Sunday, May 31, 2009

Woman pushes for legal travel to Cuba

Schnectady Daily Gazette

Saturday, May 30, 2009

By Sara Foss
Gazette Reporter

SCHENECTADY — Mabel Leon’s front hallway is lined with black and white photographs.

There’s a young woman walking down the street, a baby in her arms.

There’s a girl celebrating her quinceañera — a coming-of-age ceremony held for a girl’s 15th birthday.

And there’s a man watering his sunflowers.

Leon, 68, has visited Cuba seven times since 1991, most recently in March. She has taken numerous photographs on her trips, many of which hang in her home.

“The one thing about taking pictures in Cuba is that Cubans don’t pose,” she said.

Leon supports ending the United States trade embargo against Cuba, which was enacted in 1962. She believes that if more Americans were to visit Cuba and get to know its residents, the U.S. would be forced to establish a friendship with the small island country, one of the few communist nations left in the world.

Right now, Americans are barred from visiting Cuba as tourists, a restriction that includes travel from or through a third country, such as Mexico or Canada. On her last trip, Leon was questioned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Philadelphia for two hours. She said that she has also been fined $67,000 for traveling to Cuba. When you travel to Cuba, “you’re doing civil disobedience,” she said. “If you break the law openly, there may be consequences.

“We want to end the blockade,” Leon said. “We want friendship with Cuba. ... This wasn’t a frivolous tourist trip.”

A longtime peace activist who lives in Schenectady’s Stockade neighborhood, Leon is active with Schenectady Neighbors for Peace, Grannies for Peace and Women Against War. She sees the situation in Cuba through the same prism through which she views the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I see them linked in terms of peace and justice,” she said. “There’s a Martin Luther King quote on my door. ‘True peace is not merely the absence of tension: It is the presence of justice.’ ”

friends’ support

“Mabel has always been interested in peace and justice issues,” said Scotia resident Anita Paul, a member of Schenectady Neighbors for Peace. Paul said she has known Leon for more than three decades.

“Way back then, she was working on food security for low-income people,” she said. “She’s always been where peacemaking is happening. She has high energy and she can go all the time. I admire her immensely.”

On her March trip, Leon traveled to Cuba for 10 days with a group of women. The trip was organized by a friend, Donna Neff, who had recently lost her 36-year-old son, Ryan Neff, to cancer.

“I wanted to do a living memorial to him,” Leon said. “I felt a personal commitment to do something positive.”

While there, Leon and the other women built houses and visited schools, celebrating at the end of the week with music and dancing.

“There’s a shortage of housing in Cuba,” she said. “No one is homeless, but lots of families live together.”

On past trips to Cuba, Leon has traveled with Pastors for Peace. The group is a ministry of the New York City-based Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, which was created in 1988 to bring humanitarian aid to Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 1992, Pastors for Peace has delivered 17 aid shipments to Cuba.

Pastors for Peace spends several weeks traveling through Canada and the U.S. in buses, collecting supplies and staying at the homes of volunteers. The group of about 120 gathers in Texas for an orientation, then crosses the border and traverses Mexico before flying to Cuba from the Mexican city of Tampico. Leon said there are usually between 10 to 12 buses and several trucks. Pastors for Peace maintains that the U.S. embargo of Cuba is ineffective and immoral, causing shortages of food, medicine and other supplies.

cuban survival

Leon said that Cuba has its flaws — the country has been criticized on the issue of human rights — but there are certain things it does well. The country provides free health care for all of its residents, as well as free college education. The country also has a very high literacy rate and a vast system of urban gardens.

“Cubans are very competent to take care of Cuba,” she said. “They’re very articulate about what needs improving. I don’t think Cuba is perfect or a utopia. But our failed policies have been in place for years, and they have not changed the government.”

The Pastors for Peace caravan will pass through the Capital Region in July, stopping at First Presbyterian Church in Albany on July 6. The caravan will be traveling through more than 100 U.S. cities, collecting construction tools to send to Cuba. In the past, the group has sent medicines and medical supplies such as wheelchairs and crutches.

The group’s stay in Cuba will run from July 24 to Aug. 1. Leon has no plans to join the group but will collect tools to give to the caravan. This year’s trip marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, which led to the overthrow of U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Leon is an energetic woman whose house is filled with art. There are copies of famous paintings — Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” — but also lesser known works by Cuban artists.

Now retired, Leon spent her career working in child care and early child care education.

She ran a day care program serving low-income children at Christ Church in Schenectady.

“I’ve always advocated for poor children, and I’m aware of how society fails poor children,” she said.

The Obama administration has made some changes regarding Cuba, lifting restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to travel and send money back to their homeland and allowing U.S. telecommunication companies to seek business there. But Obama has not expressed interest in lifting the embargo.

La Habana Vaqueros win their second game in Cuba's 48th baseball finals

The Vaqueros of La Habana won their second consecutive game against the Naranjas of Villa Clara in Cuba's 48th National Championship Finals. They prevailed by the score of 5-4.

Internationalist Jonder Martinez came in relief for the Cowboys in the top of the ninth inning to put an end to the threat of the Naranjas, who had scored two runs in their final attempt to tie the game. Miguel A. Martinez was the winner and Jonder got the save.

The Vaqueros now lead the series 2-0. The excellent pitching of the Cowboys is stopping the Villaclareños right now.

Box score

In Turnaround, Cuba Agrees to Talks With U.S.

Sunday, May 31, 2009; 12:44 PM

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer

Cuba has agreed to open talks with the United States on issues ranging from immigration to anti-narcotics cooperation and direct mail service , a senior State Department official said today, in a sign that the island's communist government is warming to President Obama's call for a new relationship after decades of tension.

More...

La Habana wins opener in the 48th baseball championship finals

Photo: Granma

The Vaqueros (Cowboys) of La Habana won the initial game of the 48th National Baseball Finals, by defeating the Naranjas (Oranges) of Villa Clara by 4-3, based on the excellent pitching of internationalist Yulieski Gonzalez, who went eight innings and only allowed four hits and two runs.

The score was tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, when Rafael Orta came to the plate with a man in scoring position. He connected a walk-off hit to center field and the Vaqueros won their first game of the 48th finals.

Box Score

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Miami gusanos organization says that it is planning provocations against the Cuban goverment

Mambi Watch is a blog that does a good job in keeping a close eye on the actions of the right wingers in Miami. The cockroaches in that city quickly scurry for cover when you shine a light on them.

The avowed president of an organization that goes by the name of Municipios de Cuba en el Exilio said the following:

"[The Municipios] will work on some programs inside Cuba which shall be with the Miami Medical Team [or] Doctors Without Borders creating what are known as the independent medical clinics... We will provoke them. Yes, we are going make a humanitarian provocation and with humanitarian things [or actions] because we can't do anything else, but we know how to do what must be done well.

"We have been preparing these last two years since I left the [prior] Presidency, methodically preparing [to] now begin the provocation against the [Castro] regime. If they accept the provocation they are going to look bad. If they don't accept it, then they are going to look bad as well."


Will The Municipios send a letter to the viejitos in Calle Ocho asking for $$$ to fund their plans?

Will they travel to Texas and Wyoming, cup in hand, to inform Bush and Cheney of their imminent plans to launch a "war of provocations" that will bring freedom and liberty to the suffering Cuban masses?

Stay tuned for the next comedic episode of this new "action" of the Miami liberators.

Friday, May 29, 2009

$$$ signs dancing in their heads

MIAMI (Associated Press) — May 28, 2009 - A United States judge on Friday awarded more than $1 billion in damages against the Cuban government for the 1959 suicide of the father of a Cuban-American man who was involved in the CIA-backed capture and killing of revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. The award likely will prove impossible to collect.

JG: Capitalist greed is never ending and all consuming. They put a price on everything. Capitalists spend 90% of their day thinking and dreaming about $$$. Beware when they tell you they want to be your friend.

Cuban Great Conrado Marrero


The popular Almendares pitcher celebrated his 98th birthday last year. His record in Cuban Leagues play was 69 wins and 48 losses, with a 2.51 ERA. In the U.S. minor leagues (1947-1957), his record was 80 wins and 29 losses, with a 1.81 ERA. He also pitched for the Washington Senators in the major leagues (1950-1954) with a win-loss record of 39-40.

Chinese students graduate from Spanish courses in Cuba

www.chinaview.cn

2009-05-29 14:13:32

HAVANA, May 28 (Xinhua) -- A total of 100 Chinese students have recently graduated from Spanish language courses after their studies in Cuba as part of bilateral educational exchanges between the two countries, local media reported Thursday.

At a graduation ceremony held at University of Havana on Wednesday and attended by Vice President of the Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas and Vice Minister of Higher Education Oberto Santin, Director of the course Olga Ofelia Gomez lauded "the discipline, the will, the effort, and the independence" of the Chinese students.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Rongxian said educational exchanges between the two countries are increasing and becoming more productive.

Zhao thanked the Cuban government, the Communist Party of Cuba and the Cuban people for their hospitality to the Chinese students.

The courses, designed to improve communication skills in Spanish, opened in September 2008 for students majoring in Hispanic philology from 20 Chinese provinces.
Editor: Zhang Xiang

Thursday, May 28, 2009

U.S. to compete in first Cuba track meet since '92

www.guardian.co.uk

HAVANA, May 28 (Reuters) - U.S. track and field athletes will compete this weekend in Cuba for the first time in 17 years in what officials said was a sign of warming relations between the two countries.

Thirteen Americans form part of a field of more than 240 athletes from 15 countries battling for medals in a meet on Friday and Saturday at Havana's Pan-American Stadium.

U.S. tracksters last competed in Cuba in the 1992 World Cup, but are returning as U.S. President Barack Obama moves to improve long-hostile U.S.-Cuban relations following steps last month to ease the trade embargo imposed against Havana since 1962.

"As an organization, we had an obligation to re-establish friendships in the Caribbean and re-establish the people-to-people tradition we had with the Cuban people," Doug Logan, chief executive of USA Track & Field, which governs the sport in the United States, said in Havana on Thursday.

"We're in a different season, with the new president that we have, and I believe that there is a new opportunity with sports," he said in a press conference.

Logan said talks had begun with the aim of increasing track and field events between the two countries, which have been at odds since Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution.
Cuban national sports commissioner Esteban Brice said the U.S. presence was greeted with "pleasure" and "seriousness" by Cuban officials.

The meet will actually be two events, the Copa America for multi-event competitions such as the decathlon, and the Barrientos Memorial track and field tournament.

Organizers said some of the other countries represented at the event include Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Jeff Franks)

------

JG: I am extremely happy to see that common sense and good civility is returning to certain areas of U.S-Cuba relations and human interaction and contacts. What a difference from the policies of the Marketers of Hate pushed forward by the fanatics of the George W. Bush administration.

Swallowtail Butterfly


OUTSTANDING PHOTOGRAPHY!

Tiger 'tail : A Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio multicaudata) alights on a flower in a garden in Mexico City. (AFP/Ronaldo Schemidt)

Bitter Fruit

Bitter Fruit is a song by Little Steven. It was inspired by the misdeeds of the infamous United Fruit Company, an imperialist company which exploited the agricultural workers in Central America and the Caribbean.

I was born lucky they always say
I work in these fields of plenty
Sweat for the company far away
Fruit once sweet now has bitter taste

My father was a union man
Very proud and outspoken
They came and took him when I was young
I will fight 'till his work is done

And my children are hungry
To taste the sweet life
Though my eyes have grown tired
Their desire keeps me alive

I will gather no more of your bitter fruit

I have a sister she loves to dream
Now she works right beside me
We work the land we can never own
Someday we'll reap what we have sown

I don't look east I don't look west
I don't understand their accent
If it's not soldiers it's foreign debt
But they haven't won this one yet

Soon from the fields will come fire
To cleanse the lies from all sides
The flames of freedom grow higher
Until desire - is satisfied

I will gather no more of your bitter fruit

And they want to help in America
And the guns they come from America
But they fight against us North America
Why are the people so quiet in America?

Tampa International Airport could add charter flights to Cuba

Che





2008 film directed by Steven Soderbergh,
starting Benicio del Toro as Che.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ALBA Members: End US Blockade on Cuba

Tegucigalpa, May 27 (Prensa Latina) The countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) will demand the ceasing of the blockade of the United States government against Cuba in the next General Assembly of the Organization of American States, Honduran Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas stated here Wednesday.

In a press conference after participating in Venezuela in the ALBA meeting, Rodas reiterated that the blockade against the Caribbean island should be suspended unconditionally and definitively.

During the OAS 39th General Assembly that will take place in San Pedro Sula on June 2 and 3, the nations of the ALBA will also demand that the OAS repair the historical error that excluded Cuba from the organization.

Rodas said that OAS should indemnify Cuba and suspend the resolutions for which it expelled the island in 1962.

The ALBA nations will take clear positions to the meeting, to reassert the constituent basic principles of the continental organization, as respect to free determination, without interference in the domestic affairs of the nations, she specified.

ALBA, an organization created in December 2004, is an integracionist initiative where Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Honduras are participating.

GOP obstructionism will likely throw roadblocks in the nomination of a Hispanic to the Supreme Court

President Barack Obama, true to his word, has given the nation the best possible nominee to replace retiring David Souter at the Supreme Court of the United States.

U.S. appellate court judge Sonia Sotomayor is eminently qualified to ascend to the nation's top court. The Party of NO, will likely try to throw obstructionist dynamite and parliamentary maneuvers to try to prevent her nomination. They will be unsuccessful.

It is a great day for all the Hispanics in the United States. Diversity will come to the top court again with a well respected jurist. We are very proud of you, Sonia!

La Habana vs Villa Clara will fight for the 48th Baseball Series championship crown

The Vaqueros of La Habana were the victors on the Western Division semifinals with four victories and two defeats. They were able to contain the top pitchers of Pinar del Rio, Pedro Luis Lazo and Yunieski Maya. That proved to be the key in their advance to the championship series.

The Naranjas of Villa Clara were the winners in the Eastern Division semifinals, with four wins and three losses. They have played extremely well all year long and were able to defeat the Avispas of Santiago de Cuba, the champion of last year's national series. The Naranjas most likely will be the heavy favorites to win the crown this year. They have a very good team. But do not underestimate the Vaqueros, they will fight till the last inning is played.

The finals of Cuba's 48th National Baseball series will start this coming Friday at 8:00 p.m.at the Nelson Fernandez Stadium, where the Havana Cowboys normally play their games.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Brotherhood of COULD!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am extremely pleased to announce that Reuters and the Associated Press have formed today The Brotherhood of COULD.

Their press releases and articles about Cuba will always contain the word 'COULD' when writing about the Pearl of the Antilles.

As in the following two examples disseminated today:

Reuters: "Cuba is facing a "very hard" economic blow in 2009 as depressed nickel prices and reduced tourism revenue COULD slash foreign income by $1 billion."

Associated Press: "Cubans are in for an especially hot summer under an energy saving plan that COULD shut off air conditioners at work."

Your heard it first in Cuba Journal. Since in just six days the Hurricane Season will start, they assured me that they were already working on a very important story that will report: "Ten hurricanes COULD hit Cuba this summer and wash away the island's socialist system."

They assured me that 'The Brotherhood of Could' has no connections whatsoever with 'The Wishful Thinking Society.'

Cuba does not Need the OAS, says Foreign Minister

CubaNow.Net

Willy Wright

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said in Caracas that his country is proud of not being be part of the Organization of American States (OAS), which he described as anachronistic mechanism.

The top government Cuban official made his statements following a meeting of foreign ministers of the Bolivarian Alternative for Our Americas, a regional integration project known by its acronyms ALBA.

Cuba does not need the OAS, Bruno Rodriguez said as he pointed out that the return of the Caribbean nation to the hemispheric organization is not under any considerations; the OAS has historically been used by the United States and it continues to be such an instrument at present, he said.

It is now time for the changes taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean to reach the OAS, said the top Cuban diplomat; he noted that one way or the other that organization is anachronistic and serves foreign interests, “while we feel that our path, the path to be followed by Cuba, is the one leading to Latin American and Caribbean integration,” Rodriguez stressed.

He described the ALBA ministerial meeting as productive and fruitful because foreign ministers not only addressed international issues, but also the “real integration process of our nations, our governments, that focus their work on the benefit of our people and not on the interest of the US empire.”

The ALBA foreign ministers analyzed the performance of the integration mechanism in relation to several issues, like the economic crisis, food production and the building of agricultural machinery. They also ratified their position adopted in the recent ALBA Summit, which condemned the 1962 OAS resolution the expelled Cuba from the hemispheric organization.

May 26, 2009, 10:48 am

FREE THE FIVE!


These five brave Cubans were sent to Miami to keep an eye on terrorist activities directed by counter-revolutionary groups in that city. Cuba has a right to defend itself from people who serve the interests of a foreign power.

The trial held in Miami, was not a fair or impartial trial. They were not spying on United States secrets or obtained any classified documents. They were keeping an eye on people who are terrorists and traitors to the Fatherland.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pink Tide: How the U.S. is loosing influence and friends in Latin America

Common elements:

1) A total break with the neo-liberal model pushed by capitalist U.S.A., which was a mixture of open markets and privatizations. Those policies failed to narrow the gap between the rich and the millions of Latin America's poor masses.

2) Friendly relations with China, Cuba and Iran.

Pink Tide Countries:

Cuba- Fidel and Raul Castro – Communist Party of Cuba

Venezuela – Hugo Chavez – Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela

Bolivia – Evo Morales – Movement Toward Socialism

Brazil – Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva – Workers Party

Chile – Michelle Bachellet – Socialist Party

Argentina – Justicialista Party – The Party of Juan Domingo Peron

Ecuador – Rafael Correa – a Christian Left proponent of Socialism for the XXI Century.

Uruguay – Tabare Vazquez – Broad Front Center-Left Coalition – (March 2005). His first policy step was to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Nicaragua – Daniel Ortega – Sandinista National Liberation Front

El Salvador – Mauricio Funes – Farabundo – Marti National Liberation Front. He has announced that he will reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Paraguay – Fernando Lugo – Patriotic Alliance for Change

JG: At the present times there are only three right-of-center governments in Latin America: Mexico, Colombia and Peru. They all follow very closely the dictates which emanate from Washington, D.C.

The Apostle

Jose Marti, the Apostle of Cuban Independence lived in the U.S. from 1881 until 1895 where he became a prominent thinker, journalist and politician.

Marti wrote copiously about the land of his exile. Seventeen of his 74 volumes of written works were dedicated to the description of life in the U.S. As an international correspondent for leading South American newspapers, Marti wrote articles describing in eloquent and graphic terms that the U.S. was not an example for other countries to follow. Long before C. Wright Mills, Marti exposed the workings of an industrial-military complex active in corrupt deals between the U.S. Navy and ship builders. Marti also wrote about labor strikes, European immigrants and the Haymarket incident expressing strong sympathy for the workingman that extended to oppressed minorities in articles such as the "Negro Question" and "The American Indian". Marti also covered important events such as the Democratic and Republican national conventions and a memorial meeting of North American socialists to commemorate Karl Marx.

Marti was also an internationalist. He Believed that Cuban and Latin American sovereignty were inseparable issues. He labored for Puerto Rican independence and politically countered moves from the U.S. to dominate the newly freed Latin American countries.

To Cubans, Marti is a potent symbol of unity. He is the creator of independence, the soul of the nation, the living gospel of the homeland, the "Maestro", the "Apostle". This is why his name is so misused in the propaganda of the opponents of the Revolution. As a clear manifestation of the misinformation surrounding Cuba, the U.S. finances what it names Radio and TV Marti to encourage the overthrow of the Cuban revolutionary government. Actually, Marti warned that Cubans should not court the aid of the U.S. because that aid would endanger Cuba's sovereignty. In his last interview with the New York Herald (Bryson, Eugene, May 2, 1895), Marti voiced the conviction that those who collaborated with the U.S. government against a politically and economically free Cuba were traitors and "gusanos" (parasites) - a word used today to describe the Cuban opponents of the revolution. No one, including Fidel Castro, has ever surpassed Marti in his mistrust of the U.S. government, his criticism of life in the U.S. and his animosity toward that country's predatory foreign policy.

Marti concurred with the thesis of Karl Marx's writings, but he can not be said to have been a card-carrying socialist. Although he was an authority on U.S. imperialism, Marti did not find capitalism to be its cause. He envisioned a social, political and economic structure for Cuba in which a benevolent form of indigenous capitalism could sustain social justice and racial equality through an equitable sharing of the nation's wealth. "With all and for the good of all", said Marti to Cuban workers and entrepreneurs alike about the Cuba to be forged from the ruins of Spanish colonialism.

Source: International Bicycle Fund

JG: The Apostle greatly admired Ralph Waldo Emerson. I am sure that he would would have taken out the words 'Europe' and supplanted them with 'United States' in the passage that Emerson wrote in 1837: "We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe.... We will walk with on our own two feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak out our own minds." [Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Complete Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, (New York: Modern Library, 1950) pp.62-63 )]

Nattering Nabobs of Whining Negativism

I am going to have to borrow a phrase made famous by a person who I disliked intensely. Spiro Agnew was a crook and a typical specimen of the GOP. And he was also a vice president of the United States under the regime of Richard Nixon, who after George W. Bush and Herbert Hoover were very clear examples of what capitalism has to offers to the suffering masses of North American people. Those three, together with Agnew and Cheney, were the worse of the worst.

But his famous phrase about the 'nattering nabobs of negativism' is one phrase that encapsulates how a great majority of Americans conduct themselves. It is a behavior that we can find in both Republicans and Democrats, who since the end of WWII have proceeded to destroy this once great nation with their never ending capitalist greed, corruption, arrogance, and 'screw thy neighbor' financial speculation.

I was reading an article in Granma's Spanish edition that called to task and criticized, the negativism that is present on Reuters reports about Cuba, and it reminded me of Spiro's famous phrase.

The British are no different than the Americans when it come to the constant whining of their mainstream news media . Anglo-Saxons hate socialism with a passion. They know that it is a system that serves the needs of the people rather than the big capitalist corporations which rule the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Every little thing that Cuba does is super analyzed to bring out anything that presents their society in a negative way. The triple-fea bloguera in Cuba with her blog in Germany follows the same path of destructive criticism against Cuban society. She is a bad Cuban on top of being ugly.

They whine and whine and do some more whining. What a sorry bunch they are.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cuba: What everyone needs to know


Book Review

The Los Angeles Times

By Marjorie Miller

May 24, 2009

Cuba

What Everyone Needs to Know

Julia E. Sweig

Oxford University Press: 304 pp., $16.95 paper

Despite decades of heated rhetoric from Washington and Miami, most of the time Americans don't give a lot of thought to Cuba. Then, once or twice a decade, some great drama erupts on the island 90 miles off Florida, sending great waves of fear, shock or refugees across the straits to remind Americans of its existence -- until the ruckus dies down and Cuba again fades from U.S. consciousness.

Not so in the reverse, however. For most of Cuba's history, and certainly since the revolution that brought Fidel Castro's Communist government to power, U.S. policy has penetrated nearly every facet of life in Cuba, making it virtually impossible for average Cubans to forget about the superpower next door.

This is driven home in "Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know," Julia E. Sweig's forthcoming portrait of the country, where even chapters on domestic issues are as much about Cuba's relationship with the United States as they are about Cuba itself. Beginning with the Cuban war of independence from Spain through the end of Castro's rule in 2006, the long arm of the United States has reached across to the island.

For those Americans who have not followed Cuba, or who might start now that the Obama administration has signaled a new beginning in relations between the two countries, this is an excellent and refreshingly evenhanded primer. Part of the Oxford University Press' "What Everyone Needs to Know" series, it is presented in a question-and-answer format that, while not leaving much room to capture the evocative sights and smells of Cuba or the character of its people, packs a phenomenal amount of complex history into clear and simple prose. It also seeks to explain why the Cuban revolution, battered as it might be, has outlasted the Cold War, nine U.S. presidents and even the decades-long presidency of Castro. Part of the answer lies in Cuba's defiance of and ability to adapt to U.S. power.

As Sweig tells it, the David-versus-Goliath mentality that is central to Cuban nationalism can be traced back to the writings of Cuban exile and patriot José Martí, who advocated independence from Spain while warning against U.S. interference. Indeed, the United States intervened and, soon after defeating the Spanish in 1898, began a military occupation that was a humiliation to Cubans who had fought for independence. While the occupation ended after the turn of the last century, the U.S. via the Platt Amendment of 1901 limited Cuban sovereignty for decades until a revolt by an obscure Cuban army official, Fulgencio Batista, led to its abolishment. Nonetheless, U.S. companies controlled 40% of the Cuban sugar industry, 50% of its railways and 90% of the telephone and electric services as Batista ruled first behind the scenes and then at the forefront following a military coup in 1952.

Enter Castro. Along with his brother Raúl and a band of 135 insurgents, he launched an armed insurrection on July 26, 1953. The attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba was a failure that landed the survivors in jail, but they were released in an amnesty a couple of years later and relaunched their insurgency with their Argentine friend Ernesto "Che" Guevara. After just 22 months of fighting, Batista fled and much of the pro-U.S. elite soon followed. Castro rolled into Havana in January 1959.

Sweig argues that Castro's eventual move into the orbit of the Soviet Union was as much a reaction to U.S. opposition to the Cuban revolution as it was driven by shared ideology. The new regime wanted a redistribution of wealth, which was by definition at the expense of U.S. interests, but it also wanted national independence; instead, the country ended up trading one imperial power for another. It wasn't always a happy marriage either, as, for example, when Castro's efforts to wean Cuba of its sugar economy were reversed by Soviet demand for the crop.

Castro created a one-party state that consolidated control of land, the economy and the media in the hands of the Communist Party and government. Limited room for dissent diminished even further in the face of U.S.-backed challenges to the Castro regime, such as the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and at least eight CIA-backed attempts to assassinate Castro. "For Cuba's new leaders, the liberal democratic order came to be seen as central to Cuba's vulnerability to capitalist exploitation and political control by the United States," Sweig writes.

The worst chapter in the two countries' relations, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, brought the world to the brink of nuclear war until, as Sweig notes, the United States and the Soviet Union cut a deal that left Castro fulminating and Cuba watching from the sidelines.

Cuba under Castro was always a little island with big ambitions. Sweig argues that Cuba's long history of foreign engagements, helping revolutionaries and liberation movements from Africa to Central America, stemmed from the leadership's own ideology (and perhaps the leader's own ego) more than from Soviet expansionism. American strategists, she writes, "never really grasped Havana's capacity to make its own foreign policy decisions." The collapse of the Soviet Union and the cutoff of subsidies hobbled Cuba's economy in the early 1990s, causing a period of severe hunger, blackouts and despair, but it also released Cuba from the Soviet hold. Defying predictions, the Castro government survived these hardships by allowing tens of thousands of rafters to flee the island, letting off political steam. But it also survived because the revolution was homegrown. Even amid growing skepticism and frustration, Sweig writes, "many Cubans felt a sense of lasting ownership of their revolution."

Still trying to relieve the economic pressure, the government eventually legalized possession of American dollars that Cubans received from relatives in the United States. At the same time, Castro resisted further market openings. "Fidel never let anyone forget his profound allergy to the profit, accumulation, avarice, and social inequality inherent in the market," she writes.

Nor did he let up on dissenters. Even now, with Castro in the wings and Raúl in the presidential palace, Cuba watchers should not expect a radical transformation, Sweig writes. Whatever changes might take place, Cuba "in the short term is unlikely to look like multi-party political democracy in the liberal Western world."

Miller is an editorial writer at The Times.

marjorie.miller@latimes.com

------

JG: The United States could care less about "freedom and democracy" for Cuba, since it has an economic system that puts corporate profits ahead of the social needs of the people. Fulgencio Batista was a pliable U.S. puppet who allowed the Americans to exploit the Cuban masses during his dictatorship. Fidel Castro is a true liberator who sent the imperialists packing on January First, 1959. He personifies the expression of Cuban nationalism, so ably led by Cespedes, Marti and Maceo before him. The times of the neo-colony of 1902-1958 will not return to Cuba. Obama better get used to that.

Friday, May 22, 2009

U.S. Signals Willingness to Reopen Talks With Cuba

The New York Times

By GINGER THOMPSON

Published: May 22, 2009

WASHINGTON — In a new gesture toward Cuba, the Obama administration signaled willingness on Friday to reopen a channel with Havana that was closed under President George W. Bush by scheduling high-level meetings on migration between the two countries.

Robert Pastor, who was a chief Latin America adviser to President Jimmy Carter, called the offer to resume talks on migration “a very important step toward beginning a new dialogue between the United States and Cuba.”

Complete Article

S. 1089: Introduction remarks by U.S. Senator Max Baucus

Congressional Record.

On May 20, 2009 U.S. Senator Max Baucus together with 16 additional colleagues introduced H.R. 1089.

OFFICIAL TITLE AS INTRODUCED:

A bill to facilitate the export of United States agricultural commodities and products to Cuba as authorized by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, to establish an agricultural export promotion program with respect to Cuba, to remove impediments to the export to Cuba of medical devices and medicines, to allow travel to Cuba by United States citizens and legal residents, to establish an agricultural export promotion program with respect to Cuba, and for other purposes.

COSPONSORS(16), ALPHABETICAL:

Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM]
Sen Bond, Christopher S. [MO]
Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA]
Sen Crapo, Mike [ID]
Sen Dorgan, Byron L. [ND]
Sen Enzi, Michael B. [WY]
Sen Harkin, Tom [IA]
Sen Johnson, Tim [SD]
Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [LA]
Sen Lincoln, Blanche L. [AR]
Sen Lugar, Richard G. [IN]
Sen McCaskill, Claire [MO]
Sen Murray, Patty [WA]
Sen Pryor, Mark L. [AR]
Sen Roberts, Pat [KS]
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR]

Here are the remarks of the senator on that day:

Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, this Nation and this body have debated divisive trade issues for more than a century. In the 1820s, the cotton, indigo, and rice exporting southern States quarreled with northern States intent on protecting nascent manufacturing In the 1930s, President Hoover's appeals to save American jobs brought the Smoot-Hawley tariff.

   Since the Second World War, America has moved to open the world's markets and our own. We are better for it. But divisive trade debates do and will continue. Few debates have been as long and contentious as those regarding our economic sanctions on Cuba.

   I am introducing legislation today to bring this divisive debate to an end. I do so not as an ideologue or a partisan. I am neither the Cuban government's friend nor its staunchest enemy. I instead am a Montanan. Like most Montanans, I take no pleasure in disagreement. Like most Montanans, I try to make a deal when I can. Like most Montanans, I stick to the facts.

   Here is how I see the facts. Opening Cuba to our exports means money in the pockets of farmers and ranchers across America. Lifting financing and other restrictions on U.S. agriculture could increase U.S. beef exports from states like Montana and Colorado from $1 million to as much as $13 million. Lifting these restrictions could allow agricultural exporters in States like North Dakota and Arkansas to obtain nearly 70 percent of Cuba's wheat market, nearly 40 percent of its rice market, and more than 90 percent of its poultry market. Lifting these restrictions could allow America's farmers and ranchers to export as much as $1.2 billion in total agricultural goods to Cuba.

   The facts also show that European and other exporters already reap these benefits. Europe has scrapped its Cuba sanctions. Just last week, EU officials were in Havana calling for full normalization of ties. Those officials made no secret of wanting to solidify ties with Cuba now to get the jump on the U.S.

   Those are the facts as I see them. But that is not all I see. I am not blind to the Cuban people's suffering or the crimes of their government. I am not deaf to the calls for political and religious freedom just 90 miles off our shores. But I also see that increased trade ties historically have led to improved political ties, whether between Argentina and Brazil in this hemisphere or between former rival nations in Europe.

   Am I certain that increased trade will improve our political ties with Cuba? I am not. But I am certain that we have had these sanctions in place for over 5 decades. I am certain that five decades of sanctions have made no Cuban freer, no nation more prosperous, and no government more democratic. I am certain that one side has gotten its chance and its way. I am certain that the status quo must now change.

 Here is how I propose to change our status quo with Cuba. My bill, which 15 other Democratic and Republic Senators have joined, would help U.S. farmers and ranchers sell their products to Cuba by facilitating cash payment for agricultural goods, authorizing direct transfers between U.S. and Cuban banks, and creating a U.S. agricultural export promotion fund. This bill also eases restrictions on exports of medicines and medical devices. It allows all Americans to travel to Cuba--not just one particular group.

   John Stuart Mill wrote that ``Commerce first taught nations to see with goodwill the wealth and prosperity of one another. Before, the patriot ..... wished all countries weak, poor, and ill-governed but his own .....'' For too long, America has stood atop our barricade of sanctions and looked down upon a weak, poor, and ill-governed Cuba. Let us now open our commerce with Cuba. Let us wish them wealth, prosperity, and an abundance of all that we value and hold dear in America.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cuba's Palma Real (Royal Palm)


Cuba's Palma Real is the island's national tree and symbol. It is recognized by Cubans as “the queen of the fields” because of the majestic of its structure, its peculiar size, the useful things that it gives and for being the most numerous of the trees that exist in Cuba.

The Palma Real, a great and erected tree that overtakes between fourteen and fifteen foots of altitude, crowned by a beautiful crest, able to provoke the admiration of many poets and musicians, who had sung to its elegance.

The Palma Real fruits blossom and grow up almost year long and they were used by the Cuban aborigines to satisfy some of their needs, such as the food for the domestic animals, the wood to build their houses and the pad to cover their ceiling.

The elegant presence of the Palma Real that appear in the national coat of arms represents the freedom and the independence of the young Cuban republic, symbol of the luxuriance and ferocity of their privileged land. It is the most useful of their trees.

So far, Obama's “new beginning” with Cuba has been extremely disappointing

The dismal state of the economy in the United States is something that demands and deserves the top spot among the myriad of problems that Barack Obama inherited from the mis-administration of George W. Bush. The damage done by the worst president in the history of United States, both economically and morally, is unmeasurable, and will remain with us for a long time.

So, it is very understandable that the chief executive is devoting most of his time to trying to solve the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. To do otherwise would be a dereliction of duty. Six millions jobs have been lost due to the financial speculation orgy orchestrated by an irresponsible Wall Street and capitalist banks and financial institutions.

So the resolution of our failed policies toward Cuba has been placed on the back burner.

I am very grateful that my two nephews in Cuba are again part of my family and that I can visit them as often as I desire, after arrogant and incompetent Dubbya banished them from the family tree. I always kept them on the tree, because I new that Bush was an aberration and that one day he would become part of an ignominious past, one that the American people knew how to overcome and put behind them.

However, the rest of the new Obama Cuba initiatives have been extremely disappointing. Why? Because he continues to support the failed policies of his ten predecessors.

He continues to listen to people in the Democratic Party that constantly give him bad advice in regards to our Cuba policies. He should listen to Lugar instead of Menendez.

It is no secret that the Cuba embargo is a huge failure. Why does a supposedly intelligent leader continue to support it? Because Americans are too enamored of wheeling and dealing. I do not think that Cuba is going to negotiate away its national sovereignty so it can reach an easy “deal” with Barack Obama.

The young and charismatic chief executive should ask himself the following question: what right do I have to tell people in other countries how they should conduct their internal affairs?

The answer is a simple one: NONE!

Live and let live should be the policy that Barack Obama should put in place towards Cuba. Let him rid himself of imperial arrogance. If you want peace with Cuba and a true new beginning rather than a fake one, lift the embargo unconditionally. Recognize that the embargo has failed to bring down Cuba's government.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

England's Royal Ballet to make first Cuba visit

Wed May 20, 2009 7:08pm EDT

HAVANA (Reuters) - England's Royal Ballet will make its first visit to Cuba in July with performances that include a homage to Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso, ballet executives said on Wednesday.

The Cuba visit came about in part because the Royal Ballet's principal guest dancer, Carlos Acosta, is a Cuban and was anxious to perform in his home country, administrative director Kevin O'Hare said.

"He said it would be the highlight of his career to bring the company to Cuba," O'Hare said.

He said the Cuban government had supported the visit.

"It really just came out of the Royal Ballet taking this on board, deciding this is what we want to do for the company," O'Hare said.

"Because of the heritage of their national ballet, there is probably no other place in the world that has a love of classical ballet like Cuba," he said.

The communist-led island also has been one of the top producers of male dancers in recent years, O'Hare said.

The company, which will bring 96 dancers to Havana, is scheduled to perform four pieces, one of which will be a tribute to Alonso and include dancers from the Cuban National Ballet, he said.

Alonso, 88, who danced in the United States and Europe, has led the Cuban ballet since shortly after Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution.

Acosta, considered one of the top dancers in the world, was her student before leaving Cuba.

The Royal Ballet, which is based at the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden, will perform at the Gran Teatro de Havana and Karl Marx Teatro on July 14-18.

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Jim Loney)

Cuba Wars named finalist for book of the year

Cuban Colada

Dan Erikson's "The Cuba Wars" Named as Finalist for 2008 Book of the Year Award

Washington, DC: A recently released book on US-Cuban relations by Inter-American Dialogue senior associate Daniel P. Erikson has been recognized in a prestigious literary competition. The Cuba Wars: Fidel Castro, the United States and the Next Revolution is a finalist in the political science category of ForeWord magazine’s 2008 Book of the Year Award contest.

Since its publication last November by Bloomsbury Press, The Cuba Wars has been praised by Foreign Affairs magazine as a “fresh, astute, and compassionate exploration of the past two decades of U.S.-Cuban relations," and Current History hailed it as “the most important book on Cuba in a generation.”

Created in 1999, ForeWord magazine’s Book of the Year Award was established to recognize the outstanding literary achievements of independent publishers and their authors. The Cuba Wars is the second consecutive book by an Inter-American Dialogue staff member to be nominated as a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award. In 2007, Looking Forward: Comparative Perspectives on Cuba’s Transition, edited by Dialogue vice president Marifeli Pérez-Stable, was nominated in the political science category.

2008 Book of the Year Award finalists are determined by a jury of judges consisting of editors, reviewers, booksellers, librarians, and other publishing professionals. ForeWord magazine will announce the winners on May 30, 2009.

posted by Myriam Marquez

April 08, 2009

------

JG: I finished reading Cuba Wars last month and it is a book that I highly recommend to all of those who want to be informed about the Cuba issue. You will not find this book promoted in the ultra right wing anti-Cuba blogs in Miami. Run to your library and borrow a copy, or buy it at your favorite bookstore.

New bill to be introduced in May to close the School of the Americas

This month, a new bill will be introduced in the U.S. Hose of Representatives by Jim McGovern (D-MA) which will seek to close the School of the Americas, called by many the School of Assassins.

I urge the readers of Cuba Journal to contact their representative and ask them to become a co-sponsor of the McGorvern bill.

Here is a possible letter to your Representative:

"As a constituent living in _________, I am writing Congressman/woman ________ to urge him/her to contact Rep. McGovern and ask to be an original cosponsor of the Latin America Military Training Review Act, formerly HR 1707 in the 110th Congress. This legislation will be introduced in May. The bill is identical to HR 1707 and would suspend operations at the School of the Americas, renamed WHINSEC, and investigate the history of human rights abuses and failed policies of the institution.

New information indicates that WHINSEC has allowed known human rights abusers to instruct and receive training at the school. Argentina and Uruguay are two more countries that have made public announcements they will no longer send students to the school, citing the negative image and history of this institution. Despite demands by Congress to have oversight over the curriculum and promote human rights, the Pentagon is now denying all requests to provide information to human rights organizations and the public about students and graduates of the school.

I urge you to contact Cindy Buhl in Representative McGovern's office and ask that you be added as an original cosponsor of this legislation. I hope you will represent my views and support this bill."

U.S. Senator Baucus Introduces Bill Easing Trade and Travel Restrictions With Cuba

5/20/2009 4:44 PM ET

(RTTNews) - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), along with 15 other Democratic and Republican Senators, introduced a bill Wednesday to ease US trade and travel restrictions with Cuba.

The bill would help US farmers and ranchers export their products to Cuba by allowing timely and direct cash payments for agricultural goods.

This works by allowing US banks to receive payment directly from Cuban banks for Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSREEA)-authorized agricultural transactions.

It also requires the Agriculture Department to promote US agricultural exports to Cuba and to offer technical assistance to US entities interested in these transactions.

Further, it lifts the current ban on traveling to Cuba, allowing US citizens and legal residents to travel to Cuba, and it eases restrictions on exports of medicines and medical devices.

According to research prepared by staff at the independent International Trade Commission, removing US export restrictions could increase the annual US share of Cuba's agriculture imports to nearly 65 percent, representing an annual boost of over $450 million in US agriculture sales.

"It's time for us to face the facts regarding Cuba," Baucus said.

Here is a summary of the bill’s provisions:

Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act of 2009:

 Facilitation of Agricultural Exports. The bill facilitates cash-in-advance agricultural sales to Cuba, which Congress authorized in 2000 through the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSREEA). From 2001 until early 2005, under TSREEA, Cuban buyers wired cash payments for U.S. agricultural goods after the goods shipped from a U.S. port, but before receiving title or physical control of the goods. In 2005, however, the Treasury Department issued a rule requiring payment before the goods shipped from a U.S. port, which undermined the intent of TSREEA. If Cuban buyers pay for goods in U.S. ports, the goods could be subject to seizure to satisfy unrelated private claims against the Cuban government. As a result, Cuba has not purchased any U.S. agricultural products on a cash basis since the 2005 rule. Section 2 of this Act restores Congressional intent by defining cash-in-advance as payment before the buyer receives title or physical control of the goods.

 Authorization of Direct Transfers Between U.S. & Cuban Banks for Agricultural Exports. In accordance with the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, Cuban buyers must route cash payment for U.S. agricultural goods through third-country banks, which make a commission off of each sale. Section 3 of this Act allows U.S. banks to receive payment directly from Cuban banks for TSREEA-authorized agricultural transactions.

 Promotion of Agricultural Exports. Section 4 of this Act requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to promote U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba and to offer technical assistance to U.S. entities interested in these transactions. Section 5 assesses an additional $1 tax on all international air travel to and from Cuba for five years, which would be used to pay for USDA’s agricultural export promotion activities.

 Issuance of U.S. Visas Related to Agricultural Exports. Cuban trade and veterinary officials have expressed interest in visiting a number of our states to inspect agricultural facilities and make purchases. These visits are important for smaller producers unable to travel to Cuba to market and sell their goods. But the State Department has rejected many of the visas that have been requested by Cuban officials. Section 6 of this Act expresses the Sense of the Senate that visas should be issued to Cuban trade officials and inspectors if they have a full itinerary of TSREEA-related activities.

 Removal of Impediments to Medical Exports. The 1992 Cuban Democracy Act authorized medicine sales to Cuba, but required U.S. sellers to conduct onsite verification of the Cuban buyer’s receipt of the goods. This requirement made medical exports much more costly and difficult, particularly for small exporters. Section 7 of this Act eliminates the onsite verification requirement.

 Removal of Travel Ban for U.S. Citizens & Legal Residents. Current law permits travel to Cuba for Cuban-Americans visiting family in Cuba and for other U.S. citizens and legal residents who are licensed to travel by the Treasury Department. But licensing can take months in many cases, which disrupts the legitimate travel of religious, academic, cultural, humanitarian and other groups to Cuba. Section 8 of this Act lifts all travel restrictions to Cuba by U.S. citizens and legal residents.

 Adherence to International Intellectual Property Agreements. Section 211 of the FY 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Act bars U.S. courts from hearing claims by foreign nationals asserting rights to trademarks associated with expropriated property. It also bars the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from renewing such trademark registrations. In 2001, however, the World Trade Organization (WTO) found that Section 211 violates WTO rules because it applies only to foreign nationals, not to U.S. citizens. Section 211 also violates the Inter-American Convention on reciprocal trademark protections. Section 9 of this Act repeals Section 211 and brings the United States into compliance with its international intellectual property obligations.

Where does Hillary get the idea that Cuba wants to rejoin the OAS?

One more time, Hillary Clinton is engaging in wishfull thinking and day dreaming. The Cuban government, in the words of the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Fidel Castro, has declared that the Caribbean island is not interested in returning to the Organization of American States, an entitity that is totally controlled and financed by the United States.

So Hillary declared today that "Cuba won't be allowed to rejoin the Organization of American States until it makes political reforms, releases political prisoners and respects human rights."

Keep on dreaming Hillary! The day when the U.S. told the government of Cuba what to do ended on Janurary First, 1959.

As long as Barack Obama continues to listen to the words of the reactionary wing of the Democratic Party, which is led by Robert Menendez, Bill Nelson and Hillary Clinton, nothing much is going to change in our policies toward Cuba.

EDITORIAL: Want to secure Social Security? Lift the cap!

People's Weekly World Editorial Board

05/20/09 11:09

Right-wing Republican Party-linked think tanks want to eliminate Social Security. They are using a recent report from the Social Security trustees that indicate the recession has harmed the long-term financial security of the program's trust fund to claim the program needs reform, i.e. privatization, slashing benefits and raising the retirement age.

Financed largely by Wall Street interests, these groups basically want to get their hands on the money in the Social Security trust fund.

Despite the collapse of the banking and investment industry, they still insist that the private market can better provide retirement security for America's seniors than the Social Security program.

Of course it is plain to most Americans that had 64 million retirees been forced to rely on the private banking and investment industries for their financial security over the past six months, many millions of them would have been forced into dire poverty. The loss of about 40 percent of value in the stock markets since the financial collapse would have devastated millions of privatized Social Security accounts.

No thoughtful person should believe the private banking and investment marketplace can or should be relied on to play the same role Social Security now plays: providing a basic minimum income for retired Americans.

By contrast to the Wall Street meltdown, the new financial picture painted by the Social Security trustees registers as little more than a blip on program's long-term radar screen. According to noted economist Henry J. Aaron of the Brookings Institution, the recent decrease in trust fund revenue will account for less than a few one-hundredths of one percent decrease in the 75 year projection for the Social Security Trust Fund.

In fact, negative portrayals of Social Security's financial health rely on arbitrary and distorted claims of how it works. High unemployment and underemployment, along with wage stagnation, have harmed the level of payroll taxes that finance the Social Security Trust Fund over the past year. The loss of almost 6 million jobs in a very short period of time will do that. No one presumes that this situation is permanent.

Despite the recession, however, the surpluses in income over the payout of benefits have created a trust fund worth trillions, which will be able to pay the current level of benefits to retirees for many decades to come. In fact, in terms of cost effectiveness of the program and its irrefutably secure financial condition, Social Security is one of the strongest and most reliable federal programs around.

If any reforms are ever to be needed in the program, the first principle must be to avoid putting at risk the program's basic goal: to provide a basic income for retired Americans.

There is one reform, however, that might adhere to that principle while strengthening the program's financial footing: lifting the cap starting with the highest incomes.

Right now the payroll tax that finances the program is capped at $106,800. This means that for the wealthiest Americans, every dollar over that amount goes untaxed. Effectively, every wage earner taking in more than $106,800 pays a smaller percentage of their income into the Social Security program than people who earn less than that amount. But wealthier retirees get better benefits.

While Congress has provided for raising this cap slightly each year over the past decade or so, the fairest solution would be to tax all Americans fairly. Lift the cap. Not only does it treat everyone equally, it could eliminate any doubts about the long-term financial security of Social Security and guarantee the stable benefits for all.

Cuba's Operation Miracle is a great example of Socialist policies of 'People Helping People'

JG: In a capitalist society it is 'people screwing people' or to put it in a more polite manner, 'the exploitation of man by man.' But in socialist Cuba they have 'Operation Miracle' which is the best exponent of the Socialist principle of 'To Each According to his Needs.' Capitalist societies are predator societies. Cuba's Operation Miracle deserves to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Cuba pushes its 'medical diplomacy'

By Michael Voss
BBC News, Havana
Wednesday, 20 May 2009 13:00 UK

The waiting room at Cuba's largest eye hospital, Pando Ferrer, is packed with patients.

Many come from across Latin America and the Caribbean, with everything paid for by the Cuban government.

Basil Ward is from Barbados and is in Havana to have a cataract removed for free.

"I could have had the operation in Barbados but I would have had to wait a year, there's a huge waiting list there," he says.

Others do not even have that choice; health facilities are almost non-existent or unaffordable in many of the poorest parts of the region.

Mr Ward is here under a programme called Operacion Milagro or Operation Miracle.

Launched five years ago, it has already helped restore sight to more than 1.6 million people.

Operation Miracle came out of an adult literacy programme which the Cubans were running in Venezuela.

They discovered that a lot of people could not read or write because they were unable to see properly.

"Fidel Castro always considered health a major priority so he asked us to devise a simple fast operation, a sort of miracle to restore people's sight," said Dr Marcelino Rio, director of the Pando Ferrer hospital and head of Operation Miracle.

Medical missions

The Cubans have turned mass production eye operations into a fine art. Pando Ferrer Hospital alone can perform 300 operations a day.

Treatments range from cataracts and glaucoma to corneal transplants.

Most of the equipment is European and Asian; US companies cannot sell to Cuba because of the trade embargo.

There are similar facilities throughout the island as well as dozens of eye surgery centres which the Cubans have opened across the Americas and parts of Africa.

Operation Miracle is just one part of an extensive international medical assistance programme, which some have dubbed Cuba's "medical diplomacy".

In the 1960s and 1970s, Cuban leader Fidel Castro tried to export revolution through armed struggle.

Che Guevara died attempting to lead an abortive guerrilla campaign in Bolivia. Tens of thousands of Cuban troops were sent to fight in the anti-colonial wars in Africa.

But medical assistance was always part of the package. The first medical mission was sent to Algeria in 1963 during its war of independence. Large numbers of doctors also went with the troops to Angola.

Cash-strapped country

In recent years this medical aid has grown significantly, becoming a central part of Cuba's international relations.

Cuba trains overseas medical students, sends tens of thousands of doctors abroad and has rapid response disaster assistance teams. These were sent to both China and Pakistan after their devastating earthquakes.

According to the Cuban authorities, there are 24,000 students from developing countries studying health care on the island. This includes 10,000 medical students enrolled at the prestigious Latin American Medical School (ELAM).

All receive full scholarships on the condition that, when qualified, they return home to work.

There are no figures available for what Cuba spends on its international medical programmes but it must account for a large part of this cash-strapped island's budget.

'Helping hand'

Medical aid has become a "service export". Venezuela provides subsidised oil in return for the around 20,000 Cuban medical staff working there.

But probably the biggest benefit for Cuba is that such medical diplomacy has helped boost its image throughout the world and paid dividends politically.

While Washington is still considering whether to end Communist Cuba's isolation and start direct negotiations, every other country in the Americas has ties with the Cuban government, now led by Fidel's brother, Raul.

Honduras, a traditional US ally in the region, now has Cuban doctors working in some of the remotest and most vulnerable areas where there are no hospitals. At the same time there are more than 1,000 Honduran medical students being trained in Cuba.

"If offering a helping hand is an extension of foreign policy, then (it is) welcome. I wish other countries would do the same," Honduran Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas told the BBC during a recent meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana.

There is a similar arrangement in Belize, the former British colony in Central America.

"We used to have a bad image of Cuba but that has changed. Cuba is not the monster it seemed to be," said Said Badi Guerra, Belize's Ambassador to Cuba.

"Our medical students would never be able to complete university because of the cost, yet they come to Cuba for free. We are very grateful for it."

Shortages

For Cubans, the health assistance programmes offer the opportunity to travel and earn some hard currency as well as helping others.

Physiotherapist Mabel Juiz volunteered to join the large Cuban medical team that went to Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake.

She spent six months living in a tent in the mountains and was able to save enough to furnish her apartment back home.

"I wanted to be useful and help others. It was really sad seeing so much destruction," she said but added that she would gladly volunteer for any future missions.

There are signs, though, that committing so many resources to helping others is having an impact on the health service back home, particularly in longer waiting times to see family doctors.

Last year the government announced a major shake-up, closing many smaller one-doctor surgeries and replacing them with larger polyclinics.

Cuba's free health service continues to boast impressive infant mortality and life expectancy rates, but with limited resources the system is under pressure.

There are shortages of medical supplies and equipment and many of the facilities are in desperate need of repair.

Some Cubans resent the money spent on foreigners. Most though appear proud of their achievements and the impact this Caribbean island is having on the health and sight of others.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Imperialism


Excerpts from an essay by Mobeen Chughtai

Is US foreign policy imperial? In order to address this question, one must attempt to understand what imperialism itself is. As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, ‘Imperialism’ means the “rule of an emperor”. But the dictionary further explains it as the “belief in value of colonies and dependencies”.

Imperialism requires the political and economic subjugation of the people on a previously inhabited land. Therefore, it would not be erroneous to say that the people are forced to serve and feed the interests of the ‘homeland’. This results in a position where the homeland becomes a parasitic entity, feeding off the labour and toil of the colonised.

As outlined by Lenin in his book Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Imperialism is born from the need to expand with the precise motive of expanding markets and increasing the inflow of raw material. Lenin describes the character of imperialism in his book by saying:

“Monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination and not for freedom, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations – all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of imperialism, which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism. More and more prominently there emerges, as one of the tendencies of imperialism, the creation of the ‘rentier state’, the usurer state, in which the bourgeoisie to an ever-increasing degree lives on the proceeds of capital exports and by ‘clipping coupons’. It would be a mistake to believe that this tendency to decay precludes the rapid growth of capitalism. It does not. In the epoch of imperialism, certain branches of industry, certain strata of the bourgeoisie and certain countries betray, to a greater or lesser degree, now one and now another of these tendencies. On the whole, capitalism is growing far more rapidly than before; but this growth is not only becoming more and more uneven in general, its unevenness also manifests itself, in particular, in the decay of the countries which are richest in capital (Britain)” — (Lenin, V. I., Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, International Publishing Company, 1969).

The question now becomes: how is this relevant to the US?

According to some political commentators and analysts, we are living today in what is referred to as the Pax-Americana. This refers to the post-Soviet Cold War, unipolar global hegemony of the US. What is interesting to note is that after the dissolution of the former Soviet Union and the fall of soviet communism (in no small measure contributed to by the actions of Mikhail Gorbachev), the former allies of the US have assumed the role of near protectees. This has given rise to the phenomenon of neo-colonialism, which is defined as the domination of one country or nation by the other without the actual use of coercive force. This is achieved through economic or political sanctions.

Since the US assumed its role of the sole super-power, it has gone out of its way to protect those nations that it considers its allies. Examples of this are the Gulf War of the early 1990s and again in the early 2000s. Its actions in aiding Israel amass wealth, military power and technology to the extent that it has become incomparably powerful in the Middle East also attest to US intervention in its extreme. But perhaps the most important example of this is the manner in which the US interference in, what are decidedly internal matters of various countries. This is clearly seen, especially now when the US is pressuring Iran into surrendering its nuclear arsenal. This in light of the fact that the US had also insisted that Iraq surrender its phantom arsenal only a few years ago, makes this whole process dubious at best.

-----

JG: The United States is today the most classical example of imperialism as explained by Lenin. It seeks to expands its power, and subjugate people, through either its big corporate behemoths or through the use of raw military power, i.e. Nixon's imperialists wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and Bush's imperialist's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama has decided to continue Bush's follies in Iraq for another 19 months, and he seeks to make Afghanistan, "his" war. The imperialist wars of the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan are not about "terrorism" or bringing "democracy" to those countries, it is about obtaining oil resources in Central Asia. Venezuela, with its huge oil reserves, could be next.

Imperial Rome overextended its military adventures, and because of that overextension and its huge internal corruption, it declined and fell. The same thing is likely to happen in the XXI century to imperial U.S.

Opportunists fishing in murky waters

Alberto N Jones
May 18, 2009

The election of President Barack Obama, was construed as a death sentence for the staunchly Republican, ultra right-wing Cuban-American community in south Florida, who have seen their Regan-Bushes era of power and promises of a triumphal entrance to Havana, evaporate before their swollen, teary eyes.

At the time when most of the world was consumed with the Swine Flu epidemic, these virulent anti-Cuba groups are being devoured by guilt, in-fighting, finger pointing and spewing hate at each other, as their fifty years old permanent war platform, crumble and fade into oblivion.

Today though, they had reason to be happy, upbeat and looking positively into the near future, as one of them, Wilfredo Cancio Isla, a salaried, Nuevo Herald newspaper writer, who sold his pen and intellect years ago to the powerful anti-Cuba hate machinery, wrote a moving article about the death of 18 inmates in prisons in Cuba since January 2009.

Pinning their hopes on a pre-emptive strike to derail the approved invitation to Cuba of Mr. Manfred Novak, head of the UN Human Rights Commission on Torture in Geneva, who will be traveling sometime this year to Cuba, they are posting articles depicting the death of these inmates this year and 42 last year in jails in Cuba, resulting from the abusive, inhumane treatment inflicted upon defenseless individuals.

Such reports have been undersigned by Mr. Elizardo Sanchez, a well documented agent of the United States Interest Section in Havana, who have been captured on camera receiving his monthly stipend, for spilling his bilious exudates around the world.

This breaking news found immediate resonance in Radio Mambi and other reactionary, bellicose AM radio stations Talk Shows in Miami, where Ninoska Perez Castellon and Armando Perez Roura, Dean of this Hate Institute of Higher Learning, littered the airwaves with their pain and suffering for these poor black inmates, one of whom had been sanctioned to 29 years in prison for murder. No inmate should ever be subjected to abuse, ill treatment or worse, no matter their crimes. But to listen to these immoral, opportunists, capitalizing on real or perceived crimes committed against defenseless inmates, while never, ever uttering a word over the worst human rights abuses in recent history a few miles away from their den at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib, Gun Ri, Son Mi, Mi Lai and Hiroshima, is simply nauseating.

As part of a comprehensive effort to instill division, hate and eventually a racial war in Cuba, these individuals highlight in their daily programs, the plight of a handful of so called black dissidents in Cuba, some on endless hunger strike without symptoms of weight loss, another anti-abortionists, others, writing books, open letters, organizing symposiums and seminars to poison the minds of other blacks around the world, leading them to turn against the suffering of their brothers and sisters in Cuba.

Establishing their hypocrisy is rather easy. At the same time they are following instructions from their command and control center, CNN and others have been airing heart wrenching reports about thirty two school children in Chicago, gunned down on their way to school since early January. Similar tragic reports come in every day from New York, LA, Detroit, Columbine or others.

Does the death, destruction, fear and suffering of these captive communities, engulfed in an inner city genocide, in which so far, not even the President of the United states have been able to salvage his beloved Chicago, turned into the teenager murder capital of the world is of no consequence?

No, it cannot be true, to see mostly black opportunists, who have shamelessly profiteered on the pain and suffering of their brothers and sisters in Cuba and who have openly advocated to turn them into guinea pigs by increasing their misery to impel them to rise-up against their hated government, can be so oblivious, turn a blind eye to the suffering of mothers, fathers and grandparents, over the unjustified murder of their beloved children?

Having a common ethnic/social background with some of these individuals, I have always been suspicious of their empty rhetoric, theorizing and fixing their sights on outer space, while they have systematically ignored the homeless, hungry or sick across the street.

Cuba has survived the worst. Cuba will continue to move forward. Cuba astronomic scientific development will never cease to achieve new heights, especially when the threats of outside aggressions or intimidations are no longer there, which have justified and perpetuated absolete, defensive measures against its own population.

The garbage dump of history awaits for the arrival of these Cubans and their handlers, who have disgraced our history, placed our sovereignty at risk and inflicted as much pain, despair and destruction on our country, as our fiercest foreign enemy.

South Africa and Cuba agree to work together on the technology field

Summary posted by Meridian on 5/19/2009

Source: News24.com

Author: n/a

The countries of South Africa and Cuba have agreed to work together in the field of technology, according to South Africa's Department of Science and Technology. South Africa's Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor and her Cuban counterpart, Fernando Gonzalez Bermudez, met Monday in Pretoria and said the focus of the agreement would be the fields of nanotechnology, biotechnology, climate change and renewable energy technologies. South Africa and Cuba signed a Science and Technology Agreement in 2001, which was followed up by exchange visits between the two countries, with the purpose of sharing information on science and technology and clarifying areas of cooperation. Lunga Nggengelele, spokesperson for the Department, said "[T]he visit by Dr Bermudez to South Africa was therefore to strengthen and further the relations between the two countries, and to finalise agreement on the main topics for collaboration."

Azerbaijan plans to develop oil fields in Cuba

BAKU, May 19 (RIA Novosti) - Azerbaijan plans to participate in developing oil fields in Cuba in line with a draft cooperation agreement, Azerbaijani Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfaz Garayev said on Tuesday.

The agreement was approved at a meeting of the Azerbaijani-Cuban intergovernmental commission in Baku on Tuesday and is expected to be signed in the "near future," the minister said.

"This is certainly a very interesting direction. And we hope that the work which is due to be completed over the next year will become a reality," Garayev told journalists after the meeting.

Last year, Cuba produced around 4 million tons of oil, while Azerbaijan's oil production reached 45 million tons.

At the meeting the sides also discussed cooperation in medicine, food production, culture and tourism. The first meeting of the commission was held in Havana in November 2007.

Irresponsibility in the U.S. Congress

Last January, upon taking office, President Obama issued an executive order to permanently close the prison at the illegally occupied U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Now, Congress, which is controlled by Obama's own political party, is stonewalling and putting all kinds of obstacles in closing the infamous prison which brought deep shame to the United States throughout the world.

The irresponsible Senators and Representatives want to conduct a so-called war on terror, but do not want to bring those it captures to the mainland United States.

The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate need to grow up. No wonder that the public holds such low opinions about Congress.

Permanent Honor Guard to Jose Marti

Guardias de Honor a José Martí

Granma

Por José Antonio Torres

Si algún lugar es recurrente —y casi de obligada visita en la Isla— es el mausoleo donde reposan los restos de José Martí, en el cementerio de Santa Ifigenia.

En primera instancia porque rendir tributo a los próceres ha marcado a lo largo de la historia la sensibilidad y el deber de los hombres, en segunda por la propia majestuosidad del conjunto escultórico, expresión de virtud y dignidad humanas, reflejo de los principios raigales que distinguen a los cubanos.

En el centro del mausoleo, exponente del arte funerario en el país, reposan los restos del Héroe Nacional rodeados por los escudos y un puñado de tierra de cada uno de los pueblos americanos.

CEREMONIA MILITAR

Son contados los países con guardia de honor permanente a los héroes de su Patria. Las distingue la marcialidad, el rigor y la solemnidad. Las diferencia el tipo y uso de las armas.

A cargo de soldados del Servicio Militar, la guardia de honor comienza con la salida del Sol, concluye con el ocaso, e incluye como música la Elegía a José Martí, del Comandante de la Revolución Juan Almeida Bosque.

La desarrollan frente a la Llama Eterna en homenaje a los héroes y mártires de la Patria, ubicada en la entrada del mausoleo y que al decir del General de Ejército Raúl Castro, Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros "fue prendida por la convicción de que su fuego sería tan eterno como la Revolución cubana".

La Unidad de Guardia de Honor Permanente al Héroe Nacional José Martí fue creada el 2 de mayo del 2002 y realizó la primera ceremonia el 19 de ese propio mes, en ocasión del Aniversario 107 de su caída en combate.

El Ministerio de las Fuerzas Armadas le concedió el número 1953, en coincidencia con el año en el que el Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro asaltó el otrora Cuartel Moncada, cuya acción fue inspirada en los ideales del Apóstol.

La integran soldados con edades comprendidas entre los 18 y 22 años, que se distinguen por sus cualidades políticas y físicas.

Junto a Camilitos y cadetes de los centros de enseñanza militar tienen lugar guardias especiales en fechas de trascendencia histórica: el 2 de diciembre en ocasión del desembarco del yate Granma; el 24 de febrero en correspondencia con el Grito de Baire; el 10 de octubre como tributo al inicio de la primera guerra de los cubanos contra el colonialismo español, el 28 de enero y el 19 de mayo, fechas del nacimiento y la caída del Héroe Nacional.

En estas ocasiones incluyen un relevo hasta la tumba de Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, el Padre de la Patria, al tiempo que los 28 de enero disparan 21 salvas de artillería de conjunto con la Fortaleza de La Cabaña, en La Habana.

LA DIGNIDAD NUNCA MUERE

A los jóvenes ha correspondido el cumplimiento de históricas misiones, así lo confirman José Duany y Camilo Rivera, dos soldados del poblado de El Cobre y de la Ciudad Héroe, respectivamente, que custodian los restos de José Martí y conceptúan esta misión como el sueño y principal deber de su vida.

Daimer Blanco y Pablo Antonio Trujillo coincidieron en que marchar de forma excepcional, hacerlo con pasos de 90 grados y permanecer durante media hora en posición de firme —3 turnos al día las mujeres y hasta 5 en el caso de los hombres— impone convicción y sacrificio personal.

Fernando Villalón nunca pensó tener el mérito de hacer la guardia el día en que los presidentes del CARICOM rindieron homenaje a Martí y cuando, en ocasión del Aniversario 50 del triunfo de la Revolución, Raúl colocara flores a Frank País, a los mártires del Moncada y al Héroe Nacional.

De ambos instantes Yornado Torres recordó: "Estábamos en posición de firme y hasta que se marcharon mantuvimos el saludo militar. El rigor fue tremendo, pero cuando colocaron la ofrenda vimos al Caribe, Latinoamérica y Cuba rindiéndole tributo a Martí.

"Cuando se marcharon, el otro soldado y yo teníamos lágrimas en los ojos, pero también cientos de razones para confiar en que Martí sigue acortando la distancia entre los pueblos."

Monday, May 18, 2009

How capitalists screw the U.S. working class

Mon May 18, 2009 12:26pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Healthcare costs for Americans who get medical coverage through an employer hit a record $16,771 per family this year, and they are having to pay more themselves, a report released on Monday showed.

Employers trying to save money in the current recession have forced workers to take on a greater portion of their healthcare costs, according to Milliman Inc., the consulting firm that prepared the report.

That trend could accelerate the longer the recession lasts, the report stated.

-------

JG: As long as Americans continue to vote against their own self interests by voting for the candidates of the two major capitalist bourgeois parties, they will continue to be screwed.

China introduces its first electric car

The E6

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cuban Conga Against Homophobia

May 16,2009

By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

HAVANA (AP) — President Raul Castro's daughter led hundreds of Cuban gays in a street dance Saturday to draw attention to gay rights on the island.

Participants formed a carnival-style conga line around two city blocks to beat the of drums, accompanied by costumed stilt-walkers. Events also included educational panels and presentations for books, magazines and CDs about gay rights and sexual diversity.

"We're calling on the Cuban people to participate ... so that the revolution can be deeper and include all the needs of the human being," said Mariela Castro, an outspoken gay rights advocate who directs Cuba's officially sanctioned Sex Education Center.

Attending the program's opening, Parliament speaker President Ricardo Alarcon said that Cuba has advanced in recent years in the area of gay rights.

The communist government discriminated against homosexuals — even sending some to work camps — in the early years of the 1959 revolution led by Mariela Castro's uncle Fidel. But tolerance of homosexuality on the island has grown in recent years.

Duan Mena, 29, said was great to celebrate his homosexuality in public without fear of censure.