el maestro

el maestro
"Trincheras de ideas valen más que trincheras de piedra." José Martí

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Raúl Castro Communique on US-Cuba relations

December 17, 2014
Fellow countrymen,
Since my election as President of the State Council and Council of Ministers I have reiterated in many occasions our willingness to hold a respectful dialogue with the United States on the basis of sovereign equality, in order to deal reciprocally with a wide variety of topics without detriment to the national Independence and self-determination of our people.
This stance was conveyed to the US Government both publicly and privately by Comrade Fidel on several occasions during our long standing struggle, stating the willingness to discuss and solve our differences without renouncing any of our principles.
The heroic Cuban people, in the wake of serious dangers, aggressions, adversities and sacrifices has proven to be faithful and will continue to be faithful to our ideals of independence and social justice. Strongly united throughout these 56 years of Revolution, we have kept our unswerving loyalty to those who died in defense of our principles since the beginning of our independence wars in 1868.
Today, despite the difficulties, we have embarked on the task of updating our economic model in order to build a prosperous and sustainable Socialism.
As a result of a dialogue at the highest level, which included a phone conversation I had yesterday with President Obama, we have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations.
As Fidel promised on June 2001,when he said: “They shall return!” Gerardo, Ramon, and Antonio have arrived today to our homeland.
The enormous joy of their families and of all our people, who have relentlessly fought for this goal, is shared by hundreds of solidarity committees and groups, governments, parliaments, organizations, institutions, and personalities, who for the last sixteen years have made tireless efforts demanding their release. We convey our deepest gratitude and commitment to all of them.
President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgement of our people.
I wish to thank and acknowledge the support of the Vatican, most particularly the support of Pope Francisco in the efforts for improving relations between Cuba and the United States. I also want to thank the Government of Canada for facilitating the high-level dialogue between the two countries.
In turn, we have decided to release and send back to the United States a spy of Cuban origin who was working for that nation.
On the other hand, and for humanitarian reasons, today we have also sent the American citizen Alan Gross back to his country.
Unilaterally, as has always been our practice, and in strict compliance with the provisions of our legal system, the concerned prisoners have received legal benefits, including the release of those persons that the Government of the United States had conveyed their interest in.
We have also agreed to renew diplomatic relations.
This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been solved. The economic, commercial, and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease.
Though the blockade has been codified into law, the President of the United States has the executive authority to modify its implementation.
We propose to the Government of the United States the adoption of mutual steps to improve the bilateral atmosphere and advance towards normalization of relations between our two countries, based on the principles of International Law and the United Nations Charter.
Cuba reiterates its willingness to cooperate in multilateral bodies, such as the United Nations.
While acknowledging our profound differences, particularly on issues related to national sovereignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy, I reaffirm our willingness to dialogue on all these issues.
I call upon the Government of the United States to remove the obstacles hindering or restricting ties between peoples, families, and citizens of both countries, particularly restrictions on travelling, direct post services, and telecommunications.
The progress made in our exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems.
As we have reiterated, we must learn the art of coexisting with our differences in a civilized manner.
We will continue talking about these important issues at a later date

Thank you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cuba For West Africa - Africa Called, Cuba Answered : CNC campaign for Cuban medical mission in West Africa

Cuban doctors arrive in West Africa to combat Ebola

The Canadian Network On Cuba (CNC) is launching the Cuba For West Africa Campaign to raise funds to assist the ongoing Cuban medical missions in the West African nations of Guinea-Conakry, Liberia & Sierra Leone that are engaged in fighting the Ebola epidemic. The Cuban medical mission is by far the largest sent by any country. Standing side-by-side with the peoples of West Africa, 461 Cuban doctors and nurses – chosen from more than 15,000 volunteers - have gone to West Africa and joined the struggle against Ebola.  Jose Luis Di Fabio, a representative of the World Health Organization, underscored that  “there are more human resources from Cuba than from many, many NGOs put together.”

      Such is the magnitude of Cuba’s solidarity with Africa that even the corporate media, usually unduly harsh in their views concerning Cuba, had to give the Caribbean nation plaudits for its actions. For example, the New York Times, recognizing at last Cuba’s virtue, has been moved to editorialize its position that the U.S. economic embargo against the island should end and the three Cubans still imprisoned in the U.S. as fighters against terrorism should be freed. Also, on October 9th, the Wall Street Journal stated: “Few have heeded the call, but one country has responded in strength: Cuba.” As Jorge Lefebre Nicolas, Cuba’s ambassador to Liberia, declared: “We cannot see our brothers from Africa in difficult times and remain there with our arms folded.” Havana’s contribution is to be contrasted with that of Washington, which dispatched thousands of soldiers, instead of more desperately needed healthcare personnel and resources. 

      The Cuban doctors serving in West Africa are motivated not by financial gain but by the profound internationalist values of solidarity inculcated since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Since 1959, more than 300,000 Cuban medical workers have served in 158 countries. Currently, 50,000 Cuban doctors and nurses are serving in 66 countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia.  Indeed, before the Ebola epidemic there were more than 4,000 Cuban healthcare personnel treating people in 32 African countries.

 As Dr. Jorge Perez Avila, the director of the Pedro Kouri Institute for Tropical Medicine in Havana - where those going to fight ebola get three weeks of intensive specialized training before going overseas - noted: "Our principle has been to share what we have." 

      In 2010 Cuba rose to the immense challenge of helping the heroic people of Haiti after the earthquake that inflicted such horrendous suffering. In response, the CNC launched the Cuba For Haiti Campaign as the best way by which Canadians could help Haiti. The success of the Cuba For Haiti Campaign demonstrates the confidence and respect that Canadians have for the people for Cuba. The respect and confidence increase the better we know Cuba. 

     In 2014, as it has always done, Cuba is taking up the cause of humanity in Guinea-Conakry, Liberia & Sierra Leone. Africa has called and Cuba has answered. 

     At the September 16, 2014 meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Cuban representative Abelardo Moreno declared: “Humanity has a debt to African people. We cannot let them down.”

       The CNC is asking Canadians to support the invaluable work of the Cuban medical mission by donating to the Cuba For West Africa Campaign. You can support the Cuba For West Africa Campaign by sending a check to the Canadian Network On Cuba. The cheques should be made out to the Canadian Network On Cuba, writing Cuba for West Africa Campaign on your cheque’s memo line. Your donation should be mailed to: THE CNC, Attn: S. Skup, 56 Riverwood Terrace, Bolton, ON L7E 1S

- Isaac Saney, Co-Chair & Spokesperson, Canadian Network on Cuba, November 14, 2014 -

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Statement by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla at UN General Assembly, October 28th. 2014

 Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla

Mr. President;

Distinguished Permanent Representatives;


The United Nations General Assembly will consider today, for the twenty-third time, this issue which is so important to the international community, because it is related to international law, which protects all states, large and small, rich and poor, and guarantees their independence and the exercise of national sovereignty, which is the basis of sovereign equality.

It is also directly linked to the enjoyment of human rights by all persons and by all peoples.
This matter concerns freedom of trade and navigation, which protects the interests of states, companies and individuals.

We are, however, gathered here at a very specific international conjuncture, characterized by serious threats to international peace and security, atrocious wars and terrorist actions of extreme cruelty, the risks posed by the existence of huge nuclear arsenals and outrageous military expenditures - useless to the solution of any of the serious problems facing the world’s population, which is rapidly approaching the eight billion.

This is a critical moment in the impact of climate change which, among other catastrophic consequences, can provoke unprecedented famine, generalized extreme poverty in entire regions, and massive waves of migration.

We are living in an age characterized by a systemic global crisis, affecting simultaneously all economic, food, energy and water components.

In addition to poverty, which takes a higher toll on human lives than war, there is an increased risk posed by serious diseases like the Ebola virus, an epidemic which could become one of the worst pandemics in history, if it is not stopped and resolved in the affected sister nations of Western Africa, through the immediate, effective cooperation of all countries.

As was recently stated by President Raúl Castro Ruz, “Such a noble and urgent endeavor demands the indispensable commitment and dedication of every nation in the world, in accordance with the ability of each. We are of the opinion that this grave problem should not be politicized, to avoid the risk of losing track of the main objective, which is helping to confront the epidemic in Africa and prevent its expansion to other regions.”

Thus created is an unprecedented combination of problems, old and new, leading toward making human life unsustainable. None of these can be resolved if there is no change in our attitude, in the manner in which we confront and attempt to transform reality, and establish genuine cooperation in the interest of humanity’s survival.

As was recently written by compañero Fidel Castro, “Any conscious person knows that political decisions which involve risks to highly qualified personnel imply a high level of responsibility on the part of those who call upon them to fulfill a dangerous task. It is even more difficult than sending soldiers, who have also done so as their duty, to combat and die for a just political cause.

“The medical professionals who travel to any location whatsoever to save lives, even at the risk of losing their own, provide the greatest example of solidarity a human being can offer …”

Mr. President:

It is a fact that, in recent times, the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba has been tightened and that its extraterritorial application in all regions of the world has been intensified, in particular with the levying of huge, unprecedented fines of some 11 billion dollars against 38 banks, among them the French bank BNP Paribas, for processing transactions with Cuba and other countries.

The accumulated economic damages, which are huge for a small economy like ours, amount to 1,112,534,000,000 dollars, estimated on the basis of the price of gold, which is being manipulated by those who created the nefarious monetary system currently in force, and is being affected by the impact of an insurmountable crisis, and batters the poorest countries.

Human damages caused by the blockade are on the rise. The number of Cubans who have been born under these circumstances has already reached 77% of the population. The hardships families face are incalculable. There are many international conventions which proscribe the blockade, including the Geneva Convention of 1948 against genocide. The exercise of human rights by an entire people is being impaired. The economic development of the country is seriously hampered.

Although our health and social care systems manage to prevent the loss of human life, no honest person, whether in the United States or the world, could agree with the devastating consequences caused by the blockade.

Despite all of this, our national culture, our education and protection of equal rights and opportunities, allow us to be a cultured and fraternal nation.

Mr. President:

On both sides of the Florida Straits, the peoples of the United States and Cuba have always shared close ties.

Despite the systematic, slanderous campaigns launched against our country over half a century, the U.S. people supported the return to his family of a Cuban child kidnapped in 1999.

Cuba offered all possible assistance in the immediate aftermath of the terrible terrorist actions occurred on September 11, 2001, when thousands of aircraft in flight were left without a place to land, and, later on, to alleviate the deficit of antibiotics, at the time of the anthrax attacks in the United States.

In 2005, truly concerned about the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, we offered our medical cooperation to the people of New Orleans, a moment that led to the creation of a medical contingent specialized in the management of disasters and epidemics - which bears the name of Henry Reeve, a heroic young U.S. citizen who fought for the independence of Cuba back in the 19th century - now being deployed in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. This prestigious name identifies the brigade which in 2005 assisted Pakistan in the aftermath of an earthquake there, and continued to engage in productive cooperation with the U.S. military medical personnel, which had already begun in El Salvador, after the earthquake of 2001, and later in Guatemala in the 2002 and 2003, to treat onchocerciasis, known as “river blindness.”

In 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti, the United States and Cuba also cooperated to assist that long-suffering nation.

The Cuban Government has invariably shared with the U.S. government reports on terrorist actions and attacks against the United States being planned.

Despite the old tensions, and the attempts by violent extremists and terrorist groups to inflame these, there has been no war, no young U.S. soldier has died in Cuba. Cuba, despite being slandered, has never been a threat to the national security of the United States.

There is no hostility between our peoples. Cuba hospitably welcomes the few U.S. citizens who are allowed by their government to visit our country, or who face the legal risks which may result from doing so, as well as those who come to offer humanitarian assistance, such as members of “Pastors for Peace,” or to study Medicine.

Well known are opinion polls showing increasing majority support from absolutely all sectors of U.S. society for the lifting of the blockade, and normalization of bilateral relations. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that this support is even more marked in Florida, something also confirmed by voting trends observed during the most recent Presidential elections.

Political figures from diverse tendencies, as well as outstanding scholars, have recognized that this policy has failed to meet its purpose, and has not served the national interests of this powerful country. Suffice it to read the editorials published by The New York Times in recent weeks.

Religious leaders have cited legitimate and indisputable ethical and humanitarian reasons for a change.
U.S. citizens are demanding the freedom to travel to the only place on the planet where they are prohibited from doing so, as well as for the right to receive direct, personal information about Cuba’s reality.

Entrepreneurial organizations and business people believe that the blockade harms their economic interests. Majority public opinion is opposed to maintaining the current state of affairs and is expressing this in an ever more critical way.

Cuban émigrés have been affected by discriminatory measures, and must cope with numerous obstacles hindering family reunification, travel in both directions, the excessive costs imposed on them, political manipulation and even terrorist violence. But the majority wishes peace and wellbeing for their relatives and their people, and a normal relation with their nation of origin.

What’s the point of encouraging the illegal use of information technologies instead of authorizing mutually beneficial business in the area of telecommunications? What’s the point of preventing Cuba’s connection to nearby underwater cables, thus limiting and hindering our connectivity?
The blockade is harmful to Cuba, but it is also harmful to the United States.

The absurd and ridiculous inclusion of Cuba on the list of state sponsors of international terrorism, which has been used to justify the imposition of additional financial sanctions, only serves to discredit the United States.

The 16 years of unjust imprisonment imposed by fraudulent means on the three Cuban anti-terrorist fighters has not weakened them. Quite on the contrary, it made them heroes and an example for future generations of Cubans, as well as a source of pride for those whose sacrifices contribute to paving the way toward a new Cuba.

The decision to lift the blockade will be welcomed on a global level, and will become a unifying influence in the interest of peace and the peaceful resolution of conflicts and differences.

After the limited but positive measures of 2009 and 2011 regarding family visits, remittances sent by Cubans settled in the U.S. and travel licenses for certain categories of U.S. citizens to engage in exchanges of various sorts, the technical dialogue has been expanded to include other aspects, and cooperation has increased in areas such as the confrontation of drug trafficking, transnational crime, trafficking in persons, oil spill prevention, search and rescue operations, air and aviation safety, or in the event of any other specific occurrence.

The reaction on the part of U.S. society and the international community to these modest advances has been one of support and encouragement.

President Barack Obama has the constitutional prerogative, with no Congressional support required, to modify crucial aspects of the blockade and introduce a new, decisive dynamic in our bilateral relations.

Mr. President:

We invite the government of the United States to establish a mutually respectful relationship, based on reciprocity, sovereign equality, the principles of international law and the UN Charter.

We can attempt to find a solution to our differences through respectful dialogue and cooperation in areas of common interest. We can live and relate to each other in a civilized manner, despite our differences.

Cuba will never renounce its sovereignty, or the path freely chosen by its people to build a more just, efficient, prosperous and sustainable socialism. It will never forego its quest for a different international order, nor cease in its struggle for “the equilibrium of the world.”

Mr. President;

Distinguished Permanent Representatives and delegates;

At this difficult and special conjuncture, I must ask you to vote in favor of draft Resolution A/69/L.4 entitled “The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America on Cuba,” to support the idea that the current serious problems facing humanity require a change in our way of relating to one another, to be able to resolve these problems, to preserve peace and human life.

Thank you very much.

Source: Granma

Monday, October 20, 2014

Key address by Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz at the Special ALBA-TCP Summit on Ebola

President of Cuba Raúl Castro declares ALBA_TCP Summit open

Esteemed heads of State and Government, and chiefs of delegations; His Excellency Mr. David Nabarro, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General; Her Excellency Mrs. Clarisse Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization; His Excellency Mr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the Organization of East Caribbean States

We welcome you to our country on the occasion of this Special ALBA Summit on Ebola convened on the initiative of President Maduro.

Ladies and Gentlemen, comrades;
A dreadful epidemic is advancing today on our fraternal peoples of Africa, and threatening us all. A high number of cases have been diagnosed with Ebola and many people have perished from the disease in several countries, including two outside the African continent.

This poses a huge challenge to humanity, one that should be met with utmost urgency. The action of the international community as a whole, under the leadership of the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization and the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, is much needed.

As part of the melting pot of Latin American and Caribbean cultures, African blood flows through the veins of ‘Our America’, contributed by those who fought for independence and helped in the creation of wealth in many of our countries and others, the United States included.

Africa and Cuba are bound together by deep affection. Over 76 thousand Cuban collaborators have rendered health services in 39 countries, while 45 nations have had 3,392 physicians trained in Cuba absolutely free of charge.

At the moment, more than 4 thousand Cuban healthcare collaborators are working in 32 African countries and, as our Public Health Minister will explain; they are all joining in the preventive effort against Ebola.

Last October 1st, in response to a request from the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, and UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, a specialized Cuban medical brigade traveled to Sierra Leone to take part in the struggle against that epidemic; and tomorrow, Tuesday, October 21st, two other Cuban brigades, whose leaders are already in the field, will be leaving for Liberia and Guinea.

The numerous alerts and concerns recently manifested over the insufficient resources contributed and the pace of the actions are a reflection of the growing universal awareness on the necessity to move ahead promptly in order to avoid a humanitarian crisis of unpredictable consequences.

I stand convinced that if this threat is not held back and resolved in West Africa, through an immediate and effective international response, with sufficient resources and coordinated by the World Health Organization and the United Nations, it may evolve into one of the gravest pandemics in the history of mankind.

Actually, such a noble and urgent endeavor demands the indispensable commitment and dedication of every nation in the world, to the extent of everyone’s possibilities.

We are of the view that this grave problem should not be politicized to avoid the risk of losing track of the main objective, which is helping to confront the epidemic in Africa and to prevent its expansion to other regions.

Following my conversation with the UN Secretary General last September 5th, instructions were given to our representatives in events called by the World Health Organization and the United Nations, to reaffirm that Cuba is willing work side by side with every country, including the United States.

The modest experience accumulated by the Cuban healthcare system indicates that an integrating disposition is required, along with the proper organization, planning and coordination, not only of the clinical and healing work but also of preventive measures. An inescapable complementation to this would be the systemic and permanent labors of the specialists who shall exercise great
discipline and severity in the observation of the medical protocols established. In the course of this meeting, we shall discuss the practical features of this matter.

In order to avoid being affected by the virus, we should prepare ourselves intensively, work together throughout the Americas on preventive measures, and be ready to deal with the disease and prevent its dissemination.

We wish to submit to the consideration of the member countries of ALBA and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) some collective proposals of cooperation that may help in training the healthcare personnel and designing and implementing comprehensive and effective preventive measures, giving a priority to Haiti and the Caribbean countries; we should all assist the most vulnerable states.

At the same time, we invite the countries of North America to also cooperate in this endeavor.

If the respective governments would agree, our healthcare collaborators currently working in Latin America and the Caribbean, could support, to the extent of their capabilities, the preventive actions and the training of local personnel, as well as offer advisory.

In summary, we have 45,952 Cuban healthcare collaborators working in 25 countries of Our America, 23,158 of them, that is, 50.4% are doctors, who along with their colleagues from the continent make up a powerful force capable of meeting such a challenge.

It’s worthwhile recalling that many countries of our region count on 23,944 doctors graduated in Cuban universities until today, basically in the past fifteen years.

Finally, on December 14th, we will host another Summit in Havana to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Alliance, the fruit of the will of our peoples in the region and of the actions of Hugo Chavez Frias and Fidel Castro Ruz. We look forward to that opportunity when we shall examine the implementation of what we agree here today.

Without further delay, we declare this Special Summit open.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Toronto Star Attacks Cuban Justice System. Why?

foto: canadianlawyermag.com

The Toronto Star's Sept. 30th opinion piece "Jailing Investors Cuba's Big Chill" is a vicious attack by a major daily in Canada that cannot stomach the fact that the government of Cuba is fearless when it has to apply the laws of the land against any one entity and individuals who dare to get involved in corrupt economic behaviours which is not only damaging to the country's economy but its reputation and ethical values; and therewith the sentencing of the Canadian businessman/investor Vahe Cy Tokmakjian, his associates, as well as a Cuban deputy minister of Sugar Industry and others associated with it.

But why the Toronto Star states that, "Yet suddenly, in 2011, President Raul Castro's anti-corruption prosecutors set their sights on Tokmakjian and charged him and 16 others." Well, as a matter of fact it wasn't so "sudden". For some four years the Cuban nation did organize meetings throughout the society in order to tackle the many issues the country was facing and determined what changes and approaches to be taken. One of the items put on the agenda of the leadership of the government by the people was to fight corruption. And this corruption case  was a big one and had to exhaust all the legal process and that is why the Cuban  justice system during a public and oral hearing between June 9 to 21 (2014) at Havana's Provincial Court addressed  the crimes of bribery, acts to the detriment of economic activity, falsification of banking and trade documents, criminal deception, trafficking in currency and tax evasion against Canadian entrepreneurs Vahe Cy Tokmakjian, Marco Vinicio Puche Rodriguez and Claudio Franco and others involved.

The Corruption of Public Officials Act in Canada clearly states that any entity/individual that gets involved in any behaviour which corrupts officials of another country is liable and must face justice. That is why the editorial board of the Toronto Star shall do its homework first before being Judge, jury and the executioner in the above case and withdraw its demand and advice to the government of Canada, requesting  the immediate release of the convicted individuals and their "assets"!

And the government of Canada knows very well that the Cubans have shown ample evidence proving their case in the above-mentioned. Otherwise, the Conservatives in Ottawa are not known to be great friends of Cuba or they would have intervened in the case of the anti-terrorist Cuban Five political prisoners of the empire who did nothing in the U.S. but to infiltrate terrorist and ultra right organizations  in order to expose their plans! Plans carried by terrorists out of the U.S. territory which caused the death of Fabio di Celmo, a permanent resident of Canada from Montreal in Aug. 1997 which to this date the government of Canada has not raised a finger to bring the mastermind of the terrorist act-Luis Posada Carriles who walks freely in Miami-to justice.

But why the Toronto Star use of such language as "Castro regime should be put on notice"! To be put on "notice" because fighting corruption to its roots, no matter who is involved, is a bulwark of the Cuban Revolution. And the Cuban justice system is so radical that even the mercenaries who were organized, armed and sent to Cuba by the U.S.  in 1961 to overturn the Cuban Revolution could not be abused in any way by anyone even though they had killed their own country men/women at the order of another foreign country! hmmmmm

And how could the Toronto Star attack Cuba! It reported once that Nabeel Yar Khan from Toronto is studying medicine in Cuba free of charge for the simple fact that Cuba's humanitarian health system provides for the education of tens of thousands of humble young students from around the world including the United States and Canada. Who would expect passionate behaviour from a government that is "a travesty of justice" in the words of Peter Kent! And I don't recall the Toronto Star asking business investors/creditors to  go to Cuba as a way to  "recompense" Cuba for its internationalist and humanitarian acts.

That is why I believe, the Toronto Star is stuck on attacking Cuba while defending business personalities caught in the vice of justice in Cuba for illegal acts! And all of a sudden investigative reporting gives way to vulgar, anti-Cuba verbiage. A Cuba that sets an example for the world over to share what they have, especially in health care, education and cultural values like, "homeland is humanity".

And again one wonders what bothers the Toronto Star to unleash its venom against Cuba and advising investors to stay away from Cuba and go somewhere else to make "a buck"! Is it that the World Health Organization's director, Margaret Chan, announced to the world that "we all have to learn from the very effective approach of Cuba to fight natural disasters and epidemics..." and praised Cuba for its contributions to fight Ebola virus in Africa where Cuba already has some 3000 medical personnel in 32 countries (in the African continent alone) and has dispatched some 450 medical specialists to fight Ebola only to this day. Where is Toronto Star's praise of Cuba!

The truth is that the capitalist media, including the Toronto Star, has no way of hiding for good the truth that comes out of Cuba and the shining path that it puts before the world. That, yes, it is possible with the least of resources and being one of the poorest countries in the world when it comes to underground minerals-or so it is thought- to have the highest level of education in Latin America and for sure ahead of the U.S.; to have the lowest infant mortality rate in the Americas ahead of Canada; or to have a national parliament whereby no one gets  an extra penny for being a member of-beyond their regular salaries/wages paid by their workplaces-and has an average age of 51.3 years and some 48 percentage of them are women! Oooh, some countries truly envy that.

Or the Toronto Star does not want its readers to know that while Canada, under the leadership of the United States, goes to war in order to occupy other countries for the sake of natural resources and cheap labour or...;  Cuba sends thousands upon thousands of its health workers around the world to save lives! And of course we all should know about the martyrdom of some 2000 Cuban internationalists in the struggle against the apartheid regime of South Africa.

And the Toronto Star very conveniently evades the matter of the U.S. government's genocidal practices of The Economic, Financial and Trade Blockade of Cuba which is very fundamental in the damages done to Cuba's "feeble economy".  A practice that is condemned by the world over at the United Nations General Assembly year after year with the exception of the largest military/economic power in the world, the U.S. of A, and the Zionist regime of Israel!  And this matter, if the Toronto Star is really worried about Cuba's economic future and "foreign investment" should have been mentioned to show that the paper is not really biased against Cuba; and for embezzlement/corruption and those bad things we all are just  sick of hearing, seeing and reading daily in the media which are part and parcel of a bankrupt profit-driven system!

Well, if the Toronto Star is really worried about the miscarriage of "justice" then it should really cover in its pages the case of the Cuban Five and demand justice for Fabio di Celmo since "justice delayed is justice denied" and most certainly millions of people from Canada who vacation in Cuba must have found it safe and joyous to go there and not "open season on Canadians" as the paper wants us to believe.

Hope in vain that the Toronto Star will correct its very dangerously mistaken approach towards the above story and send a team of its investigative reporters to Cuba to find the truth firsthand instead of relying on the lawyers of a company that got caught red-handed and instead of quoting a desperate conservative MP, Peter Kent, looking for votes in a mainly middle-class neighbourhood which is not a natural friend of socialist Cuba! That could be called "easy" journalism but certainly not a serious and sincere one.

And of course the undersigned is more than ready for a public and open debate with the editorial board members of the Toronto Star in order to get to the bottom of the accusations made against the Cuban Revolution, its leadership and the findings of its justice system so we all can take a just stand when it comes to issues related to Cuba.

Take care and have a nice day.
Morteza Gorgzadeh

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday September 12: Join us in Toronto to demand freedom for the Cuban Five

16 Years: Too Long... Too Wrong!

Join us to demand the
immediate release of the
Cuban Five from U.S.

Friday, Sept. 12
5:30 - 6:30 pm
U.S. Consulate
University Ave. & Armoury Rd.
(just south of Dundas St.)

Sponsored by the Friends of the
Cuban Five - Toronto

The Cuban Five are five Cuban men unjustly imprisoned in the United States after being arrested by the FBI on Sept.12, 1998 and convicted in a federal court in Miami in 2001, in a political prosecution by the U.S. government. They are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.

The Five were falsely accused of committing espionage, conspiracy against the United States, and other related charges. But the Five’s actions were never directed at the U.S. government; they never engaged in nor planned any conspiracy against the government.

As the Cuban Five pointed out in their defense, they were on a mission to monitor the actions of Miami-based terrorist groups in order to prevent more attacks on their country of Cuba. To date terrorist attacks have killed 3,478 Cubans.

The Cuban Five are innocent victims of the continuing economic and political war waged by the U.S. against Cuba and its Revolution. So far, René González and Fernando González have been released after serving their unjust sentences, but the other three remain in prison. Justice demands that all be released immediately and returned to their families and homeland!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Conversation with Miguel Barnet Lanza, Lamrani

Miguel Barnet

"We want a relationship with the United States, but on equal terms, a relationship of reciprocity and non-interference in internal affairs."

Salim Lamrani 
International Journal of Cuban Studies / The Huffington Post

            Miguel Barnet Lanza is a major figure in Cuban culture. President of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), an organization he founded, Barnet is a writer, ethnographer, anthropologist, essayist and poet. He is also a leading politician. A member of Parliament, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and a member of the Cuban Council of State, he is close to Fidel and Raúl Castro. 
            Born in Havana on January 28, 1940, Barnet first attended school in the United States and then studied anthropology at the University of Havana's Institute of Anthropology and Folklore under the aegis of Don Fernando Ortiz, the founder of Cuban anthropology. Ortiz was a specialist in Afro-Cuban culture and is considered to be the third discoverer of Cuba, after Christopher Columbus and Alexander von Humboldt. In homage to his master, Barnet, a Doctor of Historical Sciences, created the Fernando Ortiz Foundation of which he is president. 
            But first and foremost Barnet is a great representative of Cuba and its culture. His work is rich, varied and internationally recognized. Combining literature and anthropology, Biography of a Runaway Slave [Biografía de un cimarrón], a work of extraordinary richness, first appeared in 1966 and has been published in more than 70 different editions around the world. It has also engendered several plays and a number of folk songs. Barnet is the most widely published of all Cuban authors, not only in Cuba, but also around the world.
            A member of the Cuban Academy of Language, Barnet has worked with the greatest of Cuban intellectuals, Alejo Carpentier and Nicolás Guillén for example. He was also a member of the Executive Board of UNESCO from 1996 to 2006 and is regularly invited to lecture at the most prestigious universities in the United States and throughout the world. 
            He has received multiple awards, including the Félix Varela Order, the National Prize for Literature (Cuba), the García Lorca Prize (Spain) and the Medal of the City of Cologne in Germany. He received the José Donoso Prize in Chile for his life's work and the Juan Rulfo Prize in France. Also a scenarist, his film La Bella del Alhambra received in 1990 Goya Award in Spain for the best Spanish-language foreign film. 
            Miguel Barnet is deeply in love with his island. "I am married to Cuba," he likes to say in reference to his celibacy. Affable and appreciated by all, he has the reputation of being extremely knowledgeable. During these conversations, Barnet comments on the economic and social reforms undertaken by Raul Castro. He does not avoid such controversial issues as the space reserved for critical debate in Cuba, or the issues of racism, human rights and generational change. Barnet also expresses himself on the state of the island nation's relations with the United States. The dialogue ends with his comments on the future of Cuba.

            Salim Lamrani: Miguel Barnet, more than a half of century after the triumph of the Revolution of 1959, Cuba is at a crossroad. Could you tell us something about the process of updating the economic model launched by President Raul Castro in 2010? What are its root causes and prospects? 

            Miguel Barnet: In the beginning we were a bit too dogmatic in our conception of socialism. We feared the emergence of a middle class, rich and ostentatious. We needed to control the means of production and the relations of production. All of this is quite legitimate, but it is time to find alternative routes - always socialist - perhaps usufruct, as the country will never sell its land and never lose control of its strategic resources. It is unthinkable that the Cuban Revolution might sell its land at auction. This is something sacred for all Cubans. But I think there has been some stagnation in our society and we are in the process of addressing this problem. I am happy about this turn of events because we need to adapt to the pace of our times. The correlation of forces is different today. While there is no more Cold War, there is a lukewarm war with the United States that prevents us from developing as we would like. 
            So updating the economic model is truly a breakthrough for all Cubans. From a theoretical point of view, the lineamientos (guidelines) have been very well designed, notably by our number one economist, Marino Murillo. I participated in the Party Conference, especially in the meetings that concerned culture. The challenge, however, lies in the implementation of the new economic regulations, but I think we are on the right path. 

            SL: Could you give us a concrete example?

            MB: Certain enterprises need to change their structure. For example, the food industry must go through a radical change because it is not possible that the Revolution, which has been so generous with regard to education, public health, culture and social security, should take charge of restaurants, bars and other food outlets. I have always defended the existence of private family restaurants, known as paladars in Cuba. I am convinced that this type of secondary economy should not be controlled by the state. The State may reserve to itself the right to administer certain iconic businesses, whether historic hotels or restaurants, because they are part of the national heritage. But with regard to small enterprises, they should be managed by well-intentioned people who simply rent a space, buy products and pay taxes. 
            In order to allow this to happen, we needed to create a wholesale market [something that in fact occurred on December 20, 2013]. We recognize that the investment is considerable. Although this is truly the key point of our new business model, it is at the same time our Achilles heel. Still, it is essential to our development. As Raúl Castro said, we follow this path "without haste, but without pause" (sin prisa pero sin pausa). Our reforms are quite positive and respond to the idea of building a "socialism of the twenty-first century". We often speak of cultural, ethnic or sexual diversity. But economic diversity is important as well. It is primordial that all Cubans come to grips with these economic issues with seriousness, diligence and discipline so that they may become the principal actors within this renewal. 
            We are not a rich country. We are basically an agricultural country. At the triumph of the Revolution we were pretentious enough to try to become an industrialized nation. Our ambition was not crowned with success, but we nevertheless managed to develop world class medical, pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries. All of this has been achieved despite the very real obstacles that the United States economic blockade imposes upon us; something that since 1960 has cost us hundreds of billions of dollars. 

            SL: What about culture? 

            MB: The new Cuban business model also relates directly to the spiritual life of the people, to our culture. This is an absolute necessity and something of primordial important if we are to ensure the development of the nation. It is undeniable that spiritual values have strengthened the base of the Cuban Revolution.
            Culture must always be subsidized by the state. Libraries, books, music, art education, film, must all be state subsidized because they promote the cultural policies of the nation. We can accept contradictions in economic policies, but surely not in cultural policies.
            Recall that our illustrious personages, our national heroes, were not only great warriors, great politicians, but also men and women of culture. José Martí, our national poet, united two generations: that of 1868 and that of 1895. These were generations that witnessed two terrible fratricidal wars that eventually led to independence. Fidel Castro, the historic leader of the Revolution, is a man of great culture, a thinker of the first order, who has helped to build a new Latin America, one that is emancipated and unequivocally independent. 
            In terms of culture, it is imperative not to submit to economic considerations. Culture does not have to be profit-making. Its role is much higher. Whenever economic considerations are introduced into the cultural arena, we fall into the trap of mass culture, the culture of banality, the culture of mediocrity, of violence, of pornography, etc. We must pay close attention to that. In order to ensure that their output may be of excellent quality, theaters and cinemas should enjoy the support of the state. We have always defended this principle. If we do not compromise on this fundamental principle, we are saved. However, if culture falls into the hands of private entrepreneurs, it will be permanently lost. This must be avoided at all cost and, in fact, the new model of society that we propose preserves the cultural sector and its core values. 

            SL: Some stress that the space reserved for critical debate in Cuba is rather limited. How do you analyze it? 

            MB: I invite these critics to attend meetings where profound discussions occur. For example, the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) is a laboratory for debate, a forum where all viewpoints are represented. There is a real diversity of opinion within the UNEAC. We organize panel discussions continually throughout the year. Our National Assembly is a hotbed of debate each time it meets. Sometimes we are critical, other times, hypercritical, but we never fall into the trap of indifference or indolence. 
            All Cuban cultural centers are open to critical debate and reserve space for it.  Catauro, the journal that I lead, is one example among others. We have covered the most controversial issues. 

            SL: For example? 

            MB: We have addressed such issues as poverty, marginal neighborhoods, internal migration, sexuality and racism. We have even discussed raising livestock and the sugar industry, which has been dismantled. All of these topics are discussed without any taboos, despite their sensitive nature. And I am speaking only of our publication. 
            Also take the journal Temas, which is extraordinarily rich and organizes debates every Thursday. There are also regular debates at the National Library and, indeed, all across the country. 
            Why are we debating so much? The role of artists and intellectuals is to create and reflection is fundamental if we are to accomplish our function. Debate is good, healthy and legitimate, whether the themes it treats are cultural or political. We want to build a more democratic socialism, one that is more open, more participatory, and in order to do this debate is essential. 
            I am a supporter of debate. My role as president of the UNEAC and president of the Fernando Ortiz Foundation is to stimulate debate and the exchange of ideas. 

            SL: The Fernando Ortiz Foundation was one of the first institutions to address the theme of race in Cuba.

            MB: We initiated one of the first debates on this subject in Cuba, under the title of "integration and racism." It is inconceivable that racial prejudice might exist within socialism and discrimination based on race even more so. 
            In terms of sexuality and sexual diversity, Mariela Castro's organization, CINESEX, is doing a great job. Cuba is one of the most advanced countries in terms of gender equality. No one in Cuba need be ashamed of being gay any longer. 

            SL: Different types of prejudice persist nonetheless. 

            MB: There are still lingering prejudices toward sexual diversity, just as unfortunately some racist prejudices persist. But we cannot say that in Cuba there is racial discrimination. I experienced racism and I have dedicated much of my life to combating it, and not just in my poetry, El Cimarron, or my writings. I have dedicated my life to it and I have thoroughly studied the issue. I can tell you that it is wrong to say that in Cuba there is racism. 
            It is true that there is still a residue of racial prejudice that has not been eliminated by the measures taken since 1959. The first and fiercest opponent of racism was Fidel Castro who, after the triumph of revolution took the first concrete steps toward eliminating it by opening the beaches, social clubs and schools to all Cubans. Blacks and mulattos did not have access to these facilities before 1959. There were private beaches for whites in Cuba. I remember this perfectly well. There were virtually no black doctors. Whites had their own clubs where blacks were excluded. Blacks had to found their own clubs, one of which was the famous Club Atenas, where Fernando Ortiz gave keynote lectures. There was a policy of racial segregation. That was Cuban reality before the Revolution! 
            The Revolution was not made for blacks or for whites, but for the humble and without doubt, among the most humble was the black population. There was no real integration such as we have now. Today, the President of the Cuban Parliament, Esteban Lazo, is black. Mercedes López Acea Lázara, the secretary of the Cuban Communist Party in the province of Havana, the largest province in the country, is a black woman. She is also Vice President of the State Council. 

            SL: Do you think that the criticism levied on the subject of racism is overstated?

            MB: I must admit that it hurts me to hear it said that there is heightened racism in Cuba, because it is simply not the truth. I repeat, racial prejudices still persist and cannot be eliminated in the blink of an eye, because they are deeply rooted in the collective memory and the subjectivity of each of us. But, this problem can be solved through education, starting within the family itself, and then in primary school through university. The fight against racial prejudice is first of all a family responsibility, then that of the educational system. We must conduct a ceaseless struggle against this prejudice so that no one can be discriminated against because of the color of his or her skin. 
            Blacks have made an extraordinary contribution to Cuban culture. Fernando Ortiz was my master. There is no better person than him to promote Cuba's African heritage in its purest and most legitimate dimension. I am a disciple and servant of his work. Ortiz was white, yet he fought the fierce and criminal racism of his era. 

            SL: What are the measures taken against discrimination in the cultural world? 

            MB: I think that discrimination and prejudice of any kind, whether directed at blacks, women or homosexuals, is culturally atavistic. We must always be ashamed of it and fight it with all of our strength. In order to do this within the UNEAC we have created the José Antonio Aponte Commission against discrimination and racism. Aponte was a black man of great prestige. He was a draftsman and a carpenter who, following the example of Bolivar, organized the slave uprising of 1812. Along with his comrades in arms he was decapitated and his head paraded through Havana for having dared to challenge the Spanish empire. 
            There are also people who exploit the racial issue. This is certainly a part of the ideological war waged against us by the United States. In the United States, there is still racial compartmentalization, even if there are black figures in politics, in the cultural sector or in sport. There is still segregation that separates whites from blacks. In Cuba, we will never create exclusively black organizations, for example. This would only exacerbate racism and discrimination. José Martí said that we are all Cubans, regardless of the color of our skin. Being Cuban is far more important that being white, black or mulatto, especially in a revolutionary process like ours, a socialist process where no discrimination whatsoever should exist. One should reflect deeply on these issues and not sow the seeds of discord and division among Cubans. 

            SL: Do dissidents have the opportunity to speak out in Cuba?

            MB: All Cubans are free to express themselves. Don't our dissidents have their own blogs? Are they not constantly active on the Internet? Are they not granted more space in the Western press than me, even though I am the president of UNEAC, even though my books are translated into more than twenty languages, even though my book Biografía de un cimarrón is available internationally in 70 different editions? I invite you to compare the media space granted Cuban dissidents in the international press with that accorded to all members of the UNEAC, the group that represents the world of culture, knowledge and creation in Cuba. Opponents are ten, twenty, thirty times, more present than we are in the Western press. They are absolutely everywhere. They express themselves freely and travel around the world, all expenses paid, on tours worthy of heads of state. I will mention no one, but you know who I mean. Just read the press. If tomorrow I attempt to publish an article in the New York Times, this will be a very difficult task. However, some of our opponents publish regularly in newspapers around the world. 

            SL: Do you think that there is bias in the media? 

            MB: In the 1980s, when my books were published in Spain by the Alfaguara publishing house, I was constantly asked for comments by the press. Now look at what has happened to a newspaper like El País, which reserves its pages to dissidents and states that whoever chooses to live in Cuba is either a coward, a sheep, or in error. They claim that those who support the Cuban Revolution - and this includes me - are either stupid or opportunistic. Now I do not think that Nicolás Guillén, Alejo Carpentier or Leonardo Padura are either cowards, sheep, or opportunists. On the contrary, I am very proud to support the Cuban Revolution, which was radical at the outset. I am very proud to have been born in Cuba. 

            SL: Do you support criticism, even that emanating from sectors of the opposition?

            MB: I respect diversity of opinion and I believe that an intelligent and serious opposition is necessary to the dynamics of the revolutionary process, because criticism is always constructive. On the other hand, I have no respect for people who are financed by a foreign power, who receive money from the diplomatic representatives of the United States here in Havana for the purpose of establishing a program of subversion and who then travel around the world claiming that they are prosecuted and discriminated against in Cuba. These remarks of mine are hardly controversial. All of this information is public and publicly recognized by the government of the United States. Washington admits that it finances the Cuban opposition for purposes of "regime change." This program is enshrined in such legislation as the Torricelli Act of 1992, the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 or the reports of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba in 2004 and 2006. Again, this is all public and known to all. 

            SL: You say that opponents can express themselves freely. Yet they are not present in the National Assembly. 

            MB: To be present in Parliament, you must earn the trust of voters. Nothing prevents these dissidents from standing as candidates. Why do they not do so? Because they have no popular base. The Cuban people reject those who are in the pay of a foreign nation. Our independence cost us dearly and a lot of blood has been shed to achieve it. Many honest Cubans have sacrificed for it, and are worthy of the greatest of all virtues: that of "feeling useful", as José Martí said. You cannot get into the National Assembly by spinning lies or by treachery. Scoundrels do not have a place there. You cannot profit for your own sake from the contradictions of the revolution. 
            I respect critical dissent that helps to create, to construct and to build for a better future. I have great respect for those who are trying to build a more democratic and participatory socialism. I have no respect for those who want the restoration of capitalism in Cuba. We do not want or need a consumer society. 

            SL: It is often said that Cuba is still led by the historic generation that made the revolution and the country is thus dominated by a "gerontocracy." 

            MB: It is always useful to compare the rhetoric, the dominant discourse, with factual reality. I invite the people who say this to go to Cuba and see the average age of the secretaries of the Communist Party in each of the five provinces of the country. It is less than 50. In the National Assembly, the average age is 48, even taking into account that there are among these deputies elected members of the historic generation who are now more than 80 years old. This means that there are many young members. There are also many women MPs, almost half. 
            I believe in the generation that will take over from the historic generation. I believe in this kind of democracy, in a participatory democracy. The reform project we talked about was discussed everywhere. Issues that concern me, particularly culture and society, ware debated in my neighborhood, in the Fernando Ortiz Foundation, in UNEAC and at the National Assembly. I say - and these are measured comments - that there is more democracy in Cuba than in the United States and in many Western countries. Some will accuse me of exaggerating, but I am convinced of this. It does not mean of course that we have created a perfect society, far from it. We have our problems, our shortcomings and our contradictions, all of which we are trying to resolve. But we want to resolve them by ourselves, without foreign interference. 

            SL: You believe that Cuban society is more democratic than that of the United States? 

            MB: Absolutely. Here, there are no children in the streets, abandoned to their fate. There are no older people without the security of a social support network. It is true that salaries are low, but the most vulnerable are not left to fend for themselves as is the case in most of the countries that attempt to teach us lessons. 

            SL: What is the importance of culture for Cuba? 

            MB: Let me tell you a story. Following the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, we experienced an economic crisis such as we had never seen before. We found ourselves alone, abandoned by all, delivered to our fate. There was nothing to eat in the country. We all suffered from hunger. At a meeting of the UNEAC, amidst all of these difficulties and shortages, Fidel Castro said: "The first thing that must be saved is culture." He knew perfectly well that culture would safeguard the values required for sustainability. Culture strengthens you in every battle, especially in a battle like ours, an endless struggle against a United States that refuses to accept a sovereign Cuba. 

            SL: In the West, in Europe and the United States, whenever one mentions Cuba, the issue of human rights immediately arises. What do you say to those who stigmatize Cuba on this subject?

            MB: I would say there is no freedom without justice and without social equality. The most important right is the right to life. Life without health, without education is a life without culture, a life that is not worth living. I will say no more. 

            SL: How is Fidel Castro and how does he use his time? 

            MB: I think Fidel Castro is in good health given the circumstances. He dedicates his time to writing, and I believe that his thoughts have great political depth. The different volumes he has published constitute a master class for politicians and intellectuals. I consider myself a Marxist, and I am in favor of dialectical and historical materialism, because without class struggle, it is impossible to interpret history. I became a revolutionary through the speeches and actions of Fidel Castro. I was prepared to go to live in the United States, to work there at a university, but finally, I stayed. I had my contradictions from the beginning. I have a poem entitled "Revolution" that says: "Entre tú y yo hay un montón de contradicciones que se juntan para hacer de mí el sobresaltado que se humedece la frente y te edifica" [Between you and me many contradictions come together to make of me the exalted one who with dampened brow enlightens you.] I do not deny my own contradictions and we have all lived in the midst of these contradictions. But for my part, they have strengthened and enriched me. 
            Fidel is a man who is very attached to people. I remember his speech on climate change in 1991 in Brazil, and the dangers it represents for us. What insight! He was ahead of his time. We are in the process of destroying our planet. At a recent meeting I had with him, I was deeply affected by his interest in nature and ecology. He has studied both thoroughly and he cares deeply about the future of the human race. He is a great humanist. Whenever I have the privilege of being with him, I like to listen to him because he is a moral giant. That is why another giant, Chávez, considered Fidel to be a father figure and followed his example when he achieved integration of the Americas through the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas), thereby placing Latin America on the highest of pedestals. Thanks to the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro, Latin America has changed its destiny. Fidel Castro is one of the greats of this continent, someone who occupies a place alongside Bolívar and Martí. The only difference is that he is alive. What a privilege to live in the era of Fidel Castro! 

            SL: How do you explain the presence of Raúl Castro in power? Some speak of nepotism.

            MB: Raúl Castro is not President of Cuba because of his relationship to his brother, Fidel Castro, but rather because his presidency has historical legitimacy and also because he was elected. Raúl I know because I frequently encounter him in the National Assembly or at meetings of the Party Committee. If Fidel's Cuba, with all its complexities and problems, is tattooed on his body and on his heart, it is exactly the same for Raúl Castro. He is absolutely aware of all of the country's problems, whether societal or economic. Raúl deserves all possible accolades. Do you know what Raúl's middle name is? 

            SL: No. 

            MB: His full name is Raúl Modesto. I think that middle name suits him very well, because he has been modest throughout the revolutionary process. He demonstrates every day that he deserves his position. He is very close to Fidel, as he has been throughout his life, whether at the Moncada, in the Sierra Maestra or after the triumph of the Revolution. 

            SL: Let's talk about relations with the United States. Is Cuba willing to normalize relations with Washington? 

            MB: Cuba is ready and prepared for normalization. The Cuban people have a political consciousness that has been developed through our experiences. We have had many strikes against us for half a century and we have suffered many disappointments. Our relationship with the United States has been complex since the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The United States had always been intent upon seizing Cuba and the entire continent. When they realized that this was impossible because Latin America had produced such men as Miranda and Bolivar, they fell back on a more modest goal, that of seizing Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. 
            But Cuba had its own warriors capable of making the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Our heroes burned their own homes and properties and took up arms against Spain. But the United States destroyed our dream of independence with its intervention in 1898 and the imposition of the Platt Amendment (on the Cuban constitution), actions that allowed them to dominate us. Moreover, the criminal blockade imposed on us by Washington for half a century now is a way of subjecting us to its insatiable desire for domination. It is a way of imposing perpetual obstacles to our economic development. But it is also a way for them to feel present in Cuba, because the United States has never accepted having lost control of our country in 1959. They want to impose their hegemonic power, they want to strangle us. 
            Cuba has always been disposed to dialogue and negotiation. As people we are close to each other, we are brothers. U.S. culture has always had a great influence in Cuba. Jazz was born in the United States, but it is also Caribbean. Jazz is a process of transculturation and a hybridization of Caribbean rhythms and genres. We have contributed to the development of Latin jazz. Thanks to these influences, we never fell into the trap of schematism, or into that horrid thing called socialist realism. 
            The American people and particularly its artists have a lot of respect for us, but the U.S. government does not respect the dignity of the Cuban people. Our people have been defiled and humiliated by the interventions of the United States throughout our history. Cuban separatists who had fought for more than 30 years against the Spaniards were prevented from entering Santiago de Cuba by the U.S. Army in 1898. This affront will be forever etched in the memory of our people. 

            SL: Let's talk now about the case of the five Cuban agents imprisoned in the United States since 1998 for infiltrating violent Cuban exile groups. One of them, René González, was released in October 2011 after having served his sentence. A second, Fernando González, was also released in February 2014. Do you think a political solution can be found in this case? 

            MB: The Five, as we call them here in Cuba, are very dear to the Cuban cause. They are held close to the hearts of more than 11 million Cubans. We have repeatedly called for their release because they are innocent. They were sentenced for fighting against terrorism, for preventing attacks against our country. I would remind you that since the triumph of the Revolution, 3,478 Cubans have died because of terrorist attacks carried out by the CIA and Cuban exiles. I hope that a political solution will be found quickly. 

            SL: Is Cuba willing to make a humanitarian gesture in the case of Alan Gross, a U.S. State Department employee who has been jailed in Havana since 2009 and is serving a 15-year sentence in prison for providing material support to the opposition? 

            MB: I cannot answer this question because it is not my role to do so. But, from a personal point of view - and this is only my opinion - that were the United States to liberate the Cuban Five, Alan Gross would return home immediately. I speak as Miguel Barnet, not on behalf of the nation. 

            SL: What kind of relationship does Cuba want with the United States? 

            MB: We want a relationship with the United States, but on equal terms, a relationship of reciprocity and non-interference in internal affairs. Our independence has required many sacrifices of us. Many good and noble women and men have lost their lives for the freedom of our country. We are not therefore disposed to negotiating our sovereignty. We do not want relations based on submission, asymmetry or inequality. We wish to live with dignity and we are not ready to give it up. 
            The United States is unable to understand our idiosyncrasies. I had the privilege of going to the Institute for International Relations and I remember my meeting in New York with William Rogers, who had served as Secretary of State under Nixon, that is to say, he has been their minister of foreign affairs. We hit it off well and he invited me to lunch. He asked me where I had learned to speak English. I told him that I had studied the language in Cuba, but that I had also lived in the United States. "Then why do you live in Cuba?" he asked. "For the same reason that leads you to live in the United States, because I was born in Cuba," I replied. "But are there not too many problems there?" he insisted. "No more than here. You know this better than me because you were Secretary of State. And this is not to mention the problems you have created worldwide," I retorted. I then asked why successive U.S. administrations had failed to understand the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro, while we had only wanted normal relations. You know what he said? 

            SL: What did he say? 

            MB: He told me verbatim: "It is because we are used to dealing with losers and Fidel Castro is a winner." I thanked him and I think that this was the deepest, most profound political reply that I have ever received concerning the conflict between Cuba and the United States. 

            SL: How do you see Cuba's future? 

            MB: I do not have a crystal ball, but I see the future of Cuba as I would like it to be, with young people making the necessary changes and building a more egalitarian and democratic socialism. I strongly believe in the youth who, for the most part, are revolutionary. You need only give them the opportunity and the space and they will create their own way. I've always been very optimistic, despite all the blows that life has dealt us, and I am happy to live in Cuba. 

Translated from the French by Larry R. Oberg.

A Doctor of Iberian and Latin-American Studies at the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne, Salim Lamrani is a lecturer at the University of La Réunion and a journalist specializing in relations between Cuba and the United States. 

Salim Lamrani's latest  book is The Economic War Against Cuba, New York, Monthly Review Press, 2013, with a prologue by Wayne S. Smith, a foreword by Paul Estrade and translated by Larry R. Oberg.