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The blockade has not ended - Interview with Josefina Vidal, Ministry of Foreign Relations Director General for the United States

Published on 12 February 2015 by Granma

Josefina Vidal

Cristina Escobar.- Cuba and the United States are entering a new stage of diplomatic relations. How can these relations be constructed after so many years of confrontation, and what do the recent talks between the two countries mean? These were the questions posed to Josefina Vidal, Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex) Director General for the United States, in an exclusive interview with Cuban television.

Josefina, there are people on the street here in Cuba, and also in the international media saying, or asking, if the United States blockade of Cuba has ended. Is this true?

Josefina Vidal.- No, no, the blockade has not ended; what has happened is that the President of the United States, making use of his executive prerogatives, which he has, announced a series of measures modifying the implementation of some aspects of the blockade. It was within this context that a series of regulations were issued – mandated by him and formulated by the Departments of Treasury and Commerce – to expand travel to Cuba, expand as well allowances for remittances, and permit some commercial transactions, still of a limited nature, in spheres such as telecommunications, for example.

Cristina Escobar.- When can we say that the blockade has ended? What must happen before we can say it has ended?

Josefina Vidal.- Since the blockade was first officially declared in February of 1962, until 1996 when the Helms-Burton law was approved, it was the prerogative of the President; that is, just as President Kennedy had declared the blockade in 1962, a later President could have declared an end to this policy.

In 1996 the Helms-Burton law was approved, which codified the blockade as law, which means it was established that, in the future, the President could not on his own terminate the blockade policy, but rather that it was the United States Congress which had the authority to declare an end to the policy.

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Cuba and the Internet -Who is Blockading Whom?

Published on 5 February by Rebelion. A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

internet connection cubaThe nervousness which has gripped the Latin American right after the announcement of the "normalization" of relations between the US and Cuba has sparked a series of demonstrations that astonish because of the impunity with which they distort reality.

An example is Andres Oppenheimer’s Tuesday, February 2 column in La Nacion whose lead says it all:
"The key to freedom in Cuba is access to the Internet".  The journalist, known for his visceral rejection of the whole work of the Cuban Revolution, wonders if "Cuba’s regime will accept US help to expand access to the Internet."

Shortly afterwards he recalled that in his speech on December 17, 2014, Obama said that "Washington will eliminate various regulations that prevent US companies from exporting smartphones, Internet software and other telecommunications equipment; but judging from what I'm told by several visitors who just returned from the island, there are good reasons to be skeptical that the Cuban regime will allow it."

The punch line of his article is anthological: "Washington should focus on the Internet. And if Cuba does not want to talk about it, the US and Latin American countries should denounce the Cuban regime for what it is: a military dictatorship that has already run out of excuses to continue to banning Internet access in the island ".

I prefer not to waste time in refuting the unprecedented characterization of Cuba as a military dictatorship that in a test of Introduction to Political Science would deserve the immediate flunking of the student who dared to express such a notion (which is not the same as an idea, more respect for Hegel, please!). Oppenheimer is not one of those rabid fanatics who swarm in American television, serial violators of the most basic rules of journalism. But the nervousness and despair that has gripped the increasingly small and lacking prestige of the anti-Castro groups in Miami must have infected him and driven him to write a note full of falsehoods. I will just mention three.

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Using the sun's energy

Published on 16 December by Granma Internacional

solarpanel

Pinar del Rio solar farm set to be integrated into the National Electric System (SEN)

The panels set to provide the first megawatts (MW) from the solar farm which has been under construction for the past few months in Vueltabajo are already installed and in the final preparation phase before their integration into the Cuban National Electric System (SEN).

According to scientist, Efren Marcos Espinosa, investment specialist at the Pinar del Rio electric company, a total of about 4,000 photovoltaic modules have been installed, manufactured in the own province, with a peak output of 250 Watts (Wp) each.

The official noted that the farm is located in an area known as Cayo Cana, in the municipality of Pinar del Río, where work is continuing in order to reach three MW at a later stage.

He added that the foundations required to reach that figure are virtually complete and that a great deal of the metal structures responsible for supporting the panels that will complete the farm have also been installed.

He highlighted that the new facility is the first step in the province aimed at diversifying energy sources, in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

In this regard, he stressed that the electricity generated through solar energy produced by the 4,000 already installed panels will allow for savings of over 300 tons of fuel per year and avoid the emission of large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Given this reality, he noted that the company is currently working on engineering and geological studies aimed at identifying other areas suitable for the construction of further solar farms in Vueltabajo.

 

Obama Renounces an Insane Policy, But What’s Next?

Published on 28 January 2015 by counterpunch

cuban-flag

“I do not expect the changes I am announcing today to bring about a transformation of Cuban society overnight.”

— Barack Obama, Dec. 17, 2014

President Obama’s Dec. 17 statement announcing changes in U.S. Cuba policy was a mixture of historical truths and catch phrases drawn from the catalog of myths about Cuba and U.S. policy goals.

The first round of rule changes, announced by Jan. 16 by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), was significant in the areas of trade and banking. At the same time, much of the language is drawn from the old justifications for regime change. (Let us put aside the hypocrisies in Obama’s speech such as the instruction — coming from a country where labor unions have been systematically destroyed — that “Cuban workers should be free to form unions.”)

In his speech, Obama reworked Einstein’s famous definition of insanity to support his partial abandonment of the half-century attempts to destroy the Cuban revolution. “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result,” said Obama. (If he means that the policy he has supported for six years is insane, what does that say about him?)

Nowhere in the speech did Obama renounce the longstanding U.S. commitment to regime change in Cuba or even acknowledge that it ever existed. While implicitly recognizing that the use of sanctions to achieve political results had failed, he continues to pursue them in Korea, Russia and elsewhere. One day after making the Cuba speech, he signed a bill imposing sanctions on Venezuela alleging that the government of President Nicolas Maduro had violated the human rights of protestors during violent anti-government demonstrations last February. The demonstrations were led by right-wing representatives of the Venezuelan elite who have long been backed by the United States.

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US Further Isolated as CELAC Rejects Regional Intervention

Published on 30 January 2015 by Venezuela Analysis
Celac
The US is seeing its role in Latin America increasingly challenged, as the 33 member states of CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) vehemently rejected North American intervention in the continent, and particularly the US-led blockade of Cuba and recently enacted sanctions against Venezuela. 
 
The comments were part of the "Belen Declaration," approved during the CELAC's third annual presidential summit, held on January 28th and 29th in Belen, Costa Rica. Formed in 2011, the CELAC was a political initiative proposed by former Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, who aimed to reconstruct Simon Bolivar's dream of a united Latin American continent. 
 
"We reiterate our most profound rejection of the implementation of all coercive and unilateral measures and once more call on the US to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade which it has imposed on its sister nation for over five decades," reads the 22 page document. 
 
The declaration includes 94 different points and is characterised by an emphasis on regional cooperation, social inclusion, the sovereignty and right to self determination of member states, as well as a commitment to tackling poverty and inequality.

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