Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau

Prime Minister of Canada
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

November 14, 2016 

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Re: Canada-Cuba Relations

I am writing to you on behalf of the Canadian Network On Cuba (CNC), which represents more than 20 Canada-Cuba friendship and solidarity organizations from Vancouver to Halifax. One of the CNC’s principal objectives is advocating that Canadian foreign policy regarding Cuba remains based on equality and respect for the island's sovereignty and right of self-determination.  

Prime Minister Trudeau, we welcome your November 15-16, 2016 visit to Cuba, which occurs at an opportune moment given recent political developments in the United States. You have the opportunity to clearly and unequivocally call on the incoming U.S. president to respect Cuba’s right to independence and self-determination, and not to return to the previous policy of open hostility. 

Canadians welcomed and celebrated the change in U.S-Cuba relations initiated on December 17, 2014.  Nevertheless, while Canada, the Americas and the world were encouraged by Washington’s departure from previous flagrant bellicose acts, the new policy and the reopening of embassies do not equate to the normalization of relations between the two countries. Washington’s illegal and immoral economic embargo – tantamount to a blockade - of Cuba continues, as does its ongoing campaign of subversion.  Moreover, the U.S naval base sits on the illegally occupied Cuban territory of Guantanamo Bay. 

On October 26, 2016 for the twenty-fifth successive time, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted overwhelming and unanimously by a vote of 191 to 0 (with 2 abstentions, the United States and Israel) to condemn Washington's more than five decade long economic war against Cuba. Representing the largest rebuff by the international community of Washington's efforts to asphyxiate the heroic people of Cuba, the United Nations October 26 vote not only demonstrates the unflinching opposition of the world to the criminal U.S. policy, but also the depth of global support and respect for Cuba. 

We are pleased that Canada was once again counted in the ranks of the world’s nations resoundingly rejecting the coercive, unilateral and extra-territorial U.S. policy.

Such is the isolation of the United States in the world that it was forced to acknowledge and accede to this reality by abstaining. However, while the abstention is a positive development, the principal architecture of the economic blockade remains intact. Washington still continues to zealously pursue and implement the extensive series of economic sanctions arrayed against the island nation, with the objective of negating and extinguishing Cuba’s right to self-determination and independence. 

Prime Minister, with the conclusion of the U.S. Presidential elections and as you set foot on Cuban soil, you have the historic opportunity to insist that this most regrettable page in the relations amongst the nations of the Americas can finally and permanently be turned by asserting that Washington’s relations with Cuba should be based on mutual respect and equality, not on outmoded colonialist ideas and practices. This necessitates ending the economic blockade, ceasing subversive acts against the Cuban government and returning the Guantanamo base to Cuba.

In closing, I wish to note that Canadians have traveled to Cuba in vast numbers (more than 1.4 million in 2015) and witnessed Cuban reality for themselves; they have come away with a profound respect and admiration for the Cuban people and their efforts to build a society centred on independence, justice and human dignity. Irrespective of their political or ideological positions, Canadians stand for the building of genuine friendship with the island nation: relations based on mutual respect, equality and recognition of Cuba’s right to self-determination and sovereignty. 

We wish you a productive and successful visit to Cuba. 

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Isaac Saney,
Co-Chair and National Spokesperson
Canadian Network on Cuba
Cell: 902-449-4967


Counting The Cost Of The Cuban Blockade

Rob Miller,Morning Star, October 1, 2016

Cuba has once again been forced to present its annual motion to the United Nations protesting against the illegal US blockade, which continues unabated despite all the early promise of the restoration of diplomatic links and President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba. ROB MILLER has the story

Cuba has once again presented its annual motion to the United Nations. This will be the 25th year it has been forced to protest against the illegal US blockade against its country.

It’s titled: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” and sets out in detail the US laws that support the blockade, the limitations of the recent changes in US policies by the Obama administration and a huge list of examples illustrating the full and pernicious impact of the blockade on the lives of the people of Cuba.

Having seen Cuban and US embassies opening and President Barack Obama himself visiting Havana many people across the globe believe that the blockade is now over and all is well between the two countries.

The truth is in fact very different.

The US has just renewed its designation of Cuba as an “enemy” under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, thus using its foreign policy interests as the foundation for the laws and regulations that underpin the extraterritorial blockade that continues to hinder Cuba’s economic development. In Havana on March 22 2016, Obama called on the US Congress to put an end to the policy of blockade. Yet the economic, commercial and financial blockade remains in force and the restrictions imposed by this policy continue to be applied.

Despite the US announcement that Cuba would finally be allowed to use the dollar in international transactions this has still not taken effect. At the same time US banks have so far refused to provide loans or credits to Cuban importers of US products that have supposedly been authorised by the US government for sale to the island. The biggest obstacle, however, is the long list of multimillion-dollar fines — and the threats of such fines — levied by the US Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) against international banks and financial institutions that are exploring engagement with Cuba. These massive penalties are an insurmountable block on any major institution from even examining the Cuban option.

The motion states that “since this policy began to be applied over 50 years ago, the blockade has caused damages of over US$125,873,000,000 at current prices.” That is over £97 billion.

The report accompanying the motion includes many of the hundreds of examples of the application of blockade policies that have occurred in the last 12 months alone. They range from the malicious to the absurd and cover companies in every corner of the globe including Britain, Spain, Denmark, China, France, Venezuela, China, Australia, Namibia, Turkey, Argentina and the US.

The examples include:

In October 2015, the French bank, Credit Agricole agreed to pay a fine of $1.1bn for violating the US regulations against Cuba. The bank had purely processed transactions between international accounts and the Cuban government or its nationals. Over a four-year period the bank had transferred a total of around $97 million of transactions yet was forced to pay a fine over 10 times bigger.

In November of 2015, PayPal blocked the account of the German ticket agency Proticket, which had been used by customers to pay for tickets for the musical comedy Soy Cubano and a concert by the Cuban singer Addys Mercedes.

In January 2016, OFAC levied a fine of $140,400 on the UK subsidiary of design company WATG Holdings which had worked on the design of a proposed hotel project in Cuba.

In February 2016, a branch of the British Standard Chartered Bank in Uganda informed Cuban doctors working at Mbarara University that they had to withdraw their money due to the fact that as Cubans they were not able to continue holding accounts in said bank. The university suggested that the Cubans open accounts in the British bank Barclays. After they did so, the bank advised them that they would not be able to make any transactions to or from Cuba.

The report highlights the real effects of the blockade on the Cuban people themselves in health, education and social provision.

In January 2016, Cuba received a delegation from the US corporation Medtronic, which supplies cerebral stimulators for the treatment of neurological diseases. While the Cuban Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery went ahead to purchase the much-needed specialist equipment, the US company has not been authorised to make the sales. Consequently Cuban patients suffering from Parkinson’s and various neurological disorders cannot receive a treatment that could improve their quality of life.

In education effects are widespread. One small example given was the extra $56,000 Cuba was forced to spend on string instruments for the 414 elementary level students enrolled last year. Cuba guarantees an instrument for every music student at this level yet they were forced to buy the instruments from countries other than the US, where they were charged premium rates for their efforts to circumvent the blockade. Such extra costs place a huge burden on the state when trying to provide the necessary equipment for all students.

The report estimates that because of the higher costs of buying products from countries other than the US, the Ministry of Education suffered losses of $1.2m in the last 12 months alone.

The report shows how the blockade can also negatively affect people in other countries.

The Cuban Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology developed Heberprot-P, a new medicine that is unique in the treatment of severe ulcers of the diabetic foot which can lead to amputations. This therapy has benefited over 230,000 patients throughout the world and has 21 health registrations and over 30 patents worldwide. Yet it cannot be sold in the US where diabetes affects some 29 million people and an estimated 200,000 could benefit directly from Heberprot-P. 

As well as medical products Cuba is unable to realise the value of likely exports to the US of many of its products including rum, tobacco, nickel and foodstuffs. The Asda supermarket chain based in Britain is owned by the US Walmart Group and it has been instructed to remove from sale all Cuban products — this includes rum and tobacco products which are now no longer available in Asda stores.

The Cuban report to the UN even includes the example of the impact of the blockade on our own work of solidarity.

In November 2015 the bank accounts of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) in Britain were forcibly closed by the Co-op Bank. In March 2016, the bank confirmed that said closure was due to the risks derived from sanctions applied by OFAC.

Virtually every international body from the UN to the Union of South American Nations, the African Union and even the Vatican have called for an end to the blockade — yet it is still kept in place by the United States.

The report shows once again that the blockade is not merely a bilateral matter between the US and Cuba — it is extraterritorial, affects third countries and is applied with ruthless and total impunity in open violation of international law. As the report makes clear: “It is the most unfair, severe and prolonged system of unilateral sanctions ever applied against any country.”

There has been much said over the past two years about “normalisation.” Yet there is a very long way to go before the welcome “restoration” of diplomatic relations will bring anything like a normalisation of relations.

The report concludes by reiterating that: “The US blockade constitutes the greatest obstacle for the development of all the potential of the economy and the wellbeing of the Cuban people, as well as for the economic, commercial and financial relations of Cuba with the United States and the rest of the world.” While the illegal blockade continues the struggle against it and for the rights of the Cuban people to develop their society free from such aggression must be fought for by us all.

Rob Miller is director of the Cuba Solidary Campaign in Great Britain.



Halifax Premiere of the film:

Fidel Es Fidel (Fidel is Fidel)

Photo Exhibit & Panel Discussion

6:30 pm, Thursday, August 11th, 2016 
At: Halifax Central Library 
Room: 301
5440 Spring Garden Road

Come and celebrate Fidel Castro's 90th Birthday.
More than one hundred countries around the world have joined forces to celebrate the life of one of the most influential leaders of all times.

Sponsored by the Nova Scotia Cuba Association and Canadian Network On Cuba

¡Fidel 90 y más!: A Revolutionary Legacy
- Isaac Saney, National Spokesperson, Canadian Network on Cuba -

"There are men who struggle for a day and they are good. There are men who struggle for a year and they are better. There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still. But there are those who struggle all their lives: These are the indispensable ones." -- Bertolt Brecht

"Fidel! Fidel! Que tiene Fidel que los americanos no pueden con él!"
(Fidel! Fidel! What is it that he has, that the U.S. imperialists can't defeat him!) -- Cuban Revolutionary chant

On August 13 Fidel Castro, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, turns 90. Progressive, anti-war and social justice forces across the world will join in the celebration of the life of one of the world's most influential and significant leaders. It is especially worthwhile and necessary to mark and valorize the life and times of a man whose heart, without missing a beat, has withstood more than 600 assassination attempts by U.S imperialism.

Fidel's life and legacy loom large in world history and development. Fidel is part and parcel of the wave of the anti-colonial, national liberation and social emancipation struggles that swept Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in the second half of the 20th century. Fidel is integral to the Cuban-born and international revolutionary and anti-imperialist tradition, theory and practice, stretching through the Taino cacique, Hatuey, Toussaint L'Overture, Simon Bolivar, José Martí, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh, among others.

Fidel does not transcend Cuba and history, as some have opined, but, instead, is ineluctably and organically bound to the deepest aspirations of the Cuban people and the demands of the times. Fidel belongs to the world. He does not stand above or outside life. Flesh and blood, brain and bone, he exemplifies the finest traditions of humanity.

His life encapsulates the struggle of the exploited and oppressed, epitomizing, as articulated by U.S. political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, "their historic power to transform our dull realities."

The significance of Fidel extends beyond the geographical boundaries of Cuba. Since its inception, the Cuban Revolution has made an invaluable contribution to the global struggle for justice, social development and human dignity. Under Fidel's leadership Cuba has established an unparalleled legacy of internationalism and humanitarianism, embodying the immortal words of José Martí: "Homeland is Humanity. Humanity is Homeland." In southern Africa, for example, more than 2,000 Cubans gave their lives to defeat the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Mandela never forgot. After he was released from prison, one of the first countries outside of Africa and the first country in Latin America that he chose to visit was Cuba.

Today this commitment to humanity is mirrored in the tens of thousands of Cuban medical personnel and educators who have served and continue to serve around the world. This service sees them battling in the trenches against disease and illiteracy, running the gamut from combating the Ebola outbreaks in west Africa to beating back other challenges to public health in southern Africa. No less important is the training inside Cuba of medical cadres from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as North America (including African-American communities from the largest U.S. cities).

Fidel was only 26 when on July 26, 1953 he led a group of courageous young men and women in the attack on the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago de Cuba, and the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks in Bayamo, an unsuccessful but valiant effort to overthrow the U.S.-supported puppet dictator Fulgencio Batista. Moncada was a catalyst for the revolutionary struggle to free Cuba from U.S. tutelage and establish authentic independence. Fidel has epitomized the unbending commitment to justice, dignity and independence that has characterized Cuba since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959, leading Cuban resistance against the unjust and genocidal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on the island by Washington.

No words can adequately convey the singular meaning of Fidel. By holding aloft the banners of Socialism, Justice, Peace, Internationalism and Human Dignity, the Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel, demonstrates that a better world is possible. On October 16, 1953 at his trial following the Moncada attack, Fidel laid out his vision of national independence and social justice, declaring, "Condemn me, it does not matter, history will absolve me." Since those historic words and the subsequent unfolding of events, in a world fraught with intense challenges and dangers, history has not only absolved Fidel but also vindicated the meaning and legacy of his life.

¡Viva Fidel!¡Fidel 90 y más!

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