Posts Tagged ‘cuban territory’

Gerardo : We were subjected a grossly unfair trial

September 30, 2015

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

We were subjected a grossly unfair trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuba Eliminates Substances that Deplete Ozone Layer

September 23, 2015

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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

Let Cuba be Cuba

July 22, 2015

jose marti 5

by Michael Steven Smith

Washington DC
July 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Michael Steven Smith

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

Europe Was Too Slow in Bridging Cuba Ties

July 21, 2015

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Cuba does not need Europe and does not see it as a priority, which the EU’s ‘Common Position’ on Cuba does not help, Spanish political expert Jose Manuel Martin Medem told Sputnik.

The European Union was too slow to bridge ties with Cuba because of its “Common Position” agreement on the country, Spanish government RTVE television journalist Jose Manuel Martin Medem told Sputnik.

According to Medem, Spanish businessmen are very worried because there are now new economic players in Cuba. Meanwhile, the European Union remains behind the US in repairing its relations with Cuba.

“The EU was too late again because it created a ‘Common Position’ on Cuba, following the US, and now, as Washington and Havana are again opening embassies, Brussels is still discussing whether this ‘Common Position’ should be abandoned,” Medem said.

According to Medem, Spain performed very poorly since the premiership of Jose Maria Asnara, who insisted on the “Common Position” in Brussels, thereby closing the doors for talks with Cuba. The situation only slightly improved under prime minister Jose Luis Sapatero.

Medem sees integration with other Latin American countries as the best option for the island’s development. According to him, Cuba does not see the EU as a priority.

“Today Cuba has a broader spectrum of diplomatic relations than ever before, and Europe presents neither political, nor economic, nor geostrategic interest,” Medem added.

Medem brought up the example of Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, who visited Cuba in November 2014, but was “humiliated” by not being received by Cuban President Raul Castro.

UNUSUAL CUBA ADS ON US TV

June 22, 2015

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By Manuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs4401.html,

A different kind of publicity regarding Cuba has begun to reach
U.S. TV viewers, who, for more than half a century, have received
only slanderous criticism about political life on the island.

It is not that the mainstream media have changed their hostile
orientation, but the mere fact that some of them have allowed
–albeit paid– a different kind of publicity than
the one demanded by the US power elite since the triumph of the
popular revolution in 1959, is an encouraging sign for US
citizens and, of course, also for Cubans.

A new bipartisan coalition (Republican and Democrat) called
“Engage Cuba”, constructed of entities interested in developing
ties with Cuba, has emerged in line with the official
announcements of the governments of Washington and Havana in
December 2014. It has launched a campaign in major US media,
criticizing the archaic bans denying US citizens their
constitutional right to travel to and do business with Cuba.

The 30 second ad, produced by the advertising firm Shorr Magnus
Johnson, began airing on Tuesday, June 16, on cable television
services Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC.

The text points out that Americans are free to travel anywhere
in the world –with the exception of Cuba– and that
an estimated 5.9 billion dollars in annual US exports from the
United States are currently blocked by the outdated prohibition
–more in keeping with the Cold War– which prevents
trade with Cuba.

In the words of James Williams, president of the Engage Cuba
coalition,“Public polls show that Americans are saying,
‘We are tired of the Cold War-era policy that won’t
let us trade or travel to Cuba. We want our government to let us
play a role in this significant period of transition.’
That’s why we’re launching Engage Cuba.”

Engage Cuba had a role in negotiating the landmark deal that has
enabled the Cuban Interests Section and the future embassy of
Cuba in Washington to receive indispensable banking services for
the current process of normalization.

The coalition supports draft legislation known as Freedom to
Travel to Cuba Act (S. 299), submitted by Senators Jeff Flake and
John Boozman (Arizona Republicans) and Patrick Leahy (a Vermont
Democrat), which already has forty co-sponsors in the Senate.

Engage Cuba’s membership includes organizations and enterprises
in all sectors and major business groups like the National
Foreign Trade Council, the National Association of Manufacturers,
the Consumer Electronics Association, the Council of the
Americas, and the American Society of Travel Agents.

Also members of Engage Cuba are civil society organizations like
Third Way, CubaNow, Cuba Study Group and the Center for Democracy
in the Americas.

In addition, Engage Cuba is working directly with leading
companies sharing the goal of removing the travel and trade ban
on Cuba, such as Procter & Gamble, Cargill, Caterpillar, Choice
Hotels, and the Havana Group, among others.

“There is a growing number of bipartisan agreements, more than in
the previous 54 years of the policy of isolation, which has hurt
our own businesses and farmers,” said Steven Law, who was head of
the office of former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell/ A
aside from being the chair of the American Crossroads, McConnell
now serves as Senior Advisor to Engage Cuba. “The future of a
commitment with Cuba has come, and it’s time for Congress to help
manage the transition of that policy.”

“One of these days, our legislative branch of government
is going to have to start functioning,” says Luke Albee, a
senior adviser to Engage Cuba who served as chief of staff to
U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Patrick Leahy. “There is no
better way to help make this happen than to change our archaic
Cuba policy. It is in our national interest. And it is fair for
the United States and for the Cuban people.”

It is unquestionable that US citizens are among the most misled
and misinformed in the world. Their right to know the truth has
been systematically blocked and manipulated.

Sens. Moran and King Introduce Bill to Restore Trade with Cuba

June 13, 2015

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) on Thursday introduced legislation to restore trade with Cuba. The Cuba Trade Act of 2015 (S. 1543) would grant the private sector the freedom to export U.S. goods and services to Cuba while protecting U.S. taxpayers from any risk or exposure associated with such trade.

“I am proud to have my colleague Senator King join me in introducing the Cuba Trade Act of 2015,” Sen. Moran said. “Cuba is only 90 miles from our border, making it a natural market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers. By lifting the embargo and opening up the market for U.S. agricultural commodities, we will not only boost the U.S. economy but also help bring about reforms in the repressive Cuban government. I am hopeful that increasing the standard of living among Cuban citizens will enable them to make greater demands on their own government to increase individual and political rights.”

“For far too long, the Cuban people and American businesses have suffered at the hands of an antiquated trade embargo,” Sen. King said. “Like the Cold War that created it, the embargo should be put in the history books. The Cuba Trade Act would finally end our outdated embargo policy and establish a new economic relationship with Cuba that will support increased trade for American businesses and help the Cuban economy and its people to flourish. It’s past time we take this step forward, and I hope Congress will act to help bring our relationship with Cuba into the 21st century.”

S. 1543 would:

Lift the Cuba trade embargo to allow farmers, ranchers, small businesses and other private sector industries to freely conduct business with the island nation;
Grant U.S. financial institutions the freedom to extend credit to Cuba, while ensuring there is no financial risk to federal taxpayers; and
Maintain the current restrictions on federal taxpayer funds being used for trade promotion or market development in Cuba, while explicitly allowing private funds – including producer-funded checkoff programs – to be used for such purposes.
Nearly 150 U.S. organizations have voiced their strong support for commonsense reforms related to U.S.-Cuba relations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Farmers Union.

“The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba strongly supports the Cuba Trade Act because ending the embargo will foster new opportunities for agriculture in both our nations,” said U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba Spokeswoman Dianne Byrum. “We appreciate the commitment shown by Sen. Moran and Sen. King to develop this common-sense, bipartisan measure. We hope to see quick passage of this bill in the U.S. Senate, and an end to the embargo with Cuba as soon as possible.”

Sen. Moran has long fought for commonsense changes to U.S. trade policy with Cuba, which must import the vast majority of its food, to open up more markets for American farmers and ranchers. In July 2000, an amendment (H.Amdt.1031 to H.R.4871) offered by then Rep. Moran prohibiting funds from being used to enforce sanctions for food, medicine and agriculture products in a sale to Cuba passed the House of Representatives (301-116). The adoption of this amendment opened another needed market to farmers throughout the country. Unfortunately, changes in regulations by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2005 once again severely restricted this market for U.S. agriculture producers. Since that time, Sen. Moran has continued to fight to enable farmers and ranchers to compete on a level playing field with foreign competitors when trading with Cuba.

Sens. Moran and King are also sponsors of The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015 (S. 299), which would loosen travel restrictions to Cuba and remove restrictions on banking transactions incidental to travel that have long been unfairly imposed on American citizens.

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

Cuba-The United States : Seven key points

May 26, 2015

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Although talks between the U.S. and Cuba are in themselves a milestone for two countries which have lacked formal ties for more than 50 years, they only mark the beginning of a much longer and complicated process. Granma shares with its readers seven key points which clarify the dimension of what is happening between Havana and Washington and the coming stage.

Author: Sergio Alejandro Gómez | granma

It has been five months since Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama announced on December 17 their intention to open a new chapter in relations between the United States and Cuba.

After an historic meeting between both leaders at the 7th Summit of the Americas, on May 21, the third round of conversations began in Washington, with the goal of advancing toward the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies in both countries,.

Although talks between the U.S. and Cuba are already, in themselves, a milestone for two neighboring countries which have lacked formal ties for more than half a century, they only mark the beginning of a much longer and complicated process.

Inaccuracies and distorted information have accompanied this process from the beginning. Granma shares with its readers seven key points which clarify the dimension of what is happening between Havana and Washington and the coming stage.

1. The two Presidents made a decision, now comes the implementation.

On December 17, among other decisions of importance to both peoples, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama simultaneously announced their intention of reestablishing diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, severed more than half a century ago.

However, in order for this step to be realized, the Presidents’ decision must now pass through the official channels of their respective countries.
This process is being advanced by the delegations which met in Havana and Washington for various rounds of conversations and technical encounters.
These meetings are important as they establish the bases on which diplomatic relations will operate, so as not to repeat past mistakes.

2. Neither party has imposed conditions for the reestablishment of relations.

One of the mass media’s main lines of attack against the conversations has been to talk of “conditions” imposed by the two parties.

Both the Cuban and U.S. diplomats have clearly stated that the work environment has been marked by respect and professionalism, with conversations taking place in a climate of reciprocity and free from interference.
What Cuba has done since the beginning of this process is highlight aspects which would must be resolved before further progress can be made; including the end of the country’s unjust inclusion on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and the restoration of banking services for its mission in Washington, which has been without these services for more than a year.

Reports indicate that both issues are in the process of being resolved.

U.S. representatives have questioned restrictions on the mobility of their staff at a future embassy in Havana (the movements of Cuban diplomats in Washington is currently limited), as well as Cubans’ access to their facilities.

In this regard, Cuba has insisted on the importance of adhering to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, which establishes the importance of observing the laws of the host country and not interfering in its internal affairs.

Members of a mission must be able to interact with citizens of the host country, but also respect local norms, a Cuban diplomat recently explained.

3. Reestablishment of relations is not the same as normalization of relations

Another common mistake often made, is confusing the process of reestablishing diplomatic relations with the normalization, which is a longer and more complex process.

After embassies have been opened in both capitals, the challenging search for “normality” between both countries, which share a tumultuous history, will begin.

Cuban authorities have highlighted various points which they consider to be vital to addressing normalization: the lifting of the blockade; the return of the illegally occupied Guantanamo Nalval base territory, an end to subversive radio and television broadcasts; the cancellation of U.S. plans to promote regime change; and compensation for the damages caused to the Cuban people over half a century of aggression, among others.

It has never been stated that these issues need to be resolved in order to open embassies, as some media agencies have erroneously stated, although U.S. authorities have recognized Cuba’s position.

“Completely normal relations do not include an economic embargo, or economic sanctions,” a U.S. State Department official – who asked to remain anonymous – recently stated.

Without a doubt, this new stage includes discussion of other important issues for both countries. But Cuba has clearly expressed that it can not be expected to “give something in exchange.” Cuba does not apply any sanctions on the United States, nor does it have military bases in U.S. territory, or promote regime change.

Likewise, Cuba has said that the U.S. can not demand that the country renounce its ideals of independence and social justice, nor cede a millimeter in its defense of national sovereignty.

4. Washington’s change of policy is a victory for the Cuban people and Latin American integration

It wouldn’t be conceited to recognize, as the majority of the international community has, that Cuba has arrived at this point as a result of almost half a century of heroic struggle and loyalty to its principles.

Likewise, it wouldn’t be possible to analyze a policy change of this magnitude without understanding the new era our region is experiencing, and the firm and courageous demand made by the governments and people of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

In the 2nd CELAC Summit held in Havana, an unprecedented regional document was signed: the declaration of the hemisphere as a Zone of Peace, which recognizes “The inalienable right of every state to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system, as an essential condition to guarantee peaceful coexistence among nations.”

5. The United States has changed its methods, not its objectives

One of the greatest questions which has followed this process is what does the U.S. policy change entail and how far does it go. There is no easy answer and perhaps it is too early to carry out a thorough analysis.

When President Obama made his announcement, he said that after 50 years of a failed policy, it was time to try something new.

Obama speaking in Panama noted – in reference to Cuba – that “The United States will not be imprisoned by the past – we’re looking to the future.”
However, U.S. authorities have stated on various occasions that its methods, not its objectives, are changing. These objectives have been – since January 1, 1959, to overthrow the Cuban Revolution.

In his speech during the 7th Summit of the Americas, Obama commented, “We’re not in the business of regime change,” remarks which filled many with hope.

However, millions of dollars are still being openly channeled toward financing subversion in Cuba, to which must be added other undeclared funds.

For their part, Cuban authorities have never demonstrated naivety. “No one should dream that the new policy announced means acceptance of the existence of a socialist revolution 90 miles from Florida,” said Raúl in his speech during the 3rd CELAC Summit.

6. Obama can do more

In addition to the December 17 announcement, Obama also implemented a group of measures modifying a small number of blockade regulations, although the aggressive policy remains in force.

Cuba has recognized Obama’s decision to engage in a debate with Congress in order to put an end to the blockade, something no other U.S. president has done.

Nonetheless, reports by the media that the President “has done everything possible,” are false.
If he is determined, Obama can use his broad executive powers to substantially modify the application of the blockade, even without the approval of Congress.

He could – for example – permit, in other sectors of the economy, all that he has authorized in the arena of telecommunications, with evident objectives of political influence in Cuba.

7. The issue of sovereignty is no longer off-limits

One of the lessons of the last five months – and perhaps the last year and a half of discreet conversations – has been that Cuba and the U.S. can address any issue as long as it is done within a framework of respect.

Cuba has demonstrated its willingness to discuss topics which have historically been used and manipulated to attack our county, such as democracy, free speech and human rights, about which the nation has much to show and contribute.
Perhaps the most important point of all, and that which summarizes this article, is that the greatest challenge facing Cuba and the United States is establishing a relationship of civilized co-existence based on respect for their profound differences.

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

The Cuban Opportunity

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

The Cuban Opportunity

by BENJAMIN WILLIS
Counterpunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the Real Terrorist Stand Up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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