A Tale of Two Foreign Policies February 26, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Angola, Cuba, Imperialism, Latin America, South Africa.
Tags: angola, apartheid, Colombia atrocities, Colombia Civil War, Colombia civilian deaths, counterinsurgency, Cuba, farc, fidel castro, foreign policy, imperialism, jorge gaitan, matt peppe, nelson mandela, roger hollander, School of the Americas, South Africa, U.S. imperialism, w.t. whitney
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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.
Fidel Castro and Apartheid
The Cuban Role
Until the fall of the Portuguese dictatorship in 1974, apartheid in South Africa was secure. There was no substantial resistance anywhere in southern Africa. Pretoria’s neighbors comprised a buffer zone that protected the racist regime: Namibia, their immediate neighbor which they had occupied for 60 years; white-ruled Rhodesia; and the Portuguese-ruled colonies of Angola and Mozambique. The rebels who fought against minority rule in each of these countries, operating without any safe haven to organize and train, were powerless to challenge the status quo. South Africa’s buffer would have remained intact for the foreseeable future, solidifying apartheid and preventing any significant opposition, but for one man: Fidel Castro.
In October of 1975, South Africa invaded Angola at the behest of the U.S. government to overthrow the left-wing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the soon-to-be independent country. Without Cuban assistance, the apartheid army would have easily cruised into Luanda, crushed the MPLA, and installed a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime.
Cuba’s intervention in Angola managed to change the course of that country and reverberate throughout Africa. By ensuring independence from the white supremacists, Angola was able to preserve its own revolution and maintain its role as a base for armed resistance groups fighting for liberation in nearby countries.
In the American version of Cold War history, Cuba was carrying out aggression and acting as proxies of the Soviet Union. Were it not for one persistent and meticulous scholar, we might never have known that these are nothing more than dishonest fabrications. In his monumental books Conflicting Missions and Visions of Freedom, historian Piero Gleijeses uses thousands of documents from Cuban military archives, as well as U.S. and South African archives, to recount a dramatic, historical confrontation between tiny Cuba and Washington and its ally apartheid South Africa. Gleijeses is the only foreign scholar to have gained access to the closed Cuban archives. He obtained thousands of pages of documents, and made them available to the Wilson Center Digital Archive, which has posted the invaluable collection online.
Gleijeses’s research made possible a look behind the curtain at one of the most remarkable acts of internationalism of the century. “Internationalism – the duty to help others – was at the core of the Cuban revolution,” Gleijeses writes. “For Castro’s followers, and they were legion, this was not rhetoric… By 1975, approximately 1,000 Cuban aid workers had gone to a dozen African countries, South Yemen, and North Vietnam. In 1976-77, technical assistance was extended to Jamaica and Guyana in the Western Hemisphere; to Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia in Africa; and to Laos in Asia. The CIA noted: ‘The Cuban technicians are primarily involved in rural development and educational and public health projects – areas in which Cuba has accumulated expertise and has experienced success at home.’” 
The fight against apartheid, for the liberation of people who suffered for centuries under colonialism and racial subjugation, was truly a David versus Goliath conflict. In addition to having a strong military itself and being armed with nuclear weapons, South Africa enjoyed the diplomatic support of the United States, the world’s largest superpower. In this context, Cuba’s intervention – a poor Caribbean island under relentless attack from an unrivaled hegemon against a racist juggernaut backed by the world’s leading imperial powers – is even more remarkable.
Explaining how the significance of Cuba’s role in Angola is “without precedent,” Gleijeses writes: “No other Third World country has projected its military power beyond its immediate neighborhood.” He notes that while the Soviet Union later sent aid and weapons, they never would have become involved unless Castro had taken the lead (which he did in spite of Russian opposition). “The engine was Cuba. It was the Cubans who pushed the Soviets to help Angola. It was they who stood guard in Angola for many long years, thousands of miles from home, to prevent the South Africans from overthrowing the MPLA government.” 
White Elitism Has Suffered an Irreversible Blow
It had become clear that the left-wing People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the largest and most widely-supported of three warring groups, would prevail and gain control of the country. Afraid of having a government staunchly opposed to white domination so close to home, South Africa rushed to prevent self-determination for the Angolans. They were aided by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who believed the threat of black liberation in Africa, which would lead to local control of their own resources at the expense of foreign investors, could still be contained.
South Africa launched an invasion to topple the MPLA and install the guerilla Jonas Savimbi, leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the smallest and least popular of the three groups, as a puppet dictator in Angola. Savimbi, a collaborator with the Portuguese dictatorship before Angolan independence, was known for his ruthlessness, terrorism, and hunger for power. An avowed anti-communist who had already aligned with South Africa, Savimbi would have made the perfect Angolan facade for apartheid control.
Agostinho Neto, the President of Angola, appealed to Cuba to send troops to ward of the apartheid army’s invasion. On November 4, Castro agreed. Several days later the first Cuban special forces troops boarded planes for Angola, where they would launch Operation Carlota.
As the South African troops advanced inside Angola, they made remarkably easy gains through scarcely defended villages that put up little – if any – resistance. But by November 9, Cuban Special Forces had arrived and went immediately to the battlefield. In the Battle of Quifangondo, the Angolans, supported by Cuban troops, made a decisive stand. They turned back the apartheid army and prevented their easy march to Luanda, where that same day the Portuguese military left Angola and Neto declared independence.
Throughout November, the Cubans prevented further South African advances towards the Angolan capital. On November 25, the Cuban troops laid a trap for the racist army in the Battle of Ebo. As the South African Defence Force (SADF) tried to cross a bridge, Cubans hidden along the banks of the river attacked. They destroyed seven armored cars and killed upwards of 90 enemy soldiers.
Cuban troops kept pouring into Angola throughout the rest of the year. As many as 4,000 had arrived by the end of 1975, roughly the same number as South African invaders. Unable to penetrate deeper into Angolan territory, and facing a barrage of negative criticism after international media discovered SADF troops, rather than mercenaries, were behind the invasion, the South African advance ended.
The impact of the Cuban victory resonated far beyond the battlefield. More important than the strategic gain, the victory of black Cuban and Angolan troops against the whites of the South African racist army shattered the illusion of white invincibility.
A South African military analyst described the meaning of his country’s defeat: “The reality is that they have won, are winning, and are not White; and that psychological edge, that advantage the White man has enjoyed and exploited over 300 years of colonialism and empire, is slipping away. White elitism has suffered an irreversible blow in Angola, and Whites who have been there know it.” 
American officials claimed that the Soviets masterminded the operation with Cubans acting as their proxies. They couldn’t fathom Castro acting on its own, rather than as Moscow’s puppet. Such claims were repeated for years. American politicians went as far as falsely accusing Cuban troops of being mercenaries. But the record makes clear that these were in reality nothing more than slanderous lies.
The Americans were furious. “Kissinger’s response to Castro’s intervention was to throw mercenaries and weapons at the problem,” Gleijeses writes.  The Secretary of State was afraid that after their successful intervention in Angola, Cuba would put the rest of the racist regimes in the region in jeopardy. “We can’t say Rhodesia is not a danger because it is a bad case. If the Cubans are involved there, Namibia is next and after that South Africa, itself… If the Cubans move, I recommend we act vigorously. We can’t permit another move without suffering a great loss.” 
Support and Solidarity with Revolutionary Movements
Though South Africa had lost the battle, it by no means had surrendered the war. The apartheid regime still had designs on toppling the Angolan revolution and using it for its own ends. “It would be the centerpiece of the Constellation of Southern African States that they sought to create,” writes Gleijeses. “The concept had first emerged under Prime Minister Vorster, but it was PW Botha who had given it ‘a substance previously lacking.’ The constellation, the generals hoped, would stretch beyond South Africa, its Bantustans, Lesotho, Malawi, Botswana, and Swaziland, to embrace Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Zaire, and a nominally independent Namibia. The black members of the constellation would be anticommunist, tolerant of apartheid, and eager to persecute the ANC (the African National Congress in South Africa) and SWAPO (the South West Africa People’s Organization in Namibia).” 
Cuba was aware of this. “In Southern Africa Angola today, more so than a year ago, is the bastion of the fight against the racists and the unquestionable revolutionary vanguard. Imperialism knows this,” wrote Jorge Risquet, head of the Cuban Civilian Mission in Angola to President Neto. “Imperialism has to know what Angola does for Zimbabwe, what Angola does for Namibia, what Angola does for South Africa. Angola, bravely, lends real support to the movements of Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa. In concrete terms, nothing less than training in its territory 20,000 combatants from those three countries oppressed by the racists.” 
With the omnipresent threat against Angola, Cuba maintained a large contingent of around 30,000 troops at the behest of the MPLA to prevent another invasion. In a letter to the political bureau of the MPLA after Neto’s death, Fidel wrote of the sacrifice Cuba was willing to make.
“Cuba cannot keep indefinitely carrying out a military cooperation effort of the magnitude it currently is in Angola, which limits our possibilities of support and solidarity with the revolutionary movement in other parts of the world and defense of our own country,” Fidel wrote. But he made clear that Cuba had no plans to abandon Angola: “I want to assure you, above all, that in these bitter and difficult circumstances, Cuba will be unconditionally at your side.” 
Meanwhile, South African aggression was relentless. In 1983, the SADF bombed Angolan towns and pushed nearly 90 miles into Angolan territory. When the UN moved to condemn the invasion, the United States made sure the censure would not include sanctions, as they had done for more than a decade.
The apartheid regime used Washington’s diplomatic shield to keep its dreams of a Constellation of Southern African States alive. The International Court of Justice had decisively rejected the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia in a 1971 Advisory Opinion as “illegal.” The court declared that “South Africa is under obligation to withdraw its administration from Namibia immediately and thus put an end to its occupation of the territory.” Seven years later, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 435 reiterating its objective of “the withdrawal of South Africa’s illegal administration from Namibia and the transfer of power to the people of Namibia.”
Washington’s support enabled South Africa to ignore the ICJ and UN Security Council. The apartheid government, understanding that free elections would mean a SWAPO victory, refused to comply. “The South Africans took advantage of U.S. goodwill to further their foreign policy aims,” Gleijeses writes. 
In 1978, a South African massacre against a refugee camp in Cassinga killed more than 600 Namibians. The U.S. opposed sanctions in the Security Council. President Carter took the excuses of the apartheid regime at face value: “They’ve claimed to have withdrawn and have not left any South African troops in Angola. So we hope it’s just a transient strike in retaliation, and we hope it’s all over.” Even after Angolans foiled an attack by South African commandos against Gulf Oil pipelines inside Angola in 1985, which would have killed U.S. citizens, the U.S. government continued protecting their racist allies.
The Whole World is Against Apartheid
As international opinion turned, Castro sensed that apartheid in South Africa would not be able to last much longer. Despite the growing cost to Cuba of maintaining about 30,000 troops in Angola, Castro was confident that he would be able to wait out the inevitable downfall of the racist regime.
“Today they are totally on the defensive in the political arena, in the international arena, they have a very serious economic crisis,” Castro said in a conversation with Angolan President José Eduardo Dos Santos in 1985. “I can’t say how this is going to end, what the end result of it all will be; but in my opinion, South Africa won’t recover from this crisis.” Castro said that the situation facing South Africa did not occur by chance, but that it was a result of the collective action of the people in many parts of Southern Africa fighting for their independence. “All these factors, common struggles, common sacrifices, have contributed to create this crisis for apartheid, that wasn’t created in one day, it was created over many years,” Castro said. 
Nevertheless, the apartheid government kept up its relentless fight for survival. Throughout the 1980s, Angola was subjected to various incursions and invasions by South Africa. At the same time, the Angolan Armed Forces (FAPLA) fought against former Portuguese collaborator Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA army, who was backed by South Africa and the United States. Savimbi sought to roll back MPLA rule and form an alliance with the apartheid regime.
The confrontations climaxed in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in late 1987. After a forward offensive to attack UNITA stalled, Angolan and Cuban troops managed to defend the town. They then turned to the Southwest where they attempted to drive the SADF out of the country once and for all. As the Cubans asserted supremacy with their air force, they were able to take the lead on the battlefield.
With the military confrontation raging, talks started between Angola, Cuba and South Africa, with the United States moderating, in London in early 1988. In instructions to the Cuban delegation, Castro reflected on the South Africans and American mindset.
“The fact they have accepted this meeting in London at such a high level shows that they are looking for a way out because they have seen our advance and are saying, ‘How is it that Cuba has converted itself into the liquidator of Apartheid and the liberator of Africa?’ That’s what is worrying the Americans, they’re going to say: ‘They’re going to defeat South Africa!” Castro said. 
Castro also told his delegation that the goal was not to pursue a war or military victory, but to achieve negotiations over SADF from Angola and implementation of Resolution 435, which would grant independence to Namibia. “They should know that we are not playing games, that our position is serious and that our objective is peace,” he said. 
The Cuban Commander-in-Chief’s instructions to his negotiating team show that he fully understood that Cuba stood firmly on the right side of history.
The negotiations would continue throughout the year and lead to the New York agreements in December 1988, which Gleijeses says “led to the independence of Namibia and the withdrawal of the Cuban troops from Angola.” 
This was the beginning of the end of apartheid.
“By the time Namibia became independent, in March 1990, apartheid was in its death throes,” Gleijeses writes. “A month earlier, Frederick de Klerk, who had replaced the ailing PW Botha as South Africa’s president, legalized the ANC and the South African Communist Party, and he freed Nelson Mandela. The apartheid government engaged in protracted and difficult negotiations that led in April 1994 to the first elections in the country’s history based on universal franchise.” 
The Contribution of the Cuban Internationalists
No one was more grateful for Cuba’s role in the defeat of apartheid and the liberation of blacks in Africa than Nelson Mandela. In July 1991, during a visit to Cuba to mark the 38th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, Mandela spoke of his gratitude for the Cuban role in Southern Africa.
“The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice, unparalleled for its principled and selfless character,” Mandela said. “We in Africa are used to being victims of countries wanting to carve up our territory or subvert our sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people rise to the defence of one of us.”
Many years later, after the passing of Nelson Mandela, Castro would wonder why after so many years the enablers of apartheid still could not admit the truth.
“Why try to hide the fact that the apartheid regime, which made the people of Africa suffer so much and incensed the vast majority of all the nations in the world,”Castro wrote, “was the fruit of European colonialism and was converted into a nuclear power by the United States and Israel, which Cuba, a country who supported the Portuguese colonies in Africa that fought for their independence, condemned openly?”
Since the success of the Cuban revolution of 1959, American policy has always been reflexive opposition to anything Cuba did. Shortly after Mandela’s funeral, Gleijeses wrote an open letter to President Obama that described the actual course of events in Africa during the Cold War: “While Cubans were fighting for the liberation of the people of South Africa, successive American governments did everything they could to stop them.”
Gleijeses wrote that Obama must have noticed the reception of Cuban President Raúl Castro in South Africa, and implored him to reconsider the disconnect between the two countries. “Perhaps, Mr. President, what you saw in South Africa may inspire you to bridge the chasm and understand that in the quarrel between Cuba and the United States the United States is not the victim,” he wrote.
But Obama has not been able to learn this lesson. On December 17, when he announced a change in the U.S.’s Cuban policy, Obama claimed that the current policy “has been rooted in the best of intentions.” This is a gross misrepresentation that suppresses the policy of unrelenting economic war, which has caused unimaginable pain and suffering to millions of Cubans; a covert terrorist campaign against the island carried out first directly by the U.S. government then later sanctioned and outsourced to reactionary terrorists provided safe haven in the United States; and collaboration with the apartheid regime to punish Cuba for helping fight for the liberation of black Africa.
American officials would, no doubt, prefer that Cuba’s heroic role in defeating apartheid and the U.S.’s shameful role in enabling it be relegated to the ash heap of history. But the historical and documentary record speaks for itself, despite Washington’s attempts to bury it. Like Castro, one has to wonder: why keep hiding the truth?
 Gleijeses, Piero. Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 (Envisioning Cuba). The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.http://www.amazon.com/Conflicting-Missions-Washington-1959-1976-Envisioning-ebook/dp/B004P1JTGG/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1423430995&sr=8-1&keywords=conflicting+missions
 “NSC Meeting, 4/7/1976” of the National Security Adviser’s NSC Meeting File at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library. (pg. 21)http://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/document/0312/1552402.pdf
 Jorge Risquet to Agostinho Neto,” February, 1978, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archives of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117933 (pg. 8-9)
 “Fidel Castro to Political Bureau of the MPLA,” September 15, 1979, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of the Cuban Armed Forces. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117946 (pg. 2-3)
 Memorandum of Conversation between Fidel Castro and José Eduardo dos Santos,” October 25, 1985, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archives of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118021 (pg. 31-33)
 Instructions to the Cuban Delegation for the London Meeting, ‘Indicaciones concretas del Comandante en Jefe que guiarán la actuación de la delegación cubana a las conversaciones de Luanda y las negociaciones de Londres (22-4-88)’
http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118133.pdf (pg. 11)
 Instructions to the Cuban Delegation for the London Meeting, ‘Indicaciones concretas del Comandante en Jefe que guiarán la actuación de la delegación cubana a las conversaciones de Luanda y las negociaciones de Londres (23-4-88)’,” April 23, 1988, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of the Cuban Armed Forces. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118134 (pg. 5)
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.)
Tags: Cuba, cuban twitter, foreign policy, Latin America, max ocean, monroe doctrine, roger hollander, travelers aid program, USAID
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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.
Participants were given little training and payed less than minimum wage, despite known danger, AP investigtion finds.
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.
Mandela, A Life of Struggle: The History Most Mainstream Obits Omit December 7, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in South Africa.
Tags: angola, apartheid, armed struggle, Cuba, derrick o'keefe, fidel castro, harry belafonte, jahanzeb hussain, mandela statement, margaret thatcher, nelson mandela, non violence, Palestine, roger hollander, South Africa, steve biko
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Roger’s note: In the mid 1980s the United States Congress voted to demand South Africa recognize the ANC and free political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. When Reagan vetoed the act, Congress voted to override the veto. A young congressman from Wyoming by the name of Dick Cheney voted both times against the initiative, insisting that the ANC was a terrorist organization. Today Cheney says he does not regret his votes, although he now considers Mandela to be a great man who in his old age has “mellowed.” I kind of agree with Cheney (god help me) in the sense that the post-Apartheid Mandela has been much less threatening to the ravages of racist capitalism than he was in his radical youth. Not that I have any grounds to judge a man who survived 27 years in prison and came out of it with his heart and soul intact. But there is no doubt that the mainstream corporate media and the political whores love the “mellowed out” Mandela and don’t want to think about the kind of principled revolutionary activism he represented and implemented, which spelled the death knell of Apartheid in South Africa.
Nearly 50 years ago, in 1964, Nelson Mandela — along with many other comrades in the struggle for the liberation of South Africa from racist white domination under apartheid — was sentenced to life in prison. His statement to the court, made when he was facing the real threat of execution, remains an historic demonstration of defiance and resistance.
Mandela’s sentence was “reduced” to life imprisonment. He would spend 27 years caged by the brutal racist regime in South Africa, before the resistance movement there and a worldwide solidarity campaign helped to force his release.
Many times, the apartheid government dangled a pardon for Mandela — if he would agree to publicly renounce the armed struggle. Contrary to liberal, depoliticized histories of the life of Mandela, he was in fact a political leader who believed in achieving liberation by any means necessary. Indeed, in 1961 he helped to found Umkhonto we Sizwe — which means ‘Spear of the Nation’ — an armed struggle wing of the liberation movement. Earlier that same year, Mandela gave his first ever television interview. In it, he alluded to the sense of futility of fighting against a violent apartheid regime with only non-violent means.
On non-violence and the use of political violence, Mandela wrote in his autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom:
Nonviolent passive resistance is effective as long as your opposition adheres to the same rules as you do. But if peaceful protest is met with violence, its efficacy is at an end. For me,nonviolence was not a moral principle but a strategy; there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.
In the end, we had no alternative to armed and violent resistance. Over and over again, we had used all the nonviolent weapons in our arsenal – speeches, deputations, threats, marches, strikes, stay-aways, voluntary imprisonment – all to no avail, for whatever we did was met by an iron hand. A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor.
Mandela spent nearly three decades in prison for his defence of principles and for his role in the struggle — alongside hundreds and thousands of other political prisoners. During those years, many others were felled by the apartheid regime: for instance, the hundreds massacred in Soweto in 1976, and Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, who was beaten and tortured before dying in police custody in 1977.
On February 11, 1990, Mandela finally walked free. On that day, he gave a speech to a joyous mass of humanity gathered to hear him on the steps of Cape Town’s City Hall.
“I great you all in the name of freedom and democracy for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you the people … I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands…”
International solidarity with South Africa took many forms. One under-analyzed factor in understanding the defeat of apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela was the military support given by Cuba to Angolan forces battling South African invasion in the late 1970s and 1980s, in addition to Cuba support for Namibian independence and the liberation of other “front line” states neighbouring Apartheid South Africa. In the documentary film, Fidel Castro: The Untold Story, actor and activist Harry Belafonte reflected on the importance of Cuba to the freedom of South Africa:
Had it not been for the Cuban presence in Africa, and in particular in Angola, the history of Africa would have never been what it is now. One of the greatest friends that Cuba has in Nelson Mandela, and his appreciation for what the Cuban people did… If you don’t understand that history, then you’ll never really understand the enormous success and importance of the Cuban Revolution.
In 1991, Cuba was one of the first countries Nelson Mandela visited — in order to thank the Cuban people for their contributions.
Mandela has also been an outspoken proponent of the liberation movement in Palestine, drawing analogies between these two struggles against racism and apartheid: “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” Mandela said.
In 1998, Nelson Mandela was awarded the Order of Canada. On that visit to this country, speaking before tens of thousands gathered in Toronto’s SkyDome, Mandela launched his children’s education fund.
In 2001, Mandela was honoured by Parliament with Honourary Canadian citizenship. One Member of Parliament, Rob Anders — who now sits as a Conservative MP — objected, shouting ‘No!’ during the vote in the House, and referring to Mandela as a “communist and terrorist.”
Mandela’s stature in history is now unarguable, and the just nature of the struggle against apartheid is denied only by outright racists and bigots. The likes of Rob Anders today sound like extremists, but in the 1980s it was standard practice for right-wing politicians around the world to disparage Mandela and the ANC as “terrorists.” In 1987, for instance, then UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said: “The ANC is a typical terrorist organization … Anyone who thinks it’s going to run a government is living in cloud-cuckoo land.”
Mandela and the ANC did indeed run the government of South Africa; Mandela was democratically elected to the presidency in 1994. And while his, and the ANC’s, record in government was contradictory and is contested because of its failure to reject neoliberal economic measures and eliminate poverty, the democratic struggle he came to personify put the lie to racists and right-wingers like Thatcher.
Mandela made fewer public statements after stepping down from his former role in government. But he did speak out strongly at times on urgent issues. For instance, in 2003 he condemned the invasion of Iraq in unequivocal terms.
Nelson Mandela. Madiba. A voice for justice has gone silent. But the words and example of Mandela will live as long as people struggle against injustice and oppression.
At UN, Record Number of Countries Condemn US Embargo Against Cuba October 30, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America.
Tags: Cuba, cuba embargo, cuba sanctions, foreign policy, human rights, imperialism, roger hollander, ronald godard, United Nations
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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?
For the 22nd year in a row, the UN General Assembly resoundingly denounced the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
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.”
Tags: adriana perez, alan gross, bob menendez, Criminal Justice, Cuba, cuban five, fidel castro, foreign policy, john kerry, Latin America, oakland ross, raul castro, roger hollander
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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.
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, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Foreign Policy, History, Latin America, Torture.
Tags: Cuba, cuba blockade, cuba embargo, cuban five, Cuban Revolution, glen ford, Guantanamo, history, platt amendment, roger hollander, spanish american war, 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, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, History, Latin America, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: Cuba, cuban missile, cyberwar, hiroshima, history, iran nuclear, israel nuclear, john kennedy, Middle East, missile crisis, Nikita Khrushchev, Noam Chomsky, nuclear, nuclear war, roger hollander
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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.
Tags: Canada, cartagena summit, china, Cuba, democracy, Humor, oas, political satire, president obama, roger hollander, satire, saudi arabia, Stephen Harper, trade embargo, white houe correspondent
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In one of the most bizarre moments ever witnessed at a presidential news conference, President Obama was taken aback when confronted by the former doyenne and rare iconoclast amongst White House correspondents Helen Thomas. The latter, who had lost her credentials for anti-Israel comments, apparently was able to enter the presidential briefing disguised as New York times columnist David Brooks. Just returned from his highly successful Cartagena Summit, where only a handful of his Secret Service protectors got caught underpaying Colombian hookers (in violation of the principles of the proposed US Colombia free trade agreement and the War on Sin), the President re-iterated his opposition to Cuba’s participation in the OAS (where only 33 Latin American presidents stood up against the US and Canada, in other words, a technical minority).
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Cuba, unlike the other countries that are participating, has not yet moved to democracy, has not yet observed basic human rights. I am hopeful that a transition begins to take place inside of Cuba. And I assure you that I and the American people will welcome the time when the Cuban people have the freedom to live their lives, choose their leaders, and fully participate in this global economy and international institutions.
It was at this point that Thomas qua Brooks went where no White House correspondent had gone before and asked the President how Cuba was any different on human rights violations and democracy than major US trading partners China and Saudi Arabia. President Obama, a legal scholar and a man known for transparency, honesty and loose change you can believe in, responded with: “Oh my God, you’re right. I hadn’t noticed.”
The President then surprised everyone by postponing the rest of the conference so that he could confer with his economic advisors to consider this new information.
Several hours later the President returned to announce trade sanctions against the undemocratic and totalitarian regimes of China and Saudi Arabia. In his statement Obama belittled the loss of Saudi oil, saying that it only represents 11% of US imports and that could be made up by draining more oil from our loyal Canadian neighbors, where the Harper Conservative government (a government with an absolute majority in parliament despite only 40% of the popular vote — a singular strength of Canadian democracy) was the only support against the Latin American ingrates ganging up against North American largesse in Cartagena. The President added that he had his eyes on all that Canadian fresh water as well.
The President admitted, however, that the Chinese embargo might present more of a problem for Americans in that amongst China’s major exports to the United States included apparel, footwear and toys and sports equipment. “As with our successful interventions to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan”, the President noted, “the American people have shown themselves to be more than willing to make sacrifices in the name of democracy.” The President added that he was particularly concerned about the loss of toys for American children, the vast majority of which come from totalitarian, undemocratic, Communist China (thanks to that notorious pinko Richard Nixon). He therefore announced that his government would be buying up all the toy outlets from the nation’s number one toy retailer and renaming it Democracy “R” Us. Children from every nook and corner of America will be invited to learn about democracy in sessions where they will debate and vote on resolutions authored by lobbyists from the military and major corporations including arms manufacturers, big Pharma, Dick Cheney’s oil buddies, the prison-industrial complex, major HMOs and other paragons of American democracy.
When asked for a comment, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stated that he was too busy trying to find a way to convince Evangelical Christians that Mormonism is not a cult and that his grandparents probably were not polygamists to be able to make a statement at the moment. He added, however, that we could count on hearing at least two conflicting opinions from him in the near future.
Unified Latin America Challenges Failed US/Canada Policies on Drug War, Cuba, and Finance April 16, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Cuba, Drugs, Foreign Policy, Latin America.
Tags: alba, canadian mining, constanza vieira, Cuba, cuba embargo, falkland, malvinas, monroe doctrine, Rafael Correa, roger hollander, summit americas, war on drugs
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Roger’s note: I love the photo that accompanies this article. Obama and Clinton, do they not appear to be dinosaurian? They think they are huge and powerful and indestructible, at the same time as they are on their way to extinction. The two great leaders of the Democratic Party, staunch defenders of the Monroe Doctrine in the twenty-first century, custodians of the collapsing American Empire. Our only hope is that they don’t bring the rest of the world down with them.
Published on Monday, April 16, 2012 by Inter Press Service
‘Last Summit of the Americas without Cuba’ sees alternative rise to challenge hegemony of US policy
CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, Colombia – “What matters at this summit is not what is on the official agenda,” said Uruguayan analyst Laura Gil, echoing the conventional wisdom in this Colombian port city, where the Sixth Summit of the Americas ended Sunday without a final declaration.
Latin American nations say there may not be another summit unless the US overcomes its objections to Cuba. (AFP)
The Fifth Summit, held in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, in 2009, had a similar outcome.
At the Sixth Summit, which opened Saturday Apr. 14, the foreign ministers failed to reach prior agreement on a consensus document.
Key points of discord were the continued U.S. embargo against Cuba and Argentina’s claim to sovereignty over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, a British overseas territory in the South Atlantic.
Gil, an expert on international relations who lives in Colombia, told IPS that “a consensus on drugs seems to be forming among the countries of Latin America.”
“These three issues are precisely the ones that are dividing the hemisphere in two, or confronting the countries of Latin America with the United States and Canada,” she said.
“The Summit of the Americas process is in crisis. What the Sixth Summit clearly shows is that certain issues cannot be put off any longer, particularly that of Cuba,” excluded from the Americas summits due to pressure from the United States, she added.
In Gil’s opinion, “there will not be another summit without Cuba. Either Cuba is included, or there will not be a summit at all. The absence of (Ecuadorean President Rafael) Correa is a red alert,” she said, referring to the Ecuadorean president’s promise not to attend any further hemispheric meetings to which Cuba is not invited.
According to the expert, “Colombia positioned itself as a bridge, able to facilitate relations between contrary ideological blocs. But from this position, Colombia cannot work miracles.
“This summit reminds us that ideologies are still a force to be reckoned with. The limitations are plain to be seen,” she said.
The Venezuelan ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Roy Chaderton – a former Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia and the U.S. – told the Colombian radio station RCN Radio: “This is a rebellion by Latin American democracies against U.S. and Canadian hegemony.”Canada and the United States were left in isolation in a vote on a resolution to put an end to Cuba’s exclusion, which was split 32 against two, at a meeting of foreign ministers that was to approve documents to be signed by the presidents.
Canada and the United States were left in isolation in a vote on a resolution to put an end to Cuba’s exclusion, which was split 32 against two, at a meeting of foreign ministers that was to approve documents to be signed by the presidents.
In addition to Correa, Haitian President Michel Martelly and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega were also absent, having sent last-minute cancellations. Ortega led a rally in Managua in solidarity with Cuba Saturday Apr. 14.
On Saturday morning it was announced that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez would not be attending the summit, due to the treatment for his cancer.
At the end of the first day’s meetings, the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) released a declaration in Cartagena stating that they would not attend any further summits without the participation of Cuba.
ALBA is made up of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.
The host’s speech
At the opening ceremony of the Sixth Summit, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos did not mince words. He exhorted delegates “not to be indifferent” to the changes occurring in Cuba, which he said were ever more widely recognized and should be encouraged.
“It is time to overcome the paralysis that results from ideological obstinacy and seek a basic consensus so that this process of change has a positive outcome, for the good of the Cuban people,” he said.
“The isolation, the embargo, the indifference, looking the other way, have been ineffective,” Santos said.
As for Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere, Santos recommended supporting the agenda of the Haitian government, instead of pushing “our own agendas.”
He also said that “Central America is not alone.” Organized crime must be combated, but anti-drug policy should be focused on “the victims,” including “the millions” locked up in prisons, Santos said.
This summit will not find an answer to Latin America’s calls for facing up to the failure of the war on drugs, “of this I am completely certain,” he said.
Militarization marches on
U.S. President Barack Obama let it be understood that his country would tolerate flexibilization of Latin American anti-drug policies, saying “I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places.””I know there are frustrations and that some call for legalization. For the sake of the health and safety of our citizens – all our citizens – the United States will not be going in this direction,” Obama said on Saturday.
But he flatly rejected legalization.
“I know there are frustrations and that some call for legalization. For the sake of the health and safety of our citizens – all our citizens – the United States will not be going in this direction,” Obama said on Saturday.
He also announced that the U.S. government would increase its aid to the war on drugs led by “our Central American friends” and pledged “more than 130 million dollars this year.”
Colombian expert Ricardo Vargas of Acción Andina, a local think tank, summed up the U.S. position: “‘You may decriminalize drugs, but that will not eliminate the mafias. And we will be there’,” with a military presence as soon as drug shipments cross the borders, he told IPS.
The People’s Summit
From another part of the city of Cartagena, Enrique Daza, the coordinator of the Hemispheric Social Alliance, a movement of social organizations that organized the Fifth People’s Summit, held in parallel to the Summit of the Americas, announced their “satisfaction” at the same time as President Santos received a standing ovation in the auditorium where the heads of state were gathered.
“They were not able to keep our demands hidden,” Daza said at the close of the counter-summit.
On the positive side, the People’s Summit proposed independent integration within the region, and knowledge and respect for the contributions of indigenous people and peasant farmers to the art of “good living” and a culture of peace.
The alternative summit rejected the United States’ “imposition of its agenda” at the Summits of the Americas, and demanded an end to militarization based on the pretext of the war on drugs, which in fact ends up criminalizing social protest, he said.
In its final declaration, the People’s Summit castigated the United States and Canada for insisting on the promotion of free trade treaties with other countries of the continent.
Canada came in for heavy criticism for fomenting a “predatory model” for the operations of its mining companies in Latin America. “The rights of investors cannot take precedence over the rights of people and of nature,” the final declaration says.
The gathering of social movements, left-wing groups and human rights, indigenous, environmental and women’s organizations also launched a veiled attack on socialist governments in Latin America.
While recognizing the efforts of bodies such as ALBA and the fledgling Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the declaration expressed that “progressive and left-wing” governments in the Americas should take steps against the extraction of natural resources and the concentration of land ownership.
On the positive side, the People’s Summit proposed independent integration within the region, and knowledge and respect for the contributions of indigenous people and peasant farmers to the art of “good living” and a culture of peace.
Med School Classes Cancelled in Havana February 20, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Health, Latin America.
Tags: castro, climate change, Cuba, cuba cdr, cuba health, cuba medicine, dengue, don fitz, health care, heath, katrina, Latin America, medical students, public health, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: I am not an uncritical admirer of Castros’ Cuba. However, I have made a fairly extensive study of the Cuban revolution, and in the 1980s and 1990s I traveled several times to Cuba, and by car and plane got to know a great deal of the Island. In general, I found that for the most part the Cubans I met were educated, cultured, “civilized” and with a pride and dignity I have not seen in other Latin American countries. I have met with veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion and was given a private tour of the museum at that “sacred” place, where a huge billboard advertises it as the “first defeat of imperialism in the Americas.” How much of Cuba’s Stalinist Communist rule is a necessity with respect to the US blockade and belligerence and how much a result of failed socialist imagination, is hard to say. My most memorable experience was when a Canadian with whom we were traveling on our return trip to Toronto had a paranoid attack when we stopped in Camaguay to pick up passengers. He exited the plane and ran out onto the tarmac. My belief is that if this had happened the US he would have been shot dead (and questions asked later). In Cuba, the authorities patiently followed him as he ran about the airfield, amongst both civilian and military aircraft. When he finally tired out, he was detained with minimal force and taken to a psychiatric facility. This is what I mean when I use the word “civilized.”
by Don Fitz, www.blackagendareport.com, Feb. 14, 2012
Fidel Castro long ago vowed to make Cuba a “medical superpower.” The country’s healthcare system emphasizes preventive medicine and mobilization of the entire population against threats to health and safety. Medicine is more than a career. Imagine that, at the height of the Katrina disaster, the US closed medical schools in Gulf coast states and coordinated their work of attending to medical and public health needs of the poorest in New Orleans.”
“Imagine that medical schools across the US sent their students to survey living conditions of poor black, brown, red, yellow and white Americans to determine what causes elevated mortality rates.”
“I’m on pesquizaje,” my daughter Rebecca told me. “All of the third, fourth and fifth year medical students at Allende have our classes suspended. We are going door-to-door looking for symptoms of dengue fever and checking for standing water.” 
As a fourth year medical student at Cuba’s ELAM (Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina, Latin American School of Medicine in Havana), she is assigned to Salvadore Allende Hospital in Havana. It handles most of the city’s dengue cases. Though she has done health canvassing before, this is the first time she has had classes cancelled to do it. It is very unusual for an outbreak of dengue, a mosquito-borne illness, to occur this late in the season. She remembers most outbreaks happening in the Fall, being over before December, and certainly not going into January–February.
Groups of medical students are assigned to a block with about 135 homes, most having 2–7 residents. They try to check on every home daily, but don’t see many working families until the weekend. The first dengue sign they look for is fever. The medical students also check for joint pain, muscle pain, abdominal pain, headache behind the eye sockets, purple splotches and bleeding from the gums. What is unique about Cuban medical school is the way ELAM students are trained to make in-home evaluations that include potentially damaging life styles — such as having uncovered standing water where mosquitoes can breed.
Dengue is more common in Cuban cities of Havana, Santiago and Guantánamo than in rural areas. Irregular supply of water to the cities means that residents store it in cisterns. Cisterns with broken or absent lids and puddles from leaky ones are prime breeding sites for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary vector (carrier) of dengue. 
DF and DHF
There is a significant difference between dengue fever (DF) and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF). DF is a virus which usually lasts a week or more and is uncomfortable but not deadly.  DF has four varieties (serotypes). If someone who has had one type of dengue contracts a different serotype of the disease, the person is at risk for DHF. Early DHF symptoms are similar to DF but the person can become irritable, restless and sweaty, and go into a shock-like state and die. 
DF can be so mild that many people never know that they had it and that they are at risk for the far more serious DHF. This is why the Cuban public health model of reaching out to people is important in preventing a deadly epidemic. There are no known vaccines or cures for DF or DHF — the only treatment is treating the symptoms. With DHF, this includes dealing with dehydration and often blood transfusions in intensive care. [3, 4]
“DF is a virus which usually lasts a week or more and is uncomfortable but not deadly.”
Each year, there are over 100 million cases of DF, largely in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Southwest Asia, and parts of Indonesia and Australia.  Between 250,000 and 500,000 cases of DHF occur annually and 24,000 result in death. 
Dengue was not identified in Cuba until 1943. Epidemics hit the island in 1977–1978 (553,132 cases), 1981 (334,203 cases of DF with 10,312 cases of DHF), 1997 (17,114 DF cases with 205 DHF cases), and 2001–2002 in Havana (almost 12,000 DF cases). 
Climate, mosquitoes and health
Climate change could make conditions more comfortable for mosquitoes that are vectors for dengue. During the last half a century, Cuban health officials have calculated a 30-fold increase of Aedes aegypti mosquito.  Since the 1950s, the average temperature in Cuba has increased between 0.4 and 0.6°C. Health officials are well aware that “…increasing variability may have a greater impact on health than gradual changes in mean temperature…” 
The 1990s were a very hard time for Cuba. Known as the “special period,” this was when collapse of the Soviet Union caused oil to dry up, the nation’s production (including food) to plummet, and illnesses to increase.  It was also a time when there was a climb “in extreme weather events, such as droughts, and…stronger hurricane seasons.”  Increases in climate variability meant winters have become warmer and rainier.
Conner Gorry, Senior Editor of MEDICC Review in Havana, reports that “My friends and neighbors tell me they can’t remember ever having to fumigate or think about dengue in the winter.”  Another consequence of more ups and downs in the climate is “…insults to the upper respiratory tract, increasing viral transmission, particularly among infants and children.” 
Medical students in Havana come from 100 countries about the globe.  No matter what accent they have when speaking Spanish, they don’t have trouble getting into homes. In Havana, there is nothing unusual about a foreigner in a bata (white medical jacket) walking through homes, poking into yards and peering on roofs to see if there is standing water.
Always in need of extra cash, an enormous number of Cubans have some sort of less than totally legal activity going on in their homes (such as a nail parlor in the living room). But it does not occur to either the resident or the medical student that the inspection would be for anything other than public health reasons.
Cuba has experienced more than half a century of mobilization campaigns like current efforts to control dengue. Soon after the 1959 revolution Cuba mobilized the literacy campaign which sent teachers and students to every corner of the island to teach citizens to read and write. Every hurricane season, the neighborhood Committees for Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) are prepared to move the elderly, sick and mentally ill to higher ground if an evacuation is necessary. Campaigns against diseases like polio and dengue have made Cubans used to the government bringing public health efforts into their homes. 
“Every hurricane season, the neighborhood Committees for Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) are prepared to move the elderly, sick and mentally ill to higher ground if an evacuation is necessary.”
Beginning in the 1960’s, the CDRs worked with thousands of trainers, who, in turn trained 50,000 more Cubans to teach the importance of polio vaccinations. As a result, Cuba has not had a polio death since 1974. CDRs actively encourage pregnant women to regularly visit their neighborhood doctor’s office and patrol the community to enforce the ban on growing succulents that attract mosquitoes. 
Cuba places a very high value on researching preventive medicine. MEDICC Review (Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba) is a peer reviewed open access journal which works to enhance cooperation among “global health communities aimed at better health outcomes.” 
Cuban researchers have played a key role in developing the widely accepted model that DHF is determined by “the interaction between the host, the virus and the vector in an epidemiological and ecosystem setting”  In Cuba, this translates to (a) the most important risk factor for getting DHF is having a second infection of DF which is a different strain; (b) being infected a second time in a specific order of DF strains places children at a higher risk for DHF than adults; (c) white Cubans are at a higher risk for DHF than Afro-Cubans; but, (d) those who already have sickle cell anemia, bronchial asthma or diabetes are at higher risk.
Cuban researchers openly discuss weaknesses in their health care system. One study indicated that there could be a “marked undercounting” of dengue due to missing a large number of cases. This finding occurred even though the study examined data during a time of “maximum alert,” suggesting that undercounting could be very widespread. 
A typical finding is that the community must feel that the dengue control program belongs to them if it is to be successful and sustainable.  Some of the best work I’ve seen on the role of public health takes an honest look at effects of “the absence of active involvement of the community” in dengue control. The authors felt that Cuba’s outdoor spraying of adult mosquitoes “is of questionable efficacy.” Instead, they focused on “the bad conditions or absence of covers on water storage containers” in the city of Guantánamo. 
“Those who already have sickle cell anemia, bronchial asthma or diabetes are at higher risk.”
The study had a control group of 16 neighborhoods which carried out the usual practices of home inspections, measuring the degree of mosquito infestation, and larviciding (applying chemicals to kill mosquitoes during the larval stage of growth). In contrast, their intervention group did everything that the control group did, but added intense involvement by local activists. “Formal and informal leaders” of the community worked with health professionals “to mobilize the population and change behavior,” such as covering water containers correctly, repairing broken water pipelines, and not removing larvicide.
Measuring the number of mosquitoes in the two groups revealed dramatic results. The authors concluded that “Community based environmental management integrated in a routine dengue prevention and control program can reduce level of Aedes infestation by 50–75%.” 
Rebecca told me that when medical students inspect the homes of Havana residents, they find that the overwhelming majority comply with pubic health policy. But some do not. A few cannot afford the proper lid for cisterns. Some have mental problems that limit their ability to cooperate. And a very few just don’t give a damn, even if they could be raising mosquitoes that infect their neighbors. Cuban-style public health research is critical in identifying barriers that communities need to overcome if they are to protect themselves from disease.
Do you remember Katrina and the number of New Orleans residents who languished while the state and national governments did nothing meaningful? Do you remember the photos of 1000 Cuban doctors in batas ready and waiting to come to New Orleans just like they went to Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and dozens of other countries hit by disasters? Do you remember the government that would increase the suffering of its own people rather than accept help from Cuba?
It may be difficult, but imagine that, at the height of the Katrina disaster, the US closed medical schools in Gulf coast states and coordinated the work of attending to medical and public health needs of the poorest in New Orleans. It may contradict your lifetime of experiences, but imagine that medical schools across the US sent their students to survey living conditions of poor black, brown, red, yellow and white Americans to determine what causes elevated mortality rates and then announced that no one would return to medical school until they were part of a national plan to resolve health care needs.
It may bend your mind to the border of hallucination, but imagine that health care professionals throughout the world demanded that people of the Global South be spared the mosquito infestations, rising waters, droughts, floods, species extinctions and all other manifestations of climate change brought on by the gluttonous overproduction of the 1% in the Global North. Imagine new medical care based on help going to those who need help the most rather than obscene wealth going to those who invest in the sickness industry.
Imagine citizens welcoming health professionals to walk through their homes because they do not fear being reported to the police and because they have seen mobilization after mobilization improve their lives rather than ensnare them in empty promises. Imagine a new society.
Don Fitz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought. He is Co-Coordinator of the Green Party of St. Louis and produces Green Time in conjunction with KNLC-TV. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
1. My Spanish-English dictionary does not include “pesquizaje;” but Conner Gorry, Senior Editor of MEDICC Review says that Cuban health professionals use “pesquizaje active” to mean “active screening” when they go door-to-door. Email message from Conner Gorry January 24, 2012.
2. Lázaro, P., Pérez, Antonio, Rivero, A., León, N., Díaz, M. & Pérez, Alina (Spring, 2008). Assessment of human health vulnerability to climate variability and change in Cuba. MEDICC Review, 10 (2), 1–9.
3. Dengue fever, A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. PubMed Health. Retrieved on February 6, 2012 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002350/
4. Dengue hemorrhagic fever, A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. PubMed Health. Retrieved on February 6, 2012 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002349/
5. Vanlerberghe, V., Toledo, M.E., Rodriguez, M., Gómez, D., Baly, A., Benitez, J.R., & Van der Stuyft, P. (Winter 2010). Community involvement in dengue vector control: Cluster randomized trial. MEDICC Review, 12 (1), 41–47.
6. Whiteford, L.M., & Branch, L.G. (2008). Primary Health Care in Cuba: The Other Revolution. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
7. Fitz, D. (March 2011). The Latin American School of Medicine today: ELAM,” Monthly Review, 62 (10) 50–62.
8. Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba. Retrieved February 6, 2012 from http://www.medicc.org/ns/index.php?s=3&p=3.
9. Guzmán, M.G. & Kouri, G. (2008). Dengue haemorrhagic fever integral hypothesis: Confirming observations, 1987–2007. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 102, 522–523.
10. Peláez, O., Sánchez, L, Más, P., Pérez, S., Kouri, G. & Guzmán, M. (April 2011). Prevalence of febrile syndromes in dengue surveillance, Havana City, 2007. MEDICC Review, 13 (2),47–51.
11. Díaz, C., Torres, Y., de la Cruz, A., Álvarez, A., Piquero, M., Valero, A. & Fuentes, O. (2009). Estrategía intersectoral y participativa con enfoque de ecosalud para la prevención de la transmisión de dengue en el nivel local. Cadernos Saúde Pública, 25 (Supl. 1), S59S70. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0102-311×2009001300006