Maggie Alarcón

Posts Tagged ‘Tom Hayden’

Tom Hayden PRESENT

In History, Politics on October 26, 2016 at 12:45 pm


By Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Where to begin? What can one say faced with the difficult news of his death?

We worked together, at a distance, on the new edition of “Listen
Yankee! Why Cuba matters” outcome, in part, of long conversations
between two old friends, and to an extent in part, a sort of for
handed memorie.

Because our friendship remained intact since the 1960´s when we each
headed glorious organizations, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)
and the Federación Estudiantil Universitaria (FEU).


Our ideals and our struggle united us and above all the headstrong
conviction that a better world was possible and that it was something
worth dedicating one’s life to achieve.

There is so much that must be said about Tom Hayden. The long road
that so often sent him to jail from the days when he marched in the
South to defend the civil rights of black people to finding himself at
the helm of the movement against the Viet Nam war with its seminal
moment at the insurgence of the youth movement in Chicago in 1968. A
road that led him to occupy elective posts never abandoning the dreams
of his youth.

Because for him the 60´s were never a thing of the past and one can
never reference those everlasting years without mentioning him

He had a large body of published works, books, essays, and speeches
from the Port Huron Statement, functional manifesto for SDS to his
texts on Afro-American rebellion in New Jersey, to his most recent
works, where his solidarity with Cuba was ever present, and where his
struggle for the freedom of the Cuban Five saw no bounds.

His life and his ideas will continue being an inspiration to the new
generations. He was, is and always will be, what the founder of the
FEU in Cuba always wanted, an eternal young rebel.

Until victory onward Tom, comrade in arms, comrade.

And Then There Were Three

In Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on March 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm


By Tom Hayden


Fernando Gonzales became the second member of the Cuban Five to be repatriated to his homeland when he arrived at Havana’s Jose Marti airport on Friday. His prison term cut from nineteen to fifteen years, it was a long journey for Gonzales from a desert cell in Arizona to his release in Havana.

This was one deportation to celebrate.

Gonzales is fifty years old, and will join hands with Rene Gonzales, released last year, in advancing the campaign to free the remaining three.

The US government and media define the men as “spies” who belonged to a Cuban “Wasp network”, when the truth is far different and complicated. The five Cubans were not stealing US nuclear secrets, but monitoring live plots by US-supported Miami Cuban exiles to harass and attack the island. (For a recent authoritative account, see Stephen Kimber, What Lies Across the Water, 2013.)

Resolution of the Cuban Five matter is one of the impediments to overcome in normalizing US-Cuba relations after a fifty year hot-and-cold war. Behind the scenes, contacts and talks are developing. The Cubans are holding a US AID contractor, Alan Gross, convicted in 2011 of illegally smuggling advanced communications equipment into Cuba. His sentence runs through 2026.

There is reason to believe the US position is changing gradually. If so, releases of both Gross and the remaining Cuban Three could evolve on separate tracks as part of a mutual overall resolution of the US-Cuban conflict before President Obama leaves office and President Raul Castro retires.


Ending the Cuba Travel Crisis

In Politics on December 4, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Time Travel - twisted clock

By Tom Hayden

There is an opportunity for President Barack Obama to begin rolling back our Cuba sanctions policy by finding a bank willing to do business with Cuba so that hundreds of thousands of Cubans can spend the holidays with their families. The main reason the Cuban Interests Section in Washington DC cannot process visas and passports is because no bank is willing to handle the financial transactions. The reason the banks are afraid is the US sanctions policy and Cuba’s listing on the global terrorism list. So the irrational US policy has come full circle: Obama’s policy of expanding and normalizing purposeful travel to Cuba is prevented by Obama’s embargo policies. It’s an opportunity to begin lifting the embargo, but chances are the administration is too timid, for now, to fully undo its own senseless policy.

Notice, however, the tantalizing convergence between Cuban and American rhetoric on the main issue:

John Kerry, Secretary of State has said, “Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans visit Havana, and hundreds of millions of dollars in trade and remittances flow from the United States to Cuba. We are committed to this human interchange, and in the United States we believe that our people are actually our best ambassadors. They are ambassadors of our ideals, of our values, of our beliefs.”

Ricardo Alarcon, former foreign minister and retired president of the National Assembly said, in relation, “In terms of changing Cuban society, the most effective ambassadors are the Cubans coming back, somebody living on the corner bringing gadgets from Miami. When they are in their dining rooms they probably are not pretending to mislead. They will say work is harder in the US. They can bring some different element here, maybe in fashion or music. So you will get a mutual influence. I don’t really see a problem with that. They have been coming back for years. So? It’s a two-way influence. For Cubans, they get a broader view of Miami, and it challenges the mentality of those Cuban-Americans who think everyone from Cuba is a terrorist. What free travel permits is a better understanding of Cuba’s realities and some benefits for the visitors, like cheaper medicines for example. For decades we have had millions of tourists from Western Europe and Canada, and they haven’t changed the country, they just come to enjoy life and relax.”

President Obama said November 8, “We have to update our policies. Keep in mind that when Castro came to power, I was just born.”

Ricardo Alarcon continued, “Now we have Esteban Laso as head of our National Assembly. He was a boy, a sugar cane cutter, in the Batista period. A little boy then; now he’s in his sixties. The misperception is that the Cuban system has been the same from the very first day; that the people who attacked Moncada are still around. Yes, a few are, but they are octogenarians. When Raul said he was getting out in five years, nobody here said, well, that’s the end.”

Alarcon said emphatically, “The main goal of immigrants is to come and go. The discussion is over.”

This irreversible process already has destroyed the argument of right-wing Cuban politicians, including Marco Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, that no one should travel to Cuba, nor spend money in Cuba, because they are subsidizing a dictatorship. Even many of Cuba’s US-supported dissidents have concluded that the blockade no longer makes sense.

If the “Cuban exiles” community is itself a dying band of octogenarians, what beyond inertia is propping up the US policy? Alarcon predicts that, “The day you don’t have a Castro, they will get into trouble because of their Helms-Burton law,” which prohibits US diplomatic recognition without the disappearance of the Castro regime and installation of a market economy. “In a few years the Cuban government will be led by other persons with other last names. But I don’t think the [passing of the Castros] will create an immediate process towards normalization. The reasons and forces behind the current policy are stronger than that.”

But, Alarcon observes, “If the anti-Castro people can go back and forth, it’s the end of the political exile movement.”

Article originally appeared on (

Conspicuous Isolation

In Politics, US, Venezuela on April 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm

BHpzsbKCcAEQcWi.jpg large

By Tom Hayden 

Venezuelans are expected to elect Nicholas Maduro, an ally and foreign minister of Hugo Chavez, in national elections this Sunday, preserving for now – “por ahora” – the Chavez legacy. Venezuela’s program of “21st century socialism” will continue, as will its project of integrating Latin America into a progressive power bloc, even an “OPEC of natural resources” in an increasingly multipolar world.

Most importantly, the Chavez legacy will continue to live on in the misiones, or social services projects, invested to alleviate hopeless poverty. One, Barrio Adentro, involves 67 local clinics offering medical treatment to 15 million people. Poverty under Chavez was reduced by half. Food subsidies supported half the population. Literacy has been increased significantly. Cooperatives have received credit and technical support. High-school dropouts have taken night courses and obtained subsidies to new universities. Community-based councils have empowered the poor in a kind of participatory democracy never before seen.

Assuming Maduro wins, Cuba also will continue to receive 95,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil every day, while Cuba deploys 20,000 medical personnel to work in community centers.

Yet a deep US hostility to Venezuela persists, not only from the State Department but from nearly all mainstream journalists and academics. Offended by Chavez’s strident anti-imperialism and his cult of personality, the critics typically see an incipient dictatorship and downplay the repeated electoral victories Chavez was able to amass for more than a decade. The critics are not wrong in all their charges, but seem stubbornly devoted to regime change rather than productive peaceful coexistence, leading to the spiral of tensions.

The US conflict with Chavez suggests that American foreign policy is influenced by sharply divided elites. The first has been represented by Barack Obama’s periodic gestures toward direct diplomacy with adversaries, as when he and Chavez shook hands in a famous photograph at the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. According to eyewitnesses present, Obama said words to the effect of “I need time” in their brief hallway conversation – having significantly waived off his American handler. Maduro was present with Chavez in that spontaneous encounter, and both were very encouraged. But immediately thereafter, Jeffrey Davidow, the veteran State Department official in charge of the proceedings, threw cold water on the amicable opening by slamming Chavez for seeking a photo-op.

As Obama turned his attention to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East, decisions returned to the old Cold Warriors at State and the Pentagon. The next disastrous incident came during the September 2009 Honduras coup against elected president Manuel Zelaya, which Obama at first called by its right name – a coup – then was forced into an embarrassing retraction, leaving Hondurans living under the new Lobo regime which most Hondurans considered illegitimate. A main purpose of the US-supported Honduras’ coup was to prevent “another Venezuela” in the region.

As recently as five months ago, secret talks were taking place between the State Department and Nicholas Maduro, aimed at putting the bilateral relationship on a better footing. Then in December in Miami, Obama gave a speech containing no reference to Chavez’s health crisis but criticizing Venezuelan “authoritarianism.” An angry Maduro called off the talks. Weeks later, former US Congressman William Delahunt (D-MA), often a contact with the Venezuelans, tried to explain the president’s speech as merely “reading talking points” prepared by his staff.

Finally, when heads of state from Latin America and around the world were gathering in Caracas for the Chavez funeral, Obama could only dispatch Delahunt and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), not vice-president Joseph Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry. Obama also released a statement expressing hope for a “constructive” relationship with Venezuela based on human rights, the rule of law, and democracy promotion, a clear criticism of the president who lay in state.

While the fallen body of Hugo Chavez was given love and respect by the region’s leaders, the US government remained conspicuously isolated. Notably present at the funeral were Cuba’s leaders, presumably blocked from receiving any official US regards during the occasion. On Cuba, American strategy seems to rest on the premise that “regime change” will occur only after the funerals of 82-year old Raul and 86-year old Fidel Castro.


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.

Ecuador Grants Assange Asylum Against UK, Swedish Pressure

In ACLU, Ecuador, Julian Assange, Latin America, Politics, Rafael Correa, US, Wikileaks on August 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm
By Tom Hayden


Originally published in Peace Exchange Bulletin



The British has made a “huge mistake” in threatening yesterday to extract Julian Assange from Ecuador’s London consulate after the Latin American country granted political asylum to the WikiLeaks founder yesterday, according to an international human rights lawyer. “They over-stepped, looked like bullies, and made it into a big-power versus small-power conflict,” said New York-based Michael Ratner in an interview with The Nation.

The diplomatic standoff will have to be settled through negotiations or by the International Court of Justice at the Hague, Ratner said. “In my memory, no state has ever invaded another country’s embassy to seize someone who has been granted asylum,” Ratner added. There would be no logic in returning an individual to the very power seeking to charge him with offenses, he indicated.

Since Assange entered the Ecuadoran embassy seven weeks ago, Ecuadoran diplomats have worked to avoid an escalation by private talks with the British and Swedes seeking an assurance that Assange will be protected from extradition to the United States where he could face charges under the US Espionage Act. Such guarantees were refused, according to Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, who said in Quito that the British made an “explicit threat” to “assault our embassy” to take Assange. “We are not a British colony,” Patino added.

The US has been silent on whether it plans to indict Assange and ultimately seek his extradition. But important lawmakers, like Sen. Diane Feinstein, a chair of the joint intelligence committee, have called for Assange’s indictment in recent weeks. But faced with strong objections from civil liberties and human rights advocates, the White House may prefer to avoid direct confrontation, leaving Assange entangled in disputes with the UK and Sweden over embarrassing charges of sexual misconduct in Sweden.

Any policy of isolating Assange may have failed now, as the conflict becomes one of Ecuador – and a newly-independent Latin America – against the US and UK. Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa represents the wave of new nationalist leaders on the continent who have challenged the traditional US dominance over trade, security and regional decision-making. Correa joined the Venezuelan-inspired Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) in June 2009, and closed the US military base in Ecuador in September 2009. He survived a coup attempt in 2010.

For more details, please see previous coverage of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange here.


In Human Rights/Derechos Humanos, Latin America, Politics, US on June 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm

President of Ecuador Rafael Correa left. Founder of Wikileaks Julian Assange right. (all possible puns intended!)

By Tom Hayden

Originally published in The Nation

In what might escalate into a major setback for the US government, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London and is seeking political asylum in that Latin American country. Relations between the US and most Latin American countries- and many others  around the world- are sure to be aggravated if the White House reacts negatively or tries to block an Ecuadoran asylum decision. It seems inconceivable that Ecuador will simply turn Assange over to the US or UK  authorities, setting the stage for a showdown with global repercussions.

President Rafael Correa is a progressive and populist economist who already has expelled a US military base from his country, survived an attempted coup and capture by right-wing military plotters, and expelled an American  ambassador in 2011 based on WikiLeaks revelations. Last year an Ecuadoran  court fined Chevron $8.6 billion for damage to the Amazon basin, a decision  which Correa called ³the most important in the history of the country.²  Correa also violated the tenets of US-imposed neoliberal policies by  endorsing Venezuela and Bolivia in refusing debt repayments to the International Monetary Fund in 2008. In a preview of things to come, Correa and Assange participated in a televised question-and-answer session last month on the Russia-sponsored network RT. Moscow has been a strong supporter of Assange, with Vladimer  Putin nominating the WikiLeaks founder for a Nobel prize.

US-aligned NGOs like Freedom House are attacking the Ecuadoran government for its attempts to contain private media corporations hostile to Correa¹s politics and domestic economic agenda. Correa generally is aligned with the  left-bloc of Latin American countries, although he enjoys positive diplomatic relations across most of the continent. In an example of the mainstream media distortion of all things Latin American, Reuters recently described Correa as a critic of US ³imperialism² in quotation marks. Nevertheless, the US has leverage in Ecuador as the country¹s largest trading partner, but with China and Latin American partners rising.

For more information link to

For WikiLeaks cables on US-Ecuadoran relations, link to