Cuba notes / FRFI 174 Aug / Sep 2003

Cuba’s determined stand against hijackings and illegal immigration, which have been actively fomented by the US, is paying off.

The most recent hijacking on 15 July of a Gaviota 16 vessel with passengers aboard was resolved swiftly and diplomatically by both countries. In an unprecedented move, the US authorities stopped the boat and handed it back to Cuba’s border patrol on 17 July. On 20 July, after Cuba informed the US authorities that it would ‘use the legal resources within its reach to exercise clemency’ in sentencing, the hijacker was returned to Cuba to face trial. Next day, James Cason, head of the US Interests Section in Havana and arch-enemy of Cuba, took the equally unusual step of issuing a statement assuring would-be hijackers that if they succeeded in reaching the United States they could expect to be detained, receive lengthy sentences if found guilty, and become ineligible for residence in the United States.

The US has also hurriedly brought to trial on 10 July Adermis Wilson Gonzales, who hijacked an AN-24 Cubana plane carrying 51 passengers on 31 March this year. Wilson now faces a minimum 20-year sentence.

Cuba has welcomed these latest moves, calling them ‘a valuable contribution by the US authorities to combating vessel and aircraft hijackings for illegal emigration with the use of violence and force...that have cost so many lives.’ The very real threat posed by hijackings had been horrifically demonstrated only days before, when three armed hijackers took over a fishing ship on 14 July and threatened to kill their hostages. A 10-year-old boy was shot in the head before the hijackers appear to have turned their guns on each other, leaving two dead and the third seriously wounded by the time Cuban authorities boarded the ship.

Cuba’s response to hijackings, including the execution of three convicted hijackers in April, has forced the US – if only temporarily – to halt this part at least of its illegal and subversive work.

Cat Wiener



Cuba develops HIV treatment

The Global Fund to fight AIDS was set up by the UN in 2001 to raise $10 billion per year from rich countries to subsidise treatment for the poor – it has so far only received pledges for $3.2 billion. The bullying tactics of the pharmaceutical industry, intent on profit at all human cost, and their battle against countries producing their own generic brands of medicine, is the main barrier to these drugs being available and affordable.

Thanks to early action, education and social awareness, Cuba has the lowest number of people with HIV/AIDS in Latin America – 0.05% of 15-49 year olds. Despite the economic difficulties of the Special Period, Cuba has prioritised the development of their biotechnological industry and now Novatec Laboratories of Cuba are manufacturing the anti-retroviral drugs used in triple therapy treatment, currently producing five anti-retrovirals and working to raise that figure to 13. They are currently producing all the drugs needed to treat the 500 Cubans who require them and are aiming this year to produce enough for 1,500 people. Cuban-produced medication used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS is already being used in Paraguay and Venezuela and registration procedures are underway in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam and Guinea.

True to Cuba’s socialist principles, all those in Cuba with HIV/AIDS receive drug treatment completely free of charge. The idea of making a profit out of health is anathema to Cuban revolutionaries. The contrast with the millions in oppressed nations facing an early death from AIDS and the steady elimination of their families, communities and whole populations is stark.

Hannah Caller

FRFI 174 August / September 2003

 

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