Tuesday, 21 December 2010

¡Viva WikiLeaks! Sicko was not banned in Cuba

¡Viva WikiLeaks! SiCKO Was Not Banned in Cuba
by Michael Moore, 18 December 2010.
Source: Michael Moore.com

Yesterday WikiLeaks did an amazing thing and released a classified State Department cable that dealt, in part, with me and my film, 'Sicko.' It is a stunning look at the Orwellian nature of how bureaucrats for the State spin their lies and try to recreate reality (I assume to placate their bosses and tell them what they want to hear). The date is January 31, 2008. It is just days after 'Sicko' has been nominated for an Oscar as Best Documentary. This must have sent someone reeling in Bush's State Department (his Treasury Department had already notified me they were investigating what laws I might have broken in taking three 9/11 first responders to Cuba to get them the health care they had been denied in the United States).

Former health insurance executive Wendell Potter recently revealed that the insurance industry -- which had decided to spend millions to go after me and, if necessary, "push Michael Moore off a cliff" -- had begun working with anti-Castro Cubans in Miami in order to have them speak out and smear my film. So, on January 31, 2008, a State Department official stationed in Havana took a made up story and sent it back to his HQ in Washington . Here's what they came up with:

" XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that Cuban authorities have banned Michael Moore's documentary, "Sicko," as being subversive. Although the film's intent is to discredit the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the excellence of the Cuban system, he said the regime knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.

Sounds convincing, eh?! There's only one problem -- the entire nation of Cuba was shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008! The Cubans embraced the film so much so it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba . I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana . Screenings of Sicko were set up in towns all across the country. But the secret cable said Cubans were banned from seeing my movie. Hmmm.

We also know from another secret U.S. document that "the disenchantment of the masses [in Cuba ] has spread through all the provinces," and that "all of Oriente Province is seething with hate" for the Castro regime. There's a huge active underground rebellion, and "workers there readily give all the support they can," with everyone involved in "subtle sabotage" against the government. Morale is terrible throughout all the branches of the armed forces, and in the event of war the army "will not fight." Wow -- this cable is hot! Of course, this secret U.S. cable is from March 31, 1961, three weeks before Cuba kicked our asses at the Bay of Pigs.

The U.S. government has been passing around these "secret" documents to itself for the past fifty years, explaining in painstaking detail how horrible things are in Cuba and how Cubans are quietly aching for us to come back and take over. I don't know why we write these cables, I guess it just makes us feel better about ourselves. (Anyone curious can find an entire museum of U.S. wish fulfillment cables on the website of the National Security Archive.)

So what do you do with about a false "secret" cable, especially one that involves you and your movie? Well, you wait for a responsible newspaper to investigate and shout what it discovers from the rooftops. But yesterday WikiLeaks gave the 'Sicko' Cuba cable to the media -- and what did they do with it? They ran it as if it were true! Here's the headline in the Guardian: "WikiLeaks: Cuba banned Sicko for depicting 'mythical' healthcare system. Authorities feared footage of gleaming hospital in Michael Moore's Oscar-nominated film would provoke a popular backlash."

And not one scintilla of digging to see if Cuba had actually banned the movie! In fact, just the opposite. The right wing press started to have a field day reporting a lie (Andy Levy of Fox -- twice -- Reason Magazine and Hot Air, plus a slew of blogs). Sadly, even BoingBoing and my friends at the Nation wrote about it without skepticism. So here you have WikiLeaks, who have put themselves on the line to find and release these cables to the press -- and traditional journalists are once again just too lazy to lift a finger, point and click their mouse to log into Nexis or search via Google, and look to see if Cuba really did "ban the film." Had just ONE reporter done that, here's they would have found:

June 16, 2007 Saturday 1:41 AM GMT [that's 7 months before the false cable] HEADLINE: Cuban health minister says Moore 's 'Sicko' shows 'human values' of communist system. BYLINE: By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press Writer DATELINE: HAVANA Cuba's health minister Jose Ramon Balaguer said Friday that American filmmaker Michael Moore's documentary 'Sicko' highlights the human values of the island's communist-run government... "There can be no doubt this documentary by a personality like Mr. Michael Moore helps promote the profoundly human principles of Cuban society."

Or, how 'bout this little April 25, 2008 notice from CubaSi.Cu (translation by Google): Sicko premiere in Cuba 25/04/2008. The documentary Sicko, the U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore, which deals about the deplorable state of American health care system will be released today at 5:50 pm, for the space Cubavision Roundtable and the Education Channel. Then there's this from Juventudrebelde.cu (translation by Google). Or this Cuban editorial (translation by Google). There's even a long clip of the Cuba section of 'Sicko' on the homepage of Media Roundtable on the CubaSi.cu website!

OK, so we know the media is lazy and sucks most of the time. But the bigger issue here is how our government seemed to be colluding with the health insurance industry to destroy a film that might have a hand in bringing about what the Cubans already have in their poverty-ridden third world country: free, universal health care. And because they have it and we don't, Cuba has a better infant mortality rate than we do, their life expectancy is just 7 months shorter than ours, and, according to the WHO, they rank just two places behind the richest country on earth in terms of the quality of their health care. That's the story, mainstream media and right-wing haters. Now that you've been presented with the facts, what are you going to do about it?

Are you gonna attack me for having my movie played on Cuban state television? Or are you gonna attack me for not having my movie played on Cuban state television? You have to choose one, it can't be both. And since the facts show that the movie played on state TV and in theaters, I think you're better off attacking me for having my films played in Cuba.

¡Viva WikiLeaks!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

'Dissidents' have little support in Cuba

Dissidents have little support in Cuba
Source: Reuters, 17 December 2010.
By Jeff Franks

Despite years of U.S. political and financial support for Cuban dissidents, the top U.S. diplomat in Havana said opposition leaders are largely unknown, badly divided and unlikely to ever run the country, according to a secret diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks.

U.S. Interests Section chief Jonathan Farrar said the dissidents deserved backing as the "conscience of Cuba," but Washington "should look elsewhere, including within the government itself, to spot likely successors to the Castro regime." "We see very little evidence that the mainline dissident organizations have much resonance among ordinary Cubans," Farrar said. Without changes, he said, "the traditional dissident movement is not likely to supplant the Cuban government." The cable, published on Thursday by Spanish newspaper El Pais, is one of 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables Wikileaks has begun issuing on the Internet and provided to a number of media outlets.

Farrar's comments, made in a cable dated April 15, 2009, raise questions about the wisdom of the United States' longtime policy of supporting Cuban dissidents as an alternative to the Communist government that has ruled the island since a 1959 revolution put Fidel Castro in power.

Despite claims they are supported by thousands of Cubans, Farrar said "informal polls we have carried out among visa and refugee applicants have shown virtually no awareness of dissident personalities or agendas." He described the dissident movement as largely ineffectual, due to factors including internal conflict, outsized egos, preoccupation with money, outdated agendas and infiltration by the Cuban government. "The greatest effort is directed at obtaining enough resources to keep the principal organizers and their key supporters living from day to day," Farrar wrote.


He told of one political party organization that told him "quite openly and frankly it needed resources to pay salaries" and presented him "with a budget in hopes the (interests section) would be able to cover it."

"With seeking resources as a primary concern, the next most important pursuit seems to be to limit or marginalize the activities of erstwhile allies, thus preserving power and access to scarce resources," he said.

Cuba views dissidents as mercenaries in the pay of the United States and allied with anti-Castro Cuban exiles. Farrar said dissidents get "much of their resources" from exile groups, but also look upon the exiles with suspicion. "Opposition members of all stripes complain the intention of the exiles is to undercut local opposition groups so that they can move into power when the Castros leave," he wrote. Dissident leaders tend to be "comparatively old" and out of touch with a Cuban society less concerned with freeing political prisoners than "having greater opportunities to travel freely and live comfortably," Farrar wrote. He said a new generation of "non-traditional dissidents," such as internationally known blogger Yoani Sanchez, will likely have more impact in post-Castro Cuba, but that "the most immediate successors to the Castro regime will probably come from within the middle ranks of the government itself."

Farrar's cable was written before President Raul Castro, in apparent response to international pressure and dissident activities, agreed in July to release political prisoners. So far, more than 50 have been freed, with almost all going to Spain in an agreement with the Spanish government. Long-time dissident Elizardo Sanchez, head of the independent Cuban Commission of Human Rights, told Reuters he did not feel out of touch with younger Cubans, but said there was an occasional "generational rupture" among Cuba's opposition. Still, he admitted, "There comes the moment when we must retire from the scene. That appears to me convenient from all points of view."

(Additional reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes and Esteban Israel; Editing by Todd Eastham)

Cuba launches EcuRed encyclopaedia

Cuba launches online encyclopaedia similar to Wikipedia
Source: BBC News Online, .

The Cuban government is launching its own online encyclopaedia, similar to Wikipedia, with the goal of presenting its view of the world and history.

The new Spanish language website will be officially launched later on Tuesday but it is already up and running with nearly 20,000 entries on ecured.cu

The site says the aim is to spread knowledge without a profit motive. Updates will apparently be allowed with the administrators' approval but it is not clear who actually runs the site.

Founded in 2001 in Cuba's long-time ideological enemy, the United States, Wikipedia is a multilingual, free-content encyclopaedia. It encourages editorial changes from everybody who comes to the site, although restrictions exist on about 2,000 controversial articles.

Wikipedia has more than 3.5 million entries in English and 682,000 in Spanish, and some attracts 78 million visitors a month.

'Beautiful fruit'
According to Ecured, it was developed "to create and disseminate the knowledge of all and for all, from Cuba and with the world".

"Its philosophy is the accumulation and development of knowledge, with a democratising, not profitable, objective, from a decolonizer point of view."

The entry on the United States, for example, describes it as the "empire of our time, which has historically taken by force territory and natural resources from other nations, to put at the service of its businesses and monopolies".

"It consumes 25% of the energy produced on the planet and in spite of its wealth, more than a third of its population does not have assured medical attention," the article says.

The BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says relations between these two former Cold War foes have marginally improved under US President Barack Obama, but the decades-long trade embargo remains firmly in place.

Ecured claims that the US has always wanted to take over the Caribbean island. The entry says US leaders have looked upon Cuba "like those who admire a beautiful fruit that will end up falling in their hands".

Fidel Castro, who was succeeded as Cuban president by his brother Raul in 2008, "writes and participates in the struggle of ideas at a global level" and "influences important and strategic decisions of the Revolution". Raul Castro is meanwhile described as a "revolutionary combatant, political leader, statesman and military chief".

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Calls for World Solidarity with the Cuban Five

On December 10 International Day of Human Rights, Lets raise our voices for the heroes: 5 DAYS FOR THE 5

Source: TheCuban5.org

Delegates from Latin America and Europe who were present at the VI International Colloquium for the Freedom of the 5 Heroes and Against Terrorism, in Holguin, proposed to put in place an immediate plan of action for December 10, International Day of Human Rights.

On that day, from 9AM to 5PM (Eastern Time), and for 5 consecutive days LETS CALL, OR SEND FAXES, OR SEND E-MAILS, OR TELEGRAMS to the WHITE HOUSE to demand President Obama Free the 5 Cuban Patriots imprisoned in the United States for defending their homeland.

The significance of this day is that on December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and established that day as the International Day on Human Rights.


[Note: there is a new contact form on the US government website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ which has replaced comments@whitehouse.gov. That email address is no longer monitored - RATB.]

Urgent Call for World Solidarity with the Cuban Five
Source: Cuban News Agency (ACN), 23 November 2010.

HAVANA, Cuba - Olga Salanueva, wife of Rene Gonzalez, one of the five Cuban antiterrorist unjustly imprisoned in the United States since 1998 for trying to prevent terrorist actions against Cuba, made a call to strengthen international solidarity for the freedom of these men. Salanueva pointed out, at the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba, that nowadays the support of friends from all over the world is the only possible way to have these five antiterrorists —internationally known as the Cuban Five— back in Cuba.

She recalled the influence of the international public opinion last year during the re-sentencing process of Ramon Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez and Antonio Guerrero, when the prosecution acknowledged before the judge the need to change their sentences to avoid further discredit to the court’s image. Rene’s wife also explained that they are trying to take the case of Gerardo Hernandez under review and to present new evidence to the same authorities that condemned him in 2001, so as to prove that he had an unjust and biased trial in Miami.

Salanueva mentioned the fierce smear campaign against the Cuban Five led by the media in Miami, labelling them as spies and enemies, which brought about prejudice among the local community from which the members of the jury were later chosen. During the meeting, a letter addressed to US President Barack Obama demanding the release of the Cuban Five, was read. Also present in the meeting were Fernando Gonzalez’s mother, Magalis Llort, and sister, Lourdes Gonzalez, as well as members of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba and other guests.

Reuters can't ignore Cuba in Haiti

Cuban medics a big force on Haiti cholera frontline
By Pascal Fletcher, 4 December 2010
Source: Reuters.

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - They don't send out press releases, don't have public information officers and their contacts are not widely publicized by the huge international humanitarian operation helping cholera-hit Haiti.

But when the United Nations appeals for more doctors and nurses to combat the deadly disease that is killing dozens by the day, it is to Cuba's medical brigade that U.N. officials are likely to turn to first.

With a tradition of service in the world's poorest and most forgotten states, the Cubans are a major frontline force in the multinational response to the raging epidemic, which has killed at least 2,000 people and probably more, since mid-October in the impoverished country.

While many Western aid workers crowd Haiti's capital, where more than 1.3 million vulnerable homeless survivors of the January 12 earthquake are crammed into tent camps, Cuba's medics are seeking out cholera victims in hard-to-reach rural hamlets.

A Cuban-led team trekked this week to one such settlement -- the dirt-poor mountain village of Plateau in Haiti's cholera-ravaged Artibonite department, where they set up an emergency makeshift cholera treatment centre on the benches of a Protestant church.

"We don't look for publicity but we do look for the people," Dr. Lorenzo Somarriba, coordinator of the Cuban Medical Brigade in Haiti, told Reuters at the brigade's headquarters in a Port-au-Prince suburb.

"The Cuban doctors are working in the most difficult places. It's our policy to concentrate on areas outside the national capital," he said, a fact acknowledged by both Haitian and foreign health authorities.

A small Cuban flag sits on the table in front of Somarriba, while pictures of former President Fidel Castro and guerrilla icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara, himself a doctor, adorn the walls.

Plateau represents the 39th cholera treatment location set up and run by the Cubans across much of Haiti's daunting geography, from the coast to the denuded mountains of the interior where poor, illiterate peasants are helpless victims of a deadly diarrheal disease they have never known before.

These locations are carefully marked on a map of Haiti in the Cuban brigade's headquarters and Somarriba, a Cuban vice minister of health, reels off figures and statistics like a general marshalling his forces in a military campaign.

The Cuban-led medical brigade in Haiti is 908 people strong, Somarriba said. It includes Cuban-trained professionals from 19 other countries -- mostly Latin American, Caribbean and African nationals who serve under the Cuban flag.

It is the largest medical contingent in Haiti from any one nation, treating 30 percent to 40 percent of the cholera patients.

The Cuban contingent consists mostly of doctors and nurses but also includes technicians and logistics experts. They have warehouses, a fleet of trucks, and planes that fly in supplies and personnel from the communist-ruled island to the west.

The scale, organisation and experience of this presence make Cuba the country that Haiti's government and its relief partners seek out when they need to ramp up the struggling response to the unchecked epidemic.

"They (the Cubans) are available, they are trained up, they have resources in place," said Nyka Alexander, spokeswoman in Haiti for the World Health Organisation.

"We know the terrain. We have people who speak Creole and the people know us," says Somarriba, citing the 12-year presence of a Cuban medical brigade in Haiti. Cuban medics first came to help after Hurricane George in 1998.

The United Nations' top humanitarian official, Briton Valerie Amos, said during a visit to Haiti last month that the country needed an urgent surge of foreign medics -- at least 1,000 nurses and 100 more doctors -- if it was to have any hope of curbing the death rate of the raging epidemic.
Britain's government said days later it would fund 115 doctors, 920 nurses and 740 support staff from the region to set up 12 treatment centres and 60 subsidiary units in Haiti.

U.N. officials said Cuba was the first to offer more personnel. "There is a call for everybody but the response came first from the Cubans. They are going to send 300 additional doctors," Edmond Mulet, head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, told Reuters.

Somarriba said the Cuban medical reinforcements were ready in Havana and would be flown in.

He said that besides its own resources, the Cuban brigade was receiving significant contributions for its work from the Panamerican Health Organisation/World Health Organisation, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF and the World Food Programme.

Cuba also had been working since 2007 with socialist ally and oil producer Venezuela to create a health service network across Haiti. Havana already had helped Haiti after the devastating January earthquake, with a medical response reaching a peak of more than 1,700 personnel in March.

Somarriba said Cuban doctors and nurses already in Haiti had treated the first cases of the cholera outbreak on October 15 in Mirebalais in the Centre Department, raising the alarm about severe diarrhoea later confirmed to be cholera.

In centres run by the Cuban brigade, less people were dying from cholera, Somarriba said. The mortality rate there was under 1 percent, below the national average of 3.5 percent.

He quickly added: "We should avoid competition, comparison. We should all just be helping ... we'll be helping Haiti and all of the Americas because of the risk of this spreading."

They may not have the public relations punch of many international charities but the Cubans have a powerful cheerleader in former President Fidel Castro, who has recounted their exploits in statements on Cuban government websites.

"Haiti needs to be rebuilt from its foundations, with the help and cooperation of everyone," Castro said.

45,174 Venezuelans treated in Cuba

45,174 Venezuelans received free medical assistance in Cuba
by Ministry of Peoples Power for Foreign Affairs, 30 November 2010.
Source: Ven-Global News.

“It has been 10 years after the endorsement of the Comprehensive Health Agreement Cuba-Venezuela and the results can be clearly seen: 45,174 Venezuelan affected by different pathologies went to Cuba in order to receive assistance for their health problems.”Explained the coordinator of the cooperation program Jhonny Ramos.

Ramos assured that there are cases of patients who were declared terminally ill in health centers of Venezuela. These people suffered from cancer, CVAs and conditions in their vital organs. They underwent a proper medical treatment in Cuba and now enjoy perfect health and have a better quality of life.

He explained that one of the conclusions about the neglection of patients with serious diseases is that a significant number of Venezuelan doctors have a mercantilist conception of health. Thus, doctors send home patients who cannot afford a medical treatment.

“In Venezuela, there are excellent doctors, they are among the best of the world. The difference stems from the point of view in which medicine is considered. Venezuelan doctors had the idea of making money, while in Cuba they have the idea to help those human beings in need.” Ramos pointed out.

“We understand than a professional of medicine has studied to have a better life but a persons health cannot be priced, and that is what has occurred in our health care system.” He said.

However, thanks to the agreement endorsed by the Venezuelan and Cuban governments, the philosophical conception of health in Venezuela is being transformed through the education of new professionals of the Latin American Medicine School (ELAM).

More than 1,000 graduates are doing postgraduate courses in Cuba and Venezuela to date. A group of these postgraduates have joined the flagship binational health program: Mission Barrio Adentro.

“The directors Mission Barrio Adentro are Venezuelan. There are currently around 10,000 students in the last year of the medicine school and all of them are professionals with another way to conceive medicine, as socialist medicine, in which people is not treated as merchandise.”

Another decade to go
On November 10th, President Hugo Chávez Frías and Raúl Castro Ruz ratified the comprehensive agreement for another decade.

Ramos stated that this new phase has the aim to create centers of specialized assistance. The main objective during the first ten years was to consolidate Mission Barrio Adentro in its phases I, II and III, which include primary health care, comprehensive care, Centers of Comprehensive Diagnosis, Comprehensive Rehabilitation Rooms and restoration of public hospitals.

“The specialized centers allow not only to give assistance to the patients, but also to contribute to the education of the human resources. We are currently working on the creation of the Oncological Hospital, the National Center for Neurological Restoration and the National Center for the Treatment of Addictions.” Ramos remarked.

The agreement will enter a new phase in 2011: “10,000 Venezuelan doctors will join the program. They are going to progressively replace our Cuban brothers because the health system is intended to be managed by Venezuelans.” He added.

Cuba to send medical reinforcements to Haiti

By Shasta Darlington, 27 November 2010
Source: CNN.

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Fidel Castro announced Saturday that Cuba will send another 300 doctors and health specialists to cholera-stricken Haiti, where the Communist country has maintained a strong presence even before the devastating earthquake in January.

The new delegation will bring the number of Cuban doctors, nurses and health technicians working in Haiti to 1,300.

"It is of extreme importance to prevent the epidemic from extending to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, because under current circumstances it would cause extraordinary damage to the countries of the hemisphere," Castro said in a message posted on the state-run website Cubadebate.

"The need to find efficient and fast solutions in the fight against the epidemic is upon us," he said.

The additional 300 specialists comprise the "Henry Reeve Brigade," created by Cuba to respond to natural disasters.

Castro said the decision to send them was taken by the Communist Party and the government.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Assange Accuser's CIA-Ties

Assange Accuser Worked with US-Funded, CIA-Tied Anti-Castro Group.
By Kirk James Murphy, M.D. 4 December 2010.
Source: Question Everything.

Yesterday Alexander Cockburn reminded us of the news Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett broke at Counterpunch in September. Julian Assange’s chief accuser in Sweden has a significant history of work with anti-Castro groups, at least one of which is US funded and openly supported by a former CIA agent convicted in the mass murder of seventy three Cubans on an airliner he was involved in blowing up.

Anna Ardin (the official complainant) is often described by the media as a “leftist”. She has ties to the US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups. She published her anti-Castro diatribes (see here and here) in the Swedish-language publication Revista de Asignaturas Cubanas put out by Misceláneas de Cuba. From Oslo, Professor Michael Seltzer points out that this periodical is the product of a well-financed anti-Castro organization in Sweden. He further notes that the group is connected with Union Liberal Cubana led by Carlos Alberto Montaner whose CIA ties were exposed here.

Quelle surprise, no? Shamir and Bennett went on to write about Ardin’s history in Cuba with a US funded group openly supported by a real terrorist: Luis Posada Carriles.

In Cuba she interacted with the feminist anti-Castro group Las damas de blanco (the Ladies in White). This group receives US government funds and the convicted anti-communist terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is a friend and supporter. Wikipedia quotes Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo as saying that “the so-called Ladies in White defend the terrorism of the United States.”

Who is Luis Posada Carriles? He’s a mass murderer, and former CIA agent.

Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles (born February 15, 1928) (nicknamed Bambi by some Cuban exiles)[1] is a Cuban-born Venezuelan anti-communist extremist. A former Central Intelligence Agency agent,[2] Posada has been convicted in absentia of involvement in various terrorist attacks and plots in the Americas, including: involvement in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed seventy-three people;[3][4] admitted involvement in a string of bombings in 1997 targeting fashionable Cuban hotels and nightspots;[5][6][7] involvement in the Bay of Pigs invasion; [and] involvement in the Iran-Contra affair…

Luis Posada Carriles is so evil that even the Bush administration wanted him behind bars: In 2005, Posada was held by U.S. authorities in Texas on the charge of illegal presence on national territory before the charges were dismissed on May 8, 2007. On September 28, 2005 a U.S. immigration judge ruled that Posada cannot be deported, finding that he faces the threat of torture in Venezuela.[11] His release on bail on April 19, 2007 had elicited angry reactions from the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.[12] The U.S. Justice Department had urged the court to keep him in jail because he was “an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks”, a flight risk and a danger to the community.[7]

Who is Julian Assange’s chief accuser in Sweden? She’s a gender equityofficer at Uppsula University – who chose to associate with a US funded group openly supported by a convicted terrorist and mass murderer. She just happens to have her work published by a very well funded group connected with Union Liberal Cubana – whose leader, Carlos Alberto Montaner, in turn just happened to pop up on right wing Colombian TV a few hours after the right-wing coup in Honduras. Where he joined the leader of the failed coup in Ecuador to savage Correa, the target of the coup. Montnaner also just happened to vociferously support the violent coup in Honduras, and chose to show up to sing the praises of the Honduran junta. Jean-Guy Allard, a
retired Canadian journalist who now writes for Cuba’s Gramma, captured the moment.

A strange pair appeared on NTN 24, the right-wing Colombian television channel aligned to the Fox Broadcasting Company the U.S. A few hours after the coup attempt in Quito, Ecuador, CIA agent Carlos Alberto Montaner, a fugitive from Cuban justice for acts of terrorism, joined with one of the leaders of the failed Ecuadorian coup, ex-Lieutenant Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez, to attack President Rafael Correa…

On the margin of his media news shows, Montaner’s is known for his fanatic support of the most extreme elements of the Cuban-American mafia. Last year, in the wake of the coup d’état against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, June 28, he became an fervent supporter of the dictator Roberto Micheletti, along with U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and another Cuban-American terrorist and CIA collaborator, Armando Valladares.

Montaner showed up repeatedly in Tegucigalpa to “defend human rights,” and at the same time to applaud the fascist Honduran regime when it unleashed its police on demonstrations by the National Resistance Front.

Oh…and the “rape” charge that’s smeared Julian Assange’s name around the world? On Thursday James D. Catlin, the Melbourne barrister who represented Assange in London, wrote: Apparently having consensual sex in Sweden without a condom is punishable by a term of imprisonment of a minimum of two years for rape. That is the basis for a reinstitution of rape charges against WikiLeaks figurehead Julian Assange that is destined to make Sweden and its justice system the laughing stock of the world and dramatically damage its reputation as a model of modernity.

Sweden’s Public Prosecutor’s Office was embarrassed in August this year when it leaked to the media that it was seeking to arrest Assange for rape, then on the same day withdrew the arrest warrant because in its own words there was “no evidence”. The damage to Assange’s reputation is incalculable. More than three quarters of internet references to his name refer to rape. Now, three months on and three prosecutors later, the Swedes seem to be clear on their basis to proceed. Consensual sex that started out with a condom ended up without one, ergo, the sex was not consensual.

I’ve spent much of my professional life as a psychiatrist helping women (and men) who are survivors of sexual violence. Rape is a hideous crime. Yet in Assange’s case his alleged victim – the gender equity officer at Uppsala University – chose to throw a party for her alleged assailant – after they’d had the sex that even Swedish prosecutors concede was consensual. Barrister Caitlin again: ‘[The] phenomena of social networking through the internet and mobile phones constrains Swedish authorities from augmenting the evidence against Assange because it would look even less credible in the face of tweets by Anna Ardin and SMS texts by Sofia Wilén boasting of their respective conquests after the “crimes”.’

In the case of Ardin it is clear that she has thrown a party in Assange’s honour at her flat after the “crime” and tweeted to her followers that she is with the “the world’s coolest smartest people, it’s amazing!”. Go on the internet and see for yourself. That Ardin has sought unsuccessfully to delete these exculpatory tweets from the public record should be a matter of grave concern. That she has published on the internet a guide on how to get revenge on cheating boyfriends ever graver. The exact content of Wilén’s mobile phone texts is not yet known but their bragging and exculpatory character has been confirmed by Swedish prosecutors. Neither Wilén’s nor Ardin’s texts complain of rape.

Small world, isn’t it? Julian Assange is the human face of Wikileaks – the organization that’s enabled whistle-blowers to reveal hideous war crimes and expose much of America’s foreign policy to the world.

He just happens to meet a Swedish woman who just happens to have been publishing her work in a well-funded anti-Castro group that just happens to have links with a group led by a man at least one journalist describes as an agent of the CIA: the violent secret arm of America’s foreign policy. And she just happens to have been expelled from Cuba, which just happens to be the global symbol of successful defiance of American foreign policy.

And – despite her work in Sweden upholding the human right of gender equity – in Cuba she just happens to end up associating with a group openly supported by an admitted CIA agent who himself committed mass murder when he actively participated in the terrorist bombing of a jetliner carrying a Cuban sports team…an act that was of a piece with America’s secret foreign policy of violent attacks against Cuban state interests.

And now she just happens – after admittedly consensual sex – to have gone to Swedish authorities to report the sex ended without a condom…which just happens to be the pretext for Interpol to issue a “Red Notice” informing the world’s police forces of charges against Julian Assange.

Who just happens to be the man America’s political class – the people who run America’s foreign policy – have been trying to silence. And who happens to be the man some of them have been calling to have murdered. With a lust for vengeance like that, one could be forgiven for concluding they’ve just happened to have taken a page from Anna’s revenge manual.

US interference in Venezuela

Wikileaks in Venezuela: Espionage, Propaganda and Disinformation.
By Eva Golinger, 5 December 2010.
Source: Postcards from the Revolution.

The first batch of recently released secret and confidential US State Department documents obtained by Wikileaks include over a dozen dispatches from the US Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, evidencing espionage against the Chavez administration, use of opposition media and politicians as informants and insulting remarks about the country.

The Wikileaks release last Sunday, November 28, of over a quarter million US State Department cables obtained illegally has caused scandals worldwide over the methods, perspectives and dirty maneuvering of US foreign policy.

Almost no country or government is exempt from mention in the thousands of secret and classified documents, which are being released over a period of months in order to appreciate the quality of the information, while also subjecting Washington to a type of prolonged torture.

The first several hundred documents made public primarily originate from US embassies in Europe and the Middle East, as well as direct from the State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself.

But Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, classified as a "terrorist" and "enemy combatant" by the United States, has also released a select group of cables from US embassies in Latin America.

Approximately 14 documents so far have been published that were dispatched by the US Embassy in Caracas, though several other cables from different US embassies worldwide reference Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez. Of the documents released, the majority refer to Washington's obsession with Venezuela's relations with two particular countries: Cuba and Iran.

One document, the first published on Venezuela by Wikileaks, criticizes Venezuela's successful healthcare program, Barrio Adentro, by claiming it is "usurping funds from the public hospital system".

The cable, which was authored by former US Ambassador Patrick Duddy in December 2009, quotes only anti-Chavez sources, including a journalist from the opposition newspaper, El Universal, and several doctors working in private clinics and public hospitals.

There is little serious mention of the billions of dollars the Venezuelan government has pumped into the public hospital and healthcare system in order to not only renovate older facilities left in disarray by former governments, but also to create a new healthcare system, which the Embassy cable cynically calls "parallel", to guarantee free, universal care to all Venezuelans.

At the end of the cable, Duddy's comments show either ignorance or an intentional distortion of fact, when he claims, "The quality of healthcare in Venezuela has declined as the GBRV (Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela) has shifted resources from the traditional medical system to "Barrio Adentro".

The hard evidence shows the contrary.

For the first time in the nation's history, all Venezuelans have access to quality, free healthcare, from the preventive care level, up to complex, high-tech treatments and interventions.


The Embassy cables on Venezuela don't just reveal a distortion of Venezuela's reality, which is an attempt to portray the Chavez administration in a negative light, they also provide insight into who the US government sources are and how US diplomats operate as spies in the country.

One document, a scathing analysis of the alleged Cuban presence in Venezuela's intelligence services and a host of other government institutions, would at first glance be alarming.

The cable, cynically titled "Cuba/Venezuela Axis of Mischief: The View from Caracas", was written by notorious former Ambassador William Brownfield in January 2006, and claims Cubans have penetrated almost every aspect of Venezuela's government, culture and economy.

It's reminiscent of Cold War era fear-mongering about the "communist expansion" and "red scare" in the hemisphere. This time, however, instead of the Russians, it's the "Cubans are coming...they are everywhere".

Be alarmed, be very alarmed.

Except that, when read in detail, it becomes clear that the sources behind this alleged "Cuban communist takeover" are actually high-profile opposition leaders, such as ex Governor and now fugitive from justice, Manuel Rosales, big business executives and journalists from anti-Chavez media.

Brownfield even writes in the cable statements such as "Anecdotal reporting suggests...", "Less reliable reports indicate..." and "Unconfirmed sensitive reporting suggests...", evidencing the weakness of the information provided, which was marked "Secret/No Foreign Distribution" and was sent to the Secretary of State, the National Security Council, the Pentagon's Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and a host of other US embassies and consulates ranging from Brasilia, La Paz, Lima, Managua, Quito, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Mexico, to Brussels, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, London, Rome and The Hague.

Information that is unconfirmed, comes from exclusively biased sources (all anti-Chavez) and overall has no foundation in reality, is then used to craft US policy towards Venezuela.

The documents published by Wikileaks evidence that this dangerous scenario is repeated in US diplomacy around the world. The Caracas documents also evidence how Embassy employees violate their status as diplomats to engage in espionage against the Venezuelan government.

In the "Cuban scare" cable, Brownfield reveals that the Department of Defense monitors flight activity from Cuba to Venezuela daily, and then Embassy personnel try to gauge the number of passengers coming of the planes: "Embassy officers have noted regular flights of Cubans - or Venezuelans returning from official visits to Cuba - at Caracas' Maiquetia airport...Post cannot determine how many Cubans are on the flights..."

What Brownfield is most concerned about, apart from standing vigilance at the airport watching the planes come and go, is how the US could be affected by the Cuba-Venezuela relationship.

"The impact of Cuban involvement in Venezuelan intelligence could impact US interests directly", he claims, concerned about "the expertise that Cuban services could provide...about the activities of the USG". More or less, Washington is worried their clandestine actions in Venezuela will be exposed as the Venezuelans improve their intelligence capacity.

In another document, titled "Explaining Venezuela's coziness with Iran" Ambassador Brownfield invokes the "Iran scare" and comments, "Venezuela's support for a country that has nuclear ambitions, supports terrorism and talks about wiping Israel off the map is of grave concern. It also alarms nations - such as France...We can exploit this alarm". How exactly would they do that, interfere in Venezuela's relationship with France?

Brownfield remarks that Washington should not "dismiss the uranium rumors", referring to allegations that Venezuela was providing uranium to Iran to make bombs. But a later cable, written by the more steady-headed Charge D'Affairs John Caulfield in June 2009, contradicted Brownfield's war-mongering attitude.

"Although rumors that Venezuela is providing Iran with Venezuelan produced uranium may help burnish the government's revolutionary credentials, there seems to be little basis in reality to the claims...it is highly unlikely that Venezuela is providing Venezuelan uranium to third countries".

In 2008, the US Embassy in Caracas decided it was time to employ the heavy services of the Pentagon's psychological operations team to bombard Venezuelans with pro-US propaganda, to counter, what an Embassy cable claimed in March 2008, "Chavez's anti-americanism".

"Embassy Caracas requests DOD (Department of Defense) support in the execution of its strategic communications plan. The goal for this program is to influence the information environment within Venezuela...DOD support would greatly enhance existing Embassy Public Diplomacy and pro-democracy activities".

Influencing the "information environment" in Venezuela with Pentagon support is clearly an outright violation of Venezuela's sovereignty, which appears to be a common denominator in most of the Embassy cables published so far on Venezuela.

The State Department's 2011 budget includes a special multimillion-dollar fund for a "30-minute, 5-day a week program in Spanish in Venezuela" and the Pentagon's includes a new program for "psychological operations" in the Southern Command (Latin America).

Some of the information in the cables can be verified by fact and corroborating evidence, while other data remains in the realm of rumors and bogus sources.

What is clear is the that the documents reaffirm the increasing US aggression against Venezuela and its hostile foreign policy against the Chavez administration, including a willingness to use unsubstantiated rumors to make dangerous accusations.

Wikileaks exposes US intervention in the Honduras coup

Leaks from Wikileaks expose U.S. intervention in the Honduras coup d’état
by Jean-Guy Allard, 1 December 2010.
Source: Granma

THE 2009 coup d’état in Honduras was "illegal and unconstitutional," as Cuban-American Hugo Llorens, U.S. ambassador to Tegucigalpa, was forced to admit. Llorens is also a former collaborator of Otto Reich, whose role in the events remains to be seen. A report from Llorens to the State Department is among the U.S. documents leaked on November 28 by Wikileaks, a website on the Internet dedicated to leaking secret information.

The document, signed by Llorens and sent to the State Department, also acknowledges that Zelaya’s letter of resignation letter was a "fabrication," without giving details of the evidence confirming that. The U.S. ambassador confirmed that "none of the arguments mentioned" by the coup leaders to justify the kidnapping and deportation of the constitutional president, Manuel Zelaya, have any validity under the Honduran Constitution, while some are clearly false and others are "mere suppositions."

It shows how the accounts of Zelaya’s arrest by the military demonstrate that he was never legally served with an arrest warrant, "that the soldiers gained entry by shooting the locks off, and essentially kidnapped the president."

Llorens makes no mention whatsoever of the complicity of the U.S. military forces present in Honduras in the operation carried out by elite troops from the Salvadorian army to fly the head of state out of the country. Eva Golinger, the Venezuelan-American lawyer and researcher, has demonstrated that, in the weeks following the coup, the Soto Cano Air Base which the United States maintains in Honduran territory played a fundamental role in overthrowing President Manuel Zelaya.

The document is one of hundreds of thousands of secret dispatches from the State Department leaked to the Spanish El País daily, The New York Times, The Guardian in the United Kingdom, the French Le Monde and the German Der Spiegel magazine, publications which are not known for criticizing the U.S. government.

In a tragicomic sounding paragraph, Llorens notes that "according to the logic of argument 239" invoked by the coup leaders, "Micheletti himself should be forced to step down because, as president of Congress he considered legislation to have a fourth ballot in the November 2009 elections for voter approval of a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution."
Any member of Congress who debated the proposal also should be removed from office, and the presidential candidate of the National Party, Pepe Lobo, who made the idea his, should be disqualified from taking public office for 10 years", he adds.


In his report, Llorens takes refuge behind Honduran legal experts whom the embassy consulted in order to understand the arguments wielded by the coup supporters and their opponents.

It is a fact that many other documents, which are not "confidential" like this one, but "Top Secret", were exchanged between Washington and its embassy in Honduras during the events of 2009. Hugo Llorens’ close relationship with U.S. foreign policy wolves no doubt explains far better than his confidential report the rapid turnabout in the diplomacy of Obama and Hillary Clinton.

In a statement on November 28, the ultra-right wing Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents the Republican Party on foreign policy issues, described the revelation of these sensitive State Department documents by the Wikileaks website as "irresponsible."

The Miami congresswoman has reason to be concerned: she flew to the support of the dictator Roberto Micheletti shortly after the coup d’état that led to the expulsion of the constitutional president, Manuel Zelaya.

"I am with the president of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, because he is the president of this country," the spokeswoman for the extreme right in the U.S. Congress affirmed during a press conference together with Micheletti in the government house in Honduras occupied by the dictatorship.

Llorens had advance notice of the coup. That was revealed a few days before his death by Roland Valenzuela, a former member of Zelaya’s administration, in an interview broadcast by a radio station in the city of San Pedro Sula.
Valenzuela recounted in detail how, on June 10, 2009, Roberto Micheletti, at that time president of the National Congress, before seizing power on the 28th of that same month, drafted the decree which would remove Zelaya from office.
He explained how a USAID contractor, Jacqueline Foglia Sandoval, was pointed to as "the person in charge of coordinating and executing the coup d’état."

A few days after his statements, Valenzuela was murdered in a public place by the businessman Carlos Yacamán, who was arrested on Wednesday, September 8 —not by the FBI, but by immigration authorities—in Miami, where he had taken refuge. Despite an official application for his extradition by the San Pedro Sula District Attorney’s Office, Yacamán remains under the protection of U.S. authorities.

Ambassador Hugo Llorens, who admitted after his report that he had participated in meetings in which coup plans were discussed before the kidnapping of President Zelaya, is a Cuban-American "terrorism" specialist. He was director of Andean Affairs at the National Security Council in Washington when the coup d’état against President Hugo Chávez took place.

Llorens directly reported to Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs and the highly controversial Elliot Abrams.
Otto Reich is one of the most influential characters within the Miami mafia and in June of 2009, he was personally put in charge of protecting the Micheletti gang, together with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Haiti's election farce

Haiti Elections: Yet More Kaka from MINUSTAH
By Dady Chery, 29 November 2010
Source: Axis of Logic.

To hear it all, one would think that the Haitian electoral fraud happened yesterday. In fact, the fraud went down many months ago, when a corrupt electoral comission (CEP) with U.S., Canadian and French financial backing, banned the most popular political party Lavalas from the elections.

Without exception, all 18 candidates who ran for the presidency were party to the fraud. Should we be sorry that 13 of this gang were double-crossed? Yes, the polling places opened late and closed early. Yes, the ballot boxes were stuffed. Yes, the voters who supported Celestin were not marked in ink to prevent multiple votes. Yes, hundreds of thousands of potential voters failed to receive their ID cards. Yes, many voters, and even one presidential candidate, were turned away from the polls because their names had been scrubbed from the rolls. Yes, MINUSTAH (the UN) displayed Jude Celestin’s banners even while supposedly monitoring the election. Then again, the UN is monitoring the cholera epidemic that it started. So why shouldn’t we expect more kaka?

For months, Haitians have protested against this farce and paid for it with their lives. Over 90% of the potential voters failed to show up at the polls, not for lack of transportation but rather due to their possession of the facts and their native intelligence. Summing it up, if Lavalas cannot participate in the election, then the election is a fraud.

Let us be clear, the people of Haiti are not responding to calls from the gang of crooked candidates. It is the crooked candidates who are attempting to hijack a popular movement. The anti-election protests we see on Haiti's streets are not "riots": a term favored by the corporate media. The Haitians who gather daily to make public their rejection of the fraudulent election are not "mobs". What we are seeing is an organized nationwide response in the form of a powerful and rapidly developing resistance against Washington's puppet government and the UN occupation. The people's mandate is revolution, and it is permanent.

Narco-trafficker Uribe appointed 'Distinguished Scholar' by Georgetown University

Rally Against Uribe’s Appointment at Georgetown
by Rachel Winch, 18 November 2010.
Source: NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America).

In 2004 Gerardo Cajamarca Alarcón, a union activist finally fled Colombia after paramilitary forces killed four of his friends and threatened to kill him. He believed his life was in imminent danger, and he had good reason. Colombia has been named “the murder capital of the world for trade unionists”; over the past few years, out of every ten trade unionists killed in the world, seven have been from Colombia.

Cajamarca fled a land ruled by Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, who has been accused of supporting the paramilitary forces responsible for a number of the union deaths. On November 3, Cajamarca stood in front of a rally of students, faculty, and human rights activists who were demonstrating against Uribe’s appointment as a “Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership” at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. to share his story and demand that Uribe be prosecuted for his crimes.

“We are here in the name of our dead,” Cajamarca told the crowd. “For truth, justice, and reparations.” Holding photos of union leaders who had been assassinated, he went on to describe the cooperative links between transnational corporations and the 2002-2010 Uribe administration, and the role this cooperation played in these killings. Uribe “represents this criminal system,” he concluded.

Uribe, who has been involved in the Colombian political system since he was elected mayor of Medellín in 1982, has also been connected with the illegal surveillance of Supreme Court judges, journalists, and human rights defenders. Hollman Morris, a Colombian journalist who is now a prestigious Nieman fellow at Harvard University (although his visa was initially denied by the U.S. State Department), described his experiences being targeted by Uribe at a talk following the rally: “I understood that any journalism I were to do just got a lot more dangerous. Any curve could have an ‘accident.’” Uribe targeted the internationally renowned journalist as a “publicist for terrorism,” a public smearing technique the Colombian president used to discredit a number of journalists and human rights defenders.

On August 11, just four days after Uribe finished his term in office, Georgetown University announced that he had been selected as a Distinguished Scholar and that beginning in September he would “conduct seminars and other programmatic activities for students in the School of Foreign Service and the broader university community . . . to help foster conversations on important issues facing the international community.”

“We are looking forward to having President Uribe join our university community,” said Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia. “Having such a distinguished world leader at Georgetown will further the important work of students and faculty engaging important global issues.”

However, on September 29, students delivered an open letter to DeGioia, signed by over 150 scholars, asking Georgetown to dismiss Uribe because of his involvement in human rights violations. The letter—which was written by Colombian Jesuit Father Javier Giraldo Moreno S.J.—explained some of Uribe’s controversial history in Colombia. It cited “Uribe’s ties to paramilitary groups,” among other serious human rights violations and scandals that defined his two terms as president. Not only did Uribe “continue to sponsor those paramilitary groups,” Giraldo wrote, “but he defended them and he perfected them into a new pattern of legalized paramilitarism . . . while at the same time lying to the international community with a phony demobilization of the paramilitaries.”

Georgetown Peace Studies professor Mark Lance explained at the rally that the decision to appoint Uribe as a Distinguished Scholar was not an isolated aberration to glorify human rights violations. Rather, it is a more deeply rooted practice of the university to invite people who are perceived as powerful to train students to be the next class of elite: “They brought him here for one very simple reason,” Lance avowed. “Because he was a president. That’s all that mattered in the making of this decision. Because if you’re powerful in this sense of power, if you run national organizations, you’re welcome here. Because that fits into a conceptualization of education that’s shared by many educators, many faculty, and, I’m afraid, many students at this university.”

Former Distinguished Scholars in the Practice of Global Leadership in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown have indeed been politically powerful, including Former President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar, and former Ambassador at Large Robert L. Gallucci. The most controversial was the appointment of a George W. Bush administration Iraq war architect Douglas Feith as a professor at the School of Foreign Service in 2006 (but not as a Distinguished Scholar), which caused similar faculty and student protests.

Following the rally, Georgetown University law students delivered Uribe a subpoena summoning him to testify in a case against Drummond Company, Inc., an Alabama-based coal company that is being tried in U.S. Federal Court on accusations of paying paramilitary forces to kill union organizers and other civilians in the regions of Colombia where they are mining. After a number of thwarted attempts, the students successfully served the subpoena as Uribe was leaving a class he was teaching.

The subpoena itself encapsulates the core reasons why so many at Georgetown are angered by Uribe’s appointment: In 2009 nearly 500 family members of Colombian civilians who the paramilitary assassinated filed the case after uncovering evidence that Drummond funded the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the paramilitary forces responsible for the assassinations. The Drummond plaintiffs summoned Uribe to testify in the case on the grounds that he has “direct knowledge of several key issues in the case,” which includes both governmental collusion with the AUC and governmental protection of the Drummond mining facility. Students hope that the subpoena will further the case of the Colombian families and also support their efforts to repeal Uribe’s appointment at Georgetown.

Uribe’s deposition in the Drummond case is scheduled for November 22 in Washington, DC. Students and faculty are continuing to organize against Uribe’s status as “Distinguished Scholar” and are committed to do so until he has been discharged. “When we win this campaign and Uribe is forced to leave Georgetown,” Charity Ryerson, a Georgetown Law student and leader of the movement against Uribe’s appointment told a Georgetown University reporter “a message will be sent that our community does not condone the model of politics Uribe represents.”

As Gerardo Cajamarca Alarcón said as he closed his address to the crowd gathered, “For our dead, not one minute of silence. An entire life of fighting.”

Rachel Winch is a NACLA Research Associate

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Fidel's Comments: Is the answer blowing in the wind?

by Dominic O'Hara,
written for Rock Around The Blockade (RATB), 01 December 2010.

In a recent interview with US journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, (national correspondent for Atlantic magazine), Fidel Castro responding to a question about whether Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting was quoted as saying that "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore". Goldberg and Julia Sweig, a 'Cuba expert' from the Council on Foreign Relations, who was also present, made statements to the press after the interview claiming that this 'nine-word confession' was a clear admission by the former president that the so-called 'model' for Cuban socialism didn't work.

This news came as an early Christmas present to the US and British corporate media, intent on distorting and demonising Cuban political and economic affairs, and they wasted no time in latching onto it. Headlines and statements such as 'Fidel Castro says economic system is failing' (Rory Carroll, Guardian, 9 September 2010), Fidel's 'Nine word confession undercuts half a century of thundering revolutionary certitude about Cuban socialism'(Carroll, Guardian, 9 September 2010) and 'Fidel Castro says communism doesn't work'(which Carroll, the Guardian's Latin American correspondent, was forced to retract from his article the next day due to the invalidity of the heading) were heard and spread across the radio, TV, tabloids and broadsheets.

When Fidel tried to explain the meaning of his comment, pointing out that it had been misinterpreted by Goldberg, Sweig and the bourgeois media (to make it look like he was renouncing socialism in Cuba), he was accused of trying to take attention away from his comments, i.e. to 'dampen the story'. Fidel commenting on the affair in a speech at the University of Havana on 10 September, said:

‘The truth is that the meaning of my response was exactly the opposite of the interpretation made by both American journalists of the Cuban model. My idea, as everybody knows, is that the capitalist system does not work anymore either for the United States or the world, which jumps from one crisis into the next, and these are ever more serious, global and frequent and there is no way the world could escape from them. How could such a system work for a socialist country like Cuba?’

This so-called controversy prepared the ground for a full ideological onslaught on the Revolution a few days later when the 5-year plan to reorganise the Cuban economy and workforce was attacked by the corporate press (Rory Carroll's article 'Capitalist storm clouds loom over Havana after state cuts 1m jobs' Guardian, 15 September 2010, is a prime example). It would have been more disconcerting if Fidel's response to Goldberg and Sweig had asserted the 'perfection' of Cuban socialism on the eve of such significant measures to improve the country's economic management. In fact, it was Fidel Castro himself he initiated the campaign to improve the efficiency of the Cuban system in the mid-2000s (See 'Cuba: stirring society at its roots' FRFI, February 2006). It is the healthy dose of self-reflection and criticism which has helped to constantly invigorate the Cuban Revolution. Novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez has said: ‘The explanation of Cuba is that Fidel is at the same time the head of government and the leader of the opposition.’

To overcome the easily confusing manner of this war-of-words, we must challenge the assumption within the original question 'whether the Cuban model is still worth exporting?', that there is such a thing as a 'Cuban model' for socialism.

In 1982 Fidel Castro stated:
‘In their ravings they pretend that Cuba is an exporter of revolutions. In their sleepless business and usurers minds they believe that revolutions can be sold and bought, rent and lent, export or import as one more merchandise’.
In 1989 he said:
‘we maintain that a revolution cannot be imported or exported. A socialist state cannot be established through artificial insemination or by the transplant of embryos. Revolution required the proper conditions developed within the very society and only the people of the country can be its own creator’.

Nelson P. Valdes in an article titled 'What is the Cuban model?' questions bourgeois commentators use of the term. While pointing out that Cuban socialism has a number of fairly consistent features and characteristics e.g. in it's approach to national, political, economic and social matters, he argues that these in no way equate to the rigid and dogmatic model that Cuba is portrayed as adopting by the capitalist press. Valdes comments that 'the Cuban revolution has followed a fairly practical, pragmatic and result-orientated approach in the economy' and that for this reason 'there is no such thing as the Cuban model. The Revolutionary regime has been pragmatic and changed over time, whenever circumstance required it, which is why it is possible to speak of different periods since 1959.’

In conclusion it is clear that our understanding of the term 'the Cuban model' shapes not only how we perceive Fidel's comments but also the corporate media's reaction to them. To those who believe that the Cuban Revolution is based on a rigid, inflexible and dogmatic programme, Fidel's comments would have come as proof of the ‘failure of socialism’ in Cuba, and the media's exaggerated reaction would have been viewed as perfectly legitimate.

To socialists however Fidel's comment was a reflection of the ‘practical, pragmatic and result-orientated approach’ to the economy which the Revolutionary government has always followed (the 5-year plan to reorganise the economy and workforce is a product of this approach) and the media’s overblown reaction was the product of the ongoing propaganda war against Socialist Cuba. Valdes draws his own conclusion by stating that ‘Only those who are ill acquainted with the Cuban reality could come up with the assertion that there is an all encompassing, never changing Cuban model'.

RATB asserts that the European, British and Yankee imperialists will do all in their power to maintain and deepen an ignorance of the Cuban reality. The huge resources spent everyday (radio, TV, newspapers, etc.) on distorting the image of life in Cuba is evidence of the scale of threat that the truth represents.

For those who claim to be socialists/communists, it is their task and duty to expose these corporate lies and to reveal the true reality of Cuban socialism. Challenge the common held perceptions and emphasize the Revolutions success in meeting the educational, medical and basic needs of its people, not to mention the fact that it has defied the might of the world's biggest imperialist power, the US, for over 50 years!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Response to The Economist's attack on Cuban socialism


Your front cover headline ‘Cuban communism: beginning of the end?’ and article, (‘Raul the pragmatist’- 13-19 November 2010), are further examples of how current media speculation seems to gleefully relish the idea that Cuban socialism is failing. Yet the same media seems to overlook, or rather ignore, certain facts.

Firstly any analysis of the Cuban economy cannot be undertaken without seriously taking into account the reality of half a century of a US blockade plus the sustained series of terrorist attacks which have severely impacted upon all sectors of the Cuban economy and society since the time of the Revolution. Despite this, various measures have been implemented by the Cuban government to improve efficiency within the socialist system since the mid-2000s. The intention to set Cuba on the path of what Fidel Castro referred to as, 'The dream of everyone being able to live on their salary or on their adequate pension', was a long-term plan. Any current changes to the Cuban employment structure have been instigated to provide an eventual infrastructure enabling all Cubans to contribute towards an evolving socialism and are not in any way an indication of Cuba compromising with capitalism nor a deviation from the Cuban revolutionary goals. As Raul Castro has stated himself: 'I was not elected President to restore capitalism in Cuba, nor to betray the Revolution. I was elected to defend and maintain the process of perfecting Socialism, not destroying it.'

Rather, instead of asking if Cuban communism is the beginning of the end, we should be asking ourselves if it is indeed global capitalism which is at the beginning of the end, as we witness the current student protests and the economic crisis in Britain alone, a country which has far more wealth and resources at its disposal than Cuba. Medical health care and educational services remain free in Cuba while in our own capitalist society we look toward massive cuts in health and education services which aim to marginalise the poorer sections of our society even further.

Manchester, UK.

This letter was not published by the Economist, a ruling class publication owned by the Pearson group (a leading British-owned industrial holding company with interests in publishing, financial services, fine china, and oil services
) who also own the Financial Times (FT), Penguin books and Edexcel. - RATB.

Seven days with no Cholera deaths

Seven days with no Cholera deaths
by Fidel Castro Ruz, November 27, 2010.
Source: Granma.cu

Yesterday I explained that in Haiti 1,523 people had died as a result of cholera and at the same time, the measures adopted by the Party and Government of Cuba. I didn’t think I would be writing anything today about the problem. However I give up that idea in order to write a short Reflection on the subject.

Dr. Lea Guido, PHO-WHO representative in Cuba ― at this moment is representing both organizations in two countries and is a person with a wealth of experience ―, stated this afternoon that under current conditions Haiti can expect that the epidemic will affect 400,000 persons.

On the other hand, the Deputy Minister of Health of Cuba and Chief of the Cuban Medical Mission, our country’s ambassador in Haiti and other comrades in the mission, have been meeting all day with President René Preval, Dr. Lea Guido, the Haitian Minister of Health and other officials from Cuba and Haiti, drawing up measures that will be urgently applied.

The Cuban Medical Mission is looking after 37 centres dealing with the epidemic where, until today, they have cared for 26,040 peoples affected with cholera; to these they will immediately add, along with the Henry Reeve Brigade, 12 more medical centres (for a total of 49) with 1,100 new beds, in tents that were designed and made for those purposes in Norway and other countries, already purchased with earthquake funds, delivered to Cuba by Venezuela for the reconstruction of the Haitian health system.

Late today encouraging news arrived from Dr. Somarriba: during the past seven days there has not been one single death from cholera in the centres looked after by the Cuban Medical Mission. That figure would be impossible to keep up since other factors can come into play in that result, but the acquired experience, suitable methods and the degree of dedication achieved provides us with a very cheering idea.

We are also pleased that President René Preval, whose term in office ends next January 16th, has made the decision to transform the struggle against the epidemic into the most important activity of his life, one he will leave as a legacy to the people of Haiti and to the government that follows him.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Ex-Colombian president Álvaro Uribe named as Narco-trafficker

In this declassified US government document from 1991, which lists key narco-traffickers in Colombia, former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) appears as number 82 (see page 10). President Uribe intensified the war against the FARC as he built a centralised military and police system – with US, Israeli and British support - a killing machine with 200,000 military, 30,000 police, several thousand death squad killers and over a million middle- and upper-class Colombians who support ‘wiping out the FARC’ – meaning eliminating independent popular organisations. Uribe is the closest that Colombia has seen to a fascist ruler.

Ex-Colombian president Uribe named as Narco-trafficker (p 10)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

US increases aggression against Venezuela and ALBA

US Congress to Increase Aggression Against Venezuela, ALBA Countries.
by Eva Golinger, Friday, November 19, 2010.
Source: Postcards from the Revolution.

Members of the extreme Latin American rightwing, many of who have participated in coups d’etat and acts of destabilization and terrorism, held a meeting last Wednesday [17 November] in Washington with high-level representatives of the US Congress. The event is evidence of an escalation in US aggression toward the region.


US Right-Wing Extremists Take Control

Certified Right-Wing Extremists Set to Take Control of House Foreign Affairs Panels
by Alexander Main, 9 November 2010.
Source: CommonDreams.org

In the early years of the past decade, two hard-line Cold Warriors, closely associated with radical Cuban exile groups in Florida, occupied strategic positions in the U.S. foreign policy machine. Otto Reich, former head of the Reagan administration’s covert propaganda operations in Central America, and Roger Noriega, co-author of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, took turns running the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and held other influential administration posts such as ambassador to the Organization of American States and White House Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere.

During their years of tenure in the George W. Bush Administration, they led a zealous crusade against left-leaning governments in the region and, among other things, actively supported a short-lived coup d’Etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002 and a successful coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti in 2004. Ultimately, their extreme views and outrageous antics on the international stage proved to be too much of an embarrassment even for the Bush Administration, and they both eventually were relieved of their government jobs well before the end of Bush’s term.

Extremists: Otto Reich (left) and
Zionist Ileana Ros-Letinen (right)

Now, as a result of the Nov. 2 elections, another duo of a similar ilk is poised to re-set the legislative agenda on Latin America in the House of Representatives. Cuban-American representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is expected to replace Howard Berman as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and eternally tanned Congressman Cornelius McGillicuddy IV -- otherwise known as Connie Mack -- is slated to take the reins of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Guardian hides Cuba's mission in Haiti

by Ann Eliot for RATB,

The Latin American correspondent of the Guardian newspaper, Rory Carroll, is infamous for his hostility to progressive movements in the region, particularly Cuba and Venezuela, and frequently writes articles that are not only factually incorrect but contemptuous and personally insulting about leaders such as Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro as well. On 16 November 2010, he reported in a full page article in G2 about a visit he had made to Haiti and expressed his disgust with the inefficiencies and waste of the over 4,000 NGOs and organisations on the island. A letter (not published [-was published in shortened form Friday 19 November 2010 - Ed]) was sent to the Guardian newspaper, complaining about the complete absence of any information or news about the presence of the Cuban Mission in Haiti. As far as Carroll's article was concerned it was as if the Cubans did not exist.

The letter is as follows:

What a shame that your Latin American correspondent Rory Carroll left readers with such a dismal impression of overseas aid to Haiti. While it is true that 'aid tourism' has turned Haiti into a 'republic of NGOs' it is not the whole story. There is also what has been called 'One of the World's Best kept Secrets' , Cuban Medical aid to Haiti. Two academics, Emily and John Kirk who have worked on a project to monitor Cuban medical internationalism sponsored by Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council have concluded that Cuba's significant contribution to this impoverished nation since Hurricane Georges in 1998 is the subject of media censorship.It was estimated that by 2007 Cuban medical personnel were estimated to be caring for 75% of the population. Moreover following the process of 'brain gain' rather than 'brain drain' Cuba seeks to train Haitian doctors both on the island and at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. This truly inspiring example of regional interchange and support alters the prospect for Haiti from the victim scenario to the possibilities of a dignified future. It is in all our interests to recognise that global survival will be dependant not just on on donor handouts from the industrialised nations, but on solidarity and sharing expertise and material aid.

The next day the Guardian newspaper carried a front page article from Carroll about unrest and protest in Haiti following more than 1,000 deaths from cholera and the infection of tens of thousands of others. The United Nations mission, known as Minustah, has been accused of bringing the disease into the country which, devastated as it is from the earthquake, suffers from a lack of clean water access and sanitation combined with overcrowding in shanty towns and refugee camps. Carroll, as always, frames his report in terms of gangs and a reckless population. His basic hostility to progressive movements continues to distort his understanding of the struggles in underdeveloped countries and his readers must continue to regard him as an untrustworthy commentator.

For those who would like to follow-up information about Cuban Medical Aid to Haiti, you can access the excellent and well-researched information from Emily and John Kirk also available on this RATB blog.

Lead role by Cuban doctors in containing Haiti Cholera

What's Happening in Haiti?
by Emiliano Mariscal, 4 November 2010
(Argentine doctor, Graduate of [ELAM] the Latin American School of Medicine (Cuba) and member of the Cuban medical brigade in Haiti.)

Sources: Ezili Danto Open.Salon.com, Spanish original on ALBA-TCP website.
Translation: by Norman Girvan.

To my friends and family,

These lines are meant to provide information on the health situation in Haiti, as a result of the concern of many friends who have written asking about conditions here.

The first thing I can say is that we have a disease--cholera-- which has not been reported in this country for over 100 years. Secondly, that it is one of the most dreaded diseases here, given the ideal conditions that exist for its persistence and spread.

Briefly, my first experience of the disease was this: two days before its presence in Haiti was confirmed; we accompanied an epidemiologist, a microbiologist and an entomologist to Mirebalais, a community in the Centre Department; where the Cuban medical brigade stationed at a hospital had reported an outbreak of diarrhea of such unusual severity that it had already killed three people.

During the tour of the community we frequently had occasion to recall the work of Dr. John Snow, the forerunner of modern epidemiology, because when we visited the locations from which the deceased originated they all had a common element: proximity to the River.

People have no piped water supply, so they obtain water from the river; whether for drinking, washing utensils, personal hygiene, etc. Another common element is the absence of latrines, so it is usual for them to relieve themselves outdoors.

We also observed overcrowding, extremely poor housing conditions, small garbage dumps scattered throughout, malnutrition, a low educational level, helplessness and resignation. Patients admitted to hospital had watery diarrhea, whitish, accompanied by profuse vomiting, the most severe cases arrived with dehydration with three deaths.

Water samples were taken, feces, and vomit by the authorities of the Ministry of Health of Haiti. Our conclusion: the source of infection is contaminated water; by reason of clinical characteristics indicating an extremely aggressive bacteria that is spread by water, the existence of environmental conditions for its persistence and spread, an incubation period of around 24 hours, and the fact that in the space of a few hours it can result in complications, which, if untreated, can cause premature death.

Cholera having been absent for one hundred years, we could not be sure that this was what we were dealing with until there was laboratory confirmation. The report was turned over to Haitian authorities and the next day, the outbreak occurred in Saint Marc. Soon after came the confirmation that this is indeed a Vibrio cholerae.

16 days have elapsed from the beginning of the epidemic to date Haitian authorities have reported 330 deaths and approximately 4,600 inpatients.

There are several international institutions such as PAHO and the CDC, who are advising the Haitian Ministry of Health, but the lead role, although you don’t hear about it in the mass media, is played by Cuba in close coordination with the health institution in Haiti [1]. The reality is that the action of the Cuban Medical Brigade has contained the epidemic and delayed its spread of the epidemic to Port au Prince (which is the most feared, as there are 1 500 000 people living in settlements there in extremely precarious conditions).

The town of Arcahaie (part of the Department West) leads directly to Artibonite (and especially to Saint Marc), where our brigade provides medical care in two institutions (as part of the strategy for reconstruction and strengthening of the health care system developed together with Ministry of Health of Haiti) which have been turned into Cholera Care Centers. Up to October 30 the two institutions had treated 1,182 patients, confirming at the same time, the presence of transmission in the sub-communities of Arcahaie, finding in them the conditions described in the first focus control area in Mirebalais.

You don’t need to be a health specialist to work out that if the 1,182 patients had not been referred to these centers, they would have sought assistance in Port au Prince; and that's exactly the way the epidemic spreads (described extensively in the literature), when sick people come in search of health institutions and others who are not yet sick, but are in the incubation period, move away from the place for fear of contracting the disease. As a result many people would have moved to Port au Prince where there are no conditions to contain the influx of sick people.

The fundamental tasks are to carry out health education and to provide safe sources of water supply for the population. Both elements are difficult to achieve, the first because it is difficult to change long ingrained habits in the population; the second, because although there are resources (grants), establishing the organizational capacities needed to bring it about is a complex matter.

The work is going forward. The Cuban Medical Brigade is ready to continue contributing to the fight against this terrible epidemic together with the Haitian authorities. Their presence in the community through health education activities linked with community leaders and Cholera care centres are high expressions of the principles of solidarity and internationalism.

Fifty-one young graduates of the Latin American School of Medicine are now in the forefront of this hard battle, working arm in arm as one with their Cuban brothers and teachers. The others continue working in positions throughout the country, many of them ready to go to the front line as necessary.

The prospect is that the disease will remain in the country for several years, with outbreaks happening as water sources are polluted.

A hurricane is now approaching, which is forecast to reach Haiti today. No doubt this will aggravate the situation, providing conditions for the further spread of the disease to places where it had not reached. There are also areas of high flood risk.

Cuba has been here for 12 years; since the earthquake the commitment is to rebuild and strengthen the health care system, Cuba will be here during the cholera epidemic and in the wake of the Hurricane. Just ask any citizen of this country about the Cuban doctors and you will see their faces blossom.

Proud to be part of another page of the many pages of Cuban internationalism; proud to be a member of the Cuban Medical Brigade; proud to be a child of the Americas, committed above all to my homeland that is Latin America and to my compatriots who are the children of this soil.

[1] Translator’s note: it is not clear if this refers to the Haitian Ministry of Health. The Spanish reads “la institución sanitaria de Haiti”

Background to land struggles in Honduras

Violence and Death in the Aguan Valley
by Gilberto Ríos, FIAN (Food First and Information and Action Network), 15 November 2010.
Source: HondurasResists

In response to the persistent violence in the Aguán Valley and the manipulative intent on the part of many communication media, we must remember important events that clarify the conflict over land tenure in what was known as the Regional Center for Military Training (CREM).

In 1977, Temístocles Ramírez, a United States citizen of Puerto Rican origin, purchased 5,700 hectares along the coast, paying 165 thousand Lempiras in a flagrant violation of the Constitution which prohibits foreigners from owning land on coastlines and borders.

Within the framework of the national security doctrine, in 1983, the United States required the government of Honduras to install the CREM and this required the expropriation of property from Temístocles Ramírez. In 1987, Temístocles appealed the government of the United States, demanding indemnification for “his” land. On June 29th of that year, the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to reduce a $51 million loan to Honduras by $17 million with which the government of Honduras paid Temístocles this multi million dollar sum. These lands were paid with external debt and titled to the State of Honduras.

In 1991, during the government of Callejas, a new Municipalities Law was passed, allowing municipalities to sell all untitled lands, national and collective. The municipality of Trujillo sold the CREM lands to local cattle ranchers for only 23-30 Lempiras per hectare. In other words, what the government had purchased for 17 million dollars, the municipality sold for less than 50 thousand. The sale was illegal because the CREM lands were not collective, nor national, but land titled to the State.

In 1993, the Attorney General formally transferred these lands to INA to be distributed to landless peasants. However, the violent conflict did not end there. Even though the land purchases were illegal, the landowners demanded the State of Honduras to pay improvements and the government ceded, paying 105 million Lempiras.

From August 2008 to September 2009, there have been between 17 and 19 deaths as a result of the conflict between the peasants of the Guadalupe Carney Community (GC) and the landowners. Unfortunately, the conflict does not end there. Several years ago, Miguel Facussé planted 700 acres of African Palm on lands belonging to this community. According to the peasants of Guadalupe Carney, Miguel Facussé took these lands illegally together with other large landholders in the area: Rene Morales and the national member of Congress, Oscar Nájera.

The peasants know that these lands belong to them, and so nine months ago they occupied them, but Miguel Facussé reacted by using approximately 300 private security guards to evict them. As a result, negotiations were initiated between the MCA peasants and Miguel Facussé, who approached the negotiations from the perspective that the land did not belong to the peasants. The discussion, therefore, focused on the payment of improvements, in an attempt by Facussé to take advantage of the resources of the Honduran State. The negotiations moved very slowly and the INA (National Agrarian Institute) did not participate to the extent that it is required to by law, allowing the violence to emerge.

Under these circumstances, at 04:00 today, peasants from Guadelupe Carney occupied the 700 manzanas of land that Miguel Facussé illegally occupies in the “El Tumbador” sector. Following the occupation, approximately 300 of Miguel Facussé's private guards attempted to evict them. According to the same source, an exchange of gunshots lasted four hours.

At the time of this statement (approximately 17:30 CST), the following deaths are confirmed: Teodoro Acosta, campesino from the “Nueva Vida” community; Ignacio Reyes from “Familia Unida Dos”; Raúl Castillo from “14 de mayo” and Ciriaco Muñoz from “Nueva Esperanza”. There are four wounded; Calidonio Ramírez, Pedro Eleazar Deras, Marvin Jerónimo Méndez Leiva and Abraham Martínez, and two disappeared; José Luis Sauceda and Noé Pérez. The homes and cooperative buildings in the communities of “10 de abril” and “14 de julio” were damaged by shots fired by Miguel Facussé's security guards.

Suspiciously, the police did not arrive at the scene until 12:30 and seemed to have been expecting more dramatic results. Their intention and the result of their actions was the eviction of the peasants and leaving the lands in question in the possession of Facussé's guards.

It has again been made clear that the state institutions are at the service of the large landholders of the region and private security guards are acting for the repressive state organs and proceeding to capture, torture, and assassinate those who oppose the powerful, with full authority and complicity of the police.

We urge human rights organizations, governments, and transnational organizations to pressure Porfirio Lobo's regime to halt the violence that has caused so much damage to the residents of the Aguán Valley.

Macuelizo, November 15th, 2010

Gilberto Ríos
Secretario Ejecutivo
FIAN Internacional
Sección Honduras