Thursday, 30 September 2010

Coup attempt in Ecuador

Source: Postcards from the Revolution
by Eva Golinger.

A coup attempt is underway against the government of President Rafael Correa. On Thursday morning, groups of police forces rebelled and took over key strategic sites in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. more...

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

New 'Venezuela in English' website

Dear friends:

Elections are coming once again in Venezuela this Sunday [26 September 2010], and as usual, most international media (and English-language media) have nothing positive to say about all the many interesting and exciting things taking place here. The majority of information in English circulating in cyberspace about Venezuela is negative, distorted, often completely false and intentionally damaging. While we can't change what they say, we can provide true and accurate information, from the ground here in Venezuela, direct from Venezuelan sources and voices.

In January we launched our first (and only!) English-language newspaper from Venezuela, the Correo del Orinoco International, which circulates in print and digitally every Friday. We hope the newspaper is making a dent in the battle against disinformation about Venezuela. However, due to its limited formats in print, readable online and downloadable in PDF, many of you have asked for a way to get articles in web format so you can re-circulate them. So, instead of depending on bureaucracy to eventually finish the design of an English-language website, I've humbly put one up and plan to use it to publish all of the Correo del Orinoco International's articles as well as those from our sister agency, Venezuelan News Agency, which is also publishing a select amount of news in English.

So, I'm pleased to launch this new site: and an accompanying Twitter: @VenezuelaEng. The site will have updates on Sunday's elections throughout the day, so stay tuned! Through, you will be able to access all the news and articles we print in the Correo del Orinoco International, and other interesting news from Venezuela. I hope this will be a valuable source of information about Venezuela for all of you. Please excuse any errors or the simplicity of the site. I am no design expert nor have much spare time to invest in making the super website we'd all love to have! will be mainly news and information from and about Venezuela in English. For opinion and analysis, I will continue my blog, and my personal Twitter:

I welcome your suggestions and happy reading!

Eva Golinger, Editor-in-Chief
Correo del Orinoco International
Twitter: @evagolinger

Venezuela's Opposition and media lies exposed

Venezuela: Opposition and media lies about lack of democracy exposed
Source: Links/Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (UK)
by Francisco Dominguez, September 23, 2010

Venezuelans vote on Sunday, September 26, for the South American country's 165-seat National Assembly – its national parliament. This is the 16th national election or referenda since Hugo Chávez was first elected president in 1998. Venezuela’s last election, on February 15, 2009, was a referendum to remove presidential term limits. This was endorsed by 54% of the electorate. Sunday’s election is the first to take place against the backdrop of the world recession, which has been hit Venezuela hard, as it has in many other countries.
With this key election approaching, there has been a stepping up of international media distortions about Venezuela internationally. In the run-up to previous election campaigns, the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (VSC) has noted that the increase in false claims appear to be designed in order to delegitimise the results and fairness of the elections.

National Assembly elections take place every five years and the elected representatives have the power to pass legislation and also to block the president's legislative initiatives (with the support of over one-third of assembly members). The assembly also has other specific and important powers (outlined in Article 187 of the constitution) including approving the budget, initiating impeachment proceedings against most government officials (including ministers but not the president, who can only be removed by a majority of the population through a recall referendum) and appointing the members of the government's electoral, judicial and prosecutorial branches.

However the last time National Assembly elections were held in 2005, the opposition parties boycotted them in order to seek to delegitimise the result, which was to give a majority to supporters of President Chávez. Therefore this year, the anti-Chávez right-wing opposition will inevitably increase its number of seats in parliament as it will this time contest the seats.

Some media coverage has already sought to portray the elections as representing a huge gain for anti- Chávez forces if the opposition can stop the pro-Chávez parties gaining a two-thirds majority of assembly seats. However, this would be false. While we can’t predict exactly what the opposition parties would have got in 2005 had they taken part in the democratic process, they did receive more than a third of the vote in elections in the 2006 presidential elections, gaining 36.9% with 4.3 million votes (see Furthermore, in the 2004 presidential recall referendum, the opposition to Chávez got 40% (3,989,008 votes) – again this was more than one-third (see The results – and claims made in the international media by the Venezuelan opposition and others – on September 26 must be analysed against this background and context if they are to be fully understood. 

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Honduras: 1.3m sign petition for constituent assembly

With a Honduran population of 7.8 million (CIA Factbook), a petition of 1.3 million (17%) is a remarkable achievement, especially in an atmosphere of brutal repression - RATB.

Over 1.3 Million Petition to Refound Honduras
by Karen Spring, 19 September 2010.

Recognizing that Congress, the Supreme Court, the oligarchy, and the two dominant political parties would never permit or support a path that would give the majority of Hondurans a voice in the political, social and economic processes of the country, the FNRP announced their commitment to the campaign and began to gather signatures to demand the Constituyente. The pro-democracy resistance movement known as the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) has collected 1,346,876 signatures thus far demanding a National Constituent Assembly that would mark an important step in its struggle to rewrite Honduras' Constitution and refound the country. During the past five months, volunteers from the various groups and organizations that come together under the FNRP have gone out to parks, neighborhoods, villages, cities, and departments all over the country to educate the Honduran people about the proposed Constituyente and collect signatures.

Despite severe repression and the murders of resistance members, the collection of names continued daily. Given the repression, the FNRP reports that many people were reluctant to give their signature for fear that they would later be identified and threatened or killed for participating in the campaign. Along with many other organizations, the indigenous and campesino organization COPINH (Civic Counsel for Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) was part of this process, collecting thousands of signatures in the four western departments where they work, during community workshops, gatherings, assemblies and other "places of struggle. COPINH reports that their efforts in the collection are "a tribute to the martyrs of Honduran society in the struggle for the refoundation of Honduras." COPINH emphasized that it was not an easy mission, as many of their volunteer members were detained, threatened and jailed. Police also attempted to confiscate papers containing signatures that the organization had collected.

Taking Matters into Their Own Hands
On the day (June 28, 2009) that President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown, many Hondurans were going to participate in a non-binding, national opinion poll on whether to include a question on the ballot during the national elections scheduled for November 29, 2009 concerning the formal establishment of a Constituyente. Along with electing their president, congressman and mayor, people would have indicated through a fourth ballot box (cuarta urna) whether or not they were in favor of a Constituyente to review and rewrite the Constitution. The opinion poll and the hopes of those who favor a Constituyente were crushed that day by the coup d'état -- an attempt by the ruling class to stop a process that would challenge their power and position in Honduran society. Recognizing that Congress, the Supreme Court, the oligarchy, and the two dominant political parties would never support or permit a path that would give the majority of Hondurans a voice in the political, social and economic processes of the country, the FNRP announced their commitment to the campaign and began to gather signatures to demand the Constituyente in July 2010.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Effects of the US blockade on Cuba

by Murray Andrews, written for RATB
21 September 2010

On 2 September 2010, US President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum, announcing the continuation of the blockade of Cuba for yet another year. For the last 50 years, the US has sought, and failed, to regain influence over Cuba by unilaterally imposing their far-reaching blockade, hoping to squeeze Cuba hard enough to overthrow the revolutionary government. As Cuba prepares to deliver its 19th report to the UN, 'Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba', and as it undertakes a difficult process of economic restructuring, it is worthwhile considering the real impact of the decades-long blockade.

The blockade seeks to strangle Cuban economic activities so much that it simply cannot survive. Calculations suggest that, in today’s prices, direct economic repercussions against Cuba as a result of the blockade cost as much as $236,221 million. Obstacles are put up to Cuban exports, as well as access to foreign funding – due to Cuban operations being assessed as at higher risk, alongside prohibitions on the use of the US dollar in transactions. The blockade has, however, created a range of very specific attacks on the lives of Cubans, and stands as an ever present danger to the Revolution.

Cuba: The Drive for Efficiency within Socialism

Source: Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG)
by Helen Yaffe, 22 September 2010.

Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society – after deductions have been made – exactly what he gives to it’ (Marx, 1875)

‘wages today are clearly insufficient to satisfy all needs and have thus ceased to play a role in ensuring the socialist principle that each should contribute according to their capacity and receive according to their work…the Party and government have been studying these and other complex and difficult problems in depth, problems which must be addressed comprehensibly and through a differentiated approach in each concrete case.’ (Raul Castro, 2007)

‘[we have] the dream of everyone being able to live on their salary or on their adequate pension…’ (Fidel Castro, 2005)

The announcement by the Cuban Trade Union Confederation on 13 September 2010 about plans to reduce the state sector workforce by half a million was greeted by jeering headlines from journalists outside the island. Cuba is rarely of interest to the bourgeois press unless they believe there is some crisis to celebrate or that new measures can be interpreted as evidence of a shift from socialism to capitalism. Their reports have been based on a set of misleading assertions that:

1) This is an urgent measure to deal with a flailing economy;
2) Workers will be ‘laid off’, abandoned by the Cuban state as it moves from paternalism to market efficiency under Raul Castro;
3) The changes confirm the failure of the socialist ‘model’ under the idealist Fidel Castro.

In reality, workers are not being made unemployed they are being moved from unproductive surplus posts in the state sector to productive ones in the cooperative and self-employed sector as part of the drive for efficiency within the socialist system.

The current measure is part of a process underway since the mid-2000s to improve the efficiency of Cuban socialism, undermined by economic and political pressures generated during the Special Period of economic crisis in the 1990s. This resulted from the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cuba’s principal trading partner, and leading to the fall of Cuban GDP by one-third. Since material recovery from the early 2000s a number of significant measures have been introduced in this process: the recentralisation of finances, de-dollarisation, the raising of salaries and pensions, an energy efficiency campaign, the nationwide implementation of an enterprise management system to improve efficiency, the distribution of idle land in usufruct (rent-free loan) and the reduction in imports. The type of major adjustment currently proposed in the employment structure could not be risked in a period of vulnerability.

Since 2007, the Cuban government has promoted debate and discussion in the effort to achieve national consensus about the need for such changes. Cuba’s recovery has slowed since 2008, with growth below 2%, reflecting the global economic crisis and the cost of three devastating hurricanes which struck in late 2008. However, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to economic problems, it is likely that employment changes were in fact postponed until the present period in which prospects are improving and certain preconditions have been established.


Tuesday, 14 September 2010

What is the Cuban Model?

Exporting Revolution, Revolutionary Models and Historical Facts
Source: Cuba-L Analysis (Albuquerque)
by Nelson P Valdés, 13 September 2010.

"I asked him [Fidel Castro] if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting." Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic Blog, September 8, 2010

"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 or lent, export or import as one more merchandise." Fidel Castro, February 4, 1962

"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." Fidel Castro, December 7, 1989

Is there a "Cuban model" of socialism? Apparently the rightwing thinks so; the left disagrees. The phrase "Cuban model" is not a common occurrence in Cuban government servers.

What exactly is a "model"? The Collins Dictionary of Sociology defines "model" as a "simplification of complex reality" that avoids “complicating factors.” As a rule of thumb I would claim that those who know little history [or sociology] tend to grasp for the term model when they are merely generalizing because they do not have much more to go on.  This vague term leaves readers with no other choice but to reinforce their preconceptions about "the Cuban model". A model can also imply something that others ought to follow or copy.

Nevertheless, it is possible to discern a number of features that have been fairly consistent and characteristic of the Cuban revolutionary experience.

First, the Cuban revolution has stressed and continues to stress that national sovereignty is paramount and will be defended to the death and that no concessions will ever be made. That is certainly a central feature. Moreover, they have managed to survive US government dictates and pressures.

Second, the Cuban revolution has created a political and social system that depends on mass mobilization. The extent and degree that mass mobilization has been used has changed over time. All the mass organizations in the island have been structured on the basis that people are organized to implement policy. In certain periods mass mobilization have been more used than at other times - for example, in sugar harvest time, census taking, health campaigns, or nomination of candidates for political office. There are other examples that one could provide. But, should such features constitute a "model"?

Third, the Cuban revolution has followed a fairly practical, pragmatic and result-oriented approach in the organization of the economy. That has led a number of scholars to point out that Cuban revolutionary economic history could be organized in fairly distinct "periods." Usually the outsiders, particularly journalists and visitors who happen to have little knowledge of economics in general assume that in the island there has been just one economic arrangement in which everything flows from the top down and that output, prices, etc are simply part of a so-called command economy. Such characterization would be consistent with the movie Bananas, but it is hardly a description of the historical process.

Consequently, people are shocked when they are informed that in Cuba hotel chains compete with one another on the prices offered to tourists. Outsiders do not realize that there is a budgetary system of finance and another financial system called cálculo económico, or a sistema empresarial. In fact, it is assumed that "capitalist methods" are not used or that the opposite is true - when outsiders assume that any item that is sold for a profit is an example of capitalism!. Such economic ignorance is certainly quaint but leads to simplistic views and assumptions. The reality of the Cuban economic system is that there are over 100 flowers blooming at the same time - to use a Chinese metaphor. One example should suffice: there are three types of cooperatives in the country's agriculture; and there are also different types of state agricultural properties.

Fourth, the Cuban revolutionary regime has developed a "modelo medico;" that is, a medical approach that stresses the decentralization of medicinal services [the family doctor] as well as paying much more attention to prevention in order to avoid expensive medical treatment. THAT model, which also happens to be free of direct charge to the consumer, is indeed, a model that has been emulated and copied by countries throughout the world. But the model is not exported by the island; rather third countries import the personnel to have it in their own nation states.

Fifth, there is a Cuban model as well in the use of highly educated professionals who generate money for the country by providing services as educators, technical personnel and other skilled labor abroad. The Cuban educational methods of teaching the illiterate and achieving very high positive results in elementary and secondary education constitute models that UNICEF and UNESCO have considered worthy of emulation. 

'The Cuban revolutionary regime has developed a "modelo medico;" [that] not exported by the island; rather third countries import the personnel to have it in their own nation states.'

Sixth, the Cuban revolution certainly committed itself to as much social equality as possible - thus a free health care, free education and free [or fairly cheap] child care. Since 1964, Cuba also has had a subsidized food distribution system. But that has changed over time as well. These programs have changed over time. Note: a portion of the Cuban military budget is self financed; is that a model to be emulated?

There is no such a thing as a Cuban revolutionary 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. 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.

Last, but not least:  The Cuban process takes inspiration from over a century of self-definition and historical developments. The influence of José Martí in particular is essential for an understanding of contemporary Cuba. [This is a point provided to me by Professor John Kirk of Dalhousie University].

Needless to say, the United States government and its mass media and academic institutions do preach and compel the export of a neoliberal "model" to the rest of the world. That model, of course, has not taken into account the unique histories and cultures of other societies. In the neoliberal paradigm the model fits all nation states, all cultures and all needs. The neoliberal model in its claim to be global and universalistic dismisses the right of self determination and sovereignty. That is, in the final analysis, the core assumption of the questions made by Jeffrey Goldberg. Fidel Castro, on the other hand, has consistently supported the right of self determination - including the right of each country to find its own path and way.
The following colleagues provided useful comments and suggestions: Karen Wald, Machetera, Robert Sandels, John Kirk, Joseph Garcia, and Ned Sublette.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

RATB reports: 12th Anniversary - We demand Freedom for the Cuban 5!

by Sam McGill, written for RATB
11 September 2010.

On 11 September 2010, activists from Rock Around the Blockade (RATB) held lively protests in London, Manchester and Newcastle-upon-Tyne to demand freedom for the Cuban 5 as part of the international day of action planned by the National Committee To Free The Five to mark the 12th Anniversary of their imprisonment.

In Newcastle in the north of England, activists collected petitions against the illegal imprisonment of the 5 Cuban heroes and asked passers by to sign cards of solidarity which will be sent to Gerardo, Antonio, Fernando, Rene and Ramon individually

In Manchester, despite heavy rain, activists handed out hundreds of leaflets explaining the Five's case and struggle for freedom, during a colourful stall, with flags and revolutionary Cuban hip-hop blasting out onto the streets. 

In Trafalgar Square, central London, RATB members worked with representatives from Hands Off Venezuela, The Free Mumia Abu Jamal Campaign (Free Mumia), George Jackson Socialist League and the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG). They held a lively protest with constant speeches and statements, highlighting the hypocrisy of US double standards in its “War on Terrorism” and the countless victims and political prisoners of imperialism worldwide.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Venezuela attacks capitalist parasites

Reformed Venezuelan Bank Law Separates Banks and Media
: London Progressive Journal
21 August 2010
by Tamara Pearson

On Wednesday [18 August], in an extraordinary sitting, the National Assembly passed a reform to the Bank Law which affirms that media owners and stock holders cannot manage banks. The law also slightly changed what institutions the law applies to so that the Sovereign People’s Bank (BPS) can be more accessible to communities. In a related matter, the National Assembly approved the nationalisation of an insurance company. Previously, the BPS was regulated by its own internal rules; now it will come under Sudeban (the Superintendency of Banks and other Financial Institutions), will be incorporated into the National Financial System and will provide “socialised” banking where organised communities and individuals in communities can deposit, save, withdraw, and borrow from the bank, which will have “communal bank terminals” operated by locals. The Chavez government founded the BPS in October 1999 as a bank that provided non-financial services such as training and micro financing to communities, small family companies and cooperatives, as part of a strategy to fight poverty.

Legislator Ricardo Sanguino said now the BPS would be able to cater to people who were previously excluded from the private banking system in what he called the “bankerisation” of the population. The first “communal bank terminal,” in this case run by the National Bank of Venezuela, opened recently in the large barrio of La Vega in Caracas, and the government hopes to have them across the country by next year. Members from the community can deposit up to BsF 1000 (US$ 232) at a time, and only other community members or organisations can withdraw, meaning that if members do not deposit or try to save, there will be little to withdraw.

Sanguino said it was a way to develop the communal economy of the barrio. The bank will also provide very low interest loans (at below inflation rates) to communal councils, hopefully countering the bureaucracy that some communal councils have confronted when trying to get financial assistance from the government. Legislator Ricardo Capella, said the reformed law and new status of BPS means that Venezuelans will be able to more directly manage their loans, rather than having to resort to third person loans with high interest rates. Such loans could be used to help the individuals or organised communities solve economic problems or start up productive initiatives.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

East Timor's President Thanks Cuba

East Timor's President Thanks Cuba's Help in Education
Sources:  ACN,, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).

3 September 2010.

East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta thanked the Cuban contribution to education in his country as he declared the district of Oe-cusse free of illiteracy. The president declared the district of Oe-cusse free of illiteracy. Oe-cusse is the first region of the nation to have such achievement with the help in the use of the "Yes, I Can" literacy program of Cuban consultants, Prensa Latina reported.

Ramos Horta noted that Cuba has collaborated with many other Third World countries without asking anything in return, in spite of the economic aggression to which the island has been submitted by the United States for nearly half a century. The president said the new graduates will have the opportunity to further their education even up to the university level, and become doctors and even ministers. Cuban ambassador Ramon Hernandez said 67,703 people in Timor Leste have learned to read and write and he expects the country will be free of illiteracy by 2012.

RATB Reports: Happy 84th Birthday Fidel!

Source: Rock Around the Blockade (RATB)

On Saturday 14 August 2010, RATB (Manchester Branch), held a public information stall in Piccadilly Gardens, to celebrate Fidel's 84th birthday. With this in mind, we put a framed photo of Fidel in his prime on our stall along with a large poster-size birthday card on display, and invited members of the public to add their signatures to it.

It was amazing how many people came up to the stall wanting to sign his card and send greetings to this great warrior including many young people. Red, blue and white balloons in the colours of the Cuban flag along with special revolutionary music and recorded speeches by Fidel added to the occasion. Educational and enlightening speeches on a megaphone from another comrade were excellent and many people just sat in the sun nearby listening to what we had to say.

Viva Fidel!


Friday, 3 September 2010

RATB has not forgotten Haiti either

In July, Rock Around the Blockade (RATB) representatives handed over 1,000 Cuban convertible pesos (just over $1,000) raised during public meetings and other activities, to the Ministry of Public Health in Havana to support the work of Cuban medical teams in Haiti.

Thanks to all our supporters.

Viva Cuba!