Friday, 29 April 2011

Guantánamo: WikiLeaks exposes crimes of US imperialism

Source: Granma International, 28 April 2011.

The Pentagon’s greatest shame:
the illegal Guantánamo prison
• WikiLeaks reveals details of prisoner abuse

THE United States committed acts of abuse on prisoners in the prison it maintains on illegally occupied territory in Guantánamo, as confirmed by 759 secret reports disclosed by WikiLeaks, which also reveal that 60% of the prisoners taken to that prison had no links whatsoever with the jihad.

The files, which run from February 2002 to January 2009, were simultaneously published by a number of U.S. and European newspapers.

The cases of the majority of the prisoners – 758 out of 779 – are described in detail in memos that the Joint Task Force in Guantánamo Bay sent to the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Florida.

The documents note what the detainees carried in their pockets and even their state of health, as well as the series of interrogations to which they were subjected, their infringements of prison regulations and comments to each other during years of detention in the prison created by George W. Bush in January of 2002, the one which his successor, Barack Obama, promised to close down, which he has not done through now.

RATB protest against the US torture camp at Guantánamo, Cuba in Newcastle, UK 2007.

According to WikiLeaks, Abu Zubaydah, an alleged "high-value" detainee seized in Pakistan in March 2002, who spent four and a half years in CIA secret prisons, including those in Thailand and Poland – was subjected on 83 occasions to the torture technique known as water boarding, a controlled form of asphyxiation by drowning, while he was in CIA custody in August of 2002.

Among cases of incarcerated innocents, The New York Times highlights the story of an Afghan shepherd called Sharbat, captured close to a road where a bomb exploded. The Guantánamo analysts confirmed that he knew about shepherding but knew nothing about "political and military concepts." Even so, a military court declared him an "enemy combatant" and sent him back to Afghanistan in 2006.

The Guantánamo Bay Naval Base comprises land and a military base which the United States usurped from Cuba under the Platt Amendment of 1903, which imposed spurious conditions on the island after the U.S. military intervention.

The U.S. naval base occupies approximately 117.6 square kilometers (49.4Km2 of terra firma and the rest water and swamp) is known for its military prison housing detainees allegedly linked to Islamic terrorist groups. On January 11, 2009, in Washington DC, the president elect, Barack Obama, ratified his commitment to closing down the prison on Guantánamo Base, while he noted that that would take time. On January 22, 2009, two days after Obama’s inauguration as president, the Guantánamo Penitentiary Center was closed. However, four months later, he announced the reestablishment of the facility.

Through the WikiLeaks documents, the international media had access to the secret military files of 759 of 779 prisoners who have passed through the prison, 170 of whom are still confined there.

Elderly people with senile dementia, adolescents, patients with severe psychiatric disorders and teachers or farmers with no links whatsoever to the jihad were taken to Guantánamo.

The innards of the prison are revealed in 4,759 pages signed by the senior commands of the Guantánamo Joint Task Force, and sent to the Southern Command of the Department of Defense in Miami.

This X-Ray of a prison created by George W. Bush in 2002, outside of national and international law, comes at a bad moment for President Barack Obama. Closing down the prison was his first promise after taking office in January 2009. The announcement one month ago that trials by military courts were to recommence, was a recognition of his failure.

The 2002-2009 reports, in the majority of cases directed at recommending whether prisoners should continue to be held in the facility, released or transferred to another country, document for the first time how the United States assessed each of the inmates and what it knew about them. They reveal a system based on denunciations by other prisoners, with no clear rules, based on suspicions and conjecture, and which did not require evidence in order to keep persons detained for long periods – 143 people have been there for more than nine years – and which establishes three levels of risk defined in barely one sentence.

According to the secret reports, there have been cases in which not even the U.S. government knows why someone was transferred to Guantánamo, and others in which it has been concluded that the detainee did not pose any danger whatsoever: an elderly man of 89 suffering from senile dementia and depression who lived in a residential complex with a satellite telephone; a father who was going to look for his son on the Taliban front; a merchant traveling without documents; a man who was hitching a ride to buy medicines.

The United States decided that 83 prisoners did not suppose any risk to national security and, in the case of another 77, acknowledged that it was unlikely that they would pose any threat to the country or its allies. According to the assessment of U.S. soldiers, 20% of prisoners were taken to the prison in an arbitrary manner.

If one adds to that the fact that those who might only possibly pose any danger – 274 in total – it can be concluded that the United States did not seriously believe in the guilt or threat of almost 60% of its prisoners. Detainees were held fundamentally to exploit them, according to its own terminology; in case they knew something which might be useful.

Guantánamo is a prison, but the priority is not to hand down sentences for crimes committed. Only seven prisoners have been tried and sentenced to date: six in military courts on the base and one in a civil court in New York. The basic objective, according to the reports, is to obtain information via interrogations. One of the two parameters used to decide whether a prisoner can be released or not is precisely his "intelligence value," to use the terminology employed in the secret files.

The prison functions like a vast police department without any limit on detention and in which the duration of the punishment is not proportionate to the alleged crime committed. The secret files show prisoners treated as if they were guilty and who not only had to demonstrate their innocence but their lack of knowledge about Al Qaeda and the Taliban in order to secure their release. The only crime which the authorities could bring against them was that of having a cousin, friend or brother related to the jihad; or living in a town in which there had been significant Taliban attacks; or traveling on routes used by terrorists and, of course, knowing them well.

Nine years and three months after the opening of Guantánamo, the secret reports reveal that only 22% of prisoners have presented a high level of interest to the U.S. intelligence services. In the case of the remaining 78%, the informative value of inmates was medium or low, as the military itself acknowledges.

The detainees saw the faces of many interrogators: soldiers, CIA agents and police from their own countries who passed by their cells in secret and took statements from them while they were handcuffed and chained to the floor by a ring. A Casio F91W watch on the wrist of one prisoner was considered sufficient evidence of his having received explosives’ training.

The files do not specify the methods used to obtain information in the prison. The word torture barely appears in the close to 800 documents.

Each file usually has a section under the epigraphy headed "Reasons for continued detention." If a detainee himself does not admit to having sworn loyalty to Bin Laden or to have fought against the United States in the Tora Bora mountains, his own fellow inmates’ names and last names appear denouncing him or identifying him.

But at no point is there any information as to the circumstances in which prisoners have admitted their alleged guilt or incriminated others. Sometimes a prisoner states that he has been tortured, but the writers of the report take it upon themselves to affirm that such a statement has no credibility whatsoever.

The reports are cold texts in functional prose. They barely mention personal matters such as suicide attempts, state of health or hunger strikes and, in the case of the string of prisoners with psychiatric disorders, one of the most twisted aspects of Guantánamo, they confine themselves to stating whether, despite the disorder (frequently accompanied by multiple suicide attempts), it could be useful to continue asking them questions.

They made a fruitless attempt to give Afghan detainee Kudai Dat, diagnosed as schizophrenic, a final interrogation despite the fact that he had been hospitalized with severe psychotic symptoms. When he improved they gave him a polygraph test, provoking renewed hallucinations in the sick man, according to a prison psychiatric report. His long-term prognosis was "poor." But, despite his medical record, the military authorities insisted that he was faking the nervous attacks and recommended keeping him on the base. He spent four years incarcerated there.

The documents are extremely formal, but behind the administrative language information can be glimpsed which contributes to a portrait of living conditions in the prison. When they refer to a detainee’s conduct, disciplinary infringements are mentioned on one side and acts of aggression on the other. Every incident is confirmed with a minimum of details: "Inappropriate use of body fluids, unauthorized communication, damage to government property, inciting and participating in mass disturbances, attempted assault, assault, provocative words and gestures, possession of food and the contraband of items that are not weapons…"

Everything has been entered and recorded, but concrete information is only given about the most recent disciplinary incident. And it is there, precisely, in those fleeting, passing details, that some idea of the harsh life on Guantánamo can be glimpsed; the majority of prisoners have thrown urine or feces at their guards. The punishment they suffer for those actions is never specified nor is the context in which they were perpetrated.

Other detainees have gone down on record as having covered their cell ventilation with toilet paper, having returned a book to the library with underlinings or marks, having refused food or to come out of the shower.

(Taken from CubaDebate)

US-backed terrorist Orlando Bosch dies unpunished

Terrorist Orlando Bosch Dies Unpunished in Miami
by Jean-Guy Allard, 28 April 2011
Source: Granma

Orlando Bosch, the head of the terrorist organization CORU a protégé of the Bush clan, the NCAF and the CIA, and the co-author with Luis Posada Carriles of the explosion in mid-flight of a Cubana de Aviacion plane; died in Miami this Wednesday, at 12:05 pm, unpunished for the crimes he committed.

According to a statement, his death occurred after "suffering from an (unspecified) long and painful disease." He was 84.

Bosch was born on August 18, 1926 in Potrerillo, Cuba, 250 kilometers east of Havana. He arrived in the United States on July 28, 1960 with a 30-day stay permit. However, he immediately entered the dirty war against Cuba ordered by the CIA, and directed from Florida, and he would remain in US territory until 1972.

US-backed terrorists Orlando Bosch (l) and Luis Posada Carriles (r).

His barbarian methods can be related in some of the crimes he committed and never got punished for: on September 16, 1968 he took part in the launching of a bazooka projectile against the Polish ship Polanica, anchored in the port of Miami. On November 15, 1968, he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment by the Federal Court in the South Florida District for several crimes and, at the same time, for having sent written threats to the then-President of Mexico, to Spain’s Head of State and to the British Prime Minister, in which he express his intent to damage all the ships and planes of those nations as retaliation for their ties with Cuba.

In 1972 he was released on parole, upon which he left the United States. In a clear violation of his parole terms he actively participated in the gruesome Operation Condor together with the CIA and Pinochet’s dictatorship.

More obsessed than ever with his terrorist "mission," Bosch engaged in the creation, on CIA orders, of the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU) in Bonao, Dominican Republic, to gather together several terrorist Miami-based groups. The creation of the organization took place on June 11, 1976 in a secret work house of the agency.

The CORU would become the most devastating Cuban-American terrorist group in the second half of the 20th century. Under the CIA and other right-wing organizations orders, they planned and executed numerous attempts, murders, and kidnappings in Miami, New York, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico, Argentina and even Europe.

A report issued by the Acting General Attorney General Joe D. Whitley on May 1989, declared Bosch a public enemy of the United States and denied asylum to this dangerous character for the 30-odd terrorist acts committed, among them the hideous Barbados bombing.

The US Attorney emphasized one particular terrorist act: "In October 1976, Bosch was arrested in Venezuela in relation with the bombing committed against a Cuban civilian airliner on October 6, 1976, which killed 73 men, women and children aboard."

Bosch left Venezuela under the protection of the person who did the procedures to get his "acquittal," who was none other than Otto Reich, then the ambassador of the United States to Caracas. He arrived in the United States from Venezuela on February 18, 1988, without any valid papers. Upon his arrival, he was formally arrested under warrant for his parole violation in 1974, when it was debated whether to keep him under arrest or to expel him.

According to the New York Times issued on August 17, 1989 Cuba-American congresswoman Ileana Ross-Lehtinen and other Florida and NCAF politicians were personally negotiating his release with then President George Bush Sr. The meeting was arranged by his son Jeb Bush, who won in this way the support of the Cuban right-wing of Miami for his run for governor of Florida a few years later.

In a press conference following his release, Bosch showed no remorse at all. In an open challenge, the terrorist said with haughty irony: "They may have bought the chain, but they have not bought the monkey."

His constant instigation to a terrorist war against Cuba in the media of Miami, his acknowledgement of plans to commit terrorist acts, and his hateful remarks on the victims of the Barbados bombing, are proof of the impunity he enjoyed in life. The same that Luis Posada Carriles enjoys today.

Read more on Orlando Bosch and his recent 2010 memoirs here.

Venezuela deports Joaquín Pérez Becerra

Controversy in Venezuela over Arrest of Alternative Journalist
by Tamara Pearson, 25 April 2011.

At the request of the Colombian government, the Venezuelan government has arrested and says it will soon deport a supposed ex-FARC leader and alternative journalist, Joaquin Perez Becerra, despite opposition to the deportation from many groups on the Venezuelan left.

The Venezuelan government said in a statement that it detained Perez, a presumed leader of the guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) when he tried to enter the country through the Caracas international airport on Saturday, and will deport him to Colombia today, following a request by the Colombian government.

According to Venezuelan government press, a commission of the Colombian National Police will travel to Caracas to assist with the deportation process.

Perez is wanted by the Colombian legal system, and the Venezuelan and Colombian governments say there is a red alert for him with Interpol, for supposedly financing terrorism and administering resources related to terrorist activities. He is said to be part of the international commission of the FARC and coordinator of the news agency, Anncol (in English: The site, the New Colombia News Agency, is an alternative news site based in Sweden, and was founded in 1996 by Latin American and European journalists, with its stated aim of “being a voice for the voiceless sectors of Colombia”. It is said to politically support the FARC.

Colombian President Juan Santos thanked the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador yesterday in a press conference, saying, “This collaboration with our neighbours is very important... It’s further demonstration that this cooperation is increasing, it’s effective.”

He also explained that on Saturday he talked with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez by telephone to request the arrest of Perez, as Perez had taken a flight from Germany that was headed to Venezuela.

He included Ecuador in his thanks because the country’s government had helped to capture a supposed head of a criminal gang last week.

According to Santos, Perez was responsible, for many years “for all this bad propaganda that the FARC has put out about Colombia from Europe”.

The Venezuelan government’s press release stated the details of the arrest and that “The Bolivarian government ratifies its unshakeable commitment in the struggle against terrorism, crime, and organised crime, in strict compliance with cooperation, under the principles of peace, solidarity, and respect of human rights.”

Venezuelan left objections
Many groups in the organised Venezuelan left, all of which support the Bolivarian revolution, have criticised the government’s handling of the situation, and have called for Perez’s freedom.

According to Venezuelan movement site, Aporrea, Perez has political asylum in Sweden. The Coordinadora Simon Bolivar (CSB), a pro-government organisation that is based in the well-organised Caracas barrio 23 de Enero and aims for grassroots organisation, called on the government to “comply with its international agreements, which include respecting political refugee status”. The CSB called for Perez to be freed “immediately” and to not be extradited.

The Venezuelan-based alternative website Patria Grande questioned if there was an Interpol red alert, given that Perez was not detained in Sweden, where he was living, or in Germany, where he changed flights.

Further, an editor of pro-government newspaper Ciudad Caracas, Ernesto Villegas, wrote that Perez survived during the mass murder of leaders of the Patriotic Union (UP), which was the legal political party for a range of social actors, including the FARC and the Colombian Communist Party, and for this, he was able to get political asylum in Sweden.

Some 5,000 members of the UP have been killed since 1984, including Perez’s first wife. Perez was a leader of the group during the 1990s.

Villegas questioned if Perez was a “terrorist” and expressed his concern that “tomorrow or the day after this label could be applied to anyone”. He also pointed out how the international press have automatically labelled Perez a “terrorist” but other confessed terrorists, such as Luis Posada Carriles, the mastermind behind the bombing of a Cuban plane, are labelled as “anti-Castro” rather than terrorist.

Villegas called on the Venezuelan president to “not fall into Santos’ trap”.

The Venezuelan Communist Party’s newspaper, Tribuna Popular, reported that a delegation consisting of some of its own members, United Socialist Party of Venezuela leader Amilca Figuerora, leaders of the Bolivarian Continental Movement, and a representative of the International Solidarity Committee visited the office of the Venezuelan intelligence agency, SEBIN, to try to talk to Perez. They were unable to.

Also, according to Tribuna Popular, Perez came to Venezuela to learn about the Bolivarian revolution and to combat the misinformation about it that is common in the mainstream press.

Left-wing Swedish journalist Dick Emanuelsson also criticised the capture of Perez in an article published by Kaos en la Red. Emanuelsson wrote about Perez’s “intense political activity in Europe in favour of peace and the struggle of the Colombian people”.

Kaos en la Red also said that the Swedish consul in Caracas and Swedish ambassador Lena Nordstrom in Bogota, had carried out procedures to try to prevent the extradition of Perez.

Finally, the pro-Chavez union federation UNETE wrote in a statement that it too rejected “the arbitrary detention by Venezuelan government authorities, against the revolutionary journalist of Colombian origin and Swedish nationality, Joaquin Perez Becerra”. UNETE also opposed Perez’s extradition and demanded his freedom.

“We make a fraternal but energetic call to President Chavez to correct the situation, so that our Bolivarian process can continue being, without any doubt, the hope of the peoples of the world”.

“Those who fight against the pro-Yankee and criminal oligarchy of Colombia aren’t our enemies but rather brothers of the Bolivarian, freedom, and anti-imperialist struggle,” the UNETE statement concluded.

The stakes: part of changing Venezuela-Colombia relations
Recently, Santos also promised to extradite Venezuelan wanted drug trafficker Walid Makled to Venezuela, even though Colombia’s close ally, the United States, had requested Makled be extradited there.

And last month the Venezuelan government deported two supposed guerrillas of Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN), Carlos Tirado and Carlos Perez, who were captured in Apure state along the border with Colombia.

Santos and Chavez met earlier this month in Colombia, and among the range of bilateral agreements discussed and made, they agreed to better coordinate confronting drug smuggling groups that operate along the borders of both countries, and to exchange intelligence information.

Following Santos’ swearing-in in August last year, Chavez met with him for the first time and the two countries agreed to restore diplomatic relations. Venezuela ended relations with Colombia under President Alvaro Uribe after Uribe accused Chavez of protecting illegal Colombian guerrillas at a meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) a month before.

See also: Sweden asks Venezuela to explain FARC suspect arrest, AFP, 27 April 2011.

More violence and repression against Honduran campesinos

New Bloodshed in Lower Aguan
by Gilberto Rios –FIAN Honduras (Communique), 22 April 2011.

No end to the violence and repression against the campesino organizations

The lifeless bodies of Tarin Daniel Garcia Enamorado, 26 years old and three children, found decapitated – and his father-in-law, Mr. Carlos Alberto Acosta Canales, five children, with his hands tied, both campesinos members of the Movimiento Autentico Campesino del Aguan (MUCA), were found in Ocotes Altos, on the left bank of the Aguan River in the municipality of Trujillo.

Tarin Daniel was a member of the cooperative, Productores de Colon, one of the four that make up the settlement La Concepcion.

According to the spouse of one of the victims, they had left to go fishing on Thursday, April 14th at 3 pm with the promose to return the next day. Since they did not return on the agreed upon day, their families and friends opted to communicate with the police in Tocoa, Trujillo and in La Ceiba to find information, but it wasn’t until yesterday, April 19th that they found their cadavers.

There are reports from neighbors in the locale that say the victims had been captured by security guards of Reynaldo Canales and Rene Morales precisely at the place where the lands of these businessmen meet the Aguan River.

Poor residents and campesinos that belong to the campesino cooperatives in the region express that they are living in a state of permanent terror, fearing for the loss of their lives, because so many dead and mutilated people are produced; a precise count can’t be made because some of these acts are not even reported by the communication media.

Today, the campesinos of the cooperative La Confianza denounce that they have been followed when they took money out of a bank, by three cars, all Toyota 3.0, one white, one cream, and one grey. Mario Mejia, a campesino from another settlement was followed on the 14th of this month when he withdrew money, by three carrs of cimilar colors, from which they fired guns and one of the bullets hit him in one of his ankles.

The people dennouncing the events do not believe that these actions are the result of common delinquency, but rather are actions of intimidation by the big land owners with whom they are in conflict.

Fian International, Honduran Section, expresses its indignation for the impunity that prevails in all of the country and is especially dramatic in the Lower Aguan since the initiation of the agrarian conflicts that are publically known both nationally and internationally.

Translated by VC from FIAN Communiqué from here.

Interview with Juan Barahona: Hugo Chávez meets Honduran Resistance

Juan Barahona: “Four irrevocable points for dialogue with Lobo”
by Giorgio Trucchi, 21 April 2011.

Decision expected to be discussed with the rank and file of the Honduran Resistance.

After the meeting last Saturday (4/16) between the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and the ex-president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, ex members of his cabinet and leadership of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP), rumors have multiplied about an imminent opening of negotiations with Porfirio Lobo; the return of Zelaya to the country and the restitution of Honduras to the OAS in its next assembly this coming June in El Salvador. A process of negotiation also endorsed by the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, which has awakened a strong debate at the national level and that is expected to involve the bases of the Honduran resistance.

l-r: Juan Barahona, Chávez and Manuel Zelaya.

In order to analyze the details of the unexpected announcement, we spoke with Juan Barahona, sub-coordinator of the FNRP.

How did this meeting occur in Caracas and what were the themes that were discussed?
-We met with President Hugo Chavez and we explained the grave situation that Honduras is living through, and the process of structuring that the FNRP is undergoing. Furthermore we presented to him a document in which we set out our position and demands.

What are those demands?
-We demand the safe return of the Coordinator of the FNRP, Manuel Zelaya and of all the exiles; respect for human rights, the convocation of a National Constituent Assembly and the recognition of the FNRP as a political force with the capability and legal status to participate in future electoral processes.

What was President Chavez’s response?
-He was in agreement with participating in the mediation, together with the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, to look for a way out of the Honduran crisis. Furthermore he stated his decision to collaborate so that constitutional order is returned to Honduras. .

Can we analyze these four points raised by the FNRP?
-The return of Manuel Zelaya and the exiles must be accompanied by a guarantee that respects all of their rights, including respect for their lives. For the coordinator of the FNRP we also ask for a guarantee of the ex-president’s status that nullifies the political charges against him and that guarantees his right to participate in politics.

Regarding the theme of human rights, since the coup we have lived in a situation of constant repression and persecution. We demand an end to this situation and an end to the repression.

The demand for a National Constituent Assembly is something that we have demanded since before the coup d’état and it has gathered more force since the rupture of the constitutional order. A Constituent (Assembly) must pass through a plebiscite and that will allow us to create a new Constitution with the participation of all sectors of the country.

This will take us to the convocation of new general elections in which the FNRP, once recognized as a political force, will participate to seek the taking of power.

We hope to achieve an agreement during the month of May before the assembly of the OAS in El Salvador.

The convocation of a Constituent Assembly and respect for human Rights are processes that will take a lot of time and monitoring, meanwhile here the strongest pressure is that an agreement be signed and the reinstatement of Honduras to the OAS occur. Are you going to have confidence in the word of Porfirio Lobo? Don’t you fear that the tragic experience of the San Jose and Guaymura agreements will be repeated?

- We have that fear, that is to say, that Porfirio Lobo signs an agreement and afterward doesn’t fulfill it. For that reason the document that we propose will name a Verification Commission, in which the presidents of Venezuela and Colombia will guarantee the fulfillment of the eventual agreement.

- These points that you mention will remain pending and the Commission will have the task of verifying the process of fulfillment.

What happens with the other historic demands of the FNRP? Punishment for the coup organizers, violators of human rights; a radical change in the institutions linked to the coup…. Will you accept “wiping the slate clean” for reconciliation?

- Everything remains. In the proposal on human rights we demand punishment for the violators (of those rights) and of those responsible for the coup d’état. Even if those points are not achieved now they continue on the agenda of the Resistance.

Will what was decided in the meeting in Caracas change in some way the agreement made in the assemble of the FNRP last February 26?

- What the assembly decided stays in place and on June 28 the auto-convocation of the National Constituent Assembly begins.

Will the bases of the Resistance be consulted about the decision to begin a negotiation with Porfirio Lobo?

- Next week we will have a meeting of the National Coordinating Committee of the FNRP and we will present a report about what was discussed in Caracas. We will also make decisions about what mechanisms to implement to inform the rank and file.

But will the topic of the negotiation be taken to the bases of the FNRP for them to take a decision?

- -Of course, the bases must be informed. In fact we are already doing that through public declarations and a circular that we have already sent.

Are you fully confident in those who will be the actors in the possible negotiation, including Santos and Porfirio Lobo?

- For us the true guarantee is the mediation by President Chavez. In addition we maintain a fluid communication with our coordinator, Manuel Zelaya and we are carrying out everything in this process together with him.

Helen Yaffe reports on Cuba's sixth PCC Congress

Cuban Communists: in step with the people to improve socialist efficiency
by Helen Yaffe, 22 April 2011.

The Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) took place in Havana between the 16 and 19 April 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of two historic events: the declaration of the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution on 16 April 1961 and the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion by CIA-trained Cuban exiles, within 72 hours, on the 19 April 1961.

The principal function of the Congress was to discuss, amend and approve the Draft Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution and then to oversee their implementation. Distributed nationally in early November 2010, these guidelines contained 291 proposals for consolidating or amending social and economic policy in twelve broad categories:

  • economic management
  • macroeconomic policies (including monetary, exchange, fiscal and pricing policies)
  • external economic relations
  • investment
  • science, technology and innovation
  • social policy (education, health, sports, culture, social security, employment and wages)
  • agro-industry
  • industry and energy
  • tourism
  • transport
  • construction, housing and water resources
  • commerce.

The aim is to update and improve the efficiency of the socialist Revolution in meeting contemporary challenges.

The introduction of the guidelines affirm ‘the principle that only socialism is capable of overcoming the difficulties and preserving the conquests of the Revolution, and that in the updating of the economic model, planning will be supreme, not the market.’ Socialism, it states, means ‘equality of rights and opportunities for the citizens, not egalitarianism. Work is both a right and a duty; the personal responsibility of every citizen, and must be remunerated according to its quantity and quality.’

The short-term aim of economic policy is to eliminate the balance of payments deficit, increase national income, substitute imports with internal production, improve economic efficiency, work motivation and income distribution, ‘and create the necessary infrastructural and productive conditions to permit the transition to a higher stage of development’. The long-term aim is ‘food and energy self-sufficiency, an efficient use of human potential, a higher level of competitiveness in traditional production areas, and the development of new forms of the production of goods and services of higher added value.’

In an example of real democracy, every Cuban was given access to this document and then invited to participate in an open debate about its content. Between 1 December 2010 and the 28 February 2011, 163,000 meetings were organised by work or study centres, political and residential groups. Out of a total population of 11.2 million, almost nine million people participated in these meetings (it was possible to participate more than once), over three million comments were made about the draft guidelines. The CCP membership is around 800,000 but these meetings were open to every member of society, regardless of political or organisational affiliation.

RATB Reports: 50th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs victory, Manchester, UK

written for RATB by Charles Chinweizu, 23 April 2011.

Over 50 people gathered in Manchester, UK on 17 April 2011, for a meeting about the 50th anniversary of the victory over the US-backed Bay of Pigs aggression against and invasion of Cuba. The first shot in this invasion was fired by a CIA operative and one-third of the invaders were ex-Batista soldiers.

Fernando León Jacomino, Rafael Sardiña Gonzalez and Robert Claridge from RATB, spoke from the platform. Jacomino, a poet and theatre critic was prominent in the Union of Young Communists (UJC), and is now a member of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and was for six years the vice-president of the Cuban Book Institute. Gonzalez is a Counsellor at the Cuban Embassy in London. Dr. Par Kumaraswami, a co-director of the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) at the University of Manchester translated for Jacomino.

Claridge representing RATB, put the meeting in the appropriate context of what Cuban socialism means for us today, here in Britain, where we face a massive assault on working class conditions, by the British ruling class who, unable to resolve their financial and economic crisis, are making the working class pay.

l-r: Par Kumaraswami, Fernando León Jacomino, Louis, Rafael Sardiña Gonzalez and Robert Claridge

For a more detailed report see below...

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Edited version of a speech given at the Manchester RATB commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the victory at the Bay of Pigs 17 April 2011

Our celebrations today coincide with the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. So-called ‘Cubanologists’ and spokespersons for the mass media will be examining its proceedings in minute detail: will it be a rubber-stamping exercise proving once again the dictatorial nature of the Castro brothers, or a milestone in Cuba’s inevitable progress towards market socialism and thence to capitalism? Of course we should not expect the facts to stand in the way of shallow prejudice, and we may expect all sorts of nonsense in the days to come.

For our part, we will take what Raul Castro says as the most authoritative view, and even the BBC has to concede that ‘he insisted the socialist character of Cuba would be "irreversible" and accumulation of property would not be allowed.’ In other words, there would be no change to Fidel’s declaration 50 years ago. And in truth, the position of the Cuban revolution, despite serious problems, despite the illegal US economic blockade, is stronger now than it has been in the past. Consider its international position: its principal enemy, US imperialism, is engaged in three wars in the Middle East and north Africa. It has been unable to resolve its financial and economic crisis. It faces challenges from other imperialist powers, and from the rise of China as a major industrial power. Its position in Latin America has been significantly undermined, in part through European competition, in part through the rise of Brazil as a regional power, but most significantly of all, through the development of the ALBA alliance.

However, what I want to discuss is what Cuban socialism means for us today, here in Britain, where we face a massive assault on working class conditions. Let us take a few examples of what is happening now:

• New limits on housing benefit paid to the poor mean that hundreds of thousands of people face losing their accommodation;
• Disability tests run by the French multinational Atos are forcing hundreds of thousands of people on Disability Benefit from the higher level of Employment and Support Allowance on to basic Jobseekers’ Allowance despite the fact they are clearly not fit for work;
• Essential local council services for the elderly, the disabled and children are being slashed up and down the country because of a 26% cut in central government support;
• Working class youth will be unable to complete secondary education because of cuts in Education Maintenance Allowance worth £30 a week if they continue in full-time education;
• Even if they do complete their secondary education, they will be unable to go to University because they will have to pay £9,000 tuition fees each year plus their living costs. This will also rule out many middle class students;
• The Health and Social Services Bill currently before parliament will end central government responsibility for delivering universal health care free at the point of use. That responsibility will pass to health care multinationals running commissioning consortia which will have powers to decide what health services to buy, and whether to charge patients for them, and if so, how much.

British police thugs attack student protesters

What we are seeing is the wholesale dismantling of what is called by many the Welfare State. I say ‘by many’ because in reality we do not have a welfare state in this, one of the richest countries in the world. We do have a system of state welfare, to be sure: but that is something quite different. A welfare state is a state committed to the welfare of its entire people, where access to adequate housing, access to free and universal education, to free and universal health care are treated as basic human rights. Such a state cannot be a capitalist state, which exists to defend the rights to private ownership and exploitation. A welfare state can in fact be only a socialist state. What is happening today in Britain demonstrates this point conclusively, especially if you look at how the Cuban state managed an economic crisis far more severe in the 1990s.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist countries in 1991, Cuban GDP fell by 35%. Seizing the chance, the US ratcheted up its illegal economic blockade with the Torricelli and Helms Burton Acts. But despite this, there were no moves by the Cubans to privatise health or education. Far from it: the share of Cuban GDP on social programmes rose by 34%; between 1990 and 2003, the number of Cuban doctors increased by 76%, dentists by 46%, nurses by 16%. The number of maternity homes rose by 86%, day care centres for older people by 107%. Infant mortality fell from 11.1 per thousand in 1989 to 6.4 per thousand in 1999. Education spending rose from 8.5% of GDP in 1990 to 11.7% in 1999.

In other words, amidst the devastation of that economic crisis and the terrible privations it caused, the Cuban people and the Cuban state made a choice: to preserve and extend essential welfare. Such a response is only possible with different social relations, ones based on collective ownership of property: a socialist system, a genuine welfare state.

In contrast to Cuba, the wealth of Britain is vast. Its overseas assets are a staggering £10,000bn, seven times its annual output. Through the City of London, the largest financial centre in the world, British imperialism loots the world, impoverishing billions. Yet we are being told by the government and the millionaire press that we are living beyond our means, that the public sector debt is unsustainable, that the NHS has to be reformed, that we cannot afford the current level of state university investment, or to educate working class youth or to give the disabled and elderly a decent healthy life.

This in a country where there are 500,000 millionaires, each with their own tax avoidance scheme, gigantic multinationals – two of the largest oil companies in the world, the largest arms manufacturer – also with their own tax avoidance schemes, vast banks and financial companies to whom tax avoidance is just a standard way of doing business. £120bn is the estimated loss each year to the British state as a result of all this personal and corporate tax avoidance, more than enough to cover the £81bn state spending cuts demanded by the City of London and its ConDem government.

Yet what is at issue is not the degree of national wealth, but its social form: that of private property with the social relations that follow. In conditions of economic and social crisis, the defence of the interests of private property are not compatible with systems of state welfare even in a country as wealthy as Britain. It reminds us that the systems of state welfare established in most European countries proved possible because of the exceptional conditions of the post-war boom from 1945 to the 1970s, and necessary to prevent the working class fighting for a real welfare state like that which existed in the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc.

What this tells us as we face up to the political problems presented by the imperialist crisis, is that what takes place in Cuba matters to us. It matters to us because it is the alternative, the alternative that we must constantly put before the working class here as it takes a stand against the impact of the crisis. What we have to show is that we don’t have a welfare state in Britain, but we need one – and that means changing the social form of wealth from one based on private property to one based on collective ownership. Such is socialism: and Cuba shows on a daily basis that this is possible.

Robert Claridge,
Rock around the Blockade (RATB)

Friday, 22 April 2011

50 Years since the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion

RATB Public Meeting - Friday 6 May 2011, Bolivar Hall , 54 Grafton Way, London, W1.

50th anniversary of the victory at the Bay of Pigs; The original flyer listed Steve Ludlam as a speaker but unfortunately he has been persuaded by members of the Executive Committee of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) that appearing on the RATB platform is incompatible with his role in the CSC. Sadly this is not the first time that RATB events have been undermined in this way. However, we are delighted to announce the participation of historian Alex von Tunzelmann, author of the Indian Summer and the new book, Red Heat (pub. 14 April 2011) which discusses the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile crisis.

More details here.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

True popular democracy

By Aixa Alfonso Guerra
Source: Cuban News Agency, 20 April 2011.

It is encouraging for the Cuban people to listen to the delegates to the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party debate important aspects in the country´s economic life in a transparent and realistic way. True democracy is expressed in the active participation of the people in the analysis of issues that affect the population as a whole.

An example of this is the discussion of fundamental problems by the over 8 million citizens in some 163 000 assemblies that were held prior to the congress. What the delegates are debating are the results of a broad discussion process of the Project of the Economic and Social Guidelines of the Party and Revolution held in neighborhoods, work places and communities across the country. Reflections and opinions were generated in these meetings held in each People´s Council where the population enriched the document with proposals and suggestions.

There were 181 of the 291 guidelines modified and 36 new proposals were incorporated after debates among the population. This was an example of the quality of the discussions, as expressed by President Raul Castro during the inauguration of the 6th Party Congress last Saturday. A consensus among the population in search of solutions to problems worsened by the world economic crisis is only possible in a revolutionary process that has been underway on the island since January 1st, 1959 in addition to a ferocious economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the US government for over 50 years.

The one thousand delegates are currently debating on the guidelines which began on April 16th at the International Convention Center coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the victory over the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The Cuban people, inspired in the teachings of the leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro that; “Revolution means to have a sense of history; it is changing everything that must be changed; it is full equality and freedom…”, we bet on the continuity of socialism in our country, as guarantees to the independence of our Homeland.

Raul describes results of 6th PCC Congress as excellent

Source: Cuban News Agency (ACN), 19 April 2011.

President Raul Castro, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), described as excellent the results of the 6th Congress of the organization, which wound up on Tuesday with the presence of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro.

On behalf of the almost 800,000 PCC members and 1,000 delegates to the Congress, Raul congratulated Cubans for their participation in the debates and their support for the Draft Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution.

He asserted that such support represents a grater commitment to guarantee the updating of the Cuban economic model, although –for the success of this strategy- efforts needs to be concentrated to ensure that the accords of this event are met, under the common denominator of order, discipline and rigor.

The head of state pointed out that its implementation will be gradually carried out in the course of a five-year period, with meticulous preparation for its implementation, intense work of promotion in the population, while being attentive – without feet and ears on the ground - to correct possible mistakes made during its implementation.

The main enemy, he warned, will be our own deficiencies. There’s no room for improvisation or haste. Changes that could be needed will be made as demanded by objective circumstances, always with the support and understanding of citizens, without putting the nation’s unity around the Revolution and its programs at risk. He expressed the view that Cuba has the necessary conditions to change its economic model and come out of crisis, without social traumas, due to the patriotism of the people, its education, and the just nature of their cause, among other factors.

Raul pointed out that Cuba will continue advancing, in spite of the US blockade, of the adverse conditions prevailing on the international market, where, due to the increase in oil prices, everything we purchase abroad becomes more expensive. According to recent data, the additional cost of imports this year is already of over 800 million dollars to purchase the same amounts planned, only due to the increase in prices, which will force us –as soon as the Congress concludes- to make adjustments to the plan approved in December, he said.

The Cuban leader announced that the National Conference of the Party will take place on January 28, 2012, which will be a continuation of the 6th Congress and that it will examine, with critical realism, the work of the Party and the changes required to exercise its role as leading force of the society and the State, included in Article Five of the Constitution of the Republic.

With regard to the election of the members of the Central Committee, the Secretariat and the Politburo, he underlined that a first step in the policy to choose leaders was taken, particularly with respect to the beginning of a gradual process of renewal and rejuvenation of the chain of political and state positions, while at the same time it improved composition in terms of race and gender.

He explained that the Central Committee is now composed of 115 members, 48 of them women (41.7 percent), which triple the previous proportion, while black people and people of mixed race are 36, for a 10 percent increase.

Raul went into great detail about the fact that all of them were selected from a large pool of university graduates and specialists, sons and daughters of the working class, from the most humble strata of the people, with an active political life in students’ organizations, the Young Communists League and the Cuban Communist Party.

He cited the case of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, who -he pointed out- set the first example of consistent attitude in this regard, when he specifically requested not to be included in the candidacy for the Central Committee. However, he exclaimed, Fidel is Fidel and he doesn’t need any post to occupy, for ever, a topmost place in history, in the present and future of the Cuban nation.

As long as his strength allows him to do so, and fortunately he’s at the height of his political thinking, and from his modest capacity as militant and soldier of ideas, he will continue contributing to the revolutionary struggle and to the noblest objectives of mankind. Raul confirmed that he assumes his last task with the firm conviction and commitment of honor that the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party has as his main mission and meaning of his life: to defend, preserve and continue perfecting Socialism, and never allow the capitalist regime to return.

He recalled the historic significance of the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the socialist nature of the Revolution and of the resounding victory over the mercenary invasion at Bay of Pigs, achieved under Fidel’s guide. Finally, he expressed his gratitude for the weapons supplied by the former Soviet Union – with which it was possible to defeat that aggression in less that 72 hours - and for the solidarity and support of other peoples of the world, which have successively voted at the UN General Assembly against the economic, financial and commercial blockade of the United States against Cuba.

New Politburo presented in closing session of sixth Congress of Cuba’s PCC

Source: Cuban News Agency (ACN), 19 April 2011.

The new Politburo of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) was presented during the final session of the Sixth Congress of this political organization that concluded on Tuesday morning at Havana’s Convention Center.

The Politburo — whose number of members was reduced from 24 to only 15 — is headed by the PCC’s First Secretary, President Raul Castro, and it includes Second Secretary Jose Ramon Machado Ventura; Commander of the Revolution and VP Ramiro Valdes; VP Esteban Lazo; the president of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon; Higher Education Minister Miguel Diaz-Canel; and the General Secretary of the Cuban Workers’ Confederation (CTC), Salvador Valdes Mesa.

Fidel Castro and Vice President Ramiro Valdés

The other members are Abelardo Colomé, Julio Casas, Leopoldo Cintra Frías, Ramón Espinosa Martín, Álvaro López Miera, Mercedes López Acea, Marino Murillo Jorge, and Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez. Also announced in the closing session of the Congress was the Secretariat of the Central Committee, which is headed by Machado Ventura and includes Esteban Lazo, Abelardo Álvarez Gil, José Ramón Balaguer, Víctor Gaute, Olga Lidia Tapia and Misael Enamorado.

Olga Lidia Tapia and Esteban Lazo

Local Assemblies of People’s Power to enjoy more authority

Source: Cuban News Agency (ACN), 19 April 2011.

A resolution on a process to give more authority to the Local Assemblies of the People’s Power and to asses their work was passed in the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) that concluded on Tuesday morning at Havana’s Convention Center.

The document “Improving Organs of the People’s Power, the Electoral System, and the Political and Administrative Division” was presented by delegate Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada. The resolution, which was unanimously approved, proposes the assessment of functional and organizational difficulties of representative and administrative bodies at the municipal and provincial levels.

The text notes that in order to do so it is necessary to continue studying the structures that will be implemented in the new provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque. It highlights the need to find the proper ways to delimit attributions and relations among the Assemblies and their Administration Councils with the Organs of the Central Administration of the State and enterprises located in their territories, as well as to promote more autonomy of the municipalities.

It also explains that this process will require changes in the Political and Administrative Division of the country, with the purpose of adjusting current boundaries; and for that it is necessary to revise and define the organization of big provincial capital cities like Havana.

The document states that a process of this nature demands different proceedings, legal terms, and adjustments in the Electoral System, on the basis of the key principles that support it and show its democratic and participatory character; as well as the amendment of a series of juridical norms taking into account the present scenario.

The Sixth Congress of the PCC agreed that its Central Committee will transmit the corresponding recommendations to the National Assembly of the People’s Power.

Delegates to sixth Congress of Cuban Communist Party approve report resolution on Central Report

Source: Cuban News Agency, 19 April 2011.

Delegates to the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) approved on Monday the Central Report and the Draft Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution.

During the third day of the Congress, which concluded on Tuesday morning at Havana’s Convention Center, the delegates approved the Report presented in the opening session by the First Secretary of the Party, Raul Castro Ruz, according to Cuban television.

The delegates also endorsed a Resolution on the Guidelines, which were discussed during three months from December 1, 2010, to February 28, 2011, in more than 163,000 meetings by different organizations with the attendance of 8,913,838 people.

According to the Central Report, the original document contained 291 guidelines; 16 of them were moved to others; 94 preserved their phrasing; 181 had their content modified; and 36 new guidelines were incorporated for a grand total of 311 guidelines. After two days of intense discussions, the 997 delegates agreed on the validity of the Central Report and the Guidelines as documents of permanent consultation henceforth.

The resolution on the Guidelines states that the economic policy of the party is based on the principle that Socialism is the only way to guarantee the system of life that the Cuban people needs and the sovereignty and independence of the country. The document also highlights that planning, in accordance with market trends, will be a priority in the updating process of the economic model. In addition, the delegates agreed on the creation of a Standing Committee for Implementation and Development, which, without diminishing the authority of the different Organs of the Central Administration of the State, will control, verify and coordinate actions among all the institutions involved in this activity. This Committee will recommend the
inclusion of new guidelines and will lead the implementation process in coordination with the relevant bodies.

It was also recommended that the institutions such as the National Assembly of the People’s Power, among others, elaborate legal norms to support the economic and social steps approved in order to contribute to the updating process of the Cuban economic model.

The participants also passed a resolution on the improvement of organs of the People’s Power, the Electoral System, and the Political and Administrative Division, which deals with the need to find the proper ways to delimit attributions and relations among the Assemblies and their Administration Councils with the Organs of the Central Administration of the State and enterprises located in their territories, as well as to promote more autonomy of the municipalities.

The document explains that this process will require changes in the Political and Administrative Division of the country, with the purpose of adjusting current boundaries; and to do so it is necessary to revise and define the organization of big provincial capital cities like Havana. A process of this nature demands different proceedings, legal terms, and adjustments in the Electoral System, on the basis of the key principles that support it and show its democratic and participatory character, the text adds.

Sixth Congress of the Communist Party approved 313 Guidelines

Source: Cuban News Agency (ACN), 19 April 2011

A total of 313 guidelines from the Draft Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution were approved by the delegates to the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) that concluded on Tuesday morning at Havana’s Convention Center with the presentation of the new Politburo and Secretariat of the Central Committee of this political organization.

Working in commissions, the delegates analyzed the more than 780,000 recommendations made by the people in recent months during the nationwide discussion of the Draft Guidelines, which led to the modification of 86 guidelines and the addition of another two.

The chapters in which more changes were introduced are those dealing with social policies, the management model, the strategies in the energy and industrial fields, and the agro-industrial sector.

According to the Central Report to the Congress, the first stage of discussion of the Draft Guidelines took place since last December until February all across the nation with the participation of 8,913,838 people.

The original document contained 291 guidelines; 16 of them were moved to others; 94 preserved their phrasing; 181 had their content modified; and 36 new guidelines were incorporated for a grand total of 311 guidelines.

Cuban PCC Congress commissions evaluate draft guidelines

Source: Cuban News Agency (ACN) 18 April 2011.

Delegates to the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) evaluated today in five working commissions the final draft guidelines to be submitted for approval to the plenary session. The members of Commission One agreed to clearly express in the Draft that the concept of sovereignty and independence of the Cuban nation is secure only with socialism, said the National Cuban Newscast (NTV).

Commission Two approved global aspects of the economic policy, including the need to strengthen tax culture in Cuban society and to promote the development of productions aimed at the exporting of goods and services, with emphasis on diversification. It also stressed the need to foster an effective process of substitution of imports, to ensure the use of existing opportunities in the agricultural and service sectors.

Meanwhile, members of Commission Three stressed the necessity of recovering the role and influence of working, along with the labor restructuring process, always on the basis that nobody will be left to fend for itself, even when the reduction of bloated payrolls is essential for Cuban economy.

Commission Four worked on the guidelines referred to agro industrial policies, on which the nation counts on to stop depending on imports to feed the people. It called as well for the restructuring of wholesale and retail commerce, to improve the diversity, availability and quality of products andservices to help meet the needs of the people.

The last Commission agreed with the laws related to the selling and purchasing of houses and the extension of the limits of idle land to be leased to outstanding producers.

Monday, 18 April 2011

5,000 Honduran teachers suspended

Suspension of 5.000 Honduran Teachers Announced
Source: (via
15 April 2011.

Honduras Ministry of Education suspended 5.000 teachers who participated in the protests in March against the privatization of public education. According to the General Secretary of Education Anibal Delgado, teachers failed to comply with a controversial emergency decree which obliges them to return to the schools.

The measure signed by President Porfirio Lobo was published in the Official Gazette after five weeks of continuous demonstrations in which teachers opposed to a law that supports the privatization of education and human rights violations in Honduras.

Despite teacher's pressure the law was passed by Congress and the government responded to their demands suppressing the protests. The Constitutional Court received on April 11 several protection applications against the suspension of 305 teachers.

On Tuesday hundreds of students, peasants, indigenous people and members of the People's National Resistance Front took some cities in the country in support of the teachers punished, but the protests were broken up by police. The police repression in March caused the death of a female teacher and dozens of people injured and detained.

Analysts and union leaders believe that the announcement of the suspension of other 5.000 teachers will aggravate the crisis and will move away the possibility of dialogue with the government.

Victor Dreke Cruz: Cuban revolutionary hero

Victor Dreke Cruz: Cuba's history man still talks of revolution
Source: The Independent on Sunday, 17 April 2011.

One of Che Guevara's 'pillars' is in London for the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs. Nina Lakhani meets Victor Dreke Cruz

The curiosity and romanticism surrounding Cuba's revolutionary hero Che Guevara has refused to abate, even slightly, in the 43 years since his death. Victor Dreke Cruz, who served as Che's number two in Africa, is one of the very few who can lay claim to a special personal relationship with the man. Dreke, 74, a former rebel fighter and army commander, is in London to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the disastrous attempt by CIA-backed Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro's communist government, that severely embarrassed President Kennedy.

But Dreke is more than a Che memory bank; he is living Cuban history. His belief in the socialist system remains resolute; his disdain for the US unchanged; his pride for what he, Che, the Castro brothers and the revolution achieved intact. To some, he is a revolutionary hero in his own right.

Dreke was born in March 1937 in Sagua la Grande, a town on the northern coast of central Cuba, the youngest of nine children in a poor family descended from African slaves. His father eked out a living from several jobs – carpenter, fishmonger and musician – his mother was a housewife. Unlike most pre-revolutionary black Cubans, Dreke attended school. He grew up wanting to be a fireman until becoming politicised as a student.

"My revolutionary struggle started on my 15th birthday when we went out to protest against Batista's coup d'état on 10 March 1952. "I didn't know who Batista was but we'd heard that he was cruel, so many students went to the streets to protest. The police came and beat us, and one of them said: 'Who has ever seen a black revolutionary? Black people are only chicken thieves.' "

If the young Dreke needed any encouragement, that casual racist remark, commonplace in pre-revolutionary Cuba, did the trick.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Is Cuba's Party Congress just a rubber-stamp exercise?

by Professor Antoni Kapcia, Professor in Latin American History, University of Nottingham
Source: BBC Online, 17 April 2011.

After two decades of austerity, many Cubans hope that the Cuban Communist Party Congress, being held this weekend, will bring about substantial economic change. Outside observers (mostly in Miami or Washington) - who often regard Cuba as Fidel Castro's personal fiefdom - tend to take one of two attitudes.

Either they dismiss the Congress as a rubber-stamping exercise or, conversely, they see tensions between "reformers" (including Raul Castro) and the "old guard" (led, perhaps, by a recovering Fidel) and attribute the Congress's long delay (it was due in 2001) to this underlying battle.

The reality, however, is more complex.

Firstly, Cuban Congresses have done much more than "rubber-stamping", and have often ended long processes of internal debate and initiated new debates.

While to many the idea of genuine debate might seem surprising, Cubans have in fact been encouraged to debate major issues frequently since 1959. However, because discussions have often taken place within the Party or Cuba's mass organisations, they have largely gone unnoticed outside.

Consultation process
This month's Congress follows months of discussion, in party branches and mass organisations, of a lengthy set of reform proposals. For example, the 1975 Congress followed years of fierce debate about Cuba's unorthodox definition of socialism.

In 2007, after harsh criticism of the revolution's failings, Raul launched a nationwide "consultation" which, through hundreds of local meetings, encouraged Cubans to echo those criticisms and strengthen his plans for economic reform. He then called this new Congress within days of being elected president, in February 2008.

So why the delay?

Officially it has been attributed to the world economic crisis and the three devastating hurricanes of 2008. But it could also be connected with resistance to reform from within the party hierarchy - there could be some truth to the idea of the battle between reformers and the old guard.

Resistance to change
Until Fidel confirmed recently (to the surprise of most Cubans) that he had resigned his Party leadership in January 2008, many outsiders had assumed that he was leading or legitimising resistance to reform, although he had given ample evidence to the contrary.

That resistance existed from others was demonstrated by Raul's announcement, in 2010, of an unprecedented pre-Congress conference to make personnel changes, in what was seen as a threat to those hoping to postpone reform.

The threat clearly worked, since the Congress is taking place, and the conference has since been replaced by a post-Congress event, to enact Congress's decisions and, more significantly, to confirm the Party's role as one of ideological guidance, and not of involvement in government.

Raul seems to be saying that structures of governance, including a National Assembly which is gaining legitimacy and decision-making importance, should perhaps take precedence over a Party that has partly lost touch and has become a potential bulwark against change.

However, no-one should expect the Congress to announce either the Party's death or begin a transition towards capitalism.

However reformist he might be, Raul remains unremittingly committed to the survival of the revolution - there will be no wholesale privatisation. While any changes will go further than previous reforms, they will not follow Washington's prescriptions or the Eastern European experience after 1989.

New generation
Equally, the Party's unique centrality will remain, although it may change, perhaps broadening to incorporate new elements. Raul has said that this is his last Congress, but no future leaders will be clearly identifiable, to prevent them courting the outside world or creating patronage bases.

What one can say with certainty is that the new generation will not come from the ranks of former guerrillas, but from the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the emerging "technocracy" - those whom Raul has been steadily appointing to government in recent years. These are non-politicians with proven expertise, efficiency and loyalty.

So change will come - not as little as some outsiders suspect nor as much as others assume, and we can be sure that the Congress will, in turn, set in motion the next "debate".

Raúl Castro's central report to the 6th Congress of the PCC




by Raúl Castro Ruz, 16 April 2011.

Comrades all,

The opening of the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba this afternoon marks a date of extraordinary significance in our history, the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the socialist nature of our Revolution by its Commander in Chief, Fidel Castro Ruz, on April 16, 1961, as we paid our last respects to those killed the day before during the bombings of the air bases. This action, which was the prelude to the Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) mercenary invasion organized and funded by the United States government, was part of its plans to destroy the Revolution and restore its domination over Cuba in league with the Organization of American States (OAS).

On that occasion, Fidel said to the people already armed and inflamed with passion:
“This is what they cannot forgive us…that we have made a Socialist Revolution right under the nose of the United States…” “Comrades, workers and farmers, this is the Socialist and democratic Revolution of the people, by the people and for the people. And for this Revolution of the people, by the people and for the people, we are willing to give our lives.”
The response to this appeal would not take long; in the fight against the aggressor a few hours later, the combatants of the Ejército Rebelde, police agents and militiamen shed their blood, for the first time, in defense of socialism and attained victory in less than 72 hours under the personal leadership of comrade Fidel.

Honduran Resistance organises general strike

by Heather Cottin
Source: Worker's World, 07 April 2011.

All sectors of Honduran society are in resistance. Since the late February National Assembly of the Honduran National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) held in Tegucigalpa, a month-long teachers strike, a mass demonstration of the Garifuna (Black) community, a one-day general strike, and peasant and Indigenous mobilizations have shown that Honduras is at a crossroads.

An “Intermediate Assembly” of 150 delegates, selected from the 1,500 delegates at the National Assembly, supported these struggles and made the historic decision at the end of March. It decided to guarantee that the leading National Executive Commission of the FNRP will have equal representation of women and men, including representatives from the Original People (Indigenous), Garifuna and lesbian/gay/bi/trans/queer communities.

Lucy Pagoada, a Honduran-U.S. participant at the Intermediate Assembly, told Workers World, “This decision was a revolutionary moment. We created a new system, and the people selected were true leaders.”

FNRP leader Juan Barahona said, “The struggle is against the coup leaders and the government of the dictator Pepe Lobo. We will not back down until we bring down this coup regime.” (AP, April 1) Lobo’s election in November 2009 was organized with the complicity of the U.S. government and the regime of Roberto Micheletti, who replaced the legitimate government of President Manuel Zelaya through a military coup in June 2009.

On March 26 police in the capital of Tegucigalpa beat Garifuna Resistance leader Miriam Miranda, the leader of Ofraneh, the Afro-Honduran organization. That day thousands of people surged into the streets to commemorate the 214 years since enslaved people fled the island of St. Vincent to take refuge in Honduras. Miranda emerged from the hospital on April 1 to lead the Garifuna commemoration of their culture known as the “Month of Our Inheritance,” with 214 drums beating a revolutionary cadence.

The 150 delegates of the Intermediate Assembly, which includes representatives from all of Honduras’ departments, elected Miranda to the new National Executive Commission of the FNRP.

The assembly also gave overwhelming support for the beleaguered Honduran teachers who face a new anti-union law. Honduras’ teachers have been on strike for a month, demanding six months of back pay. The teachers have been “the backbone of the resistance,” said Pagoada, a New York City teacher herself. She explained that the Lobo government is attempting to privatize education in order to break the Honduran teachers unions.

“The whole country is mobilized against this law that aims to privatize the educational system. Parents and students are occupying schools,” said Pagoada. Teachers are facing brutal repression. A police tear gas canister killed a teacher on strike, Ilse Ivanic Vásquez [actually Ilse Ivania Velásquez - RATB]. The armed forces have occupied the teachers college.

“In this fascist government there is no room for dialogue,” said Jaime Rodríguez, president of the Honduran Federation of Teachers Organization. “The only way is to mobilize people.” (AP, April 1)

The Intermediate Assembly called for a general strike for March 30, which was successful in every municipality. The Lobo government reacted by sending in the Honduran police to attack teachers, students, workers, farmers and organizations demanding better education, an increase in the minimum wage and protesting against fuel price hikes. (NPR, April 1) The Resistance plans another shutdown for April 12.

Constituyente’ and Refoundation
The Intermediate Assembly is also working on what they call the “constituyente,” which will take up the concept of “refoundation” for the entire country. The “constituyente” was the plan Manuel Zelaya was working on to rewrite the repressive 1982 Constitution when he was overthrown by the military coup in June 2009.

In the 1980s, U.S. military spending in Honduras increased tenfold. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte worked with Honduran Gen. Gustavo Álvarez Martínez, who trained at the infamous School of the Americas. Martínez ran the death squads in Honduras. The Pentagon used Honduras as headquarters for its control of the Contra war against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and the anti-revolutionary military campaigns against the popular struggles in El Salvador and Guatemala.

The 1982 Constitution provided formal legitimacy for the Honduran oligarchy. The Resistance is focusing in the coming months on preparing a new government structure. By June the Intermediate Assembly forces plan to have a working document to submit to the Resistance bases in all 18 departments.

The 1982 Constitution maintains the power of the owners of Honduras’ “latifundios,” the huge farms carved out of the Indigenous peoples’ lands. Peasant organizations, especially COPINH, led by Berta Cáceres and representing the Indigenous or Original People of Honduras, are especially concerned. The peasant resistance leaders want more than land reform. They are calling for nothing less than “Land Revolution.” They want their land back.

“This is the meaning of ‘refoundation.’ The peasants are putting their lives on this. The people feel they have the right to the land. The refoundation means everything has to be new. We want a different society, and power must come from the bottom,” Pagoada said.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Playa Girón: The mercenary defeat in Cuba

Source: (via Cuba-L Analysis),

The 50th anniversary of the Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) victory, is particularly important for the Cuban people: the 1961 defeat of an invasion of CIA-trained mercenary troops. That armed invasion was approved by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who on March 17, 1960, ordered the recruitment of Cuban-born mercenaries to land in the western Cuban province of Matanzas.

Historical documents show that each of these soldiers for hire was offered 225 USD monthly plus 50 USD for his oldest child and 25 for other children. A total of 4.4 million USD was initially allocated for this purpose, and that figure later grew.

The CIA trained their newly-recruited mercenaries in camps in Guatemala, Nicaragua and the United States and on U.S. military bases in Puerto Rico and Panama. Days after the U.S. elections, on Nov. 18, 1960, the CIA proposed the details of the plan to President-elect John F. Kennedy, and he approved the idea.

On Apr. 15, 1961, while the mercenary naval group was sailing to Cuba, escorted by U.S. Navy ships, eight B-26 bombers painted with Cuban Air Force emblems bombed two air bases and a civilian airport in Cuba.

At the memorial services for the victims of the air raids, the socialist character of the Revolution was proclaimed and a state of combat alarm was decreed nationwide. That date is celebrated every year as Militia Member Day.

Meanwhile, a media campaign was being created to back a future direct attack, demonizing Cuban revolutionary measures to benefit the people, such as the agrarian reform to give land to those who work it and the urban reform, doing away with landlords.

The United States concentrated the power of its propaganda on convincing the world through false information that the Cuban people had created an internal uprising, backing an exile government made up of traditional, corrupt politicians.

The landing in Cuba of the so-called Brigade 2506 began on April 17, and its characteristics were similar to that of the amphibian assault units of the U.S. armed forces. It was made up of 1,500 armed men, tanks and field artillery. The Cuban forces were made up of combatants of the Rebel Army and the National Revolutionary Police, but most of them were voluntary militia members with little or no combat experience.

Under the direct command of the leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro, the Cuban troops gave the enemy no rest, and at 5:30 p.m. on Apr. 19, the invasion had been defeated.

See also: Jesse Chambers, Birmingham [Alabama, US] remembers Bay of Pigs, Birmingham Weekly, 14 April 2011.

Operation Peter Pan: another crime of US imperialism

‘Peter Pan’ Recounts Anguish of Cuban Kids Sent to U.S. in ’60s
by Leon Lazaroff, 13 April 2011.

One Cuban-American says it was “like pulling a young tree out of the ground.” Another describes it as a “sword” that split children from their family, friends and homeland.

The speakers were among 14,000 Cuban children separated from their parents and brought to the U.S. in the early 1960s, when Cold War tensions between the two countries were at their peak. A half-century later, now parents and grandparents themselves, nine of them talk about their harrowing experiences in a new documentary, “Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba,” that is playing at the Havana Film Festival New York.

Ed Canler, who was 10 at the time, tells how leaving Cuba was like uprooting a young tree and hearing “the roots cracking and snapping.”

“I was ripped away from Cuba,” recalls Canler, who says the emotional scars of that separation still haven’t completely healed.

Canler’s parents left Cuba a year later and were reunited with their son. His mom said the boy was sent to the U.S. because of rumors that Castro’s government was going to take children from their families and send them to revolutionary training camps.

“I was so upset I couldn’t live,” she says in the film.

Grainy Footage
The documentary was made by 78-year-old Estela Bravo, who was born in New York and moved to Cuba in 1963 with her Argentine husband to support Castro’s revolution.

Bravo says the operation to move the children was sponsored by the U.S. State Department and carried out by the Catholic Church. However, she said, many questions about the operation remain unanswered.

Estela Bravo

“The CIA won’t open files about the case so it’s hard to know what the government hoped to gain by bringing over children without their parents,” Bravo said this week during an interview in New York.

Using grainy footage shot by the State Department and found at the National Archives in Washington, Bravo shows children disembarking from planes in Miami and being taken to orphanages and camps.

Flora Gonzalez, a college professor who teaches Latin American literature at Boston University, was 13 when she was sent to the U.S. She tells the filmmakers that her parents didn’t think the Cuban Revolution would last, that she would benefit by getting an English-language education and that she would soon return to her homeland.

More Flights
In fact, almost all of the children remained in the U.S. Most, but not all, of their parents joined them. Some never saw their parents again.

In 2009, Bravo managed to bring five Peter Pan adults to Cuba, their first trip back to the island. Some returned to the homes where they grew up, glad for the chance to reconnect with the Cuba of their childhoods.

Two weeks ago, Bravo flew from Havana to Miami to visit her three grown children and two grandchildren. Flights between Cuba and the U.S. have increased since 2009 when the Obama administration loosened travel restrictions, making it easier for transplanted Cubans to visit relatives on the island.

“There are five charters between Havana and Miami every day,” Bravo said. “It’s only a 45-minute flight.”

“Operation Peter Pan” will be shown at New York’s Quad Cinema tomorrow at 2:50 p.m. The film also will be screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June.

Increasing repression of sexual diversity in Honduras

Statement Regarding Rising Violence Directed at LGBTI Hondurans

Issued by the Honduran Movement for Sexual Diversity in Resistance (MDR), in Tegucigalpa, on March 7, 2011

Honduras’ Movement for Sexual Diversity in Resistance (or MDR – it’s acronym is Spanish condemns the alarming increase in murders and other hate crimes targeting members of the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual and Intersex (LGBTI) community. MDR also denounces the negligent, disingenuous, and duplicitous response to the above by the Honduran illegitimate government led by Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

Since the June 28, 2009 coup d’état led by political, military, and religious elites, there have been 37 murders of LGBTI individuals. Records show from 2000 to the time of the coup, the number of murders targeting LGBTI folks amounted to ten. The surge in the last 1 ½ years represents a 2,000% increase per year.

Portraying this situation as “normal,” (as recent press releases by Honduras’ National Bureau of Criminal Investigations have attempted to do) or simply shrugging off the murders as personal quarrels ending crimes of passion or as the outcome of generalized homophobia and/or a result of the country's culture is problematic and naive and serves only to perpetuate unsubstantiated, reckless, and misinformed biases.

MDR is reaching out to the international community, national and international human rights organizations, and the people of Honduras and expresses its concern over the large number of the members of our community that have been brutally murdered. MDR echoes its alarm over the reigning state of impunity surrounding their killings, and the complete incompetence with which the government bodies entrusted with public security and access to justice have handled them.

We wish to highlight the following:

• The repression and “social cleansing” enacted by the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti Bain, which took power immediately after the coup, did not end with the transfer of power to the regime successor Porfirio Lobo. In the past 13 months since Mr. Lobo took over the government there have been 14 murders perpetrated against members of our community. None of those murders has been investigated in depth and no judicial proceedings have been launched.

• On January 27, 2011, Mr. Lobo laid bare to the national media and international community, the inability and incompetence of the Honduran judicial system when he asked the U.S. Department of State to intervene and help investigate and prosecute the murders and assassinations of journalists and LGBTI folks in post-coup Honduras. Addressing the issue by handing over the administration of justice to a foreign government is an irrational move by the Lobo regime.

• That day, Mr. Lobo also derisively referred to the murders and assassinations of LGBTI folks in post-coup Honduras as “allegations about one or two gays being murdered" demonstrating his complete indifference and disregard about the crimes.

• Last November, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council reviewed the situation on the ground in Honduras. The Council’s conclusions and recommendations underscored the Hondurans’ sense of defenselessness as the country’s laws are flaunted with impunity. The Human Rights Council made a series of recommendations to the Honduran regime underscoring its concern for the increase in extra judicial executions based on sexual orientation. As of today, the regime has not taken any concrete steps to follow up on those recommendations or to signal any serious interest in preventing hate crimes or strengthening the justice system to respond to them.

• The undisputed main goal of the Honduran regime is to secure international recognition and whitewash its illegitimate rise to power. In trying to do just that, the regime has resorted to trickery and deceit, by relying on a media campaign intended to give the false appearance of reaching out to LGBTI groups. With this cynical and desperate gesture, Mr. Lobo hopes to portray himself and his regime as intent on enforcing human rights laws, investigating of the murders and assassinations above, and prosecuting those responsible - a move intended to give the impression that the regime is following up on the recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council last November.

• Mr. Lobo has a dangerous and contradictory track record of disingenuous and duplicitous moves as evidenced by the wild fluctuations of his political philosophy - from militant communist in the ‘70s to conservative and sometimes fascist politician during the last decade (promoting the death penalty, the treatment of juvenile offenders as hardened criminals, and outright aggression against the LGBTI community). Today he tries to hides his religious fundamentalist views by portraying himself as a Christian humanist.

• The Honduran National Congress, acting as Mr. Lobo’s covert agent, underscores the regime’s outright homophobia and the pandering to ultra-conservative groups within the Catholic and Evangelical Churches. In contravention of the Iberian-American Youth Convention (to which Honduras is a party), Congress approved a National Youth Policy that left out any mention of work aimed at preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Both the National Youth Policy and the Iberian-American Youth Convention are key mechanisms to help prevent violence and hate crimes based on sexual orientation.

• The regime continues to pursue a policy of heavy-handed repression to address growing insecurity and violence in the country. Instead of strengthening the justice system and establishing a comprehensive policy of public safety that centers on the prevention of violence and crime, the regime has chosen to deploy army troops to urban setting where they patrol the streets with the National Police. The army’s role as the principal aggressor and perpetrator of violence and crimes against the Honduran people, particularly LGBTI Hondurans, is widely known and documented.

• Additionally, Congress is considering a bill that would violate constitutional guarantees and give the National Police and the Army the power and authority to detain suspects for longer periods without just cause. The expected outcome is an upsurge in human rights violations directed at LGBTI folks.

In light of the above, the Movement for Sexual Diversity in Resistance urgently demands the following:

a) The establishment of a framework designed to promote and protect the civil rights of persons from the LGBTI community and prevent homophobic violence and hate crimes.

b) The investigation of all hate crimes directed at LGBTI folks (as denounced and condemned at the national and international level by LGBTI groups) and the timely prosecution of those responsible.

c) The strengthening of the Honduran justice system to be able to address its lack of autonomy, its slow rate of responsiveness, and its indifference to the wave of violence gripping the country, and in particular its indifference to hate crimes based on the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation.

d) The adoption of real and concrete measures to counter discrimination, violence, homophobia and the persistent violation of human rights within and by the rank and file of the National Police and the Army. We call for the review investigation of the officers accused of violating the human rights of the Honduran people and in particular the LGBTI community, removing them from their duties during the investigations. Additionally, the National Police and the Army need to incorporate diversity training addressing sexual orientation and gender identity in order for them to assume and recognize their role as protectors of human rights.

Resistimos y venceremos!