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A review of “Cuba-U.S. Relations-Obama and Beyond” by Arnold August

 

A new book by Canadian journalist and political scientist, Arnold August, has recently been published by Fernwood Publishing (2017) titled “Cuba-U.S. Relations-Obama and Beyond.” The book has a well-written Foreword by eminent Canadian scholar Keith Ellis (“Arnold August brings to the task his finest gift, his superbly developed talent as a journalist.”). Ricardo Alarcon, former permanent representative of Cuba to the United Nations, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Deputy and President at the National Assembly of People’s Power, wrote the Introduction to the book where in his last sentence he writes that Che Guevara’s warning, “never trust imperialism, not one iota,” “remains as relevant as ever.”

There is no doubt that August does not trust imperialism either.

The main focus of the book is an informed assessment of the scope and impact of the historic three-day visit to Cuba by a U.S. president in nearly a century in March 21, 2015 following joint declarations by presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro on December 17, 2014 (17D) to re-establish Cuba-U.S. diplomatic relations.

Much of the content presented in the book is based on articles written by the author in recent years, which shows August’s long-standing study, research and foresight about many aspects of Cuba U.S. relations. For example, he condenses six of his previous articles in the first chapter to set the stage for the “historical/political context” going back to the inception of U.S. policy on Cuba. This is a good memory refresher and a clear response to Obama’s much-criticized stance during his visit asking Cubans to forget the long history of constant U.S. intentions to annex the island, and the subversion attempts against the Cuban Revolution.

Throughout the book one gets the feeling that the author writes from a solid Cuban standpoint as someone who has close knowledge of current events in the country and follows its political pulse. This does not make it a biased book, rather a book that gives Cubans a voice that has been silenced by the Western media for almost 60 years. This personal perception is corroborated by a full chapter dedicated to interviews with five Cuban authors and analysts who are active writers and bloggers, and who “contribute one or more specific perspectives” on Cuba-U.S. relations.

From them we hear, for instance, about the “hegemonic status of the U.S.” such that the “asymmetry…is so marked that one cannot speak of a normalcy based on equality between parties.” One cannot speak of “normalization” but rather of “co-existence between opposites.” Another analyst interviewed by August alerts us more explicitly,

Obama is engaging with civil society with a view to identifying the sectors that will come on board with the changes to Cuba policy that he wants to put in place”. He “has a carrot for civil society and a stick for the revolutionary government.”

This is a sentiment fully shared by August.

It is precisely because of this “new” engagement with Cuban civil society and individuals, much more prominent through the wider use of the Internet among Cubans, that the author refers repeatedly to the perceived danger of cultural aggression as the ultimate weapon to undermine the Revolution. The notion of cultural aggression in Cuba is not new but it is much more recognizable now as a serious challenge for Cuba. August writes:

The point of view that refuses to recognize the reality of the cultural war and pretends that it somehow disappeared with the Cold War, or 17D, has now in effect merged into the cultural aggression against Cuba. The cultural war’s long historical antecedents and dangerous wide-ranging shifts in appearances over time do not leave room for neutrality.”

August is clearly not neutral. As a French Canadian he is quite well versed on the threats of a dominant culture. He goes on to write,

The danger is amplified because the defence of the Obama policy increasingly exists both on and off the island, and they rely heavily on each other.”

In addition to the more obvious danger of an incipient “private sector” that could be easily co-opted by the U.S. to undermine the socialist system, August also refers to the subtler World Learning initiative for “leadership” training launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development as moving “from aggression to seduction” of Cuban youth.

It is not a secret that within Cuba there is an ongoing broad debate about the hope for Cuba-U.S. relations. It is evident that August decided to make his book part of that debate and does not shy away from a direct challenge to those Cubans whom he perceives to have “the mindset that assists the U.S. in subtly introducing its new tactics to achieve its same goal of regime change.” This may also be a challenge for the reader.

The book was published before we learned of U.S. President Trump’s much-publicized announcement of “reversal” of Obama’s policies towards Cuba. However, it is still a timely read mostly because Obama’s policy changes were more cosmetic than substantial. While the respective embassies remain open, the small concession for U.S. citizens to be able to travel to Cuba under fewer restrictions is now gone. The bulk of the U.S. blockade on Cuba was never changed and the U.S. occupied territory of Guantanamo has not been returned. Also remains the U.S. government continued goal of regime change in Cuba.

Will this push some Cubans to “miss” Obama’s rhetoric about Cuba? Will it confirm without doubt the long history of Cuba-U.S. relations and help close ranks around socialism?

At this particular time – when Cuba fights back the continued economic challenges, and the ongoing U.S. designs on the island, when Cuba brings about the necessary changes established by the Lineamientos (Guidelines), when Cuba moves towards its new social economic model while preserving the socialist system, and when Cuba is about to experience the first government without the historical leadership of the revolution to take place in 2018 – those of us in the Cuba solidarity movement must be alert but never fail to trust that Cubans are at the frontline of the Cuban Revolution. In order to do that we must support and rally for strong unity while the dialogue and debates will continue on and off the island.


Title: Cuba-U.S. Relations-Obama and Beyond

Author: Arnold August

Publisher: Fernwood Publishing (May 1, 2017)

ISBN-10: 1552669653

ISBN-13: 978-1552669655

Click here to order.

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Nicolas Maduro Pays Homage to Fidel in Visit to Cuba

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  • Cuban President Raul Castro Ruiz walked with the Bolivarian administrator, touring the Santa Ifigenia’s expansive grounds.
    Cuban President Raul Castro Ruiz walked with the Bolivarian administrator, touring the Santa Ifigenia’s expansive grounds. | Photo: Efe
Maduro arrived just days after the renowned leader would have celebrated his 91st  birthday.

The birth of the late, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro was commemorated Tuesday in a ceremony lead by Cuban President Raul Castro Ruiz and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Santa Ifigenia cemetery in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba.

RELATED: Venezuela Can Give US ‘Free and Fair Elections’ Lessons!

Maduro arrived just days after the renowned leader would have celebrated his 91st birthday.

With flowers adorning the mausoleum, the event began with a ceremonial change of the honor guard, then with the procession of foreign diplomats placing white roses before the giant granite stone that holds Fidel’s urn.

Maduro emphasized that he could not miss the tribute to Fidel since he had always been at the side of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Venezuelan First Combatant Cilia Flores accompanied the heads of state in their tribute, which honored national hero Jose Marti, as well as Frank Pais Gracia, an army general who together with his brother lost his life during Batista’s dictatorship.

The group also paid homage to the revolutionaries who gave their lives on July 26, 1953, during an attack on the Moncada army barracks.

In a brief tour of Santa Ifigenia, Raul spoke to Maduro about Cuban history; explained why Carlos Manuel de Cespedes is considered the “Father of the Homeland”; recalled Mariana Grajales and Maria Cabrales, mother and widow of General Antonio Maceo, respectively; and talked about some of the officers of from the War of Independence.

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Cuba Has Treated Over 26,000 Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Victims

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Image result for Chernobyl CARTOON
teleSUR 

Since 1990, Cuban medics have treated over 26,000 victims of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine, scientific network Scielo reported in a recent study.

The areas of treatment, according to Scielo, were primarily focused on dermatology, endocrinology and gastroenterology.

The report detailed that 84 percent of the total number of patients treated were children from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. The majority of people were treated in 1991, when Cuban medics attended to 1,415 patients.

Over 1,000 children received medical treatment annually from 1990 to 1995.

With its main treatment area located on Tarara beach, east of Havana, the main objective of the program was to provide comfortable lodging facilities and an overall healthy environment, where patients could be treated and partake in a rehabilitation plan.

Apart from medical facilities, the locale included schools, a cooking center, a theater, parks and recreation areas.

After 21 years of solidarity treatment, all free of charge, the medical program came to an end in 2011.

In the early hours of April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in then-Soviet Ukraine triggered a meltdown that spewed deadly clouds of atomic material into the atmosphere, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

More than 600,000 Soviet civilian and military personnel were drafted from across the country as liquidators to clean-up and contain the nuclear fallout.

Over 30 plant workers and firemen died in the immediate aftermath of the accident, most from acute radiation sickness.

Over the past three decades, thousands more have succumbed to radiation-related illnesses such as cancer, although the total death toll and long-term health effects remain a subject of intense debate.

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Inclusive development and responsible leadership are Fidel Castro’s legacy to Africa

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Betrayal of the liberation struggle by post-independent regimes and elites in many African countries is the reason I am making a clarion call to civil society, in particular my contemporaries, the youth, and the electorate to reconceptualise their thoughts about state governance and leadership. Corruption, cronyism, looting of the national purse, state capture and service delivery strikes are a stark reminder of this reality.
It was Benjamin Disraeli who said: “The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example”. Fidel Castro’s legacy to the world mirrors this quotation accurately.
The death of Fidel Castro, a global iconic leader, should exhort us to think strategically about transformatory leadership for social inclusion. Given the gross inequalities and inequities that are spawned by poor governance and leadership, it is imperative that we promote social inclusion in our development narrative.
 Against all odds, it was Fidel Castro who through responsible leadership was able to oppose  the bastion of the capitalist world, the USA, and establish an inclusive development agenda for his small island state called Cuba.
It was his brand of inclusive development through a system of rewards and punishments that brought about a reversal in the rural-urban migration process. No mean feat. Rural-urban migration, currently, is the cause of major problems in emerging economies of the world, including Africa. Because of a lack of development and extreme poverty, globally thousands of families migrate from rural areas to urban areas on a daily basis in the hope of seeking out decent livelihoods. These rural migrants compound the problems and challenges of urban areas because they neither have the necessary skills nor the financial means to live in an urban economy and become a burden on the local state when they seek shelter and other necessities to sustain life.
It was Fidel Castro’s leadership which saw Cuba have one of the highest literacy rates in the world. His meme of ‘each one, teach one’ is now well known throughout the world for inclusive development. Cuba also has one of the best primary health care systems in the world.
The question that goes begging for an answer is: how did Cuba achieve such commendable milestones in its development agenda, especially given that it was a relatively poor island state? It was inclusive development through responsible leadership that assisted Cuba to reach such hights in the global drama of social ascendency.
A socially inclusive development paradigm is one that over-rides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and ensures inclusion, equality of opportunity for all members of the society to determine an agreed set of social institutions that govern social interaction. It is, in essence, a society for all in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play.
 Although many African countries have made great strides in terms of economic development in the past few decades, they seem to be lagging behind in terms of building inclusive societies. There is a growing chasm between haves and have-nots and poverty seems to be rising at an alarming rate. We are already beginning to see the negative fallouts of this widening gap, and the daily occurrences of political protests or service delivery strikes, are some of these exemplars.
Mo Ibrahim of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation –an organisation that pronounces on the issue of governance in Africa – has repeatedly been making similar requests to both the public and private sectors to go beyond the interstices of the codes and rules of good governance. He has warned that whilst we may have good governance policies in terms of rules and regulations, in practice, they could mean very little, particularly when they have an insignificant impact on the socio-economic upliftment of the majority of society. He pleads for responsible leadership for inclusive economic growth.
When one considers the current state of decay in government leadership, it would do us good if we begin to contemplate the future trajectory of Africa’s development. In this respect, it is the youth and our higher education institutions that we need to refocus our attention on. The participation of youth through critical training in responsible leadership will help our African nations transform into a truly inclusive society. As countries emerging from a serious crisis of poor governance and leadership, we need to epitomize the role of selfless leaders such as Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
We need to encourage our youth to participate in building the nation and working towards bringing about social inclusion. In this regard, our education system has to empower for an uplifting effect on the growth of our countries. These issues relating to the provisioning of quality and empowering education have to be funnelled down to understanding the role of higher education institutions in bringing about a transformation in society. Consequently, curriculum transformation has to be the basis to empower our youth to realise their role in broader society.
 A body of skilled people in leadership in any society can have a powerful positive impact on development of that society. The new responsible leadership cadre must have the responsibility to use their skills, talents and capabilities to create an impact on the socio-political issues being faced by their fellow citizens. The current socio-economic conditions require these new leadership pathfinders to create building blocks for achieving inclusiveness in society. The new development narrative cannot be as usual.
Gross inequalities, poverty and poor governance are imposing challenges in the creation of an inclusive society. It deprives people from even the basic needs of food and shelter and thereby leads them to being marginalised to the backwaters of society. Innovative and responsible leadership can assist the majority of the unemployed youth to become the masters of their own destiny by empowering them with entrepreneurial opportunities. Remember Cuba’s meme of ‘each one, teach one’.
As a nation, sincerely seeking to break out of its quagmire of negative governance and poor leadership, we need to engage in collective action to make sure that we identify and create strategies and programmes that will have an impact on the critical socio-economic and political problems and challenges and make a positive contribution towards shaping an inclusive society. We owe it to those who sacrificed for our liberty and the memories of iconic struggle heroes of the Fidel Castro kind.
Finally, let’s heed the imploratory remarks of another struggle icon, Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.

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Namibia conference affirms Africa-Cuba solidarity

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Legacy of cooperation against colonialism and imperialism continues
Abayomi Azikiwe

Close bonds between the people of the African continent and the Caribbean island-nation of Cuba have been centuries in the making.

Africans caught in the Atlantic Slave Trade were taken to Cuba where their presence made an indelible mark on the character of the political, economic and cultural fabric of the country.

Since the 1960s, in the early aftermath of the 1959 seizure of power by revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others, African independence and transformative struggles have constituted a major factor in Cuban foreign policy. President Castro noted in 1976 that socialist Cuba was populated by a Latin African people opposed to colonialism, racism and imperialism.

This historical tradition was reinforced at a recent conference held in Windhoek, Namibia, which brought together African leaders and Cuban governmental officials to renew ties among the geo-political regions and to chart a way forward in the current period. The Fifth Continental African Conference of Solidarity with Cuba was convened June 6-8 and brought together over 200 delegates from 26 African states under the theme of “Intensifying Solidarity and Continuing the Legacy of Fidel and Che.”

The first of these conferences was held in South Africa in 1995 just one year after the demise of the racist-apartheid system that brought President Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) to power. Subsequent gatherings took place in Ghana during 1997, Angola in 2010 and Ethiopia, the headquarters of the African Union (AU), in 2012.

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Che Guevara in Bolivia while he was in the South American country assisting revolutionary forces fighting against the neo-colonial regime which was supported by the United States. The Cuban Revolution from its inception posed a challenge to American imperialist dominance over the Caribbean, South America and other colonial and neo-colonial territories around the world.

In November 2016, 90-year old former President Fidel Castro passed away in Havana. His funeral was attended by many African leaders including Namibian President Hage Geingob who paid tribute to the revolutionary leader in an address to the mourners.

In a statement to the Conference, Namibian Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah emphasized that: “The holding of this conference is all the more timely because it is taking place when retrogressive forces are bent on reversing the gains made recently to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States.” Under the previous U.S. administration of President Barack Obama, the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba after a breach of over 50 years raised expectations of a possible lifting of the economic blockade imposed by Washington in October 1960.

Without the abolition of the blockade relations cannot be fully normalized despite the exchange of diplomats and the reopening of embassies. The U.S. Congress would have to approve the liquidation of the blockade and there are political elements within the legislature which categorically oppose full economic and trade relations with Havana.

Nonetheless, the Fifth Continental African Conference supported the address by Namibian President Hage Geingob who said: “We applaud the positive development in this respect and we commend the U.S. government and Cuba for their efforts towards normalizing of ties. However, there is still much ground left to cover to ensure the complete lifting of the blockage against Cuba.”

Geingob emphasized the urgency of the conference to develop a unified African strategy in regard to supporting Cuba. In addition, the delegates passed resolutions demanding the return of Guantanamo Bay, which remains over a century later after the so-called Spanish-American war under U.S. control, to the Cuban people.

A co-founder of the ruling Southwest Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) Party, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, who passed away just days after the conference, noted that: “Historically, Cuba assisted African countries in the fight against foreign domination. Through this patriotic support, Cuban people have shown us the meaning of solidarity, hence (we should show) our support for Cuba.”

Final Declaration calls for continuing solidarity

African leaders viewed the current situation involving the status of U.S.-Cuban relations as being critical in light of the political character of the administration in Washington. President Donald Trump does have the prerogative of reversing the reforms instituted by his predecessor.

Therefore, the Conference stressed as a mandate for future actions to “continue developing and strengthening the Cuba solidarity movement in each one of our countries, struggling for unity and truth…. We demand that Cuba’s right to self-determination and sovereignty, as well as its right to decide the political system of its choice, be respected.”(Granma International, June 7)

Moreover, the struggle to maintain and enhance the independence and sovereignty of Cuba is linked with other countries within the region. In recognizing this reality the conference expanded its scope to encompass other states which have also been under pressure from successive U.S. administrations.

The final declaration pledged support to “the causes of all sister countries struggling for a better world. In particular, we pledge our support to Puerto Rico in its struggle for self-determination, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and the people of Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina, and all peoples of the continent defending their sovereignty.”

In attendance as well from Cuba were Fernado González, president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) and Cuban Ambassador in Namibia, Giraldo Mazola.

Historical tradition of solidarity

In 1961 in the aftermath of the assassination of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, Cuban Minister of Economic Planning Che Guevara spoke out strongly in condemnation of the murderous act which was carried out by the U.S., Belgium and other imperialist states utilizing local surrogates. Che during 1965 toured Africa in an effort to build solidarity and make preparations for Cuban internationalists intervention in Congo aimed at supporting the revolutionary forces fighting for the ideals of Lumumba.

Although this mission was not successful, the experience taught profound lessons which laid the foundation for the deployment of Cuban military units a decade later in Angola in defense of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) beginning in October 1975. President Fidel Castro was requested to send support by Angolan President Agostino Neto in the face of an invasion by the South African Defense Forces (SADF), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the surrogate U.S.-backed UNITA and FNLA rebel groups designed to derail the genuine independence of the oil-rich former Portuguese colony.

Cuban Internationalists spent another 13 years in Angola where they assisted in defeating the SADF in a series of battles around Cuito Cuanavale in 1988. After the humiliating losses by the SADF, negotiations began which resulted in the liberation of Namibia, the release of South African political prisoners in 1990 and the transition to non-racial democratic rule in the citadel of apartheid settler-colonialism by 1994.

In recent years, Cuba has educated thousands of African students in universities in the Caribbean socialist state. These students are provided with free tuition and lodging.

During the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) pandemic of 2014, Cuba deployed hundreds of physicians and other healthcare workers to Liberia and Sierra Leone, two of the hardest hit West African states, which was instrumental in turning the tide in efforts to halt and eradicate the crisis. The U.S. was forced to recognize the role of Cuba in the battle against EVD which paved the way for the reopening of diplomatic relations.

Outside of the conference deliberations in Windhoek, the delegates visited historic sites including Heroes Acre and the Museum of Independence on June 7. The participants decided in its conclusion that the Federal Republic of Nigeria will be the venue of the next Continental African Conference in Solidarity with Cuba.

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World Peace Councils Slams US Interventionism in Cuba

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  • A mural in Cuba.
    A mural in Cuba. | Photo: Reuters

    Trump’s policies denounced as “unfounded and hypocritical accusations against Cuban democracy.”

The World Peace Council (WPC) has strongly rejected the U.S. President Donald Trump’s rollback of normalizing relations with Cuba.

RELATED:  ‘Doomed to Fail’: Cuba Responds to Trump’s Policy Reversal

In a statement published on Monday, the WPC called interventionist actions by the United States as “attempts to frustrate the progress of the Cuban Revolution and isolate the nation through a criminal blockade imposed for over five decades.”

They also slammed the reasoning behind the rollback as “typical of a failed and outdated policy, of unfounded and hypocritical accusations against Cuban democracy.”

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denounces U.S. interventionism in
It demands an end to interventionist actions by the US against Cuba

In addition, the Council also recalled the long history of aggression by Washington in Latin America, stressing that all nations have a right to self-determination and sovereignty, “given signs that domestic destabilization policies are set to intensify.”

The WPC, affiliated with the United Nations, is an international organization founded in 1950 that advocates for universal disarmament, sovereignty and anti-imperialism.

Earlier this month, at the 23rd Brazilian Convention of Solidarity with Cuba, WPC President Socorro Gomes cited the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro as “eternal as his humanism”.

RELATED:  Russia Affirms Solidarity with Cuba, Laments US ‘Cold War’ Rhetoric

She also stated that Castro’s legacy is a “major reference” for the WPC.

Trump’s rollbacks, announced earlier this month, include the continuation of the economic blockade, tightening of restrictions on business with companies linked to authorities in Havana, as well as prohibiting “people to people” travel to Cuba.

Other changes announced by the White House include the possibility of auditing all U.S. citizens who visit Cuba to ensure that they have not violated the sanctions policy.

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US Actor Danny Glover Blasts Trump’s ‘Obsolete’ Anti-Cuba Policies

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  • Danny Glover speaking at a rally in support of the "Cuban 5".
    Danny Glover speaking at a rally in support of the “Cuban 5”. | Photo: EFE

Glover has been an outspoken supporter of the Cuban Revolution as well as other progressive governments in Latin American.

U.S. actor Danny Glover has backed the statement from the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) against U.S. President Donald Trump’s rollback of normalizing relations with Cuba.

RELATED:  Russia Affirms Solidarity with Cuba, Laments US ‘Cold War’ Rhetoric

The Cuban organization sent its message to writers, artists and academics earlier this month, with the document having been signed by more than 800 people from 35 countries thus far.

The organization denounced Trump’s policies, as well as his speech that announced the changes as “antiquated, obsolete, loaded with falseness and stereotypes.”

Danny Glover being presented the Friendship Medal from the Cuban State Council.

Glover has a history of supporting Latin American revolutionaries from late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Cuba’s Argentine hero, Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

For his support of the Cuban revolution, that fomented his close relations with the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Glover was presented the Friendship Medal from the Cuban State Council just this past January.

On that trip to the island to receive his award, Glover paid tribute to both Castro and Jose Marti, describing “Marti as the most universal of all Cubans and Fidel as a great revolutionary.”

RELATED:  Iran Slams ‘Useless’ US Blockade Policy, Stands with Cuba

He had also expressed admiration for Cuba’s internationalist efforts in Africa.

Trump’s recent rollbacks include the continuation of the economic blockade on Cuba, tightening of restrictions on business with companies linked to authorities in Havana, as well as prohibiting “people to people” travel to Cuba.

Other changes announced by the White House include the possibility of auditing all U.S. citizens who visit Cuba to ensure that they have not violated the sanctions policy.

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Trump Turns Back the Clock With Cold War Cuba U-Turn

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Image result for CASTRO CARTOON
By Ron Paul 

Nostalgia seems to be very popular in Washington. While the neocons and Democratic Party hard-liners have succeeded in bringing back the Cold War with Russia, it looks like President Trump is determined to take us back to a replay of the Bay of Pigs!

In Miami on Friday, the president announced that he was slamming the door on one of President Obama’s few foreign policy successes: easing 50 years of US sanctions on Cuba. The nostalgia was so strong at Trump’s Friday speech that he even announced participants in the CIA’s disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in the audience!

President Trump said Friday that his new policy would be nothing short of “regime change” for Cuba. No easing of US sanctions on Cuba, he said, “until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled.”

Yes, this is the same Donald Trump who declared as president-elect in December that his incoming Administration would “pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments.” Now, in another flip-flop toward the neocons, President Trump is pursuing regime change in Cuba on the pretext of human rights violations.

While the Cuban government may not have a spotless record when it comes to human rights, this is the same President Trump who just weeks ago heaped praise on perhaps the world’s worst human rights abuser, Saudi Arabia. There, he even participated in a bizarre ceremony to open a global anti-extremism center in the home of state-sponsored extremism!

While President Trump is not overturning all of President Obama’s Cuba policy reforms – the US Embassy will remain open – he will roll back the liberalization of travel restrictions and make it very difficult for American firms to do business in Cuba. Certainly foreign competitors of US construction and travel companies are thrilled by this new policy, as it keeps American businesses out of the market. How many Americans will be put out of work by this foolish political stunt?

There is a very big irony here. President Trump says that Cuba’s bad human rights record justifies a return to Cuba sanctions and travel prohibitions. But the US government preventing Americans from traveling and spending their own money wherever they wish is itself a violation of basic human rights. Historically it has been only the most totalitarian of regimes that prevent their citizens from traveling abroad. Think of East Germany, the Soviet Union, and North Korea. The US is not at war with Cuba. There is no reason to keep Americans from going where they please.

President Trump’s shift back to the bad old days on Cuba will not have the desired effect of liberalizing that country’s political environment. If it did not work for fifty years why does Trump think it will suddenly work today? If anything, a hardening of US policy on Cuba will prevent reforms and empower those who warned that the US could not be trusted as an honest partner. The neocons increasingly have President Trump’s ear, even though he was elected on promises to ignore their constant calls for war and conflict. How many more flip-flops before his supporters no longer recognize him?

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The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes

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Image result for Ana Belén Montes PHOTO
By Susan Babbitt | CounterPunch 

Ana Belén Montes gave classified information to Cuba for 17 years before her arrest in 2001 for espionage. Pleading guilty, she avoided conviction for treason, which carries the death sentence. She is called “the most dangerous spy you’ve never heard of.”[i] She deserves to be known now.

Her story shows the personal cost of some truths. I don’t mean the suffering endured in prison, a predictable result of breaking US law. I mean the cost of believing, as US citizen and government employee, truths about US state terror, supported by evidence. The truths are well-known, or at least readily available. But they’re not easily believed, even when known to be true.

By the time Montes began spying for the Cubans, the US had been carrying out a ruthless “war against subversion” across Latin America for decades. The targets were anyone who resisted, or might resist, US hegemony in the region. Operation Condor, formed in the early seventies, enabled multinational death squads to carry out state-sponsored cross-border political repression.

Unionists, peasant leaders, party activists, students, teachers, priests, nuns – indeed, whole social sectors – were targets. The CIA provided new forms of torture. In Uruguay, for example, a “parallel apparatus” used homeless beggars for torture training. In a soundproof room, instructors demonstrated the effects on the body of electric voltage and chemical substances. The test subjects died.[ii]

In 2005, a special conference was organized in Havana on terrorism. Speakers from Latin America, the US and Europe presented research, often drawing upon declassified US documents, about CIA-inspired terror tactics of Operation Condor. The recurring theme, in presentation after presentation, was impunity: The data piles up. It is widely diffused. Yet somehow, in the public mind, it doesn’t matter.

The occasion for the conference was the entrance into the US of Louis Posada Carriles, jailed in Venezuela (he escaped) for master-minding the shooting down of a Cuban plane, killing all aboard (1976).  Posada confessed his responsibility to Ann Louise Bardach (New York Times). He walks free in the US despite the evidence. He celebrates his birthdays on camera, before the media.

In John Pilger’s documentary, War on Democracy, Pilger interviews Sister Diana Ortiz, a US citizen raped and beaten by US servicemen protecting the dictatorship in El Salvador. Ortiz says, “When I hear people express surprise about Abhu Graib [site of US torture in Iraq], I ask myself ‘What planet are they living on? Don’t they know the history of our country?’”

It’s not that they don’t know the history. It is that they possess the facts, know they are true, and don’t assimilate them. They want to think the US is “leader of the free world”. It is not hard to see – thanks to books, documentaries, declassified documents, journal articles, and conferences – that US foreign policy has nothing to do with freedom and democracy. However, we have to care to know.

Ana Belén Montes says she doesn’t want to be treated as a hero. True, she shouldn’t have to be a hero. What she did was believe the obvious. She told the sentencing judge, “I engaged in the activity that brought me before you because I obeyed my conscience”.

In 1960, apolitical Beat poet, Leroi Jones, went to Cuba “determined not to be ‘taken’”. Returning to the US, in his famous “Cuba Libre”, he denounced the “thin crust of lie that we cannot even detect in our own thinking”.

Jones detected that “crust of lie” because of what he felt, in Cuba. He expected Cubans to be indoctrinated, even evil. Instead, he experienced them as happy, interesting and smart. He describes a feeling, a human connection. It contradicted his beliefs. He gave up the beliefs.

Jones could have dismissed his feelings as crazy, and maintained his web of beliefs. That would have been more comfortable, even praiseworthy. Instead, Jones returned to the US radicalized. The “thin crust of lie” was just that: a thin crust. There was more. Jones didn’t want to be living the entire hidden iceberg of lies.

The “thin crust of lie”, undetectable, explains a slogan of the anti-war movement: “There are no innocents”. It means that a comfortable white life was collusion in the slaughter in Vietnam. Lifestyles generate and nurture values and beliefs. They support myths making it easy to explain away truths, even obvious ones. We offer our daily consent, quietly, comfortably.

Ana Belén Montes could have dismissed what she knew to be true about the US war on democracy. She is, in the end, a hero just because of what she believed, because she has believed it, and because she continues to do so.

Fidel Castro said about Che Guevara after his death that Guevara insisted on the power of example. There’s a philosophical point here: We are interdependent creatures, always giving to and receiving from the beings, human and non-human, with whom we interact. It was Marx’s naturalistic vision of who we are as human beings: part of nature, dependent upon others even for thinking.

Such naturalism is expressed also by smart, sensitive thinkers across the ages. The Buddha was one, as was José Martí, leader of Cuba’s last independence war against Spain. It is simply a scientific fact that how we think depends, in ways we often do not know, on the people and stories we surround ourselves with. They speak to us silently, continually, at myriad levels. We don’t think alone, contrary to the liberal/libertarian myth that we live “from within”, hearing an “inner voice”.

That “inner voice” is always the voice of others, indeed whole histories of others.

It’s why certain examples matter so much and why they’re worth working for. They may be all we have to see through the lies, well-known lies that they are. The hidden histories matter to what can be imagined, morally. It’s no surprise we haven’t heard about Ana Belén Montes. Such a significant example is hidden deliberately. The press, without evidence, suggests she was mentally ill.

Ana Belén Montes must no longer be hidden.

Speaking truth to power is relatively easy. Believing it is more challenging. Murdered Honduran activist Berta Cáceres said North Americans are too attached to our comfort. It affects moral imagination. For those of us who benefit from the US Empire, it is not possible to believe what is clearly true about that Empire without personal cost. It’s just the nature of reason and its dependence on surroundings.

The “thin crust of lie” gets ever thicker. We need the example of Ana Belén Montes more than ever. [iii]

Notes

[i] Jim Popkin The Washington Post  http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/feature/wp/2013/04/18/ana-montes-did-much-harm-spying-for-cuba-chances-are-you-havent-heard-of-her/?utm_term=.d3e99f7d9503

[ii] J. Patrice McSherry, “Death squads as parallel forces: Uruguay, Operation Condor, and the United States”

Journal of Third World Studies. 24.1 (Spring 2007): 23

[iii] Useful sites:

http://www.workers.org/2016/10/28/free-ana-belen-montes-now/#.WSFpxevyvIU
https://thesaker.is/tag/ana-belen-montes
http://www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk/news/article/3336/ana-belen-montes-will-spend-her-60th-birthday-in-us-jail-with-another-10-years-to-serve
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv2016-09/08-ana.html

 

Posted in USA, CUBAComments Off on The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes

Most Important Battle Is Beating Demoralization

NOVANEWS
  • Cuban Minister of Culture Abel Prieto Jimenez.
    Cuban Minister of Culture Abel Prieto Jimenez. | Photo: Reuters
A conversation with the Cuban minister of culture reminds us, “The battle of consciousness and ideas must be won.”

The great battle underway today on a global level is taking place in the minds of each and every one of us, rather than in specific physical locations. Revolutionaries, warriors of ideas, are not lacking; but the forces are dispersed in the face of a powerful, compact bloc of mass media which looks to turn human beings into captives of their emotions, disconnected from their ability to think.

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It is no coincidence that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called for a communication revolution in November 2016, one that includes traditional media, social networks, streets, and walls, inviting us to assume the intense, necessary task of progressive thinking.

It was precisely this urgent work which was discussed by the Network of Intellectuals, Artists, and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity during its 15th summit held March 6-7 in Caracas, with more than 60 thinkers from Venezuela and other countries in attendance titled, “Emancipatory Communication or Colonized homelands.”

Just minutes prior to the meeting’s second day, Cuban Minister of Culture Abel Prieto Jimenez dedicated a few minutes to a dialogue, speaking of the times in which we live, insisting on the importance of the fight for critical, revolutionary thinking, saying, “The battle of consciousness and ideas must be won.”

Alina Perera Robbio: You have commented during this meeting that the left has not constructed a paradigm, in terms of communication, which could provide an alternative in the face of right-wing media hegemony. Would you share some reflections on this issue?

Abel Prieto Jimenez: Intellectuals from Venezuela and other countries have spoken here about this traditional weak point of the left, in the sense of being able to create a kind of paradigm, in terms of communication, that could be effective in the face of the lying, defamatory machine — to which we could add any number of adjectives — but which is undoubtedly effective in domesticating consciousness, dampening critical thinking, imposing on the people, for example, candidates who offer villas and castles, but later betray them.

That’s why we see everyday people voting against their own interests, everyday people voting against their country’s future, against conquests won. These are chilling things that are related to the world in which we live today, in which a few media corporations control everything.

There has been talk during this workshop of the role of social networks, of how even in electoral processes, those targeted for messages are very clearly defined, based on the great database these social networks provide, from which psychological profiles are created and different messages crafted for each one of these persons. That is to say, this is where the machinery of manipulation and trickery is, an issue that has been constantly raised in discussions within the Network in Defense of Humanity.

I recalled a panel that was held at the Cuartel de la Montaña, in December 2004, when Chavez called on us to take the offensive, and he called on us to create a breach in the media wall. From that discussion, the idea emerged for teleSUR, which has had so much success and been so important. Since that era, we have been talking about the machinery of manipulation. But I would say that today, the concentration of the media, the use of people’s unconscious reflexes, has grown to an almost Orwellian level — thinking about that famous book of George Orwell, “1984,” in which he talks of a policed world. We are facing a tremendous challenge and most important are trying to create this new paradigm, which must be participatory, because it must be the revolutionary people, using social networks, who resist being hypnotized, being driven like a herd from one place to another. And at the same time, we must be able to generate content. We must be critical with respect to the system, and at the same time proactive.

Perera Robbio: Circumstances have changed dramatically since 2004. The difficulties, as you say, have increased.

Prieto Jimenez: Fidel, Chavez founded so many extraordinary things. Then Evo (Morales), (Rafael) Correa, Daniel (Ortega), ALBA joined in. The Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) was defeated in Mar del Plata (Argentina) — a truly glorious moment for the left in our America. Nestor Kirchner participated in the defeat of the FTAA and later so did Cristina (Fernandez). It was a significant moment. In Brazil, the Workers’ Party was in power; it was a time that really awakened many hopes, that made Latin America a pole.

We see now how there is talk of a pendulum. One of the most sinister things one can do is accept the idea that there was a pendulum swing toward the left, and now a swing to the reactionary right is coming. It’s crazy because history does not move by way of pendulum swings. History is made by men, women, the people, and I think what is most important is to put an end to the demoralization, the discouragement, the worry among progressive forces — stop the idea that what is happening now is fate, that neoliberal ideas can survive another ten years, instead of going to the ideas of Bolivar, Jose Martí, of Fidel, Chavez, of the Cuban Revolution and the Latin American Revolution.

Everything that happens is inevitably affected by our ability to communicate in an effective manner, in a serious, profound manner.

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Perera Robbio: How can the left meet this challenge, continue the struggle, not be discouraged?

Prieto Jimenez: Participants in this 15th Network meeting unanimously concur on the need to leave here with an agreement on concrete steps, an action plan.

One of the tasks the Network could undertake is linking the nuclei of cultural resistance, the alternative media, radio, the work of digital guerillas in social networks. There are many people who have not allowed themselves to be defeated and are fighting for liberation, against the neoliberal offensive, but they are not linked up.

I think the Network must take on the task of attempting to link these forces, so that people understand we are facing a global struggle, and that the little wars at a local level are not going to resolve the problem, even though victories may be won at this local level.

The idea of ethical monitoring of the media is important. During this workshop, one participant spoke about the slander of Fidel that appeared in Forbes magazine, according to which the leader of the Cuban Revolution had amassed a huge fortune, and was among the richest leaders in the world. I told this speaker that Fidel said something tremendous on Cuban television, in front of many compañeros, saying that if they showed him just one scrap of evidence, he would resign immediately. This reply was never published by Forbes.

The mass media lies, and if there is a reply, they never accept the fact that they lied, and the lie continues floating about. It’s Goebbels’ theory: repeat and repeat a lie until it becomes true. This is the philosophy of all the mass media at this time.

There has been talk in this forum about what Venezuela (mass media) did with the guarimbas (violent street protests), of how they circulated pictures of acts of violence, of throat slashings, of beatings which never occurred and were attributed to the police and the Bolivarian government, supposedly taking place during confrontations with opposition demonstrators. That is to say, they are constantly disseminating slanderous lies. Well, there is talk of post-truth politics, of totally invented events meant to create destabilization, which suddenly go viral on social networks, so people believe them.

The situation is terrible. The mass media has trained a massive group of people, mostly young who are very aware of what is going on, of what is moving around the web, and who are very credulous. That is why I believe that the other thing we need to do is to promote the critical study of these communications phenomena, especially among adolescents.

The use of intelligence must be promoted. Let us recall what Fidel said many times: They want to dismantle our ability to think. This is the great project: that the people don’t think; that the people don’t critically examine the lies that are everywhere.

Something else which has been discussed during these hours is that which is customarily referred to as the training of young cadres, revolutionary cadres. In this regard, the issue of new technologies must be included, the necessity of knowing how to use them, the issue of the battle of ideas on social networks.

During these times, we can ask a question: Are we going to allow the thinking of Fidel, allow generations in Cuba and Latin America, to be seen as something archaeological, something of the past? Are Venezuelans going to let the thinking of Chavez be put away in a museum, as something that happened but has no relevance? I think this depends a great deal on us.

 

Posted in CUBAComments Off on Most Important Battle Is Beating Demoralization

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