Category Archives: Cuba

Report from Havana: Talking With the FARC-EP’s Peace Commission

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By Chris Gilbert and Cira Pascual
April 12, 2013

Guerrilla members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

If there has ever been any question that the FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) is essentially a political organization — one that took up arms guided by apolitical vision and will abandon them when a new political strategy leads them to do so — that question may be forever laid to rest by the words and conduct of the FARC’s peace delegation that is now at work in Havana.

There, in the sunny island which was the theatre of a revolution that changed Latin America and the world, the FARC has assembled a sizable team of negotiators.  That group has been in conversation with representatives of the Colombian government since November of last year.  The 30-member body shows the depth of the organization and the quality — both in human and political terms — of the individuals who have decided to stake their lives on forging a democratic and just Colombia.

“The FARC has always wanted peace,” guerrilla leader Ricardo Téllez explained to us in the lobby of the Hotel Habana Libre.  “Since our beginnings in the distant year 1964, we’ve maintained that we are revolutionaries who seek peace for the country in the least painful manner, which the Colombian state has often violently closed off.”

Téllez’s assertion that the FARC is an organization long committed to pursuing peace is backed up by the group’s repeated efforts to bring the Colombian state to the negotiating table: in 1982 under the government of Belisario Betancur; in 1992 with the dialogues in Caracas and Tlaxcala; most recently in Caguán with president Andrés Pastrana.

In none of these cases, Téllez explained, was there a genuine desire for peace in the government.  In the Caguán process of 1999-2002, the government in fact chose to dialogue because of its difficult military situation and because of the rising social protest in the country.  The establishment’s real aim was to rearm, as they did with the notorious Plan Colombia, paid for and organized by the U.S.

“Now in Havana we have come looking for that same peace,” Téllez continued, “not because the FARC is defeated, not because we have difficulties; rather our military apparatus has been updated . . . and we are accustomed to [a modern] kind of war.”  Téllez maintains that what is correct in a situation in which neither guerrillas nor government can defeat the will of the other is that both should sit down, as equals, and look for a political and dialogued solution to the conflict.

Comandante Andrés Paris, also part of the team, illustrated in a separate interview the complex, multilevel character of the negotiating table by referring to other, unseen “tables.”  Apart from the principal negotiating table, in which the government and the guerrillas dialogue, there is a “mediatic table.”

“Immediately, there was put in motion a powerful [mediatic] machine, both Colombian and international, in perfect coordination, and it started to reproduce the clichés and stereotypes that have always been used against us, the FARC.”  This mediatic table is generally controlled by powerful business groups and represents a serious obstacle to the interests of the Colombian people to have a peace, according to Paris.

A third “table” is the military pressure on the guerrillas, because of president Juan Manuel Santos’s decision to continue the war during the dialogues.  “We responded to this presidential announcement by doing a ceasefire [to which the government did not correspond].  What the government is doing with the military actions is criminal and dangerous, because of the possibility that one of those actions will be used as a pretext to get up from the table [and break the negotiations].”

Despite the adversity presented by military and mediatic interferences, the FARC’s delegation is united in a dream of a Colombia with long-lasting peace.  It is common for the FARC’s negotiators to maintain that the concept of peace needs a “last name” — meaning it should be referred to with the complete phrase “peace with social justice,” because the roots of the conflict lie in the extreme social injustice in the country, represented for example by its GINI index of .89 in the rural areas.

Yet what one learns from the FARC’s delegation is not just numbers, examples, and arguments.  There is also a powerful human narrative of lives given over to (and in some cases shattered by) a total devotion to the cause of the oppressed.  Many FARC members were motivated to join the guerrilla army when close friends were assassinated by state or paramilitary forces.  Others joined on seeing the extreme poverty in the country and the closure of other political channels for change.

Among the latter one may count the internationalist Alexandra Nariño (Tanja Nijmeijer) of Dutch origin, who incorporated herself after a long process of conscientization that began with a university exchange program that first brought her to Colombia.  In explaining her motivation she refers to the experience of seeing entire families living in the street, indigents looking through her garbage, and also the state terrorism exercised in places where she lived and on university students.

“All of us fighting in the guerrilla have our dreams . . . we are not war machines.”  What dreams does Alexandra Nariño have for Colombia’s future?  “A country where all Colombians can live in peace, but a peace with education, a peace with food and health care . . . a country with equal opportunities for everybody, in which there is real and ample participation in politics.”

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Fidel Castro’s Reflections: The duty to avoid a war in Korea

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April 5, 2013

A few days ago I mentioned the great challenges humanity is currently facing. Intelligent life emerged on our planet approximately 200,000 years ago, although new discoveries demonstrate something else.

This is not to confuse intelligent life with the existence of life which, from its elemental forms in our solar system, emerged millions of years ago.

A virtually infinite number of life forms exist. In the sophisticated work of the world’s most eminent scientists the idea has already been conceived of reproducing the sounds which followed the Big Bang, the great explosion which took place more than 13.7 billion years ago.

This introduction would be too extensive if it was not to explain the gravity of an event as unbelievable and absurd as the situation created in the Korean Peninsula, within a geographic area containing close to five billion of the seven billion persons currently inhabiting the planet.

This is about one of the most serious dangers of nuclear war since the October Crisis around Cuba in 1962, 50 years ago.

In 1950, a war was unleashed there [the Korean Peninsula] which cost millions of lives. It came barely five years after two atomic bombs were exploded over the defenseless cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which, in a matter of seconds, killed and irradiated hundreds of thousands of people.

General Douglas MacArthur wanted to utilize atomic weapons against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Not even Harry Truman allowed that.

It has been affirmed that the People’s Republic of China lost one million valiant soldiers in order to prevent the installation of an enemy army on that country’s border with its homeland. For its part, the Soviet army provided weapons, air support, technological and economic aid.

I had the honor of meeting Kim Il Sung, a historic figure, notably courageous and revolutionary.

If war breaks out there, the peoples of both parts of the Peninsula will be terribly sacrificed, without benefit to all or either of them. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was always friendly with Cuba, as Cuba has always been and will continue to be with her.

Now that the country has demonstrated its technical and scientific achievements, we remind her of her duties to the countries which have been her great friends, and it would be unjust to forget that such a war would particularly affect more than 70% of the population of the planet.

If a conflict of that nature should break out there, the government of Barack Obama in his second mandate would be buried in a deluge of images which would present him as the most sinister character in the history of the United States. The duty of avoiding war is also his and that of the people of the United States.

Fidel Castro Ruz

April 4, 2013

11:12 p.m.

Source

Castro Didn’t “Take The Guns”, Alex Jones: Guns & Socialism

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The following article below was originally published by the Return to the Source news blog:

January 11, 2013

Looks like he missed a few guns…

True, we have a higher gun violence level, but overall, muggings, stabbing, deaths — those men raped that woman to India to death with an iron rod 4 feet long. You can’t ban the iron rods. The guns, the iron rods, Piers, didn’t do it, the tyrants did it. Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns, Fidel Castro took the guns, Hugo Chavez took the guns, and I’m here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms! It doesn’t matter how many lemmings you get out there in the street begging for them to have their guns taken. We will not relinquish them. Do you understand?

– Alex Jones on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, 1/7/13

Of all the most common arguments used by the Right in the US to defend their helter skelter view of the Second Amendment, none stands more dishonest than their indictment of socialist leaders like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Fidel Castro as ‘tyrants who take guns’.

The argument goes something like this. First, throw out the names of some political leaders demonized in the United States. Second, claim that they banned guns and confiscated firearms from the population and that this act more than anything else facilitated their rise to power. Finally, liken gun control advocates and liberals to these leaders and argue that regulation of gun ownership is a slippery slope towards ‘tyranny.’

The infamous Drudge Report headline, bizarrely likening Stalin to Hitler

Incidentally, this argument has gotten a lot more press coverage in the last week. The now-infamous Alex Jones-Piers Morgan interview was only outdone by a Drudge Report headline from January 9th, which featured pictures of Stalin and Hitler above a caption that read, “White House Threatens Executive Orders on Guns.”

It’s all nonsense, of course, starting with the premise that the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, warrior of the highest escalations of capital, has anything in common with revolutionary leaders like Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Chavez. Then there’s the bloated death totals we hear quite often in the corporate media and Western academia, parroted most recently by Jones, who claimed that Mao “killed about 80 million people because he’s the only guy who had the guns.”

However, a closer examination of the historical record reveals that the entire argument is based on distortions or outright falsehoods. Guns were not summarily banned in any of these countries – including Nazi Germany, as a matter of historical note. Although firearm ownership took a distinctly different form than the Wild Wild West policies in the United States, which favor individual rights and vigilante justice over social and class rights, guns remained an important part of defending socialism from imperialist aggression.

Before we go any further, I want to make one point very clear: Return to the Source has already published a piece on the Marxist position on gun control, to which people ought to refer back. We have no interest in defending liberals and gun control advocates like Piers Morgan, whose position is just as much a part of bourgeois class oppression as the right-wing’s gun fanaticism. We also have no interest in beating a dead horse by calling attention to Alex Jones’ bizarre antics and combative demeanor.

Instead, our focus is on the allegations that socialist government is predicated on the confiscation of firearms. History runs completely counter to this claim by the right-wing, and the record in most socialist countries reflects that the people generally retained the right to bear arms socially as a class, while also retaining benign individual gun rights related to hunting and sports.

Let’s start with Cuba. If Fidel Castro’s goal was to confiscate all private firearms in Cuba, one has to conclude from the data that he’s done a poor job. According to GunPolicy.org, there are an estimated 545,000 privately owned guns held by civilians in Cuba, meaning that approximately 4.8 people per 100 own guns. It’s not as high as the staggering 88.8 guns per person in the US – a grossly inflated statistic that doesn’t account for at least 48% of all gun owners having more than four guns – but it patently disproves the assertion by Alex Jones, the Drudge Report, and the right-wing fanatics that “Fidel Castro took the guns.”

Of course, there are regulations for firearm ownership in Cuba, but even this reflects the very different meaning of ‘the right to bear arms’ in a socialist country. Chapter 1, Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba enshrines this right:

“When no other recourse is possible, all citizens have the right to struggle through all means, including armed struggle, against anyone who tries to overthrow the political, social and economic order established in this Constitution.”

At first glance, this horrifies the gun fanatics, who argue that one only has the right to bear arms in Cuba if they are doing so in defense of the existing government. Indeed, that is exactly the case. Arms for hunting and personal protection in some cases are allowed, again according to GunPolicy.org, but the chief function of the right to bear arms in a socialist country is to defend the class power of the workers.

The Bay of Pigs invaders captured and detained by an armed Cuban citizen

The lunacy of the anti-communist gun argument is accentuated further though by a look at Cuban history. After taking power on January 1, 1959, Castro and the July 26th Movement set to work expropriating the property held by oligarchs, corporations, wealthy land owners, and bankers in Cuba. This angered the US and those elements loyal to the Batista government, who sought to restore capitalism to Cuba through an invasion. Castro, well-aware at the foreign plots to bring down the Cuban revolution, “universally armed all of its workers, including women, for the defense of their country,” according to the Cuba History Archive.

Castro put it this way in a 1960 speech entitled ‘Establishing Revolutionary Vigilance in Cuba‘. After a bomb went off nearby the place he was speaking, Castro defiantly proclaimed, “For every little bomb the imperialists pay for, we arm at least 1,000 militiamen!” His words received thunderous applause.

To best exercise the right to bear arms collectively in defense of the revolution, the Cuban people organized themselves and formed popular citizens militias to defend themselves and the revolution, which was immediately under attack. After US planes bombed three Cuban sugar mills in October 1959, “Cubans form[ed] a popular militia” to rebuild. By September 1960, the CIA was funding rogue forces within Cuba to sabotage industry and stage terrorist attacks aimed at bringing down Castro’s government. The people responded in the form of popular citizens militias again, who promptly put down the imperialist-instigated unrest.

From the same speech, Castro described the role of these militias, which would later go on to form the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, as follows:

“The imperialists and their lackeys will not be able to make a move. They are dealing with the people, and they do not know yet the tremendous revolutionary power of the people. Therefore, new steps must be taken in the organization of the militia. Militia battalions will be created throughout Cuba. Each man for each weapon will be selected. A structure will be given to the entire mass of militiamen so that as soon as possible our combat units will be perfectly formed and trained.”

Of course, the largest and most trying test for the new revolutionary government and the Cuban people was the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, organized by Eisenhower and executed by Kennedy. An armed band of Cuban exiles were to invade Cuba from the Bay of Pigs, establish a foothold in the country, and with US military support, create “a new Cuban government under U.S. direction.” The Cuban History Archive describes the initial moments of the invasion:

Shortly before 3 a.m. on Monday morning, a civilian member of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution spots the U.S. warships, just yards off the Cuban shores. Less than 20 minutes later, the entire Cuban government is informed about the invasion, and their response is immediate. Castro tirelessly coordinates defense of the island; first the civilian population is immediately alerted about the invasion: for the past months the Cuban government had begun an aggressive program of giving weapons to the entire Cuban population and training their people in basic military tactics to defend the island in case of invasion.

Coordinating with the newly assembled Cuban Armed Forces, the armed Cuban populace repelled the US invaders handily. A pledge of support by the Soviet Union discouraged Kennedy from fully committing to US air support for the rebels. When Kennedy did finally authorize overt US military intervention, it was too late. One last time, we look to the Cuban History Archive:

All planned support by the U.S. Air Force is called off, and the 2506 Brigade is left stranded to fend for itself in Cuba. The battle was going poorly for the U.S. invaders, not able to gain an inch on the beach they had been deserted. In the face of utter defeat, Kennedy continues to maintain that the U.S. is not involved in the invasion. After two days of intense fighting, Kennedy momentarily reverses his previous decision with his stomach full of regret, and orders the U.S. Air Force to assist the invasion force in what way they can. Four American pilots are killed, shot down by people who months ago had known little more about the world than harvesting sugar.

Let’s call it what it is: the Alex Jones/Drudge Report argument against gun control is a flat-out lie. The Cuban people were widely and universally armed, and they received their guns from Castro’s government, no less.

Jones was right about one point, though. Guns and an armed population were essential to resisting the rise of tyranny. Without an armed population, there’s a chance that the Bay of Pigs invasion would have re-installed the corrupt, mafioso Batista regime for the profit of US corporations and banks. Instead, the Cuban people exercised their right to bear arms collectively – thus democratically – and defended the Cuban Revolution, free from foreign rule or dominance. They were successful, and their experience is a testament to the role of guns in a socialist society.

This isn’t uniquely true to Cuba, either. The People’s Socialist Republic of Albania’s Constitutionguaranteed the right of its citizens to own firearms, for which military training was a necessity. Even before the right was enshrined in the 1976 Constitution, Chairman Enver Hoxha said this in a 1968 conversation with Ecuadorian leaders:

“All our people are armed in the full meaning of the word. Every Albanian city-dweller or villager, has his weapon at home. Our army itself, the army of a soldier people, is ready at any moment to strike at any enemy or coalition of enemies. The youth, too, have risen to their feet. Combat readiness does not in any way interfere with our work of socialist construction. On the contrary, it has given a greater boost to the development of the economy and culture in our country.”

In her book Albania Defiant, Jan Myrdal describes the tremendous scale to which Socialist Albania armed its people:

The entire Albanian people are armed, but the navy, the air force, and armored units are—naturally enough—not particularly strong. In May 1961 the Soviet leaders tried to undermine Albania’s defenses by giving their officers orders to steal Albania’s eight submarines. Naturally, this theft irritated the Albanians. But it hardly undermined Albania’s defenses, which are based on the ability of its totally armed population to defend its mountains.

Chinese support is important, but crucial to Albania’s defense is that the entire Albanian people are armed, have weapons. There are weapons in every village. Ten minutes after the alarm sounds, the entire population of a village must be ready for combat. There has never been any shortage of weapons in Albania, but never have the people been as armed as they are today. (Source)

Other socialist states like the former Yugoslavia and nationalist states like Libya guaranteed widespread gun ownership. In the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact countries, military-grade education that included the assembly and use of guns was mandatory for all students in middle school onward, according to Joseph S. Roucek’s October 1960 article, ‘Special Features of USSR’s Secondary Education’.

The People’s Republic of Poland went a step further and maintained a citizens militia called Milicja Obywatelska until its fall in 1990, which any citizen could join and receive indoor firearm training and bear arms. Some kind of collective outlet for gun use and ownership existed in most socialist countries, not unlike Cuba’s own Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. Like all capitalist countries, the socialist countries adopted different laws and had different levels of regulation, but the overarching trend was that the right to bear arms was to be exercised socially and collectively. While this won’t satisfy the cravings of fanatics like Jones, it provides leftists with a more democratic way of understanding the right to bear arms.

Different material conditions require different responses, though. Jones’ claim that Venezuela has “taken the guns” under Hugo Chavez is dishonest for a number of reasons. It is true that Venezuela has discontinued the legal right of citizens to purchase firearms from state manufacturers for private use, but this came after international outrage at the unusually high murder rate in the South American country, with nearly 18,000 murders annually. About 70% of murders in South America are linked to guns – versus just 25% in Western Europe – so the Venezuelan government has taken the logical step of ending the widespread sale of firearms to curb crime.

Will it work? Time will tell. The point, though, is that Chavez didn’t “take the guns” to consolidate ‘tyranny’. In fact, he’s stood for eight elections, most recently in October 2012; an elections process that former US President Jimmy Carter called “the best in the world.”

All of it goes to say that Alex Jones and the Drudge Report are guilty of outright falsifications. It’s not that we expect better from these two fringe right-wing sources, but we are concerned that many people will hear these outlandish claims and associate socialism with gun control.

The right to bear arms means something different in socialist countries, but it still exists. Instead of the individual bourgeois right as it exists in the US – resulting in the vigilante murder of Black and Latino people from Reconstruction to the present day – gun ownership becomes a social right of the working class to exercise in defense of the revolution. And regardless of the lies and distortions that the right-wing puts out, that socialist exercise of the right to bear arms makes it a fundamentally more democratic right than we have in the US.

China, Cuba pledge to further enhance ties

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July 6, 2012

Chinese President Hu Jintao (R) shakes hands with Raul Castro Ruz, president of Cuba’s Council of State and the Council of Ministers, during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, July 5, 2012. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

BEIJING, July 5 (Xinhua) — China and Cuba on Thursday pledged to further enhance their traditional friendship and cooperation in all areas.

The pledge came out of a talks between Chinese President Hu Jintao and visiting President of Cuba’s Council of State and the Council of Ministers Raul Castro Ruz at the Great Hall of the People.

China and Cuba are both at an important development stage and facing similar tasks. It is conducive to the two countries’ common development and friendly cooperation between China and Latin America to further consolidate and develop China-Cuba relations, Hu said.

He called on the two countries to maintain close communication between all levels and give full play to party-to-party and governmental dialogue mechanisms to strengthen exchanges of experience on party building and national governance.

Hu called on the two countries to expand trade and economic cooperation, especially cooperation in trade, energy, infrastructure construction, agriculture and biotechnology, and to encourage two-way investment.

Hu said the two sides should strengthen exchanges and cooperation in areas such as culture, education and media, and increase youth exchanges.

He also called on the two countries to strengthen coordination and cooperation on major issues including the UN reform, climate change and sustainable development, so as to promote joint efforts in the establishment of a world with long-term peace and common prosperity.

Like Hu, Raul spoke highly of the traditional friendship between the two countries and two parties. He said Cuba attaches great importance to China’s successful experience in national development.

Raul said Cuba was ready to make close contact with China and expand cooperation in areas including trade, investment and renewable energy.

Raul also briefed Hu on Cuba’s domestic situation, saying the party and government would strengthen party building and steadily promote the reform process. Cuba is exploring a development path in accordance with its situation and promote a comprehensive and sustainable development of the society and economy.

Hu hailed the achievements Cuba has scored in the socialist construction. He said China will always support Cuba to maintain its sovereignty and explore a socialist way with its own national characteristics.

Before the hour-long talks, Hu held a welcoming ceremony for Raul. The two leaders also witnessed the signing of several cooperative agreements, including a governmental economic and technological cooperation deal, after the talks.

Raul started his state visit to China on Wednesday at the invitation of Hu.

Prior to his talk with Hu, Raul met with top legislator Wu Bangguo.

Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, appreciated Cuba’s firm support on issues concerning Taiwan, Tibet and human rights.

He pledged further aid for Cuba’s economic and social development and vowed to enhance exchanges with Cuba’s legislative body, especially experience in democracy, legislation and governance.

Other Chinese leaders, including Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, will also meet with Raul during his visit.

Source

Fidel Castro’s Reflections: The horrors offered to us by the empire

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May 15, 2012

A cable from AP, the principal U.S. news agency, datelined today in Monterrey, Mexico, explains it with irrefutable clarity. It is not the first and doubtless is not the last about a reality which demolishes the mountain of lies with which the United States attempts to justify the inhuman destiny it reserves for the peoples of Our America.

What does the cable relate?

“MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) Forty nine people were found mutilated and scattered in a pool of blood on a highway that connects the industrial city of Monterrey with the U.S. border, in what would seem to be the lastest blow in the presumed fight between Mexico’s dominant drug cartels to outdo each other in bloodshed and expand their territory and smuggling routes.

“The 43 men and six women were dumped at the entrance to the town of San Juan, on a no-toll highway leading to the border city of Reynosa. “100% Zeta” was spray painted on a stone arch welcoming visitors where the bodies were dumped.

“Nuevo León state security spokesman Jorge Domene stated at a press conference that a ‘narcomanta’ (symbolic banner) was found with the decomposing bodies, in which Los Zetas claimed responsibility for the killing.

“The victims could have been killed as long as two days ago, which leads authorities to believe they could have been transported from another location. The dead would be hard to identify because of the lack of heads, hands and feet, which have not been found, said the official.

“State Attorney General Adrian de la Garza said that there had been no reports of mass disappearances in the last few days, so the victims may have been brought from other Mexican states, or were even U.S.-bound migrants from Central America.

“Mexican drug cartels have been escalating their bloody war to control smuggling routes, as well as the national drug market and extortion, and their victims include migrants seeking to reach the United States.

“So far this month, 18 bodies have been found in a tourist area near Guadalajara; 23 corpses were found decapitated or hung from a bridge in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, where violence among cartels has escalated. Bodies have appeared this year in the states of Veracruz, Guerrero, Morelos, Jalisco, Tamaulipas and Nuevo León.

“De la Garza stated that there are no leads to link the new wave of violence with the July presidential election. It has the dynamic of a war between cartels, he said.”

For its part, the BBC Mundo website reports:

“The scenes of decapitated and mutilated bodies in Nuevo León, where 49 bodies were dumped on the highway this Sunday, shook many given the extreme barbarity displayed by the killers. Even in Mexico, which after five years of intense war among cartels, would seem to have seen everything.”

More than a few countries of Our America are affected by these problems.

In our homeland, the problems related here do not exist; could this be why the empire is trying to defeat it through hunger and hostility? Half a century has not sufficed, and I very much doubt that the empire has another half century before, sooner or later, it sinks in its own mire.

Fidel Castro Ruz
May 14, 2012
4:36 p.m.

Source

Cuban Ambassador Jorge A Bolaños’ Letter to CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer

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Regarding Alan Gross Sr.

By Jorge A. Bolaños Suárez
May 11, 2012

Jorge A. Bolaños Suárez

From the Ministry of  Foreign Affairs of Cuba

Ambassador Jorge A Bolaños´ Letter to CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer

May 5, 2012

Wolf Blitzer
The Situation Room
CNN America, Inc.
820 First Street NE
8th Floor
Washington D.C. 20002-4243

Dear Mr. Blitzer:
In connection with your conversation with Mr. Alan Gross, broadcasted on May 4, 2012 in “The Situation Room”, I’m writing to request that my government’s positions on the case be equally made known. These are:

  1. The Cuban government has conveyed to the U.S. government Cuba’s willingness to find a humanitarian solution on a reciprocal basis in the case of Mr. Gross.
  2. Mr. Gross was not convicted for helping the Cuban Jewish community to connect to the Internet. All Cuban synagogues have Internet; they had Internet before Mr. Gross came to Cuba.
  3. Mr. Gross violated Cuban laws by implementing a U.S. government program aimed at attempting to undermine Cuba’s constitutional order. The undercover activities of Mr. Gross in Cuba constitute crimes in many countries, including in the United States.
  4. During his visits to Cuba, Mr. Gross never told the people he contacted that he was working for the U.S. government. He is not an activist who came to Cuba to assist the Cuban people; he is a professional paid for by the U.S. government.

•    Mr. Alan Gross is in good physical conditions, he receives specialized medical care, balanced meals, regular consular access, visits by friends and political and religious personalities. He has had visits by his wife and he maintains systematic and stable communication with his family.
•   The cases of Rene Gonzalez and Alan Gross are very different. Rene served his sentence to the last day, and he remains in the U.S. against his will, away from his family. The decision by a Florida federal judge to allow Rene to travel to Cuba is in line with the conditions imposed for Rene’s supervised release, which allow his traveling to Cuba, following authorization by the probation officer or the court. His wife Olga is not even allowed to visit him during his term of supervised release.

  1. The Cuban government has facilitated all visits by family members, friends, religious figures and political personalities that have requested access to Mr. Gross. These conditions are very different from the cruel regime of solitary confinement that has been arbitrarily meted out against the Cuban Five: Gerardo, Ramon, Antonio, Fernando and even Rene. They have strict restrictions against giving interviews to the U.S. press.
  2. The Five have been almost 14 years in U.S. prisons, for gathering information on terrorist groups conducting attacks against Cuba from the U.S. Such information helped save lives in both countries. The Five were not in the possession of government secrets nor did they attempt to undermine U.S. security.
  3. The Five have faced obstacles to contact with their families and two of them, Gerardo and Rene have not been visited by their wives, Adriana and Olga. Gerardo’s mother died while he was in prison, and the mothers and fathers of the other four are very old. Gerardo and his wife have not been able to conceive a child.

Sincerely,
Jorge A. Bolaños Suárez
Chief of the Cuban Interests Section
Washington DC

(Spanish translation)

Source

Cubans stage a colorful parade with Socialist flavor

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May 1, 2012

A huge piece of fabric with the phrase “Preserve and improve socialism” led the popular march at the Jose Marti Revolution Square, in the presence of President Raul Castro and labor leaders, representatives from the Communist Party, the State, the government and political and social organizations.

Havana, May 1 (Prensa Latina) Hundreds of thousands of workers, employees and students marched on Tuesday in Havana bearing the colors of the Cuban flag to commemorate International Workers” Day with socialism as a course.

A huge piece of fabric with the phrase “Preserve and improve socialism” led the popular march at the Jose Marti Revolution Square, in the presence of President Raul Castro and labor leaders, representatives from the Communist Party, the State, the government and political and social organizations.

The parade, which started at 07:29 hours, local time (11:29 GMT), was led by a bloc of health workers from the capital, the flagship sector of Cuba’s international cooperation, currently present in 66 countries.

Several people bore the flags of the nations in which the Cuban medical brigades work, with representation in every continent.

Giant Cuban flags, posters allegorical to the celebration and with the colors blue, red and white were the protagonists of the parade, held simultaneously in other cities of the country.

Grouped into 23 blocs, union members, many of whom with models representing their respective areas, such as dolls dressed as nurses, taxis, computers, picks and shovels marched in front of the monument to Cuban National Hero Jose Marti.

They carried pictures of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, and world revolutionaries like Karl Marx and Vladimir Ilich Lenin.

There were also prominent banners with images of the Cuban antiterrorists Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez, who were arrested more than 13 years ago in the United States, and with demands for their release and immediate return home.

For nearly one and a half hour, participants chanted slogans in favor of the Revolution, socialism and the leadership of Fidel Castro and Raul Castro.

In an area of the rostrum were 1,900 union leaders representing 209 organizations from 117 countries, who saw hundreds of thousands of people marching in Havana on behalf of the entire Cuban population.

Source

Fidel meets with Nguyen Phu Trong: ‘Renovation has not been an easy task’

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By Lázaro Barredo Medina and Claudia Fonseca Sosa

Cuban former leader Fidel Castro meets Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, (L), in Havana April 12, 2012.

Just prior to his interview with Granma, on the afternoon of April 11, Nguyen Phu Trong, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee, had the opportunity to meet with Fidel and our conversation began with his impressions of the encounter.

I just returned from Fidel’s house and we had a conversation that lasted almost two hours. If we had had more time, we would have continued talking.

Today I saw a very healthy Fidel, as compared to our first meeting in 2010. The meeting was very cordial and interesting, without any kind of protocol, like two brothers living in the same house. Fidel held my hands for several minutes and said he was very happy [to see me.] We Vietnamese have a lot of respect for Fidel and his people.

Once the conversation began, we became aware of the many things we have to reflect upon. Fidel spoke not only of political issues, but about science and technology as well.

Fidel recalled his 1973 trip to Vietnam. He referred to my comments at the event held yesterday at Hai Phong wharf [in Havana] and of the strong friendship Cuba and Vietnam share.

When I arrived, there was a copy of the lecture I gave, at the Party’s Ñico López Advanced Studies School, on the table. He asked about the number of copies made and the number of cadres at the event.

He considered my speech insightful and accurate and wanted to clarify a few of the [Cuban] guidelines that are similar to policies Vietnam has been implementing. He wanted to know my opinion. He said that currently there are many people who only want to listen and not reflect.

He also said that he had been following my visit through the media and asked how I had been feeling. He wanted to hear about aspects of my visit to the province of Pinar del Río and inquired, in some detail, about agricultural development in Vietnam.

He was interested in our plans to visit different countries in Latin America and, to my surprise, knew that April 14 was my birthday and asked where I would be at that time.

The entire time, Fidel showed that his mind was very clear, undertaking studies with a very logical, scientific approach. We are convinced that leaders need to have these qualities, to be concrete.

STRATEGIES FOR SOCIALIST RENOVATION

The Vietnamese leader offered a brief explanation of the principal steps Vietnam has taken in its policy of Renovation.

When, in 1986, Vietnam began to implement the policy of Renovation – known in Vietnamese as Doi Moi – many thought that the country intended to abandon socialism. Since then, 26 years have transpired and history has shown the contrary, because through our experience, combined with Marxist-Leninist theoretical and scientific arguments, and the thought of Ho Chi Minh, we reached the conclusion that only through socialism can we maintain our national independence, prosperity and the happiness of our people.

With the leadership of the Communist Party, the Vietnamese people have been able to adapt relevant economic transformations to the historical context and the concrete needs of the country, without sacrificing political stability. We have achieved impressive socio-economic gains and are constantly drawing closer to our ideal of “building a ten times more beautiful Vietnam.”

But in order to fulfill Ho Chi Minh’s dream we have had to deal with diverse obstacles and advance without making hasty decisions. Our Party is conscious that the transition to socialism is a prolonged, difficult and complicated process.

The Doi Moi process has not been easy. Beginning in the 1980’s, through the present, we have come a long way. From 1981 until 1985, we went through what could be called pre-Renovation, during which we carried out different experiments, balancing theory with practice. We drew conclusions.

It was not until 1986 that the policy of Renovation was formulated. Between 1980 and ‘81 we began to grant lands to rural workers, but it was not until the 6th Congress of our Party in 1986 that the Political Bureau drafted Resolution no. 10 which defined the work to be done one step at a time.

From then on, agricultural development began to accelerate and, allow me to tell you, as an example, reaching production of 47 million tons of rice a year took a great deal of effort and continues to require effort year after year.

Up until 1989, we were importing rice to meet the needs of the population. That year, we were not only able to meet our own internal needs, but were able to export our first million tons of rice, as well.

In the industrial sector, something similar happened. Between 1981 and 1982, we began to eliminate the bureaucratic system, but the policies to be followed were not approved until 1986. It wasn’t until 1991 that talk began of a multi-faceted economy, of a market economy with a socialist orientation. During this period we were also facing a 20-year U.S. blockade and talk of integration into the world economy was not possible.

And all of this in addition to other problems such as lasting damage caused by the wars. I will only mention one example. Millions of people, still today, are suffering incurable illnesses; hundreds of thousands of children are born with abnormalities, as a consequence of Agent Orange, a dioxin the U.S. troops sprayed during the war. According to experts, it will take Vietnam 100 years to completely rid itself of the bombs and mines still buried in our soil. As I said during my talk at the Ñico López, in the province Quang Tri alone, which Fidel visited in 1973, thousands and thousands of live bombs and mines remain buried in 45% of the arable land.

These are just a few examples of the arduous task we faced in the renovation effort. Most difficult, however, is changing the general and individual mentality in Vietnam. Many people thought that the changes would lead us away from socialism. They even spoke of deviations, others are more conservative. Vietnam has not only made significant economic gains during the last 25 years, but has also solved some social problems in a much better fashion than capitalist countries at a similar level of development. And as evidence of this is the fact that, in our country, the poverty rate, which was 75% in 1986, was reduced to 9.6% in 2010. The renovation has led to very positive changes and considerably improved the lives of our people. This was recognized by the United Nations which has reported that Vietnam is one of the first countries to meet many of the Millennium Objectives.

And during my visit these last few days in Cuba, as I’ve conversed with your leaders, it appears to me that you are in the same phase. The change of mentality must take place at all levels, from the highest level to the grassroots.

The Renovation’s consolidation is an issue we addressed in our recent 11th Party Congress and, as for long term objectives and tasks, it should be emphasized that our goal is for Vietnam to become fundamentally an industrialized country by 2020. Our development strategy, from 2011 to date, is based on three basic principles: invest in infrastructure, develop human resources and reform institutions.

Of course, we face challenges in the area of the economy and international integration and in the area of social programs where we face some limitations and doing it all, as I said during my lecture at the Party School here, we are conscious that corruption, bureaucratism and degeneration are potential dangers to a party in power, especially under market economy conditions. The Communist Part of Vietnam demands of itself constant self-renovation, self-criticism and is waging a vigorous struggle against opportunism, individualism and the degeneration of its ranks and throughout the political system.

BILATERAL RELATIONS

During your stay in Cuba, the excellent relations between Cuba and Vietnam, a symbol of the era, were noted. What are the ties between the two countries specifically and what cooperative projects are projected as a result of the visit?

Both parties are products of revolutionary processes and of the fusion of distinct political organizations; this is something Cuba and Vietnam share.

Both countries have a one party system. Cuba, as well as Vietnam, is developing via the socialist route. We are following the legacy of our predecessors in combination with Marxism-Leninism. We are two strong peoples, very brave and courageous in struggle. Our parties established, very early on, ties of friendship, solidarity and cooperation. We are following the same logic, defending our respective revolutions. Thus our relationship is very close.

From very early on, we’ve exchanged work and leadership experiences, and we have collaborated in different international forums and bodies, promoting causes we share. In 2011, both parties held congresses and, once ours was concluded, we sent an emissary here to inform you of the outcome. Raúl has also offered to send us someone to do the same.

At this time, Vietnam has the Renovation policy and Cuba is applying its strategy of updating its economic model. Both of us are following the socialist path. There are many similarities, although each country has its own conditions and historical particularities. There is nothing standing in the way of further development of the relationship between the two parties.

During our visit, we have agreed to expand the exchange of delegations, as well as bilateral meetings and exchanges of experience. We are going to organize seminars, workshops between the two countries and the two parties.

We want to continue building this friendship, this respectful mutual understanding, to strengthen this relationship of sisterhood, taking important steps along the road both countries have taken in the struggle for national independence and socialism.

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Castro, Baseball and the Thought Police

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By John Eskow
April 11, 2012

What a pitiful spectacle.  Ozzie Guillen, the hard-partying eccentric who manages the Florida Marlins, sits weeping in the harsh glare of TV lights, forced by his bosses to recant his praise for Fidel Castro.  He’s already been punished with a five-game suspension, but the baseball thought-police won’t be placated until he does a literal “mea culpa.”

So, in his wonderfully mangled English, he begs forgiveness for saying “I love Fidel Castro…I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that fucker is still here.”  But what he really meant, he now says, is ever-so-subtly different: “Everybody in the world hates Fidel Castro, including myself.”

“Mea culpa…”

It’s like watching old newsreel footage of hayseed American POWs in Viet Nam being forced to denounce their “imperialist war-mongering masters.”

As the great Bill Hicks used to chant: “You are free, America, to do as we tell you!”

Moments after Guillen made his pro-Castro remarks, Miami exploded. Metaphorically, of course—not like the commercial airliner that wasactually blown out of the sky in 1976 by U.S.-supported anti-Castro terrorists, killing 73 men, women, and children—an act of unspeakable mass murder (much admired by Al-Qeada) whose masterminds were pardoned by George W. Bush.  One of these terrorists, Orlando Bosch, walks the streets of Miami today, openly gloating about his slaughter on international TV.

Oh, but it’s not Orlando Bosch, CIA-backed mass-murderer, who deserves our censure; it’s Ozzie Guillen, manager of the Florida Marlins.

And why?  Well, “you have to understand,” said a dim-witted Florida sportswriter named Dan LeBatard on ESPN yesterday—“Castro is our Hitler.”

“Our Hitler.”

Castro.

Not the real mini-Hitler he overthrew—Fulgencio Batista, who ran Cuba as a wonderland of torture and a whorehouse for rich Americans—but Castro.

And so, because he committed a Major League Thought-Crime by expressing a verboten opinion about “our Hitler,”  a baseball manager is ordered not only to apologize, but to lie about what he truly believes in order to keep his job.

“You are free, America, to do as we tell you!”

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Cuban official stresses only the island’s Socialist economic model is being updated

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March 27, 2012

HAVANA, Cuba.- Vice Minister of the Cuban Council of Ministers Marino Murillo stressed in Havana that the island is in the process of updating its economic model under the principle of maintaining socialism, and that it is far from making any reforms on its political system.

Speaking to hundreds of journalists from Cuba and abroad gathered at the National Hotel on the occasion of the papal visit, Murillo explained that the Economic and Social Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution are actually the foundations of the Cuban economic model which looks to achieve sustainable development and safeguard the attainments of the Revolution.

Murillo reaffirmed that the Cuban government and the Communist Party have a strong will to make the political system of the island sustainable, and added that they are open to listen and consider suggestions and new formulas that can help protect the achievements of socialism.

The Cuban official pointed out that the Revolution has unbreakable principles like nobody will be left unprotected, the search for equal conditions for the development of the people and that everyone’s main income should come from their own work.

He said with a view to foster collective work by different means thus being consequent with the socialist principle of preventing the concentration of wealth, they are studying introducing changes on the body of laws to expand the creation of cooperatives to non-agricultural sectors.

He also mentioned efforts to make state-run enterprises efficient. “We are designing formulas –he said- so that the PCC and the government can orient their efforts to make it possible for people to manage state-owned goods and means like if they were their own property, like the case of those exploiting the land on lease.”

In reference to external models Cuba may use in its economic update, Murillo said the island has studied the experiences of China, Vietnam and Russia among other nations, and made it clear that the it will not make an exact copy of any of them.

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