Posts Tagged ‘Latin America’

Who Killed Che?

March 10, 2015


Here’s my review of the book Who Killed Che, written for the New Left Project:,,

Review: Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away with Murder by Helen Yaffe A new book clarifies the CIA’s role in the killing of Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

Who Killed Che? How the CIA got away with murder, by Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, OR Books, 2011

This book by two leading US civil rights lawyers provides both documentary evidence and a clear accessible narrative to clarify a number of disputed aspects about the life and death of Argentinian revolutionary, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, and the early years of the Cuban Revolution. The principal facts established are: 1) that Che did not leave Cuba in 1965 because of a split with Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Revolution of 1959; 2) ‘that the US government, particularly its Central Intelligence Agency, had Che murdered, having secured the participation of its Bolivian client state’; and 3) that the Cuban’s foreign policy was independent of, and even antipathetic to the interests of the USSR.

These facts may not be controversial to supporters of the Cuban Revolution and those knowledgeable about US imperialism’s modus operandi in Latin America. However, as the authors point out, the idea that ‘the United States, and particularly the CIA, was not implicated in Che’s murder, has been accepted by almost every writer on the subject’. This includes the authors of the major biographies of Che published around the 30th anniversary of his execution in Bolivia in 1997; ‘none of these writers consider the CIA’s own admission that it had tried to assassinate Che, as well as Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, on various occasions when they were in Cuba’. Likewise, the notion of a split between Che and Fidel, and the crude caricature of Cuban internationalism as an instrument of USSR’s foreign policy, continue to be repeated by bourgeois and left commentators.

Applying their professional rigour, Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith have located, analysed and interpreted dozens of internal US government documentation, much of it previously unpublished, and used it to tell the story about how the CIA got away with Che’s murder. Most important, rather than expecting us to take their word for it, they have reprinted these documents so the reader can themselves access and evaluate their contents. This forms the most substantial section of the book, covering 110 pages, and the material is fascinating. The foreword of the book is written by Ricardo Alarcon, President of Cuba’s National Assembly of Peoples’ Power who affirms that ‘among the many ways that the American empire has used to preserve its dominance, suppression and manipulation of information stands out’, and praises the authors for their ‘determination to defend truth, adherence to the law, and freedom’.

In April 1965, Che Guevara left Cuba to join a secret mission of Cuban military assistance to the guerrilla struggle in the Congo. Even his closest collaborators in Cuba’s Ministry of Industries, where Che was Minister from 1961 until his departure, had no knowledge of his whereabouts. While they lamented his absence, none of them were surprised when he left; they were clear that he had conditioned his involvement with the revolutionary struggle in Cuba on an agreement that he would move on following victory. Ratner and Smith cite this agreement through Fidel’s recollections. During my own research in Cuba, Che’s closest compañeros testified that this remained his objective after January 1959. Tirso Saenz, a vice minister under Che told me: ‘Che set a personal example in everything – can you imagine him encouraging the guerrillas in Latin America but sitting back as a minister in Cuba smoking a cigar? He couldn’t do it. I personally heard Che several times saying “I will not die as a bureaucrat. I will die fighting on a mountain”.’ Guevara’s decision to renounce his position in the Cuban government and return to armed struggle, first in Africa and then in Latin America, is perhaps less striking than the fact that he stayed so long as part of the Revolution’s leadership in Cuba.

This did not stop the CIA from exploiting Che’s lack of public appearance by launching a campaign of misinformation; fostering speculation that Che had been imprisoned or even killed by Fidel Castro or the Soviets due to political differences or rivalry. ‘The truth is that there was no split’ assert Ratner and Smith. They back up their claim with reference to a CIA Intelligence Information Cable, ‘a document of historic significance’, summarising the content of discussions between Fidel Castro and the Soviet leadership in which the latter made clear the USSR’s strong objection to the Cuban support for guerrilla movements in Latin America and to not being informed of Che’s mission in Bolivia. Castro’s response was to affirm the right of every Latin American to contribute to the liberation of the continent and to accuse the USSR of:
‘having turned its back upon its own revolutionary tradition and of having moved to a point where it would refuse to support any revolutionary movement unless the actions of the latter contributed to the achievement of Soviet objectives, as contrasted to international communist objectives… Castro concluded by stating that regardless of the attitudes of the Soviet Union, Cuba would support any revolutionary movement which it considered as contributing to this objective [the liberation of mankind throughout the world]’.

As Ratner and Smith conclude on this issue ‘This document effectively puts to rest any questions regarding a split with Fidel or claims that Fidel did not support Che in Bolivia’.

The main focus of the book is Che’s guerrilla activity in Bolivia and the reaction of the Bolivian military and the US establishment, especially the CIA, to the guerrilla presence. The detailed narrative establishes the facts which led up to Che’s execution and confront the question of responsibility. ‘The history of who is responsible for his murder has heretofore not been understood accurately, especially in America, where it is commonly believed that the Bolivian military dictatorship had him killed. Documents which have recently been obtained from the US government lead to a different conclusion’. The authors attest to the US establishment’s moral and legal responsibility, despite the smokescreen of ‘plausible deniability’ provided by the CIA for Che’s murder.

Usefully, the book contextualises the assassination of Che within the framework of US ‘national security interets’ and the emergence of counterinsurgency as ‘a wholly new kind of strategy’ (President Kennedy, 1962) by US imperialism. President Kennedy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, adviser Walt Rostow and Chief of Staff Maxwell Taylor, understood the threat implied by Che’s call to create ‘two, three, many Vietnams’, which would stretch US manpower and resources beyond its capabilities. Shifting from a policy of ‘massive retaliation’, they developed a strategy of ‘flexible response’ and ‘rapid deployment’ to destroy guerrilla groups before they were able to establish themselves. One year before Che arrived in Bolivia, McNamara testified before the US Senate that ‘the ability to concentrate our military power in a matter of days rather than weeks can make an enormous difference in the total force ultimately required and in some cases serves to halt aggression before it really gets started’.

The emergence of counterinsurgency strategy was the flip side of Alliance for Progress, a programme set up by the US government in 1961 officially to improve the economic and social conditions in Latin America. Recognising the poverty, exploitation and oppression which created the conditions for rebellion in Latin America, as in Cuba, the idea was to undermine the root causes of the emerging guerrilla movements. However: ‘Within ten years the US began reducing the loans, relying instead on overt military repression. The escalating violence included covert CIA activity, attempted assassinations, and the training of Latin American police and military for counterinsurgency. The murder of Che, who was the embodiment of revolutionary change, was a critical part of this’. US officials stated at that time ‘Che Guevara’s death was a crippling – perhaps fatal – blow to the Bolivian guerrilla movement and may prove a serious setback for Fidel Castro’s hopes to foment violent revolution in all or almost all Latin American countries’. The culmination of this policy was Operation Condor and active support for military dictatorships throughout the Americas which decimated the left and opposition of any kind and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans who were detained, tortured, killed and disappeared.

The implications of the evidence provided by Ratner and Smith are important and should be politically pursued. ‘Under the laws that govern warfare, including guerrilla war, the killing of a prisoner is murder and constitutes a war crime. It is not the actual shooter who is guilty of a war crime. Those higher up that ordered, acquiesced or failed to prevent the murder are guilty of a war crime as well’. The CIA got away with Che’s murder and continues to pursue a policy of assassinating political opponents. Today the US government has invented the status of ‘enemy combatants’ to avoid international obligations in the treatment of prisoners and President Obama utilises US special forces and unmanned drones to assassinate enemies in foreign territories, violating domestic and international laws and trampling on the sovereignty of other nations. It is the responsibility of us all to make use of the evidence provided by Ratner and Smith and demand from the US establishment accountability for the murder of Che and other war crimes past and present.

Helen Yaffe is the author of “Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution”. She is a Research Associate in the Department of Georgraphy at the University of Leicester

A Book that was Missing : Who killed CHE ?

February 26, 2015


by Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, in addition to being eminent lawyers, are
active participants in the most important battles of the North American people for
justice and freedom. Their book, dedicated to Leonard Weinglass – who, up to his last
breath, devoted his life to the liberation of the Five Cuban antiterrorists who served
long years of unjust and cruel imprisonment in the United States – pays well-deserved
tribute to our mutual friend when our heroes have now returned free to the Homeland.
To fight for justice in that country means, above all, to seek the truth and make it known
in the most difficult of circumstances, confronting the concealment and manipulation of
a powerful machinery determined to impose nothing else but ignorance on millions of
people. This is a task that Lenny as well as Ratner and Smith have known how to carry
out assiduously and consistently.

To prove that Ernesto Guevara was assassinated by the CIA, that his death was a war
crime – a crime that never perishes – and that this deed was entirely the responsibility
of the U.S. government called for an unremitting search. After many years of
demanding that the authorities comply with their own laws with respect to public access
to information, today we can read documents that, despite the crossings-out and
deletions that still seek to conceal numerous facts, allow the reader to discover that the
official versions about Ernesto Guevara’s final combat were deliberately distorted. It’s
all about trying to make us believe that Washington preferred that Che, defeated and
taken prisoner, would continue to live and that the crime was the result of unilateral
decisions made by soldiers of the Bolivian Army who were then a docile instrument of
Much has been written about Che and his epic Bolivian campaign and there are
many authors who echoed the interpretation fabricated by the exponents of “plausible
deniability.” At this stage, when both selective and massive assassination and the
practice of torture and extrajudicial executions have become a generalized practice
of a new way of making war, the book by Ratner and Smith is an opportune reminder
that such treatment has a long trajectory. It is as old as that of using servile armies
and assassins – uniformed or not – as simple tools causing countless suffering to the
peoples of Latin America under military dictatorships that the United States equipped,
In an earlier book, published in 1997 and the result of an equally relentless pursuit, the
authors had revealed how the FBI tracked Ernesto Guevara’s activities in Guatemala
and Mexico when he was not yet Che. In this book that they offer us now it can be
confirmed that during his Bolivian campaign he was obsessively followed at the highest
The U.S. Government’s Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the cold-
blooded murder of a wounded and unarmed young prisoner by the name of Ernesto
Guervara. The actual perpetrators of the cowardly act were soldiers who acted under
the control of the CIA and obeyed their orders without batting an eye.
Some are still walking, however, on the streets of Miami or are in their offices at
Langley, mulling over their frustration. Because they could not kill Che. Che continued
to live and his message returned victorious in a new Bolivia and in a Latin America that
confidently moves ahead towards complete emancipation.
Because Che fought all his life leading the list of those named as essential by Bertolt
Brecht. Essential are those who are never missing when they are most needed,
those who are present, always on the front line, when the struggle is harder and more
That is why Che lives. Because we need him now more than ever.
The Cuban edition of this book appears in a new juncture in which we greatly need the
Guevarian light. Now we are entering a stage that poses new challenges that we must
face with wisdom and firmness. The historic enemy of our people has not changed its
nature or its strategy of domination, only its tactics. Because its crude and violent policy
– and it is recognized as such – of half a century failed, now it will test methods that
intend to be more subtle to achieve the same ends.
We must accept the challenge and advance down that path without ever abandoning
our principles. And always remembering Che’s visionary warning. Do not trust the
imperialists “not even a little bit, not in anything.”

Havana, February 13, 2015

Words at the presentation of the book ¿Quién mató al Che? Cómo la CIA logró salir
impune del asesinato by Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, Social Sciences
[Spanish translation of Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder]
Unofficial translation by Susana Hurlich, Havana

USAID: nonsense and disgrace

September 1, 2014


By Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Mr. Alarcón is the former Cuban ambassador to the United Nations and recently retired president of Cuba’s National Assembly. The Spanish version of this article appeared in the Chilean journal Punto Final on August 22, 2014 and is accessible at: W. T. Whitney Jr. is the translator

A Prussian Prophecy
Maybe some people think Otto von Bismark was bitter when he said, “God created a special providence to shelter fools, drunks, and the United States of America.” Others might think, however, that such a humorous remark more than a century ago when very little was known about that country was a biting prophesy of what would develop afterwards in the behavior of the new empire over the course of the 20th century and so far in the 21st.
I remembered the phrase on reading much more recently, in August 1914, about Republican Senator Jeff Flake who, criticizing the most recent anti-Cuban actions of the Agency for International Development (USAD) said sarcastically: “”These programs are in desperate need of adult supervision.” The legislator was referring to the detailed, comprehensive investigative reporting by the Associated Press about the secret program of sending young Latin Americans to Cuba in order to recruit counterparts there, organize them, and convert them into a force capable of bringing down the revolutionary government.

A little earlier AP had revealed another USAID plan, one using as sub-contractor something called Creative Associates International, for putting together through trickery a subversive cell phone network called “ZunZuneo.” Previously a report had been published revealing the true role of Alan Gross, then in prison in Cuba. The official North American propaganda had presented him as if he had come to help the Cuban Jewish community in gaining Internet access. Such deceit was even repeated despite an emphatic, specific denial by leaders of that community who, in addition to Internet, had very cordial and respectful relations with Cuban authorities. The article included secret communications between Gross and those in charge of him where they explicitly acknowledged the illegal and subversive nature of his mission.
Six days after Gross’ arrest, USAID introduced this new project, [recruiting counterparts in Cuba]. having also, incidentally, put Creative Associates International in charge.
This time the news agency revealed secret papers that contained guidelines for clandestine communications, reports the young conspirators sent back, and the orientation they received. AP interviewed some of the new spies from Costa Rico, Venezuela, and Peru, as well as several Cubans who were “recruited.”
The operation looked like they took it from a cheap newspaper serial. The Latin Americans were trained, according to the AP report, through abbreviated courses, barely a week long. There they learned techniques for searching out and choosing candidates for more complicated subversive tasks later on, as well as encrypted language codes for communicating with those in charge on the outside. To accomplish their mission, they went to Cuba claiming to be interested in helping Cubans do community work in order to improve their living conditions. In interchanges with the recipients of “aid” they would identify the ones complaining about the difficulties and shortcomings of everyday life and would try to attract them and shape them as future opposition leaders.
Those who conceived of the idea surely were unaware that for many years in those countries and others on the continent tens of thousands of Cuban young people have participated in programs of medical care, education, culture, and sports, among others, that contribute in many ways to saving and improving lives. Governments and specialized international organizations like the World Health Organization, Pan-American Health Organization, and UNESCO recognize this. They didn’t seem to know that if there is anything in abundance in Cuba, it’s people who express their opinions openly and criticize errors and failings they encounter in their lives. They do so in the press, in meetings where elected delegates report back to them and in gatherings of their social organizations and associations. They do it, really, every day – everywhere. They do it because most Cubans born after 1959 and have gotten used to education and health care being universally available, and accustomed to social assistance and security being inalienable rights, even while they were waiting to be born. And besides, for them, police assaults on their learning centers, and beatings, and prisons for people trying to protest are stories from the past that only their grandparents lived through.
The perfect pretext
Fernando Murillo, from Costa Rica and one the chiefs of the operation, made several trips to Cuba. Interviewed by AP, he told about his excursions through Santa Clara with guys that played hip hop and rap and expressed themselves artistically in other ways. He confessed to satisfaction that the encounters qualified as “the perfect pretext” for carrying out his plan, which was to organize a workshop on preventing HIV-AIDS, although he refused to provide details. Allegedly he had a commitment to confidentiality (nondisclosure agreement) that he had signed with his employers. He would only say that “he was teaching people how to use condoms correctly.” The State Department spokesperson was more talkative and in defending this plan he acknowledged that over and above the supposed fight against AIDS, Murillo had another purpose of a subversive nature.
He left out saying that, years back, Cuba had to face that sickness not only without any help from the United States, but also while confronting the cruelty of the blockade that impeded acquisition of essential retroviral drugs that were then being produced exclusively in the neighboring country’s laboratories. At that early stage, the few patients on the island found relief for their suffering through the solidarity help of NGO’s and particular persons. Economic war imposed on us also restricts – ever since 1964 – medicines and medical equipment and instruments. All governmental agencies took part in the implementation of this genocidal policy, among them USAID. For example, for his instructive talks Murillo was unable to show condoms “made in the USA.”
However, some time ago now, Cuba not only produced retrovirals we required and maintained its free health care system, but also carried out a special program for seropositive people that allowed 90 percent of them to survive – and under decent conditions. One keeps in mind that Cuba is one of the countries least affected by that illness, which has a prevalence rate on the island of 0.2 percent, a rate of 0.4 percent in Latin America, and 0.6 percent in the United States and Canada. As for young people 15 to 19 years of age, the Cuban figure – 0.2 percent – is the lowest in the Americas, and Cuba is being chosen as the first country in the region certified as having eliminated congenital transmission of syphilis and AIDS.
Governments of the United States have their right, of course, to show off their ignorance and to act like fools and drunkards, as the Prussian would say. But it’s an unpardonable disgrace to coarsely manipulate the health and the lives of everybody else.
A new beginning?
Ever since 1959 Washington has fruitlessly undertaken to destroy the Cuban Revolution. They’ve tried everything – economic war, military intervention, subversion, and non-stop hostile propaganda.
There was a book published in 1959 by the North American researcher Jon Ellison about psychological war and anti-Cuban propaganda. It’s basically a collection of declassified documents showing a colossal waste of resources in trying to confuse and divide Cubans and to deceive peoples of Latin America. They tried everything, even children’s comic books with editions into the millions.
The plans we denounce here are a continuation of a long saga of aggressions in which bits of nonsense often go along with crimes. The current administration concocted and promoted the most recent ones. A little after being installed in the White House, President Obama announced there would be “a new beginning” in policies toward Cuba. Obviously that’s one more of his forgotten promises. Or maybe for him, “change” means more of the same.

Destabiliziation in Latin America

June 27, 2014


ZunZuneo and the U.S. Policy
Destabiliziation in Latin America
by Matt Peppe

News from the AP about the U.S. government’s secret project to create a Cuban Twitter or “ZunZuneo,” to be used for disseminating propaganda and fomenting unrest in Cuba, spurring young people in that country to overthrow their government, comes as no surprise to anyone with even the most cursory understanding of U.S. policy in Cuba and Latin America in general. It is but a tiny part of a 55-year-old, completely unprovoked, genocidal policy against a nation whose only offense is failing to subordinate itself to the will of the U.S. government.

ZunZuneo was initiated and run by the ostensibly “humanitarian” U.S. Agency for International Development through a series of shell corporations which were not supposed to be traced back to the government. The project is typical of the type of subversion and interference with another nation that the U.S. government has always felt entitled to undertake, regardless of the principles of sovereignty and self-determination fundamental to international law.

Due to Cuba’s successful revolution in 1959 and their ongoing ability to resist U.S. subversion of their socioeconomic system, U.S. actions against the tiny nation in the Carribean have been harsher than any other victim who fails to recognize the U.S. as its rightful master. Early destabilization efforts included a vicious campaign of terrorism against Cuba, part of a massive CIA effort that later evolved into a policy of providing safe haven to terrorist exile groups and looking the other way as they violate the U.S. Neutrality Act and international law.

The largest act of subversion is, of course, the blockade, euphemistically known in the U.S. as an “embargo.” The U.S. blockade against Cuba has now lasted more than a half century as a punishment for Cuba achieving self-determination. The blockade is an act of warfare, as it is based on the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 (TWEA), which is only applicable during times of war. The blockade has been expanded and strengthened over the years with various violations of international law such as the Helms-Burton Act and the Torricelli Act. The policy of the U.S. blockade has been found to be an illegal violation of international law for 22 straight years by 99% of the world’s nations, who have demanded its end.

The attempted subversion of a country’s political system is not unique to U.S. actions against Cuba, nor is it unique to USAID. Other U.S. government agencies, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), have long carried out similar actions. Such organizations purport to be apolitical groups for “democratic” promotion but are in reality nothing more than fronts, essentially political action committees (PACs). Due to the concealment of their purpose, they are more like political slush funds used to advanced the perceived interest of the United States.

Of course, they are not used to promote American “values” or “humanitarian principles” with abstract names like “freedom” and “democracy”, but the interests of the corporate sector eager to seek new investment opportunities outside their own country and control over the resources that they refuse to recognize as the property of local populations.

For example, over the last 15 years in Venezuela the U.S. spent $90 million funding opposition groups, including $5 million in the current federal budget. During this time, since Hugo Chavez first assumed office, his revolutionary party has won 18 elections and lost only 1. The margins of victory during Chavez’s tenure reached higher than 20%. After his death, his hand-picked successor Nicolás Maduro won by a margin of 1.6% in 2012. This is a very narrow margin, to be sure, but as Dan Kovalik points out it is a margin of victory larger than JFK’s victory over Richard Nixon and certainly larger than George Bush’s victory over Al Gore. Bush actually lost the popular vote but was declared the winner by the Supreme Court in an instance of political mettling that would be hard to imagine in any other democracy in the world.

Despite the success of the Chavista party, the opposition, aided and abetted by the U.S. government, has tried to portray the elections as “questionable” or “illegitimate”. Secretary of State John Kerry led the way by calling for a recount, encouraging the opposition to challenge the results of the election and refuse to concede.
“Washington’s efforts to de-legitimise the election mark a significant escalation of US efforts at regime change in Venezuela,” wrote Mark Weisbrot. “Not since its involvement in the 2002 military coup has the US government done this much to promote open conflict in Venezuela… It amounted to telling the government of Venezuela what was necessary to make their elections legitimate.”
In fact, international organizations monitoring the Venezuelan Presidential vote attested to the “fair and transparent” election process and former President Jimmy Carter called the country’s electoral system “the best in the world.”
The U.S. government has also refused to recognize the vast advances social progress made under the current government. Under Chavez, the country drastically reduced poverty, especially extreme poverty, with the latter falling from 23.4% in 1999 to 8.5% in 2011. As the government has put its massive revenues from oil sales to use to provide universal education and health care for all Venezuela’s citizens, people traditionally shut out of the country’s economic gains have benefited tremendously. Venezuela has gone from one of the highest rates of income inequality in Latin America to the lowest, a truly Herculean accomplishment.
Yet this does not even factor into the U.S.’s policy toward Venezuela. As a cable published by Wikileaks from 2006 demonstrates, the U.S. policy of destabilization and regime change against Hugo Chavez was pursued until his death. Now, with the perceived weakness of Maduro and the propaganda value of violent street protests portrayed in the international media as a “student movement”, it seems that Kerry is like a shark who smells blood in the water when he slanderously proclaims a “terror campaign” and foments further unrest.
U.S. government officials must feel frustrated at their inability to project their will for Venezuela to be subservient to the United States. After all, it has proved much easier in countries such as Honduras to oust a democratically elected President as happened with Manuel Zelaya.
“Zelaya was initiating such dangerous measures as a rise in minimum wage in a country where 60 percent live in poverty. He had to go,” wrote Noam Chomsky, who goes on to note that the U.S. virtually alone in the world in recognizing the “elections” later held under military rule of Pepe Lobo. “The endorsement also preserved the use of Honduras’ Palmerola air base, increasingly valuable as the U.S. military is being driven out of most of Latin America.”
Unsurprisingly, four years after the coup a Center for Economic and Policy Research report finds that “much of the economic and social progress experienced from 2006 – 2009 has been reversed in the years since,” with “economic inequality in Honduras” rising “dramatically.”
The next success of Obama’s administration in Latin America was the coup in Paraguay, in which the right-wing, elite opposition was able to drive democratically-elected Fernando Lugo from the Presidency and thus stop his program of promoting land rights for a long-oppressed peasant population.
“The United States promotes the interests of the wealthy of these mostly-poor countries, and in turn, these elite-run countries are obedient to the pro-corporate foreign policy of the United States,” writes Shamus Cooke.
There was also the coup last year against the progressive former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, Gustavo Petro. His supposed abuse of power was de-privatizing garbage collection in the capital city, which allegedly harmed the “freedom of free enterprise.” The anti-democratic actions in Colombia, a beneficiary of an enormous amount of U.S. aid, have not affected the U.S. policy toward the nation. Kovalik notes that the actions taken against Petro are part of a much larger pattern.
“While the press, as well as the U.S. government, will not acknowledge it, the elimination of progressive political leaders by coup d’ état is taking place in Latin America with increasing frequency,” Kovalik writes.
Of course this is part of long-standing U.S. policy that has destroyed democracies in countries such as Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and many other nations since the end of WWII alone. The anti-democratic measures enabled and supported by the U.S. have taken decades to recover from, if the nations victimized have been able to recover at all.
Media reporting of the story has tended to downplay or apologize for the Cuban Twitter program by stressing the U.S. government denials that it was meant to overthrow the government, or it was beneficial in allowing Cubans to communicate with each other.
Not surprisingly, Cubans themselves do not see it this way. They understandably do not appreciate an underhanded attempt to collect their personal data or to use them as pawns in a political game.
This should be a reasonable position for any American to understand. Would you support China or Russia setting up a social network meant to overthrow your government to impose one more to their liking? Certainly not. The plot in the fictitious House of Cards of infiltration of the U.S. political process by foreign money probably seems shocking to the average American. In this country, it is a crime for foreign countries or nationals to influence democracy and domestic affairs through political contributions.In reality, this is exactly what the U.S. government has carried out in foreign countries for decades. ZunZuneo is demonstrable proof they continue to do so to this day. ZunZuneo is not just a case of USAID and the U.S. government getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar. It is part of an ongoing assault against sovereignty and self-determination of any country who opposes U.S. foreign policy. People of these countries are just as smart, capable, and deserving of a government independent of outside interference as U.S. citizens are.By simply recognizing that their government has no business in determining another country’s political affairs, and demanding that their government stop spending their tax dollars to do so, U.S. citizens could do more to advance democracy and the ideals their country claims to stand for than the U.S. government has ever done.

Matt Peppe holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at SUNY Albany and a bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature from NYU. His writing about U.S. foreign policy and Latin America has appeared in Countercurrents, La Respuesta Magazine and other outlets. You can read his blog or follow him on twitter.,

Havana hosts important regional summit

January 27, 2014


By Helen Yaffe*
On 28-29th January 2014, Havana hosts the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC in Spanish), with the participation of the heads of states, chancellors and other representatives of all 33 independent nations in the region. The Summit rounds off Cuba’s one-year presidency of CELAC, which focussed on combating regional poverty, hunger and inequality. Cuba is part of CELAC’s three member troika, along with Chile, which held the presidency in 2012 and Costa Rica which takes over in 2014. Over 30 documents are being drawn up for discussion and analysis, including a Plan of Action, and standards and principles which will govern cooperation. The Summit was preceded by two days of discussions by national experts on 25-26 January and a meeting of chancellors on 27 January. The Summit is expected to emit specific statements, for example, demanding that Britain return Las Islas Malvinas (the Falkland Islands) to Argentina and that the US blockade of Cuba be lifted.

CELAC was launched with the Declaration of Caracas in December 2011. It is the first organisation in 200-years, since Latin America’s formal independence, to integrate the sovereign nations of the region without either being convened (or attended) by the United States, or other foreign powers, and without excluding Cuba. Indeed, the insistence on Cuba’s inclusion is a principal motive for CELAC’s foundation. CELAC stands as a rejection of, and alternative to, the Organisation of American States (OAS), set up in 1948 with its headquarters in Washington. In 1962 Cuba was expelled from the OAS because Cuba’s revolutionary government, it stated, had ‘officially identified itself as a Marxist-Leninist government, [which is] incompatible with the principles and objectives of the inter-American system.’ As Cuban academic Luis Suarez Sálazar pointed out to BBC Mundo: ‘the restoration of relations with all nations of the region and the presence in this gathering of their Heads of State demonstrates clearly that the US failed in its policy of isolating us.’

In 1994, following the collapse of the soviet bloc when neo-liberalism went on its triumphant offensive, the OAS held its first Summit of the Americas. It was a political forum for the US to pursue its economic agenda: the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a neo-liberal treaty that would undermine national sovereignty and facilitate the pillaging and looting of resources by US and international capital. The Spanish acronym for the FTAA was ALCA. Direct opposition to this led then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to propose an alternative ALBA (which means dawn in Spanish); the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (see While the 2005 deadline for the implementation of the FTAA came and went, US imperialism witnessed rebellion in its ‘back-yard’. At the last Summit of the Americas in Colombia in 2012, the final declaration draft demanded an end to the US blockade of Cuba and Cuba’s expulsion from the hemispheric events. This was vetoed by US and Canada so no agreement was reached.

CELAC’s other distinguishing characteristics are that it binds the Caribbean with Latin America, realising the vision of independence heroes such as Simon Bolivar and Jose Marti for ‘Our America’, and that it is not constituted as an narrowly economic mechanism for establishing free trade between member states. The general function of CELAC is to promote sustainable development, social and environmental investments, and create a ‘zone of peace’ where differences are resolved through dialogue and diplomacy. Securing the latter would not only benefit the regions nearly 600 million inhabitants, it would also undermine the ability of imperialist powers to provoke confrontations in their own interests. In the last few years, tensions between the governments of Colombia, a strong, right-wing ally of the US, and the Bolivarian socialist government of Venezuela have almost led to military confrontation.

Tensions between left, centre and right governments within CELAC are evident and are constantly aggravated by US machinations, for example the recent push to create the Alliance of the Pacific, so far formed of Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru; right-wing governments allied to the US. However, CELAC aims to undermine divisive manipulation through open democratic discussion in which each participant’s views have equal weight. Cuban Foreign Minister, Burno Rodriguez Parrilla told a press conference on 24 January that during the Summit in Havana: ‘Decisions will be taken on the basis of full, participative and democratic process of debate and negotiation, which has been happening over many months and will conclude the in the next few days.’

Rodriguez also said that deliberations at the Summit would focus on strategies and policies to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger and provide access to free health and education.’ In this, Cuba is the regional leader par excellence. Its achievements are not just domestic. In Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine thousands of students from the region study for free. Millions of people have benefitted from its literacy programme, ‘Yes I can’. Through Cuba’s Operation Miracle, set up with Venezuela, between 2005 and 2011 two million people in Latin American and Caribbean had their eye-sight restored in 60 eye hospitals which Cuba had donated to 35 countries. Cuba therefore has the moral authority and practical experience to set the CELAC agenda.

The importance of the goals set out for the Summit cannot be underestimated. Despite recent progress, Latin America remains the most unequal region in the world. This reality, and the suffering which accompanies it, is especially brutal given the abundance of mineral, forestall, water and agricultural resources. Within CELAC are the world’s greatest supplies of mineral resources: copper (Chile), Iron (Brazil), Silver (Mexico) tin (Bolivia and Peru). Venezuela has the world’s greatest proven oil reserves, 18% of the total. And the Guarani Aquifer, located beneath the surface of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, is one of the world’s largest aquifer systems and sources of fresh water. Latin America and the Caribbean produce more food than required by their populations, and yet 8% of Latin Americans and 18% of Caribbeans suffer from malnutrition. The question is who controls the resources and in whose interests.

Luis Suarez Sálazar states that Cuba ‘was the first country in Latin America that included the goal of integration in its Constitution’. He sees CELAC as ‘the result of the existence of leftwing governments that seek to solve social problems and achieve more autonomy.’ There are multiple, overlapping and conflicting trade and cooperation agreements in Latin America and the Caribbean. ‘The great contribution of CELAC is that everyone could now converge in the same forum’, says Suarez. At CELAC’s invitation, the event will be attended by OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza. This will be the first visit to Havana by the holder of that office since before Cuba was expelled from the OAS.

*Dr Helen Yaffe, completed her doctorate in Cuban economic history at the London School of Economics. She is the author of Che Guevara: the economics of Revolution, first published by Palgrave MacMillan in English in 2009 with subsequent editions appearing in Spanish, Korean, Indonesian and Turkish. In 2009 she interviewed Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa about the procress of Latin American integration and the Citizens’ Revolution in Ecuador. In 2013 the Ministry of Communes in Venezuela invited her for consultations about the Communal Economic System and to give a series of lectures about Che Guevara and the transition to a socialist political economy.

On the Horizon – A United States of Latin America?

January 25, 2014

CELAC_Cuba_1_Amelia Pardo

by S. Wilkinson
(International Istitute for the study of Cuba)

It might be a little far-fetched to imagine that there will ever be a federation of the states of Latin America of a kind that Simón Bolívar dreamed, but the meeting in Havana at the end of this month of the CELAC, the recently established Community of the States of Latin America and the Caribbean, is nonetheless an historic event with portentous implications for the future.

For one thing, this meeting brings together the heads of governements of all the countries in the western hemisphere except the United States, Canada and those entitities that are still under colonial control by European powers. Thus, simply by its exclusive membership, the CELAC is a counter hegemonic grouping that challenges the historic domination of the region by the developed powers.

Secondly, it has been announced that the meeting will be attended by the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States, José Miguel Insulza, who will become the first holder of that office to visit Havana since Cuba was expelled from the OAS in 1962. Given that within CELAC there is a sub-group of the ALBAcountries (Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela being chief among them) who have vowed not to attend the next OAS summit if Cuba is not admitted, the symbolic significance of Insulza’s accepotance of the invitation should not go unnoticed.
Connected to this is the weird timing of his visit because it coincides almost exactly with the breaking off of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the rest of the region 50 years ago. The timing therefore is ironic and serves to focus on both the potential integrationist power of the CELAC and the significance of having Cuba involved in the centre of the process.

Speaking to BBC Mundo and translated by the Cuban blog The Havana Times a Cuban specialist on the CELAC, Luis Suarez, says: “It is highly symbolic for Cuba. No other organization in the history of the region has joined so many nations.”
“the restoration of relations with all nations of the region and the presence in this gathering of their Heads of State demonstrates clearly that the US failed in its policy of isolating us.” – See more at:

The restoration of relations with all nations of the region and the presence in this gathering of their Heads of State demonstrates clearly that the US failed in its policy of isolating us.”
Suarez points out that Cuba, “was the first country in Latin America that included the goal of integration in its Constitution. That vocation comes from the war for independence, when we had the support of citizens of several countries on the continent.”
Suarez says that “the worst external and internal enemies of the CELAC are those who do not want that we found a separate organization that allows us to reach the world with an agreed position. And the closest is the U.S. Pan-American policy.”
In this sense he believes that “the future of the regional organization will depend on political consultations that are achieved for concrete action to reach the ordinary citizen in the social field, in areas such as health or education, for example.”
In these and other subjects such as coping with natural disasters, Cuba could play a key role. “The country has a vast experience in these areas and also has the necessary human resources to support such initiatives.”
“We even have a Latin American School of Medicine, Operation Miracle that has restored sight to millions of people of the continent and we have created the “Yes I can” literacy mtehod that has taught more than three million illiterates to read and write,” explains Suarez .
The agenda in Havana falls squarely on social issues and aims to declare Latin America a “Zone of Peace,” an agreement that the Cuban specialist considers “extremely important because it implies that governments undertake to seek political and negotiated solutions, avoiding the use of force in the region.”
Furthermore, he says, it would “prevent others from using our conflicts to divide us, as they have done many times in the past.”
Suarez believes that to achieve greater practical effectiveness CELAC should “integrate regional institutions such as SELA , the Latin American Energy Organization , LAIA , dedicated to the integration , the Pan American Health Organization or ECLAC Latin American Economic System.”

A few years ago, even in the present century the US had ambitions to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas, a project that would have ensured its domination of the commerce of the continent to its own advantage. Not only has that ambition been thwarted but also in its place the CELAC has emerged. As recently as 2004, no one would have imagined that such a switch of power from North to South could have occurred. Even though the CELAC for the moment is a consensual body based upon dialogue and voluntary agreeement, when you take the speed at which geopolitical change has taken place, Bolívar’s dream of a United States of Latin America may not seem so far-fetched after all.

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