Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Diplomatic relations: The game of the USA with Cuba

March 13, 2015

Cubans do not get excited about relations with the US
Talks are going on between the United States and Cuba about the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, broken since the early sixties of last century and accompanied of an infamous blockade maintained by successive governments, occupants of the White House and condemned by everyone, including the UN, where Uncle Sam has, for years, suffered successive defeats when the subject is placed in annual vote by the General Assembly.

Valter XEU *

With the media power it has, the rulers of the great northern country prey to spread to the four corners of the world that the communist regime of the island is, and remains, harmful to their own people.

Cubans sit, discuss with the north Americans and know what their strategy is in talks for the return of normalization of relations between the two embassies. And what about the diplomatic talks with Iran? When things are settled, what happens? The US and its European allies always create a new fact, a new requirement and the talks will prolong without knowing when they end and so, Israel will continue to take advantage to demonize Iran to the international community.

The Supreme Leader has warned that Iran will not give up further developing his project that is peaceful and follows the strict supervision of the IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency, a body linked to the UN.

The same thing happens among Cuban Americans, endless conversations with a different sense of the Iranian case, but the influence that Cuba has on the continent, especially in Venezuela, where the United States act to overthrow the Maduro government.

The blockade remains
They facilitate the passage of north Americans to the island, which was once illegal, punishable by imprisonment and a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This, from the nation that says it is the most democratic in the world, and that prohibits its citizens from visiting this country under penalty of imprisonment and fine, perhaps worried about hiding from American eyes, a country that the government and the media painted as hell and that in reality was completely different.

If there’s one thing that left the Cubans in complete joy, was not the resumption of news of diplomatic relations with the US but the coming back of two of the five heroes who were arrested and sentenced to life in prison in the United States, accused of spying when in fact they worked in agreement with the US intelligence services, to watch some crazy elements in the Miami mafia, which are always involved in cases of perpetrating terrorism against Cuba. The Five Heroes (as they are known in Cuba) are loved and deified by the Cubans, getting all kinds of homage of the people and the government, in which appears the figure of former President Fidel Castro, the mentor of the pressures and demonstrations around the world, the freedom of the five.

And so, with the festivities for the return of the “five heroes”, to the consumption of rum in the country has increased with daily celebrations of the return and not the resumption of relations between the two countries that Cubans do not take seriously. “If they, Americans, want to talk, talk, we talk with everyone. If you think that will make us paytaxes, then you are sadly mistaken. In these fifty years, we have supported and faced all kinds of pressure and sabotage committed by them and that only made the lives of Cubans difficult and it is not now that we bend, because we are talking about resumption of diplomatic relations, despite the continuing blockade firm and strong,” a Cuban official stated.

So in this climate, you can already anticipate that things will not be easy between the two countries.

The base of Guantanamo and some Cuban funds frozen for decades in the United States and the lifting of a number of barriers, will always be on the agenda of discussions and are well known to the Cubans, who intermittently push other discussions that will become endless, like the question of the Iranian nuclear program.

Cubans know that behind this rapprochement is all a policy framework in Latin America, specifically in Venezuela.

North Americans believe that in talks with Cuba, Cuba’s allies in Latin America will not react but remember the intervention in Venezuela, where the presence and influence of the US in the protests are visible, plus penalties in applications in order to lead the country to economic disaster and hence weaken the Maduro government.

Also the Cubans see that the United States is concerned about the growing Russian presence on the continent and alliances established with these Cubans, Nicaraguans, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and strong business in the area of ​​imports from Brazil.

Talks are the backdrop to destabilize all this, while Unclke Sam thinks that Cuba will not raise its voice over what is happening in Venezuela, whose ties of friendship with Cuba were built and solidified in the era of Chávez.
Huge mistake!

* Valter XEU is editor and publisher of the portals Patria Latina and Iran News,

5 Things Cuba Can Do to Speed the Normalization of Relations With the United States

March 9, 2015

William M. LeoGrande
Professor at American University in Washington, D.C.

Washington and Havana have taken the first steps toward normalizing relations after half a century of estrangement, but many tough issues remain to be resolved, and time is of the essence. President Obama has only two years left in his presidency, and Raúl Castro has only three. The pace at which the two presidents make progress will determine whether their rapprochement survives the coming successions.

No one expects Cuba’s leaders to dismantle their political system and adopt multi-party electoral democracy in exchange for better relations with the United States. That’s the demand Washington made for decades while trying to coerce Cuba into compliance. As President Obama pointed out in announcing his new policy on Dec. 17, 2014, it just didn’t work.

That said, there a number of things Cuba can do to move the normalization process forward without compromising its sovereignty. The steps below flow directly out of the 18 months of secret talks between Washington and Havana. Except for the last, they are things to which Cuba has already agreed in principle but has not yet done.

Send a broadly representative civil society delegation to the Summit of the Americas.

After blocking Cuban participation in past summits, the United States is now prepared to welcome Cuba to the Seventh Summit in April — if Cuba is represented at the civil society consultations that are part of the summit process. Working with the host country, Panama, Cuba should assure the United States that its delegation is broadly representative of its robust civil society, which is not limited to self-proclaimed dissidents (as the U.S. government has sometimes thought) or to official mass organizations (as the Cuban government has sometimes implied).

No civil society organization is more important in contemporary Cuba than the Catholic Church, and under Cardinal Jaime Ortega’s leadership, the church has developed a good working relationship with the government. Together the church and state should put together a civil society delegation that reflects Cuba’s diversity of views, including artists, writers, independent entrepreneurs, trade unionists, women, students, clergy, and laity.

Cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In the secret talks with the United States, Cuba agreed to increase its cooperation with the ICRC and UN. The ICRC is interested in resuming inspections of prison conditions, which ended in 1989. In 2013 the UN Human Rights Council made 290 recommendations to improve human rights practices on the island. Cuba should move quickly to allow ICRC visits to resume and announce what additional steps it will take in response to the UNHRC recommendations. The sooner Cuba fulfills these commitments, the harder it will be for opponents of normalization to wield the human rights issue to derail the process.

Expand Internet access.

Cuba has the lowest Internet access rate in Latin America, limited by both infrastructure deficiencies and political concerns — concerns exacerbated by USAID’s attempts to build digital networks outside the government’s control and use social media (including the infamous ZunZuneo message service) to foster opposition. Nevertheless, Cuba’s leaders have concluded that the Internet is indispensable for economic development and are publicly committed to extending access throughout the nation.

Obama’s decision to license the sale of U.S. telecommunications equipment and services gives Cuba the opportunity to rapidly expand the island’s meager bandwidth. It will be good for the Cuban economy and do more to reduce the alienation of youth than any other policy the government could adopt. To be sure, the pace of expansion will depend in part on how eager U.S. telecom companies are to jump into the Cuban market, but Havana can put negotiations with the Cuban telephone company (ETECSA) on a fast track if it wants to. The first agreement, between ETECSA and IDT Telecom, is a good sign.

Facilitate U.S. trade with the private sector.

Commerce with Cuba’s growing private sector is another area in which President Obama has licensed an exception to the embargo. President Bill Clinton did something similar in 1999 when he licensed sales of agricultural inputs to Cuba’s private farmers, but Havana refused to cooperate and the initiative fizzled.

Raúl Castro’s new economic model envisions a dynamic private sector that provides significant employment and contributes to economic growth. Cuban agriculture, in particular, would benefit from access to inputs from the United States. With Cuba’s cooperation, this exception to the embargo could become an even larger source of trade than the sale of food, which peaked at $710 million in 2008. Large-scale trade will also solidify the U.S. business community’s support for lifting the embargo entirely.

However, managing U.S. trade with hundreds or even thousands of small businesses will represent real challenges for Cuba’s state bureaucracy. Cuba should prepare now for the deluge of inquiries from U.S. exporters, because nothing stifles international trade and investment as effectively as an unresponsive government bureaucracy.

Work with the United States to refocus democracy programs.

Washington’s programs to promote democracy in Cuba stem from the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (Helms-Burton), which also wrote the embargo into law. The unequivocal goal of Helms-Burton is regime change, so the Cuban government has always regarded these programs as irredeemably subversive. It passed laws making any cooperation with Helms-Burton a criminal offense.

Cuba demands an end to these programs, but U.S. officials have been equally adamant that they are not going away. Those same officials are well aware, however, that the covert and provocative nature of the programs is incompatible with the new relationship President Obama is trying to build with Cuba. Therein lies an opportunity to reorient the programs away from regime change, instead focusing them on supporting authentic ties between Cuban and U.S. civil society — ties not manufactured or manipulated by government.

The United States has programs around the world that seek to strengthen civil society openly, with the knowledge and at least tacit consent of host governments. If Havana were willing to work with Washington to refocus the democracy programs in a way that is not an affront to Cuban sovereignty, a very large stumbling block on the road to normalization could be removed.

The burden for making faster progress toward normal U.S.-Cuban relations does not fall solely on Havana, of course. There are many things Washington could and should do to accelerate the process. But as President Obama comes under political attack for getting “nothing” in return for his opening to Havana, Cuba’s leaders have an opportunity to demonstrate that Obama made the right call — that engagement and coexistence produce results.

William M. LeoGrande is a co-author, with Peter Kornbluh, of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (University of North Carolina Press, 2014).,

The Guantanamo Base: A US Colonial Relic Impeding Peace With Cuba – Analysis

February 14, 2015

Camp_America gate in Guantanamo. Photo by 1st Lt. Lance Cagnolatti – Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs More Photos from Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs, Wikipedia Commons.


By Timothy Keen and Paul Gioia*

“The issue of Guantanamo is not on the table”, testified the U.S. State Department official leading negotiations with Cuba, Roberta Jacobson, in an upfront, and obstinate message meant to be heard all the way in Havana at a House of Representatives congressional hearing. [1]

A long-awaited revival of U.S.-Cuban relations following the Obama Administration’s gradual easing of the half-century embargo against Cuba has kick-started a modest dialogue surrounding the normalization of economic relations between the two countries. While it is certainly an impediment to an agenda on any U.S.-Cuban relations, the economic embargo is not the only factor that inhibits a diplomatic rapprochement. Another long-standing obstacle in the contentious relationship between Washington and Havana that fuels the simmering indignation among Cuban authorities is the continued U.S. occupation of Guantanamo.

Addressing a boisterous crowd of supporters on the anniversary of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, first Vice-president José Ramón Machado Ventura exclaimed: “We will continue to fight such a flagrant violation…Never, under any circumstance, will we stop trying to recover that piece of ground”. [2] The longstanding impasse on this issue signifies a clear obstruction to the normalization of relations. But with statements coming from Congress expressing no interest whatsoever in resolving the issue of the base, can the United States truly advocate for the reestablishment of relations with Cuba while simultaneously ignoring a territorial dispute that predates the economic embargo and remains of monumental importance?
History of Guantanamo Bay: The Cuban Revolution Still Matters

The U.S. Guantanamo naval base in Cuba presents a stark paradox as the U.S.’s oldest overseas naval base, and also the only U.S. naval facility in a country with which the U.S. has no formal diplomatic relations.[3] The naval base in Cuba represents a broader struggle between the remnants of a former Cuban colonialist government that was entirely submissive to Washington, and a post-revolutionary Castro government that refuses to let the United States interfere in silence as the rest of the Cuban political sphere boils in dissent.

In fact, the history of the Guantanamo base echoes the quarrel between the rising American empire and the withering away of the Spanish Empire. In an effort to restrict Spanish ambitions in Cuba, Washington seized official control at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898.[4] From then on, there was a series of conditional amendments and treaties that confirmed the American presence in the region. Washington issued the notorious Platt Amendment in 1901, allowing the United States to retain its military presence while claiming to be an advocate of Cuban independence. The core of the agreement reserved the right of the United States to intervene in Cuban affairs and annexed land to the United States.[5] Subsequently, the Treaty of 1909, a lease agreement signed by the United States and Cuba, authorized the use of Guantanamo for naval and coaling stations under the presumption that a U.S. military presence could maintain stability in the region and deter further Spanish incursion.

Similar to many countries in the Western Hemisphere, the U.S. government claimed that stepping on the sovereignty of its neighbors to the South was justified in order to achieve greater hemispheric stability. This sentiment is highlighted in article VII of the treaty which, “Enables the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba, and to protect the people thereof, as well as for its own defense.”[6]

The conditions issued from the lease agreement were unequivocally tailored in favor of the United States, granting Washington inextricable autonomy in the area. The U.S. openly admits to this stark contradiction in Article III stating:

“While on the one hand the United States recognizes the continuance of the ultimate sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba over the above described areas of land and water, on the other hand the Republic of Cuba consents that during the period of the occupation by the United states of said areas under the terms of this agreement the United states shall exercise complete jurisdiction and control over and within said areas.[7]

Furthermore, a second treaty that was ratified in 1934 allowed for greater autonomy of the U.S. Guantanamo base by canceling the termination date of the lease. This means that, even if the Cuban government unilaterally calls for the return of the Guantanamo territory, they will never be able to cement this policy unless the U.S. is in mutual agreement. Therefore, this arrangement protects U.S. economic interests as well as reserving U.S. rights in the territory.

But once the regime transitioned in Cuba, after Fidel Castro’s successful revolution, Guantanamo was brought to the forefront as another grievance among many against U.S. foreign policy in the region. The territorial dispute, in fact, was an inadvertent impetus that ignited the revolution against U.S. imperial ambitions in Cuba.[8] Castro subsequently called for the territory to be returned to Cuba, cautious of a continued U.S. presence that could serve as a base to spy on Cuban officials and present a pretext for further military incursion. The U.S. responded by prohibiting U.S. personnel stationed in Guantanamo from entering into Cuba, which in turn further segregated the area, fueling isolationist tendencies of the Cold War.

Developments in the territorial battle were stagnant until the Clinton Administration enacted the Helms-Burton Law in 1996, in which it was implied that the U.S. would only return the territory of Guantanamo to Cuba if Havana met its demands of regime change, replacing the Castro government with a politic more akin to the United States.[9]

Thus, with Castro unwilling to comply with such conditionalities, and Washington unwilling to accept the sovereignty of the Cuban government, the issue remained unresolved. This dispute also attracted international visibility due to the U.S. government’s decision to transform the naval base into an extrajudicial detention facility far from U.S. courts in order to freely practice torture on the proclaimed prisoners of the “War on Terror.”[10] It maintained the argument that because it was not on U.S. territory, it had the right to operate the facility under unofficial discretion irrespective of U.S. constitution and law. This contemporary global fixation on the Guantanamo Bay detention center effectively distracts international attention away from the root territorial legal battle between Washington and Havana.
The Cuban Perspective: A Catalyst for U.S. Opposition

Governmental officials not only opposed the U.S. annexation of Guantanamo Bay, but the base also faced opposition from ordinary Cubans. This was greatly emphasized in the protests that ensued following the Platt Amendment arrangement between Havana and Washington in the early 1900s. This stark display of U.S. dominance in the region sparked outrage throughout the nation, further galvanizing support for an alternative to U.S.-led governance. In fact, in December 1933, demonstrators destroyed three trains with government supporters onboard, resulting in the deaths of at least two people.[11] Mainstream opinion amongst Cubans regarding the legality of the U.S. and Guantanamo is that the Cuban revolution, which overthrew the former pro-U.S. Batista government, invalidated any previous agreements or treaties with the United States. Since the Cuban revolution was partly fought to reverse the pro-U.S. stance of the former government, all previous agreements with the U.S. are presumed nullified following the revolution. Because the pre-Castro regime of Fulgencio Batista was regarded as too dictatorial and illegitimate, agreements with the U.S. prior to the revolution are further justified as void. As a matter of fact, Batista was notoriously passive in letting the U.S. continue to exercise jurisdiction over the territory, provoking waves of resentment throughout Cuban society.[12]

However, the U.S. continues to pay the yearly lease of $4,085 USD while the Cuban government discards checks sent from the U.S. in an act of protest and defiance towards the presumed outdated treaty. Given that the United States still sends their checks to the “Treasure General of the Republic”—a pre-revolutionary position that was dismantled after the Castro government took power—the checks are essentially meaningless as addressed to a non-existent institution.[13]

Additionally, the 1977 treaty signed by the Carter Administration to secede official jurisdiction of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians established a precedent of demand for similar action in Guantanamo.[14] The leasing of the Panama Canal occurred around the same time as the leasing of Guantanamo under the Roosevelt Administration, adding chronological legitimacy to the Cuban argument. Pointing to U.S. hypocrisy, some have been left wondering why the Panama Canal lease was nullified and returned to Panama while the Guantanamo lease remains under absolute U.S. authority.[15]

Internationally controversial activities currently occurring in Guantanamo serve as yet another source of legitimacy for the Cuban authorities and their oppositional stance. Because the United States has extended their operations in the territory from a naval base to an extrajudicial detention facility, and has established commercial activities in the base, Cuban authorities hold that the current state of the territory has transcended its primary purpose.[16]
United States Perspective: Is it Still a Lease if Nobody Gets Paid?

The U.S. government believes that due to its continued payment of the lease, it still maintains the right to use the land for military purposes. As previously stated, the Cuban government refuses to accept these checks, and refutes U.S. claims that the acquisition of the land is legitimate. The U.S. contends that the Castro government did in fact cash one of the checks to secure the lease of the land following the revolution. Castro reacted to this claim by explaining that he had merely signed the first lease of the newly formed government by mistake.

Current politicians opposing negotiation with Cuba regarding the naval base, such as Senator Marco Rubio, retain the conviction that “Guantanamo Bay plays an integral part in our ongoing effort to safeguard America, and it is critical that this facility remain open and operating.” His statement conveys the reoccurring sense of U.S. ownership of the territory that is frequently justified by national security concerns.[17]
International Law: An Opportunity for Legal Appeal

The Cuban government claims that the retention of the Guantanamo territory violates international law. In fact, UN Ambassador to Cuba Bruno Rodriguez Parilla appealed to the UN Human Rights Council in May 2013 regarding the illegality of the continued military base on Cuban land, advocating that it should be rightfully returned to Cuban control. [18]This international legal debate is essentially a conflict of interest regarding treaty provisions. Since 1959, Castro’s government has based their argument on article 52, section 2 of the Vienna Conventions on the Laws of Treaties, which states: “a treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.” [19] Therefore, the original Platt Amendment can be considered as a threat, given that it was an ultimatum, and refusal to sign the document would mean a complete infiltration of the island.

Secondly, the Cuban government could invoke the Rebus Sic Santibus clause of section 3, article 62 which states that a treaty cannot be withdrawn due to a fundamental change of circumstances, unless “the existence of those circumstances constituted an essential basis of the consent of the parties to be bound by the treaty.”xx Because a revolution occurred that altered the previous government, the aforementioned bilateral consent necessary for the validity of the treaty could be considered nullified.

However, article 4 states the “non-retroactivity of the present convention”:

“Without prejudice to the application of any rules set forth in the present Convention to which treaties would be subject under international law independently of the Convention, the Convention applies only to treaties which are concluded by States after the entry into force of the present Convention with regard to such States.”[20]

This means that all the international treaties contracted before the Vienna Convention are not bound by the rules of the Vienna Convention. Therefore, a State could not invoke an article of the Vienna Convention to claim anything regarding preexisting treaties prior to the convention.

Legally speaking, and without reference to the Vienna convention, it is possible to claim that Cuba is no longer tied by the treaty due to the reciprocity principle, an element of international law that does not consider the juridical effect of a treaty applicable until all the contractors respect its rules simultaneously. If a state fails to respect a section of a treaty, the other signatory state may invoke this detail to free itself from any obligation pertaining to the treaty. With this in mind, it is important to note that the 1903 Cuban-American treaty only authorizes the settlement of an American Naval base, and not the construction of a detention camp. Accordingly, the United States is in violation of the international agreement. Even if the latter argument does not hold, it is necessary to emphasize that Cuba does not recognize international law as its highest source of the law.[21]Therefore, an international treaty remains valid so long as Cuba recognizes its application.
Conclusion: Guantanamo Blocks Reestablishment of the U.S.-Cuba Relationship

Following President Obama’s recent initiative to reestablish cordial relations with Cuba, the status of the Guantanamo naval base is likely to be a critical subject in the talks between the two states. White house officials, however, have made it clear that they are not willing to make concessions with Cuba regarding the current status of the military base, explicitly stating that Guantanamo is “not part of the bargain”.[22] Continuing in the footsteps of his predecessors, President Obama remains adamant that the retention of the Guantanamo naval base is integral to U.S. national security with no modicum of shifting rhetoric that suggests a more conciliatory approach. The Obama administration has, however, dedicated time and effort to close the Guantanamo detention facility, which remains a necessary first step in the disengagement process. Barack Obama initially expressed his desire to close Guantanamo in 2008, but has never managed to gather the required support from Republicans in Congress, who routinely block progress on the issue. Furthermore, the legal status of prisoners remains problematic given that very few of the 155 detained have ever been granted a proper trial, creating a legal grey area.[23]

Nonetheless, these efforts must not be misinterpreted as the return of territory to Cuba. This detail presents a dichotomy within the negotiation process. On one hand, Obama’s campaign to soften the economic embargo is a step in the right direction for the peace process; contrarily, failure to recognize the incongruity of the longstanding territorial dispute will only undermine any comprehensive ambitions of reconciliation. Professor Jeffery A. Engel, expert on U.S. diplomatic history at the Southern Methodist University of Dallas, argues the territorial dispute has “been a sore point in the national psyche for the Cubans. In some ways the base is a reminder of Cuba’s broader colonial legacy, which fueled much of the communist revolution to start with.” [24]

While the conventional debate regarding the human rights concerns in Guantanamo Bay is certainly imperative, its larger contextual impact on U.S.-Cuban relations should not be overlooked. Former U.S. Foreign Service Officer Michael Parmly notes that this issue is “intimately related to Cuban nationalism, to Cuban identity, to Cuban self-image, to the present-day Cuba and, most importantly, the Cuba of tomorrow.” With such a deep sentiment for the Cuban sense of independence, the retention of the naval base has inevitably created perpetual rifts that undermine any sort of comprehensive effort to reconcile relations between Washington and Havana. [25] If the Obama administration capitalizes on this opportunity to improve relations by recognizing the rightful return of the territory to Cuba, then perhaps a Cuban government highly skeptical of U.S. motivations could place more trust in the United States.

At a recent summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, President Raul Castro responded to U.S. ambitions of improving bilateral relations stating that “diplomatic rapprochement wouldn’t make any sense” if the Guantanamo naval base issue is not included in the negotiations.[26] When asked about the President’s intentions regarding the base at a White House press-conference following Castro’s statements, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said “the president does believe that the prison at Guantánamo Bay should be closed down. … But the naval base is not something that we believe should be closed.”[27] If proceedings on the gradual lifting of the embargo continue as planned, Washington must inevitably face the road-block that Guantanamo presents. Reevaluating its preconceived territorial claim on Cuban land would demonstrate to the Cuban government that the United States can finally recognize Cuba’s right to self-determination. All in all, the U.S. occupation of the Guantanamo naval base represents an archaic colonial relic that is incongruous with a post-colonial era of independence and sovereignty.[28]

*Timothy Keen and Paul Gioia, Research Associates at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

[1] Associated Press, “U.S. Won’t Return Guantanamo to Improve ties with Cuba”, The Washington Post, accessed February 9, 2015

[2] Associated Press in Havana, “Cuba President Raul Castro willing to hold no-limits talks with America,” The Guardian, accessed January 27, 2015

[3]“Notes on Guantanamo Bay”, HistoryofCuba, accessed January 27, 2015

[4] “Guantanamo Bay’s Peculiar History”, PBS, accessed January 27, 2015

[5]U.S. Department of State, “The United States, Cuba, and the Platt Amendment, 1901,” Office of the Historian, accessed January 27, 2015

[6]“Agreement Between the United States and Cuba for the Lease of Lands for Coaling and Naval stations; February 23, 1903″, Yale Law School: Lillian Goldman Law Library, accessed January 27, 2015

[7] Michael Froomkin, “Even if US courts Don’t have Jurisdiction Over Guantanamo, There is No Recourse to Cuban Courts”,, accessed January 27, 2015

[8]Martinez, Michael, “In the waters between the Us and Cuba lies a long history”, CNN, accessed January 28, 2015

[9]“Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996″, Title 22, Sections 6021-6091 of the U.S. Code, accessed January 28, 2015

[10] “Report on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners At Guantanamo Bay, Cuba”, Center For Constitutional Rights, accessed January 29, 2015

[11]“Cuban Protest Platt Amendment”, The Free Lance Star, accessed January 28, 2015

[12] Parmly, Michael, “The Guantanamo Naval Base: The United States and Cuba—Dealing with a Historic Anomaly”, accessed February 2, 2015

[13]Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, “Getting the Cuban Perspective of Guantanamo Prison”, National Public Radio (NPR), accessed January 28, 2015

[14] Parmly, Michael, “The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base: The United States and Cuba—Dealing with a historic anomaly”, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, accessed January 29, 2015

[15] Gerts, Bill, “Obama Cuba Initiative Prompts New Fears of Gitmo Naval Base Giveaway”, The Washington Free Beacon, accessed January 28, 2015

[16] “Carter agrees to transfer Panama Canal to Panama”, History, accessed January 28, 2015 ; “Statement by the government of Cuba to the national and international public opinion”, Grandma International, accessed January 28, 2015

[17] Moody, Chris, “Marco Rubio visits Guantanamo Bay in Cuba”, ABC News, accessed January 28, 2015

[18] “General Assembly Demands End to Cuba Blockade for Twenty-Second Year as Speakers Voice Concern over Impact on Third Countries”, United Nations: General Assembly, accessed February 2, 2015

[19] “Vienna Convention on the law of treaties (with annex). Concluded at Vienna on 23 May 1969”, United Nations, accessed February 2, 2015

[20] Ibid.

[21] Carlos Justo Bruzón Viltres y Iraida R. Tamayo Blanco, “Jurisprudence in Cuba: Recognition Within the Sources of Law and Possible Consequences”, Scielo, accessed February 2, 2015

[22] Javier Cordoba and Michael Weissenstein “Raul Castro: US must return Guantanamo for normal relations”, Miami herald, accessed January 29, 2015

[23] “The Prison that Won’t Go Away”, New York Times Editorials, accessed February 2, 2015

[24] Bryant, Jordan, “Here’s What The Cuba Deal Could Mean For The US Base At Guantanamo Bay”, Business Insider, accessed January 28, 2015

[25] Parmly, Michael, “The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base: The United States and Cuba—Dealing with a historic anomaly”, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, accessed January 29, 2015

[26] Javier Cordoba and Michael Weissenstein “Raul Castro: US must return Guantanamo for normal relations”, Miami herald, accessed January 29, 2015

[27] “US Rejects giving Guantanamo back to Cuba”, Democracy Now video 2:55, accessed February 2, 2015

[28] Associated Press in Havana, “US Admits: we’re not sure if new Cuba approach will work”, The Guardian, accessed January 28, 2015 ; Gerts, Bill, “Obama Cuba Initiative Prompts New Fears of Gitmo Naval Base Giveaway”, The Washington Free Beacon, accessed January 28, 2015

COHA, or Council on Hemispheric Affairs, was founded in 1975, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), a nonprofit, tax-exempt independent research and information organization, was established to promote the common interests of the hemisphere, raise the visibility of regional affairs and increase the importance of the inter-American relationship, as well as encourage the formulation of rational and constructive U.S. policies towards Latin America.

Two stories regarding the editorials of The New York Times about Cuba

November 18, 2014


Omar Pérez Salomón

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

The fact that The New York Times, one of the most influential
dailies in the United States and the world, has published in one
month six editorials against the economic, commercial and
financial blockade that Washington imposed on Havana more than 50
years ago is a sign that the Cuba issue has given rise to
differing opinions within U.S. political circles.

However, the search for ways to tighten the net around the
largest island in the West Indies is what has prevailed so far in
the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches. Two
examples confirm this.

The first refers to legal claims for over a billion dollars
belonging to Cuba. These have been frozen by our northern
neighbor following U.S. court rulings against the Cuban
government in the last few years in its ceaseless pursuit of new
sources to collect money.

This is why Cuban assets derived from telephone communications
with the United States, blocked in U.S. banks since 1966, have
been totally plundered as a result of the
“compensation” ordered by the courts. One of the
most notorious was Miami Federal Judge Alexander King’s
finding that the Cuban state and its Air Force had to pay $187.6
million dollars to the families of the pilots of the
counter-revolutionary “Brothers to the Rescue”
group whose planes were shot down when they violated Cuban
airspace on February 24, 1996.

On November 12, 1998, Judge King filed a motion before a New York
Federal Court seeking to order seizure of the blocked Cuban funds
and to start proceedings against AT&T and the Chase Manhattan
Bank. This was based on the Victims of Trafficking and Violence
Protection Act, approved on October 12, 2000, and thanks to which
the plaintiffs received around $97.6 million dollars.

The second example is the war declared by the multinational
Bacardi corporation against the French-Cuban Pernod-Ricard-Havana
Rum corporation over ownership of the Havana Club trade mark.
That ended in May 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court prevented the
Cuban company Cubaexport from defending its right to renew
registration of the Havana Club brand with the U.S. Patent and
Trademark Office.

No enterprise has devoted so much in terms of money and resources
to finance actions against the Cuban Revolution as Bacardi, whose
managers have been involved in countless terrorist, subversive
and judicial maneuvers against Cuba. Back in the 1960s, Pepin
Bosch, the then head of Bacardi, organized the bombing of
Cuba’s oil refineries. As it happened, his plan, as well
as a picture of the B-26 bomber he had intended to use, were
exposed in The New York Times and never materialized.

Bacardi’s stockholders have stood out because of their
contributions to both Democratic and Republican Congress members
and anti-Cuban laws such as the Torricelli and Helms-Burton acts.
In the words of the Colombian journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina in
his book Ron Bacardi: la Guerra Oculta [Bacardi: The Hidden War],
“As one of the company’s top executives has
admitted, Bacardi is a Bermuda-based company without a
nationality. And yet, it used its economic power and contacts in
the highest political circles to virtually draft a U.S. law
tailored to its own needs. Not only does this piece of
legislation –known as the Helms-Burton Act–
threaten Cuba’s sovereignty and the survival of its
people, it also adds to the madness into which
capitalism’s commercial system is dangerously creeping in
its longing for bringing down every barrier to its.”

In violation of trade-related international standards, these same
actors promoted the approval of Section 211, as another step
toward the enforcement of the Helms-Burton Act included in the
4,000-plus-page 1999 budget bill. The first stages of Section 211
have it that no U.S. court can recognize any rights over foreign
trademarks or patents related to assets of an American citizen
confiscated without indemnity by the Cuban revolutionary
Jurisdiction over this
cause was thus denied to the judges.

As we can see, the fact that Pernod-Ricard executives attending
the recently-held Havana International Fair said they were ready
to market Havana Club rum in the United States and that several
American telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon
are interested in re-establishing direct telephone links with
Cuba is not good enough. The whole thing is about penetrating the
anti-Cuban structure through which Washington’s Cuba
policy is dictated.

Hernando Calvo Ospina:
Ron Bacardí: la guerra oculta, Casa Editora Abril, 2000. P.

Media discipline

October 13, 2014


Ricardo Alarcón

On the 16th anniversary of the imprisonment of the Cuban antiterrorists, the real role of the United States’ major communications media was exposed once again. To them, Sept. 12 went by unremarked, same as the acts of protest against the injustice.

Nor did they publish anything about the Miami court’s delay in responding to the petition for a writ of habeas corpus that Gerardo Hernández Nordelo submitted in June 2010, more than four years ago, or to the petitions filed later by Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero.

These are three appeals that, in great measure, are based precisely on the manipulation and payment by the government, with public money, to the journalists who promoted the campaign of hatred and disinformation that a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, when overturning their convictions in 2005, described as “a perfect storm.”

Curiously, the operation was disclosed in 2006, when The Miami Herald found itself forced to fire some of its employees who were involved in the scandal. That violation of professional ethics was criticized by prestigious institutions such as the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York City, among others that, beyond Florida, expressed their alarm.

The lady judge has not responded to a request for the Government to surrender the information it still conceals about an episode that’s offensive to a profession that she should respect. Or to a petition from Gerardo for an oral hearing at which he could rebut the lies that have condemned him to die in prison. The lady judge does not respond, as if the lives of three human beings to whom she imposed the most exaggerated sentences were not within her purview.

Faced with this situation, the press is silent, but that shouldn’t surprise us. Language specialist Noam Chomsky defined the U.S. media in one word: DISCIPLINED.

Ironically, the silence itself is news. For half a century, Washington has aimed at Cuba a colossal and systematic propaganda that has missed no chance to inculpate its Government for anything and everything. If the Five had caused any harm to the United States, if their work had been so dangerous, [Washington] would have talked about them day and night, unceasingly.

The obedient silence of the media is proof eloquent of their innocence and the infamy of which they are victims.

Cuba, the United States and Human Trafficking

July 23, 2014


by Salim Lamrani

This post first appeared in Opera Mundi

The United States has once again placed Cuba on the list of countries involved in human trafficking. However, international institutions repudiate Washington’s perspective. On the other hand, according to Human Rights Watch, the United States is the only developed country to legally permit the exploitation of child labor from the age of 12 years.

In its 2014 report on countries that engage in human trafficking, the U.S. State Department has once again included Cuba, even placing it in its worst offender category. According to Washington, “adults and children [on the island] are victims of sex trafficking and forced labor. Child prostitution and sex tourism in Cuba is a reality […]. There were allegations of forced labor during missions abroad conducted by the Cuban government.” (1)

However, Washington acknowledges the lack of reliability of its own sources:

“Some Cubans participating in the work missions have stated that the postings are voluntary, and that the positions are well paid compared to jobs within Cuba. Others have claimed that Cuban authorities have coerced them by withholding their passports and restricting their movements. Some medical professionals participating in the missions have been able to take advantage of U.S. visas or immigration benefits, applying for those benefits and arriving in the United States in possession of their passports–an indication that at least some medical professionals retain possession of their passports. Reports of coercion by Cuban authorities in this program do not appear to reflect a uniform government policy of coercion; however, information is lacking.” (2)

The report includes, inter alia, a reference to the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program (CMPP). Indeed since 2006, Washington has implemented a policy aimed at plundering the island of its human capital by facilitating the emigration of medical staff to the United States. This program primarily targets the 30,000 Cuban doctors and other health personnel working in nearly 60 countries of the Third World as part of a vast humanitarian campaign begun by Cuba in 1963 to bring health care to the world’s poor. (3)

Thus, despite its self-acknowledged lack of reliable information, the 2014 report concludes that “The government of Cuba does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.” (4)

The view of UNICEF

The most serious charge concerns child prostitution. Yet UNICEF — the United Nations Children’s Fund — does not share this opinion and, in fact, salutes the advances made by Cuba in the field of child protection. According to the UN agency, “Cuba is an example in the protection of children.”5 According to José Juan Ortiz, UNICEF’s representative in Havana, “severe malnutrition does not exist in Cuba [because] there is the political will” to eliminate it. “Here, there are no children in the streets. In Cuba, children are always a priority and that is why they do not suffer from the shortages that afflict millions of other children in Latin America, who work, who are exploited or who are involved in prostitution networks.” (6)

Ortiz shared his experience on this subject:

“There are millions of children who are exploited every day, who never go to school; millions of boys and girls who do not have a legal identity, who do not exist because they are not included in the census. (7)

“Cuba, for more than 50 years, has been a model for the defense and promotion of the rights of children. Public policies that favor children have been a priority for years. Because of this, the country has achieved a position that is truly unique in the developing world. Of the hundreds of millions of boys and girls who suffer serious violations of their rights every day, even dying for absolutely preventable causes, none of these children are Cuban. The Cuban experience is a clear demonstration of what is possible if governments pay attention to children and make them a priority.

“[…] Cuba demonstrates that, despite the international crisis, despite the [U.S.] economic sanctions and their severe impact upon child development — Cuba is the only country that suffers from these sanctions — despite all of this, it is nonetheless possible to guarantee fully the rights of the child and achieve increasingly high levels of human development as is the case in Cuba. Cuba is an example to the world of how to work to ensure the rights of the child and realize full development. The Cuban people enjoy a treasure that sometimes they do not realize they have. Cuban children and adolescents are privileged in comparison with the rest of world. (8)

“Twenty thousand children will die in the world [today], and the overwhelming majority of these deaths could be prevented. It is criminal to allow children to die when we have the means to save them. Were the issue of childhood a global priority, the problems faced by children would have been resolved a long time ago, as they have been in Cuba.

“Cuba has always been an example in terms of social development, with levels of equality similar to those in the most highly developed countries.

“The work accomplished in Cuba with juvenile offenders (another great theme and challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean) is exemplary. Here, there are no children behind bars. The system prioritizes the rehabilitation of misguided youth […]. Furthermore, all children with disabilities are supported, even in their homes if the child is not ambulatory. This is an exceptional advance. […]. Cuba is the only country I know where you can celebrate by dancing on International Children’s Day […].” (9)

The UNICEF representative also stressed the following: “Because of my job, I spend time burying children in all of the countries I visit. In Cuba, however, I spend time playing with them.” He did not hesitate to call the island a “childhood paradise in Latin America.”10 UNICEF notes that Cuba is the only Latin American or Third World country to have eradicated infantile malnutrition. (11)

Havana’s Response

On Havana’s side, authorities have strongly condemned the inclusion of Cuba, present on their blacklist since 2003, among the group of countries involved in human trafficking, and described the report as “manipulative and unilateral:” (12)

“The State Department has once again decided to include Cuba in its worst offender category (level 3) of its annual report of countries that ‘do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and are not making significant efforts to do so.’ At the same time, they ignore the recognition and prestige achieved by our country for its strong commitment to the protection of children, youth and women.

“Cuba has not requested the evaluation of the United States nor does it need the recommendations of one of the countries that has the highest number of cases of trafficking of children and women in the world. The United States has no moral authority to call down Cuba, nor to suggest ‘plans’ of any kind. It is estimated that the number of North-American citizens who are victims of trafficking is close to 200,000 and that labor exploitation is its most widespread form. Eighty-five percent of the court trials dealing with trafficking involve sexual exploitation and more than 300,000 children, among the million who run away from home, are subject to some form of exploitation […].

“Inclusion on this list for entirely political reasons, as well as the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of international terrorism, is an attempt to justify the policy of economic blockade […] something that seriously affects our children, our youth, our women and our entire population.”(13)

Washington recognizes the incomplete nature of its report and UNICEF has seriously undermined its accusations against Cuba. Furthermore, the involvement of the United States itself in human trafficking, and the legal exploitation of children from the age of 12, diminishes its moral authority and deals a severe blow to its credibility.

Trafficking of Human Beings in the United States

The United States maintains that it considers the struggle against human trafficking a priority. According to John F. Kerry, the United States “has a moral obligation to address this challenge [because] trafficking is an attack against our most cherished values such as freedom and human dignity.” (14)

However, on this issue, the State Department report itself is also highly critical of Washington. Indeed, “The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children — both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals — subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including domestic servitude.” (15)

According to the same report:

“Abuse of third-country nationals providing services for U.S. defense contracts in Afghanistan also has been noted by the media. NGOs reported that visa holders employed as domestic workers were subjected to forced labor by personnel of foreign diplomatic missions and international organizations posted to the United States; Native American women and girls were trafficked for the purpose of commercial sex acts; and LGBT youth were particularly vulnerable to traffickers.” (16)

The Human Rights Watch Report

Moreover, the United States is probably the only developed country where children can be exploited legally by being allowed to work at the age of 12. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an organization for the defense of human rights, has denounced the exploitation of children in the country’s tobacco fields. According to this organization, these children are, on average, 13 years old and may work up to 60 hours per week. According to an HRW survey, 53 percent of them are exposed to pesticides, 66 percent suffer from recurrent symptoms such as “vomiting, nausea, headache, dizziness, and loss of appetite” due to exposure to nicotine and 73 percent have already been sick with “nausea, headaches, respiratory diseases, skin problems and other symptoms.”(17)
According to HRW:

children work long hours without overtime pay, often in extreme heat without shade or sufficient breaks, and wear no, or inadequate, protective gear.” They are thus “exposed to dangerous nicotine without smoking a single cigarette.” Children are also forced to handle “dangerous tools and machinery, lift heavy loads, and climb several stories without protection for hanging tobacco in barns. (18)

The organization added that “tractors sprayed pesticides in nearby fields,” seriously affecting the health of children, who stressed that “the spray drifted over them, making them vomit, feel dizzy, and have difficulty breathing and causing a burning sensation in their eyes.” In addition, most of the pesticides used in tobacco production are “known neurotoxins, poisons that alter the nervous system.” Such exposure, over the long term, can cause “cancer, cognitive and learning problems and infertility.” HRW notes that “Children are especially vulnerable because their bodies and brains are still developing.” Moreover, “most children interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they had no access to toilets or a place to wash their hands at their worksites, leaving them with tobacco and pesticides residue on their hands, even during mealtimes.” (19)

In 2012, 70 percent of children under the age of 18 who died of a work accident were agricultural workers. Adequate protection is not provided by United States labor law. Thus, children may be exploited in agriculture from the age of 12 and work “longer hours, at younger ages, for less pay, in more hazardous conditions than children in any other industry.” (20)

The inclusion of Cuba on the list of countries involved in human trafficking is, it appears, motivated more by political and ideological considerations than by precise and verifiable facts. Indeed, international organizations, particularly those responsible for child protection such as UNICEF, repudiate Washington’s position on the exploitation of minors. Rather, they praise the social policies that favor the protection of children on the Caribbean island. Additionally, the United States, a hub of human trafficking according to its own report, is the only developed country to allow the legal exploitation of children as young as 12, thereby casting a shadow over its credibility once it becomes a question of the defense of human rights.

Translated from the French by Larry R. Oberg.


1 United States Department of State, “Trafficking in Persons, Report 2014,” June 2014. (site consulted June 27, 2014), p.148.
2 Ibid., p.148-149.
3United States Department of State, “Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program”, June 26, 2014. (site consulted July 2, 2014).
4 United States Department of State, “Trafficking in Persons, Report 2014,” June 2014, op. cit., p. 149.
5 José A. De la Osa, “Cuba es ejemplo en la protección a la infancia,” Granma, April 12, 2008.
6 Fernando Ravsberg, “UNICEF : Cuba sin desnutrición infantil,” BBC, January 26, 2010.
7Radio Havana Cuba, “l’UNICEF signale que Cuba est un exemple en matière des droits de l’homme,” June 1, 2012.
8Cubainformación, “Entrevista a representante de UNICEF en Cuba,” June 4, 2012. (site consulted January 2, 2013.
9 Lisandra Fariña Acosta, “Ce pays est un laboratoire de développement social,” Granma, June 7, 2012. (site consulted January 2, 2013).
10 Marcos Alfonso, “Cuba : ejemplo de la protección de la infancia, reconoce UNICEF,” AIN, July 18, 2010.
11 UNICEF, Progreso para la infancia. Un balance sobre la nutrición, 2011.
12 Agence France Presse, “Cuba califica de ‘manipulador y unilateral’ informe de EEUU,” June 21, 2014.
13 Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, “Declaración de la Directora General de Estados Unidos del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba,” República de Cuba, June 21, 2014.
14 Le Monde, « Le rapport américain sur la traite d’humains provoque un tollé », June 20, 2013.
15 State Department, « Trafficking in Persons, Report 2014 », June 2014. (site consulted June 30, 2014), p.30-36.
17 Human Rights Watch, « US : Child Workers in Danger on Tobacco Farms”, May 14, 2014. (site consulted June 30, 2014).
18 Ibid.
19 Ibid.
20 Ibid.

Cuba, United Sates, Something is moving – By Ignacio Ramonet

July 5, 2014


In the book recently released on her experiences as Secretary of State during the first mandate (2008-2012) of U.S. president, Barack Obama, entitled “Difficult decisions”, Hillary Clinton makes an important statement about Cuba: “At the end of my mandate I asked President Obama to reconsider our embargo against Cuba. It fulfills no function and hampers our projects with Latin America.”
For the first time a personality aspiring for the presidency of the United States publicly said that the blockade imposed by Washington – for more than fifty years – against this island in the Caribbean has “no function”. In other words, it has not managed to subdue this small country in spite of all the unjust suffering it has caused in its population. Most importantly, Hillary Clinton mentions two factors: first it breaks the taboo of saying in a loud voice what everyone knows in Washington: the blockade is not worthwhile. And, second, and most important, she declares now that she is preparing to open her Democratic candidacy for the White House; that is to say, she is not afraid to say this – against the policy of Washington toward Cuba for the last half a century – is a handicap for her in this electoral battle she has ahead of her for the elections of November 8, 2016.
If Hillary Clinton maintains the unconventional position it is, in the first place, because she takes up the challenge without fear of the harsh criticisms directed at her by her Republican adversaries, furiously hostile against all changes regarding Cuba in Washington; and, in the second place, and mostly because she does not ignore U.S. public opinion that has evolved regarding this subject and where there is a majority today who favor ending the blockade.

As Hillary Clinton, there are a group of fifty important business persons[i], former high ranking U.S. citizens of different political and intellectual tendency, who know that the President of the United States does not have the right to lift the blockade. It does not depend on the Government but, instead, on the Democratic and Republican majority in Congress who have just asked Obama, in an open letter[ii], to use his executive right to “introduce more intelligent changes” in its relations with Cuba and approach Havana since, they point out, public opinion favors this change.

Actually, a survey made last February by the Atlantic Council Research Center reported that 56% of U.S. citizens want a change in Washington’s policy towards Havana. And, more significantly, in Florida the state with higher sensitivity regarding this subject, 63% of its inhabitants (62% Latinos) also want an end to the blockade[iii]. Another more recent survey made by the Cuban Research institute of the International University of Florida, demonstrated that the majority of the Cuban community in Miami[iv] ask that the blockade against the island be lifted (71% of those interviewed say that the embargo “has not functioned” and 81% would vote for a strategists who promotes the re establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries)[v].

And it is that, contrary to the hopes after the election of Barack Obama in November of 2008, Washington maintained immobility in its relations towards Cuba. Shortly after assuming his position as president, Obama announced in the “Summit of the Americas” held in Trinidad and Tobago, in April of 2009 – that he would give relations with Havana a “new direction”. But he limited himself to mere symbolic gestures: he authorized U.S. citizens of Cuban origin to travel to the Island and send certain amounts of money to their families. Later, in 2012, he adopted new measures, but also with scarce reach: he permitted religious groups and students to travel to Cuba, he allowed U.S. airports to receive charter flights to the Island and extended the limit of remittances that Cuban-Americans could send their families. That is very little in relation to the formidable legality that separates both countries.

Among the differences is the case of “The Five” that has moved international public opinion[vi]. Those agents of Cuban intelligence arrested in Florida by the FBI were carrying out missions against anti Cuban terrorism and condemned in a political trial typical of the cold war (authentic legal lynching) to high prison terms; condemned to such unjust penalties when “The Five” committed no act of violence nor sought information regarding United States security. The only thing they did, running mortal risks, was prevent attacks and save human lives.

Washington is not coherent when it claims to combat “international terrorism” and continues to support anti Cuban terrorist groups in its own territory[vii].

Without going farther, last April authorities of the Island arrested a new group of persons linked to Luis Posada Carriles[viii], once again departing from Florida to commit attacks.

Also not coherent when they accuse “The Five” of anti American activities that never existed while Washington continues to interfere in internal affairs of Cuba and support a change of the political system.

This again was demonstrated with the recent revelations of the “ZunZuneo[ix]” affair. That false social network of an agency of the State Department[x] created and financed covertly between 2010 and 2012 intending to cause protests similar to the “revolution of the colors” or of the “Arab spring” or the Venezuelan “guarimbas” to give the White House a pretext to demand a political change in Cuba.

All this demonstrates that Washington continues with a reactionary attitude against Cuba, typical of the cold war, a period that ended a quarter of a century ago…Such archaic clashes with the positions of other powers. For example, all the States of Latin America and the Caribbean, whatever their political orientation, have lately strengthened their ties with Cuba and denounce the blockade. This was evident last January, in the Summit of the Latin American and Caribbean Community (CELAC) meeting, precisely, in Havana. Washington suffered a new snubbing last month in Cochabamba (Bolivia) during the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) when Latin Americans – with a new show of solidarity with Havana – threatened not to attend the next Summit of the Americas that is scheduled to be held in 2015 in Panama, if Cuba is not invited to participate.

For its part, the European Union (EU) decided, last February, to abandon the so called “common position” in relation to the Island imposed by José María Aznar in1996, then president of the government of Spain to “punish” Cuba rejecting all dialogue with the authorities of the Island. But this action was sterile and failed. Brussels recognized it and has begun now negotiations with Havana to reach an agreement of political and economic cooperation. The EU is the first foreign investor in Cuba and the second trade partner. In this new spirit several European ministers have already visited the Island. Of these, last April, Laurent Fabius – first French foreign affairs minister to visit the Caribbean nation in over thirty years – who declared that he aimed to “promote alliances between companies of both countries and support French societies that wish to develop projects or settle in Cuba”[xi].

And it is that, contrasting the immobility of Washington, many European foreign affairs ministers observe, with interest, the changes being produced in Cuba promoted by Presidente Raúl Castro in the framework of the “up date of the economic model” and in the guidelines defined in 2011 in the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) for important transformations in the economy society. Particularly, the recent creation of the Special Zone of Development of the port of Mariel and approval last March the new Law of Foreign Investment has promoted a large international interest.

Authorities consider that there is no contradiction between socialism and private initiative[xii]. And some officials consider that this last (that includes foreign investment) could cover 40% of the economy of country while the State and public sector maintain 60%. The purpose is that the Cuban economy be more compatible with its main partners in the region (Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia) in which there is coexistence between the public and private sector.

All these changes imply, in contrast, the intent of the U.S. administration to self blockade itself in an ideological position of another era. Although, as we have seen, every day there are people in Washington who admit that the position is mistaken, that in policy towards Cuba it is urgently needed to withdraw from international isolation. Does President Obama listen to them?

[i] These business persons are: Ricky J. Arriola, president of the powerful Inktel company; magnates of sugar and Andrés Fanjul of the real estate sector, and Jorge Pérez; businessman Carlos Saladrigas, and oilman Enrique Sosa, as well as other multimillionaires
[ii] Refer to El Nuevo Herald, Miami, 20 May 2014.
[iii] Refer to Abraham Zembrano, ” ¿Se acerca el fin del embargo a Cuba ? “, BBC Mundo, London, 20 February 2014
[iv] In Miami the largest city of Florida there are 650 000 Cuban expatriates.
[v] El País, Madrid, 17 de junio de 2014.
[vi] Last June 4 to 10 the Third Meeting “Five Days for the Five” was held in Washington. It gathered participants from dozens of countries in the world who demonstrated in front of the White House and the Capitol demanding the freedom of the “Five”
[vii] Cuba es uno de los países del mundo que más ha padecido la lacra del terrorismo ; (3500 personas asesinadas y más de 2000 discapacitados de por vida).
[viii] Head of several anti Cuban terrorist groups Posada Carriles is mostly responsible for blowing up a passenger Cubana de Aviacion plane in 1976 that caused 73 deaths. He lives in Florida where he enjoys the protection of U.S. authorities.
[ix] Revelations made by the AP (Associated Press) news agency
[x] United States international Agency for Development (USAID) is an institution that operates under the direction of the Department of State.
[xi] About 50 large French companies are present in Cuba. Most important among these is the Pernod-Richard group that commercializes “Havana Club” rum in the world. As well as Accor groups, Nouvelles frontières, Fram-voyages in the tourism sector, Bouygues in public works, Alcatel-Lucent in telecommunications, Total and Alstom in energy and Air France for air transport, among others.
[xii] It is estimated that there are about 450 000 “independent workers” and small businesspersons in Cuba.

Translation by the Network in Defense of Humanity

July letter for Mr Obama

June 28, 2014

_1-Correo para Obama.Autor Adán-g

 Mr President Obama July first, 2014
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington DC 20500

Mr President,

Your fellow countryman Bowe Bergdahl was liberated Saturday May 31st in exchange for five former high Taliban officials, held in Guantanamo.
It is inadmissible that you have not yet taken measures to liberate the three Cubans Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino who were, on the contrary, fighting against the terrorism that your country is practicing towards their island.
Cuba proposed to you a humanitarian exchange with your fellow countryman Alan Gross and you have still not responded favorably to its demand. Does this mean that the Taliban government seems to you to be the sort of people one can associate with, more so than the Cuban Government? It’s true that you have included Cuba on the list of countries supporting terrorism, whereas Qatar, the real sponsor for the jihadist groups, is not on it…
Do you know the fable by Jean de La Fontaine, “The Wolf and the Lamb”, in the United States?
Gerardo Hernández, the most heavily condemned of the three, has been condemned to two life prison sentences plus fifteen years. He is accused of “conspiring of attempting to commit murder” in the case of the two BTTR (Brothers to the Rescue) small planes shot down on February 24th 1996 under Cuban government orders. You know very well, Mister President, that this heavy charge attributed to Gerardo Hernández is a gross frame-up.
According to the indictment against Gerardo Hernández, the FBI was aware since 1994 of his mission to infiltrate Mafia terrorist organizations in Miami. If there had been the slightest suspicion against him concerning the BTTR planes tragedy, he would have been, without the least doubt, arrested in 1996. No one has ever been able to produce the least proof of his guilt; the prosecutor himself had demanded that the charge be taken out of Gerardo Hernández’s dossier, recognizing that it was impossible to prove.
However, as I recalled to you in my last letter, Hector Pesquera, the FBI official in charge of South Florida, had declared on January 22nd 2003 in a Radio Marti broadcast concerning the Avispa network for which Gerardo Hernández was the head, “I came here in May 1998. I was made aware of the situation. We then started to place emphasis on the fact that this investigation should not be only on questions of intelligence. The nature of this case must be transformed into a criminal investigation.” It is clear that, by hook or by crook, Gerardo Hernández had to have a crime tacked onto him.
This lamentable tragedy of the small planes would never have happened, and the young pilots would still be living, had the BTTR organization respected numerous warnings emitted by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) on the risks that the BTTR was taking by violating time and again Cuban airspace, going as far as flying over Havana to drop thousands of tracts.
Even though he had nothing to do with this affair, but seeing as he has been credited with being partly responsible, the least you could do in the way of justice towards Gerardo Hernández would be to find out if the Cuban government was in its rights shooting down these two small planes, no matter one’s opinions on this act. Cuban radar systems indicated that they were flying over Cuban territorial waters, whereas the United States government asserts that they were in international airspace.
This object of contention could be easily cleared up by declassifying the documents concerning the tragedy, so as to check the satellite photos that your government is holding. Gerardo’s lawyers have demanded this several times, just as did Peter Schey, lawyer and president of the Los Angeles Human and Constitutional Rights Center, on March 5th 2013.
Sadly, the different United States administrations have, every time, rejected this demand, and you have done nothing, so far, to break the deadlock on this situation, Mister President. It is absurd to take into count the parole of the prosecution’s witness Bjorn Johansen, who was working as a pilot for the “Majesty of the Seas”, to localize the exact place where the planes went down. This localisation is not reliable, first because it was founded on human observation, and also because his objectivity is contestable. Bjorn Johansen was working at the time for the « Caribbean Cruises » shipping company that was financially supporting the FNCA (Féderation Nationale Cubano-Américaine), and his second in command on the ship was Peter G. Whelpton, a member of this same FNCA.
This FNCA organization is obsessed with overthrowing the Cuban government. In 1992, it set up a clandestine structure, the “paramilitary commission”, secretly charged to organize terrorist actions. It has been recognized as being behind most of the terrorist attacks against Cuba that took place between 1990 and 1998 – the exact same terrorist attacks for which the Cuban Five came to Miami to infiltrate the terrorist groups!
Mister President, don’t you think that it’s high time to put an end to the injustice done since almost sixteen years now to the Cuban Five, by freeing the three who are still behind bars in your country? A humanitarian exchange with Alan Gross is a line being thrown to you; be wise enough to catch it, for the good of your country.
Please receive, Mr. President, the expression of my most sincere humanitarian sentiments.

Jacqueline Roussie
64360 Monein (France)

translated by William Peterson

Copies sent to: Mrs. Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Kathryn Ruemmler, Janet Napolitano, to Mr. Joe Biden, John F. Kerry, Harry Reid, Eric Holder, Neil Eggleston, Rick Scott and to Charles Rivkin, ambassador for the United States in France.

The historical context of the Cuban Five

June 17, 2014


By Jane Franklin • Published on ProgresoWeekly

(What follows is a presentation given by Jane Franklin during the 5 Days for the Cuban 5 event held in Washington, D.C.)

Thank you all for being here in Washington to combat terrorism. I want to thank the other panelists and all the other internationalists who join us in the battle against this outrageous injustice. We need all the help we can get as we work here in the planet’s main base of terrorism to free these heroic anti-terrorists – Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, and Tony. I’ve been asked to put their heroism in context.

The basic problem is that this injustice is part of a system of imperial injustice. Simón Bolívar saw it coming in 1829 when he warned that the United States “appears destined by Providence to plague America with miseries in the name of Freedom.” The ideology that drives this plague is American exceptionalism.

The doctrine of American exceptionalism emerged dramatically alongside U.S. policy toward Cuba. The United States itself had hardly become an independent nation when Thomas Jefferson declared that with Cuba and Canada “we should have such an empire for liberty as she has never surveyed since the creation.”

As Cuban revolutionaries were on the verge of victory against Spain in 1898, the U.S. Congress declared that Cuba had the right to be free and independent, and then Congress declared a war against Spain in which Washington portrayed itself as the provider of that freedom and independence. Washington presented the Platt Amendment, which gave it virtual control of Cuba, as if it would shield Cuba against colonization, while using it to turn Cuba from a colony of Spain into a neo-colony of the United States.

When the Cuban Revolution turned Cuba from a neo-colony into an independent nation, the Eisenhower administration immediately launched the counterrevolution – the State of Siege that continues today. A State Department memorandum in 1959, the first year of the Revolution, speculated that depriving Cuba of its sugar quota privilege would cause “widespread…unemployment” and “large numbers of people thus forced out of work would begin to go hungry.” Eisenhower canceled the sugar quota and a full trade embargo followed.

Alongside the overt terrorism of the embargo, covert terrorist operations have continued for all these decades. Just a few weeks ago, Cuba arrested four infiltrators who planned to attack military installations. Perhaps agents such as the Cuban Five helped uncover this plot just as they uncovered a plot by Luis Posada Carriles and his gang in the year 2000 to blow up an auditorium filled with people listening to a speech by Fidel Castro in Panama City.

I think all of us here know about the record of Luis Posada, the most notorious terrorist in the Western Hemisphere. For nine years the U.S. Government has refused to abide by its extradition treaty with Venezuela, which requires that the U.S. either extradite Posada to face trial for the murders of 73 people aboard a Cubana passenger plane or prosecute him here in the United States for those murders. The U.S. Government in its White House right down the street is thus complicit in that mass murder.

Just two months before the arrests of the Cuban Five, Posada told the New York Times that “the CIA taught us everything – everything….They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage.” He boasted of his exploits and bragged about his support from the FBI, the CIA and the Cuban American National Foundation.

Because U.S. intelligence agencies collaborate with the terrorists, Cuba has been forced to train agents like the Cuban Five to investigate terrorist groups. The first member of the Cuban Five to arrive in Florida was René González in 1990, just in time to help deal with the increase of terrorism that followed the disbanding of the Soviet Union and Cuba’s disastrous loss of more than 85 percent of its trade.

Cuba was perceived as vulnerable and the predators thought it was the time to bring it down. Overt terrorism escalated alongside covert activities. Congress worked closely with the Cuban American National Foundation to pass the 1992 Torricelli Act that intensified the trade embargo.

In that same year the Cuban American National Foundation created its secret military arm. Four years later, disappointed that Cuba was continuing to survive as an independent nation, the Foundation engineered the Helms-Burton Law, which became the law of the land. Helms-Burton aspires to be the Platt Amendment of the 21st century. But there is a key difference between Platt at the beginning of the 20th century and Helms-Burton a century later. Platt was U.S. law and then became Cuban law. Helms-Burton is U.S. law but Cuba is determined to keep it from becoming Cuban law. That is a major component of current relations between Cuba and the United States.

In 1999, Cuba, recognizing that Helms-Burton makes financing subversive activities part of U.S. economic warfare against Cuba, passed its own law that makes it a violation of Cuban law to introduce into Cuba, accept, or distribute materials from the U.S. Government that would aid in implementing Helms-Burton. Therefore, when a U.S. agent, such as Alan Gross, distributes such materials in Cuba, the agent is violating Cuban law.

By making Helms-Burton U.S. law, President Bill Clinton and Congress provided a legal front for the legitimization and normalization of terror. But a turning point came in 1998, the same year that the Cuban Five were arrested, when Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela. From the time he took office in 1999, he championed Latin American and Caribbean unity, especially with regard to Cuba. Thanks to his leadership, by the time of his death last year, there was a paradigm shift of historic importance, dramatically represented by the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). When the 21st century opened, the Organization of American States (OAS) included all 35 nations of the Western Hemisphere, but with Cuba suspended. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, CELAC members included all 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations of the Western Hemisphere, with the United States and Canada excluded.

At West Point last week President Obama once again called the United States “the one indispensable nation.” But CELAC has definitively decided that the United States is not indispensable. Earlier this year Cuba hosted the second CELAC Summit where every member opposes the trade embargo. (Canada also opposes the embargo so the United States is alone in its support of its own embargo.)

Yet, as if oblivious to the consensus of Latin America and the Caribbean regarding the status of Cuba, President Obama declared in September 2011, “It’s clearly time for regime change in Cuba.” At a fundraiser last November in the home of Jorge Mas Santos, chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, President Obama said the United States can help bring “freedom to Cuba.” He said, “we have to be creative” and “we have to be thoughtful.” Those words, “creative” and “thoughtful”, gave some analysts the idea that Obama might be ready for a positive step toward Cuba. But we need to pay attention to what he said next and I quote: “the aims are always going to be the same.” He spoke of the need to relate to the “age of the internet”, perhaps thinking that social media programs like ZunZuneo might do the trick by creating another color revolution of “smart mobs” in the streets of Havana.

Obama seems just as oblivious to the opinions of U.S. citizens. A recent Atlantic Council poll shows a majority of Americans want normal relations with Cuba and 61 percent believe Cuba should not be on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Yet all the Cuban Americans in the House and Senate down the street oppose any sign of rapprochement, including the idea that the President agree to negotiations without preconditions with Cuba. Such negotiations are the key to unlocking the prison doors for the three heroes who remain in U.S. prisons. So here we are again in the belly of the beast with a huge job to do because we have to find a way around the barriers of imperial injustice.

The Innocence of Gerardo

May 20, 2014

(Gerardo with late mother and wife Adriana in better times)

By Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

The meeting in London of the Commission of Inquiry on the case of the Cuban Five examined in depth the specific situation of Gerardo Hernández Nordeloand the infamous charge (Count 3 “conspiracy to commit murder”) lodged only against him. It forms the basis of his sentence, in which he must die two times in prison. He is falsely accused of having participated in the shoot-down of the two planes of the terrorist group that calls itself “Brothers to the Rescue.”

From a legal point of view, for it to have standing in a United States court, the deed in question had have had to occur in international airspace, outside of Cuban jurisdiction. Otherwise, no court of the United States would have been able to take it up.

That is why in the Miami trial the exact location of the incident was discussed at length, repeating what had taken place before in the Security Council of the United Nations and in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In those discussions, the contradictions between the Cuban radar and those of the United States arose continuously. There is certainly a great deal to write about the U.S. data, for example, the delay of several months in handing it over, which forced a delay in the work of the ICAO and the suspicious destruction of some records, all of which is stated in the ICAO report.

In order to try to resolve the discrepancy in the radars, the ICAO asked the United States to submit the images from its space satellites, a request that was rejected in 1996. Washington also refused to permit the Miami Court to view them. For a long time now it has been opposing the repeated requests by the Center for Constitutional Law and Human Rights of California and has litigated in the Courts of that State in its effort to keep the images from being seen. Soon it will be 20 years of obstinate censorship.

Only the United States has been able to examine what its satellites filmed, but no one else is permitted to see them. Not the UN Security Council, nor the ICAO, nor the United States courts. Why?

There is only one answer. Washington knows that the incident occurred inside Cuba’s territorial waters, very close to the Havana coast and consequently, it never had legal jurisdiction over it. Since the satellite images are irrefutable proof of the Yankee lie nobody but the United States authorities will ever be able to see them.

But the issue is not whether the satellite images exonerate Gerardo. They were not necessary because to convict him the Prosecution had to prove that he personally participated in the incident, something totally absurd, impossible to sustain regardless of where the shoot-down of the invading planes occurred. That problem was and is for Washington.

A problem, because the images prove that the United States, its authorities and its courts had no right whatsoever to try an incident that took place outside its territorial jurisdiction. It should be pointed out, that according to the U.S. radars, the planes flew together the whole time in a southerly direction and at least one of them, according to the U.S.’s own version, had penetrated Cuban territory. Indeed, if one accepts the United States theory about the planes’ location, they were in the vicinity of the Cuban capital, very close to its most central and populous part. In a few minutes they would have flown over it and would have been able to cross the island to the southern coast.

This did not take place near the United States airspace, rather it was far below the 24th Parallel which demarcates the zones of aerial supervision of both countries. It was there, within the area under Cuban control where a good part of the flight transpired, southward toward Havana and ignoring the indications and warnings issued by the Air Traffic Control Center of our country.

In any case, Gerardo had absolutely nothing to do with the deed, no matter where it occurred. And the United States authorities knew that perfectly well.

According to the Indictment of September 1998, the FBI had identified Gerardo and knew the mission he was carrying out. From 1994 on they were viewing his communications with Cuba, more than two years before that incident which grievously affected the situation between both countries.

The mobs of the Batista-terrorist mafia called then for war in the streets of Miami. Meanwhile, according to what President Clinton wrote in his Memoirs, the White House was discussing a possible bombardment of Cuba. He opted to promote the Helms-Burton law, accompanied by bellicose threats. Can anyone believe that they would not act against Gerardo if he had been involved? They did nothing precisely because his innocence was clear to them.

It is also the reason they did not charge him when he was arrested together with his comrades in September 1998. In the initial indictment not one word is said about the event of February 24, 1996, nor is anything said about the plane shoot-down or related issues. They did not do that because the FBI, which possessed and had read the messages between Gerardo and Havana, knew he was innocent.

Count 3 (“conspiracy to commit murder”) was drawn up only against Gerardo. It was more than seven months after the arrest of the Cuban Five, when they were in solitary confinement — the infamous “Hole” — isolated from the world and where it was impossible to defend themselves. To that end the Prosecution presented a Second Superseding Indictment that — as the Miami press described it — was created in meetings openly carried out by the FBI, the Prosecution and the leaders of the terrorist groups.

It was an arbitrary accusation, fabricated top to bottom, with the sole objective of satisfying the criminals, inflaming the hatred against Gerardo and his comrades and guaranteeing beforehand the worst, most illegal and irrational convictions. Count 3 was the focus of the lawless and vulgar media campaign, promoted and financed by the Federal Government. Like a tsunami of lies, it slammed a defenseless community paralyzed by terror. It was five articles per day in the print newspapers, endless commentaries day and night on radio and local television, creating what the panel of judges in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2005 characterized as a “perfect storm” of hatred, prejudice and hostility.

A major part of the trial centered on Count 3. Inside and outside the courtroom, individuals linked to “Brothers to the Rescue” agitated and made strident statements that the local media amplified. They and the U.S.-paid “journalists” persecuted and besieged the members of the jury who complained to the judge. She, for her part, several times also complained to the Government, of course, to no avail.

In the courtroom, despite all this, the baseless lie of the Prosecution was defeated. The accusers, who were so effectively promoting hatred and prejudice against him, were unable to present one single proof to connect Gerardo to the events of February 24. Not a thing.

So overwhelming and obvious was its defeat that the Government did something highly unusual. At the end of the discussions, when the judge was about to issue her instructions to guide the jury in its verdict deliberations, the prosecutors objected, surprisingly, to the text that the Judge had prepared, which reflected the Indictment word for word. They proposed changing it radically. The Judge, for good reason, did not accept the request, asserting that they had spent seven months discussing the prosecution’s indictment and it was much too late to modify it. That same day the Prosecution rushed to do something even more unusual: In an action that it acknowledged was “unprecedented,” the Prosecution appealed to the Court of Appeals with an “emergency writ of prohibition,” seeking to overturn the decision of the trial court as well as postpone the trial.

In the strange document the Prosecution maintained that “In light of the evidence presented in this trial, this [the instruction given by the judge] presents an insurmountable hurdle for the United States in this case, and will likely result in the failure of the prosecution on this count.”

It should be emphasized that, according to the universal principle of Law, a person is innocent unless and until proven otherwise and it is the obligation of the accuser to present the necessary proof or evidence to show the guilt of the accused. The Prosecution certainly faced “an insurmountable obstacle” for the simple reason that it could not show any proof against Gerardo, merely because it does not exist, nor can it exist. They lacked any evidence against him and worse still, they knew — since they possessed all his communiqués of several years with Havana, including the years before the planes’ incident —that he had had no relation whatsoever with that deed. In other words, when the Prosecution issued its Second Superseding Indictment, it was fully aware that it was accusing an innocent man and consequently was perverting justice in an unpardonable and gross manner.

Count 3 was a grave violation of the Constitution and law and also the legal and professional duty of the prosecutors. They worked hand in hand with the FBI of Miami as agents and accomplices of a terrorist mafia whom they should be combating, when in reality they were at their service with a scandalous subservience.

The Court of Appeals did not accept the late petition of the Prosecution and from that point on, developments occurred that would be surprising if we were dealing with a case which from beginning to end, has been and is an enormous mockery of justice.

Very quickly, without expressing any doubts, without asking any questions, in a few hours the Jury declared the Cuban Five guilty of each and every one of the Charges lodged against them, including Count 3. It did not matter to them that regarding Count 3 the Prosecution had admitted its failure and persisted in trying to get it withdrawn.

Upon the trial’s conclusion in the first week of June 2001, the Judge announced that she would impose the sentences in mid-September. The abominable terrorist act on the 11th of that same month and year apparently made her change her mind. Neither she nor the Government would feel comfortable brutally punishing anti-terrorist heroes while W. Bush joyfully and with great fanfare launched his “war on terrorism” throughout the planet. They would wait three months.

Finally, on December 14, 2001, Gerardo was sentenced to two life sentences plus 15 years.

Everyone in the Courtroom knew they were punishing an innocent man.

%d bloggers like this: