Archive for February, 2015

Cuban Five: Example of what it means to be a revolutionary, to be a communist

February 28, 2015

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‘Absolved by Solidarity’ by Antonio Guerrero,
presented at Havana Book Fair, helps working people learn from a living socialist revolution.
The Militant

Below is the text of the presentation by Mary-Alice Waters of Absolved by Solidarity by Antonio Guerrero at two recent events in Havana, one at the Havana International Book Fair and the other at the José Antonio Echeverría Polytechnic Institute (CUJAE), Havana’s main engineering and science university. (See accompanying article.) Waters, president of Pathfinder Press and a leader of the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S., is editor of the new book by Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five. Waters’ remarks are copyright ©2015 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

Thank you Arleen, and a thank you to all of you who are with us here today.

Above all, however, a profound thank-you to Gerardo, Ramón, Tony, Fernando, and René for joining us. What an honor and a pleasure after so many years of communicating only through letters and sometimes the prison controlled email system, CorrLinks!

If I may borrow from the words of tribute paid you by Puerto Rican independence leader Rafael Cancel Miranda, thank you for “the light and the strength” you have given us. For your example. You have demonstrated in today’s world the honor that rightfully adheres to the words revolutionary and communist.

When I saw the video clip of Gerardo saluting as he came off the plane in December, and then heard his words to [Cuban President] Raúl [Castro] — “You can count on us for whatever is needed.” We’re ready for our next assignments — that’s when I knew we had won.

We owe that victory first and foremost to the conduct of the five comrades themselves, to their unbreakable integrity, discipline, creativity — and humor. To “the dignity learned from our people,’’ as Tony puts it in the introduction to Absolved by Solidarity.

That victory was possible only because of the tireless, consistent support and activity of their families — wives, mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers and cousins all.

It was only possible because of the unwavering determination of the Cuban government and party leadership, including the ceaseless efforts of National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón.

It was only possible because of the battle led from Cuba — for which great credit goes to Kenia Serrano and all the cadres of ICAP (Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples) — to build what Gerardo so accurately called the worldwide “jury of millions.”

It was only possible because of the efforts of the countless lawyers for whom defense of the Five became much more than a legal matter.

But I would like to add one more piece to this battle formation — the blow struck for the freedom of the Five by Fidel and Raúl’s “army of white coats” fighting the deadly virus of Ebola in West Africa today. When the first articles praising the professionalism, selflessness, and courage of the hundreds of Cuban medical volunteers on their way to Africa began appearing on the front page of newspapers like the Wall Street Journal last October, I knew the day of Gerardo, Ramón, and Tony’s freedom had just come closer.

Tony puts all this in his own beautiful words in Absolved by Solidarity. “We never felt defeated,” he wrote. “We knew we would be acquitted by the honest men and women of the world, who have today become a growing wave of solidarity that won’t break until it carries us home.”

Battles ahead, not looking back
That is what Absolved by Solidarity is about. That is why its publication could not be more timely.

This is not a book that looks backwards. It is a book about the new battles ahead for all of us. About how they too will be won by men and women like Gerardo, Ramón, Tony, Fernando and René — the kind of men and women that only a deeply popular, proletarian revolution like Cuba’s can produce. Men and women with the dignity, strength, and humanity of the Cuban Revolution and of the five unbowed soldiers who became the face of that revolution the world over.

Absolved by Solidarity reproduces the 16 watercolors that are on display here today, painted by Tony to mark the 16th anniversary of their imprisonment. They tell the story of the seven-month-long 2000-2001 trial in Miami, in which, as Tony writes, the U.S. government “secured the conditions it needed to ensure we wouldn’t have the slightest chance of being acquitted.”

Pathfinder’s editors were within hours of sending the book to the printer when news flashed around the world the morning of Dec. 17 that Gerardo, Ramón, and Tony were free. That their feet were already planted on Cuban soil.

That was a historic victory, so we stopped the presses for a few days. The editors went back to work, and the book you have before you now includes an introductory five pages recording that extraordinary moment, including three pages of photos of the arrival of Gerardo, Ramón, and Tony and the spontaneous explosion of joy in factories, schools, and streets from Havana, to Santa Clara, Santiago, and beyond.

We adjusted the cover and added the verdict: “The jury of millions has spoken! The Cuban Five are Free!”

Experience of millions of workers
The main thing I want to emphasize is the political importance of the two books of paintings by Tony — Absolved by Solidarity, and I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived, which reproduces 15 watercolors from the year before portraying the 17 months the compañeros spent in the “hole” at the Miami Federal Detention Center after their arrests in 1998. I want to describe how we are using those paintings and books — in the United States especially — along with two related titles, Voices From Prison and The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should Be Free.

Tony’s books are not only impressive works of art. For us they have been powerful weapons in the political battle to win the freedom of the Five, because they connect so directly to the lives and struggles of millions of working people in the U.S.

As many of you are aware, and as our five brothers know from the inside, the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The police, courts, and prisons are simply the domestic face, the domestic foundation of the class bias, repression and racism of the imperialist monster you know well.

More than 2.2 million men and women are behind bars right now, with some 4.8 million more living under some form of “supervised release,” such as René endured for more than a year and a half, between walking out of a federal prison and returning home to Cuba. To put it another way, by Washington’s own figures, 1 out of every 35 adults in the U.S. is behind prison walls or on probation or parole. Yes, 1 in every 35! There is hardly a working-class family that doesn’t have a relative, a neighbor, a fellow worker or friend caught somewhere in the toils of this system of American capitalist “justice.”

What Tony portrays in his paintings is something they immediately identify with because they, their parents, their friends and loved ones have lived it as well.

And that includes even children. After seeing an exhibit of I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived, a group of children at the Jackie Robinson Community Center in East Harlem, New York, some as young as 6 and 7 years old, wrote colorful notes addressed to each of the Five expressing their feelings. One of them I recall — I think it was addressed to Ramón — said roughly, “I’m sorry you are in prison just because you were protecting your country. I wish I could help but I’m only 7 years old. I don’t have a job, so I don’t have money to pay for a lawyer who could get you out. I hope they let you go.”

That child was speaking from his own painful experience, even at that age. There are millions of other working-class families for whom the same is true.

That is why the response to other Pathfinder books about the Cuban Five has also been so strong, books such as Voices From Prison, whose pages contain accounts by fellow inmates, by others railroaded to prison for their political activity, and by members of the Five and their families.

Political interest in the Five — and in books recording Cuba’s revolutionary example of how workers and farmers can fight effectively, change themselves in the process, and win — is spreading in the U.S. It is spreading parallel to, and made possible by, broadening resistance to efforts by employers, their government, and their Democratic and Republican parties to resolve the long, grinding capitalist crisis on our backs. And that’s what’s going on today among refinery workers, longshoremen, rail workers, stockers and salespeople at giant retailers, and others. There’s an increase in fights right now, as a result, among others things, of a modest upturn in hiring that’s boosting confidence and making it a little harder for bosses to wield the unemployment club against us.

At union meetings and picket lines, at schools and popular demonstrations, and above all as socialist workers go door to door in working-class neighborhoods selling subscriptions to the Militant newspaper along with books and pamphlets, thousands of copies of titles about the Cuban Five have been sold in the U.S.

When we totaled up the figures a few days ago, I myself was surprised to see that more than 25,000 copies of the books on the Five being presented here today have been sold in the last three and a half years, the overwhelming majority of them in the U.S.

In addition to reaching out as widely as possible with these and other books, over the last year of the battle to win freedom for the Five, we and others were able to organize more than 25 exhibitions of Tony’s paintings, sometimes together with drawings by Gerardo, in 14 cities across the U.S. — in schools, community centers, churches, art galleries, cafes and libraries. Others took place in cities around the world, from Athens to Panama, from the Australian Outback to Jakarta to London.

And the powerful installation by Cuban artist Kcho at the National Museum of Fine Arts here in Havana topped it off.

Our Five Heroes have lived many long years on the front lines of the class struggle in the U.S., and their ability to connect with working people there is of immense importance in the battles going forward. That is one of the reasons, of course, that Washington insisted that René and Tony renounce their U.S. citizenships. They still fear you, compañeros. And they still fear the working people of Cuba.

Just as the U.S. rulers fear us — the workers and farmers of the United States — at the same time that our political capacities and revolutionary potential are as utterly discounted by them as those of the Cuban toilers once were. And just as wrongly.

Worldwide spread
Let me end on two points.

First a word about the languages into which the books we are presenting today have been translated, and the scope of the international campaign to free Cuba’s Five Heroes. The covers of those books in many languages are on display here. Each is available in English and in Spanish. But they’ve been published in other tongues as well:

The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should Be Free in French, Farsi, and much of it in Greek;

Voices From Prison in Arabic, French, and Farsi; and

I Will Die The Way I’ve Lived, now in French and Farsi as well.

The French translations were done by comrades in Quebec and France, and are being used at political events in both countries. They were in Haiti at the international book fair in December at which Cuba was the country of honor. They are being sold in Burkina Faso, Mali, and elsewhere in West Africa, where supporters of Pathfinder organized to travel and promote them last year.

The Arabic translation was done by comrades in Lebanon and Greece. They were presented at the Cuban Five committee’s booth at the Beirut international book fair in November, where many visitors learned about the Cuban Revolution and the Five for the first time.

The books in Farsi are of special interest. They are edited and printed in Tehran by an Iranian publishing house and distributed in more than 30 major cities. Some 20,000 copies of these and other books in Farsi that tell the truth about the Cuban Revolution have been sold in Iran in the last years — including titles such as Socialism and Man in Cuba, The First and Second Declarations of Havana, and Marianas in Combat.

Some of these books make their way into Afghanistan as well, where Farsi — called Dari in that country — is the majority written language. Afghan distributors visiting the Tehran International Book Fair have bought hundreds of these books to take back to Afghanistan, where some have been pirated and reprinted in thousands of copies sold at book fairs there.

What accounts for the determination of those who have built the jury of millions worldwide to translate these books into languages that working people in their own countries can read?

The answer, as I said earlier, is that these books are not about the past. They are not primarily about an international defense campaign that has been won and is now over. Reading today about Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando, and René, working people learn about a living socialist revolution — including the working-class internationalism of hundreds of thousands of Cubans in Angola who aided the liberation of southern Africa from colonialism and white supremacy.

A new front
The victory represented by the return home of our Five Heroes also marks the opening of a new front in the decades-long battle to defend Cuba’s independence, its sovereignty, its socialist revolution. As we say in English, “The tiger has not changed its stripes.” Imperialism’s tactics can shift, but the goal remains the same: through one form of aggression or another, their objective is to overturn the property and social relations conquered by the working people of Cuba over 55 years of struggle and counting.

I liked the way Cuba’s former Minister of Culture Abel Prieto put it in popular and easily understood words the other day when he told an audience here at La Cabaña, “If market relations ever become dominant again in Cuba, you can kiss this book fair good-bye.”

“The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery” with which the bourgeoisie wages its battle to “compel all nations, on pain of extinction to adopt the bourgeois mode of production,” Marx explained in the Communist Manifesto.

As you continue to demonstrate in life — as the Cuban Revolution has done from the outset — that human labor, not the purchase of a commodity called labor power, is the future of a sustainable and livable world, you can be confident that you are not alone. Others stand and fight alongside you as you wage that economic and political battle — that battle of ideas, that battle to close the gap in the productivity of social labor.

The victory that has been won with the freedom of our Five brothers brings renewed confidence to your comrades in struggle the world over, including in the United States.

So we’ll close with the words of René in one of his letters to Olguita that you will find in the pages of Absolved by Solidarity.

The day “our absurd punishment comes to an end,” René wrote, “the US government, even without saying so, will be conceding its biggest defeat.” Despite all their efforts, he said, “they could not take from us the moral high ground to judge Cuba. … Our release from prison will be one more vindication of Cuba.”

And so it is.

The jury of millions has spoken!

The Cuban Five are free — and as disciplined soldiers go forward, as Gerardo said, to do whatever is needed!

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Cuban 5 participation marks Havana book fair

February 28, 2015

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BY MARTÍN KOPPEL AND REBECCA WILLIAMSON
The Militant
HAVANA — The most notable feature of this year’s international book fair here has been the almost daily participation of the men known around the world as the Cuban Five and here as the Five Heroes.

The broad 11-day cultural event, attended by some 300,000 people, was marked by the confidence generated by the victory won with the return home in December of Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, who spent more than 16 years in U.S. prisons. René González and Fernando González had been released from U.S. custody in May 2013 and February 2014.

Washington arrested the five in South Florida in 1998 and railroaded them to prison on trumped-up charges — including conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder — because of their actions in defense of the Cuban Revolution. They had been working undercover to alert authorities in Havana about plans by U.S.-based paramilitary groups to carry out bombings and other attacks in Cuba.

In discussions at the book fair, and in daily conversations with Cubans everywhere, the Five Heroes come up time and again as a source of pride. Everyone wants to tell you where they were and what they were doing Dec. 17, when millions stopped to listen to President Raúl Castro announce on TV that Hernández, Labañino and Guerrero were back on Cuban soil. Workers, farmers, students and others across the island poured into the streets in spontaneous celebrations.

Since the return of Gerardo, Ramón and Tony, as they are universally known here, the three of them — plus Fernando and René — have been involved in a whirlwind of daily activities. They are responding to the joy of ordinary Cubans who want to welcome them home and hear what they have to say, including lessons they draw following a decade and a half or more in U.S. prisons.

As Tony Guerrero told an audience of young people at the José Antonio Echeverría Polytechnic Institute, known as CUJAE, however, “No battle waged by revolutionaries ends with something you once did. You don’t live off what you did. No, you have to live from what you do every day.”

Many people here watching the news heard Gerardo, Ramón and Tony after they got off the plane when they proudly reported for duty “for whatever is needed.”

Range of events
One or more of the Five participated in many book fair events and related activities. These included presentations of a collection of Labañino’s prison poems, a CD of Guerrero’s poetry with musical accompaniment and The United States: The Price of Power by Alejandro Castro Espín, a colonel in the Interior Ministry. They took part in launching a new edition of Reto a la soledad (Challenge to solitude) by retired Colonel Orlando Cardoso Villavicencio, an account of his nearly 11 years as a prisoner of war in Somalia.

Several presentations centered on the new Pathfinder Press title Absolved by Solidarity: 16 Watercolors for 16 Years of Unjust Imprisonment. The book contains prison paintings by Antonio Guerrero depicting how the Five responded to the 2000-2001 frame-up trial in a U.S. court, plus an introductory photo section capturing the victorious return home in December.

One of these events was held at the science and technical university CUJAE. Another was sponsored by the Union of Young Communists at the Higher Institute for International Relations, which trains youth for Cuba’s foreign service and counts Hernández and Fernando González among its graduates. The book was presented by Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press and a leader of the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S., and Jacob Perasso, a worker and member of the Young Socialists.

One of the largest book fair events, held Feb. 17, was attended by 250 people. Among those present were Gerardo, Ramón, Tony, Fernando, René, family members of the Five and former Cuban Vice President José Ramón Fernández, a Hero of the Republic who led the main column that defeated the U.S.-organized Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Also attending were Cuban Book Institute President Zuleica Romay; Kenia Serrano, president of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples; and Andrés Gómez, a leader of the Antonio Maceo Brigade, a Cuban-American organization that supports the revolution.

The program included a panel of writers who discussed publishing activity in Cuba and worldwide in defense of the Cuban Five, and a presentation of Retrato de una ausencia (Portrait of an absence), a book about the Five by journalists Nyliam Vázquez and Oliver Zamora.

The event also featured a presentation of Absolved by Solidarity. The book’s editor, Mary-Alice Waters, was joined on the platform by Tony Guerrero. Waters was introduced by Arleen Rodríguez, coordinator of the Mesa Redonda (Roundtable) TV program.

Waters noted that the catalog of Tony’s watercolors “is not a book that looks backwards. It is a book about the new battles ahead for all of us. About how those battles too will be won by men and women like Gerardo, Ramón, Tony, Fernando and René — the kind of men and women that only a deeply popular, proletarian revolution like Cuba’s can produce.”

Working people in the U.S. can identify with Guerrero’s paintings, Waters said, “because they connect so directly to the lives and struggles of millions,” including their own experience with class “justice” under capitalism.

“The victory represented by the return home of our Five Heroes,” Waters concluded, “also marks the opening of a new front in the decades-long battle to defend Cuba’s independence, its sovereignty, its socialist revolution. As we say in English, ‘The tiger has not changed its stripes.’ Imperialism’s tactics can shift, but the goal remains the same. Through one form of aggression or another, their objective is to overturn the property and social relations conquered by the working people of Cuba over 55 years of struggle and counting.” (The text of Waters’ presentation appears on pages 8-9.)

Guerrero said that when he and his four brothers were in prison, “every book Pathfinder sent us — they sent them in Spanish and English — gave us incredible strength, because they told us that ‘in the belly of the beast,’ to use José Martí’s words, there are people who know how to fight to build a better world.” Likewise, the Five were encouraged by the work of Cuban-American groups that campaigned for their release, such as the Alianza Martiana and the Antonio Maceo Brigade.

Guerrero said he was impressed that their supporters in Miami had organized an exhibit of his first set of 15 watercolors, titled “I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived,” despite threats by right-wing Cuban-American groups. Last August, as he contemplated a project to paint a new set of 16 watercolors, “what convinced me that I had to commit myself to do that was when they put up that exhibit in Miami.”

Today the book Absolved by Solidarity “is an important weapon to denounce the injustices of the U.S. judicial system,” he said. It helps expose how that system commits arbitrary actions “not only against us but against many other fighters, many other workers and ordinary people.”

Exchange with students
Two days later, Waters joined Tony, Fernando and René to present the book to an audience of 300 students and faculty members at the CUJAE campus. Julián Gutiérrez, the main organizer of the event, is a professor and coordinator of the University Network in Solidarity with the Five, which for years has organized a monthly cultural and educational event on campus in support of the Cuban Five — la peña, as it’s known. CUJAE rector Alicia Alonso also joined the platform.

“This is the first peña that is not for the Five but with them,” Gutiérrez announced to applause.

The afternoon turned into a lively exchange. Tony, René and Fernando immediately established a rapport with the students, exchanging light-hearted anecdotes about the school while giving serious answers to their questions.

Guerrero said that in prison they received the Militant every week. The Militant “never stopped publishing articles about us,” he said. Other prisoners would say, “Look, these people always appear in the paper,” and became interested in learning more about them and what they represented. The coverage of their fight helped protect them in prison.

Guerrero noted how the Militant reported on work in defense of the Cuban Five, including several dozen exhibits of the watercolors in cities across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries. “The paper would report that exhibits of ‘I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived’ were being shown in this city, this city, that city. And the following week it would be a new list of cities” — as far away as New Zealand, he noted.

Tony recalled how children at the Jackie Robinson Community Center in Harlem in New York City wrote letters to the Five after seeing an exhibit of his paintings there, and he wrote back to them.

Guerrero and his two comrades were peppered with questions by the students. Asked why he never stopped “being happy” while in prison, he replied, “Every morning when you get up, it’s a critical moment in your life — a new opportunity for you. But some moments are decisive.” If every day you prepare through what you do and internalize your convictions, “when that moment comes, you are ready, and at night you are able to go to sleep, at peace with yourself.”

Describing the day the five of them were arrested by FBI agents in 1998, he recalled, “A guy asks you to admit to something you didn’t do, and you have two options. If you go over to his side, you can get back all the material things you had. The other option [if you say no] is that things are going to get real tough. The man tells you, ‘Look, we’re going to give you a long sentence and you’re going to die in prison.’

“At that moment you have to be prepared. You have to have defined something inside you to know what to do. Then, after you passed that test and said no, you begin to realize you’re happier than everyone around you.”

René González added that when they were locked up, “the first target [of the jailers and prosecutors] was our dignity.” But each of them refused to give in to the blackmail. In prison they were deprived of the most basic material means, while the prosecutors “had everything” in terms of a comfortable existence. Nonetheless, “the most unhappy people throughout the trial were the prosecutors,” René said. “We made them miserable.”

A student asked when they were going to meet Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who from the beginning played a central role in mobilizing support for the Five Heroes. “We are certain we’re going to see Fidel, and that he’s interested in talking with us,” Guerrero replied. “But he doesn’t want to be the first one — he’s a down-to-earth person; that’s what’s great about him. So don’t despair, we’ll see him.”

“Right now we have work to do,” Guerrero said, coming back to a point he had made earlier. “My job, René’s and Fernando’s is not to keep coming back here every day. We can’t keep talking about the same things 37 times. We’re going to work, like everyone, and work together.” His response met applause from the students.

Cuba Made Simple

February 27, 2015

Of Dissidents and Self-Defense
By William Blum
Global Research, February 27, 2015

“The trade embargo can be fully lifted only through legislation – unless Cuba forms a democracy, in which case the president can lift it.”

Aha! So that’s the problem, according to a Washington Post columnist – Cuba is not a democracy! That would explain why the United States does not maintain an embargo against Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt and other distinguished pillars of freedom. The mainstream media routinely refer to Cuba as a dictatorship. Why is it not uncommon even for people on the left to do the same? I think that many of the latter do so in the belief that to say otherwise runs the risk of not being taken seriously, largely a vestige of the Cold War when Communists all over the world were ridiculed for blindly following Moscow’s party line. But what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

No “free press”? Apart from the question of how free Western media is, if that’s to be the standard, what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control almost all the media worth owning or controlling?

Is it “free elections” that Cuba lacks? They regularly have elections at municipal, regional and national levels. (They do not have direct election of the president, but neither do Germany or the United Kingdom and many other countries). Money plays virtually no role in these elections; neither does party politics, including the Communist Party, since candidates run as individuals. Again, what is the standard by which Cuban elections are to be judged? Is it that they don’t have the Koch Brothers to pour in a billion dollars? Most Americans, if they gave it any thought, might find it difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic election, without great concentrations of corporate money, would look like, or how it would operate. Would Ralph Nader finally be able to get on all 50 state ballots, take part in national television debates, and be able to match the two monopoly parties in media advertising? If that were the case, I think he’d probably win; which is why it’s not the case.

Or perhaps what Cuba lacks is our marvelous “electoral college” system, where the presidential candidate with the most votes is not necessarily the winner. If we really think this system is a good example of democracy why don’t we use it for local and state elections as well?

Is Cuba not a democracy because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement two years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

Would Washington ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known members of that organization? In recent years the United States has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents. While others may call Cuba’s security policies dictatorship, I call it self-defense.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power . His latest book is: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy.

How Cuba became more literate than the United States.

February 27, 2015

Cuba’s health system: an eyewitness report

February 27, 2015

NYC Havana Blog

I just returned from a week’s visit to Cuba with a group of journal medical editors and public health people. We met with many people in the medical professions including family doctors and nurses and people from highly specialized referral centers in pediatric cardiac and hepatobiliary surgery, nutrition, and diabetes, and with faculty and leaders from the school of public health and some of Cuba’s medical journals, including the Cuban Journal of Public Health. We met with US students from ELAM, the Latin American Medical School that trains (for free) students with social commitment and economic need from not only Latin America (and North America) but the entire world.

Much has been written on the Cuban medical system, and how it is structured. One of the best recent articles is by C. William Keck and Gail Reed in the American Journal of Public Health in 2012, “The Curious Case of…

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Cuba: the Weight of a Long History

February 27, 2015

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200 Years of US Interventionism
Cuba: the Weight of a Long History
by MANUEL R. GÓMEZ

The U.S. and Cuba are meeting again this week for their second round of normalization talks. When asked by the media what she expected from the first round, Roberta Jacobson, the senior diplomat leading the U.S. team, said that she was “not oblivious to the weight of history.” She was right on target: There is a very long history that begins well before the Revolution, deserves careful analysis, and will impact the talks.

As far back as 1809, Jefferson tried to purchase Cuba. In 1820 he went further; he told Secretary of War J.C. Calhoun that the U.S. “ought, at the first possible opportunity, to take Cuba.” As President, John Quincy Adams predicted that Cuba would fall “like a ripening plum into the lap of the union.” These are but two of many prominent examples of a widespread ambition to annex Cuba, or at least to control its destiny, from very early in U.S. history. After “the West,” Cuba figured as a prominent second place in U.S. expansionist aims from the beginning of the Republic.

In subsequent decades, support for annexing Cuba shifted tactically to Southerners who saw Cuba as a potential new slave state, though “manifest destiny” continued to be the fundamental driving force. Presidents Polk, in 1848, and Pierce, in 1854, offered unsuccessfully to buy Cuba. John Louis O’Sullivan, the newspaper editor who coined the phrase “Manifest Destiny” in 1845, supported Cuba’s best known “annexationist,” taking him to Polk’s White House in search of support for his armed expeditions. And even Walt Whitman—no advocate of slavery—wrote in 1871 that, “‘manifest destiny’ certainly points to the speedy annexation of Cuba by the United States.”

President McKinley again unsuccessfully offered to buy Cuba in 1898, shortly before declaring war on Spain. Only a year before, his Undersecretary of War, I.C. Breckenridge, had reflected the annexationist thinking in a memo arguing that: “We must impose a harsh blockade so that hunger and its constant companion, disease, undermine the peaceful population and decimate the Cuban Army….in order to annex the Pearl of the Antilles [Cuba].” He meant the Cuban independence army, who had all but defeated the Spanish well before Roosevelt with his Rough Riders arrived to clean up. It was advocacy of a policy to starve the Cuban population and its army, just to make sure that the U.S. alone could determine the future of the island. The push for annexation eventually failed, in no small part because its supporters realized that Cubans would likely continue their war if the U.S. tried to impose it. Yet those who favored annexation were able to impose the Platt Amendment on the new Cuban Constitution in 1904, in effect granting the US the right to intervene in Cuba for practically any reason the US saw fit. Cuba’s independence was brutally truncated, and the U.S. intervened on the island again in 1906, 1912, 1917 and 1920.

During the 1930’s and 40’s, the ambition to control Cuba’s destiny continued—if somewhat more subtly and without troops. The U.S. sent Sumner Welles as a special envoy to Cuba in the 1930’s to ensure that the outcome of a populist insurrection against Gerardo Machado, then Cuba’s dictator, did not steer the island away from U.S. tutelage. This intervention gave rise to the U.S. support for Fulgencio Batista, which lasted until his overthrow in 1959 by the Revolution. As our ambassador to Cuba at the time, Earl T. Smith, asserted during a Senate hearing in 1960: “Until Castro, the U.S. was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that the American ambassador was the second most important man, sometimes even more important than the Cuban president.”

The ambition to control Cuba, in other words, already had a long and complex history by the time of the victory of the Revolution in 1959. The list of U.S. interventions seeking regime change that followed is too long to detail here. The Bay of Pigs, assassination efforts, hundreds of acts of sabotage and terrorism, and, of course, the embargo since 1960. And what did the embargo seek? Well, President Eisenhower said that “if the [Cuban people] are hungry they will throw Castro out,” a view that President Kennedy reiterated when he asserted that the end of the Revolution would come from “rising discomfort among hungry Cubans.” Arguably, a policy with the same goal of maintaining Cuba as a client state as the Breckenridge memo of half a century before. The embargo was then codified in the so-called Torricelli and Helms-Burton laws of 1992 and 1996, both supposedly granting the U.S. the right to decide what kind of government the island could have, and laws that were passed well after the Soviet Union had collapsed, the Cold War ended, and Cuba had stopped its revolutionary activities in both Africa and Latin America. In effect, these laws are modern versions of the Platt Amendment, no longer “justified” even by the Cold War fig leaf.

So the history of U.S. policy towards Cuba shows a continuity that is hard to deny. Even those who might disagree with this interpretation should not find it hard to imagine how the Cuban government, and Cubans as a whole, would react with profound skepticism and distrust of the intentions of the most powerful country in the world, as reflected by these kinds of pressures and policies for more than two centuries. Beyond the immediate issues, such as the irrational listing of Cuba in the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, Ms. Jacobson will certainly have a very heavy weight of history to consider in her discussions with her Cuban counterparts. If the President directs her, however, she, on behalf of our country, will have a unique opportunity to break clear from the interventionist thrust of our past interventionist policies, and seek agreements that nurture common interests and respect the obvious differences between the U.S. and the island.

Manuel R. Gomez is a Cuban-American public health professional who resides in Washington, DC.
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/27/cuba-the-weight-of-a-long-history/,

UN: Cuba is among the countries with the best women’s rights indicator

February 27, 2015

JSC: Jamaicans in Solidarity with Cuba

The high level of participation by women in Cuban society and the rights guaranteed by the Revolution to Cuban women place the island in a very favorable stand in the world, as it has been acknowledged by the United Nations, said a Cuban lawmaker.

arelys cuban women's federationsantanaSpeaking at the National Parliament, lawmaker Arelys Santana (photo) recalled that over 66 percent of the local professional labor force is made up by women, with more than 60 percent in public health.

Most judges, attorneys and lawyers are women, a fact that is not common in any other country, said the lawmaker who is also member of the Secretariat of the Cuban Women’s Federation.

Women stand for 58 percent of all scientists in the country and 48 percent of the Parliament deputies, she stressed.

haydee y celiavilma espin 3All these and other achievements are the fruit of constant care and action by the Cuban Revolution and its policies…

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Studies to find a vaccine against cholera are advanced in Cuba

February 27, 2015

JSC: Jamaicans in Solidarity with Cuba

vaccine oral choleraCuba is already in an advanced stage of clinical trials for the search for a vaccine against cholera, said Dr. Rafael Fando, from the National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC).  This is an oral vaccine with live microorganisms, Dr. Fando told reporters during a scientific symposium which was held at the Faculty of Law of the University of Havana, in the framework of the recently concluded International Book Fair.

The vaccine candidate was not only able to protect individuals against cholera but also, to some important extent, against intestinal colonization, said the researcher.

CENIC scientists, the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine and the Finlay Institute conducted studies of the new vaccine, which in their expert opinion, could not only prevent the disease but also the spread of pathogenic entity that it brings.

The 16th International Scientific Congress of the National Centre for Scientific Research

cnic 2015 logoRecently also, Dr. Blanca…

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A Book that was Missing : Who killed CHE ?

February 26, 2015

che-intervencion-discurso

by Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, in addition to being eminent lawyers, are
active participants in the most important battles of the North American people for
justice and freedom. Their book, dedicated to Leonard Weinglass – who, up to his last
breath, devoted his life to the liberation of the Five Cuban antiterrorists who served
long years of unjust and cruel imprisonment in the United States – pays well-deserved
tribute to our mutual friend when our heroes have now returned free to the Homeland.
To fight for justice in that country means, above all, to seek the truth and make it known
in the most difficult of circumstances, confronting the concealment and manipulation of
a powerful machinery determined to impose nothing else but ignorance on millions of
people. This is a task that Lenny as well as Ratner and Smith have known how to carry
out assiduously and consistently.

To prove that Ernesto Guevara was assassinated by the CIA, that his death was a war
crime – a crime that never perishes – and that this deed was entirely the responsibility
of the U.S. government called for an unremitting search. After many years of
demanding that the authorities comply with their own laws with respect to public access
to information, today we can read documents that, despite the crossings-out and
deletions that still seek to conceal numerous facts, allow the reader to discover that the
official versions about Ernesto Guevara’s final combat were deliberately distorted. It’s
all about trying to make us believe that Washington preferred that Che, defeated and
taken prisoner, would continue to live and that the crime was the result of unilateral
decisions made by soldiers of the Bolivian Army who were then a docile instrument of
Much has been written about Che and his epic Bolivian campaign and there are
many authors who echoed the interpretation fabricated by the exponents of “plausible
deniability.” At this stage, when both selective and massive assassination and the
practice of torture and extrajudicial executions have become a generalized practice
of a new way of making war, the book by Ratner and Smith is an opportune reminder
that such treatment has a long trajectory. It is as old as that of using servile armies
and assassins – uniformed or not – as simple tools causing countless suffering to the
peoples of Latin America under military dictatorships that the United States equipped,
In an earlier book, published in 1997 and the result of an equally relentless pursuit, the
authors had revealed how the FBI tracked Ernesto Guevara’s activities in Guatemala
and Mexico when he was not yet Che. In this book that they offer us now it can be
confirmed that during his Bolivian campaign he was obsessively followed at the highest
The U.S. Government’s Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the cold-
blooded murder of a wounded and unarmed young prisoner by the name of Ernesto
Guervara. The actual perpetrators of the cowardly act were soldiers who acted under
the control of the CIA and obeyed their orders without batting an eye.
Some are still walking, however, on the streets of Miami or are in their offices at
Langley, mulling over their frustration. Because they could not kill Che. Che continued
to live and his message returned victorious in a new Bolivia and in a Latin America that
confidently moves ahead towards complete emancipation.
Because Che fought all his life leading the list of those named as essential by Bertolt
Brecht. Essential are those who are never missing when they are most needed,
those who are present, always on the front line, when the struggle is harder and more
That is why Che lives. Because we need him now more than ever.
The Cuban edition of this book appears in a new juncture in which we greatly need the
Guevarian light. Now we are entering a stage that poses new challenges that we must
face with wisdom and firmness. The historic enemy of our people has not changed its
nature or its strategy of domination, only its tactics. Because its crude and violent policy
– and it is recognized as such – of half a century failed, now it will test methods that
intend to be more subtle to achieve the same ends.
We must accept the challenge and advance down that path without ever abandoning
our principles. And always remembering Che’s visionary warning. Do not trust the
imperialists “not even a little bit, not in anything.”

Havana, February 13, 2015

Words at the presentation of the book ¿Quién mató al Che? Cómo la CIA logró salir
impune del asesinato by Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, Social Sciences
[Spanish translation of Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder]
Unofficial translation by Susana Hurlich, Havana

Biogas Eases Women’s Household Burden in Rural Cuba

February 26, 2015

By Ivet González – IPS

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Rural doctor Arianna Toledo heats water on her biogas stove at her home in the town of Cuatro Esquinas in the western Cuban province of Matanzas. Credit: Courtesy of Randy Rodríguez Pagés/Diakonia-Swedish Ecumenical Action

LOS ARABOS, Cuba, Feb 20 2015 (IPS) – On the blue flame of her biogas stove, it takes half as long for rural doctor Arianna Toledo to heat bath water and cook dinner as it did four years ago, when she still used electric power or firewood.

The installation of a biodigester, which uses pig manure to produce biogas for use in cooking food, cut the expenses and the time spent on food preparation for Toledo’s five-member family, who live in the town of Cuatro Esquinas, Los Arabos municipality in the western Cuban province of Matanzas.

“The main savings is in time, because the gas stove cooks faster,” Toledo told Tierramérica. She and the rest of the women in the family shoulder the burden of the household tasks, as in the great majority of Cuban homes.

Another 20 small biogas plants operate in homes in this town located 150 km from Havana, and over 300 more in the entire province of Matanzas, installed with support from a project run by the Christian Centre for Reflection and Dialogue (CCRD-C), based in Cárdenas, a city in the same province.

The ecumenical institution seeks to improve living conditions in rural areas by fomenting ecological practices, which mitigate environmental damage, soil degradation and poor use of water.

Another key aim of the biodigester project is also to ease the work burden and household expenses of rural women.

“Our monthly power bill has been reduced, and we spend less on cooking gas cylinders, while at the same time we’re protecting the environment by using a renewable natural resource,” Toledo said.

In Cuba, 69 percent of families depend on electricity for cooking.

Toledo’s husband, Carlos Alberto Tamayo, explained to Tierramérica that using the biodigester, the four pigs they raise for family consumption guarantee the fuel needed for their home.

“And the organic material left over is used as natural fertiliser for our garden, where we grow fruit and vegetables,” said Tamayo, an Episcopal pastor in Cuatro Esquinas, which has a population of just over 2,300.

He said the biodigester prevents bad smells and the spread of disease vectors, while the gas is safer because it is non-toxic and there is a lower risk of accidents or explosions.

With the support of international development funds from several countries, for 15 years the CCRD-C has been promoting household use of these systems, reforestation and renewable energies, which are a priority for this Caribbean island nation, where only 4.3 percent of the energy consumed comes from clean sources.

The biodigesters, which are homemade in this case, will mushroom throughout Cuba over the next five years.

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The organic fertiliser produced by this biodigester effluent tank is used on a family garden in Los Arabos in the Cuban province of Matanzas. Credit: Courtesy of Randy Rodríguez Pagés/Diakonia-Swedish Ecumenical Action

The Swine Research Institute’s Biogas Promotion and Development Centre is designing a national plan to promote the use of biodigesters in state companies and agricultural cooperatives.

In 2014, the Centre reported that there were 1,000 biodigesters in these two sectors, which benefited 4,000 people, in the case of the companies, and 8,000 people, in the case of the farming cooperatives.

The plan projects the construction of some 1,000 biodigesters a year by 2020, through nine projects implemented by the Agriculture Ministry and the non-governmental National Association of Small Farmers, which will receive financing from the United Nations Small Grants Programme.

According to Rita María García, director of the CCRD-C, monitoring of the project has shown that replacing the use of firewood, kerosene and petroleum-based products with biogas makes household work more humane.

Women gain in safety and time – important in a country where unpaid domestic work absorbs 71 percent of the working hours of women, according to the only Time Use Survey published until now, carried out in 2002 by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI).

The study found that for every 100 hours of work by men, women worked 120, many of them multitasking – cooking, cleaning, washing and caring for children.

“In general, women manage the household budget, which becomes a burden,” said García. “That’s why they are thankful for the biodigesters, and many of them have been motivated to raise pigs and get involved in farming as a result.”

The methodology followed by the CCRD-C projects first involves training for the beneficiaries in construction and maintenance of the biodigesters, and in ecological farming techniques using organic fertiliser, said Juan Carlos Rodríguez, the organisation’s general coordinator.

The CCRD-C also promotes reforestation by small farmers and the use of windmills, to reduce the use of electricity in a country that imports 53 percent of the fuel it consumes.

Related IPS Articles
Cuba’s Sugar Industry to Use Bagasse for Bioenergy
Cuba on the Road to Clean Energy Development
Cuba’s Fragile Power Grid Needs Renewable Energy
Brazilian Hydroelectricity Giant Promotes Biogas
EL SALVADOR: Biogas – Killing Two Birds with One Stone

An additional benefit of the biodigesters is that they offer an alternative for the disposal of pig manure, which contaminates the environment.

In 2013 there were 16.7 million pigs in Cuba, 65 percent of which were in private hands in this highly-centralised, socialist economy.

Because pork is the most widely consumed meat in Cuba, and many private farmers and families raise pigs, the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment are fomenting the installation of biodigesters, to help boost production.

The authorities require those who raise pigs to guarantee adequate disposal of their waste.

Biogas is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produced by the bacterial decomposition of organic wastes. It can be used for cooking food, lighting, refrigeration and power generation.

Biodigesters help reduce soil and groundwater pollution, and curb the cutting of trees for firewood.

Cuba introduced their use in the 1980s, with U.N. support. But they began to take off a decade later, thanks to the National Biogas Movement.

Studies reported by the local press say the annual national potential for biogas production is over 400 million cubic metres, which would generate 700 gigawatt-hours per year.

That would reduce the release of carbon dioxide by more than three million tons, and would reduce oil imports by 190,000 tons a year.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.


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