Archive for March, 2015

Gratitud de Los Cinco a sindicalistas británicos, de Canadá y Estados Unidos

March 31, 2015

Siempre con Cuba

Por: Iliana García Giraldino Fotos: Karoly Emerson (Siempre con Cuba)

Los Cinco Héroes y sus familiares, junto al Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (ICAP) dedicaron este miércoles en La Habana un acto de gratitud, fraternal y emotivo, a un grupo de dirigentes sindicales británicos, canadienses y de Estados Unidos, quienes desarrollaron durante años importantes acciones en apoyo a la campaña por la liberación de los antiterroristas cubanos.

Los efusivos abrazos se sucedieron en el encuentro, en el cual los visitantes expresaban su inmensa alegría por encontrarse con Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando y René, los que, acompañados de familiares, correspondían con afecto sincero.

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Issues of Cuban Human Rights To Be Discussed by Cuba and United States (Part III)    

March 31, 2015


On March 26 Cuba announced that the U.S. and Cuba will commence negotiations regarding human rights on March 31 in Washington, D.C.; this was covered in a prior post.

Other earlier posts covered the recent speech on this subject by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla and the U.N. Human Rights Council’s most recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Cuba. Now we look at the latest U.S. State Department report on Cuban human rights (the one issued in 2014 for 2013).

Preliminarily it must be noted that this U.S. report is rather stale and it is surprising that a similar report for 2014 has not yet been released. The report for 2013 was released on February 27, 2014, and the overall report was discussed in a March 4, 2014 post and its chapter on Cuba in another March 2014 post.

In addition, a post on March 10…

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Cuba isn’t “open” just because the US says it is

March 31, 2015

El conflicto Estados Unidos-Venezuela y la VII Cumbre de las Américas.

March 31, 2015


Carlos Fazio/Cubadebate

América Latina y el Caribe, principalmente las naciones de la Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (ALBA), y en particular, Venezuela, son el teatro de operaciones de un sordo juego geopolítico entre Estados Unidos y sus socios de la OTAN, contra China y Rusia, dos potencias emergentes que han venido desarrollando vínculos económicos y de cooperación técnico-militar con naciones situadas en lo que tradicionalmente Washington ha considerado su “espacio vital”.

Pocas veces, como hoy −tras la reciente orden presidencial de Barack Obama que ubicó a Venezuela como una “extraordinaria amenaza a la seguridad nacional y la política exterior de Estados Unidos”−, cobran dimensión los conceptos esgrimidos por Nicholas J. Spykman en 1942, cuando al definir el “Mediterráneo Americano” (que abarcaba el litoral del golfo de México y el mar Caribe, México, América Central, Colombia, Venezuela y el cinturón de islas que se suceden desde Trinidad a…

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Answering to our friends:

March 31, 2015


René González Sehwerert

The following questionaire is a debt with three italians, friends of Cuba and the Five, who pled with the Pope for our freedom: Father Antonio Tarzia, Proffesor Luciano Vasapollo and Dr. Rita Martufi.

It was prepared by them for several Cuban friends, in preparation for a book. Because of the interests of the issues it seems to us of interest to reproduce our exchange with them.

From 9 to 16 February a delegation composed by Father Antonio Tarzia (father Paolino), Prof. Luciano Vasapollo (Sapienza University of Rome, Rector’s delegate for international relations with Latin America and the Caribbean) and the Dr. Rita Martufi (together with Luciano Vasapollo, Director of the Center for study CESTES of the USB-Italy and the Italian chapter of the intellectual network Coord.(, Artists and movements in defence of humanity), are in a visit to Cuba, invited by ICAP (Cuban Institute of friendship with peoples) and the Ministry of culture for various meetings. they  asked the following questions to several representatives of the Government of Cuba, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, and many intellectuals in universities and schools of the island.

  1. It was Francisco, the pontiff of Rome, which launched the strings to put together a fragile but secured Tibetan bridge, after 53 years of cold war, sacrifices and violence suffered with dignity by the Cuban people, finally the dove of peace made with the paper of a letter, as the two letters from Francisco to Obama and Raúl was able to take flight without being fired upon by the usual promoters of war: the merchants of death. On December 17 in simultaneous speeches month the Presidents of Cuba and the United States announced to the world a substantive change in relations between the two countries, thus, begining the process that should culminate with the restoration of the diplomatic relations between the two countries. Also announced the return to Cuba of three of the five Heroes who remained still in North American prisons. It was also announced the start of a complex process of negotiations between the two countries and have already been announced by the United States a group of measures that tend to make more flexible the siege of the blockade without removing it, such a situation poses for Cuba a new scenario of confrontation which she is less used to, so some now speculate again about the beginning of the end of the revolution “by the embrace of death”.
  • Evaluate which are the main challenges that represents this new type of relationship between the two countries for the Cuban society in general and their different population segments.

                        No doubt this new relationship with the United States imposes new and great challenges to Cuba, although there are also great opportunities.

Trying to explain it in one synthesis I would say that the main challenge is to determine where is the “enemy” now coming from, and note that I put it in quotes. Since 1959, and until 17 December of last year, it was very simple to discover on those who practiced terrorism, or who received money from the US Government, elements that provided themselves as tools of imperialist policy against their homeland.

In the new circumstances, the main enemy will be our own weaknesses. The bureaucracy, corruption, or excessively technocratic thinking; they will be encouraged by the current context and could do more harm than the bombs. It will also be to adhere to practices which under other circumstances worked, and that although they are not directly stimulated by the changes would prevent us from adapting to new realities. I refer to habits such as formalism, excessive verticality or centralization, secrecy or lack of transparency, among others.

All of these behaviors would be practiced by us, with or without intent to harm or self benefit. The results, however, would be the same. Now we cannot blame the aggressive policy of the U.S. Government for them. It will be our sole responsibility.

Certainly we won’t lack imported enemies. American policy remains clear in this respect and aims to create a class in Cuba that will become a fifth column, leading to the creation of a segment of economic power which then will claim political power. Among the partners that reach us some will be ideologues and resolved to the restoration of capitalism; as well as those who only would want to do business but by their conduct become unconscious instruments of that restoration. Here, as in the previous case, the results are the same beyond the intention of the individual.

The important thing is to establish clear rules for all. There is no doubt that the Cuban society will be recipient of some prosperity. Our success will depend on we being able to make it impact with justice on those living off their work.

  • How much of this historic event, perhaps the most important politically in the new millennium, is due to the firmness and hope of Francis, the man who came from the end of the world?

Given my level of information it would be presumptuous on my part to evaluate precisely the portion that corresponded to Pope Francis in the materialization of this miracle. This was a building that was built stone by stone for 16 years. Part of that construction was solidarity, represented by those who knocked at the door of the Pope to talk about the case of the five. Other many elements of legal, political and diplomatic nature, among others, were part of this construction.

In any case, the role of the pontiff was not negligible, judging by the information that has been reported. Pope Francis is a man of faith, devoted to Christian principles and justice. Nothing more akin to his character than to embrace this endeavor whose results in terms of Justice, humanity and range meet the deepest convictions of a man like him.

  • Obama shouts with satisfaction “We are all Americans” and drops the last wall, after the Berlin (born together, the German wall between the two Germanys and the USA Embargo to Cuba). How is the new course announced? What are the first fruits of benefit? What expectations are there?

It is worth to remember that there are still walls. It is the Moroccan wall enclosing the Saharawi, as well as the one which has been imposed on Palestinians by Zionism. There is a wall that divides the United States from the countries to the South, along the Rio Grande. We have much to do to bring down walls.

The new course is announced as a very interesting and important stage in Cuba’s future. What is at stake for us is neither more nor less than the ability to demonstrate the feasibility of socialism. It seems a good time to live here and participate in the changes that have been made, whose direction and speed by sure will be influenced now with new developments.

I think that the first result is that both Presidents have sat to chat. This fact by itself deserves to be celebrated. It has immediately started a stream of American visitors that seems very positive for both parties. Human contact is an irreplaceable tool to sow peace, know each other and avoid misunderstanding.

There is a perceptible a change in the North American political discourse toward Cuba, and even without major changes occurring on the ground there is already a more free in the Congress as to the way to lift the blockade. Although it is expected that a journey like this will bring progress and setbacks, each step forward will stimulate new steps in the same direction.

In terms of the expectations there are many and varied, depending on the orientation of the one who expects. These range from those who aspire to sweep Cuba socialism on the one hand, to those who aspire that circumstances to allow us to build the socialism that we deserve on the other. A range of expectations can be expected between both positions, that integrate both what we expect as individuals as also what we want for our society.

  1. Juan Pablo II born under communism was to Cuba offering friendship and confidence to Fidel and to the Cuban people. He had already condemned the embargo, as well as Benedict XVI to which prof. Luciano Vasapollo and I delivered a letter during a private audience in which we asked him to pray for “the 5″ so that the pain and suffering of their loved ones were not in vain. During a hearing last fall we delivered another letter to Francisco where we wrote him asking him to pray and become interested in the story of “the 5″ and the injustice that for more than half a century punished the Cubans.
  • Has been Francisco invited to visit the island and the Cuban people? Is there a pending visit by Raul to the Pope to thank him for the diplomatic success and to invite Francisco to Cuba? In this case advise Raul a courtesy visit to the statue of the Virgen de la Caridad, Vatican citizen for a year: it is located in the Vatican gardens behind St. Peter’s Basilica.

Let us remember that Juan Pablo II was not born under communism, but during the second Polish Republic , anti-communist and under general Pilsudski. It could be assumed that the historical dispute between Russia and Poland, joined by the Stalinist practices towards their country of origin, have played a role in the opposition of Pope to communism. Also known are the criticisms made at the end of his life to capitalism.

I have no information on whether Pope Francisco has been invited to the island. On the other hand, as a Cuban, I would be very pleased with that visit. I would dare affirm that it seems to me difficult that at some point it would not occur.

Nor do I know if there is any pending Raul’s visit to the Pope. I see as common sense to visit to the Virgen de la Caridad given the case. I take this opportunity to thank those ladies in charge of the sanctuary of El Cobre, who were very polite and deferent with me in a recent visit to the symbolic and beautiful place.

  1. The relations of the Cuban State with the Catholic Church, documents and links. The obvious growth since the visit of Juan Pablo II until today. Benedict who returns to Cuba to build renewed relationships and Francisco making his the pain and suffering of the Cuban people and write and pray for Justice to the powerful of the earth.
  • What’s the feeling in the wind from the Caribbean besides the USA, the Vatican and Cuban flags flapping?

First and foremost great joy is felt by the return of the three Cubans unfairly imprisoned. It is curious that while around the world the news that captured the attention of the media was the possibilities of normalizing relations with the United States, for Cubans on the streets the cause for celebration was the release of Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio. That says a lot about the generosity of the Cuban people, which if we look at it selfishly benefited more from the normalization of relations and the end of the blockade than from the freedom of the five. However the people on the streets put aside issues of personal interest to celebrate the freedom of three compatriots.

There is also feeling of the desire and hope to move forward. The desire that the things that unite us, both to the American people and to the Catholic community; overcome the things that divide us. It should be remembered that the process of normalization between the Catholic Church and the Cuban State already has a substantial stretch run and it has given concrete results; unlike the process that would begin with the US Government, with which the differences are deeper for historical reasons.

  1. In Cuba there are Catholic and other faiths and religious confessions, all places of worship, social structures, religious schools.
  • How are integrated the various religions in the Cuban context? Do different cultures live together in peace and freedom? Is there is complete freedom of the press and religious propaganda? Are there any religions that are recognized and protected? Unwanted foreign rites?

The integration of the various religions in Cuba is a reflection of the integration at the bottom of this social diversity that enriches us and makes us to be Cuban. Progress and setbacks in this integration are reflected in behaviors that also govern religious integration.

The different cultures that make up the Cuban social fabric coexist in absolute peace and freedom, probably in a way exemplary compared to most of the world. This peace is also reflected in the religious integration. This, however, does not mean that there are no flaws that hinder this coexistence. The remnants of racism that persist in Cuban society have at the same time its reflection on the way in which many disdain religions originated in Africa, in what could be a subconscious manifestation of racism with a certain amount of religious intolerance. It is likely that the years of conflict between the Catholic Church and the revolutionary State have left traces on some of the protagonists, and that this is reflected in individual attitudes. For a long time there were conflicts with Jehovah’s witnesses because of their positions towards the society, and although they have been rectified overwhelmingly there are always behaviors associated with the ballast of the past. All of it is part of a process in progress.

In Cuba, there is complete freedom of religious propaganda, although it is very likely – and natural – for many denominations to aspire to greater exposure spaces, especially in the media. All religions are recognized and protected by the law.

I am not sure that is accurate to speak of “unwanted foreign rites”. After all every religion practiced in Cuba came from abroad at one time or another. Some may look warily to new cults came from abroad as – for example – the Rastafarians, because of the same prejudices faced by some Afro-Cuban religions, but it is not State policy.

Indeed still continue to be cases of attempts by those who are opposed to the revolution, to use religion for political ends. They have usually done it through established churches; but in this case it’s a conflict of political background and not the nature of religious rites that they practice.

  1. There have been more than three years since the celebration of the sixth Congress of the Communist Party, which marked the course towards the updating of the economic and social model of the Cuban revolution.
  • In your opinion which would be the main advances, shortcomings and challenges of this process in your sphere of action?

I must begin by clarifying that at this time there is not a sphere of action to which I can subscribed to. Until the moment my three fellow prisoners returned from the United States I was dedicated entirely to work for their release. As a Cuban and revolutionary, I’m interested and concerned about everything we do in this effort to build socialist society we deserve.

As it has been said many times, this is a process that has to move forward “without haste but without pausing,” and basically I think that it has been the practice. Assuming that the process has developed with no pauses- view to which I subscribe – it is left to each one to opine as to whether the speed has been adequate or not.

We must begin by acknowledging the difficulty of this process. It’s about changing a way of making the economy which was based fundamentally in the centralized distribution of productive and consumption resources, with widespread subsidies, which depended on the transfer of value from one sector to another of the society on the basis of political decisions. This was possible because for many years we moved in a world in which labor force value differences had been greatly reduced between the countries of the centre and the periphery of the system; with an exchange based on solidarity concepts that flatly denied the role of the market as regulator of the economy. After the disintegration of the Socialist camp we were forced to keep centralizing the distribution of resources as a way to manage poverty without abandoning millions of workers to their fate.

We now return to the realm of the market. Goods are exchanged for their “value”, according to unequal and unjust rules that harm the developing countries- net exporters of labor – and under which we have to strive to grow. It is essential to undo that system strongly subsidized, recover the notion of the value of the goods, insert our businesses to a world dominated by competition. All of this implies social costs which have to be constantly measured. I think that this is the main factor governing the speed of the process, at least from the point of view of the political will expressed by the Party.

Progress in this regard has been made, and I believe that it began by where it should have: the sanitation of a State system overloaded, full of inflated payrolls, undercapitalized, and largely unproductive. It is a task that still continues to run, but had to be approached on the immediate  through the diversification of forms of production which is being promoted. I think that it was smarter to start there to untangle the Gordian knot of our economy in the face of the new model.

It’s being working on eliminating the monetary duality, and above all the multiplicity of exchange rates, which makes accounting almost impossible. For many this process may have taken too much time, but it is necessary to understand its consequences and the amount of wrongs to untangle to be ready and to achieve the expected results.  That step has to be taken in firm. Doing so seamlessly is one of our largest and most serious challenges.

In the area of the inadequacies I favor more determined steps towards the autonomy of labor collectives and local governments, which should result in greater responsibility for them and have an impact on social productivity, the appreciation of the work, the elimination of bureaucracy and the damaging phenomenon of the diversion of resources. I would like to see a phased program of subsidies decrease and transfer of those resources to the salaries and pensions of pensioners and state workers, respectively. I am concerned about the area of small business investments, which do not seem to enjoy the priority that large investments receive. I think it is time to strengthen the state-owned enterprise, although I recognize that it is perhaps – along with the elimination of multiple rates of exchange – a cumbersome problem faced because of its social impacts.

Among the challenges the elimination of the bureaucracy seems a priority because the danger that it represents. Its resistance – immune to political will, laws or directives – can be another cause of delay in the implementation of the guidelines approved by the party and the people, and it is a structure of intermediaries between the problems and their solutions that gravitates on the dynamics of economic development, in addition to promoting corruption.

The change in mentality is a major challenge. People start not to simply think differently because they are told to do so. This change has to be forced by the necessary structural changes, which compel us to act – and therefore think – in a new way.

And of course there will be all the challenges associated with the new relationship with the United States. They have the resources to overwhelm us, and are beneficiaries of economic rules that are the result of centuries of human experience. We are a small island facing the hegemonic power of the strongest imperialist power, with all that this implies in the economy, the military area, propaganda, etc.

  1. Latin America is torn between two models of integration, the neoliberal defeated at the Summit in Mar del Plata, marked by the “outward orientation and conceptions of market”, this concept survives in schemes such as the Alliance of the Pacific, and the new model which is projected from the ALBA, CELAC, UNASUR, which puts main emphasis on taking advantage of complementarities to the interior of the region, the use of its results with a greater effect spilling across projects and social programs in favor of the underprivileged.
  • What are the achievements, challenges and prospects of the new Latin American integration schemes?

The main achievement of the new Latin American integration schemes is the recovering for the continent of the historical destiny that was pointed to us by Bolivar, to do justice to sacrifice of the millions of Latin Americans who were victimized, both by their local oligarchies and imperialism, because of their aspirations to build that dream. These integration schemes launched the subcontinent into the 21st century with strength, and make it a reference point of importance in the midst of a process of building global multipolarity.

This means the beginning of the overcoming of a long, dark period of dependence of imperialist capital, and construction of a society that rotate around the needs and aspirations of the majorities that produce wealth.

Among those accomplishments, is the breaking up with dogmas and schemes concerning the construction of socialism, dogmas that weighed on and divided the left for many years, and in many cases still do. The continent is demonstrating that not only should we start from the particular experiences to adapt this process to them, but that it can be done with respect for the differences and – even more- to drag in certain instances governments that are not involved in processes of this kind through dialogue, cooperation and the points of contact between peoples with different systems.

The challenges are immense. Imperialism will not watch idly as it loses that right to “ownership”. As shown today in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil; and happened before in Bolivia or in Honduras, these processes will always face the resistance of secular interests to preserve their privileges.

The way to deal with them is to fight for unity in diversity, to close ranks in the face of every attack of imperialism. To deepen on the reach and participatory character or each or the national processes. Always carry them forward, which means at home to remember that the goal is to move towards a true economic, social and political democracy; and out of it to consolidate every step of integration and not relent in the search of new ways to integrate us and make us stronger together.

If that goal is achieved, the prospects are immense. I would say that the 21st century would become the century of Latin America.

  • How do you assess Cuba’s participation in this process of integration from the angle of the external accompanying to the update process of the economic and social model?

The process of updating the economic and social Cuban model cannot be conducted without external support. We will be accompanied and “accompanied”, in one case by those who share with us similar objectives, on the one hand, and on the other by those who consider objectives of restoration of capitalism in relation to Cuba. With all we have to count to achieve the objectives proposed by the updating of the model. The country cannot subtracts itself from that reality.

In relation to those who pursue similar objectives, as is the case of those who participate in the Latin American integration process, with us this accompaniment occurs under the best of circumstances because of the political will of cooperation and mutual benefit that inspires the link. In this sense, it is obvious that human capital created by the Cuban revolution has become an important resource, which has already given fruits in the export of services, with benefit programs both for the Cuban economy and for the societies that receive them.

It is good to add that such exchanges bring the added value of offering a professional with an ethical and humane demeanor that distinguishes him. This behavior generates a feeling of gratitude towards Cuba on the receiving populations which has gradually been changing stereotypes planted in the masses towards the island for years.           Either way, the Cuban economic model update process will benefit from the success of Latin American integration, and will suffer alongside it if it suffers.  We cannot repeat the mistake of putting all the eggs in the basket of Latin American integration, but as part of our need to diversify it will play an important role in our national development and, as in the days of Bolivar, the fate of Cuba will always be connected by our common destiny to the plight of all Latin America.,

‘No battle waged by revolutionaries ends with what you once did’

March 29, 2015

The Militant Vol. 79/No. 12      April 6, 2015

‘No battle waged by revolutionaries
ends with what you once did’

Cuban Five tell students in Havana: ‘The more
selfless you are, the happier, freer men and
women you will be’

The five Cuban revolutionaries who spent years in Washington’s prisons for their actions in defense of the Cuban Revolution have been speaking to audiences across the island almost daily since Dec. 17. On that day, three of them — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, and Antonio Guerrero — returned home to a hero’s welcome after more than 16 years behind bars. They joined Fernando González and René González, who had been released earlier after serving their entire sentences.

One of the many events they have taken part in was a Feb. 19 meeting at Havana’s main engineering and science university, known as CUJAE. There Tony, René, and Fernando held a lively exchange with 300 youth and professors.

The meeting, which took place during the Havana International Book Fair, was a presentation of Absolved by Solidarity/Absueltos por la Solidaridad, published by U.S.-based Pathfinder Press. The book reproduces a set of 16 watercolors that Guerrero painted last year while still in the federal prison in Marianna, Florida. The paintings depict Washington’s political frame-up trial against them, in which they received prison sentences of up to a double life term without parole.

Also on the speakers platform were Mary-Alice Waters, editor of Absolved by Solidarity; CUJAE rector Alicia Alonso; and professor Julián Gutiérrez, who organized the meeting — the culmination of years of regular monthly campus events campaigning to win the release of the Cuban Five.

Guerrero spoke after Waters described the book and how it is being used in the United States and around the world. Then he and his two comrades-in-arms answered questions. The lively exchange lasted two hours. The March 9 Militant published an article on the event along with Waters’ presentation.

Below are excerpts of the remarks by Tony, René, and Fernando.


From opening remarks by Antonio Guerrero

It’s an honor to be here and to see the youth, the professors, the workers. During the question and answer period it will be Fernando and René’s turn to speak.

First, we want to thank the compañeros from Pathfinder, who day in and day out, under conditions you can’t even imagine, are defending socialism within the United States. We had the honor to get to know these compañeros during our years in prison, from the time our situation became known in 2001 and we were able to communicate.

For us Cubans it’s easy to conclude that socialism is the only road possible to make this a better world. Only in a society with a different kind of mentality — like the one we’ve built here with so much sacrifice — can we expect the world to survive the conditions we’re living through, as Fidel has alerted us more than once. In the United States it’s difficult to raise consciousness about this. It’s easier here in Cuba because of our history, because of the revolution and the greatness of this endeavor, which of course isn’t perfect. We have many things to learn, to correct, to change — but to change within our own conditions, within our own ideals.

When I met these compañeros in person a few days ago, it felt like I had known them for many years. They supported us from the very beginning. They kept sending us magazines, books, and newspapers, in both English and Spanish. This helped us establish many relations with people inside the prisons. We began to win the admiration of other prisoners because of the support we were receiving from the outside. We passed around the books they sent us, and other prisoners would say, “This is very interesting.”

Thanks to the education we received in our country, we were able to sit down and have frank discussions with anyone about any subject. Often I would be asked, “What’s communism, what’s socialism?” That’s easy for us to explain. But we also had an important weapon — these books. They also sent us a newspaper called the Militant that is published in both languages. Other prisoners would get interested in reading it too.

We began to do some projects together with these compañeros. They were interested in portraying the human side of the Five, as an important way to condemn the injustice against us. One of the biggest projects we worked on was the previous book with 15 watercolors.…

These compañeros — there’s not a lot of them, they’re unassuming, but they’re bold in how they use their resources. They took exhibits of the watercolors to places you wouldn’t imagine. And so we received letters from students, youth, children from across the United States. I remember that when the Militant arrived every week, it would publish the list of exhibits. It said: “I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived” will be shown in this city, this city, that city. The next week it said: now it will be shown here, here, and there.

From New Zealand, high school students sent me wonderful letters and photos. That too was the result of their work.

These exhibits of the watercolors about the “hole” became a very effective weapon. The graphic images attract you, they stay in your mind. And there was an explanation underneath each image.

So after they did an exhibit in Miami, I decided to paint a new set of watercolors. Time was short. Presenting the subject of the trial was more complex. But by Sept. 12, 2014, they already had in their hands each of the 16 watercolors, “Absolved by Solidarity.” They were exhibited in Washington, D.C.

The compañeros from Pathfinder wrote me a letter and sent me a mock-up for a new book with these watercolors. They had planned to publish it by Jan. 1. It was already announced in the Militant newspaper. And then, suddenly on Dec. 17, the three of us were back here.

We had been here for a little more than two months, and we were in one event after another — I didn’t even have time to ask myself what had happened with the book of watercolors. Then a few weeks ago, a compañero from the foreign ministry calls and tells me, “I have something for you that was brought by our U.N. ambassador. It was sent by the compañeros of Pathfinder.” It was this book.

Well, I don’t know how to describe how moved I was. During that brief period of time they had updated the book. You can see its quality, with photos of our return and items written by my brothers. All of it sheds light on the meaning of the title, which is Absolved by Solidarity — the solidarity, the victory won thanks to the jury of millions.

The battle doesn’t end here. No battle waged by revolutionaries ends with something you once did. What you did is in the past. Are you going to live off what you did? No, you have to live from what you do each day.

Every day you have to think about the tasks, the duty we face. About your future — the future of the revolution. Your future is not just about studying and taking exams and telling people, “Look, here’s my engineering diploma.” It’s about what that diploma represents. It’s about what you have today.

When I was a student like you, I always used to say, “I studied in the Soviet Union.” I would say, “Everything I have I owe to the revolution.” And I think I’ve never been wrong about thinking that way.

Times have changed. Some people in our country have started to think first and foremost about themselves. I’m not talking about you, but rather in a general sense. Selfishness has begun to reappear. I’ll just tell you one thing. The less selfish you are, the happier you will be. And you will be better revolutionaries, better men and women. [Applause]

From question-and-answer period

QUESTION: Could you explain how by being less selfish we’ll be happier?

TONY: When we speak of selflessness, the first person I think of is Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.1 I think of people who could have had everything and gave it up — even their lives — for something more valuable than material things. This is something you have to internalize. When they arrested us, I thought a lot about [Cuban national hero José] Martí and about Che [Guevara]. Everyone knows Martí could have been whatever he wanted. Che too — he was a doctor, right? So you begin to nourish yourself on these things.

The only way to be prepared

Why were we happy while we were in prison? Well, every morning when you get up, it’s a critical moment in your life, a new opportunity. But sometimes it’s more than critical — it’s a moment when you define who you are. The more you try to take the right path each time you get up, the more you stand on your own two feet with clear ideas, the more likely it is that when the decisive moment comes you’ll be prepared.

The only way to be prepared is to have internalized this freedom, these examples, this selflessness. It has to go beyond slogans or something you’ve read. It’s something inside you. And it allows you at night to rest your head on your pillow and sleep with a tremendous peace of mind.

Let’s take, for example, the situation in which we found ourselves when we were arrested in 1998. They put some guy in front of you asking you to admit to something you didn’t do. He tells you that if you go over to his side, you can get back all the material things you had, you’ll go back to your normal life.

The alternative is that things are going to get real tough. The guy tells you, “Look, we’re going to give you such a long sentence that you’re going to die in prison.”

So you have to be prepared for this. You have to have already developed within you an understanding of what you will do at any given moment. Once you passed that test and said no, you begin to realize you’re happier than those around you. People see you and say, “Damn! Why are you laughing all the time? Why are you so happy?”

Some of the prisoners had sold drugs and had money to own the latest car models and other things. They suffered because they missed those things. Some had sentences of five or 10 years — less than us — and they couldn’t endure it. When they were released, they went back to doing the same things over again, a vicious circle. But you have a choice.

Today you might have all those material things, like that nice overcoat. But perhaps tomorrow you won’t have it anymore.

When the Special Period began, Fidel told women here something we won’t forget. He said, “Take care of that nice dress you have now, because it might have to last for a number of years.” That’s what he told people, right?

And there were some who said, “No, I’m going north, I’m going to look for new clothes any way I can.” In exchange for what?

FERNANDO: I’m going to dare to say a few words on this subject. I agree with what Tony said. We human beings evolved out of the animal kingdom and have within us the instinct to fight for subsistence. But we separated from the rest of the animal kingdom. We’re conscious animals, even though the instinct to be selfish remains in us.

Human society has evolved through various economic systems. Capitalism, which today is predominant, is a system that fosters selfishness in all of us.

Socialism, on the other hand, will prevail to the degree it’s able to create a different culture, including the capacity to dedicate yourself to something greater than you as an individual. With all due respect to individuality, the most important thing, as José Martí, said, is to do something for society, for humanity.

We faced a choice

RENÉ : We faced some critical moments, such as the morning of Sept. 12, 1998. Each of us had developed our own way of living. We had our loved ones. We had living conditions that in fact were better than here in Cuba, because we were working in a country that is in the heart of the imperialist world. We each had a car and a house we supposedly owned — although we knew all that was a fallacy. History showed that later, when Olguita lost the house after my arrest. But it’s true we had a comfortable life.

Suddenly, on the morning of Sept. 12 we had to make a choice, as Antonio said. We knew that in one blow they could strip us of everything we possessed. We could have taken the other road. We knew we had to decide whether we’d betray Cuba and do whatever the prosecutor and the FBI wanted.

We chose not to betray Cuba. And from the moment they took us to the Federal Detention Center in Miami, we began to understand we would have to give up everything we had taken for granted up to that moment. All the material goods that you accumulate over years of work — the clothes, your car, the little house you fixed up.

Then came the fight to survive as human beings. The first thing they went after was our dignity — and they did so with all the force they had. Along with our happiness, as we were discussing earlier.

But gradually you realize it’s possible to defend your happiness even under those conditions. That becomes part of your resistance to the blackmail, arrogance, and abuses by the prosecutors.

During the trial there were people who were even more unhappy than us prisoners — the prosecutors. We made the prosecutors the unhappiest of all the people we saw during those seven months.

When they came to court the prosecutors were the butt of jokes by everyone, even the people in whose custody we were. They were objects of ridicule by the translator; the stenographer, Richard, who became our friend; Elizabeth, the judge’s secretary; and others.

For us every day of the trial, which began when we got up at 4:30 a.m., was such a pleasure that when we went to sleep every night, we couldn’t wait to demoralize them more the next day.

The prosecutors had everything. They would get up, I imagine, at 6:30 or 7 a.m. They ate whatever they wanted for breakfast. They drove to court in those 16-cylinder cars of theirs that guzzle half the fuel that CUJAE uses. They put on whatever clothes they wanted — the poor prosecutor had incredibly bad taste, but, well, that was her choice. [Laughter]

They were the most miserable-looking people you ever saw. When I publish my “diary” of the trial with Gerardo’s cartoons, you’ll see what I mean. Those cartoons by Gerardo circulated among the guards who escorted us, among the stenographers, among others who worked in the court.

The point is, you can learn to fight for your own happiness. Happiness is inside ourselves. The further away you seek it, the less you will find it. [Applause]

QUESTION: Where did you get the strength to create art and the other things you did in prison: Antonio’s paintings, Gerardo’s cartoons, all the letters you sent replying to thousands of people around the world?

QUESTION: Other leaders who spent time in prison have played a historic role, like Nelson Mandela and Fidel. We’re counting on you today and in the future as leaders.

QUESTION: What are some of the lessons you learned from your time in the United States?

TONY: To answer the question about how we got the strength to create art in prison. Martí said we must be cultured to be free, we must be educated to be free. When we speak of culture today, we’re speaking of what the revolution brought to our people. How much illiteracy was there in Cuba before the revolution? How many universities were there? Who could even think we would have something like CUJAE if there hadn’t been a revolution?

I was talking with a compañero on the way here, asking about the physical state of the school. I like the hallways, so nice and clean, with all the plants. But I know there are problems here, as there are throughout the country, above all due to the economic battle we’ve been waging since 1990. It’s been very difficult.

And I said to him, Look, the capitalists solve it one way. In the United States they say, “I’ll charge you $30,000 in tuition so you can enroll here. But since you don’t have that money, you’ll have to get a loan from the bank.” They pocket that money, and yes, you’ll have good air conditioning and other things in those universities. That’s their system.

Who gave us what we have here in Cuba? The revolution — the workers, those who cut cane, those who work. We have something different, and you have to understand this before you start complaining or making critical comments about it. Try to go deeper, don’t just stay on the surface. Get to the root of things.

When I spoke at the Lenin high school here, I told students their number one responsibility was to take care of the school and try to make it more attractive, not to criticize everything all the time. To think about how they came to have it, where it came from.

Getting back to the question of what gave us the strength to create art while in prison. It’s rooted in the culture our people gave us, the education we received, free of charge, from the time we were children.

We are product of the revolution

Anyone can write a poem. But to spend 17 months in the hole and 16 years in prison and not create paintings that contain a shred of hatred or bitterness, but rather optimism, love, and freedom — that’s different. That’s a product of the way we were educated as revolutionaries. It’s something we were able to achieve thanks to the revolution. When you find yourself behind bars, all that education and preparation helps you create.

FERNANDO: For us creativity was a form of freedom. Remember, none of us are professional artists. It came from the ability to resist, as Tony did with his paintings and his poems. As Gerardo did with his cartoons. As Ramón did with his poetry and René with his writings. Everyone in his own way. That spirit of resistance was rooted in the culture that Tony explained.

TONY: A compañero here spoke about our place in history. My friend, let’s not start telling a lot of stories about historical roles. Just think about Che: did he do that? It’s not about what someone did. It’s about what you will do. Everyone is important here. Don’t let anyone come here trying to be the indispensable one, the hero of the movie, OK?

That’s how we see it. We even made a pact among the five of us, a commitment among brothers, that if tomorrow we see one of us with a swelled head — which won’t happen — we’ll tell him, “Listen, you don’t seem like the person I knew.” We would discuss it, because that’s what you do among compañeros.

My point is, the tasks ahead are for everyone, not just of three or four people. The ones to blame for putting us in the spotlight are those who put us in jail. That’s where the great struggle and solidarity came from.

Everything that happened is not about us as individuals — it’s the Cuban people, who we represent. The standing we gained represents the resistance of our people. OK, it was us who this happened to. But it could just as well have happened to other compañeros we had over there.

We’re going to work together

And that’s over. Now people are going to ask: So, when are you going to start working? What are your responsibilities? Are you working well?

We’re not going to be coming back here 37 more times to talk about the same things. My job can’t be to come here every day and give you a teque.2 Right now I have responsibilities to shoulder, and so do René and Fernando. We’re going to work like everyone else, and work together. [Applause]

On the question about lessons I learned in the U.S. After I was arrested, the FBI went looking for people who would testify against me. They couldn’t get a single person from Key West, where I lived. They went to see people at my job. They tried to pressure my companion Maggie — they made her go to the FBI office endless times. They searched and searched but found no one.

Just the opposite. I had a list of about 20 people I knew, and some of them testified in my favor. There were people who wrote to me from the first day. A woman in Key West, the one who gave me my first job, sent me a postcard every week.

When I was returning to Cuba I told them [U.S. officials], “You’re taking away my U.S. citizenship because Obama made that a condition for my release. But you can’t take away the affection toward the American people that I developed.” Like Martí, I could say that I got to know the monster because I lived inside its belly. But it’s not the people of the United States who are the monster.

RENÉ : If I learned something in the United States, it’s that all human beings have much more in common than what keeps us apart. U.S. society has completely different foundations from ours; its history has its consequences, just like ours has. But when you get to know someone there, person to person, the differences tend to dissolve. What separates us is this apparatus, refined over thousands of years as a class necessity. It pits us against each other, whether by raising the banners of religion, race, or political divisions.

I don’t know whether the role that we’re going to play in Cuba will be a historic one. Those things are for history to decide. As Antonio said so well, our history is now in the past. We are five Cubans like any of you. We will take a place in the trenches. And, like all of you, we will be judged by the work we do.

Under today’s conditions, dangers are going to arise and we have to be vigilant. They will try to corrupt us and buy us off. They will try to take advantage of the problems we have. They will come in through the cracks they can open among us. They will try to create a class in Cuba — the class that fortunately we were able to kick out in 1959. They’re going to try to create it here again. They’re already talking about starting to encourage certain sectors of the Cuban economy and society with that in mind.

That means there will be work to do, and all of us will have to join in. I would say victory will be shaped more by you than by us. You are the ones who are starting your life’s work under these new circumstances.

We will join in the work posed by these circumstances to the best of our ability. All we can aspire to is that, through our work, we will be able to live up to the standing that this episode has given us in your eyes.

As for history, I’ll be happy if, when I die, my daughters are proud of me. And if any of you say I did something well, then I will have surpassed my goal. [Applause]

1 On Oct. 10, 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, a wealthy Cuban landowner, freed his slaves and launched Cuba’s first war for independence from Spain.
2 Teque is a popular Cuban term for revolutionary-sounding rhetoric rendered meaningless and mind-numbing by rote repetition.

Issues of Cuban Human Rights To Be Discussed by Cuba and United States (Part I)

March 29, 2015


On March 26 Cuba announced that the U.S. and Cuba will commence their negotiations regarding human rights on March 31 in Washington, D.C.; this was covered in a prior post.

Now we examine issues of Cuban human rights that probably will be put on the agenda for further discussions by looking at the recent speech on this subject by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla. [1] Subsequent posts will look at the U.N. Human Rights Council’s most recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Cuba and at the latest U.S. State Department report on Cuban human rights (the one issued in 2014 for 2013). Observations about these sources will be made in a later post while other subsequent posts will engage in a similar analysis about issues of U.S. human rights that are likely to be covered in the bilateral talks.

Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla

As discussed in a prior post…

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Los dos grandes secretos del bloqueo de Estados Unidos contra Cuba

March 28, 2015

Jocy Medina

A raíz de las últimas conversaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos con relación a la posibilidad de eliminar el embargo contra Cuba –o bloqueo- el mundo expresa su posición en cuanto a lo deban quitar o dejar.

Por décadas la Asamblea de Naciones Unidas ha condenado el embargo. En el 2014, 188 países votaron por quitarlo, con solo los eternos hermanos Estados Unidos e Israel pronunciándose en contra.

Dentro de los Estados Unidos, según el Washington Post, una encuesta por Bendixen & Amandi International reporta que 48% de cubanos-americanos no están a favor de establecer relaciones con Cuba. cuba_havana_habana_885248_l Malias

La verdad es que, independientemente de la inclinación política de cada cual, el embargo esconde dos secretos sucios, que lo ha mantenido firme por décadas.

Dos secretos que el mundo ha de saber y tener en cuenta antes de forjar su opinión final a favor o en contra del bloqueo.

1 –…

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3 Big Benefits for Americans to Ending the Cuba Embargo

March 28, 2015

Cuba has a lot more to offer the United States than just rum and cigars.

By Felicia Gustin,

This March, representatives from the United States and Cuba met in a third round of talks geared toward normalizing ties between the two long-estranged countries.

Ever since President Obama’s announcement last year that the diplomatic freeze was coming to an end, speculation has abounded on what this will mean. There’s no question that the Cuban people stand to benefit immensely from increased trade and tourism. But few seem to be talking about what the benefits might be for the people of the United States — except for access to Cuban cigars, rum, and beaches.

Yet this small, poor country has surpassed the United States in more than just nightlife and baseball. So here are three more serious ways the American people might benefit from lifting the embargo:

1 Disaster Preparedness

Cuba’s location puts it right in the path of devastating and frequent hurricanes. Yet the country’s disaster management infrastructure is considered an exemplary international model for disaster preparedness and relief by the United Nations, the International Red Cross, and Oxfam.

How is it that a country with fewer resources than the United States is better able to evacuate millions of people in the path of a hurricane and significantly reduce fatalities and property damage?

What sets Cuba apart is the level of grassroots community engagement before, during, and after a hurricane strikes. All Cuban adults take part in civilian defense training programs designed to edu­cate them on how to assist in evacuation procedures. And once a year, they participate in a hurricane drill in which these procedures are simulated and government officials are better able to identify vulner­abilities.

The level of national coordination is massive, and each of Cuba’s 14 provinces and 169 municipalities has intricate disaster plans in place. Strategic locations, such as hospitals, bakeries, food processing centers, tele­phone providers, and educational centers are pro­vided with power generators that operate independently for up to 72 hours.

In addition to preparing for natural disasters and providing immediate relief, the Cuban public health system, with its extensive network of hospitals and neighborhood clinics, has been fine-tuned to provide medical care to victims of hurricanes and other catastrophes.

There are elite medical brigades, specifically trained in the emerging field of disaster relief medicine, who have also been dispatched on numerous occasions to other countries.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Henry Reeve Brigade — made up of over 1,500 medical doctors and named in honor of the young Brooklyn man who fought alongside Cubans in their 1868 War of Independence against Spain — was poised to offer medical assistance to victims along the U.S. Gulf Coast. But Washington rebuked the offer, citing “national security concerns.”

Now, with the normalization of relations unfolding, the U.S. people can benefit from Cuba’s experience, expertise, and infrastructure, which can help save lives in the face of not only hurricanes but earthquakes, tornados, floods, and wildfires.

2 Health Care

Cuba has one of the most advanced medical biotechnology industries in the world. With 12,000 employees, including 7,000 scientists and engineers, it enjoys hefty government investment and prolifically produces new treatments and medications.

All told, according the World Health Organization, the Cuban biotech industry holds around 1,200 international patents and markets pharmaceutical products and vaccines in more than 50 countries — but not in the United States.

Ending the embargo on these products could make life better for millions of Americans suffering from a range of diseases.

For the 26 million people in the United States who have diabetes, this has special significance. Each year, some 80,000 American diabetics suffer amputations. Cuba has developed a safe and effective medication — Heberprot P — that reduces the risk of amputation by as much as 78 percent. It’s being used successfully by tens of thousands of patients in Cuba and in over 20 countries.

There’s also great potential to open up treatments for less familiar diseases.

Dengue fever, carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito, was previously only found south of the U.S. border. Yet according to Gail Reed — founder of the group Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba — due to climate change, the mosquito has been spotted in Florida, Texas, and California. “Cuba has the most expertise in dengue of any country in the hemisphere,” she pointed out. “They know more about this killer disease than the CDC.” Cooperation on dengue prevention and treatment is going to be crucial.

Cuba is also a leader in the development of therapeutic vaccines for lung, throat, and childhood brain cancer. A number of anti-cancer drugs and vaccines are in development at the Center of Molecular Immunology in Havana. Imagine the potential when these researchers are allowed to collaborate with their colleagues in the United States.

The list goes on and on. Cuban scientists have developed an advanced drug that effectively destroys coronary clots, an innovative burn treatment, and vaccines for meningitis B and hepatitis B and C. They’ve also made advances in developing a vaccine against HIV-AIDS.

“More than 90 new products are currently being investigated in more than 60 clinical trials,” says Dr. José Luis Di Fabio, head of the WHO Country Office in Cuba. “These numbers are expected to grow.”

For Americans who can benefit from these medical advances, ending the embargo isn’t just an ideological question. It’s a matter of their health, even life or death.

3 Arts and Culture

Art and culture help bring us together in ways that politics and ideology cannot.

Cuba and the United States, joined by shared histories and separated by just 90 miles of sea, have been exchanging art and culture for centuries.

In recent years, artists from both countries have found ways to circumvent the U.S. embargo.

U.S. musicians have performed at Cuban jazz festivals, U.S. ballerinas have danced in international ballet festivals Havana, and U.S. actors and directors have flown to the island to attend film festivals. Cuban bands have performed on U.S. stages, Cuban films have made their way into a few film U.S. festivals, and Cuban painters have exhibited in U.S. galleries.

From jazz to ballet, fine arts to folklore, and cinema to architecture, U.S. and Cuban artists have collaborated despite the limitations of the embargo and travel restrictions. The potential for expanding these collaborations as relations normalize is huge.

Edmundo Pino is a musician with the internationally acclaimed Cuban band Los Van Van. “The immense popularity of Cuban art and culture in Europe and throughout the world demonstrates how much we have to offer,” he says. He pointed to Cuba’s inexhaustible pool of musicians and its world-class bands and dance companies, who fill theaters and stadiums wherever they perform.

“For the American people to be able to enjoy Cuban artistic performances,” he adds, “to experience the evolution of our music for example, would go far in building people-to-people relations. The American people should have the opportunity to experience all that Cuban art and culture have to offer.”

These are but three examples of areas where normalization can benefit the U.S. people, but there are others — in the fields of agriculture, race relations, the rights of women and children, sports, education, and environmental sustainability, to name a few.

And there’s a great lesson in the fact that a country with significantly fewer resources can make major inroads in so many arenas. It’s about values that place people before profits, where taking care of the public is not market-driven.

Unfortunately, real collaboration won’t be possible with just presidential decrees. The embargo cannot be lifted without congressional action. Given the Republican-controlled Congress’ penchant for opposing everything President Obama favors and the superfluous influence of a handful of Cuban-American hardliners, overturning the laws that uphold the embargo is going to be a slow and lengthy process.

It’s going to take pressure on Congress by those who will benefit most from normal relations — that is, the American people themselves — to bring about these changes.

Felicia Gustin is a writer who first visited Cuba in 1974. She lived in Havana for ten years, working as a journalist from 1982-92 and travels to the island regularly. She has been a blogger at War Times/Tiempos de Guerra, works at the educational organization SpeakOut, and collaborates with BASAT (Bay Area Solidarity Action Team) and SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice).

Agreement Between Cuba and Europe “By the End of the Year”

March 27, 2015


HAVANA, Cuba – Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, insisted in Havana that the pact between Cuba and the EU that will establish a ‘roadmap’ to normalization of relations will be ratified by the end of 2015.

Meetings between Cuban and EU representatives have been taking place on a regular basis for several years now after a warming in relations.

The lowest point in recent memory between the two sides occurred in 2003 when Cuba arrested 75 political opponents of the government for sabotage and the EU then invited several dissidents to various European embassies in Havana on those EU countries’ respective national holidays to speak at diplomatic receptions. Cuba responded angrily to the gesture and cut off diplomatic ties with many EU nations.

After the EU changed its position and stopped inviting dissidents to diplomatic functions, Cuba re-established diplomatic ties and the suspension of high level visits to Cuba was lifted by the EU.

By 2008, the EU lifted any remaining economic sanctions on Cuba and by 2010, the last of the 75 political prisoners arrested in 2003 were released, with the vast majority of them released long before their original sentences were completed.

In January of 2013, Holland’s Foreign Minister Franciscus ‘Frans’ Timmermans, urged the European Union to encourage more dialogue with Cuba in the first Dutch Foreign Ministry visit to the island nation since the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The following month, after deliberation and persuading doubtful EU members like the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany, the 28-member bloc’s European Commission ruled in favor of opening formal dialogue with Raúl Castro’s administration in a vote.

The eventual goal was to have a new framework for relations, including political, social and economic dialogue, by the beginning of 2015. The process was delayed (but never suspended) as the European Union worked to solve crises within its borders and Cuba was involved in re-establishing diplomatic links with the United States. Regardless of the short delay, the plan is still going ahead.

Bruno Rodríguez, the Cuban Foreign Minister, appreciated the visit of the EU’s highest external representative. Her “presence gives more importance and a boost” to the talks between the two sides and Rodríguez said he will now reciprocate by visiting Brussels in late April to engage in more dialogue with EU representatives.

“We have a clear feeling of closeness and will to cooperate. Europe can accompany Cuba as it undertakes its planned reforms through investments in agriculture, renewable energy and tourism, among other sectors,” Mogherini said in Havana.

The economic aspect is important as Cuba is looking to reform much of its energy sector. At the moment, the island nation depends on oil for almost all of its energy needs and the EU, with experience in developing alternative energy networks like solar, hydroelectric and wind, among others, can be of great help to Cuba’s reform aims.

The issues the EU still has with Cuba’s detention of radical dissidents and other issues they see as human rights abuses will be discussed through the already established dialogue but if any further issues should arise, they will be solved separately through parallel negotiations with the mediation of Cuban officials and Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights.

Although the EU has had concrete plans with Cuba in regard to normalizing relations for several years now, perhaps the latest action to place more importance on the issue was spurred by the normalizing of relations between Washington and Havana. In turn, Washington likely hurried to re-establish relations with Havana due to the EU’s ongoing talks with the island.

Both entities, however, ramped up their efforts after Cuba engaged in economic-centered negotiations concerning multi-billion dollar projects with China, Brazil, Russia and others.

Whatever the new agreement is, if and when it is agreed upon, it will replace the current EU policy toward Cuba called the Common Position. This policy was ratified in 1996 and developed by the conservative People’s Party government of José María Aznar, the Prime Minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004.

The policy maintains that the EU’s position on Cuba is one that encourages democracy and political pluralism on the island, with an emphasis on human rights. Until Cuba changes these policies, the EU’s stance is that the bloc will unilaterally stop all institutional dialogue with the country.

Cuba rejects the Common Position as it is unilateral and equates the policy to an interference in Cuban internal affairs. The Cuban government’s stance is an understandable one, given that the Common Policy is also applied by the EU to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda but not a single other sovereign nation.

The policy, however, would be on its way out if Mogherini is right in predicting a solution by the end of the year.

Rodríguez, the Foreign Minister, has repeatedly announced his nation’s full support for normalizing relations: “Cuba has all the willingness to discuss a political agreement with the European Union on the basis of equal terms and mutual respect, and we welcome the European Union’s proposal for an end to the unilateral policy on Cuba via bilateral negotiations.”

“Unilateral political policies, like those of the US toward Cuba enacted during the long-gone Cold War, do not work and are destined to fail,” the Cuban official insisted.

The US and EU position on Cuba, albeit both are slowly changing their stances, is an outdated one. In October of 2014, for the 23rd consecutive time, the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the United States’ half-century embargo on Cuba by a vote of 188 to 2, with the only ‘no’ votes coming from the US and its staunch ally Israel.

Along with changing opinions on the Old Continent, the changes in Cuba have had effects on the way the island nation is seen. Since coming to power, Raúl Castro’s administration has removed restrictions against the purchase of certain products previously deemed illegal, gave unused state-owned land to private farmers and farming cooperatives, eased travel restrictions and internet access, significantly reduced state spending, and encouraged many entrepreneurial initiatives.

Politically, Fidel’s younger brother has also placed a limit on presidential terms and said that he would step down after his second term ends in 2018, giving Cuba its first non-Castro leader since the Revolution of 1959.

It would behoove both sides to approve the new framework for diplomacy. The EU is the largest investor in Cuba and its second largest trading partner after Venezuela, while hundreds of thousands of EU residents flock to Cuba’s beaches every year, accounting for more than half of all visitors in the vital tourism sector of the island nation.

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