Archive for the ‘cuba-europe’ Category

Cuba, EU Normalization Agreement Imminent

February 25, 2016

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The two parties sit down for a seventh round of talks next week.

European Union officials are set to resume talks toward normalizing relations with Cuba next week. The EU consulate in Havana reported Tuesday that an agreement is likely to be reached soon.

Representatives for both countries will meet in Havana March 3-4 for a seventh round of talks. These talks will be led by the EU’s Christian Leffer and Cuban deputy foreign minister Abelardo Moreno. The parties have failed to reach a consensus on human rights and trafficking issues in previous talks.

Cuba is calling on the European Union to scrap its two decade-long “common position” mandate, under which Cuba would be required to adopt democratic and economic reforms as a predicate to the restoration of full diplomatic and economic ties. The EU has eased its position on democratic reforms by Castro’s regime, following Havana’s historic July 2015 détente with Washington.

The EU formally expedited processes toward normalizing relations with the island country in mid-2014, after Washington began talks with Cuba. The July agreement between US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, the younger brother of the revolutionary Cuban leader Fidel Castro, fully restored US-Cuban diplomatic relations.

Cuba is the only Latin American country without full diplomatic and economic relations with the EU. In 2003, the EU suspended relations following Havana’s efforts to crack down on foreign journalists and activists investigating humanitarian conditions in the island country.

The restoration of ties with leading Western governments is seen by many as a positive step for the dictatorship, a government mired in poverty after decades of trade restrictions and embargoes left the island country resource-strapped.  Some worry, however, that the restoration of relations with leading Western economies may come at a steep cost for the Cuban people, with foreign multinationals likely to profit on cheap labor, pristine natural resources, and tourism.

Cuban relations with the West serve vital security imperatives. The island is a mere 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the US, and, during the Cold War, Soviet-Cuban relations presented a strategic threat. Cuba functioned at the time as a regional hub for possible missile launches against the US. Culminating in the notorious Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis, these early-1960s incidents chilled American-Cuban relations for over two decades after the dissolution of the Soviet state.

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/world/20160225/1035306393/cuba-eu-normalization-imminent.html#ixzz41BiVTbTj

Left Wing Highlights Spanish Government”s Stance on Blockade of Cuba

September 4, 2015

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Madrid, Sep 3 (Prensa Latina) The parliamentary spokesman for Izquierda Unida (IU) and general secretary of the Communist Party of Spain, Jose Luis Centella, on Thursday described the Spanish Government”s support for an end to the United States blockade of Cuba as positive.

In a statement issued here, Centella referred to a letter from the director of the Presidency’s Cabinet, Jorge Moragas, about the conclusions of the Brussels Summit between the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Centella, who visited Cuba as a member of a parliamentary delegation headed by Congress Speaker Jesus Posada, noted aspects of the letter sent on behalf of Spanish President Mariano Rajoy, in response to a request from him on May 21.

In his request, the communist leader had asked the Spanish Government to demand the lifting of the European common position on Cuba at the EU-CELAC Summit, because it was discriminatory.

The response received by the IU spokesman states that the Spanish Government favors dialogue with Cuba and negotiations for an agreement between Havana and the EU.

At the same time, Centella noted that the Government’s stance must be approved by Congress, so he will promote several initiatives on behalf of his parliamentary group after returning from his trip.

That step, he added, will be aimed at seeking consensus for further improving relations in tune with the historic, cultural, economic and family ties between Cuba and Spain.

He pointed out that the Brussels Declaration expresses satisfaction with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, and supports an end to the blockade.

Centella also noted that the Spanish government takes into account the text that reaffirms the rejection of the coercive measures and extraterritorial regulations established by the Helms-Burton Act, which has caused humanitarian damage to the Cuban people and has affected commercial ties between Cuba, the EU and other countries.

According to Centella, it is important that the EU reaffirmed the need to have the blockade lifted, and admitted, as US President Barack Obama did, the suffering caused to the Cuban people by an instrument of aggression that violates international law.

Europe Was Too Slow in Bridging Cuba Ties

July 21, 2015

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Cuba does not need Europe and does not see it as a priority, which the EU’s ‘Common Position’ on Cuba does not help, Spanish political expert Jose Manuel Martin Medem told Sputnik.

The European Union was too slow to bridge ties with Cuba because of its “Common Position” agreement on the country, Spanish government RTVE television journalist Jose Manuel Martin Medem told Sputnik.

According to Medem, Spanish businessmen are very worried because there are now new economic players in Cuba. Meanwhile, the European Union remains behind the US in repairing its relations with Cuba.

“The EU was too late again because it created a ‘Common Position’ on Cuba, following the US, and now, as Washington and Havana are again opening embassies, Brussels is still discussing whether this ‘Common Position’ should be abandoned,” Medem said.

According to Medem, Spain performed very poorly since the premiership of Jose Maria Asnara, who insisted on the “Common Position” in Brussels, thereby closing the doors for talks with Cuba. The situation only slightly improved under prime minister Jose Luis Sapatero.

Medem sees integration with other Latin American countries as the best option for the island’s development. According to him, Cuba does not see the EU as a priority.

“Today Cuba has a broader spectrum of diplomatic relations than ever before, and Europe presents neither political, nor economic, nor geostrategic interest,” Medem added.

Medem brought up the example of Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, who visited Cuba in November 2014, but was “humiliated” by not being received by Cuban President Raul Castro.

Cubans’ Rejection of Rubio Demonstrates Their Independent Thinking

July 21, 2015

A recent New York Times profile of Marco Rubio accurately describes the junior Senator from Florida, and member of the three-ring circus that is the Republican Presidential primary field, as Cuba’s “least favorite son.” The piece quoted a Havana resident as saying Rubio is “against Cuba in every possible way… Rubio and these Republicans, they are still stuck in 1959.” Presumably this view was representative of others that Times writer Jason Horowitz encountered while conducting his research in Cuba. This should not come as a surprise. Rubio is a reactionary fanatic who demagogues incessantly about the evils of the Cuban government. He supports illegal and immoral policies that cause vast damage to the Cuban economy and needless suffering by the Cuban people.

But Rubio cannot accept that Cubans’ nearly unanimous rejection of his right-wing politics might mean he is badly mistaken in his Manichean view of the Cuban socioeconomic system. Rubio wears Cubans’ disapproval of him as a badge of honor. For Rubio, Cubans are incapable of independent judgement. If the Cuban people are against him, it means they must be brainwashed by the evil Castro regime.

“If that’s the line the Cuban government has taken against me and is trying to indoctrinate their people in that way, it shows that we’re on to something,” the Times quotes Rubio as saying. But instead of acknowledging Rubio’s refusal to accept Cuban popular opinion as evidence of his megalomania, the Times accepts his delusional dismissal of his critics.

The Times notes that Rubio “has been identified in the state-controlled newspaper here as a ‘representative in the Senate of the Cuban-American terrorist mafia’.” This claim is not analyzed; it is supposed to be self-evident, hyperbolic slander. In reality, Rubio has always marched in lock-step with the Cuban-American community in Miami that portrays Castro as diabolical and advocates for regime change and the overthrow of socialism. That much is beyond dispute. Is calling the Cuban-American community a “terrorist mafia” an exaggeration?

Terrorists operate freely in and around Miami. The Omega 7, Comandos F4, Brigade 2506, Alpha 66 and other groups have openly declared their intention to use violence to topple the Cuban government while training on U.S. soil. Many have carried out machine gun raids on coastal villages and attacks on Cuban fishing boats. Among many in the reactionary Cuban-American population, terrorist leaders are revered as “freedom fighters.”

In its obituary of Orlando Bosch, described by George H.W. Bush’s attorney general as “an unreformed terrorist,” the New York Times noted that “his supporters called him a hero, holding rallies for him and lobbying to name a Miami expressway after him.” The Miami city commissioners even declared an Orlando Bosch Day. Luis Posada Carriles, Bosch’s partner in planning the bombing of Cubana de Aviación Flight 455, which killed 73 people including the medal-winning Cuban fencing team, lives freely in Miami to this day. He has marched with the Cuban opposition group Ladies in White and Gloria Estefan, and taught courses at local colleges.

If it is not exactly precise to say Rubio is a “representative in the Senate of the Cuban-American terrorist mafia,” he does represent the hard-line of refusing to normalize relations with the Cuban government and maintaining punitive policies that harm the Cuban people – positions shared by both terrorists within the Miami Cuban-American community and a broader segment of that community that don’t actively participate in terrorism but support those who do.

The Times‘ piece notes that a sign on the road in Cuba read “Blockade: The Worst Genocide in History.” A man sitting next to a sign with revolutionary slogans said of Rubio: “He wants to kill us! He’s our enemy!”

Rubio defended himself by saying it was “sad” the government tried to say he intended “to starve the Cuban people.” Rubio says such views of him are evidence of the “information blockade that the people in Cuba are facing,” thereby exonerating his opposition to President Obama’s moves to normalize relations.

In reality, the claims by the Cuban government, and people such as the man interviewed, have merit. The Cuban government says the “US genocidal blockade” is responsible for “severe adverse effects on the health and wellbeing of the Cuban people.” They justify their language by stating: “the blockade qualifies as an act of genocide by virtue of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 and as an act of economic warfare according to the declaration regarding the laws of naval war adopted by the Naval Conference of London of 1909.”

While genocide is a legal term that should be examined by the proper legal authorities such as the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court, the Cuban government clearly has a legitimate case it could make. Serious study of the consequences of the embargo lend credence to the “severe adverse effects” that the Cuban government describes.

In 1997, a nonprofit charitable organization undertook a year-long research effort to assess the impact of the American policy of embargo on the health of the Cuban population. Their findings conclusively verified the arguments the Cuban government has been making since the embargo was implemented in 1960.

“The American Association for World Health has determined that the U.S. embargo of Cuba has dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens… It is our expert medical opinion that the U.S. embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering – and even deaths – in Cuba,” states their reportDenial of Food and Medicine: The Impact of the U.S. Embargo on Health & Nutrition in Cuba.The study also found that “a humanitarian catastrophe has been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high level budgetary support for a health care system designed to deliver primary and preventive health care to all its citizens.”

So it is hardly an exaggeration for a Cuban to say Rubio wants to kill him, or to believe that the policy Rubio ardently advocates qualifies as genocide. But the Times doesn’t bother to examine whether the policies Rubio supports are inhumane and potentially criminal. Rubio defends himself by saying that people are “scared” to oppose the Cuban government line, and that they don’t know any better because they country is “dominated by government-controlled media.”

The Times acknowledges that Cuban have a “uniformity of opinion” about Rubio, but attribute this to the popularity of Granma, the official paper of the Communist Party. One man interviewed by the Times tells the reporter he is informed, and points to a story “linking the C.I.A. to a notorious Cuban-American extremist suspected of blowing up a Cuban airline filled with passengers.” This is implicitly another example of the embellishment and exaggeration of the Cuban government, spreading fantasies and conspiracy theories to turn its people against the United States.

The article most likely mentioned was “United States Considers Posada Carriles Probable Author of Terrorist Act,” published in Granma on June 4, 2015 (about a month before the Times profile of Rubio.) The article, by a Cuban news service, reprints an article that appeared in the Miami Herald the same day.

In fact, there is extensive documentation of the article’s claims on the National Security Archive’s Web site that states unequivocally that “the CIA had concrete advance intelligence… on plans by Cuban exile terrorist groups to bomb a Cubana airliner.” A section of the site titled “The CIA Connection” includes multipledocuments implicating Posada.

It was previously mentioned that Posada – who nearly 20 years ago acknowledged responsibility in the pages of the Times for hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian tourist – enjoys sanctuary in Miami and is active among reactionary Cuban-American political groups.

So, rather than allowing Rubio to speculate on how the Cuban government allegedly manipulates Cubans into hating him, the Times might ask if it may have something to do with Rubio ignoring the fact that one of his own constituents is implicated in the murder at least 75 innocent Cuban civilians?

It seems the Cuban public is much more informed about the terrorist activities by the CIA and extremists it was affiliated with than the American public, who will not find out from the Times that the allegations printed by Granma are substantiated by official declassified U.S. government documents. Neither will the Times hold to account a Presidential candidate who allows an unrepentant terrorist to enjoy safe harbor within the state he represents in Congress.

Cubans despise Rubio because he is a belligerent, war-mongering fanatic who panders to a reactionary base that demands the continuation of the most punitive policies of economic warfare in modern history. Instead of allowing Rubio to state unchallenged that he considers this a point of pride, the New York Times – the most prestigious paper in the vaunted American Free Press – should ask what is wrong with the United States itself that someone so contemptuous of humanitarianism, international law and world opinion can be a considered a serious candidate for President? And what might that say about which people are really indoctrinated by their government and media?

Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy and Latin America on his blog. You can follow him on twitter.

Cuba willing to continue human rights talks with EU

June 27, 2015

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Cuba reiterated its willingness on Friday to participate in further meetings with the European Union (EU) to discuss human rights on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual respect.

A report published by Cuban Foreign Ministry confirmed the island’s decision to “continue these exchanges, based on the recognition and respect of the conceptual differences and the willingness to address any topic, on an equal sense of balance, reciprocity and mutual respect.”

The statement, posted on the website http://www.cubaminrex.cu, refers to the meeting between diplomats from Cuba and the EU, who met on Thursday in Brussels discussing the basic principles of human rights for the first time.

This is part of an ongoing negotiation aiming to reach a political and economic collaboration agreement between the Caribbean island and the European bloc.
The meeting was a “technical dialogue” that took place in a “friendly and professional” environment, according to the official document.

Cuban representatives asked to discuss issues such as racial discrimination, vulnerable groups’ human rights, including migrants, religious and ethnic minorities, and protecting human rights in the fight against terrorism.

Meanwhile the European bloc considered that the first bilateral meeting on human rights showed a common commitment to “deepening relations” and supporting respect for human rights.

The venue, date and agenda of the next meeting will be defined through diplomatic channels according to the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

A year ago Cuba and the EU began a process to normalize bilateral ties.

The Caribbean island is the only Latin American country without a political and economic collaboration agreement with the European bloc.

EU relations with Cuba are currently governed by the Common Position; a document adopted by the EU in 1996, conditioning the relations with Havana to certain requirements of “democracy and respect for human rights”.

Cuba rejected this document as an “interference in its domestic affairs”.

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European Union made a fool of itself for following Washington’s line with regard to Cuba, said former EU lawmaker.

June 16, 2015

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(vicepresident Diaz-Canel – Federica Mogherini )

MADRID (Sputnik) – The political dialogue between Cuba and the European Union was officially restarted in April 2015, with Havana and Brussels starting talks on a bilateral agreement on Political Dialogue and Cooperation in April 2014.

“The European Union has a fundamental problem, it absolutely depends on the economic, security, defense and foreign policy of the United States… However, now we’re involved in a foreign policy that doesn’t have European values, as can be seen with Cuba. The European Union made a fool out of itself,” said Willy Meyer, a former member of the European Parliament from Spain’s United Left party.

Havana and Brussels are participating in the fourth round of negotiations to improve political dialogue and cooperation on Monday and Tuesday.

“The EU shouldn’t have to wait for more rounds of negotiations to terminate the so-called ‘common position’ and treat Cuba like any other state in the world,” Meyer said.

In June 2008, the European Union lifted the sanctions it had imposed on Havana five years earlier when over 70 opposition figures were arrested in Cuba.

The Cuba-EU political dialogue takes place amid a thaw in the island’s relations with the United States.

US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced their plans to normalize bilateral relations last December. Diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed in 1961.

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/politics/20150615/1023395182.html#ixzz3dDv5QefI

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

March 27, 2015

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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.

http://inserbia.info/today/2015/03/agreement-between-cuba-and-eu-by-the-end-of-the-year/

Cuba-EU Resume Postponed Talks

March 4, 2015

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Overshadowed of late by the rapprochement between the Washington and Havana, Cuba and the European Union (EU) will hold their third round of negotiations for a bilateral cooperation agreement on March 4-5 in the Cuban capital. The dialogue was postponed back in December and should focus this time on the thorny issue of human rights, reports dpa news.

Both sides agreed in early 2014 to start negotiations to reach an agreement on political dialogue, after years of a cooling in relations.

After the first meetings held in Havana and Brussels, the next step was to move on to more difficult issues such as the situation of human rights, EU ambassador to Cuba Herman Portocarrero noted back in November.

“The Cuban delegation agreed in principle that everything can be on the table, also human rights issues,” said Portocarrarero, shortly before the Cuban government decided to postpone the third round of talks.

Amid speculation about the reasons for the delay, Cuba and the United States announced last December 17 a landmark decision to resume diplomatic relations, broken off by Washington in 1961.

The government of Raul Castro has already held two bilateral meetings in January and February with Obama administration negotiators leaving on the back burner until now the talks with the European bloc.

In previous meetings, EU sources considered that a bilateral agreement with Brussels may further affect market economic reforms on the island and exert greater pressure for political freedoms.

Since 1996 the EU applies a “common position” in its ties with Cuba, which links bilateral relations to the situation of human rights.

The European bloc adopted the “common position” promoted by Spain following the arrest of 75 Cuban dissidents in 2003, who now have been released.

Cuba is the only Latin American country that lacks a comprehensive agreement on political dialogue with the EU. However, the island does maintain bilateral agreements with 15 of the 28 countries that form the European bloc.

Traditionally the EU includes in its cooperation agreements clauses relating to human rights and in the event of non-compliance can lead to a suspension of the agreements signed.

Before the start of negotiations, Europe agreed to unlink such clauses from the “common position” to further progress in the talks.

In the round of talks that begin on Wednesday, one of the objectives of the EU delegation is to learn the reaction of Havana to the proposal on economic and trade relations sent by the EU negotiators last year.

DPA-havanatimes

Cuba Part I: From Revolution to Un-Normal Relations

February 25, 2015

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On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin highlights BTS’ eight day trip to Havana, Cuba, starting with a historical look at the tensions between the US and Cuba that have led the two countries to the negotiating table to normalize relations. Abby then discusses the major areas of contention when it comes to these negotiations and where they currently stand. BTS producer, Cody Snell, then speaks with members of the largest delegation of peace activists to visit Cuba since the normalized relations announcement, highlighting the role of grassroots diplomacy. BTS than talks to average Cubans both in Havana and in Miami about their views on the state of US-Cuban relations. BTS wraps up the show with an interview with Kenia Serrano, a high ranking Cuban parliament member and President of The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, about everything from internet access to the crackdown on free speech in the country.

We Will Never Give up Denouncing the Injustice, Says René Gonzàlez

September 10, 2014

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Lisbon (Prensa Latina) Cuban hero René González, who is attending today a Festival of the Communist journal Avante, said his priority is to fight for the release of his three comrades still in U.S. prisons.

Rene, along with Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino and Gerardo Hernandez, were arrested in the United States in September, 1998, and subject to a trial plagued with irregularities and given unfair, harsh prison sentences for monitoring Miami-based violent groups operating against Cuba.

Rene and Fernando are back in Cuba after fully serving their prison sentences, but Ramon, Gerardo and Antonio remain in prison.
“We wil never give up the right to continue denouncing the injustice that has been committed,” said Rene in an exclusive interview with Prensa Latina, the full version of which we are posting here now:
PL: The Cuban Five were arrested nearly 16 years ago in Miami and given harsh sentences. Could you refer to the circumstances under which the trial was conducted?
Rene: The trial was carried out in an atmosphere that could be compared to a Roman circus. A frightening atmosphere of overwhelming propaganda against The Cuban Five which was orchestrated by journalists secretly paid by the U.S. government. It was held in Miami, which was wrong, as this is the only place in the world where you were unable to get an impartial jury to have a fair trial.
This has been acknowledged by human rights bodies, which said the trial was in violation of all international regulations, including the U.S. Constitution.
PL: What has helped you be so firm through all these years?
René: I think it is the morale. Knowing that we had morale in facing the prosecutors that they will never have gave us strength. Besides the justice of what we had been doing. You cannot judge anyone for protecting human life, which is the most valuable asset.
That combination of factors has given us the necessary strength and will continue doing so, plus our formation as a result of our Revolution that taught us a commitment to human dignity.
PL: You and Fernando Gonzalez returned to your country, but three of your comrades are still in prison. What is their legal situation?
Rene: The legal solution rests on the judge to rule about the motion 2255 or habeas corpus that later, if needed, would go all over the winding road from the district court to the supreme court.
This is an extrajudicial appeal because all judicial appeals have been lodged already. The process got to the end when the supreme court arbitrarily refused to revise it.
What is important for the people to know is that this is a case determined by political reasons and their solution will be motivated by the political calculations to be made by the judge and the U.S. government.
Hence the importance we attach to solidarity and to demand the U.S. government to do justice.
As the case becomes a burden to them and keeping our comrades in prison turns into a heavier burden to them they will make the right political decision, which is to apply their laws to the 2255 and in this case the comrades will return to Cuba.
PL:Regarding world solidarity, what is your opinion about the fact that so many world figures and movements support the release of The Cuban Five?
René: First we have to thank all these people for all their solidarity. After hard work for many years the wall of silence of the media has been broken and many honest people worldwide have joined the cause of The Cuban Five. We need to boost solidarity, multiply it and above all launch it over Washington, over the U.S. establishment that in the end will have to make a decision and we need all that energy to focus on them so they make the right decision.
PL: If your attitude has been brave, so has been your family’s. I think this has also given you plenty of strength all this time.
Rene: Of course, the role of the family is invaluable. The wives, the children, our parents and siblings, all have played an important role in this struggle.
They have represented the cause abroad. We cannot forget that I left prison just a year and a half ago, but for 15 years our relatives fought the political and public battles.
And they have done it good, with great dignity. Every success has been a source of resistance for us. I think they are heroes in this story.
PL-¿How do you feel back in your country?
René: I feel happy, fulfilled, honored, also because of the privilege that the Cuban people offer me every time we walk the streets of Havana and they come to us and greet us. I also feel committed to my three brothers who were in fact defending the Cuban people.
P: ¿What is your mission now?
Rene: My priority is to fight for my three comrades to be released and sent back to Cuba.


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