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Guantanamera! May 9, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Cuba, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: I scan the world news every day with particular interest in Latin America, Canada, the USA, and the Middle East; and what I see and what I put on this Blog relate largely to struggles for political, environmental and economic justice.  It is appropriate, however, to from time to time to take time out to celebrate what the human spirit is capable of.

I have a particular affinity for Cuba, which I had the opportunity to visit many times during the 1980s and early 1990s and travel around a good part of the country.  What I found in Cuba, which sets it apart from any of the other Latin American countries I have visited or lived in, is a spirit of pride, the pride of having stood up to the North American Behemoth and achieved its independence after decades of imperial oppression.  I will never forget the huge billboard at the entrance to the Bay of Pigs (Cubans call it Playa Girón) that proclaimed the “first victory over imperialism in the Americas.”  It is the same pride that showed itself recently when, after a half century stand-off, the Goliath Obama finally blinked.

As you will read below, “Guantanamera” refers to a woman from Guantánamo,  It is beyond irony that in our day Guantánamo has become synonymous with torture and degradation; but we cannot let that take away from the celebration of life and love that is reflected in the lyrics and performance of this amazing song.  Thanks to Adrian Sanchez, who posted this on his Blog.  I urge you if nothing else to click here in the first paragraph and listen to the Playing for Change performance.

 

Guantanamera

A song which we all should know. Its name alone resonates deep within me and in perfect time with my heartbeat. Guantanamera. I love it when a song, its rhythms and beat, affect me with such physicality. Guantanamera is one such song. Imagine my excitement when I recently heard a new version of this Latin American musical gem. For anyone who has not heard “Guantanamera” and would like to listen: click here and please tell me what you think of it.

Guantanamera

This  version of Guantanamera is a vast collaboration of no less than 75 Cuban recording artists. It was produced by Playing for Change [1]. They recorded and produced this track with Jackson Browne, who stated that traveling with Playing for Change across Cuba was one of the most rewarding and inspiring musical experiences of his life.

As with the most popular versions of this song, this latest recording, is based upon that of Julián Orbón (1925-1991). It was made with a selection of verses from poems by the Cuban poet José Martí’s Versos sencillos, Simple Verses, intertwined with these three very special musical words:

Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera.

Guantanamera - Music for change

The Simple Verses are rich in profound and colourful symbolism [2]. The couplet below captures the simple power of the words; a call from the past, to today, for tolerance and respect:

Cultivo una rosa blanca
En julio como en enero
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.

Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera.

Y para el cruel que me arranca
el corazón con que vivo,
cardo ni ortiga cultivo;
cultivo una rosa Blanca.

Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera.

… …

I grow a white rose
in July just as in January
for the honest friend
who gives me his open hand.

Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera.

And for the cruel one who tears out
the heart with which I live,
no thistle or nettle I grow;
I grow a white rose. [3]

Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera.

José Martí

José Martí’s writing (1853-1895) contributed greatly to the Spanish modernist literary movement. He is known as one of the greatest figures of the Cuban Revolution and a Latin American intellectual. He also became a symbol of Cuba’s independence against Spain in the 19th Century. In time, this song was destined to become an unofficial anthem of Cuba.

But … what do guantanamera and guajira mean and why does this refrain appear between the verses?

Both words come from the aboriginal taínos dialect, an indigenous Caribbean ethnic group, and became part of the Spanish language, as did many other indigenous words.

Women from the countryside in Cuba, mujeres del campo, are named guajiras (masculine: guajiros).

Guantanamera_cover

As for guantanamera, it sounds similar to the term Guantánamo, the easternmost province of Cuba; and indeed guantanamera refers to a woman originally from Guantánamo (masculine: guantanamero).

Who was that anonymous country woman from Guantánamo, who inspired such a song? She became part of the legend of this song, as the Brazilian Garota de Ipanema, the Girl from Ipanema, did with the homonymous song?

As with any myth, the origins of the song Guantanamera are lost in the mists of time. However, the controversies about the genesis, and authorship of the tune and lyrics still remain.

We do know that, by the end of the 1920’s, this song was already being sung in Cuba and nearly 100 years later it has a new lease of life and it is infusing a new generation of fans to carry it onwards.

cuba6

In the hot humid afternoons of 1930’s Cuba, the radio program El suceso del día, The Events of the Day, Radio CMQ, in La Habana, became very popular. Crime stories selected from the newspaper were sung proficiently to the tune of Guantanamera by the Cuban singer/songwriter/composer Joseíto Fernández (1908-1979). Actors also re-enacted the news events live on air and for several years Guantanamera became one of the most followed radio programs in Cuba.

It is said that Joseíto Fernández would have sung variations of the refrain in other radio stations, such as guajira holguinera (woman from Holguín Province) or guajira camagüeña (woman from Camaguey Province).

According to one of the accounts, he fell in love with a woman from Guantánamo who was very jealous. It appears that the “guajira guantanamera” found him talking (or flirting with …) another woman and following a tantrum and a curse, she ran away and he never saw her again. That day, he sung the song as usual and the audience was so enchanted with that version that they called the radio station in their hundreds to request that he continue singing those particular lyrics and he did.

Guantanamera cover

The best known version of Guantanamera is the version by Julián Orbón, who used Joseíto Fernandez’s original music, including the well known refrain, intertwined with the fragments of José Marti’s Simple Verses.

The American songwriter and activist Peter Seeger (1919-2014) reworked and recorded a live version of the song on his album We Shall Overcome, at Carnegie Hall, in 1963.

In 1966, The Sandpipers recorded it, to some acclaim, and their version become a Top 10 hit in the UK. Click here to listen to their version.

When the beat of the music is with the beat of the heart, a song becomes a musical treasure. However, Guantanamera transcends its music, the words of Marti’s verses convey that perennial call for tolerance, respect, inclusiveness, equality and freedom; and it makes Guantanamera a song standing for those rights that are universal and indivisible.

Then, “in July just as in January, I grow a white rose”.

Guantanamera - The Sandpippers

— —

[1] Playing for Change is a movement founded by Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke, created to inspire and connect the world through music, with the belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.

[2] The book Poemas sencillos, Simple Verses, comprises 46 poems written in a short form, using simple words, deliberately putting meaning over form. Besides this, the poems are of regular rhyme, scheme and alliteration.

[3] Free translation.

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About hoxton spanish tutor info

Hi, my name is Adrian Sanchez. I am passionate about words and languages, particularly Spanish, the language I learned at my mother’s knee. I am curious about how languages change and evolve. I am a qualified Spanish Teacher (CLTA) and a journalist. I have taught in literacy campaigns in Latin America and given Spanish tuition in Spain and in the UK. I would like to share some of my thoughts on the Spanish language; and particularly on what I have learned from my students, who in many ways have become my teachers throughout the years. Spanish is a vast and beautiful language and I would like you to accompany me on a journey of discoveries, so I will be presenting two blogs per month and I would like to hear from you. Here is a link to my webpage: spanish-tutor.info You can visit my blog here: spanishtutorinfo.wordpress.com Email: info@Spanish-tutor.info Thank you!

  1. Hugo Isa says : 19/02/2015 at 7:54 am la guantanamera de Joan Baez

     

Why is the US So Frightened of Venezuela? April 4, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Imperialism, Latin America, Media, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: Israel is armed to the teeth and possesses a formidable nuclear armory, the only one in the Middle East, yet the prostituted mainstream media would have us believe that the real nuclear danger is an Iran, which has zero nuclear weapons (of course, this is not to mention the United States, Russia, UK, China, France, etc. who have enough nuclear power to destroy the globe many times over).  And now we have a medium third world power in totally nuclear weapons free South America declared a security threat to the United States.  Does the mainstream media point out to us the ridiculous nature of this measure and the hidden agenda behind it; or does it lie low and wait for its instructions from official Washington?  This article shows us how absurd is the notion of Venezuela posing a material threat to Uncle Sam unless you consider the bad example of a government dedicated to social and economic equality.  Indeed, that hurts.

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Standing Up to the Empire

by MARIA PAEZ VICTOR

Obama is not in Kansas anymore, but he does not seem to know it. Latin America no longer slavishly accepts orders from the USA; it is no longer the USA’s “back yard”.

The mainstream media has downplayed the fact that President Obama has just declared yet another country an enemy of the USA –one in the American Hemisphere. He has issued an Executive Order declaring Venezuela an “extraordinary and unusual threat to the national security of the United States” [i]

How a nation that spends less than 1% of its GDP on military expenditures, has no latest state-of-the-art military weaponry, and an army of merely 120,000 can possibly threaten the security of the mighty United States, is entirely incomprehensible.

And yet, an invasion of Venezuela, before a theoretical possibility, after Obama’s order has become a scenario with real probabilities. The Venezuelan government is not taking this threat lightly having seen what the greed for oil has done to Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

After recovering from the initial surprise and bewilderment of being labeled a threat to the world’s superpower, Venezuelans have been left with one great consolation: that it is not alone before the threats of the empire of the North.

The media have ignored even more the fact that 138 nations of the world have openly sided with Venezuela against Obama’s surreal decree. This includes the United Nations G-77 countries, all of the regional associations of Latin American and Caribbean, plus Russia and China.[ii]

In the diplomatic world where finessing and weasel words are customary, the strong, categorical language with which Latin America condemned Obama’s decree has been remarkable. The decree was -in no uncertain terms- reviled.

The union and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean has been an amazing achievement. Simón Bolívar in the 19th Century urged and longed for it, however, it was President Hugo Chávez who laid the institutional base that made it possible. These two giants of Latin American history saw very clearly that only through unity could the republics of the region defend themselves from the rapacity of the world powers, especially of the United States.

Latin America (with the exception of that fiefdom of a country, Panama) has repudiated Obama’s decree, including those with right wing governments. They have all seen what the executive order really is: a gross intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, thus violating international law, specifically the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, and it also violates the United Nations Charter.

While the blockade against Cuba affected mainly only that island nation, the region knows very well that this decree affects them all and if not repudiated, no country will be secure from USA attacks.

The first country to express its solidarity with Venezuela was Cuba who labeled Obama’s order, arbitrary and aggressive. The Cuban support has an altruistic, humanist and unique merit in the history of international politics, one that reveals the greatness of the Cuban people. Just at the moment when the USA offers to re-establish relations with Cuba after 50 years of the suffering of the Cubans people due to the criminal blockade that the USA has unjustly maintained against them, just at this delicate and crucial diplomatic moment, Raúl Castro firmly denounced the aggression against Venezuela declaring, “The United States should understand once and for all that it is impossible to seduce and buy Cuba, nor to intimidate Venezuela. Our unity is indestructible.”[iii] Venezuela can never forget such solidarity.

At an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State of the ALBA countries[iv] on 17 March 2015, Obama’s decree was denounced as false and unjust, unilateral and disproportionate and Venezuela was given unconditional support. [v.] 

Argentina stated Obama’s decree caused stupor and surprise. “ It is absolutely implausible to any moderately informed person that Venezuela or any country in South America or Latin America could possibly be considered a threat to the national security of the United States.”[vi] Its Foreign Minister said that any attempt to destabilize a democratic government of the region, Argentina will take as an attack on itself “[vii]

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales demanded that the USA beg pardon to Latin America and especially to Venezuela.These undemocratic actions of President Barack Obama threaten the peace and security of all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Bolivia reiterates its full support for the legitimate government of brother Nicolas Maduro, a president democratically elected by his people, and pledge our solidarity to the Venezuelan people in this unfair and difficult time in which democracy is again trying to be sacrificed to serve foreign interests.”[viii]

 

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said sarcastically that the only thing missing is for the USA to sanction Venezuelan voters, and added: “It must be a bad joke, which reminds us of the darkest hours of our America, when we received invasions and dictatorships imposed by imperialism… Will they understand that Latin America has changed?[ix]

Nicaragua expressed its “profound rejection and indignation before an unacceptable imperial declaration.” President Daniel Ortega condemned the “criminal and futile attempts of the Empire to undermine the Bolivarian Revolution”[x]

Pepe Mujica, former president of Uruguay who enjoys almost universal admiration in Latin America, said: “Anyone who looks at a map to say that Venezuela could be a threat has to be quite mad. Venezuelans have a marvelous Constitution – the most audacious in all of Latin America.” [xi]

As for the regional associations, they all condemned Obama’s order and supported Venezuela: UNASUR, CELAC, ALBA, OAS, PARLATINO, MERCOSUR, ALADI. Plus the UN’s G-77 plus China and Russia added their condemnation[xii]

UNASUR (Union of South American Countries) rejected the decree “because it constitute an interventionist threat to sovereignty and to the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.”

The MERCOSUR Parliament expressed its most energetic and categorical rejection of the USA sanctions denouncing it as “ a real threat to sovereignty, peace and democratic stability (of Venezuela) and consequently, of MERCOSUR.[xiii]

The Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO) which includes 23 countries, stated, “What is at risk here is the defense of our independence, control of our natural resources and the freedom to decide our own destiny.” [xiv]

The Latin American Association for Integration (ALADI) called Obama’s decree inexplicable and arbitrary, stating, “The world knows that no country in Latin America is a threat to peace.” [xv]

At the Organization of the American States (OAS) on March 7th, Obama’s decree was rejected by a majority of 29 countries, with only three nations opposed: (no surprise) the USA, Canada and Panama.

At the United Nations, the Council of Human Rights in Geneva, denounced Obama’s aggressive policy. The UN G-77 plus China also rejected it, saying: “The Group of 77 and China conveys its solidarity and support to the Venezuelan Government affected by these measures which do not contribute, in any way, to the spirit of political and economic dialogue and understanding among countries.”[xvi]

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC), composed of 33 nations, unanimously condemned the decree and its coercive unilateral measures denouncing them as mechanisms of political and economic pressure that violate the UN Charter. [xvii]

In Great Britain, 100 members of parliament signed a declaration repudiating Obama’s decree and affirming their “opposition to all external interference and all USA sanctions against Venezuela.” Among those signing were members of 6 different British political parties from the British Parliament, the House of Lords, the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales and the Assembly of London.

There have been demonstrations all over the world in favour of Venezuela but have been given little or no media attention.

The Summit of the Americas is scheduled for April 10 and 11 in Panama. Instead of the USA being welcomed for recently thawing its relationship with Cuba, Obamas’ decree has assured that the USA will receive a very cold shoulder. A united Latin America and the Caribbean will stand up to the  will stand up to the empire and say: Venezuela is not alone!

María Páez Victor, Ph.D. is a Venezuelan born sociologist living in Canada. 

Notes.

[i] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/09/fact-sheet-venezuela-executive-order

[ii] http://www.primicias24.com/nacionales/maduro-138-paises-apoyan-a-venezuela-y-piden-que-se-derogue-el-decreto-obama/

[iii] http://www.michelcollon.info/Rechazo-mundial-de-la-agresion-de,5071.html?lang=es

[iv] The ALBA countries are: Antigua & Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Venezuela. Observers: Iran, Syria and Haiti

[v] https://youthandeldersja.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/alba-extraordinary-summit-supports-maduro-rejects-obamas-executive-order/

[vi] Salim Lamrani, Rechazo mundial de la agresión de EEUU a Venezuela, Rebelión, 25-03-2015

[vii] http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1664954-el-gobierno-manifesto-total-y-absoluto-apoyo-a-nicolas-maduro

[viii] http://rt.com/news/240325-venezuela-sanctions-obama-america/

[ix] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Ecuadors-Correa-Calls-US-Sanctions-on-Venezuela-a-Bad-Joke–20150310-0003.html.

[x] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Nicaragua-Offers-Backing-for-Venezuela-against-Coup-Plot—20150214-0021.html

[xi] El Observador, “Mujica no duda de que’los gringos se meten en Venezuela”, 12 marzo 2015

[xii] Resumen Latinoamericano/ Russia Today, 26 March 2015

[xiii] Salim Lamrani, Rechazo mundial de la agresión de EEUU a Venezuela, Rebelión, 25-03-2015

[xiv] PARLATINO, 17 March 2015 http://parlatino.org.ve/index.php/noticias/politica-nacional-e-internacional

[xv] Salim Lamrani, Rechazo mundial de la agresión de EEUU a Venezuela, Rebelión, 25-03-2015

[xvi] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuelan-President-Maduro-Appreciates-Support-from-G-77-20150326-0009.html

[xvii] http://www.aporrea.org/internacionales/n267602.html

 

GUANTANAMERA! April 3, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Cuba, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: Since my first visit in 1980 (where on the beaches of Havana I joined in with veterans of the successful  defense of the Bay of Pigs invasion in celebrating the 20th anniversary of their victory), I have had a love affair with Cuba.  I have visited the islands many times and traveled the island from east to west.  I have lots of stories to tell, but that will wait for a future post.  For now, enjoy the recording, which in ways I could not begin to approach, communicates the joy and spirit of the Cuban people and their culture. When Obama, for the wrong reasons, agreed to resume normal relations with Cuba, the Cuban people rejoiced.  This represented a 50 year struggle finally won by Cuban David over the American Goliath, at least for the time being.  It remains to be seen if an American invasion of capital can succeed to wipe out the gains of the Cuban Revolution in a way that 50 years of economic embargo and clandestine dirty tricks could not.

I came across this recording at this web site: https://spanishtutorinfo.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/guantanamera/.  You can go there for much more on Guantanamera.  The word Guantanamera, by the way, refers to a woman of Guantanamo, and this song is the polar opposite of the Hell that the United States government has made there.

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Foreign Policies February 26, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Angola, Cuba, Imperialism, Latin America, South Africa.
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Roger’s note: here are two articles that appeared in the same online edition of http://www.counterpunch.org.  They coincidentally make an excellent comparison of the foreign policies of a Goliath nation (the United States of America) and a tiny David (Cuba).

US foreign policy is characterized by overpowering military strength and aggression, and an overwhelming concern for protecting its corporate interests that is only matched by its lack of concern for human rights.  Cuba, on the other hand, has shown an abiding concern for justice and human needs (cf. its sending doctors around the world). 

Colombia and South Africa are only two nations among many, but the contrast in the actions of the United States and Cuba towards them can be seen as a microcosm with respect to overall foreign policy strategies.  It is notable that the first foreign visit made by Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison was to Cuba to thank Castro and the Cuban people.  As well, it hardly needs to be mentioned that with respect to a capacity to act for human good, the United States is the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world whereas Cuba, in addition to being a third world country historically repressed by Spain and the US, has suffered for over 50 years under the US economic blockade.

 

The American Fingerprints on Colombia’s Dead

A Historian Instructs Peace Negotiators on U.S. Role in Colombian Civil War

by W.T. WHITNEY Jr.

Colombia is seemingly a “no-go” zone for most U. S. media and even for many critics of U.S. overseas misadventures. Yet the United States was in the thick of things in Colombia while hundreds of thousands were being killed, millions were forced off land, and political repression was the rule.

Bogota university professor and historian Renán Vega Cantor has authored a study of U.S. involvement in Colombia. He records words and deeds delineating U.S. intervention there over the past century. The impact of Vega’s historical report, released on February 11, stems from a detailing of facts. Communicating them to English-language readers will perhaps stir some to learn more and to act.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government have been at war for half a century. Vega’s study appears within the context of negotiations in Cuba to end that conflict. Negotiators on both sides agreed in August, 2014 to form a “Historical Commission on Conflict and its Victims” to enhance discussions on victims of conflict. The Commission explored “multiple causes” of the conflict, “the principal factors and conditions facilitating or contributing to its persistence,” and consequences. Commission members sought “clarification of the truth” and establishment of responsibilities. On February 11 the Commission released an 809 – page report offering a diversity of wide-ranging conclusions. Vega was one of 12 analysts contributing individual studies to the report.

Having looked into “links between imperialist meddling and both counterinsurgency and state terrorism,” he claims the United States “is no mere outside influence, but is a direct actor in the conflict owing to prolonged involvement.” And, “U. S. actions exist in a framework of a relationship of subordination. … [T]he block in power had an active role in reproducing subordination, because, (Vega quotes Colombia Internacional, vol 65), ‘there existed for more than 100 years a pact among the national elites for whom subordination led to economic and political gains.’” As a result, “Not only in the international sphere, but in the domestic one too, the United States, generally, has the last word.”

In 1903, after 50 years of minor interventions, the United States secured Panama’s independence from Colombia as a prelude to building its canal there. As a sop to wounded Colombian feelings and to secure oil- extraction rights, the United States paid $25 million to Colombia under the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty of 1921. Colombia that year sent 72 percent of its exports to the United States, thanks mostly to U.S. banana and oil producers and U.S. lenders.

Vega highlights Colombia’s “native” brand of counterinsurgency. Under the flag of anti-communism, the Colombian Army violently suppressed striking oil, dock and railroad workers. On December 6, 1929 at the behest of the U.S. United Fruit Company, that Army murdered well over 1000 striking banana workers near Santa Marta. According to Minister of War Ignacio Rengifo, whom Vega quotes, Colombia faced a “new and terrible danger … The ominous seed of communism is being sprinkled on Colombian beaches [which] now begin to germinate in our soil and produce fruits of decomposition and revolt.” Having investigated those events, Representative Jorge Eliécer Gaitán told Colombia’s Congress in 1929 that, “It was a question of resolving a problem of wages by means of bullets from government machine gunners, because the workers were Colombian and the Company was American. [After all,] the government has murderous shrapnel for Colombians and a trembling knee on the ground before American gold.”

From the late 1930’s on, Gaitán and the left wing of the Liberal Party were leading mobilizations for agrarian and labor rights. With the advent of Conservative Party rule in 1946, repression with anti-communist overtones led to thousands of killings. By then U.S. military missions and instructors were operating in Colombia. U.S. military units no longer needed specific permission to enter Colombia. Colombia and other Latin American nations in 1947 signed the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, a military security agreement. Then on April 9, 1948, Gaitán was assassinated.

Colombian cities erupted in destruction and chaos. Within two weeks, 3000 died. Prompted by U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Colombian government blamed communists for Gaitán’s killing. Marshall was in Bogota that day presiding over a hemisphere-wide meeting at which, for cold war purposes, the Pan-American Union became the Organization of American States. Over the next ten years, war between the Colombian Army and peasant insurgents took nearly 200,000 lives. Most insurgents were affiliated with the Liberal Party but were labelled as communists.

The two nations signed a military assistance agreement in 1952 in response to an alleged “communist conspiracy.” Colombia was the only Latin American nation to send troops to the Korean War. Returning home, “Korea Battalion” veterans attacked insurgents and strikers. Colombia established its “School of Lancers” in 1955, modeled on and facilitated by the U.S. Army Ranger School. That year, with U.S. advisers on hand, Colombian troops used napalm in an unsuccessful effort to eradicate peasant insurgents in Tolima department. In 1959 U.S. military advisers secured President Alberto Lleras Camargo’s approval for a helicopter-equipped, 1500 – person counter-insurgency unit. A “secret CIA team” visited military detachments and inspected security archives to expand counterinsurgency and psychological warfare capabilities.

Yet rural uprisings continued, and, increasingly, insurgents were identifying themselves as communist. In response U.S. General William Yarborough and a U.S. Special Forces team visited four Colombian army brigades in 1962. They were there “to evaluate the ‘effectiveness of counterinsurgency operations’” and plan U.S. assistance. The U.S. army soon stepped up training and technical assistance, and provided new equipment, especially helicopters. Significantly, the Yarborough report, in a “Secret Supplement,” proposed that the “Colombian state organize paramilitary groups in order to ‘execute paramilitary activities like sabotage and/or terrorism against known partisans of communism. [The report emphasized that,] The United States must support this.’” It recommended new “interrogation techniques for ‘softening up’ prisoners.”

The FARC did not yet exist. In 1964, however, the Colombian army sent 16,000 Colombian troops into small-farmer communities in the Marquetalia region of southern Tolima. The U.S. government provided $500,000, and U.S. advisers were on hand as soldiers descended upon a relative handful of rebels. They escaped and within weeks established themselves as the FARC.

Continuing, Vega details:

* The subsequent flow of U.S. equipment and funding to the Colombian military

* Training of 10,446 Colombian soldiers – torture techniques included – at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas between 1946 and 2004 (5239 between 1999 and 2012).

* S. launching of Colombia’s FBI-like police and intelligence agency known as the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) in 1960

* Military and police assistance costing $10.7 billion between 1999 and 2007 under U.S. Plan Colombia. Its implementation caused the FARC in 2002 to end peace negotiations with the government.

* Use of the U.S. “drug war” as a new pretext for military aid, beginning with the Reagan administration

* Collusion between CIA teams and Colombian drug lords

* Deployment of U.S. soldiers and military contractors in Colombia

* Impunity for U.S. personnel accused of civilian killings and anti-women violence

* Establishment of seven U.S. military bases in Colombia in 2009

* S. use of Colombian personnel to train security forces in U.S. client states throughout the world

*High – technology intelligence equipment supplied for targeting FARC detachments and leaders, often with direct U.S. participation

The U. S. protégée DAS monitored opposition politicians, journalists, unionists and government officials, including Supreme Court justices. Adverse publicity led to its dissolution in 2011. The DAS had used paramilitaries to murder many of those under surveillance. Vega says U.S. embassy officials identified civilians for DAS targeting.

Vega reports on the 5000 or so civilians whom soldiers killed and then dressed in FARC uniforms to make them look like casualties of war. The scandal of the so-called “false positives” broke in 2008. It came about in part because extra U.S. funding was available to military units demonstrating effectiveness. The way to do that was to exhibit a high number of FARC casualties.

Vega quotes from the U.S. Institute of Policy Studies: “Everything indicates that support from the CIA or U.S. Special Forces to paramilitaries was the tool allowing them to be consolidated like never before.” He cites a “quantitative study” of municipalities showing that proximity to military bases receiving U.S. military assistance was associated with increased numbers of paramilitary attacks against civilians. From the bases, paramilitaries secured armaments, logistics, and intelligence, plus access to “helicopters or airplanes acquired from the United States.”

Having reported on what happened between the United States and Colombia, Vega then drew conclusions. Their essentials appear below in translation:

“During much of the twentieth century, Colombian governments and dominant classes continued a strategic alliance with the United States that was mutually beneficial to both sides …”

“A native counterinsurgency exists in Colombia nurtured on anti-communism that preceded the advent of the counterinsurgency doctrine. Anti-communism was renewed and integrated with the latter for the sake of U.S. geo-political interests during the cold war.”

“U. S. interference in the social and armed conflict in our country has been constant and direct since the end of the 1940’s …”

“Successive U.S. governments of the last seven decades are directly responsible for the perpetuation of armed conflict in Colombia. They have promoted counterinsurgency in all its manifestations and stimulated and trained the armed forces in their methods of torture and elimination of those seen as internal enemies …”

“The Yarborough mission of 1962 was directly responsible for the consolidation of paramilitarism in Colombia … “

“The United States has contributed to militarization of Colombian society through financing and support of the Colombian state and its armed forces …”

“The United States shares direct responsibility for thousands of assassinations committed by the armed forces and paramilitaries … It sponsored military brigades dedicated to that type of crime and backed private groups of assassins.”

“Direct U. S. control of DAS from the time of its formation to its recent dissolution makes that country responsible in part for the numerous crimes committed by that security organism against the population, [especially] unionists and social leaders …”

“In promoting the so-called drug war, the United States in a direct way participated in the destruction of the small-farmer and indigenous economy all over Colombia …”

“By virtue of agreements between the United States and Colombia, privatization of war promoted by Plan Colombia and the new counterinsurgency encourages utilization of mercenaries in our country’s internal war. They commit crimes … with full impunity. This encourages the “culture of impunity” characterizing the Colombian armed forces.”

“Since the late 1940’s state terrorism in Colombia has been promoted not only through military and financial support from the United States but also by our own dominant classes intent upon preserving their power and wealth and rejecting basic economic and social reforms of a re-distributive nature.”

“Some firms based on U. S. capital, like Chiquita Brands, having financed and sponsored paramilitary groups, are directly responsibility for hundreds of crimes …”

Reflections from a northern vantage point are in order. First, it’s not clear that the U. S. government, a force for war in Colombia, will accept a peace settlement reflecting FARC ideas of peace with social justice. Surely the time is now for fair-minded North Americans to pay attention to and get involved with solidarity efforts on behalf of the peace process and justice itself in Colombia. Secondly, while the thrust of Professor Vega’s study should be understandable by one and all, appreciation of the Colombian conflict as struggle between social classes will help with a full understanding and with movement toward action.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

Source: http://www.rebelion.org/docs/195465.pdf   (The author translated.)

 

 

 

Maduro Confirms Arrest of Caracas Mayor for Coup Plotting February 24, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Imperialism, Latin America, Media, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: One dimension of US foreign policy can be summarized in two words: regime change.  And, with apologies to Malcolm X, one would add, “by any means necessary.”  They achieved it a few years ago in Honduras, which today under the US puppet regime has become the most violent country on earth.  They achieved it last year in the Ukraine, thanks to a popular revolt against a corrupt, albeit democratically elected government, aided and abetted by neo-Fascist gangs.

Syria and Venezuela are next on the list, but Syria may be useful in combating ISIS, so that leaves Venezuela (they would love to achieve regime change in Ecuador and Bolivia, but that remains on the back burner for a future date).   The New York Times published the other day an updated report on Venezuela, which was somewhat more balanced, but which parroted the US official line that the government’s opposition is a victim of government oppression, thereby ignoring the reality that it is being being held criminally responsible for its attempt to overthrow the government with a military coup

The opposition leader under arrest, Antonio Ledezma, as Mayor of Caracas was responsible for multiple deaths during the failed 2002 coup and the 1987 and as Mayor he directed state troops which assassinated as many as 4000 civilians during the Caracazo uprising of 1989.  For this he has to now gotten off Scott free.

Here is the latest on Venezuela. 

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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with supporters at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, February 19, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

 

Published 19 February 2015, Telesur

Antonio Ledezma was arrested Thursday afternoon in Caracas after being named in the recently-foiled U.S.-backed coup in Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro confirmed the detention on Thursday of the ultra-right wing Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, who is accused of participating in the thwarted coup attempt against the democratically-elected government.

“He was detained and will be tried by the Venezuelan justice system” due to his link to plans to topple the government of Maduro with backing from Washington, the Venezuelan president added.

Maduro emphasized that the White House is directly involved in the coup plans that were foiled last week by the Venezuelan government.

Also see: Venezuela Coup Thwarted

Also see teleSUR’s special coverage: The War on Venezuela’s Economy

The Speaker of Parliament Diosdado Cabello said Ledezma was involved along with opposition lawmaker Juolio Borges in a plan to kill Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader in jail for his participation in last year’s Guarimbas violence that left 43 people dead in an opposition and U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Maduro.

Ledezma is one of the persons responsible for ordering the massacre of up to 400 students during the Caracazo of Feb. 27, 1989, which was a popular rebelion against the ill-conceived neoliberal policies imposed by the U.S. and its allies in many countries, including Venezuela.

Antonio Ledezma is accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Antonio Ledezma was arrested for plotting to overthrow the democratically-elected government of President Nicolas Maduro. (Photo: teleSUR)

“Today, [Ledezma] is being processed by the Venezuelan justice system, the constitution. I ask for all the people’s support in order to consolidate justice. Enough with the conspiracy,” said Maduro. “Those who do not agree with the revolution, that’s fine, we respect that. They can organize, they can launch their own political party. There are elections this year.”  Ledezma, a long-time opposition leader to the Bolivarian process who has been linked to ultra-right wing attempts to destabilize the Venezuelan government, published on his personal Twitter account earlier today that officers from the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) Officers were attempting to enter his office in the wealthy Chacao district of Caracas.

His wife, Mitzsy Capriles, said that he was taken to SEBIN headquarters in Plaza Venezuela.

On Feb. 13, President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello gave a televised address providing information about the foiled coup plans, with those detained providing information about the involvement of Ledezma and other opposition leaders in the plot.

Socialist legislator and President of the Latin American Parliament Angel Rodriguez announced that Friday he would formally report Ledezma and right-wing opposition leader Maria Corina Machado to the Venezuelan general prosecutor for their “National Agreement for Transition” statement, which was published one day before the coup plot was to take effect.

The document alleges that Nicolas Maduro’s government is in its “final stage” and called for a dissolution of powers, the privatization of the country’s oil industry, and the deregulation of the economy, among other measures.

President Maduro has also said that “almost all” opposition leaders had known about the plans.

Last year, Ledezma was also linked to Lorent Saleh, a young opposition activist who organized violent protests, but who was arrested after being deported from Colombia for registering in a military college with false documentation. The Venezuelan government released several Skype video conversations where Saleh speaks openly about having weaponry, as well as plotys schemes to generate violence, including through assassinations.

In one of the videos released in September 2014, Saleh says, “Ledezma is key…he is an old fox, you cannot sell nor buy that kind of experience … the politician that has most supported us is Ledezma, for that reason he was our presidential candidate.”

The young opposition leaders explicitly named Ledezma as providing material support for the 2014’s violent opposition-led protests, which claimed 43 lives.

The Bolivarian government continues to defend the country’s institutions despite ongoing destabilization attempts. During a nationally televised speech Thursday night, Maduro reiterated his allegations that the U.S. embassy was participating in the plans, including attempting to turn officials on the government via bribery.

 

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Op-Ed on Venezuela Slips Past NYT Factcheckers

Raul Castro of Cuba and Venezuela President Nicholas Maduro in this file photo. (Photo: AFP)

A February 15, 2015, op-ed on Venezuela by Enrique Krauze seems to have slipped by the New York Times‘ factcheckers.

Krauze’s thesis (a tired one, but very popular with Venezuelan and Cuban right-wingers in South Florida) is that Venezuela has not only followed “the Cuban model,” but has recently outdone Cuba in moving Venezuela further along a socialist path even as Cuba enacts economic reforms. This idea is not merely an oversimplification–as it might appear to the casual observer of Latin American politics–but is largely misleading. To bolster his case, Krauze–a prominent Mexican writer and publisher–includes numerous false statements and errors, which should have been caught by the Times‘ factcheckers.

Krauze begins by claiming that the Venezuelan government, first under President Hugo Chávez and then his successor Nicolás Maduro, has taken control over the media. Chávez “accumulated control over the organs of government and over much of the information media: radio, television and the press,” we are told, and then Maduro “took over the rest of Venezuelan television.”

A simple factcheck shows this to be false. The majority of media outlets in Venezuela–including television–continue to be privately owned; further, the private TV audience dwarfs the number of viewers watching state TV. A 2010 study of Venezuelan television found that

as of September 2010, Venezuelan state TV channels had just a 5.4 percent audience share. Of the other 94.6 percent of the audience, 61.4 percent were watching privately owned television channels, and 33.1 percent were watching paid TV.

A 2013 Carter Center report found that Venezuela’s private TV outlets had about 74 percent of the audience share for coverage of “recent key newsworthy events.”

The media landscape has changed little since. National opposition station Globovisión was sold in 2013, but to a private party; it was not “taken over” by the government. And opposition voices continue to appear on national TV outlets–even the ones that are often described as “pro-government”–free to make the harshest criticisms of the government and to encourage people to protest, as several prominent opposition figures did last year during the violent street blockades and demonstrations aimed at forcing Maduro to step down.

Globovisión, for example, aired interviews–following its change in ownership–with opposition leader María Corina Machado and Juan Guaido of Leopoldo López’s Voluntad Popular party; during her interview, Machado argued that people have the right to overthrow the democratically elected government. And many other Venezuelan networks also frequently broadcast opposition voices.

In fact, the New York Times issued a correction last year after reporting that Globovisión was “the only television station that regularly broadcast voices critical of the government.” It’s a shame that the same standards for accuracy in the Times‘ news section apparently do not apply to the opinion page.

Krauze then says that Maduro “confronted” those “protesting students with arrests and gunfire,” and that “many were killed” as, supposedly, Maduro “suppressed demonstrations by the opposition.” A quick review of events last year–as covered by the New York Times, among others–reveals a wholly different story.

First, most of those killed were either pro-government or were bystanders. Many of those killed (at least 11, according to David Smilde of the Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog, who in turn cites the opposition paper El Universal) were National Guard officers, police or pro-government counter-protesters. A number of bystanders and motorists (at least 10) were also killed as a result of the protesters’ violent tactics, which included stringing barbed wire across the streets in order to decapitate Chavista motorcyclists. (Two died this way.) Demonstrators fired on Guard and police officers, killing at least seven.

It is true that some security forces fired on demonstrators, killing at least three. Yet as over a dozen members of Congress noted in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, the Maduro government arrested some 20 security state agents in connection with these incidents. This was not a case of government-ordered crackdown on protests; if it were, the opposition’s street blockades might have been cleared in days–instead, they remained for weeks–and motorists and cyclists might have been saved from decapitation, crashing into barricades, or getting shot when they got out of their stopped cars.

Having attempted to present the Venezuelan government as some sort of dictatorial regime where freedom of press and assembly are crushed, Krauze goes on to present a series of flawed statements about Venezuela’s economic relationship with Cuba.

First, Krauze writes that “Venezuela absorbs 45 percent of Cuba’s trade deficit.” Official data on Venezuela/Cuba trade is opaque, so it is unclear where Krauze is getting his figure. In terms of its overall trade, Cuba does not have a trade deficit, but a small trade surplus ($697 million USD, according to the WTO). So this statement is false.

Krauze states, “Chávez-era economic agreements with Cuba were all highly favorable to the island nation.” But that the agreements are favorable to Cuba does not preclude them from being favorable to Venezuela as well. They are complementary exchanges: Venezuela has a surfeit of oil yet lacks human capital in some sectors. It could be the case that what Venezuela receives is of a lesser value than what it sends, but unfortunately there is a paucity of information to prove this either way.

What is certain is that the services exported to Venezuela extend far beyond the services of 40,000 Cuban medical professionals. Venezuela sends hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to Cuba for various operations (including Operación Milagro, which extends eye treatments to people in numerous Latin American countries at the joint cost of Venezuela and Cuba). Thousands of Venezuelans have been given scholarships, particularly for the study of medicine. Cuba also exports substantial quantities of pharmaceuticals to Venezuela. It also sends educators and other professionals.

In further arguing that Venezuela is somehow putting Cuba’s interests before its own, Krauze claims, “The expenses for the Missions…involved Venezuelan payments of about $5.5 billion annually, of which the Cuban regime retained 95 percent, the rest going toward paying the doctors.” But this ignores that Cuba provides other services to Venezuela. It also ignores the difficulties in comparing salaries with Cuba, given the vast subsidies for goods that exist in the Cuban economy. The salaries for medics on these foreign postings are vastly larger than normal public sector salaries in Cuba.

Krauze also writes that “thousands” of the Cuban doctors that Venezuela is paying for “have defected to other countries in recent years.” Despite US government efforts to actively encourage such defections, which the New York Times has condemned, the overall defection rate of Cuban medics on overseas missions is less than 2 percent (as of 2011, using US figures on the number of defectors and Cuban figures for the number of medics on overseas missions). The amount of defections  in Venezuela from 2006-11 was 824, which works out to a rate of about 1.1 percent–slightly less than the overall rate.

Krauze claims: “Oil was supplied at such low prices that Cuba could turn around and refine and export some of it at a profit.” This makes something normal sound very conspiratorial–those two-faced Cubans, getting oil on the cheap from Venezuela then selling it out the back door! Actually, Venezuela has invested heavily in Cuba’s downstream capabilities–renovating a moribund Soviet-era refinery in Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, owns a 49 percent stake in the refinery and therefore shares in its proceeds. The aim of the investment project was to create a refinery that could help satisfy Cuba’s domestic requirements but also turn Cuba into a hub for exports of refined products to the Caribbean. Thus it guarantees purchases of Venezuelan oil and allows Venezuela to better access Caribbean markets (i.e. it has a similar justification to Venezuela’s ownership and investments in several US refineries).

Krauze writes, “Mr. Maduro’s government insists that the crisis is an ‘economic war’ conducted by the right and refuses to alter the nation’s currency controls.” Krauze may have missed the news last week, but the Times‘ fact-checkers shouldn’t have: As reported by the Times, the Venezuelan government announced “an easing of the tightly controlled exchange rates that critics say have fed the nation’s economic crisis.”

Maduro’s claim of “economic war”? While there’s little doubt that most of Venezuela’s economic woes stem from its problematic exchange rate regime, the government’s recent documented busts of massive hoarding of essential items by private companies should not be dismissed out of hand, either.

Perhaps Krauze wouldn’t have felt he needed to stretch the truth so far–and present so many inaccurate claims–if his thesis weren’t so flawed. Chávez and Maduro have never claimed that they wanted to bring the Cuban model to Venezuela; this is a fantasy of the Venezuelan right. To the contrary, after announcing his plan for “Socialism for the 21st Century,” Chávez said, “Some are saying that we want to copy the Cuban model. No…. It would be a very serious mistake for Venezuela to copy a model like the Cuban, or any other.”

For his part, Raúl Castro has also expressed support for Latin American countries pursuing their own respective economic and political choices: “Each [leader] is learning their own identity and finding their own identity within the continent. We aren’t the godfathers and they aren’t the heirs,” he told Oliver Stone in the 2010 documentary South of the Border.

The fact is, whether Krauze wants to admit it or not, Venezuela is a democracy, and the Maduro government was democratically elected–as were the Chavista municipal officials who won a majority of elections half a year after Maduro was elected, in a stunning defeat for the opposition. Krauze doesn’t have to like the current Venezuelan government, but he shouldn’t confuse it with an unelected one, as in Cuba.

Nor should he be so easily confused by the Venezuelan economic system–where the private sector enjoyed strong growth in the years after Chávez took office–versus the Cuban model of socialism. More worrying is that the New York Times opinion page would be so baffled by these important differences.

Steve Ellner has taught economic history at the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela since 1977. His most recent book is his edited Latin America’s Radical Left: Challenges and Complexities of Political Power in the Twenty-First Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).

USAID Hired Young Latin Americans to Incite Cuban Civil Society Revolt August 5, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Foreign Policy, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: As I have said before, the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.  The current US interventions is Cuba, Venezuela and Honduras along with its role in Mexico’s presidential elections and its huge military to Colombia’s repressive governments (and a huge etcetera with respect to the rest of the Caribbean and South American continent), testify to this fact.  Please let me know if you can find an iota of difference between Obama’s foreign policy and that of the unabashedly imperial foreign policy of the Republican Party.

 

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Participants were given little training and payed less than minimum wage, despite known danger, AP investigtion finds.

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(Credit: USAID)

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A program established under the Obama Administration by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) endangered about a dozen young Latin Americans by employing them to incite political revolt in Cuba by using civil society and humanitarian aid programs as fronts for the real aim of political destabilization on the Communist island,reveals an extensive new AP investigation published Monday.

The secret program “was launched during a time when newly inaugurated President Barack Obama spoke about a ‘new beginning’ with Cuba after decades of mistrust, raising questions about whether the White House had a coherent policy toward the island nation,” according to the AP.

To help it implement the plan, USAID hired the firm Creative Associates International, the same Washington-based company that played a central role in the creation of the secret “Cuban Twitter” that the AP reported on in April.

Characterizing the program as “an operation that often teetered on disaster,” the investigation’s most shocking discovery was perhaps that of an attempt to recruit dissidents using “a ruse that could undermine USAID’s credibility in critical health work around the world.” This “ruse” was an HIV-prevention workshop put together by one of the key hires made by Creative Associates, Fernando Murillo, the 29-year-old head of a Costa Rica-based human rights group. Murillo reported back to his employer that such a workshop was the “perfect excuse” to recruit political activists.”

As DSWright points out at Firedoglake, what’s so disturbing about this is that “USAID was recently involved in setting up fake hepatitis clinics for the CIA in Pakistan,” causing Pakistanis to refuse being vaccinated, and prompting the White House to promise to never again use health clinics as a front for intelligence operations.

The travelers’ program was implemented at a time when the danger of being a U.S. operative on the island “was apparent to USAID, if not to the young operatives,” the investigation found, since Alan Gross, an American USAID contractor, “had just been hauled away to a Cuban jail.” After Gross’ arrest, USAID told contractors that they should consider suspending programs to Cuba and that—in the words of one official—the warning applied “to ALL travelers to the island, not just American citizens.”

And yet, just four months after Gross’ arrest, Murillo was sent to the island by the USAID, marking the beginning of yet another failed covert operation to overthrow the Cuban government.

Whereas Gross was paid over half a million dollars by the U.S. government, despite the fact that he had never been to Cuba and his Spanish was quite poor, the young Latin Americans were paid as little as $5.41 an hour. Other aspects of how they were used appear to have been dangerous and poorly thought out—in one example, a friend of Murillo’s who was used as a “mule” to bring money to a student group in Cuba said that his security training had amounted to about a half hour and was done via Skype.

While USAID did not deny the contents of the story, in a statement put out Monday the agency highlighted the fact that Congress funds “democracy programming in Cuba to empower Cubans to access more information and strengthen civil society,” and that “this work is not secret, it is not covert, nor is it undercover.” The statement failed to address the program in question, which is not a part of any such funding from Congress, and was secret until Monday. The same defense was used of the fake social network built by USAID, despite every aspect of it having been entirely covert.

The project was paid for out of the same fund used for the fake Cuban Twitter. USAID declined to comment on how much was spent on the travelers’ program, and has not fulfilled the AP‘s Freedom of Information Act request for a complete copy of the Cuban contracts that was filed more than three months ago.

The AP found “no evidence the political objectives were ever realized” and Cuban students belonging to what had been identified as a “target group” due to its supposed organizational abilities and political stance were “astonished to discover that the foreigners were acting on behalf of the U.S. government.” One student  said that he thought the operatives mistook typical Cuban griping on things like basic infrastructure issues for full-on political dissent.

At UN, Record Number of Countries Condemn US Embargo Against Cuba October 30, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note; The U.N.vote against U.S. embargo against Cuba: the United States and Israel against the rest of the world.  A metaphor for today’s geopolitical reality.  And the Ambassadors justification for the embargo “to encourage respect for the civil and human rights.”  Does the phrase “supreme hypocrisy” ring a bell?

 

 

– Common Dreams staff

For the 22nd year in a row, the UN General Assembly resoundingly denounced the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

Photo: Pabel Rock/cc/flickr

At the symbolic vote on Tuesday for the resolution called “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” 188 members of the 193-member body voted for the resolution.

The U.S. was joined only by Israel in voting against the resolution. There were three abstentions—Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

“The US policy against Cuba is suffering from an absolute international isolation and discredit and lacks every ethical or legal ground,” said Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla.

“Our small island poses no threat to the national security of the superpower,” he said. “The human damages caused by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba are incalculable.”

“Seventy-six percent of Cubans have lived under its devastating effects since the day they are born,” he added.

Ambassador Ronald Godard, U.S. Senior Area Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs, defendend the embargo, saying, “Our sanctions policy toward Cuba is just one of the tools in our overall effort to encourage respect for the civil and human rights consistent with the Universal Declaration, to which the United Nations itself is committed.”

___________________

U.S. gives Cuba cold shoulder over prisoners and their suffering families April 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Cuba, Foreign Policy, Labor.
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Roger’s note: here is just another example of Obama following the same  foreign policy as bush and his predecessors  with respect to Latin America, as with  his ((and Secretary of State Clinton’s) tacit support for the coup in Honduras and Paraguay, not to mention Venezuela.  As a Latin Americanist I am more than disgusted with Obama and his phony campaign gimmick about change you can believe in.
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JOSE GOITIA / Toronto Star file photo

The Cuban Five, who were convicted in Miami of espionage, are portrayed on a billboard near Havana as then Cuban president Fidel Castro delivers a speech, in this photo from June 23, 2001

She’s 43 years old, childless, and lives in Cuba, while her husband of a quarter-century is incarcerated in a U.S. maximum-security prison, having served just 14 years of a soul-crushing sentence — two life terms plus 15 years.

So what are the odds that Adriana Perez and her spouse, Gerardo Hernandez, will ever have a child together?

Right now, those chances are looking extremely slim.

Or, as Perez put it just the other day: “It’s another one of our rights that is being violated.”

In this case, the right to bear children.

An intense, somewhat diminutive woman with dark, striking features and a crown of wavy black hair, the Cuban activist was in town last week to address an assembly of about 160 mostly left-leaning Torontonians. They crowded into the United Steelworkers Hall at 25 Cecil St. to hear a tale of American hard-heartedness and duplicity, at least as it’s framed by one of its victims.

Perez’s husband belongs to a group of convicted men who are now widely known as the Cuban Five, men long regarded as national heroes in Cuba, their pictures splashed across billboards, posters, TV screens and car bumpers.

In the United States, however, the same individuals are vilified as foreign spies, criminals who broke the law and who richly deserve to be behind bars.

Behold the core configuration of Cuba-U.S. relations in the early years of the third millennium: a tale of five Cuban convicts — plus one yanqui detainee.

The gringo in this story is a 63-year-old American by the name of Alan Gross, who is currently doing time in a Cuban jail.

Put them together, and what you’ve got is possibly the main obstacle to progress on what may well be the most bizarrely dysfunctional bilateral relationship in the world, a state of bitter enmity that has alternately fumed and flared for more than 50 years, pitting Washington and Havana in what some regard as the final battleground of the Cold War.

The Cold War, of course, is over — and ideological disagreement no longer has much to do with the stubborn antipathy that continues to dominate U.S.-Cuba relations.

Even the experts seem stymied by the remarkable and seemingly illogical persistence of the dispute.

“There is no explanation,” says Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington-based think-tank. “This is the war without end — the war against Cuba.”

To some degree, that war can now be reduced to a conflict over prisoners — five Cubans and one American.

Where the Cubans are concerned, time is fast running out.

“The real fear is that the United States is essentially destroying the prospects of these families to have children,” says Birns. “The inability to have children confronts all of them.”

It is certainly staring Adriana Perez straight in the face, as she travels the world trying to drum up support for her husband and his four comrades.

In fact, her hopes for children may already be moot.

Here’s the story so far.

Dispatched to south Florida in the 1990s, the five Cuban men were on a long-term clandestine mission — no one denies that — but they were not spies in the conventional sense, according to their defenders. They were not interested in undermining the U.S. government or its institutions. Instead, they spent their time monitoring the activities of radical Cuban-American groups fiercely opposed to the government of Fidel Castro and not averse to violence.

Later, Havana offered to share its intelligence with the U.S. government.

That was a mistake.

Instead of saying gracias, compañeros, American authorities responded by arresting the five Cubans and charging them with a raft of espionage-related crimes.

Lawyers for the five sought to move the trial out of Miami, with its volatile anti-Castro community, but those efforts were rebuffed.

“That was quite shocking,” says Birns. “In south Florida, it’s hard to imagine you could get an impartial jury.”

Impartial or not, the Miami jurors subsequently convicted the defendants on all counts, and the men were sentenced in 2001 to sometimes astoundingly long prison terms, most notably the sentence meted out to the husband of Adriana Perez.

With one exception — Rene Gonzalez, who was released from a federal prison in 2011 but is still serving three years of parole — the Cubans have remained behind bars ever since.

“In spite of this, they have not lost their optimism that they will return to Cuba,” said Perez, who hasn’t seen her husband since the 1990s — and not for lack of trying.

On at least 10 occasions, she has sought a U.S. visa in order to visit Hernández in jail, only to be turned down each time.

This past week, she called on a highly sympathetic Toronto audience to step up their efforts to win the release of the five.

“I ask each one of you, when you leave here, to think, ‘What would I do if it was my son or brother or father who was in jail?’ ” she said. U.S. President Barack Obama “is not going to give freedom to the five spontaneously or because he is a good person.”

What’s needed, she said, is political pressure.

That pressure could take many different forms, but it seems unlikely they will include a prisoner exchange, although the Cubans have earnestly sought one.

Cue Alan Gross, a possibly somewhat naive American who was arrested in Havana in 2009, while working on a “pro-democracy” project funded by the United States Agency for International Development, a contract that involved providing electronic communications equipment to the island’s minuscule Jewish community.

For that activity, the Cubans arrested the American and put him on trial. He is now serving a 15-year sentence for crimes against the Cuban state.

Havana has left no doubt that it would agree to a swap — Gross’s freedom in return for the release of some or all of the five. But Washington says no.

“The U.S. position is these are not comparable detainees,” says Christopher Sabatini, policy director at the Council of the Americas, a research and analysis forum based in New York. “I don’t think the United States is going to budge on this.”

As a result, the two neighbours remain suspended in the same state of mutual hostility and diplomatic paralysis that has prevailed for almost as long as Cuba has been governed by someone named Castro.

Nowadays, the man in charge in Havana is Raul Castro, Fidel’s slightly younger brother and a considerably more pragmatic individual than his elder sibling ever was.

By most accounts, Raul badly wants to ease tensions with Washington — for economic reasons, above all, given the dilapidated state of the island’s economy. But his government also seems deeply committed to securing the release of the Cuban Five.

“They have tried every conceivable measure to show they are conciliatory,” says Birns in Washington. “They are giving away the store in terms of the concessions they are granting. You would think that Washington would want to dance around the maypole.”

Instead, the Obama administration continues to include Cuba on its list of “terrorist” states — a tired anachronism at best — and to maintain its long-running economic embargo against the island.

“We’re in a complete stalemate,” says Sabatini.

It sometimes seems that nothing short of the Second Coming could inspire a change in the official U.S. stance on Cuba.

Consider the recent appointment of John Kerry as U.S. secretary of state. Many observers expected the former Democratic presidential candidate to provide a fresh new look to Washington’s outmoded policy toward the island. After all, he has long advocated a range of measures that would reduce tensions between the two sides. So far, however, there is little sign that Kerry is sparing much time pondering the fate either of the Cuban Five or of the remaining 11 million islanders still sweltering in the Antillean sea breeze roughly 100 kilometres across the Straits of Florida from Key West.

“That’s the shamefulness of it,” says Birns. “This is the great curse. It’s an unvisited policy.”

According to Sabatini, Cuba receives little attention from the State Department in Washington at least partly because the U.S. has far bigger foreign-policy concerns, from North Korea to China to the Middle East.

Besides, he says, improved relations with the island would spell only minor economic and political benefits for the United States, while risking a much more formidable downside — the outrage of Cuban-Americans in south Florida.

“The amount of noise they would cause is huge,” he says. “So why do it?”

In the absence of a clear directive from the White House, he believes it is inevitable that Cuba policy will remain mired in bureaucratic inertia and outdated thinking.

After all, the U.S. Senate’s foreign affairs committee is chaired by Bob Menendez, a retrograde Cuban-American who would not look fondly on ambassadorial candidates with a history of progressive-minded ideas about his ancestral island home.

“The problem is that, for career people in Washington, being behind a Cuba change is a death sentence,” says Sabatini. “They want to be ambassadors. They’d never be approved.”

Still, there may be at least a glimmer of change on the short-term horizon, as Obama prepares to travel to the region next month, a trip that will include stops in Mexico and Costa Rica.

The United States is now the only country in the Americas that does not have normal diplomatic relations with Havana, and Latin American leaders are impatient with what they see as U.S. foot-dragging.

That frustration might be enough to produce a shift in Washington’s tone, if not something more concrete.

“There are rumblings of change,” says Sabatini. “But it will have to come from the White House.”

Meanwhile, Adriana Perez continues to traverse the globe, on an increasingly urgent campaign to secure the release of her husband.

“We hope it comes soon,” she said in Toronto last Saturday, “because it’s already too late.”

For more about Cuba — the good, the not-so-good, and the downright glorious — check out Oakland Ross’s eRead, Cuba Libre. Simply go to stardispatches.com and subscribe for $1/week. Cuba Libre is also available for single-copy purchase at itunes.ca or starstore.ca for $2.99.

Evacuate Guantanamo – It Belongs to Cuba November 24, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Foreign Policy, History, Latin America, Torture.
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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Washington’s illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay is now 111 years old.”

As the world witnesses the latest chapter in Israel’s occupation and blockade of Palestinians, it is important to remember that the United States has also been engaged in many of the same violations of international law against one of its own neighbors – and for an even longer period of time. The U.S. embargo against Cuba is seven years older than the Israeli seizure of the West Bank and Gaza, in 1967, while Washington’s illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay is now 111 years old, predating Israel’s 1948 formation out of Palestinian land by nearly half a century.

Guantanamo Bay was seized by the United States during the Second Cuban War of Independence from Spain, which the Americans prefer to call the Spanish American War. The United States intervened in that war in 1898, with the purpose of making Cuba into a U.S. colony, as it did to Puerto Rico and the Philippines. In 1901, the United States Senate passed the Platt Amendment, which demanded that Cuba lease naval bases to Washington. Guantanamo was signed away in perpetuity under the point of a gun, although it is a principle of international law that treaties concluded under military occupation are not valid. After the Revolution, the Cuban constitution repudiated all agreements made “under conditions of inequality.” But the Americans remained. They turned one of Cuba’s most precious natural resources, Guantanamo Bay, into a curse on the lips of the world, as a prison camp for desperate Haitian refugees, and then as a nexus of American international criminality and torture.

Most Americans know Guantanamo’s recent, shameful notoriety, but few are aware that the U.S. presence there has always been a crime against the Cuban people – a crime that goes back more than twice as far as the 1960 embargo.

In Latin America, it is the United States that has been a direct and constant threat to the sovereignty and dignity of its neighbors.”

But Cuba does not forget. When the United Nations voted 188 to 3, last week, to condemn the U.S. embargo, Cuba submitted to Washington a “draft agenda” aimed at normalizing relations. At the top of the list, of course, is “the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade.” Also included among the “fundamental topics” for any “respectful dialogue” is “return of the territory occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base.” The Cubans insist on their removal from the U.S. list of “terrorism-sponsoring countries”; an end to U.S. immigration policies that single out Cuba; compensation for economic and human damages inflicted on Cuba by the United States; a halt to “radio and TV aggressions” against Cuba; and that the U.S. stop financing subversion inside Cuba.

The Cubans say release of the Cuban Five, imprisoned for infiltrating right-wing Cuban exile groups in Florida, is “an essential element” of meaningful talks.

U.S. media pundits worry that Washington has lost its ability to act as a mediator in the Middle East, because it has for generations protected the expansionist, hyper-aggressive and thoroughly racist Israeli regime. And this is true. But in Latin America, it is the United States that has been a direct and constant threat to the sovereignty and dignity of its neighbors, through centuries of gunboat diplomacy, invasions, the colonization of Puerto Rico and the near-colonization of Cuba. The occupation of Guantanamo Bay is part of that imperial legacy – a game in which Israel is a relative – although extremely dangerous – upstart. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

In Hiroshima’s Shadow August 2, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, History, Latin America, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
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Thursday, 02 August 2012, By Noam Chomsky, Truthout | News Analysis

Hiroshima Bombing.(Photo: Wikimedia)

August 6, the anniversary of Hiroshima, should be a day of somber reflection, not only on the terrible events of that day in 1945, but also on what they revealed: that humans, in their dedicated quest to extend their capacities for destruction, had finally found a way to approach the ultimate limit.

This year‚ Aug. 6 memorials have special significance. They take place shortly before the 50th anniversary of, “the most dangerous moment in human history,” in the words of the historian and John F. Kennedy adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., referring to the Cuban missile crisis.

Graham Allison writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that Kennedy, “ordered actions that he knew would increase the risk not only of conventional war but also nuclear war,” with a likelihood of perhaps 50 percent, he believed, an estimate that Allison regards as realistic.

Kennedy declared a high-level nuclear alert that authorized, “NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots … (or others) … to take off, fly to Moscow, and drop a bomb.”

None were more shocked by the discovery of missiles in Cuba than the men in charge of the similar missiles that the U.S. had secretly deployed in Okinawa six months earlier, surely aimed at China, at a moment of elevated regional tensions.

Kennedy took Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, “right to the brink of nuclear war and he looked over the edge and had no stomach for it,” according to Gen. David Burchinal, then a high-ranking official in the Pentagon planning staff. One can hardly count on such sanity forever.

Khrushchev accepted a formula that Kennedy devised, ending the crisis just short of war. The formula‚ boldest element, Allison writes, was, “a secret sweetener that promised the withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey within six months after the crisis was resolved.” These were obsolete missiles that were being replaced by far more lethal, and invulnerable, Polaris submarines.

In brief, even at high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, it was felt necessary to reinforce the principle that U.S. has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, some aimed at China or at the borders of Russia, which had previously placed no missiles outside the USSR. Justifications of course have been offered, but I do not think they withstand analysis.

An accompanying principle is that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent U.S. invasion. The plans for Kennedy‚ terrorist programs, Operation Mongoose, called for, “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime,” in October 1962, the month of the missile crisis, recognizing that, “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention.”

The terrorist operations against Cuba are commonly dismissed by U.S. commentators as insignificant CIA shenanigans. The victims, not surprisingly, see matters rather differently. We can at last hear their voices in Keith Bolender‚, “Voices from the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba.”

The events of October 1962 are widely hailed as Kennedy‚ finest hour. Allison offers them as, “a guide for how to defuse conflicts, manage great-power relationships, and make sound decisions about foreign policy in general.” In particular, today‚ conflicts with Iran and China.

Disaster was perilously close in 1962, and there has been no shortage of dangerous moments since. In 1973, in the last days of the Arab-Israeli war, Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war. There have been innumerable cases when human intervention aborted nuclear attack only moments before launch after false reports by automated systems. There is much to think about on Aug. 6.

Allison joins many others in regarding Iran‚ nuclear programs as the most severe current crisis, “an even more complex challenge for American policymakers than the Cuban missile crisis,” because of the threat of Israeli bombing.

The war against Iran is already well underway, including assassination of scientists and economic pressures that have reached the level of, “undeclared war,” in the judgment of the Iran specialist Gary Sick.

Great pride is taken in the sophisticated cyberwar directed against Iran. The Pentagon regards cyberwar as, “an act of war,” that authorizes the target, “to respond using traditional military force,” The Wall Street Journal reports. With the usual exception: not when the U.S. or an ally is the perpetrator.

The Iran threat has recently been outlined by Gen. Giora Eiland, one of Israel‚ top military planners, described as, “one of the most ingenious and prolific thinkers the (Israeli military) has ever produced.”

Of the threats he outlines, the most credible is that, “any confrontation on our borders will take place under an Iranian nuclear umbrella.” Israel might therefore be constrained in resorting to force. Eiland agrees with the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence, which also regard deterrence as the major threat that Iran poses.

The current escalation of the, “undeclared war,” against Iran increases the threat of accidental large-scale war. Some of the dangers were illustrated last month when a U.S. naval vessel, part of the huge deployment in the Gulf, fired on a small fishing boat, killing one Indian crew member and wounding at least three others. It would not take much to set off a major war.

One sensible way to avoid such dread consequences is to pursue, “the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons,” the wording of Security Council resolution 687 of April 1991, which the U.S. and U.K. invoked in their effort to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq 12 years later.

The goal has been an Arab-Iranian objective since 1974, regularly re-endorsed, and by now it has near-unanimous global support, at least formally. An international conference to consider ways to implement such a treaty may take place in December.

Progress is unlikely unless there is mass public support in the West. Failure to grasp the opportunity will, once again, lengthen the grim shadow that has darkened the world since that fateful Aug. 6.

© 2011 Noam Chomsky

Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

 

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