Posts Tagged ‘cuba’


September 22, 2015


By:  Dr. Néstor García Iturbe

A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann

Historical coincidences are always interesting and especially in connection with September 11 there are quite a few. 

Today, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner signed a Presidential Determination” exercising his authority to keep Cuba, until September 14, 2016, under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

In doing so, he makes a mockery of his Secretary of State, John Kerry, who recently said here in Havana that the United States and Cuba were not enemies or rivals, but neighbors. He also provided a sample of poor political acumen by signing this determination on September 11th, when he could have signed it on the10th, or the 12th, to avoid coinciding with other events which occurred on September 11th, in which the United States has been involved.

On one September 11, another US President, from the same oval office where the Nobel Peace Prize Winner works, made the Presidential Determination to launch a coup d’etat against the constitutional government of Chile. This resulted in the death of thousands of Chileans, including President Salvador Allende, and humiliation and torture suffered by thousands of others. The United States never described all those atrocities as human rights violations by the perpetrators of the coup; because, of course, it participated in their commission.

On another September 11, the events that resulted in the destruction of the World Trade Center, known as the Twin Towers, occurred.

The then-president was at that moment visiting an elementary school and when he heard the news, made the Presidential Determination to spend more time talking to the children and going over their notebooks, as if he had been prepared for what was taking place. We all know the story that has been spun around these events, including the plane which struck the Pentagon, the remains of which were never seen, and the one that was going to attack the White House which disappeared without further explanation.

Also on a September 11, in New York City, terrorists who were residents in the US shot dead the Cuban diplomat Felix Garcia. The terrorist who was accused and convicted of the crime is already free; perhaps as a result of another Presidential Determination. 

Mr. Obama, history judges men by the determinations they make at any given moment. If they act rightly and courageously, according to justice, or if they act wrongly and capriciously, as if justice and the world were meaningless to them.

In the context we are describing, it is impossible not to remember Comandante Juan Almeida Bosque, who died on a September 11 and who –in the middle of a fierce struggle against the forces of the Batista dictatorship, indeed supported by US determination uttered his famous: “Nobody here surrenders… cojones!“.

Mr. Obama, our national poet Nicolas Guillen, in one of his famous and well-known poems, repeated something very consistent with the Cuban Revolution, when he wrote that I now have what I should have always had.”

In your case, by making this Presidential Determination to keep Cuba under the Trading with the Enemy Act until September 14, 2016, you have shown that you do not have what it takes.




Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 11, 2015

 September 11, 2015

 Presidential Determination

No. 2015-11  




SUBJECT: Continuation of the Exercise of Certain Authorities Under the Trading With the Enemy Act

Under section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223 (91 Stat. 1625; 50 U.S.C. App. 5(b) note), and a previous determination on September 5, 2014 (79 FR 54183, September 10, 2014), the exercise of certain authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act is scheduled to terminate on September 14, 2015.

I hereby determine that the continuation for 1 year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States.

Therefore, consistent with the authority vested in me by section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223, I continue for 1 year, until September 14, 2016, the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba, as implemented by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515.

The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.  


The Five on Robben Island: A tribute to Mandela

June 26, 2015


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.”


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.

Obama, Cuba and Venezuela

June 6, 2015
Resistance to Normalization
Obama, Cuba and Venezuela

Last week, the U.S. government took the deeply ironic step of removing Cuba from its list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” Ironic because, between the U.S. and Cuba, state sponsorship of terrorism has come from the U.S. and has been directed at Cuba.  These incidents have spanned more than four decades, from the launching of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, to the numerous U.S.-organized assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, to the blowing up of a jetliner and other terrorist attacks from Cuban exiles operating out of the United States.

The latest move removes one obstacle from the normalization of relations with Cuba, but there are many more ahead, including the embargo; and the much-hated U.S. military base and prison of Guantanamo, which the Cubans have indicated is a deal breaker if it is not closed down. Another irony: the U.S. government lectures Cuba about human rights while it illegally imprisons and tortures people on the island.

Interestingly, the Cubans have raised an issue with Washington that could have more important implications for the region than removing the 53-year-old embargo that has been condemned by virtually the entire world for decades. It is now apparent, as I first suggested a month ago, that the Cubans made it clear to President Obama that normalization of relations with Cuba would be limited if Washington was unwilling to normalize relations with Venezuela. This is important because U.S. hostility toward Venezuela, and especially its support for “regime change” there, have since 2002 poisoned relations with Latin America even more than the embargo against Cuba.

President Obama seems to have gotten the message, meeting with President Maduro of Venezuela at the Summit of the Americas on April 11, backtracking from his executive order that declared Venezuela an “extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security, and sending a top State Department official – Tom Shannon – to Caracas twice since April 7 to make peace. Shannon, a career diplomat

who was Assistant Secretary of State for President George W. Bush, is considered in Washington circles to be “pragmatic.” In the context of Venezuela, this means someone who favors support for groups that want to get rid of the government mainly through electoral means, rather than through violence and a military coup.

This is not the first time that President Obama has moved toward normalizing relations with Venezuela. In 2010, the administration attempted to re-establish relations at the ambassadorial level. This was sabotaged by then Senator Richard Lugar’s office, probably in collaboration with like-minded people in the State Department. Last summer, the U.S. accepted a chargé d’affaires – the number two position after ambassador – at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington. A few weeks after that, U.S. federal prosecutors had a Venezuelan retired general, Hugo Carvajal, arrested in Aruba – despite his diplomatic passport.  Aruba, an island with a population of 100,000 that is 17 miles from Venezuela, is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This arrest was close to destroying diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, as Aruba agreed – in apparent violation of the nearly-sacrosanct Vienna convention protecting diplomats – to extradite him to the United States. Fortunately, the government of the Netherlands intervened, and ordered him freed on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.

The pattern is clear and easily understandable – there are many people within the Obama administration and Congress who do not want to normalize relations with Venezuela. (As was noted in the press, the same is true to a lesser extent for normalizing relations with Cuba – hence Obama kept top State Department officials in the dark for more than a year of negotiations.) So it was not surprising to see a 2,500-word Wall Street Journal article on May 18 with a far-fetched allegation that the head of Venezuela’s national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, was the chief of an alleged “drug cartel.”

The same federal prosecutors’ offices involved in the Carvajal case—cited anonymously, of course—were the main sources for the WSJ article. They were backed up by other, mostly far-right sources, and of course by convicted drug dealers who often get reduced sentences for pointing the finger at the appropriate villain.

It’s a dubious piece of work, with only one side of the story presented. (The WSJ, like much of the U.S. media, appears to “suspend the rules” of basic journalism, including fact-checking, when reporting on Venezuela.) The authors did include one tweet from a Venezuelan general, which succinctly summarized the ease with which these prosecutors can gather “evidence”:  “We all know that whoever wants his green card and live in the US to visit Disney can just pick his leader and accuse him of being a narco. DEA tours will attend to them.”

But the article gets the message across: As in the Carvajal case, these federal prosecutors’ offices will have sealed indictments ready to go if one of their targets should step outside of Venezuela, and a diplomatic crisis will be created. That would be the end of Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Venezuela, for the remainder of his term. And unfortunately, Miami and New York federal prosecutors are not the only U.S. government officials who want to prevent normal relations with Venezuela.

Now back to the Cubans and their negotiations with President Obama. They have some bargaining power here: It seems clear that Obama wants, for his legacy, to be the president that opened up relations with Cuba. Will they hold him blameless if right-wing elements within the U.S. government try to blow up U.S.-Venezuelan relations? Or will they remind him what Harry Truman said: “The buck stops here”?

Obama has proved himself to be quite tough when we wants something: he has faced down formidable opposition, including from one of America’s most powerful lobby groups, the Israel lobby, in order to pursue a nuclear deal with Iran. He can do the same for Latin America, if he so chooses.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the forthcoming book Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

This Counterpunch-article originally appeared on Al Jazeera.

And what about Washington’s terrorists in Miami ?

May 22, 2015


Andrés Gómez talks with Ricardo Alarcón

by Andrés Gómez, director of Areítodigital

Miami —Everything seems to indicate that once Cuba is removed from the U.S. List of States Sponsors of Terrorism at the end of May — given the prohibitions imposed on the countries on that List— a major stumbling block to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana will be overcome.

Another major obstacle that impedes the reestablishment of those relations is the reluctance of the U.S. government — once relations are reestablished — for its diplomats in Cuba to adhere to the functions permitted to any diplomat accredited in a given country, according to the regulations established in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, the international treaty regulating such functions to which both countries are signatories.

With the renewal of diplomatic relations will then begin a long, controversial and harsh negotiating process between both governments, towards achieving the long-awaited normalization of relations between both nations, between both peoples.

Long, controversial and harsh, to put it mildly, it will be if the United States government maintains the announced objectives of its new policy towards Cuba. According to Roberta Jacobson, Assistant United States Secretary of State, presently the highest-level official in charge of these issues: “My country is changing its tactics or the form of implementing its policy, but it has not abandoned its goals.”

What process of normalization of relations is possible between both countries if this is the supposed new U.S. policy towards Cuba?

In a negotiating process of “give and take” between the United States and Cuba, what can Cuba give to the United States in exchange for the U.S. government to eliminate the Helms-Burton law and all the regulations that make up the genocidal policy of Embargo? What can Cuba give the United States government so that it eliminates the equally genocidal Cuban Adjustment Act? What can Cuba give the United States for that government to return the illegally and forcibly occupied territory in Guantánamo bay where for more than a century the U.S. has had a naval and military base, and in recent years, it also maintains an infamous concentration camp? What can Cuba give the United States for Washington to end and condemn its policy of State Terrorism maintained against the Cuban people since 1959?

What can Cuba give the United States, for it to bring to trial the Cuban extreme right wing terrorists living in the United States who are responsible for countless and odious crimes, who are the executioners of this policy of State Terrorism?

What can the Cuban people give to the United States government so that it ends the policy of permanent aggression against Cuba that Washington has maintained since the revolutionary triumph in 1959?

What can the Cuban people give the United States government in such a negotiating process, if not its sovereignty, its right to self-determination, its independence, its socialist revolution, all its rights and freedoms, its exceptional gains, its enormous sacrifices, its spilled blood and its dead of more than 56 years of aggression?

Is this the negotiating process that the government of the United States is offering the Cuban people to achieve a normalization of relations between both countries?

The only thing that the U.S. government can sensibly do to really normalize relations between both peoples is to unilaterally and unconditionally dismantle all the framework of war that it has had in place for the last 56 years against the Cuban people; all the structure that has constituted its policy of permanent aggression against the freedoms and rights of the Cuban people, against the inalienable right of Cubans to live and develop in peace.

But now, how is the U.S. government — in this process of normalization of relations between both countries — not just terminate and condemn its policy of State Terrorism against the Cuban people, but rather, how will it bring to justice those terrorists of Cuban extreme right wing organizations before the courts and try them for their crimes? These are indispensable decisions that have to be achieved for the normalization of relations between both countries be attained. It will not be easy for Washington to achieve justice as the victims, their relatives and the rest of the Cuban people demand.

How many victims of that policy of terrorism have there been in Cuba? According to official figures there have been 3,478 people killed and 2,099 maimed. Given the horror that has resulted from the imperial policies of aggression and war against other peoples around the world in the last decades, perhaps the number of Cubans killed and maimed as a result of those years of a sustained terrorist campaign doesn’t seem to be so terrible…

Fidel knew how to place it in the proper context in a memorable speech on October 6, 2001, on remembering the 73 victims of the infamous attack, perpetrated by those same beasts, against a civilian airliner of Cubana de Aviación, on October 6, 1976.

Fidel explained: Comparing the population of Cuba [on October 6, 1976) with that of the United States last September 11, it is as if 7 U.S. planes, each one with 300 passengers onboard, had been downed the same day, at the same time,… And if we estimate the same proportion of the populations, the 3,478 Cuban lives lost due to those terrorist actions that originated in the United States, it would be as if 88,434 people had been assassinated in the United States from terrorist activities, the equivalent of the number of U.S. soldiers who died in the wars of Korea and Vietnam.”

Endless has been the experience and terrible the result of the U.S. State Terrorist policy against the Cuban people. And, obvious differences aside, it has also been hard for us Cubans who for decades have defended the rights of Cuba in the same places where those monsters live and thrive.

Last April 28 marked 36 years since the assassination of our comrade, member of the National Committee of the Antonio Maceo Brigade (Brigada Antonio Maceo), Carlos Muñiz Varela, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His assassins, all Cuban extreme rightwingers residing in Miami and Puerto Rico, have still not been brought to justice before the courts. The federal authorities in charge, mainly the FBI, are to blame for the fact that justice has not been achieved. They refuse to reveal the proofs in their possession that prove the guilt of the murderers.

But in Puerto Rico the family members and comrades of Carlos, Cubans and Puerto Ricans alike, led by his son, Carlos Muñiz Pérez — today older than his father was in 1979 when he was assassinated at 26 years of age — and our comrade Raúl Álzaga, have not ceased in their efforts to achieve justice for him and for Santiago Mari Pesquera, a young Puerto Rican independence fighter.

So then, what of Washington’s terrorists in Miami, Puerto Rico and other places, the ones who’ve carried out the U.S. policy of State Terrorism that has cost the Cuban people so much blood and suffering all these long decades?

They are here in Miami, still alive. Some of them are: Félix Rodríguez, Luis Posada Carriles, Pedro Remón, Frank Castro Paz, Santiago Álvarez Magriñat, Osvaldo Bencomo Robaina, Sergio Ramos Suárez, Secundino Carrera, Ramón Saúl Sánchez, Guillermo Novo Sampol, Antonio de la Cova, Virgilio Paz Romero, Héctor Fabián, José Dionisio Suárez Esquivel and Luis Crespo. Not many of them are named here, this is only a sample, but many are their hateful crimes.

In these times of change those terrorists ought to feel very vulnerable. The bosses who have protected them, if still alive, are very old and without the power they once enjoyed. The assassins know that many, many, things are changing. As Roberta Jacobson maintains, her government has not abandoned the objectives of its policy with respect to Cuba, but has changed its tactics, the form of implementing its policy… Now anything is possible.

Those terrorists, lackeys of the worst of imperialism, know that imperial powers throughout history, the United States in particular, have shown that they don´t have friends; what they have always shown is that they only have interests. Self interests.

Do these terrorists realize that maybe their days are truly numbered?


Cuban ebola team nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

May 20, 2015


by: Emile Schepers

The Annual Conference of Norwegian Trade Unions, meeting in Trondheim, Norway, voted unanimously in February to nominate Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade of internationalist health care workers for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Henry Reeve Brigade, named for a U.S. born medical doctor who participated in Cuba’s war of independence from Spain in the 19th century, and which was formed in 2005, consists of doctors, nurses and other health  care workers who volunteer to provide care in dangerous and unusual emergency situations around the world.

When the Ebola outbreak began in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in West Africa last year, 461 members of the brigade, trained by the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine in Havana, were quickly sent out to do the extremely dangerous direct face to face work with patients in a region where health care facilities and even basic infrastructure such as roads and communications systems are minimal.  Cuba’s role, far out of proportion to the countries small size and modest material resources, has been widely praised worldwide, including by the World Health Organization.

The Henry Reeve Brigade is only a small part of Cuba’s vast system of medical solidarity help to scores of poorer countries.

The Ebola epidemic has infected at least 22,000 people in the three countries, of whom 9,000 have died.  At least one of the  Cuban Reeve Brigade participants, Dr. Felix Baez, came down with the disease, but has survived.  One Cuban administrator died, but of malaria, not Ebola.  Currently the epidemic has been beaten down, but could flare up again, either in that area or somewhere else.

Surely there are few entities that are more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize nomination!

Photo: Cuban health worker wearing protective gear.  |  telesurv,

Cuba’s Coming Out Party at the Summit of the Americas

April 13, 2015
Just the Beginning

Cuba’s Coming Out Party at the Summit of the Americas


For the small island of Cuba, the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama marked a kind of “coming out” party. Banned from the for-capitalists-only gatherings from the time they began in 1994, Cuba was not only invited to participate in the Summit this year, it was the belle of the ball (albeit the belle was a shaky, 83-year-old Raul Castro who lacks his brother Fidel’s charisma). Cuba’s presence was heralded in the speeches of every nation’s leader and the handshake between President Obama and Raul Castro was the Summit’s Kodak moment.

In Raul Castro’s long 49-minute speech (he joked that because Cuba had been excluded from six prior Summits, he deserved six times the recommended eight minutes), he gave a history lesson of past US attacks on Cuba—from the Platt Amendment to supporting the dictator Fulgencio Batista to the Bay of Pigs invasion and the opening of the Guantanamo prison. But he was gracious to President Obama, saying he was not to blame for this legacy and calling him an “honest man” of humble origins.

President Obama certainly won praise throughout the Summit for turning this page in the Cold War. Some leaders insisted on clarifying, however, that Cuba was not at the Summit because of Obama’s nice gesture; Cuba was there because the leaders of Latin America insisted that there would not be another Summit without Cuba. Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, no lefty, recalled his position at the last summit, which he hosted, that Cuba must be invited to the next one. Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and others had threatened to boycott any new gathering without Cuba.

Argentine’s Christina Kirchner Fernandez went a step further in taking credit away from Obama: She said Cuba was at the table because it had fought valiantly and defiantly for over 50 years while suffering under the US blockade. Ecuador’s Rafael Correa said the Obama’s opening was good, but not good enough. He insisted it was time to end the “inhumane and illegal blockade” that had so damaged the Cuban people and to return the “occupied territory” of Guantanamo. Bolivia’s Evo Morales dismissed any notion of the US as a benevolent force now coming to aid poor Cuba; instead, he said, the US should just compensate Cuba for over 50 years of damages to its economy.

There were expectations that President Obama would use the summit to announce that Cuba would be taken off the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, a critical step in the normalization of relations. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

It’s hard for many Americans to understand the oversized significance Cuba has in the hemisphere. Colombia’s Santos thanked Cuba for its mediation of peace talks between his government and the FARC rebels. Other governments thanked Cuba for sending doctors to their countries, treating patients in poor areas where their own doctors refused to go, or for setting up medical schools or training their nationals in Cuban schools. There was praise for Cuba sharing its successful literacy program. But what most Americans fail to understand is the pride felt by so many people in Latin America—even people who don’t like Cuba’s policies—that for over 50 years the tiny island has managed to fend off the attempts by the US Goliath to overthrow it.

From the very beginnings of the revolution, the US government has used every means it could conjure up to overthrow Fidel Castro—from poison cigars to funding saboteurs to diplomatic isolation. History is littered with CIA and exile-sponsored dirty tricks, including the October 1976 attack on a Cuban jetliner that killed all 73 people aboard. Even in Panama, where the Summit took place, there was a plot in November 2000 to kill Fidel Castro by blowing up an auditorium where he was scheduled to speak.

So the fact that Cuba has managed to thumb its nose at the US for all these years is seen by many as nothing short of a miracle. “I was in Cuba on vacation,” Gabriela Gomez, a teacher from Panama told me. “I found its economy in tatters, with buildings literally falling apart. And I don’t like the restrictions on free speech and free assembly. But I love the fact that Cuba has managed to survive as a communist nation in the face of so much outside aggression.”

But is the US government really accepting Cuba as a sovereign nation that has chosen a different path? Or is it simply trying to overthrow the Cuban government by different means?

Reverend Raul Suarez who runs the Martin Luther King Center in Havana and in Panama for the Civil Society Forum that preceded the Summit, sees the same old intrigue, interference and manipulations. “Just look at what has happened at the Civil Society Forum,” he said. “The Americans paid for Cuban dissidents who have no following in Cuba to come to Panama and participate as Cuban representatives of civil society. Meanwhile, many of the representatives of Cuba’s mass-based organizations were not allowed in.”

“Half our delegation got here only to find that they couldn’t get the credentials they were promised, and were shut out of the meetings,” said Gretchen Gomez Gonzalez of the Cuban Federation of University Students, “while dissident Cubans who don’t represent anyone but themselves were given credentials to represent Cuban civil society.” Pro-government Cubans confronted the dissidents in the streets and at the meetings, calling them mercenaries for taking US money and carrying photos showing some of them embracing convicted terrorist Jose Posada Carriles. They also say that former CIA operative Felix Rodriguez, blamed for killing revolutionary hero Che Guevara, was at the Summit working with the dissidents.

The dissidents insist they are being attacked by pro-government mobs simply for promoting free speech and free assembly. The U.S. State Department condemned what it said was “harassment” and “use of violence” against participants.

The cordial meeting between Obama and Castro showed the positive face of the opening, while the clashes on the streets of Panama City represent the rocky road ahead for US-Cuba relations. But at least the path forward is a new one, with fresh momentum emanating from the Panama Summit.

Obama said the US opening could lead to more Americans visitors, more commerce, more investment and more resources for the Cuban people. If the US government could do that while leaving it to the Cuban people themselves to push for greater individual freedoms, that would be—to take a page from the Castro brothers—truly revolutionary.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of and author of several books on Cuba, including No Free Lunch: Food and Revolution in Cuba.

The Cuban Opportunity

April 7, 2015
Why Obama Should Remove Cuba From the Terror List

The Cuban Opportunity


After the announcement of a framework to a “deal” with Iran concerning their nuclear program, President Obama turns his attention to the Summit of the Americas transpiring April 9-11 in Panama. The fortuitous timing of this announcement allows Obama to address the Summit without the distraction of ongoing negotiations. Coincidentally, poll results published the day before the Iran announcement should give Obama even more swagger because his decision to reestablish diplomatic ties and move towards normalization with Cuba is playing very well with Cuban Americans everywhere.

Indeed, the upcoming Summit had been threatened by boycott from a majority of the thirty-five Heads of State if the United States did not allow Cuba to participate. The position was clear: no Cuba, no Summit. Obama learned in the last Summit in 2012 that the rest of the hemisphere was not going to let this slide anymore and, to his credit, Obama has listened and moved on this.

The historic announcements on December 17th, 2014 that put in motion an opening between the two estranged nations have been well received throughout the international community and across a wide spectrum of American society including business leaders, NGOs, and curious Americans who have flocked to Cuba since the traveling licenses were streamlined.

According to a poll by Bendixen & Amandi International released Wednesday, April 1st during a summit of business leaders and Cuba experts in New York the idea of normalizing relations with Cuba is gaining steam with Cuban Americans both residing in Miami and throughout the U.S. A reported 51% supported Obama’s moves as opposed to 44% in December when he announced. As has been the trend with Cuban American polls the generation and geographical gaps are glaring and growing. 69% of people 18 to 29 years old are in favor of normalizing whereas 38% of people aged 65 and over support normalization. 41% of Cuban Americans living in Florida agree, 49% disagree, and 10% don’t know (Don’t know?!? ) while those living throughout the U.S. are 69% in favor of the measures. 66% of Cuban Americans born in the U.S. agree with Obama’s actions. Of those Cuban American citizens who were born in Cuba 45% agree, 46% don’t, and again 8% either don’t know or won’t answer. Those who arrived before 1980 are 32% in agreement and 60% disagree while, inversely, those who have arrived after 1980 have 56% in agreement and 35% who aren’t in favor of normalizing relations.

When asked about the embargo the evidence would demonstrate that even though some within the community are reluctant to come out against the archaic policy the overriding sentiment is that it is time to end it.

When posed with the question of whether the embargo should continue 47% say it should not, 36% say it should, and a whopping 17% did not answer. But, when pressed about specifics the results belie fundamental disagreement with the embargo. When asked if “companies owned by Cuban Americans in the United States should be able to sell their products in Cuba?” 58% say Yes. The same goes for services provided by Cuban Americans on the island. When asked if “Cubans living should be able to provide funding to help their friends and family members living in Cuba to open and operate their own business?” 66% say Yes. 55% say Yes, they do “think any individual or company in the United States should be able to provide funding to Cubans living in Cuba to open and operate their own business?” And, when confronted by this statement: “Currently, U.S. companies like Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple sell their products in communist countries like China and Vietnam. Do you think U.S. companies should be able to sell their products in Cuba?” 62% percent said yes. In other words, most Cuban Americans want an end to the embargo even if some of them can’t bring themselves to admitting that fact outright.

The official title of the poll is Cuban Americans’ Viewpoint on the Cuba Opportunity and Obama too should seize the “Cuba Opportunity” and take this moment to continue to make bold steps towards normalization.

Will the Real Terrorist Stand Up?

Both Iran and Cuba are on the U.S. State Department’s “list” of nations that are designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism. Cuba has been on the list since 1982 and Iran since 1984. Iran should be there. Cuba should not.

In a 2014 Miami Conference about changes in the Cuban American Community and the Obama Administration sponsored by Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE), an anti-embargo group of which I am a founding member, Antonio Zamora, a former attorney for the Cuban American National Foundation, explained that Cuba’s appearance on the list was a “bone” for the Cuban American political class who had helped the Reagan administration with dealing with Central America. Revolutionary support sent to Angola to fight apartheid and Nicaragua to help the Sandinistas by Cuba could never be defined as terrorism under international standards but the dubious designation has been held up through the years. The State Department’s own annual report gets skimpier and lamer every year. The State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview’s section on Cuba is by far the smallest of the four countries on the “list”; Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria.

The evidence stated is paltry and laughable in the latest iteration from 2013. The members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) have been held in cooperation with the Spanish governments. The members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been participating in talks hosted by the Cuban government to begin brokering a peace deal with the help of Colombia, Venezuela, Norway, and the Red Cross. Then comes one sentence that very clearly states: “There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”

How can Cuba be compared to Iran? Or Syria? Or Sudan? It can’t. Or at least it shouldn’t.

Iran was charged with continued supply and aid to Hizballah (sic) and Palestinian terrorist groups along with sending “sophisticated” weaponry to “oppositionists” in Yemen and Bahrain. All the while, having Syria, another country on the “list” serve as the main “causeway” for such “terrorist-related activity”.

Not to mention, “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody.  Iran allowed AQ facilitators Muhsin al-Fadhli and Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and also to Syria.  Al-Fadhli is a veteran AQ operative who has been active for years.  Al-Fadhli began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009 and was later arrested by Iranian authorities.  He was released in 2011 and assumed leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network.”

There’s also a quip at the end about Iran being a “proliferation concern.” It is yet to be seen whether or not Obama’s outline to a deal is simply “kicking the can” of inevitable armament down the road.

Still yet, in the Western Hemisphere Overview the first nation mentioned as a “concern” is Iran. Not Cuba, the only nation on the “list” in said hemisphere and only 90 miles away from the United States. In fact, Cuba isn’t even mentioned in the entire chapter. Iran comes before other truly concerning regions throughout the Americas. Iran is supposedly more of a threat than Colombia, which witnessed the most amounts of terrorist attacks. It is mentioned as a threat to national security before neighboring Mexico, with its ruthless cartels dealing in narcotics, human trafficking, and paramilitary-like activities and a political class that enjoys impunity while thousands of its citizens are disappeared. Iran is more of a concern than Venezuela, with Nicolas Maduro and its oil reserves, connections to Iran and its unwillingness to go after drug kingpins. Cuba, despite being designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, is not perceived in any way as a threat within the Western Hemisphere. How can this inconsistency endure at the State Department? The truth is that John Kerry, and the Cuba desk know that the island hasn’t posed a threat via terrorism or any other form of hostility for a long time. They could take Cuba off the “list” tomorrow and they know it.

An emboldened Obama could seize this opportunity and instruct the State Department to take Cuba off the “list”. His legacy is being shaped by Cuba and Iran and he has proven that diplomacy can achieve favorable results. Announcing this before or during the Summit of the Americas in Panama would give him considerable diplomatic capital and would show that he is serious about actually moving forward from reestablishing ties towards full normalization with Cuba.

Benjamin Willis is a musician and political organizer living in Queens. He is a founding member of Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE) and serves as Secretary and Event Coordinator for this community organization.

Cubans’ ‘revolutionary ethics’ lead to advances against Ebola

April 6, 2015


The Militant

Vol. 79/No. 13      April 13, 2015

With only one new case of Ebola in Liberia in the last few weeks and a steep drop in new infections in Sierra Leone, Cuban volunteers, who have been at the forefront of combating the epidemic in those two countries, are returning home. The 38 internationalist volunteers in Guinea-Conakry, where the epidemic is not yet under control, continue to fight the virus.

At the outset of the epidemic, Cuba’s revolutionary government organized the largest delegation from anywhere in the world of medical personnel, all volunteers, to fight the disease.

“The Cuban doctors didn’t care about the risk, they said they were brothers from across the ocean and they came to help us as brothers,” Liberian Foreign Affairs Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan told Cuban reporters in late March.

Juventud Rebelde reported that 150 Cuban doctors and nurses who have been fighting Ebola for the last six months in Liberia and Sierra Leone returned home March 23. The 66 volunteers remaining in Sierra Leone will return April 1. All will spend 21 days in quarantine to ensure that the disease is not introduced onto the island.

Dr. Leandro Castellanos Vivancos described his experience in Sierra Leone in an article on the Cubadebate website. Castellanos was stationed in the Port Loko district, a rural area 35 miles from the capital Freetown.

“We first arrived at a small camp very similar to what in Cuba are known as rural schools, with the difference that we had air conditioning for 12 hours a day,” Castellanos wrote.

“We could see all along the road some of the customs of the people, for example, the long treks of women, with huge logs on their heads and an ax in their hands,” he said. “Yes, here the women do the hard work and sometimes the men accompany them as if to raise their spirits.”

“The patients were not used to being in beds and we would find them on the floor. Some of them feared us, they didn’t have even a little bit of faith in the ‘astronaut’ they had in front of them,” Castellanos said, referring to the protective clothing doctors and nurses have to wear.

“Little by little we did what was necessary, it wasn’t easy,” he said. “Sometimes we had to communicate with gestures, crazy antics, since just a few of them spoke English.”

Brought down death rate

The Cubans worked out of a field hospital with volunteers from other countries, including the United States, and with local personnel, succeeding in bringing the death rate down from 70 percent to 30 percent, Castellanos said.

“We’ve done our duty, with revolutionary ethics, with medical ethics,” Dr. Leonardo Fernández, one of the Cuban brigadistas in Liberia, told Granma in an interview published in the March 20 issue.

Fernández said that the training they received at Cuba’s Institute of Tropical Medicine was excellent. “We left knowing what we faced, knowing the dangers, and prepared psychologically and technically,” he said. “During the first week we started out with a tremendous fear, but as time went by we had to slow down some of the volunteers, because they wanted to do more than what we had been asked to do.”

“We saw entire families die, children who were alone, their mom, their dad, three little brothers who died, it was terrible,” Fernández said. “But we also saw how Ebola survivors picked up and adopted orphan children. There isn’t any better pay for us than seeing this solidarity among the Liberians themselves.”

Fernández noted that when the brigade first arrived in Liberia the streets were deserted because of fear of contracting the disease. “Now, what a difference,” he said. “People on the street greet us, whenever we go out to eat or buy anything, they treat us with tremendous affection.”

Like other volunteers, Fernández has been on previous internationalist missions, including in Pakistan after an earthquake, in Nicaragua, East Timor and in Haiti.

‘I always volunteer for missions’

“Whenever they ask for volunteers I raise my hand and then I ask later what I’m volunteering for,” he said.

All the Cuban volunteers agreed to serve for at least six months. Only one of the Cuban volunteers, Félix Báez, contracted Ebola. He survived and returned to complete his assignment in Sierra Leone. Two Cuban volunteers were infected with malaria and died during the mission.

Fernández said he didn’t see what they did in Liberia as heroic. Thousands of Cuban internationalists have carried out missions around the world, he said, pointing to medical brigades deep in the jungle in Brazil, in indigenous communities in Venezuela and in villages in other parts of Africa. “The only difference is that this international mission is well known in the media,” he said. You had to be brave, “but it was just another assignment.”

“We don’t need any monetary compensation,” Fernández said. “I am recognized as a complete revolutionary, firm in my principles. That’s enough.”

“The first thing you feel is satisfaction at having carried out our assignment,” Dr. Ronald Hernández, who was part of the Liberia brigade, told Cubadebate. “Having helped those peoples is one of the best things I have personally ever done.”

“The people of Africa deserve a better destiny,” Hernández said. “I have seen social problems in my previous missions, but in Africa everything is more complicated. They need a few Fidels over there.”

Answering to our friends:

March 31, 2015


René González Sehwerert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 27, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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