Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Days ago, the U.S. Department of the Treasury presented a report to Congress about the frozen funds of four countries (Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba) --all arbitrarily labeled by the State Department and included in the list of States Sponsoring Terrorist Acts, and because of this, also included among the organizations and people affected by sanctions from the US government. In Cuba’s case, the report mentions the accumulated value of the frozen funds as reaching 248.1 million dollars by the end of 2010 and 245 million dollars by the end of 2011.
Granma presented the information and by mistake added both amounts mechanically reporting the total amount of frozen funds as reaching 493 million dollars when in reality it reached 245 million dollars by the end of 2011. Thus, we made the due correction. And yet, it remains true that the frozen funds which belonged to the Cuban government no longer exist, they have been stolen.
For many years now, assets and goods belonging to Cuban residents in our country or in other countries, and to Cuban nationals and to nationals of other states, and to Cuban corporations and to foreign corporations, have been victimized by the laws and regulations of the blockade, they have become victims of this economic and financial war against our country.
It started in July 8th 1963, when the Department of the Treasury created the so called Regulations for the Control of Cuban Actives, or the regulations for the blockade, freezing all Cuban actives in the United States. The frozen Cuban actives included from properties and bank accounts belonging to the Cuban state and to Cuban entities and natural persons to transfers made to Cuba by entities and natural foreign persons –including prizes in coins to Cuban citizens obtained internationally or in sport competitions or received as inheritance. And although it was illegal to touch those funds, in the mid 90s they started to be attacked and assets and properties of the Cuban state and Cuban corporations were taken by the unilateral decision of the US government, or in connection to rulings made by Florida tribunals against Cuba and because of anti-Cuban laws approved by the US Congress. Thus, between 1996 and 2006 the Cuban state suffered important takeovers of funds that together amounted to 170 million dollars.
The first takeover took place on October 2nd, 1996 when President William Clinton ordered the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury to remove 1.2 million dollars from the Cuban frozen funds to be given to family members of some pilots from the Terrorist organization “Hermanos al Rescate” –brought down while repeatedly violating Cuban air space on February 24th 1996.
The second took place on February 12th 2001, following an order by president Clinton dated January 19, 2001, by which the Director of the Office for the Foreign Actives Control instructed the Chase Manhattan Bank to transfer close to 97 million dollars from two frozen accounts belonging to EMTELCUBA, to indemnify the family of the above mentioned pilots of the terrorist organization “Hermanos al Rescate.” This theft was facilitated by the then senator Connie Mack who, acting in the service of the Cuban mafia in South Florida, who managed the approval of the Protection to Victims of Trafficking and Violence Law in which one aside includes the execution of fraudulent judicial rulings against the frozen funds of the Cuban state.
Then, on April 29, 2005 President Bush decided that the Department of the Treasury would provide 198 thousand dollars of the Cuban funds to Ana Margarita Martínez, a Cuban citizen residing in Miami who had in 2001 obtained a favorable ruling in a Miami Court regarding unproven charges of torture and sexual aggression by an allegedly Cuban agent infiltrating a terrorist group who had been married to her.
This last story, like the two before, were publicized and Granma published an article on January 15th 2007 reminding us how in 2002 and 2003 the Bush Administration facilitated the appropriation of Cuban assets to Ana Margarita when the Department of the Treasury authorized the public auction of three Cuban airplanes hostages using a judicial order –an airplane AN-2 was auctioned in November 11, 2002, followed by a DC-3 in March 2003 and 12 days later in March too, an airplane AN-24 was also auctioned. That is, the US government allowed this to take place.
Finally, on November 27th 2006, following the ruling of the federal judge of New York, JP Morgan Chase transferred 72 million dollars to the families of Anderson MacCarthy and Ray Weininger to satisfy the rulings against the Republic of Cuba, emerging from fraudulent demands made against legitimate measures taken by the Cuban government on defense of its territory and against Thomas Willard Ray and Howard F Anderson who were acting on behalf of the US government during the beginning years of the Revolution.
Willard was an American pilot and agent of the CIA, he was said to have been executed on April 19th 1961 but in truth he died in action when his B-26 was brought down during the invasion of Giron Beach (Bay of Pigs). During 18 years the Institute of Medicine of Cuba kept his body because Washington hid his identity and denied that he was an American citizen or that they had any responsibility for the aggression --exactly as it happened with the other group of American pilots who were part of the mercenary brigade 2506 under CIA orders.
Anderson was captured weeks after the invasion and when working at the service of the American government in Cuba. He belonged to an armed group of ex military of Batista’s dictatorship who was used to bring 8 tons of military armaments into our country to further terrorist actions and sabotage. He was the link of the CIA with the contra-revolutionary organizations in Cuba. He was captured, judged in April 1961 and condemned to capital punishment.
The frozen funds of the Cuban state and entities in American Banks are, because of these takeovers, practically non-existent. The majority of the actives that continue to be blocked belong mainly to Cuban citizens and entities and to foreign persons. The hostile politics of the American government against Cuba, including the more than 50 years of blockade, the arbitrary designation of the Cuban state as one harboring or favouring international terrorism and the many manipulations to promote legal actions against Cuba, as a way of ending the frozen funds, are but a few of the ways in which the most powerful nation of the world, with complicity from its judiciary, legislative and executive powers, acts against a small nation like Cuba.
OSCAR SÁNCHEZ SERRA firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
A broader-than-ever coalition of organizations, activists and well-known artists will be going to Washington D.C. the week of April 17-21 to break through the wall of silence that is squashing information about five Cuban anti-terrorism fighters who have been languishing for years in American jails.
Monday, April 16, 2012
On 30 and 31 March 2012, after seven long years of fundraising, planning, building and work by thousands of people in Cuba and Britain, the newly renovated Miramar Theatre in Havana opened it’s doors for the first time.
A spectacular gala performance featured students from all of Havana’s arts schools, and special guests including Elíades Ochoa and his group from Cuba, Lausana Diabatè from Mali, and Cuban violinist based in the UK, Omar Puente.
Students of ballet, contemporary dance, circus, acting, singing and music, representing all of the National Arts Schools in Cuba were given the opportunity to perform in the theatre which will be used by them and the local community for many years to come.
Jazz violinist, Omar Puente, spent two weeks rehearsing with students to perform two Kirsty MacColl songs that she had recorded in Cuba shortly before her tragic death in 2000. He also played ‘Adios a un amigo’ (Farewell to a friend), composed in her memory and which he played when her family scattered her ashes off the cost of Havana in 2004.
Jean MacColl, Kirsty’s mother spoke to the audience on both days. Emotionally recalling how her daughter died saving her sons from a rogue speedboat in Mexico, she said that Kirsty had loved the music and people of Cuba and that her friends and family wanted to do something to mark her life that reflected and remembered this. Saying how happy she was to see the theatre full of young performers she told the audience she believed that: “Somewhere Kirsty is flying above this theatre and is with us tonight. This theatre is your theatre. Love it and always remember that love and friendship are more important than politics and war.”
Music Fund for Cuba Director, Rob Miller, recalled the moment when he had first seen the decaying and dilapidated theatre on a visit to Havana in 2005. He paid tribute to the thousands of people in Britain and Cuba who had worked tirelessly over seven years on the project: raising money through sponsored events, concerts, fundraising, donations, those who had worked on the project directly, but most importantly to the people of Cuba for their inspiration.
The gala weekend took place over two days, and both events were free for people to enter. Many from the local community around the theatre attended, as well as parents, students and teachers from the schools based nearby.
The main auditorium was named the Sala de Kirsty MacColl, with a plaque over the door. Everyone who enters the theatre will pass three display boards about the history of the project and charity, the life of Kirsty, and the many activities that British people have engaged in to see the theatre come back to life.
Throughout the week before the opening, local people were coming in to see what was happening and visibly elated that the theatre was to reopen. Although the area of Miramar is most known for the international embassy’s based along 5th Avenue, for the people that live in the surrounding streets there is little in the way of cultural attractions close by. As well as being a performance and rehearsal space for the art school’s students, local organisations and community groups will also be able to use the facilities. The inclusion of a screen in the new building means that films will once again be screened, maintaining the theatre’s original use as a cinema.
As well as inauguration speeches by Rob Miller and Jean MacColl, the Cuban Minister of Culture, Rafael Bernal praised the work of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and Music Fund for Cuba in making the Miramar vision a reality. MFFC trustee, and World Circuit record producer Nick Gold also received an award in recognition of his contribution to Cuban music. World Circuit records produced the multimillion selling Buena Vista Social Club album featuring Cuban son artists, and brought Cuban music to the attention of many people for the first time. World Circuit records also donated £10,000 to the Miramar restoration project.
Gala opening guests from UK and Cuba
Many guests from the UK and Cuba attended the event including diplomats, trade union leaders, Music Fund trustees, and representatives form all areas of Cuban political and cultural life. Renowned Cuban film maker Roberto Chile filmed the opening night and a short film will be shortly be available and publicised on the Music Fund for Cuba website. If anyone is visiting Havana and wants to see the Miramar theatre it can be found on Avenida 5 y Calle 94, Miramar (5th Avenue, and 94th street – on the left hand side as you leave the city).
Monday, April 2, 2012
MIREBALAIS, Haiti — The family from a nearby village arrived at the small hospital here vomiting and with uncontrollable diarrhea, at first glance maybe a typical case of consuming bad food or water.
But the fluid loss was tremendous and unstoppable; two of the three brothers were already near death, and within hours the entire family would be dead. Meanwhile, a nightmarish stream of patients filled the small reception room, as doctors and nurses scrambled to rehydrate them.
It was the evening of Oct. 15, 2010. Cholera, the doctors with the Cuban medical mission that treat most of the patients here would soon confirm, had arrived in Haiti.
“We went back to our books to see if this really could be cholera and then reported it right away,” said Dr. Jorge Luis Quiñones, a member of the Cuban medical mission here at the center of the outbreak.
More than a year later, cholera has killed 6,600 people and sickened more than 476,000 — nearly 5 percent of the nation’s 10 million people — in what United Nations officials call the world’s highest rate of cholera. Last month, Partners in Health, a nongovernmental organization, announced it would begin testing a vaccine in January, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and a Haitian health organization.
As the epidemic continues, the Cuban medical mission that played an important role in detecting it presses on in Haiti, winning accolades from donors and diplomats for staying on the front lines and undertaking a broader effort to remake this country’s shattered health care system.
Paul Farmer, the United Nations deputy special envoy to Haiti and a founder of Partners in Health, which has worked extensively on health care in Haiti, said the Cubans sounded an important early alarm about the outbreak, helping to mobilize health officials and lessen the death toll.
Even more, while the death rate peaked last December and the world’s attention has largely moved on, “Half of the NGOs are already gone, and the Cubans are still there,” he said, using the abbreviation for nongovernment organizations.
Cuban doctors have worked in Haiti since 1998, when 100 arrived after a hurricane as part of Cuba’s five-decade program of establishing international medical missions. Since then, Cuba has worked with Haiti and Venezuela and lately Brazil, Norway and other countries to build and provide staff and equipment for several dozen small community hospitals, clinics and other treatment centers.
The Cubans have sent doctors abroad since the 1960s as a form of “medical diplomacy” that brings badly needed doctors to remote areas of poor countries, mainly in Africa, as well as to allied countries like Venezuela, while sowing international solidarity, said Katrin Hansing, a Baruch College professor who is writing a book on Cuban overseas aid.
“It gives them a lot of political capital in the developing world, to keep up that heroic image of Cuba against the United States, that despite the embargo they still champion help to less-developed countries,” she said.
It has also been an important source of foreign currency for Cuba, with earnings from the export of medical services, including 37,000 health workers overseas, estimated at more than $2 billion. Ms. Hansing said that these days the Cubans typically ask host countries to pay a sliding scale that averages $2,500 per doctor, per month. But Haiti, she said, is one of a few countries that are not charged.
There is no doubt that the Cuban mission has been vital here. It was among the largest international aid contingents to respond after the January 2010 earthquake that tumbled Haiti into crisis. And since the cholera outbreak, the mission has treated more than 76,000 cases of the disease, with just 272 fatalities — a much lower ratio, at 0.36 percent, than the average across Haiti as a whole, in which 1.4 percent of cases ended in death, according to the Health Ministry.
“We work a lot on the education of the population,” said Dr. Lorenzo Somarriba, the chief of the Cuban medical mission. “We send people to the homes of the victims and educate them on the disease and provide them with tabs to clean the water. This is absolutely vital.” Such purification tablets have been critical in a country where treated water is rare.
Indeed, here in Mirebalais the team has not seen a fatal cholera case since December, he said.
It is a success the Cubans eagerly promote, with Fidel Castro issuing several “reflections,” personal commentaries that appear in state-run media and Web sites, chronicling the group’s endeavors and achievements.
For the doctors at the heart of it, the salaries are meager by American standards, roughly $500 per month, Ms. Hansing said. But they do not pay room and board abroad, and they get to travel the world — a perk few Cubans are allowed — and usually get to import goods from the countries they visit tax-free.
They are not allowed to bring their families with them, but the other incentives make it “a pretty good deal,” she said, that has helped keep down defections. Still, a program the United States has run since 2006 that is tailored to attract Cuban medical professionals abroad has enticed several hundred to defect.
Several of the doctors, many of them recent medical school graduates, said they simply relished the chance to practice what they had only heard about from textbooks and take on big responsibilities they would have to wait years for at home.
“We knew cholera from school, but it was hard to believe and see it here because Haiti didn’t have it before,” said Dr. Robert Pardo Guibert, 29, who directs a clinic in nearby Hinche. “But it is amazing because we treat everything here, every day there are different kinds of cases.”
Dr. Quiñones has traveled to Venezuela and Pakistan and, though he misses his family — he is not due to return to Cuba until May — the recognition from the Haitians helps sustain him emotionally. “The simple cases are the most gratifying,” he said.
The Haitians under treatment here, just grateful to have doctors, do not seem to care what nationality the physicians are.
“They provide good service,” said Mercidieu Desire, 33, who was being treated for diarrhea that doctors concluded was not cholera. “I came in, they treated me and I feel better.”
Still, the geopolitical theme of David vs. Goliath that permeates almost everything involving Cuban foreign affairs is present in this effort, as well.
After Hurricane Katrina, the Cubans offered to send 1,500 doctors to the United States. When there was no reply, Mr. Castro publicly lamented being spurned and created the Henry Reeve medical brigade, named after an American doctor who fought for Cuba’s independence, that would assist in natural disasters around the world.
In Haiti, the Cubans have asked the United States to help finance a $30 million major hospital for specialists that would be staffed in part by Cuban doctors as part of the broader effort that Cuba and other nations have undertaken to remake the health system here. But after intense rounds of talks — with both sides claiming last-minute changes to the arrangement — no deal has emerged.
“Recovery in Haiti is a broad international effort, and we have been in touch with many other governments, including Cuba, to advance health sector support to Haiti, but we have not entered into any agreements with the Cubans,” Jon E. Piechowski, a spokesman for the American Embassy, said in a statement.
The Canadian Network on Cuba is outraged by the statement from the office of Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), which declares that Canada - in lock step with the United States - opposes Cuba's participation in the upcoming Summit of the Americas to be held April 14-15, 2012 in Cartagena, Colombia. This arrogant statement flies in the face of the overwhelming consensus of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Their expressed desire is that no Summit of the Americas can truly be legitimate if Cuba is excluded.
Moreover, this assertion from the Minister's office runs counter to the sentiment of the vast majority of the people of Canada. Canadians irrespective of their political or ideological positions, stand in favour of building relations with Cuba based on mutual respect and equality, relations which uphold Cuba's right to self-determination and sovereignty. Having traveled to Cuba in the hundreds of thousands and having witnessed Cuban reality for themselves, Canadians have come away with a profound respect and admiration for the Cuban people and their efforts to build and defend a society centered on independence, justice and human dignity.
The declaration from the Minister's office that Cuba" doesn't comply with democratic conditions" is not only a slander against Cuba, but reeks of the discredited colonialist mentality and practice of foisting on independent countries imperial arrangements that they do not want or accept. The statement is an intolerable interference in the sovereign affairs of Cuba and violation of its right to self-determination. The statement harkens back to a bygone era where great powers acted with impunity against and with utter disregard towards the nations of the Americas. The peoples of the Americas have time and time again resoundingly rejected this method and mode of thinking. The great anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles of the 19th and 20th centuries bear witness to this. The statement deliberately parrots the disinformation of the United States State Department about Cuba. This open alignment with U.S. policy is deeply disturbing and alarming, and we call on Canadians to repudiate it with the contempt it deserves.
It bears reflection that it was only as recently as December 2-3rd, 2011 in Caracas, Venezuela, when representatives and heads of state from 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries founded the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). With the founding of CELAC, the peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean created an organization to defend and preserve their political, economic and cultural sovereignty, a bulwark against foreign interference in their affairs. For this reason the United States and Canada were excluded from this historic gathering.
It is important to note that the exclusion of Canada and the United States from CELAC was the collective unanimous will of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, whereas Cuba's exclusion from the Summit of the Americas is the utterly unprincipled, unilateral diktat of one superpower. Washington's warped logic, which Ottawa apparently endorses, is that any sovereign state in the Americas can be excluded by its fiat, and its fiat alone. Thus, in reality the United States does not recognize the sovereignty of any other country that has been invited. That the Canadian government does not protest the arbitrary treatment of Cuba is not only shameful but also further erodes and weakens Canada's sovereignty.
If the Canadian government wants to stand with the peoples of the Americas and not defy the winds of progressive change blowing though the Americas, it must abandon colonialist and imperialist mindsets and policies.
A potentially historic moment is upon us in which a most regrettable page in the relations amongst the nations of the Americas can finally be turned. The Canadian Network on Cuba calls on the government of Canada to engage in the enlightened statecraft that the times require. If the government is truly interested in the cause of democracy then it should stand with the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, and insist that Cuba is included in this and future Summits of the Americas.
Co-chair & National Spokesperson,
Canadian Network on Cuba