Wednesday

US Allocates 'Democracy Funds' for Cuba



The US Committee on Appropriations approved on Friday US$30 million for “programmes to promote democracy and strengthen civil society in Cuba, of which not less than US$8,000,000 shall be for NED,” as quoted from the committee report. 

The NED is the National Endowment for Democracy, a fund used by the U.S. to undermine left-wing and socialist governments and support opposition groups by supposedly promoting “democracy.” 

“The Committee directs that funds shall only be used for programs and activities pursuant to section 109(a) of the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 and section 1705 of the Cuban Democracy Act (CDA) of 1992, and shall not be used for business promotion, economic reform, entrepreneurship or any other assistance that is not democracy-building,” the report states. 

The committee also stipulated that any locally awarded grants of over US$1 million should be to groups in Cuba that have “experience promoting democracy” there. If the project for 2016 funding is approved by congress, it will be in addition to US$20 million already assigned for this year. 

The measure comes as the U.S. said last year that it wanted to normalise relations with Cuba, and the two countries have since held a number of talks. 

Last month the U.S. removed Cuba from its list of so-called terrorist countries, but it has not yet put an end to its decades-long economic blockade on the island. 

Further, yesterday the Appropriations Committee also did not approve funding for opening a U.S. embassy in Cuba.

Sunday

There can be no ‘normalisation’ while the

pernicious blockade remains in place



Kenia Serano (c) with Robert Reid of FIRST Union(l) , and Cuban Ambassador to NZ,  Maria del Carmen Herrera Caseiro (r). 

Kenia Serrano, president of the Cuba Institute forFriendship with the Peoples and an MP in the Cuban Parliament made a flying visit to Aotearoa during the week.


National Radio’s Wallace Chapman interviewed her this morning – particularly worth listening to for a Cuban view of the much discussed Cuban-U.S. thaw

Hear the interview here 


Wednesday

As U.S. Drops Havana from Terror List,

Cuba Aims to Preserve Sovereignty & Independence


From Democracy Now: 
The U.S. has formally removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, clearing a main obstacle to restoring diplomatic ties with Havana for the first time in over five decades. Cuba was placed on the terrorism list in 1982 at a time when Havana was supporting liberation struggles in Africa and Latin America. While Cuba is now off the terrorism list, most of the U.S. sanctions remain in place. We speak to historian Jane Franklin, author of "Cuba and the United States: A Chronological History."


Read the transcript here

Sunday

Kenia Serrano to visit


Kenia Serrano,  President of ICAP is making a flyer visit to New Zealand early next month. 

Kenia  is president of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP),  which organises solidarity activities between Cuba and organisations and individuals around the world. She is also a member of Cuba’s parliament.
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Kenia has also represented Cuba at a number of different forums, including at a United Nations women's commission in New York, at the World Summit Against Racism in South Africa, and at two World Social Forums. 
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She speaks at three venues in Auckland.

Cuba, the United States and the Future
of the Revolution
.
Wednesday June 10
.
6.30pm reception 
7.00 pm presentation
.
Western Springs Garden Community Hall
956 Great North Road 
Western Springs

Union Activists’ Meeting
.
Thursday June 11

10.30am 
.
Meet First floor
120 Church Street
Onehunga

Hosted by First Union Phone 09 622 8355
.
Round   Table   Discussion
.
Thursday June 11
.
4.00pm 

Auckland University
Room 710, Arts 1 building

Hosted by the NZ Centre for Latin American Studies
Phone Kathryn Lehman 09 923 7626 

Wednesday

Raul : Cuba, US to Exchange Ambassadors on 29 May


No ‘normal’ relations until blockade ends


Speaking to reporters in Havana’s airport to see off visiting French President Francois Hollande Tuesday, Cuban leader Raul Castro said his country would exchange ambassadors with the United States at the end of May.

The Cuban president confirmed that once the U.S. removed Cuba from its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, both governments would designate ambassadors. The 45-day waiting period for Cuba to be removed from the controversial list – which U.S. President Barack Obama announce in April – ends May 29.


Get the facts
However, President Castro added that he maintains concerns about the process of reestablishing relations with the United States given what Havana considers to be "illegal" activities on behalf of U.S. diplomats on the island, including encouraging and providing resources to opposition figures and groups.

Cuba has long said that Washington used its limited diplomatic mission support opposition groups, many of whom are funded by the United States through the National Endowment for Democracy and United States Agency for International Development.

The Cuban leader also stated that the United States must end its economic blockade and its occupation of Guantanamo before full relations are restored.

"The blockade has to be fully removed and Guantanamo should be returned," President Castro said.

In December, Raul Castro and President Obama announced their countries would work toward a restoration of diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of animosity.

Original story from Telesur


Thursday

Cuba Pulled from the

Terrorism list at last!

Now get rid of the illegal blockade!  


News that the U.S. Government has finally removed Cuba from the “terrorism list” has received a qualified welcome in the country itself. 

 The Cuban government has repeatedly stated its rejection of  ‘all acts of terrorism in all their forms and manifestations’. All the while being subject to terrorist attacks itself that have cost 3,478 lives and disabled 2,099 Cuban citizens.

As Slate notes Cuba’s terrorist classification remained on the books “mostly because it’s been politically easier to leave it on than to take it off”. Another anachronism is the economic, commercial and financial blockade which has the Cuban nation 1 trillion 112 534 billion dollars. The human cost is immeasurable.

More Information 

  • Report to the U.N. on the embargo here
  • General Assembly Demands End to Cuba Blockade for Twenty-Third Consecutive Year here
  • Cuba will continue to defend the ideas for which our people have sacrificed here
  • Cuba releases statement on its removal from US terrorist list here
  • Obama to remove Cuba from list of state sponsors of terrorism here
  • White House Wants to Take Cuba Off the Terrorism List. It’s About Time here
DOWNLOAD: Report On Resolution 68/8 of the United Nations General Assembly here

Tuesday

The Cuban Five and the history of US terrorism in Havana



Mainstream narratives around the United States' thawed diplomatic relations with Cuba often omit a history of US state-sponsored terrorism to topple the Castro regime


Ostensibly as part of its efforts to begin normalizing relations with the Cuban government, the United States recently exchanged three imprisoned Cuban intelligence officers for CIA asset Rolando Sarraff Trujillo and USAID contractor Alan Gross, who each had been been jailed in Cuba for several years on charges of espionage.

Though the Cuban government in Havana insists that Gross’s release was purely humanitarian in nature and totally unrelated to the U.S. government’s parallel release of the three Cuban intelligence officers, the decision by Washington to free Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino likely prompted Gross’s liberation to some degree.

Hernández, Guerrero and Labañino are, along with Fernando and René González, members of the internationally renowned Cuban Five. Held by the U.S. government in various degrees of imprisonment since September of 1998, the Five had, prior to their arrest, been conducting counter-terrorism surveillance of several Miami-based right-wing Cuban exile groups – including Alpha 66, the F4 Commandos, the Cuban American National Foundation and Brothers to the Rescue – with the initial consent of the American government, specifically the FBI.

The birth of the Cuban Five: US state-sponsored terrorism
In 1996, a plane registered to Brothers to the Rescue, an organisation that helped to ferry Cuban refugees to America and which regularly dropped anti-Castro leaflets in Cuba, was shot down by the Cuban Air Force for violating Cuban airspace, prompting the FBI to launch an investigation of the Cuban Five.

By 1998, the Five were arrested on a variety of espionage-related charges. And in 2001, after a highly-publicized show trial, Gerardo Hernández was charged with conspiracy to commit murder for providing information to the Cuban government that led to the downing of the aircraft. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

The other members of the Five were sentenced to similarly-long prison sentences, and a new painful chapter in U.S.-Cuban relations was opened.

Six hundred ways to kill Fidel Castro
The anti-Cuban terrorism that the Cuban Five were combating in Miami was nothing to scoff at. Before Kennedy’s failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the U.S. government had – in addition to conducting economic warfare – been sponsoring and orchestrating attacks by exiled Miami Cubans into Cuba, in an attempt topple the Castro government.

Bombings and machine-gun attacks on civilian and government targets by CIA-trained veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion killed several Cubans in the decades after Castro’s revolution.

All the while, CIA attempts to assassinate President Fidel Castro continued. Fabian Escalante, the former head of Cuba’s counter-intelligence service, estimated the number of failed assassination attempts to be well over six hundred.

After a spike in American-directed attacks on Cuba in the 1970s, which paralleled the CIA’s Operation Condor that sought to repress and destroy leftist movements throughout South America, Anti-Castro terrorism directly managed by the U.S. government seemingly died down. Still, independent attacks by right-wing groups among Miami’s Cuban exile population persisted well into the 1990s and the American government did little to curtail them. On the contrary, the U.S. government often harboured, and continues to harbour, the perpetrators of such crimes.

Terrorists against Cuba; safe in the United States
Posada is a former high-level member of the pre-Chavez Venezuelan intelligence services and a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Throughout his long career, he carried out countless attacks on Cuba with funding from the CIA, the Miami-based Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF) and various drug-trafficking operations. His last operation was a 1997 bombing of a Havana hotel that killed one Italian tourist – an attack which he readily admitted to having directed. The 86-year-old lives as a minor celebrity in Miami, free from prosecution in a Cuban or international court.

Another CIA operative, Bosch was the mastermind of the 1976 bombing of Cubana de Aviación Flight 455 from Barbados to Jamaica that killed 73 innocent people, including women and children -an attack in which Posada also participated.

After an impressive record of no less than 30 terrorist attacks against Cuba, Bosch received a pardon from U.S. President George H.W. Bush in 1989 (after intense lobbying from prospective 2016 U.S. presidential candidate Jeb Bush and South Florida Cuban-American leaders) and retired to Miami where he died 2011.

Delayed justice
The anti-Cuban climate in America during the late 1990s made the Five a perfect political scapegoat for officials in the U.S. government. The 1998 arrest and subsequent trial of the Five – which took place during the pivotal 2000 presidential election that Florida and the Cuban exile vote were so pivotal to – was widely criticized outside of America and Israel by groups like Amnesty International and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Citing national security concerns, the U.S. Justice Department withheld evidence during the trial, kept the Five in pre-trial solitary confinement for 17 months and strictly limited their access to legal counsel. The 2001 guilty verdict was almost a forgone conclusion.

A subsequent appeal by the Five’s late lawyer, Lenny Weinglass, in 2005 won a complete reversal of the guilty verdict by a unanimous three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court ruled that the intense and biased pretrial publicity surrounding the Five’s earlier Miami trial had deprived them of a fair judicial process.

A year later, the same court reversed its decision thanks to the efforts of Judge William Pryor, a Federalist Society member and Tea Party adherent, and the Cuban Five’s sentences were reinstated.

The release of the Cuban Five
Though René González was granted parole in 2011 and Fernando González was released in February 2014 and allowed to return to Cuba, the sudden and recent release of the remaining three political prisoners came a welcome surprise to human rights groups everywhere.

Embarrassed by repeated chastisement by foreign governments like the U.K., and domestic demands from groups like Free the Five, the American government finally heeded popular opinion and made what should have been an easy decision to release the remaining captives.

Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino, long regarded as political martyrs and counter-terrorism heroes in Cuba, have since returned home and reunited with with their families. It would have been all but impossible for the process of diplomatic normalization between the American and Cuban governments to begin had the U.S. government refused to release the Cuban Five.

Their liberation, more than any televised pronouncement by American President Obama, is indicative of a serious change in U.S.-Cuba relations; one that bodes well for the forward-thinking populations of both countries.
Reprinted from Antillean Media Group