Maggie Alarcón

Posts Tagged ‘US Cuba Relations’

Un Quijote del Siglo XX

In Politics, Social Justice on September 16, 2016 at 11:35 am

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Por Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

El lunes 12 de septiembre a los 96 años de edad falleció en su hogar de California Stanley K. Sheinbaum. Quiero sumar estas líneas al tributo que seguramente habrá de recibir de muchos en todas partes. Pese a su edad avanzada y los quebrantos de salud sus amigos jamás hallarán consuelo a su partida. Porque Stanley pertenece a la categoría de los que Bertolt Brecht llamó los imprescindibles los que luchan toda la vida.

Desde su infancia neoyorquina bajo la Gran Depresión hasta la era de la dominación global de la plutocracia norteamericana recorrió un largo camino que lo llevó no sólo a atravesar su país sino también a conocer el resto del mundo. Aprendió a interesarse, como pocos compatriotas suyos, por los conflictos y problemas de los demás y a involucrarse y tomar partido, “tratando de crear un poco de paz y justicia en este injusto mundo” como escribió en sus Memorias publicadas hace cinco años (“A 20th Century Knight’s quest for peace, civil liberties and economic justice”)

Descubrió en 1959 que el programa que dirigía en la Universidad Estatal de Michigan era una actividad encubierta de la Agencia Central de Inteligencia y se convirtió en la primera persona que denunció públicamente las acciones ilegales de la CIA dentro de Estados Unidos.

En los años Sesenta articuló la campaña para la liberación de Andreas Papandreu encarcelado por la junta militar en Grecia. Encabezó el movimiento para la recaudación de los fondos necesarios y la defensa de Daniel Elsberg arrestado en 1971 por revelar los llamados Papeles del Pentágono sobre la agresión a Viet Nam, emblemática pelea con la destacada participación de Leonard Boudin y su discípulo el joven Leonard Weinglass, ambos brillantes defensores de los derechos humanos y las libertades civiles. Si no hubiera sido por Stanley, según el propio Elsberg “el juicio hubiera terminado, Nixon permanecería hasta el final de su mandato y la guerra habría continuado”.

Impulsó las labores de la Unión Americana de Derechos Civiles en el sur de California para poner fin a la segregación racial en las escuelas y luchar contra los métodos represivos de la policía de Los Ángeles mientras dirigía los esfuerzos contra el régimen del Apartheid de Sudáfrica.

En 1988 organizó un grupo de dirigentes judíos norteamericanos que el 6 de diciembre se reunió en Estocolmo con Yaser Arafat para iniciar un proceso hacia el entendimiento y la paz en Palestina. El gesto le ganó no pocos enemigos. “Por un tiempo fui el judío más odiado en Norteamérica…por otros judíos” anotó en su Autobiografía.

Asumió un papel valeroso en el enfrentamiento a la brutalidad policial y la golpiza de Rodney King. Lo hizo desde su responsabilidad en la Comisión de la policía de Los Ángeles y en las calles de la ciudad. “Era”, en palabras de la Congresista Afroamericana Maxine Waters, “un ser humano extraordinario”.

También se ocupó de Cuba. Nos visitó aquí y mantuvimos comunicación a la distancia hasta el final. Se opuso al bloqueo, luchó por la normalización de las relaciones y fue decisivo en la batalla por la liberación de nuestros Cinco Héroes antiterroristas cuya situación ayudó a divulgar en Estados Unidos. Lo que fue anunciado el 17 de diciembre de 2014 era también fruto de su empeño solidario que no siempre trascendía a los grandes titulares mediáticos.

Al final de su vida pudo afirmar: “Aun me intereso, aun me involucro, aun creo que el mañana será mejor. Y por eso sigo siendo muy optimista. Si algo he aprendido a lo largo de los años es que no es tan importante si ganamos o no las batallas lo que es realmente importante es que continuamos librando las batallas por la justicia, por la igualdad, por la equidad”.

Stanley sigue cabalgando.

Not quite Kansas yet Toto…

In Cuban Americans, Politics, US on September 15, 2016 at 2:51 pm

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Margarita Alarcón Perea

For a little over two years now, everyone who comes to Cuba from where ever, will ask the same question: “So, how are things now with all the changes?!” The intention is both naïve and endearing; most people actually think and believe that after December 17th of 2014, like magic a la Wizard of Oz, Dorothy (the Cuban Revolution) would magically receive the wand fluttering hand of the Good Witch of the North (in this case POTUS) and all things would be grand back in the land of Oz.

In order for things to “change” it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than paying visits, watching baseball games and holding talks. We need common sense, and a whole lot of chutzpah form the White House and/or a vote on The Hill.

Only then, will that much awaited change actually come to fruition. Mind you, I am not just referring to sales of goods from the US or the freedom to travel; I am talking about real change, for the better or worse, but change.

Sorry to say, no, that has not been the case.

In Cuba we have a saying “El pollo del arroz con pollo” which roughly translates as “the gist of it” but in a much more picturesque manner basically speaks to the nucleus of any given event, act or action.

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy signed the below mentioned Trading With the Enemy Act which pretty much set the blockade/embargo in motion. To this day and ever since President William J. Clinton signed Helms Burton into law in 1992 all you basically need to do is what President Barack H. Obama did today, once again extending what JFK began over half a century ago. A pattern if ever there has been one.

So, has anything changed in Kansas? Are we back yet?

No, Toto, it hasnt and no we´re not…

 

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE
                                    THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY

SUBJECT:         Continuation of the Exercise of Certain
                          Authorities Under the Trading With the Enemy Act

Under section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223 (91 Stat. 1625; 50 U.S.C. 4305 note), and a previous determination on September 11, 2015 (80 FR 55503, September 16, 2015), the exercise of certain authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act is scheduled to terminate on September 14, 2016.

I hereby determine that the continuation for 1 year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States.

Therefore, consistent with the authority vested in me by section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223, I continue for 1 year, until September 14, 2017, the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba, as implemented by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515.

The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

Notes of A Veteran Fidelista

In Politics on August 15, 2016 at 12:19 pm
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Ricardo Alarcón and Fidel Castro Ruz, Popular University Program, circa 1960-

Photo: Liborio Noval.

 

By Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

On  March 10, 1952, with a door slam, a chapter of Cuban history came to a close. Fulgencio Batista –who, two decades before, had introduced a harsh dictatorship– seized power once again with a handful of his former collaborators had liquidated the revolutionary government of just one hundred days which had emerged in 1933 after the fall of Gerardo Machado. The new coup took place without major setbacks and thus ended Cuba’s brief experience with “representative democracy”. This had lasted for only two terms of the Cuban Revolutionary Party (Autentico), which had governed for little more than seven years.

The “Autentico” Party presented itself as heir to the Revolution of 1933, in which its leaders had had played an outstanding role, but did not go beyond national-reformism, creating some necessary institutions and showing an independent foreign policy on some important issues at the UN and the OAS. Its work was, however, hampered by government corruption which invaded almost all branches of the administration. Besides, its adherence to McCarthyism led to the division among the trade union and popular movement, and the assassination of some of its main leaders.

The prevailing dishonesty caused the split in the “Autentico” Party and the emergence of the Cuban People’s Party (Orthodox) which raised the slogan “Vergüenza contra Dinero [Shame against money]” as its main banner. Among its founders was a recently graduated lawyer named Fidel Castro Ruz.

The general elections scheduled for June 1952, brought face-to-face, according to all polls, two candidates: the “orthodox”, headed by a respected university professor [Roberto Agramonte], and the government official, led by an “autentico” whose honesty was beyond doubt. A third candidate, Batista, supported by reactionary groups, appeared in a distant last place and no one gave him the slightest chance of winning in the polls. Everyone in Cuba knew this, including Batista who, for that reason, prevented the people from deciding.

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Fidel Castro, Victor Rabinowitz, Juana Vera and the author, Havana.

The coup and its immediate aftermath deeply wounded Cuban society. Batista received immediate support from the big property owners as well as from the conservative political forces and corrupt trade union bureaucracy. Political parties –the ones close to the government as well their opponents– were trapped in inaction and inconsistency. Authenticism and orthodoxy were divided into contradictory trends and new parties emerged from them; some willing to collaborate or compromise with the new regime. These and all other parties engaged in endless controversies unable to articulate a path against tyranny.

Resistance found refuge in the universities. Out of these came the first demonstrations and acts of protest. Among the students there was a growing awareness of the need to act and to do so using methods different from those of the politicians who had failed miserably. There was talk of armed struggle, but nobody knew how to wage it or had the resources to undertake it. There were some isolated attempts while rumors spread about plans led or linked to the president overthrown on March 10.

For those of us who were still in secondary education, the assault on the military barracks in Santiago de Cuba (Moncada) and Bayamo (Carlos Manuel de Cespedes), on July 26, 1953, was a complete surprise. We knew nothing of an event that would change our lives forever.

The news highlighted the name of someone previously unknown to us: Fidel Castro.

The political crisis deepened. The tyranny became even more aggressive. The Communist Party (Partido Socialista Popular [Socialist People’s Party]) was banned and its publications closed, while increased repression against the student movement became the norm. Batista’s accusations against the Communists sought the sympathy of Washington, but had nothing to do with reality. The PSP was not only alien to those events, but rather condemned the action of the young revolutionaries as did the other opponents to Batista, almost without exception.

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With Puerto Rican Independentists, Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Oscar Collazo, Havana 1979.

Once again it fell to the students to replace the parties that had proved incapable of fulfilling their role. The Federation of University Students (FEU) sympathized with the attackers of the Moncada garrison and called for a campaign for their release. This soon acquired a national dimension and forced the dictatorship to grant them amnesty in 1955.

That same year, Fidel founded the July 26th Movement. Along with the survivors of the initial action, it counted especially on young people who, in neighborhoods and study centers, identified themselves with that heroic deed against tirades and criticism from Tiryns and Trojans.

Their ranks were filled with youths, no few of them teenagers, who rebelled amid frustration, inertia and division, inspired by a feat that had shaken the tyranny and its opponents as well. Antonio López (Ñico), who had led the attack on the barracks in Bayamo, was responsible for organizing the youth brigades of the M-26-7 until he went to Mexico to return with Fidel and die fighting in the Sierra Maestra. He was replaced in Havana by Gerardo Abreu (Fontán), a black man of very humble origin, who had not completed primary school. He managed, on his own, to acquire a broad cultural background and a poetic sensibility that caused astonishment among us college students who had the privilege of fighting under his leadership. Ñico and Fontán –both from the Orthodox Youth– knew Marxism, shared socialist ideals, and were profoundly anti-imperialist. They were determined to create an organization that would massively bring in the new generation. They succeeded. Their followers were identified with a single word: “fidelistas”.

The presence of the Brigades was felt quickly by sending their message directly to the people. While the press and politicians criticized Fidel and the Moncada action, everywhere, in every corner of the capital –on walls and facades– using very modest resources, Brigade members painted a brief slogan which everyone understood: M-26-7, or a name that others wanted to silence: Fidel.

In view of the hostile environment which made it impossible to wage open political struggle, Fidel went to Mexico in order to organize the return to carry out the battle that would end the tyranny. He proclaimed it openly, undertaking a historic commitment: “In ’56, we will be free or we will be martyrs” thus challenging the followers of inaction and despair once again. And also their jokes: a government newspaper carried on its front page every day the number of days which had elapsed that year without the defiant promise being kept. epa00601693-cuban-president-fidel-castro-r-and-cubas-national-assembly-fh10p0

Well into November, the propaganda against the Moncadistas intensified. Demonstrations, organized by the FEU and the newly created Revolutionary Directorate, climaxed and led to the closure of the university. The last day of the month, to support the landing [of the Granma expedition], the M-26-7 carried out an uprising in Santiago de Cuba. Two days later Fidel and his companions arrived at the eastern shores aboard the yacht Granma, in what Che described as a “shipwreck”.

Scattered and persecuted by the Army, a small group finally managed to reunite in the Sierra Maestra. Many members of the expedition died fighting, or were assassinated.

Among these, as the US news agencies reported, was its main leader. Fidel’s death was reported on the front page of every newspaper. Anguish and uncertainty remained until after a passage of time that seemed endless. Gradually and by clandestine channels, the truth came to be known.

The last two years of the dictatorship were rife with crimes and abuses in the urban areas while the initial guerrilla force grew to become the Rebel Army.

“Fidelismo” reached massiveness. On the night of November 8, 1957, one hundred simultaneous explosions rocked Havana, each in a different neighborhood and distant from one another. They were practically heavy firecrackers –rather homemade devices– that only made noise. No one was injured and no one was arrested by the police who went around frantically from one place to the other. It was sound evidence that the “26th” was everywhere and showed the youth brigades’ efficient organization.

The murder of Fontan, on February 7, 1958, sparked a students’ general strike which lasted until May. It paralyzed all education centers, including private universities and academies, and led to the consecutive resignations of two of Batista’s Education Ministers of Batista.

Never before had such a movement occurred in Cuba to such extent and for so long. For three months, all attempts, violent or “peaceful” to end it failed. The student walkout continued, even several weeks after the movement suffered in its most painful and bloody defeat in Havana.

The failure of the attempted general strike by the workers, on April 9, was a very severe blow. It decimated urban militancy, almost completely destroyed the underground structures, and allowed the dictatorship to mobilize thousands of troops to launch what it thought would be the final battle in the Sierra. Once again everything depended on Fidel and his leadership.

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PHOTO Elian and Juan Miguel Gonzalez, at the Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Moncada assault.

Batista’s offensive proved a complete failure. The Rebel Army –well-established in the East– sent two columns led by Che and Camilo Cienfuegos, which crossed half the island and won many battles in its central region. The rebels were close to liberating the cities of Santiago de Cuba and Santa Clara. The last day of December, the dictator arranged his escape and –in close coordination with the US Ambassador– left behind a military junta in Havana that would have been the continuity of his regime. To thwart the maneuver, Fidel called for a general strike.

In the early hours of the first day of the New Year, the people took over the streets in the capital. The youth brigades –almost totally unarmed– occupied all police stations without meeting resistance from the demoralized and nervous troops of the regime. However, in other parts of the city, armed paramilitary groups of Batista henchmen had to be confronted. The strike continued until the total collapse of the tyranny. On January 8, Fidel rode triumphantly into a city that was already and finally “Fidelista”.

The victorious Revolution would have to face more powerful obstacles and even greater risks for over half a century: Political, diplomatic and propaganda aggression, armed attacks, subversion and sabotage, and the economic blockade that is still ongoing and is the longest genocide in history. Another blow was the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and the disappearance of allies and trading partners plus the complete isolation of the island. It has been a long and stormy path that the people have weathered under Fidel’s guidance.

Ninety years of age has now come to the man who had to face more than six hundred assassination plots against his life and whose death has been announced countless times by imperialist propaganda. Maybe someday his enemies will have to admit that they were never able to kill him. This is because Fidel and his people are one and the same. And that people, largely thanks to him, is invincible.

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A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.

The “Blanco” Effect

In Politics on August 12, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Margarita Alarcon Perea

In my most recent post of last week, I commented on how diplomacy was a means to achieve goals of mutual respect and understanding vis a vie representations from government to government. This was related specifically to Secretary of State John Kerry’s upcoming visit to Havana and a piece that was in the news then.

Today, Cuba and the US are pretty much all over the news again. You have Richard Blanco who has been asked to write and read a poem on the 14 of August in Havana when the flag raising ceremony will take place; and then you have at least one senator and two members of the House of Representatives that are “upset” about the fact that the White House has let it be known that there will be no Cuban dissidents invited to the ceremony. They are so “upset” that they have gone from holding press conferences to putting out public statements on the topic.

Once again, there are members of the Cuban American community who are out of touch. President Obama spoke on the 17th of December of last year. He made it very clear that his aim was to fix a situation that had been broken for far too long, he then said he’d reestablish diplomatic relations.

These relations should be established taking certain criteria into account. I agree with this, and these criteria could be, say, the Vienna Accords, Geneva Convention, basic historic diplomatic game plays, I don’t know, common sense, maybe?

This Friday’s event in Havana like the one on the 20th of July in Washington D.C, signifies that two governments have decided to accept one another and work towards a better reality. It also means that the peoples of both those nations will finally have a chance to pursue the type of life their predecessor’s didn’t: one of mutual respect and understanding. Latin America is no longer anyone’s “backyard” and hopefully the United States with the recent game changing acts of this administration will be laying down the basis for future US relations in the region no longer being seen as “us against them”, but rather “all of us together”, or at the very least in President Raul Castro’s words today “coexisting in a civilized manner”.

It fascinates me though and gives me a lovely sense of pride that of the two main news items today regarding Cuba and the US and the Embassy, there is one regarding a person of Cuban origin who has the common sense lacking in so many others.

Thank goodness for the sanity of so many on both sides of the straights. Thank you Richard Blanco, engineer, diver, intellectual, poet, Cuban and American. I won’t be there on Friday but I am sure you will do both your nations proud.

Also published in The Blog – Huffington Post

El mensaje de una ceremonia inolvidable

In Politics on July 29, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Por Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Ver la bandera de la estrella solitaria otra vez alzada en la Embajada cubana en Washington trae inevitablemente el recuerdo de quienes no pudieron asistir a una ceremonia por cuya realización, sin embargo, dieron generosamente sus vidas. Son muchos, cubanos, estadounidenses, puertorriqueños e hijos de otras tierras, los ausentes que asaltan la memoria, y vencedores del olvido, incitan a escribir estas rápidas reflexiones.

Embajada cubana en Washington DC.

Mencionaré sólo a uno que a todos sintetiza. Carlos Muñiz Varela quien hizo suyas y defendió hasta el último aliento dos insignias hermanas. Él tampoco asistirá, pero su presencia será imborrable, el día no lejano en que la enseña boricua se levante, libre, orgullosa y solitaria, en la capital norteamericana.

El restablecimiento de las relaciones diplomáticas entre Cuba y Estados Unidos es ante todo una gran victoria del pueblo cubano y también de la solidaridad internacional. No se habría llegado a ese día sin la abnegada y heroica resistencia antillana frente al bloqueo económico que aún persiste y constituye el genocidio más prolongado de la Historia. Tampoco habría sido posible sin la exigencia unánime de los países de América Latina y el Caribe y de incontables amigos solidarios en Norteamérica y en otras partes.

Se pudo alcanzar este acuerdo, sobre todo, porque el continente vive una época nueva y los intentos por aislar a Cuba fueron derrotados y terminaron aislando totalmente a Washington. Hace medio siglo el Imperio forzó a todos los miembros de la OEA, salvo a México, a romper con Cuba, pero ahora, cuando reabre su Embajada en La Habana encontrará aquí que, desde hace tiempo, todos los demás habían regresado y el poderoso vecino era quien estaba en la absoluta soledad que ahora quiere superar.

Habrá que continuar la lucha para eliminar completamente una política que el mundo entero rechaza y el Presidente Obama reconoció había fracasado, pero será necesario asimismo que Estados Unidos devuelva el territorio que usurpa en Guantánamo, abandone sus programas subversivos y compense a los cubanos por los cuantiosos daños causados durante más de medio siglo. Sólo después podrá hablarse de una relación normal entre los dos países.

Cuba ha obtenido este triunfo sin renunciar a ninguno de sus principios. Seguirá empeñada en el desarrollo de su proyecto socialista, buscará el socialismo realizable en el mundo de hoy, continuará practicando la política internacionalista y solidaria con otros pueblos que bregan por sus derechos nacionales y guardará fidelidad a la promesa de José Martí quien al convocar a la Guerra Necesaria dejó este mandato: “Conquistaremos toda la justicia”.

De Martí viene a los cubanos la obligación de respaldar el derecho de Puerto Rico a su independencia. Que Cuba flaquease en el cumplimiento de ese deber fue durante muchos años una de las principales demandas norteamericanas para normalizar las relaciones. De hecho, esa fue la exigencia más duradera pues otras condiciones igualmente inaceptables, como los vínculos con la URSS o el apoyo a los movimientos de liberación en África y Centroamérica, hace décadas fueron superadas por la historia.

Cuba nunca renunció a la solidaridad con la causa nacional puertorriqueña. No lo hará jamás y Washington lo sabe.

Por eso esta victoria cubana pertenece también a Puerto Rico y se produce cuando la isla hermana enfrenta una coyuntura definitoria, luego que la Comunidad de Estados de América Latina y el Caribe ha reafirmado que el caso de Puerto Rico es parte de su propia Agenda y avanza un apoyo internacional indispensable que debe hacerse cada vez más resuelto y eficaz.

El actual status colonial fue rechazado por la mayoría absoluta de la población en el plebiscito de noviembre de 2012 y todos reconocen que su modelo económico se derrumba y Puerto Rico sufre una profunda crisis de la que sólo podrá salir con el pleno ejercicio de la soberanía y la independencia.

Estados Unidos tiene una responsabilidad insoslayable y debe ejercerla si quiere mejorar sus vínculos con nuestro Continente. El imperio yanqui se apoderó de Puerto Rico por la fuerza en 1898 y desde entonces la trata como territorio que le pertenece, como a una posesión suya, es decir, una colonia. El Presidente Obama, profesor de Derecho Constitucional, conoce que el colonialismo es ilegal y que las potencias coloniales de acuerdo con las normas internacionales tienen el mandato de devolver a los pueblos sometidos todos los poderes que detentan. Debe dar los pasos que le incumben para que el pueblo puertorriqueño asuma sus inalienables derechos nacionales y lo haga por sí mismo, libremente, sin intromisiones ni presiones foráneas. Debería apoyar una fórmula que cuenta hoy con muy amplio consenso, la realización de una Asamblea Constituyente en la que participen todas las corrientes de opinión boricuas y cuyos trabajos y resultados Estados Unidos se comprometa a respetar.

Hay otras cuestiones que el Presidente Obama está en plena capacidad de resolver y respecto a las que igualmente tiene una obligación ineludible. Poner en libertad inmediatamente a Oscar López Rivera, disponer que el FBI entregue toda la información que aun oculta respecto a los asesinatos de Santiago Mari Pesquera y de Carlos Muñiz Varela son decisiones que dependen enteramente de él y debe tomarlas ya, sin más dilación.

Estas medidas son acciones que puede emprender fácilmente ahora y están en sus manos precisamente porque Puerto Rico todavía es una colonia del Imperio que él preside. Sí se puede y él lo sabe.

… y el Presidente lo sabe.

Alan Gross, American Jailed in Cuba, Vows to Come Home ‘Dead or Alive’

In Alan Gross on April 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm

 

From NBC News

Alan Gross, the American subcontractor jailed in Cuba, has vowed that he will return to the United States within a year “dead or alive” and is pleading for the White House to intervene, his lawyer said Wednesday.

In an interview from Havana, attorney Scott Gilbert told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that after more than four years in 23-hour lockup, his client can’t face the thought of another decade behind bars. 

Photo Credit: Roberto Leon NBC News Havana

Photo Credit: Roberto Leon NBC News Havana

 “He will return to the United States before his 66th birthday, dead or alive,” Gilbert said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” after meeting with Gross and Cuban offcials.

Gross, 65, lost 11 pounds during a nine-day hunger strike earlier this year. It was unclear if his pledge meant he might undertake another one.

“I think Alan can be volatile, as would be anyone confined in this situation. And I take Alan’s statement not as a threat but as expression of extraordinary frustration and determination and, and as he said to me yesterday, continued hope.”

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),was arrested in 2009 while trying to establish an online network for Jews in Havana.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for subversive activities. Gilbert said that Cuban officials reiterated their offer to begin talks about Gross’ possible release with no pre-conditions, but the U.S. has balked.

“We have asked the president to engage,” Gilbert said. “We believe the administration should do whatever it takes to free Alan, who was in Cuba in the first place on U.S.government business.”

Gross spends all but one hour a day in a cell with two other men, his lawyer said. He is allowed two short phone calls a week and his meals are “limited and mediocre,” he said.

 “He does not intend to endure another year of this solitary confinement,” Gilbert said.
— Tracy Connor

 

Watch  live video from Havana on Andrea Mitchell Reports   @NBC News  Havana

U.S. Secretly Built ‘Cuban Twitter’ to Stir Unrest, AP Reports

In Cuba/US on April 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm

 

The U.S. government masterminded the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” — a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks, The Associated Press has learned.

The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. First, the network would build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then, the plan was to push them toward dissent.

 Yet its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them, in the hope that the information might be used someday for political purposes.

It is unclear whether the scheme was legal under U.S. law, which requires written authorization of covert action by the president and congressional notification. Officials at USAID would not say who had approved the program or whether the White House was aware of it. The Cuban government declined a request for comment.

At minimum, details uncovered by the AP appear to muddy the U.S. Agency for International Development’s longstanding claims that it does not conduct covert actions, and could undermine the agency’s mission to deliver aid to the world’s poor and vulnerable — an effort that requires the trust and cooperation of foreign governments.

USAID and its contractors went to extensive lengths to conceal Washington’s ties to the project, according to interviews and documents obtained by the AP. They set up front companies in Spain and the Cayman Islands to hide the money trail, and recruited CEOs without telling them they would be working on a U.S. taxpayer-funded project.

“There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord Inc., one of the project’s creators. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.”

The project, dubbed “ZunZuneo,” slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet, was publicly launched shortly after the 2009 arrest in Cuba of American contractor Alan Gross. He was imprisoned after traveling repeatedly to the country on a separate, clandestine USAID mission to expand Internet access using sensitive technology that only governments use.

USAID said in a statement that it is “proud of its work in Cuba to provide basic humanitarian assistance, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to help information flow more freely to the Cuban people,” whom it said “have lived under an authoritarian regime” for 50 years. The agency said its work was found to be “consistent with U.S. law.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s State Department and foreign operations subcommittee, said the ZunZuneo revelations were troubling.

“There is the risk to young, unsuspecting Cuban cellphone users who had no idea this was a U.S. government-funded activity,” he said. “There is the clandestine nature of the program that was not disclosed to the appropriations subcommittee with oversight responsibility.”

The AP obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents about the project’s development. It independently verified the project’s scope and details in the documents through publicly available databases, government sources and interviews with those involved in ZunZuneo.

 The estimated $1.6 million spent on ZunZuneo was publicly earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan, public government data show, but those documents don’t reveal where the funds were actually spent.

For more than two years, ZunZuneo grew and reached at least 40,000 subscribers. But documents reveal the team found evidence Cuban officials tried to trace the text messages and break into the ZunZuneo system. USAID told the AP that ZunZuneo stopped in September 2012 when a government grant ended.

First published April 3rd 2014, 4:07 am NBC News Online

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

On the question of Guantanamo

In Politics on May 3, 2013 at 10:21 am

Originally published in The New York Times January 12th, 2012 

 

By JONATHAN M. HANSEN

IN the 10 years since the Guantánamo detention camp opened, the anguished debate over whether to shutter the facility — or make it permanent — has obscured a deeper failure that dates back more than a century and implicates all Americans: namely, our continued occupation of Guantánamo itself. It is past time to return this imperialist enclave to Cuba.

From the moment the United States government forced Cuba to lease the Guantánamo Bay naval base to us, in June 1901, the American presence there has been more than a thorn in Cuba’s side. It has served to remind the world of America’s long history of interventionist militarism. Few gestures would have as salutary an effect on the stultifying impasse in American-Cuban relations as handing over this coveted piece of land.

The circumstances by which the United States came to occupy Guantánamo are as troubling as its past decade of activity there. In April 1898, American forces intervened in Cuba’s three-year-old struggle for independence when it was all but won, thus transforming the Cuban War of Independence into what Americans are still wont to call the Spanish-American War. American officials then excluded the Cuban Army from the armistice and denied Cuba a seat at the Paris peace conference. “There is so much natural anger and grief throughout the island,” the Cuban general Máximo Gómez remarked in January 1899, after the peace treaty was signed, “that the people haven’t really been able to celebrate the triumph of the end of their former rulers’ power.”

Curiously, the United States’ declaration of war on Spain included the assurance that America did not seek “sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control” over Cuba and intended “to leave the government and control of the island to its people.”

But after the war, strategic imperatives took precedence over Cuban independence. The United States wanted dominion over Cuba, along with naval bases from which to exercise it.

Enter Gen. Leonard Wood, whom President William McKinley had named military governor of Cuba, bearing provisions that became known as the Platt Amendment. Two were particularly odious: one guaranteed the United States the right to intervene at will in Cuban affairs; the other provided for the sale or lease of naval stations. Juan Gualberto Gómez, a leading delegate to the Cuban Constitutional Convention, said the amendment would render Cubans “a vassal people.” Foreshadowing the Cuban Missile Crisis, he presciently warned that foreign bases on Cuban soil would only draw Cuba “into conflict not of our own making and in which we have no stake.”

But it was an offer Cuba could not refuse, as Wood informed the delegates. The alternative to the amendment was continued occupation. The Cubans got the message. “There is, of course, little or no real independence left Cuba under the Platt Amendment,” Wood remarked to McKinley’s successor, Theodore Roosevelt, in October 1901, soon after the Platt Amendment was incorporated into the Cuban Constitution. “The more sensible Cubans realize this and feel that the only consistent thing now is to seek annexation.”

But with Platt in place, who needed annexation? Over the next two decades, the United States repeatedly dispatched Marines based at Guantánamo to protect its interests in Cuba and block land redistribution. Between 1900 and 1920, some 44,000 Americans flocked to Cuba, boosting capital investment on the island to just over $1 billion from roughly $80 million and prompting one journalist to remark that “little by little, the whole island is passing into the hands of American citizens.”

How did this look from Cuba’s perspective? Well, imagine that at the end of the American Revolution the French had decided to remain here. Imagine that the French had refused to allow Washington and his army to attend the armistice at Yorktown. Imagine that they had denied the Continental Congress a seat at the Treaty of Paris, prohibited expropriation of Tory property, occupied New York Harbor, dispatched troops to quash Shays’ and other rebellions and then immigrated to the colonies in droves, snatching up the most valuable land.

Such is the context in which the United States came to occupy Guantánamo. It is a history excluded from American textbooks and neglected in the debates over terrorism, international law and the reach of executive power. But it is a history known in Cuba (where it motivated the 1959 revolution) and throughout Latin America. It explains why Guantánamo remains a glaring symbol of hypocrisy around the world. We need not even speak of the last decade.

If President Obama were to acknowledge this history and initiate the process of returning Guantánamo to Cuba, he could begin to put the mistakes of the last 10 years behind us, not to mention fulfill a campaign pledge. (Given Congressional intransigence, there might be no better way to close the detention camp than to turn over the rest of the naval base along with it.) It would rectify an age-old grievance and lay the groundwork for new relations with Cuba and other countries in the Western Hemisphere and around the globe. Finally, it would send an unmistakable message that integrity, self-scrutiny and candor are not evidence of weakness, but indispensable attributes of leadership in an ever changing world. Surely there would be no fitter way to observe today’s grim anniversary than to stand up for the principles Guantánamo has undermined for over a century.

Cross Cuba off the blacklist

In Alan Gross, Blockade, CAFE, Fidel Castro Ruz, History, Politics, US on March 13, 2013 at 11:45 am

The nation has long since changed the behavior that earned it a U.S. designation as a sponsor of terrorism.

Editorial in todays Los Angeles Times

Washington has for three decades kept Cuba on a list of countries that sponsor terrorism, even though it has long since changed the behavior that earned it that distinction. By all accounts, Cuba remains on the list — alongside Iran, Sudan and Syria — because it disagrees with the United States’ approach to fighting international terrorism, not because it supports terrorism. That’s hardly a sensible standard.

The State Department says it has no plans to remove Cuba from the list. But Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who recently led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Havana, is urging President Obama to consider a range of policy changes toward Cuba, including delisting it, which would not require congressional approval. Designation as a state sponsor of terrorism carries heavy sanctions, including financial restrictions and a ban on defense

None of the reasons that landed Cuba on the list in 1982 still exist. A 2012 report by the State Department found that Havana no longer provides weapons or paramilitary training to Marxist rebels in Latin America or Africa. In fact, Cuba is currently hosting peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and President Juan Manuel Santos’ government. And Cuban officials condemned the 9.9/11 attacks on the United States.

Moreover, keeping Cuba on the list undermines Washington’s credibility in Latin America. During last year’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, presidents from the hemisphere expressed frustration that the U.S. remains frozen in its relations with Cuba, enforcing an embargo that dates to the Kennedy administration.

Cuba is not a model state. The government often fails to observe human rights. Its imprisonment of Alan Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development who was sentenced to a 15-year jail term in 2009 after bringing communications equipment into the country, has prompted repeated visits to the island by U.S. officials seeking to secure his release.

The list, however, is reserved not for human rights violators but for countries that export or support terrorism. Clinging to that designation when the evidence for it has passed fails to recognize Cuba’s progress and reinforces doubts about America’s willingness to play fair in the region.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times