Archive for May 12th, 2013

Cubans march against homophobia in Havana

May 12, 2013

_1-DSC00618-580x435 ( Mariela is also fighting to free the five, 4 to go)

Hundreds of Cubans have staged a protest against homophobia and for gay rights, in the capital, Havana,
The march was led along Havana’s central streets by Cuban gay rights campaigner Mariela Castro.
Ms Castro is the head of Cuba’s National Sexual Education Centre – an organiser of the march – and daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro.
Before Raul Castro came to power in 2008, no gay rights marches had been allowed in Cuba.
‘More inclusive’
Forming a long line and dancing the conga, the marchers wound their way through Havana. Many were carrying rainbow banners and chanting “Homophobia, no! Socialism, yes!”.
One marcher, 29-year-old Jesus Rios, told the Associated Press news agency that Cuba “had made great progress over the past years”.
“I’ve noticed it with my father, who has accepted me step by step, and now also with the neighbours and colleagues. I feel more included,” he said.
Mr Rios credited Mariela Castro and the work of the National Sexual Education Centre for that change in what he referred to as Cuba’s “macho culture”.
Ms Castro said she was optimistic that Cuba would eventually legalise gay marriage, but that the hardest part would be overcoming prejudice.
In the 1960s and 70s, gay men and lesbians in Cuba were fired, imprisoned or sent to “re-education camps”.
Ms Castro’s uncle, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has claimed responsibility for the persecution suffered by homosexuals on the island after the revolution of 1959.
In a 2010 interview he said they had traditionally been discriminated in Cuba, just as black people and women.
There has been a growing acceptance of homosexuality in Latin America, with Uruguay last month becoming the second country after Argentina to legalise gay marriage.


Sister Assata: This Is What American History Looks Like

May 12, 2013

_1-assatashakur-tumblr_mage9hfBRR1r6m2leo1_500 (Assata Shakur)

Copyright©2013 by Alice Walker

I don’t know why, given where we are with dronefare, but I didn’t expect the man making the announcement about Assata Shakur being the first woman “terrorist” to appear on the FBI’s most wanted list to be black. That was a blow. I was reminded of the world of “trackers” we sometimes get glimpses of in history books and old movies on TV. In Australia the tracker who hunts down other aboriginals who have, because of the rape and murder, genocide and enslavement of the indigenous (aboriginal) people, run away into the outback. He shows up again in cowboy and Indian films: jogging along in the hot sun, way ahead of the white men on horseback, bending on his knees to get a better look at a bruised leaf or a bent twig, while they curse and spit and complain about how long he’s taking to come up with a clue. And then there were the “trackers” who helped the pattyrollers during our four hundred years of enslavement. When pattyrollers (or patrols) caught run-away slaves in those days they frequently beat them to death. I’ve often thought of the black men whose expertise at tracking fugitives helped bring these terrors, humiliations and deaths about. When I was younger I would have been in a rage against them; not understanding the reality of invisible coercion, and mind and spirit control, that I do now. Today, only a few years older than Assata Shakur, and marveling at the unenviable state of humanity’s character worldwide, I find I can only pray for all of us. That we should be sinking even below the abysmal standard early “trackers” have set for us: that the US government can now offer two million dollars for the capture of a very small, not young, black woman who was brutally abused, even shot, over three decades ago, as if we don’t need that money to buy people food, clothes, medicine, and decent places to live.

What is most distressing about the times we live in, in my view, is our ever accelerating tolerance for cruelty. Prisoners held indefinitely in orange suits, hooded, chained and on their knees. Like the hunger strikers of Guantanamo, I would certainly prefer death to this. People shot and bombed from planes they never see until it is too late to get up from the table or place the baby under the bed. Poor people terrorized daily, driven insane really, from fear. People on the streets with no food and no place to sleep. People under bridges everywhere you go, holding out their desperate signs: a recent one held by a very young man, perhaps a veteran, under my local bridge: I Want To Live. But nothing seems as cruel to me as this: that our big, muscular, macho country would go after so tiny a woman as Assata who is given sanctuary in a country smaller than many of our states.

The first time I met Assata Shakur we talked for a long time. We were in Havana, where I had gone with a delegation to offer humanitarian aid during Cuba’s “special period” of hunger and despair, and I’d wanted to hear her side of the story from her. She described the incident with the New Jersey Highway Patrol, and assured me she was shot up so badly that even if she’d wanted to, she would not have been able to fire a gun. Though shot in the back (with her arms raised), she managed to live through two years of solitary confinement, in a men’s prison, chained to her bed. Then, in what must surely have been a miraculous coming together of people of courageous compassion, she was helped to escape and to find refuge in Cuba. One of the people who helped Assata escape, a white radical named Marilyn Buck, was kept in prison for thirty years and released only one month before her death from uterine cancer. She was a poet, and I have been reading her book, Inside/Out, Selected Poems, which a friend gave me just last week. There is also a remarkable video of her, shot in prison, that I highly recommend.

This is what solidarity can look like.

The second time I saw Assata, years later, I was in Havana for the Havana Book Fair. Cuba has a very high literacy rate, thanks to the Cuban revolution, and my novel, Meridian, had recently been translated and published there. However, this time we did not talk about the past. We talked about meditation. Seeing her interest, and that of Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly, and others, I decided to offer a class. There under a large tree off a quiet street in Havana, I demonstrated my own practice of meditation to some of the most attentive students I have ever encountered. The mantra: Breathing in: “In,” breathing out: “Peace.”

I believe Assata Shakur to be a good and decent, a kind and compassionate person. True revolutionaries often are. Physically she is beautiful, and her spirit is also. She appears to hold the respect, love and friendship of all the people who surround her. Like Marilyn Buck they have risked much for her freedom, and appear to believe her version of the story as I do.

That she did not wish to live as an imprisoned creature and a slave is understood.

What to do? Since we are not, in fact, helpless. Nor are we ever alone.

I call on the Ancestors
by whose blood
and DNA
we exist
to accompany us
as always
through this lengthening
And to bear witness
within us
to all that we are

Print out Alice Walker’s
essay as a leaflet here:

One-sided – small print,

Two-sided – large print,

“From the Pyrenees” – Mr. Obama, Free the Cuban Five!

May 12, 2013

!-breaking silence-cinco-cuba-silencio

May 1, 2013
President Obama
White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington DC 20500

Mr. President,

For more than 14 years your country has kept the Five Cubans Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino, and René González in prison.

You know very well Mr. President that these Five patriots are perfectly innocent and the trick in convicting them was to charge them of “conspiracy to” [do something]. That does not require any evidence. Like the proverb says – “Anyone wanting to kill his dog accuses him of rabies!”

We focus attention this month on the charge of “conspiracy to spy.” Specialists in various areas of U.S. intelligence like Col. George Bücker, Admiral Eugene Carroll, and Generals Charles Wilhelm and Edward Atkeson, said that these Five Cubans had no access to any information of a strategic nature, either at close range or from far away. No document containing state secrets was ever in their hands! Those Five men nevertheless received very severe sentence for just having the idea of spying.

Nevertheless, true spies apprehended with important documents receive only relatively light sentences. Some are just released under bail. Here are three examples – and there are others – who were processed during the presidency of your predecessor

To begin: there is the incredible case of Leandro Aragoncillo, a former U.S. marine, detained on October 5, 2005 in New Jersey. He had in his possession the little trifle of 733 secret documents from the White House, from the Pentagon, and from the Defense Department. He was spying on them all, while working first for Al Gore and then for Dick Cheney. He was sentenced to ten years in prison.

One of the most spectacular cases is that of agent Donald W. Keyser of the Central Intelligence Agency, who on December 12, 2005 confessed to Judge T. S. Ellis in Washington that he had stolen 28 documents classified “top secret.” 1976 documents classified “secret,” and 1655 documents classified as “confidential.” These documents had been handed over to Isabelle Cheng of the Taiwanese intelligence service.

Keyser remained free on $500,000 bail. He was electronically monitored. On January 22, 2007 he was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and a fine of $25,000. Without being accused of spying or conspiracy to spy! In the year 2000 he had already stolen the portable computer of Secretary of State Madeline Albright, which didn’t keep him from being appointed to the office of the Director General of the Foreign Service. (Keyser’s association with the CIA is not clear, despite such a claim by Cuba’s Granma newspaper in 2007. Keyser’s wife was a long time CIA agent.)

I will finish: with the example of Lawrence A. Franklin, a colleague of Donald Rumsfeld, who spied for Israel for many years. He delivered an impressive quantity of Pentagon information about Iran to Israeli agents Steve Rosen, Keith Weismann, and Naor Gilon. The first two agents had as protection their jobs with the “American Israel Political Affairs Committee,” the biggest Israeli lobby in Washington. The third was political councilor of the Israeli Embassy in Washington (He is presently Israel’s ambassador to Italy). Laurence A. Franklin was sentenced to a year in jail before being released on bail. (He actually received a sentence of 10 months of house arrest followed by 100 hours of community service.)

As you can see, Mr. President, the Five Cubans are not spies. They are a children’s choir compared with big league espionage hitters. Their mission was to infiltrate Mafia groups in Miami, which is hardly the same. The Five permitted delivery to the FBI on June of 1998 of a considerable number of documents by which several [terrorist] attacks were avoided.

Ramón Labañino and Gerardo Hernández have had to endure the grief of losing their mothers during their incarceration. René González who has been free on probation in the United States since 2011 even though he finished his sentence satisfactorily, can’t return to Cuba until 2014. In 2012 he lost his brother Roberto. He has just lost his father and was unable to be present to comfort him at the end of his life. (On May 3 Rene, while in Cuba to attend memorial services for his father, learned that he may remain there.)

Since their arrest in September, 1998, hopes of Gerardo Hernández, Fernando González, and their wives of being able to have children are waning every day. Your country continues to deny a visa for entry into the United States to allow the wives of Gerardo Hernández and René González [to visit them]. That’s an inhuman situation for those two couples.

Often persecution, especially against Gerardo Hernández who still remains in a high security prison, is added to these injustices. For example, on April 7 the actor Danny Glover went to his prison in California to visit him. Sadly, he had to return without seeing him. The visit was denied even though Danny Glover is one of the people authorized to visit Gerardo Hernández.

As you can see Mr. President, your administration carries out real ferocity against these Five patriots, and purposively so. We really do demand on your part a return to the worthy values of the Nobel Prize you received. You have the possibility of putting an end to so much injustice against the Five. You must act speedily!

Mr. President, please accept this most sincere expression of my humanistic feelings.

(signed) Jacqueline Roussie *

64360 Monein, France Copies to Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Kathryn Ruemmler, Janet Napolitano, Joe Biden, John F. Kerry, Denis Macdonough, Harry Reid, Eric Holder, Pete Rouse, Rick Scott, and U. S. Ambassador in France Charles Rifkin.

Source: Translated by W. T. Whitney Jr.

(N.B. Ms. Roussie points out that at least one of these real spies entered into a plea bargain with U.S. government prosecutors. That the Cuban Five, true to the purpose of their U. S. mission, refused such deals testifies to their heroism. W.Lippmann)

* (Ms. Roussie, a retired professor living in Southern France, has written President Obama on behalf of the Five every month for several years. She is a member of the [French] Committee for the Freedom of the Five.)

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