Arnold August' s Views

McGill University Montreal






The U.S.’ Refusal of Entry to Arnold August Is a Dangerous Precedent for All Activists



On March 16, 2019, more than 1000 activists from across the U.S. gathered in Washington, DC for the “U.S Hands Off Venezuela!” demonstration.  However, Canadian journalist Arnold August was not one of them – earlier in the day he was unjustly denied entry into the United States at U.S. Customs and Immigration in the Montreal Airport.
As August explained in a video posted on social media, after asking the U.S. border officials multiple times the reason for his denial of entry, he was told that he was denied entry due to previous arrests in Canada. This was in reference to his arrests at antiwar and labour protests in the 1970’s.
However, as August also stated, the U.S. border control authorities had been aware of these arrests during his other entries into the U.S.: “Previously they have delayed my departure into the U.S., where I missed a plane but finally left, and on other occasions let me go through, but never have they stopped me.”
So, the question is – why deny him entry now? What message is the U.S. government sending to independent journalists and activists by denying Arnold August’s democratic right to express his political views in support of the sovereignty of Venezuela at a peaceful demonstration?
Since the U.S./NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the government of the U.S. has carried out continuous wars and occupations in parts of the Middle East and North Africa. In tandem with these wars abroad there has also been a concerning increase in the political targeting of journalists and activists in order to quell opposition to war and suppress voices of dissent. Subsequently, the U.S. border, where people crossing are already stripped of many fundamental human and democratic rights, has become an increasingly threatening and brutal place.
Today, the U.S. government is at war with Venezuela. In the last two months, they have escalated their illegal efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Nicolás Maduro. This has included an attempted coup d’état led by U.S.  sponsored Venezuelan legislator, Juan Guaidó. This coup attempt has been defeated in Venezuela by a committed network of community-based organizations, the armed forces, and hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who have been demonstrating in the streets against any illegal foreign intervention. Also, the dangerous provocations and news manipulations at Venezuela’s borders with Colombia and Brazil in the name of so-called humanitarian aid has not been successful. Together with the European Union, Canada, Switzerland, and Panama, the U.S. government has imposed crippling economic sanctions against the people of Venezuela.
It is no coincidence that August was refused entry into the United States while on his way to attend a protest demanding an end to U.S. war on Venezuela. The U.S. government is actively attempting to limit the reach of his dissenting voice, and send a signal to other like-minded people, that they too might be targeted. As August explained in an interview for this article, “I guess they didn’t like what I was doing with regards to Venezuela within the United States of America.”
Along with many other independent journalists, August has been advocating for an end to the U.S. war on Venezuela and exposing the misinformation and manipulations of the U.S. government and mainstream media pundits about Venezuela and President Maduro. His opposition to both the U.S. and Canadian policy of sanctions and aggression against this South American nation has been well publicized.
The red flag really goes up when you examine similar cases of U.S. and Canadian border officials politically targeting activists and journalists. There is a clear pattern of government attacks on fundamental human and democratic rights of people crossing borders to exercise their freedom of speech and assembly, as well as their right to dissent. These abuses have ranged from well-known political activists being harassed and “banned” at the border, to the denial of entry to groups of people to attend a peaceful protest or conference.
In fact, when I heard that Arnold August was stopped from entering the border, I immediately recalled my own two-year ban from Canada, which was imposed after I was politically targeted at the border in 2007 and questioned about my antiwar and social justice work.
Back in 2007, within a few months of my banning, Medea Benjamin and former United States Army Colonel Ann Wright, leading U.S. peace activists and organizers with Code Pink, were also targeted and denied entry into Canada. As Ann Wright explained in Common Dreams, “I had been denied entry to Canada twice in 2007 and Medea had been denied once in 2007. Canadian immigration told us that we were ineligible to enter Canada because of our arrests (not convictions, just arrests) for peaceful, non-violent protest Washington, DC in front of the White House and the US Congress; in New York at the US mission to the United Nations and the United Nations itself; in Crawford, Texas; and San Francisco, California.” Targeting them for exclusion set a dangerous precedent for the harassment of political activists, and people with dissenting views, on both sides of the U.S./Canada border.
Another notable case is that of Ilija Trojanow, a Bulgarian–German writer who was denied entry into the United States, without being given any reason. He is well-known for his writing in opposition to the National Security Administration (NSA). Trojanow was on his way to attend an academic conference. There is also recent precedent even for the targeting of people who are not well-known for their political views. For example, in 2017 there were multiple news stories about people being turned away from entering the United States from Canada while on route to the Women’s March for “planning to attend a ‘potentially violent rally’,” as reported in the Independent .
Since then, expanding cooperation between US and Canadian authorities at the US/Canada border has also been further exposed. As reported by the Guardian newspaper, in 2016, U.S. President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau expanded an FBI “anti-terrorism” database called “Tuscan” that provides more than 680,000 names to every border guard. This is a database clothed in secrecy, and no doubt full of errors, akin to the “No Fly Lists” that the U.S. and Canada both continue to maintain.
There is also the recent case of harassment experienced by Code Pink activists Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright who were questioned at the airport by the FBI upon their return from a peace delegation to Iran. They were “greeted by FBI agents who had a whole dossier on us of what we did, which mostly they got from our own website, our blogs. But they also had a packet of information for us about the sanctions on Iran, the U.S. government policies towards Iran, the issue about registering as a foreign agent, indictment of Iranian groups to scare us away from talking to them,” as reported to Real News.
These exclusions constitute a slippery slope towards limiting our democratic rights to organize and express political views peacefully. In 2014, the New York Times reported that  “A past arrest or conviction — even a public admission of illegal activity — can be grounds for inadmissibility. So can political activism or the impression that a traveler is visiting on business without obtaining a work visa.”
From the “Muslim ban” and the brutal crackdown on refugees and asylum seekers attempting to enter the United States, to continuous targeting of people at the borders due to their skin colour, religion or country of origin, both the U.S. and Canada’s borders are increasingly becoming zones free of respect for human and democratic rights or international law.
As the U.S. government ramps up its war against the people of Venezuela, our united actions across the U.S. and Canada border, such as rallies and conferences, are more important than ever before.  When Arnold August was refused entry into the United States, it was an attack against the human and democratic right to express dissenting views, organize and gather in opposition to the United States sanctions and war against Venezuela, and to share reports on what is happening in Venezuela today.
When it comes to how to support Arnold August following his political targeting at the U.S. border – he had a clear response: “I would say that the most important thing is not to support me, but rather to support the Bolivarian revolution, support the cause of Venezuela’s right to self-determination.”
With regard to August’s commitment to continue supporting Venezuela against U.S. war, he said, “Of course, I will continue to write on Venezuela. In fact, I would say that I am even more determined to tell the truth about Venezuela, to support the Bolivarian revolution, to support Cuba.”
The practice by the US and Canadian governments of refusing entry of those who express dissent from official policy erodes our democratic rights both at and beyond the border. By reducing the parameters of acceptable debate, this practice of excluding other points of view poses a serious curtailment of free speech and assembly not just for activists, but for everyone engaged in debate on the most urgent issues of our day.
This piece was first published by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA).

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Cuba’s Referendum: Cuba Has Indeed “Changed” but Not as Some Had Hoped
By Arnold August
March 1, 2019
The final results were announced on March 1st, 2019. However, based on my visit to Cuba last September–October, during the course of the debate when people had the opportunity to revise the draft (which they DID – and moved it toward the “left”!), and during a recent visit to Havana at the end of January into early February, I am not at all surprised by the very positive results.
The campaign and the voting took place under very difficult conditions. A concerted campaign by the most diverse sectors in the U.S. and inside Cuba itself against a positive outcome constituted one of the most ferocious examples in recent history of the ideological, political and cultural war being waged against the Cuban socialist option.
For example, a former Cuban diplomat and academic resident in Havana was quoted in the corporate media just before the vote:
All this propaganda [for the Yes] has created the image of strong pressure on people to vote yes, and that if you vote no there’s something wrong with you… From what I can tell, if you add together the no votes, the ballot papers left blank or invalidated and the abstentions, we are somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of the total electoral roll… That would mean only around 60 percent voted “yes.” And the valid votes would be between 70 and 80 percent, and not at 97 percent as in the local 1976 [referendum]…. The country has changed.
First, one cannot compare the results of the 1976 referendum (about 97% voter turnout with about 97% in favour of the constitution) with those of the 2019 referendum. To do so serves, wittingly or not, to purposely place the bar too high in order to discredit the current process. The historical conditions of 1976 compared with 2019 are entirely different, and beyond the scope of this short piece.
In fact, voter turnout in the national elections that take place every five years has been decreasing regularly since 1993 (99.57%) to 1998 (98.35%) to 2003 (97.64%) to 2008 (96.89%), with the most significant drop in 2013 (90.88%) and with yet a further dip for the latest elections in 2018 to 82.9%.
In the same vein as the first source quoted above, an accredited foreign journalist in Havana who actively campaigned for the “no” side or at least for abstention was also betting on the preconceived notion that Cuba has “changed” and is moving away from socialism. (By the way, no one charged this journalist for interfering in Cuba’s electoral process!) He headlined: “Cubans expected to voice unprecedented opposition in constitutional vote” – and the content went like this: “Opposition to the new charter could reach a quarter of the vote, one Cuban analyst said, a major increase from the low single digits of past votes.”
For a third example, the CNN Havana correspondent dared to headline: “Does socialism have a future? Cubans are hitting the polls.” It goes on: “Millions of Cubans are about to tell the world ‘yes’ – or so Havana hopes.” Havana hopes? As if millions of Cubans had not already participated in the constitutional debate, when, in fact, they “changed” it to be closer to socialism and even to include the ideal of communism, which had been deleted in the draft.
This media orientation directed by the U.S.-centric view on Cuban society, which dictates that Cubans cannot really desire socialism, is part of the ideological and political war to give the impression that the “yes” vote is forced upon the Cubans by the government. To make it even more ominous, the CNN correspondent, after quoting the usual dissident sources, concludes on a very ominous note:
In one government-produced video on social media, former Cuban spy and one-time U.S. prisoner Gerardo Hernández raises the stakes. “I will vote ‘yes’ because there are two groups, the ‘yes’ and the ‘no,’” he says. “The ones calling us to vote ‘no’ are the traitorous enemies of Cuba.”
Oh, the Cubans are so scared! Big Brother is watching.
There were many other examples such as these.
What were the results and why were the soothsayers wrong?
These are the results according to the national tabulation of official vote-counting in the local electoral colleges (which I personally witnessed during elections in 1997–98 and again in 2007–8 whereby nothing is more transparent):
Voter turnout: 90.15% of eligible voters
Yes: 86.85%
No: 9.00%
Blank or spoiled: 4.50%
Voter turnout was much higher than in the latest general elections in 2018, which, as mentioned above, registered 82.9%. One must keep in mind that the media war against the elections was less ferocious in 2018, for the most recent national parliamentarian elections, than in the February 2019 referendum. This cultural war began well before the referendum period itself. Thus, despite the adverse conditions, the February 2019 voter turnout represents, for the first time since 1993, a reversal of the trend toward lower voter turnout.
One very important factor: the 1976 referendum did not have to deal with the U.S.-led media offensive through social media, which of course did not exist in 1976.
However, the most important result is 86.85% for “yes” and 9.00% for “no.” This represents a very strong majority.
Thus, my very initial evaluation is that Cuba has indeed “changed” and is going through a process of change, even though it is not the type of change hoped for by some. When one considers the grassroots debates from mid-August to mid-November and the referendum campaign itself, one sees that Cuba has changed – and is changing – toward a more socialist model.
Is this part of the revival of what some thought was dead and buried, what they call “the pink tide”? The referendum vote came on the same weekend as the Bolivarian Revolution’s amazing victory against the U.S.-led coup d’état attempt (February 23) through “humanitarian aid.” Is this part of a new awakening in Latin America and the Caribbean that is represented by changes that strike fear in the hearts of the enemies of the Cuban and Bolivarian Revolutions? We will see in the coming weeks and months, as events are unfolding rapidly. I am optimistic.

Source- Periodico 26 Las Tunas: www.periodico26.cu/

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“60 Years of Defending Cuban Sovereignty Against the Most Barbarous Empire Since World War II Fascism.”
When Fidel Castro triumphantly announced the people’s victory on January 1, 1959, it had been barely 15 years since the U.S. had savagely bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This atrocity marked the passage of the baton of barbarism from the inhumanity of World War II to the U.S. Since the devastating atomic bombing, it has been documented that the U.S., in its insatiable drive for world domination, has killed more than 20 million people in 37 nations. Innumerable murderous invasions have taken place around the world, such as in Korea, Vietnam and the Playa Girón military intervention that was defeated by Cuba in less than 72 hours. All of this constitutes an uncivilized foreign policy reminiscent of WWII cruelty. What would have happened to Cuba and Latin America had the Revolution led by Fidel Castro not defeated the U.S. incursion?
As Washington continuously beefs up its economic and military imperial overreach, its ongoing international gunboat diplomacy is now backed up by more than 800 military bases (from giant “Little Americas” to small radar stations) virtually all over the world, including Guantánamo. All of this foreign policy and more, such as the increasing use of the Internet as the new road to regime change (e.g. in Cuba, especially since 2014), constitute the daily staple of arrogant threats, murderous aggression and cynical interference by the U.S. All of this happens every day on many occasions through allied states, such as Israel’s ongoing slow genocide against the Palestinian people. The post-WWII violation of other countries’ sovereignty and international law occurs with virtually no international protection. The blockade against Cuba is a case in point of international impunity. The peoples of the world, such as the Cubans, can rely only on their own forces and support from the peoples and progressive nations in the world struggling to maintain a multi-polar world to resist U.S. domination.
The Cuban Revolution has been curbing the U.S. for 60 of the 75 years since the inauguration of the “new face” of the post-WWII barbaric epoch. This period, based on inhumanity to the extreme, shifted from Europe and East Asia to the U.S., only 90 miles from Cuba’s shores. Think of this geopolitical and historical reality as people in every corner of the planet reflect today upon the historic significance of the 60th anniversary.
The Genocidal Blockade
One can say that the Cuban Revolution has withstood the Empire almost throughout the latter’s entire post-WWII lifespan as the successor of the unparalleled cruelty witnessed in WWII, which has always been on Cuba’s doorstep in one form or another. This worldwide and historic post-WWII order incorporates an added consequence as far as Latin America and the Caribbean are concerned. This additional feature stems from the U.S. nightmare consisting of the constantly looming and ever-threatening Latin American revolt against colonialism and imperialism since the time of Bolívar and Martí in the 19th century. The U.S. has thus added a specific cruel club against Cuba – also targeting its inspirational influence not only in the whole region south of the Rio Grande but in the very heart of the belly of the beast itself, as Martí called the U.S., where he lived and worked. This additional diabolical American measure, imposed just one year after the 1959 triumph, can only be called genocide. Genocide? It is the American blockade itself, which defines it as such while, of course, not using the word “genocide.” The blockade, striving to involve all nations, has as its explicit 1960 goal to force the Cuban people into submission through “economic dissatisfaction and hardship.”
The effects of the ruthless blockade, especially since the implosion of its allies (the Soviet bloc) close to 30 years ago (almost half the life of the Revolution), have been devastating. Notwithstanding the problems stemming from Cuba’s own shortcomings, every day in the life of the Cuban family or individuals is affected by the blockade as the main obstacle to its normal economic development.
Transportation is one daily reminder of the blockade. The procurement and preparation of food constitutes another for the vast majority of Cuban people. Drastic limits to housing renovations that often include frustrating outdated plumbing and electricity is yet another expression of the U.S. siege of Cuba. Health services are deprived of close-by American pharmaceuticals and hospital equipment. Even education, which can be seen as a “non-material” service, is affected, for example, by the need to import paper for classroom materials, such as books, from far-off lands. Yet, the overwhelming majority of Cubans have not surrendered – and are not surrendering – to the U.S., according to Washington’s script. The 60-year-old Cuban Revolution stands as firm as it was in its very infancy in the period 1959–61.
Venezuela in U.S. Crosshairs
However, one has to appreciate, on this historic day for the world of January 1, 2019, that no aggressive U.S. policy against the Cuban Revolution is ever discarded. After the fall of the Soviet bloc and the simultaneously planned tightening of the U.S. blockade, which also made it extraterritorial in the wake of this setback in Europe, the U.S. went for the jugular in the 1990s. Then, soon after, and with the hope of defeating Cuba once and for all, the U.S. set Cuba’s closest and most significant ally, Venezuela, in its crosshairs. The Bolivarian Revolution led by Hugo Chávez emerged as the first major reversal of the 1989–91 setback in Latin America, and indeed the world. Moreover, it happened in what the U.S. considers its “backyard.” When socialism and revolution were supposed to be outdated phenomena of the past, in December 1998, Chávez completed the first step of the long struggle of the resilient Venezuela toward revolution. It was, one could say metaphorically, that 1998–99 comprised Venezuela’s “January 1, 1959.” The U.S. never accepted the new Bolivarian Revolution in Caracas, as it never swallowed the bitter pill of the Cuban Revolution. This was the case even more so, given that Venezuela immediately after 1989 became a close political and economic ally of Cuba based on mutual benefit.
As the ultimate cynical policy, while making overtures to Cuba for one-and-a-half years before being made public in December 2014, the same Washington declared Venezuela a “threat to U.S. security” only three months later, in March 2015. This contemptuous Machiavellian policy, so characteristic of ruthlessness for centuries, led to imposing sanctions on Cuba’s ally that were designed to cripple it and, of course, as a hoped-for by-product, to squeeze Cuba into submission. This 2015 U.S. Venezuela policy also paved the way for the current U.S. approach of possible military intervention to put an end to the Latin American nightmare come true in the form of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Yet Cuba has been – and is still – heroically resisting, even under these new unfavourable conditions, as it also goes about to form new economic and trade relations with other countries. Cuba refuses to kneel before the most powerful nation on earth, a stance it has maintained for 60 years. It is a universally recognized fact that Cuba, Fidel Castro, his legacy and followers today have stood up to the U.S. in defence of Cuban sovereignty. Love it or hate it, there is no escaping this historical fact. The revolutionary Cuban people have earned their well-derived reputation through blood, sweat and tears and thus deserve the full support of all justice-loving people around the world. Cuba is lacking many goods and material benefits. However, the vast majority of Cuban people, both individually and collectively, benefit from the hard-fought-for blessing of something that we in capitalist countries do not have: dignity. Honour cannot flourish in the capitalist and imperialist West that carries out war, aggression and interference in the name of human rights and democracy denied its very own countries. Dignity in the capitalist West is built only from the bottom up in defiance of capital and the Empire, whose wars of aggression bring shame and dishonour to the peoples of the assailing nations.
As a result of maintaining its sovereignty at all costs, Cuba can work out its plans for the political, economic, social, cultural and other realms based on its own needs and criteria. Over the period of six decades, through the twists and turns, deceptions and successes since 1959, this is what Cuba has been doing. Moreover, on every major step of policy change, it does so with the full participation of the people. Despite the stereotype that is projected in the West, there is no country in the world that compares with Cuba when it comes to being characterized by debate.
The Political Culture of Debate
This political culture of debate is so entrenched in society that it is an inseparable part of the political landscape. Cubans are clearly used to openly discussing and debating politics. It is a way of life on the island. This tradition goes back to the second half of the mid-19th century, when under Spanish occupation, Cubans discussed and voted for members of four constituent assemblies, which in turn debated, discussed and approved as many constitutions. This took place over 150 years ago while, at the time, the main detractor of Cuba’s current constitutional reform – the U.S. – still had an 18th-century constitution worked out behind closed doors by a handful of slave owners and a wealthy few.
When the Revolution won out on January 1 sixty years ago, Fidel appeared on the balcony of the city hall in Santiago de Cuba to address the crowd in an interactive way. In fact, from that day on, Fidel contributed to the resurrection of the political culture of debate, which had been kept largely in the background by U.S. colonial domination, apart from some short periods, for example, the revolutionary upsurge in the 1930s and the approval of the 1940 constitution.
The political culture of debate, as mutually fostered since 1959 by the new leadership and the humble in favour of the latter, is best captured by Che Guevara: “At the great public mass meetings one can observe something like a dialogue of two tuning forks whose vibrations interact, producing new sounds.” Furthermore, highlighting how the people participated in decision making, Guevara remembers, “Fidel and the mass begin to vibrate together in a dialogue of growing intensity until they reach the climax in an abrupt conclusion.” He concedes that “for someone not living the experience,” it is a “difficult thing to understand,” referring to the “close dialectical unity between the individual and the mass in which both are interrelated.” Faithful to his appreciation of the individual’s role, Guevara concludes, “The mass, as an aggregate of individuals, interacts with its leaders.”
The latest example of this political culture of debate, perhaps one of the most historic since 1959 (even though one would never know it by relying on the corporate press in the West) just took place. Discussions were carried out from August 13 to November 15, 2018 to review the Draft to renew the 1976 Cuban Constitution. In all places of work, educational institutions and neighbourhoods, major changes were suggested. One of the most significant by many Cuban accounts is the issue of the term “communism.” It was originally contained in the 1976 Magna Carta as the goal of the Revolutionary process but was deleted in the Draft. It came back as a result of the public discussion as a colourful expression of Cuba’s political culture of debate, which is so ingrained that no force can smother it. The battle of ideas was waged mainly by revolutionary bloggers and writers.
To sum up the changes, the 1976 Constitution was worded: “…the construction of socialism and the progress toward a communist society.” The 2018 Draft submitted to the people for debate and input was worded: “…toward the construction of socialism.” The final December 2018 revised version, which took into account the debate and will be submitted to the citizens in a referendum to be held on February 24, 2019, is worded: “…toward the construction of socialism and communism.”
Participatory Democracy Toward Protagonist Democracy?
This latest change in article 5 is no small matter. When the news broke last July 2018 that the Draft eliminated the word “communism,” the international press in the West yelled victory: “Cuba gives up communism!” However, the idiosyncrasy of Cuba’s political culture of debate put a damper on the euphoria and, at the same time, blew to bits the ongoing media terrorism, namely that “communism is imposed from above.” As a poetic twist of fate, it came from the grass roots. While the debates were organized at the base and provided the opportunity for every citizen to contribute and argue for their respective views, one had to be very pro-active to raise the “communism” controversy. The Draft was, after all, proposed by the entire leadership and the Cuban Parliament. Thus, this latest experience in Cuban democracy went beyond participatory democracy toward protagonist democracy, which, I my view, is a qualitatively higher form of participatory democracy. It is not the first time in Cuba’s unique experience in consultation that radical changes came from the grass roots. However, this one on “communism,” watched by the whole world, is in a class of its own, Thus, on the eve of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, this is a very fitting tribute to the Revolution and its architect, Fidel.
Now that the Cuban Revolution has recharged its battery with Fidel’s legacy of debate and exchange, it is ready to confront all current attempts by the barbarism of the North and their allies to divide the people and the leadership of Councils of State and Ministers, and to denigrate President Miguel Díaz-Canel. This desperate attempt to sabotage the movement for renewal based on principles will be responded by a resounding YES in the February 24 referendum and a vote of confidence for the new Cuban leadership under Díaz-Canel. No force on Earth can smother the Cuban political culture of debate. It can defeat any disinformation and divisiveness by the U.S.-led campaign.
Arnold August, Canadian author of the books Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 ElectionsCuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion and the recently released  Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond. As a journalist he contributes to web sites in North America, Latin America and Europe. His pieces are occasionally published in Counterpunch, see these articles here: https://www.counterpunch.org/author/frevas3111/
Arnold can be followed on Twitter @Arnold_August and FaceBook

_____________________________________________ Nancy Hernández, Vice-President, Instituto Cubano del Libro, and essayist Luis Toledo Sande presented the text in Old Havana
by Liset García
Photos: Jorge Luis Sánchez Rivera
“Since my first visit to Cuba in 1991, as a tourist, I’ve been impressed by the people, their way of thinking, their dignity and patriotism. That’s why I’ve come back so many times,” said Canadian journalist and professor Arnold August during the presentation.
What has changed in the relationship between Cuba and the United States? That is the question  August asked himself on this complex and long-standing issue, and the answers – or rather, first approximations to answers  – that he found are contained in his most recent book, Cuba-US Relations: Obama and Beyond. It was launched on September 22 at the “Sábado del Libro” (Book Saturday) event, held on Calle de Madera in Old Havana.
As stated by its presenter, the essayist Luis Toledo Sande, this book sheds light on the essentially permanent nature of imperialism as a system that strives to dominate the world, resorting to trickery and deceit when necessary – and not only in the case of Cuba. Two faces of this approach have recently made themselves visible: the line taken by Barack Obama, followed by the more crudely aggressive threats served up by Donald Trump.
This book, with a prologue by Keith Ellis, emeritus professor at the University of Toronto, is one of several published both here and abroad by this careful and experienced observer of the Cuban scene, who has spent the last twenty years of his life travelling frequently to the country. Other titles, including Cuba y sus vecinos: democracia en movimiento (Editorial Ciencias Sociales, 2014) [English edition: Cuba and its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion (Fernwood Publishing, 2013)] and Democracy in Cuba and the 1997-98 Elections (Editorial José Martí, La Habana, 1999), have augmented and built upon the many articles that have resulted from his research. The Spanish translation of Cuba-US Relations, by the writer Aida Bahr, was published by Editorial Oriente.
Chapters include “Challenges for Cuba in 2017 and Beyond,” “Interviews with Five of Cuba’s Leading Experts on Cuba–U.S. Relations,” “The Blockade: From Obama to Trump,” and “Fidel and the U.S.-Led Cultural Blitzkrieg on ‘Dictatorship,’” the last of which discusses the risks taken on by Mr. August in opting to challenge the hegemonic view of these harsh realities.
Cuba-US Relations: Obama and Beyond will also be presented Friday, September 26 at 3:00 p.m. at the Museo Memorial de la Denuncia, by Ricardo Alarcón, a noted authority on the subject.
Last July, in recognition of his undying efforts to reveal to the world the hidden realities of Cuba, Arnold August was awarded the Metal of Friendship by the Council of State of the Republic, having been nominated of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).
Original in spanish and video:

To request a book event in your area, contact the author here: arnoldaugust@cubausrelations.com

Best regards,

Arnold August

Havana

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Facing Irma in Cuba: “¡Saldremos adelante!” 

(“We Can Only Move Forward!”)                                                                                                                                                                                                             By Arnold August 

(Global Research, September 25, 2017)

This is what a colleague exclaimed during one of my several phone calls to Havana in the days after Irma unleashed its wrath on the capital. Others, when asked how they, their families, colleagues and neighbours were faring, declared in a similar manner, “We are fighters,” “We are never defeated” and “We are in the battle for recovery.”  Despite this attitude, they were unanimous in their emphasis that Cuba’s situation is “critical,” having suffered the most devastating hurricane in about 85 years. This coincides with Raúl Castro’s message to the people, when he said, “No one should be fooled; the task we have before us is huge.”

Another colleague remarked that the Cubans’ trademark solidarity immediately became stronger and more widespread in the course of Irma’s fury on Havana. For example, in a small apartment building without gas or electricity for cooking, one family used charcoal to prepare meals for all the residents, using everyone’s food that was otherwise perishing in their refrigerators. Another colleague, a journalist, recounted how she was able to meet the deadline for her story despite her office building remaining without electricity, thanks to being granted access to the headquarters of another news outlet.

One can hardly imagine a similar situation taking place in the US! Would CNN and FOX collaborate this way? Would the capitalist New York Times share its offices with its diehard competitor The Wall Street Journal? In the same manner, in Canada, can anyone imagine such cooperation between archrivals The Globe and Mailand the Toronto Star? This is just one great advantage of the Cuban press not being privately controlled.

All of the above and countless other examples are also reflected in Raúl’s statement “with a people like ours, we will win the most important battle: recovery.” In fact, only three days after these initial phone conversations, the same people reported that their electricity and gas had been restored but that, sadly, many small towns on the north coast have been devastated to the extent that normal services and housing had not yet come close to being restored.

The Cuban Revolution and Notions of Defeat Are Incompatible. 
The Cuban Revolution does not know the meaning of defeat. It likewise does not accept in its collective and individual minds the notion of fear or despair. This new consciousness began developing in Cuba since 1959, solidifying and deepening over the decades in the face of adversity. This unique feature was noticeable before Irma, but it has become ever more evident these past two weeks. Its latest expression in the dramatic days during and after Irma could not help one to think of the first two sentences of the Cuban Constitution, which states that Cuban citizens express “combativity, firmness, heroism and sacrifice fostered by our ancestors.” 

An early example of this consists of “the Indians who preferred extermination to submission.” The 16th-century Taíno Indian chief Hatuey is a legend in Cuba. On February 2, 1512, Hatuey was tied to a stake at the Spanish camp, where he was burned alive. Just before lighting the fire, a priest offered him spiritual comfort, showing him the cross and asking him to accept Jesus and go to heaven. “Are there people like you in heaven?” he asked. “There are many like me in heaven,” replied the priest. Hatuey answered that he wanted nothing to do with a god that would allow such cruelty to be unleashed in his name. This fierce characteristic of the native people remains true of the Cuban people today.

The same cannot be said of the European peoples, nations and their descendants as a whole, with the exception of the Cuban nation, which, faced with one adversity or another ­– whether it be successive hurricanes, Moncada, post-1959 terrorist attacks on the island, the Bay of Pigs or the fall of the former USSR and Eastern European socialist countries (with which 85% of Cuba’s economy was entangled) – have demonstrated an indelible feature of their collectivity: the impossibility to accept defeat. Cuba accomplished this not only since 1959, but also as far back as the wars of independence in the second half of the 19th century.

One notable example of this historical period is the Protest of Baraguá. Cuban independence fighter Antonio Maceo could not accept defeat because he did not feel defeated – he had been winning his battles and had a good military organization. In the Baraguá (eastern Cuba) meeting with the Spanish, he strongly objected to the terms of the peace agreement, which the conciliatory section of the resistance to the Spanish accepted, deeming the agreement to be insulting and brushing aside its promise of concessions. Cuba is an eternal Baraguá, as they say. This feature of the Cuban people having revolutionized their mentality as a people and a nation in a protracted process, obliterating any notion of fear and defeat while replacing it with a firmly based new consciousness, is not only inspired by the inevitable victory over adversity, but is also of historic importance for this century.

In Latin America, the Bolivarian Revolution (with its more than 8 million proactive people) is another example, even though it has not yet penetrated the Venezuelan people or nation as a whole. It seems as if the overwhelming majority of Cuban people have reached this new consciousness, as it existed among the native peoples for thousands of years. The latter’s mindset constitutes an entirely different mentality generally not found as a distinguishing characteristic among European nations and their descendants. The Cuban off-springs of the Spanish and other Europeans, Africans, Chinese and others as a new nation have been evolving in the course of revolutionary struggles since 1868, with a renewed spark after the 1953 Moncada attack. This fearless way of thinking and corresponding actions seems to have merged into an entirely new national idiosyncrasy that has far more in common with the heritage of the native peoples than with that of the Europeans.

“Survival of the Fittest?” 
The words that follow may stir some interest as well as cackles. It is a historical fact that the Cuban Revolution has survived against all odds and predictions despite, among other factors, the five-decade-long blockade and the earthshaking fall of the USSR, which was supposed to have sounded the death knell for the socialist revolution. Instead, rather than merely surviving it, Cuba has evolved further – socially and culturally – while constituting an unprecedented model of international solidarity. And, let us not forget, all this has transpired within the limits of the blockade, whose goal, it must always be recalled, is the protracted genocide of the Cuban people.

While social science is far from able to provide an exhaustive analysis, explanation or encouragement of this rare phenomenon that is the Cuba Revolution, the metaphoric use of natural science may be of assistance in reflection. Charles Darwin showed that, as part of natural evolution, only the fittest survive extinction. The Cuban Revolution is indeed the “fittest,” in the sense that it has imbued the vast majority of Cuban people composing the nation to overcome even the most difficult and seemingly insurmountable challenges.

This mentality of refusing to accept defeat was also reflected in the call by Raúl to his people, when he ended by saying, “We face the recovery with the example of Comandante en Jefe de la Revolución Cubana, Fidel Castro Ruz, who, with his unwavering confidence in victory and iron will, taught us that nothing is impossible. In these difficult hours, his legacy makes us strong and unites us.”  Fidel is at once the main impulse and guide, through his thinking, action and example for the Cuban Revolution. He embodies this iron will to fight off attacks from all hostile tendencies inside and outside Cuba to defeat any challenge that stands in its way and thus come out victorious.

International Solidarity 
The Cuban people have proven themselves to be world leaders when it comes to international solidarity, and the love they have extended to others has been rewarded with the rapid material and moral support of Russia, Vietnam and countries in Latin America. For example, in a briefing after Irma hit Cuba, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, with his Chavista flair, showed a video of a Hercules plane loaded with material support landing on a makeshift runway cleared by the Cuban government as part of reopening of the Havana airport. More than ever before, Cuba needs and deserves such material and moral support.

While Cuba receives this type of solidarity from around the planet, Trump has signed the Trading with the Enemy Act once again, and made a statement on September 13 about human rights violations in Cuba and Venezuela. This was followed by the callous statement of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He stated on September 16 that, in light of the alleged and totally non-founded sonic interference by Cuba against the American diplomats in Havana, the US is considering closing its Embassy in Havana. He said with a callousness completely oblivious to the suffering of the Cuban people by the very real Irma: “It’s a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals [American diplomats] have suffered.”

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau Justin Trudeau’s Canadian government is among the Western countries that have not issued any statement of support or solidarity with Cuba. This is a sad reality, given Canada’s special relationship with Cuba, having not ever broken diplomatic ties with the country. In fact, Justin Trudeau’s father was the first Western leader to visit Cuba and express solidarity with Fidel Castro and “Cuba Libre.” Justin Trudeau himself visited Cuba and met with Raúl Castro only days before Fidel passed away. Furthermore, Canada has been the biggest source of tourism for Cuba for several decades, to the extent that millions of Canadians have visited the island not only once, but multiple times, making Cuba practically a home away from home for many. One may hope that the Trudeau government will rectify and at least express its moral support, which would very much encourage the Cubans, who are conscious of this special Cuba–Canada relationship forged to an extent by the Trudeau tradition.

As far as critically needed financial and material support, Canada should overcome its self-imposed bureaucracy and provide immediate aid. According to the website of the Cuban Mission in Ottawa, the first on the list of material needs is construction material. Canada is the fifth in the world as far as lumber production and hovers between the first and second of the world’s top exporters of timber products. Should Canada not immediately consider overcoming any obstacle and make use of this plentiful natural resource that is so necessary for Cuba in this critical situation?

This obstinacy by some Western governments – such as the US, Canada, the UK, the rest of Europe, Australia and New Zealand, as well as others – is in contrast to the attitude of solidarity organizations and other institutions in these countries that are going all out to raise relief funds at the grassroots level to support Cuba. While all countries in the Caribbean also need this support, Cuba was the hardest hit in terms of quantity of infrastructure and the number of people affected by Irma. It is also a political issue, in terms of supporting the survival of the Cuban Revolution, which is now facing an unprecedented climate challenge.

Furthermore, the hurricane season still has close to another three months to go, as some of my colleagues in Havana have pointed out. The American Blockade and Irma Cuba is also facing a new disinformation campaign from mass media and others. Many are having a field day describing housing, roofs and other structures as being “dilapidated,” which to an extent is true, especially in cities such as Havana. But is this a feature of the Cuban system? The impression given is that any problematic housing and infrastructure is entirely Cuba’s fault and thus proof of the “failure of socialism.”

However, what about the effects of the blockade, which was mainly completely ignored in these reports or reduced to a footnote? As mentioned by Cuban colleagues in Havana who were consulted on this issue of disinformation, “It is no accident that these media hide or minimize the effects of the blockade.” The cumulative effect of the blockade since 1961 seriously hinders normal economic development in Cuba. The blockade itself resulted from the original genocidal goal to make Cuba bend to its knees and give in to the US empire.

Watching Cuban TV during and immediately after Irma, it was clear that the blockade has had a cataclysmic effect on the damage, just as it is having now with the recovery. Take, for example, construction and infrastructures, where “dilapidated” housing is more likely a direct result of the blockade, which led to $30,868,200 in damages in a single year alone, spanning 2015–2016. One of the main causes of damages was the lack of access to lightweight and efficient construction technologies and energy components, which are available on the US market or are produced by subsidiaries of US-based companies. Could this not be the main cause of the “dilapidated” housing, notwithstanding any Cuban domestic insufficiencies? This situation requires that we outside of Cuba counter the disinformation campaign against the Cuban Revolution and demand the complete lifting of the blockade, as part of our expression of financial, material and moral solidarity with Cuba.


 Arnold August, a Canadian journalist and lecturer, is the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion and the recently released Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond. Arnold can be followed on Twitter @Arnold_August and FaceBook The original source of this article is Global Research Copyright © Arnold August, Global Research, 2017 ______________________________________________

Dear friends,
The first part of this File is my article written after the June 16 Trump-announcement in Miami, Trump Cuba Policy: What Will Happen in Coming Months? “Trump’s policies cannot take effect until the new regulations are established, a process that, according to the White House Fact Sheet, ‘may take several months.’ A lot can happen within this time frame.” Read the full article here. It was published in many web sites such as teleSUR. While CounterPunch, Global Research and Black Agenda Report (which I consider to be the big three of the alternative media) often publish my articles, this is the first time that all three posted the same article.
The second is an article appearing in Huffington Post, The Contradictions of Trump’s Announced Cuba Policy: An interview with Arnold August by Dan Kovalik. He graduated from Columbia University School of Law in 1993, and has served as a labor and human rights lawyer ever since. He has taught International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law since 2012. Read the interview here.
The third is a YouTube of the interview with James Early on The Real News Network, also after the Trump announcement: Trump Cuba Plan at Odds with 75% of Americans.
The fourth is my interview just hours before Trump’s June 16 statement with Brian Becker on his radio show Loud and Clear on Sputnik. It forecasts largely what was to happen in Miami later on in the day.
Fifth, Trump lectured Cuba on democracy, elections and human rights. My 2013 book, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion, deals with this. From the publisher: “In this groundbreaking book, Arnold August explores Cuba’s unique form of democracy, presenting a detailed and balanced analysis of Cuba’s electoral process and the state’s functioning between elections by comparing it with practices in the U.S.” It is available here
My third book on Cuba, Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond, including an analysis of the evolving Trump Cuba policy and what to expect, is available at Amazon. In Canada, it is also sold by my publisherFernwood Publishing.
Follow news and analysis on my FaceBook page dedicated to Cuba–U.S. Relations
The Cuban Spanish version of this book is forthcoming in February, 2018.
To request a book event in your area, contact the author here: arnoldaugust@cubausrelations.com

Best regards,
Arnold August
 ________________________________

Trump in Miami to Announce His Cuba Policy:

In the midst of Majority Bipartisan American Opposition to a Reversal, June 16

By Arnold August*, June 13, 2017

 This week, Cuba is once again at the very center of American politics arising out of the controversy over the Cuba policy. However, to date, you would never know judging by the mainstream conglomerate media. Nonetheless, since the unofficial news broke on June 9 regarding Trump’s Miami visit and its purpose, there has been what seems to be an unprecedented daily (and now almost hourly) issuing of statements, positions and letters. The common denominator is a demand to not only allow trade and travel to continue under the new Cuba policy, but to end restrictions altogether.

 The other feature is that this movement is bipartisan. It is quite ironic that while virtually all other domestic and foreign policy issues are being fought along party or state lines, Cuba (of all countries) has succeeded in forging an American majority public opinion irrespective of party affiliation and business interests. Who would have thought a few years ago that it could happen? From “Republican” Texas (with its conveniently close ports to Havana’s harbour) to Midwestern farm states that voted for Trump (but view Cuba as an important market for agricultural products), from travel giants such as Airbnb, cruise lines and airlines to Republicans and Democrats in Congress, to the influential educators and the university community, everyone is making their views known in their own communiqués.

 There have been so many such statements that the initial goal of this article, which was to enumerate, define and briefly quote them all had to be abandoned, as it would have been much too cumbersome for this short piece. (However, in my latest book Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond, this trend is already documented and analyzed.)

 The pro-trade and travel Cuba policy majority is so widespread and diversified that one gets the impression that the only ones who have not joined are a couple (literally) of members of Congress from Miami and New Jersey. When Trump speaks in Miami this Friday, he will be addressing only a small minority of his very own party and his non-elected Cabinet. It would seemingly be political suicide for him to buck the trend. Of course, we already know that the Cuba policy rhetoric will be stamped with the Trump trademark, but what about the specifics on trade and travel?


In fact, on June 13, Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified before a Congressional Committee. It was said that it would provide a preview of the Trump Cuba policy announcement. However, it was not very different from what Trump declared in the past.
  
Will those ideologically-prone Cabinet members get the upper-hand over Trump the businessman and pragmatic politician?
  
We will see Friday. In the meantime, hundreds if not a few thousand people are keeping up the pressure through a very broad-based active social media campaign. There are also demonstrations being organized this week in Miami and New York to express the majority public opinion. The common demand: End Travel and Trade Restrictions!


*Arnold August is a Montreal-based author and journalist. His third book on Cuba is entitled Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyondwww.CubaUSRelations.com

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