Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rejecting Colonialist Mentality

Rejecting Colonialist Mentality

Re: Why is Obama visiting Cuba? by Konrad Yakabuski, Globe and Mail February 25

Konrad’s Yakabuski’s “Why is Obama visiting Cuba?” is a slander against Cuba, parroting the disinformation of the U.S. State Department about Cuba. Canadians repudiate this alignment with these long-discredited falsehoods against Cuba. Rather than promote lies about Cuba, the Globe & Mail should highlight that Cuba holds an admirable place in the international community regarding the protection and promotion of the rights of its citizens. In Cuba everyone is guaranteed an education and access to universal and free healthcare. In Cuba there are no homeless roaming the streets eking out an existence in a dog-eat-dog society. This is the country that Yakabuski slanders. This is the country that Obama will visit.

Obama is visiting Cuba because Washington has been forced to change its policy due to the resilience of the Cuban Revolution. But, perhaps, this is the crux of the matter. Cuba refutes the colonialist mentality and practice of foisting on independent countries imperial arrangements that they do not want or accept. Havana has refused to renounce its right to self-determination and the principles upon which the Cuban Revolution is founded. Perhaps, what irks Mr. Yakabuski and the editorial board of the Globe & Mail is Cuba’s successful resistance of the diktat of empire.  For them Cuba is the unforgivable example, illustrating that so called "small" or "less powerful" nations do not have to subordinate themselves to the so-called great powers as long as their peoples are organized and determined to defend and strengthen their nation-building projects centred on independence, justice and human dignity. 

Isaac Saney

Chair, National Spokesperson
Canadian Network On Cuba


What Konrad Yakabuski ignores

Dear editors,

Having just returned from a research trip to Havana, I was astonished at the selective indignation of Konrad Yakabuski and his article “Why is Obama visiting Cuba?”

There are several reasons he ignores…

Having seen the UN General Assembly condemn the US embargo 191-2 (the US and Israel being the only opposition) in October, President Obama is trying to save some international face. At the same time he is trying to improve the US role in Latin America, which has condemned en masse the traditional isolation of Cuba by Washington.

He is attempting to find a solution to the disgraceful treatment of political prisoners at the Guantánamo torture centre. (At its height there were 800 prisoners there. There are 91 left, of whom just 10 have been charged. The waterboarding and other examples of torture have been well-documented).

He is trying symbolically to make amends for the murder of some 3,400 Cubans since 1959, killed in acts of terrorism--at times the result of US funding to counterrevolutionary groups.

He is seeking trade opportunities for U.S. companies to invest in and export to. Among these are the first-rate biotechnology products which could benefit the American population. The lung cancer drug CIMAVAX has been particularly successful, while Heberprot-P has reduced amputation of limbs among diabetics by 80%. Sadly the embargo—introduced in 1960—means that Cuba cannot sell even an Aspirin to the US market.

According to Amnesty International there are some 50 prisoners of conscience. While there should be no political prisoners at all, Yakabuski forgets that the US recently renewed the “Trading with the Enemy” Act with Cuba, and through USAID and the State Department continues to provide extensive funding to opposition groups in Cuba that seek to bring about regime change. Indeed just this week Obama renewed the 20-year old state of national emergency decree, which strengthens the embargo. Perhaps Washington should stop meddling?

In sum, some more balance would be helpful in dealing with this complex situation.

John M. Kirk,
Professor of Latin American Studies, Dalhousie University
Tel: 902-423-3325 (H); 902-494-3679 (W)

Anti-Communist Fairy Tales about Cuba, Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights
Anna Di Carlo, National Leader, Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada

Re: Op-ed in the Globe and Mail February 25

Certain things are well known when it comes to the U.S. For instance, the U.S. contains only 4.4 per cent of the world's population but it has the dubious prestige of incarcerating 22 per cent of the world's prisoners, not to mention a largest n
umber of political prisoners. It is also infamous for its arbitrary detentions and Guantanamo-type torture camps. In 2015 alone police in the U.S. killed 1,140 people.

Even though U.S. abuses of human rights at home and abroad are so staggering as to boggle the mind, one of the Comment writers for the Globe and Mail, a Mr. Konrad Yakabuski who was based in Washington, DC from 2009 to 2013, seems oblivious to the facts which count in life. Of course, it is his prerogative to prefer a system where the leaders sell their souls to rapacious international money-lenders who are known swindlers and the basest creatures the American style of inhuman democracy has given rise to. But why he thinks that others think like he does is surely beyond reason.

Mr. Yakabuski badmouths Cuba over what he calls "repression," "democracy," "human rights" and "succession." He mocks the attempts of others to solve problems facing their economies and to ensure a stable succession for their people. He calls himself a journalist but is so blinded by anti-communist dogma that he seems to think his fairy tales about Cuba are believed by everyone else. All this does is discredit himself.

Far from sowing doubt about the Cuban revolutionary process, Mr. Yakabuski's turgid op-ed in the February 25 issue of the Globe and Mailmore aptly reveals how paltry has become the spectre which inhabits his own pathetic imagination. He is to be pitied for being so concerned about Cuba's economy rather than that of his own country which is on the eve of announcing a $30 billion deficit blamed on, amongst other things, the collapse of the price of oil. Workers laid off from Canada's oil patch who are now unemployed and in dire straights may surely sympathize more with the plight of Venezuela than wishing, as does Mr. Yakabuski, for that country's collapse as well.

This is the 21st century and the world is facing serious problems but Mr. Yakabuski sees fit to arise as a kind of Rip Van Winkle who has been hitting the snooze button for so long that he missed the fact that the Cold War anti-communist method of arguing "totalitarianism" versus "democracy" ended nearly 30 years ago. The fall of the Soviet Union deprived the U.S. of its bogeyman leaving no one to blame but itself for the crimes committed everywhere in the name of its "freedom," "democracy" and "human rights."

As for his concern about the Cuban succession, are we really to believe that the destruction and havoc wreaked upon Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria provide a "succession" for Mr. Yakabuski's own cherished notions of "freedom," "democracy" and "human rights"? As the world is plunged into the abyss by the U.S. striving for domination and Canada is hitched to its war chariot, Canadians are in no mood to pay heed to his anti-communist fairy tales.

To the chagrin of Mr. Yakabuski, Cuba is very much part of this world and it enjoys the heartfelt support and good wishes of Canadians and the peoples all over the planet. When speaking about "succession," perhaps Mr. Yakabuski will consider writing his next op-ed on the circus that passes for politics in the USA which looks like lantern slides from another planet. The players are a Mr. Trump and his fellow champions of U.S.-style human rights, freedom and democracy. A sordid succession indeed!

To quote one of the Cuban dissidents whose cause for "democracy in Cuba" Mr. Yakabuski champions, "The vote was clean. The count was clean. People don't want change. They still want revolution." - Hildebrando Chaviano, a lawyer who ran and lost in the 2015 local elections in which more than 7.7 million people voted out of a registered electorate of 8 million people.


February 25, 2016 
Dear Sir or Madam:
Re: Why is Obama visiting Cuba? by KONRAD YAKABUSKI. The Globe and Mail. Published Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 6:00AM EST
From this article it is hard to decide whom Mr. Yakabuski dislikes the most, US President Barak Obama or Cuban President Raul Castro. He is equally critical of the two. The former, for his “foreign policy flip-flops” and for not being “Reaganesque” enough; the latter, for “head[ing] the longest-running dictatorship in the Western hemisphere.”
What really transpires is that Mr. Yakabuski still lives in the political stone age of the Cold War era. The repetitive litany of “evil-doing” of the Castros is baseless and quite insulting to the intelligence of most Cubans and Canadians alike. Many of us have travelled to Cuba, not as romantic visitors, but for academic research purposes and have seen the real Cuba without rhetoric that Mr. Obama will see. I welcome his visit.
Nino Pagliccia,  Global Health Research (Retired),  University of British Columbia,  7089 Mont Royal Square,  Vancouver, BC,  V5S 4W6,  604-831-9821

Why Doesn’t Obama Use His Executive Power to Close Guantánamo?

By Arnold August, Global Research
February 25th, 2016

The closing of Guantanamo prison and the return of Guantanamo Bay to Cuba is one of the most heated subjects of Cuba–US relations. It is taking on even more significance as Obama’s trip to Cuba on March 21–22 approaches.

On February 23, 2016, President Barack Obama announced, in a prepared statement to the press, that he is taking measures to close the notorious Guantanamo facility through Congress. He did not evaluate the possibility of using his executive power to do so. He did not entertain questions from the journalists, who perhaps may have raised this issue.

What is this executive option to close the prison?

Thomas B. Wilner is one of the most important lawyers in the US dealing with the Guantanamo issue. A timely interview with Wilner by Cuban journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde was published on February 23, 2016 in CubaDebate. In response to her question as to whether Obama can use executive power to finally shut down the prison even if Congress opposes the plan, Wilner said:

I am not absolutely clear if he will do this. I think he has the power, as President, to close the Guantanamo prison and transfer detainees to the US, even if Congress opposes. I think he has this power.

Gregory B. Craig is a prestigious lawyer who served as White House counsel to Obama in 2009. Cliff Sloan was the special envoy for Guantanamo closure in 2013 and 2014. In a co-authored article published on November 6, 2015 in The Washington Post they wrote:

Some maintain that the congressional ban on transfers from Guantanamo to the United States prevents closure without congressional approval. But that is wrong. Under Article II of the Constitution, the president has exclusive authority to determine the facilities in which military detainees are held. Obama has the authority to move forward. He should use it…. The question is whether Congress can tell the president where military detainees must be held. The answer is an emphatic no. One need not accept a particularly broad view of executive authority – let alone the Bush administration’s sweeping view that the president has ‘exclusive and virtually unfettered control over the disposition of enemy soldiers and agents captured in time of war’ (an extravagant assertion with which we disagree) – to see that the restrictions Congress has imposed are unconstitutional.

There are different views at this time as to why Obama does not use the power he has at his disposal to close Guantanamo. This will be an ongoing debate as the situation develops in the coming months.

One possible consideration relates to domestic politics. A lot is being said about Obama’s legacy. Let us forego for the moment the notion of his legacy as seen negatively by others. Perhaps not enough emphasis is placed on the importance of a Democratic Party victory in the November 2016 presidential elections. This is an absolute condition in assuring the credibility of a positive endowment. In the case of Obama, a Republican victory would put into question his legacy. If his policies and actions could not even result in his party electing the next president, then what value would his heritage hold in the broader political spectrum of US politics?

For example, George W. Bush’s Republican Party lost the presidential elections in 2008. As a result, even though the potential of a positive legacy was far inferior to Obama’s, any chance for a positive endowment was eliminated. George W. Bush was left with his brother candidate Jeb Bush repeating in the latest phase of his campaign that “George W. Bush has ‘been a great president’ and that his father, George H. W. Bush ‘is the greatest man alive.’” Shortly after that, Jeb Bush had to abandon the campaign, as the result of a complete lack of support among the Republicans.

The Republican-controlled Congress strongly opposes the closing of the Guantanamo prison, even though some individual Republicans are in favour of shutting it down. Thus, by refusing to use his power to close Gitmo and relying instead entirely on the Republican-dominated Congress, Obama can blame the Congress for blocking it. This would, according to the logic, place the eventual Democratic presidential candidate in a positive light while reflecting poorly on the Republican candidate.

This red-herring approach (i.e. blaming the Republicans) is also used with regard to lifting the blockade against Cuba. In the January 2016 State of the Union address, Obama called on Congress to lift the blockade. He knows full well that, for the moment, Congress will not vote to do so, even though there is growing support – including among some Republicans – for eliminating this obstacle to trade, commerce and travel. However, while insisting that Congress lift the blockade, Obama has not used the enormous executive powers he has at his disposal to implement the many measures that could render much of the blockade ineffective. In fact, in 2015–2016, some companies outside of the US have been fined for violating the blockade. Will Obama change course and use his powers to mitigate the effects of the blockade on the Cuban people? Perhaps he will do so before and during his sojourn to Cuba on March 20–21, 2016.

The second possible angle to take into account regarding his refusal to use his power to close Guantanamo prison is related to the trip to Cuba, followed by his visit to Argentina. Obama has stated on many occasions, from 2014 to present, that his Cuba policy is designed to improve relations with Latin America. Immediately following the Cuba visit, the Argentine leg of his March 2016 trip to Latin America is a key element in this plan. This was confirmed by Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting.

One cannot underestimate the damage Guantanamo has done to US credibility on human rights, especially in Latin America. A very politically conscious region, many countries have suffered under US-imposed military dictators using torture and assassinations to remain in power. One of these countries is Argentina. Perhaps the White House has to consider this. Already the Plaza de Mayo grandmothers – family victims of these atrocities – are planning a demonstration against the Obama visit. The prestige of this Plaza de Mayo movement is so high that President Macri had to meet with the organizers on February 23, 2016 to deal with their complaints about his dictatorial methods.

These types of activities in Buenos Aires can have repercussions in other countries of Latin America, whose people also have a very negative perspective on US respect for human rights. Flying into Argentina with the dead weight of Guantanamo on Obama’s back will definitely not help as far as the people are concerned, even though the newly elected right-wing Argentine President Macri does not have any issues regarding Guantanamo. Perhaps Obama believes he can arrive in Argentina with his head high, carrying the February 23 statement as a badge: his attempt to close Guantanamo despite Congressional opposition.

Factors other than the two mentioned above may also be contributing to his refusal to close Guantanamo. Let us leave it up to others to weigh in on this important issue, so as to put pressure on Obama to close the prison and return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba.

Arnold August, a Canadian journalist and lecturer, is the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections and, more recently, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion. Cuba’s neighbours under consideration are the US, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Arnold can be followed on Twitter@Arnold_August.