Friday

High level delegation calls on US government to grant humanitarian pardons


A high level delegation, representing millions of people from across the globe, met with US government officials at the US Embassy in London in November to hand over the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five.

British parliamentarians Cathy Jamieson MP and Grahame Morris MP, trade union leader Len McCluskey, barrister Elizabeth Woodcraft, and Rob Miller, Voices for the Five, presented the report to United States’ diplomat Kevan Higgins, First Secretary Political Affairs. The delegation called on President Obama to immediately release Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero from US jails.

The talks also discussed recent editorials in the New York Times which called on the US government to release the three remaining Cubans, who have been imprisoned since 1998, as part of a prisoner exchange with US government contractor Alan Gross.

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of UK’s largest trade union Unite, led the delegation and said: “We are here representing millions of people from across the world who are asking President Obama to grant humanitarian pardons for the three remaining Cubans held for sixteen years in US jails. At the same time we would like to see the release of the US contractor Alan Gross who has been held in Cuba for the past five years. It is time for all four of these men to be freed and returned to their families.”

Rob Miller, Voices for the Five added: “Recent New York Times editorials reflect growing international opinion that whatever the history of the two cases, whatever the circumstances, sixteen years is long enough and now is the time to reach out, find a solution, and send Alan Gross and the remaining three Cubans home.”

The members of the delegation will speak alongside Aleida Guevara, the daughter of Che, at a Candlelight Vigil for the Miami Five outside the United States Embassy in London on Wednesday 3 December 2014 from 6pm.

Full details of the Vigil for the Five with Aleida Guevara can be found here.

Read the full reports
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The full report of the US Embassy delegation
The International Commission of Inquiry report
The New York Times opinion piece calling for a ‘prisoner swap’

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Cuban Five: Commission of Inquiry Report Released

“This report will help impress upon the US authorities that legal opinion amongst some of the world's most distinguished judges considers that the only just resolution of our case is for a complete and unconditional release of our three brothers remaining in prison.”

Grab a copy
The report of the proceedings of the International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban  Five, held at the Law Society in London in March 2014, is now available. 

The two Commission Coordinators, Sara Chandler, chair of the Law Society Human Rights Committee and leading barrister Elizabeth Woodcraft launched the report at a packed meeting at the House of Commons in London on 10 September, hosted by Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn and Baroness Angela Smith.

In a 44-page magazine format, written in English and Spanish, the outstanding success of the Commission and its associated events is recorded. It presents the concluding statements of the three presiding judges Yogesh Sabharwal, Zak Yacoob, and Philippe Texier, who, after hearing two days of testimony from witnesses, called upon President Barack Obama to grant “unconditional pardons” to the Five and to release “immediately and unconditionally” the three who remain in prison.

The report also records highlights from the Commission proceedings with special mention of the testimony from Amnesty International that focussed on the unfairness of the trial and, recognising the urgency of the case, pledged to continue to appeal for justice.

US government funding another anti-Castro social network in Cuba


ZunZuneo, the so-called 'Cuban Twitter,' was reported in April but actually closed in 2012. Now meet Piramideo, a mobile network aimed at young people.


The US government is using a sophisticated cell phone program in a failed effort to spark anti-Castro demonstrations on the island, according to Cuban officials and a US expert.

The US Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) sponsors a cell phone service called "Piramideo" (roughly translated as Pyramid), which spreads propaganda through text messages, according to Nestor Garcia, a former Cuban diplomat who now teaches at the Institute for International Relations in Havana.

"My students started getting text messages on their cell phones with news reports about demonstrations that never happened," Garcia said. "The US is trying to create a climate to protest against the Cuban government."

Piramideo, which has received little media coverage, is just one skirmish in an internet war between the American and Cuban governments, included ZunZuneo, a Twitter-like program secretly backed by USAID from 2010-12. USAID contractors developing ZunZuneo discussed plans to spark anti-government demonstrations.  

Read the rest 
Source:  GlobalPost 

Wednesday

Raúl receives directors of the WHO and PAHO


Monday, July 14: Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, met with Dr. Margaret Chan,  director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), during their visit to Cuba to attend the inauguration of the new Centre of State Control of Medicines, Medical Equipment and Devices; and National Coordinating Centre of Clinical Trails, headquarters.

During the fraternal meeting, they discussed aspects relating to the WHO 67th World Health Assembly, held May 2014, in Geneva and presided by Cuba; The Millennium Development Goals; the post 2015 development agenda, as well as, global health coverage. They also talked about the collaboration Cuba offers to other countries, human resource training and the global health situation, in particular in the Americas.

U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting pays foreign journalists to defame Cuba

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U.S. journalist Tracey Eaton has documented the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) payments of almost $700,000, over eight years,  to journalists and other opinion molders in Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America in return for their dissemination of anti-Cuban propaganda. The object, he suggests, has been an "attempt to shape international opinion." Eaton's report garnered considerable attention in Cuba.

Taking data from the Federal Procurement Data System, Eaton reports that the taxpayer-funded OCB project paid out $122,435 in 2008, nothing over the next two years, $41,890 in 2011, $198,477 in 2012, $189,055 in 2013, and $112,985 so far in 2014. He notes that, "Average payments [to individuals] jumped from $866.71 in 2012 to $1,643.96 in 2013. They have continued to rise in 2014, averaging $2,054.27 so far this year."

Earlier Eaton had shown that the OCB paid "$6,781,861.30 to writers, artists, journalists, analysts and others from Jan. 15, 2001, to Nov. 21, 2012." That money was funneled to Cuba through "venders" mostly in Southern Florida. "I suspect," he added, "that only a tiny fraction of this money reaches journalists and others in Cuba."

That OCB provides the names of recipients is an approach, Eaton says, that differs from that of the Agency for International Development which does not identify anti-Cuban agents in its employ. He indicates that "the OCB is an important and growing force" among U.S. agencies carrying out anti-Cuban activities.

Tracey Eaton
The OCB has paid Florida based journalists to disseminate anti-Cuban material in that state, thus "violating the law against domestic dissemination of U.S. propaganda," according to one critic. OCB-funded prejudicial newspaper reports and television presentations flooded the Miami-area media market during the trial of the Cuban Five anti-terrorist agents that ended in 2001. That became the central issue in the late stages of appeals on behalf of those political prisoners.

The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), based in Miami, operates Radio and Television Marti, charged with broadcasting U.S. propaganda messaging to Cuba. Cuba successfully blocks such transmissions, although they reach southeastern United States and many parts of Latin America. The OCB budget for 2014 was $27 million.

In February Eaton, using data from FedsDataCenter.com, noted that, "the Office of Cuba Broadcasting has lavished big salaries on its employees in Miami. Its 119 employees earned an average of $99,275 in 2012. Their salaries totaled $11,813,725, which was 42 percent of the OCB's $27.9 million budget." He adds: "Salaries for the advisory board alone totaled $728,505. Appointments are for three years and members may serve multiple terms."

The list of OCB employees appearing on Eaton's report includes Feliciano M. Foyo who received $145,701 in 2012. Foyo, an accountant, was one of five employees with a "Job Category" calling for "Miscellaneous Administration and Program." Luis Posada-Carriles, implicated in deadly terror attacks against Cuba, "has said Foyo was one of his financial backers," according to Eaton.

As their names signify, almost all OCB employees are of Hispanic heritage. That they work in Miami, epicenter of Cuban resettlement in the United States, suggest Cuban national origins. Asked for his reaction to what looks like U.S funding for an exclusively Cuban-American counter-revolutionary project, Steve Burke of the Maine Cuba solidarity group Let Cuba Live suggested looking for answers in Washington. "Taxpayer money is being used to malign and to undermine a sovereign state. Cuba incurred the wrath of the U.S. government by maintaining a steadfast commitment to the health and well being of the Cuban people."

U.S. says Cuba still a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”

According to the State Department, "U.S. law requires the Secretary of State to provide Congress, by Apr. 30 of each year, a full and complete report on terrorism with regard to those countries and groups meeting criteria set forth in the legislation." Beginning in 1982 the list has included Cuba as a "State Sponsor of Terrorism." Others this year are Iran, Sudan, and Syria.

The 2013 "Country Reports on Terrorism" specifies that "a wide range of sanctions" be applied to targeted countries. (report) They include prohibition of U.S. arms exports and economic assistance, "controls" over exports and services with potential military or terrorist use, and "[i]mposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions." The last category serves to authorize U.S. government harassment of Cuba through economic blockade, travel restrictions, and restrictions placed upon Cuba-related transactions by international banks and lending agencies.

The Report charges that, "Cuba has long provided safe haven to members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)." And, it adds, "The Cuban government continued to harbor fugitives wanted in the United States."

Activist Assata Shakur, who escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1979 and arrived in Cuba in 1984, is the most well-known fugitive. On May 2, 2013 the FBI placed her on "its list of most wanted terrorists" and increased the reward for information leading to her capture to the current $2 million.

The Report's Cuba section continues with mitigating considerations. "Throughout 2013, the Government of Cuba supported and hosted negotiations between the FARC and the Government of Colombia aimed at brokering a peace agreement between the two." And, "Cuba's ties to ETA have become more distant," and that about eight of the two dozen ETA members in Cuba "were relocated with the cooperation of the Spanish government." Furthermore, "There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups."
Read the NZ Cuban Embassy media release 
“Cuba says its territory will never be used by terrorists”

Cuba's Foreign Ministry responded by denouncing "manipulation of an issue as sensitive as international terrorism, in order to advance a policy against Cuba." Additionally, "Cuba reaffirms that our national territory has never been utilized, nor will it be utilized, to shelter terrorists of any nationality... Moreover, our government rejects and unequivocally condemns all acts of terrorism."

And: "Cuba is one of the countries which, for defending its independence and dignity, has suffered over decades the consequences of terrorist acts, organized, financed and executed from U.S. territory, acts which have caused 3,478 deaths and 2,099 debilitating injuries." The Foreign Ministry condemned U.S. hypocrisy evident in "long, unjust prison sentences" imposed on Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. They had "struggled against terrorism."

The Ministry pointed out that no U.S. fugitive was accused of terrorism."[O]thers who committed crimes in the United States, were duly tried and sentenced, and chose to reside in Cuba after the completion of their sentences."

Other critics of the Report accuse the United States itself of carrying out terrorism in the form of drone attacks, torture, illegal wars, and violence used in overthrowing foreign governments.


One tiny example from Colombia provides clear insight into contradictions posed by the U.S. approach to terrorism. The Report, which exonerates Colombia as a terrorist nation, seems to pass off Colombian paramilitaries as members of the terrorist "United Self Defense Forces of Colombia" (AUC). Lauding Colombian government initiatives, the Report notes that "the group's activities decreased ...The AUC did not carry out any terrorist attacks in 2013. It has been demobilized for seven years."

In truth, Colombian paramilitaries are now officially known as "Bacrims." That's the Spanish-language abbreviation of "criminal bands." Meanwhile paramilitaries, or Bacrims, remain true to their decades - long record of having murdered or "disappeared" tens of thousands of Colombians. The Colombian military, benefitting from U.S. funding and assistance, superintends their murderous work which began in 1964. A visiting U.S. military advisory team that year recommended paramilitary capabilities being developed as a tool for ridding Colombia of the newly-formed FARC communist insurgency.

The recent 318-page State Department Report applies to all nations in the world and contains more than 159,000 words. The section on Canada, no terrorist nation, consumed 2233 words. Yet the rationale for Cuba being an offender nation - no small matter - required only 176 words. And many are friendly words. Why then is Cuba regarded as a terrorist-sponsoring nation? Maybe it's just because the U.S. government says so. Or else it's because of Assata Shakur.


















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