Posts Tagged ‘Cuban Revolution’

Gerardo : We were subjected a grossly unfair trial

September 30, 2015

_1-gerardo19

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

We were subjected a grossly unfair trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

Cuba on the Verge of Significant Nanotechnology Advance

September 25, 2015

_1-Laboratoria[1]

By Alfredo Boada Mola

Havana (PL) Nanotechnology science and it’s application to the life
sciences in particular, could become, in conjunction with other
scientific sectors, one of Cuba’s development bases in the not too
distant future.

The role of this branch of science in the social and economic
transformation of Cuba, is a key element of the Cuban Center for
Advanced Studies (CEAC from it’s acronym in Spanish), a new
institution in the west of Havana currently preparing for the planned
commencement of operations next year.

The staff presently research distinctive therapeutic cancer medicinal
nano-formulations and nano-particles for the controlled release of
drugs whilst simultaneously seeking to extend the diagnosis of a
greater number of diseases from the same blood sample.

In conjunction with universities, research centers and national
enterprises agencies, CEAC foresee significant investigative cycle,
developmental and innovation results, enhancing technologically
advanced biomedical and environmental system applications.

Ariel Felipe, program director of the Council of State’s scientific
advisory office, told The Havana Reporter that in Cuba, the priority
focus for this science were nano-biotechnology and medicine, ranging
from medications and tissue regeneration to disease detection devices.

He added that the existence in the country of a robust biotechnology
industry was something positive that lent itself to future
advancements in this regard.

Through the Center for Advanced Studies, Cuba is endeavoring to boost
its presence in the rapidly growing sphere of nanotechnology and to
establish a presence in both the domestic and Latin American
biotechnology markets.

Another aim is to provide Cuban engineers and scientists with the
tools to create miniature devices that could revolutionize the health
care, environmental care and energy sectors.

The 10.3 hectare CEAC site will comprise various nano-chemistry and
nano-biology research laboratories and computer simulation and
modeling facilities.

According to its directors, the installations will be open for
national and international investigations and will serve as a training
center for advanced micro and nano fabrication, facilitating the
formation of human resources for Latin America.

The entity will have nano-characterization, nano-engineering,
standardization, energy and environmental laboratories. It will also
promote the obtaining of nano-structures, nano-metric visualization
and high resolution analysis of composites and structures.

It will also develop tools and devices for the controlled release of
medications, disease diagnosis and environmental controls and new
devices for the production and storage of energy.

translated by Sean Clancy

Cuba Eliminates Substances that Deplete Ozone Layer

September 23, 2015

set

By Alfredo Boada Mola

Experts in Cuba have undertaken the initialization of a new plant
based on Japanese technology to deal with the destruction of
substances that cause Ozone Layer depletion.

The fragile gaseous strata filters sunlight and impedes harmful solar
ultraviolet radiation reaching the surface of the Earth, thus
preserving human, plant and animal life.

Ozone Technical Office (OTOZ from the Spanish acronym) specialist,
Natacha Figueredo MSc, explained to the Havana Reporter that this
modern installation cosntructed in the Siguaney cement factory in the
province of Sancti Spiritus, commenced operations last April and is
presently in a functional stabilization phase.

During the first stage Ozone depletion substances (SAO from the
Spanish acronym) collected during the substitution of more than
2,500,000 refrigerators and almost 300,000 air conditioners in the
residential sector are to be destroyed.

The works form part of the “Energy Revolution” which fully eliminated
the use in Cuba of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) in domestic
refrigeration.

Hydro-fluorocarbons (HCFC) will later be destroyed in the plant which
will, over the coming months, be collected from refrigeration and
climatization units around the country.

Through this initiative, Cuba has attained the destruction this year
of some 258.4 kilos of SAO, a result which places the island within an
elite group of nations in the region with the capability to undertake
this complex process. Capacity will increase once the plant
stabilizes.

The installation is part of a demonstrative collection, recovery,
storage, transport and regeneration of substances detrimental to the
ozone layer initiative, that is the result of a strategy developed by
the OTC and the Montreal Multilateral Protocol Fund, via the United
Nations Development Program (PNUD).

The project seeks to ensure an environmentally safe outcome to SAO
destruction by averting emission into the earth’s atmosphere, thus
contributing to Cuba meeting Montreal Protocol Commitments to
gradually eradicate  and reduce SAO use.

Cuba is the first country to totally eliminate CFC consumption in
domestic refrigeration, a significant contribution to the
confrontation of climate change related issues that affect the planet,
because the gasses that impact on the Ozone Layer have a potent
greenhouse effect. According to OTOZ data, the actions undertaken on
the island have reduced CO2 atmospheric emissions by 4 million tons
per year.

OTOZ director and doctor in Sciences, Nelson Espinosa explained that
one of the most notable Cuban achievements of the past twenty years is
the total elimination of a group of substances that deplete the Ozone
layer, including the use of CFC’s in the manufacture of pharmaceutical
and industrial aerosols and methyl bromide in the fumigation of crops,
storage units and other industrial installations.

translated by Sean Clancy

Soldiers of the Bridge: Cuba’s New Fortress

September 23, 2015

For 54 years the United States has waged war against Cuba, in a futile effort to strangle and starve the Cuban population into mutiny against the Revolution.  Ten different presidents tried to asphyxiate Cuba, by blockading the island, causing suffering, as well as human and financial loss in the billions of dollars.  Now things appear to be changing.  President Barack Obama, the 11th US President since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, seems intent on changing Washington’s strategy for dealing with Cuba.

On December 17 of last year, President Obama began building a bridge between the two countries.  The first stone he laid at the base of the bridge was to free Gerardo, Ramón and Tony from US jails, where they had been unjustly held for over sixteen years. He also used his presidential authority to issue licenses to poke holes into the blockade.

Yet the bridge is still under construction. Each of us is helping to build it: stone by stone.  Many of us want a friendship bridge that would bring the two nations together.  Some want simply to flood the island with consumer goods that will yield enormous profits for American corporations.  Others see it as a way to hasten the demise of socialism in Cuba.

But have no doubts. Just as Cuba learned to defend itself from foreign military incursions, terrorism, biological warfare and a brutal blockade for over five decades, the Revolution will learn to defend itself from those who would now want to cross a newly built bridge across the Florida straights with foul schemes against Cuba.

There is a lot of work to be done here—on this side of the bridge. The blockade is still in place, and only the United States Congress can overturn it.  We need to reach out to Americans of good faith to help us convince the Congress to do just that.

However, there is also a lot that the President can do.  He has already done some very important things. He knows that to build steel bridges, we must first build people bridges.  When Americans travel to Cuba and meet Cubans on the island, they make friends.  Some of those friendships become lasting friendships, and some collaborate to create projects that benefit both countries.  So President Obama changed the regulations and granted a general license for people to people travel to the island.

Some of the changes announced by the Obama Administration include an increase in the amount of remittances allowed, licenses to trade with the private sector in Cuba, allowing travel agents and airlines to provide authorized travel to Cuba, permitting US insurance companies to provide coverage for health, life and travel to the island, an OFAC general license will facilitate the establishment of commercial telecommunications facilities, authorizing the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices and related software, permitting the use of certain American credit cards in Cuba, heck we can now bring back $100 worth of the finest cigars in the world.  All of this, President Obama announced last December 17th.

The 20th of July saw diplomatic relations restored between the United States and Cuba, but the bridge between the two nations will not be finished until there are truly normal relations.  Relations cannot be normal as long as the economic, financial and commercial blockade against Cuba remains in place.

But the blockade has not deterred each side from building a bridge across the troubled waters of US-Cuba relations.  The work continues. In the coming weeks and months, there will be bilateral talks on issues such as the environment, the natural disasters, health, civil aviation, drug trafficking, copyrights, patents, and one of the thorniest of all issues: compensation.  The US claims that Cuba ought compensate US companies that were nationalized after the triumph of the Revolution, and Cuba claims to be entitled to compensation for the damages caused by the US blockade against the island: fifteen years ago, Cuba calculated those amounts to be $121 billion in economic damages and $181 billion in human damages.

Things are moving in a positive direction.  We welcome President Obama’s call that Congress lifts the blockade and his discretionary use of presidential authority to try and turn the blockade into Swiss cheese. But we need to hold President Obama´s feet to the fire to make sure that he continues to move forward towards full normalization.  We also need to make sure that the bully tactics of Cuban-American politicians who oppose the lifting of the blockade do not continue to intimidate today’s Congressmen and Senators.

Learn from history.  Past attempts to improve relations failed because of the many traps purposely laid along the way.  Those who oppose normalization, whether in Langley, Foggy Bottom, the Pentagon or Miami, have historically conjured up ways to impede normalization.  The downing of a Cuban passenger plane in 1976 by Luis Posada Carriles was an effort by Cuban-American terrorists and others in Washington to scuttle the secret negotiations that were ongoing between the Ford Administration and Cuba.  Another weapon of choice that some in Washington have used historically to stymie normalization is mendacity: the lies that US State Department officials fed newspapers about the alleged Cuban role in the Shaba II military incursion in Angola, the myth of the Soviet “Combat” Brigade in Cuba, and the boldfaced lies of Under Secretary of State, John Bolton, who claimed in 2002 that Cuba was making weapons of mass destruction (i.e., biological weapons) on the island. A pathology of power permeates this country.

We have to be on guard. We need to learn to defend this bridge, as it will inevitably come under attack.  There’s an election coming up in this country, and we don’t know who will become President.  Some of the Presidential candidates and some congressmen would love to see the movement toward normalization with Cuba blow up like the bridge over the river Kwai.  We cannot let this happen.  This bridge is Cuba’s new fortress.  We need to be its soldiers.

As José Martí wrote, bridges are the fortresses of the modern world. Better to bring cities together than to cleave human chests. Today, all men are called upon to be soldiers of the bridge.”

José Pertierra delivered these remarks on December 18, 2015 at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. at a conference entitled “The Impact of the US Blockade Against Cuba”

CUBA-USA: ACTUALLY, HE DOES NOT HAVE WHAT IT TAKES

September 22, 2015

US-cuba-handshake-755x490

By:  Dr. Néstor García Iturbe

A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TEXT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION: 

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 11, 2015

 September 11, 2015

 Presidential Determination

No. 2015-11  

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE

THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY

 

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

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

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

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

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

BARACK OBAMA

Cuban health care draws worldwide praise

September 21, 2015

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

1.     Health Care in Cuba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.     Cuban International Medical Solidarity

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

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

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

Some notable examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subversion Against Cuba Continues Uninterrupted Amidst Normalization

September 15, 2015

_1-1-unnamed

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

_1-1tumblr_inline_nucoyby8p51qdhzdo_1280

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

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

September 4, 2015

_1-Cuba-UE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess

August 28, 2015

Not so long ago the fictional Cuba of the US myth-making machine was a Caribbean gulag, a dictatorship that sponsored terrorism and trafficked in human beings – that is when it wasn’t torturing them. Today we are left wondering what that was all about now that Sec. of State John Kerry has gone to Cuba for a flag-raising speech in front of the newly christened US Embassy and a brief walkabout in Old Havana.

The gist of Kerry’s remarks is that Cuba should improve its behavior according to Kerry’s prescriptions. Apparently, he hasn’t been listening to the Cubans, who want the United States to get rid of the thick accumulation of obnoxious and warlike behaviors, starting with the blockade (embargo) and not forgetting to abandon the US gulag at Guantánamo.

So far the United States has offered no rational justifications for these behaviors as it seeks “normalization,” but we should at least look at how they originated. As terrifying as history is to leaders in Washington, we will take one of the key bright ideas — the (ongoing) manipulation of Cuban immigration as an example of how far it is from here to “normal.”

Creating the exile pool

Normalization has so far not included an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act, which encourages Cubans to become undocumented aliens. Mexicans are told to stay home or “get in line” for a green card, but Cubans who reach US shores can be fast-tracked to citizenship.

The approach to Cuban immigration after 1959 oscillated between a desire to encourage it for propaganda advantage and a concern that Fidel Castro might oblige by releasing an unmanageable torrent. A manageable number could give propagandists the chance to picture every Cuban who left by whatever means, including rafts, as a political refugee from communist tyranny. Too many could strain public services wherever the Cubans landed, create social friction and cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Jesús Arboleya Cervera has written that

…immigration was intimately related to the policies conducted by the United States against the island, conceived to drain Cuba of its human capital, dismantle the social structure, and create abroad the social bases for a counter-revolutionary movement that had no cohesion inside the island. [1]

The just-right balance of regulations could achieve all this. To make it work, Cubans immigrating illegally were placed in a newly invented category exempt from the normal rules. They were initially welcomed under a special resettlement program and helped through the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962. However, President John F. Kennedy ruined the just-right balance by suspending regular flights between Cuba and the United States later that year increasing internal pressures in Cuba. This situation created an incentive for illegal emigration, which reached its highest levels when upwards of 30,000 people emigrated that way between 1962 and 1965. In February 1963, the US government announced that any Cubans who managed to get to the United States would be granted refugee status.

Kennedy’s action was an early example of how one immigration policy decision forced the invention of another to deal with the consequences of the first. By blocking safe exit from Cuba, Kennedy provoked the first of the great immigration crises.

1965: Camarioca

Reacting to the immigration pressure built up by suspending the flights, Castro opened the port of Camarioca in September 1965, inviting Cubans in Miami to go there and pick up their relatives.

President Lyndon Johnson at first welcomed the immigrants and framed the Camarioca exodus as a public relations gain for the United States. But as the numbers threatened to overwhelm Florida’s ability to absorb them, Johnson sought an accommodation with Cuba through a Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed on December 6, 1965. This new fix allowed a specific number of Cubans to emigrate on renewed flights to the United States. The Johnson administration called them Freedom Flights and presented them as a victory for the United States. It could just as well be considered a victory for Castro as Johnson was forced to reverse Kennedy’s actions in stopping the flights and to re-think how the immigration weapon was to be used. Castro reset the balance for Johnson. The flights continued until 1973.

But what to do with the Cuban immigrants? Before 1966, they were admitted on a temporary humanitarian basis because it was assumed in Washington, DC that the revolutionaries would soon be overthrown obviating the need for a permanent solution. There was no special legislation to regularize Cubans illegally arriving under the ad hoc systems then in place. Congress attempted to rectify that with passage of the Cuban Adjustment Act on November 2, 1966.

The legislation was supposed to bring order to the process. It applied only to Cubans who had lived in the United States for a least one year and who met the requirements for legal residency. New arrivals would be admitted if they could show they were in danger of persecution if they were repatriated — the standard UN criterion for granting political asylum. Cubans so admitted were granted resident status after one year in the United States regardless of how they got here; all that was necessary was to touch US soil. Most politicized Cubans in the United States were not pleased by the change, for it implied that there would be no roll back of the revolution and that the US government wanted the Cuban immigrants to become Americanized. In fact, the intention was to resettle them away from south Florida.

Thus, the Cuban Adjustment act encouraged limitless immigration, which the immigration system was ill equipped to handle. The process of determining who qualified as a refugee quickly collapsed into a policy of wholesale admission, the issuance of work permits, financial assistance and other benefits plus a fast track to permanent residency. To avoid the time-consuming process of case-by-case determination of refugee status, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (since 2003, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, USCIS) issued paroles, by which new arrivals were released (paroled) to friends or relatives.

The parole, which figured in the infamous Elian Gonzalez case some years later, short-circuited the process of administratively determining eligibility, serving a policy function for which it was not intended. Parole was not supposed to be used for groups of individuals. It was designed to insure that an alien experiencing an emergency could tend to that emergency while remaining free from detention. Eventually, parole was used to facilitate the processing of an entire population of otherwise excludable aliens who were considered by the government to be desirable immigrants.

In short, the special legal protections given indiscriminately to Cuban immigrants is not based solely on the Cuban Adjustment Act but also on the blanket designation of “political refugee” granted to any person who came from Cuba.

1980: Mariel

On March 17, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Refugee Act, which was supposed to rationalize the immigration process eliminating the parole shortcut and requiring a specific determination of eligibility for political asylum by applying the criterion of a “well-founded fear of persecution” if repatriated. The act was not specifically intended for Cubans, but a new mass exodus erupted that again demonstrated the inadequacy of legislative tinkering to solve problems created by the counterrevolutionary policies against Cuba.

The 1980 mass exodus from Cuba took place after the Carter administration and Cuba had agreed to allow Cubans in the United States to visit the island and take gifts with them for friends and relatives. Massive amounts of consumer goods entered the island for the first time since the early years of the revolution. Since these visitors were mostly urban white Cubans, the gifts went to their urban white friends and relatives in Cuba. Non-white Cubans did not benefit because at that time very few exiles were non-white. Poor urban Cubans, consequently, will become economic immigrants, using the 1966 US policy of easy entry into the United States to gain access to the consumer market.

The Mariel crisis of 1980 was precipitated when a busload of Cubans wishing to emigrate crashed through the gate of the Peruvian Embassy in Havana on April 1. They, and later thousands of others, sought political asylum at the embassy. On April 20, Castro announced that anyone wishing to leave could depart Cuba from the port of Mariel. His decision would later be interpreted in the United States as “unleashing” a mass exodus. But Castro later said he allowed the exodus to deprive Carter’s right-wing opposition with an election-year issue. [2]

Trapped by a system that could encourage but not control Cuban immigration, Carter announced that he welcomed the immigrants — a decision that ran counter to the attempt just days earlier to put some order into processing them through the Refugee Act. However, this was election time and, like Johnson before him, Carter saw an opportunity to portray the new immigrant wave as proof of Castro’s failures; he welcomed the marielitos “with open arms.”

By announcing that private vessels from Florida could go to Mariel and pick up the self-defined refugees, Carter insured that he would lose control. A massive, disorderly boatlift followed, overloading the cumbersome interview system necessary to determine well-founded fear of persecution. Consequently, once landed in Florida, the Mariel Cubans were shunted past the Refugee Act and placed in a newly invented status of “entrant.”

By early September, Castro moved to rescue Carter and help his re-election by controlling the boatlift crisis and detaining airplane hijackers landing in Cuba from the United States. He also announced that from September 25 to November 4 — Election Day in the United States — all Mariel traffic would be suspended. [3]

In October, with south Florida’s social services overwhelmed, Carter reversed his refugee policy a second time by ordering a halt to the boatlift that recently had seemed like such a good idea. He now threatened with fines anyone setting out from Florida for Mariel — the same people he had encouraged to go there. He experimented with various methods to gain control of the inflow and the problem of holding thousands of Cubans in detention centers.

The mess took years to clean up. Indefinite detention of large numbers of marielitos settled in as an addendum to the old policy. Undesirables were kept locked up indefinitely without criminal charges. Riots in detention centers and federal prisons became a regular occurrence. Twenty-five years later there were still 750 Mariel-era Cubans living in detentions centers with entrant status. The Supreme Court finally ruled against open-ended detention in 2005.

1984: Reagan avoids a crisis

In December 1984, the Reagan administration reached an agreement with Cuba that allowed the United States to send back 2,700 marielitos deemed ineligible for residency due to mental health problems, previous criminal records in Cuba or crimes committed while in the United States. As late as 2009, Cubans on a 1984 secret list of undesirables considered excludable were being deported to Cuba after spending decades in the United States. Cuba was the final destination for many “refugees” and “entrants” once welcomed “with open arms.”

Under a 1984 pact, the United States agreed to resume issuing up to 20,000 visas per year, which it had suspended because of Cuba’s earlier refusal to take back any marielitos – the people welcomed “with open arms.” Castro always maintained that the United States never consistently complied with the agreement.

Until the current Obama opening, the United States has always refused to negotiate a return to normal relations unless Cuba first makes concessions. Helping Reagan get off the hook for Jimmy Carter’s Mariel folly is never counted as a concession from Castro.

1994: The Clinton Immigration Crisis

For Clinton, the lesson of Mariel was not to review a flawed policy but to avoid falling into an immigration trap as Carter had and ending up with thousands of unwanted Cubans stuffed away in detention centers with the bogus migratory status of “entrant.” While Clinton was governor of Arkansas, he struggled with Carter over troubles at the Ft. Chaffee detention center in 1980. On two occasions, Cubans stormed out of the army base unhindered. The base commander told Clinton that because of the posse comitatus law, the military could not perform police functions. Clinton later complained in his memoirs that Carter told the commander he couldn’t keep them at the fort against their will. [4]

In the second breakout, a thousand Cubans left the base on June 1 and headed to a nearby town where locals were in a panic and ready with their shotguns to repel them. Unable to get help from the White House or the Pentagon, Clinton ordered state police to block the advancing Cubans by firing shots in the air. Sixty-two people were injured and three buildings at Ft. Chaffee were destroyed. This might be considered the only known hostile incursion by Cubans on American soil. In his memoires, Clinton blamed Castro for his re-election defeat. [5]

Clinton’s turn came in the summer of 1994 during a rash of hijackings to the United States — some of them violent. US officials were unwilling to acknowledge the link between incentives to immigrate and Cuban hijacking, but the practice became institutionalized as part of the undergrowth of an unofficial policy apparatus.

For a considerable period, at least in the state of Florida, air piracy ceased to be an actionable offense. In 1992, for example, Cuban airline pilot Carlos Cancio Porcel and several other people with their families diverted his Aero Caribbean plane to Miami, chloroforming a security guard and tying up the co-pilot. “No crime has been committed here,” his lawyer said. Cancio was detained but released when the Justice Department ruled that his actions did not constitute a hijacking. Cancio was issued an immigration parole and released into the community.

On August 5, a Radio Martí broadcast from the United States announced the imminent arrival of a ship from Miami that supposedly would take on people who wished to leave Cuba. When the vessel did not arrive, a crowd began rioting in Old Havana. Castro portrayed the riot as the result of a US policy to prevent legal immigration by issuing too few visas and simultaneously encouraging illegal immigration with such tactics as the Radio Martí broadcast. Castro warned that Cuba would not act as an auxiliary to the US Coast Guard. “We can no longer carry this burden or assume this responsibility, while they do nothing.”[6]

In a television address August 24 Castro said, “If the United States does not take rapid and efficient measures to stop the incitement of illegal exits from the country, we will feel obliged to tell the Border Guard not to stop any vessel that wishes to leave Cuba.”[7] Clinton’s answer was that there would be no change in US immigration policy. His chief of staff Leon Panetta said Cuba could not tell the United States what to do — implying that it would continue to encourage illegal immigration — and that the United States would not tolerate a repeat of the Mariel mass exodus. Panetta said Clinton might declare a naval blockade of Cuba if Castro did not control illegal emigration from the island.” [7]

While the White House was rededicating itself to the continued encouragement of immigration with the implied promise of immunity from prosecution for hijackers, Castro issued orders on August 12 that the Border Guard should be flexible with those wishing to leave except in cases of hijacking. Clinton was now sliding toward another migration crisis and another Carteresque disaster. But the White House had a plan. Operation Distant Shore involved actually arresting rafters trying to enter the country, detaining them on military bases outside of Florida and possibly declaring a naval blockade of Cuba.

When Clinton saw that the plan included the incarceration of rafters on military bases, he “went ballistic.” “Are you nuts? Do you think I am going to do [that] again?” he yelled. [9] He opted instead for scrapping enforcement of some elements of the Cuban Adjustment Act, the most important change in Cuban immigration policy in 28 years.

On August 19, Clinton ordered the Navy and Coast Guard to pick up rafters heading north and transfer them to camps at the Guantánamo Naval Base where thousands of Haitians similarly intercepted were being kept. (There never was a Haitian Adjustment Act.) Speaking at a White House news conference that day, Clinton said Castro caused the problem by encouraging Cubans “to take to the sea in unsafe vessels to escape their nation’s internal problems.” He called this an “attempt to dictate American immigration policy.” [10]

Clinton’s welcome was not with open arms.

“Today, I have ordered that illegal refugees from Cuba will not be allowed to enter the United States. Refugees rescued at sea will be taken to our naval base at Guantánamo, while we explore the possibility of other safe havens within the region….The United States will detain, investigate, and, if necessary, prosecute Americans who take to the sea to pick up Cubans. Vessels used in such activities will be seized.” [11]

Castro thought the order as insufficient to stop the continuing flow of rafters and asked again for negotiations on all outstanding issues. Clinton refused to do it openly but instead decided to coax Castro into secret negotiations by asking Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari what he could do to move Castro to negotiate — to “check around.” [10]

In the subsequent agreement brokered by Salinas, Cuba was expected to limit illegal emigration — another example of depending on Cuba’s good offices to slow the immigration that the Cuban Adjustment Act was designed to encourage. For its part, the United States agreed to issue up to 20,000 visas per year and to send any Cubans picked up at sea to the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.

While this was supposed to be a disincentive to rafters, it was also a solution leading to a new problem. As the Guantánamo camps filled up with disgruntled would-be immigrants, something had to be done about rioting and overtaxed facilities. Furthermore, the camps represented a potential public relations disaster: the internees, who formerly were portrayed as refugees from Castro’s oppression, might now be seen as victims of US oppression.

A second set of migratory talks had to be called in May 1995 to mend some holes. The resulting agreement required the United States to take in 21,000 Cubans held at Guantánamo and to send future rafters back to Cuba, not to Guantánamo. The United States also agreed to prosecute or extradite hijackers.

This second migratory accord had its own problems. The United States now had to tone down its traditional claims that anyone sent back to Cuba would face prison, torture or death. After all, it was the United States sending them back, so the “well-founded fear of persecution” route to asylum was closed for mass migrations although it remained open in special cases.

Wet foot dry foot

Some way had to be found simultaneously to accept a manageable number of immigrants to satisfy the needs of domestic politics while turning away the unwanted surplus. The solution was another immigration policy shift known as the wet-foot/dry-foot policy.

Not a part of the agreements, the formula enabled immigration officials to placate Miami exiles by continuing to admit Cubans who arrived onshore while living up to the agreement with Cuba to repatriate those picked up at sea. The accords marked an abrupt change in US immigration policy, ending the open immigration practices under the Cuban Adjustment Act, while leaving it battered but still in force.

Even after the Clinton administration formally ended open immigration, the new formula for admitting Cubans contributed to ambiguous and even capricious interpretations of how to receive Cubans arriving by hijack. Were hijackers who landed in Florida to be admitted as dry-foot immigrants or as air pirates?

One of the more bizarre examples of the tortuous interpretations of what constituted a safe, dry-foot arrival occurred in February 2003, when the armed crew of a Cuban Border Guard patrol boat went ashore in Key West after tying up at the Marriott resort marina. After some drinks and a phone call to local police, the crew was taken into custody and swiftly given asylum.

Two facts stand out about the incident: it happened while the Department of Homeland Security had put the United States on a heightened terror alert; and the armed men arrived on a boat — technically a war vessel — belonging to a government on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In the end, the Clinton administration managed to mollify the exile community for the sin of repatriating wet-foots by applying more sanctions against Cuba, stepping up propaganda broadcasts and occasionally threatening a naval blockade against any future mass exodus. He had avoided the dreaded Carter syndrome, but by inventing the wet foot/dry foot rule, the administration kept intact the incitement to illegal and life-threatening immigration.

Clinton had solved the wrong problem. The Mariel catastrophe was a foretold outcome of bad policy from another era. Encouraging illegal immigration was always a risky way to undermine a foreign government.

Like Dracula, bad policies can live almost forever. This one was tethered to Eisenhower’s original belief that welcoming Cubans would undermine the revolutionary government. Conceptually weak, the policy was subject to every kind of current from Miami, Havana and Washington. No one in the Eisenhower administration apparently considered the distorting effect that a rapid buildup of Cuban exiles in Florida would have on domestic politics or that the original bright idea could take on a life of its own that none of Ike’s successors could kill.

Today, if normal relation means that the war against Cuba is over, then the United States will have to decide if it wants to jeopardize future negotiations by defending its Draculan policies.

Notes.

1. Jesús Arboleya Cervera, Havana Miami. The US-Cuba Migration Conflict, Melbourne: Ocean Press, 1996.

2. Ignacio Ramonet, Fidel Castro, biografía a dos voces, Editorial Debate: México, DF, 2006, p. 302.

3. Ibid., p. 303.

4. Bill Clinton, My Life, New York, New York: Knopf, 2004, p. 276.

5. Ramonet, p. 614.615.

6. Speeches, LANIC. http://lanic.utexas.edu/info /la/cb/cuba/castro.html

7. The Los Angeles Times, 08/22/94.

8. Kelly M. Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010   p.112.

9. News Conference, 08/19/94, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/WCPD-1994-08-22/pdf/WCPD-1994-08-22.pdf.

10. Ibid.

11. Carlos Salinas de Gortari, México: un paso difícil a la modernidad, Barcelona: Plaza & James Editores, 2000, p. 247-265.

Robert Sandels writes on Cuba and Mexico. Nelson P. Valdés is Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico.


%d bloggers like this: