US-Cuba Labor Solidarity – Building Relations with Cuban Labor

Fact Sheet on US-Cuba Relations

A Resolution Calling Upon the United States Government to Normalize Diplomatic and Economic Relations with Cuba

Passing Resolutions in Labor Organizations

About Cuban Trade Unions

January 5, Simultaneous Tweets for the Cuban 5, John Cavanagh Studies Sends a Letter to Obama

Posted by on Jan 3, 2014 in Latest News | Comments Off on January 5, Simultaneous Tweets for the Cuban 5, John Cavanagh Studies Sends a Letter to Obama

From the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5

Let’s start 2014 with simultaneous Tweets for the Cuban 5!

THIS SUNDAY JANUARY 5TH, SEND MESSAGES TO OBAMA VIA TWITTER: @BarackObama

Main labels:
#ObamaFreethe5Now!
#ObamaFreetheFiveNow!
#ObamaGivemeFive
#ObamaHumanitarianGestureforthe5

Follow us on twitter: @thecuban5; @Madresdelos5

OR CALL THE WHITE HOUSE TO JOIN THE WORLDWIDE DEMAND
FOR THEIR FREEDOM.

DIFFERENT WAYS TO REACH THE WHITE HOUSE

By phone:
202-456-1111  (If nobody answers the phone leave a message)

If calling from outside the United States, dial first the International Area Code
+ 1 (US country code) followed by 202-456-1111

By Fax: 202-456-2461

If fax is sent from outside the United States, dial first the International Area
Code + 1 (US country code) followed by 202-456-2461

To send an e-mail: president@whitehouse.gov

To send a letter:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500
United States

SEND AN ONLINE MESSAGE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA

JOHN CAVANAGH SENDS A LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA

John Cavanagh is the Director of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington DC. He has a BA from Dartmouth College and a Masters in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University. He worked as an international economist for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (1978-1981) and the World Health Organization (1981-1982). He directed IPS’s Global Economy Project from 1983-1997. He is the co-author of 10 books and numerous articles on the global economy, including Development Redefined: How the Market Met Its Match (2008, Paradigm Publishers), written with Robin Broad. Cavanagh helped establish the International Forum on Globalisation in 1995, and has been active in the anti-North American Free Trade Agreement networks. He works closely with the Progressive Caucus of the US Congress and the International department of the US trade union federation, the AFL-CIO, on corporate accountability and international labor rights. John Cavanagh currently sits on the board of directors of the International Forum on Globalization, the International Labor Rights Forum, and ProgressiveCongress.org.

January 5, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear President Obama,

On December 19 you made a bold decision that was both morally right for the people involved, and it made a larger point about justice that was extremely important.  You commuted the sentences of 8 people who had been imprisoned for at least 15 years on drug offenses.  In this act, you both did them justice and you made a larger statement about inequality in the justice system

You have a similar opportunity now to commute the sentences of four persons referred to as the Cuban Five. Their names are: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González. (The fifth, Rene Gonzalez, was recently released from prison after serving his sentence.)

In so doing, you would again both be addressing a case of unjust sentencing, and you would open the door to a new chapter in U.S. relations with Latin America by taking a major step toward reestablishing relations with a key neighbor.  My IPS colleague, Saul Landau, who knew Cuba better than any other U.S. expert, died in September after years of working to both free the Cuban Five and reestablish U.S.-Cuba relations.  Saul’s work on the Cuban Five case pointed to a terrible double standard in U.S. policy.  On the one hand, we base much of our foreign policy on the fight against terrorism, and on the other, we imprisoned five Cubans who exposed the real threat of terrorism on U.S. soil to the U.S. government.  This is wrong, and you can end this wrong by releasing the remaining four who are still in U.S. prisons.

Such an action will almost certainly engender a positive response in Cuba.  Recently, the Cuban government has made it clear to us that they are interested in finding a solution to the case of Mr. Gross.  President Obama, I believe it is time for a constructive dialogue between the United States and Cuba, based on mutual respect to find a humanitarian solution to the case of Alan Gross and the case of the Cuban 5; you can do it!

I visited Cuba in 1979 as a student at Princeton University in one of the first official exchanges between our two countries.  I learned a great deal on that trip.  Cuba, like our own country, is not without flaws, but we have a great deal to learn from one another, and we have everything to gain by taking steps toward reestablishing relations.

Just as you acted to correct a wrong on December 19, I ask you to do so again and release the Cuban Five.

Thank you for your consideration. Best regards

John Cavanagh
Director, Institute for Policy Studies
Washington D.C.

Raul Castro Stresses Long-standing Struggle of the Cuban People

Posted by on Jan 3, 2014 in Latest News | Comments Off on Raul Castro Stresses Long-standing Struggle of the Cuban People

HAVANA, Cuba, Jan 1 (acn) Cuban President Raul Castro paid tribute in eastern Santiago de Cuba to the resistance and struggle of the Cuban people, which he noted, made it possible for the Revolution to celebrate its 55th anniversary.

“Not even the best of all those dreamers, who accompanied Fidel Castro in a rally that this one back in January 1959, could have thought that we would be here today, said Raul Castro in his speech at the national ceremony marking the date in Santiago.

He said that the long path was not easy to cover by noting that “it has been possible thanks to the immense capacity to resist and the struggle of many generations of Cubans, who are the real protagonists of this revolution.”

Raul recalled that the revolutionary process was forced to face, since very early, US destabilization plans which counted on criminals, torturers and embezzlers of the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship. “Cuba had to face state terrorism, sabotages and armed gangs.

The island was expelled from the Organization of American States, then came the invasion of Bay of Pigs, the economic, commercial and financial blockade, the campaign to defame the revolutionary process and particularly Fidel Castro, who was the target of hundreds of life attempts,” he said.

He also denounced the murder of teachers, literacy campaign activists, workers, farmers, students and diplomats, which amounted to 3 thousand 478 victims and 2 thousand 99 disabled citizens.

“It’s been 55 years of constant struggle against the actions of 11 US administrations, which have tried to topple the revolution.”

Speaking to commanders, veterans and peoples for all walks of life in Santiago, Raul Castro said that the Cuban Revolution put an end to several myths like those saying that it was not possible to build socialism in a small island nation just 90 miles from the United States.(RHC)

The NNOC Sends a Solidarity Message to the People of Cuba

Posted by on Jan 2, 2014 in Latest News | Comments Off on The NNOC Sends a Solidarity Message to the People of Cuba

The National Network on Cuba sends our solidarity and congratulations to 
the People of Cuba and to their most capable and able legitimate 
representatives, the Communist Party of Cuba on the 55th anniversary of 
the Cuban revolution. We join you in celebrating this very important 
occasion which is not only of great importance and significance for the 
people of Cuba but for people everywhere.

It is our highest priority as residents of the United States to end the 
unjust imprisonment of the remaining four of the Cuban 5 heroes -- 
Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando 
González -- and end the racist, brutal and criminal U.S. trade and 
travel blockade.

The NNOC and the exploited peoples of our great land thank you for the 
generous medical school scholarships for youth from underserved U.S. 
communities who dream to be doctors.

Long Live the Cuban Revolution! Hasta la Victoria Siempre! 
Volveran!

Alicia Jrapko
Banbose Shango
Cheryl LaBash
Franklin Curbelo
Nalda Vigezzi

The NNOC Sends a Solidarity Message to the People of Cuba

Posted by on Jan 2, 2014 in Latest News | Comments Off on The NNOC Sends a Solidarity Message to the People of Cuba

The National Network on Cuba sends our solidarity and congratulations to 
the People of Cuba and to their most capable and able legitimate 
representatives, the Communist Party of Cuba on the 55th anniversary of 
the Cuban revolution. We join you in celebrating this very important 
occasion which is not only of great importance and significance for the 
people of Cuba but for people everywhere.

It is our highest priority as residents of the United States to end the 
unjust imprisonment of the remaining four of the Cuban 5 heroes -- 
Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando 
González -- and end the racist, brutal and criminal U.S. trade and 
travel blockade.

The NNOC and the exploited peoples of our great land thank you for the 
generous medical school scholarships for youth from underserved U.S. 
communities who dream to be doctors.

Long Live the Cuban Revolution! Hasta la Victoria Siempre! 
Volveran!

Alicia Jrapko
Banbose Shango
Cheryl LaBash
Franklin Curbelo
Nalda Vigezzi

The Significance of the Raul Castro-Obama Handshake

Posted by on Dec 29, 2013 in Latest News | Comments Off on The Significance of the Raul Castro-Obama Handshake

HAVANA TIMES

Esteban Morales

Barack Obama and Raul Castro two weeks ago at the funeral of Nelson Mandela on Tuesday.

HAVANA TIMES — Though Raul Castro and Barack Obama’s recent greeting at Nelson Mandela’s funeral was merely a handshake – there was really no time for anything more elaborate – the gesture was no accident. That is, they meant it.

These things either happen or not, but they do not happen by chance. Either there is an express will to do it or it simply doesn’t happen. Coincidences cannot be prepared in advance or staged. Even if someone’s planned for such occurrences, no one dares go through with such gestures if the other party hasn’t expressed their agreement, much less if they don’t know whether they will reciprocate. No one likes to make a fool of themselves.

It wasn’t mere politeness either. The two countries have been in conflict for many years and, if one of the two leaders had decided not to greet the other, the handshake would quite simply not have taken place.

I don’t think there is any contradiction in the fact the two leaders greeted each other and that, now, Obama should have decided (if it was actually the President’s call) to impose a 100-million-dollar and 72-million-Euro fine on the Royal Bank of Scotland [1].

Quite simply, if the United States – or Obama in particular – saw the opportunity to do so, he really had no reason to play dumb or let it go. Obama has said he will keep the blockade in place and that’s how things are going to work, until the president decides on a different course of action.

There is also no contradiction in the fact the Semester at Sea cruise should have returned to Cuba after an 8-year travel prohibition, or that different tourism cruises should have begun to arrive at the island once again. All of this falls well within the Cuba policy which Obama has decided to follow since 2009.

The two countries are also holding talks about mail and migratory services. Students are also being granted permission to come to Cuba and there are periodic talks about the Guantanamo Naval Base aimed at preventing unpleasant incidents. As we say in Cuba, “you can be polite and brave at the same time.”

Are we really to believe that Obama’s gesture towards Raul Castro reveals that the United States’ aggressive policy towards Cuba will become more lenient?

There is no need for such speculation. Obama’s gesture, returned by Raul, is in keeping with the policy the US president has decided to follow vis-à-vis Cuba. It would be a mistake to jump to any conclusions and assume Obama’s handshake is a step beyond this policy.

What we should hope for is for Obama to clarify what he meant when he said in Miami that Cuba policy had to be “updated.” That statement, and what comes next, is worth our attention.

In the meantime, Cuba continues to strengthen its position and wait to see whether Obama’s greeting was a polite, friendly or hypocritical gesture.

Elian Gonzalez: The U.S. says it wants to help us but maintains an unjust blockade.

Posted by on Dec 29, 2013 in Latest News | Comments Off on Elian Gonzalez: The U.S. says it wants to help us but maintains an unjust blockade.

The U.S. says it wants to help us but maintains an unjust blockade.
A few days after the closing of the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students, our newspaper shares with its readers an interview with the young Cuban Elián González Brotons, published by the Ecuadorian newspaper El Telégrafo during the event.

Juventud Rebelde
digital@juventudrebelde.cu
December 21, 2013 23:45:20 CDT

A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.

He admitted to feeling happy on more than one occasion, not just on his birthday (December 6). He was overheard talking skillfully about baseball and his favorite tea, Matanzas. He also talked passionately about Cárdenas, his hometown, with a sense of belonging that at times extended to this entire Island.

He was seen sharing with everyone, having his picture taken, laughing, telling stories undisturbed by the media siege, in parades, in presentations, debates;  just as any other Cuban, one among the 300 that represented the country at the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students.

Elián González Brotons attended the festival. He was the child whose return to Cuba, over 13 years ago, which opened an unprecedented chapter in the history of the struggle of the Cuban people who took to the streets to get him returned to his father and homeland.

During those days of celebration and discussion, El Telégrafo, the dean of the Ecuadorian newspapers, interviewed him. JR shares the interview with its readers.

It is a dialogue that brings us closer to this 20 year old who is humble, private, with a down-to-earth way of thinking and acting, and is always very sensitive about Cuba.

Last Tuesday, during the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa the presidents of the U.S., Barack Obama, and of Cuba, Raul Castro, shook hands. Wolud you comment on that?

“I do not know what his intentions were (of Obama); if it was just some double standard or plain protocol. I wish that handshake would change history. This is Obama´s last term and why not be the president who changed history, who lifted the blockade against Cuba , who ended wars, who freed the Five Heroes [Cubans imprisoned in the U.S.] thus living up to his Nobel Peace Prize.”

“Of course we wish that handshake had been real, a friendly gesture, a gesture of solidarity with the Cuban people on the basis of mutual respect and for our sovereignty.”

This is your first trip outside Cuba since you returned. Why did it take you so long?

“Yes, this is my first trip because we know that imperialism makes every effort to damage the integrity of the Revolution, to hurt our people and make us suffer. There was also fear of retaliation, fear of actions against me, so I had not been allowed to travel abroad and also I was very young. Now that I’m older and I was coming to a brotherly country, we felt certain that nothing would happen in Ecuador. It was time for me to go out and tell the world how I feel, what my thoughts are and my support for the Cuban Revolution, for Fidel and for the progressive movements that are emerging.”

Since this the first time you are outside Cuba, how do you feel surrounded by all this media attention? How is the situation in your country?

“In Cuba I´m not overwhelmed as much; overwhelmed in the sense that they let me live as an ordinary young guy. What happens is that in Cuba everyone wants to meet me, make friends, because I became part of their lives.”

“Here too, the people of Ecuador have been very warm and supportive. I had no idea how big the struggle had been, but here I have realized that people around the world joined in the struggle for returning me to my father. I thought my story was not well-known, but it is. It’s something the Americans gave me, they made me famous and sometimes, I´d like to go unnoticed. But it is also my obligation and duty to be nice to anyone who comes to see me, to treat them kindly and to assist them in any way I can, because the international community took up this struggle and supported me.”

How is your life in Cuba? You are studying Industrial Engineering, in Matanzas where you live. Why did you choose this profession?

I am just an ordinary young guy; I go to school in the morning, I attend classes, I go to parties, listen to music, I practice sports, I go out with my family. My life is very normal. I chose this profession because in Cuba a restructuring of the economy is being carried out following the Guidelines of the Party. Although we are blockaded, we try to push development forward. That is precisely what this profession is about: managerial techniques in order to make processes more effective, more efficient and to achieve better results with the smallest possible amount of resources. Also you learn to manage quality and human resources.

“I thought it was the most suitable profession to respond to what the Revolution needs, to what our country needs today: a change in our economic policy to continue improving our economic model. I´m two years away from graduating; it is a five-year program.”

How do you view the reforms that are being implemented in Cuba?

“These were necessary reforms. Changes have been introduced to restructure our economy, in order to make it more productive. New openings are in place; the number of self-employed people is growing, the number of agricultural cooperatives is growing. All this has been done to promote the development of the economy in Cuba.”

“There have also been changes in immigration policy and other sectors. They are very positive changes that have been well-received by the people, because they are aimed at improving our situation. The road ahead is hard; it is difficult to sustain an economy being such a small country, a country without great resources except for the most valuable one: our human resources.”

“Although we are blockaded, we always come out ahead. These policies are aimed at solving problems of the population. The United States says it wants to help the Cuban people, but it maintains an unjust blockade, a series of laws only is harass us and cause economic problems.”

How did you get involved in politics? Do you see yourself replacing any of the leaders of your country?

“If that comes to pass, I would undertake it with great pride. But that is not what I want. I do not want any leadership job or anything like that.  I want my life to be as quiet as possible, but if that is what is needed of me, I’d be willing to do it.”

“Young Cubans have always been ready: just as Fidel and Raúl, when young, were able to see on which side their duty was, not where life could be better… I am now a member of the Young Communists League.”

Many Cubans live in the United States. You could have stayed there, but did the opposite. You returned to Cuba. Are you aware of what this means?

“I believe I’m a positive symbol. I´ve had the opportunity to talk with Cubans who live in Miami and who admire me; they believe I made the right decision. They went to Miami because of the economic problems caused by the blockade. If the United States passed a law so that all Ecuadorians who step on U.S. soil could stay, and after a year were given citizenship, just imagine how many Ecuadorians would go. As Martí said, “I saw the monster and know its entrails. U.S. soil is no better than the Ecuadorian soil; here a Citizen Revolution is taking place for the benefit of the people.”

We recall the image of the child crying, under pressure, and who had lost his mother in an attempt to reach the United States. How do you remember her?

I think she was somehow manipulated by her partner of the time; he was a criminal, a low-life. I remember he even abused her.

“I do not have a very clear view of the circumstances, I was very small. But maybe she was forced by him. I remember her as a good mother who gave me the love I needed. About her wish to go to the U.S., I’m sure she never had anything against the Cuban Revolution or the leadership of the people; her wish was to improve her economic situation which was a result of the blockade and the unfair laws imposed on us.”

“But greater than the suffering I could have experienced is that of the children of the Five Heroes. My thing was over in just one year, they have been 15 in this battle.”

Tom Hayden: Is it time for the US to shake Cuba’s hand too?

Posted by on Dec 22, 2013 in Latest News | Comments Off on Tom Hayden: Is it time for the US to shake Cuba’s hand too?

Long a political land mine, normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba may be developing momentum.

Tom Hayden
Los Angeles Times
12/13/13

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-hayden-cuba-obama-castro-20131213,0,1764858.story

The handshake between President Obama and Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service would have made the South African leader smile. It was the latest sign of a gradual thawing in relations between Washington and Havana after a frozen half-century.

It hasn’t been easy. Obama favored diplomatic recognition and lifting the embargo as far back as when he was a state legislator in Illinois, and he has steadily eased restrictions on travel since taking office.

But many on the American right, especially octogenarian Cuban immigrants from the Bay of Pigs generation, have stubbornly resisted normalizing relations with Cuba. Now, though, it seems as if the process is developing a momentum of its own.

Part of the reason involves changes taking place in Cuba. Cubans today are living in the “pre-post-Castro era,” in the charming phrase of the late Alfredo Guevara, a close friend of Fidel’s and a longtime leader in arts and film. Under Raul Castro, the nation has gradually opened its private sector to a new generation of Cuban entrepreneurs, as reported in a recent study by Richard Feinberg, a top advisor to President Clinton on inter-American affairs. The Cubans are moving toward market socialism, with a strong state protecting its widely admired healthcare, education and social programs.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, devastating Cuba’s economy, it was widely predicted that a popular anti-Castro revolution would quickly follow, as happened in Eastern Europe. But that was almost 25 years ago, and it never happened — not because Cuba is a perfect police state but because the Cuban people deeply prefer a peaceful transition to a future they themselves choose. Vain attempts to return to the past, or plunge into civil war, are not real alternatives compared with gradual evolution.

Perhaps the most serious evidence of a sea change is the fact that 450,000 Cuban Americans now travel back and forth to Cuba legally each year to visit relatives. They also send remittances, last year more than $2 billion. This process is occurring despite the opposition of the supposedly all-powerful Cuban lobby in Congress. Why? It is an irreversible tide, and the two countries understand this.

Both Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Ricardo Alarcon, the longtime retired Cuban foreign minister, United Nations representative and National Assembly president — whom I have interviewed extensively over the years — used identical terminology recently in describing the Cuban diaspora as “effective ambassadors” during the transition to more normal relations between the two countries.

In Kerry’s (and Obama’s) version, these Cubans are irresistible ambassadors of democracy and consumer capitalism. Alarcon too sees the potential for good in the exchange: “They can bring some different elements here, maybe in fashion and music. So you will get a mutual influence. I don’t really see a problem with that.”

He thinks Americans who travel to Cuba will also gain from the experience. Visiting Cuba, he says, will challenge “the mentality of those Cuban Americans who think everyone from Cuba is a terrorist.”

There are still many obstacles to normalizing relations, of course, but they can be overcome gradually. It would help to have a special envoy to serve in the way George Mitchell did during the protracted Irish peace talks. Obama’s next step should be to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of nations embracing state-sponsored terrorism. That no-brainer would ease Cuba’s ability to engage in financial transactions abroad.

After that, Cuba and the United States should diplomatically arrange a sequenced release of prisoners who have become sticking points in relations between the two countries. Cuba should release the American contractor Alan Gross, who sits in prison after taking prohibited advanced communications equipment into Cuba on multiple occasions. The U.S. should release four imprisoned members of the so-called Cuban Five back to Cuba. The men were convicted in Miami of conspiracy to commit espionage and other charges after the Cuban air force shot down two planes carrying anti-Castro Cuban exiles.

Obama recently returned one of the five, Rene Gonzales, to serve his probation time in Havana. If the release of the other four seems politically impossible, consider the fact that in 1979 Jimmy Carter released four Puerto Ricans convicted of shooting up the U.S. Congress and trying to kill the president in 1952. After he did so, in a carefully separate but sequenced action, the Cubans released thousands of political prisoners, including many Americans.

A big impediment to normalization is the Helms-Burton Act, which grants Congress broad powers in determining U.S. relations with Cuba and prohibits recognition of a Cuban government that includes either of the Castro brothers. Obama will have to be determined and nimble in getting around congressional opposition, something he’s shown himself able to do.

It’s time. Obama should want his legacy to include being the first president in the last half-century to recognize its long-estranged neighbor. Let’s hope the handshake at Mandela’s funeral — with the whole world watching — signaled his intent.

Tom Hayden is the author, most recently, of “Inspiring Participatory Democracy.” He is currently writing a history of Cuba’s revolution and the New Left in America.

Judy Gross to Obama: Castro handshake was fine, now help free my husband

Posted by on Dec 21, 2013 in Latest News | Comments Off on Judy Gross to Obama: Castro handshake was fine, now help free my husband

http://www.timesofisrael.com/judy-gross-to-obama-castro-handshake-was-fine-now-help-free-my-husband/

Wife of Alan Gross, jailed for four years in Cuba, tells Times of Israel: I wish my government cared as much for him as Israel showed it cared for Gilad Shalit

By Amanda Borschel-Dan
The Times of Israel
Friday, December 13, 2013
Tevet 10, 5774

“I have no problems with the handshake at all, but it’s been overplayed. I’m not reading anything into it and I don’t think people should read anything into it as well,” Judy Gross, whose husband Alan Gross is being held in Cuba, told the Times of Israel. Rather, she stressed, it was vital that Obama get personally involved in the struggle to secure the release of her husband, a US government subcontractor.

“There couldn’t be a better place than Mandela’s funeral for a meaningful handshake,” Gross said.

Tuesday’s handshake at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg between Obama and Castro touched off speculation of thawing relations between the estranged countries.

But having spent the past four years fighting to end her husband’s controversial 2009 imprisonment for working against the Cuban government, Gross said the handshake was only about politeness, not policy.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Obama adviser Ben Rhodes said the handshake was not planned in advance and didn’t involve any substantive discussion. “The president didn’t see this as a venue to do business,” he told reporters traveling back to Washington aboard Air Force One.

However, the image of the leader of the free world shaking hands with a Communist dictator is something many critics, especially Republicans, are unwilling to shrug off.

Arizona Senator John McCain compared the handshake to British leader Neville Chamberlain clasping hands with Adolf Hitler in 1938.

“Why should you shake hands with somebody who’s keeping Americans in prison? I mean, what’s the point?” he asked, in an apparent reference to Gross.

Gross was arrested four years ago while working covertly in the Communist-run country to set up Internet access for the island’s small Jewish community, access that bypassed local restrictions. At the time, he was working as a subcontractor for the US government’s US Agency for International Development, which works to promote democracy on the island.

Cuba considers USAID’s programs illegal attempts by the US to undermine its government, and Gross was ultimately tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison. His case has become a sticking point in improving ties between the two countries, which have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1961.

“Sometimes a handshake is just a handshake, but when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raul Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant,” Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told Secretary of State John Kerry at a hearing Tuesday.

“Could you please tell the Cuban people living under that repressive regime that, a handshake notwithstanding, the US policy toward the cruel and sadistic Cuban dictatorship has not weakened,” she continued.

The Havana-born congresswoman is a fierce opponent of the Castro government and has publicly called for Gross’s release.

In a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Ros-Lehtinen said Castro does not deserve Obama’s courtesy. “He should have ignored him, he should have shunned him.”

Ros-Lehtinen casted doubts on the spontaneity of the handshake, saying Obama’s entourage would have known who was sitting near the president.

“I don’t think it was by chance or by accident that the president of the United States was seated next to Raul Castro… He could have easily turned the other way and ignored him… He is tiptoeing around all the thugs and making deals wherever he can,” said Ros-Lehtinen.

Does handshake signal a shift in US policy toward Cuba?

As president, Obama has lifted limits on how often Cuban-Americans can visit family back on the island, and how much they can send home in remittances. He also reinstated “people-to-people” cultural exchange tours to Cuba. The result is more than a half-million US visitors to the island each year.

Cultural, sports and academic exchanges have become commonplace. Just Monday, a huge ship docked in Havana carrying hundreds of Semester at Sea students under a US government license.

But Obama has also argued that Washington’s 51-year economic embargo on Cuba should remain in force, and his administration has imposed tens of millions of dollars in fines on international companies for violating the sanctions.

Cuba’s imprisonment of Gross on December 3, 2009 put relations back in a deep freeze. Gross remains jailed, and is, according to wife Judy, in ill health and depressed. But this year Washington decided it would no longer let the case stand in the way on areas of common interest.

The US and Cuba have held multiple rounds of talks on restoring direct mail service and immigration issues, with more scheduled for January. Diplomats on both sides report cordial relations and call each other at home. The two nations’ coast guards reportedly work well together on things like drug interdiction.

This convivial working relationship has not made it to the negotiations over Alan Gross’s release, said wife Judy.

“He is beginning to lose hope. He’s not seeing any US government action for his release,” said Gross. As a USAID subcontractor, she said Gross feels he was acting for the US government. Gross was contracted to connect Cuba’s Jewish community to international communication systems.

“But when things went wrong, they basically dropped the whole situation. They sent him to Cuba, and now he feels they have no intention of helping him anymore,” said Gross.

Gross was called to the State Department on Monday for a periodic update and was again assured of the government’s efforts in freeing Alan.

“I got what I call ‘empty rhetoric,’” she said.

“We’re asking for the US government to sit down and have negotiations. The most important message is that President Obama needs to get personally involved in the situation. He’s the one person who can get Alan out.”

The only way to change the situation, said Gross, is to directly pressure Obama to act. To that end, 66 senators, spearheaded by Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), signed a letter last month asking Obama to intervene. Alan Gross also penned a letter, which was read at a protest in Washington, DC, on December 3 marking his four years in captivity.

According to Judy Gross, the Cubans have requested the US appoint a special envoy for her husband’s negotiations. She said at Monday’s meeting “it was clear the secretary of state had no idea the Cubans want to sit down.”

‘If the word “precondition” means you won’t sit down, then that’s actually Alan’s death sentence’

The negotiations’ stalemate stems from the US government’s requirement of no preconditions in the negotiations, said Gross.

“You can’t say there’s no precondition. If the word ‘precondition’ means you won’t sit down, then that’s actually Alan’s death sentence.”

She added that she often thinks about the thousands of Palestinian prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit deal in 2011.

Like the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas, “Clearly the Cubans are using Alan as a hostage; Castro came out publicly that he’s not a spy,” said Gross.

“I think of [Shalit] all the time, I wish my government would have that much interest in Alan to get him out.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Reflection by Comrade Fidel: Mandela is dead Why hide the truth about Apartheid?

Posted by on Dec 21, 2013 in Latest News, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Reflection by Comrade Fidel: Mandela is dead Why hide the truth about Apartheid?

Maybe the empire thought that we would not honor our word when, during days of uncertainty in the past century, we affirmed that even if the USSR were to disappear Cuba would continue struggling.

World War II broke out on September 1, 1939 when Nazi-fascist troops invaded Poland and struck like a lightning over the heroic people of the USSR, who contributed 27 million lives to preserve mankind from that brutal massacre that ended the lives of 50 million persons.

War, on the other hand, is the only venture that the human race throughout history has failed to avoid, leading Einstein to say that he did not know how World War III would be like but most certainly the fourth would be fought with sticks and stones.

Added up, the means available to the two most powerful powers –United States and Russia— amount to 20,000 (twenty thousand) nuclear warheads. Mankind should know that three days before John F. Kennedy assumed the presidency of his country on January 20, 1961, a US B-52 bomber, in a routine flight, carrying two atomic bombs with a destructive capacity 260 times that of the bomb dropped in Hiroshima, had an accident and the aircraft crashed. For such cases sophisticated automatic equipment are in place to prevent the bombs from exploding. The first bomb landed without risks. In the case of the second, three of the four mechanisms failed, and the fourth, in very critical conditions could barely function. The bomb did not explode by mere chance.

There is no present or past event I remember or have heard of that has impacted world public opinion so much as the death of Nelson Mandela, and not because of his wealth, but for his human quality and the loftiness of his ideas and feelings.

Throughout history and barely one and a half century ago — before robots and machines took over our modest tasks with a minimum energy cost– none of the phenomena that today shake mankind and inexorably rule each and every person –men and women, children and elders, young and adult, farmers and factory workers, manual workers or intellectuals– existed. The prevailing trend is to move to the cities, where the creation of jobs, transportation, and basic living conditions demand huge investments to the detriment of food production and other more rational ways of life.

Three powers have landed in our planet’s Moon. The same day Nelson Mandela, covered with his country’s flag, was buried in the backyard of the humble house where he was born 95 years ago, a sophisticated module from the Peoples Republic of China descended upon a bright spot in our Moon. The coincidence of both events was purely by chance.

Millions of scientists are studying earth and outer-space matters and radiations. Through them we now know that Titan, one of Saturn’s rings, accumulated 40 times more oil than the existing amount in our planet when oil extraction began 125 years ago and which will last barely one more century at current consumption rates.

The fraternal feelings of profound brotherhood between the Cuban people and Nelson Mandela’s homeland were born out of an event that has never been mentioned and about which we have never said a word during all these long years; Mandela, because he was an apostle of peace and did not want to hurt anyone; Cuba, because we have never done anything for the sake of glory and prestige.

Since the very triumph of the Revolution in Cuba we extended our solidarity to the Portuguese colonies in Africa. Liberation movements in that continent had colonialism and imperialism on the rack after World War II and the liberation of the Peoples Republic of China –the most highly populated country in the world— following the glorious triumph of the Russian Socialist Revolution.

Social revolutions were shaking the pillars of the old world order. In 1960 the inhabitants of the planet amounted to three billion. Along with this, the power of big transnational companies –almost all Americans– was growing and the American currency, underpinned by US gold monopoly and its intact industry so far removed from the battle fields, took control of the world economy. Richard Nixon unilaterally abolished the backing of US currency in gold and his country’s companies took control over the main resources and raw materials in the planet which they bought with paper bills.

Nothing I have said till now is new.

But why do they try to hide the fact that the Apartheid regime –that brought so much suffering onto Africa and arouse so much indignation in most nations throughout the world– was the fruit of European colonial powers and was turned into a nuclear power by the United States and Israel, something Cuba, who supported Portuguese colonies in Africa fighting for their independence openly condemned?

Our people, handed over to the United States by Spain after 30 years of heroic struggle, never reconciled with the slavery regime imposed during almost 500 years.

In 1975, racist troops supported by light tanks equipped with 90-millimeter guns set off from Namibia –then occupied by South Africa— and penetrated more than one thousand kilometers into Angolan territory up to the vicinity of Luanda, where an airborne battalion of Cuban Special Troops and several Cuban crews for Soviet tanks with no crews, succeeded in delaying their advance. This happened in November 1975, 13 years before the Cuito Cuanavale Battle.

I’ve already said that we have done nothing for the sake of prestige or seeking benefit of any kind. It is a fact that Mandela was an upright man, a profound revolutionary and a radical socialist who endured with great stoicism 27 years of solitary confinement. I could not but admire his honesty, modesty and enormous merit.

Cuba was strictly fulfilling its internationalist duties by defending key positions and training thousands of Angolans in the use of weapons every year. The USSR was providing the weapons. At the time, however, we disagreed with the idea of the main advisor of the suppliers of military equipment. Thousands of young and healthy Angolans were constantly joining the units of their then incipient army. Their main adviser, however, was not a Zhúkov, Rokossovski, Malinowvsky or any of the many men that brought so much glory to Soviet military strategy. His obsessive idea was to send Angolan brigades carrying the best weapons to the territory where the tribal government of Savimbi – a mercenary serving the United States and South Africa– was supposedly located, which was tantamount to sending the troops fighting in Stalingrad to the border with the Falangist Spain that had sent over hundred thousand troops to fight against the USSR. That year a similar operation was going on.

The enemy was advancing behind several Angolan brigades severely hitting them near the place they had been sent to, approximately 1,500 kilometers away from Luanda. They were returning from there, pursued by South African troops en route to Cuito Cuanavale, a former NATO military base, located some 100 kilometers away from where a Cuban Tank Brigade was stationed.

At such a critical point, the President of Angola requested the support of Cuban troops. The commander of our troops in the South, General Leopoldo Cintra Frías, sent us the request as usual. Our firm reply was that we would provide such support provided that all Angolan troops and equipment would be under the Cuban command in South Angola. Everybody understood that our request was a requirement to turn the former base into the ideal battle field to hit the racist South African forces.

There was a positive response from Angola in less than 24 hours.

It was decided that a Cuban Tank Brigade would be immediately sent there. Several other were in the same line towards the West. The main obstacle was the mud and humidity due to the rainy season and the fact that every stretch of land had to be checked for anti-personnel mines. The military personnel to operate the tanks and guns without crew were also sent to Cuito.

To the East, the base was separated from the territory by the large and fast- flowing Cuito River over which there was a solid bridge under the frantic attack of the racist army. A radio-controlled airplane full of explosives was hit, brought down on the bridge and put out of action. The retreating Angolan tanks still moving were crossed more to the North. Those that were not in good conditions were buried with their weapons facing East; a thick strip of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines turned the line into a mortal trap on the other side of the river. When the racist troops renewed their advance and ran into that defensive wall, the artillery and tanks of the revolutionary brigades came down on them shooting from their positions in the Cuito area.

The Mig-23 fighters had a special role to play. Flying at a speed of almost 1,000 kilometers per hour and 100 (one hundred) meters altitude they were able to distinguish if the artillery personnel was black or white and began firing relentlessly against them.

When the battered and immobilized enemy began to withdraw, the revolutionary forces began to get ready for the final combats.

Numerous Angolan and Cuban brigades began moving quickly and keeping proper distance to the West towards the only wide routes from which South Africans always began their military actions against Angola. The airport, however, was approximately 300 (three hundred) kilometers from the border with Namibia, which was totally occupied by the Apartheid army.

While troops reorganized and rearmed the urgent decision to build a runway for the Mig-23 was made. Our pilots were using the aircraft equipment provided by the USSR to Angola, whose pilots had lacked the time for a proper training. Several aircrafts were inoperative sometimes due to the action of our own artillerymen or anti-aircraft weapon operators. South Africans still occupied part of the main road going from the border of the Angolan plateau to Namibia. They began shooting from the bridges over the wide Cunene River –located between Southern Angola and Northern Namibia– with their 140-millimeter guns giving their projectiles a range of about 40 kilometers. The main problem was that the racist South Africans had, according to our estimates, 10 to 12 nuclear weapons. They had even tested them in the frozen areas or seas to the South. President Ronald Reagan had authorized such tests and the device for blasting the nuclear charge was among the equipment delivered by Israel. Our response was to organize the troops in combat groups of no more than 1,000 men, who would have to advance equipped with anti-aircraft tanks throughout an extensive territory at night.

According to reliable sources, South African nuclear weapons could not be transported by Mirage planes; heavy Canberra type bombers were required instead. In any case, our forces’ air defense had many different types of missiles that could hit and destroy air targets located dozens of kilometers away from our troops. In addition, a dam with 80 million cubic meters of water located in Angolan territory had been occupied and mined by Cuban and Angolan fighters. The explosion of that dam would have been tantamount to the explosion of several nuclear weapons.

Nonetheless, a hydroelectric plant using the strong current of the Cunene River, before reaching the Namibian border, was being used by a South African army detachment.

When the racist began shooting with their 140-millimeter guns in this new theater of operations, the detachment of white soldiers was strongly hit by the Mig-23 and the survivors fled the place leaving some posters criticizing their high command. That was the situation when Cuban and Angolan troops marched over the enemy lines.

I learned that Katiuska Blanco, the author of some historical accounts, together with other reporters and press photographers were there. It was a tense situation but everybody kept cool.

It was then that we got the news that the enemy was willing to negotiate. We had succeeded in stopping the imperialist and racist adventure in a continent where, in 30 years time, the population will exceed that of China and India together.

The role of the Cuban delegation on the occasion of the demise of our brother and friend Nelson Mandela will be unforgettable.

I congratulate comrade Raul for his brilliant performance and particularly for his strength of character and dignity when in a kind but firm gesture greeted the United States Head of Government and told him in English: “Mr. President, I’m Castro”.

When my health imposed limits to my physical capacity, I did not hesitate in expressing my criteria on who, in my view, could assume the responsibility. A life is a minute in the history of the peoples and I believe that whoever holds today that responsibility must have the experience and authority required to choose among an increasing -almost infinite— number of alternatives.

Imperialism will always have several cards up its sleeve to subdue our island even if it has to depopulate it, depriving it from young men and women to whom they offer the scraps of the goods and natural resources it ransacks from the world.

Let the spokesmen of the empire now talk about how and why Apartheid came to life.

Fidel Castro Ruz

December 18, 2013

8:35 p.m.