Archive for April, 2014

Amnesty International accuses the US Government of ‘Stacking the case’ against the Cuban Five

April 28, 2014

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New report published today by Voices for the Five

In a newly published report Amnesty International (AI), the worldwide human rights organisation, has accused the US Government of ‘stacking’ the case against the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five are five Cuban men arrested in Miami in 1998 while attempting to stop terrorist attacks against the Cuban people.

The AI report spotlights a series of direct US Government interventions in the build up and during the trial of the Five, thus ensuring a successful prosecution, but at the same time making a fair trial impossible.
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Angela Wright, Amnesty International Secretariat, said

“The new evidence that has emerged since the trial – of journalists being paid to plant prejudicial stories against the accused during the trial – also raises concern about equality of arms in that the government, unknown to the defendants, were stacking the case in the media – and also as we have seen very possibly in the court-room itself – in the prosecution’s favour.”

The full report is published today by Voices for the Five, an international coalition of campaigners, solidarity groups, legal professionals, human rights organisations, politicians, trade unions and international personalities, fighting for freedom and justice for the Cuban Five.

http://www.voicesforthefive.com/downloads/AI-Cuban-5-Presentation-International-Commission-April-2014.pdf,

Rob Miller, Director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign said

“The payment of journalists to write stories affecting the case, the obstructions on the Five to obtain legal counsel and the fact that procedural and other rights were not afforded to both the defence and prosecution in equal measure, show that the US Government was busy orchestrating a series of actions designed to affect the trial process. In the view of Amnesty International this clearly shows that the Five had little prospect of receiving any justice and little chance of a ‘fair trial’.”

The right to a fair trial is a fundamental principle under international law which makes clear that a trial must not only be fair but must be seen to be fair. It is guaranteed under Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 14 of the ICCPR, a key human rights treaty to which the United States itself is a signatory.

Amnesty International gave the formal presentation of the report to the London International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five in March 2014 alongside presentations from almost 20 witnesses including lawyers, academics and Cuban Five family members.

Over 6000 people and organisations from more than 70 countries have already added their messages of support to Voices for the Five including over 200 personalities from across the globe including actors Emma Thompson and Martin Sheen, writers John Le Carre, Fernando Morais and Gunther Grass as well as politicians, academics and religious leaders.

Notes for editors:

1 The full Amnesty International report is published here http://www.voicesforthefive.com/downloads/AI-Cuban-5-Presentation-International-Commission-April-2014.pdf,

2 The Cuban Five are Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero and René González – five Cuban men arrested in Miami in 1998 while attempting to stop terrorist attacks against the Cuban people. They were arrested in Miami in September 1998, where they were illegally held in solitary confinement for 17 months and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage. An unfair trial resulted in terms of between 15 years and double life. More information http://www.voicesforthefive.com/cuban-five/,

3 Voices for the Five is the campaigning website of an international coalition of campaigners, solidarity groups, legal professionals, human rights organisations, politicians, trade unions and international personalities, fighting for freedom and justice for the Cuban Five (or Miami Five as they are known in Britain). http://www.voicesforthefive.com/,

4 A full list of personalities endorsing Voices for the Five can be seen at http://www.voicesforthefive.com/endorsers/,

May-letter for Mr Obama

April 27, 2014

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Mr President Obama
 May first, 2014
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington DC 20500
USA

Mr President,

Last March 20th, the ex-president of Portugal, Mario Soares, asked you to liberate the Cubans Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, and the next day it was José Mujica, the president of Uruguay’s turn to suggest the same thing, after he’d accepted to receive five prisoners from Guantanamo in his country.
Yogesh Kumar Sabharwal, former president of the Indian Supreme Court, Zakeria Mohammed Yacoob, former judge of the South African Constitutional Court and Philippe Texier, honorary consul of the French Court of Appeal, following the March 7th and 8th investigation committee in the “law society” of London, had asked you also to please grant a pardon to the Cuban Five – René González, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, the last three being still imprisoned in your country.
Mr. President, you have still not responded to the demand of all these personalities, or to so many others in the world.
The Cuban Five will not be able to be present on May 8th at San Francisco, to receive the Human Rights Prize from the NGO Global Exchange that was awarded to them this year by a selection of their members.
Cuba has never organized, financed or carried out any terrorist attacks against any other country, however, it has always signed every international treaty against terrorism and has manifested its willingness to cooperate in this domain with all States, including the United States.
The Cuban Five were secret agents sent to Florida to thwart terrorist attacks organized in the United States against their country. Your country should show some consideration towards these Cuban agents struggling against terrorism. It could, for example, remember that it was their efforts, during the summer of 1984, which permitted Ronald was preparing an attack against the president, it informed United States authorities by the intermediary of Robert C Muller, the chief of security for the United States mission before the United Nations. The information was complete, with the names of the plotters, the type of arms, where they were hidden and the date and place where the crime was to be committed.
Mister President, how much more time are you going to keep these innocent men in prison? 60 years ago, the Senate voted to censure the policies of McCarthy…
December 3rd 2013, 66 democratic, republican and independent senators, called for you to accord a humanitarian priority to the liberation of Mr. Alan Gross and act expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest to obtain Gross’ release. The Chief Executive Officer of United States Foreign Relations for Cuba, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, declared at the time (Fernando Gonzales had not yet been liberated): “The Cuban government reiterates its disposition to immediately establish a dialogue with the United States government so as to find a solution the Gross affair on mutual bases that take into count Cuba’s humanitarian preoccupations concerning the four national antiterrorist combatants incarcerated in the United States.
On April 8th, Alan Gross felt abandoned when the scandal of the  ZunZuneo social network broke out, began a hunger strike that lasted one week. The Cuban Government has immediately reiterated its proposal for dialogue with your Government for a humanitarian exchange with the three Cubans that remain prisoners.
Hoping that you have the heart to respond rapidly to the multiple expectations concerning this painful question for which you have the key, please receive, Mister President, the expression of my most sincere humanitarian sentiments.

Jacqueline Roussie
64360 Monein (France)

Translated by William Peterson

Copies sent to: Mrs. Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Kathryn Ruemmler, Janet Napolitano, to Mr. Joe Biden, John F. Kerry, Harry Reid, Eric Holder, Pete Rouse, Rick Scott and to Charles Rivkin, ambassador for the United States in France.

Convergence of the United States and its allies across the Atlantic regarding Cuba

April 24, 2014

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By: Rayner Pellón Azopardo

Regarding policies of confrontations by the U.S. and E.U. against Cuba; needless to say: history has demonstrated its failure.
Source: Rebelión

In the Dialogue link, dialogue promoted by the Hermanos Saiz Association (AHS) called for a debate – among young persons and academicians of recognized prestige – regarding the new elements of the imperial policy towards Cuba. The subject: What changes in the current policy of the United States as regards Cuba? that are promoted and carried out in not few cases, through the White House’s most faithful allies.

When strategic alliances are referred to on a global level, we need to refer to the transatlantic alliance, specifically the role of the European Union (EU) with its twenty eight member States and twenty members of NATO and its foreign projection. It assumes the fundamental role of “useful partner” in the division of work that ends up strengthening U.S. hegemony.

As a result, the relationship between the E.U. and Cuba has been burdened by the link between both actors and the United States to such an extent of demonstrating how a bilateral relationship becomes triangular. Regarding the scarce relevance of the Island in the pyramid of foreign priorities of the E.U. favored, generally, the quality of a communal link with the United States. Meanwhile the political and ideological order, the tendencies prove the permanence of a consensus between these conservative European forces in the sharing of strategies to promote, from different sides the so called democratic “transition” in Cuba. [1]

The scarce political cohesion of the E.U. particularly as regards to the Foreign Policy and Common security (PESC) and the open bias pro U.S. in several member states. Also joined are factors that limit the possibilities of the E.U. to promote an independent policy towards Cuba in accordance to the intents of Washington.

Known are the aggressions from the E.U. against Cuba that have been designed by the U.S. State Department. Undoubtedly the largest transcendence is the Common Position based on a “catalog of measures” presented by the special envoy of the United States, Stuart Eisenstadt in September of 1996 and later promoted by Spain in the E.U. Consensus. [2] The person responsible for proposing these measure of Washington in the E.U. Council was José María Aznar, whose ties with the terrorist organizations in Miami is notorious.

The Common Position left expressed the terms of a conditioning a purely political and marked character of interference, as a preamble and platform of later media campaigns and sanctions approved by the E.U. against Cuba in 2003. [3]

Its objective has been to undermine the pillars of the Cuban political system and promote a change of regime in the island. The document makes explicit reference to the purpose of “favoring a process of transition towards a plural democracy and (…) progressively and irreversible opening up of the Cuban economy”. In other words and reading the habitual intolerance demonstrated by the Western powers towards alternative models; the goal used to promote a transition towards a capitalist model in Cuba. [4]

The mentioned desire converged with the pretensions of all U.S. administrations since January of 1959 by the White House when the Cuban people regained their dignity by being independent and the possibility of leading their socio political and economic future of the nation.

Referring to the objective of the Common Position and the context in which it was approved, it is easy to see that this policy became complementary and subordinated to the illegal and illegitimate siege of the United States against the Island. The understanding of the European Union with the United States regarding the Helms-Burton Law (HBL) in April of 1997 constituted tactical proof of the convergence of these actors and support of the E.U. of the policy of subversion directed by the U.S. against Cuba.

According to the El País newspaper on November 13 of 1996 and later confirmed five months after, the U.S. special envoy Stuart Eisenstadt promised the countries of the community that support of the U.S. policy of Washington would “grant” successive partners 6 month deferment in the application of the HBL. Eisenstadt referred to the application of Title III of this law. [6]

With both policies, the Helms-Burton Law and Common Position of the E.U. it was intended to ignore that there is a legitimate democratic political system in Cuba, chosen freely and with sovereignty by its people. Therefore any attempt to promote reforms of its model from abroad is illegal and inadmissible to the Cuban society. The history of the Revolution has demonstrated that the sovereignty of Cuba is not on the table of negotiations regardless of the power of the counterpart and how beneficial an agreement could result in the economic field.

Consequently the adoption of the Common Position led to a continued deterioration of bilateral relations with Cuba in moments of sharp tensions. One of these periods of maximum tension occurred in 2003 when the measures of the Common Position were strengthened. Factors such as the ascension to president of George W. Bush (2000) and the acceptance of ten new member states of Eastern Europe (2004) contributed to a strained scenario.

The answer of Cuba was immediate. The suspension of cooperation with the E.U. and its member States and the freezing out of diplomats of the governments of the E.U. that added to the policy of invitations to the so called dissidents was a clear sign of the error committed. The policies of pressure have never been a fruitful road for the western pretension to increase its influence in Cuba. The resistance of the Cuban people after 50 years of an economic, financial and commercial blockade applied by the U.S. is proof.

Nonetheless there was a constant between the tendencies and principles shared by the U.S. and the E.U, the intent to extrapolate to all the nations of the planet the economic and socio political model prevailing in the capitalist countries as the only democratic road for development that disallows the criteria, culture and specificities of the underdeveloped nations. From this position, western ideologies and political criteria such as the free market, the multi party system, freedom of the press (this implies the privatization of the mass media) and from the discourse, the defense of human rights, the support of governments that practice a state of rights.

At the same time there was an attempt to homogenize cultural concepts and systems of values, since these are necessary for completing the process of world government. [7]

Also important levels of consensus are observed in their respective policies of national, regional and world security as well as actions to achieve a political ambiance and security favorable for their necessary internationalization of their capitals and economic activities sharing the belief in the legitimacy of their right to intervene, attack or sanction governments or nations that oppose their interests.

To question, weaken or destroy national governments preparing to build alternative models of development or those that simply are not considered functional for the globalizing purposes have also been a common objective of the U.S. and the E.U. in the international scenario. The application of political or military measures, the promotion of internal subversion and mass media campaigns aimed at delegitimizing political system are some of the instruments used among a widespread arsenal in which these actors cooperate.

The promotion of the U.S. and its allies of the notion of good government have answered to the interest of interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries. The fulfillment of their demands transforms into the requirement to help access of flows of external aid, of being eligible for bank loans and not obtain bad qualifications as possible destinations of foreign investments, commercial advantages or simply achieve the signing of agreements and other benefits.

Regarding Cuba specifically the E.U. has intended to legitimize and has managed to contribute funds to an opposition the U.S. has built and financed in Cuba. This so called dissidence has demonstrated that it is missing the most elemental national values and, on the contrary, has been characterized by its submissiveness and willingness in favor of imperial interests in the Island. These features typify them as agents in the service of a foreign power that is a serious violation of the penal code in Cuba but also U.S. and European laws.

Probably the most visible example of financial contributions of the E.U. is the Sajarov Prize awarded by the European Parliament (EP), with an aid package of 50 000 Euros. Since 2002 to date this institution has rewarded three times representatives of the alleged opposition in Cuba. When it decides to award the counterrevolution in Cuba at the expense of all persons who truly risk their lives in the world to defend the cause of human rights and freedoms, the ideological part of these prizes are much more visible than its official goal: “the defense of human rights”. [8] The resolutions of condemnation issued by the EP have been another instrument that has supported “the U.S. intent” referring to Cuba. In 2004, 2006, 2007and 2010; the EP issued resolutions of condemnation regarding the “situation of human Rights in Cuba”. [9] In this point it is important to note the result of a double standard projection, the resolutions of the EP has contributed to stigmatize the countries that don’t follow its cannon of democracy, demonstrated its intolerance of alternate models. The correlation of internal forces of this institution also explains their projection regarding Cuba and other progressive governments of Latin America. Suffice it to note that the sum of the seats of the popular, conservatives and liberals is enough to achieve an absolute majority (55% of the congresspersons). Another factor to consider about these resolutions is the condemnation issued by the EP that they do not necessarily represent European society.

A review of popular participation in parliamentary elections of the E.U. reports that since 1999 less that 50% of the persons go to vote. Considering these factors it is obvious to ask one question. With what moral support does the European Parliament count on to dictate democratic recipes to a government that is supported by the immense majority of its population?

The disrepute of the “opposition” in Cuba is well known and although publicly the U.S. and E.U appear as uninterested defenders of their rights it is interesting to reveal the true criteria regarding these mercenaries who, in spite of the political, economic, and media resources dictated to them lack all popular support. As revealed in a confidential memorandum sent through SINA (the United States Interest Section in Havana) on April 15, 2008, to the State Department these are some it is evaluations [10]:

“… there is no proof to demonstrate that dominant dissidents in Cuba have any influence on the common Cubans. Informal surveys made for those requiring visas or asylum have demonstrated that they barely have knowledge of the dissident personalities or their agenda (…) despite affirmations that affirm that ‘thousands of Cubans’ have no proof of this support(…); have no influence in Cuban society and offer no alternative policy to the Cuban government.”

Other European diplomats share this view and expressed during a meeting with Jonathan D. Farrar: “In a meeting the representatives of the European Union disqualified the dissidents in the same terms as the government of Cuba, insisting on the fact that they “do not represent anyone”. [11]

The double standard of the communitarian euro policy and its convergence with the U.S. in the international scenario disavows alone the alleged objective of intending to promote democracy in Cuba and of being real defenders of human rights. The resolution adopted by the EP in March of 2010 based on the death of a common prisoner in Cuba, while it does not adopt a single resolution against the coup in Honduras (2009). This is evidence of an unequal attitude of the E.U. in face of its counterparts whose real reference are the interests of the block and not the defense of human rights or democracy.

A good beginning for the E.U. in favor of human rights would be to condemn the strategic partner for the forced disappearances, the torture, secret jails and centers of detention where the International Humanitarian Right are not honored nor the condition of human beings to hundreds of persons. The E.U. has not also adopted a common position regarding the repressive regime of Israel; the facts confirm that Israel continues to deprive the Palestinian nation with its policy of economic asphyxiation and destruction of its people, of the most elemental rights.

They do not also condemn the unjust prison of Antonio Guerrero,
Ramón Labañino and Gerardo Hernández suffering in U.S. prisons for defending their compatriots from death and terror. At the same time they are silent about the protection Washington gives to the confessed terrorist such as Posada Carriles, intellectual author of blowing up in full flight a civilian plane of Cubana de Aviación in 1976. He also supports acts of terrorism such as a series of bombs placed in Havana in 1977 that caused the death of a young Italian. There are many evidences of double standard and existing complicity between the U.S. and the E.U. in the international scenario, particularly how Washington has promoted through its allies its policy towards Cuba.

The specific mention questions Cuba in the final declarations of the Transatlantic Summits held in 2007 and 2008 are another proof. [12] From the starting point of the analysis and retaking the central theme of the last space of Dialogar, dialogar: “What changes are there of the current policy of the United States towards Cuba? It would be worthwhile to ask two questions” What is the current policy of the United States towards Cuba? Is the convergence of the U.S. and its transatlantic allies maintained?

Regarding these questions first we must note that to date the Common Position imposed from the White House to the E.U. is still in force and continues to be the main obstacle for a normal relations, mutually respectful.

Cuba is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean – one of the few in the world – not linked to the E.U. by an agreement; the only country in the region that is the focus of the Common Position that establishes conditions for future advances of cooperation in contrast to the cooperation relations the E.U. maintains with countries in which democracy and human rights are clearly deplorable.

These elements continue to demonstrate the double standard and discriminatory character of the community.
Nevertheless, the conjugation of a group of variables has contributed to a reorientation of the community policy towards Cuba and a new attitude in 2008 is observed in relations. An important role is played by the rise to power of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) in 2004 whose projection towards Cuba both in a bilateral order as in the communitarian sphere that constituted a rupture with the unconditional servility shown by Aznar towards the U.S.

In the concept of Rodríguez Zapatero his projection towards Cuba does not necessarily imply a weakening of its strategic alliance with the U.S. The goal was aimed at approaching Cuba to be in a better condition to do business of its own interests. In face of the unilateral position imposed by the Government of George W. Bush by the E.U. the PSOE proposed a new policy towards the Island opening up space for those favoring a dialogue. This position also recognized the tacit failure of confrontation led by Aznar and international strength demonstrated by Cuba.

The gradual erosion of the Bush administration, its international discredit and perspective of a change of government in Washington also created a favorable scenario so that the Council of Ministers of the E.U. in 2008, although maintaining its interference content introduced the elimination of sanctions to the offer of beginning a political dialogue with Cuba, Havana assumed this proposal for a dialogue on reciprocal basis, without conditions, not discriminatory, with full respect to the sovereign equality of the States and legal framework and institutional order of the parts such as the total attachment to the principle of non intervention in internal affairs of the States.

Since 2008 to date there have been 5 meetings of political dialogues at ministerial level. On the table are diverse subjects such as the environment and climate change, cooperation and human rights. It proves that Cuba, in equality of conditions and on the basis of mutual respect has no problem to exchange opinions on human rights even if the E.U. member states are not precisely an example in the subject [13].

This has been the proper context to renew bilateral cooperation with different member States. To the never broken relations with Belgium other countries have joined such as Spain, Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal with possibility of adding more States. This tendency of bilateral affairs clearly demonstrates the erosion of the Common Position and its difficulty in practical terms.

Official cooperation with the European Commission has flowed since 2008 after the signing of a Joint Declaration that includes respect of interests, priority and the counterparts decided by the Cuban government. It has developed as such although with modest resources, cooperation in basic sectors of food security, agriculture, environment and heritage.

In November of 2012 the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the E.U. approved a mandate to begin a project for visas in an eventual negotiation of agreement with Cuba. This fact, in itself is an important step towards normalizing relations with Cuba. However, a long and hard process is foreseen and not without attempts to block it by those actors who have a more negative position towards Cuba. History has demonstrated that the enemies of normalizing relations have used the Cuban internal policy as an alibi to subvert favorable tendencies so repeated that it does not seem casual.

However, the internal Cuban dynamism today functions as a catalyst of approximation of the European community whose presence in the Islands is perceived from the west as a more effective means to influence the changes they are interested in stimulating in Cuba [14]. In this sense, the process of updating the Cuban economic model and the application of a new migratory policy has had an important impact. For the future, the adjustments being introduced in the Law of Foreign Investment in Cuba, the putting in force the decree law about the Special Zone of Development of Mariel and the policies that have been approved in different economic sectors can also constitute an incentive for different economic actors in the E.U.

The non existence, since 2009, of declarations with negative allusions regarding Cuba in the Annual Transatlantic Summits, far from unexpected evidences there is a certain agreement between the White House and the current posture of the E.U. regarding Cuba. Although not exempt from divergence, the deepening and conversion in the international contact of the E.U. with the U.S. has been historically a constant that foresees with more or less nuances the means to achieve it; there is a coincidence of the ends of the respective policies of both actors. [15]

Recent events illustrate the permanence of the double standard in the community States in relation to Cuba and the intent of developing a policy of double track that increases relations and political and diplomatic, cultural and economic contacts bilaterally while at the same time it maintains actions to legitimize intervention and subversion in Cuba. A projection that has qualitative differences regarding U.S. interest but undoubtedly has important points of contact with the methods of “soft and smart power” promoted by Obama.

The projection of several States of the E.U. in the Periodic Universal Evaluation of the council of Human rights in the UN held in June of 2013 demonstrated the persistence to legitimize the counter revolution intending to present them as true agents of a foreign power. as defenders of Human Rights in Cuba.

They again reproduced their democratic canons as recipes that Cuba should assume and intending to place the Cuban Government in the defendants chair that evidently failed. [16]

The reception of the European Parliament and several European States in 2013, of representatives of the alleged dissidents illustrates the same guiding line. These meetingshave been opportune scenarios for the leaders of Parliament and other political figures making a show of their lack of respect for the Cuban people and repeat their old purpose of promoting a transition in Cuba. Undoubtedly these positions find a fertile reception of its strategic partner: the U.S. [17]

Referring to the positions of Cuba and based on coherent principles defended by the foreign policy, the total normalization of relations with the E.U. must necessarily occur with the end of the Common Positions and establishment of an agreement with an arrangement of mutual interests of the parts. Undoubtedly a dangerous road. [19]

On the other hand, although in the framework of a new context of E.U.-Cuban relations and with the use of differentiated instruments the convergence between the purposes of the U.S. and E.U. regarding Cuba are still evident and more visible for their shared methods in the political and ideological scenario than the economic. In this respect Obama has increased regulations of the blockade and increased sanctions against those companies and banks to evade the siege against Cuba, the member states of the E.U. are still an important economic partner for Cuba concentrating about 25% of trade, almost 50% of foreign investment plus 40% in tourism.

From Cuba there are also clear messages: positions of force like the Helms-Burton Law and Common Position are illegal, illegitimate and haven’t the slighted possibility of destroying the sovereignty of the Cuban people

Intending to isolate the Cuban government is a utopia in the current international context. Cuba has achieved its regional and world insertion without making concessions of its economic and political principles. Although in may be inadmissible for the enemies of the Revolution today the isolation of policies like the HBL and PC are more visible.

Cuba has advance considerably in its relations with trade blocks such as CARICOM and MERCOSUR; it was incorporated as full member in the Latin American Association of Integration (ALADI). It is a founder of the Association of Caribbean States, ALBA and CELAC where it occupied the pro tempore presidency in the latter association. It performs a noteworthy role in the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) that groups 18 countries of the South.

Since 1991 to date the General Assembly of the UN unequivocally condemns with a resounding majority the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba. The blockade against Cuba also has little support of the U.S. public opinion demonstrated in several surveys: CNN, Gallup Poll, Orbitz Worldwide (second Travel Agency on the Internet), BBC/Harris Interactive and others.

Cuba is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean recognized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that has eliminated infant malnutrition. Cuba has achieved a low infant mortality and high life expectancy, attention to the handicapped and levels of education only comparable and, at times higher, than countries of the first world that denies the campaign that powers conduce to legitimize interference positions.

Despite shortages and difficulties the Cuban people have shared, with no ulterior motive, what it has with other nations, contributing in solidarity with the realization of human rights of other peoples of the world.

Inside Cuba – without foreign interference and pressures – political and mass organizations are involved in perfecting its socialist model.

Aware of the need to change what should be changed but also decided to safeguard is sovereignty and social conquests. Undoubtedly the Cuban people have won and deserve the respect of the international community and even among the adversaries of the Revolution who should acknowledge the right of self determination of its political, economic and social system that is best for its people.

It should be noted by those who like to foresee the future, among the variables that today condition the U.S. and E.U. projection as well as convergences and divergences regarding Cuba more than ever supports the social, political and economic position of the Island. From the depth and success of our process of updating and strengthening the international position of Cuba also depends on future instruments executed by the western powers. Regarding policies of confrontation today carried out by the U.S. and E.U. against Cuba there is nothing more to say: history has demonstrated its failure.

Translation by the Network in Defense of Humanity

Alan Gross’ Fasting Folly

April 24, 2014

Machetera

By Max S. Cruz

Alan Gross’ fasting folly

healthshakeTwo weeks ago, Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor arrested in Cuba in 2009 for activities aimed at overthrowing the Cuban government, desperately announced that he was beginning a fast in an attempt to get the attention of US President Obama, who has basically abandoned Mr. Gross:

“I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal.”

All major news sources rushed to tell the world that a man had gone on hunger strike.

“Fast” and “hunger strike” are not interchangeable terms.

A fast implies a stopping point and allows for some nourishment of your choosing. One can go on a juice fast, for example, usually for a week or two. A…

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Berlanga: Makers of political decisions can save people from amputation.

April 23, 2014

Cuba: the investment policy, between growth and development (III)

April 22, 2014

refineria-en-cuba_1

By José Luis Rodríguez*

Among the elements that should be considered in order to design proper policy investor in current conditions, stands in what extent it contributes to a suitable structural transformation to ensure sustainable development. Adriano García – one of the most prominent Cuban specialists in the design of industrial policy-(1) stressed that the strategic sectors to achieve a structural transformation must meet a set of conditions. First, it must be in sectors that contribute to the development of the productive structure, as opposed to the enclave investments that have characterized much of the development in Cuba in sectors such as nickel and – largely – sugar. In addition, they must be sectors absorbing investment allowing you to take advantage of technologies and knowledge, ensuring its dissemination to the interior of the productive apparatus, and it should be dealt with in sectors where there is a critical mass of knowledge accumulated in the country. Also, increasingly, it’s businesses that ensure favorable environmental impacts. Finally, sectors that create jobs directly and indirectly, according to the level of qualification of more than 12 level degree of instruction that has the workforce in the country, but – on the other hand – must take the current demographic dynamics into account and the requirements of increased productivity of the work that same demand should be developed. Apply those requirements to the investor structure of the country to ensure a structural change in the short and medium terms; it is clear that not all sectors meet the terms. However, key sectors such as the agro-industrial and industry medical-pharmaceutical-biotechnology-based, they do them, together with the basic development of the energy industry on the basis of its preservation and generation from renewable sources, all of which offers a significant space to ensure investments to ensure the necessary structural changes, along with other priorities. The priority development of these strategic branches is to take into account other elements that make it possible to carry it out, particularly with regard to the final destination of the productions and infrastructure support services. In this sense, the size of the Cuban economy imposes for reproduction necessarily its linkage with the global market, which demands an export-oriented economy. This must be done obtaining a positive impact on the balance of payments of the country, which requires a policy that allows obtain external financing conditions, at the time that imports which ensure exports should be replaced. On the other hand, accelerated growth and more diversified external sales supposed to have services which are now deficient in the areas of transport, communications and specialized services to enterprises, ranging from financial services to the control of quality. In these areas it is essential – by way of example – to increase investments that ensure the lowering of the route of the railway and maritime coastal shipping transport, the streamlining of communications through increased use of ICTs, and greater efficiency in the development of designs and projects by specialized institutions that guarantee the fulfillment of investment schedules, and avoid the dispersion of the companies will try to address them with forces of their own. All the efforts that have been identified with strategy, it would have to add the need to continue to develop investments which will enable – after an analysis appropriate costs and benefits – recover part of the under-utilized industrial structure in the country to advance gradually in import substitution with destination to domestic consumption, in competitive conditions, or require ensure by its strategic nature for the security of the country. All previous analysis clearly derives the strategic role of foreign direct investment, taking into consideration that the domestic savings of the nation capacity is not sufficient for the required transformations. Cuba has thus recently given a step of utmost importance in the design of economic policy with the approval of the new law on foreign investment. An analysis of its impact in the short and medium-term result – so – very interesting to understand the environment of the major transformations the economy addresses, beyond the current situation.

*The author is an advisor of the center of research of the global economy (CIEM, Havana) 1 specialist of the National Institute of economic research (INIE) headed the Group of authors who prepared an indispensable book for studying the industrial policy in special period. See Adriano García et. Industrial policy, productive reconversion and competitiveness. The Cuban experience of the 1990s, La Habana, INIE, 2003.
– See more at: http://www.cubacontemporanea.com/en/news/cuba-investment-policy-between-growth-and-development-iii#sthash.vqz5itNV.dpuf

Cuba: the investment policy, between growth and development (II)

April 22, 2014

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By José Luis Rodríguez*

The industrial development has always been a premise to achieve structural transformations that would ensure the development of the country. However, what happened in the agricultural sector was in many aspects present in the industry, whose retreat from the 90´s was also influenced by the failure to achieve demand -technologically more complex– of greater capital intensity. Previously, and from the 70´s, the Cuban economy went through a fledgling process of industrialization in the frames of what became known as the International Socialist division of labor, which determined some peculiar characteristics. On the one hand, the integration of Cuba into frames of the CAME was essentially through the development of the sugar agro-industry, nickel and other agro primary branches, such as the citrus. Most dynamic and higher value added -such as the production of electronic components- failed an insert appropriate under these conditions, while Cuba had achieved in that area a level comparable or even superior to the other States members of that community. Similarly, biotechnology -which began to take off in the 80´s- didn’t find possibilities for development and inclusion in the final stage of the CAME, entity that disappeared in 1991. On the other hand, the manufacturing industry –destined to supply the Cuban domestic market- no available in the majority of cases of worldwide technologies, was characterized by high levels of consumption of energy and raw materials, and suffered from inflexible productive schemes, with low levels of integration to other branches of the national economy. During the special period, the industrial sector suffered a strong impact, which forced its downsizing from 1996 and a reorientation in better conditions as a basis for support to advance tourism, designed to quickly generate revenue in foreign currency to the country. That policy allowed that in the midst of a limited availability of resources be carried out significant investments in conjunction with foreign capital for production of food and beverages, as well as the light industry, which led to a strong presence in the emerging market of national productions in products like beverages, including beer and soft drinks, as well as a wide range of Soap and Perfumery products. In the case of the sugar industry, due to the lack of assurances of a diverse nature, let enter between 1992 and 1999, an estimated five billion dollars, which together with bleak prospects for prices that were kept falling non-stop for seven years, took to be considered its downsizing from 1997, but without the participation of foreign capital in this process. In the midst of a downturn that would streamline and centralize the use of currency in the country, sugar restructuring began to apply in September 2002 the operation called Álvaro Reynoso, which led to that of 155 Sugar mills; only 71 will continue manufacturing sugar and 14 producing honey, with a total capacity equivalent to 4 million tons of sugar. The land freed from cane production -which would be reduced to 38% of the then existing sugarcane area- go to other agricultural products and livestock, although new agricultural productions would remain in the structure of the Ministry of sugar (MINAZ). In general it can be said that, as a result of this performance, the industrial sector, which received in 1990 41.7% of investment, fell to 5.4 percent in 2005, and only recovered slightly to increase its participation to 9.5% in 2012. Product suffered undercapitalization; the participation of the industrial sector in GDP fell from 24.4% in 1990 to 13.7% in 2012. Due to the exit of the surplus workforce, closing inoperable facilities and a set of specific investment of higher efficiency, productivity of labor in the streamlined industrial sector, measure from the gross value-added per worker, grew by 87% from 1990 to 2012. However, that performance should be contextualized, since it came with the loss of skilled labor force and the undercapitalization of significant amounts of fixed assets. The re-launch of a strategy of development in the current conditions should consider taking into account other factors of utmost importance, that are not only limited to retrieving capabilities. (To be continued).

* The author is an advisor of the Centro de Estudios de la Economía Mundial (center of research of the global economy, Havana).
– See more at: http://www.cubacontemporanea.com/en/news/cuba-investment-policy-between-growth-and-development-ii#sthash.3l18AaeR.dpuf

Cuba: the investment policy, between growth and development (I)

April 22, 2014

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By José Luis Rodríguez*

The recent adoption of the new law on foreign investment brought up the subject of investment policy in Cuba, subject of crucial importance for the development of the country. Precisely, in the discussion of the law by the National Assembly has emphasized the need to differentiate between growth and development, taking into account the importance that is for the design of the investor of the country. At this point should be noted that it is possible for a nation to grow without developing, if that growth does not involve change in its productive structure, which makes it stable and sustainable, and is decisive for this the amount and direction that take the investment process. In this regard, it is not possible to ignore that the Cuban economy during the past 20 years, and from a production structure that had not reached yet the proper in 1994, design has had to deal the intense recapitalization, which meant the special period, and that has been estimated in the annual loss of 1.6% of the value of the assets during this stage. The first thing that jumps out is that, in terms of volume, the gross formation of fixed Capital, which had reached 26.3% of GDP at current prices in 1989, fell abruptly to only 5.2 percent in 1994, regaining top up 14.4% only in the year 2001. Subsequently, these investments returned to again be reduced to a minimum of 8.3% in 2011.

The figures reflecting this indicator expresses that what has been invested in that period has failed to cover even the replacement of assets that depreciated or became technologically obsolete, resulting in the aforementioned recapitalization. This is not due to a neglect by policy makers, but it was the combined product of the impact of the crisis in those years and the lack of financial resources, coupled with the need to prioritize branches of high recovery in the short term -as the tourism- and also do not postpone the recapitalization of the health sector and education as basic services for the population.

In the current situation arises the option to decide whether the investment should go to the recapitalization of the existing structure, or if -on the contrary- the efforts must focus on new alternatives that are in line with the economic structure that should aim the country for medium and long terms. A decision in this regard is not easy, since it must take into account the factor time in speed of the transformations, the productivity of labor in each branch, employment and qualification, the impact on the balance of payments as well as achieved competitiveness, among the most significant factors.

The New Foreign Investment Law in the definition of policy for a group of sectors targets the necessary combination of these elements. The case of the priority that must be given to the agricultural sector, where can be combined objectives of export, import substitution and increased satisfaction of food needs of the population.

This sector -that came to cover 22.3 per cent of the total investment in 1989- reduced their participation to 6.7% in 2012. In this sector the absence of hydraulic investments had an incidence in the years 90´, when 191,873 hectares of irrigated land were lost between 1991 and 1996 alone. The recapitalization of them -according to FAO- estimated would cost the country between 67 and 441 million dollars, according to the technology to be used. On the other hand, the lack of water was a factor that strongly focused on crops such as rice, which yields per hectare fell by 19.4% period of 1985-2011, driving -as a result- its import.

These data refer only to a crop. If one takes into account that in the years 90´ irrigation fell to 19.5% of the arable area, and whereas 65% of soils in Cuba are classified as very little productive and unproductive, the urgency of large investments in the water infrastructure of the country is inferred to develop agriculture.

In general, the lack of new technologies and equipment, together with the reduction of capital in the agricultural sector, led to that of labor productivity – measured in terms new value created by the worker happened 2,237 pesos in 1990 to 1,924 pesos in 2012, a reduction of 14%. In this way, the possibility of increasing agricultural production demand significant investments that can not only financed with own resources, but require a remarkable participation of foreign capital, where demand has been located between 2,000 and 2,500 billion dollars annually. (To be continued).

* The author is an advisor of the Centro de Investigaciones de la Economía Mundial (center of research of the global economy, CIEM, Havana).
– See more at: http://www.cubacontemporanea.com/en/news/cuba-investment-policy-between-growth-and-development-i#sthash.VNMuYFDe.dpuf

JSC Interviews Rene Gonzalez, Part 2: This is the time to free our brothers

April 22, 2014

JSC: Jamaicans in Solidarity with Cuba

rene gonzalez In a recent interview with Cuban anti-terrorist fighter, René González ( see part 1 of the interview here ), JSC asked Rene about the prospects of the freeing of Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio, three of the Five Cuban heroes who are still unjustly imprisoned in the US.

According to René “this is an opportune moment for the release of my brothers who remain in prison … different sectors in the world are demanding an improvement in U.S. relations with Cuba … this feeling is especially strong in Latin America and the Caribbean and they are willing to support their stance with concrete actions”…

We realize that the United States has not changed its position toward Cuba, said René, but, he added, the place of the U.S. in world politics is becoming weaker and  many of its manoeuvres and interferences have come to light.

The Cuban anti-terrorist fighter told JSC that…

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Cuba’s economic reforms: Socialism with neoliberal characteristics ?

April 17, 2014

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by Nile Bowie *

Havana has prioritized foreign investment and private enterprise, slashed state-sector jobs, while seeking closer cooperation with the European Union. Will Cuba’s latest market-based reforms undermine the social gains of the 1959 Revolution?

Times are complicated in revolutionary Cuba. President Raúl Castro is well into his second term and plans to officially step down in 2018; he is now laying the groundwork for a new generation of leaders to take the reins of the island nation.

In an effort to address the stagnating economic conditions that have burdened the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union, President Raúl unveiled reforms in 2010 aimed at moving the island’s outdated command economy toward a mixed economy with greater emphasis on market mechanisms and self-employment.

Cuban authorities have acknowledged the difficulties posed by maintaining massive subsidies across various sectors, and plan to transfer up to 40 percent of the workforce into the private sector by 2015, where workers will be expected to pay taxes on their income for the first time.

The state has laid off some 500,000 workers, in addition to eliminating more than 100,000 non-essential jobs in the nation’s national health service to cut costs. Havana has simultaneously relaxed prohibitions on small business activity and the individual hiring of labor. Former state-employees are now encouraged to start small businesses by driving taxis, opening barbershops, clothing shops and restaurants.

The state employs around 79 percent of the 5 million-strong labor force, while around 436,000 Cubans currently work in the private sector, according to government figures. Reforms are becoming bolder and Cuban politicians have recently approved a new law to draw in greater amounts of foreign investment, while tax-free special development zones have also been introduced. In these zones, foreign companies will be able to transfer their tariff-free profits abroad, receive contract extensions for up to 50 years, and retain full ownership entitlements, a drastic departure from decades of Soviet-style central planning.

Public health indicators suggest that Cuba has some of the highest quality health services in the developing world, which is provided to citizens free of charge. Despite a severe lack of resources due in part to decades of being under an economic embargo imposed by the United States, the country has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and free universal education for its citizens; it has also become one of the world’s leading exporters of teachers and doctors.

Cuban leaders have acknowledged how the country’s traditional state-run economic model can no longer support the across-the-board subsidies that fuel socialist programs and welfare services, giving rise to new legislation that would make the country much more reliant on market mechanisms and foreign capital.

Reagan’s ghost in Havana?

It may be seen as ironic that Cuba, with its history of sweeping nationalizations of corporations that dominated the economy before the revolution, is now sacking masses of state-sector workers and adopting a capital-friendly growth model intent on cutting down the public sector in favor of private enterprise and profit.

Cuba’s decision to break from its traditionally closed economy and toward a free market system with neoliberal characteristics is not a signal that the country plans to yield toward unhinged capitalism. In the view of pragmatic thinkers in the Communist Party, these reforms represent an attempt to update the economic model, allowing Cuba to define its own distinct system appropriate to modern developments and external circumstances.

In essence, the Cuban leadership is attempting to develop a different model of market-socialism better suited to advancing the ideals of the revolution: egalitarianism, social justice, and resistance to imperialism and US dominance. Cuban leaders have acknowledged the negative features of market reforms, which can often exacerbate income disparities and entrench cronyism, and have pledged to maintain its public health services, universal education systems, and other features that do not adhere to the ideology of free market capitalism.

Cuban workers will have three main avenues of employment to choose from. While the largest portion of workers will run small businesses and shops, the government has prioritized the agricultural sector to promote food self-sufficiency. The state subsidizes land, seeds, and chemical-free fertilizer for farmers and vegetable growers, and agricultural collectives are also seen as a viable career path.

Other workers will find employment in sectors that rely on foreign investment. Cuba’s newly-passed foreign investment law, which comes into effect in June, offers attractive incentives to foreign companies. Taxes on profits have been reduced from 30 to 15 percent, and companies will be exempt from paying taxes for the first eight years of operation; foreigners doing business on the island would be exempt from paying any personal income tax.

An exception remains for companies that exploit the country’s natural resources, such as nickel or fossil fuels, which will pay taxation rates as high as 50 percent. Foreign investment will reportedly be allowed in all sectors, however investment and marketization will be barred in all fields related to medical services, education and national defense to safeguard the country’s socialist system.

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Ending the embargo

The US unilaterally imposed a near-total embargo on Cuba in 1962 following the nationalization of properties belonging to US citizens and corporations, which remains in place to this day. Washington has kept Cuba on a list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ since 1982, while the embargo has been consistently strengthened under several US administrations despite the United Nations calling for its end for 22 consecutive years.

Cuban authorities claim that the economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to $1.126 trillion, and President Raúl knows he needs erode the foundations of the embargo before significant economic growth can take place. Havana believes that getting the European Union into its corner is the best way to move forward, and negotiations with representatives from Brussels are set to begin in late April. Havana will try to overturn the EU’s ‘common position’ on Cuba enacted in December 1996, which calls for greater human rights and democratic conditions in exchange for improved economic relations.

The recent visit by French FM Laurent Fabius, the highest-ranking French official to visit the island in 31 years, should be seen in this context. According to diplomatic sources, Fabius was testing the waters prior to the negotiations with EU members.

France has interests in winning contracts in markets where French firms are traditionally weak, and understands the regional importance of Cuba as investment pours in from both Brazil and Mexico, who are increasing their presence in the country.

Normalizing trade relations with the EU would qualify as a major step forward toward bolstering foreign investment, but the alignment of business interests is not expected to have major reverberations on Havana’s positions on global political issues, where it is aligned closely to Russia and China.

On the eve of Fabius’ visit, state-owned media in Cuba published critical commentary of the French municipal elections, criticizing President François Hollande for doing “exactly the opposite” of what was promised during his election campaign, and for conciliating “the neoliberal demands of Berlin and Brussels.” The editorial could be seen as subtle way of the Communist Party reinforcing its political nonalignment, or as a way of deflecting criticism from hardliners who would prefer that Cuba maintains its distance from Western powers.

As more emphasis is placed on making Cuba an attractive destination for foreign investment, Europe is expected to become more vocal in supporting a change in US policy toward the island nation.

Cuba’s diversification of trade relations also comes at a time when the leftist government of Venezuela faces protests and serious economic difficulties. The leadership in Caracas supplies cheap oil to Cuba and also pays for Cuban doctors and other medical specialists sent to Venezuela, while some economists claim that Cuba receives over $6 billion per year from this arrangement, representing a more significant subsidy than that which the island received from the Soviet Union, which paid above-market prices for sugar and other goods.

If attempts to enact regime change in Venezuela are realized, it will have detrimental short-term effects on Cuba, which the leadership in Havana seems to be well aware of. Much like other socialist governments that survived the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba is now reforming its economy to conform to global capitalism, but unlike other countries that have empowered their oligarchical elite through marketization, leaders in Havana claim that the primary objective of attracting foreign capital is to support social programs, the socio-economic development of the country, and the distribution of wealth among all Cuban citizens.

Marketization may likely exacerbate income inequality and spur elite corruption in the early stages, and these negatives features of capitalism should be kept in check. If state-linked cronies are perceived as being the most advantaged by foreign investment without earnings being adequately channeled to social welfare programs and development, it will have negative political ramifications.

If the new economic system can be leveraged to maintain socialist benefits and bolster Cuba’s biotechnology, pharmaceutical and renewable energy sectors, the country may be in a position to assert its independence more effectively through a mixed-development model that can be replicated elsewhere.

* Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
source: http://rt.com/op-edge/cuba-economic-reforms-market-852/,


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