Monday, April 29, 2024

Can Cuba be forgiven now? 

Havana syndrome may be intense stress and other environmental factors 

The Chronicle Herald (Metro) 27 Apr 2024 · PETER MCKENNA COMMENTARY (Peter MCKENNA is professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown).  

I see where the mysterious Havana syndrome is back in the news again. We are also learning that the U.S. case against Cuba for unleashing these “acoustic attacks” grows weaker by each passing scientific study. 

You may recall that U.S. and Canadian diplomats stationed in Havana complained of concussion-like symptoms beginning in late 2016. Before becoming ill, some maintained that they heard a loud buzzing or high-pitched noise that sounded like metal scraping on metal. They have since highlighted a host of unexplained ailments and symptoms – including cognitive dysfunction, ear bleeding, headaches, dizziness, blurry vision and nausea. Some have even pointed out that their children have also experienced similar types of afflictions.

Anomalous Health Incidents

Initially, it was thought that some kind of sonic, microwave or pulsed-energy weapon was responsible for inflicting brain trauma (indicated in early brain scans) on these diplomats and their families. In response, both Washington and Ottawa eventually reduced the number of consular officials in each of their respective embassies in Cuba. The Trump administration, though, took matters further by expelling several Cuban diplomats from the country, told Americans not to travel to Cuba and placed blame squarely on the shoulders of Havana. But the Cubans argued from the very beginning that they had absolutely nothing to do with these serious charges. They strenuously maintained that they have always respected the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which codifies the rules for how official envoys are to be treated between sovereign states. 

At first, Cuba informed the U.S. ambassador to Cuba that it was not involved, and then assigned dozens of top scientists to investigate these allegations – including specialists from outside the country. The Cubans even permitted, in a highly unprecedented move, both the RCMP and the FBI to send investigators to see for themselves. After several visits, neither could find any concrete evidence that Cuba’s fingerprints were on any of these so-called “anomalous health incidents” (AHIS). 

No Corroborating Evidence 

In March, a five-year investigation by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) found – after using sophisticated MRI scans – no corroborating evidence of serious brain injury. When compared to a control group of federal employees involved in similar work environments (including some from the same embassy), over 80 diplomats from Cuba and elsewhere suf­fering from brain degeneration were shown to have few major dif­ferences after a battery of cognitive and physical tests. Moreover, the NHI reports indicated that many of these diplo mats were displaying fewer symptoms and showing signs of improvement. Co-investigator and neuropsychologist, Louis French, from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, acknowledged as much in a press brief­ing: “When we tested cognitive function, we didn’t see those deficits.”  He then went on to add: “What you’re seeing in some cases here are people that, for various reasons, have ongoing symptoms they’re reporting that just don’t play out when we’re looking at this objectively.” 

Pre-existing Conditions 

Many of the intelligence agencies in the U.S. have previously stated that it is unlikely that a foreign rival was attacking U.S. diplomats and CIA agents in dif­ferent parts of the world. They are more inclined to believe that these concussion like symptoms are the result of pre-existing conditions, intense stress and other environmental factors. 

According to one of those intelligence community reports, claims of brain trauma “were the result of factors that did not involve a foreign adversary.” But it did go on to say that “these findings do not call into question the very real experiences and symptoms that our colleagues and their family members have reported.” 

Those claiming to suf­fer from Havana syndrome obviously believe that they are not well. That partially explains why the U.S. government has provided some CIA officers with a one-time payment of compensation ranging from US$187,000 up to $204,000 today. We are also learning from new reporting that the first such incident of a “sonic attack” actually goes back to Berlin in 2014. Since then, we have been told that similar cases have popped up in China, Vietnam, Russia and Austria. Were the Cubans behind those incidents as well?

Consider the Sources 

Part of the reason why a cloud still hangs over Havana when it comes to AHIS is that anti Cuba members of the U.S. Congress can’t let go of the Cuba blame-game. They are now evidently beginning to dig into how the various spy agencies handled the whole investigation into the Havana syndrome. The fact of the matter is that many elements within the U.S. government – because of historical grievances, an ideological blind spot and frozen by a view of Cuba as the “enemy” – refuse to accept that the Cubans had no hand in this. 

When it comes to the Havana syndrome and things Cuban in general, you would be wise to investigate matters on your own and to pay close attention to what the scientists and specialists are saying. 

Don’t always believe what is reported about Cuba in the news media. And believe even less what the U.S. government is often saying about the island of Cuba. 

For more information:
People with "Havana Syndrome" Show No Brain Damage or Medical Illness, by Daniel Vergano (Scientific American)

Friday, April 26, 2024


In the hour of the furnaces, ALBA is giving light

Speech by Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic, at the XXIII ALBA-TCP Summit, in Caracas, on April 24, 2024, "Year 66 of the Revolution"

Author:  |

april 25, 2024 08:04:47

Photo: Estudios Revolución

Dear brother Nicolás Maduro, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and host of this timely ALBA-TCP Summit;
Dear Brothers Comandante Daniel Ortega and President Luis Alberto Arce;
Dear Brother Prime Ministers Skerrit, Gaston, Ralph and Philip;
Representatives of the family of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-People's Trade Treaty;
Dear Arreaza, Executive Secretary of ALBA-TCP:
First of all I would like to thank you for convening us in "the hour of the furnaces".  José Martí defined "the hour of the furnaces" as that revolutionary time of being together and I quote his words: "in the work of foresight and order, of broad judgment and cordial action, all those who have a chest to attack, and a mind to see from afar, and hands to execute. And without misgivings and without exclusions. And without forgetfulness of the true and the just. And without tenacious antipathies. It is the hour of the furnaces, in which nothing but light must be seen", and ALBA is precisely giving light.
I invoke José Martí in this land of liberators, because no one brought us closer and better to Bolivar and his integrationist ideal, which finally transcended from the dream to the reality of Our America, when two profoundly Bolivarian and Martí leaders such as Commanders Chávez and Fidel Castro founded this alternative to the neoliberals' trade, this alliance of dreams that did so much in such a short time in favor of our nations.
Fidel, so precise and fair in his words, defined Chávez as "the best friend the Cuban people had throughout its history". Both of them, with their efforts and actions for the emancipation and development of Our America, proved to be close friends and brothers of all Latin American and Caribbean peoples by planting the seed of ALBA, the first realization of a brotherhood that still has a promising road ahead.
This is the Alliance of solidarity and cooperation, victorious over the selfish pragmatism that only bets on profits and the market.
It is the Alliance of the Miracle that made seemingly impossible projects and feats that, in the social order, have benefited millions of citizens in the region.
It is the Alliance where many found for the first time an answer to demands that, for centuries, were not offered by development models where the human being is secondary.  
It is the Alliance of unity, which allows us to face challenges and threats together.
Cuba will always be present in ALBA-TCP because, over and above the blockades and difficulties decreed by empires and mercilessly imposed by the current international order, deeply unjust and excluding, our Alliance has proven how and how much can be done from the South, if this solidary integration prevails.
Dear brothers and sisters:
This meeting could not be postponed. The international and regional situation arouses concern and summons us to action.
In some way and on more than one occasion, we have all pointed out the dangers of the impunity with which Israel acts, thanks to the complicity and support of the government of the United States and in spite of the serious risks of regionalization of the conflict in the Middle East, a serious threat to peace and international security.
Only an imperial mentality, an interventionist purpose, can deny that peace and stability in that region depend, in the first place, on a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which contemplates the creation of a sovereign and independent Palestinian State, on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and guaranteeing the right of return of all refugees to their land.
From this tribune of free, independent and sovereign peoples, we demand the immediate entry of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations Organization (Applause).
We cannot be indifferent to the daily crime that has been committed against the brotherly Palestinian people for 75 years.
No one can justify the brutal Zionist escalation of the last six months, the grave violations of International Humanitarian Law, the war crimes and crimes against humanity that have turned a tiny strip of inhabited land into a training camp for a bloodthirsty army.
The United Nations Security Council must fulfill its mandate and put an end to the impunity of Israel, the occupying power, before the questionable credibility of its resolutions, besieged by the imperial veto, ends up disappearing in the rubble of Gaza.
In 2014, in the face of facts as serious as those that outrage us today, the Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, left the following written: "The genocide of the Nazis against the Jews reaped the hatred of all the peoples of the Earth. Why does the government of that country believe that the world will be insensitive to this macabre genocide that today is being committed against the Palestinian people? Is it expected to ignore how much complicity there is on the part of the North American empire in this shameless massacre?"
They sound like words written for today. That is why I insist that all the peoples of the world should make the Palestinian cause their own.
Brothers of ALBA-TCP:
The Monroe Doctrine, two centuries after it was enunciated, continues to threaten the destiny of Our America.
Imperialism persists in its project of domination over our lands. It finances and promotes violence, destabilization and hate speeches. It attacks leftist and progressive forces and seeks to erase the history of struggle and resistance of the peoples.
In the face of imperialist pretensions, we reaffirm our absolute commitment to unity, the defense of our sovereignty and peace.
We reaffirm the unwavering will to continue strengthening CELAC.
We reiterate our strongest condemnation of the violent raid by the Ecuadorian police on the diplomatic headquarters of Mexico in Quito on April 5.  This violation of International Law, of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, of the right to asylum and of the sovereignty of our beloved Mexico, is absolutely unjustifiable.
We urge to restore former Vice President Jorge Glas to his condition prior to the assault of the Mexican Embassy, and to redirect his case in accordance with international law.
Ten years after the adoption in Havana of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, we call for the respect and strict compliance with its postulates. That the region continues to be internationally recognized for its commitment to peace and regional stability is a matter of the utmost importance for the present and the future of the peoples.
Dear friends, dear brothers and sisters of Our America:
On behalf of the Cuban people, Party and Government, I congratulate the Venezuelan people for the development of the new electoral process in a climate of peace and in adherence to its Constitution.  They have achieved this in spite of the attempts of some sectors to resort to violence and to retake the failed methods that caused so much pain and mourning more than once to the noble Venezuelan families.
We are not talking about old plans.  They are as recent as the assassination attempt against brother Maduro just a month ago.  We strongly support the timely denunciation of our Venezuelan brothers and sisters about these plans, which try to prevent the electoral process from taking place in a climate of peace and security.
We reject, once again, external interference and impositions that seek to influence the functioning of Venezuelan institutions.
We denounce the application of unilateral coercive measures by the United States, in violation of International Law, and demand that they be lifted in their entirety, immediately, permanently and unconditionally (Applause).
We express our recognition and full solidarity support to our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, who are resisting the media siege and the interference attempts of imperialism and its allies to break their constitutional order.
To the Plurinational State of Bolivia we extend our support and solidarity in the defense of its sovereignty over its natural resources and in the face of destabilizing attempts.
The sister Republic of Haiti is facing a new and very serious crisis.  The international community owes a great debt to its people, who were subjected to repudiatory punishments by imperial powers and have been forced to unjustly pay a high price for leading the first social revolution of the continent.
Haiti needs real, sufficient and effective development assistance and cooperation.  There is an illegal traffic of arms and ammunition into Haiti from the United States that must be stopped.
The Haitian people have the right to find a peaceful, sustainable and lasting solution to the challenges they face, based on full respect for their self-determination, sovereignty and independence.
Cuba has offered fraternal and selfless cooperation to Haiti in areas of great impact for its people.  Even in the current circumstances, we maintain a medical brigade there that provides services to Haitians in need (Applause).
We have proposed, through CELAC, the creation of a Single International Solidarity Fund for Haiti's Recovery, which would draw on contributions from the international community and address the priorities of the Haitian people.  International banking institutions should channel contributions to this fund.  Haiti's debt should be cancelled.
We also endorse the just demands for reparations and compensation for the damages of slavery and colonialism of our Caribbean brothers and sisters, who need and deserve fair, special and differentiated treatment.
We support the right to independence of the Puerto Rican people, and express our solidarity with the Argentine people.
The Caribbean will always find in ALBA-TCP an ally in the defense of its interests and claims.
We appreciate the firm support of the Alliance to the struggle for the end of the genocidal and illegal blockade of the United States Government against the Cuban people, which has been intensified to extreme levels in recent years.  We also appreciate the valuable support for the legitimate demand to exclude Cuba from the arbitrary unilateral list of alleged State sponsors of terrorism.
Our struggle will continue, year after year, until the U.S. Government lifts this cruel, immoral and unjustifiable policy.  The Cuban people deserve to live in peace and, on an equal footing, to demonstrate all that we would be capable of advancing and building in socialism.
Dear brothers and sisters:
As the year 2024 advances, the threats and challenges to the Cuban Revolution remain and even grow, but 65 years of resistance and heroic creation do not pass in vain.  We face each day with the impetus of struggle and work that characterizes revolutionaries and with the experience gained in more than 150 years of struggle, together with the exemplary Historic Generation headed by the leader of the Revolution, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, who on commemorating another anniversary of the triumph of 1959 has exalted, above so many virtues of the brave Cuban people, the sacred unity that is the basis of every triumph over the neighboring empire that also despises us.
At the end of his emotional words that day, Raul conveyed a synthesis of the lessons learned from the years of revolutionary combat with Fidel and expressed the decisive importance of unity, of not losing serenity and confidence in the triumph no matter how insurmountable the powerful obstacles of the enemies or how great the dangers may seem, and of learning and drawing strength from every setback until transforming it into victory.
Today I say before you, brothers and sisters of the Bolivarian Alliance, that 2024 will also be a year of triumphs and results, of unity and progress. We will not renounce our dreams nor will we betray the legacy of the heroes, living or dead, of Our America.
We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the founding of this emancipating and unitary alliance, successfully promoted by two great, unforgettable, eternal leaders of Our America: Commander Hugo Chávez Frías and Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz.
We do so with the renewed commitment to continue working for its consolidation and the preservation of its humanist and social essence.  We do so inspired by the example set every day by Army General Raúl Castro.
Our commitment to integration and unity is invariable, and from now on also with the 2030 Agenda.
We will continue working tirelessly for an ALBA of victories, for an ALBA of peace and unity, for an ALBA of solidarity and cooperation.
You can always count on Cuba's modest but determined contribution.
Let us make the dreams of the founders of this Alliance come true!
In this union is and will be our strength.
To Victory Forever!
Together we are invincible!
Thank you very much (Applause).

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

How "lights is mode" in the mountains

The Cuban State is allocating millions of dollars to ensure that there is electricity -through generators and photovoltaic solar panels, in 320 intricate communities and in around 8,000 isolated homes that are located in rugged eastern Cuba.


Author: Luis Alberto Portuondo |

April 1st, 2024


In Santiago de Cuba, the government's goal of providing electricity to tens of thousands of people who live and work in the most intricate areas is significant. Even though the capacity to generate electricity by the National Electric System (SEN) has fluctuated greatly in recent years – mainly because of well known causes and conditions – the results in fulfilling the government’s objective of providing electricity to the area have been significant. The efforts have been financially supported by an extraordinary state subsidy.


It is a promise made by the Revolution and we are not willing to give it up even when confronted by needs, mountains and the most challenging geography of the island.


A total of 420 modules of solar photovoltaic panels have already been shipped from the People's Republic of China. They cost six million dollars, including the batteries to replace defective ones that are currently in place in many homes. In the heart of Sierra Maestra, 277 families living in El Macho and La Magdalena are aware of this project in detail; they will benefit from it. The person advocating for this project who is to be implemented soon is Yisel Fonseca Mendez, delegate of the 78th district of Guama. “I spoke even with the Minister of Energy and Mines, and light can already be seen at the end of the tunnel, because the panels are not new in this area. Ask Ana Iris Martinez Gomez, who lives in Rio La Mula has had a similar system for six years” who is also deputy to the National Assembly of Popular Power.


In La Caoba, north to this territory and in Sierra Cristal, Geobel Mendoza Herrera awaits anxiously the arrival of the tanker trucks bringing oil destined to the generation of electricity in the area of Joturo. “I put my tractor to the service of our community because the roads are bad and I know these mountains like the palm of my hands” said the campesino with a machete in one hand and a cellular phone in the other after connecting with Orlando Orive Silva, chief of brigade attending a 31 of the 81 communities in Santiago generating electricity this way.


The Sun helps the hot land 

There are 1 963 houses isolated but having solar panels. Specialists from the  Industrial Plant and Technological Equipment Repair Company (Empresa de Reparación de Plantas Industriales y Equipos Tecnológicos) operating in the provinces of Granma, Holguín, Santiago and Guantánamo– travel tens of kilometers to provide maintenance to the modules. Their connection with the campesino families of the areas they serve become endearing.

"There's no shortage of coffee, I sneak it in early in the morning, so they can go up to the last house. I'm happy, imagine, I only pay ten pesos a month for this service," says Ana Iris Martínez Gómez, who has in her home, in addition to a panel, the public telephone serving all the residents of Río La Mula.

"The installed modules are of 300 watts, supporting a 32-inch TV and five LED luminaires, included in the module. They certainly do not meet the needs of households, but they provide light at night," emphasizes Orlando Riera Girón, director of investments at the Electric Company of Santiago de Cuba.

In 40 percent of the houses (778) there are issues, especially with the batteries. «As soon as they arrive in Cuba we will replace them, as we always do. Now we are focused on implementing the mentioned Project with the University of Sancti Spiritus, that would make possible the installation of the modules of 2,2 kilowatts; they include a battery, accumulator and inverter, with an estimated duration of 25 years, and will allow you to connect a television, a refrigerator, a washing machine and a kitchen,” says Riera Girón.

The price of each module in the market is between 1900 and 2400 dollars “despite actual cost, people will pay as before, ten pesos; both communities will also receive two water pumps and a fridge so they can conserve their food, explained a director. He remembers that, since the 1990s, and as an initiative of the Commander in chief, similar panels have been installed in schools and theaters which were not connected to the National Electrical Service (Servicio de Electricidad Nacional). Thousands of these panels have been installed, with a high cost of financial and material resources, but with a very rewarding and high social impact on people’s lives.

"These are our thermoelectric plants.”

Elárides Montero Figueredo started as a substitute in the Chamarreta 2 mountain generator set, "and for the last five years I have been the operator. The people here take great care of this equipment which, although it generates only four hours a day, has become our thermoelectric plant and is a totally free service."

We know the people living in El Naranjal, with their delegate in front and their pickaxes, hoes and shovel rehabilitating the narrow road for the triple truck to arrive with the fuel. In the early hours of the morning, Maria Caridad Jiménez Parra, shift manager at the ServiCupet Siboney, in San Luis, stopped the long queue of vehicles because "whenever the ambulances and mountain cars arrive, you have to stop what you are doing, they become the priority.

More to the North, the people in El Berjel and Limones are taking care. Aracelis Ricardo and Minerva Peña are operaries. “It is a work of care, I was afraid of electricity, but now I am used to it. I have my salary and in the neighbourhood everybody knows me as the Misses of the generator set” she said with much pride, Aracelis.

“The electrical company looks after 79 communities that, because they are far away, are not connected to SEN groups that were before managed by Communal Services. We need to say that the lack of fuel has also caused a lack of services in some áreas; and yet, overall we have coverage for more than 20 days per month. The estate asumes transportation, maintenance, salaries, while the sense of belonging of the population is high,” shared Osvaldo Bell Sanchez, director of the company unit of base of Emergency Generators (Generacion de Emergencia).

It is also important to note that the communities of Paraiso (San Luis) and La Gran Piedra (Santiago de Cuba) generates electricity 24 hours a day with support from Geysel (Electrogenic Groups and Electrical Services Company) as per information provided by functionaries of that company to Granma, and that they are vital for both local government and the population.

Through mini-hydroelectric plants, many families have electricity, as has been the case for decades in Pedernal (San Luis) and in dozens of towns throughout Guamá. In this regard, the exploitation of renewable energy sources (solar and hydro) is a viable option to which the country's leadership attaches high priority.

However, in Guaimaral (Ocujal del Turquino, Guamá), its 43 homes do not receive the service – although in the future 300-watt panels will be installed – and this happens in several communities in San Luis, one of the least electrified municipalities in the nation, and other territories in the province, "because at the moment it is very difficult to execute the large investments that would involve bringing the networks and systems to communities that, most of them are at great distances from the lines," the Chief Investment Officer stressed.

Whether in La Pilita (Contramaestre), where 356 people live, or in La Estrella (San Luis), with 25, and in each of the 2,592 families in Santiago – which make up 9,138 individuals – those four hours of daylight and the tangible and often anonymous efforts to ensure that the guarantee is constant are highly valued.

"All those houses save electricity, I tell my wife to do it too. I know when I will leave, but I don't know when I will return. It's a lot of walking and they even nicknamed me the old mountaineer," said Orlando Orive Silva from Kamaz, because the light of the mountains "can't be missing."