Cuban Communists in Congress: Change within a socialist framework

Since diplomatic relations were re-established with the United States, Havana has become the place to be for pop stars, politicians, film makers and the fashion industry. President Obama visited Cuba, followed swiftly by British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond, and French President François Hollande. The US blockade is being chipped away, with the first licence granted for a US company – a small tractor manufacturer – to set up in Cuba. Major developments are underway: the Mariel Special Development Zone and the new Investment Law are channelling foreign capital into Cuba; tens of thousands of workers have transferred from state to private or co-operative sector employment; Cubans are permitted to sell their homes and cars on an open market; and the economic and social Guidelines approved in 2011 and updated in 2016 have reduced state control of the economy. In this dynamic context, in April 2016, the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) held its 7th Congress. Its focus was to consolidate the process of changes formalised by the ‘Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy’ approved in the CCP’s 6th Party Congress in 2011. Helen Yaffe reports.

Guidelines for ‘updating the economy’

In the months preceding the 6th Party Congress, nearly nine million Cubans participated in grassroots debates about the draft Guidelines. This formidable democratic process legitimised the Guidelines, which serve as the template for ‘updating the Cuban model’; to improve economic efficiency and productive capacity within a socialist framework. Numerous measures have been introduced in the last five years. These include: 2012 New Labour Code (debated in 7,000 workplace meetings by two million workers); establishing non-agricultural co-operatives (now around 400 with 20,000 workers); permitting market exchanges of privately-owned houses and cars (for Cuban citizens only); permitting direct commercial relations between the non-state sector and state sector entities; opening the Mariel ‘super port’ and Special Development Zone (FRFI 238); 2014 New Investment Law to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) (FRFI 240).

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Eventbrite confiscates funds to send a piano to Cuba

On 12 March 2016, British-based Cuban pianist Eralys Fernández held a classical music benefit concert, with support from our association Cubans in the UK, as part of a fundraising project to donate a piano to a music school in Havana. The concert title was: A piano for CubaFundraising Classical Music Concert. To sell tickets we opened an account with www.eventbrite.co.uk, selling 36 tickets at £10 each. While Eventbrite is a US company this website is based in the UK, so its status is not clear to its customers.

Following the concert, Eventbrite informed us that:  ‘We were contacted by our bank to let us know that the pay-out we initiated on 17 March 2016 for £360 has been temporarily held’. They wanted to know of ‘any direct or indirect benefit to Cuba or a Cuban in this transaction’. This is blatant discrimination against Cuban people living in Britain, to be denied access to services or products based on our ethnicity or national origin. A month later, Eventbrite confirmed that the ticket money was withheld ‘pursuant to US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) regulations and sanctions program’ – in other words the US blockade. ‘In order to have the funds released’, advised Eventbrite, ‘you will need to obtain a license from the US Treasury Department’. Why should we, as British citizens of Cuban origin, apply for a licence from a US institution? There are no sanctions against Cuba in Britain.

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Free Ana Belen Montes!

Ana Belen Montes

With the Cuban Five safely reunited on Cuban soil (see FRFI 243), the international Cuba solidarity movement is now campaigning for the freedom of Ana Belen Montes, another political prisoner incarcerated in the US for defending Cuba from US attack.

Formerly a senior analyst at the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Montes was arrested by the FBI in September 2001, three years after the Cuban Five’s arrest, on charges of spying for the Cuban intelligence services, and imprisoned the following year. After pleading guilty, her death sentence for ‘high treason’ was commuted to a 25-year prison sentence without parole in a maximum security prison, to be followed by five years’ probation. She has served nearly 15 years and is currently being held at a Federal Medical Centre, on the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, despite not being ill.

Montes is the daughter of a US army doctor and has two siblings working for the FBI. She rose to be the DIA’s top Cuba analyst, having joined the agency in 1985. She attended meetings of the US National Security Council, met with top politicians in the US and abroad and was awarded a Certificate of Distinction from then-CIA director George Tenet before it was discovered that she had been voluntarily informing the Cuban state of planned US aggression against Cuba and other countries for several years. She did this because of her own conscience and for the benefit of the Cuban people. She received no payment from the Cuban state for doing so.

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President Obama visits Cuba

On 20 March 2016, US President Barack Obama arrived in Havana seeking to consolidate his legacy following the historic announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba 15 months earlier. Cuba says it has conceded nothing in return for this rapprochement, but it does stand to gain significantly through the gradual dismantling of the US blockade. The US administration hopes to exploit this opportunity to drown Cuban socialism in a flood of capital and capitalist ideology. As Gerardo Hernandez of the Cuban Five warns: ‘They want to destroy us with their bear hug.’ The Cubans are no fools; they do not trust imperialism. James Bell and Helen Yaffe report.

Obama was the first US President to visit the island since Calvin Coolidge went in 1928 to offer his support for Cuban dictator General Gerardo Machado. A few months later, the Great Crash of 1929 brought US capitalism to its knees. The subsequent collapse in the Cuban sugar industry and resistance to Machado’s increasing repression led to Cuba’s democratic revolution of 1933. Why did Obama visit Cuba? Not to promote ‘human rights’, for which he has shown disdain throughout his mandate. It was to recoup lost economic opportunities for US capital, to assuage political pressure from Latin American states that reject failed US policies to isolate Cuba, and because he believes that ‘engagement’ offers a better strategy to undermine Cuban socialism than the isolation of the past half century (see FRFI 243).

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Cuba: still under siege

On 6 January, the US State Department announced the allocation of an additional $5.6m to ‘democracy development’ programmes in Cuba in 2016 – on top of $30m already allocated. In the unfolding saga of international relations between Cuba and the US, one thing is clear. The objectives of US imperialism in Cuba remain the same: subvert, distort and destroy socialism. James Bell reports.

The US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour (DRL) described its intention thus: ‘DRL programmes in Cuba aim to strengthen the capacity of on-island, independent civil society to further the rights and interests of Cuban citizens’. The main barriers to this, it states, are: ‘the limitations imposed by the Cuban government on citizens’ civil, political, labour and religious rights’. This is hogwash. Cuba has a vibrant system of citizens’ democracy; its trade unions are legally independent and financially autonomous. In 2012, the country updated its labour code only after a draft of the new code was debated in nearly 7,000 local meetings by over two million workers. Article 8 of the Cuban constitution states: ‘The State recognises, respects, and guarantees religious freedom.’ The DRL’s statement is an attempt to bolster the longstanding myth that Cuba is an undemocratic dictatorship. In reality, it is a confirmation that the US will continue attempting to undermine Cuban socialism.

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20 years of solidarity with Cuba

In December 2015, Rock around the Blockade (RATB) celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first solidarity brigade to Cuba. RATB was set up by the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) in 1995 to support socialist Cuba. Active solidarity with Cuba has distinguished the RCG from the majority of the British ‘left’, enabling it to raise ‘socialism’ as a viable alternative to capitalism and imperialism and move beyond idealistic sloganeering, to introduce real questions of relations of production, power and democracy. After five years of austerity and with further savage cuts to benefits and public services on the way the need to present a socialist alternative is greater than ever. Helen Yaffe reports.

The first RATB brigade travelled to Cuba with over 30 brigadistas in December 1995 in the midst of Cuba’s ‘Special Period’. The Special Period began in 1991 with the severe economic crisis following the disintegration of the socialist bloc and consequent collapse in Cuba’s foreign trade. By 1993 Cuba’s international trade and gross investment had fallen by 80% and GDP had plummeted by 35%. Cuba’s crisis was exacerbated by punitive US laws tightening the blockade. The result was critical scarcities of hydrocarbon energy resources, fertilisers, food imports, medicines, cement, equipment and other resources in every sector. Calorific intake decreased by nearly 40%, industries closed and unemployment rose.

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PayPal blocks RATB's account (again) - Smash the US blockade of Cuba!

paypal us blockade of cuba

Rock Around the Blockade (RATB) is a campaign of the Revolutionary Communist Group in solidarity with socialist Cuba, which uses its example as part of the struggle for socialism and against imperialism here in Britain and worldwide. This month RATB celebrates its 20th anniversary.

The US blockade has cost the Cuban economy an estimated $1.126 trillion since 1961. For 23 consecutive years the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the blockade, with 191 out of 193 nations voting against it this year. On 11 September this year, in contradiction to hypocritical US rhetoric about 'normalising relations', President Obama signed a document to extend Cuba's designation as an 'enemy' under the 'Trading with the Enemy Act' for another year.

RATB uses PayPal to process payments and donations via our website, www.ratb.org.uk The funds raised from merchandise sold go towards our activities in Britain. RATB organises political and educational discussions, film showings, street rallies and cultural celebrations, about Cuban socialism.

Without warning or communication, PayPal has blocked our account, for the second time in two years.

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Cuba dictates terms for normalisation, as US loosens trade restrictions

We are beginning a new, long and complex stage on the way to the normalisation of ties, which will require finding solutions to problems that have been accumulated over five decades

Raul Castro, July 2014

Two contradictory steps taken by the US administration on 11 September exposed the hypocrisy and cynicism of its new position on Cuba. First, a US government delegation sat down with its Cuban counterparts in Havana for the first ‘bilateral commission’ to advance the process of rapprochement between the two countries. Second, President Obama signed a document to extend Cuba’s designation as an enemy under the Trading with the Enemy Act for another year. The Act dates back to the First World War (1917), and Cuba was initially included by President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. An ‘enemy’ is defined as a country at war with the US. Cuba is the only country listed since North Korea was removed from the list in 2008. Andrew George reports.

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Pope Francis visits Cuba

On 19 September, Pope Francis arrived in Cuba for a four-day, three-city tour. The visit marks the third papal visit to Cuba in just 17 years, ‘a remarkable record for any country, much less one with such a small observantly Catholic community’ (Washington Post, 19 September). It is particularly significant given Pope Francis’ role since 2013 in facilitating secret negotiations between Cuba and the US which led to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. During 18-months of secret talks, the Pope sent personal letters to Obama and Castro and hosted high-level meetings at the Vatican.

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Diplomatic relations restored between Cuba and the US

On 20 July, seven months after Cuba and the United States announced plans to restore diplomatic relations, embassies were opened in Havana and Washington. They were closed 54 years ago, in 1961. In 1977, ‘Interest Sections’ were opened up to function as substitute embassies but with fewer staff and functions. The restoration of embassy status, along with the removal of Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list in May 2015, marks the official re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

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Cuba first with meningitis B vaccine

Scientist Concepcion Campa Huergo led Cuban efforts to produce a Men B vaccine

From 1 September 2015 all babies in the UK will for the first time be offered a new meningitis B (MenB) vaccine called Bexsero, as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme. According to the NHS Choices website, this ‘makes England [sic] the first country in the world to offer a national, routine and publicly funded MenB vaccination programme’. However, 27 years ago, socialist Cuba’s Finlay Institute, under the personal direction of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, developed a MenB vaccine also as part of its national immunisation programme. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was proud Britain ‘will be the first country in the world to have a nationwide MenB vaccination programme’ (The Guardian, 29 March 2015). So who was the ‘first’ country to the MenB vaccine, Britain next September or Cuba in 1988? Charles Chinweizu explains.

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Building solidarity with Cuba – upholding the ideas of Che Guevara

On our visit to ICAP, the brigade spoke to Kenia Serrano who, as a member of the UJC in 2002, participated in Rock around the Blockade’s speaking tour across Britain. More recently, in March 2014 and in her current post as President of ICAP, she spoke at RATB’s rally for the Cuban Five in Trafalgar Square, London, which was organised in support of the International Committee of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five. Kenia told us:

‘The significance of international solidarity is something that constitutes a principle for the Cuban revolution. To see that people all over the world are in solidarity with the Cuban revolution is something that really constitutes a commitment for us, we are committed to continue in solidarity with other peoples because Cuba has been a recipient of world solidarity actions…

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Socialist Cuba ‘Revolution is permanent change’

Cuba Vive 2015

Eyewitness accounts from the Cuba Vive Brigade 2015

With contributions from all the brigadistas, compiled by Sam McGill

Between 20 April and 5 May, Rock around the Blockade (RATB), the Revolutionary Communist Group’s campaign in support of socialist Cuba, sent its 13th solidarity brigade to Havana for two intensive weeks of exchanges and visits. The Cuba Vive 2015 brigade was there to stand in solidarity with Cuban socialism, gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and achievements of 56 years of revolution and explore the implications of recent changes in Cuban-US relations.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of RATB’s foundation and of our first brigade, which visited Ciego de Avila in 1995. That was one of the worst years of the ‘Special Period’, Cuba’s deep economic crisis resulting from the loss of 35% of its GDP and 85% of its trade following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. All of our brigades have been hosted by the Union of Young Communists (UJC).

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Participation and elections in Cuba – a lesson in democracy

Visit to the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) in El Cerro, Havana

On 19 April, just before the brigade arrived in Havana and two weeks before the British general election circus, Cuba held nationwide municipal elections. The Municipal Assemblies of people’s power represent the dynamic base of the revolution. We met with Osmani Castro from Havana’s Provincial Assembly who explained how the process works; ‘In Cuba, nobody is without protection. We have a system of civic protection and social assistance from the state and in this system, the municipal delegate is the core of all decisions large or small. It is up to the delegate to analyse the situation of people who are ill, are alone, or are very old, and ensure these people receive the care and attention they need. So if my house is on fire or hit by a hurricane, I am not alone, I am not going to live under a bridge. Cuba is a safety net. It is the responsibility of the delegate, not personally to solve everything for people, but to gather the community and try to involve them in the process of finding a solution.’

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Fernando Gonzalez from the Cuban Five meets the brigadistas

Fernando Gonzalez from the Cuban Five meets the brigadistas

During our visit to ICAP we were joined by Fernando Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five. Rock around the Blockade campaigned for the freedom of the Five throughout their imprisonment, so when Fernando entered the room he was greeted with spontaneous applause; an emotional standing ovation in recognition of the Five’s principled stand throughout a long, harsh, unjust incarceration. Fernando, who is now Vice President at ICAP, said:

‘It’s good to see you, it’s good to have a group of very young people here. There are few things that you miss when you get out of prison; you leave that experience behind and you basically don’t miss anything. If I miss one thing it is receiving your newspaper (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!), every issue. It’s true! It was very interesting reading every time. Let me tell you something – it is a newspaper that is circulated around the whole prison; many people were interested in what the newspaper had to say because it is a view that is not common in the United States. So much for the freedom of press! Views like the ones expressed in your newspaper you never find in what you call the mainstream media.

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I am here to learn from the Revolution

2 May 2015 by Juventud Rebelde written by Enrique Milanes Leon 

Translation by Rock Around the Blockade. Edited by Walter Lippmann

A young communist from Britain, coordinator of the Cuba Vive solidarity brigade, talks to JR about the struggle ‘in the belly of the beast’ and confesses her admiration for the island that gives hope, even in her country.

Samantha explains about the newspaper "Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism". Photo: Calixto N. Llanes

To overcome the 7,493 kilometres that separate London from Havana, for the third time,  young Samantha Cordery had to make sacrifices. She even participated in a 25,000 metre race looking for sponsors who would understand that she was a special competitor, collecting donations because her real "goal" was much further away, in Cuba.

Samantha is the coordinator of the Cuba Vive brigade and the Rock around the Blockade campaign, and joined the Revolutionary Communist Group in Britain a decade ago. "We are nearly 20 young people and this, our 13th solidarity brigade. Among us are students and unemployed people" – their history reminds us that not all the foreigners who walk our streets are mere tourists; some are more: friends.

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Co-operatives to boost productivity

Over the past year the number of approved non-agricultural co-operatives in Cuba has grown to 498. With the aim of increasing productivity and efficiency, these workers’ associations are an important aspect of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and Revolution approved in April 2011.

Whilst agricultural co-operatives have existed throughout the Cuban revolution, the first non-agricultural co-operatives (CNAs) were created by temporary law decree in December 2012. They fall into two main categories, ‘self-effort’ co-operatives established by the initiative of three or more people, and ‘conversions’, where the state is shutting down an enterprise and gives its workers the option to form a co-operative. CNAs can also be formed by the association of two or more co-operatives, whereby, for example, one co-operative organises transportation or adds value to another’s goods and services. With a new General Law of Co-operatives anticipated in 2016, the CNAs will complement the agricultural co-operatives which currently organise 66% of agricultural workers.

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Cuba and the US - Breaking bread with the beast

Obama and Raul Castro shook hands at opening of the Americas summit in Panama

Following the historic announcement on 17 December 2014 that Cuba and the US would ‘normalise’ relations, representatives of both countries have met three times.

Prior to these talks in January, US President Obama announced a number of significant measures in relation to Cuba. By contrast, the talks have produced nothing concrete. Cuba has made it clear that the restoration of diplomatic relations must be preceded by several measures, notably the removal of Cuba from the US ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list. The US has publicly stated that the objective of its policy toward Cuba remains regime change. James Bell reports.

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The Summit of the Americas: Latin America resists!

Raul Castro and Barack Obama

Between the 10 and 11 April, the much anticipated seventh Summit of the Americas saw US President Obama meet with Cuban President of the Council of State, Raul Castro in Panama City. This was the first such meeting since Cuba’s exclusion from the Organisation of American States (OAS) in 1962. Following the summit the US has conceded to remove Cuba from its heinous list of states sponsors of terrorism, a massive victory for Cuba and tribute to it’s principled stand of negotiation on sovereign terms. However, far from repairing US relations with Latin America, the Obama administration's attack on Venezuela has left it increasingly isolated.

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Cuban 5 freed and reunited in Cuba

On 17 December, Raul Castro welcomed Ramon Labañino, Gerardo Hernandez and Antonio Guerrero back onto Cuban soil after 16 years of incarceration in US prisons. They were reunited with Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez who were released in 2013 and 2014 respectively. The return of the Cuban 5 is an historic victory for Cuba. It also represents a defeat for the corrupt US justice system and for the right-wing Cuban exile community whose political leverage is weakening.

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US opens talks with socialist Cuba

On 21 and 22 January, Cuba and the US held direct talks about restoring diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961. The meeting in Havana took place one month after the historic announcements made simultaneously on 17 December 2014 by Presidents Obama and Raul Castro about a thaw in US–Cuban relations. This included a prisoner swap which finally freed the remaining Cuban anti-terrorist agents imprisoned in the US, known as the Cuban 5. This followed 18 months of secret talks facilitated by Canada and the Vatican. The tactical change by the US administration reflects the failure of its Cuba policy, and economic and strategic developments which put competitive pressure on US capitalists who do not benefit from the blockade. Helen Yaffe reports.

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Message from Revolutionary Cuba

The Revolutionary Communist Group, which founded Rock Around the Blockade, a campaign in solidarity with socialist Cuba is delighted to receive this message after the release of the Cuban 5:

Dear Comrades,

Many thanks for your letter of congratulation from The Revolutionary Communist Group in support of The Cuban Revolution. I take this opportunity to convey to all of you in the Party this message from our Cuban Communist Party.

In Comradership, Jorge Luis, Cuban Embassy

MESSAGE TO PARTIES AND POLITICAL AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND FORCES IN THE WORLD

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Leading Cuban biotech product now available in Europe

On 29 September 2014 Granma International reported that the Cuban- developed Heberprot-P, the only drug of its kind in the world capable of enhancing the healing process of ulcers in diabetics and reducing the risk of amputation, was officially registered in Turkey. Through Turkey it will now be available on the European market. This could have a huge impact on diabetics in Europe. Various multinational companies had previously resisted the registration of the drug in order to protect their profits and comply with the US blockade.

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Socialist Cuba makes advances in renewable energy

Cuba plans to generate 24% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030, including 14% from the sugar industry. Wind power will account for 6%, solar 3% and hydro-electric 1%. 

Sugar mills have long produced their own power using bagasse – fibrous sugar cane remnants. Bagasse biomass is an efficient and renewable energy source. Liobel Perez, spokesman for Azcuba, the state run enterprise which replaced the Ministry of Sugar in 2011, notes ‘The carbon dioxide produced in the generation of electricity is the same amount that the sugar cane absorbs when it grows, which means there is an environmental balance.’ Azcuba is tasked with increasing sugar production and developing industry from its by-products. Production is steadily rising – last year 1.6m tonnes of sugar were produced.  Currently 3.5% of electricity is generated from sugar. The plan is to install bioelectric plants in 20 of Cuba’s 56 sugar mills, generating 755 megawatts for the national grid. This will cost $1.29bn, from government loans and regulated foreign investment. The first plant will be built near Ciro Redondo sugar mill as a joint venture between Azcuba and British firm Havana Energy.  It is due to open in 2016, producing energy using bagasse and marabou, a woody shrub cleared from arable land.  

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Victory! The Cuban 5 are finally free!

Raul Castro and The Cuban 5

After 16 unjust years of imprisonment, on 17 December 2014, Ramón Labañino, Gerardo Hernández and Antonio Guerrero, the three remaining members of the Cuban 5, returned to Cuba following their release from US gaols. This is a defeat for the corrupt US justice system and massive victory for Cuba, particularly for anti-terrorist Gerardo Hernandez who was serving two life sentences plus 15 years.

The five Cuban heroes were arrested in 1998 and tried in Miami in 2001, in the midst of a hostile media storm whipped up by journalists in the pay of the US government. Denied a fair trial, they were found guilty of charges ranging from spying to conspiracy to commit murder and endangering the security of the United States. These men had been working to foil the persistent attempts by right-wing counter-revolutionary groups in the United States to commit acts of sabotage and terrorism against Socialist Cuba. These attacks included 78 bombings, 61 hijackings of planes and boats, biological attacks of dengue and swine fever, and 58 attacks from the sea, killing at least 3,478 people in total. The Cuban 5 were guilty of nothing more than peacefully trying to protect their country against terrorism. Their case Illustrates the hypocrisy of the US ‘War on Terror’.

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New York Times demands a ‘new start’ for US-Cuba relations

In an unprecedented move, the New York Times (NYT) has published a series of editorials demanding the US take bold steps to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba.1 Throughout October and November, six editorials under the title of ‘Cuba: a new start’ praise Cuba’s role in fighting Ebola, detail US subversion against Cuba and demand Obama lift the US blockade and negotiate a prisoner swap, releasing the remaining three Cuban anti-terrorist prisoners in return for imprisoned subcontractor Alan Gross. This is a public emergence of serious divisions in the US ruling class on Cuba policy as sections push for their economic interests over political interests. NICA EVANS and SAM MCGILL report.

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World Bank finds Cuban education best in Latin America and the Caribbean

In Britain the rate of illiteracy is rising and education continues to be systematically destroyed by the rise in free schools and academies that are aimed at diverting public finances into private hands. In contrast, socialist Cuba is set to further improve and expand its education system, devoting 13% of its national budget to education, the highest in the world.

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Another USAID attack on Cuba

Protest against USAID's earlier 'Zunzuneo' campaing aimed at destabilising Cuba

A new investigation by the Associated Press (AP) reveals yet another covert mission by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) designed to incite political unrest and undermine the Cuban revolution. Documents released in August exposed a project directed by USAID and subcontracted by Creative Associates, which recruited a dozen young people from Peru, Venezuela and Costa Rica and sent them to Cuba as travellers and tourists in order to ‘identify potential social-change actors’ and organise opposition in order to destabilise the Cuban government. Louise Gartrel reports.

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Cuba approves new foreign investment law to support development

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

May Day in Havana, Cuba 2014

Cuba’s new direct Foreign Investment Law was implemented on 30 June 2014. Unanimously approved in March by the National Assembly of People’s Power, the law is in accordance with the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution. These guidelines were established by the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in 2010 and discussed and modified across 163,000 consultations with almost nine million Cubans, before being ratified by the National Assembly of People’s Power in 2011. This extraordinary process of participative democracy governs the principles by which the Foreign Investment Law will operate. As the introduction of the guidelines affirms, ‘only socialism is capable of overcoming the difficulties and preserving the conquests of the Revolution, and that in the updating of the economic model, planning will be supreme, not the market’.

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Bacardi – new advertising, same agenda

The Bacardi Corporation has launched a new deep saturation advertising campaign, with vibrant videos and colourful images. The adverts brandish the Cuban flag, with slogans such as ‘we survived exile from our own country’ and ‘we thrived during Prohibition’. Bacardi, the richest family-owned business in the world, has an army of lawyers and marketing and public relations professionals to clean up their murky past and obscure their right-wing agenda. Scratch the surface, however, and the truth is there.

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Tweets, terrorists and mercenaries renewed attacks on Cuba

In April and May 2014, news about two US-based attacks on Cuba hit international headlines, demonstrating that as the capitalist crisis intensifies, imperialist attempts to destabilise the popular and revolutionary government of socialist Cuba continue. Louise Gartrel reports.

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Cuban double agent reveals CIA machinations in Cuba

Enemigo by Raúl Capote, Editorial Jose Marti, 2011 (in Spanish)

Review by Raidel López

In Enemigo (Enemy), Cuban writer and university professor of history, Raúl Capote, reveals his life as a double agent; agent Pablo for the CIA, and agent Daniel for Cuban intelligence. This is not a work of fiction or a classic spy novel. It is the real experience narrated by the protagonist about plans by the CIA and its allies to destroy the Cuban Revolution. His story reveals one of the many facets of the US war against Cuba. For over half a century plans of espionage, sabotage, terrorist attacks, assassination, subversion, military, economic and political aggression, have been made and executed from the US. Most of these plans have failed, thanks to the work and sacrifice of men like Capote.

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Cuba inaugurates new port with international partners

On 27 January, Cuban President Raul Castro and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff inaugurated the first 700 metre section of a container terminal at the port of Mariel, Cuba, in a ceremony attended by the Presidents of Haiti, Bolivia, Venezuela and Guyana and the Prime Minister of Jamaica. Raul Castro declared: ‘This container terminal, and the powerful infrastructure accompanying it, are a concrete example of the optimism and confidence with which we Cubans see a socialist and prosperous future.’ The heads of state were in Havana for a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (see FRFI 237).

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RATB hosts international rally for the Cuban Five in the heart of London


Video credit: See Li Photo Capital http://seeliphotocapital.com/

On Sunday 9 March activists from the US, Canada, Latin America, Cuba and Europe joined a rally hosted by Rock around the Blockade (RATB) in Trafalgar Square to demand justice and freedom for the Cuban Five: five Cuban men arrested in Miami in 1998, convicted on trumped up charges and condemned to long prison sentences. They were in fact trying to prevent acts of terrorism against Cuba by infiltrating violent exile groups in Miami. None of the charges against them involved violence, weapons or damage to property. Since 1959, nearly 3,500 Cubans have died and over 2,000 have been injured as a result of terrorist attacks and aggression – mainly launched from Miami.

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Free the Cuban Five! International activists rally in Trafalgar Square, London, 9 March 2014

 

 

bwd  Set 1/7  fwd

 RATB hosts international rally in London - See our facebbook page for more photos

The sun was out in London, as members of Rock around the Blockade (RATB) were joined by activists, writers, musicians and academics from around the world to demand freedom for the Cuban Five and to show solidarity with socialist Cuba. The rally was held in support of the International Committee of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five, which took place in London over the previous two days.

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Havana Summit: building regional solidarity

On 28-29 January 2014, Havana hosted the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC in Spanish), with the participation of the heads of states and other representatives of all 33 independent nations in the region. The Summit ended Cuba’s one-year presidency of CELAC, which focused on combating regional poverty, hunger and inequality. Cuba is part of CELAC’s three member troika, along with Chile, which held the presidency in 2012 and Costa Rica, which takes over in 2014. Over 30 documents were drawn up for discussion and analysis, including a Plan of Action, and standards and principles to govern co-operation. The Summit was preceded by two days of discussions by national experts on 25-26 January and a meeting of ministers on 27 January. Helen Yaffe reports.

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Pressure to end the US blockade of Cuba grows – even in the US

On 26 November 2013, the Cuban Interests Section (a substitute for an embassy) in the United States announced that it would immediately halt its consular services – the issuing of visas, passports services and the authentification of documents, except in exceptional or humanitarian cases. Its press release explains that in summer 2013, the New York-based M&T Bank had informed the Cuban Interests Section in Washington and Cuba’s permanent mission at the United Nations in New York that it was withdrawing banking services from foreign missions, and therefore ordering the Cubans to close their accounts. It states: ‘Due to the restrictions still in force, derived from the US policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, and despite the numerous efforts made with the [US] Department of State and several banks, it has been impossible for the Cuban Interests Section to find a US bank with branches in the US to operate the bank accounts of the Cuban diplomatic missions.’

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Cuba steps towards monetary unification

Among the key aims in the process of ‘updating’ the Cuban economy, approved by the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in 2011, is the reunification of Cuba’s two currencies: the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). In October 2013 it was announced that steps towards this had begun. The CUP has been Cuban currency since 1961. In 1993 during the economic crisis of the Special Period, the US dollar was legalised and ‘dollar shops’ initially opened to sell non-essential or imported items to tourists, as the tourist industry became a growing source of income. The CUC was introduced in around 1993 to substitute the function of the US dollar. It was pegged to the US dollar but printed and controlled by the Cuban Central Bank. Helen Yaffe reports.

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RATB challenges PayPal’s block on its account due to US Blockade

**Rock around the Blockade(RATB) is a campaign of the Revolutionary Communist Group. It defends socialist Cuba and uses its example as part of the struggle for socialism here in Britain. Here we re-post an important article from the website www.ratb.org.uk about a recent block on RATB’s PayPal account as a result of the US blockade of Cuba.**

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Cuban socialism: training doctors for the world

10,500 students graduated from Cuba’s medical universities in July 2013. Just over half of them, 5,683, are Cubans and the remaining 4,843 are foreigners from 70 countries and regions. The largest groups of foreign graduates were from Bolivia (855), Ecuador (718), Mexico (444), Argentina (387) and El Salvador (386). They graduated on medical science courses comprising several branches, including medicine, dentistry, nursing, psychology and healthcare technology, which includes 21 different sub-specialties.

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Hypocritical outcry over Cuban arms to North Korea

In mid-July, the Panamanian government seized the Chong Chon Gang, a North Korean cargo boat travelling from Cuba to the Panama Canal. The Panamanian forces claimed to have been tipped off about a drugs cargo. On board, however, were 10,000 tons of Cuban sugar and 240 metric tons of ‘obsolete defensive armaments’, according to the Cubans’ own statement.

The seizure was greeted with condemnation and sensationalist media headlines about violations of UN sanctions on arms sales to North Korea. The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a public statement listing the contents of the shipment as: two anti-aircraft missile batteries, nine disassembled rockets, two MiG-21 aircrafts and 15 MiG engines – ‘all manufactured in the mid-90s – to be repaired and returned to our country’. The statement asserted Cuba’s need to ‘maintain our defence capacity in order to preserve national sovereignty’, and the country’s ‘firm and irrevocable commitment to peace, disarmament – including nuclear disarmament – and respect for international law’. The cruel, punitive US blockade of Cuba has been robustly denounced in the UN General Assembly for two decades and yet nothing is done to lift it – so there is little reason for Cuba to adhere to sanctions against North Korea in any case.

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US blockade ‘attempted genocide’

The economic war against Cuba, Salim Lamrani, Monthly Review Press, New York 2013, 142pp, ISBN 978 1 583673 40 9

Salim Lamrani provides a concise look at the US blockade imposed on Cuba since 1960. His book gives an overview of how policy towards Cuba has changed since the revolution of 1959 as the US has become more determined to destroy the revolution. The blockade has been used not only to strangle Cuba’s economy but also to stop essential food and medicines reaching the island. Fidel Castro described the blockade as ‘attempted genocide’.

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FAO congratulates Fidel

On 29 April, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Organisation for Food and Agriculture (FAO), sent congratulations to Fidel Castro, historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, and the Cuban people, ‘for having fulfilled in advance the goal set by the World Food Summit, held in Rome in November 1996, that proposed to halve the number of undernourished people in each country by the year 2015.’ Da Silva adds that Fidel’s speech at that Summit still lingers in their collective memory, especially his conclusion that: ‘the bells that toll today for those who die of hunger every day, will toll tomorrow for humanity if it refused, failed or could not be wise enough to save them.’

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Cuba and the US terror lists

Since 1959, nearly 3,500 Cubans have been killed and 2,100 permanently maimed as a result of terrorism launched from the United States by groups with links to the US government. Not a single US citizen has been injured or killed by terrorism linked to revolutionary Cuba. The only Cuban terrorists are counter-revolutionaries recruited by the CIA. Most infamous among them is Luis Posada Carriles, who lives freely in Miami. President Obama has excelled in the US practice of state terror: through its occupying armies, support for dictators, rendition flights, torture of prisoners, forced feeding of hunger strikers in Guantanamo prison camp, drone-strike assassinations around the world and repression of internal dissent. Yet in the topsy turvy world of imperialism, the US labels socialist Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and points to black revolutionary Assata Shakur to prove it. Helen Yaffe reports.

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Cuban elections: triumph of democracy

On 24 February 2013, a new government was formed in Cuba when the recently elected delegates to the National Assembly of People’s Power met to vote in the new Council of State. On 3 February, 90.8% of eligible voters had turned out to vote for candidates at provincial and national levels. Massive voter turnout is usual in socialist Cuba where the masses are politically engaged. Victoria Smith reports.

Cubans over the age of 16 vote every two and a half years for representatives to the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power and every five years for representatives to Provincial Assemblies. Half of 614 delegates voted into the National Assembly are voted up from Municipal and Provincial Assemblies, whilst the other half represent the various organisations of the masses.

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The grotesque circus of Yoani Sanchez

International prize-winning Cuban opposition ‘blogger’, Yoani Sanchez, is touring 12 countries over three continents in 80 days. She plays the lead in a grotesque circus performance which sees a handful of counter-revolutionaries jet-set to high-profile platforms, mainly in the US and Europe, to call for ‘regime change’ in Cuba. Others include Berta Soler, from the Ladies in White, and fellow ‘blogger’ Eliecer Avila. This follows the relaxation of Cuban migration legislation earlier this year (see FRFI 230). The tours are exposing the hypocrisy of these so-called champions of human rights and their links to imperialist interests. Helen Yaffe reports.*

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US ‘democracy’ programme Exposed

Documents posted on the US National Security Archive website on 18 January 2013 reveal that the government has ‘between five to seven different transition plans’ for Cuba, and that USAID-funded ‘democracy’ programmes designed to promote regime change are ‘an operational activity’ requiring ‘continuous discretion’. The documents were filed in a US court in response to a $60 million lawsuit filed by the family of Alan Gross, a US citizen serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for ‘subversion against the state and the revolution’, against his employer Development Alternatives Inc (DAI).

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Breakthroughs in the fight against cancer

In 2012, Cuban health care continued to achieve successes, despite the US blockade and the global economic crisis. Infant mortality was 4.6 per 1,000 live births, almost equal to that of the UK (4.56 per 1,000) and superior to that of the US (6 per 1,000) despite Cuba spending $431 per capita on health compared to $3,480 in Britain and $8,362 in the US (2010 statistics, World Health Organisation). It is also far superior to other Caribbean countries or other nations with similar GDPs.

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Death of a revolutionary - Enrique Oltuski Osacki

 Enrique Oltuski

Enrique Oltuski Osacki
18 October 1930-16 December 2012

Enrique Oltuski made an indelible contribution to the revolutionary struggle in 1950s Cuba, to the process of socialist transition and as member of government until his death, aged 83, on 16 December 2012. Oltuski led the urban wing of the Movement of the 26th July (M26J) in central Cuba in the final year before the Revolution toppled the Batista dictatorship in January 1959. The English publication of his memoirs, Vida Clandestina, was politically important in undermining the lie that Cuba’s urban population was not active in the revolutionary struggle.

Born in Cuba in 1930 to a family of Polish Jewish immigrants, his family lived in Santa Clara in central Cuba, where his parents’ business prospered. Oltuski wanted for nothing, bothered only by the grinding daily poverty around him: ‘I saw barefoot children my own age begging, elderly people dressed in rags. At night women with children in their arms slept in the doorways of public buildings and in parks…we concluded that this had to be changed.’*

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New migration laws in revolutionary Cuba

Photo © Virgilio Ponce

The new migration laws to be enacted on 14 January 2013 present a challenge to US imperialism and should bring political and economic benefits to Cuba. Announced in October 2012, the legislation removes the requirement of an exit visa, known as a ‘white card’, and letter of invitation for Cubans planning to travel overseas, and extends the period for which Cubans may stay overseas without losing citizenship rights. The measures also facilitate the return to Cuba, either permanently or for visits, of Cubans currently living overseas, including those who left illegally or who abandoned internationalist missions. Helen Yaffe reports.

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After Hurricane Sandy, Cuba and ALBA countries respond with socialist solidarity

Hurricane Sandy in CubaBefore it landed on the coast of the USA, Hurricane Sandy had already affected the Caribbean, with massive destruction being left in its wake in Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba.

The storm landed on eastern Cuba on 25 October, by which point 330,000 people had been evacuated, including 3000 agricultural workers working on the coffee harvest. Despite the evacuation, 11 people were killed by the storm which had a maximum wind speed of 175 km per hour. In total, 200,000 homes have been damaged by the hurricane and extensive damage was done to the electricity and telecommunications infrastructure of Holguin and Santiago de Cuba, the two provinces most affected.

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Media lies at death of Oswaldo Paya

On 22 July, Oswaldo Paya died in a car accident on Cuba’s Las Tunas-Bayamo highway near Las Gabinas in Granma Province. Paya was a leading member of the counter-revolutionary organisation Christian Liberation Movement, which has been involved in trying to destabilise the socialist government of Cuba since 1987. In 2002 Paya received the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for his attempts to undermine Cuban socialism. Oswaldo Paya had been receiving funding from right-wing organisations in Spain and Sweden, including the governing Partido Popular in Spain. Inevitably, the crash was seized on as political ammunition by Cuba’s enemies, who fuelled a barrage of accusations and internet rumours alleging that the accident had been deliberately engineered.

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Free the Cuban Five

On Saturday 15 September, Rock around the Blockade (RATB) activists held street rallies in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow to mark 14 years of unjust incarceration of the Cuban Five in the US and to demand their release. The Cuban Five’s only crime was attempting to prevent terrorism against the Cuban people launched from the United States and tolerated or assisted by the US government. They were arrested in 1998 after passing information on to the US government about terrorist acts against Cuba planned in Miami by right-wing exile groups. Pointing to the hypocrisy of the so-called War on Terror, RATB activists also highlighted Cuba’s socialist development and welfare as an alternative to the poverty, marginalisation, war and environmental destruction of today’s imperialist dominated world. The persecution of the Five is just part of a continual campaign to destroy the Revolution.

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The legacy of Teofilo Stevenson: socialist boxer 1952-2012

After winning his second Olympic gold medal at Montreal Olympics in 1976, Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson refused all bribes by international promoters to encourage him to defect from Cuba with the words: ‘What is one million dollars compared to the love of eight million Cubans?’

Teofilo Stevenson, the Cuban boxer regarded as one of the greatest in the world, died of a heart attack in June at the age of 60. Born to poor immigrant parents, Teofilo benefited from the new social programmes introduced by the revolutionary government after 1959. He went on to become three-time amateur world champion and three times Olympic gold medallist. Many argued that he was in the same league as, if not better than, Muhammad Ali, regarded by many as the greatest boxer ever to have lived. At his death, Muhammad Ali paid tribute to Teofilo, stating: ‘He would have been a formidable opponent to any reigning heavyweight champion or challenger. He was one of the greats of the world. May he rest in peace.’

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Socialism and equality in Cuba: the fight for LGBT rights

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

‘Socialism and discrimination are incompatible’. (Mariela Castro, director of Cenesex)

The exuberant parade down the main street of Cienfuegos in Cuba on 17 May to celebrate the country’s fifth annual International Day against Homophobia should lay to rest the old lie peddled by Cuba’s detractors on the right and so-called ‘left’ alike, that socialist Cuba abuses gay rights.

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Cuban ‘exiles’ get a bitter taste of capitalist free market in Spain

When Cuba’s tiny opposition protests against the socialist government it is reported in the international media. In April 2012, however, when members of this same opposition, in ‘exile’ in Spain, protested against the Spanish government’s decision to stop subsidising them, they barely received mention. The move has given them a taste of the capitalist free market, where accommodation, health care and education are bought and not provided, and where labour is sold as a commodity.

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Syrian rebels meet Cuban 'dissidents' in Miami – June 2012

Reception for the Cuban-Syrian seminar participants given by the Florida Governor Rick ScottA chorus of reaction, singing from imperialism’s hymn sheet

On 1 May 2012, a week-long joint training seminar took place in Miami for members of the Cuban and Syrian ‘armed opposition’. A statement was signed which read,

‘the Cuban Resistance and Syrian Revolution jointly agree: to coordinate all of our political, diplomatic, logistic and humanitarian efforts in pursuit of the liberation of Cuba and Syria; hence constituting a United Front of Freedom and Democracy; therefore, the Cuban Resistance and the Syrian Revolution jointly declare: the people want the overthrow of the dictatorial regimes of Assad and Castro.’

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Internationalism at the core of the Cuban revolution

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

‘ALBA, and especially CELAC, are the only things that may save Latin America.’

Orlando Borrego

On the brigade, it was made abundantly clear to us that internationalism is at the core of the revolution. The clearest illustration of this is Cuba’s central role in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and the Community for Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – two regional organisations that aim to act as a counterweight to US imperialist control in the region.

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Cuban socialism: deepening democracy, increasing productivity

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

‘Cuba faces two options – economic collapse, or updating the economy, building the only possible socialism in Cuba’.

Noel Carillo, Department of International Relations of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba

Handing over sport equipment in Ho Chi Minh Park, Havana

Cuba has been subjected to a harsh economic and political blockade by the US for over 50 years. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the Special Period in the 1990s, Cuba has been in a state of economic crisis. The country lost 35% of its GDP and 80% of its trade overnight. Yet the revolution’s commitment to meeting the needs of its people has never wavered: not a single hospital or old people’s home was closed and no one starved.

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Brigade itinerary

Friday 10 February

  • Meeting with the Cuban Institute of Friendship between Peoples (ICAP)
  • Meeting with the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC)
  • Visit to ‘Leonor Pérez’ maternity home, Old Havana

Saturday 11 February

  • Meeting with Orlando Borrego, Member of July 26 Movement who fought alongside Che Guevara in the Rebel Army and was his vice-president at the Ministry of Industries
  • Meeting with Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR), Boyeros, Havana

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Solidarity needed to free the Cuban 5

The Cuban 5 are Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino and Fernando Gonzalez. They were convicted in 2001 by a Miami jury, in a hostile anti-Cuban environment, on charges ranging from spying to conspiracy to commit murder and endangering the security of the US. They are guilty of nothing more than peacefully trying to protect Cuba against terrorism. All their successful appeals have subsequently been overturned – the US will not permit a fair trial which would expose its funding and harbouring of real terrorists.

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Cuba: securing the revolution

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012
Pohto: RATB celebrates 53 years of Cuban socialism at the Angel, Islington, January 2012

RATB celebrates 53 years of Cuban socialism at the Angel, Islington, January 2012

Reporting on the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) of April 2011 and the approval of the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution we said: ‘New measures and legislation will be announced in Cuba in the coming months as the guidelines are implemented. Although there will be no surprises, we can expect these to be met by the sensationalist exclamations about the advent of capitalism from the enemies of Cuban socialism’ (FRFI 221). This has indeed been the case with the bourgeois (and social democratic) media focusing on legislation implemented or anticipated to:

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‘Justice for the Cuban 5’ solidarity brigade to Cuba

In February, activists from the solidarity campaign Rock around the Blockade will travel to Cuba as the ‘Justice for the Cuban 5’ brigade to find out:

  • What lies behind the recent reforms and how will they effect Cuban socialism?
  • Does the Cuban Revolution retain its mass support among the population?
  • What is the impact of the US blockade on Cuban development?
  • Is Cuba able to maintain its high-standard, universal welfare provision during the global economic crisis which has seen the public sector under threat in the wealthiest nations?

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‘Justice for the Cuban 5’ solidarity brigade returns from Cuba – February 2012

bwd  Set 1/11  fwd

Between 9 and 22 February 2012, 13 Rock around the Blockade activists visited Cuba on the campaign’s 12th solidarity brigade to the revolutionary island.

During their 2-week visit, brigadistas witnessed the realities of Cuban socialism first-hand - from meeting revolutionaries organising in their local communities (Committees for the Defence of the Revolution) to working alongside farm workers and discussing the latest developments in Cuba with trade unionists and Communist Party members.

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Assata Shakur, former Black Panther, speaks from exile in Cuba

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 131, June/July 1996

Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur was a political activist in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. As a member of the Black Panther Party, she was targeted by the FBI under its counter-intelligence programme, COINTELPRO. She was framed for the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1979 she escaped from prison and since 1985 has been in political exile in Cuba. David Yaffe spoke to her there on behalf of FRFI.

FRFI: How did you come to be in Cuba?

Assata Shakur: Well, I have admired Cuba since I was at college. I read everything about Cuba that I could get my hands on. So, when I escaped from prison, my first idea was Cuba. But it took me five years to get here. I couldn’t write beforehand and say ‘Dear Fidel, I would like to come to your country’. I just had to come and, luckily, people here knew who I was and they gave me the status of a political refugee.

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Cuban oil exploration - the revolution digs deep

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 224 December 2011/January 2012

‘I asked Che, if you think there’s oil in the Gulf, why don’t we go and investigate? He told me that we can’t because the technology doesn’t exist.’ Juan Valdes Gravalosa*

Today, the technology to which Che aspired is steaming across the oceans towards the northern coast of Cuba in the form of Scarabeo 9; a $750 million investment by the Cuban government in one of the world’s largest semi-submersible oil drilling rigs. Drilling on exploratory wells in the Gulf of Mexico will begin before the end of 2011.

In mid-November 2011, Rafael Tenreiro, head of exploration for the state-owned oil company Cubapetroleo, stated: ‘It is not a matter of if we have oil, it is a matter of when we are going to start producing.’ JOSEPH ESKOVITCHL reports.

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Women, the crisis and the cuts - Cuba shows the alternative

maydayincuba

In a time of global crisis, Cuba represents a unique reality for women. Understanding that sexual equality is necessarily bound with economic and political equality, women's emancipation is crucial to the ongoing process of revolution. The huge grassroots political involvement of the people, and the planned economy driven by their needs, means that society actively works to challenge sexism and inequality. Accordingly, Cuba stands out in The World Economic Forum's study on gender disparity and economics - despite its small economy and the blockade which attempts to strangle development, its women rank highly in health, education, political and economic equality. The index shows Cuba's gender disparity has improved; Britain, despite its imperialist wealth, is only four places above Cuba, and has fallen in ranking.

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Cuban trade unions: committed to socialism and the defence of workers

Since the mid-2000s, Cuba’s revolutionary government has introduced numerous measures to recover from the economic crisis of the 1990s and improve the efficiency of Cuban socialism. This process has intensified since 2008 to deal with economic and financial problems aggravated by the international crisis. Among these policies are changes to the employment structure. In September 2010, the Cuban Trade Union Confederation (CTC) announced plans to transfer one million unproductive state sector workers into alternative employment between 2011 and 2015; half of them by March 2011. Alternative employment includes understaffed areas of the state sector, cooperatives and self-employment. These changes were further detailed in the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, distributed and debated nationwide from November 2010, modified according to popular demand at the Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) (see FRFI 221) in April 2011 and approved in the National Assembly in July.

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Rene Gonzalez to be released - punishment to continue

Rene Gonzalez in prison with his daughters Irmita and Ivette during a visit

On Friday 7 October, Rene Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five incarcerated in United States since 1998 for combating terrorism against Cuba, faces a ‘supervised release’ under life-threatening conditions. In 2001, Rene was sentenced to 15 years in prison charged with conspiracy to act as a non-registered foreign agent. He had already spent 33 months in ‘preventative custody’, including 17 months in isolation in ‘the hole’.

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Free the Cuban Five! - Defend the socialist revolution in Cuba

12 September 2011 will mark 13 years since the arrest in Miami, Florida of five Cuban intelligence agents who had infiltrated right-wing terrorist organisations in the United States to help foil terrorist attacks against the Cuban people. They remain incarcerated in US prisons. The campaign for their release is an essential part of the struggle to defend Cuban socialism. In September, Rock around the Blockade will join activists from around the world demanding the release of the Cuban Five. Ali Ali Erkaslan reports.

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Lazy Left attack Cuba at Marxism 2011 – 30 June 2011

the_oppressed_people_of_the_world_support_cuban_socialism_why_doesnt_the_swp

Thursday 30th June was the start of the annual 5-day Marxism event, organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), which I attended for the first time.

Having signed up for membership of the SWP in early March of this year, I was convinced by many friendly and enthusiastic fellow members that ‘this year would be the biggest and best ever and not to be missed!’. It certainly was the largest attended in over a decade (approximately 4,500 people according to the SWP) but I for one was left underwhelmed.

I arrived at the Friends House venue in Euston, London for a talk entitled ‘Che Guevara and the Cuban revolution’. The listed speaker was Dave Sewell, billed as a Latin America expert. He spoke for 20 minutes with wave after wave of negative connotation and shallow rhetoric.

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Cuban Communists: in step with the people to improve socialist efficiency

congress_of_the_cuban_communist_party
Photo: Ismael Francisco

The Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) took place in Havana between the 16 and 19 April 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of two historic events: the declaration of the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution on 16 April 1961 and the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion by CIA-trained Cuban exiles, within 72 hours, on the 19 April 1961.

The principal function of the Congress was to discuss, amend and approve the Draft Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution and then to oversee their implementation. Distributed nationally in early November 2010, these guidelines contained 291 proposals for consolidating or amending social and economic policy in twelve broad categories:

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In Memoriam Theodore MacDonald 1933-2011

Fighter for social justice

Theo MacDonald was a committed socialist and anti-imperialist, and, throughout his life as a teacher and a doctor, one of the kindest and funniest of men. He inspired those he met not only to understand injustice but also to challenge it in whatever way they could. He taught, lectured, discussed and wrote with a contagious passion and enthusiasm. ‘Be patient and leave lots of room for good humour,’ he advised. Despite his enormous achievements – over his lifetime he published 40 books and 200 research papers – he was one of the most humble people you could meet.

Theo’s extraordinary life, which took him all over the world, began in Quebec, Canada, where his father was the leader of a fascist movement. Theo ran away from home and lived off his own resources until being taken in by Jesuits who looked after him and educated him. While serving in the Canadian army in Korea, he was taken as a prisoner of war by the North Koreans and, impressed by the anti-imperialist ideology of his captors, defected to North Korea at the end of the war. He later hitched a ride on an East German ship and completed his medical training in East Germany, then part of the Soviet bloc.

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CIA, spies and videotapes – Cuba exposes US programme of subversion

‘The majority of Cubans support Castro...There is no effective opposition...The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support [for the government] is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship... to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.’

Lester D Mallory, US government official, 6 April 1960

‘Our objective is to accelerate the development of an opposition in Cuba.’

Livingston Merchant,  US government official, 14 January 1960

‘[W]e see very little evidence that the mainline dissident organizations have much resonance among ordinary Cubans... Despite claims that they represent “thousands of Cubans”, we see little evidence of such support.’

Jonathan Farrar, Head of the US Interests Section, Havana, 15 April 2009

During a state visit to Chile on 21 March 2011, US President Obama announced: ‘we’ll continue to seek ways to increase the independence of the Cuban people, who I believe are entitled to the same freedom and liberty as everyone else in this hemisphere.’ The ways sought by the US administration have been amply exposed since January 2011 through two court cases and by four Cuban agents. US policy has evolved, adapted and expanded, but the objective has remained unchanged since 1960 – the destruction of Cuba’ socialist revolution. Helen Yaffe reports.

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Farewell to the real Poderoso: Alberto Granado dies in Havana aged 88. 12 March 2011

Alberto Granado and Che GuevaraOn Saturday 5 March 2011, Alberto Granado, friend of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and the Cuban Revolution, died in Havana, aged 88 years. He was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1922. At university Granado studied biochemistry and joined student protests against the pro-fascist military regime and subsequent President, General Juan Domingo Peron. In 1943 he was imprisoned for one year. In 1945, Granado and Guevara first met when Guevara, still a teenager, began accompanying Granado’s younger brother to visit him in police detention. The two became friends.

Granado recalled: ‘Che impressed me from the first time we spoke. He was this young asthmatic, skinny kid. I saw that he had an important capacity to change seemingly negative things into positives, though his personality and intelligence…He had other positive traits which in my twenties I thought were negative and that was being unable to lie.’[1] The friends were united by their appreciation of literature and their desire to travel. ‘We didn’t have political direction, just the spirit of adventure and yearning for knowledge.’

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Cuban agents prove US finances 'dissidents' – 28 February 2011

Photos: Carlos Serpa Maceira (left) and Moises Rodriguez (right) are congratulated in their respective areas by neighbours who have just watched the television programme Pawns of Imperialism on Saturday 26 February.

The spontaneous demonstration which broke out on Saturday night in Nueva Gerona, capital of Cuba’s Island of Youth, was not the anti-regime uprising for which the US government, bourgeois media, and the internal opposition hopelessly craves. Instead it was a celebration of the revolutionary commitment shown by local resident Carlos Serpa Maceira, as neighbours welcomed him back into the arms of his people.

On the evening of Saturday 26 February, Cuban television broadcast the programme ‘Pawns of Imperialism’ detailing close links between the internal counterrevolution, the right-wing exile community and the government of the United States. Evidence of these links was provided by two Cuban state agents who had infiltrated the ranks of the so-called ‘dissident’ movement. The first was Moisés Rodriguez, who spent 20 years inside the counter-revolution, working closely with the US Interest Section (USIS) in Havana. The second was Carlos Serpa, who spent ten years posing as an ‘independent journalist’ for Radio Martí and numerous blogs and websites. As President of the Union of Free Journalists in Cuba, an organisation without members, Serpa worked closely with the Ladies in White (relatives of US-paid mercenaries imprisoned in Cuba in 2003), accompanying their processions through Havana.

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YouTube censors Cuban journalism for exposing CIA-terrorist Carriles

In January 2011, the US-based video- sharing website YouTube censored the channel of popular website CubaDebate.cu for publishing a video which criticised international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles – responsible for many Cuban deaths and currently on trial in Miami for lying to immigration authorities. Google, which owns YouTube, cut access to CubaDebate’s videos for hosting alleged copyright material of Carriles talking outside court with his lawyers. They refer specifically to a fragment of video which formed part of the presentation from the Miami Legal Fund for Carriles.

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WikiLeaks exposes US attacks on Cuba

Wikileaks

Cables released by WikiLeaks have revealed the ugly face of US diplomacy in Latin America: funding subversive groups, propaganda campaigns and military support for right-wing regimes. The main targets are the countries in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), especially Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and pre-coup Honduras. Murray Andrews reports.

For over 50 years the US government has engaged in a dirty war against the Cuban government. It has implemented a vicious blockade, supported terrorist groups and sabotaged the revolutionary government wherever possible. This has long been known, but rarely admitted. The WikiLeaks cables are changing this.

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Cuba celebrates record fall in infant mortality

Before the Cuban Revolution, 60 children out of every 1,000 live births in Cuba died before they reached one year old. This infant mortality ratio has fallen gradually as a consequence of Cuba’s socialist development. In 2010 it fell to a record low of 4.5 per 1,000 live births (down from 4.8 in 2009) – better than Britain (4.6) and better than the United States (6.8).

Infant mortality statistics are important indicators of the socio-economic conditions within any nation. They reflect the health of the mother which is affected by issues such as safe and adequate water supply, housing and employment conditions, educational level, sufficient and appropriate food and preventative, primary and secondary health care. Infant mortality is also a reflection of the availability of maternal and child health services, including antenatal care (reducing the incidence of low birthweight babies) and trained health professionals at births,  clean water and sanitation. It is an indication of the provision of vaccinations and regular child development monitoring programmes and the general health of the population, including incidence of other diseases such as HIV, TB and malaria.

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Europe’s hypocrisy on ‘human rights’ in Cuba

On 21 October 2010, European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for human rights to Cuban ‘dissident’ Guillermo Fariñas, whose latest hunger strike to demand the release of Cuban political prisoners ended in July 2010 after 135 days. He was kept alive in intensive care by Cuban medics. President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek described Fariñas as an independent journalist and a political dissident who is ‘ready to sacrifice himself and risk his health and his life as a way of applying pressure to achieve change in Cuba.’ Buzek did not mention Fariñas’ record of non-political violent crime or his employment under US programmes to destabilise the Cuban Revolution.

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Cuba’s trade prospects improve despite the blockade

Cuba news

From 1 to 6 November 2010, one week after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted against the US blockade, 2,000 companies from 57 countries participated in the 28th International Trade Fair in Havana. Exhibitors included 70 companies from Spain, 30 from China and 12 from the US, down from 35 last year.

Opening the Fair, Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca announ­ced that in the first nine months of 2010, Cuban goods exports had increased 21% while imports had risen just 1%, reducing Cuba’s trade deficit by 7% from 2009 and creating the conditions for the government to deal with its foreign debt. In 2009 the value of Cuban goods trade produced a deficit of 67%, although this does not include significant service export revenues, mainly for medical personnel overseas and tourism.

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The world stands with Cuba against the US blockade

On 26 October, for the 19th consecutive year, Cuba delivered a resolution to the UN General Assembly on ‘The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba’. Murray Andrews reports on the impact of the blockade and the UN vote.

The US blockade began in July 1960 with the forced reduction of Cuban sugar exports to the US, for which a set ‘quota’ had been established. The Soviet Union stepped in to purchase the surplus sugar and Cuba began nationalising US properties on the island. As the Cuban Revolution radicalised, the US stepped up its attacks using terrorism, sabotage, invasion, political isolation and the economic and trade blockade. By 1963 the US government had frozen Cuban assets in the US.

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Cuba: the drive for efficiency within socialism

‘Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society – after deductions have been made – exactly what he gives to it.’ (Karl Marx, 1875)

‘Wages today are clearly insufficient to satisfy all needs and have thus ceased to play a role in ensuring the socialist principle that each should contribute according to their capacity and receive according to their work…the Party and government have been studying these and other complex and difficult problems in depth, problems which must be addressed comprehensibly and through a differentiated approach in each concrete case.’ (Raul Castro, 2007)

The announcement by the Cuban Trade Union Confederation (CTC) on 13 September 2010 about plans to reduce the state sector workforce by half a million was greeted with jeering international headlines. Cuba is rarely of interest to the bourgeois press unless it believes there is some crisis to celebrate or that new measures can be interpreted as evidence of a shift from socialism to capitalism. Helen Yaffe reports.

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Cuba: The Drive for Efficiency within Socialism

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‘Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society – after deductions have been made – exactly what he gives to it’ (Marx, 1875)

‘wages today are clearly insufficient to satisfy all needs and have thus ceased to play a role in ensuring the socialist principle that each should contribute according to their capacity and receive according to their work…the Party and government have been studying these and other complex and difficult problems in depth, problems which must be addressed comprehensibly and through a differentiated approach in each concrete case.’ (Raul Castro, 2007)

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The lion roars: Fidel Castro warns of danger of US and Israeli aggression

On 12 July, Fidel Castro, commander-in-chief of the Cuban Revolution, made his first live television appearance in five years. Helen Yaffe reports from Havana.

In an interview on the daily live current affairs programme, Mesa Redonda (‘Round Table’), Fidel analysed current US and Israeli hostilities against Iran, warning that they could result in a brutal and possibly nuclear conflagration. This has been the recent focus of his regular Reflections, which are read around the world. Fidel has also been highly visible on visits to research centres and the Havana aquarium, talking to workers, scientists, economists and enthusiastic supporters.

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New dog, old tricks Obama ratchets up attack on Cuba

New dog, old tricks Obama ratchets up attack on Cuba

In spring 2010, Cuba came under renewed attack as politicians and the corporate media worldwide portrayed the revolutionary government as a repressive dictatorship struggling to stem a growing tide of discontent. This offensive is orchestrated by the Obama administration which is continuing the 50-year war against Cuban socialism. The strategy is simple but effective: demonise the enemy to win public consent for an intensification of conflict. The backdrop to the current campaign is the global capitalist crisis, Raul Castro’s defence of the socialist system and the growing influence of Cuba in Latin America and around the world. In the face of this intensification of hostility, Cuba and its supporters have continued to fight back and expose the lies, distortions and hypocrisy.[1] Helen Yaffe provides a framework for understanding the escalation of the attack on Cuban socialism.

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Defend Socialist Cuba Against Media Lies

Download and send this letter to protest against British interference in Cuba.

Hundreds of revolutionaries take to the streets to protest at a parade by the ‘Ladies in White’ on 21 March 2010 shouting slogans against the European Union at Volker Pellet, deputy head of the German embassy, and Michael Upton (R), deputy head of the British embassy. These diplomats were violating the principle of non-intervention and non-interference by supporting the ‘Ladies’ who have publicly admitted being funded from the US.

In this time of global economic crisis people’s livelihoods are being attacked while bankers boast of their bonuses. Politicians compete in an electoral fraud to cover up savage cuts in health, education and social services. While British government complicity in torture is repeatedly exposed and the bloody imperialist occupation in Afghanistan intensifies, the BBC has dedicated its resources to focusing on group of less than 30 Cuban women, known as the ‘Ladies in White’, protesting against supposed human rights abuses in Cuba. Why is this?

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Socialism is good for the environment

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The World Wide Fund for Nature Living Planet Report 2006 pointed to Cuba as the only nation in the world to have achieved sustainable development, which it described as having a United Nations human development index score of 0.8 or more, with a measure of human demand on the biosphere of 1.8 global hectares per person or less. That Cuba is able to achieve sustainable development is because it is socialist. State ownership and central planning, along with a grassroots system of participatory democracy, facilitate a rational allocation of resources for the benefit of the population’s collective interests. That Cuba stands alone in this achievement supports Marx’s contention that socialism is needed to overcome human alienation from nature under capitalism. David Hetfield reports.

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Cuban socialism in 2010 – debate, reflection and consolidation

Cuba began 2010 debating and reflecting on how to consolidate its socialist system. Three events which took place in December 2009 illustrate the Revolution’s challenges and strengths: the National Assembly of People’s Power which reviewed the progress and problems faced in 2009 and debated plans for 2010; the 8th Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) hosted in Havana; and a spontaneous mobilisation of ordinary Cubans against US government attempts to create a counter-revolution (see box). From Havana, Sam Mcgill reports.

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Cubans Mobilise Against Imperialist Mercenaries

For half a century US imperialism has gone to staggering lengths to destroy the Cuban Revolution and damage the example it sets for the oppressed people of the world. This aim is embedded in the US Constitution itself. The US blockade (1961), invasion (1961), the threat of nuclear war (1962) and attempts to isolate Cuba on the international stage, have failed to destroy the Revolution. The Obama administration is stepping up efforts to create an internal opposition among the Cuban people, ‘investing’ $55 million in 2009 alone in this endeavour. These attempts are failing miserably. Imperialist powers and their allies continue to underestimate the revolutionary strength of the Cuban people, demonstrated in December 2009 when just one neighbourhood in Havana took to the streets in response to a group of imperialist-paid mercenaries known as the Women in White.

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US can’t ignore Cuba’s advances in health

The US is under pressure from sections of its ruling class to moderate the blockade of Cuba. In November, a high-level science delegation travelled to Cuba to ‘explore research issues and multilateral science values that might be conducive to US-Cuba scientific cooperation’. The delegation included Anthony Rock, CEO of the Association of Science-Technology Centers and former acting Assistant Secretary of State for Science, Technology, Environment and Health Affairs, and professor Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005.

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Obituary: Juan Almeida Bosque

‘¡Aquí no se rinde nadie!’ ‘No one surrenders here!’

On Sunday 13 September the Cuban flag was lowered to half mast across the island to mourn the death of Juan Almeida Bosque, aged 82, who died of a heart attack two days earlier. Tens of thousands of people paid their respects in every province in Cuba, led by Raul Castro in Revolution Square in Havana.

Almeida had participated in the revolutionary struggle against Batista from the outset in 1952, becoming a Commander of the Revolution, a member of the Political Bureau of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) since its formation in 1965, a delegate in the National Assembly and a vice president of the governing Council of State; positions he held until his death. He was also president of the Association of Combatants, founded in 1993 for veterans from the 1950s struggle and from Cuba’s military interventions in Africa and elsewhere in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

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Cuban socialism: ‘To be educated is to be free’

For 50 years since the Revolution of 1959, Cuba has shown what can be accomplished in the fields of education and culture by a society that puts people before profit, promoting cooperation not competition. Its democratic planned economy has made possible remarkable achievements that have benefited the entire Cuban population and, through Cuba’s internationalism, millions of poor people around the world. Rebecca Rensten and Helen Yaffe report.

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Cuban socialism shows the way for biotech and pharma

With far fewer resources, socialist planning has achieved results to match those of the biggest capitalist powers and has, in some instances, even exceeded them. Without prior expertise, and beginning in the 1961-1965 period, Cuba began to develop a pharmaceutical and biotechnological industry that now rivals those of the advanced industrial capitalist countries. This is the result of the priorities and planning to meet society’s needs. Charles Chinweizu reports.

This industry has been developed despite the US blockade, with the support of the socialist bloc, and with the prime objective of enabling Cuba to develop its socioeconomic prospects and improve the health of its population. Cuba has also helped to develop the biotechnological industries of India (prime manufacturer of generics for the ‘third world’), China and Malaysia, boosting the sovereignty of these underdeveloped countries via ‘south south’ technology transfer.

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A call for reflection, restraint and responsibility

FRFI 163 October / November 2001

Extracts from the statement from Radio Havana Cuba


...The most powerful nation on earth has been put on a war footing and history has taught us all what to expect when Washington starts waving the cudgel self-righteously. The families of almost a million Japanese, four million Koreans, three million Vietnamese, and thousands of Iraqis and Yugoslavians can all attest to what occurs when the Oval Office scrambles its bombers.

...But who is the ‘enemy?’ The enemy are successive Washington administrations that have for more than five decades promoted terrorism on an enormous scale across the globe. Administrations that have trained international military personnel in techniques of torture and terrorism in its meek-sounding School of the Americas. Administrations that have for 40 years permitted and supported terrorist attacks against its island neighbour whose only crime was to advocate a different socio-political system. Administrations that introduced the world to nuclear holocaust, to carpet bombing, to horrendous use of phosphorous and napalm bombs. Administrations that maintain an economic blockade that is directly responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children's lives. Administrations that support one of the most repressive, brutal and racist regimes on earth with massive flows of money and weapons to use against the Palestinian people. Administrations that financed the Latin American dictatorships of the eighties and then later ‘apologised’ for some of the unspeakable crimes they committed in the name of ‘democracy’

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Cuban communists against terrorism and war

FRFI 164 December 2001 / January 2002

‘The war in Afghanistan must be stopped…this war has targeted children, the civilian population and International Red Cross hospitals and facilities as well as enemies…an endless slaughter, with the most sophisticated weaponry, of a dispossessed, starving, helpless people. This war will never be justified from the point of view of ethics and international law. Those responsible for it will one day be judged by history.’

Cuban Foreign Secretary Felipe Perez Roque, demanding a United Nations debate on the war in Afghanistan, 13 November 2001

Immediately after the 11 September attacks on the US, when Cuba was amongst the first countries to offer aid and support to the victims, Fidel Castro warned that ‘the tragedy should not be used to unleash an endless carnage of innocent people’ whose first victims would be ‘the billions of people living in the poor and underdeveloped world.’ Ever since, Cuba’s opposition to the war in Afghanistan has been resolute.

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Guantanamo Bay - No hiding place for torturers

On 6 March, the United Nations demanded that the US concentration camp in Guantanamo be closed down, that all torture must cease immediately, as must the force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike, and that the remaining 500+ detainees be tried or set free. In the face of this uncompromising denunciation, even the US’s staunchest ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair, was forced into the grudging admission that the Guantanamo camp is an ‘anomaly’ that should be closed ‘sooner rather than later’.

That the true horror of what has been going on in Guantanamo and other US torture camps is beginning to emerge is testimony to the courage of the detainees and all those who have campaigned to expose the crimes committed by the US administration and British complicity in those crimes.

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CUBA - SOCIALISM INTO THE 21ST CENTURY

FRFI 201 February / March 2008

Between 21 February and 7 March representatives of three generations of revolutionary Cubans will be speaking around Britain. They bring with them direct experience of a working class in power. Cuban socialism has placed human beings at the centre of society and development. Cubans enjoy a system of social welfare provision which is among the best in the world. They have created a system of democratic representation which gives an active role to all sectors of society. The Cuban revolution has become synonymous with international solidarity, sending doctors and educators around the globe. All this achieved despite nearly 50 years of military and political aggression from the United States, including a brutal economic blockade.

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Why does the British left attack Cuba?

On Saturday 11 July, Rock around the Blockade (RATB) supporters were subjected to a stream of anti-Cuban prejudice when the organisation debated the case for Cuban socialism with the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL). RATB agreed to the debate because we recognise that as the crisis deepens, it is the urgent task of socialists to confront imperialism and build an anti-imperialist movement in this country. Cuba is in the forefront of that struggle world-wide and its stance is recognised by progressive and revolutionary forces throughout the world. As it continues to denigrate Cuba’s achievements and its principled standpoint, the Trotskyist left in Britain, always completely hostile to Cuban socialism, is now playing a counter-revolutionary role.

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