Archive for the ‘solidarity’ Category

HUMANITY AGAINST THE COUP IN BRAZIL

May 16, 2016
-HumanidadContraElGolpe_en
The undersigned, intellectuals, artists, writers and researchers from all over the world denounce the coup underway in Brazil and stand in solidarity with President Dilma Rousseff who was elected by 54 million Brazilians only one year and a half ago.

This is not a traditional “political trial”, as the Globo Group is attempting to present it. Michel Temer, the visible face of the coup, has already expressed his intentions to bring the private banking sector into the public sphere and to focus in particular on a social policy of austerity for the poorest 5% of the country, which would mean to exclude the 36 million people from the Bolsa Familia. In addition Temer intends to move toward agreements with the United States and the European Union “with or without the Mercosur”. In short his perspective is a Government for the elite of his country distanced from the majority and to wipe out forever the experience that the country had under the government of the Workers Party.

Temer envisions himself to be the “new Macri” of Brasil, using the new government of Argentina as his model and advancing toward the dismantling of the state rarely seen in Argentina. It is not surprising then that the Foreign Ministry of that neighboring country has shamelessly supported the coup in Brazil under the guise of supporting its institutions. For everything that the coup makers have expressed and with their links to big business we consider the coup of the President de facto Michael Temer illegitimate and illegal. He has long ago proven that he is a corrupt politician who takes his orders from the darkest parts of the predatory oligarchy of that country.

We are appealing to UNASUR to apply the established Protocol stating a Commitment to Democracy adopted by all the countries of the organization that could put the brakes on the breakdown of the democratic thread in Brazil. We also demand that the presidents and governments of the world do not recognize Temer and to demand the return of the legitimately elected President Dilma Rousseff. They should also end the political crisis by calling for an immediate presidential election – made by the President herself – so that the Brazilian people can once again express themselves by democratic means and not by an imposed coup d’état by a questionable and corrupt Congress.

Nao vai ter golpe!

To add to the statement send your name to: contraogolpenobrasil@gmail.com

Executive Secretariat REDH

Carmen Bohórquez (REDH General Coordinator)
Alicia Jrapko (REDH USA)
Ángel Guerra (REDH Cuba/México)
Ariana López (REDH Cuba)
Atilio Borón (REDH Argentina)
David Comssiong (REDH Barbados)
Fredy Ñañez (REDH Venezuela)
Hugo Moldiz (REDH Bolivia)
Juan Manuel Karg (REDH Argentina)
Katu Arkonada (REDH Basque Country/Bolivia)
Luciano Vasapollo (REDH Italy)
Marilia Guimaraes (REDH Brazil)
Nayar López Castellanos (REDH México)
Omar González (REDH Cuba)
Roger Landa (REDH (REDH Venezuela)

Signatures: Total 833 

http://cuba-networkdefenseofhumanity.blogspot.be/2016/05/humanity-against-coup-en-brazil.html,
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New Coalition for the Release of Ana Belen Montes and Oscar Lopez Rivera

February 5, 2016

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Born in West German on the 28th of February 1957, a Puerto Rican U.S
citizen who worked as official GS-14 for the Defense Intelligence
Agency  (DIA), Ana Belen Montes was charged with spying for alerting
Cuba to planned aggressions against her people, something which had no
National Security implications for the U.S. nor posed any threat to
it’s citizens.

At 22 years of age, Ana graduated from the University of Virginia in
1979 with a degree in International Relations, a subject in which she
later attained a Masters.

She was selected on the basis of her abilities by the DIA in 1985 and
posted to the Bolling Air Base in Washington, where she worked as an
intelligentce investigation specialist. In 1992  she was transfered to
the Pentagon where she worked as an analyst.

She spent a time in a “fake” post with the U.S. diplomatic mission in
Havana to study the Cuban military. She was sent by the DIA to the
island again in 1998 to “monitor Pope John Paul II’s visit”.

In addition to her pleasant appearance, sweet smile and charming
manner, Ana, who lived alone in a modest apartment to the north of the
U.S. capital, was considered to be exceptionally discreet.

At the Pentagon, she was promoted to the position of Senior Analyst,
where she had access to almost all data on Cuba collected by the
intelligence community.
She was aware of everything the Defense Department knew about the
activities of Cuban military personell.

Her rank ensured her membership of the ultra-secret “Inter-agency Task
Force on Cuba” which brought together the principal analysts from
federal agencies such as the C.I.A., The White House and the State
Department.

Whilst working as usual in her office in the DIA compound within the
Bolling Air Base in Washington D.C. on September 20th 2001, Ana was
arrested by F.B.I. agents.

She was charged with espionage on behalf of Cuba some days later.  She
was tried and transferred at some point to a Federal Prison for
criminals with mental or physical health problems, despite not
suffering from any such issues at the time of her imprisonment.

In keeping with the nobility that underpinned her actions, she openly
declared during her trial that “there is an Italian proverb that
perhaps best describes what I believe: “The whole world is just one
country. In this world country, the principle of loving others as
one-self is an essential guide  to harmonious relations between
neighboring states.”

“This principle implies understanding and tolerance of the different
ways that others act. It establishes that we treat other nations the
way we would like to be treated – with consideration and respect. In
my opionion, we have unfortunately never applied this to Cuba”.

“In doing what has brought me before the court, I put my conscience
above obeying the law. I believe our governmemts policy on Cuba to be
cruel and unjust and profoundly hostile. I felt morally obliged to
help the island defend itself against our efforts to impose upon them
our values and our political system”.

“We have  overtly displayed intolerance and disrepect towards Cuba for
four decades. We have never respected Cuba’s right to
self-determination or to define it’s own concepts of justice and
equality”.

“I do not know how we can continue to dictate how Cuba must select
it’s leaders, who should not lead the country and what laws are most
appropriate for their nation”.

“Why do we not let them decide how to mamage their internal affairs,
just as the U.S. has done for more than 200 years?”

“My greatest wish is to see Cuba and the U.S. enjoy friendly
relations. I hope that, in some way, my case encourages our government
to abandon it’s hostility towards Cuba and – inspired by a spirit of
tolerance, mutual respect and understanding —  to work together with
Havana”.

“We can see today more than ever that intolerance and hate – be it on
the part of individuals or Governments – results only in suffering and
grief. I hope the U.S. develops a policy on Cuba on the basis of
neighborly love, a policy that recognizes that Cuba, as any other
nation would, wants to be treated with dignity rather than disrepect”.

Ana Belen Montes is presently detained in the Carswell Federal Medical
Center, inside the militiary installations of the U.S. Marines Air
Station at Fort Worth, Texas in the United States.

Despite not suffering any illness, she is being held in a psychiatric
ward, where she is at risk from inmates who are in fact mentally ill.

Prolonged exposure to such an environment could of itself also affect
her own mental health.

She is locked up with some of the most dangerous women in the U.S.
prison system, such as a former housewife who strangled her pregnant
neighbor because she wanted the child, a nurse who murdered four
patients by administering massive adreniline overdoses by injection
and the notorious “Shrill” Lynette Fromme, a follower of Charles
Manson whom tried to asassinate president Gerald Ford.

Ana Belén Montes is not due for release until the year 2017, 11 long
years from now. She has already served 14 years in jail and is
subjected to harsh and cruel conditions of detention that include,

*A Federal Prison Bureau decree (due to her espionage conviction)
restricting contact to only her closest relatives

*A prohibition on inquiries about her health or the reasons for her
detention in a center for  the mentally ill, when she suffers no such
condition.

*A prohibition on the receipt of packages.

*Letters sent to her are returned by registered post to the sender.

*She is not allowed associate with other inmates.

*She is not allowed make or receive phone calls.

*She is not allowed read newspapers, magazines nor watch TV.

*Since her father died her only visitor is her sister, who is an
anti-Castro U.S government official.

*Other family members have, because of her commitment to the cause of
Cuba, rejected or refused to maintain contact with her, meaning that
Ana has been totally isolated from the world for more than a decade.

The U.S press has reported that “serving a sentence in the Carswell
treatment unit has become a death sentence for many female prisoners”.

Detainess there have suffered gross violations of their human and
constitutional rights, including documented cases of police abuse,
suspicious deaths — investigations into which have been blatantly
obstructed, deaths due to the denial of basic medical attention, rape
of prisoners by guards and exposure to toxic substances, all of which
place her life at risk.

Ana Belen Montes was not paid by Cuba for what she did and there was
nothing sordid or coercive about her recruitment.

She was not motivated by any desire for revenge or attraction to
power.  Despite full awareness of the personal risk arising, she acted
out of love, her sense of justice and a noble solidarity with Cuba.

She was accused of having helped convince both George Bush and Bill
Clinton that Cuba did not represent a miltary threat to the U.S., thus
preventing a war that would have resulted in a significant loss of
Cuban and North American lives.

For such a contribution to peace, she desreves the support of all who
identify with the Homeland of Jose Marti.

Gerardo : We were subjected a grossly unfair trial

September 30, 2015

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An Interview with Gerardo Hernández one of the three Cuban agents
released following the Havana-Washington agreement.

We were subjected a grossly unfair trial

Eduardo Febbro
<http://www.rebelion.org/mostrar.php?tipo=5&id=Eduardo%20Febbro&inicio=0&gt;
Página/12
translated by Sean Joseph Clancy

*If there is a story within the story that might serve as a synopsis
of the bitter history between the U.S. and Cuba, it is that of Cuban
agents condemned to serve sentences in North American jails,
disproportionate to what they had actually done.

A few stops beyond the stairs to a station in North Brussels, where an
elderly orhestra are making an unholy mess of the “Besame Mucho” song,
one of three Cuban intelligence agents released as part of a
settlement partially mediated by the Vatican on the reestablishment of
diplomatic ties.

If there is a story within the story that might serve as a synopsis of
the bitter history between the U.S. and Cuba, it is that of Cuban
agents condemned to serve sentences in North American jails,
disproportionate to what they had actually done.

Gerardo Hernández is one of 5 Cuban intelligence agents who along with
Ramon Lanañino, Fernando Gonzalez Llort, Rene Gonzalez Sehewerert and
Antinio Guerrero Rodriguez who during the mid 1990’s  undertook
special missions within the U.S. in order to discover and prevent
terrorist actions, including attacks on hotel and tourist resorts and
sabotage by counter-revolutionary groups planned in Miami and later
carried out in Cuba.

The Five were uncovered and arrested in 1998. Later in what was one of
the longest trials in North American judicial history, the Cubans were
issued sentences which essentially were political punishments
orchestrated by the U.S. administrations obsession with Cuba.
Gerardo Hernandez, accused of “conspiracy to commit murder” was given
two life sentences.

Generally speaking, cases involving unregistered foreign agents
discovered operating in a foreign territory are dealt with behind
closed doors and resolved by negotiation. The case of the Cuban Five
was the polar opposite. Amid espionage and other outrageous
accusations, they were tried by a court in Miami and used as
implements of political manipulation.

Free today, the refreshing intelligence of Gerardo Hernandez reveals
no trace of the 16 years spent in North American penitentiaries, the
abuses suffered nor the long months of detention in rigorously imposed
solitary confinement.

Thanks to interventions by U.S. senator Patrick Leahy, one of those
who has most fervently  advocated for the lifting of the U.S. blockade
of Cuba, Hernandez had a son while still in prison.

The senator helped organize for Gerardos wife, Adriana Perez, br
artificially inseminated.
Following 18 months of secret negotiations with Pope Francis as
guarantor, the seemingly impossible dreams of freedom of the three
agents still behind bars in U.S. jails – Antonio, Gerardo and Ramon –
became a reality on the day of the historical declarations, December
17th 2014.

–The theme of the Cuban agents was what had been blocking, but that
also eventually unlocked the key to, negotiations with the U.S.

–Yes, exactly, our case remained very much in the air because of more
than 50 years of adversarial or non-existent relations with the U.S.
which are what led to the politicized nature of the trial of the Cuban
Five and what underpinned the cruel nature of our treatment.

Remember, there was a case a few years ago regarding the arrest of
Russian spies.  That was speedily dealt with  by negotiation and they
were repatriated without ever having to stand trial.

Our case was complicated by the history of conflict between the U.S.
and Cuba, which is paradoxically what eventually facilitated a
resolution.

For certain, the resolution of our case cannot only be attributed to
the negotiations, because the solidarity we experienced over so many
years was also relevant.

The Five of us had become very well known, there were presidents, and
religious, cultural  and political personalities, all calling for our
release.

Ours had become a most embarrassing case for the north Americans. It
had taken a lot of work for us to develop any awareness of our case.

It had been one of the longest in U.S. legal history; lasting 7 months
during which more than 100 witnesses testified. The press however
maintained an amost blanket silence.

Little by little the solidarity work of comrades who took to the
streets  protesting became necessary.

–Today we know that the Pope played a leading role in the agreement.
The Vatican was the  guarantor of the liberation process. Were you
aware of the Vaticans intervention?

–No, I did not know about it. It came as a surprise because we were
removed from that entire negotiation process. I did not know about the
role played by the Vatican.  It was afterwards that I learned about
the parts played by various cardinals, amongst them the Archbishop of
Havana and Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who I hold in high esteem. We are
truly grateful.

We have always accepted the help of all persons of goodwill. It must
be remembered that in addition to the political connotations
surrounding our case that there was a profound human tragedy also
unfolding. I am glad that  Pope Francis, being a Latin American was
conscientious.

I can honestly express great admiration for him. He has demonstrated a
very courageous attitudes, worthy of respect. On behalf of the Five
and our families, beneficiaries of this attitude, I send him our
thanks.

–If one examines the terms of negotiation, Cuba did not really concede
anything at all. Washington always maintained that they would never
deal with Cuba in the present political context, but did so
nevertheless.

–My personal opinion is that for a very long time the U.S. held that
line, that as long as there was a Castro in power in Cuba –which is
how they refer to the Revolution with the Cuban people in power – and
that they would also  never negotiate with Cuba while the Communist
Party remained in power and the Revolution remained.

All of these conditions still exist and we nevertheless have talked
under the only condition always imposed by Cuba, that the talks are
between equals and absolutely respectful  of our independence and
sovereignty.

–Did you at any point feel the weight of history on your shoulders?
The Five were, to a very great extent , the key to the knot

–I never saw the case as being of that magnitude. More towards the
end, when there were rumors of a solution, and especially when our
release was announced I began to feel it somewhat. I did then —
without knowing the extent of the progress — imagine that this might
be the route to further progress. When Raul Castro spoke with our
family members by his side is when I fully realized.

The three released Cubans knew nothing about the talks. We were
informed one day prior to our releases and we learned about the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations through Raul’s speech.

–Your case in an example for the world about the use of the justice
system as a weapon in a conflict with another state.

–Yes, the case of the Five was a revenge attack against the Cuban
Revolution and Cuban Revolutionaries. The U.S. saw an opportunity to
score a point and did so by taking Five men hostage. We accepted that
we had, by possessing false passports and operating as foreign agents
unregistered with the State Department, violated U.S law.

Ok, but we had a legal right to enter a “necessity” defense and to
outline why, but that was not permitted. The trial was held in Miami
where we, in reality, had no rights whatsoever. This was a totally
biased trial.

We were found guilty and given the maximum possible sentences on every
count. They thought that by punishing the Five meant punishing the
Cuban Revolution.

Their initial plan was to have all of us betray Cuba and mount a media
show against the Revolution.

That did not happen and so came 17 months initially — and later many
more —  in punishment cells without ever hacing committed and
indiscipline. This is why our wives were denied visits.

–Paradoxically, while you were being condemned , there were people
distributing a very thick manual in Miami.

–Incredible! The US claims to wage war against terrorism.  Young North
Americans serve in the Army and die in other countries in the name of
this war on terror. But the terrorists are here!

Luis Posada Carriles remains at liberty to stroll around the Miami
streets despite being responsible for the attack on  the Cubana
Airlines plane in 1976 in which 73 people lost their lives and the
bombing of hotels in Havana in which a young Italian man was killed.

He has an long record of terrorism but freely walks the streets.
Carriles and others were trained by the CIA to bring down the Cuban
Revolution. There have been points in history when the CIA had nothing
to do with them, but during these they turned a blind eye to them as
they continued uninhibited to do as they wished.

–Was this the mission you were dispatched to Miami on, to investigate
such groups?

–Yes, to investigate terrorist groups such as Alpha 66, The F4
Commandos, Brothers to the Rescue… and these groups still exist,
still have their training camps there

Cuba had certainly complained many times to the US Government about
the activities of such groups, but they continued to carry on with
impunity, creating the necessity for Cuba to send agents to monitor
and infiltrate them and to send information back to Cuba to prevent
acts of terrorism.

–Have your views on the US or the Revolution changed?

–They have changed in that today my character and my revoltionary
convictions are more solid now, as is my love for the Cuban people.

I lived for 16 years in those jails and that society and during that
time encountered within the prisons a great number of experiences,
human dramas,  young people – barely twenty years of age — who might
have been doctors or engineers condemned to life sentences. This is
because there is a system that, from the moment of their birth,
instills in them that they must aquire more, that they should walk
over anyone to get ahead in life and get what they want.

This is absolute brutalization, it is truly a human tragedy. Those
years spent in the US, both on the streets and behind bars have
reaffirmed my conviction that, no matter what problems we may have in
Cuba, we must continue to work to improve our system and our
socialism.

I do not anything like I witnessed in the U.S. for Cuba. But I do not
feel any resentment or bitterness to the U.S. No, I feel compassion
and no hatred for anybody.

–You were also confronted by the great change that the one time great
enemy of Cuba might be transforming, even into a potential ally.
The Cuba of your time in prison is not the Cuba to which you been freed.

–For sure! It would be strange if it were the same Cuba because that
would require a denial of our own we would be denying our own dialect.
I am happy that Cuba has changed and that most of the changes are for
the better.

No revolution can remain static. We are confident that the Cuban
people can confront the challenges posed by this process. They are
significant challenges. There are thise who suggest that they (the
U.S.) will attain by the embrace of a bear what they could not during
more than 50 years of Blockade, aggression and threats….

Cuban health care draws worldwide praise

September 21, 2015

Health care for Cubans and the care Cuba extends to the world have gained high praise. Cuba’s health care reforms, in the making for 50 years, became the basis for health care planners and providers to be able to extend medical care, medical education, and disease prevention throughout the world. This report surveys Cuban health care both at home and abroad.

1.     Health Care in Cuba

Numbers and narrative alike tell the story of a health care project comprehensive, effective and accessible to all Cuban people.  Actual health care in Cuba and public health – for U.S. health care planners, a separate entity – are identical. Both the community and individual are at once objects of care in Cuba. Payment for care is not an individual responsibility. Cuba has emphasized provision ofhealth facilities, services, and practitioners to rural areas in response to deprivations there prior to the Revolution. Health authorities have emphasized data collection, prevention strategies, health education for all, biomedical research, and medical-education capabilities. Cuba has devised full-spectrum health care, from specialty hospitals for complicated and unusual illnesses, to mid-level centers providing consultations, emergency care, and laboratory services, to thousands of family doctor-nurse teams providing first – contact care in rural areas and crowded cities alike. In developing their system of care, health care leaders frequently have resorted to improvisation, taking advantage of innovative examples elsewhere.

Article 50 of Cuba’s revised 1976 Constitution proclaims that, “Everyone has the right to health protection and care.” Political commitment is what drives planning. In 1965, Fidel Castro led 475 new doctors, the first to be educated under the Revolution, to the summit of Pico Turquino, Cuba’s highest mountain. There the students vowed “to expand rural medical services, to promote preventive health care among the population and to providing selfless aid to needy peoples.” (1)  Describing “RevolutionaryMedicine” to a group of soldiers in 1960, Che Guevara established the duty of the state, “to provide public health services for the greatest possible number of persons, institute a program of preventive medicine … and to orient the creative abilities of all medical professionals toward the tasks of social medicine.”

The role of political leadership was clear in 1983 when Fidel Castro urged specialists at Cuba’s principle infectious disease institute to make certain that the oncoming HIV/AIDS epidemic “does not constitute a health problem for Cuba.” (2) Thus preventative measures were already in place when Cuba’s first case of the disease was diagnosed two years later. Infection rates are still the lowest in the region.  

Data from the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization confirm Cuba’s own figures on health outcome. (3) Estimates of infant mortality rates (IMR) during the 1950’s, prior to the Cuban Revolution, vary widely, from 65 babies dying in their first year of life (out of 1000 births) to 39 infant deaths (in 1960).  Life expectancy at birth was 64 or less, according to varying tallies. Cuba had one medical school, eight small nursing schools, and 6286 practicingand teaching physicians, two thirds of whom were based in Havana. Within two years 3000 physicians would leave for foreign exile.

Data from the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization confirm Cuba’s own figures on health outcome. (3) Estimates of infant mortality rates (IMR) during the 1950’s, prior to the Cuban Revolution, vary widely, from 65 babies dying in their first year of life (out of 1000 births) to 39 infant deaths (in 1960).  Life expectancy at birth was 64 or less, according to varying tallies. Cuba had one medical school, eight small nursing schools, and 6286 practicing and teaching physicians, two thirds of whom were based in Havana. Within two years 3000 physicians would leave for foreign exile.

In 2013 Cuban life expectancy was 78.5 years (79 in the United States).  Cuba’s 2014 IMR was 4.2. The U. S. rate in 2011 was 6.1 and is unchanged since, with black infants dying at twice that rate. (The IMR for Canada was 4.8 recently – 15.7 for all of Latin America.)  Cuba’s rate of child deaths under age five, per thousand births, was 5.7 in 2014; the most recent U. S. rate was 7.1.  Cuba has recently spent 10 percent of its GDP on health care; the United States 17.6 percent; Canada 11.4; and the UK 9.6 percent. Cuba has one physician for 149 persons, 85,563 in all; the U. S. rate is one per 413 persons. Cuba, with 24 medical schools, graduated more than 10,000 physicians in 2013; the United States graduated 18,154 that year.  

Cuban health care extends to biomedical research and production, also export of multiple vaccines, diagnostic test kits, and generic drugs – including anti-HIV agents. That sector has prioritized immunotherapy products and anti-cancer vaccines. “In one section of Havana,” an observer notes,” there are 24 research and 58 manufacturing facilities, employing some 7000 scientists and engineers, and [that] accounted for $711 million (USD) in export earnings in 2011.”  (4)    Cuban scientists have developed innovative products, among them: interferons, a vaccine against Type B meningococcal meningitis, a drug directed at foot ulcers caused by diabetes, recombinant streptokinase used for myocardial infarctions, and epidermal growth factor helpful in the treatment of burns.  

2.     Cuban International Medical Solidarity

It started in 1960. Cuba sent a relief team of health workers to Chile after an earthquake there. They went to Algeria in 1963 to establish a public health system. Since then, according to Professor John M. Kirk of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, over 325,000 Cuban medical personnel have provided assistance in 158 countries. (5) Indeed, the Cuban Constitution refers to “proletarian internationalism, brotherly friendship, help, cooperation, and solidarity with the peoples of the world.”

Kirk believes that,  “Cuba has provided an example for the planet, showing how its successful medical collaboration programs have been far more successful, and more far-reaching, than anything provided by all of the G-8 countries’ efforts combined. For over fifty years Cuban medical personnel have served the poorest and most neglected areas of the world, going where other doctors refused to go. At present they are looking after the well-being of some 70 million people.”

He adds that, “As of January 2015 there are 51,847 Cuban medical personnel (of whom 50.1% are physicians) working in 67 countries–mainly in the developing world … [I]n Africa over 4,000 medical personnel are working in 32 countries”  The situation, he says, is comparable to  “having 223,000 US doctors serving in developing countries.”

Some notable examples:

·        Cuban medical teams went to Sub-Saharan Africa in the 1970’s in conjunction with anti-apartheid military actions there.

·        Beginning in 1990 Cuba developed comprehensive medical-care programs centered in Tarará, Cuba, for the 21,874 children and 4,240 adults who were victims of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Cuba provided medical care and provisions at no cost.

·        During the 1990’s, disaster relief efforts culminated in help given to Haiti and Central American countries following Hurricanes George and Mitch in 1998. The latter took tens of thousands of lives.

·        Hundreds of Cuban doctors remained in Haiti and were there when the disastrous 2010 earthquake occurred. New physician arrivals took the lead in providing care and rehabilitation for injuries and responding to the cholera epidemic that followed. They stayed; currently 700 Cuban doctors are working in Haiti. In all 11,000 Cuban health workers have served there since 1998.

·        Cuban doctors have cared for patients in East Timor since 2003; 350 were there in 2008, and four years later hundreds of that country’s young people were training as physicians in Cuba, also in an East Timorese medical school established and staffed by Cubans.

·        From 2004 on, as part of “Operation Miracle,” Cuban eye surgeons with logistical support from Venezuela have performed sight-restoring surgery, mainly for cataracts and glaucoma, for 3.4 million patients in 31 countries.

·        In 2005 in Pakistan within two weeks of an earthquake that killed 250,000 people, over 3000 Cuban medical personnel were caring for the injured in 32 field hospitals, in the snow and mountains. They stayed for six months. 

·        Earlier that year Cuban disaster-relief teams working abroad became the “Henry Reeve Brigade,” named in honor of a young U. S. soldier who joined rebel forces in Cuba’s first War for Independence.  Some 1500 Cuban doctors preparing to go to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina – The U. S. government turned them down. – were the first contingent to be so designated. By that time 36 disaster relief teams had already worked in 24 countries.

·        In late 2014, 251 Brigade members traveled to East Africa to combat the Ebola epidemic. Recruited from 15,000 volunteers, they stayed for six months. For its anti-Ebola contribution, Norway’s Conference of Trade Unions in February 2015, nominated the Henry Reeve Brigade for the Nobel Peace Prize.  

·        “Brigade 41” of the Brigade, with 49 health workers, arrived in Katmandu, Nepal, in May 2015 to deal with suffering caused by a major earthquake.  This was the 41st mobilization of the Brigade since its formation in 2005.

·        In August 2015, 16 Cubans – physicians, nurses, and epidemiologists – were on the Caribbean island of Dominica helping victims of flooding caused by Hurricane Erika. They brought 1.2 tons of medical supplies and provisions. 

·        Since 2005, Cuban physicians, usually from 12,000 to 15,000 at a time, have served in Venezuela as practitioners and medical teachers. In return, Cuba gains an assured, reasonably priced supply of Venezuelan oil.

·        Some 11,000 Cuban physicians, the majority of them women, have been working since 2013 in underserved areas of Brazil, whose government reimburses its Cuban counterpart.

Medical education is a big part of Cuban medical internationalism.  Kirk reports that in Africa, for example, 5,500 Cuban professionals were working there in 2012, and also that “40,000 Africans have graduated from Cuban universities and there are currently 3,000 studying in Cuba.” 

Cuba has established medical faculties in 15 countries and provided teachers for 13 of them.  According to <spanstyle=”” id=”yui_3_15_0_1_1442845244782_1020″>journalist Salim Lamrani, Cuba annually provides training in medicine, nursing, or medical technology for some 29,000 students from over 100 foreign countries. (6)  Every year half of Cuba’s medical graduates are foreign students. Cuba-Venezuela cooperation has resulted in some 25,000 Venezuelans now studying medicine under Cubans’ tutelage as part of an innovative program that has students studying in their own communities. Kirk reports that Cuban teachers have helped train “more than 80,000 midwives, 65 health promoters and 3,000 nurses” in developing countries.

The jewel in the crown of Cuba’s overseas medical work is the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM).  Formed in 1999, the Havana-based institution, which utilizes teaching hospitalsacross the island, provides medical education at no personal cost to students who arrive from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and from the United States – almost 100 counties in all. Up to 1500 students graduate from the School every year and, as of August 2015, some 23,000 physicians have returned to their own countries, where, as promised, they will be serving where they are most needed. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, visiting the School, told students, “ELAM does more than train doctors.  You produce miracle workers.”

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Cuban health care relates to the community orientation of practitioners and teachers alike, in Cuba and abroad. 

<fontcolor=”#1e1c11″>Kirk quotes El Salvador’s Public Health Minister María Isabel Rodríguez:  “The Cubans treat them [their patients] as individuals, recognizing their human quality, and spending time with them. Their medical treatment is different – the Cuban doctors respect their patients and listen to them.”

Kirk suggests that patients “are not seen as suffering from a singular ailment … instead they are viewed in the wider bio-psycho-social context.”  And, “the system is based upon medical training in which ethical considerations and the responsibilities of professionals are emphasized far more than in medical schools of the industrialized world. … The result is that the Cuban system has developed a cost-effective, pragmatic, highly ethical and sustainable system of public healthcare.”

In January 2015 Professor Kirk wrote to the Norwegian Nobel Committee indicating he was “delighted to nominate the Cuban medical internationalism program for the Nobel Peace Prize.” Ban Ki-moon would concur: Cuban “doctors are with communities through thick and thin – before disasters strike … throughout crises … and long after storms have passed. They are often the first to arrive and the last to leave.”

Notes:

1. http://www.banderasnews.com/0511/hb-cubadoctors.htm

2. http://www.hhrjournal.org/2013/09/06/hivaids-in-cuba-a-rights-based-analysis/

3. The web site www.medicc.org is a valuable resource providing access to epidemiologic data from the Cuban Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, and the Pan American Health Organization.

4. http://aaaspolicyfellowships.org/sci-fly/cuban-biotech-and-medicine-waiting-introduce-themselves-us

5. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/12/14/medical-internationalism-in-cuba/ The research and observations of Professor Kirk are fundamental to an understanding of Cuban medical internationalism

6. http://www.cubadebate.cu/opinion/2012/08/04/cuba-forma-hoy-en-un-ano-mas-medicos-que-el-total-que-tenia-en-1959/#.VfbYtv_lu1s

7. http://www.nnoc.info/nomination-of-the-cuban-medical-internationalism-programme-for-nobel-peace-prize%E2%80%8F/

8. http://www.un.org/apps/news/infocus/sgspeeches/statments_full.asp?statID=2125#.VfbWqf_lu1s

http://peoplesworld.org/cuban-health-care-draws-worldwide-praise/,

Book Review: The incredible case of the CUBAN FIVE

September 9, 2015

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Review by: Leo Juvier

On December 17, 2014 presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced the beginning of a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations. Also, on this day President Obama released the last three of the five Cuban men imprisoned unjustly by the American government with charges of conspiracy to commit espionage, and conspiracy to commit murder. Those three prisoners were Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, and Antonio Guerrero.
The case of the Cuban Five is truly like no other legal case in the history of the United States and Cuba. Their case was particularly plagued by misinformation and concealment of evidence which made their saga a nightmare. During their trial the U.S. government paid millions of dollars to journalists to write stories with lies and incendiary commentary against the Cuban Five, resulting in a biased jury.
The injustices of the case caused international indignation and it mobilized thousands of people across the globe in a show of solidarity. Since their arrest in 1998, the Cuban Five and their families have endured innumerable injustices by the U.S. government, from the denial of visas to family members who wished to visit them in prison, to keeping them in solitary confinement without a reason for long periods of time.
The Book “The incredible case of the Cuban Five” chronicles the nightmare these five cuban men endured for over 16 years in prison. The book is a compilation of testimonies and opinions gathered at the International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five held in London on March 7th and 8th, 2014. The commission counted with over 300 people from 27 different countries, among them distinguished members of the international legal community.
While reading the book it is difficult to ignore the cry for justice.
The relationship between U.S. and Cuba has been characterized by aggressive foreign policies, blockade, and acts of terrorism to destabilize the Cuban nation. Since 1959 Cuba has been the victim of 703 acts of terrorism against its civilian population by the U.S. government and Cuban-American organizations operating from Miami. These attacks have resulted in the death of more than 3478 people, and 3000 people being disabled. One of the attacks that will always remain a scar in the memory of the country was the explosion of a Cuban airplane in mid-air in 1976. During this terrorist attack masterminded by Luis Posada Carriles, (a terrorist who enjoys freedom in Miami) 73 people died, 53 of them were Cubans including the youth fencing team who were returning home from Barbados after winning all the medals in their last competition.
During the 1990’s while Cuba was trying to develop the tourism sector in the wake of the Special Period, organizations like the Cuban American National Foundation was financing terrorists to plant bombs in hotels and resort areas. Those activities resulted in the death of a young Italian tourist named Fabio and many others injured.
In response to the terrorist attacks the Cuban government sent the Five with the mission to infiltrate the organizations who were plotting the attacks and to end the terrorist campaign that was punishing Cuban civilians. Their mission was to protect the Cuban people from the wrath and hatred of the extremist exiles which continues to cause damage and prevent full normalization between both nations.
Today it is still very difficult to hear the other side, and the true story of the Cuban Five from American soil. Unfortunately the biggest enemies for the normalization of relations with Cuba is no longer the American people, but the Cuban-American right wing exiles in Miami. They control (or at least try) the public opinion with lies and intimidation.
This book offers an unbiased inquiry into the case the Cuban Five. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to gain a deeper understanding for the case as well as for Cuban-American relations.
For more on the Cuban Five visit: http://voicesforthefive.com/

Official Film report on the Commission of Inquiry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FP7Jw4NJ-Fg&feature=youtu.be&list=PLVRfY1xg2QAwDXfybvuhnBUotFKgs5iF5

Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance

July 27, 2015

Barack Obama, at the Summit of the Americas, wanted to bury the past. Argentinean president Cristina Fernández disagreed. Cuba was at the Summit, she proposed, not because of negotiations but because Cuba has fought more than sixty years with unprecedented dignity. That fight itself is not most notable; its explanatory philosophical traditions are needed and significant. Cuba’s history makes them believable.

1.

Dignity, some say, involves knowing oneself as an end. When we possess dignity, we have value, not as mere instruments toward further purposes, however noble, but in virtue of humanness.

Conceived as such, dignity is hard. We are urged to “get the most out of yourself … in a job that is spiritually fulfilling, socially constructive, experientially diverse, emotionally enriching, self- esteem boosting, perpetually challenging and eternally edifying”. In such an age of “higher selfishness”, personal choice is all important.[i] Human meaningfulness does not motivate. Indeed, it is hardly believable.

But Cuban philosopher and revolutionary, José Martí, made “radical respect for human dignity” the goal of his 1895 independence war against Spain. The Montecristi Manifesto, political statement of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, “declares [the Party’s] faith [that it can know] . . . the reality of the ideas that produce or extinguish deeds and the reality of the deeds that are born from ideas . . . so that no man’s dignity is harmed and . . . all Cubans perceive it … as based in a profound knowledge”. Remarkably, a political movement was giving priority to an ancient and fundamental philosophical question: how to know what it means to be human.

2.

Cuban history makes such motivation believable. Cuban presence in Angola, according to historian Richard Gott, was “entirely without selfish motivation”. Cuba sent 300,000 volunteers between 1975 and 1991, more than 2,000 of whom died, to push back and eventually defeat apartheid South Africa. In Pretoria, a “wall of names” commemorates those who died in the struggle against apartheid. Many Cuban names are inscribed there. No other foreign country is represented.[ii]

The United States claimed that Cuba was acting as a Soviet proxy but according to US intelligence, Castro had “no intention of subordinating himself to Soviet discipline and direction.” He criticized the Soviets as dogmatic and opportunistic, ungenerous toward Third World liberation movements, and unwilling to adequately support North Vietnam. Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoire 25 years later that Castro was “probably the most genuinely revolutionary leader then in power”[iii]

US Intelligence even identified the real motivation for Cuba’s costly involvement. Castro, it was reported, “places particular importance on maintaining a ‘principled’ foreign policy . . . [and] on questions of basic importance such as Cuba’s right and duty to support nationalist revolutionary movements and friendly governments in the Third World, Castro permits no compromise of principle for the sake of economic or political expediency.” In 1991, Cuba’s “great crusade” led Nelson Mandela to ask, “What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?”

Cuba’s internationalism continues. Cuba began exporting doctors in 1963, when Cubans traveled to the newly independent Algeria. After Hurricanes George and Mitch devastated Haiti, Honduras, and Guatemala in 1998, Cuba sent 2,000 doctors and other health

professionals. They were replaced by other Cubans willing and able to work where no health services previously existed. After Hurricane Katrina, Cuba offered to send, at no cost, 1,586 medical personnel and 36 tons of emergency medical supplies to the United States, an offer that was turned down.[iv]

In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Few have heeded the call [to fight ebola], but one country has responded in strength: Cuba.” Cuba responded without hesitation, sending more than 450 doctors and nurses, chosen from more than 15,000 volunteers, by far the largest medical mission sent by any country.

3.

Visitors to Cuba ask why. Tour guides at the Latin American School of Medical Sciences, which offers full scholarships to foreigners who could not otherwise train as doctors, explain that Cubans believe in sharing what they have, not what they have left over. The answer elicits scepticism, even derision: a nice idea but not realistic.

It is realistic because pursuit of dignity has practical significance. Or so argued Martí. Even before him, in the early nineteenth century, radical Cuban independence activists rejected European (liberal) philosophy emphasizing individual freedoms. They faced three empires –the UK, the US and Spain – and the “necessary evil” of slavery. Dignity –and how to know it –was politically urgent. Having experienced imperialism, they knew its dehumanizing logic.

Martí urged Latin American children to know dignity. His famous children’s journal, The Golden Age, offers image after image of faraway places. He taught them that to know and respect themselves as human ends, they must experience sameness between themselves and others far away. Looking outward, not inward, one builds and feels human connection, a source of knowledge going beyond “the Yankee or European book”.

Explained philosophically, internationalism is a practical, not moral, obligation. Martí believed human beings are causally interconnected, both with the physical environment and with cohabitants of that environment. He believed in science: Human beings are part of nature, and we depend upon nature, including other human beings. On such a view, there is no mystery about why a poor country would pursue internationalism: We live better, and freely, when others live better, and freely.

4.

In 1998, Fidel Castro said that Cuba’s humanist project explains Cuba’s resistance to the US financial, commercial and economic blockade. He cited the power of ideas, specifically about dignity and its practical significance. At a 2003 academic conference, Castro added that the threat of increasingly sophisticated weapons requires ideas: “Sow ideas, sow ideas, and sow ideas; sow awareness, sow awareness and sow awareness”.

Some will shake their heads. But to give my discipline its due, philosophers have argued for more than half a century that understanding is limited by expectations rooted in background beliefs. This means that when we don’t believe something possible, we do not see the evidence suggesting it is possible. The upshot is that challenging accepted philosophical ideas, which people rely upon unself-consciously for day-to-day deliberation, is necessary for progressive politics.

Philosophers of science argue that we only find empirical evidence to support theories if we first, to some degree, believe such theories, even without sufficient evidence. This means that theoretical innovation, and commitment to such innovation, is a prerequisite for new discoveries, or even for the questions that might motivate such discoveries.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Cuba’s successes, well-documented, do not inspire alternative paths toward human development. They are not believed. James Wolfensohn, ex-president of the World Bank, acknowledged Cuba “has done a great job on education and health” and that “it does not embarrass me to admit it”. Nonetheless, “The island continues to be ignored by both development theorists and the technocrats” designing programs to promote human development. [v]

The reason may be fear. Cuba resisted the US embargo for sixty years. It defied predictions of its imminent collapse after the disappearance of the Soviet Union. And when Fidel Castro stepped down in 2006 because of illness, Cuba again defied predictions— this time of internal squabbling and chaos. Julia Sweig, US Rockefeller senior fellow, noted a “stunning display of orderliness and seriousness” and concluded that the Cuban Revolution “rests upon far more than the charisma, authority and legend of [Raul and Fidel Castro].”

The “far more” is at least partly philosophical, a vision of who we can be, and know ourselves as, as human beings. It predates Martí but was most radically realized by Martí, who thought political liberation does not long endure without spiritual freedom. For him, this meant acquiring the sensitivity and humility to be able to respond to beauty, whether in ideas, people or events. For only with such responsiveness can we know the unexpected, which may be humanness.

5.

Cuba’s philosophical traditions, closer in many ways to Eastern than to European philosophy, make plausible a competing conception of what is humanly possible, contradicting the now deeply entrenched belief, almost impossible to challenge in the North, that freedom is about having, not being.

Armando Hart, minister of culture during Cuba’s famous literacy campaign (1961-2), now a renowned philosopher, writes that anyone who cares about global justice in the 21st century should consider the damage done to the world by European philosophy.[vi] European philosophy, as argued by Simón Bolívar, among others, presents a naïve (at best) view of human freedom, ignoring those disqualified from the “human” part of human freedom. Worse, though, it does not allow for alternatives. We need those alternatives.

Cuba’s long struggle, and the ideas that explain it, offers such an alternative. Cuba’s ideas could be known. But it takes effort. Martí scholar, Pedro Paulo Rodríguez writes that even Latin Americans do not sufficiently acknowledge the philosophy grounding their region’s innovative development direction.[vii]

History inspires imagination, as Fernández suggests. And as Eduardo Galeano wrote, imagination allows us to interpret the world as what it might be, not what it is. At least occasionally, though, we need moral imagination in order to discover it. For we have to believe alternatives are possible, and needed, including philosophical ones, in order to pursue them. If we take seriously Cuban, and Latin American, history, we will benefit. But if we consider the possibility, unexpected for some, that Cuba’s resistance is morally unprecedented, offering options for human development, we will gain even more.

6.

As relations between the US and Cuba thaw, Cuba changes. Some hope it will not change much but they often miss the real reasons. In what Charles Taylor describes as the “age of authenticity”, in which personal choice is paramount, some philosophers, especially feminists, emphasize relationships and emotional sensitivity. They urge connectivity as an antidote to liberal individualism, and a source of radical knowledge. Cuba’s philosophers, especially Martí, broke that trail in this hemisphere long ago. Cuba should not turn from its philosophical traditions, urgently needed in the North.

Notes. 

[i] cited in Taylor, Charles, A secular age (Cambridge: Harvard University, 2007), 473-479).

[ii] Gleijeses, Piero, Conflicting missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959–

1976 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2002) 300-327.

[iii] Gleijeses, Piero, Visions of freedom: Havana. Washington, pretoria and the struggle

for southern Africa (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2013) 306, 373, 521, 525, 526

[iv] E.g. Brouwer, Steven, Revolutionary doctors (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011)

[v] Cited in Saney, Isaac, Cuba: A revolution in motion (Blackpoint, NS: Fernwood, 2004).

[vi] Ética, cultura, política (Havana: Estudios Martianos, 2006) 174

[vii] Rodríguez, Pedro Paulo, Pensar, prever, server (Havana: Ediciones Unión, 2012) 177

Susan Babbitt is associate professor of philosophy at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada and author of José Martí, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Global Development Ethics: The Battle for Ideas (Palgrave MacMillan 2014).

Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance

Let Cuba be Cuba

July 22, 2015

jose marti 5

by Michael Steven Smith

Washington DC
July 20, 2015

“The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support (of the Cuban revolutionary government) is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship…Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba…A line of action which…makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government. “. Secret memorandum of Lester D Mallory, deputy assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, April 6, 1960

A brass band played the Cuban national anthem this morning as I watched the Cuban flag being raised in front of the Cuban embassy for the first time since 1961 when the United States government cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba. Getting them restored was a great victory for the Cuban people and their government, although relations between the two countries are far from normal.

The United States still spends $30 million a year to subvert the Cuban government, illegally keeps a chunk of their country at the prison camp known as Guantánamo, and enforces a crippling commercial, economic, and financial blockade which has had the intended effect of stunting Cuban economic development by an estimated 1.1 trillion dollars in order to demonstrate to the world that there is no alternative to capitalism. But the Cubans despite the problems have shown that there is.

“Regime change ” is still part of American law. I was one of 500 people invited by the Cubans to celebrate the victory and re-dedicate ourselves to completing it.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez addressed the overflowing crowd packed in to the 1916 elegant limestone mansion on Embassy Row. He said that “In 1959, United States refused to accept the existence of a fully independent small and neighboring Island and much less, a few years later, a socialist revolution that was forced to defend itself and has invited, ever since then, our people’s will…. only the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade which has caused so much harm and suffering to our people; the return of the occupied territory in Guantánamo and the respect for Cuba’s sovereignty will lend some meaning to the historic event that we are witnessing today.”

He expressed the resolve of the Cuban people and concluded by saying that “to insist in the attainment of obsolete and unjust goals, only hoping for a mere change in the methods to achieve them will not legitimatize them or favor the national interest of United States or its citizens. However, should that be the case, we would be ready to face the challenge. ”

Why was Cuba finally recognized? After the Cuban revolution of 1959, United States successfully isolated the Cuban people from the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. Any government that did not go along with America’s policy paid a heavy price.

The democratically elected governments of Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and most famously Chile, the other 9/11, were replaced by US friendly dictatorships. Cuba was thrown out of the Organization of American States. Che Guevara call the organization the Ministry of Colonies.

But last year the head of the Panamanian government told the United States that it and the other Latin American countries wanted Cuba back in at the next meeting and if United States didn’t like it they didn’t have to come. That may have been the turning point. United States threw everything it had at Cuba.

Even before the revolution, they supported the Batista dictatorship, giving it arms, training it’s secret torturing police, and supply and its army. 20,000 Cubans lost their lives in the revolution That was just a start.

In 1959 many Cubans worked seasonably, lived in a grass thatched hut and , was illiterate, unhealthy, and died young. This all changed with the revolution. The large American owned landed estates were broken up and the land was redistributed to the peasants who worked it; many of them had fought in the revolution.

The American owners were told they would be paid for the land according to how much they listed its value for tax purposes. The Americans turned down the offer and closed the oil refinery, threatening to stop the Cuban economy, which would run out of gasoline. So the Cubans nationalized the oil refinery, then the phone company, then the bus company, and the nickel mines, and on and on.

This became the Cuban socialist revolution. To reverse it, the United States relied on terrorist groups helped by the CIA and centered and trained in Florida. They unleashed several thousands of CIA trained counterrevolutionaries in the infamous and failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

When the Cubans began their literacy campaign the terrorists killed the teachers. They burned down the sugarcane fields. To cripple the tourist trade they placed bombs in hotels. They bombed a Cuba commercial airplane, killing 73 people including the entire young Cuban fencing team.

They introduced dengue fever into the island which killed a lot of children. More biological warfare was used against the Cuban pig population. A half a million pigs had to be destroyed. Altogether 3098 people were killed in 2011 were injured.

A Congressional committee asked Cuban counterrevolutionary the infamous CIA agent Felix Rodriguez if he ever tried to assassinate Fidel Castro with an exploding cigar. Rodriguez said, “no sir, but I did try to kill the son of a bitch with a high-powered rifle. “.

In 1967 Rodriguez and another Cuban counterrevolutionary Gustavo Vilolldo worked with the American installed Bolivian dictatorship and succeeded in assassinating Che Guevara as Michael Ratner and I demonstrated in our book “Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder”.

Nonetheless, the Cubans have achieved some remarkable goals. Their population is100% literate. Education is free. So is health care. People are healthy and live longer than they do in United States. Cuban art, music, and dance is fantastic.

The “lack of freedom “and “repression&quot; by the Cuban government is wildly exaggerated by American propaganda. The fact is that there is more participation by the Cuban population in the running of their country than there is by the American population in the running of ours.

What’s next? Obama could ease off on the economic sanctions if he wanted to. The problem United States has with Guantánamo could be solved simply: give it back. The US could stop trying to subvert the Cuban government and stop paying and directing a lot of the so-called “dissidents&quot;. Americans could be allowed to travel freely to Cuba and see for themselves the real situation there.

It has been assumed by American policymakers since Thomas Jefferson that Cuba was part of the American orbit, the madura fruta, the ripe fruit,that should fall into America’s lap. The Cubans have resisted this. They need all the solitary they can get. Our movement in the United States should say with one voice, in the words of Sandra Levinson, the Director of New York City’s Center For Cuban Studies, who was there in Washington,”let Cuba be Cuba. ”

By Michael Steven Smith

Michael Steven Smith is the co-host of the WBAI Radio show “Law and Disorder” on the net at laws disorder.org. He and Michael Ratner wrote the book “Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder”. The book was recently published in Cuba and Argentina.

Cuban Five Concludes Visit to Angola

July 8, 2015

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Luanda, Jul 8 (Prensa Latina) The visit of the five Cubans who
were held in U.S. prisons for fighting terrorism to Angola ends
today with a meeting with Vice President Manuel Vicente and a
gathering at the headquarters of the Organization of Angolan
Women.

This country is the last destination of an African tour of the
Cuban Five, as they are internationally known, which firstly
took them to South Africa and then to Namibia.

As part of the program, the revolutionary fighters laid a wreath
on July 6 at the monument to Agostinho Neto, the first president
of this African country.

Later, they had a courtesy meeting with the vice president of the
ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, Roberto de
Almeida.

During that first day, the Cuban Five also visited the Alto Las
Cruces cemetery to lay a wreath in the place where the remains
of the internationalist combatant Raul Diaz Arguelles rested.

Diaz Arguelles died on December 11, 1975, in the southern
Angolan province of Cuanza Sul, as a result of injuries caused
by an anti-tank mine explosion that destroyed his armored.

Three of the Cuban Five know this nation because they were part
of the Cuban internationalist military contingent that, in
support of the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola, fought
the Apartheid regime.

Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Rene
Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez were detained by U.S. authorities
in 1998, and condemned to disproportionate sentences for
alerting about terrorist actions against Cuba.

Of them, Hernandez, Labañino and Guerrero arrived in Cuba
after being released on December 17 -Fernando and Rene had
previously returned after completing their sentences-, in a
context marked by the announcement of Havana and Washington to
move towards the normalization of relations.

Angola was the third stop of the African tour (from June 21 to
July 8) of the Cuban Five, where they complied with an
invitation by the African National Congress (ANC), of South
Africa, and the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO),
of Namibia.

Next Steps in the Normalization of US-Cuban Relations: Thoughts From the Cuban Five

July 7, 2015

_1-cohnmarjorie2015_0702co_1(Marjorie Cohn with René González and his wife, Olga. (Photo courtesy of Marjorie Cohn)

By Marjorie Cohn, Truthout | News Analysis

Now that United States and Cuba are preparing to open embassies in each other’s countries, what else needs to happen to support the process of détente between the two countries?

During a recent visit to Cuba I posed this question to René González and Antonio Guerrero, two of the “Cuban Five” – five Cuban men who traveled to the United States in the 1990s to gather information about terrorist plots against Cuba and then became celebrated Cuban heroes during their subsequent incarceration by the United States.

Their reply? End the embargo and return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba.

“We have to remember that relations between the countries have never been normal,” González said, arguing that the normalization of relations won’t happen overnight. He added:

We were occupied by US troops in 1898. From then on, we were a subject of the US government and especially the US corporations. Then came the Revolution, which tried to correct that imbalance. Then came a different stage – of aggressions, blockade and policies against Cuba, which has lasted for more than 56 years. You cannot expect that establishing normal relations … [for] the first time in history is going to be an easy process.

Guerrero noted that the US had taken one major step toward normalization already by removing Cuba from its list of countries alleged to support terrorism but noted that the next step toward normalization will require a much larger step – ending the US embargo, which in Cuba is more commonly referred to as the “blockade.” Normalization, González said, will require “the dismantling of the whole system of aggression against Cuba, especially the blockade. Everybody knows how damaging it has been for the Cuban people. It’s a small island. For 50 years, it has been asphyxiated by the biggest power in the world. It had a cost on the Cuban people, on their economy.”

The Illegal Occupation of Guantánamo Bay

González also listed the return of Guantánamo to Cuba as necessary for normalization. After the blockade is lifted and Guantánamo is returned to Cuba, he told me, “I believe the process will take speed.”

González rightly pointed out that the US occupation of Guantánamo is illegal. The United States gained control of Guantánamo Bay in 1903, when Cuba was occupied by the US Army after its intervention in Cuba’s war of independence against Spain. Cuba was forced to accept the Platt Amendment to its Constitution as a prerequisite for the withdrawal of US troops from Cuba. That amendment provided the basis for a treaty granting the United States jurisdiction over Guantánamo Bay.

The 1903 Agreement on Coaling and Naval Stations gave the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay “exclusively as coaling or naval stations, and for no other purpose.” A 1934 treaty maintained US control over Guantánamo Bay in perpetuity until the United States abandons it or until both Cuba and the United States agree to modify it. That treaty also limits its uses to “coaling and naval stations.”

None of these treaties or agreements gives the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay as a prison, or to subject detainees to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment – which has been documented at the prison. The United States thus stands in violation of the 1934 treaty.

Moreover, the doctrine of rebus sic stantibus, enshrined in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and a norm of customary international law, allows one party to a treaty to abrogate its obligations when there is a fundamental change in circumstances. Using Guantánamo Bay as a prison and torturing detainees is a fundamental change in circumstance, which constitutes grounds for Cuba to terminate the treaty.

The Diplomatic Importance of Freeing the Cuban Five

The United States and Cuba would not likely have announced this week their plans to reopen embassies in each other’s countries if President Barack Obama had not successfully negotiated the full release of the Cuban Five in the agreement he reached with Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17, 2014. That deal, to work toward normalization of relations between the two countries, had eluded Obama’s 10 predecessors over a 55-year period. It will likely be Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement.

A part of the deal that had enormous symbolic significance to the people of Cuba was the freeing of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino – the three members of the Cuban Five who were still imprisoned at the time of the agreement. On December 17, 2014, the three men were granted clemency and returned to Cuba. The other two members of the Cuban Five – René González and Fernando González – had previously been released in 2011 and 2014, respectively, after serving their full sentences.

The case of the Cuban Five garnered international condemnation in particular because the five men had traveled to the United States to gather intelligence on Cuban exile groups for a very legitimate reason. Since Cuba’s 1959 Revolution, terrorist organizations based in Miami, including Alpha 66, Commandos F4, the Cuban American National Foundation and Brothers to the Rescue, have carried out terrorist acts against Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the Castro government. The most notorious was the in-air bombing of a Cubana airliner in 1976, which killed all 73 persons aboard, including the entire Cuban fencing team. These groups have acted with impunity in the United States.

The Cuban Five peacefully infiltrated these organizations. They then turned over the results of their investigation to the FBI. But instead of working to combat terrorist plots in the United States against Cuba, the US government arrested them and charged them with crimes including conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. Although none of the Five had any classified information or engaged in any acts to injure the United States, they were convicted in a Miami court in 2000 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years collectively.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals unanimously overturned their convictions in 2005, ruling that the Five could not get a fair trial in Miami due to the pervasive anti-Cuba sentiment there. Nevertheless, the 11thCircuit, sitting en banc, upheld the convictions, and Hernandez’s life term was affirmed on appeal.

Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

The Cuban Five endured years of harsh conditions and wrongful imprisonment before their release. After being arrested, they were immediately put into solitary confinement and held in “The Hole” for 17 months. Solitary confinement amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, according to United Nations special rapporteur Juan E. Méndez.

“I believe they expected to break us down,” González added. The US government “used the CIPA [Classified Information Procedures Act] and randomly classified everything,” which “allowed them to prevent us from looking at the evidence,” González said. “So they put us in “The Hole” and then put the evidence in another hole.”

Yet, González noted, “Sometimes you have to react as a human with your dignity. And they went after our dignity. And we had to defend it. We were more committed. We were more encouraged to go to trial, and that’s what we did.”

“For us,” González said, “going to trial was great. We wanted to go to trial every day because we wanted to face them and expose the truth of terrorism against Cuba and how the government of the United States supported those terrorists.”

“They decided to behave like thugs.” he told me. “And then you have to resort to your moral values, again to your human dignity and defend that.” González said, “We always knew what we were doing there. We knew that we never intended to make any harm to the United States at all, to the US people. We were very clear on that. As a matter of fact, there was nothing in the whole evidence that would show hatred toward the United States or the US people or an intent to damage anybody. We knew that we were defending human life. And going to prison for defending the most precious thing which is the human life – it makes you strong.”

Surviving Prison Through Poetry and Art

I asked González and Guerrero how they survived prison for all those years. “Our humor never went down,” González said. “We played chess from one cell to another by yelling. We did poetry. Sometimes we had fun just reading the poetry through the doors.”

Guerrero also began writing poetry in prison.

“I started writing poems without even having paper,” he said. “A poem came to my head after they arrested me … And I cannot explain how because I wasn’t a poet. And then I started writing poems.” Guerrero never imagined that his poems would be published, but he shared them with the other prisoners and shared them with people in court. He couldn’t believe it when his first book of poems, Desde Mi Altura (“From My Altitude”), was published.

Guerrero also became a painter in prison. “The penitentiary is very tough,” he said. “So one day I went to the art room … that was another way to free my mind.”

I was thrilled when Guerrero gave me a copy of his newly published book, Absolved by Solidarity, a collection of his paintings depicting the different stages of the trial.

The Five Return to Cuba

When I asked what it was like when all the members of the Cuban Five were back in Cuba together, Guerrero said: “It’s a sense of joy. It’s a sense of victory. It’s a sense of returning to the place where you belong to. And it feels great.”

González added: “My little daughter was four months when I was arrested. I came to Cuba two days before her 15th birthday. I have a grandson now which is a beautiful boy.”

Both González and Guerrero said they had thought they would never see Hernandez in Cuba again because he was serving a term of life imprisonment. “My biggest fear was he would die there,” González said. “And let’s not fool ourselves. The US wanted him to die in prison. And the prosecutor wanted him to die in prison.”

“We know how hard it is to take him from those appetites,” he added, “and we managed to do that. It speaks a lot about Cuba, a lot about the Cuban people, because the Cuban people together as one did everything possible for the Five and it’s just pure joy.”

The Way Ahead

In the days ahead, the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States will rely most of all on the United States’ willingness to act out of respect for Cuban self-determination. “The only thing we want is respect,” Guerrero said. “Let’s try to build something now – good for you, good for us – with respect in the middle. … The point is, we don’t know if the interest of the American government is really to be respectful and friendly to the Cuban government.”

Guerrero said that even if millions of American tourists come flooding in to visit Cuba, he cannot conceive of Cuba becoming a capitalist country and forgetting about the Revolution. “Somebody may bring drugs, or somebody may bring a lot of money and try to buy things,” Guerrero said. “We are not accustomed to that. But we are ready to deal with that and create our security and our understanding. They will be received with peace, with love.”

González added that the Cuban people don’t have hatred or resentment toward the American people specifically. “We don’t blame the American people for the faults of the their government,” he said. “We know they are people like people anywhere. I believe that all of us have more in common than things that divide us. … And I hope sincerely that this new relationship with the US will allow Americans to come here and share with us this beautiful island.”

In June, the Cuban Five visited Robben Island in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years by the apartheid regime. Hernandez wrote in the guest book, “It has been a great honor to visit this place together with some of the brave compañeros of Nelson Mandela,” who were “a source of inspiration and strength for the Five Cubans to withstand the more than 16 years in US jails.” Hernandez added that Mandela’s legacy is one “the Five will honor for the rest of our lives.”

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31697-next-steps-in-the-normalization-of-us-cuban-relations-thoughts-from-the-cuban-five

The Five on Robben Island: A tribute to Mandela

June 26, 2015

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Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René visited the island where Mandela was imprisoned and paid tribute to his example of the triumph of human spirit over adversity.

Deisy Francis Mexidor

The Five toured the prison when Nelson Mandela was held by the apartheid regime for 18 years. Photo: Prensa Latina
ROBBEN ISLAND, South Africa.—A sign in English and Afrikaans announces arrival on Robben Island, situated off the coast of Cape Town, a site which encompasses a painful history, thankfully now past for South Africans.

The island of dry sand and strong winds, surrounded by sharp reefs and the unique sound of the thousands of birds that fly overhead, is today a symbol of freedom.

To get there, you have to board a boat at the Nelson Mandela memorial located in the commercial and tourist district of Waterfront.

The journey is about 12 kilometers, a half hour boat ride, enough to reflect on the triumph of human spirit over adversity encompassed by this historical site.

Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, the Five Cuban anti-terrorists who themselves were greatly inspired by the spirit of resistance of Prisoner No.46664, Nelson Mandela, during their imprisonment in the U.S., traveled to the island as part of their tour of South Africa.

Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years that the apartheid regime kept him imprisoned on Robben Island.

Accompanied by Ahmed Kathrada, who was also imprisoned alongside Mandela, the Five toured the historical site that was opened as a museum on January 1st, 1997 and declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999.

Certain areas are usually off-limits to tourists, but Kathrada provided the Five with access to Mandela’s cell, a small, damp and unimaginable space.

They studied the iron bars through which only hands could pass, the blanket on the floor that was all Mandela had for a bed, the bench and a small window.

Each of them looked, touched the walls and tried to take an almost photographic image with their own eyes. It was a private moment of reflection. No questions were required.

Then, as they gathered to take a photo, Fernando noted the date: “Today is June 23. In 2001, 14 years ago, the Comandante en Jefe (Fidel Castro) said we would return (to Cuba).” Meanwhile, Gerardo wrote in the guestbook on behalf of the Five: “It has been a great honor to visit this place together with some of the brave compañeros of Nelson Mandela.”

The message continued, “all of them were a source of inspiration and strength for the Five Cubans to withstand the more than 16 years in U.S. jails.”

Gerardo stressed that this was a legacy that “the Five will honor for the rest of our lives.”

CUBAN ANTI-TERRORISTS RECEIVED BY SOUTH AFRICAN PARLIAMENT

CAPE TOWN.—Members of the African National Congress (ANC) in the South African parliament received the Five during their visit to the legislative capital of the country.

The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Lechesa Tsenoli, said that the Five are an inspiration across the world.

In exclusive statements to Prensa Latina, Tsenoli highlighted the example of resistance that these men provided whilst in U.S. prisons, where they remained confined for an extended and unjust period of time.

The legislator also stressed the contribution of Cuban solidarity to the African cause, a sentiment that is continuously repeated.

Since their arrival on June 21, when they were welcomed by ANC Secretary-General, Gwede Mantashe, the Five have had the chance to talk with the leadership of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

They were also warmly welcomed by members of the Society of Friendship with Cuba in South Africa (FOCUS) and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL), who did so much to secure their release.

The visit by Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René will conclude on July 3 and forms part of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter.

According to their busy schedule, they will travel this Thursday, June 25, to the province of Gauteng to complete their tour of five of the nine South African provinces.

The Five then continue on to Namibia and conclude their tour of Africa in Angola, where three of them (Gerardo, Fernando and René) served as internationalist fighters.


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