Maggie Alarcón

Archive for the ‘Miami/Cuba’ Category

Terror in Miami/Terror en Miami

In CAFE, Miami/Cuba on April 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm

 

Version en Español abajo.

This coming April 27, 2013, will mark the one year anniversary of the domestic terrorist attack on my offices in coral gables , fl. Three incendiary devices where put inside my office in the pre dawn hours of the morning. The effects where total destruction, everything was reduced to ashes. As I watched the terrorist act in Boston  I could not help but find similarities and differences comparing it to my office fire bombing. Let me be clear, I am in no way comparing both acts as the one in Boston was of much more significance and destruction, to the people, city and our country.

Here is what I learned. Both bombings, boston and my office, where carried out because of hate. I was lucky, that no one died at my office, although the potential was there, as one blog put it, “ too bad she was not inside the office”, or the other tenants of the building who could have been working late, or just someone who works the night shift, walking their dog. In the case of Boston, there was immediate condemnation from the city , state , and federal officials and a determination to catch these terrorist. In my case, to this day, not one elected official, and in particular, james cason, mayor of coral gables , has ever come out to denounce this act of terrorism. I also learned that the FBI has the technology to take grainy photographs and make them cristal clear, yes, there is a grany photograph of a vehicle of intrest in my case, but no FBI technology has every released the CLEAR PICTURE. I, like Boston  had many people come rally to help me and support me, after all my crime was, doing legal travel to Cuba  and in particular the pilgrimage for His Holyness Benedecit VI´s visit to Cuba  The Spanish radio stations where receiving calls celebrating this act, not much different than the Jihadist celebrating in the middle east the bombing of BOSTON. As we all know , ones mans terrorist is another mans hero. I wish

I could say my case is isolated. It is not, there are many cases of these types of bombing in south Florida even some that have resulted in death and maiming people. Just cause they dare to think differently on Cuba  and how we should approach democracy in Cuba  Gee, I thought we lived in a democratic nation that encourages free thinking. Here in South Florida  you can loose your life for this. Imagine that. Most of the country would not even believe this has been going on in South Florida  yes, part of the united states of America.

As I watched Yoani Sanchez visit here, I wondered if they told her about these unsolved crimes, or if they told her how at some point people in south Florida would loose their jobs if their employer found out they traveled to Cuba  Or how we too have in south Florida “actos de repudio” calling you communist , just cause you believe in peaceful solutions. Solutions that would help the u.s. and the Cuban people. So, here it is , a year later, no news, no arrest, no suspects.

I , born in Brooklyn, with an enormous love and pride for my country, was convinced that this time, they would be caught. I was wrong. It just is not politically correct in South Florida to call these terrorist what they are, TERRORIST. They are called , freedom fighters. I just wonder, whose freedom?

Vivian Mannerud Verble
President

Airline Brokers Co.

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El próximo 27 de abril 2013, se cumplirá el primer aniversario del ataque terrorista doméstico en mis oficinas en Coral Gables, FL. Tres dispositivos inciendiarios fueron puestos dentro de mi oficina en horas previas al amanecer de esa mañana. Los efectos fueron la destrucción total, todo se redujo a cenizas. Mientras observaba el acto terrorst en Boston, no podía dejar de ver similitudes y diferencias, comparando a las bombas incendiarias que pusieron en mi oficina.  Quiero dejar claro una cosa,  de ninguna manera quiero comparar la magnitud de lo ocurrido conmigo  con lo que pasó la semana pasada en la ciudad  de Boston. Aquello fue de mucho mayor impacto y la  destrucción, las perdidas humans, y el terror en esa ciudad y en el pais entero no comparan. Pero el terrorismo es TERRORISMO donde quiera y como quiera que ocurra.

Pero he aprendido algo. Ambos atentados, Boston y mi oficina, fueron actos de odio. Tuve la suerte de que nadie muriera en mi oficina, aunque el potencial estaba allí, como dijeran en un blog:  “Lástima que ella no estaba dentro de la oficina.  Pudo haber  otros inquilinos del edificio que podrían haber estado trabajando tarde o sólo alguien que trabaja en el turno de noche, caminando a su perro. En el caso de Boston, hubo condena inmediata de la ciudad, estatales y federales y la determinación de capturar a estos terroristas. En mi caso, hasta la fecha, ni un funcionario electo, y, en particular, James Cason, el alcalde de Coral Gables, jamás ha salido a denunciar este acto de terrorismo. También he aprendido que el FBI tiene la tecnología para tomar fotografías granuladas y hacerlos cristal claro, sí, hay una fotografía grany de un vehículo de intrest en mi caso, pero esta techonologia de el FBI no se a utilizado o dado a conocer en mi cas.. Yo, al igual que Boston, había muchas personas que vinieron a manifestar ayudarme y apoyarme, después de todo mi crimen fue, haciendo viajes legales a Cuba, y en particular de la peregrinación de la visita de el papa benedicto a Cuba. Las estaciones de radio en español en recibir llamadas celebración de este acto, no es muy diferente que el yihadista celebrando en el Oriente Medio el bombardeo de BOSTON. Como todos sabemos, los terroristas de algunos hombres, son los heroes de otros. Me gustaría poder decir que mi caso es aislado. pero no lo es., hay muchos casos de este tipo de bombardeo en el sur de la florida, incluso algunos que han resultado en la muerte y la gente mutilaciones. Simplemente porque ellos se atreven a pensar de forma diferente sobre Cuba, y la forma en que deben acercarse a la democracia en Cuba. Vaya, pensé que vivíamos en una nación democrática que fomenta el libre pensamiento. Aquí en el sur de la Florida, usted puede perder su vida por esto. Imagínese eso. La mayor parte del país, ni siquiera creería que esto ha estado sucediendo en el sur de la florida, sí, parte de los Estados Unidos de América.

Mientras miraba a Yoani Sánchez visita aquí, me preguntaba si le dijeron sobre estos crímenes sin resolver, o si le dijeron cómo en algún momento la gente del sur de Florida perdería su trabajo si su empleador se enteró que viajaron a Cuba. O cómo nosotros también tenemos en el sur de la Florida “actos de repudio” llamando comunista, simplemente por pensar en soluciones pacíficas. Las soluciones que ayuden a los EE.UU. y el pueblo cubano. Así que, aquí está, un año después, sin noticias, sin detención, ningún sospechoso. yo, nacida en Brooklyn, con un amor enorme y orgullo para mi país, estaba convencido de que esta vez, sería atrapado.

Yo estaba equivocada. Simplemente no es políticamente correcto en el sur de la florida llamar a estos terroristas lo que son, terroristas. Se les llama, luchadores por la libertad. Me pregunto, libertad de quien y para quien?

Vivian Mannerud Verble
President

Airline Brokers Co.

A Glimmer of Hope Obama, Cuba and United States

In Alan Gross, Blockade, CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on November 14, 2012 at 11:27 am
 
 By Benjamin Willis
Originally published in CAFEPROCUBA

Although most progressives would agree that last Tuesday’s elections did little to resolve the overwhelming list of challenges that faces our nation there is a glimmer of hope that the United States is inevitably moving towards a policy of engagement and normalization with Cuba.  Barack Obama and the Democratic party showed that they were able to listen to voices within the Cuban American community crying out for a new stance towards the island of their families and heritage over the din of distorted hysteria projected by the historical Cuban exile community of southern Florida. As a result, Obama took a record amount of the Cuban American votes in Miami-Dade County and Democrat Joe Garcia easily beat the hapless Republican incumbent David Rivera for Florida’s 26th congressional district.

These victories for candidates who have demonstrated a clear intention to work towards a more “normal” policy with Cuba reflect the desire for both political parties to acknowledge the raw statistics of public opinion polls in both Florida and across the United States concerning current policy towards Cuba. For decades voters flocked to Republican politicians who were willing to cozy up to criminals such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles in order to project a hard-line approach. Now, it seems as though the Cuban Americans of Miami are abandoning their blind support for the policy of economic strangulation that is the United States embargo towards Cuba.

Outside of Florida, gains in the senate by Democrats in races that were all but gift-wrapped for the Republicans just three months ago bode well for what will eventually be a long slog through both houses in order to finally dismantle the Helms-Burton Act, the codification of the odious embargo that was universally denounced in the UN this past Tuesday, November 13th.

Obama and his legacy

For the short term, an Obama re-election may be exactly what proponents of engagement with Cuba need. Even though it will take a persistent campaign designed to eventually repeal Helms-Burton there are several things that Obama can do to improve our relations with the island through either executive order or through good old-fashioned diplomacy.

If Obama could have run on his record of pursuing a different policy with Cuba he might have been able to convince even more Americans to vote for him.  In contrast to the empty promises he gave his supporters concerning tackling global-warming, pursuing peace, and rebuilding America’s manufacturing base with “green” jobs, his success at re-drawing the “line in the sand” between the U.S. and Cuba has been a positive step towards redefining America’s policy towards the communist nation.

Obama’s decision to scrap George W. Bush’s policies of allowing Cuban Americans to travel to the island only once every three years was an easy, yet necessary step.  He changed regulations in favor for open travel to the island by Cuban Americans in 2009. Remittances were also allowed to be sent and have helped family members on the island to set up private businesses in Cuba’s nascent mixed economy that has resulted from the economic reforms that the Cuban government has implemented in the past few years.  All of these decisions have been applauded throughout the Cuban American community.  Unfortunately, Cuban Americans have had to defend these inalienable rights, not privileges, because elected politicians from their own community like David Rivera, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Marco Rubio have attacked such actions as “appeasement”.  Their visceral hate for the Castros has been put in front of the rights of their own constituents to be able to reconnect with family members and their own heritage and culture.

Obama not only helped to open travel for Cuban Americans but also re-implemented the “people-to-people” policy in 2011 that allows for special licenses to be granted to any American citizens in order to visit Cuba for academic, cultural, religious, and some commercial endeavors.  Such licenses allow for American citizens to see first-hand the realities of Cuba that often don’t mesh with the spurious claims of Marco Rubio and his cohorts.

When the issuance or renewal of said licenses were halted in August there was a warranted amount of skepticism that this program would not be continued until after the election. Surprisingly, the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Accounts Control (OFAC) began issuing licenses in October. In previous years such a gesture would be seized upon by the Cuban exile community of Miami and magnified into scandalous proportions. This was not the case and Obama obviously reaped the benefits of not kowtowing to such extremists in this election.

Cynics will point out that Obama has disappointed in almost every way possible and that he is not interested in implementing real change in U.S. foreign policy. As far as Cuba is concerned, he may have no choice. This year’s Summit of the America’s the POTUS found out exactly how frustrated the rest of the hemisphere is with this nation, especially in regards to our refusal to recognize Cuba’s rightful participation in the summit. Several nations have vowed to boycott any further summits until the issue of Cuba is addressed. The rest of Latin America looks upon the U.S. with resentment because of decades of imposed colonial imperialism and our continued hostility towards Cuba is just another reminder to all Latin Americans of our continued arrogance and hubris.

Obama and the American political class need to see the writing on the wall. No positive result can come from continually denying Cuba its proper place at the international table.  Engagement with Cuba is simply better business than Uncle Sam’s archaic embargo and Obama is just pragmatic enough to understand this. There are some key issues that need to be addressed and proponents of normalization hope the president acts swiftly.

First, Cuba’s placement on the State Sponsors of Terrorism is unnecessary and Obama could change that.  The designation of Cuba as a country with a profile that fits this description was always dubious. Cuba exported revolution, not terrorism, and it has been almost thirty years since Cuban trained revolutionary forces were inflicting heavy damages on U.S.-backed mercenary forces in Africa, Nicaragua, and other areas of conflict during the Cold War. At no point did these forces use tactics that could be construed as terrorism.

Hardliners point to Cuba’s asylum to members of the FARC and ETA as examples of aiding and abetting terrorists, even though these organizations designation as terrorists obfuscates the truth about either movement. The Basque separatists are actually there at the urging of the Spanish government and the officials of the FARC and Columbian government have agreed to meet for the first formal talks in ten years in La Habana later this week after preliminary talks in Norway in October.

What kind of State Sponsor of Terror nation holds peace negotiations?

Cuba’s continued appearance on this list trivializes the very real threats of terrorism that our nation faces and negates the opportunity for the U.S. and Cuba to cooperate on important matters of regional security that correspond to both nations.

Secondly, Obama could dramatically open up diplomatic ties between the two countries.  Two major cases have been obstacles that have stood in the way of progress between the two nations.

One is Alan Gross. The other is the Cuban five.

While there are calls for a direct exchange between the two parties for these prisoners the best course of action would be to solve either case according to its own merits.  In both cases an increased amount of diplomacy will be needed and Obama could order a high level official to meet with representatives of the Cuban government in order to facilitate some end to the impasse that these cases have caused. Until now, Senators, congressmen, and civil servants with years of negotiating, like Bill Richardson, have been sent to La Habana. It’s time for the Secretary of State, whomever that may be, to make a historical trip and see if they can earn their paycheck.

This past week it was announced that Obama would be visiting Myanmar. The list of human rights abuses by the leaders of that nation makes Cuba look like Sweden. There is no excuse for not reaching out to a country like Cuba if we are planning on forgiving Myanmar for its sins long enough to visit them.

Thirdly, a broader interpretation of “people-to-people” licenses will be the best way for Americans to see for themselves that we have nothing to fear from the Cubans and everything to gain from a reciprocal relation with the island. The travel ban, or more precisely, the violation of the fundamental constitutional right of Americans to travel, is something that the president can ease if not completely do away with.  Cuba has recently made bold reforms in immigration laws that were designed to avoid “brain drain” during the Cold War. Gone are the requisite for an exit visa and other laws that made leaving Cuba almost impossible. Now, the only restriction for travel is that of the United States towards its own citizens.

These steps could help in the battle to eventually bring about real change. The exceedingly low-hanging fruit that Cuba represents would be easy to pick for Obama and would do wonders for a president seeking to try and secure his legacy. Presidential first terms are all about getting re-elected. Second terms are about leaving something behind that people will remember you by.

Miami’s Changing of the Guard

Exit polling in Miami-Dade County illustrates how the tide is turning in Cuban American political affiliation. Obama nearly split the votes with Romney among Cuban Americans across the county by taking between 48% and 53% (depending on which poll you want to believe) of the votes.  This is a monumental gain since 2000 when Bush carried over 75% of the Cuban American vote in Miami-Dade.

Joe Garcia’s election speaks volumes as to how the demographics of Cuban Americans, especially in Miami, are changing. This turning of the tide can be attributed to many factors but, most importantly, it appears as though Cuban Americans who have arrived since the Mariel boatlift are becoming increasingly involved in the political process. While most of the Cubans who arrived shortly after the revolution consider themselves political refugees, the newer generations often had to leave because of economic reasons.  These newcomers lived in Cuba during both good times and bad and are unwilling to accept the hardliners positions which are often articulated out of fear, ignorance, and loathing. The recalcitrant old-timers have had years to intimidate anybody who even suggested that Cuba should be spoken about in a respectful, positive manner. Their message is that of hysteria, hatred, and that killing innocents is perfectly acceptable. Hopefully, their time of controlling the narrative has come to an end.

The largest impediment for normalizing relations with Cuba has always been Miami Cubans.  It was ludicrous for any presidential to criticize our backward policy towards the island because it was thought that such a mistake would cost him the all important electoral votes of the “swing state” of Florida. If the Cuban American community can prove that it is indeed a diverse group of ideas and opinions and that the majority does not support the embargo and our retrograde position towards Cuba then politicians will be able to express what they truly feel about such a policy without the fear of a backlash that could sink their campaign.

It should be said that Garcia was president of the Cuban American National Foundation, an organization that has lobbied for the embargo and for strict measures against the Castro government. He is not anti-embargo, per se, but he has taken a positive stance on travel and remittances to the island and has challenged the status quo on bringing about change in Cuba. His maturation on several issues reflects the Cuban American community’s evolving stance on the same issues.

Regardless of his positions on the minute details of our policy with the island his election is part of a monumental sea change that is happening in Miami that is bigger than him or his electoral victory. Hopefully, he will provide a counterbalance to the Cuban American congressional cabal that lost a congressman but gained a senator in Ted Cruz from Texas.

Gaining ground

Last Tuesday’s elections proved to be a massive failure for the Republicans. Mitt Romney may never have had more then a puncher’s chance at gaining the white house but his party seemed poised to take a majority in the Senate. However, the American public decided that candidates who understand rape to be “God’s way” of ensuring that the human race procreate should not be given the task of making important decisions that affect the entire nation. Victories by Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin were unexpected but welcome to those who wish this country to make serious changes towards adopting reasonable policies for working class people. Hopefully, they will have a more intelligent stance on foreign policy as well.

For proponents of engagement with Cuba it is understood that in order to repeal the Helms-Burton Act there will have to be a concerted effort to win votes in the House and prevent a filibuster in the Senate by either Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez, and possibly by newcomer Ted Cruz. The fact that the Democrats gained seats instead of losing their majority is crucial in the long term.

Another gain in the Senate was that of Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Flake has been a vocal opponent of the embargo and has spoken out against our policy from Cuba. In order to repeal the embargo it will be necessary for Republicans to be on board. Flake’s election is a victory for change in U.S.-Cuba policy.

Finally, another event has happened that will be beneficial for those wanting change with Cuba. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the representative of Florida’s 18th congressional district in Miami, has reached her term limit for serving as the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Congress may not have term limits but at least committee appointments do and her position of chair on that committee always ensured that any discussion about Cuba would be tabled.  Ros-Lehtinen, known in Cuba as la loba feroz (the big, bad wolf), has proved to be one of the most reactionary politicians within the Cuban American congressional cabal regarding Cuba and her relinquishing of that post may allow for more discussion and dialogue for engagement and normalization.

 

The whole world is against us………literally.

Yesterday marked the 21st annual vote by the United Nations to condemn the U.S. embargo against Cuba. What started out as an attempt to rebuke the U.S. for its policy of economic strangulation of the island has turned into an yearly denouncement by the entire planet.

The final vote was an almost universal drubbing of the United States’ embarrassing policy: 188-3 with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia abstaining.

Of course, the U.S. was supported, as always, by Israel. The perennial random Pacific island nation that chose to hitch its wagons to unwavering imperialism this year was Palau. Makes you wonder if the FBI has some emails of Palau’s president.

It is ironic that even though Israel does not denounce the embargo it still allows its citizens to travel to Cuba freely. For a nation so paranoid about terrorism this seems to be a curious stance. Do they know something that Washington doesn’t?

The usual suspects within the supine American and worldwide media morass decide to just go with the AP story. ABC, CBS, FOXNEWS, the CBC, SkyNews and countless other news regurgitation webbies ran the same story which quoted Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, as saying that the embargo was “inhumane, failed and anachronistic.”  He continued by saying that perpetuating the policy was “not in the national interest of the United States. Quite the contrary, it harms the interests of its citizens and companies- especially in times of economic crisis and high unemployment.”

The main reason why so many “news” organizations ran this story was because it had the obligatory quote from a U.S. senior official defending this albatross around the neck of U.S. foreign policy as “one of the tools in our overall efforts to encourage respect for the human rights and basic freedoms to which the United Nations is committed.”

This after that same body unanimously decried the implementation of this “tool”. How can the US remain so tone deaf?

Here is what some of our partners, allies, and adversaries have said about this “tool” in the UN’s official press release of General Assembly 11311:

            “MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the embargo against Cuba contravened the fundamental norms of international law, international humanitarian law, the United Nations Charter and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States.  Furthermore, its continued imposition violated the principles of the sovereign equality of States and of non-intervention and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.”

Joseph Goddard of Barbados represented the Caribbean community (CARICOM) and stressed Cuba’s camaraderie with member States and articulated the importance of “mutually beneficial programmes of cooperation and trade in several key areas including physical education and sports, accounting, natural sciences, humanities, economy, special education, health and medicine.”

“OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile) said on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that the commercial, economic and financial embargo imposed on Cuba was contrary to the letter, spirit, principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter and international law.  The Community was concerned about the extraterritorial effects of the embargo that affected the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation.”

“MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil), speaking on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that the Group had been founded on the principles of interdependence and good neighbourly relations.  Alongside its Latin American neighbours, MERCOSUR showed respect for the sovereignty of States and for international law, and it viewed that the embargo ran contrary to the principles of the Unite Nations Charter and international law.  In particular, she said, it violated the principle of non-interference in the affairs of other States.  The embargo also ran contrary to the principles of justice and human rights, limited and delayed social and economic progress and inhibited the achievement of the Millennium Goals and other development targets.“

These were just a few of the statements issued by a number of subgroups within the UN. Once again, the entire world took a moment to make it perfectly clear to the United States that the embargo is completely unfair and deleterious to the Cuban people while becoming more and more counterproductive for U.S. citizens.  Obama could do himself and his legacy a favor if he would just stop and listen to what the international community is urging him and the United States to do- abandon the embargo and allow Cuba make its own future without further interference.

(An earlier version of this article was published in Counterpunch digital magazine at http://www.counterpunch.org http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/14/obama-cuba-and-united-states/)

Benjamin Willis is a musician who lives in Queens. He is a founding member of CAFE (Cuban Americans for Engagement). Contact him at benjamin@cafeporcuba.com.

 

Judy Gross’ Message “from Washington al Mundo”

In Alan Gross, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on September 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm

 

By Arturo López-Levy

Originally published in The Havana Note

Mauricio Claver-Carone hosts a satellite radio program by the name “From Washington al Mundo” covering international affairs. But don’t expect any diplomacy there. The program is merely his platform from which to insult the American foreign policy establishment. For example, in his August 6 show, Claver targeted Vali Nasr, the Dean of the School of Advanced Studies of Johns Hopkins University and a leading expert on the Middle East, calling him “a useful idiot” or an agent of Teheran for not advocating a regime change policy and promoting negotiations with Iran. Mr. Claver and his guest Shahriar Etminani agreed that the nuclear issue is mere “noise”.

In another episode, Claver denounced Washington’s engagement with Beijing. On April 17, Claver hosted Thadeus McCotter or “the smartest member of Congress” by Claver’s reckoning. The host and the guest shared their belief that as long as the Communist Party is in power, China remains the same. The United States should apply a Cold War policy to China because the war has never ended. According to Claver’s logic, the 40- year Nixon-Kissinger model of “unconditional” and “nonchalant” engagement with China is a case of “myopia”. It should be replaced by a “confrontational” approach. After Tiananmen Square, the United States should have applied to China a policy similar to our fifty year failure against Cuba: the embargo.

But on his September 13 show, Claver really outdid himself. Claver, who is also the main pro-Cuba embargo lobbyist in Washington, had prepared himself for a coronation but ended up a jester. His special guest was Judy Gross, the wife of the USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross who is imprisoned in Cuba. Mrs. Gross basically rebuked one by one all of the mantras of the pro-embargo lobby about a potential solution to her husband’s predicament. In a call to the State Department, she advocated for the immediate beginning of negotiations between the Cuban and the US governments to address Alan Gross’ imprisonment. She argued persuasively in favor of the US government taking its “moral responsibility” for sending her husband to Cuba. Mrs. Gross traversed Claver’s minefield of manipulation by refusing to join him in his statements against the Obama Administration’s steps toward engagement such as allowing people to people travel to Cuba since January 2011.

Mrs. Gross’ message in “From Washington al mundo” should be the compass of a national and world advocacy campaign for her husband’s release. Alan Gross is an American Jew. Americans and Jews all over the world have the commitment to care for a brother in faith and fellow citizen. Everything should be done, particularly a responsible negotiation with Havana, for Alan Gross’ release. At the same time, the campaign should take public distance from the US embargo or the USAID program under the Helms-Burton law. As Jews and Americans, we don’t have any committment whatsoever to the agenda of property claims and political revenge of the Cuban pro-embargo groups. There should be negotiations regarding Gross between Cuba and the United States, therefore we need to put pressure on Havana and Washington. Mr. Claver and those who share his “confrontational approach” to Iran, China, or Cuba should sail on their own.

The US government is responsible for the USAID programs, which have severe design problems, including the lack of a request for the informed consent of the Cuban Jewish Community for Gross’ actions. Gross was not a spy, but he was working in a secret program under section 109 of the Helms-Burton law to circumvent Cuban state monitoring of internet access in the island. Those in the State Department and USAID who sent Gross to Cuba knew that the American law he was working under is considered a violation of Cuban sovereignty not only by the Cuban government but also by the overwhelming majority of the United Nations and most of Cuban civil society, including all the main religious communities.

No matter how much we despise the communist censorship of internet, according to international law, the protection of the Cuban cyberspace is the responsibility of the Cuban State. Given the history of terrorist attacks by Cuban exiles against the island, sometimes with the tolerance of the US government, at best, and its complicity at worst, it is logical that the Cuban authorities would consider any attempt to undermine its control over its cyberspace as a serious threat to its sovereignty and national integrity.

Nothing between Cuba and the United States escapes the context of a fifty years old embargo. This policy was described by Pope John Paul II, as “illegal, immoral and counterproductive”. For decades, Cuban technological development has been forestalled by restrictions on trade with the largest market in the world, just ninety miles from its shores. Different from the USAID programs in other countries, including communist Vietnam, where the agency is cooperating with the government to create nonpartisan access throughout libraries, in Cuba there is a U.S. sponsored attempt to guarantee selective access to opponents and independent civil society actors while denying the sale of technology and access to the government and those who support it.

Gross’ predicament is aggravated by the powerful interests on both sides of the Florida Straits that favor the confrontational status quo between Cuba and the United States. Before the November elections, there is little incentive to negotiate some settlement of Alan Gross’ situation, which is implicitly connected- in the minds of Cuban officials- with the “Cuban Five,” a group of agents condemned in Miami under charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. Havana realizes that Gross’ imprisonment is drawing a lot of new attention to the cause of the Five and the many irregularities and deviations of American justice standards of their Miami trial.

In South Florida, pro-embargo hardliners have largely profited from the arrest of the Five and Gross. Although the five agents mainly infiltrated violent anti-Castro groups and did not cause any damage to US national security, the reiteration of news about the five Cuban “spies” has provided ammunition for those interested in denouncing Cuba’s alleged offensive designs against the United States. For the hard line exiles, Alan Gross’ incarceration has been a major asset in their campaign against Obama’s minimal engagement. That is why Claver and the Cuban American Representatives and Senators have argued vigorously against any negotiation. Curiously, Radio Marti, a radio station paid by the U.S. government but controlled by the Cuban American radical exiles reported Mrs. Gross’ interview with Claver but deliberately ommitted her petition to the United States government to answer positively to Havana’s negotiation offer. Such manipulation of Mrs. Gross’ opinions is cruel and shameful. The pro-embargo forces should take responsibility for Mr. Gross’ ordeal, which was partially caused by their policies of regime change.

Simultaneously, those in Havana who despise a rapprochement with the United States, wanting to delay the unavoidable economic reform, use the Five as a rallying flag to stimulate popular support, gaining time for elite accommodation without an immediate political opening. Likewise, the release of the Cuban exile terrorist Luis Posada by a Texas immigration judge contrasts with the severely bias trial endured by the Five in Miami and feeds perfectly into Cuba’s nationalist narrative of defiance and resistance against foreign imposition and US double standards in the human rights discourse.

Therefore, a solution of the Gross case should be part of a general improvement of relations between Cuba and the United States. If Obama wins a second term, he will have the flexibility he now lacks. He should rapidly negotiate the release of Gross and enter into history as the president, who promoted a rational redesign of a five-decade-old mistaken policy of isolation against Cuba. Secretary Clinton should not leave Foggy Bottom without flying the extra ninety miles to bring Gross back home. That would be the best response to Judy Gross’ wise and moving message “From Washington al mundo”.

Dawn Gable contributted to this article.

OBAMA’S CUBAN 5 DILEMMA

In ACLU, Alan Gross, Blockade, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Miami/Cuba, Politics, Press, US on September 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm

 

By Tom Hayden

From the Peace Exchange Bulletin

The ongoing case of the Cuban 5, convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and murder, for monitoring and trying to prevent terrorist attacks on Cuba from official US sanctuaries in Miami, will be central to any diplomatic effort to bridge the widening gap between the Obama administration and Latin America, assuming the president wins a second term.

“It is hard to believe that this case ever happened in the first place,” says the former top State Department official Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (2002-05), “unless, of course, one contemplates the real power of this group of Cuban-Americans in Florida and the hold they exercise over the US government.”

The Cuban argument is that the Five were sent to Florida to monitor the Cuban exile community after many bombings and deaths coordinated by Luis Posada Carriles, a former US CIA informant still living in Miami.

Last week marked the fourteenth year since the Five were arrested in 1998. Four remain held in high-security US prisons while one, Rene Gonzales, has completed a 13-year sentence, but is prevented by the US from returning home from Florida to Cuba. Appeals in federal court are ongoing.

Meanwhile, the Organization of American States (OAS), originally designed as a federation of pro-US satellites in the hemisphere, is showing significant independence after democratic elections of many Latin American governments opposed to neo-liberal corporate-centered economic policies and militarized US security policies.

Most recently, the OAS sent a take-it-or-leave-it message to the Obama administration that it will no longer meet again without the official seating of a Cuban delegation, which means the US either can fall into further isolation or begin a meaningful thaw in US-Cuban relations. Assuming the OAS holds firm, the Obama administration can tell its hard-line Cuban-American critics that “Latin America made us do it,” and accept being in the same meeting room with Cuban officials.

This is no longer a moral or political issue, but of strategic consequence for the US in its backyard. The US blockade of Cuba is becoming a hemispheric blockade of US diplomacy, with China gaining economic and diplomatic ground, according to a leading Latin American specialist interviewed in Washington last week. The specialist, who is currently active in US regional diplomacy, was interviewed off the record.

A major impediment to any thaw in US-Latin American relations is the continued incarceration of the Cuban Five.

At a meeting in Washington last week, a possible scenario for freeing the Five was described by Jose Pertierra, an attorney representing Venezuela in the extradition case against Posada-Carriles. Citing a recent speech by Cuban president Raul Castro proposing a “gesto-y-gesto” approach to resolution, Pertierra recalled how the US government released four militant Puerto Rican nationalists in 1979, followed ten days later by a separate Cuban release of ten US citizens from a Cuban prison, one of whom “readily” admitted being a CIA spy. (Time, October 1, 1979)

One of those Puerto Rican prisoners released in 1979, Rafael Cancel Miranda, spoke at the same public meeting with Pertierra last week, with Cuba’s de facto ambassador, Jorge Bolanos Suarez, in the audience. The charges leveled against the Puerto Ricans were far more severe, by US standards, than those against the Cuban Five. The Puerto Ricans were convicted of firing weapons into the US House of Representatives, wounding five members of Congress.

President Jimmy Carter released the Puerto Ricans – including Lolita Lebron, Irving Flores Rodriguez and Oscar Collazo along with Cancel Miranda – after prison terms of 24 years. Declassified documents show that Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, argued that their release “would remove from the agenda of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned movement and other international for a, a propaganda issue which is used each year to criticize the US, and is increasingly used as an example of our human rights policy.” (Pertierra, Jose. “Gesture for Gesture: A Historical Roadmap for the Liberation of the Cuban Five,” September 14, 2012)

One proposal being floated by some allies of Cuba today is for the “gesture for gesture” release of the Five and, separately, Alan Gross, an imprisoned American private contractor convicted of illegally smuggling communications equipment into Cuba as part of a “democracy promotion” project under the control of the US Agency for International Development (AID). Gross made five surreptitious trips in 2009 before being arrested. He claimed to be assisting Cuba’s small Jewish community set up Internet service, enlisting American Jews in helping carry networking equipment onto the island, including mobile phone chips which make signals undetectable. The specialized chip is frequently used by the CIA and Pentagon, as reported by Desmond Butler. (AP, February 13, 2012)

The US clearly wants Gross returned, but how important is his release as a matter of state interest? His wife Judy and a stream of Congressional representatives have visited Gross in Cuba. But does the national security elite care enough about Gross to exchange him for the Cuban Five (or even the one Cuban currently in Florida)? The continued imprisonment of Gross might actually serve an American interest of damaging Cuba’s reputation and deflecting attention away from the Cuban Five case. If Gross dies someday in a Cuba jail, the US would blame Cuba? At this point, neither Gross nor his wife will even admit his involvement in a secret US-sponsored project aimed at regime change.

For their part, the Cubans will have to weigh the costs and benefits of holding Gross for 15 years if there is no flexibility on the US side.

While the current prospects for a “gesto y gesto” swap seem dim in a case that has already dragged on for 14 years, behind-the-scenes discussions are continuing. If Obama is re-elected, the dispute is likely to intensify.

While Miami burns… Obama and Cuban-American politics

In ACLU, Blockade, CAFE, Cuban Americans, Cuban Embargo, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on September 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm

 

 

By Arturo López-Levy

Originally published in OpenDemocracy

 

 

US policy towards Latin America has paid a substantial price for President Obama’s kowtowing to the Miami hard-right wing. For example, Venezuela withdrew from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of the Americas (OAS), and there is a chance that no Summit of the Americas will happen in 2015 unless the United States changes its position on Cuba’s participation. Several countries in the Americas, from Nicaragua to Ecuador, spent years without a US ambassador due to Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) obstructionist caprice.

In a clear distortion of American values and presidential foreign policy prerogatives, the pro-embargo machine is taking the debate away from questions related to security threats and the constitutional right to travel theoretically enjoyed by Americans, to whether it is fine, or “ethical”, for an American traveler to smoke a cigar, drink a mojito, and dance salsa. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s Treasury and State Department have surrendered the constitutional and moral high ground. Could somebody in the administration ask Senator Rubio: what is the problem with Americans having a good time once they do their full share of religious, educational, and humanitarian work in Cuba? And exactly what threat does a mojito or a salsa dance pose to American national security?

According to Ellen Cragger from the Detroit Free Press, “the process of application for a people-to people-travel license grew up from six pages to more than a hundred. There has been also a massive slowdown on the responses of applications for new licenses and renewal of old ones for people-to people-travel.”

Appeasement is precisely Obama’s strategy, except that it is aimed towards his adversaries in the Cuban-American right instead of Cuba. Nobody is fooled by such tactics. Watergate (with the Cuban exiles as plumbers) and the 2000 elections Dade County incidents should remind every Democrat that Miami doesn’t play “second fiddle” to Chicago or any other place in dirty politics.  By showing no spine to defend democratic ground, the White House will not attract a single Cuban-American vote to its side. In fact, it might make more than one of its supporters stay at home in November.

Meanwhile, the Cuban-American pro-embargo lobby is working full speed to intimidate. In Miami, where nobody has ever apologized for using terrorism inside American territory, “somebody” set fire to the offices of Airline Brokers, the charter company that took American pilgrims to Cuba for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit. Not one of the Miami elected officials called for cooperating with the authorities or for condemning a terrorist attack on a business that honors every single rule in the book. The Democratic Party could have placed Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen between the “rock” of condemning practices that are perfectly fine for her base and the “hard place” of avoiding condemning a terrorist attack. It missed its chance.

What about the South Florida press and TV? The Miami Herald editorial page condemned the attack but did not demand a similar attitude from every elected official in the city. Neither Senators Rubio or Bill Nelson (D-FL) nor Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who represents the district where the company is located, were ever asked by the press for their opinions.

On Radio Marti, a government-funded “Radio Free Europe”-like broadcast emitting to Cuba, Obama appointed director Carlos Garcia to prove his bona fides to the Cuban-American right. In an editorial page in the spring, Mr. Garcia showed who the boss was when it comes to America’s foreign policy towards Cuba. Garcia used taxpayers’ dollars to call Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega “a lackey”, because of his perceived indulgence towards the Castro regime. Of course, Garcia is entitled to express his own opinions under our first amendment. However, as long as Congress doesn’t pass a legislation committing the US government to censure and insult the Cuban Roman Catholic Church, the visible spokesman of those who defend dialogue and national reconciliation in Cuba, Mr. Garcia should not use a public institution to vent his adolescent catharsis.

Garcia’s editorial was not a demonstration of force against the Castro regime but towards moderate Cubans and even Obama’s own State Department, who supported the Pope’s visit. None of this was a surprise to observers within the Cuban-American community, but there was a certain amount of hope that the White House would have some sense of decency and commitment to its own limited engagement policy towards Cuba. Wrong. Instead of supporting a constructive approach to President Raul Castro’s economic reform, Washington, not happy with one bad policy towards Cuba, is en route to having two: Obama’s respect for the 1996 Helms-Burton law (which strengthened the embargo and applied financial sanctions to non-US companies trading with Cuba), and Garcia’s preference for an even more contentious implementation of it.

The lack of commitment to Cuban Americans who defended Obama’s engagement steps, such as the easing of Cuban-American travel and people-to-people contacts, might have negative consequences for his support in South Florida. After many decades of exclusion from political life, both in Cuba and Miami, Cubans everywhere have an instinct to wait and see. One of the reasons why candidate Obama attracted the vote of Cuban-American progressive and moderates in 2008 was his article in the Miami Herald announcing clearly how he would reverse President George W. Bush’s policy on travel and remittances. It marked a contrast with then Republican presidential candidate Senator McCain’s commitment to fifty years of nonsense.

But since January 2011, when the Obama Administration expanded the categories of people-to-people contacts, the White House has been reluctant to strengthen its followers in the Cuban-American community. Admittedly, the President has firmly defended his policies towards Cuba, especially his family travel policy, from attacks from the Florida right; but he has avoided taking a high profile on this matter.  The end of the restriction against family visits, a disposition that bothered many who were unable to visit sick parents or even to attend relatives’ funerals, was announced a day before the fifth Summit of the Americas. The measures in favor of people-to-people contacts of January 2011 were adopted on a Friday afternoon through a discreet communiqué from the White House. During the 2010 campaign, no major Democratic figure came to campaign with congressional candidate Joe Garcia, who supports the trade embargo but campaigned for everything Obama stands for concerning the travel policy. No wonder a suspicion has grown that Obama is content with the status quo of Republican dominance in the Cuban-American community.

A second term could hopefully prove us wrong on this. To reach Cuban-American voters under 45 years old, increasingly registered as Independents or Democrats, President Obama should double down on his narrative of engagement, people-to-people contacts and dialogue with Cuba. Electoral considerations aside, Cuba has become a symbolic test case of the Obama administration’s will to adopt a realist approach to strategic problems in the hemisphere, such as the calamitous state of the OAS, immigration reform and drug ban efforts. Were a new constructive era of US-Cuba relations to begin, the new populist regimes would lose a rallying flag for their radicalism. A concentration on “good neighbors” actual multilateralism and not rhetorical fights could make a beginning.

P.S: Two weeks ago, US government-funded Radio Marti transmitted to Cuba an interview about the virtues and difficulties of developing a porn star career in democracy. There is nothing wrong with this use of freedom of expression as long as it is not paid for by taxpayers’ dollars. But again, Radio Marti is a public institution. It is difficult to believe how Director Garcia’s information policies fit with the rules and standards of the FCC, or how providing advice about the beauty and odds of a porn career squares with the mission of “promoting democracy in Cuba”. Everywhere in America, outside Miami, any promotion of porn with taxpayers’ dollars would cost the resignation of every official involved. It is time for Mr. Garcia to go.

About the author

Arturo Lopez-Levy is a Doctoral Candidate and lecturer at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver. He is a co-author of the book “Raul Castro and the New Cuba: A Close-Up View of Change”, McFarland Publishers, 2011.

Tras los sueños

In Architecture, Arts, CAFE, CENESEX, Cuba, Miami/Cuba on September 12, 2012 at 11:46 am
Publicado originalmente en La Jiribilla

Carta de Carlos Acosta

La historia comenzó de esta manera: viendo acercarse lo inevitable, ese día en que tendré que abandonar para siempre los escenarios que hicieron posible mi carrera, me he preguntado innumerables veces que me deparará el futuro.

Es la interrogante que me viene persiguiendo desde hace algún tiempo como una amenaza constante y permanente. Concluí que lo que más sentido tenía era dejarle un legado a mi país, a mi gente, en fin, por ser cubano, que sé yo. Se me ocurrió que tal vez podría crear mi propia obra como hicieron Alicia y Fernando Alonso, al crear la compañía cubana de ballet y la escuela de donde salimos todos los estudiantes de este género. Después de comentar el tema con amigos, autoridades del país, etc., y de haber dado dos o tres recorridos por La Habana en busca de una posible sede compatible con mis ideas, llegué a la antigua escuela de ballet diseñada por el arquitecto Vittorio Garatti. Me enamoré de ese lugar, como le sucede a todo el mundo que se encuentra frente a tal impactante inmueble. “Mucho dinero para salvarla. Es una locura” me dijeron dos o tres amigos para protegerme de los posibles dolores de cabeza que significaría embarcarse en tal colosal cometido.
Se me ocurrió que tal vez ese dolor de cabeza podía ser mi legado, rescatar ese gran patrimonio nacional con la ayuda de una recaudación de fondos, encauzando a mis amigos y entusiastas de las artes a unirse a esta visión, y crear un gran centro de arte, que fuese el motor impulsor de una idea todavía superior a la mía, la de crear la ciudad de las artes, un gran parque artístico único referente de su tipo en el mundo, adonde millones de personas de todas partes del planeta querrán venir en Cuba para sumar dicha experiencia a su gran lista de vivencias. Imagínense que cosa más linda: Natalie Portman dando un taller sobre Shakespeare en la facultad de arte dramático, mientras la Sinfónica Nacional nos deleita con un concierto de Bach al fresco, y al mismo tiempo, en el museo de arte contemporáneo (una idea nueva que bien podría proyectarse en las vecindades), se exponen las últimas obras de Ai Wei Wei y de Damian Hirst, mientras la Ópera de París nos baila El Lago de los cisnes en el teatro de la antigua escuela, devenida en centro de arte, y después nos iremos, para concluir la noche, al concierto de Steve Wonder en una gran carpa situada en los alrededores; y en medio de esto están nuestros niños y jóvenes aprendiendo y nutriéndose de todo el entorno.
Ustedes me dirán “coño Carlos, no hay que exagerar” y yo les responderé que eso de “no hay que exagerar” fue lo mismo que me dijeron cuando manifesté mi deseo de traer al Royal Ballet a La Habana y lo logré. El Royal Ballet se gastó alrededor de 2 millones de libras en dicha empresa de regalo para Cuba. Así que ¡vuela alto mulato! como me dijo un buen amigo.
Pregunto: ¿No es una idea verdaderamente hermosa? Pues más hermoso aún es el hecho de que a Cuba no le costará un centavo y todo este gran parque artístico podría aportar el dinero que necesita el MINCULT para rescatar otras entidades artísticas en crisis y que pueda restaurar los teatros de la Isla, para que cuando el Royal Ballet vuelva a Cuba no se vea limitado a bailar solamente en La Habana, sino que pueda llevar sus actuaciones a Oriente y demás latitudes del país. De esta forma La Habana crecería, creando actividades recreacionales y artísticas diversas, que no compitan con aquellas que se ofrecen en el centro histórico y así el turista se ve obligado a repetir su visita a nuestro país, porque se le han quedado cosas pendientes por ver y así se incrementa la economía de todos: la estatal y la individual, y al mismo tiempo los cubanos podrían disfrutar de todo esto, sin necesidad de someterse a pagar las grandes tarifas, al ser el sector turístico quien podrá proporcionar dicha comodidad.
Algunos puntos a aclarar:
Norman Foster: la participación de Norman Foster se limita a crear una maqueta de la edificación existente, para que el donante, en los numerosos eventos que llevaremos a cabo, tenga una idea de lo que se trata, y también producir un estudio de los posibles costos implicados en el proceso de restauración. Para lograr esto, Norman envió al arquitecto Juan Vieira y al ingeniero Roger Ridsdill Smith.
El arquitecto Universo García y el ingeniero Sánchez Lagarza les aportaron la información de los estudios previamente realizados, incluyendo aquellos que detallaban las distintas amenazas de inundaciones del río Quibú.
La prensa internacional automáticamente asume que un arquitecto de la talla de Norman Foster sería incapaz de aceptar un proyecto que no le ofreciera sumo control de hacer y deshacer, y es ahí la razón de las malas interpretaciones, pues a nadie le cabe en la cabeza que alguien como Norman Foster tenga la nobleza de limitarse solo a querer ayudar a rescatar una edificación que él mismo considera vanguardista dentro de la arquitectura del siglo veinte.
Esta es la realidad, y Norman Foster ha acogido este proyecto donando sus servicios completamente gratuitos. Desde el principio se lo expliqué a Garatti en Londres, agregando que su obra en todo su conjunto era insuperable e inmejorable, y al parecer no me entendió. Le hablé de que sí habría que adaptar los espacios al nuevo funcionamiento, sin comprometer por supuesto la arquitectura.
Por ejemplo: las aulas de docencia no servirán pues el centro no enseñará matemática, ni español, y sí podrían ser utilizadas como alojamiento para estudiantes extranjeros que tomen parte en cursos de verano y talleres danzarios. Tenemos que tener humildad y reconocer que la participación de Norman Foster es quizá lo más grande que le pueda haber pasado a la obra de Garatti. Si hay algún momento que esa obra podría terminarse es ahora gracias al interés de Foster de legitimar este proyecto, al aportar sus servicios y su nombre.
Carta de Garatti: en la carta de Vittorio Garatti a Fidel y a Raúl, dijo algo de que yo pretendía utilizar la edificación de manera privada, o algo por el estilo. La verdad es que no sé a lo que se refiere pues es patrimonio cubano. Imagínense alguien que sea dueño del Capitolio.
Sobre su idea original: en su momento fue un proyecto relevante. En la actualidad volver a convertir la edificación en escuela de ballet representaría para el país un gasto innecesario. La actual escuela de ballet ubicada en Prado está muy bien donde está, pues se encuentra a pocos metros del teatro García Lorca, que imagino que en su momento  albergará a la Compañía Nacional de Ballet y a la Ópera lírica, convirtiéndolo en “la casa de la ópera y el ballet”, como la tienen todas las naciones que se respeten en cuestiones de arte; el equivalente cubano a El Teatro Bolshoi, La Opera de París, El Royal Opera House, etc.
Esto nuestra nación lo merece por poseer un genuino culto al teatro.
Sobre el teatro: Vittorio había diseñado el teatro de la escuela con la intención de que fuese un laboratorio coreográfico. ¿Alguien sabe lo que es eso? Yo, que sé un poco sobre el tema, le respondí que eso no existe, pues las coreografías se crean en los estudios de ballet. Mientras tanto se tiene un posible gran teatro subutilizado, que podría generar fondos para que el centro fuera auto sostenible. En la actualidad hay que soñar con la calculadora en las manos pues los sueños son caros y no creo que el país esté en condiciones de pagar por ellos. ¿O no?
Acuerdo: Vittorio Garatti firmó un documento, o sea, estuvo de acuerdo con todos los puntos que se debatieron. Yo le aclaré punto por punto, en un recorrido que hicimos por la escuela, mi visión y el porqué de su funcionamiento. Estuvieron presentes el arquitecto Choy y su colega Christian.
El artículo del Sunday Times: completamente fuera de contexto. Sensacionalizada toda la información. Da la impresión que yo me fui de Cuba hace mucho tiempo y que solamente regreso ahora con capa y espada. El artículo era supuestamente sobre el estreno de una película que filmé en Cuba hace dos años. En fin, eso es lo que hacen los cronistas: crear polémica y así vender más periódicos.
Júzguenme por mis acciones y no por lo que se dice de mí.
Aspiraciones: son mis mayores deseos poder lograr este proyecto en Cuba, pero podría perfectamente hacerlo en otro país, por ejemplo: Inglaterra.
Mi deseo es dejar algo sólido por lo cual ser recordado, un pedazo de mi alma que continúe ayudando a muchos, aún después que la muerte me haya apagado. No les quepa la menor duda de que lo lograré de cualquier manera.
Conclusiones: Radio Martí, los chismes, los envidiosos, las mediocridades, las miserias humanas, los que no hacen nada para marcar la diferencia y sin embargo impiden la evolución, el progreso, los que no pueden ver más allá de lo que le muestran sus ojos, todas estas personas que también son nuestros hermanos, continúan dividiéndonos.
Brindemos por la buena fe. Que gane la mejor idea no importa de dónde venga. No digamos: “y este qué se piensa”, sino “qué bueno que alguien tuvo la iniciativa”. Tenemos que seguir creciendo como nación, pero para eso es necesario mantenernos siempre unidos.
Carlos Acosta
Londres
Julio 5 del 2012

UN “ASESINATO” FABRICADO

In Alan Gross, Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Miami/Cuba, Politics, Press, US on September 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Por Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

 Published in English in Counterpunch

 

El 24 de febrero de 1996 se produjo un lamentable incidente frente al Malecón habanero. Dos avionetas pertenecientes a un grupo terrorista de Miami fueron derribadas por la defensa antiaérea cuando violaron el territorio nacional de Cuba. Decenas de violaciones semejantes habían ocurrido en el último año y el Gobierno había advertido públicamente que no toleraría su repetición.

El hecho agravó seriamente las tensiones entre Estados Unidos y Cuba y fue objeto de intensos debates en la Organización de Aviación Civil Internacional y el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU.

El 7 de mayo de 1999 – luego que habían pasado tres años y más de dos meses – el gobierno de Estados Unidos, de modo irresponsable y caprichoso, utilizó el incidente y lo convirtió en el Cargo 3  (Conspiración para cometer asesinato) formulado sólo contra Gerardo Hernández Nordelo.

El Cargo 3 concentró casi completamente el proceso de los Cinco. A esta acusación dedicó el Tribunal la mayoría de sus sesiones, expertos y testigos. En la sala de la Corte estuvieron presentes todos los días los familiares de los que perdieron la vida el 24 de febrero de 1996 quienes hacían demostraciones públicas y daban conferencias de prensa allí mismo frente a los miembros del jurado.

El tema fue el eje central de la campaña mediática. Sobre él se produjeron miles de artículos y comentarios en la prensa escrita y en las emisoras de radio y televisión.

Curiosamente los medios le prestaron gran atención al Cargo 3 antes de que éste existiera. Puede afirmarse sin la menor duda que la acusación fue resultado de una conspiración entre el Gobierno y los grupos terroristas responsables de aquel suceso en la que los “periodistas” pagados por el Gobierno tuvieron un papel decisivo.

En septiembre de 1998 cuando el FBI apresó a los Cinco, la Fiscalía presentó los cargos de los que eran acusados. Allí no estaba el Cargo 3, no se hacía referencia alguna a incidentes aéreos o avionetas derribadas ni a nada por el estilo. La acusación contra Gerardo fue agregada más de siete meses después cuando él y sus compañeros estaban en confinamiento solitario, aislados del mundo, en su primera visita al “Hueco” que duró 17 meses.

Una revisión de la prensa de Miami entre septiembre de 1998 y mayo de 1999 permite comprobar la afirmación anterior. Se pueden encontrar numerosas declaraciones de dirigentes de grupos terroristas, ampliamente difundidas y amplificadas por los “periodistas”, pidiéndole al Gobierno que agregase la nueva acusación. Entre otras cosas, puede leerse la información, profusamente desplegada, acerca de reuniones entre los fiscales y los terroristas de las que surgiría la llamada “Segunda Acta Acusatoria”, que sustituiría a la anterior incorporando el Cargo 3.

La lectura de ambos documentos de la Fiscalía haría que cualquier periodista medianamente serio se sorprendiera y sintiera la obligación de averiguar. Según esos documentos el FBI había logrado descubrir quién era realmente y qué hacía en Estados Unidos Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, por lo menos, desde 1994, más de dos años antes del incidente de 1996. Habían conseguido descifrar sus comunicaciones con La Habana, sabían lo que hacía y lo que se le instruía hacer. Por eso no actuaron contra Gerardo y sus compañeros, porque les constaba que su trabajo no era en absoluto perjudicial para Estados Unidos ni para el pueblo norteamericano.

Sabían también que Gerardo nada tenía que ver con los sucesos de 1996. En aquellos días fue grande el alboroto, no sólo en Miami sino también en Washington. Bill Clinton, quien era el Presidente, ha escrito que entonces se le propuso incluso un ataque militar contra Cuba. Los más agresivos grupos del Sur de la Florida vociferaban día y noche reclamando guerra. El contubernio de esos grupos con el FBI local  es archiconocido. ¿Puede alguien creer que no habrían hecho nada contra el “culpable” por el derribo de las avionetas? ¿Qué no hubieran actuado contra él si lo hubiesen tenido allí mismo, y controlado por el FBI, en Miami?

¿Y Cuba? Ninguna de las comunicaciones entre La Habana y Gerardo, que posee el FBI y fueron presentadas en el juicio,  sugieren siquiera que existiese la menor preocupación por su seguridad y por protegerlo frente a los riesgos que enfrentaría si él hubiese tenido alguna participación en aquel incidente. Gerardo continuó su labor en Miami durante casi tres años más. Vino a Cuba de vacaciones y a nadie se le ocurrió que aquí se quedase para proteger su vida.

Cuando lo detuvieron en septiembre de 1998 no lo acusaron de nada relacionado con lo ocurrido en 1996 por la sencilla razón de que el FBI conocía, por lo menos desde 1994, lo que hacía Gerardo y sabía, por tanto, que él no tuvo relación alguna con aquella desgracia.

Sin embargo en 1999 se aparecieron con la increíble calumnia de acusarlo por participar en un asesinato en primer grado – con premeditación y alevosía – y lo hicieron – el FBI, o sea, el Gobierno – para satisfacer los deseos de la mafia terrorista y sus corifeos en los medios que eran, a su vez, asalariados del Gobierno.

Tan endeble era esa acusación que la propia Fiscalía reconoció después que no la podía probar y pidió retirarla, algo que hubiera sido noticia de primera plana si se tratase de otro caso y no el de los Cinco.

 

Cuba and Fidel Castro: Beyond his 86th Birthday.

In CAFE, CENESEX, Cuba, Cuba/US, Fidel Castro Ruz, LGBT, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on August 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm
By Arturo Lopez-Levy 
Originally published in The Havana Note
Regardless of how long he lives, Fidel Castro has had an influential role in shaping the political discourse in Cuba. Fidel skillfully mixed Marxism and nationalism and made a revolution that changed the history not only of Cuba but also of the whole Western hemisphere. He was the most popular leader in a generation of Cubans, a political giant who reached world dimensions during the Cold War. As professor Jorge Dominguez from Harvard University said, If there  had been competitive elections in the early 1960’s, Castro could have won them all. He didn’t have the chance. In the most difficult moments of the Cold War, the United States, as the hegemonic power in the Americas, didn’t have tolerance for a nationalist leader who aspired to an independent neutralist course not to mention a socialist one, no matter how popular Castro was among his people.
On the other hand, Castro was not a misunderstood liberal democrat, but a realist politician with strong nationalist and socialist ideas ready to remain in power and implement his revolutionary program by democratic or undemocratic means.  He learned from the experience of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and fought the Cuban Civil War of the 1960’s with every conceivable alliance and political weapon  available to him. Political opponents of Castro’s program were treated as enemies of the nation, they suffered financial and property losses, harassment and long prison sentences. Fidel created a new Communist party under his nationalist authoritarian leadership and remained in power for almost five decades. In 2006, he retired undefeated. No leader in Cuba could speak; bring enthusiasm to his followers, and plant fear in his enemies as Fidel Castro did. His charisma was no doubt an important source of the communist party’s legitimacy but he also attracted many Cubans due to his writings, ideas and speeches.
In analyzing how Cuba moved forward after the revolution a completely Fidel centered approach was always insufficient because it is impossible to trace how much of Fidel’s policies were the result of his own views and how much his campaigns were the result of influences by different interests within Cuba’s power structure. But when Fidel was committed to a policy, he was the minimal winning coalition. Politics at the strategic government level consisted of guessing what could help Fidel’s grand strategy. This limited the feedback on policy and the information flows of the system.
Fidel’s style hardly ever consisted of leading from behind. That is why the “Fidel in command” model truly ended when he fell ill in 2006.   Fidel is no longer the decisive force in the political survival of the PCC rule. In part by design and in part by default, the institutionalization of the party rule and the economic reforms proposed in the “Lineamientos Economicos y Sociales” (Social and Economic Guidelines) of the PCC imply a partial withdrawal of the communist state from social spaces and the economy. Fidel’s charisma and leadership style were cardinal obstacles for these two long overdue processes. The supreme leader of the revolution deployed a striking anti market bias all throughout his career.
Fidel was not only the main creator of institutions in post-revolutionary Cuba but also the charismatic leader who reduced their importance at his pleasure, sometimes unconsciously. In his statements, Fidel Castro  was a constant advocate for “democratic centralism” and “collective leadership”, not for cult of personality, but in practice, his charisma and political dominance prevented the institutionalization of a legal-rational bureaucratic rule. The government was wherever he was; its priorities were his priorities. The recently approved term limits were unthinkable under his aegis.
Now, there is a new situation. Raúl Castro’s commitment to economic reforms and institutionalization is opening venues for the discussion of new ideas within the power structure and the general political discourse. Propositions in favor of a gradual expansion of the role of the market in the economy, the diversification of the property structure, and the expansion of the role of law and rules in how government and the party work are openly discussed. This is not part of a transition to a multiparty democracy but embodies the relaxation of information controls; it improves the feedback mechanisms and the expression of pluralistic interests within the Cuban elites and society. Public discourse is breaking away from the homogenous path of previous times, not only in the publications of the Catholic Church or reform oriented magazines such as Temas, but also in the core publications of the system. Newspapers and radios on the provinces, and even Granma, the Communist party newspaper, are talking about the need for separating the party from the government, and economic changes.
One ideological factor that is emerging in post-Fidel Cuba is an increased emphasis in a nationalist narrative. During Fidel Castro’s leadership, particularly before 1989, the PCC promoted Marxist ideas, and a feeling of belonging to the international communist bloc. Internationalism, not nationalism, was the central ideological principle of Cuba’s foreign policy. Raúl Castro’s recent speech in Guantanamo on July 26 demonstrated how this feature is changing. The emphasis on the revolution as a solution to a history of national humiliation is becoming predominant and issues such as national unity, economic growth and public order are emerging more forcefully in the official discourse. The struggle against the U.S. embargo is becoming again the strongest unifying ideological factor in the elite and between the PCC and the population.
When Fidel’s health forced him to step down , the community of Cubans in Miami Florida reserved the Orange Bowl for the anticipated celebration of his death.  In other parts of the world, such as the Southern Cone of Africa where Cuban troops were key allies in the struggle against Apartheid, there was sorrow. What would happen in Cuba when Fidel Castro dies? A funeral.   Fidel Castro’s death will speed up the processes of economic reform and institutionalization but it is important not to exaggerate his current impact in Cuba’s policymaking. He is a retired head of State.
Fidel Castro is not Cuba. Rather than focusing on an 86 years old revolutionary patriarch, the international community, particularly the United States, should look at the general trends operating in Cuba’s politics and economy. A central question is whether Raul Castro’s economic reform can alter the political dynamics and the distribution of power not only in Cuba but on the Cuban American community and U.S. debate about the embargo.  Everything else being equal, a market oriented Cuban economy, with a vibrant non-state sector, would create a virtuous cycle of pressures to end the U.S. sanctions that would also strengthen the appetite for more economic opening in Cuba. It is also worth noting that the antipathy generated by Fidel among some segments of the American public and the Cuban American community is not transferable to any other leader, not even his brother Raúl.
That is the gift Fidel Castro has given all of us to contemplate on this, his 86th birthday.

Defending the defensible

In Blockade, CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, Ecuador, Education, Human Rights/Derechos Humanos, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on August 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm

 

 

For Gerardo, René, Antonio, Fernando and Ramón, thank you.

 

Margarita Alarcón Perea

 

I have written about the Cuban Five  and have posted even more on this blog site about the subject. Five men unjustly imprisoned in the United States, serving long Machiavellian sentences for a crime they did not commit. It’s a long story that most have not heard about and should really learn more on.

Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution back in January of 1959, Cuba had to establish one of the best Intelligence networks the world has ever known. Often times compared to Israel’s Mossad, not because of its record for killing but yes for its record as an  intelligence service. The island was struck with numerous blows both on a military scale (Bay of Pigs Invasion, Missile Crisis, explosion of the Cargo Ship La Coubre), as it was a victim of terrorist attacks on civilian targets (Fire at the El Encanto department store, fire at the “Amadeo Roldán” TheaterCubana Flight 422) or multiple terrorist biological attacks on crops and livestock and of course direct terrorist attacks on individuals throughout the more than half a century of tension between the island and its closest neighbor to the north.

All of these attacks have been proven to come from the Cuban American community living in the South of Florida and working directly under the noses of the CIA, the FBI and the White House. This is not news to anyone who has been alive and paying attention for the past fifty years.

For a good part of those years, the excuse was that Cuba was a satellite nation of the Soviet Union and since the Cold War was on, Cuba was considered a nation to be exporting revolution and  it was an accepted fact that it  was the enemy and that the island and its people were a valid target. After the demise of the USSR and the socialist block in Eastern Europe it would have been logical to expect a change in these policies and I like to think that on many levels in the CIA, the FBI and the White House this is the case but unfortunately these same institutions created a Frankenstein that is now a rogue killer and completely out of control.

One of the “revolution” exports was Nicaragua and then Angola and Namibia and South Africa. Nicaragua was “taken care” of by the Reagan Administration and Angola, Namibia and South Africa were, well, let’s just say, that former President Nelson Mandela has publicly acknowledged the role of Fidel Castro and his people in not only freeing him but also in putting an end to that gruesome system known as apartheid in that region of the world.

Yet the Cuban Five are a term we who love Cuba and its sovereignty use over and over again. What is it? Well, it’s not an “it” per se. It’s the term used to refer to five men who infiltrated Cuban American terrorist networks to try to put an end to terrorist activities against the island years after the fall of the Berlin wall, years after the end of the Cold War and years after so called “democracies” were taking over much of the hemisphere. Because you see, it wasn’t the Cold War or the “exporting” of Revolution or even the fact that Cuba is the only island to stand in the face of imperialism and win.

The  Cuban Five are men who were standing up for things that the Cuban Revolution stands for and that are now becoming  a reality the world over. These men were protecting not only their homeland, they were protecting what their homeland stands for in the rest of the world.

Cuba today, is guilty of one thing only. It is guilty of having been in Haiti with 400 doctors collaborating with the country when the earthquake hit in 2010. It is guilty of having sent another 5000 to Pakistan shortly after another such natural disaster struck the mountains in that eastern nation. It is also guilty of having guaranteed that some 6.5 million citizens in 28 nations are no longer illiterate persons thanks to the Cuban Literacy Program known as “Yes, I Can.” A figure that surpasses all statistics reported by other similar programs implemented thus far around the world. Here is the humdinger: the cost of the course depends on the conception of how to apply the program. Depending on the application of the program and the teaching means, including a TV set and a DVD player, teaching a person how to read and write does not cost more than five dollars.

And that is one of the main things the Cuban Five were defending, Cuba’s right to “export” literacy at a cost of FIVE dollars a pupil.

How can anybody condemn anyone for defending something like that?

“How long Great Pumpkin, how long?!” – Linus Van Pelt

In Alan Gross, Blockade, CAFE, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Miami/Cuba, OAS/OEA, Politics, US on August 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

I remember a trip we took to Trinidad and Tobago when I was 9 years old when my mom gave me as a traveling companion my first copy of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. At the time I of course didn’t fully comprehend the philosophical intensity of the “children’s” story but in time I grew to adore the book and give it as many readings as I could and still can.

The other great author I discovered later that same year was JD Salinger. I recall wondering in the cellar of the Cuban Mission to the United Nations, then located on 68th Street between Madison and 5th avenue in NYC, when I stumbled upon a red book with yellow lettering on the cover, The Catcher in the Rye. I was taken by the simplistic art work and I soon found myself head first in the book reading till I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Again, I was too young to fully comprehend what Salinger was talking about and again it is another book and author that has been my close companion.

Then came Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald and the entire “Lost Generation ” so eloquently qualified by Gertrude Stein. So much did I find a passion in the writers of the 1920’s and 1930’s that while at Havana University, I requested the English department allow me to introduce John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men into the 4th year curriculum.

Like most children I was not an alien to the lighter side of reading, and I too enjoyed the comics. Not all mind you. There was one in particular that grew on me to such an extent I am still identified by many when those who know me see any one of the characters. Of all the American authors there is one that has stayed with me in a lighter but no less intense philosophical nature, Charles M Schultz.  Back then it was the smiling and grinning while turning the pages. As I grew older and began to learn more through reading and life, re-reading Peanuts began to have a different  much more educational meaning. It was like “getting” Schultz all over again each time I read.

The media in the US has forgotten to read or at the very least to reproduce now and again sentences that should be read and re-read. For four years now, ever since becoming President of the United States, President Barack Obama has been receiving a message from President Raul Castro of Cuba: let’s sit down and talk. “We are willing to speak to the US on equal ground…”, “No topic is off the table…”, “Everything is up for negotiation…”, have been some of the phrases he has used ever since he first made the statement publicly to the press in Caracas in 2009 right before President Obama was off to his first trip abroad as president and reached Trinidad and Tobago for the OAS summit. At the moment Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was about to land in Santo Domingo, President Raul Castro was saying “we are willing to talk to the US on equal terms and everything is up for negotiation.”  The statement was so direct and new, when approached in the Dominican Republic by the press, Mrs. Clinton not only was aware in the air of what had happened, she had a comment: “this is very interesting, we will have to look into it.”  Raul said  it again this July 26th.  On my count he has said it publicly four times since 09. And the response from State or the White House? Nothing.

In the famous words of Charles M. Schultz : How long Great Pumpkin, how long?!