Archive for April, 2014

Cuban Who Fought Terrorism Urges Freedom for his Fellow Fighters

April 16, 2014

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Fernando Gonzalez, the Cuban who fought terrorist plots hatched from the United States against his country, made an urgent call here for the immediate liberation of his fellow fighters still held prisoner in the United States, a punishment he said was meant as vengeance for Cuba’s revolutionary process.
“From the very beginning of this process we were conscious that we were being made to pay for being revolutionary Cubans,” said Gonzalez, in reference to the case that has become known internationally as the case of the Cuban Five.

Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, and Antonio Guerrero were the five Cubans put on trial in Miami in 2001. The latter three remain incarcerated, while Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez (no relation) are back in Cuba after having completed long sentences.

“We were punished for having worked on behalf of the Cuban people, on behalf of the Cuban revolution, and even for working for the U.S. people, since we thwarted terrorist actions that might have harmed them,” said Gonzalez, in an interview posted at the Cubadebate website.

Regarding his return to Cuba, Gonzalez said he felt free “and not just as a result of having been released from prison. I have the freedom that I was denied in the United States. Here I have the freedom to do what I want, including political freedom.”

He said that in the United States, there is no freedom of thought, because there are so many mechanisms to control and manipulate people’s consciences.

“After they chained me at the hands, waist and feet, they took me out of the Safford (Arizona – federal) prison. Presumably I was free, but there and then, at the door, I was re-arrested by immigration authorities.”

He recalled that he was taken to Phoenix in a highly reinforced convoy, and later to Miami. The operation lasted some 36 hours.

“I was always handcuffed, and in the middle of this huge security operation that was a surprise to me. I was even handcuffed in the plane that brought me to Cuba, albeit with plastic cuffs, which were cut when the plane opened its door at Havana’s Jose Marti airport. Only then did I feel free,” he said.

Gonzalez said he was grateful for the international support for the Five and urged a continuation of the struggle to free Gerardo (condemned to two life sentences plus 15 years), Ramon (30 years) and Antonio (21 years and 10 months. “Our friends in solidarity throughout the world must continue pushing for the three to be released and returned to Cuba as soon as possible,” he stressed.

PrensaLatina

More People Join Solidarity Campaign for The Five in Washington

April 16, 2014

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Washington, Apr 16 (Prensa Latina) More than 250 people from all over the world supported in a week the next solidarity campaign with Cuba and three anti-terrorist fighters still in prison in the United States.
The recent incorporation to the blog http://www.5daysforthecuban5.com, came from Sweden with the signature of parliamentarians and religious personalities, an activist said to Prensa Latina.

It is clear that normalization of relations between the two countries passes inevitably by solving the case of the Five, said via electronic mail Alicia Jrapko coordinator on United States soil of the International Committee for the Freedom of those men.

And this solution is that the remaining members of the group are returned to their homeland, reiterated Jrapko and mentioned two of them: Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez, who left prison after serving their entire sentences.

She insisted that for that reason the current efforts of solidarity movement focus on the attention of the public opinion about the unjust imprisonment of Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino.

Jrapko said the renowned actor and activist Danny Glover, the anti-war and civil rights activist Tom Hayden and retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson have confirmed their attendance to the third edition of Five Days for The Five, scheduled from June 4 to 11, in Washington DC.

On the recent Human Rights Prize given to the Five by the U.S. non-governmental organization Global Exchange, Jrapko added: it gives us the opportunity to reach a new audience.

The award is a prestigious recognition and during the campaign, in a three-week period, nearly 9,000 people went to the link describing who they are and the conditions of their arrest on September 12, 1998.

I think the prize in the category People’s choice will place Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René in a new space, where many people will learn not only about the case, but why they deserve the award: for fighting against terrorism, she added.

The People’s choice Award had 35 nominations, among then the Indian-American Leonard Peltier who has spent 36 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, said Jrapko.

Casey Camp-Horinet, member of the Ponca Tribe from Oklahoma, Jeannie Economos, defender of the immigrants and countryside workers rights, and the environment and late musician Peter Seeger were also in the list.

The Zunzuneo scandal

April 15, 2014

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by Sean Joseph Clancy

The Zunzuneo scandal, which has many very serious and potentially
catastrophic implications, is representative of a far more brutal
business than the words Tweet, Twitter and Zunzun (hummingbird) would
generally evoke.

There are hundreds of thousands of displaced, distraught and bereft
parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends and spouses today from
“smart-mob” SMS initiatives which were initiated in places somewhat
more vulnerable to political manipulation and abuse.

These projects are intended only to provoke blood-shed and disorder in
the interest of profiteering and they are by nature and necessity
covert as opposed to discreet. They are the means to the end of
falsified mass and social media reports, interventions and support for
mercenary “opposition actions”, externally imposed regimes hostile to
the common-good but friendly to imperialist controlled enterprises.

As the administrations of certain nations make brave and sincere
efforts to create the better world we know is not an impossible dream,
by removing citizens from the misery and indignity of poverty and
marginalization, desensitised, greedy and blood lustful (because
tragically blood- letting is now the very oxygen the imperialist
economy needs to breathe) vested US interests and power-mongers
provoke chaos and havoc to ensure that the ship call Status Quo does
not enter troubled waters.

Deep insult is added to grievous injury and death when such criminal
barbarity is veiled in language it is truly alien from in fact; words
like freedom, democracy, security, civilization and peace come sadly
to mind.

The brutal, vengeful, inhuman and cruel hypocrisy of the arrests,
sentencing and continued incarceration of three remaining innocent
heroic and exemplary Cuban contra-terror activists in US prisons are
further highlighted by the subversive US intervention in the sovereign
affairs of Cuba, as they were by the Snowden revelations and are in
some shape or form every day.

The absolute importance of their mission, the lives undoubtedly saved
and the inspiring integrity and righteousness of their patriotism
prior to undertaking active service, during the mission, arrests,
detention for 17 months in solitary and torturous conditions, their
mock-trials and through every adversity up to and including today, is
not lost on the thousands of advocates who address a global jury of
millions on their behalf.

The US establishment has demonstrated recently how little regard in
now needs or wants to hold for International Law and that it will not
desist from any activity, no matter how repugnant illogical, harmful
and destructive it may be, even to the majority of its own citizens.
The Zunzuneo revelations are in fact as ancient as they are new. This
is the exact nature of imperialism in microcosm, an empire addicted to
war and power more nasty and reactionary at present because it can
feel the teeth of change snapping at its limbs.

What should not be lost (and it seems by virtue of the relatively
small number of users affiliated and the shut-down after three years
was not by USAID and the Washington pay-masters) is the fact that
there is real appetite and support in Cuba for the reforms underway
within the context of revolutionary socialist independence and,
refreshingly by a youth often referred to by foreign media as
discontent or impatient –as well as the overwhelming majority of
Cubans generally — an absolute and considered rejection of US
sponsored “democracy-building” and regime change interventions.

What Zunzuneo says about the, not surprising but none the less
disgraceful, disregard for the CIA contactor Alan Gross is something
he, his wife Judy and their supporters should consider and compare to
the institutional and popular support that the Cuban 5 receive. All
people of good-will and social conscience must up the ante in what is
the real war on terror, the true struggle for liberation, democracy
and peace and engage in peaceful, truthful, loving and compassionate
Regime Change activity until the US and every other fascist and
neo-liberal regime is defeated and lying side by side beneath grave
stones that read “They Will Never Come Again.”

JSC Interviews Rene Gonzalez – Part 1

April 14, 2014

JSC: Jamaicans in Solidarity with Cuba

Interview with Rene Gonzalez, one of the Five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters

rene gonzalez 2The unjust imprisonment in the United States of the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino and René González, – known internationally as the Cuban Five – has been widely condemned by public opinion around the world.  In addition, heads of government, politicians, intellectuals (including several Nobel Peace Prize winners but no, not President Barak Obama) and religious leaders from many countries, including the United States, have been calling for the release of the Five.

Jamaicans and the Caribbean people generally have consistently voiced their opposition to the injustice of the arbitrary and rigged political trial in a Miami Court in the United States which imposed harsh unjust sentences on the Five Cuban Heroes.

In an effort to inform the Jamaican people about the details of and background to the imprisonment of the Five…

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USAID Subversion in Latin America Not Limited to Cuba

April 11, 2014

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By Dan Beeton
Global Research,

A new investigation by the Associated Press into a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project to create a Twitter-style social media network in Cuba has received a lot of attention this week, with the news trending on the actual Twitter for much of the day yesterday when the story broke, and eliciting comment from various members of Congress and other policy makers. The “ZunZuneo” project, which AP reports was “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government,” was overseen by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). AP describes OTI as “a division that was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the usual red tape.” Its efforts to undermine the Cuban government are not unusual, however, considering the organization’s track record in other countries in the region.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot described in an interview with radio station KPFA’s “Letters and Politics” yesterday, USAID and OTI in particular have engaged in various efforts to undermine the democratically-elected governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Haiti, among others, and such “open societies” could be more likely to be impacted by such activities than Cuba. Declassified U.S. government documents show that USAID’s OTI in Venezuela played a central rolein funding and working with groups and individuals following the short-lived 2002 coup d’etat against Hugo Chávez. A key contractor for USAID/OTI in that effort has been Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI).

More recent State Department cables made public by Wikileaks reveal that USAID/OTI subversion in Venezuela extended into the Obama administration era (until 2010, when funding for OTI in Venezuela appears to have ended), and DAI continued to play an important role. A State Department cable from November 2006 explains the U.S. embassy’s strategy in Venezuela and how USAID/OTI “activities support [the] strategy”:
(S) In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in Venezuela for the period 2004 ) 2006 (specifically, from the referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.

Among the ways in which USAID/OTI have supported the strategy is through the funding and training of protest groups. This August 2009 cable cites the head of USAID/OTI contractor DAI’s Venezuela office Eduardo Fernandez as saying, during 2009 protests, that all the protest organizers are DAI grantees:
¶5. (S) Fernandez told DCM Caulfield that he believed the [the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps’] dual objective is to obtain information regarding DAI’s grantees and to cut off their funding. Fernandez said that “the streets are hot,” referring to growing protests against Chavez’s efforts to consolidate power, and “all these people (organizing the protests) are our grantees.” Fernandez has been leading non-partisan training and grant programs since 2004 for DAI in Venezuela.”

The November 2006 cable describes an example of USAID/OTI partners in Venezuela “shut[ting] down [a] city”:
11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them negotiate with city government to provide better working conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in another area of Venezuela.

The implications for the current situation in Venezuela are obvious, unless we are to assume that such activities have ended despite the tens of millions of dollars in USAID funds designated for Venezuela, some of it going through organizations such as Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute, some of which also funded groups involved in the 2002 coup (which prominent IRI staff publicly applauded at the time).

The same November 2006 cable notes that one OTI program goal is to bolster international support for the opposition:
…DAI has brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela, university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan opposition.

Many of the thousands of cables originating from the U.S. embassy in Caracas that have been made available by Wikileaks describe regular communication and coordination with prominent opposition leaders and groups. One particular favorite has been the NGO Súmate and its leader María Corina Machado, who has made headlines over the past two months for her role in the protest movement. The cables show that Machado historically has taken more extreme positions than some other opposition leaders, and the embassy has at least privately questioned Súmate’s strategy of discrediting Venezuela’s electoral system which in turn has contributed to opposition defeats at the polls (most notably in 2005 when an opposition boycott led to complete Chavista domination of the National Assembly). The current protests are no different; Machado and Leopoldo López launched “La Salida” campaign at the end of January with its stated goal of forcing president Nicolás Maduro from office, and vowing to “create chaos in the streets.”

USAID support for destabilization is no secret to the targeted governments. In September 2008, in the midst of a violent, racist and pro-secessionist campaign against the democratically-elected government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Morales expelled the U.S. Ambassador, and Venezuela followed suit “in solidarity.” Bolivia would later end all USAID involvement in Bolivia after the agency refused to disclose whom it was funding in the country (Freedom of Information Act requests had been independently filed but were not answered). The U.S. embassy in Bolivia had previously been caught asking Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholars in the country to engage in espionage.

Commenting on the failed USAID/OTI ZunZuneo program in Cuba, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) commentedthat, “That is not what USAID should be doing[.] USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

But USAID’s track record of engaging in subversive activities is a long one, and U.S. credibility as an “honest broker” was lost many years ago.

Add your Voice to the Third “5 Days for Cuban 5” in Washington D.C.

April 10, 2014

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THIS IS THE TIME TO UNITE OUR EFFORTS IN WASHINGTON D.C.

It will take less than a minute to add your name by going to the following link http://5daysforthecuban5.com/add-your-voice/,

Voices from all over the United States are joining together to ask President Obama to change over fifty years of unjust U.S. policy towards Cuba. One of the pivotal points in this widening discussion is to find a solution to the case of the Cuban 5 prisoners held in the United States for more than 15 years. To be part of the dialogue that is taking place in the United States, the International Committee for Freedom of the Cuban 5 is again organizing five days of activities in Washington, D.C., from June 4th to June 11th, 2014.

Activities will include:
•Visits to Congress with Parliamentarians from other countries.
•2-Day Conference on U.S. Cuba Relations and the case of the Cuban 5.
•Cultural events.
•A Rally in front of the White House calling for the freedom of the Cuban 5 and the end of the unilateral U.S. blockade against Cuba.

ADD YOUR VOICE TO THIS WEEK OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE FIVE

Add your voice by visiting the following link:

http://5daysforthecuban5.com/add-your-voice/,

This week of activities in Washington will bring together personalities from the U.S. and abroad, including jurists, parliamentarians, writers, intellectuals, activists and religious people to call for the freedom of the Cuban 5, five men unjustly imprisoned in U.S. prisons for defending their country Cuba against terrorism.

A number of known people have already added their names including academic Noam Chomsky, actor Danny Glover, writer and professor Angela Davis, poet Alice Walker, journalist and writer Ignacio Ramonet, Brazilian writer and liberation theology Frei Betto, Ret. U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, author and politician Tom Hayden, former Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana Wayne Smith, Immigration Attorney Jose Pertierra, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union Dolores Huerta, former President of the United Nations General Assembly Father Miguel D’Escoto, curator and founder of the Brownstone Foundation Gilbert Brownstone, Attorney Martin Garbus , Mexican anthropologist and writer Gilberto Lopez y Rivas, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Mayor of Richmond, CA Gayle McLaughlin, Attorney Peter Schey, Canadian writers Stephen Kimber and Arnold August, former Bishop of Detroit Thomas Gumbleton, historian and writer Piero Gleijeses, Brazilian writer Fernando Morais and many others.

To learn how to get involved and support the Third “5 Days for the Cuban 5” visit:

http://5daysforthecuban5.com/,

If you cannot travel to Washington please consider making a donation:
http://5daysforthecuban5.com/donate-2/,

Even though René González and Fernando González have been released after completing their entire sentences, now more than ever, we need to unite and double our efforts to insure that the White House will hear the international demand for the freedom of Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio. The Five must be returned to their homeland to be with their families and the people of Cuba.

ADD YOUR NAME NOW!

To learn more about the Cuban 5 visit: http://www.thecuban5.org

Follow us in twitter and facebook

DONATE toward the projects of the International Committee

OSPAAAL Demands Immediate Release of Cuban Anti-terrorists Imprisoned in USA +español

April 10, 2014

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The Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAAL) paid april 3 tribute to the five Cuban anti-terrorists and demanded the freedom of the three who are still imprisoned in the United States.

This time the video hall of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP, by its Spanish acronym) was the venue of the political-cultural monthly event convoked by OSPAAAL under the motto “On the 3rd, at 4 for the Five” as part of the international campaign waged in support of this cause.

The event, which includes presentation of books, paintings, photos, short videos, poems and songs in connection with the Five, was attended by diplomatic representatives and delegates of political parties accredited in the island from 24 countries altogether.

“The support that this cause is receiving throughout the world is very stimulating for us, and we hope that U.S. president Barack Obama pays attention to this claim that is becoming ever stronger”, said Kenia Serrano, president of ICAP.

Serrano, who presided the meeting together with OSPAAAL Secretary General Lourdes Cervantes, explained to the audience the result of the recent meetings held in London and Beirut in favor of the freedom of Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino y Antonio Guerrero, still imprisoned in the United States.

She said that in London an International Commission that investigated the case of the Five last March, in its preliminary conclusions called President Obama to free “immediately and unconditionally” the three Cuban anti-terrorists who are serving “unjust imprisonment” in that country.

She underlined that the commission’s work was part of the event “Voices for the Five” sponsored by the British group “Rock around the Blockade”, with the participation of relevant personalities, and that it included the celebration of numerous supporting actions in several cities of that European country.

The President of ICAP, who was a member of the Cuban delegation to those events, also referred to the National Meeting in Solidarity with Cuba that took place days later in Lebanon, which was attended – she said – by activists from numerous Middle East countries.

She pointed out that actions such as this one and the one to take place on June 4-11 in Washington D.C. under the motto “Five Days of Action for the Five” strengthen the international campaign in favor of the freedom of the Cuban heroes.

“We hope the voices in favor of the Five do not remain in London or Beirut; that they reach the White House so that Obama will listen to them and act accordingly”, she emphasized.

The Five, who hold the condition of Heroes of the Republic of Cuba, were arrested in Miami in 1998 and condemned to long and unjust prison sentences.

They had infiltrated terrorist groups that were acting with impunity against Cuba from territory of the United States, in order to prevent criminal actions against their country.

None of the charges against them involved violence, weapons or material damage, nor were their actions aimed at obtaining secret information that might threaten the security of the United States, according to the preliminary conclusions of the International Commission in session in London.

Two of the Five, René and Fernando González, have already returned to the Island after fully serving the terms of 13 and 15 years of prison imposed, respectively, by a Miami court in a trial loaded with violations and irregularities.

Hernández is serving two life-sentences and 15 years; Labañino 30 years and Guerrero 22 years.

Since 1959 to date, nearly 3,500 Cubans have died and over 2,000 have been wounded in attacks and terrorist actions coming mainly from Miami. The aggressions have also produced considerable material damage.

Mirta Rodrígez, mother of Antonio Guerrero, also took the floor during the meeting, which was a contribution in the field of culture and audiovisuals to the international battle for the freedom of the Five. She was received with strong applause and heartfelt signs of admiration and respect.

In simple but very emotive words, she thanked for the actions of solidarity and support that take place worldwide and narrated anecdotes of visits paid to her son in the medium level security prison of Marianna, state of Florida, where he was transferred on January 13, 2012.

She said the legal situation of the case is in an “impasse”, and called to redouble the struggle, particularly in the United States. She showed concern for the delay in the ongoing procedures with the U.S. authorities to obtain a visa for the upcoming visit to her son, whom she may only see twice a year.

Another touching moment of the event was the performance by a group of pioneers from the Heroes of Chapultepec Primary School, who presented a play in tribute to the Five and later showed a selection of paintings by Palestinian children who took part in a contest on that theme.

When presenting the works, Santiago Feliú, journalist of Tricontinental magazine and conductor of the event, referred to the historical relations that have united the peoples of Cuba and Palestine, and recalled the celebration of the Day of the Palestinian Prisoner next April 17. “That day we will also pay tribute to more than 5,000 Palestinians who are jailed in 23 Israeli prisons outside their fatherland. Love is returned with love”, he emphasized.

The meeting was closed by Cuban troubadour Manuel Argudín, who told anecdotes of his relations with relatives of the Five since the beginning of the campaigns for their liberation, and performed a selection of songs.
APR/

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Exige la OSPAAAL libertad inmediata de antiterroristas cubanos presos en EE.UU.

La Organización de Solidaridad de los Pueblos de África, Asia y América Latina (OSPAAAL) rindió abril 3 homenaje a los cinco antiterroristas cubanos y demandó la libertad de los tres que aún están presos en Estados Unidos.

La sala de videos del Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (ICAP) sirvió esta vez de sede al acto político cultural que bajo la consigna de “El 3 a las 4 por Los Cinco”, convoca todos los meses esa organización como parte de la campaña internacional que se libra en apoyo a esta causa.

La actividad, que incluye la presentación de libros, pinturas, fotografías, videos clips, poemas y canciones relacionadas con los Cinco, contó con la presencia de representantes diplomáticos y de partidos políticos acreditados en la isla procedentes de 24 países.

“Estamos muy estimulados por el apoyo que está recibiendo esta causa en todo el mundo y esperamos que el presidente norteamericano, Barack Obama, preste atención a este reclamo que cada vez se hace más fuerte”, expresó Kenia Serrano, presidenta del ICAP.

Serrano, quien presidió el acto junto a Lourdes Cervantes, Secretaria General de la OSPAAAL, explicó a los asistentes el resultado de los recientes encuentros celebrados en Londres y Beirut por la libertad de Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino y Antonio Guerrero, presos aún en Estados Unidos.

Dijo que en Londres una Comisión Internacional que investigó el caso de Los Cinco el pasado marzo llamó en sus conclusiones preliminares al presidente Obama a liberar “inmediata e incondicionalmente” a los tres antiterroristas cubanos que cumplen “injusta prisión” en ese país.

Destacó que la Comisión actuó en el marco del evento “Voices for the Five”, que auspició el grupo británico “Rock around the blockade” con la participación de importantes personalidades y que incluyó la celebración de numerosas manifestaciones de apoyo en varias ciudades de ese país europeo.

La presidenta del ICAP, que integró la delegación cubana a esos eventos, se refirió igualmente al Encuentro Nacional de Solidaridad con Cuba, que tuvo lugar días después en el Líbano, al cual asistieron –apuntó- activistas de numerosos países del Medio Oriente.

Señaló que acciones como estas, y la que tendrá lugar del 4 al 11 de junio en Washington D.C. bajo el lema “5 días de Acción por Los Cinco”, profundizan la campaña internacional por la libertad de los Héroes cubanos.

“Esperamos que las voces por Los Cinco no se queden en Londres o Beirut. Que lleguen a la Casa Blanca para que Obama las escuche y actúe en consecuencia”, enfatizó.

Los Cinco, que ostentan la condición de Héroes de la República de Cuba, fueron detenidos en Miami en 1998 y condenados a largas e injustas penas de prisión. Ellos habían infiltrado grupos terroristas que actuaban impunemente contra Cuba desde territorio de Estados Unidos para prevenir actos criminales contra su país.

Ninguno de los cargos en su contra involucraba la violencia, las armas o daños materiales, ni sus acciones estaban encaminadas a obtener informaciones secretas que pusieran en peligro la seguridad de Estados Unidos, según las conclusiones preliminares de la Comisión Internacional que actuó en Londres.

De Los Cinco ya han regresado a la isla René y Fernando González, luego de haber cumplido en su totalidad las condenas de 13 y 15 años de prisión que les impuso, respectivamente, un tribunal de Miami en un proceso cargado de violaciones e irregularidades.

Hernández cumple una condena de dos cadenas perpetuas y 15 años, Labañino una de 30 y Guerrero de 22 años.

Desde 1959, cerca de tres mil 500 cubanos han muerto y más de dos mil han resultado heridos como consecuencia de ataques y agresiones terroristas, provenientes principalmente de Miami. Un saldo importante también en daños materiales han dejado las agresiones.

En la jornada, que constituye un aporte desde la cultura y elementos audiovisuales a la batalla internacional por la libertad de Los Cinco, habló también Mirta Rodríguez, madre de Antonio Guerrero, quien fue recibida con fuertes aplausos y sentidas muestras de admiración y respeto.

Con palabras sencillas, pero muy emotivas, agradeció las acciones de solidaridad y respaldo que tienen lugar en todo el mundo y narró anécdotas de visitas realizadas a su hijo, en la prisión de mediana seguridad de Marianna, en el Estado de la Florida, a donde fue trasladado el 13 de enero de 2012.

Dijo que la situación legal del caso se encuentra en un “impasse” y llamó a redoblar la lucha, especialmente en Estados Unidos. Mostró preocupación porque la visa de las autoridades norteamericanas para la próxima visita a su hijo, a quien puede ver solo dos veces por año, se encuentra muy demorada.

Otro momento emotivo del acto fue protagonizado por un grupo de niños pioneros de la Escuela Primaria Héroes de Chapultepec, que presentaron una obra en homenaje a Los Cinco, y luego mostraron una selección de pinturas de niños palestinos que participaron en un concurso sobre el tema.

Al presentar las obras, Santiago Feliu, periodista de la revista Tricontinental y conductor del acto, se refirió a las históricas relaciones que han unido a los pueblos de Cuba y Palestina y recordó que el próximo 17 de abril se conmemora el Día del Prisionero Palestino. “Rendiremos homenaje también ese día a más de 5 mil palestinos presos en 23 cárceles israelíes situadas fuera de su patria. Amor con amor se paga”, enfatizó.

El acto fue clausurado por el trovador cubano Manuel Argudín, quien hizo anécdotas de sus relaciones con familiares de Los Cinco desde el inicio de las campañas por su liberación e interpretó una selección de canciones.
APR/

Bay of Piglets: How the Freemasons Got Caught in a Plot to Topple the Castros

April 10, 2014

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http://mag.newsweek.com/2014/04/18/freemasons-caught-plot-topple-fidel-castro.html,

By Jeff Stein

t’s an unlikely tale of three cities that begins in Damascus, winds through Washington, D.C., and ends tragically in a Havana jail. Its key characters seem drawn from a Cold War espionage thriller, amateurish spies stuck in yet another feckless plot to overthrow the Cuban regime.

In late November 2010, a Washington, D.C., businessman named Akram Elias traveled to Damascus with a discreet proposal to burnish the image of the Syrian regime in Washington. “It was great seeing you earlier this morning,” Elias, a Lebanese American, wrote to Bouthaina Shabaan, the longtime mouthpiece for President Bashar al-Assad, in an email obtained by WikiLeaks. Only six months earlier, the Obama administration had slapped Syria with sanctions for its support of terrorist groups and for seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Elias gave the Syrians a one-page “communications strategy” right out of the standard lobbyist playbook for clients with severe image problems in official Washington. The idea, of course, was to soften the image of the regime in Washington, perhaps even persuade officials to lift sanctions. Price tag: $22,000 a month, plus expenses—all standard for a PR campaign for a thuggish regime.

What was odd about this one, however, was that while Elias was courting Damascus, he had, according to his Capital Communications Group website, public relations contracts with 18 national security agencies in the Obama administration, including the Justice Department, the State Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. But he was also a key player in a long-running campaign by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to undermine another totalitarian regime—in Cuba.

Why Elias? Why Cuba? Because, in yet another odd twist, Elias was a high official in the Freemasons, the centuries-old, secretive Protestant organization with a long history in Cuba, when right-wing ideologues in the USAID decided to take another run at overthrowing the Communist regime.

The Masons are descended from the medieval guilds that built Europe’s cathedrals, and their presence in Cuba dates back to 1763, with the arrival of English and Irish settlers. At the turn of the century, their numbers were bolstered by the arrival of French planters fleeing the Haitian Revolution. A century later, they could count Cuban revolutionaries like José Martí among their brethren. And in the 1950s, according to lore, yet another revolutionary, Fidel Castro, developed a soft spot for the Masons when they gave him refuge in a Masonic Lodge.

The Freemasons survived Castro’s revolution, but he kept them on a tight leash. Still, membership was stable, and with Castro’s gradual retreat from power after 2001, the Masons began to flourish. Today they claim nearly 30,000 members in Cuba.

Elias emigrated from Lebanon to the United States as a teenager in the 1970s. In 1996, according to Freemason publications, he embraced the brotherhood and quickly rose to the leadership of its District of Columbia lodge. In 2002, he made a grand tour of Cuba, the first of several trips as the regime loosened economic and political controls.

The USAID must have seen an opening. Ever since it was invented by the Kennedy administration as a humanitarian relief agency in 1961, USAID’s famous clasped-hands logo has always had a bare-knuckles component, with a mandate to help people “striving to live in a free and democratic country.” During the Vietnam War, its counterinsurgency projects were so intertwined with the CIA’s that they became synonymous.

And so it is now with Cuba. During the George W. Bush administration, Cuban “democracy” programs backed by the USAID grew from $3.5 million to $45 million. Even though Congress slashed their budgets by more than half when Barack Obama took office and scattered them to other agencies, citing “mismanagement,” $60 million to $70 million remained in the pipeline, according to The Miami Herald.

In December 2009, Akram Elias was in Havana for a meeting with Alan Gross, a 63-year-old USAID subcontractor from Maryland. Gross was arrested on the night of December 3, 2009, after supplying advanced Internet communications equipment to Cuba’s tiny Jewish community. He is now serving a 15-year sentence for subversion in Cuba.

According to a document presented by Cuban authorities during his 2011 sentencing, Gross got a call in Washington in November 2009 from Elias, “a former Grand Officer of the Washington Masonic Lodge who is noted for his distinct opposition to the Cuban political system.” Elias expressed interest in the “Cuba democracy program” Gross was running for DAI Inc., a USAID contractor based in Chevy Chase, Md. They agreed to meet for coffee the next day.

“In this meeting,” according to the Cuban court’s sentencing document, “Elias said that he had thought of installing defendant’s system in Cuban Masonic lodges and they decided to meet in Havana in December that year to talk further.” And so they did, at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, on Dec. 2. They “picked up where they had left in Washington with a view to extending the former’s Project to Cuban Masonic lodges.” Things went so well they agreed to meet again the following day, “but this meeting never took place,” according to the Cubans, “because in the evening of December 3 defendant ALAN PHILLIP GROSS was arrested. ” He was “found in possession of two flash drives—one a ‘Micro Center’ and the other a ‘Kingston’—with most of the documents related to defendant’s projects against the Cuban State.”

Cuba’s counterspies weren’t just lucky in this case, the court document would show. They had been onto Gross and the Masons for years. Gross had delivered “a number of items, including a video camera,” to José Manuel Collera Vento, the island’s top Mason, back in 2004, prosecutors said. The Cubans said the camera came from Marc Wachtenheim, who worked for another USAID contractor, the Pan American Development Foundation, a block from the Bush White House. Indeed, Cuban counterspies seemed to know everything the Americans had been doing.

At least one reason why became apparent on April Fools’ Day, 2011, when it was revealed that José Manuel Collera Vento, grand master of the Grand Lodge of Cuba’s Freemasons, was a double agent. “For his subversive actions, on April 1st, 2011, Collera received the highest distinction of the Popular Assembly of Cuba: the Escudo Pinareño,” the Masonic Times sadly announced the following day, adding that he “appears today to be just a puppet of a totalitarian regime.”

A year before Gross’s arrest, experts on the regime say, Cubans already had Internet access and email to the outside world, although the connections were slow. And a year after his arrest, the USAID risked even those fragile freedoms by clandestinely launching a supposedly independent Cuban Twitter-style network, called ZunZuneo, via a web of front companies and foreign servers—a covert action program in everything but name.

Who were they kidding? Not Cuban counterspies, who have been cracking CIA plots like walnuts for decades.

And not Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the panel overseeing the USAID, who called the ZunZuneo caper “dumb, dumb, dumb” when The Associated Press broke it last week.

And maybe “dumb” wasn’t such a bad thing, given the agenda of the planners behind these laughable schemes. “It’s not about being effective,” explains Fulton Armstrong, a top former Latin America expert at the CIA and White House National Security Council. “They know that they’re not going to overthrow the regime. They know that their assets on the island are mostly opportunists…and that the Cuban government has demonstrated that many ‘opposition’ recipients of our aid are actually its agents.”

The U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba knew Collera was a double agent long before Elias met with him, according to cables obtained by WikiLeaks. Apparently, they never told the USAID. (Elias did not respond to emails and telephone calls asking for comment, and a USAID spokesperson says of him, “We currently have no record of this individual being a contractor being a contractor for USAID.”)

“But the programs’ sponsors also know,” Armstrong tells Newsweek, “that locking policy into regime-change mode, getting feckless clandestine operators and members of the ‘opposition’ in jail, and in general trying to provoke the Cuban government keeps the powerful Cuban-American politicians in Washington on their side.”

Leahy said the USAID had “absolutely not” told him about its clandestine Cuban Twitter app, even though he’s chairman of the Senate panel that writes the agency’s budget. “If I had been,” he told MSNBC, “I would have said, ‘What in heaven’s name are you thinking?'”

On Tuesday Leahy will get to ask just that of Rajiv Shah, the USAID’s administrator, at a hearing of his Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. As chairman, Leahy can ask anything he wants, for as long as he wants. He might think to ask somebody why Akram Elias is still working with the State Department. Word is, he’s angling to launch a pilot program for international university students, through a State Department contractor.

Newsweek contributing editor Jeff Stein writes SpyTalk from Washington.

USAID Scuttled American’s Release From Cuban Prison

April 10, 2014

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http://www.newsweek.com/usaid-scuttled-americans-release-cuban-prison-245237,

By Jeff Stein

Aggressive “regime change” projects in Cuba by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) scuttled a chance to free one of its contractors jailed on the island, a former top Senate aide to John Kerry says.

Fulton Armstrong, who was a top CIA and White House National Security Council expert on Latin America before joining Kerry’s staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2010, also told Newsweek Tuesday that, contrary to USAID statements, the Obama administration “had not been briefed on the [USAID’s] regime-change programs, and that the secret operations continued just as they had under Bush-Cheney—aggressive, over-funded, and in obvious need of oversight and review.”

USAID disputes that characterization. “USAID works in places where we are not always welcome,” the agency said on its blog last week. “To minimize the risk to our staff and partners and ensure our work can proceed safely, we must take certain precautions and maintain a discreet profile. But discreet does not equal covert.”

USAID also maintains that its “democracy” programs in Cuba, like its controversial ZunZuneo social media app for Cubans, have always been part of “the public record.”

On Dec. 3, 2009, Cuban authorities arrested USAID contractor Alan Gross in Havana on suspicion of subversive activities. He had made several trips to Cuba bearing sophisticated computer gear designed to allow Cubans to communicate beyond the reach of state security. Gross had been scheduled to meet in Havana with an American citizen who was a representative of the Freemasons, the centuries-old, secretive Christian organization, whose Cuban chapters were also involved with USAID political activities, Newsweek reported Monday. Gross, 64, is now serving a 15-year sentence in prison. He announced this week he was going on a hunger strike.

USAID’s “regime change” programs continued after the arrest of Gross, Armstrong said, complicating steps to free him. “When Gross was arrested, Cuban officials gave pretty clear signals of two desires for his release,” Armstrong told Newsweek. “That the programs be made less blatant and insulting to them, and that the Obama administration designate a serious, non-bureaucratic person to discuss this and other matters with them.”

With backing from Sen. Kerry, Armstrong and his counterpart on the staff of Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, struck a deal with USAID and the State Department in 2010 to pare back some of the agency’s more aggressive Cuba programs and budget, Armstrong said. With that, the release of Gross seemed imminent.

“Senior USAID and State officials were happy with the reforms as good for the programs as well as for gaining the release of Alan Gross, and they asked Senate and House Committee staff to brief Cuban officials on them,” Armstrong said. “We did so, and our chairmen met with senior Cuban officials to drive home the message.”

The Cubans were happy, too—to a degree, said Armstrong, the CIA’s National Intelligence Officer for Latin America from 2000 to 2004. “They responded very positively and said that the cleanup—which they understood would be done in phases—would certainly help them make the case for expedited procedures for Gross’s release.”

When the Cubans complained in the early summer of 2010 that “regime change” activities on the island were continuing, Armstrong said, “We provided assurances, accurately, that the responsible people at USAID and State supported the reforms.”

But die-hard USAID officials scuttled the looming deal, Armstrong said, by telling their contractors in Cuba to continue their work. “They reassured their contractors and grantees that, despite rumors of change, business would continue as usual—information that would surely reach Cuban ears—and they later leaked to the press that, in fact, program funding remained unchanged and the reforms were not being implemented,” Armstrong said.

“At that point, the discussions about program reforms to gain Gross’s release ended.”

USAID did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a heated Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday, chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called USAID’s ZunZuneo project “cockamamie” and said, “As far as I can tell, the USAID and the Obama administration have all but forgotten about [Gross].”

USAID administrator Raviv Shah disputed that. “I think about Alan every day,” he said, according to Reuters, but referred further discussion on Gross to the State Department.

“The State Department takes the lead in these types of issues and they are highly sensitive and I would defer to them to be able to explain to you in the appropriate private setting what’s taken place,” Shah said.

Newsweek contributing editor Jeff Stein writes SpyTalk from Washington

AP investigation helps Obama to take action.

April 10, 2014

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