Posts Tagged ‘cuban five’

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;
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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….

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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

Cuban Five Concludes Visit to Angola

July 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Five on Robben Island: A tribute to Mandela

June 26, 2015

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

Deisy Francis Mexidor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CUBAN ANTI-TERRORISTS RECEIVED BY SOUTH AFRICAN PARLIAMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuban Five thank SA for support in securing their release from US prison

June 22, 2015

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The so-called Cuban Five have arrived in South Africa on a 13-day visit to thank the nation for campaigning for their release from a US jail where they were held for up to 16 years for spying among other offences.

Also known as the Miami Five‚ the five Cuban intelligence officers – Gerardo Hernandez‚ Ramón Labañino‚ Fernando Gonzalez‚ Antonio Guerrero and René Gonzalez – were arrested in September 1998 and later convicted in Miami of conspiracy to commit espionage‚ conspiracy to commit murder‚ acting as an agent of a foreign government‚ and other illegal activities in the US.

One was released in October 2011 and another in February 2014. At the end of 2014‚ the US swapped the remaining three members for an American intelligence officer held by Cuba.

Welcoming the Cubans to South Africa in a statement on Sunday‚ the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation acknowledged Cuba’s contribution towards a democratic South Africa.

“Cuba has furthermore participated in the reconstruction of South Africa after the demise of apartheid by training‚ inter alia‚ scores of South African youth in medicine in Cuba. Cuba’s ongoing support for the South African government’s main priorities through the implementation of joint programmes in health‚ social development‚ defence‚ housing and infrastructure is significant‚” the department stated.

The department added that the deployment of Cuban doctors‚ engineers and technical experts throughout South Africa was a further demonstration of Cuba’s commitment to work with South Africa to address the infrastructural back-logs inherited from the pre-1994 period.

International relations and cooperation deputy minister Luwellyn Landers will host the Cuban Five in Cape Town from June 22-23 under the theme “Cuban Five Heroes: Tribute to International Solidarity”.

Landers described the visit by the Cuban Five from 21 June to 3 July as an historic event due to the long years of support that South Africa had rendered to the campaign for their release.

“The Cuban Five all served in Angola during the liberation struggle against Apartheid Forces‚” he noted.

On Tuesday‚ the Cubans will meet with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation‚ which said last week there was no better time to enhance Cuba-SA relations than now.

The committee’s chairperson‚ Siphosezwe Masango‚ said the committee had invited the Cuban Five delegation to Parliament so that it could express its appreciation for their “heroic personal involvement” in the crucial Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola in 1987‚ which had “brought the dawn of independence in Namibia‚ the withdrawal of the South African Defence Force from Angola‚ and ultimately freedom in South Africa”.

“The Cuban Five will in return be afforded an opportunity to thank SA’s Parliament for passing resolutions calling upon the United States to release them and to end the economic blockade on Cuba‚” he said.

Masango expressed the hope that the government would enter into bi-national commissions and trade agreements with Cuba that would benefit both countries in the long term.

-RDM News Wire

http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2015/06/21/Cuban-Five-thank-SA-for-support-in-securing-their-release-from-US-prison

Int’l conference in Cuba: ‘Step up fight to end US embargo’

May 27, 2015

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photo by Ismael Francisco/Cubadebate Gerardo Hernández addresses international solidarity conference in Havana, May 2.

BY BEVERLY BERNARDO
HAVANA — More than 1,000 delegates from 70 countries participated in this year’s international conference in solidarity with Cuba here May 2. The gathering called for stepping up worldwide actions to protest the continued U.S. economic, financial and commercial embargo of Cuba. Many delegates had joined in the million-strong International Workers Day march on May 1.

A high point of the gathering was the closing remarks given by Gerardo Hernández, which are reprinted on page 7.

Ulises Guilarte, general secretary of the Central Organization of Cuban Workers (CTC), which sponsored the conference, thanked participants for their role in the worldwide campaign to win the freedom for the five Cuban revolutionaries — Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González — who spent a decade and a half in U.S. prisons for their actions defending the Cuban Revolution. The delegates represented 205 trade unions, political parties and Cuba solidarity groups. A majority came from across Latin America; others were from the United States, Canada, European countries, and as far away as South Korea. There were 200 union delegates from Cuba.

The purpose of this year’s gathering, larger than in previous years, was building on the victory won Dec. 17 with the return home of Hernández, Labañino, and Guerrero. They joined with Fernando González and René González, released earlier from U.S. custody after serving their entire sentences. All five participated in the conference.

Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Ana Teresita González Fraga told the audience that the beginning of Cuban-U.S. talks on re-establishing diplomatic relations — unilaterally broken off by Washington in 1961 — is a victory that registers the strength and dignity of the Cuban people and their revolutionary government.

However, normalization of relations is not possible without the U.S. government ending its more than 50-year-long economic war against Cuba, she said, compensating Cuba for the economic and social damage it has caused, returning the territory it occupies at the Guantánamo naval base, and ending its subversive action programs aimed at Cuba, including its hostile radio and TV broadcasts. “It will be a difficult, complex and lengthy process,” González said, adding that Havana is engaging in these talks with full awareness of “the profound differences” between the two governments.

Kenia Serrano, president of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), called on the international delegates to continue to tell the truth about the Cuban Revolution — including its exemplary record in defense of human rights — and to “multiply your efforts in the struggle to end the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the U.S.” Serrano urged participants to build coordinated actions around the world Sept. 16-19 protesting the U.S. embargo.

Serrano underscored Cuba’s unwavering defense of the Venezuelan government in face of U.S. sanctions and other attacks on that country’s sovereignty. She noted that the Obama administration’s announcement that it intends to remove Cuba from Washington’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism” was a step forward, but added, “We oppose the U.S. government’s unilateral placing of any country on such a list. They have no right to do so.”

Some 30 delegates from unions, solidarity groups, political organizations and individuals took the floor during the discussion period.

Afterward, Hernández, Labañino, Guerrero, Fernando González, and René González were awarded the CTC’s 75th anniversary medal for their outstanding contributions to the defense of the country. Each of the five, on behalf of the CTC and ICAP, presented certificates to nearly a dozen individuals representing trade unions, solidarity organizations and others in several countries whose contributions to the fight to free the Cuban Five deserved special recognition.

from The Militant

And what about Washington’s terrorists in Miami ?

May 22, 2015

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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?

from: http://www.freethefive.org/updates/Comuniques/COAndres051915EN.htm

Answering to our friends:

March 31, 2015

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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.

http://rene4the5.com/home/?lang=en,

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

March 29, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

From opening remarks by Antonio Guerrero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From question-and-answer period

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

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

The only way to be prepared

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We faced a choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are product of the revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re going to work together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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