Monday, 29 November 2010

Response to The Economist's attack on Cuban socialism


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

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

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

Manchester, UK.

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

Seven days with no Cholera deaths

Seven days with no Cholera deaths
by Fidel Castro Ruz, November 27, 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Ex-Colombian president Álvaro Uribe named as Narco-trafficker

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

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

Saturday, 27 November 2010

US increases aggression against Venezuela and ALBA

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

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


US Right-Wing Extremists Take Control

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Guardian hides Cuba's mission in Haiti

by Ann Eliot for RATB,

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

The letter is as follows:

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

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

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

Lead role by Cuban doctors in containing Haiti Cholera

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

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

To my friends and family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background to land struggles in Honduras

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macuelizo, November 15th, 2010

Gilberto Ríos
Secretario Ejecutivo
FIAN Internacional
Sección Honduras

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Radio Rebelde: Winning hearts and minds

Winning hearts and minds: the importance of radio in the Cuban revolutionary war

by Cat Wiener

In this essay I will examine the role played by the clandestine guerrilla radio station Radio Rebelde in the success of Cuba’s 1959 revolution and argue that it was because it formed an authentic and organic part of a popular movement – and was recognised as doing so – that it was able to survive, grow and have an impact on historical events. By way of contrast, I shall briefly consider the very different ideology of some of the anti-Castro radio stations subsequently sponsored by the United States.

Radio Rebelde