Archive for May, 2014

Yoani Sanchez’s Funny Interview to Joe Biden

May 31, 2014


Written by M. H. Lagarde

I haven’t written anything about blogger Yoani Sanchez’s much trumpeted 14ymedio daily because ‘half’ always sounded ‘half humorous’ to me, especially after reading that joke in the manner of a presentation where the blogger –who years ago used to visit the United States Interests Section (USINT) furtively and now travels as a tourist to the White House–, stated that the so-called independent online outlet wouldn’t have ideological or political commitment whatsoever.

A week later, my expectations have been exceeded. 14ymedio no longer seems half humorous but humorous and a half. The last joke of the blogger appeared in an interview with US Vice President Joe Biden, who Yoani Sanchez asks whether it is true that U.S. is going to invade Cuba.

“I can give you the simplest of answers and the answer is no. As President Obama stated”, said the vice president sharply.

Because of their ingenuousness, both the question and the answer make one laugh.

It would have been much more interesting and newsworthy that US Vice President Joe Biden had answered something like that:

Yes, of course we will invade Cuba, but once again we’re waiting for the ripe fruit. Therefore we have invented mercenaries like you, who firstly should demonize Cuba in the media with an editorial policy issued by our intelligence services. It’s about repeating in Cuba the outline of color revolutions in which our predecessor George W. Bush achieved so much success in the former Soviet republics. We also have the Syrian or Libyan case as variants, or the experiment we’re carrying out in Venezuela right now. Remember my dear mercenary Yoani that we’re heirs to a history of honesty like that Adlai Stevenson boasted, when he cynically denied before OAS that United States backed the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba or when General Colin Powell justified the war on Iraq at UN.

It appears that in the vast stream of media war against Cuba the independent blogger’s humorous and a half outlet will only contribute this kind of funny interviews with senior officials from the US government.

The next interviewee could well be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who the now journalist most likely asks whether what Castro’s propaganda says that she’s a CIA agent is true or not.

Now you can figure out Mr Brennan’s answer.

Gerardo Hernández: guilty as charged? Alan Gross: innocent as claimed?

May 30, 2014


by Stephen Kimber

It should be easier to make a deal. A 65-year-old American USAID subcontractor named Alan Gross is serving 15 years in a Cuban prison for smuggling sophisticated telecommunications equipment into Cuba. Cuban officials say they’re prepared to discuss his fate without pre-conditions as a “humanitarian” gesture. But it is also clear they want to exchange him for the three members of their Cuban Five intelligence network still in prison in the United States.

There are precedents for such a swap.

In 2010, Washington acted quickly to trade 10 Russian deep-cover spies for four men the Russian government had imprisoned for “illegal contacts” with the West. There is also the example of Israel. In 2011, Israel freed more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to win the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas five years earlier.

And yet — even after a November 2013 letter signed by a bipartisan group of 66 Senators urging President Obama to “act expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest to obtain [Gross’s] release,” — the U.S. Administration refuses to negotiate.

Why? Three words: Castro, Cuba, murder.

Even for those who can get past the first two, the third is often, understandably, a show-stopper.

In 2001, Gerardo Hernández, the leader of the Cuban Five, was charged and convicted of “conspiracy to commit murder” in connection with a 1996 shootdown of two civilian aircraft over the Florida Straits that resulted in the deaths of four men. He was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years in prison.

How can the United States exchange a man convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for someone the State Department continues to insist did nothing wrong?

It’s worth unpacking both sides of that conventional wisdom.

Let’s start with the case of Gerardo Hernández.

The shootdown

On February 24, 1996, Cuban Air Force MiGs shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes, killing the four civilians aboard.

The shootdown triggered not only an international incident between the two countries but also an outpouring of rage and demands for revenge from Miami’s Cuban-American exile community.

We can argue today whether the planes were in Cuban or international airspace when they were shot down. Or debate whether the shootdown was a reasonable response to Brothers’ provocation.

But none of those legitimate debates has anything to do with the central issue: What role, if any, did Gerardo Hernández play in the shootdown of the planes? Could he have known in advance the Cuban military was planning to shoot down the aircraft? Would he have had any control over, influence on, or role in the Cuban military’s plan to bring down the planes?

Hernández and the shoot down

During much of the time leading up to the shootdown (from October 1995 to January 26, 1996), Gerardo Hernández was on vacation in Cuba. Another agent, identified in trial documents as Manny Ruiz, took his place and remained in Miami until at least mid-March 1996. Ruiz, a major and Hernández’s superior in the Cuban intelligence command structure, controlled the decoding program required to communicate directly with their bosses in Havana until after March 14, 1996 — 17 days after the shootdown.

On January 29, 1996, Havana sent a high frequency message to Ruiz: “Superior headquarters,” it said, “approved Operation Scorpion in order to perfect the confrontation of counter-revolutionary actions of Brothers to the Rescue.” The message said Havana needed to know “without a doubt” when Brothers leader José Basulto was flying and “whether or not activity of dropping of leaflets or violation of air space.”

Although prosecutors would later claim these documents showed Hernández played a role in Operation Scorpion — the basis of the conspiracy to commit murder charge — the documents clearly show this message was addressed to Ruiz, not Hernández.

Two weeks later, on February 12, a second message concerning Operation Scorpion was sent to field agent René González and signed using the code names for both Ruiz and Hernández. Hernández says he “did not write or send the message of February 12.”

There are a number of reasons to believe him. For starters, the message adopts almost precisely the same wording as the January 29 message, including repeating two errors Ruiz might not have caught but Hernández surely would.

The message cryptically instructed González to “find excuse not to fly” on future Brothers missions. The reality was that González had stopped flying with Brothers more than two years earlier. Hernández would have known that.

The message also referred to González as Iselin, one of his two code names, but one which Hernández did not use in any of his other messages to him.

And what did “perfect the confrontation” mean? Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch — in her 2008 dissent from a decision of the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals — pointed out: “There are many ways a country could ‘confront’ foreign aircraft. Forced landings, warning shots, and forced escorted journeys out of a country’s territorial airspace are among them — as are shoot downs.”

Would Cuban State Security have told Hernández in advance it planned to shoot down the planes? That’s highly unlikely. Cuban intelligence is incredibly compartmentalized; information is shared on a need-to-know basis only. Hernández, a mid-level field intelligence agent, would have had no need to know.

During this time, Hernández did have other important mission responsibilities. He was in charge of Operation Venecia, an unrelated plan to help another agent inside Brothers, Juan Pablo Roque, to re-defect back to Cuba. Operation Venecia was successful — Roque flew out of Miami on February 23, 1996.

On March 1, the Cuban Intelligence Directorate sent a message of congratulation to its agents in Miami: “Everything turned out well,” it said. “The commander in chief visited [Roque] twice, being able to exchange the details of the operation. We have dealt the Miami right a hard blow, in which your role has been decisive.”

The message did not refer to either Operation Scorpion or Operation Venecia. Instead it offered “our profound recognition” for Operation German. Based on the context of the message and the fact that Roque’s code name was “German,” it seems clear this message refers to Roque’s defection. During the trial, however, prosecutors argued the message congratulated Hernández for his role in the shootdown.

Prosecutors also claimed Hernández’s promotion to Captain in Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior on June 6, 1996, represented another acknowledgment of his key role in the shootdown. But June 6 is the anniversary of the founding of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, the date on which routine long-service promotions are granted to qualifying MININT employees. Having completed four years as lieutenant, Hernández had automatically been promoted.

As Judge Kravitch concluded in her appeal dissent, prosecutors “presented no evidence” to link Hernández to the shootdown. “I cannot say that a reasonable jury — given all the evidence — could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernández agreed to a shoot down.”

The charge

Which brings us to the issue of why prosecutors decided to charge Hernández with conspiracy to commit murder. It was not one of the original charges laid after the Cuban agents were arrested on September 12, 1998. Prosecutors only added it seven months later, on May 7, 1999.

Why the delay?

FBI agents had penetrated the Cuban network as early as December of 1996, and decrypted and translated the relevant messages well before the arrests.

There are several possible explanations for the decision to escalate the case by tacking on the murder charge.

Although prosecutors in 1998 boasted the FBI broke a “very sophisticated” spy ring, journalists and commentators quickly focused on just how unsophisticated the operation seemed. Critics had begun to dismiss the case as “second-rate.” That changed, of course, as soon as the murder charge was added.
The FBI was under fire from exile leaders in Miami for failing to charge anyone in connection with the shootdown. Soon after the 1998 arrests, Congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart called on the Clinton administration to charge the arrested agents “for the murder of four members of Brothers to the Rescue” — even though no evidence then connected them to the incident.

The trial

The conspiracy to commit murder charge became the central focus of the seven-month trial.

Did the prosecution present a compelling case?

Theydidn’t believe so. At the conclusion of the trial, they filed a last-minute emergency petition to prevent the jurors from voting on the murder count. During her instructions to the jury, Judge Joan Lenard had outlined the level of proof required to convict Hernández of conspiracy to murder. In a petition to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal on May 25, 2001, the prosecutors threw up their hands. “In light of the evidence presented in this trial,” the petition declared, the judge’s instruction “presents an insurmountable hurdle for the United States in this case, and will likely result in the failure of the prosecution.”

The Appeal Court rejected their petition, but the jury convicted the Five on every single count, including conspiracy to murder.

The jury

Which brings us to the jury, and the political climate in Miami at the time of the trial.

There is a traditional hostility among Miami’s exile community to anyone associated with the Castro government. But the climate was even more toxic in the lead-up to the trial:

Elian González, a Cuban boy, had washed up on Florida’s shores in November 1999. After an emotional and legal tug of war between his father in Cuba and his extended family in Miami, he was returned to his family in Cuba, ratcheting up the anger toward Cuba among many in Miami.
Although much of the Miami media would have been reflexively anti-Cuban in the best of circumstances, we now know some virulently anti-Cuban journalists and commentators, including some who wrote about the case before and during the trial, were secretly paid thousands of dollars by the U.S. Government through the Board of Broadcast Governors.
There was still anger and frustration among many in Miami because no one had been charged for the shootdown of the planes two years before, with some officials suggesting indicting Fidel Castro; Gerardo Hernández, it is fair to suggest, became the best available substitute.

Before and during the trial, the defence applied for a change of venue because of the climate of hostility in Miami. Those requests were all turned down.

In the years since their convictions, however, a number of respected international organizations have raised questions about whether the accused got a fair trial.

Amnesty International, in a 2010 report concluded: “A central, underlying concern relates to the fairness of holding the trial in Miami, given the pervasive community hostility toward the Cuban government in the area and media and other events which took place before and during the trial. There is evidence to suggest that these factors made it impossible to ensure a wholly impartial jury.”

Added the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in a 2005 report: “The climate of bias and prejudice against the accused in Miami persisted and helped to present the accused as guilty from the beginning. ”

Amnesty International also questioned “the strength of the evidence on which Gerardo Hernández was convicted of conspiracy to murder… [Amnesty] believes that there are questions as to whether the government discharged its burden of proof that Hernández planned a shoot-down of BTTR planes in international airspace, and thus within US jurisdiction, which was a necessary element of the charge against him.”

To repeat, once again, the opinion of Judge Kravitch, prosecutors “presented no evidence” to link Hernández to the shootdown. “I cannot say that a reasonable jury — given all the evidence — could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernández agreed to a shoot down.”

The case of Alan Gross

If it’s obvious the case against Gerardo Hernández is not as clear cut as the State Department would have us believe, neither is the case for Alan Gross.

On December 3, 2009, Cuban authorities arrested Gross and later charged him with “acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state.” He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Although the State Department continues to describe him as a humanitarian do-gooder attempting to help Cuba’s small Jewish community connect to the Internet, the facts are more complex.

Cuba’s 1,500-member Jewish community has generally good relations with the island’s government. And they already had Internet connections. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a global Jewish news service, would report later: “the main Jewish groups in Cuba denied having any contracts with Alan Gross or any knowledge of his project.”

In 2008, Gross had signed a one-year deal with Development Associates International, a USAID-connected firm, to import communications equipment into Cuba, set up three WiFi hot spots — one each in Havana, Camaguey and Santiago — and train Cubans to use them. He was paid $258,264.

That equipment included BGANS (Broadband Global Network Systems, which function as a satellite phone bypassing the local phone system and can also provide Internet signals and be used to establish its own WiFi hotspot, allowing it to operate undetected by government servers) and at least one specialized sophisticated SIM card, capable of preventing satellite phone transmissions from being detected within 400 kilometres. Such SIM cards are not available for general sale in the U.S. and are most frequently used by the CIA and the Defense Department.Despite U.S. travel restrictions, Gross made five visits to Cuba in 2009 alone. He never informed Cuba of his mission, and invariably flew into the country on a tourist visa. To smuggle his equipment into the country without arousing suspicion, Gross sometimes used unsuspecting members of religious groups as “mules.”

In December 2009, Gross had been scheduled to deliver a BGANS device to a Havana university professor who’d been using a similar U.S.-supplied device to send information on “the Cuban situation” to his handlers in the United States. He was actually a double agent working for Cuban State Security. Gross was arrested.

When Cuban authorities arrested Gross, they uncovered a treasure trove of reports back to his bosses in Washington in which he acknowledged the dangerous nature of the work he was doing. “This is very risky business in no uncertain terms,” he wrote at one point, adding that “detection of satellite signals would be catastrophic.”


So if Alan Gross is not quite as innocent as claimed, and Gerardo Hernández is not as guilty as judged, where does that leave us?

The truth is that — whatever their violations of the laws of the countries in which the two men were arrested — both Alan Gross and Gerardo Hernández are two more human victims of more than 50 years of failed American policy toward Cuba.

Their continued incarcerations represent — for both sides — a major impediment to improving relations between the two countries.

The Cuban government has expressed a willingness to discuss Alan Gross’s fate without pre-conditions. It is past time for the United States, which is ultimately responsible for Alan Gross’s failed mission in Cuba, to do the same.,

June-letter for Mr Obama

May 30, 2014


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

Mr President,

On April 18th, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Columbian writer, passed away.
“The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers, and one of my favorites when I was young, you declared, when you learned of his death.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez played an important role in the history of the Cuban agents of the Avispa network, to which belonged Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino, and René González, “The Cuban Five”, as they’re called.
In April of 1998, this writer left for Havana looking for more information concerning the recent visit of Pope Jean-Paul II to Cuba, for which he was writing an article. Garcia Marquez, who was a friend of the Cuban president, met with him and told him of the trip he was soon taking to the United States in order to conduct a writer’s workshop at Princeton University, starting on April 25th. He told President Castro that he would maybe be meeting President Clinton.
It was in this context that President Fidel Castro confided to Garcia a mission “non-official” but of capital importance, to let the president of the United States know that the terrorist organization CANF (Cuban American National Foundation) had put into place a diabolic plan to put bombs in Cuban Airways planes, and in other passenger planes going to and from Cuba from other Latin American countries. Of course, Mister President, the Cuban agents were aware of this information.
In the end, Garcia Marquez wasn’t able to meet with President Clinton, but he was received at the White House in McLarty’s office by three National Security Agency officials, for who this information sent shivers down their spine. I won’t go into the details of this meeting and of the diplomatic ups and downs that it caused, but what came out of it was the visit of a delegation of FBI officials to Havana on June 15th. Cuban experts conversed at length with this delegation on June 16th and 17th, and handed over an extremely detailed report on the terrorist attacks in preparation so the FBI could arrest the plotters.
The head of the terrorism section of the Miami Mafia, which had gotten wind of the contacts between Cuba and the United States, did not lose time in changing the chief of the South Florida FBI. Hector Pesquera arrived in Miami from Porto Rico in May 1998, and on September 1st was named chief of the South Florida FBI, and had the Cuban agents arrested on September 12th.
Pesquera put all his energy into hunting down the members of the Avispa network, during which time, in the territory he controlled, at least 14 members of Al Qaeda were in training, in complete peace, to prepare for the dreadful terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001.
The Cuban Five’s sentence in Miami was a travesty of justice. In this city, a fair judgment was impossible. As doctor Pastor, an ex-counselor for President Jimmy Carter for Latin America wrote, “Holding a trial for five Cuban intelligence agents in Miami is about as fair as a trial for an Israeli intelligence agent in Tehran”.  
The Cuban Five were heavily sentenced, Gerardo Hernández winning hands down, serving two life sentences plus fifteen years. They accused him of “conspiring with a view to committing murder” without the least proof. This charge against him had been added on to his judicial document eight months after it was constituted.
On January 22nd 2003, in a radio emission “Radio Martí” in Miami, Pesquera declared, concerning the Avispa network, “I came here in May 1998. I was made aware of the situation. We then started to place emphasis on the fact that this investigation should not be only on questions of intelligence. The nature of this case must be transformed into a criminal investigation.” What he said clears up for us the accusation afterwards attributed to Gerardo Hernandez. It would be very easy to prove this man innocent, but your country refuses his lawyers access to essential documents that would prove his innocence.
This willingness of your country to harm Cuba, alas! has not finished. Recently, on April 26th, Cuban authorities arrested four terrorists – José Ortega Amador, Obdulio Rodríguez González, Raibel Pacheco Santos and Félix Monzón Álvarez, who had arrived from Miami to prepare terrorist attacks against military installations.
Mr President, such policies must be done with! Do listen to the voice of the delegation of members of Congress from your country who visited Cuba at the beginning of May. Led by Barbara lee, this delegation, composed of four elected councilors, met with your fellow countryman Alan Gross at the prison hospital in Havana, and demanded you to open negotiations with a view to liberate him. She wishes that these negotiations be broadened so as to include the three Cuban secret agents Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino, who are imprisoned in the United States.
Listen also to the numerous voices that are rising up in this beginning of June at Washington to demand you to liberate Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino
Please receive, Mr 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.

Donohue: ‘We applaud and support your reforms’

May 30, 2014

(Donohue shaking hands with Rodrigo Malmierca, minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, the man in the middle is the dean of the University, Gustavo Cobreiro Suarez. Photos by Ricardo López Hevia from the Cuban daily Granma.)

from ProgresoWeekly

“It is time to begin a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, addressing students, academicians and other guests at the University of Havana on Thursday (May 29).
“On the basis of what we’ve seen, we consider that this period of transition in your economic system may possibly be of transition in our policies,” he said, according to the official website Cubadebate. “And it’s very promising for both countries.”

Jorge Hernández Martínez, director of the Center for Hemispheric Studies and the United States, introduced the U.S. visitor with such a glowing biography that Donohue began his address by saying “That sounds like my obituary,” drawing laughter from the audience.

The U.S. visitor spoke to a standing-room-only crowd in the university’s Grand Lecture Hall, a chamber reserved for special events.

“We have come to Cuba to observe the seriousness of [the economic reforms] and to encourage and support them as much as we can,” Donohue said, quoted by The Associated Press. “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive in the citizens.”

“The reforms that we have observed in this country […] can have a positive influence in the lives of its citizens,” he said. “Let us hope that they continue and we encourage them to expand. The businesses in the world economy will surely value that.”

“The more Cuba can do to demonstrate its commitment to the reforms, and the more that can be done to deal with and resolve the conflicts in our relations, the better will be the outlook for changes in the policy of the United States,” he said, quoted by the Reuters news agency.

For many years, U.S.-Cuba relations “have been marked by differences and bound by their past. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Unrestricted travel between the two countries could give the new generations of Cubans and Americans “an opportunity to know each other, to learn from one another, to do business together, to prosper together and help each other as friends and neighbors,” he said.

Donohue said that he hoped that “other Americans, in addition to Cuban-Americans, could come and convince themselves of how much we share.”

While citing China and Vietnam as examples of communist governments that have adopted market-oriented economies, Donohue stressed the value of private enterprise.

“We’re profoundly convinced that the countries with strong private sectors […] will have the most successful and productive economies,” he said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been an aggressive defender of normal relations between Havana and Washington, Donohue said, adding that “there are some very good business on the island worth investing in.”

About the trade embargo the U.S. imposed on Cuba decades ago, “the Chamber of Commerce thinks that it is time to eliminate the longstanding political barriers.”

“Cuba is safe for investment, not only for the citizens of the United States — we’re 90 miles apart — but also for the entire world, taking into account the changes that are taking place,” Donohue said.

Asked how much longer the embargo might last, he answered, “It depends on how well we can communicate with one another.”

Donohue and about a dozen U.S. businessmen arrived in Cuba on Tuesday. Since then, they have visited at least one cooperative and toured the Development Zone at the Port of Mariel. They have also met with several self-employed entrepreneurs.

Chamber president tours cooperative, questions workers

MAY 28 – Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday visited an automotive repair cooperative in Havana, where he maintained a “fluid” chat with the workers, Radio Habana reported.
“[Donohue] was interested in the ‘before and after’ of this enterprise […] about how workers are hired and protected,” said Marcelo González, manager of the Vehicle Reconstruction Cooperative in the Cerro municipality of Havana.

As part of its economic reforms, the government last year authorized the operation of trades and services cooperatives as complements to the state-run enterprises. In the past it allowed only agricultural cooperatives.

The government says that the number of nonagricultural cooperatives is about 450.

The auto repair cooperative visited by Donohue and members of his entourage was created 10 months ago, according to Radio Habana. It has 58 partners, whose income is reportedly in the $300-dollar-a-month range.

The cooperative system “gives us the freedom to manage ourselves, which allows us to increase our work volume and make decisions about our own resources,” González told The Associated Press. Since the cooperative’s launching, “productivity has increased a lot,” he said.

The Reuters news agency quoted Donohue as saying that “I have been free to go wherever I wanted. I’m talking with people in the private sector and the public sector. We’re going to meet with small businessmen. We are meeting with people from other countries who are operating here. I believe we’re going to have a fair look around and are enjoying ourselves.”

Donohue, a champion of capitalism and free enterprise, has opposed for years the trade embargo the U.S. has imposed on Cuba (which the Cubans call “blockade”) saying that it runs counter to his country’s commercial interests.

Washington and Havana broke diplomatic relations in the early 1960s. The trade embargo was imposed 52 years ago. An exception to the embargo allows Cuba to buy some food and agricultural products from the U.S. Those purchases totaled $509 million in 2012.


U.S. Chamber of Commerce execs arrive in Havana

MAY 27 – A delegation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce arrived Tuesday afternoon in Havana, led by its chief executive officer, Thomas J. Donohue; Steve Van Andel, chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors and president of the Amway corporation; and Marcel Smits, executive vice president and financial director of the Cargill corporation, the daily Granma reported.
After their arrival, they met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla and Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment.

According to Granma, “during their stay in Cuba, they will conduct other meetings and visit places of interest connected mainly with the process of actualization of our economic model.”

In a statement posted on the Chamber’s website, Donohue wrote that the “trip will provide us with a first-hand look at changes in Cuba’s economic policies and whether or not they are affecting the ability to do business there.”

“We want to learn more about these reforms, determine if they have brought about real and lasting changes, and find ways to encourage Cuba’s budding private sector,” Donohue stated. “We will report our findings to lawmakers, our members, and the American business community.”

The Chamber describes itself as “the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.”

Prevention and Comprehensiveness in the Protection of Children

May 29, 2014

Jose Marti School of Comprehensive Education Photo: Roberto Ruiz

The protection system for the childhood and youth in Cuba created great interest among specialists from the United Nations Fund for Children and representatives of several Latin American governments taking part in the Second International Pro Childhood Conference 2014.

By: Mileyda Menéndez Dávila

The prophylactic and multi-sectorial character of the protection system for children and youth in Cuba has spurred interest among specialists of the United Nations Fund for Children and representatives of several Latin American governments taking part in the Second International Pro Childhood Conference 2014.

The questions revolve around the daily exercise of the rights in those age groups, the mechanisms to denounce the cases in which they are aggravated, the diagnosis of families and communities with scenarios that can favour crimes that are punished by the law, as well as the strategies for the evaluation, protection and reinsertion of the underage victims and of those whose behaviour comes into conflict with society.

Cuba has been a pioneer in joining the international mechanisms promoting the protection of childhood and in the preparation of laws that give precedence to childhood protection in the family, work, culture, education, and health environment, explained Rosa Charró MSc., deputy-minister of Justice; and Idania Silot, representative of the General Court of the Republic.

An example of the guarantees to child protection in the legal system are the hard sentences for the crimes of abandonment, mistreatment, sexual abuse and corruption of minors, as well as the disposition to punish not only those who commit the crime but also those who allowed it, do not stop it or do not report them to the authorities.

Yoandry González MSc., head of the Department of International Cooperation of the National Revolutionary Police Forces (PNR), explained that there is a zero-tolerance policy to crimes that are growing alarmingly at the international level such as child trafficking, child pornography and prostitution.

In 2013, 224 sentences were issued for procuring and 14 for people trafficking. Although the cases are isolated, the system maintains a constant alert, he said. The PNR have collaboration ties with 29 police forces abroad and the Interpol, which have allowed the identification in the last few years 16 individuals involved in those crimes and who intended to travel to Cuba.

The conference will unfold until Thursday May 29 in the Palco Hotel. Participants will visit the Jose Marti School of Comprehensive Education (where they work with teenagers who have conflicts with the Law) and the Protection Centre for children and adolescents victim of crimes.

Translated by ESTI

CELAC Rejects Inclusion of Cuba on List of States that Promote Terrorism

May 27, 2014


The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States ( CELAC) rejected on Wednesday the U.S. government ‘s decision to include Cuba again, in an arbitrary and unilateral way, on the list of States that are promoters of International Terrorism.

In a communique, the CELAC expresses its concern about the stance of the U.S. State Department on April 30 to include Cuba, for the 32nd time, on this list, despite the condemnation caused by this measure in the United States and internationally.

The CELAC reiterated its total opposition to the making of unilateral lists accusing States of allegedly supporting and co-sponsoring terrorism and urged the U.S. government to end this practice.

The regional bloc expressed its position in paragraph 41 of the Declaration of Havana and in the Special Declaration of Support for the Struggle against Terrorism in all its Forms and Expressions, both adopted by the Heads of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean at the Second Summit of CELAC, held in January.

The rejection of unilateral lists affecting Latin American and Caribbean nations
The article specifies the rejection of unilateral lists and certifications created by the developed countries particularly those related to terrorism, human and drug trafficking which affect nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, .

In addition, the paragraph confirms the Special Communique approved by the CELAC which rejects the inclusion of Cuba in the U.S. list of States sponsoring terrorism. CELAC sees this as manipulation of a sensitive topic like international terrorism to turn it into an instrument of politics against the island.


Letter from Tony Guerrero to His Mother on Her Birthday

May 25, 2014


“It is my mother who I look up to as the most sublime example of love that life has given me,” writes Tony in his letter for the birthday of his mother Mirta Rodríguez.

Dear friends,
The doors have just opened; it is 6:00 am. And here I am, sitting in front of this small screen thinking: “My beloved mother turns 82 today.”

A few weeks ago, we had the bliss of seeing each other again, physically. We see each other every day through the eyes of the heart, those that see beyond the walls and borders.

My mother is beautiful, she has always been, but today she is more so.

On one of the visiting days, in those moments when we have some privacy, she told me: “Look how my hands are wrinkling, I have always tried to keep them smooth.” And we stared at each other, smiling.

It is the passage of time. And of suffering too, although she is strong, really strong and she knows that we will see each other again at home and all this time of unfair confinement of her beloved children will be in the past. That is how she has always called the five of us.

I know that today the National Flowers will be exhibited, the ones that I had so difficultly doing, but did my best, painted for the Museum of Natural History. I mean, I painted them for us and for our people. It was an honour for us to be given that task.

I was telling my mother that in every stroke of that pastel colour with which I painted those flowers there is a thought of love for her because I know how much she likes flowers.

I know my Mom will have a wonderful day, surrounded by love and even good music. My mother likes music; she sings and dances very well, although she cannot do it as well as she used to anymore.

I know she will receive so many shows of affection that, as she says, “it will be too much for one heart to bear.”

And tomorrow, very early in the morning, she will be leaving for Mexico to continue the activities in the struggle for our freedom.

I have already said that my mother is beautiful, very strong and firmly a revolutionary to whom I look up to as the most sublime example of love that life has given me.

Five hugs.

¡We shall overcome!

Tony Guerrero Rodríguez
May 22, 2014
6:30 a.m. in Marianna Prison.

Translated by ESTI

Fixing U.S. intervention capabilities in Cuba

May 24, 2014


by: W. T. Whitney Jr.
May 23 2014

What people think seemingly has little effect on ending what Cubans say is the longest and cruelest economic blockade human history Polls show overall U.S. disapproval, Cuban-Americans included. The UN General Assembly has repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected the blockade. The prestigious Atlantic Council NGO recently disapproved. Former high-profile blockade defenders in Florida, notably gubernatorial candidate Charley Crist and Cuban-American sugar baron Alfonso Fajul, changed their thinking. U.S. food producers, Illinois corn producers most recently, have called for new regulatory arrangements allowing exports to expand.

Even President Obama, fundraising in Miami in November 2013, lectured Cuba’s enemies. “[T]he notion that the same policies that we put in place in 1961 would somehow still be as effective as they are today …’t make sense.” Yet those in charge don’t budge.

Nevertheless, Josefina Vidal, head of the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s U.S. department, was in Washington on May 16 to discuss unspecified topics with Roberta Jacobson, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) noted that previous bi-national contacts, technically oriented, “are not comparable to Vidal’s visit to Washington, which constitutes high-level diplomatic dialogue.”

Then a real breakthrough seemed to materialize. According to a report, “44 former high U.S. government officials on May 19 … sent an open letter to President Barack Obama asking for an improvement in Washington’s with Cuba” They included John Negroponte, former Director of National Intelligence, Deputy Secretary of State, and veteran ambassador, including at the United Nations.

Joining him were five former deputy or assistant secretaries of state, two former heads of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, a former NATO supreme commander who once headed the U.S. Southern Command, an ex-U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, three former cabinet members, several former ambassadors, and David Rockefeller.

Financiers, businesspersons, and NGO heads signed on.

In fact, the letter conveyed interventionist recommendations as to new ways to make the blockade effective. “Now more than ever,” it claimed, “the United States can help the Cuban people determine their own destiny by building on the U.S. policy reforms that have already been started” by Obama administration The United States should “deepen contacts between the U.S. and Cuban society [and] help Cubans increase their self-reliance and independence.” “[T]his window of opportunity may not remain open indefinitely,” the letter cautioned. Now “public opinion on Cuba policy has shifted toward greater engagement with the Cuban people.” And, “the U.S. is finding itself increasingly isolated internationally in its Cuba policy.”

Rather than engage with Cubans through ending the blockade, or bow to international opinion, the signatories remain faithful to old U.S. purposes. They urged the president to take executive actions, because “In the current political climate little can be done legislatively.”

The 1996 Helms Burton Act did leave the fate of the blockade up to Congress.

The president is urged to “Expand and safeguard travel to Cuba for all Americans,” specifically “licensed travel to include exchanges by professional organizations including those specializing in law, real estate and land titling, [also] financial services and credit.” “NGOs and academic institutions” having gained “expanded travel” could “open Cuban bank accounts with funds to support their educational programs in Cuba.” Travel suggestions are lacking for other Americans.

Obama should, “Allow unlimited remittances to non-family members for the purpose of supporting independent activity in Cuba,” also grant “new licenses for the provision of professional services to independent Cuban entrepreneurs.”

The long list of recommendations includes: U.S. loans “directly to small farmers, cooperatives, self-employed individuals, and micro-enterprises in Cuba,” sales of “telecommunications hardware,” and scholarships for “exceptional Cuban students.”

The president should authorize “the import and export of certain goods and services between the U.S. private sector and independent Cuban entrepreneurs.”

Presidential discretion would be used for implementing this far-reaching proposal that presumably would exempt it from congressional authority.

Miami-area Congressperson Joe Garcia, former head of the counter-revolutionary Cuban American National Foundation, commented. “The president’s policy of allowing more travel and remittances to Cuba,” he said, “has produced more change in Cuba in the last five years than the 50 years” He thus articulated the establishment notion evident in this letter that a dependent Cuban people aren’t capable of shaping their own destiny, and shouldn’t have tried.

Former high officials of the national government fashioned the letter. They were reacting, one assumes, to the threat of a near-by social revolution, one reverberating through the centers of U.S. power for half a century. The list of names below the letter documents where parties primarily responsible for U.S. counter-revolutionary policies may be found. That would be in and around Washington, not in southern Florida where Cuban exiles, who supplied the proxy warriors, often take most of the heat for the blockade’s long duration.

In Miami: Al bread bread and wine wine.

May 24, 2014

The US Establishment proposes catching up in Cuba by ignoring its government

May 24, 2014


editorial La Alborada

A group of former diplomats –including some very interventionist ones–, former members of the US legislative and executive branches, retired military officers, current bankers and corporate officials, NGO heads, and some others, have sent an open letter to President Obama asking that he take action to facilitate the penetration of the Cuban economy through actions that are within his power to take.

Somehow, this is being dressed up as an effort to improve relations with Cuba. It is hardly that, however. It looks more like recommendations that might be advanced by Freedom House, USAID, DAI, NSA, CIA, NED, NGOs, and other members of Washington’s alphabet soup. The difference seems to be that these actions would be authorized openly to facilitate involvement in Cuba’s economy, in particular the developing small-business sector, by “US NGOs and other organizations.”

There is no mention whatever of doing any of it with the approval or cooperation of the Cuban government, except in one paragraph at the end of the list, which proposes that the US “engage in serious discussions with Cuban counterparts on mutual security and humanitarian concerns,” and that in so doing it “leverage these talks to press Cuban officials on matters such as the release of Alan Gross and on-going human rights concerns.”

The last part about Alan Gross is a nod to the current US posture that no improvement in relations is possible unless Gross is released unilaterally, but it does not matter: the proposals seek no improvement in relations, but only a new effort to get into Cuban business now. There is nothing urging the President to negotiate an exchange with the remaining three prisoners of the Cuban Five, nor to remove Cuba from the list of sponsors of terrorism. There is no suggestion of doing away with the blockade.

The underlying motivation is revealed in one phrase: “…the U.S. is finding itself increasingly isolated internationally in its Cuba policy.” That is to say that, while the US government and the media argue that the new Cuban economy is not going anywhere, that the Mariel EDZ will draw no investors, and that Raul Castro is incapable of making the economy work, an important sector of the US establishment recognizes that if they don’t get on the bus now they may have to wait a long time before the next one comes by.

These are some of the signers:

– John Negroponte, former Deputy Secretary of State; former Director of National Intelligence, and –based then in Honduras– coordinator of US intelligence and activities in Central America during the wars of the 1980s.

– John Adams, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Retired); former Deputy U.S. Military Representative to NATO; former Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, U.S. Army.

– Admiral James Stavridis, Commander of U.S. Southern Command 2006–2009; Supreme Allied Commander NATO 2009–2013; Dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

– Paul Cejas, former U.S. Ambassador; President and CEO, PLC Investments, Inc. (management of portfolio investments as well as investments in real estate and venture capital projects).

– Andres Fanjul, Fanjul Group (big sugar).

– Moises Naím, a minister under Carlos Andrés Pérez in Venezuela and currently a right-wing alarmist and proponent of taking down the governments of all of the ALBA countries. (Cuba is, of course, a founder of ALBA.)

– Ambassador Thomas Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

– Ambassador Charles Shapiro, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, where he actively assisted coup plotters before, during, and after the coup of 2002; President, Institute of the Americas.

– George Weiksner, Vice Chairman, Credit Suisse – the same bank that yesterday agreed to pay $2.6 billion in penalties for helping wealthy US clients evade taxes in a scheme federal investigators said spanned decades.

What do they propose? Here are some examples (emphasis is ours):

– Allow unlimited remittances to non-family members for the purpose of supporting independent activity in Cuba and expand the types of goods that travelers may legally take to the Island to support micro-entrepreneurs.

– Establish new licenses for the provision ofprofessional services to independent Cuban entrepreneurs.

– Allow U.S. NGOs and other organizations to lend directly to small farmers, cooperatives, self-employed individuals, and micro-enterprises in Cuba.

– Allow Cuban entrepreneurs to participate in internships in U.S. corporations and NGOs.

– Authorize the sale of telecommunications hardware in Cuba, including cell towers, satellite dishes, and handsets.

The signers may not be aware of the ZunZuneo debacle and of the way that NSA spies on other countries through back doors built into US hardware, but it seems that they just don’t care what the Cuban government thinks of these ideas. They want Obama to open the gates for intervention.

It’s hard to come to a different conclusion given the character of the proposals. They’re not a good approach to improving relations.

%d bloggers like this: