Archive for August, 2014

Time for a Little Anarchy in America? Imagine: Cuba

August 30, 2014

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by MATEO PIMENTEL

Imagine living in the world’s most literate nation—a nation where health care is free and universal, and of the highest quality by world standards.

Imagine that, in this nation, education (also free and universal) is not only considered a human right, but it is also higher in quality than that of the wealthiest, most super industrialized country the world has ever known.

Imagine that this nation actively seeks—from social to governmental dimensions—to correct and eradicate racism, and racist proclivities, so as to ensure a truer, more democratic inclusion for all.

Imagine its dedication to gender equality and women’s rights: more than forty percent of its parliament is female; more than sixty percent of its university positions are occupied by women; and all its women receive maternity leave for eighteen weeks with full pay.

Imagine that this nation prizes unity and community so greatly that many desire to participate in local government because they genuinely want to ensure social solidity and welfare, and because they want to keep unemployment low.

Imagine a million people celebrating International Workers’ Day (May 1st) every year in honor of the working class’ coordination of political power.

Imagine living in a radical democracy where virtually everyone votes in political elections that require neither party allegiance nor money in order for candidates to be elected to publically serve.

Imagine living in the only country to achieve sustainable development. What about homelessness and poverty? This nation is singular in its dedication to keeping homelessness nonexistent and to also ending poverty however it can. This nation also trains tens of thousands of medical doctors (and medical personnel) from all over the world, providing them with schooling that is accredited by the most rigorous medical board from the world’s most developed country. In fact, just imagine that doctors are this nation’s major export. Then, imagine a rich sports culture where not money governs sports but the love of the game. Imagine living in a nation whose poets and musicians enchant and lull the world.

Can you imagine it? Admittedly, is difficult to do so. Such a country seems farfetched at best. Yet, this is no make-believe utopia. This is Cuba.

One of the most disgusting habits of today’s imperium is that it continues to wave its rotten carrot in front of the faces of more than three hundred million Americans, swearing all the while that no alternative system to its own even warrants fathoming. Imagine that! America is the wealthiest nation on earth, and Cuba, one of the poorest, is even hard to conceive of despite the fact that it is real! Yet, maintaining domestic control of several hundred million Americans might prove very hard to do without unapologetically inveigling the public every single day on any number of issues. Think about how long this travesty that revolves around international and economic insecurity has kept power inside in its white house, guarded by its black gates. Then again, think about what might happen if too many people—too many Americans—really began participating democratically. If this seems scary to imagine, this alternate, democratic reality, then just imagine how badly it must scare the powers that be. It must scare them shit-less.

Of course, to compare the United States of America to Cuba is to compare apples and oranges. Nevertheless, the US appears fairly dull when one weighs the dissimilarities extant between it and its nearby Caribbean neighbor. While Cuba busies itself spreading literacy to some of the most remote and poorest countries in the world, Americans themselves are not yet as literate as Cubans. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ranked Cuba sixteenth in its Education for All Development Index—the highest in Latin America; the US ranked twenty-fifth. Even Cuba’s goodwill embarrasses the US: Cuba mobilized 1,500 medical workers to aid Haiti after its 2010 earthquake catastrophe. The Cubans had reportedly vaccinated 400,000 people, treating more than 225,000 people. The US reportedly treated little more than eight hundred. Speaking of healthcare and treatment, the lowest HIV prevalence rates in the Americas are found in Cuba—not America. Another medical statistic shows that Cuba also has a lower infant mortality rate than the US does. The list, sadly, goes on.

For blue- and red-blooded Americans who might yet claim to love their democracy and freedom, it is a good idea to consider whether or not they truly live in the democracy to which they allude when proselytizing about their little “city on a hill” to future generations. Not only can one imagine the many unprecedented political strides that Cuba has nurtured with its progressive socialism (under an aggressive, US-sponsored embargo), but one can also empirically evince it. Moreover, it leaves the American system looking rather suspect.

Yet, the story need not end with facts and statistics stagnating the way they are—or worse. Long, long ago, Jean-Jacques Rousseau presented the political philosophy that a people, ruling through their collective will, constituted the autonomous sovereign within the state. Even in a constitutional government such as the US has, the people are the sovereign which rules through a corpus of law. Not only sovereignty, but also the consequences of anarchy—it must not be forgotten—are socially generated within a state. So, America has laws and people, but perhaps not the kinds of democratic freedoms that disturb their overseers with night terrors. But, for the thinking American, working toward the kind of democracy that Cuba has must outweigh the consequences that come with making it a reality. Perhaps all the American sovereign needs to do is accept that it is time for a little anarchy. Not to worry; the sovereign will define the consequences of it. Then, America need not contend with Cuba for rankings, but it can work alongside it to foment democracy around the world in a way that arouses not terrorism, but inclusion and freedom.

Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/08/29/imagine-cuba/,

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Economic transformation and institutional change in Cuba.

August 30, 2014

New Campaign for Cuban Five Starts September 4th

August 30, 2014

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A new international campaign
for the release of the three Cuban anti-terrorist
fighters will take place September 4 to October 6 with actions
that include a vigil in front of the White House in Washington
D.C. The campaign’s program
includes the 10th International Colloquium in support of
the cause of the Cuban Five, which will take place
September 11 and 12 in Havana, while parallel actions
will be taken by activists in over 30 countries,
including demonstrations in front of US embassies,
declarations, messages to US president Barack Obama, and
rallies to demand the freedom of the Cuban heroes.
Known as the Cuban Five around the world, Fernando
Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez,
Ramon Labanino were incarcerated in US prisons in 1998 and
later given unfair sentences after they monitored the
activities of Florida-based terrorist organizations that planned
actions against Cuba. Only Rene
Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez have returned home after
they fully served their prison sentences; while the
other three anti-terrorists still remain held in US
federal penitentiaries. For the
activists the campaign in the United States and
particularly in D.C. is crucial since that is the center
of power where the mainstream media has cast silence over
the Cuban Five Case. President Obama
can use his presidential powers to order the release of
the three Cubans as it is being demanded by the
international campaign.

Nicaraguan Parliament Welcomes Daughter of Ramón Labañino

August 28, 2014

Jóvenes por los 5

Managua, August 22 (RHC) — Laura Labañino, daughter of the Cuban anti-terrorist Ramón Labañino, paid a visit Thursday to the National Assembly of Nicaragua, to speak to lawmakers about the case of the Cuban Five. 

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Para engañar a los bobos.

August 28, 2014

Cuba por Siempre

Por Arthur GonzálezOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hay quienes en Estados Unidos no respetan el coeficiente de inteligencia de los cubanos y quieren hacerles pasar gato por liebre, al menos eso parece a partir de la información divulgada por el libelo “Martí Noticias”, creado en Miami para engañar al pueblo de Cuba.

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EU, Cuba Sit Down for Talks in Brussels

August 28, 2014

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The European Union and Cuba on Wednesday began the second round of negotiations on a bilateral accord focusing on increasing cooperation but leaving difficult political questions to the side.

“This second round is focused on cooperation with an eye toward the future accord. Broader political and institutional questions will not be dealt with,” one EU source said at the end of the first phase of the meeting.

“There is a very constructive commitment, with a well-prepared Cuban team,” ready to seek solutions and contributing new ideas to the (process),” the source said.

On Thursday, work will resume with another session focusing on exploring the major economic aspects of the prospective agreement.

No additional details will be provided about possible advances until the end of the negotiating round, when the European delegation will offer a press conference.

Diplomatic sources justified to Efe the lack of details during the negotiations by noting the “sensitivity” of the matters under discussion.

Cuba is the only Latin American country with which the EU has no bilateral accord and to which the 28-member bloc applies what is known as the “common position” making dialogue with the communist island conditional on democratic advances by Havana in the area of human rights.

This policy was approved in December 1996 at the urging of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in the face of an increase in Cuba’s repression of dissidents.

In February, after more than a year of exploratory contacts, the EU decided to give the green light to talks leading to an agreement on political dialogue and cooperation with Cuba.

The European bloc’s aim is to deepen its relationship with the island, support the reforms undertaken by the government of Raul Castro and foster greater respect for human rights by Havana.

The first round of the current process took place in the Cuban capital in April with the parties agreeing on a roadmap for the negotiating process and the general structure of the future pact.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno once again is heading the Cuban delegation, while Christian Leffler, the managing director for the Americas with the European External Action Service, is returning as the chief EU negotiator.

Agencies

Cuba and its energetics perspective: a recent review (I)

August 27, 2014

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By José Luis Rodríguez

A few days ago the Ministry of energy and mines provided an extensive explanation about the prospects for the generation of electricity for the next 15 years, during which it has planned a profound change in the matrix of the national electricity production. In order to have a vision of the importance of these transformations it is necessary to take into account how the sector has evolved over the past 25 years.

One of the hardest hit during the so-called Cuban special period economy was precisely the energy situation, considering that the country did not have enough for the production of oil deposits, nor had other natural resources that assist such lack.

Until 1989 the production of oil and gas did not reach 1 million tons per year and the delivery of energy carriers rested on the import from the former Soviet Union, which reached 13.3 million tons of crude annually up to that date. Even – using oil – saving avoided arrive to consume the amount agreed for imports for some years, which provided additional revenue by millions of dollars in an operation equivalent to the re-exportation of fuel through a special agreement with the Soviets, operation which had already reached 10.2 million tons in the five years 1981-1985.

At the beginning the crisis of 1990s, Cuba produced 671 thousand tons of oil, so away Soviet imports in 1992 – payable in transferable rubles and at a fair price – a severe crisis was faced with decreasing external purchases of petroleum and products of 10.2 million tons in 1990 to 5.5 million in 1993, a decrease of 45.8% in three years.

The effects of such reduction were expected, particularly in the production of electricity, which was mostly based on oil derivatives. In this way, the generation fell 15,025 GWH in 1990 to 12,459 in 1995 to a low of 17.1%.

Already last year the crisis had reached a critical point when generating capacity stood below 40% of its potential due to lack of fuel, which forced the withdrawal of a significant part of the industry, and created a very tense situation in the population due to power outages every 8 hours in the capital of the country and for longer even than in other cities and towns.

This adverse situation began to overcome with the increase of national oil production, which in 1995 reached 471 million tons, and in this they played an important role especially created with Canadian capital ventures. To this was added the adaptation of plants so that they began to burn the very national crude, considered very heavy, but whose use became inevitable in those circumstances.

From the use of the gas attendant of the oil fields in 1997 increased energy production, and in 2000 has managed to accumulate three thousand 269 million tons of oil equivalent. Also power generation equaled the level of 1990, although with a slightly different composition, since the thermal power generated 89%, but the gas turbines covered 9%. On the other hand, the average consumption in the residential sector exceeded the 126 KWH at the beginning of this century, surpassing 3% from 1990.

In the same way, from a greater weight of the tourism sector in the economic growth of the country and the contraction in the industry, fell 2.64 million barrels of oil equivalent energy intensity coefficient for each million dollars of GDP in 1990to 1.99 in 2000, measured at constant prices of the year. In addition, decreased CO2 emissions in terms of Kg/h of 3.18 in 1990 at 2.40, for a reduction of 24.5%.

During decade 2000-2010 occurred also important changes in the Cuban energy sector. A factor that marked the beginning of these changes was the crisis of electricity generation during the second half of 2004. In this case collapsed several thermal power stations, starting with the Antonio Guiteras in Matanzas, which led the country into a situation similar to 1994, reaching reduced generating capacity to 38% of the potential, with the consequent paralysis of many economic activities and the reappearance of similar intensity to the experienced electricity cuts ten years earlier.

Against this complex situation, the country should devote hundreds of millions of dollars -in first place for the purchase of power plants from diesel fuel to ensure the peak of generation of the nights, when demand rose well above the possibility of generating. Then it was necessary to acquire decentralized plants that would use fuel and working more efficiently.

From this experience, it was proposed an intense plan of saving electricity and other energy carriers, giving rise to what would be called as energy revolution, which would be developed in the context of the so-called battle of Ideas, launched from 1999.

(To be continued)

* The author is an advisor of the Center of Research of the Economy
– See more at: http://www.cubacontemporanea.com/en/news/cuba-and-its-energetics-perspective-recent-review-i#sthash.P6jBNYPh.dpuf,

Lección de democracia para las Damas de Blanco.

August 26, 2014

Cuba por Siempre

Por Arthur González

La inculta y grosera Berta Soler, presidenta de las llamadas Damas de Blanco asalariadas de los norteamericanos, deberá sacar lecciones de la forma en que actúan las autoridades policíacas contra aquellas personas que crean desórdenes públicos contra el gobierno yanqui, a los que allá denominan “desobediencia civil”.

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Cuba Sees Its Future in Mariel Port, Hand in Hand with Brazil

August 25, 2014

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The container terminal administrative building in the port of the Mariel special economic development zone in Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg

(IPS) – The Mariel special economic development zone, the biggest construction project undertaken in decades in Cuba, emerged thanks to financial support from Brazil, which was based on political goodwill, a strategy of integration, and business vision.

“Cuba would not have been able to undertake this project from a technical or economic point of view,” economist Esteban Morales told IPS. He added that the geographic setting makes the development zone strategic in terms of trade, industry and services in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Brazil financed the construction of the container terminal and the remodeling of the port of Mariel, which is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to handle cargo from Post-Panamax container ships that will begin to arrive when the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in December 2015.

Post-Panamax refers to vessels that do not fit in the current Panama Canal, such as the supertankers and the largest modern container and passenger ships.

The port, 45 km west of Havana, is located along the route of the main maritime transport flows in the Western hemisphere, and experts say it will be the largest industrial port in the Caribbean in terms of both size and volume of activity.

Construction of the terminal, in the heart of the 465 sq km special economic development zone, has included highways connecting the Mariel port with the rest of the country, a railway network, and communication infrastructure, and the port will offer a variety of services.

In the special zone, currently under construction, there will be productive, trade, agricultural, port, logistical, training, recreational, tourist, real estate, and technological development and innovation activities, in installations that include merchandise distribution centres and industrial parks.

The special zone is divided into eight sectors, to be developed in stages. The first involves telecommunications and a modern technology park where pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms will operate – two sectors which will be given priority in Mariel, along with renewable energies, agriculture and food, among others.

The Cuban government is currently studying the approval of 23 projects from Europe, Asia and the Americas for Mariel, in the chemical, construction materials, logistics and equipment rental industries.

The terminal was inaugurated on Jan. 27, and during its first six months of operation it received 57 ships and some 15,000 containers – small numbers compared to the terminal’s warehouse capacity of 822,000 containers. Post-Panamax vessels can carry up to 12,600 containers, three times more than Panamax ships.

Another economist, Pedro Monreal, estimates that the cost per container will be cut in half.

The lower costs, he said, will improve the competitiveness of Brazil’s manufactured goods, to cite one example. Mariel, where a free trade zone will also operate, could become a platform for production and export by the companies, even for supplying Brazil’s domestic market.

Although Decree Law 313, which created the special economic development zone, was passed in September 2013, the remodeling of Mariel began three years ago, led by a joint venture formed in February 2010 by the Compañía de Obras e Infraestructura, a subsidiary of the private Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, and Quality Cuba SA.

The container terminal is run by Global Ports Management Limited of Singapore, one of the world’s biggest container terminal operators, which has been working with the Cuban firm Almacenes Universales S.A, which is the owner and user of the terminal, and responsible for oversight of its efficient use.

The relationship between Cuba and Brazil is a longstanding one. Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) did not hide his sympathies for the Cuban revolution, and has visited this country a number of times, first as a trade unionist and political party leader, and then as a president and former president.

Two packages of agreements signed in 2008 and 2010 between Lula and Cuban President Raúl Castro marked their interest in strengthening bilateral ties, an effort continued by current Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

When she attended the inauguration of the terminal, Rousseff said the project would take 802 million dollars in the first stage, plus 290 million for the second stage. The first of Brazil’s loans was initially to go towards construction of the road, but the local government decided to start with the port.

The credit was granted by Brazil’s National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES). Havana provided 15 percent of the investment needed for the work.

“Cuba is a priority for our government, and Brazil is important to Havana,” the director general of the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Exports and Investments (APEX-Brazil), Hipólito Rocha, told IPS.

APEX-Brazil was created by Lula and Castro to promote joint business ventures with Cuba, the rest of the Caribbean and Central America.

Odebrecht is the most important company involved in Mariel, but diplomatic sources told IPS that a total of around 400 Brazilian companies are taking part in the project. “Between our countries there is affinity, political will, an interest in integration, but business matters are also important,” Rocha said.

He added that Cuba strictly lives up to its financial commitments with Brazil, and said bilateral relations “are solid, sustainable and bring benefits to our country as well.”

Analyst Arturo López-Levy said Brazil’s involvement in the Mariel project was decisive not only because of the investment. The political scientist, who lives in the United States, says the Brazilian government is sending a message to Washington and the European Union and other emerging powers that it backs the transformations underway in Cuba.

The presidents of China, Xi Jinping, and Russia, Vladimir Putin, also sent out signals when they visited Cuba in July, indicating their interest in expanding cooperation with Havana.

The two presidents stopped over in Cuba when they travelled to the sixth summit of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), held Jul. 14-16 in Brazil.

The strengthening of ties promises greater access to the Chinese and Russian markets, attraction of investment in areas of common interest like the pharmaceutical and energy industries, and cooperation for the modernisation of strategic areas in defence, ports and telecommunications, López-Levy told IPS.

With respect to the possible interest of U.S. businesses in getting a foothold in the special economic development zone, and to an increase in pressure for the lifting of the five-decade U.S. embargo, the analyst said “the Cuban market awakens very limited interest in the United States.”

However, he said it was “clear” that U.S. investors are becoming more interested, especially Cuban-Americans.

“In order for this motivation to turn into political pressure against the embargo, the Cuban economy has to give out clear signs of recovery and of the government’s willingness, in key areas, to adopt a mixed economy with transparent guarantees for investors and export capacity,” he said.

Rocha has a somewhat different opinion.

“The embargo is going to collapse under its own weight,” he said. “Business will knock it down.”

It was seen as symbolic that the first ship that docked in the Mariel port after it began to operate brought food for Cuba from the United States – cash-only imports, which were authorised by the U.S. Congress in 2000.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/cuba-sees-its-future-in-mariel-port-hand-in-hand-with-brazil/,

Bank of Ireland stops transfers to Cuba due to US embargo

August 25, 2014

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By The Irish Times

Irish people trying to use an Irish bank to transfer money to people living in Cuba are being blocked from doing so as a result of a United States embargo on the Caribbean country which has been in place for more than 50 years.

Although neither the Republic nor the EU has any restrictions on trade with Cuba, and despite the UN General Assembly passing resolutions condemning the embargo, Bank of Ireland has started to block all financial transfers in recent weeks because of a business relationship with a US bank.

Under the US trade embargo, which has been in place since Fidel Castro overthrew a pro-US regime in the early 1960s, Americans banks are forbidden from processing payments from Cuba or even facilitating the making or receiving of such payments.

Jurisdictions
While such transfers are commonplace in other jurisdictions – and are still permitted by other Irish banks – Bank of Ireland has changed its rules on such transfers since the introduction of the Single European Payment Area (Sepa) and is now refusing to process them.

In a statement the bank confirmed it would no longer facilitate the transfers, and said it depended on overseas banks for the processing of national, European and international transactions under the Sepa umbrella.

“As it happens, [the bank which processes] all Sepa transactions is a leading US bank who must comply with its own regulatory requirements and obligations and to avoid a possible exposure to regulatory sanctions and penalties,” a spokeswoman said.

Because of this the bank says it is “not in a position to process such transactions”.

The national co-ordinator of Cuba Support group Simon McGuinness said: “On the one hand we have the EU voting as a single bloc against the blockade and on the other they introduced financial regulations which facilitate it.”

http://progresoweekly.us/bank-ireland-stops-transfers-cuba-due-us-embargo/?utm_source=PW+08-25-14&utm_campaign=7-25-14+Weekly&utm_medium=email,


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