Archive for the ‘terrorism’ 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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Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes

February 9, 2016

Ana Belén Montes

Posted By W. T. Whitney On February 8, 2016 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/08/cuba-war-and-ana-belen-montes/print/,

The U.S. government has imprisoned Ana Belen Montes for almost 15 years. Now an international campaign on her behalf is gaining steam with committees active in Latin America, Europe, Canada, and the United States. Arrested by the FBI two weeks after September 11, 2001, and charged with conspiring to commit espionage for Cuba, this high – level analyst for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Service avoided a death sentence for treason by pleading guilty and telling all to the U. S. Justice Department.

Ana Belen Montes received no money. The former specialist in Cuban and Latin American affairs is serving a 25-year jail term.

Three petitions, accessible here, here and here, are circulating; one asks for her release, two for humane treatment. Defenders charge that in prison in Texas, Montes is isolated from the general prison population and prevented from receiving visitors, telephone calls and emails.

Advocates face an uphill battle. Documents relating to her trial and press reports then and since portray her as a U. S. citizen who took the wrong side in a U. S. war. Government officials probably despised one of their own who betrayed them. Maybe her family’s Puerto Rican origins gave rise to suspicions she sympathized with Cuba and Puerto Rico’s shared anti-colonial struggle. True or not, her fate stands as a warning for Puerto Ricans.

With U. S. war against Cuba continuing, the U.S. government likely will resist both easing up on her prison conditions and releasing her. For the new solidarity movement she is a hero, but really she’s a special kind of hero: a prisoner of war true to her cause.

There was a war. While the U. S. government shied away from military invasion after the failed Bay of Pigs venture in 1961, warlike aggression was the norm until the 1990s. At one time or another, U. S. government agents or proxy warriors carried out sabotage, armed thuggery in the Cuban hinterlands, microbiological warfare, bombings of tourist facilities, and miscellaneous terror attacks throughout the island. Few would deny that the bombing of a fully loaded Cuban passenger plane in 1976 was an act of war.

The U. S. economic blockade, engineered to deprive Cubans of goods and services essential for their survival, caused yet more distress. U. S. government leaders believed misery would induce Cubans to overthrow their government. Aggressors within the George W. Bush administration had a replacement government waiting in the wings.

And despite the restoration of diplomatic relations recently, there is still war. The U. S. economic blockade remains; counterrevolutionaries inside Cuba still enjoy U. S. support and money; Cuban land in Guantanamo is still occupied; survival of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 testifies to undying cold war; and Ana Belen Montes, who took sides, is a prisoner in that war.

Official rhetoric on war with Cuba informed Montes’ prosecution and trial. Having surveyed Cuban espionage activities, a New York Times reporter in 2003, for example, communicated the opinion of some U. S. officials that, “Mr. Castro’s Communist government remains a threat to American national security.” State Department official Otto Reich charged that, “These activities and others prove that they are a hostile country.” A Wall StreetJournal writer in 2002 cited State Department reports asserting that, “Cuba has at least some bio-weapons technology and has expressed concern that Cuba could share the science with rogue states.”

Ana Montes was recently labeled as “one of the most damaging spies in US history. Her involvement in shaping US foreign policy on Cuba caused grave damage to the US national security.” This was a reference to a Defense Department report she authored in 1998 rejecting the idea of Cuba as a military threat to the United States. Montes is alleged to have covered up Cuba’s supposed chemical and biological warfare capabilities.

In communicating secrets to the Cuban Government, Ana Montes, already in a theater of war, already a combatant, became a soldier on Cuba’s side. In prison now under such circumstance, she is one for whom solidarity is of a different order than the same for other political prisoners.

What may be required is, in effect, to sign up for the same war she joined, and take the same side. That approach worked in securing the release of the Cuban Five anti-terrorist prisoners. For Montes, however, there is no Cuban government on the battle lines as there was for the Cuban Five.

Combatants in an uneven fight can take encouragement from Montes herself. She told her sentencing judge that, “I engaged in the activity that brought me before you because I obeyed my conscience rather than the law. … I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it.”

In 2015, in an interview, she sounded like an unwavering captured soldier: “If I repent, I deny myself … It’s not within the framework of my logic. I always knew the possible consequences of what I did.”

“What matters to me,” she insisted, “is that the Cuban Revolution exists … What’s necessary is that there always be a Cuban Revolution … They, [the Cubans], have to take care of the Revolution. I tried to do that.”

Clearly, to be in solidarity with Ana Belen Montes and be effective is asking a lot, especially in a time of war. Montes herself voluntarily went to war in much the same way that compatriots did who joined the Republic’s side in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. That sort of internationalist commitment is what Montes needs now. Maybe it’s on the way.

‘In Cuba, a prisoner is another human being’

February 7, 2016

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The Militant
Vol. 80/No. 6 February 15, 2016
(feature article)

‘In Cuba, a prisoner is another human being’

Cuban Five: It’s different in US prisons, where the system
is organized to dehumanize you

“It’s the Poor Who Face the Savagery of the US
‘Justice’ System”: The Cuban Five Talk About
Their Lives Within the US Working Class
http://www.pathfinderpress.com/It-is-the-poor-who-face-the-savagery-of-the-US-justice-system, is a new book from Pathfinder. It
centers on a 2015 interview by Mary-Alice Waters and Róger
Calero with the Cuban Five in Havana. Each was incarcerated in
the U.S. from 14 to 16 years after the FBI framed them up for
activity in defense of the Cuban Revolution. The excerpt below
follows a discussion on how the capitalist rulers foster the
prevalence of drugs and gangs in U.S. prisons. Copyright ©
2016 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

MARY-ALICE WATERS: We’ve had some experiences here in Cuba
that are the opposite of what you’ve been describing. We
have a friend in Matanzas, for example, a university professor
who also gives classes in prison and takes pride in it. She told
us about using some books Pathfinder has published in her classes
and the interest they generate. We’ve read about Silvio
Rodríguez and other musicians giving concerts inside the
prisons. …

We know things in Cuba are far from perfect. But social relations
— the way people relate to each other — are the
opposite of what you experienced in the US. And that’s
true in the prison system too. In Cuba the revolution carried out
by the workers and farmers eliminated the economic and social
system built on class exploitation, on retribution and
punishment, social isolation, punitive deprivation of medical
care, denial of culture and education. That’s why the US
government is so determined to punish the Cuban people and
destroy your example.

GERARDO HERNÁNDEZ: We were with many Cuban prisoners in the
United States who had been inmates in Cuba as well. …
They’d often say, “Yes, material conditions in
prison” — especially in the newer ones —
“are a lot better than where I was in Cuba.”

Obviously you can’t compare living conditions in the
richest country in the world with the economic resources in Cuba.
But most of them recognized that prison personnel here in Cuba
make a real effort to rehabilitate inmates, to help them. In the
United States, a prison counselor is someone who puts in his
hours at work and does his best not to ever have to see you.

The human part is essential. I often give the example of a young
neighbor of mine. When he was in high school, he was involved in
something that rarely happens in Cuba — what’s
known in the US as “bullying.” He was studying in
the countryside on a scholarship program and he was being
pestered and harassed. One day he took a knife, scuffled with the
other boy, and stabbed him in the wrong place, killing him.

That boy was sentenced to seven years. During that time he
completed high school and went on to university. … He took
classes all day, and the bus brought him back to prison. …

I recently had a conversation with a very prestigious young
artist here in Cuba, Mabel Poblet. She showed me some samples of
her work. One stood out to me — an installation with
hundreds of red plastic flowers. “Look at these
flowers,” she said. “They were made by a woman who
is a prisoner in Holguín.”

“We visited the women’s prison there and met an
inmate, Betsy Torres, who was making flowers,” Mabel said.
“I had in mind doing an installation using flowers, so I
asked her to make some for me — the ones you see here.
After she was let out for good behavior, I invited her to the
opening of my exhibition.”

This type of exchange is the opposite of the dehumanization that
takes place in the US prison system. …

FERNANDO GONZÁLEZ: Look at what the Bureau of Prisons calls
its Program Statement. It says the Bureau of Prisons encourages
social contact with the outside. But in practice it’s the
opposite. They put up obstacles to everything, including visits.

It’s not enough that the prisoner is 1,500 miles or more
from his family. It’s not enough that many families
can’t afford a plane ticket and a weekend in a motel to
come see you. On top of all that, the searches and other
alienating procedures family members and friends have to go
through to get into the prison, not to mention the tense,
uncomfortable layout of the visiting room. …

GERARDO HERNÁNDEZ: “The most important difference,
what I miss most,” some Cuban inmates in the US would tell
us, “is that in Cuba I had the right to conjugal visits,
or to get a pass to see my family.” But not in the United
States.

In federal prisons and in all but four of the fifty states,
something so elementary as conjugal visits are not permitted. If
they were, it would greatly reduce tensions. It would humanize
people. It would be an incentive for good behavior. …

RAMÓN LABAÑINO: They don’t care whether
there’s money in the budget for another handball court.
That’s a big issue I had, since — in addition to
reading, studying, and playing chess — sports was one of
the ways I handled all those years in prison. I exercised, lifted
weights, and played lots of handball. But prison officials
didn’t want to paint the floor of the handball court with
the kind of rubber compound that makes it easier on your knees.

That’s how I injured my knee, in fact. But medical care in
prison in the US is terrible; they don’t want to spend
money on that either. I went to the doctor and he told me,
“Take two aspirin. Put ice on it, keep your feet up, and
tomorrow you’ll be better.” They only really take
care of you when you’re on the verge of dying. …

There’s money in the budget to buy better food for the
cafeteria too, but it’s never fully used. I know. I worked
in the cafeteria several times.

Actually, I didn’t like working in the cafeteria, because
a lot of people take those jobs in order to steal food. But we
don’t steal. It’s not our philosophy, not the
social values we learned in Cuba. With what I ate I had enough.
Frankly, I’m no good at stealing.

Here in Cuba it’s different. Our officers may not have
resources, but they are trained to really help you. I’d
venture to say that ethic goes far beyond the framework of the
prison system to the broader society here.

In Cuba a prisoner is another human being. He’s someone
who made a mistake and is in prison for that reason. It’s
not like the US, where the prison population is the enemy
— just as uniformed officers there see the people as the
enemy. Why? Because on some level they understand there could be
a social revolution in the United States some day. And their job
is to contain that revolution, in order to protect the social
layer that’s in power.

That’s pretty elementary. You don’t even need
Marxism-Leninism to see that. But if you don’t understand
this, you’ll never see why things happen the way they do
in the United States. Why the police act the way they did in
Ferguson, Missouri, last year. Why there’s no solution
within that system. …

FERNANDO GONZÁLEZ: In Miami we saw women who were pregnant
when they were arrested. When the time came to give birth, they
were taken to the hospital …

RAMÓN LABAÑINO: …in chains.

FERNANDO GONZÁLEZ: Yes, in chains. They gave birth in the
hospital, and two days later they were brought back to their
cells without their baby.

Recently I visited a women’s prison here in Cuba. …
In the United States, you know from miles away you’re near
a prison. You see the walls, fences, razor wire, towers, lights,
surveillance vehicles. But in Guantánamo, as we got closer, I
asked, “Where’s the prison?” There was a
wall you could easily jump over. Even as fat as I am, I could
have jumped over it!

Inside, some rooms are like small apartments. If a woman is
pregnant — or becomes pregnant, because they have conjugal
visits — she can stay in one of those rooms until the baby
is a year old. It’s a small room with a kitchen, where she
can cook. The prison provides food for the baby and other
necessities. There’s also a sewing shop.

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.

World Learning para Cuba, ¿nuevo programa de la CIA?

February 4, 2016

ned2

No resulta una sorpresa para nadie que en el nuevo contexto de las relaciones entre Cuba y EEUU comiencen a aparecer sospechosos programas encaminados a rebuscar entre los jóvenes cubanos para crear una cantera de potenciales nuevos líderes “para el cambio” según los estándares de la guerra subversiva. En apariencia estos proyectos resultan atractivos e inocentes, pero en su trasfondo existe la malsana intencionalidad de adiestrar a dichos jóvenes en torno a los valores del discurso político capitalista y contrarrevolucionario. De esta forma acaba de aparecer una convocatoria de la organización no gubernamental World Learning, con sede en Washington, la cual ha abierto la matrícula de su “Programa de verano para jóvenes cubanos”, el cual se llevará a cabo durante treinta días, entre julio y agosto de 2016, en los EEUU.

El sitio World Learning (http://www.worldlearning.org/what-we-do/programa-de-verano-para-jovenes-cubanos/) da a conocer esta convocatoria que se iniciará el 1 de marzo del presente año y está dirigida, específicamente, a jóvenes cubanos entre los 16 y los 18 años de edad, los cuales deben estar estudiando en el nivel secundario o preuniversitario. Las bases para la captación aparecen en este sitio mencionado y, particularmente, la intencionalidad del mismo: “el desarrollo de habilidades en áreas que incluyan hablar en público, trabajar en equipo, negociar, fomentar consenso, resolución de conflictos, defender los derechos propios, y solución de problemas.”

El citado sitio refiere lo siguiente: “Nuestros programas ayudan a la próxima generación de líderes mundiales para obtener un mayor sentido de responsabilidad ciudadana, establecer relaciones a través de líneas étnicas, religiosas y nacionales, y desarrollar las habilidades y conocimientos para transformar sus comunidades y países.” Y puntualiza, además: “Los programas se centran en temas específicos, que van desde la participación ciudadana y el voluntariado para el desarrollo de liderazgo a través del deporte y el activismo.”

Obviamente, según puede verse en la dirección web de la mencionada ONG en cuestión: https://www.regonline.com/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=1789287, la directiva de esta ONG se reserva el derecho de selección luego de un meticuloso análisis de los solicitantes. A saber, aparentemente, el rendimiento académico, la habilidad para desarrollar proyectos que beneficien a la escuela y/o comunidad del solicitante y la de trabajar en cooperación en diferentes grupos, y entender -pero no necesariamente aceptar- las opiniones de otros. Sin embargo, se piden dos cartas de recomendación escritas por dos adultos en Cuba, sin especificar quiénes sean los mismos o su orientación política, lo que presupone una explícita trampa.

La ONG World Learning tiene su sede en el 1015 15th St NW, Suite 700, 20005, en Washington, Distrito de Columbia, EEUU. El campus principal de World Learning está situado en el norte de Brattleboro, según se destaca en la página https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Learning

 

Sin embargo, detrás de las “inocentes intenciones” existen las sospechas muy serias sobre el carácter subversivo del mismo y cómo resulta parte de la acción a largo plazo de una tapadera de la CIA.  Esta ONG está conectada en sus orígenes con los Cuerpos de Paz y es una nueva versión del Grupo Internacional de Delphi, involucrado en planes desestabilizadores por parte de la CIA y de sus tapaderas como la USAID y la NED. Se sabe que más de 40 programas de World Learning son financiados por la USAID.

El sitio www.topsecretwriters.com denuncia que esta ONG, antecesora del grupo Internacional Delphi, “no es nada más que una fábrica de propaganda de la CIA que se utiliza para que el gobierno federal puede lograr sus objetivos políticos generales en suelo extranjero.” Un ejemplo de esta implicación política, acentúa este sitio, fue durante la década de 1980, cuando el gobierno de Estados Unidos utilizó a Delphi International Group para “promover la democracia” en Nicaragua.

El 11 de junio de 2003 Philip Agee, ex agente de la CIA ya fallecido, desnudó cómo las tutoras de World Learning –entiéndase USAID, NED y la propia CIA– participaron en planes subversivos contra la Venezuela Bolivariana, en un artículo aparecido en  Red Voltaire (http://www.voltairenet.org/article125754.html)

 

Sea como fuere, se ha de andar con ojo avizor ante esta propuesta para Cuba, no solo por los antecedentes de esta ONG y por el hecho de sus vínculos directos con la USAID y la NED, máscaras de la operaciones subversivas de la CIA.

 

Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy

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….

Subversion Against Cuba Continues Uninterrupted Amidst Normalization

September 15, 2015

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U.S. and Cuban delegations met in Havana Friday to “focus on setting priorities for the next steps in the normalization process,” according to the Miami Herald. They set up a “steering committee in the rapprochement process” expected to hold regular meetings. The process was laid out last month after the American flag was raised at the newly-opened U.S. embassy in Havana. Secretary of State John Kerry noted on the occasion that “the road of mutual isolation that the United States and Cuba have been travelling is not the right one, and that the time has come for us to move in a more promising direction.” The Obama administration has since announced loosening of restrictions that would permit American citizens to travel to Cuba on both commercial flights and cruise ships.

Superficially, it would seem that U.S. policy has moved away from a half-century of economic warfareterrorismsubversion, and interference in the internal affairs of the nation American politicians have long considered a “natural appendage” of the United States, which would fall into the U.S. orbit like an apple from a tree, as John Quincy Adams once said.

If U.S. policy makers had indeed abandoned this attitude and actually moved in a more promising direction, it would mean they finally decided to engage their counterpart as Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez stated his government was willing to with the United States itself: “through a dialogue based on mutual respect and sovereign equality, to a civilized coexistence, even despite the differences that exist between both governments, which makes it possible to solve bilateral problems and promote cooperation and development of mutually beneficial relations, just as both peoples desire and deserve.”

But despite extending formal diplomatic courtesies and speaking in a more conciliatory tone, the Obama administration has demonstrated behind the scenes that it does not intend to demonstrate mutual respect or recognize sovereign equality.

As the delegations met on Friday, Obama quietly renewed Cuba’s status as an “enemy” under the Trading With the Enemy Act (TWEA) of 1917. Under this Act, utilized against Cuba by every President since John F. Kennedy in 1962, the government issues the Cuban Assets Control Regulations to set the terms of the embargo (more accurately described by Cuba and the United Nations as a blockade).

By extending this enemy designation, the Obama administration is reserving the right to dictate the terms of the embargo, rather than allowing Congress to do so under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act. While Obama has shown himself more willing than Congress to relax some punitive and illegal aspects of the embargo than the current Congress, by continuing to define Cuba as an enemy he is both sending an hostile signal to Cuba and employing a transparent legal fiction.

An “enemy” in the TWEA is specified as a government with which the U.S. is at war, as declared by Congress. Congress has never declared war on Cuba. They have not declared war on any country since Japan in 1941.

While it may be true that renewing the TWEA against Cuba may be more beneficial to Cuba by granting the executive branch greater flexibility, the fraudulent nature of the continued imposition of legal sanctions against Cuba should be emphasized. Though Obama has said U.S. policy against Cuba “has been rooted in the best of intentions,” it has in reality been rooted in vindictiveness and shrouded in legal distortions that continue to this day.

At the same time, the flood of U.S. taxpayer dollars earmarked with the express purpose of regime change in Havana continues unabated. The fiscal year 2016 budget contains $30 million for this purpose.

One use of these funds is for a US propaganda agency to hire mercenaries to denigrate Cuban civil and political personalities. As Tracey Eaton notes in his blog Along the Malecón: “The U.S. government wants to hire entertainers who would produce ‘uniquely funny, ironic, satirical and entertaining’ comedy shows targeting Cuban officials, politicians and others on the island. The Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which runs Radio & TV Martí, is looking for a team that would produce 10 30-minute comedy sketch shows.”

The infamous Radio Martí has been broadcasting John Birch Society type propaganda from Miami into Cuba since the 1980s. The U.S. has continued to fund the station, despite its being declared illegal by the Cuban government. One wonders how the U.S. government itself would react if the Russian or Chinese government financed a program lambasting Obama, Kerry, and other Americans for political gain while disguising it as organically developed entertainment? It is not likely they would view a strategic attack created and financed abroad, rather than being a homegrown political expression of dissent, as protected free speech.

USAID, after being exposed for its subversive Cuban Twitter program “ZunZuneo“, which sought to sow discontent and stir unrest among the Cuban population, and its effort to co-opt Cuban hip hop artists, announced last week that it is seeking three program managers to be awarded six-figure salaries.

Eaton writes that the job description calls for “experience in the areas of democracy promotion, human rights, civil society development” and that candidates must obtain a “secret” security clearance. It is not hard to imagine that these highly compensated program managers would likely be implementing similar covert programs to destabilize Cuban society and attempt to turn its citizens away from the Revolution.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – an arm of US foreign policy that overtly carries out programs that previously were undertaken covertly by the CIA – is also hiring a Program Officer to work on NED’s “Cuba grants program” and “developing the Endowment’s strategy for Cuba.” Unlike the USAID positions, which are indicated to be in Washington, this position would require “regular field visits.”

Cuban blogger and former State Security Agent Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy writes that the position is for “someone in charge of mounting all types of subversion against the Cuban government on behalf of the NED… completely illegal, meddlesome, and violative of our sovereignty and, therefore, will not admit any of his activity in our territory.”

It is clear that the U.S. continues to act towards Cuba with utter disregard for mutual respect and sovereign equality despite the formalities uncritically accepted by mainstream media as true normalization. By looking beyond the face value of the words of American officials, one can’t help but recognize that relations are anything but normal. Until the U.S. government recognizes that normal cannot include sanctioning, illegally occupying, and spending tens of millions of dollars on subversion and interference in another country’s internal affairs, “normalization” remains nothing more than a vacuous abstraction.

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

Normalizing Relations With Cuba: Has the U.S. Learned Its Lesson?

August 13, 2015

Before 1898 Cuba was a nation without a state. It had a colonial status but also had an evolving national culture and identity, an emerging nationhood and its own history. Its sovereignty was exercised by Spain through its imperial system. The country was not yet socially integrated. Slavery had been preserved until 1886. At times the struggle for national independence coincided with a struggle against slavery.  Moreover, all Cubans were first generation Cubans since the sense of unique national identity and its symbols had emerged in opposition to the ascribed status and powers assigned to it by the Spanish colonial regime.

Between 1898 and1934 Cuba’s legal institutions and political/administrative practices were ultimately determined by the U.S. government. Under this neo-colonial system the United States acquired several military bases and other concessions that were accomplished by the forced insertion of the Platt Amendment into the Cuban constitution while the island was under U.S. military occupation in the years 1898-1902.

So Cuba then had a well-defined territory and there was a Cuban state and government. But the state did not have the power to make its own decisions due to the Platt Amendment and the formal economic, political and cultural control exercised by the United States. This was a colonial control different from what Cuba had experienced under Spain because there was now a semblance of autonomy, a situation somewhat like Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status today. In short, the closest thing to a sovereign agent in Cuba was the U.S. ambassador.

Between 1934 and 1959 Cuba was a nation state with limited sovereignty. During the FDR years the second Cuban republic abolished the Platt Amendment with the consent of the United States thus ending the era of formal U.S. control. These changes turned Cuba into a semi-independent modern republic but the United States exercised direct control over the Cuban political class and the Cuban military. Indirect influence entered Cuba through U.S. corporate presence, schools, social clubs, military integration and the newly techniques of modern advertising, through science, technology and cultural products and commercialism.

The United States limited Cuba’s self-determination and thus the boundaries of the permissible (a situation similar to the Dominican Republic). Oddly enough, during this period, which coincided in origins with the New Deal’s adoption of Keynesian economics, the Cuban state openly intervened in the workings of Cuba’s not-so-free internal market. Economic control was exercised by the U.S. government through the sugar quota system made possible by the 1934 Jones Costigan Act, as well as by trade agreements, foreign investors and political and economic “advisors.” All this was backed by a domestic political and military apparatus preserving the neocolonial arrangements; essentially doing what gunboat diplomacy and the U.S. marines had previously guaranteed.

Since 1959 the Cuban nation has had a sovereign state and government with no foreign control from within. Achieving sovereign status, however, carried huge costs for national independence as the United States engaged in coordinated, multifaceted acts of interference that included economic blockade, mass propaganda, promotion of a domestic opposition (“dissidents”) and external opposition concentrated in Miami.  Thus, Cuba is a sovereign nation state in permanent upheaval and enduring abnormal relations with its largest neighbor. The U.S. government imposed this campaign as the price to be paid by a small country wishing to be truly independent.

Cuban national sovereignty meant self-determination in the areas of politics, economy, society, culture and foreign policy. Nationally oriented policies implied a break with traditional patterns and a social, economic, political and cultural revolution, as well as independence in foreign relations.

Within the U.S. government and large swaths of American society Cuba’s assertion of national self-determination was equated with anti-Americanism. Yet, the revolutionary movement was never anti-American; but rather has been aimed all along against U.S.-imposed neo-colonial control. Behaving as a colonialist power, the United States interpreted the right to self-determination as a threat to its own interests in Cuba.

The Cuban revolution will attempt to build a new nation-state with a unified, centralized government and state institutions based on a unique national ideology derived from concepts of solidarity and defense of the less developed countries and peoples of the world.

Nation-building has been understood by the Cubans as a social, political, economic and cultural process in which decisions are made by an activated population and organized groups and institutions. It entails a process of de-colonization — taking control of its vital systems away from foreigners.  The United States, on the other hand, equated decolonization or nationalization of Cuban institutions with communism.

Cuban nationalism in economic terms meant the creation of an economy in which the major resources would be controlled by Cubans and their state. That meant nationalizing the means of production. Nationalization affected foreign investments within the island. This will be seen by the United States as an attack on capitalism even if the means of production were transferred to Cuban capitalists.

Cuban nationalism in political terms meant that the Cuban revolutionaries stressed the right to sovereignty, including the right to non-interference in the internal affairs of the island. Cuba para los cubanos, sounded very much like the southern reaction to northern carpetbaggers after the U.S. civil war. The Cubans stressed that sovereignty implied the equality of nations. But the U.S. government claimed the right to tell the Cubans how they should organize their own country. Oddly enough, the state’s rights movement in the Deep South [despite the substantive difference on matters of justice and equality] had a strong similarity to the Cuban arguments for self-determination.

Cultural nationalism also carried over into the mundane as the revolutionaries proclaimed that Cuban products were equal to U.S. products. [Coppelia vs offer compared to Baskin Robbins]  “Cuban is beautiful” became a sentiment attached to cultural independence. In 1959 Cuban capitalists advertised, “consuma productos cubanos.”

Of course, such policies had to come into conflict with the United States, which considered the Caribbean its own backyard. The Monroe Doctrine, proclaimed unilaterally by the United States in 1823, asserted the right of the United States to tell Latin America what was best for the region.

What the Cubans considered the right of self-determination the United States called “communist subversion” and Soviet penetration into its sphere of influence. Implicit in this policy toward Latin America was the assumption that the interests of Latin America should coincide with the interests of the United States.

The United States found allies within Cuba that identified with U.S. interests, but they were primarily from the upper classes that had benefited from the past relationship with the United States. The United States and its allies in Latin America spoke of Pan Americanism, but south of the border there has been, since the 1820s, a Latin Americanism based on a different concept of hemispheric unity — one among equals and without a dominant United States.

The United States saw any attempt at national independence, national liberation or social revolution in Cuba as in Latin America as anti-capitalist (meaning communist) and a challenge to its hemispheric hegemony and any government that engaged in it was “dictatorial” and pro-Soviet. The United States would hide its attempt to recover its power over Cuba under the mantle of anti-communism and defense of “democracy” and would ally with those classes and sectors within the Cuban upper class that opposed the socio-economic and political revolution.

The Cuba revolutionaries reacted by identifying the previous neocolonial status with American control and American capitalism and hence opted for an anti-capitalist position, which would be identified as socialism.

National independence and socialism would come to mean the same thing. The Cuban revolutionaries will tie their fate to the lower classes, the workers and the poor who would benefit the most from the drastic change in power relations.

Today, Cuba and a significant portion of Latin America are constructing numerous alliances, institutions and programs that eventually could become that Great Nation of the South while the United States seems incapable of understanding what is happening elsewhere in the hemisphere. Thus, the errors committed against Cuba continue to be repeated elsewhere.

On August 14, the United States government once again will have formal diplomatic relations with Cuba. Yet, most of the economic and commercial restrictions imposed since the 1960s need to be ended. Hopefully that will change in the immediate future. Then we will have to wait and see if American intervention on the internal affairs of Cuba cease as well. If that happens, then a real new period will begin in the history of the hemisphere.

This article written with the assistance of Robert Sandels.

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

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


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