Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Paul Lynch 1952-2019

 On behalf of the Canadian Network on Cuba we are deeply saddened to announce the passing of a dear friend and solidarity activist, Paul Lynch on August 5th in Toronto after a short illness.

Paul was an easy-going, generous, warm person, who worked tirelessly in solidarity with Cuba and for peace and social justice.  In Cuba, his vibrant presence at the brigades over the years livened up the spirits of everyone around him. His deep commitment and love for Cuba was reflected in his constant return and solidarity with the Cuban Revolution.  He found hope, solace and renewed energy from the Cuban people and their innumerable accomplishments; and in turn brought that optimism back to Canada and shared it with all those he encountered.

Back in Toronto, Paul was an executive member of the Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association and attended the 9th Biennial Convention in June 2019 as a delegate.  He was always keen to welcome our Cuban visitors.  Most recently, during the convention held in Toronto, he had the opportunity to drive ICAP representatives Sandra Yisel Ramírez and Yamil Edwardo Martínez Marrero around the city; and around Ontario during their post-convention tour.

Paul’s presence was omnipresent with CCFA.  He helped organize the Bravo Film Festival in 2018. With a keen proofreaders’ eye, Paul helped put out the CCFA Toronto newsletter Amistad.  He delivered cots for the large Pastors for Peace caravan on its stopover in Toronto last fall.  Paul always had his cell phone camera ready to take photos, documenting demonstrations, events, travel and friends everywhere.

We express our heartfelt condolences to Paul’s family and friends.

Our dear, wonderful Paul will be greatly missed by his numerous friends in Canada and Cuba and around the world.

Elizabeth Hill and Isaac Saney, Co-chairs Canadian Network on Cuba

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


-Isaac Saney, CNC Spokesperson, July 21, 2019 -

July 26, 2019 marks the 66th anniversary of the act that is annually celebrated all over Cuba as the beginning of the movement and struggle that paved the way for the Cuban Revolution. 

On that day 66-years ago, Cuba’s rebels rose up against the U.S.- supported dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Although that first battle was lost, the Revolution ultimately prevailed on January 1, 1959.

Canadian commemorations of Moncada Day are a refection 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. 

The Canadian Network On Cuba and the  Canada-Cuba solidarity movement stand united against the U.S. economic blockade against Cuba. This economic war, combined with other attacks against the right of the Cuban people to chart their own course, has failed - and will fail - to defeat those historical aspirations and aim to build a society based on genuine independence and justice.  As Raúl Castro poignantly underscored, "Despite its immense power, imperialism does not possess the capacity to break the dignity of a united people, proud of its history and of the freedom conquered with so much sacrifice." 

Canadian commemorations of Moncada also take place in the context of disturbing developments in Ottawa's policy towards Cuba. On May 8, 2019 the Government of Canada made the abrupt decision to shut down the section of its Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) Office in Havana through which visas were processed for Cuban citizens wishing to visit Canada. This includes Cubans travelling for family visits, and those seeking work or study permits. This decision has introduced unreasonable delays and significant financial obstacles, as well as personal and emotional distress for those Cubans seeking to travel to Canada, and will cause (and has caused), among other things, significant damages to family reunification, business,  academic, cultural, scientific, and sports relations. 

This is unacceptable! The Canadian Network On Cuba and the Canada-Cuba solidarity movement call on the Government of Canada to fully re-open the IRCC Office and all visa services to Cubans in Havana!

In the 66-years that have flashed by since Moncada, the Cuban people have shown what it is possible to achieve when one defends genuine independence and self-determination. The example of Cuba assumes even greater significance as the 21st century continues unfolding, fraught with grave threats and alarming dangers that threaten the well-being - even the existence - of the peoples of the world. In the midst of these profound challenges,  these terrible perils, Cuba isa potent refutation to the contention that relations among the world’s nations and peoples are — and can only be — determined and governed by egoist self-interest, and the brutal 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.


Moncada: Affirming History,  Independence and the Cause of Peace and Justice

- By 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.

The Moncada Barracks shortly after the July 26, 1953 attack. The barracks have been converted into a school
and Museum of the Revolution where the bullet holes shown here can be seen to this day.

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.

Raúl and Fidel in the Sierra Maestra during the Cuban Revolutionary War

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.  

History has given its judgment, vindicating the attack on the Moncada Barracks!

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

Friday, June 21, 2019

Communiqué - 9th Biennial Convention of the Canadian Network on Cuba: Defending Canada-Cuba Ties of Friendship & Solidarity  

Isaac Saney (CNC)
On June 8 - 9, 2019 delegates of 19 Canada-Cuba solidarity and friendship organizations from across the country gathered at Toronto City Hall for the 9th Biennial Convention of the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC). Delegates met in the context of Washington’s escalating attacks on Cuba and worrying developments in Canada-Cuba relations. The closing of Canada's visa office in Havana, for example, was highlighted as extremely perturbing. Delegate deliberations emphasized that for 2019-2021 one of the central tasks facing the CNC, therefore, is to do its utmost to reverse these negative developments and ensure Ottawa's policy towards Cuba does not mirror Washington's. The Convention underscored  that Canadians, who in their hundreds of thousands visit Cuba annually for many reasons including tourism, business, academic, political and cultural exchanges of all kinds, want Ottawa to pursue a foreign policy based on mutual respect and equality.  

Heroic Island Faces the Empire 

On June 7, a pre-convention event was held at A Different Booklist, where speakers Cuban Consul Yoslaidy Clemente López, Cikiah Thomas (Chairperson, Global Afrikan Congress) and Dr. Isaac Saney Cuba specialist, CNC co-chair and spokesperson) addressed  a packed house.  Clemente López said Cuba's history has been one of resisting and standing up to colonizers and imperial powers and that the Cuban people would prevail over whatever the U.S. decided to hit them with.  In their presentations Saney and Thomas soberly but passionately denounced Washington’s and Ottawa's aggression against Cuba and Venezuela. With the meeting serving as the kick-off for the CNC Convention, the presenters called on all Canadians to uphold the right of self-determination and sovereignty of all peoples, while opposing the meddling and interference of any external force in their countries. 

       On the morning of June 8, the 9th Biennial Convention opened by acknowledging and greeting guests from the Embassy of Cuba in Canada and the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).  Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation then brought greetings. With a moving message of unity, Chief Laforme stressed the commonalities that bind all peoples together. As a token of gratitude, Chief Laforme was presented with a pouch of Cuban tobacco by CNC co-chair Isaac Saney. Saney underlined the symbolism of the Cuban tobacco by reciting the story of Hatuey, the Taino chief from Haiti who led the resistance in Cuba to Spanish colonization. Hatuey is recognized by Cubans as the island nation’s first internationalist. Saney also highlighted Havana’s important diplomatic contribution to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  

        Distinguished guests included Her Excellency Josefina Vidal (Ambassador of Cuba to Canada), Tania López Larroque (Consul General of Cuba), Sandra Ramírez Rodríguez (Director, North American Desk - ICAP), Yamil Martínez Marrero (Canada Desk - ICAP) and other Cuban diplomats and guests. The Convention then had the distinct honour and privilege of receiving words of greetings from Ambassador Josefina Vidal. The Ambassador underlined the importance of the Canada-Cuba solidarity and friendship movement.  She emphasized that despite facing ongoing U.S. aggression, the Cuban people had preserved their unity, without violating any of the revolutionary or ethical principles that have guided Cuba’s socialist project. She stated that Cuba’s goal was to continue to build a society of ever greater equity and justice, guided by José Martí’s vision of a nation “with all and for all.” The Ambassador reiterated these points in the June 8th evening public meeting, Cuba Moving Forward in 2019, held at the Church of the Holy Trinity, located in Trinity Square. She elaborated on the island nation’s socioeconomic development and the new constitution, emphasizing Cuba’s determination to renew its revolutionary and nation building project, while preserving its independence and sovereignty. She underscored the extensive democratic participation of the Cuban people in this process.  In a lively question and answer period, Ambassador Vidal unequivocally declared that Cuba stands for Latin American independence, is opposed to foreign interference and intervention in the region, and would not yield to imperial pressure. She said that the Canadian government should reconsider its decision to close its visa office in Havana, so that it would not be remembered as the government that ended Canada-Cuba people to people relations.  
         Delegates attended from almost all the Canadian Network on Cuba member groups from Halifax to Vancouver.  A report on the CNC work over the last two years was presented by co-chairs, Isaac Saney and Elizabeth Hill, followed with verbal reports from member organizations. In addition to plenary sessions and public events, three Convention panels were also held. In the first panel, on Canada-Cuba-U.S. relations, Sandra Ramírez  and Isaac Saney addressed Canada’s closing of its visa processing facilities in its Havana embassy and its impact on the Canadian and Cuban people. There was also an extensive discussion of Washington’s aggression against Venezuela and the impact on Cuba and Canada of the activation by U.S. President Trump of Title III and IV of the notorious and internationally condemned Helms-Burton Act. On the second panel, Defend Cuba and Latin American Sovereignty and Independence, Yamil Martínez (ICAP), Edgar Godoy (Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network) and Dr. Maria Páez Victor, (Chair, Canadian, Latin American and Caribbean Policy Centre) underscored the historic meaning of the Cuban Revolution for the cause of democracy, sovereignty and peace in the region.  The dangers of U.S. imperialism, especially its ongoing attacks on Venezuela, which Canada has also joined, were examined in sobering detail.       
        The third panel featured a special guest speaker, Mark Entwistle, former Ambassador of Canada to Cuba from 1993-1997. Trained as an historian, Mr. Entwistle drew attention to the early history of Canada-Cuba relations going back to the late 19th century before reviewing the uninterrupted diplomatic relations that Canada and Cuba have enjoyed since 1945. He accentuated that Canada, along with Mexico, refused to break diplomatic relations with Cuba in the 1960s when the United States established its economic, financial and commercial blockade of the island nation. He stressed that the recent closing of the visa office represents a serious departure from this longstanding relationship. He underscored that Cuba has a unique perspective on the world and has played an important role in contributing to regional peace and security. In the question and answer period, Mr. Entwistle emphasized that Canada's relationship with Cuba is important but that due to current developments Canada's image is at risk of being harmed in the eyes of the Cuban people.     

        Over the course of the convention delegates reaffirmed their determination to strengthen the Canada-Cuba solidarity movement and defeat the U.S. all-sided economic blockade of Cuba. Delegates also expressed their deep concern over the current state of Canada-Cuba relations resolving to do their utmost to ensure that relations remain based on the international norms of mutual respect and equality between nations. Therefore, given the escalation of the U.S. economic war against Cuba and the current uncertainty in Ottawa’s relations with Havana, a number of resolutions were adopted to guide the work of the CNC during 2019-2021. 

        Measures were adopted to stabilize and grow the Ernesto Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade in order to ensure its future success. Carrying on the fight against the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, delegates adopted a resolution against the activation of Titles III & IV of the Helms-Burton Act aimed at mobilizing Canadian public and political opinion against the unabated U.S. policy of aggression against Cuba. Apprehensive about the present state of Canada-Cuba relations, they also passed a resolution calling on Ottawa to reopen visa services in the Canadian embassy in Havana. Among other resolutions adopted were those calling for actions to mark the 5th anniversary of the liberation of the Five Cuban Heroes and the 500th anniversary of the founding of the city of Havana. Additionally, resolutions were passed to support the following conferences: 8th Vancouver Che Guevara Conference, in Vancouver, October 25– 27, 2019; Hemispheric Anti-Imperialist Solidarity Conference for Democracy and Against Neo-Liberalism in Havana, November 1-3, 2019; and Cuba at 60: Current Challenges, Future Prospects, in Halifax, October 31-November 2, 2019. Delegates also reiterated the necessity to continue to strengthen the work with Members of Parliament and legislatures.  
        To pursue this mandate and initiatives a new seven-member executive was elected: Bronwyn Cragg, Nora Fernandez, Julio Fonseca, Tamara Hansen, Elizabeth Hill, Michael O’Neill and Isaac Saney. The CNC embarks on the next two years with the task of expanding solidarity and friendship with Cuba throughout Canadian society. The CNC reaffirms that the people of Cuba, whatever the changes in Ottawa’s relations with Havana, can continue to count on the ongoing and undiminished solidarity and friendship of the people of Canada.  This solidarity and friendship are neither tenuous nor transitory but spring from the deeply rooted respect and admiration of Canadians for Cuba’s historic realization of its right to independence and self-determination: respect and admiration amplified by the what the Cuban people have been able to achieve while facing unceasing aggression from the United States. Out of this respect and admiration unbreakable ties of solidarity and friendship have been -- and continue to be -- forged between the peoples of Canada and Cuba.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Embassy of Cuba in Canada

Canada Parliament Hosts Symposium on Cuba

Ottawa, May 28, 2019 — On Tuesday morning, a Symposium on Cuba was held at the Federal Canadian Parliament, under the auspices of the Hon. Senator Ringuette Pierrette and T.J. Harvey, MP, Co-Chairs of the Canada-Cuba Parliamentary Friendship Group, by initiative of the Canadian Network on Cuba.
The opening panel, made up by renowned scholars, namely, Isaac Saney, John Kirk and Julia Sagebien from Dalhaousie University, Halifax; and Professor Keith Ellis, from York University in Toronto, examined Cuba-Canada´s long-standing positive bilateral relations, current challenges and future prospects; as well as Cuba´s economy, society and foreign policy.
The second and last panel of the meeting focused on the nature of the Canadian trade relationship with Cuba, its importance for both countries, and the impact of the escalation of U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba on Canadian companies doing business with the island, particularly, after the activation of Title III and the threat to enact Title IV of the Helms Burton Act. Among the panelists were representatives of Canadian companies and organizations that maintain links with Cuba, including Sherritt International Corp. Acasta Capital, the National Bank of Canada, Gowling WLG international law firm, Air Transat and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Canada–Cuba.
The Honourable senators Ringuette Pierrette, Stan Kutcher, Beverley Busson and Diane Giffin; and members of Parliament Michel Picard, Anthony Rota and Fayçal El-Khoury, were in attendance.
Attending the Symposium in representation of the Embassy of Cuba in Ottawa were Ambassador Josefina Vidal, accompanied by other members of the diplomatic staff.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Dreaming in Miami

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Published in Relations Cuba-US (Relaciones Cuba-EE.UU) as well as in Cuba Debate.
18 abril 2019 | 
After three months of attempts and threats carried out on two stages – the State Department in Washington DC and in Miami – the yankee Administration finally announced what it intends to do to intensify its economic war against Cuba.
On April 17th, at a mid-morning brief ceremony lasting just a few minutes in the Washington DC, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it known that they will fully implement Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. He did not offer any further explanations, although he said that as of May 2nd, “Cuban-Americans” will be able to file claims before the US courts against those who in any way use the properties that they claim were theirs or their families.
There were no questions and no text was available to answer questions that such a decision may have provoked among those who remember that for twenty-three years – Clinton, W. Bush, Obama and Trump himself – had adopted a position contrary to what is now being announced.
Official statements were immediately made by Spain, Canada, Mexico and the European Union who, in addition to protesting, warned that they will take the necessary measures to neutralize any attempt to harm their legitimate interests and recalled that they are capable of doing so, bearing in mind that there is no shortage of US investments in their countries.
The most notorious spectacle was reserved for Miami and John Bolton, National Security Advisor, who played the main role. His audience was the members of what remains of those who were part of the 2506 Brigade, that is, the remains of the invading group that 58 years ago was defeated by the Cuban people in 66 hours.
Bolton repeated what Pompeo said earlier regarding the lawsuits and also announced the re-imposition of severe restrictions on the travel of Cuban Americans to their country of origin and on the remittances they send to their families on the island, measures that were previously applied by W. Bush and generated the rejection of the vast majority of that community which has since reflected itself in the Miami-Dade County elections.
The Miami show was as pathetic as it was grotesque.
The old and tired veterans failed when they were young and organized by the CIA, and with the support of the U.S. armed forces, they went to Cuba to recover “their” estates, “their” factories and “their” mansions. Now Bolton promises them that the chimera will finally become a reality.
The show was summed up by Nicolás Gutierrez Castaño: “Not even in our most feverish dreams we could conceive that a U.S. government would do it. No one ever did. Forget Reagan. Forget Bush.”
Excited, the skillful managing lawyer of Helms-Burton believes the time has come to “recover” the large properties stolen by his great-grandfather.
An unabashed dreamer, Bolton, for his part, invited to make a toast to the Monroe Doctrine that, according to him, is alive and healthy.
Intoxicated, “celebrating” their fulminant defeat, the guests at the strange banquet applauded him with delirium.
It is time to wake them up.
April 19, 2019

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Helms-Burton:  An act of aggression against the Cuban people and the Canadian people

Interview with Isaac Saney, Co-Chair and Spokesperson, Canadian Network on Cuba-April 20, 2019

The U.S. Helms-Burton Act was conceived to codify and tighten the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba in 1962 for the purpose of subverting and overthrowing the Cuban government and imposing a regime to the liking of the U.S. government.

TML Weekly interviewed Isaac Saney, Co-Chair and Spokesperson of the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC), to explain for our readers what is the Helms-Burton Act and its Title III and what is at stake.

TML Weekly: What is the Helms-Burton Act? What is its intent and aim?

Isaac Saney: The Helms-Burton Act was passed in 1996. It was meant to tighten and further U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba and also to codify them as law in the sense that this was an act of Congress rather than actions under the purview of the U.S. President. The President had been using the Trading with the Enemy Act to issue political directives that sanctioned Cuba economically. The Helms-Burton Act specifically targeted Cuba and established a series of conditions with regard to the Cuban economy, aimed at the destruction of the socialist nature of the Cuban economy so as to be acceptable to the U.S. empire.

Title III of the Act allows U.S. companies and citizens to sue not only Cuban companies but also international companies engaging in what the U.S. calls "trafficking in stolen property," i.e. that very grotesque way of referring to the fact that Cuba, when the Revolution triumphed, was within its right under international law to nationalize property owned by foreign companies in Cuba and that since then some of that property has been occupied or otherwise used by those Title III targets. Cuba offered compensation according to international law for the properties that were nationalized at the beginning of the Revolution. In the early years of the Revolution, every single country which faced the nationalization of its properties -- France, Canada, Britain, you name it -- came to an agreement with Cuba on compensation. Cuba offered compensation to U.S. companies too, but the United States blocked the attempts of any of these companies to accept and engage in negotiations with Cuba.

What is interesting is that under the Obama administration when there was a formalization of diplomatic relations and an attempt to move to what was said to be a different relationship, one that was still aimed at undermining the Revolution, but in new and less aggressive ways, U.S. companies actually began to look at some of these approaches to compensation as well. They began to look at what are referred to as certified cases, to actually begin to resolve some of the cases. Of course, it is important to understand that the Cubans themselves say that aside from compensation for U.S. companies, there is the question of the enormous damage caused by U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba which totals over a trillion U.S. dollars. As well, there is the cost of Cuban lives from all manner of terrorist acts that have been carried out against Cuba from U.S. territory.

The United States has waged an unabated, unceasing economic war against Cuba since the early '60s. The Helms-Burton Act is an escalation of this war against Cuba and an overt attempt to economically asphyxiate Cuba through the violation of international law, by attempting to cut off Cuba's economic links with other parts of the world and sources of foreign investment. It is used to take punitive action against companies that are doing business in Cuba, with those that also carry on business with or have assets in the U.S. being especially vulnerable.

The Helms-Burton Act's full title is grotesque; it is the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996. It has nothing to do with the liberty of Cuba. In fact it is all about returning Cuba to U.S. domination, hegemony and tutelage. It has nothing to do with democracy because it is a fundamental violation of the right of the Cuban people to self-determination. It also violates the sovereignty of third countries that engage in trade with Cuba.

When it comes to Canada, for example, the largest single foreign investor in Cuba is Sherritt International which has interests in mining, in petroleum, and in other sectors of the Cuban economy.

TMLW: Tell us about the international community's opposition to the Helms-Burton Act.

IS: It is opposed by the international community because it is a flagrant violation of established norms of international trade and international law. Its aim is to make U.S. law the law that trumps (no pun intended) and supersedes domestic law. For example, in Canada, U.S. law would trump Canadian law and Canadians would have to follow U.S. law to avoid putting operations and assets they might have in the U.S. in jeopardy. Canadian companies themselves would not be allowed to trade with Cuba without facing some very significant economic sanctions from the United States. 

When the Helms-Burton Act was passed in 1996, there was opposition from Canada. There was opposition from European countries. Every U.S. President, first Clinton and then the others, has suspended Title III of the Helms-Burton Act every six months in order that lawsuits cannot be launched against companies by U.S. citizens whose properties were nationalized or by Cuban-Americans who left Cuba and became U.S. citizens and claim that there is property that belonged to them in Cuba for which they have a right to claim compensation through U.S. courts. What happened under the Trump administration was they lessened the six-month waiver of Title III to 45 days, then to an even shorter period, creating an increased sense of insecurity, until announcing on April 17 that they would begin fully implementing it as of May 2.

So because of the pressure from the international community, the Presidents before Trump decided that they had to waive Title III. Why? Because at the end of the day its extraterritorial nature represents a fundamental violation of the sovereignty of each individual country in the world, attempting to make U.S. law the dominant law in their countries, trumping and overriding domestic law when it comes to companies doing business with Cuba. For example, European countries and Canada, the largest investors in Cuba, have legislation on the books to limit the effect of extraterritorial measures initiated by other countries against entities in their countries. In 1985 Canada adopted the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act (FEMA), which in 1997 was further strengthened specifically to deal with the Helms-Burton Act, by blocking its enforcement in Canada.

TMLW: Tell us something about Title III's violation of Canadian sovereignty and how FEMA is applied.

IS: I will give you an example. In 2017, we had the case of Honda Canada being fined tens of thousands of dollars for having leased cars to the Cuban Embassy. This was seen as a violation of U.S. sanctions against Cuba given that a U.S. company, American Honda Finance Corporation was a majority shareholder of Honda Canada Finance. The company was fined even though both the lessor and the lessee were in Canada. There are other cases. Another example is that the executives of the Canadian company Sherritt International are barred from travelling to the United States. Their children are barred from attending U.S. schools because they can't get visas under Title IV of Helms-Burton.

As an example of what could happen now with the activation of Title III, consider the situation of Air Canada, Sunwing, and Air Transat that are engaged in flying tourists to Cuba, involved in setting up a whole variety of tourist packages with hotels in Cuba as well as having airport landing rights. Ships with docking rights in Cuban ports could also be targeted. It is a fact that Canada provides the largest single source of tourists for Cuba. Last year I think more than five million people visited the island, and there are close to a million-and-a-half Canadians visiting Cuba annually. Air Canada, Air Transat and Sunwing could be accused of engaging in business in Cuba that involves what the United States considers to be nationalized property, what they call stolen property. Those companies could be subject to a series of lawsuits and judgments in U.S. courts.
As for FEMA, it was enacted in 1985 to block the extra-territorial application of foreign laws to Canadian businesses. It enables the Attorney General to issue orders blocking extraterritorial measures from being taken against Canadians and Canadian entities. An individual or corporation that breaches FEMA or an order made under FEMA, can be subject to fines and/or imprisonment. A Blocking Order issued in 1992 requires that a Canadian corporation notify the Attorney General of any directive or other communication it receives relating to a U.S. extraterritorial measure being initiated against it in respect of any trade or commerce between that corporation and Cuba. It also prohibits Canadian corporations from complying with any such measures considered likely to prevent, impede or reduce trade or commerce between Canada and Cuba.

FEMA was amended in 1997 to specifically deal with Title III of the Helms-Burton Act so that it now can be used to block U.S. judgments from being enforced in Canada, restrict the production of records to U.S. courts in Title III actions, and give Canadians the right to counter-sue in a Canadian court to recover damages awarded against them in the U.S. plus court costs. FEMA cannot however be used to recover monetary damages awarded against any assets Canadian individuals or businesses might have in the U.S. or possibly other foreign jurisdictions.

As far as I know, FEMA has ever been enforced in court so there is no case law to consult regarding its application.

TMLW: Can you elaborate how the enforcement of Title III will affect Canada-Cuba economic relations?

IS: Canada has significant economic relations with Cuba. Are these companies going to succumb to this economic pressure? If they persist and continue their relations with Cuba will they be sued in U.S. courts? What will happen then? What will be the economic impact not only on them but on the Canadian economy? Or, importantly, will other companies now be extremely wary of investing in Cuba, of engaging in this kind of commercial economic practice and intercourse with Cuba for fear of facing claims for damages under Title III? That is considered by many to be the main aim of activating Title III.

So there are all of these factors that we have to take into consideration. For example, if a suit is brought against Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing will they be able to economically bear that burden? What will happen to tourism? Will Canadians now find Cuba cut off for them as a tourist destination? All of these are things for us to bear in mind. And we also have to bear in mind that Canadians have been travelling to Cuba in their hundreds upon hundreds of thousands and have developed a very strong respect for what Cuba has been able to do in the face of incredible U.S. aggression. They respect the Cubans for having overcome the obstacles that the U.S. empire continues to put in their path.

It is going to have a huge impact. Mark Agnew, who is from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said that this "could affect any company which has any relationship with Cuba." Sherritt International Corporation has, I think, over $2 billion invested in Cuba. We have other Canadian companies that trade with or are investing in Cuba. We have banks like the National Bank of Canada which has offices there. We have Quebec and Alberta farmers who have significant interactions with Cuba. We have the airlines. They could be facing very significant lawsuits that could burden them with economic problems they might not be able to overcome.

TMLW: Please elaborate on how the activation of Title III attacks the Cuban nation and people.

IS: This is a continuation of the war against Cuba. It is a fundamental violation of the right of Cuba to trade with anyone in the world, engage in partnerships with foreign entities and benefit from foreign investment. It is a violation of the right of the Cuban people to self-determination, to determine their political, economic, social and cultural system without any political interference, a right enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and in the various covenants on international, economic, political and civil rights. It is a fundamental violation of Cuba's right to choose its own path and an attempt to return Cuba to being a neo-colony of the United States. It is an attempt to extinguish its national aspirations to establish what José Martí, the hero of Cuba's historic struggles to achieve genuine independence and a just society, described as "a nation with all and for all," i.e. a sovereign nation which is fully in the hands of the Cuban people, a nation in which the resources are used for the benefit of every citizen, for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

This is an attempt by the United States to destroy Cuba's nation-building project. It is also in a sense an attack on Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. The U.S. has clearly said that the Monroe Doctrine applies and is showing by its actions that it believes Manifest Destiny also applies, that it has the right to determine the economic and political arrangements in Latin America and the Caribbean. Not only does the U.S. say it has the right but it will use its might to try and enforce it. So we have what is going on in Venezuela, the attempt to overthrow the Maduro government and replace it with one that will do U.S. bidding. We have the declaration that Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba constitute a troika of evil. We have the militarization of Latin America, the rejection of the call to make Latin America and the Caribbean a Zone of Peace.

But it is also important to understand what will happen when Helms-Burton's Title III is unleashed. I think there will be very significant challenges from the European Union -- before the World Trade Organization and using their own blocking statute. What we may also see with Helms-Burton Title III is the shattering of established international arrangements. Does it mean that might makes right? Will it gain acceptance for the use of  force in its various connotations as the dominant factor in international relations? Will it gain acceptance for the  shredding of international law?

By opposing Helms-Burton, not only do we uphold the sovereignty of nations, and in our particular case, Canadian sovereignty, but we uphold the right to and the necessity for the rule of law.

TMLW: How should the Canadian government respond to this?

IS: In my opinion the Canadian government should very vociferously, in all national and international fora, reject the extraterritorial nature of Helms-Burton. It should uphold Canadian sovereignty and act in keeping with its vote at the United Nations condemning the illegal U.S. economic, financial and commercial blockade of Cuba. It is important to bear in mind that since 1992 members of the UN General Assembly have repeatedly and overwhelmingly opposed the U.S. blockade of Cuba, and particularly its extraterritorial features, representing one resounding victory after another for Cuba. I think that the Canadian government and Canadian parliamentarians should not allow Canada's policies towards Cuba or its relations with Cuba to be targeted and undermined with this latest aggressive move by the U.S. In fact they should stand up for Canadian sovereignty as well as Cuba's and the sovereignty and right to self-determination of all those potentially affected.

TMLW: Do you have any concluding thoughts?

IS: In conclusion, I would say that this is a very dangerous turn in relations. The Trump administration is obviously engaging in a policy of vindictiveness. They want to eliminate the Cuban Revolution which has always been a concrete example of self-determination in Latin America. The situation is at a very critical point and we must ensure that we do not allow this to stand.

I would also like to say that despite all of this, there is significant confidence in the Canada-Cuba solidarity movement that the Cuban people can and will overcome any challenges that they face including this latest provocation by the United States, this latest act of aggression, this latest escalation of the U.S. economic war against Cuba. I think also that the Cuban people can be confident, that they can count on the ongoing undiminished support and friendship of Canadians. That support and friendship is rooted in the overwhelming respect of Canadians for Cuba's rights, 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 of friendship between the people of Canada and Cuba. 

The Canadian government should recognize this by taking a resolute, unequivocal political stand against this latest vindictive act of the U.S. and by using all available legal means at home and internationally to combat its effects. It is an act of aggression not just against the Cuban people but against the Canadian people, against the Canadian nation and the fundamental principle of sovereignty.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

International Committee
for Peace, Justice and Dignity

Tuesday March 12, WEBINAR, 
Featuring the Film "Cubanas, Mujeres en Revolución"
Join the National Network on Cuba for an International Working Women's Month special presentation:

When: Tuesday March 12, 2019 
8:00 PM Eastern/5:00 PM Pacific
Watch the new film:  
Cubanas, Mujeres en Revolución

Register in advance for this web special:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Cubanas, Mujeres en Revolución (A documentary by Maria Torrellas.)

Cubanas, Mujeres en Revolución is a 90 minutes film with English subtitles produced by Resumen Latinoamericano.
It has been shown in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Venezuela, Spain, France, Canada, England, Turkey and San Francisco CA, and will now be shown for the first time in Washington DC.
This film evokes the continuous role of women in the Revolution, both in the guerrilla struggle and in the construction of the new Cuban society, through the testimonies of heroines such as Vilma Espín, Celia Sánchez and Haydée Santamaría, the founding figures of the Revolution, and also of contemporary women from different sectors of Cuban society.
Reflections and life experiences that show how these women were nourished by the values built in the revolutionary struggle in the late 1950s. 


Cuban Foreign Ministry 
Denounces Escalating U.S. Hostility
The U.S. State Department announced today the decision to allow, as of March 19 this year, the filing of lawsuits before U.S. courts under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act only against Cuban companies included on the List of Restricted Entities issued by that government in November of 2017, which was updated one year later. This arbitrary and illegitimate list, intended to tighten the blockade and expand its extraterritorial effects, forbids U.S. citizens from engaging in direct financial transactions with the aforementioned entities.

The announcement made by the U.S. State Department also indicated that it would suspend for only 30 days the option of initiating legal action with the same purposes against other Cuban entities or foreign companies which maintain commercial or economic relations with Cuba.

Since its entry into effect in 1996, the Helms-Burton Act has sought to universalize the economic blockade through brutal and illegal pressures exerted by the United States against third countries, their governments, and companies. It is intended to asphyxiate the Cuban economy, and generate or increase shortages among the population with the purpose of imposing in Cuba a government that serves the interests of the U.S.

Given the illegitimate character of the goals they pursue, which are contrary to international law, the Helms-Burton Act and the blockade arouse universal rejection, which has been reiterated for almost three decades within the most important regional and international fora. The most recent example of this was the United Nations General Assembly meeting held on November 1, when this policy was rejected in 10 consecutive votes, thus leaving the U.S. completely isolated.

Title II of the Helms-Burton Act states that the overthrowing of the revolutionary government, the subsequent tutelage by a U.S. intervenor and the subsequent establishment of a counterrevolutionary government subordinate to Washington, that would no doubt pursue the return to, or compensation for, former owners of all properties they or their descendants might claim, regardless of whether or not they were U.S. citizens at the time the nationalizations took place, or the fact that they abandoned the property. During this entire period, the economic blockade would continue to be fully implemented.

Consequently, Cubans would be forced to return, reimburse or pay U.S. claimants for the house in which they live, the area on which their communities are built, the arable land where they cultivate produce, the school where their children are educated, the hospital or polyclinic where they receive medical assistance, the place where their workplace is located or where they have a private business, and also sites used to provide subsidized services such as electricity, water, and communications enjoyed by the population.

This is an aspiration that can only be conceived by the minds of those who identify Cuba as a colonial possession. According to the Helms-Burton Act, the economic blockade would be lifted only when that ambition is fulfilled.

This law relies on two fundamental lies: the notion that nationalizations carried out soon after the triumph of the Revolutionary were illegitimate or inappropriate, and that Cuba is a threat to the U.S. national security.

Cuban nationalizations were carried out in accordance with the law, strictly abiding by the Constitution and in accordance with international law. All nationalizations included processes of fair and appropriate compensation, something that the U.S. government refused to consider. Cuba reached and honored global compensation agreements with other nations which are today investing in Cuba, such as Spain, Switzerland, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

The real threat to regional peace and security are the irresponsible declarations and actions of the U.S. government as well as the destabilization plans aimed at Latin America and the Caribbean, pursuing the express purpose of imposing the Monroe Doctrine.

The Reaffirmation of Cuban Dignity and Sovereignty Act of December 24, 1996, states that the Helms-Burton Act is illegal, inapplicable, and has no legal value or effect whatsoever. It considers null and void any claim under that law by any individual or legal entity.

According to that law, claims for compensation for nationalized properties could be part of a process of negotiation on the based on equality and mutual respect between the governments of Cuba and the United States, and be "reviewed together with the indemnifications the Cuban state and people are entitled to as a result of the damages caused by the blockade and aggression of every sort, for which the U.S. government is responsible". It also makes it clear that those who resort to procedures or mechanisms under the Helms-Burton Act, to the detriment of others, will be excluded from possible future negotiations.

The Cuban Government reiterates to all economic partners and foreign companies operating in Cuba that full guarantees will be granted to foreign investments and joint projects. Article 28 of the Cuban Constitution, which was ratified by an overwhelming majority on February 24, 2019, also recognizes these guarantees, which are additionally included in Law No. 118 on Foreign Investment of March 29, 2014.

Today's decision imposes additional obstacles to our economic development and progress goals, but the United States will continue to fail to achieve its main objective of suppressing by force the sovereign will of Cubans and our determination to build socialism. The majority opinion of the peoples of Cuba and the United States, in favor of improved relations, and the development of civilized, respectful coexistence, will prevail.
International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity
Havana, March 4, 2019