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

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 242 December 2014/January 2015

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.

The NYT highlights Cuba’s ‘impressive’ medical response to the Ebola crisis, where over 250 Cuban medical personnel are already working to confine the virus in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea with another 450 preparing to join them. The editorial laments that the US ‘is diplomatically estranged from Havana’ in the fight against Ebola, a division which ‘has life-or-death consequences’. It asserts that ‘This should serve as an urgent reminder to the Obama administration that the benefits of moving swiftly to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba far outweigh the drawbacks.’ Whilst US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers, and Secretary of State, John Kerry, are happy to praise Cuba’s efforts against Ebola, a further editorial criticises the divisive US ‘Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which in the last fiscal year enabled 1,278 Cubans to defect while on overseas assignments’. The programme attacks one of socialist Cuba’s most recognised achievements, yet these defectors, fast-tracked to US citizenship, make up a surprisingly small fraction of Cuba’s 50,000 health care professionals currently working across 66 countries in three continents.

The editorials are peppered with accusations about ‘the Castro Regime’, ‘police state’ and a Cuban population which has ‘suffered enormously’. The NYT clearly does not support Cuba’s socialist revolution. However, it does expose the failure and hypocrisy of US imperialist strategy. In ‘Misadventures in regime change’, the NYT details the $264m the US has spent in its quest to overthrow the Cuban revolution. This policy has been a catalogue of expensive embarrassments, with one contractor using the ‘pro-democracy money’ to buy luxury goods including ‘cashmere sweaters, crab meat and Godiva chocolates’.

USAID financed Alan Gross on a $500,000 mission to smuggle and install communications equipment, satellite phones and laptops with internet access in a ‘reckless strategy’ to promote subversion. He was caught and tried by the Cuban government in 2011, and imprisoned for 15 years for crimes against the integrity of the state. The NYT suggests that ‘the only plausible way’ for Gross to be released is the exchange of the three remaining ‘Cuban Five’ prisoners held since 1998 by the US. Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino, remain in US gaols for infiltrating Miami terrorist networks and exposing terrorist plots against Cuba. The NYT notes Judge Phyllis Kravitch’s findings that Gerardo Hernandez’s murder-conspiracy conviction was unfounded, detailing that the US Court of Appeals 2005 overturned the convictions of the Cuban Five, ‘ruling that a “perfect storm” of factors deprived the five defendants of a fair trial’. The NYT notes that media-fuelled hostility to Cuba ‘made it impossible to impanel an impartial jury’. What it does not acknowledge however is that this was directed by the state. Evidence has emerged that the US government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors was secretly paying prominent Miami journalists to saturate the media with a smear campaign against the Cuban Five.2 However, that the NYT has drawn attention to the case of the Five, in the words of former President of Cuba’s National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, is ‘an event of transcendental importance. The wall of silence surrounding the case of the Five has received a devastating blow which hopefully is final’.

That the NYT, a major news corporation, pushed the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba in the run-up to November’s US Senate elections, is remarkable. This reflects deepening divisions within the US ruling class, and gives expression to certain capitalist interests which do not want to miss out. Sections such as agribusiness interests in southern states, have been arguing against the blockade – which is not in their interest – for years. Others are now joining them to pursue new opportunities. The NYT argues that investment will enable the US to undermine Cuban socialism from within. Cuba now seeks to attract $2.5bn of foreign capital annually after the implementation of its new foreign direct investment law (see FRFI 240). November also saw Havana’s 32nd International Trade Fair featuring nearly 5,000 exhibitors from 62 countries, with China, Russia, Spain and Germany playing a central role. Brazil is funding Cuba’s new deep-water Mariel port, ideally placed for transhipment with the Panama canal. The NYT warns that ‘Failing to engage with Cuba now will likely cede this market to competitors.’ Russia recently cancelled 90% of Cuba’s Soviet era debt. Bilateral trade with China now totals around $2bn.

Yet while sections of the ruling class demands investment in Cuba, US lawmakers have sought to tighten the blockade, pursuing French bank BNP Paribas $9bn for ‘violating’ trade sanctions in processing Cuban payments and forcing the Irish Bank to suspend transactions with Cuba. In October, the UN General Assembly condemned the US blockade of Cuba for the 23rd consecutive time, yet the US vetoed the resolution, with only Israel joining it in voting against.

As the NYT identifies, fully lifting the blockade will require Congressional approval, however Obama could restore diplomatic ties, negotiate a prisoner swap and open up some investment opportunities without approval. The April 2015 Organisation of American States ‘Summit of the Americas’ in Panama will be the acid test. With Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador threatening to boycott the summit and 20 countries voicing their support, Panama has invited Cuba to attend for the first time in 52 years following US insistence on its exclusion. Obama has yet to commit to attend, whether he does so will depend on which force wins out as the US ruling class clings to global hegemony.

1. All quotes from editorials at 19 October, 2, 9 and
16 November.
2. National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, ‘Miami reporters on the US government payroll and their role in helping to convict the Cuban Five’,

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.

On 1 September, Cuba’s thousands of education centres opened their doors to 1.8 million students from primary to pre-university level. Many of these students will be attending Cuba’s professional-technical colleges. These schools equip students with the appropriate skills and vocational training necessary for the development of Cuba’s industry and productivity, and this academic year they will offer some twenty new areas of study. This school year will also see all pre-university high schools in Cuba being equipped with chemistry, physics and biology laboratories.

While many schools are already opening early in the mornings and closing late in the evenings to provide free childcare for those parents who need it, this academic year will see 3,000 new openings in pre-school day care centres as well as an increase to 75,900 registered boarding students. With free school meals and uniforms, Cuban socialism is ensuring a positive and supported start to the free education of all children.

The World Bank’s latest findings reveal Cuba’s teaching standards as ‘exceptional in its strong emphasis on teamwork and exchange of experience among teachers’, highlighting the Cuban model as ‘exemplary’ and the best in Latin America.* The focus on teaching is clear in Cuba: with its many teacher training high schools and universities preparing students to become professors and educators. Jose Ramon Fernandez Alvarez, advisor to President Raul Castro, recently recognised the teacher figure as the ‘principal element of any educational system’.

Cuba also ensures that children with disabilities are supported by its education system, and this year the ‘14 Junio’ special education school in Guantanamo celebrated its inauguration. The school will serve children with visual and auditory disabilities. Alongside such schools, children whose disabilities keep them at home, or children with temporary illness or injury, are taught by mobile teachers who visit them where they live. Isabel Moya Richard, a journalism professor at the University of Havana, received this special teaching for her injured daughter, and congratulates Cuba’s educational system on how it deals with disability: ‘whatever disabilities a person has, they all have the right to education. They all have special educational plans. The empowerment of people with disability has to do with the right to educate themselves and enhance their self-esteem.’

The sophisticated health care system in Cuba is a product of such dedicated educational structures, and this year the island’s capital, Havana, will host the Second International Conference on Medical Education for the 21st Century, where the role of medical colleges and health sciences for the welfare of the people will be discussed. Iliana Morales, director of science and technology at the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, explained that the main objective of the forum is to evaluate the way graduates from medical universities can contribute to the solution of major health problems worldwide. She also observed that Cuba has 14 medical universities and a faculty of over 37,000 scientific teachers.

With these advancements and improvements in education, Cuba proves that despite the crushing blockade which to date has cost an estimated $116.88 billion, Cuba can continue to progress as a nation by placing education at the forefront of its socialist agenda.

Harriet Taylor

* World Bank Group Latin American Development forum: ‘Great teachers: How to raise student learning in Latin America and the Caribbean’, Barbara Bruns and Javier Luque, 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 241 October/November 2014

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 /FRFI! 239 Jun/Jul 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

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.

Bacardi began leaving Cuba long before the revolution, back in 1910 when they moved their bottling to Barcelona, Spain. Later in the 1930s they opened facilities in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Bacardi boasts about how they benefited from the abuse of Cuba as a colonial playground for wealthy Americans during the Prohibition years. However, they also claim that their assets were ‘illegally confiscated without compensation’ by the Cuban government in 1960. In fact, they were offered compensation by the revolutionary government, a sum based on the value of the assets they had themselves declared for tax payment purposes. Pepin Bosch, head of Bacardi at the time of the Cuban Revolution, a man referred to as ‘the saviour’ on Bacardi’s website, was linked to the CIA and exiles groups actively involved in attacking revolutionary Cuba.

Later, he and other members of the Bacardi family helped set up the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). Membership was initially granted to Cuban exiles whose businesses were worth more than $50,000 when they were nationalised by the Cuban government. This exclusive club used their wealth to buy power, cultivating the support of influential right-wing US senators. The fruit of this partnership was the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, which penalises any country trading with Cuba. Even the European Union questioned the legality of the Act, but CANF lawyers fought off every objection.

Rock around the Blockade (RATB) (, was set up by members of the Revolutionary Communist Group to campaign in solidarity with Cuban socialism. One of RATB’s most prominent campaigns has been to expose and oppose the Bacardi Corporation, highlighting its involvement in the illegal blockade and terrorism against Cuba and progressive movements in Latin America. We carried out Bacardi bar busts, street theatre, subvertising and appealed for conscientious drinkers to choose Havana Club, real Cuban rum, whose profits are invested in Cuban society. A really useful source of information about Bacardi’s history was the book Bacardi: the Hidden War (Bacardi: La Guerra Oculta) by Colombian journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina, which was reviewed in FRFI in 2001 ( See for our new campaign information to combat Bacardi’s latest shameless advertising campaign.

Scott Adams

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