Wednesday, July 26, 2017





Moncada CommemorationAffirming History,  Independence and the Cause of Peace and Justice

- Isaac Saney, National Spokesperson, Canadian Network On Cuba -


On July 26, 1953, a group of courageous young men and women -- led by Fidel Castro -- attacked the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago de Cuba, and the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks in Bayamo, in an attempt to overthrow the U.S. supported puppet dictator Fulgencio Batista. As the island's second largest military garrison, the Moncada Barracks was critical to Batista's military control of southern Cuba. The goal was to seize the weapons and distribute them to the people and spark a national uprising that would not only overthrow the Batista dictatorship but also establish Cuba's independence and sovereignty. This heroic act is annually commemorated all over Cuba as the beginning of the movement and struggle that laid the foundation of the Cuban Revolution. 
          This year's commemorations are imbued with a particular poignancy;  it is the first without the physical presence of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro. Fidel epitomized the unbending commitment to Justice, Dignity and Independence that has characterized Cuba since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.  Fidel's living legacy continues in the work of the Cuban Revolution. Fidel's example and fidelity to principle continue to inspire the Cuban people, who continue on the path of independence, self-determination and human dignity. 
        The attacks were carried out by an organization that was created in 1952, under the leadership of Fidel Castro and Abel Santamaria, and comprised of young workers, students, artisans, peasants and landless farmers. It had around 1,500 members and affiliated itself with historic Cuban national liberation figures such as José Martí and Antonio Maceo. Around 120 youths were part of the attacks, approximately 70 of whom were killed, with many being tortured and executed after the attack. The survivors, including Fidel Castro, were subsequently put on trial and given lengthy prison sentences. Most, including Fidel Castro, were released after an amnesty in May 1955. This amnesty was the result of the mass mobilization of Cubans in support of the imprisoned rebels. Under the leadership of Fidel Castro, the July 26th Movement galvanized Cubans, ultimately leading to the victory of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959.
          

 
While the Moncada attack failed in fulfilling its immediate objective, it was central to the Cuban people's struggle for national affirmation and social emancipation. Cubans have always placed Moncada in a broad historical context, viewing it as a crucial link in the century-long striving of Cuba to free itself from Spanish colonial domination and U.S. tutelage, and then, establish authentic independence. At his trial Fidel Castro delivered a speech that eventually became the manifesto of the movement to overthrow the Batista tyranny. It was published as La Historia Me Absolvera (History Will Absolve Me) and laid out the national and social goals of the revolutionary movement that eventually triumphed on January 1, 1959. Today, the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes barracks, now a school and a museum, stand as concrete symbols of that successful struggle.
               Canadian commemorations of Moncada Day are a reflection of the ties that exist between Cuba and Canada. Canadians admire the courageous and rebellious spirit embodied in Moncada; a spirit that today is so powerfully manifested in Cuba's steadfastness against the efforts of the empire to destroy the island's independence. 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 centred on independence, justice and human dignity.

Since the Cuban people embarked on the road paved by Moncada, Cuba has refuted and      continues to refute the colonialist mentality and practice of foisting on independent countries   imperial arrangements and dictates that they resoundingly reject.The Cuban Revolution has
refused to renounce its right to self-determination and the principles, principles forged in the crucible of Moncada.  
              
In the years that have flashed by since Moncada, the Cuban people have shown what is possible to achieve when one defends genuine independence and self-determination. The example of Cuba assumes even greater significance as the 21st century unfolds, fraught with grave dangers that threaten the well being of the peoples of the world. In the midst of these profound challenges, Cuba refutes those who argue that relations among the world's nations and peoples are -- and can only be -- determined by self-interest, the pursuit of power and wealth. As Cuba continues on the path of social justice, human dignity and international solidarity, the Cuban Revolution continues to be an inspiration to humanity. Cuba demonstrates that it is possible to build relations based on genuine solidarity and social love; it is a living example of the alternatives that permit people to realize their deepest aspirations, and that another better world is possible.  History has given its judgment, vindicating the attack on the Moncada Barracks!

Long Live the Martyrs of Moncada!
Long Live the Cuban Revolution!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

NO TO THE U.S. ECONOMIC BLOCKADE OF CUBA!  

NO TO U.S. VIOLATION OF CANADIAN SOVEREIGNTY! 

Isaac Saney, National Spokesperson, Canadian Network On Cuba, June 15, 2017

The Canadian Network On Cuba (CNC) denounces the violation of the sovereignty of Canada by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Treasury Department.  OFAC fined the American Honda Finance Corporation (AHFC) $87,255 for approving and financing between February 2011 and March 2014 the leasing by Honda Canada Finance Inc. of 13 cars to the Embassy of Cuba in Canada. 

This is an unambiguous act of hostility against Cuba carried out within Canada by Washington. The extraterritorial application of the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba targets not only Canada, as the AHFC is a subsidiary of the American Honda Motor Company, which is itself owned by Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and based in Japan, not the U.S.

Because Honda Canada Finance Inc. is a majority-owned subsidiary company of American Honda Motor Company, Washington insists that it follow U.S. law as demanded by the 1992 Torricelli Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act.

In short, U.S. law supplants Canadian law within Canada! 

Not only is this a violation of the sovereignty of Canada, it contravenes the Canadian Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act (FEMA). 

In response to the Torricelli Act and the Helms-Burton Bill, the Government of Canada specifically amended FEMA in order to protect Canada against the increasing extraterritorial nature of the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba. Thus, FEMA prohibits Canadian corporations from complying with the extraterritorial measures of U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba

This violation of Canadian sovereignty by the U.S. Treasury Department illustrates that Washington not only wages an economic blockade against Cuba but also a diplomatic and political blockade. 

Is this extraterritorial interference in Canadian sovereignty a warning that Canada-Cuba relations is now a direct target of the Trump administration?

The CNC calls on the Government of Canada to uphold the country's sovereignty and reject this or any other effort to implement in Canada the internationally condemned and illegal U.S. economic blockade of Cuba. 

The CNC urges the Canadian government and parliamentarians not to allow Canada's policy towards and relations with Cuba to be targeted or undermined.
________________________________________

CUBAN WOMEN RESPOND TO TRUMP

Statement from the Federation of Cuban Women in response to threats by the U.S. President

Accustomed to struggling and resisting, we Cuban women state to U.S. President Donald Trump, that we do not accept walls, intervention or threats from anybody, and much less from those who wish to disregard the legacy which has sustained and motivated us for centuries

Federación de Mujeres Cubanas (Federation of Cuban Women)Granma, june 22, 2017 12:06:04

We cannot remain silent in the face of such ignorance.

The President of the United States is violating the human rights of the Cuban people with his new policy toward Cuba which reinforces the blockade. The over four million members of the Federation of Cuban Women denounce, before the world, the measures announced, which constitute an act of political aggression against the Cuban people, including women, children, and adolescents, in its aim to make their daily lives more difficult.

As such, we firmly support the declaration by our Revolutionary Government.

It is an insult to describe Playa Girón mercenaries as heroes. If they have forgotten history, or pretend to have done so, there are the testimonies from Nemesia and her siblings, who saw their mother die during the invasion; there are the families of the youth who offered their lives defending their country.

They also fail to recognized the bravery of Cuban mothers who took to the streets demanding an end to the murder of their children, including that of Frank País, in which Bonifacio Haza – a henchman for the Batista dictatorship and father of the out-of-tune violinist - was involved.

Last January 21 hundreds of thousands of women around the world came out to protest against Trump's misogyny and sexism, a man who publicly mocked a disabled journalist.

A pregnant African-American woman was recently shot and killed by police in Seattle, adding to the rising number of Blacks killed at the hands of the U.S. police force. What moral right does the U.S. President have to lecture Cuba about human rights?

Cuba is one of the countries which offers the most physical and moral protection to its people in the world, where the dignity of the people is at the centre of social policies. One only need look at the levels of development achieved by Cuban women, the financing that our country devotes to health, education and social security programs, among others, in order to understand the deeply humanist dimension of our Revolution.

Accustomed to struggling and resisting, we Cuban women say to you (President Trump), that we do not accept walls, intervention or threats from anybody, and much less from those who wish to disregard the legacy which has sustained and motivated us for centuries.

We Cubans have never given in to coercion of any kind. It would do well for you to read the history of the Maceo-Grajales family to discover the mettle of which our nation is forged.

We will always be ready to defend the gains achieved for and by Cuban women. The struggle for peace will be our permanent banner in order to protect our children’s future. Once again we proclaim that, inspired by the teaching and example of Fidel and Vilma, with or without the blockade, we will continue to build our socialist, inclusive, and participative homeland.

National Secretariat

The Federation of Cuban Women

___________________________________

ICAP Message to the Solidarity Movement with Cuba

"We have been able to enjoy the privilege of your friendship, of your solidarity, of your battles against the blockade, against the aggressions on Cuba, because you are not warriors, nor launchers of atomic bombs. What is a blockade? A silent atomic weapon that kills women, men, children, adolescents; that is the blockade." - Fidel Castro Ruz, Cuban Mission to UN, New York, 1995

Dear friends,
The hostile announcement of the US Government on Friday, June 16, differs and opposes diametrically from the growing desire and struggle of the American people to achieve a total normalization of relations between their country and Cuba and the lifting of the genocidal blockade that has been applied against our homeland for more than fifty years.

The Cubans and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples are grateful to all solidarity organizations from all over the world that have been supporting for years the right of our nation to defend its sovereignty, independence and self-determination.

Countless, in such a short period of time, have been the messages received at ICAP with words of friendship and true respect for our country and against the reversion of the exchanges between both nations and their peoples that President Donald Trump expressed threateningly in his wrong speech.

We know that this demand has reached the most dissimilar corners of the world demonstrating once again that there is no policy limiting the friendship ties between any people and the Cuban homeland, to which courageous and solidarity soldiers representing other nationalities along with Cuban patriots, also offered their lives for its freedom and independence.

If anything we are aware of, is that in the future the actions against the blockade will have to continue, and the efforts to dismantle this policy will be our main objective as this is the most flagrant violation of the Cuban people´s human rights. In the new battles to be fought with these noble and indestructible purposes we know that we can count, as ever, on you.

The struggle continues, the victory is certain!
Long live solidarity!
Ever onward to victory!

Fernando González Llort
ICAP President
ICAP (Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos - Cuban Institute for Friendship With the Peoples)



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CUBA RESPONDS TO TRUMP

Any strategy directed toward changing Cuba's constitutional order is condemned to
failure: Statement of the Cuban Revolutionary Government statement released on June 16 in response to new Presidential Directive on U.S. policy toward Cuba - Denounciation of Donald Trump's intention to halt progress in normalization of relations Donald Trump's intention to halt progress in normalization of relations 

Granma, June 19, 2017

June 16, 2017, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, in a speech replete with hostile rhetoric which recalled the era of open confrontation with our country, announced in a Miami theater his administration's policy toward Cuba which reverses advances made these last two years, after December 17, 2014, when Presidents Raúl Castro Ruz and Barack Obama made public the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations and initiate a process toward normalization of bilateral ties. 

In what constitutes a setback in relations between the two countries, Trump delivered a speech and during the same event signed a policy directive entitled, " National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening U.S. Policy toward Cuba," mandating the elimination of educational "people-to-people" exchanges undertaken by individuals, and greater control of U.S. travelers to Cuba, as well as the prohibition of economic, commercial, or financial transactions on the part of U.S. companies with Cuban enterprises linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces, intelligence or security services - all of this with the intentional objective of denying us income. The U.S. President justified this policy with alleged concerns about the human rights situation in Cuba and the need to rigorously enforce blockade laws, conditioning its lifting, as well as any improvement in bilateral relations, on our country making changes elemental to our constitutional order. 

Trump likewise vacated the Presidential Policy Directive, "Normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba," issued by President Obama on October 14, 2016, which, although it did not attempt to hide the interventionist character of U.S. policy or the objective of advancing its interest in changes in our country's economic, political and social order, the directive recognized Cuba's independence, sovereignty, and self-determination, and the Cuban government as a legitimate, equal interlocutor, as well as the benefits that both countries and people could gain in a relationship of civilized coexistence, within the context of the great differences which exist between our two governments. It also recognized that the blockade was an obsolete policy that should be eliminated. 

Once again, the U.S. government resorts to the coercive methods of the past, adopting measures to tighten the blockade, in effect since February of 1962, which not only causes harm and depravation to the Cuban people and constitutes an undeniable obstacle to our economy's development, but also impacts the sovereignty and interests of other countries, generating international condemnation. 

The measures announced create additional obstacles to already restricted opportunities available to U.S. businesses to trade with and invest in Cuba. 

At the same time, they further restrict the rights of U.S. citizens to visit our country, already limited given the obligation to employ discriminatory licenses, at a time when the U.S. Congress - as a reflection of the opinion of broad sectors of this society - demands not only an end to the travel ban, but also that restrictions on commerce with Cuba be eliminated. 

President Trump's announcements contradict the majority support of the U.S. public, including the Cuban émigré community in that country, for the lifting of the blockade and normal relations between Cuba and the United States. 

For his part, the U.S. President, once again poorly advised, makes decisions that favor political interests of an extremist minority of Cuban origin in the state of Florida, which for small-minded reasons do not desist in their pretensions to punish Cuba and its people, for exercising the legitimate, sovereign right to be free and take control of their own destiny. 

At a later time, we will more thoroughly analyze the scope and implications of this announcement. 

The government of Cuba denounces the new measures to tighten the blockade, which are destined to failure, as has been repeatedly demonstrated in the past, and which will not achieve their purpose of weakening the Revolution, or breaking the Cuban people, whose resistance to aggression of any kind or origin has been proven over almost six decades. 

The government of Cuba rejects the manipulation of the issue of human rights for political purposes, and double standards in addressing it. The Cuban people enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms, and have achieved accomplishments of which they are proud, and which are only a dream for many of the world's countries, including the United States itself, such as the right to health, education, social security, equal pay for equal work, the rights of children, the right to food, peace and development. With its modest resources, Cuba has contributed, as well, to the expansion of human rights in many places around the world, despite the limitations imposed given its condition as a blockaded country. 

The United States is in no position to teach us a lesson. We have serious concerns about respect for and protection of human rights in this country, where there have been numerous cases of police murder, brutality, and abuse, in particular against the African-American population; the right to life is violated as a result of deaths caused by firearms; child labor is exploited; and serious manifestations of racial discrimination exist; threats are being made to impose more restrictions on health care services, which would leave 23 million persons without coverage; women do not receive equal pay for equal work; emigrants and refugees are marginalized, in particular those from Islamic countries; the building of walls that belittle neighbors is proposed; and international commitments to protect the environment and confront climate change are abandoned. 

Likewise, also of concern are violations of human rights committed by the United States in other countries, such as the arbitrary detentions of dozens of prisoners in territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base in Cuba, where torture has taken place; the extrajudicial executions and deaths of civilians caused by bombs and the use of drones; and wars unleashed against different countries like Iraq, justified with lies about the possession of weapons of mass destruction, with disastrous consequences for the security and stability of the Middle East region. 

We recall that Cuba is a state party to 44 human rights international covenants, while the United States is so to only 18. Thus we have much to show, to say, and defend. 

Upon confirming the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations, Cuba and the United States affirmed the intention to develop respectful, cooperative ties between the two people and governments, based on the principles and purposes enshrined in the United Nations Charter. 

In the declaration issued July 1, 2015, the revolutionary government of Cuba reaffirmed, "These relations must be founded on absolute respect for our independence and sovereignty; the inalienable right of every state to choose its own political, economic, social, and cultural system, without interference of any kind; and on equality and reciprocity, which constitute irrevocable principles of international law,” as stated in the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by heads of state and government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), during its 2nd Summit, in Havana. Cuba has not renounced these principles, and never will. 

The government of Cuba reiterates its willingness to continue the respectful dialogue and cooperation in areas of mutual interest, as well as the negotiation of pending bilateral issues with the government of the United States. Over the last two years, it has been demonstrated that, as President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, has repeatedly stated, the two countries can cooperate and coexist in a civilized manner, respecting differences and promoting all that benefits both nations and peoples, but it cannot be expected that, in order to do so, Cuba will make concessions which compromise our independence or sovereignty, nor accept conditions of any type. 

Any strategy directed toward changing the political, economic and social system in Cuba, be it one that seeks to do so through pressure and dictates, or with the use of more subtle methods, is condemned to failure. 

The changes which may be needed in Cuba, like those made since 1959 and those we are undertaking now as part of the updating of our socio-economic model, will continue to be decided independently by the Cuban people. 

As we have since the triumph of the Revolution, January 1, 1959, we will assume any risk, and continue firm and sure in the construction of a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation. 
Havana, June 16, 2017. 

8th BIENNIAL CONVENTION OF THE CANADIAN NETWORK ON CUBA:BUILDING & DEEPENING CANADA-CUBA SOLIDARITY

From June 3-4, 2017, Canada-Cuba solidarity and friendship organizations from across the country held the very successful 8th Biennial Convention of the Canadian Network On Cuba in Toronto City Hall.  After the acknowledgment that delegates and guests were meeting on traditional and unceded indigenous territory, Chief Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation opened the convention with a poignant message on the unity and fraternity of the world’s peoples.

The Convention's delegates and guests then rendered homage to the late Fidel Castro, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, by a minute of silence. 

Invited guests included Deborah Ojeda (Minister Counsellor, Embassy of Cuba), Tania López Larroque (Consul General of Cuba), Sandra Ramirez Rodriguez (Director, North American Desk of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples-ICAP), Yamil Eduardo Martinez Marrero (Canada Desk - ICAP) and other Cuban diplomats and guests.

Messages of greetings were received from among others, Canadian Senator Pierrette Ringuette co-chair of the Canada-Cuba Inter-Parliamentary Group, the U.S. National Network On Cuba and Vancouver Communities in Solidarity With Cuba, who were unable to attend the Convention.

The Convention also had the distinct honour and privilege of hosting Luis Morlote Rivas, Vice-President of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists and a member of the Cuban National Assembly, which is Cuba’s national parliament.  Moriote Revas had arrived in Toronto after participating in profound and detailed discussions by Cuba’s parliamentarians on the nation’s social and economic development.  At the Saturday, June 3 evening public event, Cuba Moving Forward in 2017, he spoke to a packed audience at Friends House. During his presentation, he emphasized Cuba’s determination to renew its revolutionary and nation building project, while preserving its independence and sovereignty. He also stressed that Cuba would continue on its path of building a society of ever greater equity and justice. Roberto Chile, the world famous photographer, also, spoke about his acclaimed exhibit, Commandante, on Fidel Castro. The exhibit is now on display at the Embassy of Cuba in Ottawa, with future plans for a Canada-wide tour.

In addition to plenary sessions, a pre-convention public lecture and three convention panels were also held. The Friday, June 2, pre-convention event, Fidel! Cuba! Africa! Africans Children Return! took place in front of a full house at A Different Booklist, where historian and Cuba specialist Isaac Saney explored the history and impressive dimensions of the Cuban Revolution's solidarity with Africa. The first Convention panel, Updating the Cuban Economy, featuring Deborah Ojeda and Isaac Saney, underscored the extensive democratic participation of the Cuban people as the country updates and renews its economy. On the second panel, Defend Cuba and Latin American Sovereignty and Independence, Sandra Ramirez Rodriguez and Filipe Stuart (Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network) outlined the historic victory for democracy, sovereignty and peace embodied in the Cuban Revolution. On the third panel, Building Solidarity with Cuba in Canada, panellists Don Foreman (Canadian Union of Postal Workers), Yamil Martinez and Nino Pagliccia (Communist Party of Canada) emphasized that despite the restoration of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington, the U.S. economic war against Cuba continues unabated, and that opportunities exist to expand and elaborate solidarity with Cuba throughout Canadian society, especially amongst workers.

During the plenaries and panels, delegates re-affirmed the CNC’s commitment to further deepen the Canada-Cuba solidarity movement, resolving to do the utmost to defeat the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, end Washington's ongoing campaign of subversion and ensure the return to Cuba of the illegally occupied territory of the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay. Delegates also highlighted the importance of the Canada-Cuba solidarity movement in ensuring that Canada-Cuba relations remain based on the international norms of mutual respect and equality between nations.

Toward these ends, steps were taken to strengthen the CNC’s work. Several resolutions and initiatives were adopted that established the priorities for the next two-years, including, mobilizing Canadian public and political opinion against U.S. policy and acts of aggression against Cuba, organizing and supporting activities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and strengthening the work with members of parliament and legislatures.  

Under this mandate a new seven member executive was elected: Iris Cogger, Julio Fonseca, Don Foreman, Elizabeth Hill, Michael O’Neill, Isaac Saney and Saleh Waziruddin.  Elizabeth Hill and Isaac Saney were re-elected as co-chairs of the new executive. Subsequently, Isaac Saney, Elizabeth Hill and Saleh Waziruddin were re-appointed National Spokesperson, Treasurer and Secretary, respectively.

At the Conventions’s closing, the CNC expressed its deep confidence that the Cuban people will overcome any challenges that it faces. The CNC also reaffirmed that the Cuban people can count on the ongoing and undiminished solidarity and friendship of Canadians.  This solidarity and friendship is rooted in the overwhelming respect of Canadians for Cuba’s right to independence and self-determination, and a profound admiration for what the Cuban people have accomplished despite facing the unceasing aggression of the United States. This respect and admiration have forged unbreakable ties between the people of Canada and Cuba.

On behalf of the Canadian Network On Cuba
Isaac Saney
CNC co-chair & national spokesperson

Tel.: 902-449-4967

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The man who transformed a land of rocks into the most fertile land of the world.


In the picture Fernando Funes, Agricultural Engineer, in “Finca Marta” a land at 20 kilometers of Havana, Cuba. He cultivates more than 60 species in Finca Marta, a sustentable-ecological farm he attends and works with his wife.
Today, his land is among the most productive lands in the world, and his employees are among the best paid. However, only four years ago, these lands were very different from how they are today. What is now a fertile, softly undulating land, was then compact soil, full of stones, woody marabu and lacking any water. Some believe that you have to be very ignorant or extremely crazy to think that an ecological, self-sustainable, agricultural project could be successful in such land. To give life to his project Fernando had to abandon the agricultural theory he believed in since he earned his doctorate in Holland; and, his wife had to renounce to her position with Melia Hotel International. Both felt as if they were taking a leap of faith, jumping into the dark. Nevertheless, they found themselves landing on their feet.
The beginning, they say, was very difficult; it took them seven months to open a water hole, breaking the stone in the ground manually, armed mainly with a pry bar. And yet, with effort, there were results. The first thing they were able to commercialize was mangoes which they collect opening paths through the wooden marabou with their bare hands.
Agriculture in Cuba was always complicated. Many slaves died because of failed attempts by colonizers trying to make these lands produce more than they could produce. Nature has also been devastated because it has not been treated properly. “Theory helps you understand the world in pieces; practice, however, is multi-dimensional, multi-directional and complex. One of the motivations I had to develop this project was precisely to try to understand agriculture from inside, within its own contradictions, within its own challenges,” said Funes.
Now he wants to spread his work so others get the courage to start agro-ecological projects as miraculous as his all over the world.

Eco-Portal -English translation: Nora Fernandez



El hombre que convirtió un páramo de piedra en la tierra más fértil del mundo

El Ingeniero Agrónomo Fernando Funes posa en la Finca Marta, a 20 kilómetros de La Habana, en Cuba. Allí cultiva más de 60 especies en la granja autoecológica y sustentable que mantiene junto a su esposa.
Su tierra es de las más productivas del mundo y sus empleados son de los que mejores salarios cobran. Pero estas tierras, cuatro años atrás, no tenían para nada la apariencia que tiene hoy. Lo que ahora es la granja era un lomerío de tierra compacta, llena de piedras, tupida de marabú y sin agua. Había que ser muy ignorante o estar extremadamente loco para pensar que allí podría funcionar un proyecto de agricultura ecológica y autosustentable. Para dar vida a este proyecto, Fernando dejó la agricultura teórica, que ejercía desde que se doctoró en Holanda, y su esposa renunció a su trabajo en la cadena hotelera Meliá. Ambos se sintieron saltando al vacío, pero cayeron de pie.
El comienzo fue difícil: tardaron 7 meses en abrir su pozo de agua rompiendo la roca a mano, armados tan solo de una barreta. Sin embargo, con el esfuerzo llegaron los resultados. Lo primero que comercializaron fueron los mangos, que pudieron cosechar abriéndose paso entre el marabú con sus propias manos.
La agricultura en Cuba siempre fue complicada. Muchos esclavos murieron a costa de los intentos inútiles de los colonizadores de hacer que las tierras produjeran más de lo que podían. 
También la naturaleza fue devastada por no ser tratada de forma correcta.
"La teoría te lleva a entender el mundo en pedazos. En cambio, la práctica es multidimensional, multidireccional, compleja. Una de las motivaciones para desarrollar este proyecto es poder entender la agricultura desde dentro, desde sus propias contradicciones, desde sus propios retos", cuenta Funes en una entrevista.
Ahora, busca difundir su trabajo para que muchos puedan animarse, en todo el mundo, a emprender proyectos agroecológicos tan milagrosos como el suyo. 

Ecoportal.net

Monday, March 20, 2017

Archeological dig at Cuba slave plantation open to Nova Scotia students

The watchtower and gate to the slave barracks on the former Angerona Coffee Plantation in Havana Province, Cuba.

Massive coffee plantation in Havana province was worked by 450 slaves in 19th century

By Susan Bradley, CBC News Posted: Mar 17, 2017 11:56 AM AT Last Updated: Mar 17, 2017 2:18 PM AT
Students from Nova Scotia and across Canada are being given an opportunity to work on an archeological dig at a massive 19th century coffee plantation in Cuba.
The Angerona Coffee Plantation, a national historic site in Havana province on the western side of the island, was established in 1813 by a German businessman named Cornelio Souchay.
At its peak, the plantation had hundreds of thousands of coffee bushes worked by 450 slaves.
"When you walk around the site, you really feel the history," Saint Mary's University professor Aaron Taylor told CBC's Information Morning on Friday.
"The plantation existed for 70 years. People were born there and died there."

Joint effort of Cubans and Nova Scotians

Taylor is heading the trip, which takes place June 3 to June 17. It is open to all Nova Scotia university students, not just those attending Saint Mary's University in Halifax, and will be a joint effort with Cuban students and archeologists.
Cuban people see the plantation ruins as an important place, "a sacred place," Taylor said.
Archaelogists at former Cuban slave plantation
Archeologists are shown outside the ruins of the main mansion house. (Submitted by Aaron Taylor)
One task will be to excavate the slave barracks.
"We want to get an idea of how people lived. If they lived in family units or were segregated according to gender. We hope to be able to answer those questions," Taylor said.
"They didn't have much. The things they had they created, they modified."
The plantation's main mansion ruins are still standing, as are its watch tower, overseer's cottage and aquaducts.

Telling the story of people who didn't have a voice

It is a place of beauty despite its dark past, Taylor said.
"We want to bring a human story to a very dehumanizing system. Slaves were treated like animals, treated as chattel, like cows and chickens. We can help tell the story of people marginalized, who didn't have a voice."
The trip will benefit students as it "is important for young people to immerse themselves in another culture," he said.
"Right now, the world is becoming a place of 'us' and 'them.' Becoming friends with people in other countries … they stop being 'them.'"
Students who hope to join the dig can contact Taylor at c.aarontaylor@gmail.com. The deadline is March 31.
With files from Information Morning Halifax

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Cuban Society and Economic Development. Confronting Neoliberalism

Writing about Cuban economy in Cubadebate, Jose Luis Rodriguez (ex Minister of Economy in Cuba, current Advisor, Centre for Research on the World Economy) explains Cuban economic performance in a challenging period while he highlights concerns Cuba faces, economic areas such as export of goods and services, imports, national oil production and the national external debt.
Yet, among his serious challenges Rodriguez includes the impact the passing of Fidel Castro, has had on Cuba and its people. It was a bad year but one that included a particular bad thing, the passing of Fidel.  It is clear for us to see the loss of their “commander in chief,” the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, who Rodriguez describes as “the most brilliant disciple of Jose Marti” (Marti himself being a Latin American hero), has been painful to Cubans.
Thus, Cuban perspective continues to be capable of including human pain and heart aches among the challenges in their economic reports. Good for them. It is interesting though that for most economic models human pain, heart ache, loss, does not count for much. Imagine how different our economic reports would be if the heart aches of the unemployed or underemployed, the pain of the homeless or those who have lost their homes because of financial woes were included. And what about the personal pain of women, of men, and children with no access to health care, free education and basics in the world?  We manage to present rosy pictures of ugly times by leaving human suffering and pain mostly outside economic reports, evaluations and discussions.
Thus, we can accept a criminal economic model and call it euphemistically “neoliberal” –nothing new about it, nothing particularly liberal either, or capitalism with a human face, a true oxymoron. Even our focus on growth and increased wealth for the top layer of society goes without question. We allow, unfortunately, similar perspectives to dominate our understanding of the world, nature and our lives, causing heart ache, loss and destruction. But, heart ache and loss is difficult to measure, and growth per growth sake is our motto. A lot of good will happens when heart ache and loss are in, making visible the invisible, hopefully propelling us towards healthier directions –for us, other species, the environment, the world, and nature.
Cubans loss their historic leader and we may or may not understand the value of leadership as we are used to live without it.
Leadership used to be a positive thing, even a must, but lately whenever leaders emerge our masters move fast to suppress them, ending their lives or vanishing them, leadership not being allowed any longer in the political scene. Such are the forces behind our economies, they are powerful, relentless, and mean, and even though deep inside we all know we follow a crazy model we follow it anyway, and keep moving forward, taking our world with us.
We move fast surrounded by a hurricane of uninspiring actions and inactions, while inspiring visions are deemed without value, and worthwhile projects are turned into dust -by reason or by force; we are left alone to live lives in poverty or overconsumption.
No balance, we consume everything in sight when feasible, food, fuel, clothes, goods and services, and irreplaceable amounts of energy.
Consuming may fail to make us happy and we have little to show for our way of life, except a lot of waste. We can blame the powers that are as they truly are domineering, mean, criminal but we still choose to live the way we live. At times we can even think that others envy us and can be almost sure that those complaining would live exactly as we live having a chance. In a way we consider ourselves “lucky” and when awareness bothers us we turn to false solutions, like if recycling could deal with the amount of damage our consumption causes. It is our way to deflate guilt knowing as we know that after us there will be little left to others.
I like that Cubans seem to know why they live lives different from ours; and if at times they are tempted by stuff or tired of facing challenges to ensure survival, they are still generally happy living as they live. They have created a society rich in social relationships where nobody feels left out or afraid others would envy them, as they all have pretty much the same. After every challenge, I believe, Cubans return to the rhythm of their lives, which reflects their economy and struggles but it is also more than that.
Beyond their pain and loss, Cubans faced in 2016-2017 additional challenges, some old, some new. Among the old, we have of course the blockade, imposed by the US, Cuba’s main barrier to development. The blockade is still very much in place despite talks with the Obama administration and the focus today for Cubans is to move beyond that conversation in the face of a new administration.
The cost of the blockade for Cuba has been estimated in 125,873 million dollars –only Cuba could have survived such hit. Then, among new challenges, we find the world economic recession and its effects on Cuban economic partners; which, in order of importance are: Venezuela (down in a 9.7% in 2016 and probably in a 4.7% this year), China (decreased 6.5%), Spain (decreased between 2-3%), Canada (increased GDP 1-2%) and Brazil (decreased 3.5% in 2016 but expected to grow 0.2% this year). Then, it was hurricane season and hurricane Mathew hit Cuba in October 2016; it affected Guantanamo severely, causing the destruction of about 38,000 dwellings and serious damages to the infrastructure of roads, communication and energy (electricity mainly).
The mentioned challenges have an effect on Cuban exports of goods and services, which decreased in a 30% during this period, with a fall in the prices of exported goods and services as well as reduced volumes exported. This situation particularly applied to a group of goods including nickel and sugar and to services offered, in particular, to the supply of qualified labor force to countries such as Venezuela and Brazil.
  • Nickel’s price, for example, had increased a 10% for this period (to 10,679 USD per MT) but is still well below the price for 2013-2015 (14,596 USD per MT). Production volume is below expectations (actually 56,000 MT) due to problems with one of their production plants.
  • Sugar also faced increases in price (18.20 cents per pound) that went beyond sugar prices in 2015 (12.98 cents per pound). However, Cuban sugar production this year was only 80% of expected levels; this was mainly due to climatic challenges (excessive rain followed by drought) affecting the entire country. Thus the levels of 2015 (1,924,000 MT) were not reached in 2016, with 1,500,000 MT of sugar produced.
A different challenge affected oil-derivate products; in this case the levels of exportation actually increased (to 558 million MT) but the products were sold for a value of 228 million USD.  Here the challenge was not actual volume of export but the value of the good in the market. For example, in 2015 similar amounts of products (532 million MT) were sold for almost three-times the value of the period (734 million USD).  Thus, the price in the market affected the total value which decreased in a 68.9% for similar volumes.
Tourism was a positive sector overall; that is, there was an increase in the number of visitors to the island (13% increase) which reached the record of more than 4 million visitors, and a reported increase in the value of the services of 15%, or approximately 3 million USD. Tourism was the sector that worked best in terms of both market value and volume, which had a positive impact in the economy in 2016.
Export of services overall includes tourism and export of qualified labor force, so together the sector suffered a decreased relative to 2015 (1,170 million USD). The decrease due to the contraction of export of qualified labor force to Venezuela, in connection to challenges the Venezuelan economy is still facing. Further decreases are expected in this sector in the future because it is now facing decreases due to changes in the government of Brazil (now under Mr. Temer) –Brazil faces now both, economic challenges and unfavorable governmental views in Brazil on the import of qualified Cuban labor force.
Looking at imports there has been a decrease of a 10% in 2015 and while an increase of 7% in imports was planned for 2016 this actually did not take place, there was an additional decrease of between 3-9% in this area. The decrease was mainly in fuel imports; food imports where maintained because market food prices went down and allowed Cuba to comply with food imports need.
  • Food imports benefited from falling prices allowing Cuba to import food products not produced in the country for a total 14% lower than expected.
  • Fuel imports although lower in prices were also affected for a decreased ability of delivery by PDVSA –connected to mentioned challenges to the Venezuelan economy. Cuba managed, however, to lower consumption of fuel in a 4.4% (369,530 MT) and to reduce electricity production in a 6%.
National oil production:
The production of oil in Cuba continued to decrease, mainly due to a reduction in the number of active oil wells. Cuba has signed agreements with a Russian company (Rosneft) to focus on well recovery and to increase levels of production in the oil fields of Varadero.
National External Debt:
Cuba paid 5,299 million USD in 2016 on external debt as planned. Payment of debt obligations is crucial to Cuba because of its focus on increased access to new credit lines and better conditions of credit.  Cuba also wants to facilitate, and increase when possible, Direct Foreign Investment (DFI); this has shown a modest increase in 2016; 83 new deals were signed -14 of which are repeated investments and 15 are investments specific to the area of Mariel while the rest are investments throughout the country.
The total amount of these investments is 1,300 million USD -which comes to about 488 million USD each year (or per 12 months period). Cuban need for this type of investment has been established in between 2,000-2,500 million USD allowing much room for improvement. The International Fair of Havana presented a portfolio including 395 investment projects (120 of them totally new) for an estimated value of 9,500 million USD, with a focus on foreign investment. Remittances from outside have increased and they are estimated to be between 2,000-2,500 million USD for 2016.
Plans for the future: 2017
The goal for 2017 is to focus on economic growth while favoring the following strategies: (1) guaranteeing Cuban exports while ensuring payment within the year, (2) intensifying national production, (3) substituting imports with Cuban products, and (4) reducing expenses.
Cuban expectations by sector are as follows: hotels and restaurants are expected to grow 8%, the aggregate value of the sugar industry is expected to grow as sugar production grows a 12%, an increase of 2-5% is expected in aggregate value in agriculture, industry, transport, communications, generation of electricity, gas and water, construction and commerce.  A 3.3% increase is expected in retail trade and 2.7% growth is expected in other activities. Salaries are to increase 3.5% while productivity is expected to grow 6.6%.
Cuban government strategy to offset economic slowdown is to increase government investment; According to Rodriguez an increase of 49% in government funds in support of investment and of 26% in efforts to substituting imports is part of the plan. Government investment implies an increase in fiscal deficit (from 7% in 2016 to close to 12% of GDP in 2017); such deficit will be financed with emission of public bonds.
Facilitating foreign investment in Cuba has been a challenge mainly because of the US blockade and high risk assessment of Cuba by credit rating agencies – such as the Big Three controlling 95% of the credit rating markets –Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, both American, controlling 80% of the credit rating market and Fitch, with offices in NYC and London, controlling the other 15%.
Foreign investors also express issues with Cuban Law of Foreign Investment (2014) in that there are possibilities of expropriation. They also disagree with having to contract all their labor force (as by Law) through public employment agencies. The process of approval of projects is also slow and it has had a negative impact in the capture of foreign investment; Raul Castro has openly expressed unhappiness regarding the excessive delays in the process of negotiations and promised to change this.
An increase in exports is discussed and includes new exports of high aggregate value such as additional products from sugar, steel of special quality in connection with their nickel and cobalt production, processed food products, quality clothes and shoes, as well as on creative industries, competitive in Cuba, and including art and art related products. An increased focus in further developing tourism with options beyond hotels –like medical and nature tourism, and including the promotion of tourist attractions such as entertainment parks, marinas, golf, theatre, dance and nocturnal centers.
Notes: 
José Luis Rodríguez (Cubadebate), La Economía cubana 2016-2017: Valoración Preliminar (I, II, III).