Cuba

  • Pulished on 23 May 2016 by Granma.

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    On Saturday, May 21, the leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz, held a friendly meeting with compañero Evo Morales Ayma, president of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, at the end of his visit to Cuba.

    Fidel and Evo recalled important moments in the ongoing process of regional integration, and highlighted the contribution of Hugo Chávez and Cristina Fernández de Kichner to the initiative. They also addressed the fraternal and growing collaboration ties between the two countries; discussed events currently occurring in Latin America and attempts by imperialist forces to destroy the socio-political movement in the hemisphere, whilst also warning of the grave threat such actions pose to humanity.

    The warm and touching encounter served as another example of the shared vision of both leaders, and the genuine ties of friendship and cooperation which unite Cuba and Bolivia.

  • Published on 25 January 2016 by Granma

    trinidad and tobago

    In the midst of the Caribbean, stand the “Twin Towers,” as the Eric Williams Financial Complex, located on Independence Square, Port of Spain, is known to locals.

    There is no other building as tall as this in Trinidad and Tobago, nor the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean, consisting of a pair of 22-story skyscrapers at a height of 302 feet (92m). Its construction, managed by architecture firm Anthony C. Lewis Partnership, started in 1979 and was completed in 1986. The first tower of the complex houses the country’s Central Bank, while the second is home to the Ministry of Finance.

    The complex, also known as Eric Williams Plaza, was named after Eric Eustace Williams, first prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and also a noted historian and founder of the People's National Movement (1955).

    However, a few days on this island were enough to discover that “Sweet T&T”, as Trinidadians refer to their country, is a site of coincidences. Because there, in the northern central region of the island of Trinidad, which “floats” adjacent to the Orinoco Delta, stands another building with the same name, whose significance, at least in terms of life and death, is much more striking.

    They say the omen is usually “bad” when one arrives at the emergency room of a hospital. Perhaps it seemed so for the young man – about whom Dr. Rodolfo Arozarena Fundora now talks – who probably did not realize that Cuban hands, along with others from this land, were working to reverse his bleak prognosis. This is just one of the many stories that the Cuban medical brigade, collaborating in the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, has to tell.

  • Published on 28 April 2016 Sky News

     

    Helen Yaffe on Sky News talking about British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond's visit to Cuba.

  • Published on 6 January 2016 by ACN

    elam congo

    As part of bilateral cooperation relations between Cuba and Congo, nearly 850 young people from that African nation will travel to the island to take medicine courses.

    Congolese Health minister Francois Ibovi was at the Brazzaville airport of Maya Maya to see off the future medical doctors who will return home to serve their people, the Cuban Foreign Ministry informed on its webpage.

    The minister, who was accompanied by Cuban ambassador Manuel Serrano, expressed his gratitude to The island for offering his people the professional training.

    This will be the third group of Congolese students to take courses in Cuba, which joins another 1200 who are already studying medicine here.

  • Published 24 April 2017 by Granma

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    Fully committed to the use of solar energy, one of the essential future renewable energy sources for Cuba and a basic element on the path to changing our energy system, Cienfuegos province already has four solar parks running at full capacity and is working toward completing the fifth.

    Jesús Rey Pérez Crespo, director of the Cienfuegos Electric Company, reported that the four parks have a combined generation capacity of 11.2 MW. Once the fifth park comes into operation this year, this capacity will reach 16 MW, he noted.

    The new facility, located in Yaguaramas, Abreus municipality, will be the largest of the territory up until now. It covers an area of more than seven hectares and includes 19,400 solar panels.

    Pérez Crespo explained that close to 80% of the civil construction works have been completed.

    Backed by the “Mofcom Program of nine MW” (five MW here and four in Pinar del Río), the park received a Chinese technological donation, while the Cuban side is assuming the construction and assembly phases.

    The director revealed that this year construction works will begin on a further two solar parks in Ariza, Rhodes municipality, and in Aguada de Pasajeros. Both will start operations in 2018 and with these the province will reach a total capacity of 26 MW.

    Several solar parks are to be installed in Cienfuegos up until 2030, in order to exceed 50 MW of generation capacity.

  • Published on 4 September 2015 by Cuban News Agency

    education

    The demand abroad of Cuban professors of different subjects relevant to technical education has increased this year, thus bringing financial benefits to the island´s Education system.

    Technical Education director Eugenio Gonzalez said that the number of countries requiring Cuban services continue to increase, with requests of professors in areas such as electricity, mechanics, agronomy, math, physics, civil construction and others.

    During 2014, these academic services translated for the Cuban Education Ministry into an income calculated at 15.4 million dollars, while that figure is expected to reach 17 million dollars this year.

    The directive recalled that following the latest Cuban Pedagogy Congress last February there was a diversification of subjects requested by different countries, whose requests went from methodological assistance to direct instruction services.

    Some of these requests come from Central American countries, but most of them are issued by Caribbean and African nations, said the official who regretted that at times they are not able to cope with all the demands due to the language barrier.

    He insisted that in order to attend to those needs, Cuban professors must particularly learn English, French or Portuguese as their mastery of these languages is later evaluated by expert commissions in the client countries.

  • Published on 26 January 2016 by Granma

    marti

    The ideas of José Martí are central to Cuba’s history and represent the embodiment of the nation’s identity. What is more, without Martí there would be no Fidel, because Fidel is a successor, a consequence, a fruit of the good tree named José Martí, stated outstanding Brazilian theologian, Frei Betto, speaking with Granma, January 25 during the inauguration of the Second International Conference

    “With all, for the good of all.” During the event, held in the Havana Convention Center, Frei Betto, spoke about his symposium entitled ‘The role of ethics in development policies,’ stressing the importance of this issue for the island, currently working toward the normalization of relations with the United States, and updating of its economic model. 

    Among others in attendance at the opening ceremony were Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, first vice president of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, and a member of the Party Political Bureau; Armando Hart Dávalos, director of the Martí Program Office; José “Pepe” Mujica, former president of Uruguay; and Ernesto Samper, secretary general of the Union of South American Nations 

  • Published on 4 August 2016 by teleSUR.

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    Defence of the Spanish Republic during Spain’s civil war is probably the most well-known modern European example of a highly organized and committed progressive solidarity movement. Currently, international solidarity activity in the Americas and in Europe remains closely associated with progressive political movements and governments working to defend their peoples against NATO country aggression of one kind or another. They do so despite determined efforts at co-option by Western governments and corporations along with their media and NGOs.

    Selfless people in solidarity with grassroots resistance from Palestine to Mexico have made huge sacrifices trying to defend vulnerable communities from aggression and abuse. In Palestine, Rachel Corrie’s supreme valour put the US government and its NATO country allies to shame for their abject collusion in Israel’s destruction of the Palestinian people. In Oaxaca, activist reporter Brad Will was murdered covering yet more repression by systemically corrupt, violence-addicted authorities in Mexico. Recently in Honduras, international solidarity activists bravely confronted the notoriously violent Honduran security forces in order to commemorate Berta Caceres and defend her legacy of resistance.

  • Published on 1 May 2017 by Granma

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    May 1, a march celebrating International Workers Day took place in Havana, with Army General Raúl Castro, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, on hand.

    Fifty thousand youth led the parade of workers in the capital on May Day which was dedicated to them this year, as the present and future of the homeland.

    Cubans are motivated to march by the Revolution's social conquests, its continuity into the future, and the challenges of building a more just, prosperous, and sustainable society.

    Many generations of Cubans came out to pay tribute to Fidel and to Che, on the 50th anniversary of his death in combat; to defend the country's sovereignty, demanding an end to the U.S. economic, financial, commercial blockade and the return of territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base.

    Below follows the full text of speech by Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, member of the Party Central Committee Political Bureau and secretary general of the Cuban Workers Federation, during Havana's May Day commemoration 

    Speech by Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, 

  • Published on 24 July 2016 by teleSUR.

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    Today, progressives throughout the world could learn many lessons from the July 26 1953, Moncada attack led by Fidel Castro, writes Arnold August.

    In 1953, when virtually all the progressive and revolutionary forces in Cuba offered no viable solution to oppose the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship, Fidel Castro and his comrades did indeed work out a path. It was a route characterized by game-changing statements inexorably coupled with exceptionally courageous deeds, out of which emerged the July 26 Movement.

    This movement, supported by allies who later rallied to the cause, led to the January 1 1959 triumph of the revolution. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. However, history is still being made today as Cuba endures major challenges.

  • Published on 7 April 2016 by Cubadebate. Written by Agustín Lage Dávila
     
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     I had the chance to participate in various meetings with the delegation that accompanied President Obama [to Cuba] and hear him speak three times; and now I feel a need to share my interpretation of what he said, and also what he didn’t say— since in politics what is left out is often as important as what is said.

    There are two complementary angles from which to interpret both this visit and the entire process of attempting to normalize relations: what they mean for assessing the past, and what they mean as we move towards the future.

    Looking to the past, it is clear that the recently initiated process of normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States must be interpreted as a victory, writ large, of the revolutionary and socialist people of Cuba, of their convictions, their capacity for resistance and sacrifice, their culture, their ethical commitment to social justice; and as a victory for Latin American solidarity with Cuba.

    There are some things so obvious to us Cubans that sometimes we forget to underscore them.

    • This normalization process was started during the lifetimes of the historic leadership of the Revolution, and has been conducted by leaders of that same generation.
    • It implied recognition for the institutional legitimacy of Cuba’s revolution, recognition denied to our Liberating Army in 1898, and also to the Rebel Army in 1959 (although, yes, accorded to the dictatorships of Gerardo Machado and Fulgencio Batista).
    • It included explicit recognition of the Revolution’s accomplishments, at least in education and health (the two that were mentioned).
    • It included explicit recognition of Cuban assistance offered in solidarity to other peoples of the world, and its contribution to such noble causes as global health and the elimination of apartheid in Africa.
    • It included explicit acceptance of the fact that decisions about changes and socioeconomic models in Cuba belong exclusively to Cubans, that we have (and have earned) the right to organize our society differently from the way others do.
    • It implied a declaration to abandon the military and subversive option, as well as the intent to abandon coercion, as instruments of US policy towards Cuba.
    • It expressly acknowledged the failure of policies hostile to Cuba implemented by preceding administrations, which implies (although not declared as such) recognition for the conscious resistance offered by the Cuban people, since hostile policies only fail in the face of tenacious resistance.
    • It recognized the suffering the blockade has caused the Cuban people.
    • This process did not emerge from concessions by Cuba of a single one of our principles; or from backing off on demands to end the blockade and return the illegally occupied territory in Guantánamo.
    • It included public acknowledgment that the United States was isolated in Latin America and the world because of its policy towards Cuba.
    I don’t believe that any reasonable, informed person in today’s world could interpret this normalization process as anything but a victory for Cuba in its historic differendum with the United States.
    Looking to the past, this is the only possible interpretation.
    Now then, looking to the future, things are more complicated, and there are at least two possible and extreme interpretations, as well as their intermediate variations:
    • The hypothesis of perverse conspiracy
    • The hypothesis of divergent conceptions about human society

    Both are being debated on Cuban street corners. Readers should be aware at this point that I don’t plan to argue for one or the other of these two hypotheses, or for any combination of the two. Future developments will put them to the test, and everyone will be able to draw their own conclusions from this “passage into the unknown.”

    Those who defend the hypothesis of perverse conspiracy see President Obama’s words as false promises or subtle deception, at the service of a plan conceived for us to open our doors to US capital and the influence of its mass media; allow a privileged economic sector to expand in Cuba, one that with time would be transformed into the social base for the restoration of capitalism and renunciation of national sovereignty. That would be the first step towards returning Cuba to a country of rich and poor, dictators and gangsters— such as we had in the 1950s.

    Cubans who think this way have the right to do so: many past deeds in our common history justify such enormous mistrust. These are well known and I don’t need to list them here.

    Many people remember the famous phrase attributed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, referring to Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza: “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

    Of course neither President Obama, nor today’s generations of North Americans of good will (and there are many) are to blame, as individuals, for the first stages of this historical journey. But also, undeniably, the history is there and it conditions what they can do and the way we interpret what they do. History’s processes are much longer than a single human lifetime, and events occurring many decades ago influence our options now, because they influence collective attitudes that exist objectively and relatively independent of leaders’ ideas and intentions.

    Even distancing President Obama from the aggressive and immoral policies of previous administrations—those that organized invasions, protected terrorists, fomented assassinations of Cuban leaders and implemented intentions to starve the Cuban people into submission—even establishing this distinction, it can’t be forgotten that Obama alone is not the policy-making class in the United States.

    In all honesty, I should recognize that the impression given by President Obama here wasn’t as conveyor of a perverse conspiracy, but rather as an intelligent, educated man, who believes in what he says. What happens then is that the things he believes in (with every right) are different from those we believe in (also with every right).

    This is the second hypothesis then, the one concerning different conceptions of human society, differences that were quite evident in all that was said and also what was left unsaid, throughout the visit by President Obama and his delegation.

    They made it very clear that the main direction US relations with Cuba will take will be economic, and within the economic arena, the main strategy will be to engage with and support the non-state sector.

    That was very clear, in the speeches and symbolic messages, taking distance from the socialist state-sector economy, as if “state” property were the property of some strange entity, not ownership by the whole people, as it is in reality.

    We agree that a non-state sector should exist in the Cuban economy. In fact, expanded space for self-employment and cooperatives is part and parcel of implementing the Guidelines that emerged from the 6th [Communist] Party Congress. But we disagree on the role that this non-state sector should have in our economy:

    • They see it as the main component of the economy; we see it as a complement to its main component, the socialist state enterprise. As a matter of fact, today the non-state sector, although providing nearly 30% of jobs, contributes less that 12% of the country’s GDP, an indication of its limitations in terms of value added.

    • They pose [the non-state sector] as equivalent to “innovation”; we see it as a sector with relatively low value added. Innovation is found in high tech and science, and their links with the socialist state enterprise. Cubans’ innovative spirit has been expressed over these past few years in many other ways, such as the development of biotechnology, its medicines and vaccines; massive training in new information technologies at the University of Informatics Sciences; urban agriculture; the energy revolution; and many other achievements during the Special Period [of dramatic economic crisis], none of which were mentioned in our visitors’ speeches.

    • They see private initiative as “empowering the people”; we see it as “empowering one part” of the people, and a relatively small part. The people’s role as protagonists is found in the state enterprises, and in our large publicly-funded sector (including health, education, sports and public safety), where the real work is done for all the people and where most of the wealth is created. We can’t accept the implicit message that the non-state sector is equivalent to “the Cuban people”. This wasn’t stated so brutally, but is quite clearly inferred from the discourse.

    • They tacitly separate the concept of “initiative” from state ownership. We see in the state sector our main opportunities for productive initiatives. That’s how I explained it in the Business Forum, using the example of the Molecular Immunology Center where I work, which I described as “a company with 11 million stockholders”.

    • They see the non-state sector as a source of social development; we see it as a double-edged sword, also a source of social inequalities (of which we already see evidence in such things as the recent debates on food prices), inequalities that will have to be controlled by fiscal policies that reflect our values.

    • They believe in the driving force of competition (although this concept has been questioned even by serious ideologues of capitalist economies). We are familiar with its rapacious nature, eroding social cohesion, and we believe more in the dynamic, the driving force, that emerges from programs that consider the whole nation.

    • They believe that the market efficiently distributes investments in response to demand; we believe the market doesn’t respond to real demand, but rather to “demand by those with money in their pockets”, and deepens social inequalities.

    • They base their case on the history of corporate development in the United States, a country whose economy took off in the 19th century, under global economic conditions unrepeatable today. We know that underdeveloped nations with dependent economies face different realities, especially in the 21st century; they won’t develop their economies, or their science and technology, based on small private, competitive initiatives, or by trying to reproduce the path of today’s industrialized countries 300 years later. That would be a recipe for perpetuating underdevelopment and dependence, with an economy designed as an appendage and complement to the US economy, something which Cubans already saw in the 19th century when such dependence submerged us in a single-crop economy and closed the door to industrialization. Understanding this comes from looking at history, and thus, history is something we can’t forget.

    Taking the road to civilized co-existence “with our differences” means the whole Cuban people need to arrive at a deep understanding of those differences, to keep specific and apparently rational decisions on tactical economic questions from leading to strategic errors; and worse still, allowing others to push us towards such errors, by virtue of what is said and what is left unsaid.
    We knew how to avoid such errors at the beginning of the Special Period, when the European socialist camp disappeared and the world was awash in the neoliberal ideology of the nineties. We will know how to do this even better now.

    Civilized co-existence certainly distances us from the risk and barbarity of war (both military and economic), but it doesn’t exonerate us from battling in the field of ideas.

    We need to win this battle of ideas in order to win the economic battle.

    Cuba’s 21st-century economic battle will be fought on three main fronts:
    1. The socialist state enterprise’s efficiency and growth capacity, as well as its insertion in the global economy
    2. The link between science and the economy, through high-tech companies, with products and services of high value added, that expand our export portfolio
    3. Conscious limitation on the extension of social inequalities, through action by the socialist state
    On these fronts the Cubans’ 21st century will be decided.

    The battle of ideas consists of consolidating our thinking and consensus about where we want to go and in concrete terms, how to get there.

    The Florida Straits’ waters shouldn’t be the scenario for war, and it’s very good for everyone that this be so. But for a long time, those waters will continue to separate two different conceptions of how human beings should live together, of the way people organize themselves to work and live in society, and of the distribution of the fruits of their labor. And it’s also very good that this be so. Our ideal for human society is rooted in our historical experience and in the collective soul of Cubans, brilliantly synthesized in José Martí’s thinking. He studied and understood US society better than anyone of his time, and said: “our life has no resemblance to it, nor should it at too many points.”

    Capitalism’s essential belief, even among those who sincerely think so, is that material prosperity is constructed on the basis of private property and competition. Ours is that creativity is motivated by ideals of social equity and solidarity among people, including future generations. Our concept of society represents the future…even if the future takes some time in coming, conditioned objectively by the present. It still represents the future for which we have to struggle.

    Private property and competition represent the past, and although this past still necessarily exists within the present, it continues to be the past.

    You always have to see the concepts behind the words spoken, and the reasons why other words are left unspoken.

    The battle for our ideal of how human beings should live together will be in the hands of today’s generations of young Cubans, who in their time will confront challenges different from the ones faced by 20th-century revolutionaries, but all the same great, transcendental and also more complex.

    Analyzing the these challenges’ complexities, I have to confess I’d like to enlist once again in the Union of Communist Youth, whose membership card (No. 7784 of 1963) sits on the desk in front of me. I’m still a communist, but I’ve had to accept that I’m no longer “young.” Yet what I can do is share with young people an analysis of what is being said today and what has been left unsaid, and together with them construct the intellectual tools we need for the battles ahead.

    José Martí wrote in April, 1895: “The biggest war unleashed against us will be in the realm of ideas: so we will win it with ideas.”

     

  • Published on 7 January 2016 by Telesur English Part of Telesur's coverage of 15 years of Guantanamo Prison

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    Seven years of indefinite detention and extrajudicial killings around the globe belie the president’s once-claimed intent to change the system he inherited.

    Barack Obama, the new U.S. president, was keeping his promise: 48 hours into his presidency and there he was, signing an executive order that called for closing down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year

    “This is me following through,” Obama said from the White House on January 22, 2009. It was his intent to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great,” and he was actually doing it, every ecstatic liberal posting the news on the Facebook wall of their skeptical leftist friend. The United States, the new young president declared, would “observe core standards of conduct not just when it’s easy but also when it’s hard.”

    How refreshing it was, after two terms of waterboarding and the oratory torture of George W. Bush, to hear not just pretty words about American ideals that never were actually put into practice in a nation founded by human enslavement, but for those words to accompany in-real-life action. How disappointing, then, that the gratingly correct cynic was once more proven right: that even the seemingly tangible gestures -- ending the empire, no, but improving its public relations in a way that gave real, actual hope to a few hundred imprisoned men who lacked it -- proved to be little more than yet another photo op

  • Published on 27 October 2015 by Russia Today
     
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    The UN General Assembly has voted 191-2 to condemn the US blockade of Cuba, with only the US and Israel opposed.

    Washington voted against the resolution despite the recent renewal of diplomatic ties with Cuba and the push by President Barack Obama to lift the embargo first introduced a year before he was born.

    The draft resolution urges all member states to “refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures” that furthering the blockade, and those that have such laws to “repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.” It specifically cites the 1996 Helms-Burton Act as one such law, which affects the sovereignty of other states and legitimate interests of their citizens, as well as the freedom of trade and navigation. Helms-Burton penalizes foreign companies for doing business with Cuba.

    Of the 193 member states at the General Assembly, 191 voted in support of the resolution, titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”

    Washington imposed the blockade in 1960, after Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro overthrew the regime of Fulgencio Batista, a US-backed dictator. It has been in place for over 55 years.

    “The time has come to put an end to this unilateral embargo," said the Paraguayan representative, speaking on behalf of Mercosur, a free trade block of seven South American nations.

    “The continuation of the embargo is unjustifiable, and counters Cuba’s effort to achieve sustainable development,” said the Iranian representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

     President Obama announced in December 2014 that he would be changing the US policy on Cuba, arguing that the blockade had not produced the desired effect. In May 2015, the US removed Cuba from the list of countries accused of sponsoring terrorism. The Cuban embassy in Washington reopened in July, and the US embassy in Havana followed suit in August.

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    Published on 6 November 2015 by Counterpunch

    “The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the peoples of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice, unparalleled for its principled and selfless character…Cubans came to our region as doctors, teachers, soldiers, agricultural experts, but never as colonizers. They have shared the same trenches with us in the struggle against colonialism, underdevelopment, and apartheid.”

    — Nelson Mandela

    November 5, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of Operación Carlota, Cuba’s 15-year mission to defend Angola’s independence, which played a decisive role in southern African national and anti-colonial liberation struggles.  Cuba’s extensive and decisive role in the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa is marginalized in the dominant western discourse and narratives. Cuba’s critical contribution is not only, frequently ignored, it is treated almost as if it had never occurred. However, the overarching significance of Cuba’s role cannot be erased.

    Havana initiated Operación Carlota on November 5th, 1975, in response to a direct and urgent request from the government of Angola. Having just achieved independence after a long and brutal anti-colonial struggle, Angola confronted an invasion by racist South Africa. South Africa was determined to destroy the Black government of the newly independent Angola.  Operación Carlota was decisive in not only stopping the South African drive to Luanda (the capital) but also in pushing the South Africans out of Angola. The defeat of the South African forces was a major development in the southern African anti-colonial and national liberation struggle.  At the time, The World, a Black South African newspaper, underscored the significance: “Black Africa is riding the crest of a wave generated by the Cuban success in Angola. Black Africa is tasting the heady wine of the possibility of realizing the dream of “total liberation.”

    Named after the leader of a revolt against slavery that took place in Cuba on November 5, 1843, Operación Carlota lasted more than 15-years. During that time, more than 330,000 Cubans served in Angola. More than 2, 000 Cubans died defending Angolan independence and the freedom and right of self-determination of the peoples of southern Africa.

    Africa’s Children Return!

    Cuba’s solidarity with Angola was not simply one country coming to the aid of another, but a part of the African diaspora – the Black world – rising to the defense of Africa. Since the triumph of Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959, Cuba has engaged in ongoing solidarity with the peoples and the continent of Africa. In tribute to Cuba’s assistance to African liberation struggles, Amilcar Cabral (celebrated leader of the anti-colonial and national liberation struggle in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde) stated: “I don’t believe in life after death, but if there is, we can be sure that the souls of our forefathers who were taken away to America to be slaves are rejoicing today to see their children reunited and working together to help us be independent and free.”

    The Cuban Revolution’s involvement with Angola began in the 1960s when relations were established with the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The MPLA was the principal organization in the struggle to liberate Angola from Portuguese colonialism. In 1975, the Portuguese withdrew from Angola. However, in order to stop the MPLA from coming to power, the U.S. government had already been funding various groups, in particular the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) led by the notorious Jonas Savimbi. In October 1975, South Africa, with the support of Washington, invaded Angola. On November 5th, 1975, the Cuban revolutionary leadership meet to discuss the situation in Angola and the Angolan government’s request for military assistance to repel the South African invasion force. The decision to deploy combat troops thwarted apartheid South Africa’s goal of turning Angola into its protectorate.

    The Cuban leadership justified the military intervention as both defending an independent country from foreign invasion and repaying a historical debt owed by Cuba to Africa. Fidel Castro frequently invoked Cuba’s historical links to Africa. On the fifteenth anniversary of the Cuban victory at Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs), he declared that Cubans “are a Latin-African people.” Jorge Risquet,  Havana’s principal diplomat in Africa from the 1970s to 1990s), was also unambiguous in explaining Cuba’s military intervention in terms of Cuba’s obligations to Africa, and this linkage resonated especially with black Cubans, who were able to make a symbolic connection with their African roots. As scholar Terrence Cannon for many blacks fighting in Angola was akin to defending Cuba except that the fight was “this time in Africa. And they were aware that Africa was, in some sense, their homeland.” Reverend Abbuno Gonzalez underscored this connection: “My grandfather came from Angola. So it is my duty to go and help Angola. I owe it to my ancestors”. General Rafael Moracen echoed this sentiment and the words of Amilcar Cabral: “When we arrived in Angola, I heard an Angolan say that our grandparents, whose children were taken away from Africa to be slaves, would be happy to see their grandchildren return to Africa to help free it. I will always remember those words.”

    Cuban involvement in Southern Africa has been repeatedly dismissed as surrogate activity for the Soviet Union. This insidious myth has been unequivocally refuted.  John Stockwell, the director of CIA operations in Angola during and in the immediate aftermath the 1975 South African invasion, in his memoir, In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story, stated “we learned that Cuba had not been ordered into action by the Soviet Union. To the contrary, the Cuban leaders felt compelled to intervene for their own ideological reasons.” In his acclaimed book, Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington and Africa, 1959-76, Piero Gliejeses demonstrated that the Cuban government – as it had repeatedly asserted – decided to dispatch combat troops to Angola only after the Angolan government had requested Cuba’s military assistance to repel the South Africans, refuting Washington’s assertion that South African forces intervened in Angola only after the arrival of the Cuban forces and; the Soviet Union had no role in Cuba’s decision and were not even informed prior to deployment. In short, Cuba was not the puppet of the USSR. Even The Economist magazine (no friend of Cuba) in a 2002 article, acknowledged that the Cuban government acted on its “own initiative.”

    That Cuba could act on its own initiative, independent of the will of the great powers, was not only an anathema to Washington but also inconceivable. In 1969 Henry Kissinger, a National Security Advisor who then became U.S. Secretary of State,  unambiguously and uncategorically declared:”Nothing important can come from the South. History has never been produced in the South. The axis of history starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, crosses over to Washington, and then goes to Tokyo. What happens in the South is of no importance.” That Cuba – a poor “Third World” country, a Latin-African nation – could act on its own, and through that independent action shape history, enraged Kissinger. At his behest, a number of extensive military plans were drawn up by the Pentagon in 1975 & 1976 to specifically punish the island for daring to defy the imperial order, with its racist global hierarchy. These detailed plans encompassed naval blockade to aerial bombardment to outright invasion. While they were never carried out, these options were seriously discussed and debated within the highest levels of the U.S. government, poignantly illustrating the dangers that Cuba faced and accepted during its internationalist defence of Angola.

    South Africa’s War of Terror

    The survival of the racist South Africa state depended on establishing its domination of all of southern Africa. Towards this end, Pretoria had militarized the South Africa state, fashioning it into the sword to defend the racist system and wage a regional war of terror.

    From 1975 to 1988, the South Africa armed forces embarked on a campaign of massive destabilization of the region. The war of destabilization wrought a terrible toll. The financial and human cost can not only be measured in direct damage and deaths but also in the premature deaths and projected economic loss caused by destruction of infrastructure, agriculture and power networks. While, it is very difficult to estimate the economic cost and damage, it was undoubtedly enormous. One study calculates that up to 1988, the total economic cost for the Frontline States was calculated to be in excess of $US 45 billion: for example, Angola: $US 22 billion; Mozambique: $US 12 billion; Zambia: $US 7 billion; Zimbabwe: $US 3 billion.

    The human toll was immense. The South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission underscored that: “the number of people killed inside the borders of the country in the course of the liberation struggle was considerably lower than those who died outside…the majority of the victims of the South African’s government attempts to maintain  \itself in power were outside South Africa. Tens of thousands of people died as a direct or indirect result of the South African’s government aggressive intent towards its neighbours. The lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands others were disrupted by the systematic targeting of infrastructure in some of the poorest nations in Africa.”

    Between 1981 and 1988, an estimated 1.5 million people were (directly or indirectly) killed, including 825,000 children. This was the result of Pretoria sponsored insurgencies  (namely, UNITA in Angola and Renamo in Mozambique) and direct military actions by the South African armed forces. South Africa launched numerous bombing raids, armed incursions and assassinations against surrounding countries. One notorious example was the 4 May 1978 massacre in a camp for Namibian refugees, located in the town of Kassinga, southwestern Angola, where a South African air and paratrooper attack killed hundreds of people and, also, took hundreds of prisoners.

    Perhaps, the late Julius Nyerere, summed up the situation best when in 1986, as President of Tanzania, he observed: “When is war not war? Apparently when it is waged by the stronger against the weaker as a pre-emptive strike.’ When is terrorism not terrorism?  Apparently when it is committed by a more powerful government against those at home and abroad who are weaker than itself and whom it regards as a potential threat or even as insufficiently supportive of its own objectives. Those are the only conclusions one can draw in the light of the current widespread condemnation of aggression and terrorism, side by side with the ability of certain nations to attack others with impunity, and to organize murder, kidnapping and massive destruction with the support of some permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. South Africa is such a country.”

    The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale

    In 1987-1988, a decisive series of battles occurred around the southeastern Angolan town of Cuito Cuanavale. When it occurred, these battles were the largest military engagements in Africa since the North African battles of the Second World War. Arrayed on one side were the armed forces of Cuba, Angola and the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO), on the other, the South African Defense Forces, military units of the Union for the Total National Independence of Angola (UNITA) – the South African proxy organization) and the South African Territorial Forces of Namibia (then still illegally occupied by Pretoria).

    Cuito Cuanavale was a critical turning point in the struggle against apartheid. From November 1987 to March 1988, the South African armed forces repeatedly tried and failed to capture Cuito Cuanavale. In southern Africa, the battle has attained legendary status. It is considered the debacle of apartheid: a defeat of the South African armed forces that altered the balance of power in the region and heralded the demise of racist rule in South Africa.   Cuito Cuanavale decisively thwarted Pretoria’s objective of establishing regional hegemony (a strategy which was vital to defending and preserving apartheid), directly led to the independence of Namibia and accelerated the dismantling of apartheid. The battle is often referred to as the African Stalingrad of apartheid. Cuba’s contribution was crucial as it provided the essential reinforcements, material and planning.

    In July 1987, the FAPLA, the Angolan armed forces, launched an offensive against UNITA, the apartheid state’s surrogate.  The Cubans objected to this military operation because it would create the opportunity for a South African invasion, which is what transpired. The South Africans invaded, stopped and threw back the Angolan forces. After terrible human and material losses, the Angolans were forced into a headlong retreat to the town and strategic military base of Cuito Cuanavale.

    As the fighting became centred on Cuito Cuanavale, the Angolan Armed forces were placed in an extremely precarious situation, with its most elite formations facing annihilation.  Indeed, Angola faced an existential threat. If Cuito Cuanavale fell to South Africa then the rest of the country would be at the mercy of the invaders.  Angolan General Antonio dos Santos underscored the overarching significance of the town’s defence stating that if they [the South Africans] won at Cuito Cuanavale, the road would be open to the north of Angola.”

    Determined to transform its initial military success into a fatal blow against an independent Angola, Pretoria committed its best troops and most sophisticated military hardware to the capture of Cuito Cuanavale. As the situation of the besieged Angolan troops became critical, Havana was asked by the Angolan government to intervene. On November 15th, 1987 Cuba decided to reinforce its forces by sending fresh detachments, arms and equipment, including tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons and aircraft. Eventually Cuban troop strength would rise to more than 50, 000. It must be emphasized that for a small country such as Cuba the deployment of 50,000 troops would be the equivalent of the U.S. deploying more than a million soldiers, or Canada more than one hundred thousand.

    The Cuban commitment was immense. Fidel Castro stated that the Cuban Revolution had “put its own existence at stake, it risked a huge battle against one of the strongest powers located in the area of the Third World, against one of the richest powers, with significant industrial and technological development, armed to the teeth, at such a great distance from our small country and with our own resources, our own arms. We even ran the risk of weakening our defenses, and we did so. We used our ships and ours alone, and we used our equipment to change the relationship of forces, which made success possible in that battle. We put everything at stake in that action…”

    The Cuban government viewed preventing the fall of Cuito Cuanavale as imperative. A South African victory would have meant not only the capture of the town and the destruction of the best Angolan military formations, but, quite possibly, the end of Angola’s existence as an independent country. The Cuban revolutionary leadership also decided to go further than the defence of Cuito Cuanavale. They decided to deploy the necessary forces and employ a plan that would both put an end once and for all to South African aggression against Angola and deliver a decisive blow against the racist state.   The successful defence of Cuito Cuanavale would be the prelude to a grand and far reaching strategy that would transform the balance of power in the region.

    South Africa’s efforts to seize Cuito Cuanavale were stymied by the Cubans and Angolans. With the South Africans preoccupied at Cuito Cuanavale, the Cubans achieved a strategic coup by carrying-out an outflanking manoeuvre. To the west of Cuito Cuanavale and along the Angolan/Namibian border, Havana deployed 40,000 Cuban troops, supported by 30,000 Angolan and 3,000 SWAPO troops. Pretoria had become so focused on seizing Cuito Cuanavale that they had left themselves exposed to a major military counterstroke.

    The Cubans, together with Angolan and SWAPO forces advanced toward Namibia. This advance exposed the insecurity and vulnerability of the South African troops in northern Namibia. Such was this vulnerability that a senior South African officer said, “Had the Cubans attacked [Namibia] they would have over-run the place. We could not have stopped them.” This was further compounded by South African debacles at the end of June 1988 at Calueque and Tchipia, where the South Africans suffered serious defeats, which were described by a South African newspaper as “a crushing humiliation.” Cuba also achieved air supremacy. Facing the new powerful force assembled in southern Angola and having lost control of the skies, the South Africans withdrew from Angola.

    This defeat on the ground forced South Africa to the negotiating table, resulting in Namibian independence and dramatically hastening the end of apartheid. The regional balance of power had been fundamentally transformed. The respected scholar Victoria Brittan observed that Cuito Cuanavale became “a symbol across the continent that apartheid and its army were no longer invincible.” In a July 1991 speech delivered in Havana, Nelson Mandela underscored Cuito Cuanavale’s and Cuba’s vital role:

    “The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice unparalleled for its principled and selfless character. We in Africa are used to being victims of countries wanting to carve up our territory or subvert our sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people rise to the defense of one of us. The defeat of the apartheid army was an inspiration to the struggling people in South Africa! Without the defeat of Cuito Cuanavale our organizations would not have been unbanned! The defeat of the racist army at Cuito Cuanavale has made it possible for me to be here today! Cuito Cuanavale was a milestone in the history of the struggle for southern African liberation!”

    In 1994, Mandela further declared: “If today all South Africans enjoy the rights of democracy; if they are able at last to address the grinding poverty of a system that denied them even the most basic amenities of life, it is also because of Cuba’s selfless support for the struggle to free all of South Africa’s people and the countries of our region from the inhumane and destructive system of apartheid. For that, we thank the Cuban people from the bottom of our heart.”

    The 1987-88 military reversal in Angola constituted a mortal blow to the apartheid regime. The battle of Cuito Cuanavale ended its dream (nightmare for the region’s peoples) of establishing hegemony over all of southern Africa as a means by which to extend the life of the racist regime.

    Paying Humanity’s Debt

    As a direct witness and participant in Africa’s anti-colonial & national liberation struggles, the late Jorge Risquet  always elaborated on the profound ties that bound Cuba and Africa together. This unbreakable historic connection formed the poignant base for the Cuban Revolution’s solidarity with Africa. In a 2012 speech honouring the great Pan-Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah, Risquet pointed out:

    “This was the understanding with which Cuban fighters came to ancestral Africa to fight side by side with the people against colonialism and the oppressive apartheid regime. For 26 years, 381,000 Cuban soldiers and officers fought alongside African populations — between April 24, 1965, when Ernesto Che Guevara and his men crossed Lake Tanganyika, and May 25, 1991, when the remaining 500 Cuban fighters returned home triumphant…Twenty-four hundred Cuban internationalist fighters lost their lives on African soil. Today we no longer send soldiers. Now, we send doctors, teachers, builders, specialists in various fields.”

    While circumstances may have changed, Cuba’s solidarity with Africa continues. Cuba made a critical contribution to the fight against the Ebola epidemic in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  The Cuban medical mission was by far the largest sent by any country. Standing side-by-side with the peoples of West Africa, Cuban doctors and nurses went to West Africa and joined the struggle against Ebola. 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.”  At the September 16th, 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.” Even the Wall Street Journal declared, “Few have heeded the call, but one country has responded in strength: Cuba.”

    Cuba is often described as the only foreign country to have gone to Africa and gone away with nothing but the coffins of its sons and daughters who died in the struggles to liberate Africa. Cuba’s role in Angola illustrates the division between those who fight for the cause of freedom, liberation and justice, to repel invaders and colonialists, and those who fight against just causes, those who wage war to occupy, colonize and oppress.  The island’s internationalist missions in Africa are a profound challenge to those who argue that relations among the world’s nations and peoples are – and can only be – determined by self-interest, and the pursuit of power and wealth. Cuba provides the example that it is possible to build relations based on genuine solidarity and social love: demonstrating the alternatives which permit people to realize their deepest aspirations, and that another better world is possible.

    Isaac Saney teaches history at Dalhousie University and Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada, He is co-chair and National Spokesperson of the Canadian Network On Cuba. He is currently putting the final touches on the book manuscript, Africa’s Children Return! Cuba, the War in Angola and the End of Apartheid.

  • Published on 22 March by Granma.

    raul and obama

    The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, set off from Havana’s José Martí International Airport aboard the Air Force One plane this Tuesday afternoon, bringing his official visit to Cuba, which began on Sunday March 20, to an end.

    He was accompanied and bid farewell at the airport by the President of the Councils of State and Ministers Raúl Castro Ruz.

    Obama will now travel to Argentina to meet with his counterpart Mauricio Macri.

    During his visit to the island, the U.S. President, together with his accompanying delegation, toured sites in Old Havana including the Plaza de Armas, the Captain Generals' Palace and the Cathedral of Havana, accompanied by City Historian Eusebio Leal Spengler.

    On the morning of Monday, March 21, Barack Obama paid tribute to Cuba’s national hero, José Martí, laying a floral wreath to the monument in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, and held official talks with the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz. Following the talks, both presidents offered statements to the press, which received wide international media coverage.

  • Published on 11 October 2016 by Granma.

    raul visits guantanamo

    “It is now vital to identify the damages precisely and as quickly as possible, in order to determine what is needed in each place,” Army General Raúl Castro Ruz stated during a working meeting held this Monday, October 10, at the Municipal Defence Council. Raúl outlined the key issues for the recovery of the municipality of Maisí, where the towns of La Máquina (the municipal capital), Punta de Maisí and Los Llanos, were the hardest hit with the passage of Hurricane Matthew.

    The President of the National Defence Council was accompanied by Army Corps General Ramón Espinosa Martín, deputy minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, who is currently based in the most affected areas, together with other national and local leaders, overseeing the measures implemented in the recovery stage.

  • Published on 4 June 2016 by Granma.

    raul at summit

    Full text of speech by Raul Castro Ruz, President of Cuba's Councils of State and Ministers, opening the 7th Association of Caribbean States Summit.

    Distinguished Heads of State and/or Government,

    Esteemed Ambassador Alfonso Munera Cavadia, Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States,

    Distinguished delegates and guests,

    For the seventh time, we are meeting as Heads of States and/or Government, alongside other high representatives of the States and territories of the Association of Caribbean States, ACS. On this occasion we have gathered for a deep exchange on the theme “Together to confront the challenges of sustainable development, climate change and peace in the Caribbean”.

  • Published on 13 July 2016 by Granma.

    raul poidum

    Full text of speech by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, during the National Assembly of People's Power 8th Legislature's 7th Period of Ordinary Sessions, in the Havana Convention Center, July 8, 2016, Year 58 of the Revolution.

    "Compañeras and compañeros:

    This year, we have had an intense first six months, with the holding of important national and international events, in the first place, the 7th Congress of our Party, where a group of transcendental agreements were reached, in the interest of updating the Cuban economic and social model.

    Since this past Monday, the National Assembly's 10 permanent commissions have met, a framework within which deputies have analysed the questions most relevant to the life of the nation.

  • Published on 13 October 2015 by Mark Weisbrot

    gitmo

    President Obama initiated a historic change when he decided in December to begin normalizing relations with Cuba. It was an acknowledgment that more than half a century of trying to topple the Cuban government through invasion, assassination attempts, economic embargo, and other efforts - mostly illegal - had failed.

    It was also a concession to the majority of the hemisphere, which had informed Washington in 2012 that there would not be another Summit of the Americas without Cuba.

    It was not necessarily a change in U.S. objectives, as a number of statements from the U.S. government indicate that the goal of normalizing relations and expanding commerce with Cuba is still "regime change" by other means.

    But it is nonetheless a major step forward. The United States had been globally isolated on the issue for decades, with repeated votes against the embargo in the U.N. General Assembly. In last year's 188-2 vote, only Israel sided with the United States.

    Recently, the Cuban government reiterated its position that for relations to be normalized, the United States must not only end the embargo but pay compensation for the damage it has caused to Cuba and its people over the past 54 years.

  • Published on 19 August 2015 by Granma

    Cuba recycling

    Finding value in waste, recycling, contributing to import substitution, are some of the motivations of those working at the Artemisa Company for the Recovery of Raw Materials.

    With the aim of selling recyclable waste, destined for the domestic industry and exports, the mission for the entity this year is to recover over 13,600 tons of raw materials. In the first half of the year, targets have been surpassed, with sales up 20% over plans.

    “We process 16 products, which we divide between ferrous, non-ferrous and metal recyclable scraps; scrap steel and cast iron are the leaders,” Andrés Ayllón, deputy manager, highlights.

    Rum and beer bottles, paper, cardboard, aluminum, copper, sacks, medicine bottles, lead batteries, scrap steeland cast iron, are the recyclables destined for the domestic industry, among others.

    Meanwhile, copper, aluminum, stainless steel, bronze and electronic scraps are destined for export, marketed by the Equipment Dismantling Company.

    “We search out the added value - mainly bronze, paper and cardboard, plastic, and copper, according to classification, among other things, that is, we buy, process, classify and, in certain cases, we press,” comments Ayllón.