www.peoplesworld.org 23 January 2013
Continuing with U.S. efforts to undermine Cuba's government from within, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2008 contracted with Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) of Maryland to send Alan Gross to Cuba.
Now in prison there with a 15-year sentence for espionage-type actions, Gross is widely viewed as the ideal candidate for an exchange that would return four Cuban anti-terrorists jailed in the United States to their homes. They, the "Cuban Five," include the paroled Rene Gonzalez.
In court proceedings January 15, DAI introduced documents outlining USAID objectives and describing Alan Gross's activities during five trips to Cuba between late 2008 and December 3, 2009, when he was arrested. The company seeks dismissal of Alan and wife Judy Gross' lawsuit alleging that DAI and USAID failed in preparing Alan Gross for dangers a foreign agent would face in Cuba.
In 2001 Gerardo Hernandez was condemned to two life sentences, one of them for conspiracy to commit murder for the shooting down of two planes of Brothers to the Rescue. Gerardo had nothing to do with the shooting down of these planes on February 24, 1996 and the U.S. Government could present no evidence to the contrary. That was a decision of the Cuban Government in defense of its sovereignty after 26 violations of Cuba's airspace by this group.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters joined the international media campaign of solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution, echoing the Venezuelan people who came out in their tens of thousands to proudly declare 'I am Chavez, Chavez is the people!'
First published on 12 January 2013 on www.vivavenezuela.co.uk
For fifteen years, since Hugo Chavez’s first presidential election in 1998, we have been witness to a popular struggle in Venezuela for political and economic power by working class people which has withstood every attempt by imperialism and its local allies to destroy it.
The Bolivarian Revolution and its leader have given hope to hundreds of millions of people in Latin America and have inspired movements throughout the continent and indeed throughout the world. With the support of Cuba and other countries in ALBA Venezuela has put the US completely on the back foot: no longer can it treat Latin America as its back yard. Such developments should be celebrated by every socialist wherever they are.
Yet throughout this time, the SWP has repeatedly attacked the Bolivarian Revolution and denigrated President Chavez. The latest issue of Socialist Worker (12 January 2013) continues in this reactionary vein, joining the international ‘campaign of psychological warfare’ denounced by the Venezuelan government (see our blog).
In an article which expresses no sympathy for the Venezuelan people let alone for Chavez, Dave Sewell parrots standard media views about the emergence of a leadership ‘crisis’ in the country with Chavez unable to attend the presidential inauguration ceremony on 10 January.
Sewell then succinctly summarises the SWP’s contempt for Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. Damning the president with faint praise, Sewell admits that ‘at points he took radical measures’ such as placing the oil industry under direct state control and using the money to fund social programmes, and grudgingly concedes that as result, Chavez ‘became very popular with the workers and poor people.’
Yet it is his use of the past tense that is so revealing. Is Chavez no longer popular? Are we wrong to think that he won the presidential election with a landslide? It is in fact a sleight of hand, necessary because the SWP does not think that anything of historical significance has happened in Venezuela over the last 15 years, and whatever has happened is now dead. Thus, according to Sewell, although the masses rallied to Chavez during the 2002 coup and the bosses’ strike, ‘at the same time a new elite was emerging. This bureaucracy slowly stifled mass struggles.’ And there you have it. The mass struggles were choked, the new elite is in power. There is no more revolution. Now, Sewell says, ‘Venezuela will face a choice between a power struggle at the top, or a mass movement from below that could build a new kind of society.’ It is either one or the other because, as Sewell says, ‘the power of the state [has become] concentrated in Chavez himself.’ Chavez is just an elected dictator.
There is nothing new in what Sewell is saying. Back in 2002, just after the defeat of the coup, SWP leader Chris Harman had already doomed Chavez:
‘[Chavez] top-down approach has also led him to attack the wages and conditions of employed workers, even while talking about help to the unemployed, the semi-employed and the rural poor. It was this that enabled union leader Alfredo Ramos to back the employers' shutdown of industry. In this way, Chavez's own policies played into the hands of those who wanted to overthrow him.'
Ramos backed the bosses’ strike because he was a corrupt reactionary in the pocket of the ruling class. And the fiction, propagated at the time by the ruling class and avidly picked up by the SWP, that Chavez was attacking the workers has been disproved by the massive and thoroughly documented social gains made by the working class and oppressed before and since. Not that you would know the details from Socialist Worker.
Yes, Mike Gonzalez, another SWP leader, had to admit in October 2012 that Chavez’s third presidential victory was due to social programmes bringing ‘real improvements to Venezuela’s poor – local health programmes, free education, limited social housing, cheap food.’ But isn’t this part of what socialism should be? This praise is mealy-mouthed: ‘limited’ social housing is in reality, 250,000 units built between April 2011 and October 2012, and a further three million planned by 2019.
House building on such a scale today would require a revolution in Britain let alone in Venezuela. But even then Gonzalez has to get a further dig in, claiming (without any evidence) that ‘these services are deteriorating, largely because of deep and widespread corruption in the Venezuelan state.’ Every phrase discloses contempt for the revolution.
The SWP has never wanted to engage with what is happening on the ground in Venezuela. Their statements are fundamentally ignorant. Gonzalez tells us that the ‘immediate’ question is ‘the need to rebuild organisations on the ground that will be able to act independently of their rulers, whoever they are.’
This sounds radical – but then what are the communal councils and the factory councils that have sprung up across the country as part and parcel of the Bolivarian Revolution? These organisations exist and are multiplying – they do not have to be ‘rebuilt’. But both Gonzalez and Sewell do not want us to see them so they censor their existence.
At first sight there is a stark contrast between the SWP’s critique of the Bolivarian Revolution and its fawning attitude towards the Labour Party in Britain. But they are two sides of the same reactionary coin. Has anyone heard or read the SWP attacking Jeremy Corbyn or John MacDonnell for their continued membership of a racist, imperialist war-mongering party and all the compromises that entails? Or Tony Benn?
The SWP never places any demands or conditions on Labour politicians or councillors; indeed it would regard this as sectarianism and prefers toadying instead. What sort of socialist organisation is it that could support Ken Livingstone in the 2012 London mayoral election? Or Labour in the 2010 General Election? The SWP demands so little of itself and its allies, but so much of Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution.
Yes there is a crisis in Venezuela. A revolution is made up of a succession of crises. What matters is the outcome of each – does the process move forward, are the revolutionary forces strengthened? Or do they face a set-back requiring a new approach? We are confident that with or without Huge Chavez, the Bolivarian Revolution will move forward. But the SWP has to want the revolution to fail to prove its political point.
We cannot mince words. The position of the SWP on the Bolivarian Revolution is thoroughly reactionary and chauvinist. It has no concept of a real struggle for socialism with all its problems and vicissitudes: instead it serves up a cocktail of idealist schema laced with borrowings from the imperialist media. Its position on the Labour Party is based on the same adaptation to imperialism. We have argued for a long time that it is impossible to remain a socialist and be a member of the Labour Party. Now we have to ask: how is it possible to be a socialist and remain in the SWP?
For more on the SWP and Venezuela see a review of a pamphlet by Joseph Choonara:
And on the SWP’s support for the Labour Party see: www.revolutionarycommunist.org/index.php/labourtrade-unions/1668-swp-tells-us-to-vote-for-imperialism-war-racism-and-repression
First published on 6 January 2013 on www.vivavenezuela.co.uk As Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez remains seriously ill in hospital in Cuba, following complicated surgery for cancer, the vultures of reaction are circling. Counter-revolutionary forces within Venezuela and their backers in the US, UK and Europe are conducting what National Assembly President and United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader Diosdado Cabello has described as ‘a psychological campaign of media warfare’ in an attempt to foment the destabilisation of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Despite a clear statement from Venezuela’s vice-president Nicolas Maduro, who recently visited Chavez in Cuba, that the president, although in a very delicate and serious condition, is walking and talking and indeed keen to discuss politics and the economy, Venezuela’s privately-owned newspapers and the international media have consistently exaggerated rumours of Chavez’s condition and accused the president of lying about his illness. They have also attempted to whip up uncertainty about what will happen if, as seems likely, Chavez is not well enough to travel back to Caracas in time to be sworn in for his fourth term as president on 10 January. Some leaders of the opposition group Mesa de Unidad Democratica are demanding that fresh presidential elections be held immediately.
In reality, as the governing party has made clear, Article 231 of the constitution provides for the swearing-in to be held before the Supreme Court at a later date.
But the big lie perpetrated by the bourgeois press is, as ever, that without Hugo Chavez there can be no Bolivarian Revolution – that it lives or dies with him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite Chavez’s definitive victory in the October Presidential elections and the mass popular support and admiration he enjoys as the living embodiment of the aspirations of the Venezuelan people, the Bolivarian Revolution has never been about just one man. It is a revolution being built from below, by the conscious organisation of the Venezuelan working class to transform society from one of neoliberal exploitation, hunger, sickness and poverty for the majority, to one built on the model of collective, socialist organisation and production. In the last ten years, Venezuela has achieved the lowest levels of inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient of any country in the region; it has wiped out illiteracy, brought infant mortality down from 25 per 1,000 to 13 per 1,000 live births, slashed levels of extreme poverty, provided free health care and education for all, built hundreds of thousands of units of social housing and ensured that – unlike in Britain – no child goes to school hungry in the morning.
The Venezuelan people will not allow these vital gains to be lost. The tremendous popularity of the governing PSUV was demonstrated again in December’s regional elections, where the party won 20 out of 23 states. On Saturday, the National Assembly will convene for its 2013 session and members of the new executive, chosen by Chavez immediately after the October elections, will take their seats, led by vice-president Nicolas Maduro. They will implement the Programa Patria manifesto on which Chavez was elected – step by step, task by task, with the Venezuelan people, ‘developing socialism beyond the point of no return’. Our task here is to combat the lies of the imperialist press and build solidarity with that process.
The RCG sends it solidarity greetings to Comrade President Hugo Chavez and wishes him a full recovery from his long and painful illness. Comandante, we salute you.
Bolivia nationalized two electricity distribution companies owned by Spanish utility Iberdrola on 29 December 2012, the latest move by leftist President Evo Morales to assert control over the country's resources.
First published in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
The new migration laws to be enacted on 14 January 2013 present a challenge to US imperialism and should bring political and economic benefits to Cuba. Announced in October 2012, the legislation removes the requirement of an exit visa, known as a ‘white card’, and letter of invitation for Cubans planning to travel overseas, and extends the period for which Cubans may stay overseas without losing citizenship rights. The measures also facilitate the return to Cuba, either permanently or for visits, of Cubans currently living overseas, including those who left illegally or who abandoned internationalist missions. HELEN YAFFE reports.
First published in Granma Written by Hugo Moldoz Bolivian Journalist
Evo Morales hit the nail on the head. The President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, in his remarks to the United Nations General Assembly, asserted that dominating the world scene today are two counter-posed forces: imperialism’s offensive to re-colonize the world, on the one hand, and, on the other, the rebellion of peoples and states seeking their full independence, or at least greater autonomy.
The words of Bolivia’s, and Latin America’s, first indigenous president left no stones unturned. Evo spoke in a measured tone and in the few minutes he stood before other presidents from around the world, he cited concrete historical examples. He insisted on the nefarious role being played on a world scale by imperialism, led by the United States, with the complicity of the United Nations.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Venezuela have agreed and begun to implement measures to execute their 2009 memorandum of understanding (MOU) towards the elimination of malaria in West Africa. Under the MOU, which was signed during a first high-level ministerial visit to Venezuela, the country agreed to provide 20 million U.S. dollars to support an ECOWAS vector control program of malaria elimination through biolarvidicing. Biolarvicides are sprayed on the habitats of mosquitoes to eliminate their larvae, one of the stages in the evolution of mosquitoes. ECOWAS and the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday, 1st December 2012, signed the Work Plan for the implementation of a 2009 Letter of Intent between them for the elimination of Malaria in West Africa.The Agreement was initialled by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Desiré Ouedraogo, and the Venezuelan Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs for Africa, Reinaldo Bolivar on the sidelines of the 69th Ordinary session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers.
From Granma, November 2, 2012
THE U.S. Interests Section in Havana continues to function as the general staff in charge of implementing the government's policy of subversion toward Cuba, which has as one of its principal goals the fabrication of an opposition movement challenging the legitimate Cuban government and fomenting internal destabilization, in order to provoke a 'regime change' in the country.
As the U.S. tries to recover from the impact of Hurricane Sandy on our shores, Cuba is facing an immense humanitarian tragedy, with long-term implications for its economy, food security, and its future.
Sandy hit Cuba last Thursday, October 25th, staggering the Eastern side of the island with the knock-out punch of a Category 2 hurricane. Winds gusted in excess of 108 miles per hour. According to preliminary estimates, the storm killed 11 Cubans and caused more than $2 billion in losses.
On Saturday 15 September, Rock around the Blockade activists took to streets in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow to mark 14 years of unjust incarceration of the Cuban 5 in the US and to demand their release.
Rallies in each city publicised the case of these five anti-terrorist heroes who are being held as political prisoners for simply trying to defend Cuba from terrorist attacks that were being planned from within the US.
Speeches at the rallies highlighted the example of Cuba’s Revolution, which shows that there is an alternative to the poverty, war and environmental destruction of today’s imperialist-dominated world. The persecution of the Five is just part of a continual campaign to destroy the revolution and wipe out this alternative.
One of the Cuban Five, Fernando Gonzalez had written to Rock around the Blockade from gaol in the US to support the day of action. His words were read out at the rallies: ‘As you get together today to show your commitment to the struggle for our release from prison, we express our gratitude to all of you as well as our decision to withstand any circumstances and remain in the fight for justice for as long as it takes to achieve it.’
Regretfully we are cancelling the Rock around the Blockade (RATB) meeting, ‘Free the Cuban 5: The Struggle Continues’, which was due to take place at Bolivar Hall in London on Saturday 15 September.
Instead we will be holding a demonstration for the Cuban 5 on the same day, to mark 14 years of their unjust imprisonment (see below for details).
The reason for the cancellation is that our guest speaker, Cuban activist Lázaro Oramas, was unable to get a visa from the British consulate before the date of the meeting. Other invited speakers were also unable to attend for various reasons.
Instead of the meeting we will be marking 14 years of unjust imprisonment for the Cuban 5 with a street rally in Angel, North London on the same day. We hope that you can join us to raise the profile of the case and demand justice for the Five.
Street Rally for the Cuban Five
Saturday 15 September
1 – 3pm
Outside Angel tube station, North London
First published in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012
‘Socialism and discrimination are incompatible’. (Mariela Castro, director of Cenesex)
The exuberant parade down the main street of Cienfuegos in Cuba on 17 May to celebrate the country’s fifth annual International Day against Homophobia should lay to rest the old lie peddled by Cuba’s detractors on the right and so-called ‘left’ alike, that socialist Cuba abuses gay rights.
The event, the culmination of three days of arts and music events, film showings, educational events and lectures by different lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groupings in the country, was organised by CENESEX, Cuba’s National Centre for Sexual Education, which over the last ten years has been pioneering the transformation of Cuban society in relation to LGBT rights under the slogan ‘Diversity is Natural’. CENESEX aims to contribute to ‘the education of society in general...about respect for people’s free and responsible sexual orientation and gender identity, as an exercise in equity and social justice.’
First published in www.themilitant.com
By Louis Martin and Doug Nelson
Recently released court documents concerning requests by Cuban revolutionary René González to return to his country now that he has served his prison term in the U.S. illustrate once again the determination of Washington to impose the highest possible price on the men and women of Cuba who have made and continue to defend a socialist revolution 90 miles from U.S. shores.
An international campaign is fighting to free González and his four comrades—Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González—known internationally as the Cuban Five.
The five were living and working in southern Florida where, at the request of Cuban security services, they monitored activities by armed Cuban-American counterrevolutionary groups with a long record of violent attacks on Cuba and supporters of the Cuban Revolution, and kept Havana informed.
The decision by Ecuador’s President Correa on 16 August to offer diplomatic asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange exposes sharply the moral and political chasm on human rights between, on the one hand, the progressive socialist government of Ecuador and its allies in the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA), and on the other, the corrupt and vicious British state.
The high-handed threat by British Foreign Secretary William Hague that the UK has a legal basis, under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and arrest Assange, has provoked fury throughout Latin America. ‘We are not a colony!’ stated Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino and described the British threats as ‘unacceptable and a menace to all the countries of the world’.
First published in Granma Internacional on 16 August.
CUBA won the most medals among Latin American and Caribbean countries in the 30th Olympic Summer Games, though Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Venezuela and Mexico put on brilliant performances in London as well, leading to high hopes for the next time around, the first Olympics to be held in South America, Río de Janeiro 2016.
Cuba (placing 16th in the London medal count) regained the lead in Latin American medals after being replaced by Brazil in Beijing 2008, with five gold medals, two from boxers Robeisy Ramírez and Roniel Iglesias. Cuban boxing, which did not win a single title four years ago, recovered the prestige it has always enjoyed, as one of the best schools on the planet.
First published in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012
After winning his second Olympic gold medal at Montreal Olympics in 1976, Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson refused all bribes by international promoters to encourage him to defect from Cuba with the words: ‘What is one million dollars compared to the love of eight million Cubans?’
Teofilo Stevenson, the Cuban boxer regarded as one of the greatest in the world, died of a heart attack in June at the age of 60. Born to poor immigrant parents, Teofilo benefited from the new social programmes introduced by the revolutionary government after 1959. He went on to become three-time amateur world champion and three times Olympic gold medallist. Many argued that he was in the same league as, if not better than, Muhammad Ali, regarded by many as the greatest boxer ever to have lived. At his death, Muhammad Ali paid tribute to Teofilo, stating: ‘He would have been a formidable opponent to any reigning heavyweight champion or challenger. He was one of the greats of the world. May he rest in peace.’
By Eva Gollinger first published on 19 July in Postcards from the Revolution