Monday, 31 May 2010

Statement from CODEH on Extrajudicial killings in Honduras

Statement from the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH)
25 May 2010

The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH), to the international community and the people of Honduras, denounces the following:

1 .- MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED homicides occurred during the days of illegitimate and illegal curfew, which includes minors and women. During the time of these killings, the army and the police have had total and absolute control of the streets of this country. The homicides listed here were carried out with firearms with 5.56 mm caliber, a size that corresponds to those used by the Armed Forces of Honduras and the National Police.

2 .- That because of its characteristics and within the context of a state policy, imposed against the will of the people, we can affirm these were extrajudicial killings perpetrated by agents of the State, armed forces and police, led by the Micheletti Bain and military and police leaders.

3 .- CODEH makes the following people responsible for these extrajudicial killings and summary executions: Roberto Micheletti Bain, Romeo Vasquez Velasquez (Chief of Joint Staff of the Armed Forces), Salomon Escoto Salinas (National Police Chief), Mario Perdomo (Deputy Secretary of Security), Rodas Gamero (Secretary of Security), Luis Alberto Rubi, (Attorney General’s Office) Roy Urtecho (Prosecutor), Jorge Alberto Rivera Aviles (President of the Supreme Court of Justice) and congresspeople in National Congress who illegally approved a decree on emergency measures that diminished people’s fundamental rights, as well as justices of the Supreme Court who tolerated and allowed these practices by denying injunctions and delaying the results in other cases.

4 .- The following are the names of people who have died in connection with this illegal practice by agents of the State: Table of homicides during curfew.

5.- A team of lawyers from the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH) has prepared its investigation for the Public Ministry (the Attorney General of the Republic is linked to the coup), start the investigation, order the fiscal requirements. Knowing that the measures taken by the Public Ministry can’t be exhaustive, we have contacted international lawyers, so that these cases and others that characterize crimes against humanity, have a preliminary hearing before the International Criminal Court.

6 .- CODEH is documenting each of these cases, therefore we ask the relatives who have not yet made contact with CODEH to call the following number: (504) 237-9238 or contact us via email.

Executive Commission, CODEH

(RATB: See also Eight journalists murdered in Honduras, 27 May 2010)

U.S. Government Paid Miami Reporters to Be Biased against Cuba

Source: Prensa Latina (Habana)
29 May 2010

A civic group will shortly disclose evidence on how the U.S. Government covertly paid tens of thousands of dollars to Miami journalists working for major media outlets to incendiary stories against Cuba and five Cuban antiterrorists.

The evidence has been uncovered by the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, which next June 2 will make it public at a press conference. The stories were published during the federal government's politically-charged Miami prosecution, the organizations denounces in a press release.

Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero, internationally known as the Cuban Five, are serving sentences varying from 15 years to double life, after being convicted of charges including unproven espionage conspiracy.

The press conference will reveal names of journalists, payment amounts, and will have available notebooks highlighting articles and propaganda by supposedly-independent journalists who were covertly on the payroll of the U.S. Government.

Speaking at the press conference will be attorneys with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) that have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the National Committee.

The litigation filed by the PCJF asserts that the Broadcasting Board of Governors and its Office of Cuba Broadcasting are withholding information that will show that they have engaged in activities in violation of federal law, specifically the Smith-Mundt Act, which prohibits the BBG from seeking to propagandize the U.S. public, and may be continuing to do so.

The press conference will announce that a coalition of organizations is initiating a nationwide campaign that will call on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to take immediate action to provide remedy and relief to the Cuban Five based on the U.S. Government's misconduct and covert operations which deprived the Five of their fundamental right to a fair trial.

Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the Cuban Five committee who will speak at the press conference, said, "Many of the articles and commentaries by the government-paid journalists were highly prejudicial and biased, with the obvious aim of negatively influencing the Miami public and the jury pool, convicting the Cuban Five, and depriving them of the fundamental right to a fair trial."

Terrorist Network Operating Openly In The United States

Source: Jane Franklin.Info April 30, 2005
By Jane Franklin

Three years ago [2002], President Bush said that his War on Terror would pursue terrorists "in any dark corner of the world," but no light has been cast on Miami where terrorists for decades have waged a campaign against Cuba of hit-and run attacks, sabotage, infiltration of armed agents, assassination, etc. After the failure of the CIA's 1961 invasion, using Cuban émigrés at the Bay of Pigs, the CIA tried another plan, Operation Mongoose, which also failed after leading directly to the 1962 October Missile Crisis. Then, for years, about 300 agents operating out of a CIA station housed at the University of Miami, with the code name JM WAVE, employed a few thousand Cuban émigrés in efforts to overthrow the Cuban government. These covert activities and the overt trade embargo and travel ban constitute a continuing State of Siege against the island 90 miles from Florida.

To this day, groups with names like Alpha 66 and F4 operate with impunity. They even brag about their exploits on TV. After a raid on a Havana hotel in 1992, Tony Bryant, the head of Comandos L, announced at a televised news conference plans for more raids on Cuba's tourist industry, which was becoming the mainstay of the Cuban economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bryant warned tourists to stay off the island, declaring, "From this point on, we're at war," adding, "The Neutrality Act doesn't exist."

Last year on Channel 41, Oscar Asa, nephew of former Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista, hosted Comandos F4 leader Rodolfo Frómeta, who described continuing plans for armed attacks against Cuba. These days another nation has become a target of U.S.-based terrorists: along with F4 on Asa's program was former Venezuelan Army Captain Eduardo García, who was involved in the 2002 coup that briefly deposed Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. García praised Comandos F4 for their help in his continuing efforts to topple the Venezuelan government. They train together in the Florida Everglades.

Among the earliest Cuban émigrés to become CIA agents were Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, two of the most notorious terrorists in the Western Hemisphere. As Posada boasted in 1998 to New York Times reporters, "The CIA taught us everything--everything." "They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage."

When George Bush Sr. became CIA director in 1976, Bosch founded CORU (Commanders of United Revolutionary Organizations), an umbrella group for carrying out terrorist actions against Cuba as well as countries and individuals considered friendly to Cuba. Posada joined CORU in a rampage of bombs in various countries. Their most spectacular success came in October 1976 when two bombs blew up a Cuban passenger jet a few minutes after it took off from Barbados, killing all 73 people aboard. Bosch and Posada, who at one time had both worked with Venezuelan intelligence, were quickly arrested in Venezuela as masterminds of this massacre and tried by military, not civilian, courts.

In his autobiography, Los caminos del guerrero (The Paths of the Warrior), Posada named major financial supporters, extremely wealthy Cuban-Americans, pillars of terror: Jorge Mas Canosa, Pepe Hernández, and Feliciano Foyo. Mas Canosa became the chair of the Cuban American National Foundation founded in 1981 by the Reagan Administration. CANF, the wealthiest and most influential right-wing Cuban-American group, campaigned for Bosch's freedom. On March 25, 1983, with Mas Canosa leading a committee to intercede in his release, the Miami City Commission proclaimed "Orlando Bosch Day." In 1986, Otto Reich, a right-wing Cuban-American politician, was placed in Venezuela as the U.S. Ambassador. Bosch's release was thus assured.

When he was let out of prison the following year, Bosch returned to Miami, where he was detained because of a 1974 parole violation related to his conviction for firing a bazooka in 1968 at a Polish freighter docked in Miami. Greeted in Miami as a hero, Bosch's cause was championed in 1989 by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, on her way to becoming the first Cuban-American in Congress, and Jeb Bush, the president's son who was Ros-Lehtinen's campaign manager. In 1990, President Bush Sr. freed Bosch from detention despite the fact that the Justice Department had ordered that Bosch be “excluded and deported” from the United States.

In his deportation order, Associate Attorney General Joe D. Whitley wrote, “For 30 years Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence. He has threatened and undertaken violent terrorist acts against numerous targets, including nations friendly toward the United States and their highest officials. He has repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death. His actions have been those of a terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims.”

Living free in Miami, Bosch has continued his terrorist operations. In February 2004 during a long television interview on Channel 22, Bosch justified the bombing of the Cuban civilian airliner and boasted about his role in eleven attempts to carry out military attacks against Cuba in the previous ten years and his three attempts to assassinate President Castro, in Chile, Nicaragua and Spain. Bosch receives ovations in Miami whenever he appears on public stages with high-ranking politicians. He is a celebrity terrorist.

So now it is no wonder that Posada is asking for asylum, which he naturally would expect George Bush Jr. to grant him based on his devoted service, as his lawyer points out, to the CIA. After all, he is no less a terrorist than Bosch. In 1985, nine years after the bombing of the Cuban passenger jet, Posada escaped from Venezuelan prison thanks to a bribe paid by Mas Canosa. Posada went to El Salvador where he helped another Cuban-American CIA agent, Félix Rodríguez, direct aid to the contras in Nicaragua, an illegal operation directed from the White House by Colonel Oliver North.

Rodríguez, another Miami stalwart, was a CIA agent before the Bay of Pigs invasion. He boasts that he was present in Bolivia at the execution of Che Guevara and proudly wears Guevara's watch as a memento. In May 1987, Rodríguez testified to the congressional committees investigating the misnamed "Iran?Contra Affair" about his meetings with then Vice President Bush in 1985 and 1986. When he was asked about "Ramón Medina," Rodríguez boasted that "Medina" was Posada, a "good friend of mine." He testified that he brought Posada to El Salvador because this "honorable man" "deserved to be free." Not another question was asked.

During the period from October 1984 to October 1986 when U.S. aid to the contras was prohibited by the Boland Amendment, Phyllis Byrne, a secretary in Vice President Bush's office, prepared a routine request (April 16, 1986) for Bush to meet with Rodríguez so that Rodríguez could "brief the vice president on the status of the war in El Salvador and resupply of the contras." Soon after that, Byrne prepared a memo (April 30, 1986) to inform Bush about the meeting the vice president would be having on May 1: "Félix Rodríguez, a counterinsurgency expert who is visiting from El Salvador, will provide a briefing on the status of the war in El Salvador and resupply of the contras."

After the illegal "Iran-Contra Affair" was exposed, Posada worked for Guatemalan President Vinicio Cerezo, keeping an eye on Cerezo’s own military for signs of a possible coup or assassination. In 1997 the Miami Herald reported that Posada had been involved in a bombing campaign that targeted Honduran President Carlos Roberto Reina, who was disposed to improving relations with Cuba. Posada was forced out of Honduras in 1995 amid allegations that he set off 41 bombs there in one year--almost a bomb a week. In a long interview by New York Times reporters (published July 12-13, 1998), Posada boasted that he paid a mercenary from El Salvador to bomb Havana hotels in 1997, killing an Italian, Fabio di Celmo, and wounding several people before Cuban police captured the bomber. Of di Celmo, Posada shrugged, "That Italian was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Back in 1960, the CIA launched a massive campaign to assassinate Fidel Castro, and Posada, like Bosch, repeatedly tried to kill the Cuban leader. In the year 2000, President Castro attended the Ibero-American Summit meeting in Panama City. Shortly after arriving, he announced that Posada and three other Cuban-Americans were at that very moment preparing to set off a bomb that would kill not only the Cuban president but hundreds of Panamanian people, mostly students, to whom he would be speaking in a university auditorium. Thanks to Cuban intelligence agents, their exact location was given to Panama's police, who arrested them and seized their C-4 explosives, fake passports, etc.

Because Cuban intelligence officials had learned of the plot, more than 2000 people attended Fidel Castro's speech without being killed or wounded. How did Cuba know about the plot and save all those lives? Through Cuban agents who infiltrate terrorist groups. In 1998, a year after Posada's bombing campaign in Havana hotels, Cuban officials received information about terrorism they thought the FBI should know about. They gave that information to the FBI. Did the FBI arrest the terrorists? No, the FBI arrested the Cubans in Miami who had gathered the information and called THEM terrorists. A change of venue was refused.

A Miami jury convicted the Cuban Five, and a Miami judge gave them long sentences: Gerardo Hernández (two life sentences plus 15 years), Ramón Labañino (life plus 18 years), Antonio Guerrero (life plus 10 years), Fernando González (19 years), and René González (15 years). They remain in separate prisons scattered around the United States, awaiting the decision of an Appeals Court. This is their reward for trying to protect people from terrorists. Cuban intelligence agents, of course, continued by necessity to investigate terrorists and were able to stop the major Panama City plot even as the Cuban Five were imprisoned.

Panama did not charge Posada and his gang with attempted murder but only with possession of explosives, illegal association in order to commit a crime, falsification of documents, and danger to public safety. After they were convicted, Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, on her way out of office in August 2004, pardoned them. Posada's three co-conspirators were welcomed home to Miami as heroes. These three have hair-raising histories:

  • Pedro Remón, an Omega 7 member, was charged in 1985 with two assassinations: Cuban-American Eulalio José Negrín, who supported El diálogo (the dialogue) in 1979 with Cuba, was shot to death in front of his young son at his home in New Jersey; Cuban United Nations diplomat Félix García Rodríguez was shot to death as he stopped for a red light in Queens, New York City. It was the killing of the Cuban diplomat that forced the FBI to make some arrests because of international repercussions. Remón plea-bargained to setting off a bomb at Cuba's United Nations Mission and attempting to assassinate Cuban UN Ambassador Raúl Roa Kourí. He was sentenced to 10 years.
  • Guillermo Novo and his brother Ignacio Novo in 1964 fired a bazooka at the UN General Assembly building where Che Guevara was speaking. In 1979 Guillermo Novo was found guilty of the 1976 car-bomb killing in Washington, D.C. of Orlando Letelier, who had served in the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende, and his aide, Ronni Moffitt, but was acquitted in a 1981 retrial. The federal jury found him guilty of two counts of lying to a grand jury. Jorge Mas Canosa then hired him to work in CANF's "Information Commission."
  • Gaspar Jiménez murdered a Cuban diplomat in Mexico. He was indicted for the 1976 car-bombing of Emilio Milián in Miami but charges were dropped. Milián, a radio commentator who had criticized terrorism by right-wing Cuban émigrés, lost both legs. Jiménez then worked for Dr. Alberto Hernández, Mas Canosa's physician and a financial supporter of Posada. In his interview by New York Times reporters, Posada said that Jiménez was the courier who took money from Mas Canosa to Posada with the message, "This is for the church."

What about Posada? He is still a fugitive and both Cuba and Venezuela want him extradited. In Cuba and other countries (for example, Guyana and Italy), families of Posada's victims await justice, either extradition to Cuba or to Venezuela or a trial in an international tribunal.

According to President Bush, any nation that harbors terrorists is a terrorist state. The United States has obviously already met that criterion, but without much attention being paid. Now, if Posada, whose request for asylum has received worldwide attention, is harbored by the United States, Bush will be blatantly proclaiming that the United States meets his own definition of a terrorist nation.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Elected Delegate and the Dissident in Cuba’s Municipal Elections

by Arnold August, 21 May 2010.

Read the full article here about how BBC Mundo distorts 'to provide a false atmosphere of repression and fear exercised against those who do not agree with the revolution but who participate in elections in one way or another'.

USAID Against Cuba

New declassified documents reveal more than $2.3 million in propaganda against Cuba
By Eva Golinger, Caracas, May 14, 2010
Source: CubaDebate; Translation: StreetVisuals.

Records also recently declassified under the Law on Access to Information Act (FOIA, by its initials in English), show that USAID has invested more than $2.3 million to spread dirty propaganda against Cuba and finance journalists in the island since 1999.

The documents, including original contracts between USAID and the organization CubaNet, show a pattern of increased and intensified funding each year in its effort to promote distorted information about Cuba - all with the intention of provoking a "transition to democracy", or "regime change" in Cuba.

For fifty years, Washington has been running a dirty war against Cuba. A component of that aggression has been the use of media to manipulate and distort the reality of Cuba to the international public opinion, and at the same time, to infiltrate and disseminate false information in Cuba.

After the failures of Radio and TV Marti, which still exist and receive financial contributions from Washington, despite their futility, a new field of aggression against Cuba was established through the Internet. In 1994, CubaNet established itself as one of the first web pages made to disseminate propaganda against the Cuban Revolution on the Internet. Based in Miami, CubaNet uses money from USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) - which also receives multimillion-dollar contributions to finance "journalists" in Cuba, and promote international media campaign against the Cuban government.

Although it's no secret that CubaNet is funded and guided by Washington agencies, the documents declassified by USAID also recently demonstrated the close relationship of control that the U.S. agency maintained on the propaganda organization.

When it made the contract between USAID and CubaNet in 1999, the high initial money to bring Washington to the efforts of propaganda via the Internet was $98,000. The money was intended to "support a program for the expansion of a website for independent journalists in Cuba." The contract was for one year, with the possibility of extension to the time needed to run the program. The manager of the USAID program was David Mutchler, USAID Senior Advisor for Cuba.

The contract required a progress report on the implementation of the program every three months, submitted to USAID, and an annual report detailing all the work done during the previous period.

USAID is boss
In clause 1.6 of the contract between USAID and CubaNet, entitled "Substantial Involvement Understandings", control is evidenced by the U.S. maintained on the organization miamera.
"It is understood and agreed that USAID will be substantially involved during the performance of this Cooperative Agreement as follows: Key Personnel: The USAID Senior Advisor for Cuba shall approve in advance, the selection of any key personnel and any alternates. Monitoring and Evaluation Plans: The USAID Senior Advisor for Cuba shall approve evaluation plans, and monitoring progress toward the achievement of program objectives during the course of the Cooperative Agreement."

Basically, the USAID official decides who will work in the draft CubaNet, their plan of work, and how to evaluate their progress; in other words, is the head of CubaNet.

Violate the laws of the United States
The documents that modify the original contract, which are 11 documents of the years 2000-2007, shows an increase in the annual project funding of CubaNet and reveal other information about the nature of the program. In a document dated April 19, 2005, authorized the sending of "private funds" to Cuba that were not from the USAID or other U.S. agency, to "advance the objectives of the Agreement." Due to the restrictions maintained by the Treasury Department in Washington on sending U.S. dollars to Cuba, according to the document from USAID, the "private funds" would hide in the authorization and had the U.S. Agency for funding the program CubaNet .

The same document also reveals that CubaNet not only does its work in Cuba, but also "continues to publish reports ... and promoting their spread in the mass media in the United States and the international press." It is against U.S. law to disseminate propaganda funded by the U.S. government and used as "information" in the media. However, the declassified document shows that the USAID is in full violation of that law.

More and more dollars
The documents also show that annually, USAID CubaNet increased its funding to continue its efforts to spread propaganda against Cuba. Here are the figures:

Year 1999: $98,000

Year 2000: $245,000

Year 2001: $260,000

Year 2002: $230,000

Year 2003: $500,000

Year 2005: $330,000

Year 2006: $300,000

Year 2007: $360,000

Total = $2.323 million

The campaign of aggression against Cuba is more intense today than ever, and this year 2010, USAID manages a budget of over $20 million dollars to fund groups within and outside Cuba that promote the agenda of Washington. CubaNet remains one of the main actors in the dirty war against Cuba.

Some of the declassified documents are available here:
Original Contract between the USAID-CubaNet
USAID Contract Modification-CubaNet, 2005
USAID Contract Modification-CubaNet, 2007

Hillary Clinton implies Castros like embargo

Source: CubaHeadlines
By Albor Ruiz - Ny Local, 17 April 2010

Hillary Clinton has been called many things, but dimwitted has not been one of them.

That's why comments last week by the secretary of state about the Cuban embargo were so surprising.
"It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the U.S., because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn't happened in Cuba in the last 50 years," Clinton told a group of college students.

Wait, did I hear that right? Did Clinton actually imply that "the Castros" like the embargo although, they deny it? Think of it this way: The secretary of state has just declared that the central piece of our 50-year-old Cuba policy has done exactly the opposite of what it intended to accomplish. Washington, for all practical purposes, has been a loyal - if unwitting - ally of the Cuban regime.

This is big.

Someone needs to ask Clinton the question that is crying out for an answer: If the embargo is good for "the Castros" wouldn't it make sense to lift it ASAP?

Last night [16 April], pop singer Gloria Estefan, a powerful leader in the Cuban-American community, may have missed the chance to put the question to the President himself.

Obama was to visit the Miami Beach home of the Cuban-born Estefan and her husband, Emilio. The power couple, known supporters of all things Republican and staunch opponents of better relations with their homeland, seem to have undergone a political epiphany: hosting Obama at a $30,400-a-couple cocktail reception to raise funds for the Democratic National Committee. Call it the President's most successful bipartisan effort. At those prices what did the Estefans expect in return? According to Miami Herald columnist Myriam Marquez they expected "to get Obama's ear on Cuba."

"U.S. policy toward Cuba - flawed and failed as it is today - should reflect both the national interest of the country and the views of all Americans, not just the fortunate few," said Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas. Yes, it should, except that the DNC is getting a nice chunk of change - $1 million some say - thanks to the songstress and her friends. Political campaigns are expensive and the 2012 presidential race is getting closer. As they say, money talks "What Obama did was to thank Estefan and her group of wealthy expatriates for a cool million dollars," said Miami radio commentator Francisco Aruca. "Yet conversations with Havana are continuing and Obama doesn't want to antagonize conservatives at this time."

Recently Gloria Estefan organized a well-attended march in Miami to protest human rights conditions in Cuba, something Obama probably likes. What he may not like - and may not know about - is that one of the marchers was Luis Posada Carriles, the man behind the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455, that killed the 73 people onboard, including the whole Cuban national fencing team.

"Posada Carriles continues to walk free, and the U.S. continues to list Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism," Stephens said. "And now that Luis Posada Carriles has marched with Ms. Estefan, Ms. Estefan is holding a fund-raiser for the President." Not good. What would have been good is for the Estefans to have used their 15 minutes with the President to ask him to end the cruel and hypocritical embargo. They missed the opportunity, though, and that is a shame.

After all, the secretary of state herself believes the blockade (as Cubans call it) is helping the communists next door.

Human Rights in Cuba and Honduras, 2010: The Spring of Discontent

Source: Cuba-L Analysis (Albuquerque)
by Emily J. Kirk, Cambridge University and John M. Kirk, Dalhousie University, 19 May 2010.

The spring of 2010 has witnessed a plethora of articles in mainstream US media on the human rights situation in Cuba, largely surrounding three issues - the hunger strike (and eventual death) of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, that of Guillermo Fariñas (still alive at the time of writing), and a series of demonstrations by opponents of the government (and family members of prisoners) known as the Ladies in White.

The facts are clear in all cases. Zapata died on February 23 after 85 days of a hunger strike-the first Cuban to perish in this manner in almost 40 years. The following day Fariñas started his own strike at his home, and has been hospitalized since March 11, demanding the release of 26 allegedly ill political prisoners. The Ladies in White are a group that was formed in 2003 to protest the imprisonment of 75 opposition figures and sentenced to lengthy terms. Some 53 of that number remain in prison. The women have been leading demonstrations for 7 years, marching on Sundays down Fifth Avenue in the Miramar district of Havana. In early April, however, they were confronted by large pro-government demonstrations, and security forces intervened to protect them.

For three Sundays in a row these confrontations continued until Cardinal Jaime Ortega negotiated with government officials, with the result that the Ladies were allowed to march wherever they wanted, and without official permission to stage a demonstration (normally required by Cuban law). What was negotiated was a return to the status quo ante that had existed prior to the first week of December 2009. On May 2 a dozen Women in White renewed their traditional march. [1]

The case of Zapata received a tremendous amount of media attention, in part because it was the first time in decades that an opponent of the Cuban government had died during a hunger strike. He was arrested in 2003, charged with contempt and public disorder and given a prison sentence of 3 years. Subsequent acts of defiance in prison led to further charges being laid. He started his hunger strike on December 8, 2009, and died on February 23, 2010. He was widely presented as a person imprisoned for his human rights beliefs, summed up in a release by the International Republican Institute entitled "Democracy's Heroes: Orlando Zapata Tamayo".[2]

Emotional descriptions were given of his prison conditions and the punishments he had received. His back was "tattooed with blows," and when he was transferred to hospital he was "skin and bones, his stomach is just a hole," his mother noted.[3] Emotionally disturbed by the deliberate suicide of her son, she lashed out at the treatment received, calling his death "a premeditated murder" by the Cuban government. Her criticism of the lack of medical care provided was highlighted in media reports, when it was clear that just the opposite was true. In fact a video shown on Cuban television shows her expressing gratitude to the medical staff attending him.[4]

Vocal denunciations of the abuse of human rights in Cuba were sprinkled among the many articles dealing with Zapata. The term "prisoner of conscience" was liberally used to describe his plight, and he was presented as a political activist who was protesting inhuman treatment in prison. In the media rush to show him as a person imprisoned for his political beliefs, little attention was paid to his long criminal record, involving domestic violence (1993), possession of a weapon and assault, including the use of a machete to fracture the cranium of Leonardo Simón (2000), fraud (2000), and public disorder (2002).[5] In sum, the issue of his imprisonment is somewhat murkier than might at first appear.

Mainstream US media covered the events in great detail - with over 80 articles published in a 3-month period. Interviews with leading dissidents in Cuba, exile politicians, Miami groups opposed to the Cuban government, U.S. politicians, resulted, all praising the courage and honesty of Zapata. The opinion was given that the Cuban government was fearful that the death would lead to massive protests, and so "an increased police presence was reported in the streets of several Cuban cities".[6] In various press reports mention was made of major demonstrations of grief, and concern by the government resulting in extreme security measures being adapted.

The Obama approach to Cuba was also linked with the Zapata case, and anger was directed to both Cuba and the president. A common impression given is that the Obama administration has tried to pursue a more flexible approach to Cuba, but has been met with Cuban intransigence and hostility. One editorialist of The Washington Post used the suicide to condemn Obama´s policy - which was seen as being too liberal: "Is the new, Castro-friendly approach working? A good answer to that question came Tuesday, when Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old Afro-Cuban political prisoner, died after an 83-day hunger strike".[7]

The U.S. government has recently issued outspoken condemnations of the Cuban government's approach to human rights, with statements by Philip J. Crowley (Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs) and even President Barack Obama. The president condemned the "repression visited upon Las Damas de Blanco, and the intensified harassment of those who dare to give voice to the desires of their fellow Cubans", while noting that "Cuban authorities continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist".[8] One searches in vain, however, for any references by the president to the clenched fist of the Honduran government and the appalling human rights record since the removal of President Zelaya in June of 2009.

In a related matter, it is clear that US media has provided an extremely sympathetic portrayal of the 'Ladies in White,' as can be seen from the titles of a recent article in the Miami Herald, "United by Pain, Cuba's Ladies in White Vow to Keep Marching," and an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, "Women Who Brave Mobs".[9] The terminology in the latter leaves little to the imagination, with references to the women "getting leaned on by Havana's toughs," "Castro's goons," "the regime's desperation in the face of popular discontent," and the Ladies in White "walking in the face of an increasingly dangerous mob".[10]

The attention given to the "Damas de Blanco"[11] has in many ways mirrored that given to the cases of Zapata and, to a lesser extent, Fariñas. The fact that they have been protesting for several years in Havana without any significant repression (or media coverage) would indicate that the recent extensive coverage is due to an unusual conjunctural set of circumstances.

In Miami a demonstration in favor of Cuban human rights activists was held on March 25 in which Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan and her husband music producer Emilio [participated], together with exile singers Willy Chirino and Olga Guillot, while a few days later Cuban exile, the actor Andy García, participated in a march in Los Angeles to show his support for the Damas de Blanco.

It would appear that, for a variety of reasons, opposition groups to the Cuban government decided in the spring of 2010 to ramp up their activities - and the media jumped on the bandwagon and followed suit. It is also clear that, as the Cuban government responded, US media became increasingly critical in their presentation of the human rights situation.

Typical of the reaction was a pointed editorial in The Miami Herald: "In a democracy, people can disagree. They can march to protest their government, they can chastise their elected officials in public forums, they can walk down the street carrying placards voicing their opinions [.] Not in Cuba. Never in Cuba".[12]
This massive media campaign against marches taking place by an opposition group-some of whose members have admitted to having been paid by U.S. government officials - during a few weeks had never been seen before. Again it must be emphasized that these weekly marches have been going on for seven years, and without any major harassment from government officials. That fact is ignored almost completely by the media.[13]

What is also ignored in U.S. media analysis is the recent approval by Washington of some $20 million to promote political destabilization in Cuba, with funds being earmarked "to provide humanitarian support to prisoners of conscience and their families. Funds may also be used to support democratic rule of law programs that promote, protest and defend human rights in Cuba ". Other funds are earmarked "to provide humanitarian support to families of Cuban political prisoners". In all $20 million is to be made available.[14] This of course follows on from five decades of U.S. government hostility after Washington broke off diplomatic relations on January 3, 1961, maintains the "Trading with the Enemy" act, and over the decades has supported a variety of hostile acts (including terrorism) against Cuba.

In synthesis, the issue of the hunger strike of Orlando Zapata (which resulted in his suicide), and the hostilities faced by the Damas de Blanco over a three-week period in the spring of 2010 resulted in an unprecedented barrage of media coverage in the spring of 2010. The media campaign was ferocious, and clearly focused. Perhaps the most thoughtful response to it came from an unexpected source - Cardenal Jaime Ortega of Havana, who criticized the "media violence" and the "verbal war by the media in the United States, Spain and other countries".[15]

If one contrasts those facts with events in Honduras during approximately the same time, and if one analyzes the nature of media coverage of events there, a very different picture emerges. Most of those developments follow on from the circumstances surrounding the coup d´état of June 28, 2009, when the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights confirmed that several hundred arbitrary arrests and beatings of supporters of the overthrown Zelaya government by the armed forces and police occurred.

The list of abuses was long and detailed: "killings, an arbitrary declaration of a state of emergency, disproportionate use of force against public demonstrations, criminalization of public protest, arbitrary detention of thousands persons, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments, poor detention conditions, militarization of Honduran territory, an increase in incidents of racial discrimination, violations of women's rights, severe and arbitrary restrictions on the right of freedom of expression, and serious violations of political rights".[16]

State repression on streets of Honduras.

In just the first hundred days after the coup, the Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) documented 4,234 violations by the de facto government, including 21 extrajudicial killings, 3,033 illegal detentions, and 818 cases of violence.[17] It is clear that the numbers of victims was in fact much higher, but that many have not made public their treatment at the hands of security forces out of fear of reprisal. From June 2009 to February 2010, COFADEH documented 43 politically motivated murders. Particularly chilling is the fact that in the spring of 2010 some 7 journalists were assassinated.[18] Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the widespread abuses, echoing the conclusions of the Organization of American States.

Walter Trochez, 25, well-known activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community murdered in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on 13 Dec 2009

Sadly, these extremely clear violations of human rights in Honduras have been commonplace, though the media in North America have largely ignored them. A quantitative analysis of the media attention paid to the three issues studied here - the hunger strike of Zapata, the treatment of the Ladies in White over a 3-week period, and the killings and beatings accruing in Honduras in recent months - is telling.

Table 1: Media Coverage of Three Human Rights-Related Topics
News AgencyNo. of Posts regarding 7 murdered journalists and human rights abuses in Honduras (29-June-2009-6-May-2010) [19] No. of Posts regarding Cuba hunger strike (10-Feb-2010-06-May-2010) [20]No. of Posts on Ladies in White (10-Feb-2010-06-May-2010) [21] 
New York Times181

Washington Post
Boston Globe142
Miami Herald15546

As the table above indicates, there have been a large number of articles on the hunger striker, and very little on the murdered journalists, and much less on the widespread human rights abuses in Honduras since the overthrow of President Zelaya. In fact, of the news agencies examined above, there are over 14 times more posts published on the hunger striker in Cuba, than that of the murders of journalists and human rights abuses in Honduras. As noted earlier, it is clear that there is an abundance of material to be studied for the latter - should the media be interested.

A qualitative analysis also indicates an unequal representation of both issues. While the articles describe the slow death of Zapata, a man who was charged with various federal crimes and chose to ignore medical assistance, there has been almost no explanation of the vast and overarching abuses suffered by the Honduran people - including dozens of murders and thousands of arbitrary arrests and beatings.

To be sure, the severity or extent of these issues has not been accurately portrayed in the media. Moreover, not only is information sadly lacking in the case of Honduras, but it is also often presented in a superficial way. Noticeably, for example three of the articles presented in these major media outlets were identical, and simply listed Honduras among several countries including Mexico, Colombia, Pakistan, and Nigeria as dangerous places for journalists to work.[22] The others briefly state that UNESCO, Amnesty International and some Honduran human rights groups are concerned about the level of violence and abuses of human rights throughout the country, particularly of those who oppose the government. Of all of these articles found, only one CNN report explained in any detail the prevalence and ferocity of violence that Hondurans have been facing since the coup of June 2009.

By contrast, the Cuban government was incessantly vilified for "letting" Zapata die and articles were particularly emphatic about the government's restrictions on the Damas de Blanco and the "repression" of its people. Political and celebrity figures including President Obama, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator John Kerry have also been widely cited in denouncing the Cuban government's treatment of its people. By contrast one sees no celebrities or politicians being cited to condemn the dozens of assassinations at the hands of the security forces in Honduras - sadly a case of selective indignation.

In a strongly worded statement condemning the treatment received by the Ladies in White, and reflecting on the suicide of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, President Obama called for "an end to the repression" in Cuba. He added "I remain committed to supporting the simple desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their future and to enjoy the rights and freedoms that define the Americas ".[23] Clearly he was not referring to the situation the rights and freedoms in Honduras.

Can we imagine what the U.S. government would say, or do, if within a few months 7 journalists had been assassinated in Cuba? Or if dozens of government opponents had been murdered by the Cuban military during the same time frame? A useful comparison of official United States position on the human rights abuses in both countries can derived from statements made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on these issues. She has repeatedly condemned the Cuban government for the treatment of Zapata and others, stating "They're letting these hunger strikers die. They've got 200 political prisoners who are there for trivial reasons. And so I think that many in the world are starting to see what we have seen a long time, which is a very intransigent, entrenched regime that has stifled opportunity for the Cuban people, and I hope will begin to change and we're open to changing with them, but I don't know that will happen before some more time goes by".[24]

By contrast, directly following the Honduran coup in 2009, she refused to refer to the political situation as such, nor condemn the violence and gross and repeated violation of human rights in that situation.[25] Rather, she later stated "we believe that President Lobo and his administration have taken the steps necessary to restore democracy".[26] It is lamentable that she has not been able to lay aside political preference in order to criticize manifest abuses in Honduras.

On May 3, 2010 ("World Press Freedom Day") Ms. Clinton issued a noteworthy statement noting that "Wherever independent media are under threat, accountable governance and human freedom are undermined". [27] She passionately defended journalists risking their lives to provide "independent information" on government abuses, and singled out the efforts of Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, an outspoken critic of the Cuban government, noting that President Obama had also praised her efforts. She concluded by noting that the United States was committed to "defend freedom of expression and the brave journalists who are persecuted for exercising it". One looks in vain, however, for any reference by leading U.S. government officials to the Honduran journalists who were assassinated for doing just that.

Apparently their contribution is less important. Clearly there is a double standard at play; sadly, mainstream US media reflect that same double standard.

On April 29, following the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the National Lawyers Guild of the United States issued a statement that was widely ignored by mainstream media. In fact there is apparently no analysis of its significance in any of the leading U.S. media. It is unfortunate because it puts in context the crux of this issue-media treatment of the suicide of one individual in Cuba after rejecting medical assistance for weeks, versus an ongoing process of assassination and brutality in Honduras, a traditional US ally. The NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian closes the release in the following way: "The National Lawyers Guild opposes infractions of human rights anywhere, but Cuban prison officials acted properly when Zapata decided to go on a hunger strike. We urge the media to turn its attention to real human rights violations and deadly foreign policies in this country and elsewhere".[28]

Well said.

[1] See Will Weissert's report for AP, "Cuba Frees Backer of Dissident Group Amid Appeal," May 11, 2010 and Mauricio Vicent, "El gobierno cubano se compromete con la Iglesia Católica a permitir las marchas de las Damas de Blanco," El País, May 2, 2010.
[2] The International Republican Institute, "Democracy's Heroes: Orlando Zapata Tamayo," April 28, 2010. Accessed May 13, 2010.
[3] Juan O. Tamayo, "Jailed Cuban Activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo Dies on Hunger Strike," The Miami Herald, February 23, 2010.
[4] In the March 1, 2010, national nightly news report on Cuban television she was shown addressing Cuban medical personnel: "Well, thank you very much. we have full confidence. we can see your concern and that everything that is being done to save him". See "Orlando Zapata Tamayo, A Case of Political Manipulation, " Granma Internacional Digital, March 4, 2010. Accessed May 13, 2010. Further evidence is provided in the article to show the extraordinary lengths to which Cuban officials went - even having a kidney ready in case his failed. His mother is seen also stating "I was able to see the doctors who were there before I went in, and there were doctors from CIMEQ (Center for Medical Surgical Research), the best doctors, trying to save his life."
[5] One Cuban academic has noted that he was in jail for "breaching the peace, 'public damage,' resistance to authority, two charges of fraud, 'public exhibitionism,' repeated charges of felonious assault, and being illegally armed". See Michael Parenti and Alicia Jrapko, "Cuban Prisoners, Here and There," Monthly Review, April 15. 2010. Found at See also "Campaña mediática contra Cuba. Cronología de los hechos," La Jiribilla, April 4, 1010. Found at Accessed April 4, 2010. A detailed analysis of the Zapata case can also be found in Salim Lamrani, "The Suicide of Orlando Zapata Tamayo," March 18, 2010. Accessed May 13, 2010. The French academic makes a telling point, noting that in France between January 1, 2010 and February 24 a total of 22 suicides in prison, with 122 in French prisons (2009) and 115 (2008) - without any apparent media interest.
[6] Juan O. Tamayo, "Jailed Cuban Activist."
[7] See the editorial, "Is the Castro-friendly Cuba Policy Working?," The Washington Post, February 26, 2010.
[8] See White House Statement on Orlando Zapata Tamayo, March 24, 2010. Accessed May 13, 2010. Also see Philip J. Crowley, "Death of Cuban Dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo," Accessed May 13, 2010.
[9] Juan O. Tamayo, "United by Pain, Cuba's Ladies in White Vow to Keep Marching," Miami Herald, April 24, 2010, and the editorial "Women Who Brave Mobs," Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2010.
[10] A very different interpretation is given by Cuban academic Enrique Ubieta: "The Ladies in White are a movie montage. The right wing had learned to take left-wing formulas of expression such as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, authentic women struggling in memory of their children and grandchildren, tortured and murdered. In Cuba there are no tortured or assassinated prisoners. The people in prison were judged by courts, following our laws. So, they take the wives and mothers of people who worked to subvert the constitutional order [.] they dress them in white - a color associated with peace and purity - they hand them some gladioli and take them to a Catholic church, a perfect scenario for them to be seen in Europe. And when they are ready they say "Cameras! Action!" And that's where we see CNN, Spanish TV cameras. What you are seeing is a film that is a fiction, while on the street away from the action are the European and US diplomats - the producers of the film, who are the ones paying for the show". See Fernando Arrizado, "Enrique Ubieta: 'Las Damas de Blanco son un montaje escenográfico, '" Cubadebate, April 27, 2010. Found at Accessed April 28, 2010. (Translation by authors).
[11] See "Cuba's 'Ladies in White' March Blocked Again," Washington Post, April 25, 2010 and Will Weissert´s report for Associated Press of the same day. Available at Accessed April 25, 2010.
[12] "Cuba's Brutality," The Miami Herald, March 19, 2010. The editorial concluded: "Only a concerted effort by democratic governments - from the left and the right - can show Raúl and Fidel Castro that their free ride of terror is coming to an end".
[13] In a recent interview leading Cuban academic Rafael Hernández quotes the Royal Academy of Spain dictionary to show that many of the opposition figures who receive financial support from U.S. government officials are in fact mercenaries. The context of U.S. enmity needs to be considered, since Washington broke relations with revolutionary Cuba in January 1961, and has supported a variety of policies designed to bring about "regime change" in Cuba. See Mauricio Vicent, "Mauricio Vicent entrevista a Rafael Hernández, director de la revista Temas," El País, April 9, 2010.
[14] See "United States Department of State. Congressional Notification Program: Western Hemisphere. Appropriation Category: Economic Support Funds. Project Title: Cuba. Intended 2010 Obligation: $20,000,000". Found at Accessed April 5, 2010.
[15] "The tragic event of the death of a prisoner as he was on a hunger strike has resulted in a verbal war by the media in the United States, Spain and other countries. This strong media campaign contributes to further exacerbating the crisis. It is a form of media violence to which the Cuban government responds in its own way". See "A Call for Dialogue: Interview with Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana". Originally published in Palabra Nueva, journal of the archdiocese of Havana on April 19, 2010, and subsequently translated and published in Progreso Weekly, May 4, 2010. Accessed May 16, 2010.
[16] "Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d'Etat". Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 2009. Retrieved 2 May, 2010.
[17] Canadian Council for International Co-operation, "Honduras: Democracy Denied. A Report from the CCIC's Americas Policy Group with recommendations to the Government of Canada," Ottawa, April 2010, p. 16.
[18] Council on Hemispheric Affairs, "Washington 's Invented Honduran Democracy," April 22, 2010. Accessed on May 12, 2010. On April 26, 2010 Amnesty International issued a statement: "Journalists in Honduras are at serious risk. Six journalists, all men, have been shot dead in the last eight weeks, and numerous others have received death threats. No one has been held to account and no action taken to support and protect journalists". See UA: 94/10, AI Index: AMR 37/006/2010, "Honduras: Journalists Killed".
[19] See search results for "murdered journalists, human rights abuses, Honduras". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "murdered journalists, human rights abuses, Honduras". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "murdered journalists, human rights abuses, Honduras". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "murdered journalists, human rights abuses, Honduras". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "murdered journalists, human rights abuses, Honduras". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from
[20] See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from
[21] See search results for "Ladies in White, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "Ladies in White, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "Ladies in White, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "Ladies in White, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "Ladies in White, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from
[22] "Media Group: 17 Journalists Killed in April". The Washington Post. 28 April, 2010. Retrieved 6 May, 2010.
[23] See White House Statement on Orlando Zapata Tamayo, March 24, 2010. Accessed May 13, 2010.
[24] Clinton, Hillary Rodham. "US State Department - Secy. Of State Clinton: On Nuclear Nonproliferation". Remarks on Nuclear Nonproliferation at the University of Louisville as Part of the McConnell Center's Spring Lecture Series. 9 April, 2010. Accessed 15 May, 2010; Weissert, Will. "Castro: Cuba Will Resist Hunger Strike 'Blackmail'". Associated Press. 4 April, 2010.
[25] Sheridan, Mary Beth. "U.S. Condemns Honduran Coup". The Washington Post. 30 June, 2009. Retrieved 6 May, 2010.
[26] Rothschild, Matthew. "Hillary Clinton's Honduran Disgrace." The Progressive. March 5, 2010. Retrieved 7 May, 2010.
[27] Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, "World Press Freedom Day," May 3, 1010. Document located at Accessed May 3, 2010.
[28] National Lawyers Guild, "NLG Urges U.S. Media to Cease Misrepresentation of Cuba 's Human Rights Record," April 29, 2010. Found at Accessed April 29, 2010.

Emily J. Kirk will be an M.A. student in Latin American Studies at Cambridge University in September. John Kirk is a professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University, Canada. Both are working on a project on Cuban medical internationalism sponsored by Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Professor Kirk co-wrote with Michael Erisman the 2009 book "Cuba's Medical Internationalism: Origins, Evolution and Goals" (Palgrave Macmillan). He spent most of February and March in El Salvador and Guatemala, accompanying the Henry Reeve Brigade in El Salvador, and working with the Brigada Medica Cubana in Guatemala.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

RATB Documentary Screening, London 8 June 2010

Cuban Medical Aid to Haiti

One of the World's Best Kept Secrets
Source: CounterPunch

Media coverage of Cuban medical cooperation following the disastrous recent earthquake in Haiti was sparse indeed. International news reports usually described the Dominican Republic as being the first to provide assistance, while Fox News sang the praises of U.S. relief efforts in a report entitled "U.S. Spearheads Global Response to Haiti Earthquake"-a common theme of its extensive coverage. CNN also broadcast hundreds of reports, and in fact one focused on a Cuban doctor wearing a T-shirt with a large image of Che Guevara--and yet described him as a "Spanish doctor".

In general, international news reports ignored Cuba's efforts. By March 24, CNN for example, had 601 reports on their news website regarding the earthquake in Haiti-of which only 18 (briefly) referenced Cuban assistance. Similarly, between them the New York Times and the Washington Post had 750 posts regarding the earthquake and relief efforts, though not a single one discusses in any detail any Cuban support. In reality, however, Cuba's medical role had been extremely important-and had been present since 1998.

Cuba and Haiti Pre-Earthquake
In 1998, Haiti was struck by Hurricane Georges. The hurricane caused 230 deaths, destroyed 80% of the crops, and left 167,000 people homeless.[1] Despite the fact that Cuba and Haiti had not had diplomatic relations in over 36 years, Cuba immediately offered a multifaceted agreement to assist them, of which the most important was medical cooperation.

Cuba adopted a two-pronged public health approach to help Haiti. First, it agreed to maintain hundreds of doctors in the country for as long as necessary, working wherever they were posted by the Haitian government. This was particularly significant as Haiti's health care system was easily the worst in the Americas, with life expectancy of only 54 years in 1990 and one out of every 5 adult deaths due to AIDS, while 12.1% of children died from preventable intestinal infectious diseases.[2]

In addition Cuba agreed to train Haitian doctors in Cuba, providing that they would later return and take the places of the Cuban doctors (a process of "brain gain" rather than "brain drain"). Significantly, the students were selected from non-traditional backgrounds, and were mainly poor. It was thought that, because of their socio-economic background, they fully understood their country's need for medical personnel, and would return to work where they were needed. The first cohort of students began studying in May, 1999 at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM).

By 2007, significant change had already been achieved throughout the country. It is worth noting that Cuban medical personnel were estimated to be caring for 75% of the population.[3] Studies by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) indicated clear improvements in the health profile since this extensive Cuban medical cooperation began.

Improvements in Public Health in Haiti, 1999-2007[4]

Health Indicator19992007
Infant Mortality, per 1,000 live births8033
Child Mortality Under 5 per 1,00013559.4
Maternal Mortality per 100,000 live births523285
Life Expectancy (years)5461

Cuban medical personnel had clearly made a major difference to the national health profile since 1998, largely because of their proactive role in preventive medicine-as can be seen below.

Selected Statistics on Cuban Medical Cooperation Dec. 1998-May 2007[5]
Visits to the doctor10,682,124
Doctor visits to patients4,150,631
Attended births86,633
Major and minor surgeries160,283
Lives saved (emergency)210,852

By 2010, at no cost to medical students, Cuba had trained some 550 Haitian doctors, and is at present training a further 567. Moreover, since 1998 some 6,094 Cuban medical personnel have worked in Haiti. They had given over 14.6 million consultations, carried out 207,000 surgical operations, including 45,000 vision restoration operations through their Operation Miracle programme, attended 103,000 births, and taught literacy to 165,000. In fact at the time of the earthquake there were 344 Cuban medical personnel there. All of this medical cooperation, it must be remembered, was provided over an 11-year period before the earthquake of January 12, 2010.[6]

Cuba and Haiti Post-Earthquake
The earthquake killed at least 220,000, injured 300,000 and left 1.5 million homeless.[7] Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive described it as "the worst catastrophe that has occurred in Haiti in two centuries".[8]
International aid began flooding in. It is important to note the type of medical aid provided by some major international players. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), for example, an organization known for its international medical assistance, flew in some 348 international staff, in addition to the 3,060 national staff it already employed. By March 12 they had treated some 54,000 patients, and completed 3,700 surgical operations.[9]

Canada's contribution included the deployment of 2,046 Canadian Forces personnel, including 200 DART personnel. The DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team) received the most media attention, as it conducted 21,000 consultations-though it should be noted they do not treat any serious trauma patients or provide surgical care. Indeed, among the DART personnel, only 45 are medical staff, with others being involved in water purification, security, and reconstruction. In total, the Canadians stayed for only 7 weeks.[10]

The United States government, which received extensive positive media attention, sent the USNS "Comfort", a 1,000-bed hospital ship with a 550-person medical staff and stayed for 7 weeks, in which time they treated 871 patients, performing 843 surgical operations.[11] Both the Canadian and US contributions were important-while they were there.
Lost in the media shuffle was the fact that, for the first 72 hours following the earthquake, Cuban doctors were in fact the main medical support for the country. Within the first 24 hours, they had completed 1,000 emergency surgeries, turned their living quarters into clinics, and were running the only medical centers in the country, including 5 comprehensive diagnostic centers (small hospitals) which they had previously built. In addition another 5 in various stages of construction were also used, and they turned their ophthalmology center into a field hospital-which treated 605 patients within the first 12 hours following the earthquake.[12]

Cuba soon became responsible for some 1,500 medical personnel in Haiti. Of those, some 344 doctors were already working in Haiti, while over 350 members of the "Henry Reeve" Emergency Response Medical Brigade were sent by Cuba following the earthquake. In addition, 546 graduates of ELAM from a variety of countries, and 184 5th and 6th year Haitian ELAM students joined, as did a number of Venezuelan medical personnel. In the final analysis, they were working throughout Haiti in 20 rehabilitation centers and 20 hospitals, running 15 operating theatres, and had vaccinated 400,000. With reason Fidel Castro stated, "we send doctors, not soldiers".[13]
A glance at the medical role of the various key players is instructive.

Comparative Medical Contributions in Haiti by March 23[14]

MSFCanadaUnited StatesCuba
No. of Staff3,408455501,504
No. of Patients Treated54,00021,000871227,143
No. of Surgeries3,70008436,499

These comparative data, compiled from several sources, are particularly telling as they indicate the significant (and widely ignored) medical contribution of the Cubans. In fact, they have treated 4.2 times the number of patients compared with MSF (which has over twice as many workers, as well as significantly more financial resources), and 10.8 times more than the Canadian DART team. (As noted, Canadian and US medical personnel had left by March 9). Also notable is the fact that the Cuban medical contingent was roughly three times the size of the American staff, although they treated 260.7 times more patients than U.S. medical personnel. Clearly, there have been significant differences in the nature of medical assistance provided.

It is also important to note that approximately one-half of the Cuban medical staff was working outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, where there was significant damage as well. Many medical missions could not get there, however, due to transportation issues. Significantly, the Cuban medical brigade also worked to minimize epidemics by making up 30 teams to educate communities on how to properly dispose of waste, as well as how to minimize public health risks. Noted Cuban artist Kcho also headed a cultural brigade made up of clowns, magicians and dancers, supported by psychologists and psychiatrists, to deal with the trauma experienced by Haitian children.

Perhaps most impressively, following the growing concern for the health of the country, due to a poor and now largely destroyed health care system Cuba, working with ALBA (the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América) countries, presented to the WHO an integral program to reconstruct the health care system of Haiti. Essentially, they are offering to rebuild the entire health care system. It will be supported by ALBA and Brazil, and run by Cubans and Cuban-trained medical staff. This is to include hospitals, polyclinics, and medical schools. In addition, the Cuban government has offered to increase the number of Haitian students attending medical school in Cuba. This offer of medical cooperation represents an enormous degree of support for Haiti.[15] Sadly, this generous offer has not been reported by international media.

While North American media might have ignored Cuba's role, Haiti has not. A pointed remark was made by Haitian President Mr. René Préval, who noted, "you did not wait for an earthquake to help us".[16] Similarly, Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has also repeatedly noted that the first three countries to help were Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Sadly (but not surprisingly), while Cuba's efforts to assist Haiti have increased, international efforts have continued to dwindle. The head of the Cuban medical mission, Dr. Carlos Alberto García, summed up well the situation just two weeks after the tragedy: "many foreign delegations have already begun to leave, and the aid which is arriving now is not the same it used to be. Sadly, as always happens, soon another tragedy will appear in another country, and the people of Haiti will be forgotten, left to their own fate". Significantly, he added "However we will still be here long after they have all gone."[17] This in fact has been the case. Canadian forces, for example, returned home and the USNS Comfort sailed several weeks ago. By contrast, Cuban President Raúl Castro noted: "we have accompanied the Haitian people, and we will continue with them whatever time is needed, no matter how many years, with our very modest support".[18]

A representative of the World Council of Churches to the United Nations made the telling comment that "humanitarian aid could not be human if it was only publicized for 15 days".[19] Today Cuba, with the support of ALBA and Brazil, is working not to build a field hospital, but rather a health care system. And, while international efforts have been largely abandoned, the Cuban staff and Cuban-trained medical staff will remain, as they have done for the past 11 years, for as long as necessary. This is a story that international media have chosen not to tell-now that the television cameras have gone. Yet it is an extraordinary story of true humanitarianism, and of great success in saving lives since 1998. Moreover, in light of Cuba's success in providing public health care (at no cost to the patients) to millions of Haitians, this approach to preventive, culturally sensitive, low cost and effective medicine needs to be told. That significant contribution to this impoverished nation, and Cuba's ongoing commitment to its people, clearly deserve to be recognized. Until then it will sadly remain as one of the world's best-kept secrets.

Emily J. Kirk will be an M.A. student in Latin American Studies at Cambridge University in September. John Kirk is a professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University, Canada. Both are working on a project on Cuban medical internationalism sponsored by Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Professor Kirk co-wrote with Michael Erisman the 2009 book "Cuba's Medical Internationalism: Origins, Evolution and Goals" (Palgrave Macmillan). He spent most of February and March in El Salvador and Guatemala, accompanying the Henry Reeve Brigade in El Salvador, and working with the Brigada Medica Cubana in Guatemala.

[1] "Audit of USAID/HAITI Hurricane Georges Recovery Programme". USAID. 15 May, 2001. Retrieved 10 March, 2010.
[2] See entry for "Haiti" on the Pan American Health Organization website. Accessed February 2, 2010.
[3] William Steif, "Cuban Doctors Aid Strife-Torn Haiti." The State. April 26, 2004. Accessed June 21, 2007.
[4] See entry for "Haiti" on the Pan American Health Organization website. Accessed February 2 2010.
[5] Anna Kovac, "Cuba Trains Hundreds of Haitian Doctors to Make a Difference," August 6, 2007. Located on the MEDICC website. Accessed February 2, 2010.
[6] Ibid., "Haitian Medical Students in Cuba". Medical Education Cooperation With Cuba. 12 January, 2010. Retrieved 12 January, 2010; "La colabaración cubana permanecerá en Haití los años que sean necesarios", Cubadebate. 24 February, 2010. Retrieved 9 March, 2010; "Fact Sheet: Cuban Medical Cooperation With Haiti". Medicc Review. 15 January, 2009. Retrieved 2 February, 2010.
[7] "Haiti Earthquake: Special Coverage". CNN. 20 March, 2010. Retrieved 22 March, 2010.
[8] Tyler Maltbie, "Haiti Earthquake: The Nations That Are Stepping Up To Help", The Christian Science Monitor, Posted January 14, 2010. Accessed January 28, 2010.
[9] "Two Months After the Quake, New Services and New Concerns". MSF. 12 March, 2010. Retrieved 17 March, 2010.
[10] "Canada's Response to the Earthquake in Haiti: Progress to Date". Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. March 17, 2010. Retrieved 17 March, 2010.
[11] "USNS Comfort Completes Haiti Mission, March 9, 2010". American Forces Press Service. 9 March, 2010. Retrieved 11 March, 2010.
[12] John Burnett, "Cuban Doctors Unsung Heroes of Haitian Earthquake", National Public Radio report, January 24, 2010. Accessed 28 January, 2010.
[13] José Steinsleger. "Haiti, Cuba y la ley primera," La Jornada, February 3, 2010., Data in this section came from the address given by Ambassador Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez on January, 27, 2010 in Geneva at the 13th Special Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Haiti. It can be accessed at "Cuba en Ginebra: 'Ante tan difícil situación humanitaria en Haití no puede haber titubeos ni indiferencia," on the Cubadebate website.
[14] Connor Gorry. "Two of the 170,000 + Cases". Medicc Review. March 8, 2010. Retrieved 10 March, 2010; "Cooperación con Haití debe ser a largo plazo." Juventud Rebelde. 23 March, 2010. Retrieved March 23, 2010; "Haiti: Two Months After The Quake, New Services and New Concerns". MSF. 12 March, 2010. Retrieved 17 March, 2010; "Haiti-USNS Comfort Medical And Surgical Support". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 11 March, 2010. Retrieved 11 March, 2010; Brett Popplewell. "This Haitian Town Is Singing Canada's Praise". The Star. 26 January, 2010. Retrieved 17 March; "USNS Comfort Leaves Haiti". 13 News. 11 March, 2010. Retrieved 11 March, 2010 [RATB Ed: Link removed.]
[15] In a March 27, 2010 meeting in Port-au-Prince between President Préval and the Cuban and Brazilian ministers of health (José Ramón Balaguer and José Gomes), details were provided about what Balaguer termed "a plot of solidarity to assist the Haitian people". Gomes added "We have just signed an agreement-Cuba, Brazil and Haiti-according to which all three countries make a commitment to unite our forces in order to reconstruct the health system in Haiti. An extraordinary amount of work is currently being carried out in terms of meeting the most basic and most pressing needs, but now it is necessary to think about the future [.] Haiti needs a permanent, quality healthcare system, supported by well-trained professionals [.] We will provide this, together with Cuba-a country with an extremely long internationalist experience, a great degree of technical ability, great determination, and an enormous amount of heart. Brazil and Cuba, two nations that are so close, so similar, now face a new challenge: together we will unite our efforts to rebuild Haiti, and rebuild the public health system of this country". See "Cuba y Brasil suman esfuerzos con Haití," Juventud Rebelde, March 28, 2010 (Translation to English provided by authors).
[16] "Presidente Preval agradece a Fidel y Raúl Castro ayuda solidaria a Haití". 8 February, 2010. Retrieved 9 February, 2010 from Cubadebate.
[17] María Laura Carpineta, "Habla el jefe de los 344 médicos cubanos instalados en Haití desde hace doce años". Página 12 [Argentina]. February 4, 2010, found at CUBA-L@LISTA.UNM.EDU
[18] Ibid.
[19] "Press Conference on Haiti Humanitarian Aid," held at the United Nations on March 23, 2004. Accessed November 21, 2008.

This commentary was written for Cuba-L Analysis and CounterPunch.

Cuban counter-revolutionary exposed

Yoani Sanchez interviewed by Salim Lamrani

An interview by Salim Lamrani, originally published on Rebelion Website as republished in The South Journal, translated into English.

A Conversation with Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez

French journalist and expert in relations between Cuba and the United States recently interviewed Cuba blogger Yoani Sanchez in Havana. The interview was posted on Rebelion website and on Cubadebate website. Yoani Sanchez is the new figure of Cuban opposition. Since she created her blog “Generation Y” back in 2007, she has been granted several international prizes, including the Ortega y Gasset Journalism Prize in 2008, the Prize in 2008, the Bob’s Prize in 2008, the Maria Moors Cabot Prize in 2008, granted by the prestigious US University of Columbia. Similarly, the Cuban blogger was selected among the world’s 100 most influential personalities by Time Magazine in 2008, along with George W. Bush, Hu Jintao and Dalai Lama. Yoani´s blog was included on the list of the 25 best blogs of the world by CNN and Time Magazine in 2008.

In November 30, 2008, Spain’s El Pais newspaper included her on its list of the 100 most influential Hispanic-American personalities of the year (a list where you can’t find Fidel or Raul Castro).

Foreign Policy magazine, on its part, included her among the 10 most important intellectuals of the year, while Mexico’s Gato Pardo magazine did the same in 2008.

This impressing landslide of distinctions, as well as their simultaneous occurrence, has raised numerous questions, so much so that Yoani Sanchez, according to her own confession, is absolutely unknown in her own country. How can a person, who is unknown to her neighbors—according to the blogger—, be on the list of the 100 most influential personalities in the world?

A diplomat from a western country, who is close to this atypical opponent of the Cuban government, had read a series of articles I wrote about Yoani Sanchez and that were somewhat critical. He showed the blogger my articles and she wanted to meet me to clear out some points I had referred to.

The meeting with the young dissident, of controversial fame, did not take place in any dark apartment with closed windows or in a remote site that could avoid the indiscrete ears of “the political police.” On the contrary, the meeting took place in the lobby of the Hotel Plaza, in the heart of the Old Section of Havana, and in a sunny afternoon. The place was packed with people, many foreign tourists wandering around the huge hall of the majestic building that opened its doors in the early 20th century.

Yoani Sanchez has close ties with western embassies. In fact, a simple call by my contact at midday allowed us to set the date just three hours later. And at 3 pm, the blogger showed up smiling, dressed in a long skirt and a blue jersey. She also wore a sports jacket to keep herself warm in the relatively fresh temperature of the Havana winter.

Our conversation lasted nearly two hours as we sat at a table in the bar and in the presence of her husband Reinaldo Escobar, who accompanied her for some 20 minutes before they left the place as they headed for another meeting. Yoani Sanchez appeared very cordial and friendly; she proved her great peace. Her voice was firm and she never showed being uncomfortable. Already used to meeting with the western media, she really masters the arts of communication.

This blogger, a person who looks weak, intelligent and astute is aware that, although hard for her to admit her western media relation is not by mere chance, but because it advocates the setting up of “sui generis” capitalism in Cuba.

Click here to read the interview:

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

RATB reports: PSUV speaks in Liverpool and Manchester

On 24 April, Venezuelan comrade Rafael Ramos spoke in Liverpool to an audience of 40 people and the next day in Manchester to 50 people, about the revolutionary process in Venezuela. Rafael is an art student at UNEARTE (The Experimental University for the Arts) in Caracas, and a member of JPSUV (the youth wing of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela).

Comrade Rafael gave a historical background to President Chavez’ first electoral victory in 1998, covering the corrupt Punto Fijo electoral pact through which ruling class parties controlled the electoral process, and the embrace of neo-liberalism which led to the Caracazo uprising in 1989 when thousands died as they fought back against terrible impoverishment and hunger. He spoke of the achievements of the revolution: the impact of the new constitution which had started to empower the working class and poor, the astonishing fall in poverty as a result of the Revolution’s social programme, and the formation of the PSUV to act as a vehicle for further revolutionary advance. He also described in detail some of the social and health programmes that were in operation so that the audience could understand how the Revolution was actually working on the ground.

In response to questions, Rafael said the Revolution would survive whatever happened to Chavez, because the people were now awake and could not possibly go back to sleep. He identified US imperialism as the key force behind attempts to destabilise the country and destroy the Bolivarian revolution. He also condemned the surrender of sovereignty of Colombia to the US with its agreement to accept the establishment of seven new military bases, but made clear that they saw the Colombian people as 'our brothers'. There were lively discussions at both meetings; in response to one question he dismissed Venezuelan left-wing critics of Chavez, as 'opportunists'.

On behalf of Rock around the Blockade, Sam Rae explained the vital influence of Cuban socialism within the Bolivarian revolution and described the role that ALBA was playing. More specifically he spoke of Cuba’s current role in Haiti and its proposal to build a completely new health system there with the support of ALBA countries and Brazil. He then explained the importance of breaking media silence about Cuba’s achievements by contrasting the minimal coverage of Cuba’s proposal with the extensive publicity on the death of hunger-striker and common criminal Zapato Tamayo.

The meetings were supported by the Honduras Solidarity Campaign, Respect, Justice for Colombia and the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG); there were also members of the Socialist Labour Party present. Everyone accepted it had been a privilege to listen to a representative of the Venezuelan people speak about the Revolution and provide a meeting of real political substance during the farce of the British general election.