Paris IV University

An interview with Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban Parliament


President of the Cuban Parliament since 1992, and member of the Political Bureau of the Cuban Communist Party, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada is, after President Raul Castro and First Vice President Antonio Machado Ventura, third in line in the Cuban government. Professor of philosophy and a career diplomat, Alarcon spent nearly 12 years in the United States as the Cuban ambassador to the United Nations. Over time, he has become a spokesperson for the Havana government.

In this long interview, one that lasted nearly two hours, Alarcon did not seek to evade a single question. He comments on the role of Fidel Castro after his retirement from political life and explains the presence of Raul Castro at the center of power. He also speaks about the reform of the Cuban economic and social model as well as the challenges facing the Cuban nation. Alarcon then discusses the question of emigration and Cuban relations with the United States under the Obama administration. He also takes on the thorny question of human rights and political prisoners and does not hesitate to talk about Alan Gross, the American sub-contractor imprisoned in Cuba, as well as the case of the five Cuban agents detained in the United States. Alarcon then turns to the important question of oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico and the potential consequences of their exploitation. The interview concludes with a discussion of the relationship of Cuba with the Catholic church and the Vatican, the imminent visit to Cuba of Pope Benedict XVI, Cuban relations with the European Union and the new Latin America and finally the future of Cuba after Fidel and Raul Castro.

The reform of the Cuban economic model

SL: In April of 2011, the Communist Party Congress decided to reform the Cuban economic model. What brought about this change? What is it exactly?

RAQ: As Cubans, we realized that we had to introduce important changes in the social and economic functioning of our nation in order to save socialism, to improve it, to make it better. In doing so, we took an objective look at our society. Cuban socialism had, for a very long time, been closely linked to that of the Soviet Union. Clearly, it can no longer continue like this. It was also necessary to take into account certain global factors present on the international scene. Furthermore, we need to rectify aspects of the social and economic model that undoubtedly made sense at the time they were adopted, but can no longer be justified. Certain policies elaborated in the past can be explained by conditions that existed then, but today they have no reason for being.

What are we seeking exactly? We are attempting to obtain a higher level of economic efficiency, a more rational use of our limited natural, material and financial resources. In so doing, we take into account the primary external factors that impinge upon Cuba, certainly the economic sanctions that the United States imposes upon us, sanctions that have been tightened over the past number of years. But, it is also important to take into account certain positive changes, for example, those occurring in Latin America and the Caribbean. After having analyzed the problems faced by the Cuban society, after reflecting collectively upon them, we arrived at the conclusion that it would be necessary to introduce certain changes not only in order to cope with the objective realities we face, but also because we are convinced that there is a better way to go about constructing a more just society.

SL: That is to say?

RAQ: The state is not giving up its role, and it is not putting our society’s social gains in jeopardy. But, in order to maintain access to free universal health care, free universal education, and to guarantee everyone the right to these services, the right to retirement benefits, to social assistance, it is essential that we reach the highest level of efficiency possible in their implementation. We have worked hard to provide higher quality services at a lower cost, not by reducing the salary of the teacher, but rather by eliminating the unnecessary costs that are inherent in a bureaucracy. This is the general approach we took for the rest of the economy as well.

SL: One goal therefore is to put an end to bureaucratic obstacles, and a withdrawal of the state from non-strategic sectors, hairdressing salons, for example.

RAQ: Raul Castro has often cited the case of hairdressing salons. When was it that Karl Marx suggested that socialism consisted of collectivizing hairdressing salons? When was it that he said that this activity, like many others, ought to be administered and controlled by the state? The idea of socialism has always been the collectivization of the fundamental means of production. It is clear that the term “fundamental” may be interpreted more or less broadly. As far as we are concerned, we are convinced that it is impossible to renounce certain things. Nevertheless, it is essential that we reduce the role of the state in certain tasks and activities that people can so better, both by themselves and cooperatively. This would allow the state to cut costs enormously and still guarantee what we consider to be basic human rights. To do this, we need to unleash new productive forces and enable personal initiatives, in the city as well as in the countryside. In this way, we will establish a Cuban socialism that, ultimately, does not simply respond to established dogma, follow another’s example, or copy a predetermined template.

SL: A socialism that would therefore be uniquely Cuban.

RAQ: What characterizes Latin America at the present moment is the fact that a number of countries, each in its own way, are constructing their own versions of socialism. For a long while now, one of the fundamental errors of socialist and revolutionary movements has been the belief that a socialist model exists. In reality, we should not be talking about socialism, but rather about socialisms in the plural. There is no socialism that is similar to another. As Mariategui said, socialism is a “heroic creation.” If socialism is to be created, it must respond to realities, motivations, cultures, situations, contexts, all of which are objectives that are different from each other, not identical.

SL: How was the reform of the economic model decided upon?

RAQ: We are in an experimental phase using a methodology that is very Cuban and, I think, very socialist, that is to say, a process of broad, continual and authentic public consultation. The Party proposed a plan to reform the economic system. This plan has been debated throughout the country, not only among Party militants, but also among all citizens who chose to participate. Furthermore, the plan has been significantly modified following these discussions. Certain items have been changed, new items have been proposed, and yet others have been rejected. Over 70 percent of the original document was modified following discussions with citizen groups and only then was it presented to the Communist Party Congress. Several commissions were created to work and reflect upon the final document and to analyze the proposals that emerged from this great national debate. In the long run, a new document that contains 311 proposals for change was presented to and approved by Parliament. Certain measures have already been implemented, others are in the process of being implemented and others are still under discussion, not on their content, that has already been approved, but on how best to implement them.

I am not sure that there are many governments around the world that would take the trouble of consulting the public before adopting a policy aimed at transforming their economic system. Neither am I certain that governments that have implemented drastic austerity measures, that have reduced their health and education budgets, that have raised the retirement age, all because of the systemic neoliberal crisis that now envelops many nations, might have sought out the advice of their citizens before making profound changes that promise to affect their daily lives.

Out of all of this experimentation a new socialism will emerge, different from that we have now, but it will still be socialism and it will be without a doubt more authentic.

SL: Is this not a return to capitalism?

RAQ: I don’t think so, even if it is true that there will be a greater presence of market mechanisms in Cuban society, mechanisms that characterize the market economy, or capitalism if you prefer.

SL: Since November 2011, Cubans can buy and sell housing and automobiles. Why was something that is the norm in the rest of the world banned or highly regulated in Cuba?

RAQ: Allow me to give you a historical explanation. In the 1960s, when these measures were taken, the objective was to prevent capitalist restoration through the accumulation of goods. Take, for example, the Mexican revolution. It implemented a great agrarian reform, but a short time later the latifundio reappeared. The Cuban Revolution did not wish to commit the same error. If a farmer who, through the agrarian reform program, came to possess even a small piece of land and then decided to sell it to the richest landowner, he would undermine the very foundation of the agrarian reform, because he was once again contributing to the accumulation of property and to the resurgence of the latifundio.

As for housing, the urban reform gave all Cubans the right to housing by limiting the concentration of ownership. Walk around Havana and you will never find a person living in the street or sleeping under a bridge, something that is not the case in numerous western capitals. There may be a problem of overcrowding, with several generations living under the same roof, but no one is abandoned to his fate. We did not wish to once again find ourselves with owners of multiple properties and this is the reasons that restrictions — not a total ban — were imposed.

SL: And what about automobiles?

RAQ: In the case of automobiles, the question is more complex because it concerns an imported product upon which the nation is dependent. Never in the history of the country has Cuba had an automobile industry. Cuba has produced some means of collective transportation, but automobiles have never been produced here. There is also another key element at play, gasoline, the fuel that has always been the Achilles heel of the Cuban economy. It was necessary, therefore, to establish controls and certain restrictions.

It is also well to recall that certain of these controls predate the idea of Cuban socialism. I often refer to an extremely interesting document dated February 1959, the point at which in Cuba we established control over foreign exchange and imports. Up until February of 1959, the Cuban bourgeoisie would go to a bank to buy dollars in order to import cars, perfume or other luxury goods. With the triumph of the Revolution, a part of the elite that had been linked to the old regime took the path of exile and, among them, was the president of the Cuban national bank.

The provisional government, directed by Manuel Urrutia, then named Dr. Felipe Pazos as head of this bank. Pazos had been the founder and first president of this national financial institution when it was established in 1950 under the government of Carlos Prio Socarras. He directed the bank from 1950 until March of 1952, the date that marked the coup d’état of Fulgencio Batista. When he once again took over the bank, he wrote a report that he submitted to President Urrutia — Fidel Castro was only chief of the Armed forces at the time — in which he described the state of Cuban finances and revealed the extent of the pillaging of the reserves by the leaders of the old order before they had fled the country.

It was Pazos, not Che Guevara, Raul Castro or any other radical of the 26th of July Movement, an emblematic representative of the leisured classes and highly respected by the bourgeoisie of the period, who decided to establish exchange controls, stop the sale of dollars, and impose strict control over imports. As president of the National bank, he had informed Urrutia that it was imperative that measures be taken, given the financial disaster that had befallen the nation. Cuba’ economic situation was dramatic and it was important to recognize that certain elements of tension that existed in the Cuban economy had not yet disappeared.

Also, beginning in the 1960s, strong restrictions were placed upon the importation of products including automobiles and, for economic reasons, this policy continues today. This decision, I would remind you, was made by a renowned economist, Felipe Pazos, who was neither a radical nor a communist, but was in fact a conservative.

Two types of situations existed. First, those who owned an automobile before the triumph of the Revolution could use it as they wished, sell it, etc. But, given that the state held a monopoly on imports, imported automobiles were to be sold only to government workers, or to deserving parties, at subsidized prices, often at little more than 10 percent of their real value. It was therefore no longer possible to sell automobiles simply in order to make a profit.

So clearly, limits were placed upon owning automobiles as personal property unless they were to serve a social function. Had unregulated sale of cars been legalized, ownership would not go to those for whom cars served a social function, or to those who by their own merits had acquired them, but rather to those with the most money. In any case, that was the justification at the time. It was important to avoid speculation in automobiles, because it was evident that the country did not have sufficient resources to massively import them, nor to furnish the fuel necessary to their functioning. So, there again, the state imposed certain restrictions.

SL: So what about now?

RAQ: We now see this from a different perspective. If you are a homeowner — and some 85 percent of Cubans are — it is possible to sell. Why? Take the case of a growing family that needs to acquire a larger place, and the case of a household that is shrinking and needs a smaller place because the children have grown up and married. From here on out, it will be possible to exchange or to sell. It is now also possible to leave property to someone, loan it, rent it, etc. Before, only the exchange of property and the renting of rooms was authorized. Now, this type of transaction is facilitated by the elimination of these bureaucratic obstacles.

SL: What were the obstacles?

RAQ: In the past, in order to buy, sell, or exchange properties, it was necessary to obtain an administrative decision from the National Housing Institute. To get them to make a decision, an agreement from the Municipal Department of Housing was required. One then needed to obtain authorization at both the provincial and national levels. There was an enormous bureaucracy involved and given that administrative decisions were required, it was the source of corruption and bribes.

Now, since the first of December 2011, two parties who wish to exchange their homes have only to present the titles to their properties to a public notary. All of the bureaucratic hurtles have been eliminated. Of course, public notaries have always been involved, but one saw them only after both the buyer and seller had received all of the necessary administrative authorizations.

SL: What happens if there is a dispute?

RAQ: In the case of litigation, if one party claims certain rights after a transaction has been completed either through sale or exchange, the courts will decide the case and have the last word. The bureaucracies will no longer have a voice in the matter. You can see, therefore, that in this one area alone, we have managed to reduce drastically administrative and bureaucratic involvement by eliminating unnecessary steps. These reforms have resolved a number of problems linked to housing by simplifying sales and exchanges.

As far as automobiles are concerned, this has been even easier because vehicle registration has existed for a long time. We are working to eliminate bureaucracy in our society. The biggest remaining limitation resides in the fact that individuals cannot import vehicles and, at the risk of repeating myself, this was a decision taken fifty years ago, not by Fidel Castro but rather by Felipe Pazos, long before the United States imposed a commercial embargo on our nation, long before the Torricelli Act of 1992, the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 and the two reports of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba of 2004 and 2006, which strengthened these economic sanctions. As you can imagine, these sanctions have exacerbated our national economic problems and led to the imposition of strict controls on personal imports.

In the same way, a candidate for emigration will now be able to sell his home before leaving the country or leave it to his family up through the fourth degree of consanguinity. Before, the state took possession of abandoned housing and gave it to other families. This will no longer be the case.

Anti-Terrorist Cuban Fighter Rene Gonzalez in Cuba

March 30, 2012

(Prensa Latina) Rene Gonzalez, one of the five anti-terrorist Cuban fighters unfairly given harsh prison sentences in the United States, arrived to Cuba on Friday on a family, private visit in the wake of authorization by a US judge to visit his gravely ill brother.

According to information released by the TV news program, Rene arrived minutes alter midday.

On February 24, Rene had filed through his lawyer an emergency motion before the South Florida District Court, requesting an authorization to visit his brother, seriously ill in Cuba.

Nearly a month later, on March 19, Judge Joan Lenard, who have been handling the case of The Cuban Five since the start of their proceedings, authorized the trip for 15 days under certain conditions, including obtaining all US government travel permits needed.

She also set as a prerequisite failing a detailed travel schedule, his location in Cuba and information of contact in the country, as well as a systematic phone contact with his probation officer.

The judge also made clear that all conditions of Rene’s supervised release remain unchanged and he has to go back to the United States as soon as the two weeks pass from the date of his trip.

After having suffered 13 years of unfair prison, Rene is under a supervised release regime for another three years during which he has to remain in the United States, which constitutes an additional sanction.

The decision of authorizing his trip is fully in line with conditions established for his supervised release, which allow him to travel to Cuba after an approval by the probation officer or the judge.

Even the US Government, which has opposed all motions filed by Rene to be allowed a permanent return to Cuba and his temporary visit to his brother, admitted that conditions of his supervised release do not prevent him from visiting our country.

In this regard, as of March 7, 2011, the Attorney General’s Office argued that the terms of Rene’s supervised release do not prevent him from travelling to Cuba during that period. “Nothing will prevent him from requesting his probation officer (or the court, if he was denied that by the former) a permit to travel to Cuba to visit his wife, his old parents or other relatives.”

In the motion filed by his lawyer, Rene said he would comply with the terms established for the visit and return to the United States.

Despite the terms imposed, our people, with deep respect, welcomes home our beloved Rene, and do not stop fighting for his final, permanent return home along with his four close brothers, says the press release.

Rene Gonzalez, along with his comrades Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez, was detained in 1998 in the United States for monitoring Miami-based violent groups operating against Cuba.

MEDICC’s great work featured on MSNBC during papal visit

March 30, 2012

Just this week, because of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba, MSNBC brought their cameras and crews to Havana. During one of the tapings they interviewed MEDICC’s international director Gail Reed who spoke of Cuba’s health system and its famed Latin American Medical School (ELAM).

Click to read and view the MSNBC video

Héctor Pesquera on the loose in Puerto Rico

March 30, 2012

Héctor Pesquera, Puerto Rico’s new Police Chief


Héctor Pesquera, Official Mafioso Hitman Against the Cuban Five, is Chief of Police for Puerto Rico – español
Jean-Guy Allard
Translation: Machetera
Puerto Rico’s governor, Luis Fortuño, has officially named Héctor Pesquera, the former head of the FBI in Miami and the mastermind of a conspiracy that led to the arrest of five Cubans who’d infiltrated terrorist groups in Florida, as the new Superintendent of the Puerto Rican police.
Puerto Rico is facing its most serious wave of crime, violence and corruption in many years.
Pesquera arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on a flight from Fort Lauderdale, and was immediately escorted by FBI agents to the Federal Building, his “alma mater,” at Chardón Street in Hato Rey, where the federal agency is headquartered.
It was at the request of the Mafioso Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart that Héctor Pesquera directed, organized and carried out the arrest of the Cuban Five, who had been sent to Florida from Cuba in order to fight the terrorist campaigns being waged against the island from that city. The five were transformed into spies through a huge media show.
Pesquera ordered the mistreatment, solitary confinement, and rigged trial of the five Cuban patriots who remain kidnapped in US territory.
This policeman with multiple connections to Cuban American terrorist fauna, is of Puerto Rican origin, the black sheep of a family with deeply held nationalist convictions.
This former counter-intelligence officer was the head of the FBI in Puerto Rico, from where he arranged the liberation of the Miami terrorists involved in the case of the La Esperanza yacht, one of whom was “Pepe” Hernández, the current head of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). The men were arrested for their connections with the plot to assassinate the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, at Isla Margarita, Venezuela.
Pesquera was the director of the FBI’s Miami division until December of 2003, and later became a port and airport security consultant to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO). His immediate supervisor at the BSO, Ken Jenne, was later investigated for corruption.
Coincidentally, Pesquera was still at this post when Luis Posada Carriles illegally entered US territory on the Santrina yacht, without the least difficulty.
Pesquera was also the same SAC (Special Agent in Charge) for the FBI in Miami who, for months supposedly had no inkling of the presence, only a few miles away from his office, of 14 of the 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists who were preparing the September 11 attacks…while instead, he pursued, arrested and organized the political trial and sentencing for the Cuban Five who’d infiltrated the Miami extremist groups he so generously tolerated.
On June 23, 2001, Héctor Pesquera’s men arrested José Guevara, a former Venezuelan intelligence agent, in downtown Miami. Known as an anti-Chávez activist, Guevara then tried, along with his cousin “Otoniel” Guevara, to collect millions of dollars by blackmailing the former head of Peruvian intelligence, Vladimir Montesinos, who was a fugitive from Peruvian justice at the time.
Instead of arresting him for extortion, Pesquera arranged for Guevara to be set free, and participated in the $5 million dollar reward claim by the Peruvian government, which was ultimately denied, for Montesinos’ capture.
In another episode of this police drama, José Guevara appeared in Miami with $600,000, which the masterminds behind the murder of the Venezuelan state prosecutor Danilo Anderson paid to execute the terrorist attack against Anderson in Caracas.
Pesquera was denounced for having participated in a meeting in Panamá, along with the current fugitive Patricia Poleo and other conspirators, where Anderson’s murder was planned.
Another telling detail is that Pesquera’s son, Ed Pesquera, was the person who destroyed Posada Carriles’ FBI file when the international terrorist’s trial was approaching.
Upon being nominated to his new post in Puerto Rico, Pesquera expressed that in order to fight crime, one must go to the root of the problem.
“It’s with an enormous sense of commitment that I accept this challenge,” he said.
The news of Pesquera’s nomination by Puerto Rico’s governor appeared as soon as March 26 at a Miami website, where it was reported: “The corruption on the Enchanted Island is so great that the Justice Department asked Miami-Dade County to lend it Pesquera, so that for an entire year, the peace and tranquility of that small island might be restored.”

Jean-Guy Allard is a Canadian journalist who worked as editor and reporter for Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec from 1971 to 2000. He retired to Cuba, and now writes for Granma. He has written several books, including one on Robert Ménard and Reporters without Borders, and one on Luis Posada Carriles. He lives in Havana and is an expert on the Miami mafia. Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity. This article and translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

Burson-Marsteller, Alan Gross, and the light at the end of the tunnel

March 29, 2012

The lesson at the Salpêtrière (1887), by Pierre-André Brouillet (1857 – 1914)

PR as Valium – español, traducido por Manuel Talens, de Tlaxcala
by Machetera

Saltpêtrière is a legendary Parisian hospital. Built in the 17th century, it was known as the cradle of neurosciences for having hosted great teaching doctors such as Charcot, Babinski and Freud. In the image above, a famous painting by Pierre-André Brouillet, the French doctor Jean-Martin Charcot is portrayed explaining how to diagnose hysteria in a female patient whose name has gone down in the annals of medical history: Blanche Wittman.
The scene is unmistakably sexist: a roomful of men deciding how to treat a woman for a condition whose very etymology reveals its sexism. Simply by virtue of the fact that she is a woman, she is at the mercy of their decisions. A victim. The two nuns waiting to catch Blanche as she collapses are mere voiceless spectators. The men in this image know everything, the women, nothing.
A century and a quarter later, the story behind this painting suggests nothing so much as the case of Judy Gross, the wife of the USAID contractor imprisoned in Cuba. Paternalism remains very much alive, and both The New York Times and Washington Post confirm this through their participation in the inane media campaign to pressure Pope Benedict XVI to counsel Cuba to exchange Rene González for Alan Gross. Counseling Cuba, as though it were an unruly child, not a sovereign country, is offensive enough. But it’s nothing new. The counsel that Judy Gross is receiving on the other hand, is another matter. Instead of being treated as an active subject, capable of taking her future into her own hands, Judy’s campaign to bring her husband home is being managed and reported by people who have their own, very different priorities.
Paul Berger’s revelation in The Jewish Daily Forward, that the Burson-Marsteller public relations firm is behind this silly PR campaign, was an unexpected development. For one thing, I wonder, if Berger had not broken the story, would The Washington Post ever have admitted it?
A New York Times editorial followed by a Washington Post feature story promoting a papal solution are not things that appear by accident. At first, I’d imagined it was the State Department’s doing, but naturally that kind of lobbying would have been unseemly. So this is how it really went: Hillary Clinton handed the talking points to her good friend Don Baer, who is not only the Vice-Chair of Burson-Marsteller, but was also Bill Clinton’s speechwriter. Baer got the sign-off from Mark Penn (Burson-Marsteller’s CEO and chief strategist on Hillary’s blundering 2008 campaign) and voilà, the machinery at both newspapers (and a few others) sprang to life, encouraging a González-Gross trade facilitated by the pope.
González is the first of the Cuban Five to have been released from prison after serving the maximum sentence for failure to register as a foreign agent – not, as the Post erroneously reported, for “spying.” There’s a difference. But we can dissect the Post piece another day.
González is currently on probation in Florida, while ten Russians who were caught two years ago as unregistered foreign agents are already home again in Russia, having been swiftly deported without facing trial. The same thing cost González more than thirteen years of his life. Obviously being caught as an unregistered foreign agent in Miami means something totally different from being caught for the same thing in New Jersey. Especially if you’re Cuban.
Alan Gross, on the other hand, is the US citizen who is barely two years into his fifteen-year sentence in Cuban prison, for working to set up a clandestine internet network there, in violation of Cuban law. It wasn’t a “humanitarian” project, no matter how hard Burson-Marsteller insists. That was the cover. Cuban Jews already had internet access.
Offering a virtually free man in exchange for an imprisoned one works pretty well as a stalling tactic, evidently, but it’s not a negotiating strategy. As the long-time Cuba observer Walter Lippmann correctly points out, “Israel traded a thousand Palestinians for one Israeli soldier. Washington traded ten Russians caught here for four Russians caught there spying for the United States. Why can’t Washington trade five Cubans for one US citizen?” No reason, I imagine, except for the fact that Hillary Clinton has been calling the shots.
Berger reported that Judy Gross’s criticism of Obama and US policy toward Cuba was part of a new approach that “coincides” with Burson-Marsteller’s involvement. Perhaps in timing only. I’m quite sure that the talking points Don Baer handed her did not include that. Even if it were part of some bizarre contrarian strategy, how far could such criticism go when Baer is channeling Clinton, who still works for Obama, until she quits to run against Jeb in 2016?
I have no inside information but I’m willing to bet that Judy’s well-founded criticism of Obama was a case of the client escaping the Burson-Marsteller corral and speaking her mind. Well, it happens.
Oddly enough, I think it reveals a tiny point of light at the end of the tunnel. Clinton, Penn, Baer, and Burson-Marsteller are producing a miserable script for the Gross family: as tragic victims and wrongly persecuted Jewish do-gooders dependent on a miracle from a Catholic pope. This campaign is nothing more than a way of stalling for time, blowing smoke up the Gross’s backside until Obama’s election is out of the way. To the extent that Judy Gross becomes impatient with the official script, and lets her real frustration show, she’s one step nearer the exit. The pope as her last hope? Really? I certainly hope not. There are other options.
Playing nice and waiting for Obama and Clinton to run out the clock for their own electoral desires should not be one of them, however. Media pressure on the US Government combined with some adept social media work and clever alliances, on the other hand, could actually accomplish something, but it almost goes without saying that any PR firm taking dictation from Hillary Clinton has no incentive to provide this.

Alan and Judy GrossIn fact, as long as Burson-Marsteller is running the show, the two sides will continue to talk past one another. Closing the gap that separates Alan Gross’s friends and family from the friends and family, indeed, the millions in the international community, who want to see the same for the Cuban Five is one way – possibly the only way – to move closer to a solution. And as it happens, an opportunity is approaching.
With miraculous timing, the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 has scheduled several days of activities in Washington in a few weeks (April 17-21), complete with an all-star list of guests. It would be tragic if at least a few people from the Gross camp didn’t escape their Burson-Marsteller minders to see what that’s all about.
Stephen Kimber is one of the stars on the agenda. Kimber kindly provided me with an advance copy of his soon-to-be published book, “What Lies Across the Water” and it’s magnificent – meticulously researched, honest and impartial. For anyone who wants to understand exactly what the Cuban Five were doing in Miami, and the subsequent tragedy of their unjust convictions and incarceration, it is the definitive source. Not to mention, a compelling read. I wish it had been published ten years ago. If there’s one book the Grosses and those who truly care about finding a solution for their dilemma need to read, it’s this one.
And…Cindy Sheehan is coming! What a gift! Honestly, if Judy Gross doesn’t go just to talk to Cindy, who wrote the book on how to pressure a president, I’ll have to conclude that Burson-Marsteller is holding her hostage to prevent it.
Finally, there’ll be a picket/rally in front of the White House. Let me just suggest that if the Gross camp were to take the opportunity to join with the Cuban Five camp at this rally, it would be a normal PR executive’s dream come true. The press would find it irresistible. It would be a sign of real movement, and it sells itself. Naturally, for all those reasons, the Clinton-Baer-Penn-Burson-Marsteller crew will say no.
All the more reason for Judy Gross to toss the Blanche Wittman role on the rubbish heap, and do it.

Machetera and Manuel Talens are members of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity. This article and translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

THE HAVANA REPORTER special edition 2012 NR6

March 28, 2012,


Strategy in Upgrading Cuban Economic Model Highlighted

March 28, 2012

The upgrade of the Cuban economic model has a strategic and permanent character, centered in the fostering of productive forces, said Cuban official Marino Murillo, Cuban Ministers Council vice-president Tuesday.

“We should focus ourselves in the problems affecting the real economy and create the conditions for the permanent development of our productive forces, at the same time that we give the agricultural sector a priority, since agriculture is key to substitute imports in the sphere of foods,” the Cuban official specified.

During a conference with the accredited press for the visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the island, in which he will remain until Wednesday, Murillo said that the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and the Revolution will empower the development of the generating sectors for more revenues.

“In that way,” he pointed out, “areas like tourism, the nickel industry, biotechnology and medications, as well as all those freely contributing to the obtaining of convertible foreign currencies to the country, are prioritized.”

“The transformations promote new forms of property including non-state formulas, and administration mechanisms implying a bigger efficiency of the economy,” he also said.

Murillo, also president of the Permanent Commission of Implementation and Development of the Guidelines approved by the 6th Congress of the PCC, pointed that the guidelines approved in April 2011 counted on the consultation and approval of the masses.

“As much the Congress as the PCC Conference held in January 2012 represent two complementary moments, because while in the first one, it was focused in the economic aspect, the second was centered on the functioning operations of the organization,” he commented.

He ratified that under the proposed economic pattern, no Cuban citizen will be out of the adequate protection, although he emphasized that the objective is not igualitarism, but the equality of conditions and possibilities for all the people.

Also, Murillo remembered that the Guidelines recognize to the state socialist company as the main form of fundamental property, and therefore, it constitutes a challenge to make the operation of those entities efficient.

The approved guidelines are 313 in total, and they are concepts expressing the popular will, contained in the politics of the PCC, the State and the Government of the Republic to upgrade the economic pattern of the island.

The commission presided by Murillo is authorized to propose new guidelines, even the modification of the existing ones, a dynamics that in his opinion, reflects that the upgrade is permanent.

– prensalatina

Difficult times for humanity

March 28, 2012

THE world is increasingly misinformed amidst the chaos of events unfolding at pace never before imagined.

Those of us who have lived a few more years and are avidly interested in information can testify to the extent of ignorance with which we confront events.

While a growing number of people on the planet lack shelter, bread, water, health, education and employment, the Earth’s wealth is being misspent and wasted on weapons and interminable fratricidal wars, an abominable, ever-expanding global practice – increasingly highly developed.

Our glorious, heroic people, despite the inhumane blockade which has lasted more than half a century, have never lowered their banners; they have struggled and will struggle against the sinister empire. This is to our credit and our modest contribution.

On the other side of our planet, where Seoul, the capital of South Korea, in located, President Barack Obama is attending a Summit addressing nuclear security, to impose policies related to the regulation and use of nuclear weapons.

What is being done there is clearly unfathomable.

Personally, I did not become aware of these realities simply by accident. The experiences I lived through during the 15 years after the triumph of the Revolution – the battle of Girón, the criminal yankee blockade to defeat us through hunger, pirate attacks, the dirty attacks and the nuclear missile crisis of October, 1962 – putting the world on the edge of catastrophic disaster – which led me to the conclusion that Marxists and genuine Christians, many of whom I had known, regardless of their political and religious beliefs, should, and could, struggle for justice and peace among human beings.

This is what I have said, and what I maintain, with no vacillation whatsoever. The reasons I can cite today are absolutely valid and even more important, since all of the events which have taken place over the last 40 years confirm them, today with more justification than ever, since – among Marxists and Christians, Catholic or not; Muslims, Shiite or Sunni; free thinkers, dialectical materialists and thinking people – no one would be in favor of witnessing the premature disappearance of our irreplaceable species, waiting for the complex laws of evolution to produce another one which would resemble ours and be capable of thinking.

With great pleasure I will tomorrow, Wednesday, greet His Excellency Pope Benedict XVI, as I greeted John Paul II, a man who invariably engendered feelings of affection when he came in contact with children and humble citizens among the people.

I therefore decided to request a few minutes within his busy schedule when I heard from our Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez that he would appreciate this simple, modest contact.


Fidel Castro Ruz

March 27, 2012

WHO Deputy Director-General: Cuba Has a Lot to Teach

March 27, 2012

Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that Cuba has a lot to teach, and praised the high health levels of its population and what it does for the rest of the world.

Asamoa-Baah toured several science institutions around Havana city today and told ACN news he was impressed by how well designed the Cuban health system was, with several attention levels, from primary through tertiary.

At the same time he praised Cuba´s aid to other countries, including the training of professionals from them, “which has helped raised health indicators”

This is the first visit to Cuba of this high ranking WHO official, who acknowledged the development of its health system and the totally free access to it by the population, even to high-end technology.

He highlighted the high qualifications of the medical and nurse personnel and their devotion to the profession, and the efforts Cuba undertakes to eradicate infection diseases, and to prevent their re-emergence.

“I am from Africa and that impresses me much” he said.

WHO Regional Director for Africa Luís Sambo and his counterpart for the West Pacific region Shin Young-soo accompanied Asamoa-Baah in his tour.

They are part of a WHO delegation, headed by its General Director Margaret Chan that for the first time will gather in Cuba as a part of a programme that includes an internal meeting of the WHO global policies group.

Miss Chan will deliver a keynote speech at the ending day of the Cuban Gerontology and Geriatrics National Congress.


USAID recognizes the “secret” and illegal character of its operations in Cuba

March 27, 2012

March 26, 2012

Google translation. Revised by Walter Lippmann.

– The U.S. Agency called for International Development (USAID) reported to be a facade over the intelligence apparatus of the United States, just denied a renowned researcher, access to documents relating to its operations in Cuba, as “secrets”.

USAID refused to disclose key details of the activities of Freedom House in Cuba from January 2000 to December 2007, claimed by journalist Tracey Eaton, editor of the website Along the Malecon. The documents were requested under the federal access to information law, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In its message to Eaton, the controversial agency cites the FOIA exemption that covers not only “trade secrets and commercial or financial information” that is “privileged or confidential” but any secret related to intelligence operations, clandestine and obviously illegal.

“The exemption is vague enough to protect most information from public view,” says Eaton on his website.


USAID in 1999 signed a contract with Freedom House, with 11 additional agreements, which mentions the work programs of the organization in Cuba. The document mentions “foreign partners” and the “foreign partners” are not identified.

The agency, known for engaging in destabilization of the screen behind the development, implicitly recognized in 2008 the secret, illegal spying and for his activities in Cuba.

On 14 May this year, Jose “Pepe” Cárdenas, Cuban leader then head for Latin America at USAID, presented at a meeting convened in Washington, how it would distribute $45 million assigned to subversion in Cuba via the I call “institutions experienced”

He said he would promote the clandestine dispatch of electronic materials to the island via European and Latin American intermediaries who would perform operations that can not legally develop, that would encourage travel agents in the country, using so-called humanitarian licenses to conduct “assessments on the ground “.


Above these proposals which called for tenders, Cardenas said the agency would ensure absolute secrecy for their employees, their activities would never be disclosed, “even over FOIA” access to information.

Guarantees are made by Cardenas on behalf of the agency led, among other things, the award of a lucrative contract to the firm “Development Alternatives Inc.” (DAI) whose subcontractor, Alan Gross, was later arrested and convicted for his activities . USAID has now refused to give Tracey Eaton copies of the proposals presented in this case.

In previously published texts USAID refers to development in Cuba of a “deployment capability to include the possibility of establishing an office space, telecommunications, transportation arrangements, identification and recruitment of local staff and local shopping” other actions. ”

Parallel to these dirty USAID activities, another federal agency, the Bureau of Broadcast Governors (BBG for its acronym in English), recently hired the Israeli firm with RRSat Global Communications satellite mission watering TVs Cubans with U.S. propaganda programs.

Similarly, a contract to bomb thousands of Cuban cell, selected from an undetermined source for BBG itself with propaganda messages attributed to Washington Software, a firm “Asian property.”

U.S. invests billions of dollars annually in operations supposedly “humanitarian” in Latin America and the Caribbean for the call Agency for International Development (USAID).

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