Monday, 31 January 2011

Julian Assange - the Cuba link

by Patrick Ulysses, written for RATB.
31 January 2011

The publication of thousands of classified documents by WikiLeaks has exposed the back-handed, unethical and downright illegal methods that typifies modern bourgeouis politics. Although the ruling class media in Britain focused on leaks that ‘embarrassed’ ‘western governments’, such as politicians ‘real’ opinions of each other, the leaks have shown the world significant truths that would have been buried behind bureaucracy and lies.

WikiLeaks has been involved in the publication of material documenting extrajudicial killings in Kenya, a report of toxic waste-dumping in Côte d'Ivoire, Church of Scientology manuals, Guantanamo Bay torture camps procedures, the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike video, and material involving large banks such as Kaupthing and Julius Baer, among others. The leaks represent an important step forward, in that the power of information is no longer the sole property of the ruling class and their governments.

The reaction by the big players in international politics was not to be unexpected. Slander, accusations of terrorism and even death threats from leading US politicians lead to the trumped-up charges facing WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange. These charges aim to corrupt the image of Assange and once, tried he will likely face extradition to the US. Assange is accused of engaging in sexual intercourse with two Swedish women, one of whom is Anna Ardin, without using a condom. He is currently under bail and the extradition order from Sweden is unusual precisely because it is not for his arrest but for his 'questioning'. Although the charges may appear as a weak attempt to incite Assange, the fact that Ardin is the political secretary of the Christian Socialists of Sweden, however, reveals a more sinister element.

Anna Ardin is a notorious counter-revolutionary who was deported from Cuba due to her subversive actions. She has ties to US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups. She published her anti-Castro diatribes in the Swedish-language publication Revista de Asignaturas Cubanas put out by Misceláneas de Cuba. In Cuba she interacted with the anti-Castro group Las damas de blanco (the Ladies in White). This group receives US government funds and the convicted anti-communist terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is a friend and supporter. Wikipedia quotes Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo as saying that 'the so-called Ladies in White defend the terrorism of the United States.'

Despite Julian Assange’s questionable intentions when setting up WikiLeaks (see video) it is clear that WikiLeaks role as a whistleblower is a vital tool in the fight against imperialism. Already WikiLeaks has released cables showing the US’s attempts to discredit Cuba; one example being the lie that Michael Moore’s film Sicko was ‘banned’ in Cuba.

These exposed lies are only the tip of the iceberg however in a country that has seen a 50-year war of terrorism, assassination attempts, insurgencies and media manipulation waged on it by the US. Julian Assange’s arrest by way of a US-funded anti-Cuban, is one of many attacks that those combating the juggernaut that is US and British imperialism will have to face. Yet the growing anti-capitalist movements, from the student/austerity protests in Europe to the recent forced exile of Tunisian ex-president Ben Ali, are portents of working-class struggle inspired by Cuba’s principled and socialist example.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Reflections of Fidel: Now is the time to do something

(Taken from
by Fidel Castro Ruz, 19 January 2011
Translated by Granma International

I shall recount a little bit of history.

When the Spaniards "discovered us" five centuries ago, the estimated figure for the population of the island did not exceed 200,000 inhabitants, who lived in harmony with nature. Their principal sources of food came from rivers, lakes and seas rich in proteins; they additionally practiced a rudimentary agriculture which provided them with calories, vitamins, mineral salts and fiber.

The habit of producing cassava, a kind of bread made from yucca, is still practiced in some regions of Cuba. Certain fruits and small wild animals complemented their diet. They brewed a drink with fermented products and contributed to world culture the in no way healthy custom of smoking.

The current population of Cuba is possibly 60 times greater than the one which existed then. Although the Spaniards intermixed with the indigenous population, they virtually exterminated it with semi-slave labor in the rural areas and gold prospecting in river sands.

The indigenous population was replaced by the import of Africans captured by force and enslaved, a cruel practice which was implemented over centuries.

The alimentary habits created were of great importance to our existence. We were converted into consumers of pork meat, beef, mutton, milk, cheese and other derivatives; wheat, oats, barley, rice, chickpeas, French beans, peas and other legumes originating from different climates.

Originally, we did have corn and sugar cane was introduced as one of the plants richest in calories.

Coffee was shipped from Africa by the conquistadores; they brought in cacao, possibly from Mexico. Both of these, together with sugar, tobacco and other tropical products, became enormous sources of revenue for the metropolis after the slave rebellion in Haiti, which took place at the beginning of the 19th century.

The system of slave production lasted, in fact, until the transfer of Cuban sovereignty to the United States by Spanish colonialism which had been defeated by the Cubans in a bloody and extraordinary war.

When the Revolution triumphed in 1959, our island was a veritable yankee colony. The United States had deceived and disarmed our Liberation Army. One could not talk of a developed agriculture, but of vast plantations exploited on the basis of manual and animal labor which, in general, did not use fertilizers or machinery. The large sugar mills were U.S. property. A number of them occupied more than 100,000 hectares of land; others reached tens of thousands. In total, there were more than 150 sugar mills, including those owned by Cubans, which operated less than four months of the year.

The United States received sugar supplies from Cuba during the two World Wars and had granted a sales quota to our country in its markets, which was associated with trade commitments and limitations on our agricultural production, despite the fact that sugar was in part produced by them. Other decisive sectors of the economy, like ports and oil refineries, were U.S. property. Their companies owned major banks, industrial facilities, mines, docks, shipping and railroad lines, in addition to public services as essential as electricity and telecommunications.

For those who wish to understand no more is necessary.

Despite the fact that the need for rice, corn, fats, grains and other foodstuffs was important, the United States imposed certain limits on everything that could compete with its own national production, including subsidized beet sugar.

Of course, in relation to food production it is a real fact that, within the geographical limits of a small country, tropical, rainy and cyclonic, stripped of machinery, reservoir and irrigation systems and adequate equipment, Cuba could not have resources at its disposal, nor was it in a position to compete with mechanized production of soy, sunflowers, corn, pulses and rice in the United States. Some of them, like wheat and barley, could not be produced in our country.

It is a fact that the Cuban Revolution did not enjoy a moment of peace. The Agrarian Reform Act was barely decreed – before the revolutionary triumph had completed five months of existence – when programs of sabotage, arson, obstructions and the use of harmful chemicals were initiated against the country. These even came to include biological agents to destroy essential production and even human health.

In underestimating our people and their decision to fight for their rights and independence, they committed an error.

Of course, none of us had then the experience we have gained over many years; we set out from just ideas and a revolutionary concept. Perhaps the principal error of idealism committed was to think that there was a certain amount of justice and respect for the rights of nations when, certainly, that absolutely did not exist. However, the decision to fight would not depend on that.

The first task that absorbed our efforts was the preparation for the fight that was approaching.

The experience acquired in the heroic battle against the Batista dictatorship is that the enemy, whatever its strength, was unable to defeat the Cuban people.

The preparation of the country for the struggle became the people’s principal effort, and took us to episodes as decisive as the battle against the mercenary invasion promoted by the United States in April, 1961, which landed at Girón [Bay of Pigs], escorted by Marine troops and yankee aviation.

Incapable of resigning itself to Cuba’s independence and the exercise of its sovereign rights, the government of that country made the decision to invade our territory. The USSR had absolutely nothing to do with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. The Revolution did not assume its socialist nature because of the support of the USSR, it was the other way around: the support of the USSR came about because of the socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution. In that way, when the USSR disappeared, in spite of that, Cuba continued being socialist.

Somehow, the USSR found out that Kennedy was going to try and use the same method with Cuba that it implemented in Hungary. That led to the errors which Khrushchev committed in relation to the October Crisis, which I found necessary to criticize. But not only was Khrushchev mistaken, Kennedy was also mistaken. Cuba had nothing to do with Hungary’s history, neither did the USSR have anything to do with the Revolution in Cuba. This was the sole and exclusive fruit of the struggle of our people. Khrushchev only made the solidarity gesture of sending weapons to Cuba when it was threatened by the mercenary invasion organized, trained, armed and transported by the United States. Without the weapons sent to Cuba, our people would have defeated the mercenary forces in the same way that they defeated Batista’s army and seized from it all the military equipment that it possessed: 100,000 weapons. If a direct invasion of the United States against Cuba had transpired, our people would have been fighting through today against its soldiers who, without any doubt, would also have had to fight against millions of Latin Americans. The United States would have committed the greatest error in all its history and the USSR would possibly still exist.

A few hours before the invasion, after the cunning attack on our airbases by U.S. aircraft bearing Cuban insignia, the socialist nature of the Revolution was declared. The Cuban people fought for socialism in that battle, which went down in history as the first victory against imperialism in America.

Ten United States presidents have come and gone, the eleventh is passing and the Socialist Revolution is still standing. Also gone are all the governments that were accomplices of U.S. crimes against Cuba, and our Revolution is still standing. The USSR disappeared, and the Revolution continued advancing.

It was not undertaken with the permission of the United States, but was subjected to a cruel and merciless blockade; with acts of terrorism which took the lives of or wounded thousands of people and whose authors are currently enjoying total impunity; Cuban anti-terrorist fighters are sentenced to life imprisonment; a so-called Cuban Adjustment Act grants entry, residence and employment in the United States. Cuba is the only country in the world to whose citizens that privilege is given, a privilege denied to the people of Haiti, in the wake of the earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people, and the rest of the citizens of the hemisphere, those ones which the empire pursues and expels. Nevertheless, the Cuban Revolution is still standing.

Cuba is the only country on the planet that cannot be visited by U.S. citizens; but Cuba exists and is still on its feet, just 90 miles from the United States, waging its heroic struggle.

We Cuban revolutionaries have committed errors, and we will continue committing them, but we will never commit the error of being traitors.

We have never chosen illegalities, lies, demagogy, deception of the people, simulation, hypocrisy, opportunism, bribery, a total absence of ethics, abuses of power, including crime and repugnant acts of torture which, albeit with meritorious exceptions, have evidently characterized the conduct of presidents of the United States.

At this moment, humanity is confronting serious and unprecedented problems. The worst is that, to a large degree, their solutions will depend on the richest and most developed countries, which will reach a situation that they really are not in a position to confront, unless the world which they have been trying to mold in the interest of their egoistic interests and which is inevitably leading to disaster collapses around them.

I am not talking at this point about wars, the risks and consequences of which wise and brilliant people, including many from the United States, have conveyed.

I am referring to the food crisis produced by economic acts and climate change which are apparently already irreversible as a consequence of the actions of human beings, but which in any case the human mind has the duty to address with haste. For years, in reality time lost, the issue was discussed. However, the major producer of polluting gases, the United States, systematically refused to consider world opinion. Leaving aside the protocol and the usual foolishness of government officials in consumer societies, who with their access to power stun the influence of the mass media, the truth is that did not pay any attention to the issue. An alcoholic man, whose problems were well known, and who I do not need to name, imposed his line on the international community.

The problems have suddenly increased as a result of phenomena which are being repeated on all continents: heat waves, forest fires, loss of harvests in Russia, with many victims; climate change in China, heavy rainfall or drought; progressive reduction of water reserves in the Himalayas which is threatening

India, China, Pakistan and other countries; torrential rain in Australia, which has flooded almost one million square kilometers; unseasonable and unprecedented cold in Europe with considerable agricultural impact; unusual cold in this country and the United States; unheard of rainfall in Colombia which has affected millions of hectares of arable land; precipitation never witnessed before in Venezuela; catastrophes in Brazil's large cities caused by heavy rain and drought in the South. There is virtually no region in the world where such events have not taken place.

The production of wheat, soy beans, corn, rice and many other grains and legumes, which constitute the nutritional base of the world – the population of which has today reached an estimated 6.9 billion, rapidly approaching the unprecedented figure of seven billion and where more than one billion are suffering hunger and malnutrition – is being seriously affected by climate change, creating a most serious problem worldwide. As reserves have not been totally replenished, or only partially so for some items, a serious threat is already causing problems and destabilization in many nations.

More than 80 countries, all of them in the Third World, already as such facing real difficulties, are threatened with true famines.

I will limit myself to citing these statements and reports, very briefly, which have been published over the last few days:

"The United Nations warns of danger of new food crisis," January 11, 2011, according to AFP.

"We are in very tense situation," agrees the FAO.

"Some 80 countries face a deficit of food."

"The global price index of basic agricultural products (grains, meat, sugar, oleaginous seeds, milk) is currently at its highest level since the FAO established the index 20 years ago."

"United Nations," January (IPS)

"The United Nations Agriculture and Food Organization (FAO), with its headquarters in Rome, warned last week that world prices of rice, wheat, sugar, barley and meat […] will be subject to significant increases in 2011…"

"PARIS, January 10 (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy takes his campaign for greater global food price and currency stability to Washington this week…"

"Basel (Switzerland), January 10 (EFE) - Jean Claude Trichet, president of the Central European Bank (BCE), speaking for the directors of G-10 central banks, warned today of a marked rise in the price of foods and the threat of inflation in the emergent economies."

"World Bank fears a crisis in food prices," January 15 (BBC).

President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, told BBC that "the crisis will be deeper than that of 2008."

"MEXICO DF, January 7 (Reuters) -The annual rate of inflation in food prices tripled in Mexico during November in comparison to previous months."

"Washington, January 18 (EFE) - Climate change will aggravate the short supply of food, according to a study."

"For more than 20 years, scientists have been warning about the impact of climate change but nothing has changed apart from an increase in the emissions which cause global warming," Liliana Hisas, executive director of the U.S. affiliate of this organization, told EFE.

Osvaldo Canziani, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and scientific advisor for the report, indicated that "all around the world, episodes of extreme meteorological events and climate conditions will be experienced and increases in average surface temperature will exacerbate the intensity of these episodes."

(Reuters) January 18, "Algeria buys wheat to avoid shortages and unrest.

"A source at Algeria's Agriculture Ministry said total purchases of around a million tonnes by the country's state grains agency so far this month were designed to avoid shortages in case of unrest."

(Reuters) January 18, "Wheat shows a strong gain in Chicago after Algerian purchases."

The Economist, January 18, 2011, "Worldwide alert over food prices."

"Among the main causes are floods and droughts produced by climate change, the use of foodstuffs to produce bio-fuels and speculation in the commodities market."

The problems are dramatically serious. However, not everything is lost.

The current estimate of wheat production has reached the figure of almost 650 million tons.

That of corn exceeds this quantity, at close to 770 million tons.

The production of soybeans could come close to 260 million, an estimated 92 million in the United States and 77 million in Brazil. They are the largest producers.

The general data about grains and legumes available in 2011 are known.

The first issue to be resolved by the world community would be to choose between food and bio-fuels. Brazil, a country in development, would then have to be compensated.

If the millions of tons of soy beans and corn invested in bio-fuels were to be directed to the production of food, the extraordinary price increases would be stopped and the scientists of the world could propose strategies to, in some way, halt or even reverse the situation.

Too much time has been lost. It is time to do something.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Posada Carriles in court

by Maria, written for RATB.

On 17 Jan 2011, the trial against Posada Carriles started in an El Paso, Texas Court, despite the attempts by Posada Carriles's solicitor to have it postponed.

Posada Carriles who is 82-years-old, faces eleven charges of fraud, processes obstruction, perjury, making untrue statements, lying to US civil servants during questioning about immigration and citizenship after entering the USA illegally in 2005. Analysts predict that during the trial it is going to be possible to see the link between the defendant and terrorist acts carried out against Cuba.

The judge in charge of the case Kathleen Cardone, agreed to allow the Federal prosecutor's office to present reports from the Cuban authorities regarding the investigations of terrorists attacks against tourist installations in Cuba between 1997 and 1998.

Among the 6000 documents from federal authorities are the documents from the Guatemalan government. These documents confirm the forged Guatemalan passport that Posada Carriles, a Cuban-born Venezuelan-citizen, was using under the name of Manuel Enrique Castillo Lopez. The Penal process began in January 2007 when Posada Carriles was accused of perjury after he claimed that he entered the US through the border between Matamoros in Mexico and Brownsville in Texas.

Prosecutors have strong evidence that Posada got into the US by sea, in the ship Santrina that picked him up in Quintana Roo (Mexico) and that he was then taken from there to Miami with other Cubans that were protecting him.

In 2009 Prosecutors added charges against Posada Carriles claiming that he worked for the CIA as an agent in the 1960s. These new charges were for perjury for his denial about participating in the terrorists acts that killed the Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo. Among the witnesses that the prosecuting attorneys have called are: journalist Ann Louise Bardach and FBI agent Kenneth Marr, an expert in audio taping. Prosecutors will present several witnesses who will testify about his participation in the terrorist acts against Cuba

In addition to the terrorist acts in Cuba, the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela accuses Posada Carriles of participating in the terrorist act against a Cuban airplane in 1976, in which everyone on board, 73 people all lost their lives.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Carriles affirmed that the US government will protect him and they will not send him to jail for a long time. He hopes that his knowledge of US interventions will protect him. Most of the trial evidences are confidential because of the general attorneys petition. He affirmed that the people that worked with him are not there anymore. Those were other times. He did whatever he had to do and he does not have any remorse. He also affirmed that if Castro came through the door he would kill him.

The solicitor that represents Venezuela, José Pertierra, called for the extradition of Posada Carriles to Venezuela and reported that he had received death threats from one of Posada's followers, in the Hotel in El Paso where he is staying. A man threatened him using the same word they used to referred to the people killed in the plane in 1976, dogs. The man said: 'do you want flowers? I will give you flowers, dog. I am in charge of you'

(The flowers are for his graveyard)

Cuba removed from Human Development Index

Cuba Bumped from Human Development Index over Missing Data
By Thalif Deen -UNITED NATIONS, 20 January 2011.
Source: IPS News.

When the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) formulates its annual Human Development Index (HDI), it uses several socioeconomic indicators - including life expectancy, gross national income and literacy - to rank member states and also measure quality of life in these countries.

But a nation widely singled out for its positive achievements in education, health care and life expectancy has been left out of the index, complains Ambassador Pedro Nunez Mosquera, Cuba's permanent representative to the United Nations.

"My country has disappeared, as if it did not exist any longer," he told a closed-door meeting of the 130-member Group of 77 (G-77) developing countries early this week. The ambassador has lodged a protest over the omission of his country from the HDI 2010 released late last year and plans to raise the issue at the next meeting of the UNDP's executive board later this month.

Addressing delegates at an ambassadorial meeting of the G- 77, the largest single economic grouping at the United Nations, the Cuban envoy said the infant mortality rate in Cuba is 5.2 per thousand [see latest figures here - RATB] and illiteracy has been eradicated.

But still, Cuba does not exist in the eyes of those who compile the HDI, he told delegates Tuesday. When Cuba inquired about this omission, he said, he was told his country was left out for "technical reasons".

Cuba was told there are "problems" in measuring Cuba's gross national income in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) which is usually compiled by the World Bank.
"But because of the (49-year-old U.S.) blockade, the World Bank has excluded Cuba. I think this is something we have to deplore," he said.

Asked for a response, William Orme of the UNDP's Human Development Report Office told IPS that, "No one wants Cuba in the HDI more than we do."

"The index is our flagship product, and the goal is always for maximum inclusion," he said. Explaining the lapse, Orme said Cuba was omitted from the 2010 HDI due to the absence of current internationally reported data for one of the three required indicators: health, education and income (which are used to calculate the composite HDI value, which in turn determines a country's HDI ranking.)

The missing indicator for Cuba was for income, he said, pointing out that there is no internationally reported figure for Cuba's Gross National Income adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (GNI-PPP): the figure used for all countries for the income component of the HDI, and which is normally provided by the World Bank and/or the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Unofficial estimates of GNI-PPP, Orme said, were considered unreliable by the statisticians and economists at the Human Development Report Office, and the U.N. Statistical Commission has advised against the use of such imputed - as opposed to officially reported - figures as human development indicators for HDI calculation purposes. Ambassador Mosquera said "hopefully the human development office which works under the aegis of UNDP but is independent should abide by (the relevant) resolution of the General Assembly which states they should consult with member states."

"Cuba was not consulted. Cuba was placed on the index and then disappeared due to a technical error," he added.

In all, 169 countries and territories were included in the 2010 HDI. But 25 U.N. member states and U.N.-recognised territories, including Bhutan, Samoa, Tuvalu, and Palau, were not included, due to various data gaps. Of those, 13, including Cuba, had been included in the 2009 HDI.

Cuba's life expectancy is 79 years, with an average of 17.7 for "expected years of schooling", according to some of the figures published in the 2010 HD report. In comparison, the life expectancy in the United States (ranked fourth in the HDI) is 79.6 and expected years of schooling 15.7.

Cuba is now and has long been one of the highest achievers in health and education, the two non-income categories of human development, as discussed in a newly published article by HDR research director Francisco Rodriguez on the HDR website feature 'Let's Talk HD.'

The HDI is an integral part of the annual Human Development Report commissioned by UNDP and which, according to UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, "relies heavily on knowledge and insights from sister U.N. agencies, national governments and hundreds of scholars from around the world."

In the 2010 report, which also commemorates the 20th anniversary of the HDR, Clark says "UNDP can take appropriate pride in its backing of this intellectually independent and innovative report for the past two decades."

But she admits the HDRs "have never been a UNDP product alone", pointing out that "we can and should continue to be guided by the HDRs values and findings for the next 20 years - and beyond."

The countries with "very high human development" in 2010 include Norway, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Ireland.

In explaining it further, Orme told IPS the HDR strives every year to include as many countries as possible in its annual Index and "greatly regrets Cuba's absence from the list this year, as UNDP has expressed to Cuba's U.N. representatives". UNDP is not itself a source or generator of national or international income data or other human development statistics, however.

The hope and expectation is that Cuba can once again be included in the HDI once new statistical reporting on income from the Cuban government is obtained by the relevant international institutions in the field, Orme said.

Venezuela and Ecuador Consolidate Sucre

Venezuela and Ecuador Consolidate Bilateral Agreements, SUCRE Currency System
By Tamara Pearson, 18 January 2011.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro met on Monday with the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patiño, to evaluate the progress of their country’s bilateral agreements. Among the ambitious goals set during the meeting was an increase in the use of the sucre, a regional currency being used in trade between the two countries.

Increasing the Use of the SUCRE System
This month, according to Radio Mundial, Venezuela bought palm oil from Ecuador using the sucre. The first use of the sucre involved Venezuela selling Ecuador 15,000 tonnes of rice, Venezuela paid 1.89 million sucres (there are 1.25 sucres to the dollar) for the rice.

The sucre gets its name from the Spanish initials for Sistema Único de Compensación Regional, or Unified System for Regional Compensation, and is also named after Antonio Jose de Sucre, a Latin American independence leader who fought alongside Simón Bolívar.

The sucre is a regional currency used in commercial exchanges between members of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) – instead of the U.S dollar – in order to decrease dependence on the U.S. dollar. It is currently a virtual currency but the long-term plan is to make it into a hard currency. Paying for goods with the sucre avoids the transaction costs incurred when using dollars on the international market and encourages a more stable trading system that is less influenced by global economic conditions.

“The development of the SUCRE from July [last year] to December has advanced at a moderate, but positive pace. Over 40 million [U.S] dollars in value was exchanged [between Venezuela and Ecuador], that is, over 38 million sucres, which represents an important overall percentage of trade during that time,” said Patiño.

Maduro said that the July to December trading served to “remove any doubts,” and that the aim is to eventually conduct all trade between the two countries using the sucre. For this year, the aim is “at least 50% of commercial bi-national trade,” he said.

“This unified system of compensation of payments is a completely logical idea, and scientifically demonstrated that it is important, positive, and convenient for our countries,” Patiño said.

Bilateral Agreements
The foreign ministers and the Venezuela president also discussed their advancement on forty projects they are jointly developing, which can be categorised into six areas of cooperation: social sovereignty, energy sovereignty, security and defence sovereignty, productive sovereignty, financial and commercial sovereignty, and knowledge sovereignty.

Many of the agreements are centred on technology and knowledge exchange. One agreement includes taking Venezuela’s “Infocentros” – public centres with free internet and computer usage - to Ecuador. This will involve Venezuelans training Ecuadorians, and mutual development of scientific and technical knowledge. Another agreement involves a similar exchange of experiences, knowledge, and technology in both traditional and Western medicine.

Finally, the ministers and the president also discussed putting a joint investment fund for economic projects that mutually benefit Ecuador and Venezuela, into practice. The two governments evaluate the progress of the agreements every three months. According to Patiño, overall trade between the two countries reached $1 billion in 2010, an amount he estimates will be exceeded this year.

Solidarity from Ecuador

Maduro also thanked the Ecuadorian minister for the help and expressions of solidarity his country shared with Venezuela following the intense flooding towards the end of last year. Ecuador sent Venezuela food and medicine on four occasions during December last year. According to AVN, the most recent donation from Ecuador was on 21 December, when Ecuador sent 13 tonnes of medicine, water purifiers, and non-perishable food kits.

Venezuela, Cuba outfox U.S. with fiber optic cable

Source: Reuters, 18 January 2011.

Venezuela will connect Cuba to a high-speed fiber optic cable next month undermining U.S. sanctions prohibiting Cuba's access to nearby underwater lines, the head of the project said on Tuesday. A French ship will begin laying the 995-mile submarine cable on Saturday and it is expected to reach eastern Cuba by February 8, Wilfredo Morales, president of Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe, the Venezuelan-Cuban joint venture that owns the line, said.

"This is a project that we consider of high strategic importance in the region ... It will be operated by technicians from our countries and we are not going to be dependent on any economic or other interest of another state or the empire," Morales said in an interview with state-run Radio Rebelde.

Venezuela and Cuba are close allies and share a common enmity toward Washington. They have formed some 50 joint ventures. The oil rich South American country provides Cuba with oil in exchange for medical and other technical assistance.

Venezuela has financed various projects to gain "telecommunications sovereignty" in the region, such as Telesur, a regional television channel, and software for industrial uses. Plans call for extending the cable to Jamaica and other countries.

Cuba is one of the least connected societies in the Latin American region, with Internet access limited to officials, companies, academics and some other professionals. Cuba charges that U.S. sanctions prohibit use of the many underwater cables in the area, forcing it to use a costly and slow satellite connection to the Internet.

The $70 million cable project, expected to be fully operational by July, will give Cuba a data transmission speed of 640 gigabytes, 3,000 times more than the actual one. Nevertheless, officials have said financial and technological problems will not allow for the extension of Internet use in the short term, and residents will have to continue to rely on local computer clubs, work places and schools.

A Chinese subsidiary of French company Alcatel-Lucent is supplying the cable. French vessel Ile de Batz will lay the line which contains less than 10 percent U.S. product, thereby meeting U.S. embargo specifications. However, under the embargo the ship will not be able to dock in the United States for six months after putting up in Cuba.

Statement from Cuba re US travel measures

Statement from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs

ON January 11, 2011, the United States government announced new measures in relation to Cuba. Although it is necessary to await the publication of the regulations in order to understand their true significance, according to preliminary information released by the White House press office, the measures will:

* Authorize travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens for academic, educational, cultural and religious purposes.
* Allow U.S. citizens to send limited remittances to Cuban citizens.
* Authorize U.S. international airports to request permission to operate charter flights to Cuba under certain conditions.

The adoption of these measures is the result of efforts by broad sectors of U.S. society which, in their majority, have been demanding the end of the criminal blockade of Cuba and the elimination of the absurd prohibition of travel to our country.

It is also an expression of recognition that the U.S. policy towards Cuba has failed and new ways to accomplish the historic objective of dominating our people are being sought. Although the measures are positive ones, they are much less than what is being justly demanded, their reach is very limited and they do not modify policy against Cuba.

The announcement by the White House is basically limited to reestablishing the regulations which were in place in the 1990's during President Clinton's administration and were eliminated by George W. Bush in 2003. The measures only benefit certain categories of U.S. citizens and do not reinstitute the right to travel to Cuba for all U.S. citizens, who will continue to be the only people in the world who cannot freely visit our country.

These measures confirm that there is no willingness to change the policy of blockade and destabilization against Cuba . Upon announcing them, U.S. government officials made it very clear that the blockade will remain in force and that the administration is proposing to use the new measures to strengthen subversion and intervention in Cuba's internal affairs. This confirms the charges presented in the MINREX statement of January 13.

Cuba has always been in favor of interchanges with the people of the United States, its universities, academic, scientific and religious institutions. All the obstacles which make visits by U.S. citizens difficult have always been, and continue to be today, created by the U.S. government. If a real interest in broadening and facilitating contact between our peoples exists, the U.S. should lift the blockade and eliminate the prohibition that makes Cuba the only country to which U.S. citizens cannot travel.

January 16, 2011.

Interview with Honduran resistance leader Juan Ramón Chinchilla

Source: HondurasResists, 12 January 2011.
By Giorgio Trucchi - Rel-UITA*
Translated by the Friendship Office

After escaping from his captors, still physically and psychologically exhausted from the experience endured over the last 48 hours, the peasant leader of the Unified Peasant Movement of the Aguan (MUCA) and the National Popular Resistance Front (FRNP), Juan Ramón Chinchilla, agreed to an interview from an undisclosed location in Honduras.

Can you describe your kidnapping?

On the afternoon of Saturday, January 8th I went to visit friends at a shopping center. I left on my motorcycle heading for the community of La Concepción and noticed that I was being followed. Just before La Concepción, there was a car across the road and at that moment I realized that there were people in the palms, pointing guns at me.

Then what happened?

I stopped and let the motorcycle fall to the ground. Several hooded men grabbed me, fired on the motorcycle and put me into a vehicle, covering my face so that I could not see where we were going. There were a lot of them. Almost all of them wore uniforms of the military, police and the private guards of Miguel Facussé. They drove approximately 40 minutes towards Trujillo . We came to an isolated place. They put me into a storage room and began to question me.

What did they want to know?
If we have arms. Where did the information come from that is on the internet and how many peasants are organized? They had a lot of photographs of me and other people. They were well organized. The operation had been carefully prepared.

When were you beaten?
On the afternoon of Sunday the 9th. They got me up and showed me a table with torture instruments on it. They began talking among themselves. They said, “What are we going to do first? Are we going to pull out a fingernail or burn him? Then they began to strike me in the face. They burnt my hair. They told me they were going to pour gasoline on my head and burn me. They beat me on the back with a club. There were several foreigners. Some spoke English and another spoke a language that I was not able to understand.

How were you able to escape?
On Sunday night they took me out of the storage room and we began walking in the darkness. I heard them say that for the moment the order was not to kill me. That encouraged me. We climbed a hill and I was not tied up. Taking advantage of the darkness, I started running and ran into the woods nearby. The men pursued me firing but I escaped. I ran and walked for a long time until I could find someone to help me and then I was able to communicate with my compañeros.

Why do you believe you were kidnapped?

We are in a struggle with the landowners. We know that our enemies are Miguel Facussé, René Morales and Reinaldo Canales, and that the government is on their side – not the side of the people. The department has been militarized twice and we know that they are going to do all they can to finish off our struggle. They had photos and a lot of information about our organizations and members. They want to intimidate us.

Your kidnapping generated a strong current of solidarity and denunciation at the national and international level. Do you feel that this contributed in any way to restrain the murderous hand of your captors?

They were concerned about the national and international pressure. They were monitoring the news on the internet and radio. That is why they decided to move me to another location on Sunday. I believe that all of this pressure helped so that something worse did not happen. I am infinitely grateful to all of the people and organizations – national and international – that mobilized; and also the media that denounced my kidnapping. The struggle will continue. They will not stop me; on the contrary, we have to continue with more strength. We must stay united because it is the only way to move our country forward. We do not accept the coup and we never will accept it, even though they kill us. I will never leave the struggle; better to die than to betray it.

New US-Cuba travel rules

New Cuba travel rules: Devil's in the details.
Source: Along the Malecon
By Tracey Eaton, 14 january 2011

The new regulations on travel to Cuba are supposed to be published within two weeks. I am curious how federal authorities will define "senior Cuban government officials or senior members of the Cuban Communist Party." The White House announcement says anyone in the United States will be able to send $500 per quarter to "non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity, among other purposes."

But the money can't go to senior government officials or senior members of the Communist Party. I wonder what makes someone a senior official. How old do you have to be? How many years do you have to be in government? It seems like a silly rule. If U.S. officials are trying to channel money to people who want change, some older people want that, too. And some young Cubans are strong government supporters. So age doesn't always define one's views.

Another thing that will need to be further defined is "purposeful travel." The White House announcement describes that as "religious, cultural, and educational travel." The idea is to promote non-tourist travel. But how do you prevent someone on "purposeful travel" from veering off to Varadero?

I wonder what Cuban officials think about all this. I called one Cuban official and he told me he couldn't talk about it. He couldn't say, either, if the White House announcement is linked in any way to the fate of Alan Gross.

Just a hunch, but I would not jump to the conclusion that the Cuban government sees the new travel regulations as a monumental change. The trade embargo is still in place. Economic sanctions continue. Cuba remains on the State Department's terrorism list. The U.S. government hasn't said that it has ended pro-democracy programs, has it? These programs - which the Cuban government sees as illegal - continue.

And loosened travel rules may actually boost those U.S.-financed programs because they give U.S.-government paid workers more ways to travel to Cuba legally without arousing suspicion. And so while I'm sure Cuban officials welcome any increase in remittances and additional travel revenue, the new travel regulations also create some complications for the socialist government.

In an ideal world, all Americans - not just "purposeful" travelers - should be able to journey freely to any nation of the world. Cubans should enjoy the same right, but they don't. The U.S. and Cuba still have a long way to go before they achieve something resembling normal relations. They've spent more than a half century fighting, and peace isn't going to come easily.

Haiti: another year of pain

by Trevor Rayne, 16 January 2011.

One year after the 12 January 2010 earthquake that killed 230,000 people and left 1.3 million people homeless, approximately one million people still live under makeshift tents and tarpaulins, close to half of whom are children. Of 180,000 destroyed homes, just 2,074 have been repaired. Of an estimated 1,268 displacement camps at least 29% have been forcibly closed: people are evicted and then search for other camps. Rubble covers much of the capital, Port-au-Prince; less than 5% has been removed, heavy lifting equipment having been withdrawn last summer. Rebuilding the airport remains the only major effort undertaken. Disputes over land ownership and plus property speculation combined with an influx of international aid workers have pushed rents beyond the reach of Haitian people who consequently have no alternative other than to remain in camps. Studies show that 40% of displacement camps do not have access to water, 30% have no access to toilets of any kind, 44% of their inhabitants drank untreated water and over 50% of children in the camps go without any food whatsoever for at least one day a week. Rape is described as ‘endemic’ in the camps.

Haiti before and after the earthquake is an indictment of the entire international order we live under and is a warning for the future of the world.

Hurricane Tomas struck on 5 November 2010. It helped to spread the cholera bacillus. Some 3,500 Haitians have subsequently died from cholera. Cholera is a ‘disease of poverty’, spread through contaminated water, sewage and fecal particles. Corpses remained uncollected for want of sufficient ambulance drivers. The cholera outbreak has been traced by a French epidemiologist to Nepalese troops serving with the UN force in Haiti.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said that only a fifth of the $5.6 million pledged by government donors in March 2010 had been received. The World Bank is the sponsor of the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti whose co-chair is former US President Bill Clinton. The representative of the Organisation of American States in Haiti, Ricardo Seitenfus, said in December that Haiti had lived ‘a low intensity war’ since 1986, when the Duvalier regime was overthrown and, ‘We want to turn Haiti into a capitalist country, an export platform for the US market, it’s absurd.’ He was subsequently recalled from office. For over 200 years since the slaves rebelled against the French occupiers and declared an independent republic, French and then US capitalism have been determined that Haiti is feeble and dependent.

Haiti held presidential and legislative elections on 28 November 2010. Over 12 parties were prevented from running, including Fanmi Lavalas, the party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was ousted by a military coup in 2004, and other progressive parties. The US fears that a free election would result in a government aligned with Cuba and Venezuela. Just 22.3% of the electorate turned out to vote. In Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Delmas and Petionville, with 20% of Haiti’s electorate, turnout was an average of 12.4%. The electoral list was drawn up before the earthquake and included the names of 250,000 dead people. Many would-be voters were turned away because their names were not recognised on the lists. The head of the United Nation’s mission to Haiti said of the elections ‘everything is going fine’. The front runner of the election results has just 6% of the eligible votes. There was no conclusive result and any run-off is unlikely before March, with only right wing candidates contending. Before the votes were declared barricades had been built, tyres burned and crowds gathered in protest at the electoral fraud. They were met by troops and police from the UN MINUSTAH (UN stabilisation mission) force, led by Brazil and including other Latin American soldiers from Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay.

For many Haitians, MINUSTAH is seen as an occupation force. It is currently 13,000 strong, up by half since the earthquake. ‘Four days after the elections, the UN proposed a 2011 budget for MINUSTAH of $853 million, or $2.3 million a day. This amount nearly surpasses total aid distributed by Haiti’s top 30 donors and represents five times the budget the UN requested to combat cholera.’ (Beatrice Lindstrom, Counterpunch, 14 January 2011).

On 9 January 2011 The Observer ran a headline, ‘How an Irish telecoms tycoon became Haiti’s only hope of survival’, about the efforts of Denis O‘Brien, chief executive of Digicel, to help reopen a market in Port-au-Prince. Digicel supplies two-thirds of the mobile ‘phones used in Haiti. This is chauvinism. Two BBC World Service broadcasts by Edward Sturton on Haiti, surveying the country a year on from the earthquake, did not mention the Cuban effort, choosing instead to focus on US evangelical churches’ operations in the country.

With the exception of The Independent on Sunday (‘Cuban medics in Haiti put world to shame,’ Nina Lakhani 26 December 2010), the Cuban medical support for Haiti has hardly been mentioned. Lakhani states, ‘A medical brigade of 1,200 Cubans is operating all over earthquake-torn and cholera-inflicted Haiti...part of the international mission which has won the socialist state many friends, but little international recognition...Figures released last week show that Cuban medical personnel, working in 40 centres across Haiti, have treated more than 30,000 cholera patients since October. They are the largest foreign contingent, treating around 40% of cholera patients.’ Fidel Castro stated, ‘Our solidarity with the people of Haiti has a two-fold root: it is born from our ideas, but also from our history.’

The Haitian people have one way out of the hell in to which they have been thrown: to stand up, fight all those who would design their future for them, be they NGOs or governments, and join the anti-imperialist struggle, led in their hemisphere by Cuba and Venezuela – dawn is rising.

Honduran Teachers in Protests for Overdue Salaries

Source: Prensa Latina, 04 January 2011.

Honduran teachers announced new protests against government plans to privatize education, and also demanded the payment of overdue salaries. Teacher reject the so-called decentralization of education, which, according to Jaime Rodriguez, president of the Teachers' Union of Middle School Education, means privatizing it.

The government did not give all teachers their full salaries for holiday, bonus, and as stipulated by law, it only paid a group of teachers, said Rodriguez.

The union leaders rejected the government's intention to pass the responsibility to municipalities and warned that the project threatens free education and hurts the poor. They also denounced the persecution of many teachers for participating in the People's National Front, which brings together different sectors opposing the coup.

Response to reactionary Guardian attack on Cuban socialism

Dear Sir,

I am writing about your article "Cuba cuts 500,000 state workers" from 11 January 2011.

In regards to workers moving out of the state sector, its omitted that many will move into co-operatives, considered by many people - especially in Venezuela- as more conductive to workers democracy and therefore socialism. The article states 'people are worried' but does not offer a source of this claim.

Travel is Cuba is not 'controlled by the army'. The country has democratically elected officials who are responsible for travel policies. I do not clearly see what is implied by the suggestion it is controlled by foreign investors.

Results for 2010 show that the Cuban economic strategy has had significant success in its objectives. Imports are down and exports are up - thus reducing the fiscal deficit. Why is this not mentioned?

Healthcare is hardly handicapped by export of personnel. Cuba leads the world in patient per doctor ratio at 170, whilst in the UK its reckoned to be around 440. In Haiti it is 4,000. In fact Cuba has created a surplus of healthcare workers. 3500 of those have worked in Haiti over the last 12 years, saving 250,000 lives and performing 16 million consultations.

The problem is, the article generally contains little fact or assertion. It largely appears as a sensationalist reaction at Cuba's attempt to adapt to global economic crisis and pursue socialism.

Anthony Bairstow, London, UK.
13 January 2011.

Brazil: accelerating exploitation

by Alvaro Michaels,
Source: Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, no. 218, December 2010.

Dilma Rousseff became Brazil’s first female president in the first elections in Brazilian history to be based on full universal suffrage. Following the votes on 3 and 31 October, her Workers’ Party now holds more state governorships than it did under former President Lula (2002-10). His designated successor won 56.05% of votes against 43.95% for Jose Serra (Party of Brazilian Democracy); winning most of the impoverished poor northern and north eastern regions. The central and southern areas voted for Serra.

The Workers’s Party has damped down protests by providing the 11 million very poorest families with the Bolsa Familia – a family allowance of $12 per month or $0.39 per day, per family – tied to attendance by their children in the abysmal state school system. This has created a political balance and social peace which allows foreign investors to buy the country’s resources on a grand scale. The boom in worldwide demand for raw materials over the last six years means more workers are being exploited and Brazil is now the world’s seventh largest capitalist economy, with an official 10% of workers destitute. A loose budgetary policy – Federal State spending is up 18% this year – is aimed at placating a strategic section of the working and small middle class.

Profits are high, the price of land relatively low, wages are low, raw materials are cheap and capital is scarce. High returns attract capital. So an enthusiastic influx of capital from ‘over-ripe’ imperialist states takes place. The inflow of currencies has pushed the Brazilian Real up 39% against the US dollar since the start of 2009. To prevent this influx of currency fuelling speculation, a 6% tax on bond inflows has been imposed, but this has not prevented the worsening of Brazil’s export competitiveness. With the US’s recent second Quantitative Easing programme more dollars have flooded into Brazil. Brazil cannot prevent the continued imposition of usury imperialism on top of the scheme of direct investments.

Despite Brazil being a major exporter of manufactured goods, engineering and technology to South America (dominating trade with Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) and Africa, the ratio of raw or basic products exported to its manufactured exports is the highest since 1978.

The destruction of the Amazon forest, as the infrastructure is extended to extract this wealth, is wiping out the remaining indigenous communities, regardless of a facade of legal protection given by Lula.

Continued accumulation of capital puts grandiose ideas into the heads of the national bourgeoisie. It is trying to put an economic distance between itself and the US, disturbing US imperialism, with strong ties to the ALBA nations, and its independent stances towards the Middle East, Iran and elsewhere. In 2009 China replaced the US as Brazil’s largest trading partner. Brazil’s exports to China have rocketed, agricultural products being critical. China’s Sinopec has just taken over 40% of Spanish firm Repsol’s Brazilian oil stake. These changes are eyed jealously by European financiers. The message of congratulations sent to Rousseff from EU president Barroso inevitably advocated the intensification of the 2007 Strategic Partnership between the EU and Brazil. The inter-imperialist struggle for markets of every sort in the ‘developing’ world has not been this intense for 50 years.

If Julian Assange is a Terrorist, What is Luis Posada Carriles Then?

Source:, 08 January 2011.

The trials of the creator of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles will begin with less than 24-hour difference on January 10 and 11, one in London and the other one in El Paso, Texas. The anomaly immediately catching the attention of people is that the champion of freedom of information will be accused of the very serious crime of terrorism, while the confessed terrorist will be tried for migratory crimes sanctioned by a sentence he has already served.

The ANSA news agency reports that the request of extradition made by Sweden for the charge of "sexual molestation" against Assange was transferred from a court in the center of London to Belmarsh Court, specializing in terrorism issues and annexed to a maximum security prison, re-baptized years ago by the BBC as "The British Guantánamo."

Assange will appear in court on a charge of terrorism, which implies, according to British laws, his arrest and confinement.

Luis Posada Carriles will continue to be free on bail when he appears in the United States before a judge who acquitted him in a first trial and who openly expressed her sympathy for him in a hall full of followers, many of them with a terrorist past, who will come from Batista's Miami and so as not to miss an opportunity to celebrate his crimes.

A spokesperson of the British legal authorities stated that the transfer to the court of Belmarsh, in the south-east area of the capital, is due to "logistic reasons" and not, as stated by WikiLeaks, due to US pressure.


The truth is that while in the case of Assange, the procedures have been speeded up, skipping stages as much as possible, after a series of tricks to silence the blonde Australian man, in the case of Posada Carriles, a former CIA agent that served the Company as an instructor of explosives, a torturer, a police captain, a hired assassin, a terrorist and a promoter of assassination, records of dilatory maneuvers to drown out his case are broken.

In addition to use a panoply of dirty tricks to pressure Assange, sabotage his operations system, take away its income, recover its leaks, manipulate its content, in short, terrorize the man who dared to open the valves of the huge can of diplomatic trash of the United States, the US intelligence services and its branches, they have kidnapped the man to be blame for so much courage for not being able to eliminate him without expanding the scandal even more.

Hundreds of texts have been written, books have been published, and documentaries have been made about the criminal record Posada, the Klaus Barbie of US intelligence.
On May 17, 2005, at 1:30 pm, Luis Posada Carriles was arrested near Miami, and taken in a gulf cart to a helicopter, "with every kindness and courtesy possible", for his transfer to the offices of the Department of Internal Security.

On April 1st, 2005, a lawyer for Posada Carriles, Eduardo Soto, confirmed in Miami that his client -illegally introduced in US territory on board of a shrimp vessel owned by a capo of the Cuban-American mafia-, would ask for asylum and parole to stay in the country permanently.

In spite of the accusations presented in Caracas for his participation in the terrorist attack against a Cuban aircraft that killed all 73 people on board in 1976; his arrest in Panama in 2000, in connection with a plan for an assassination attempt against Cuban leader Fidel Castro; his public acceptance for having organized a terrorist campaign against tourist facilities in Havana in 1997; and his close links with terrorist networks, Posada Carriles would receive from Bush's government absolute support that Obama never dared to alter.

On September 27, 2005, an immigration judge in El Paso, Texas, William Abbott, following federal instructions, had used the absurd testimony of an old accomplice of Posada, a former official of the Venezuelan secret police, Joaquin Chaffardet, to order that the criminal could be deported to Venezuela.

Four months later, on January 24, 2006, three days before the formal assuming of power of the new Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, The Miami Herald -the bonds of which with US intelligence have been well demonstrated-, cited what it called "fragments" of a Statement by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE), that pointed out the following: "The ICE is progressing in the carrying out of the removal of Mr. Posada from the USA."

The White House -in the face of an international scandal-, assessed that the best way to get rid of the "hot potato" the former agent, terrorist, torturer and assassin represented, was to find him refuge anywhere outside US territory.
Three days later, on January 27, 2006, the US ambassador to Honduras, Charles "Charlie" Ford, visited Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, scarcely eight days after his coming to power, to present him an insolent request.

"Ambassador Charles Ford came to ask me, by way of the Foreign Ministry, for the granting of a visa to Posada Carriles", said Zelaya later, referring to the then Foreign Minister Milton Jiménez Puerto.

"It was impossible to give a visa to Luis Posada Carriles, since he was questioned for terrorist acts. They defend that kind of terrorism, I vouch for that, and it's for that kind of thing that we hold different stances," he underlined.
On April 19, 2007, Posada Carriles, found not guilty by Cardone, was back in Miami not to set foot in a detention center ever again.


On March 18, 2008, as a response to the statements made by Cuba and Venezuela at the UN, the person in charge of legal affairs in the US mission, Caroline Wilson, pointed out with candor that her country "had carefully followed the legal procedures in force in the case of Posada Carriles".
"As happens in democracies in the world, a person can't be tried or extradited if there isn't enough evidence that he committed the crime he's accused of," she asserted.

In July, 2008, the US ambassador to Venezuela at the time, William Brownfield, in statements to the Panorama newspaper, in Maracaibo, made it clear that the United States had no intention whatsoever of putting Posada at the disposal of Venezuelan justice, which was claiming and continues to claim him.

"Mr. Luis Posada Carriles doesn't represent an imminent danger for anybody," Brownfield had asserted, making it clear that the Bush administration would never turn over its veteran agent. Ironically, a few days before the Brownfield stupidity, the Undersecretary of State, Thomas Shannon, today an ambassador in Brazil, assured the OAS that the US Department of Justice was "still carrying out investigations" about Posada Carriles.

While Assange is hastily taken from a minor court to another one that can lock him up for good, the Venezuelan government is waiting for an answer, for more than five years now, to the request of extradition of the terrorist. Assange, the Web idealist demonized by the major communication networks and persecuted by the police of the US spiders web, will soon know how imperial justice gives a piece of its mind, with or without intermediaries.

Ignored by an accomplice press, Posada, the mercenary assassin, will keep on evading law, and the dozens of victims and relatives of victims of his crimes, the lives of whom, in many cases, have been devastated by the permanent despicable and cowardly willingness of the swine without scruples of serving the empire.

Cuban Doctors Save 0.25m Haitians

Cuban Doctors Save 250,000 people in Haiti
Source: Agencia de Informacion Nacional (Habana), 29 December 2010.

Cuban doctors have saved over 250,000 Haitians during the twelve years of medical cooperation in Haiti, which was devastated in 2010 by a strong earthquake and after that by the cholera pandemic.

Cuban Health vice Minister Marcias Cobas said that international cooperation with Haiti began in December 1998; it was never suspended despite coups d'etat, and was intensified this year after the earthquake and the pandemic outbreak.

According to the Cuban Round Table TV Program, Cobas affirmed that Haiti has received, during these years, more than 3,500 health cooperants that have performed 16 million consultations.

Cobas added that the health system of Haiti was rebuilt, as part of a Cuban initiative after the earthquake, with the support of nations from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), especially from Venezuela.

She mentioned that under this initiative, in progress when the cholera pandemic started, they have created more than 24 campaign hospitals and 30 rehabilitation centers. Cobas noted that nowadays, there are more than 1,334 Cuban health cooperants and that not even the pandemic has been able to stop the rebuilding process.

Cholera was detected last October 20 [2010] in a health facility with Cuban doctors and it spread right away throughout the country causing death to 2,707 people. Other 115 cases were reported in the Dominican Republic, Haiti's closest neighbor, in addition to another three in the United States. Cuban Health deputy Minister Luis Struch pointed out that after the earthquake Cuba began to monitor the epidemiologic situation of Haiti, which allowed noticing immediately this acute bacteriologic disease of high toxicity.

Struch said that the Cuban strategy against the pandemic in Haiti is to take the health services to every corner of the country.

The Rector of the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) highlighted the presence of tens of young physicians graduated in this school in the cooperation mission in Haiti.

Cuban vice Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Ramon Ripoll noted that the solidarity of other governments with Haiti is channeled through the Cuban medical mission. He cited the support of Norway, Spain, Australia and Namibia and stated that the distribution and use of the materials are made in conjunction with the Haitian authorities.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

RATB reviews: Julia Sweig's Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know

Julia Sweig, Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know, USA: Oxford University Press, 2009, (ISBN 13: 978-0-19-538380-5, ISBN 10: 0-19-538380X), pp304, $16.95 pbk, $74 hbk.

reviewed by Helen Yaffe.

Here’s is my review of Julia Sweig’s latest book, Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know, written for the January 2011 issue (87:1) of International Affairs.
Source: RealCuba blog, 13 January 2011.

Written as part of the Oxford University Press ‘what everyone needs to know’ series, this book is organised as a set of questions and answers and divided into four broad periods: pre-1959, the Cold War 1959-1991, post Cold War 1991 to 2006, and post-Fidel to 2009. In order to cover this broad sweep of history in 250 pages the author adopts a succinct and authoritative narrative style. The text is accessible and directed towards a non-academic audience; there are no notes or references, and the story is told more through assertion than evidence. This locates the book in a different category from Sweig’s 2002 Inside the Cuban Revolution which, based on groundbreaking research, examined the role of the 1950s urban underground movement with scholarly rigour. Nonetheless, because of the range of topics in Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know even Cuba scholars are likely to learn something new. The format of the book makes repetition inevitable.

In her introduction the author states that: ‘The emphasis in this book [is] on the US-Cuba relationship’ and that it is written: ‘Especially (though not exclusively) for the benefit of an American audience’. This is both a strength and a weakness and reflects Sweig’s commendable objective to challenge ‘the nearly genetic American belief that Washington should and can somehow manage Cuba’s transition’ and to discredit a US foreign policy promoting regime change (pxxii). Nonetheless, the author apparently shares the notion that a transition to capitalist democracy is desirable. She adopts terms like ‘democracy’, ‘human-rights’ and ‘repression’ within the same ideological paradigm as her audience. The philosophical flexibility necessary to appreciate a revolutionary society, the attempt to escape underdevelopment with different institutions, objectives, values and relationships, is lacking.

So for example, Sweig skilfully navigates the fascinating story of how the Cuban exile community has had a disproportionate (and undemocratic) impact on US elections and domestic politics and explains divisions within that community, but she does not mention the grassroots institutions through which the Cuban people are organised. Known as ‘organisations of the masses’, these are based on voluntary participation in work, study, gender, cultural and residence-based groups and integrate almost 100% of Cubans. Readers will not learn how these operate, their role within the National Assembly, Cuba’s highest legislative body, or that forum’s relationship with the Cuban Communist Party. These are key aspects of Cuban society about which everyone needs to know. There is one nod towards ‘Cuba and Venezuela’s own approach to “participatory democracy”’ (p201), but what this means or how it works is not discussed.

Consequently, while Sweig states that ‘the most fundamental question this book answers is why the revolution has endured beyond the Cold War and, now, beyond the half-century tenure of Fidel Castro’ (pxxii), little effort is made to explain how Cuban society is organised or to account for individual commitment to Cuba’s social project. Support for the Revolution is accounted for by sweeping references to nationalism or admiration for Fidel Castro. As a consequence the Cuban people are consigned to a set of minorities: those who migrate with visas or on rafts, artists, ‘dissidents’ on the island and the exile community in the US.

Among the exciting post Cold-War developments in Cuba has been the emergence of organic farming and urban gardens. In 2006, the WWF’s Living Planet Report named Cuba as the only country in the world to have achieved ‘sustainable development’ and Cuba initiated the Energy Revolution. Such developments are not examined.

The strong political narrative is undermined by the lack of economic history or understanding of the political economy of socialism. For example: 1) referring to Che Guevara’s work as a member of the post-1959 government, Sweig states that he ‘did little to solve the practical economic problems of the day’ (p46). In fact, Guevara’s management of industry helped avoid paralysis of the economy during the rapid transition from a free-enterprise to a planned economy. 2) Sweig says the 1990s economic crisis saw the ‘introduction of the notion, virtually an anathema until then, that the market – the free market, the capitalist market – might actually be a tool Cuba could somehow harness in the interests of socialism and social welfare’ (p131). However, the extent to which market mechanisms should be adopted in socialist development was already being debated in Cuba in the early 1960s.

As the introduction concedes, ‘this book may not cover all the ground that every reader might wish’ (pxxii). It does, however, challenge many perceptions and demystify Cuba. Most important, it demonstrates the scale of Cuba’s achievement in surviving a half-century campaign by the US administration (and international allies) and a powerful exile community to destroy the Revolution using every means from terrorism and economic blockade, to generous funding of an internal opposition. For this, and many other reasons, this book is well worth reading.

Helen Yaffe is a member of RATB.

Google censors Cuban YouTube account

by The South Journal, 13 January 2011
Source: CubanDemocracy blog

Cubadebate website, one of the South Journal´s major news sources about Cuba, has denounced that Google cut its access to YouTube video services on the grounds of a copyright violation. The cause allegedly was the use by Cubadebate of a piece of video [see below - RATB] about the presentation in the US city of Miami of the Legal Fund for Luis Posada Carriles, which the Cuba website recently published. The piece had been edited out of a longer video that was published on the Internet and was reproduced by several sites without any credit, Cubadebate explains.

The copyright claim was filed by the person who filmed former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles announcing that he would be in Cuba this year as he claimed payment for his services—including the bombing in 1976 of a Cuban airliner that claimed 73 innocent lives. Following that claim, Google cut the access to YouTube video services in a moment when Cubadebate had already uploaded over 400 videos and had registered 1,6 million downloads.

It might seem the right response to a copyright violation, but not by mere chance it happened just when Luis Posada Carriles is facing a trial in El Paso, Texas for immigration fraud and his large terrorist background may come to surface during the process due to the huge amount of evidence and proofs about his terrorist actions.

As Cubadebate explains in its denunciation, YouTube is infected with videos showing manipulated and biased information about Cuba, and images that have been “stolen” from Cubadebate website, but Google has not taken any action in this respect.

Obviously, keeping public opinion behind the wall of silence that unsuccessfully tries to hide Posada´s crimes in such a crucial moment is a Must for those who protect him. They simply cannot allow more evidence to surface now; US public opinion has been kept away from learning about the horrors committed by the man who, the Miami-based “anti-Castro” groups want to make a appear as a hero.

The action by Google was strongly condemned by Cubadebate as an attempt against the Freedom of Expression of an alternative site that, due to the US economic blockade of Cuba, has no other choice than using a satellite-based connection and has no resources to manage its own multimedia servers. Not to mention that it can not purchase exclusive videos produced in the U.S. that reveal the impunity of Miami-based terrorists, which are significant for their news services.

See also: CubaDebate uses Facebook in fight with YouTube - RATB.
Facebook page is here (in Spanish).
See also: Google censorship, now Facebook as well (in Spanish).

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Cuban nurses arrive in Jamaica

Source: Jamaica Gleaner, 14 January 2011.

In an attempt to stem the critical shortage of nurses in Jamaica, 35 nurses are now in the island from Cuba to begin working in the public health sector. According to the Ministry of Health, the nurses will be deployed to facilities across all four health regions. Health Minister Rudyard Spencer, in a release, said the batch of 35 represents a percentage of the total of 51 nurses who were recruited during a trip to Cuba by health ministry officials in June 2010.

Minister of Health Rudyard Spencer embraces Ana Iris, one of 35 Cuban nurses who arrived in the island Wednesday to take up various positions within the primary health care system, during a welcoming ceremony in the VIP Room at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.

The remaining number is expected to arrive in the island in about three months.
"The Government of Jamaica entered into a bilateral agreement with the government of Cuba to train and supply critical health workers for the local sector. We signed two agreements in July 2009, one which led to the development of the Eye Care Centre located at St Joseph's Hospital and the other which would see health specialists from Cuba supporting our public health-care system," Spencer said.
The 35 nurses include operating-theatre nurses, ophthalmology, pediatrics, neonatal, intensive care nurses and 15 to be deployed in primary health care. Spencer said that in going forward, the ministry was interested in attracting other health workers from Cuba, including physicians, biomedical engineers, biomedical technicians, other technicians such as a/c refrigeration and electro-mechanical, paramedicals, nurse educators, dental mechanical engineers and dental nurses.

The current bilateral agreement comes to an end in July 2011. According to the findings of a report published last year by the World Bank for Latin America and the Caribbean Region, at least three out of every four nurses trained in Jamaica have migrated to developed countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

How Obama's USAID operates in Cuba

Reversing Bush policies: "Like taking cocaine from an addict."
Source: Along the Malecón, 27 November 2010.
by Tracey Eaton.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has spent some $140 million toward Cuba pro-democracy programs since 1996. The Obama administration is asking for another $20 million for fiscal 2011, which ends Sept. 30, 2011.

Over the past few years, USAID has gotten behind on programming and distributing funds. The agency is still working its way through fiscal 2009 funds, and says it’s too early to say how much of that money has reached Cuba. But USAID told me in a statement:
The vast majority of this money is intended for individuals on the ground in Cuba. Our objective is to maximize the amount of support that benefits Cubans on the island. Since the $15.62 million in fiscal year 2009 funds has recently been programmed, it is too early to have a precise figure at this point, but the overall goal is to have the funds directly benefit Cubans on the island.
I posted that statement on Oct. 25. Later a former State Department officer told me he believes that the USAID statement was “horseshit.”
Speaking to me on condition of anonymity, he said:
Only a tiny fraction of the money ever gets to these regime opponents. A tiny fraction of it. For them to juice up their rhetoric as if the regime-change programs were going full bore…It’s really too bad that your source said that because it’s not true.
Whoever you talked to is somebody that’s using talking points prepared by the extreme right wing that supports these regime-change programs and wants them to be as provocative toward the regime as possible.
The source said President Obama has signed off on new people-to-people programs related to Cuba, but supporters of more aggressive tactics persuaded the White House not to implement the programs quite yet.
Such programs will make it easier for people to bring money and assistance to Cubans, and not just regime opponents.
The source said he believes that some of the pro-democracy programs may not legal under USAID and State Department guidelines. USAID and State Department employees:
are not authorized to do covert actions. They’re not authorized to do classified programs in foreign countries. And they’re not authorized to do clandestine political activities, which they’ve been doing.
The source said the State Department did not sign off on and was not aware of the activities of Alan Gross, who was arrested in Cuba on Dec. 3, 2009.
They were unaware. And some of them, in a moment of honesty, say, ‘Well, that’s pretty fucking stupid.’ If you’re going to do satellite communications gear, something that provocative, then you should at least should do some basic research and the person who goes and does it should at least be a Spanish speaker.
Ending these kinds of programs is difficult, the source said.
It’s very tough because the bureaucracy loves these programs. They love the clandestinity and all of that.
Such programs endure, the source said, even when some of the pro-democracy funds are funneled to Cuban:
government-controlled agents, and it doesn’t matter because it is really fun to spend money and run programs and do clandestine operations. It’s really, really fun. And it’s really fun to have no supervision. You basically move it all out of the government so it can’t be FOIA’ed. It can’t be FOIA’ed and there’s no accountability.
The source contends that these types of pro-democracy programs are not always effective. He said:
This shit doesn’t work. It undermines the legitimacy of these people. It opens them up to – even the good ones, the sincere ones – it opens them all up to severe criticism if not arrest by the Cuban government because like in the United States to be a foreign agent is against the law. If the Cubans came and started passing around money in the United States of America, we would arrest that person. We would arrest the recipients, too, for receiving foreign money.
The moral question of whether we should support democracy isn’t on the table. Of course, we support democracy. All of this is looking at the how.
The source was referring to how such programs should be carried out. He asked:
Why are these treated as clandestine programs? Where's the oversight? What are we doing with taxpayer money? There's no accountability.
These programs have cost $160 million. Show us where it has contributed, where it has helped the Cuban people, not contractors and lobbyists. No one dares ask that question because there's no answer.
Another shortcoming of the pro-democracy programs, he said, is that once private contractors start operating pro-democracy programs, they sometimes use their political assets, their surrogates, to attack interests who work against their political goals.
For example, John Kerry put a hold on regime-change programs. Surprise, surprise, the people that are nurtured and funded by the some of the Miami-based groups, start attacking Senator Kerry.
Or Cardinal Ortega successfully negotiates the release of political prisoners. Surprise, surprise. The people who don’t want there to be an improvement in bilateral relations start attacking Cardinal Ortega through their surrogates on the island.
The source said he didn’t know how the situation will evolve, but believes that it will be difficult to reverse policies implemented during the Bush administration.
The bureaucracy has basically hijacked this policy, which then puts the political people in the position of trying to wrestle it away from them. But, boy, that’s like taking cocaine from an addict.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Setting the record straight on Venezuela and Hugo Chavez

By Eva Golinger
Source: Postcards from the Revolution, 09 January 2011.

With so much misinformation circulating in different media outlets around the world about Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez, it's time to set the record straight. Venezuela is not a dictatorship and President Chavez is no dictator.

Just last evening the Venezuelan head of state participated in a meeting with a group of housing activists, who not only criticized - live on television - government policies and inaction on tenant and housing issues, but also proposed laws, regulations and projects that were received with open arms by Chavez himself. And last week, the Venezuelan President vetoed a law on higher education that had been approved by the prior year's majority pro-Chavez legislature, calling for more "open and wide" debate on the subject, to include critics and those who had protested the bill. That is not the behavior of a brutal dictator.

As someone who has been living on and off in Venezuela for over 17 years, I can testify to the extraordinary transformation the country has undertaken during the past decade since Chavez first was elected in 1998. He has been reelected by landslide majorities twice since then.

When I arrived to Venezuela for the first time in 1993, the country was in severe turmoil. Constitutional rights had been suspended and a nationwide curfew was imposed. Repression was widespread, the economy was in crisis, several newspapers, television and radio stations had been shut down or censored, and the government had imposed a forced military draft targeting young men from poor communities. There was an interim president in power, because the actual president, Carlos Andres Perez - hailed by Washington as an "outstanding democrat" - had just been impeached and imprisoned for corruption. Perez eventually escaped confinement and fled to Miami, where he resided until his death last month, living off the millions he stole from the Venezuelan people.

Even though a new president was elected in 1994, constitutional rights remained suspended on and off for years, until the elections in 1998 that brought Chavez to power. Since then, despite a short-lived coup d'etat in 2002, an economically-shattering sabotage of the oil industry in 2003 and multiple attempts against his government during the following years, President Chavez has never once limited constitutional rights nor imposed a curfew on the population. He hasn't ever ordered a state of emergency that would limit rights or shut down any media outlets. He even issued a general pardon in 2007 giving amnesty to all those involved in the 2002 coup, with the exception of individuals directly responsible for crimes against humanity or homicide.

Under the Chavez administration, poverty has been reduced in half, universal, quality, free healthcare and education have been guaranteed for all Venezuelans, new industries have been created and more and more political power has been placed in the hands of "ordinary" people who were previously excluded by the elite that ruled the country throughout the twentieth century.

So why do so many newspapers and broadcast media classify him as a dictator?

You may not like Hugo Chavez's way of speaking, or the fact that he was born into poverty, comes from the military, is a leftist and doesn't fit the stereotypical image of a head of state. But that doesn't make him a dictator.

In Venezuela, more than 80% of television, radio and print media remain in the hands of private interests critical of the government. So, despite what some international press claim, there is no censorship or violation of free expression in Venezuela. Calls to overthrow the government or to incite the armed forces to rebel against the state, which would clearly be prohibited in most nations, are broadcast on opposition-controlled television channels with public concessions (open signals, not cable). Just last month, the head of the Venezuelan chamber of commerce, Fedecamaras, gave a press conference broadcast live on television and radio stations, during which he called the armed forces "traitors" who would "pay the price" if they didn't disobey government orders and "obey" the dictates of big business.

I can only imagine if a business leader in the United States were to go on television and call the US Army "traitors" if they didn't disobey the federal government. Secret Service would arrest the man immediately and the consequences would be severe. But something like that would never happen in the US, since no television station would ever broadcast anything that constituted a call to rebellion or disobedience against the government. That's illegal.

So, not only is there no censorship in Venezuela, there is an excess of "free" expression. One positive aspect of the permissive attitude assumed by the Chavez government with regards to media has been the proliferation of community and alternative media outlets throughout the nation, which have provided space and voice to those ignored by mainstream corporate media. During governments prior to the Chavez administration, community and alternative media were banned.

Recently, the Venezuelan legislature passed a law called the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Digital Media. The law does not censor internet or any other form of media. What it does do is disallow calls to assassinate the president or other individual, as well as prohibit incitement to crime, hate or violence on web sites operated from Venezuela. This is a standard in most democracies and is a sign of civility. The law also instills on media a responsibility to contribute to the education of citizens. Media have a huge power over society today. Why shouldn't they be responsible for their actions?

Another issue widely manipulated in mass media is the Enabling Act that was approved last month by the Venezuelan parliament. This law gives "decree" powers to the Executive to legislate on specific issues as stipulated in the bill. The Enabling Act does not usurp, inhibit or limit legislative functions of the National Assembly, nor is it unconstitutional or anti-democratic. The parliament can still debate and approve laws as usual within its authority. The Enabling law, which is permitted by the Constitution, was requested by President Chavez in order to provide rapid responses to a national emergency caused by torrential rainfall that devasted communities nationwide at the end of last year and left over 130,000 homeless. The law will not affect any constitutional rights nor impose a "dictatorship" on the country, it is merely a valid, legitimate response to an emergency situation that needs quick solutions.

And speaking of the Venezuelan legislature, there is a lot of deceitful information repeated and recycled in media worldwide about the composition of this year's new parliament. Venezuela had legislative elections in September 2010, and opposition - anti-Chavez - parties won 40% of the seats. Some say this is a majority, which is very strange. The pro-Chavez PSUV party won 60% of seats in the National Assembly, as the Venezuelan legislative body is called. That's 97 out of 165 seats, plus 1 more which was won by the pro-Chavez PCV party, for a total of 98.

On the other hand, the opposition bloc won 65 seats represented by 13 different political parties that don't necessarily agree on most issues. Two other seats were won by a third, independent party, PPT. So, the PSUV party won 97 seats in parliament and the next party in line is Accion Democratica (AD) with 22 seats. Who has the majority?

In 2005, the opposition parties boycotted the electoral process, and lost the near 50% they had in parliament from the year 2000. Now, their bloc has been reduced to 40%, yet they claim to have "grown" in numbers. This perspective has been reiterated in mainstream media, despite its erroneous and manipulative nature.

The opposition bloc has already announced it will seek foreign intervention to help overthrow the government. Not only is this illegal, it's incredibly dangerous. Many of the candidates and most of the parties that conform the opposition in Venezuela have already been receiving millions of dollars annually in funding from several US and international agencies, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), both financed with US taxpayer monies. The stated purpose of this funding has been to "promote democracy" in Venezuela and help build the opposition forces against Chavez. This is a clear violation of Venezuelan sovereignty and a waste of US taxpayer dollars. US citizens: Is this the way you want your hard-earned money to be spent?

This week, opposition leaders will meet with their counterparts in Washington. They have already said their mission is to seek more aid to help remove President Chavez from power. Unfortunately, their undemocratic actions have already been welcomed in the US Capitol. Representative Connie Mack (R-FL), now head of the House Sub-Committte on Foreign Relations for the Western Hemisphere, announced on the first day of Congress that his one goal this year is to place Venezuela on the list of "state sponors of terrorism". And Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), now head of the House Foreign Relations Committee, has backed that objective, even going as far as to publicly state she would welcome the "assassination of Fidel Castro or any other repressive leader" such as Hugo Chavez.

On January 1, President Chavez held a brief, informal and amicable encounter with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Brasilia, during the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's new president. No agreements were reached, but the exchange of hands and smiles stabilized an escalation in tensions between both nations, which had produced a diplomatic crisis at the end of last year. But upon her return to Washington, Clinton was severely criticized by media, particularly The Washington Post, which accused her of being too "soft" on Venezuela.

The Washington Post's calls for war against Venezuela are dangerous. Remember, conditioning of public opinion is necessary to justify aggression against another nation. The campaigns of demonization against Saddam Hussein, Iraq and Islam were essential to initiate the wars in the Middle East which have yet to cease. Is the public willing to be influenced by media that have a political (and economic) agenda that seeks to oust a democratically-elected and popularly supported government just because they don't like its policies?

With the recent tragic events in Arizona it should become even more evident that media have power and influence over individual actions. Hate speech, demonization campaigns, manipulative and deceitful information are dangerous and can lead to abominable consequences, including war.

It's time to stop the escalating aggression against Venezuela and accept the facts: Venezuela is not a dictatorship, and while many of you may not like Hugo Chavez, a majority of Venezuelans who voted for him do. And in this scenario, they're the ones who matter.