Raul Castro assesses status of Cuba-US normalization process

Statement by the President of the Councils of State and Ministers Army General Raúl Castro Ruz

” . . . we have achieved some results, particularly in the political, diplomatic and cooperation spheres . . . we have not made any progress in the solution of those issues which are essential for Cuba to be able to have normal relations with the United States . . . “

Declaration by Army General Raúl Castro on the occasion of the first anniversary of the announcements made on December 17, 2014, regarding the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States

Source:  internet@granma.cu

December 18, 2015

One year has gone by since the simultaneous announcements made on December 17, 2014, by the presidents of Cuba and the United States to re-establish diplomatic relations between both countries and work to improve our relations.

One year ago, on a day like yesterday, as part of the agreements reached to find a solution to issues of interest for both countries, we were able to announce, to the great joy of all of our people, the return to our homeland of Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio, with which we made true the promise made by Fidel who had asserted that our Five Heroes would return.

Cuban Five return home.jpgOn that same date, in accordance with our reiterated disposition to hold a respectful dialogue with the Government of the United States, on the basis of sovereign equality, to discuss a wide variety of issues in a reciprocal way, without any detriment to our people’s national independence and self-determination, we agreed to take mutual steps to improve the bilateral atmosphere and move on towards the normalization of relations between the two countries.

We have achieved some results

It could be said that, since then, we have achieved some results, particularly in the political, diplomatic and cooperation spheres:

  • Diplomatic relations were re-established and the embassies in both countries were re-opened. These actions were preceded by the rectification of the unjust designation of Cuba as a State sponsor of terrorism.
  • High level meetings and visits have taken place.
  • The already existing cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as aviation safety and security as well as the combat against drug-trafficking, illegal migration, alien smuggling and migration fraud has been expanded. The regular and respectful meetings between the military commands of Cuba and the United States in the perimeter of the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo have continued.
  • New possibilities for bilateral cooperation have opened up in areas of mutual benefit, such as environmental protection, law enforcement, maritime and port security and health.
  • New dialogues have been initiated on bilateral and multilateral topics of interest, such as climate change, mutual compensations, traffic in persons and human rights, this latter being the one on which we have profound differences and about which we are having an exchange on the basis of respect and reciprocity.
  • We have signed agreements on environmental protection and the re-establishment of direct postal services.

All of this has been achieved through a professional and respectful dialogue based on equality and reciprocity.

No progress on issues essential for normalization

Quite on the contrary, this year we have not made any progress in the solution of those issues which are essential for Cuba to be able to have normal relations with the United States.

Although President Obama has repeatedly stated his opposition to the economic, commercial and financial blockade and has urged Congress to lift it, this policy remains in force. The persecution of Cuba’s legitimate financial transactions as well as the extraterritorial impact of the blockade, which causes damages and hardships to our people and is the main obstacle to the development of the Cuban economy, have been tightened.

The steps taken so far by President Obama, although positive, have proved to be limited in scope, which has prevented their implementation. By using his executive prerogatives, the President could expand the scope of the steps that have already been taken and take new steps that would substantially modify the implementation of the blockade.

US illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay

Despite Cuba’s repeated claim for the return of the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base, the Government of the United States has stated that is has no intention to change the status of that enclave.

The U.S. Government is still implementing programs that are harmful to Cuba’s sovereignty

The U.S. Government is still implementing programs that are harmful to Cuba’s sovereignty, such as the projects aimed at bringing about changes in our political, economic and social order and the illegal radio and television broadcasts, for which they continue to allocate millions of dollars in funds.

US Cuban migration policy encourages an illegal, unsafe, disorderly and irregular migration

A preferential migration policy continues to be applied to Cuban citizens, which is evidenced by the enforcement of the wet foot/dry foot policy, the Medical Professional Parole Program and the Cuban Adjustment Act, which encourage an illegal, unsafe, disorderly and irregular migration, foment human smuggling and other related crimes and create problems to other countries.

The Government of Cuba will continue to reiterate that, in order to normalize relations, it is imperative for the U.S. Government to derogate all these policies that date from the past, which affect the Cuban people and nation and are not in tune with the present bilateral context and the will expressed by both countries to re-establish diplomatic relations and develop respectful and cooperative relations between both peoples and governments.

The right of every State should be respected

No one should expect that, in order to normalize relations with the United States, Cuba will renounce the principles and ideals for which several generations of Cubans have struggled throughout more than half a century. The right of every State to choose the economic, political and social system it wishes, without any interference whatsoever, should be respected.

The Government of Cuba is fully willing to continue advancing in the construction of a kind of relation with the United States that is different from the one that has existed throughout its prior history, that is based on mutual respect for sovereignty and independence, that is beneficial to both countries and peoples and that is nurtured by the historical, cultural and family links that have existed between Cubans and Americans.

Cuba consolidating the achievements attained by the Socialist Revolution

Cuba, in fully exercising its sovereignty and with the majority support of its people, will continue to be engaged in the process of transformations to update its economic and social model, in the interest of moving forward in the development of the country, improving the wellbeing of the people and consolidating the achievements attained by the Socialist Revolution.

Thank you.

Source:  Statement by the President of the Councils of State and Ministers Army General Raúl Castro Ruz


Clinton Tops List of Arms Company Donations

Source:  TeleSUR
14 December 2015


clinton 1


Hillary Clinton has a close relationship with the world’s top arms companies. | Photo: Reuters


lockheed martin 1

Lockheed Martin

U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was also a favorite of the arms producing giants during her 2006 senate campaign.

Hillary Clinton has received more money from arms and military service companies than any other candidate during the 2016 presidential campaign, data from Open Secrets shows.

northrop grumman

Northrop Grummar

All but one of the world’s 10 biggest arms producers have contributed to Clinton’s previous campaigns, giving her — along with the top Republican receiver Ted Cruz — a significant margin over the other candidates.

boeingThe numbers, collected by the Federal Election Commission and compiled by Open Secrets, also reveal that Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders make the list of top 20 senators and top six presidential candidates to receive money from arms and defense companies.

Most of the funding is channeled through Political Action Committees, which have no limits to how much they donate. About 18 percent comes from individual contributions, totaling almost US$10 million between all of the companies.

RELATED: Clinton Presidency Would Fuel the War Machine

obama 12c.jpgThe biggest donors — Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing — devote about a third of their funds to Democrat candidates. In the last presidential elections, Barack Obama won more funding than his contender John McCain, though McCain is the top-earning senator this year.

A report released Sunday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute showed that while U.S. arms sales have slowed, U.S.-based Lockheed Martin’s profits soared in 2014. Overall sales rose steadily until the financial crisis of 2008, when they mostly stabilized.

US:  54 percent market share of the global arms market

Sunday’s report also indicates that the U.S. accounts for a staggering 54 percent market share of the global arms market. The United Kingdom has the second largest market share, with 10.4 percent. Russia has a market share of 10.2 percent, while France has a market share of 5.6 percent.

The world’s top 10 arms companies are based in the U.S. and Western Europe, according to the report. Among these are Lockheed Martin, Boeing and BAE Systems, who make up the top three companies in terms of global market share.

5 Ways the COP21 Deal Dooms the Planet to Climate Change Chaos

Source:  TeleSUR
14 December 2015

state of climate emergency.jpgRepresentatives of Indigenous communities protest and demand respect for Indigenous rights at COP21 in Paris on Dec. 12, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

The COP21 deal has been celebrated as a binding agreement, but what exactly countries are bound to is a telling sign of how far short the deal falls.

Global leaders are celebrating the outcome of the COP21 Paris climate talks as a “historic” deal and a “monumental triumph” for the climate.

But as environmental organizations and activists slam the agreement for doing too little too late and dooming the world to climate chaos, here are five things you should know about the COP21 climate deal.

  1. It puts the world on track for 3 degrees Celsius global warming.

The COP21 text states that the purpose of the climate deal is to keep global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius while aiming for 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but the agreement lacks the mechanisms to make this goal a reality.

Instead, the deal puts the world on track to far overshoot these targets and hit 3 degrees Celsius warming. Global emissions reductions are achieved through voluntary, intended national pledges. These pledges mean the biggest climate culprits that carry the historical burden of climate change can voluntarily contribute emissions reductions that they think they can achieve, not what is globally necessary.

Scientists say that 2 degrees Celsius warming is the maximum limit the world can hit before facing catastrophic and irreparable planetary damage that could bring an end to human life as we know it. Many Latin American countries and front-line affected communities, already feeling the impacts of climate change, have pushed for the more ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius limit, which climate scientists agree is the appropriate target to protect the most vulnerable.

But so far, global leader have not risen to the high-stakes challenge.

  1. It has no legal commitment to climate reparations.

The deal refers to “loss and damage” related to climate change and its impacts, but explicitly states that the relevant article in the core text of the deal is not a basis for liability and compensation. This means that climate reparations though would see wealthy countries largely responsible for fueling climate change pay their carbon debts to poorer countries are still far from a reality.

OPINION: World Leaders Signed a ‘Death Warrant for the Planet’ at COP21

obama 12c.jpgAccording to a report from Democracy Now!, President Barack Obama only agreed to include loss and damage in the COP21 deal if the clause could not be used as a legal basis for paying climate compensation. The issue was a key area of dispute throughout the negotiations.

Climate reparations were never on the agenda at COP21, despite being put forward by Global South countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia as a strategy to help the most vulnerable in the face of climate change, while holding rich and polluting countries accountable.

But the loss and damage component is a big disappointment for climate justice campaigners, and likely to doom developing countries to climate-induced suffering due to the lack of legally-binding compensation for big polluters’ damage to the climate.

  1. The legally binding commitments are weak, while key items are not binding at all.

While the COP21 deal has been widely celebrated as a binding agreement, what exactly countries are bound to is a telling sign of how far short the deal falls.

There is no legally binding agreement on climate finance, a critical but highly disputed part of the agreement. While the deal urges rich countries to take the lead on helping to provide developing countries with financing and technologies to help adapt and mitigate climate change, all financing is voluntary.

RELATED: 5 Things You Need to Know About COP21

Voluntary financing is a huge let down for climate activists, which have been calling for wealthy countries to help finance global transition to clean energy.

The utter lack of mention of fossil fuels in the text of the deal also points to failure of the deal to grapple with urgent climate change priorities. It calls for globally emissions to peak “as soon as possible,” but does not mandate a specific timeline for emissions reductions, leaving countries ​free to keep polluting.

The deal also does not come close to laying out a plan for phasing out fossil fuels. As a result, the agreement is even weaker than the preliminary draft deal set out by G-7 nations earlier at the U.N. Climate Change Conference this year, slammed by climate advocates for dooming the world to “climate chaos” by proposing to phase out fossil fuels by the end of the century.

What’s more, though 195 countries have signed onto the climate deal, which will only come into effect after being ratified by at least 55 nations, any country can withdraw from the deal after three years.

So while global leaders pat themselves on the back for overcoming the failure of COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 by reaching a so-called legally binding agreement, the deal has still failed to force world leaders to commit to changes on core issues to tackle climate change in an urgent, effective, and holistic way.

  1. There are no measure to hold corporations accountable.

The deal focuses on the responsibilities of countries to lower carbon emissions by their own voluntary pledges, and as a result leaves corporations off the hook from legally binding climate action.

The agreement “welcomes” and “invites” stakeholders other than countries, including private corporations, to participate in efforts to tackle climate change, it does not mandate corporations to change their practices in response to an increasingly warming world. This leaves the door open for fossil fuels companies to continue to pollute.

RELATED: TPP Dooms World to Climate Crisis

What’s more, many of the same global leaders who made high-profile speeches about the urgency of climate change at COP21 are at the same time cozying up to big corporate polluters with the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, currently pending approval. The draft text of the TPP reveals enhanced power for corporations, including fossil fuels giants, such as rules to allow corporations to challenge national and international laws in secret trade courts.

This means the TPP could undermine any action that does result from the COP21 agreement by setting new limits on governments’ abilities to introduce strong policy to tackle climate change, such as renewable energy programs.

At the core, the COP21 agreement fails to recognize the underlying roots of climate change and the systemic and economic reasons for global carbon inequality and increasingly boiling global temperatures.

  1. It has no mention of human rights in the core body of the text.

The only mention of human rights in the final COP21 text appears in the preamble, not the core articles, which means there is no legally binding commitment to human rights in the deal.

While the draft text included a provisional mention of human rights in the section highlighting the purpose of the deal, world leaders ultimately opted for the weaker option of removing human rights from the purpose, leaving it only in the non-binding preamble.

OPINION: Climate Action: Why Justice in Paris is Unlikely

The deal also have no substantial attention to the rights of Indigenous peoples, among the hardest hit by climate change, and recognition of the role Indigenous communities play as stewards of the environment. There is also no mention of intergenerational equity or biodiversity in the core of the text, sidelining any commitment to protecting future generations and integrated ecosystems from the devastation of climate change.

As a result, the deal fails to take into account systemic causes and the key issues of human and environmental rights in the context of climate change and falls far short of a just climate deal.

Source:  5 Ways the COP21 Deal Dooms the Planet to Climate Change Chaos

Fomenting Cuban scientific talent

Source:  Granma
December 9 2015

by Nuria Barbosa León | internet@granma.cu

The National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC) was founded in July 1965, with the aim of using scientific methods to solve biomedical problems and develop sophisticated products

national centre for scientific research.jpgThe National Center for Scientific Research was inaugurated in July, 1965. Photo: Arnaldo Santos

The National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC) was founded in July 1965, with the aim of using scientific methods to solve biomedical problems and develop sophisticated products, and has seen great progress across all its specialist areas.

Blanca Rosa Hung Llamos CNIC Director General.jpgCNIC Director General, Blanca Rosa Hung Llamos (photo), explains to Granma International that the institution’s leading product is Policosanol (more commonly known as PPG), a cholesterol reducing medicine which was awarded the Gold Medal from the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1996.

Affiliated with the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industry Group BioCubaFarma, the center also develops nutritional supplements with anti-osteoporotic and gastro-protective benefits, which help to improve the health and quality of life of Cubans.

In 1984, the CNIC manufactured MEDICID-03, the first automated electroencephalograph, a continuation of NEUROCID-M, which registers electrical activity in the musculoskeletal system. In 1990 the center took a step further developing AUDIX, the world’s first electro-acoustic analyzer and SUMA, an Ultramicro-Analytical System.

The institution has trained thousands of Cuban scientists in the field of biotechnology

CNIC Director General Blanca Rosa Hung Llamos notes that the institution has trained thousands of Cuban scientists in the field of biotechnology.

Llamos, with a PhD in Applied Life Sciences, also highlights research carried out by the institution across the food, agriculture, livestock and neuroscience industries as well as the development of microbiological equipment and that used for ozone therapies, environmental protection and electron microscopy.

The entity has also obtained molecular markers for research into genetic improvement and plant disease resistance, heart monitoring equipment, and cosmetics.

Creating products from natural sources

She notes that 566 employees are currently working at the CNIC, 48% of which are women and 72% university graduates, with an overall average age of 42. Workers at the institution conduct research to create base products from natural sources such as honey, sugar cane, Royal Plam fruit (palmiche), ozone, and sunflower oil, among others, which are used to treat and alleviate the symptoms of various illnesses.

Since an outbreak of cholera in Peru in 1993, the CNIC has been working on developing a preventative vaccine, an effort which intensified after an epidemic of the disease erupted in Haiti in 2010. Also participating on this research project, currently in the advanced phase, are two other Cuban institutions: the Finlay Institute and the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine.

The CNIC is composed of three research departments: the Center for Natural Products, Infectious Diseases, and Environment, together with the Ozone Research Clinic.

An infectious diseases lab.jpgAn infectious diseases laboratory where studies in to cholera are carried out. Photo: Jose M. Correa

Training human resources

“Something which distinguishes the Center,” notes the director “is the role it plays in training human resources, which currently work in the field of biotechnological sciences nationwide; given our status as a Ministry of Higher Education accredited institution, we train university graduates and technicians.”

For over 50 years, the CNIC has seen more than 30,000 specialists across all its departments and laboratories undertake further studies, 389 of which have earned a PhD, with many becoming leaders in their fields; while it is also normal to find managers trained at the emblematic institution working across the network of other affiliated entities, notes the director.

The CNIC according to its workers 

 Dr. José Ilnait Ferrer began working at the CNIC – the first scientific center founded by the Revolution – after graduating as a medical doctor over 50 years ago.

“I have worked on countless projects related to hereditary and nutritional illnesses. I proposed the method for studies into Phenylketonuria in newborns, which I applied to my own children and grandchildren,” states the doctor.

“I am currently working on pharmacological research in the line of natural medicine. I recently finished a study into treating benign prostate diseases,” he states.

Fidel, the inspiration

Fidel 222Ferrer also notes that Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro was the main inspiration behind, and founder of, the CNIC. He is moved recalling the long conversations the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution would have with workers, interested in progress being made in research into cures for illnesses, his main concern.

The doctor highlights that the center faced its most difficult time during the special period, with the fall of the socialist camp and tightening of the genocidal U.S economic, financial and commercial blockade during the 1990s, which continues to be the primary obstacle to the center’s work, a sentiment shared by Dr. Talena Ledón Pérez, who joined the institution in 1995, after graduating in Biochemistry.

The US blockade

“The blockade policy not only prevents us from accessing advanced technology,” according to Pérez, also head researcher at the CNIC, “but also from purchasing replacement parts, acquiring visas for our professionals to attend events held in the U.S. and exchanges between experts from the two countries. I think about how U.S. citizens are being deprived of the opportunity to benefit from our medicines, products and services.”

She speaks passionately about the cholera prevention vaccine, a project she has been working on for over 20 years, highlighting the sacrifices made by her colleagues to achieve results, which include missing family celebrations and time with spouses and children.

Working like a team

Pérez emphasized the good relationships maintained between all colleagues, noting that exchanges take place in a positive environment. “We all participate in scientific discussions and all opinions are valid no matter where they come from,” she notes.

Twenty-seven year old Eladio Cruz Clemente, director of Economy agrees, stating, “They invite me to attend research project debates and our opinions are heard and even taken into consideration when decisions are made, we work together like an interconnected team.”

He points out that young people are mostly attracted to the center given the opportunity it provides to expand their knowledge and advance in any of the roles they undertake. Clemente highlights his personal experience as a perfect example of this. Joining the center in 2007 as a mid-level technician in Finance and Prices, he has now finished his undergraduate degree and is currently doing a Masters in Administration with the possibility of continuing onto a PhD. He is carrying out research into the logistics of the center and developing proposals to improve the CNIC ’s internal administration system.
“Generational barriers are overcome through good human relationships and workers exchanging opinions. Youth easily adapt to changes in technology and make a positive impact on the group dynamic. The oldest members have a wealth of experience and knowledge, accumulated through great dedication to their work.”

He sums up his personal assessment of the CNIC, stating, “I feel proud working alongside scientists who have achieved important results in Cuba and the world. Working as Director of Economy fascinates me. I never imagined advancing professionally so fast. One always dreams and aspires to make it, and I feel very pleased to have done so, so quickly.”

Source:  Fomenting Cuban scientific talent

Agreement over Climate Change Reached in Paris Summit

Source:  escambray.cu
December 13 2015

cop21 2.jpgFinally, a day after the deadline, the Paris Agreement was adopted, and even though it is not perfect, it encompasses consensus about the work being done on the planet to counter the negative effects of climate change.

The Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), held in Paris, produced a legal instrument that contains the clear differentiation between what the developed countries must do against global warming and what the developing nations must do.

Elba Rosa Pérez cubaIn statements to Prensa Latina at the Le Bourget Exhibition Park in Paris, where the COP21 summit was held, the Cuban Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, Elba Rosa Perez, noted the fact that the new agreement defines the matters to be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Adaptation, vulnerability and financing

At the same time, the minister added, the document refers to adaptation to face climate change, one of the matters that have been demanded for many years by the developing countries.

It also has to do with vulnerability, and how it is present in each of the regions and countries and reflected in the letter of the agreement. The Paris agreement also dealt with financing although this still needs support.

1.5 degrees Celsius

Regarding ambition, the agreement highlights the need to work in function of temperature not going up more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. And although the national contributions made by all countries will not guarantee right now that that limit will not be exceeded, it is something that the process must achieve.

There are matters that have to be solved, like how and when all these will be implemented, when financing will come and other elements debated at the summit.

Working groups

One good result is the creation of several working groups to continue advancing in those issues.

“Everything that Cuba has stated in the text, since the preparatory sessions, like the issues of adaptation, financing, transference of technology, the use of scientific breakthroughs, was included in the agreement and are positive elements,” the minister said.

A new stage to deal with climate change

Regarding the developing countries, especially the most vulnerable states, the small islands, there is a lot to be done.

In that regards, the Paris Agreement is not a finish line, but the beginning of a new stage to deal with climate change.

There are some developing countries that first have to eradicate poverty, inequalities, which are a group of aspects that are the premises to speak about climate change; therefore, it is a long road and the solution will have to come in a long term.

It can be achieved, if …

But if there is political will of the governments and state, and if there is interest, it can be achieved. But there are matters on which we have to continue working, so it was agreed to analyze the progress made regarding what was agreed upon at COP21 every five years.

Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, South African delegate to COP21

Nozipho Joyce Mxakato Diseko, South African delegate to COP21

It is a very important agreement for the future, with many expectations, and having reached it means that the sense of unity of the different regions and countries was on the table.


The small insular states remain very close in their stances, as well as the Group of 77 plus China. The South African negotiators played an extraordinary role, amid the diversity of opinions and views.

A landmark to remember

The Paris Agreement will be a landmark that we will have to remember, because the current realities of climate change is delicate not only in a long term but also in a short term.

The fact that 150 heads of State or Government came to Paris speaks about the political support it has received so far, and people are more aware about the need to continue working on that direction.

Cuba has been represented by a group of negotiators, and everywhere the Cuban delegation has provided balanced and in-depth analyses to reach consensus.

The presidency of the French COP acknowledged that the Cuban representatives have made several proposals at this historic conference. The stance of the Cuban delegation was always to seek consensus and bring forth constructive aspects at the debates in Paris.

Source:  Agreement over Climate Change Reached in Paris Summit


Fidel’s message to President Nicolás Maduro

Source:  Granma
December 11 2015

I share the unanimous opinion of those who have congratulated you for your brilliant, valiant speech on the night of December 6, as soon as the election’s outcome was announced.

fidel y maduro 6.jpg

Dear Nicolás:

I share the unanimous opinion of those who have congratulated you for your brilliant, valiant speech on the night of December 6, as soon as the election’s outcome was announced.

In world history, the highest level of political glory which a revolutionary can reach, is that of the illustrious Venezuelan combatant, Liberator of America, Simón Bolívar, whose name now belongs not only to this sister country, but to all peoples of Latin America.

Another Venezuelan official of honorable legacy, Hugo Chávez, understood and admired him and struggled for his ideas until the last moment of his life. As a boy, attending elementary school in the country where the poor children of Bolívar were obliged to work to help support their families, he developed the spirit in which the Liberator of America was forged.

The millions of children and youth who today attend the largest and most modern system of public schools in the world are Venezuelan. More can be said about the country’s network of medical care centers and the attention paid to the health of its people, brave but poor as a result of centuries of plunder by Spanish colonialism, and later by huge transnationals, which for more than 100 years extracted from its entrails the best of the immense oil reserves nature bestowed on this country.

History also bears witness that workers exist, and make possible the enjoyment of nutritious food, medicine, education, security, housing and the world’s solidarity. You could ask the oligarchy, if you like: Do you know all of this?

Cuban revolutionaries – just a few miles from the United States, which always dreamed of taking possession of Cuba to make it a hybrid casino-brothel, as a way of life for the children of José Martí – will never renounce their full independence or respect for their dignity.

I am sure that human life on Earth can only be preserved with peace among all peoples of the Earth, and acknowledgement of the right to make the planet’s natural resources common property, as well as the sciences and technologies created by human beings to benefit all of its inhabitants. If humanity continues along the path of exploitation and the plunder of its resources by transnationals and imperialist banks, the representatives of states meeting in Paris, will draw the relevant conclusions.

Security does not exist today for anyone. There are nine states which possess nuclear weapons. One of them, the United States, dropped two bombs which killed hundreds of thousands of people in just three days, and caused physical and psychological harm to millions of defenseless people.

The People’s Republic of China and Russia know the world’s problems much better than the United States, because they were obliged to endure the terrible wars imposed on them by fascism’s blind egoism. I do not doubt that, given their historical traditions and their own revolutionary experience, they will make the greatest effort to avoid a war and contribute to the peaceful development of Venezuela, Latin America, Asia and Africa.


Fidel's signatire

Source:  Fidel’s message to Ptresident Nicolas Maduro


December 9 2015

by Michael Heslop

rising sun jan 27 15 - Copy.jpgThere is hope in the sun’s light


It ends darkness and and all that it represents,

Like the sunlight,

Hope resides in water,

For those who are thirsty and those who tend to the land,

Hope also lives in the quest for peace,

Peace saves lives and sustains hope,

Hope also resides in those who are hungry for Justice,

Since in the absence of Justice,

The light of the sun will fail to light the many ghettoes of darkness created by man,

Likewise in the absence of Justice,

The natural flow of water by itself will fail to quench the thirst of those who die from thirst and those too weak to get water,

Hope also resides in the kindness of earthly souls one to another,


The kindness of so many souls by itself fails to dispense Justice because kindness is like the clouds and

Justice is like the stars in the clouds for those who have never known it,

Hope in the end is meaningless without the light of Justice flowing like water to extend kindness to those who only know the unkindness of man!

A Tribute to Sheldon McDonald: A Fallen Soldier in the Battle for Justice

December 9 2015
by Michael Heslop

He fought for a more just Jamaica and Caribbean for the least among us

sheldon mcdonald 2Today, we respectfully and honorably say farewell to Sheldon McDonald, a comrade, a brother and a soldier who fought for a more just Jamaica and Caribbean for the least among us.

To truly remember and pay the tribute deserving of Sheldon, it is necessary to remember him as a political activist who opposed imperialism and all forms of injustices that it imposes on Jamaicans and peoples globally.

Indeed, as General Secretary of the PNPYO, Sheldon played an important role in the political organization, mobilization and education of the youths and Jamaicans more generally in our movement’s resistance against the political violence and economic sabotage unleashed by US imperialism against the government of PM Michael Manley in the 1970s.

In this regard, it is equally fitting to say that a lasting legacy of Sheldon McDonald is his undying contribution to Caribbean integration and particularly his critical role as a legal scholar in the formation of the Caribbean Court of Justice or CCJ.

Sheldon was also a warrior for peace who understood very well that peace was and is indispensable for human progress to flourish in all its forms in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world.

Sheldon was also an unapologetic friend of the Cuban people and their revolution. As such, he was a tireless advocate for an end to the odious US blockade against Cuba.

So as we say farewell to our comrade and soldier for Justice , I believe that it is important that his legacy reveals his passion for Justice , his anti-imperialism and his embrace of peace for Jamaicans and all of humanity among his many other dimensions as a scholar, an activist and a pacifist.

Finally, this tribute would not be complete without my extension of sincerest condolences to Sheldon’s family particularly his two sons, his brothers especially Norris McDonald whom I knew quite well, his nieces and nephews, his many friends and comrades, students and colleagues at the University of Guyana and all those whom he knew and whose lives he touched politically and otherwise.

Sheldon, we will miss your passion for Justice , your commitment for a Jamaica where the sufferers get a break and a Jamaica, a Caribbean and a world free of imperial rule where lasting peace reigns.

RIP Sheldon! Jah Guide my brother!

Venezuela: What powers do the opposition now have?

Source:  Real News Network

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

It was just after midnight in Caracas when the president of the Venezuelan election commission announced the results of the election for the National Assembly. It was a stunning victory for the opposition that was then accepted by President Maduro. He said the elections were clean, fair, and he accepts the results. And here’s a little bit towards what we know now as of this moment, what the results are. Ninety-nine seats for the opposition parties, 46 seats for the socialist party and its allies, that’s the governing party, that’s the Chavistas, as they’re often known. And 22 undecided.

That 22 undecided is very significant. The issue now with the size of the opposition victory, they are on the verge of a two-thirds supermajority. We’ll talk about this in a minute, the significance of this. They need only 12 seats to hit that supermajority. With 22 outstanding, given the current trends, it’s looking very likely that they will hit that 12 seats. And that is an earthquake in Venezuelan politics.

Now joining us to discuss all of this, first of all joining us from Caracas is Greg Wilpert. Greg is the former director of TeleSur English, and author of the book Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government. And joining us from New York City is Alejandro Velasco. He is an associate professor of Latin American studies and history at New York University, and author of Barrio Rising: Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela. Thank you both for joining us.



JAY: So Greg, kick us off, and let’s go through just the mechanics of this, and then we’ll kind of get into what you guys think is the why of it. So in terms of where we’re at, if they–right now they have, I think they’ve reached the bar of a three-fifths majority, or they’re one seat away from a three-fifths majority, and that’s very likely to happen. Assuming they hit three-fifths, what powers do they have? They being the opposition.

WILPERT: Well, some of the main things is that they can remove the vice president and ministers, cabinet ministers, and they can–you need a three-fifths majority to pass an enabling law. Well, that’s not something that’s going to happen. Something that the Chavistas used to do for the president which is in law, where the president can pass laws by decree. That’s obviously not going to happen.

So the main thing is really the censure of ministers and of the vice president. Much beyond that, it’s not going to have that much of an effect. The real big difference kicks in at the two-thirds majority.

JAY: And the two-thirds majority means they pick up 12 of these outstanding 22 seats. Now, given the way trends are going, this seems rather likely. So if in fact they hit the supermajority, what does that mean?

WILPERT: Well, then it means they can do a number of different things. For one thing, they can remove members of the Supreme Court, which is very significant because the Supreme Court itself approves or can reject laws. It can of course, you know, adjudicate on decisions about the imprisonment or impeachment processes of members of the government, including the president.

And perhaps one of the most significant things, I think, that the two-thirds majority can do is can invoke a constitutional assembly and completely rewrite the constitution, basically, which would of course have to still be passed by a referendum. But they could basically walk in Chavez’s footsteps in the sense of establishing a new constitution, and thereby setting up a completely new system of governance in Venezuela, getting all the Chavistas out of the other branches of government in the process, which is what Chavez did back in 2000 in favor of his party.

JAY: Now that, the Supreme Court issue is very significant. Because if they do move towards an impeachment of President Maduro, the Supreme Court if I understand it correctly also has to sign off on it. Now, if that’s correct, you’re saying they can remove members of the Supreme Court, but they can’t appoint new ones, can they? Is that not still in the hands of the president, and does that not–no, that’s not correct?

WILPERT: No, the Supreme–sorry, the National Assembly also appoints–actually, they can without a constitutional assembly, they can already remove practically all the other branches of government. Venezuela has five branches of government, unlike most other Western democracies, which have three. So that is in addition to the legislature, executive, and the judiciary, Venezuela also has what you could call a prosecutorial power, which is basically the attorney general and the comptroller general, and it also has electoral power. And those are both, that is, all the other three, that is the judiciary, the electoral power, and the prosecutorial power, those three are appointed by the National Assembly, not by the president, like in the United States.

JAY: So it’s not just a question of the power to remove, it’s also the power to appoint. They can actually replace everybody.

WILPERT: Exactly.

JAY: Alejandro, this is, it’s looking this way–as I say, as we’re shooting this. We don’t know for sure, but it’s certainly looking–do you agree it’s looking this way, that we are heading towards a supermajority? Am I stepping ahead of myself here? Or are we looking at that?

VELASCO: Well, the polls, the ones that have come in and have been partially announced by both the parties and the national electoral council do suggest the tendency is towards a supermajority. One of the reasons why is because some of the, some of the too-close-to-call districts, apparently the news is that the electronic balloting failed, and so the had to move on to paper balloting. And so some of those are in rural districts, which then have to be flown into Caracas and counted. And so the tendency does seem to be towards a supermajority of the opposition, but it’s very close, for sure.

JAY: President Maduro has accepted the results. There was all kinds of speculation and innuendo in the American press, and certainly the Venezuelan opposition. They were calling fraud before the vote ever took place. They were saying that the Venezuelan government would never accept these results, but he has. What do you make of that?

VELASCO: Well, I think two things are important here. Number one, this election now marks one additional point of evidence in a long trend in elections over the last few months in Latin America and elsewhere, where polling has been pretty wrong. I don’t think anybody really predicted this level of a majority. We’re kind of in uncharted waters here.

But number two, I think what it bodes in terms of accepting a defeat of this magnitude, for sure is a sense by which Maduro now has to position himself and Chavismo as a political movement that needs to outlive this particular defeat. And in order to do that you have to first begin by acknowledging the defeat, and then being able to sort of rebuild from there [process], right. So this certainly bodes well. What will be interesting to see how, is how the opposition responds to it, and also as you suggested, how the international players respond to it, to the government’s accepting of the results.

JAY: Greg, you suggested that a constitutional convention could be called by the opposition. Given they have so much power within the existing constitution to change all the various people in the various branches of government, the leadership, and the power to impeach the president, why go for a change of the constitution? Why not just proceed based on the current one?

WILPERT: Well, because it would be much faster. That is, if they try to remove, first remove people from their current positions and then put in new ones, both of those processes could take months and months, and they’re very impatient. And so that’s why I think the temptation to go for the constitutional convention route would be extremely strong within the opposition. As a matter of fact, a number of opposition people have already speculated about that, going that route, as a possibility that’s come up over the years many times. Matter of fact, they’ve even talked about it, trying to initiate it from a grassroots perspective. That is, to collect enough signatures in order to do it. But now they don’t need to do that. If they have a two-thirds majority, that is, they can just vote on it.

JAY: And you were saying to me off-camera that if they wait too long and it becomes an impeachment proceeding that goes on for a long time, there’s a certain date where if President Maduro’s impeached, then the socialist party vice president would just take over. Whereas if they do it sooner than later, then it would force the removal of the president and a new presidential election.

WILPERT: Right. The Venezuelan system is a little bit strange in that way. So actually they can actually remove the vice president. But if they remove the vice president twice, then a new National Assembly election is called. So it’s a risky game, and so–and not only that, the president, there would be a new election only if the president is removed before the last two years of his office, like you said. And I think that would be towards the end of 2016, if I calculate correctly.

JAY: Alejandro, President Maduro, both in accepting the results of the election but also during the campaign, he made the main case that the reason for the problems in the economy, and clearly that’s the reason the socialist party has lost the election, because the economy’s in such bad shape. High inflation, shortages of goods. He made a case that this was all a war on the Venezuelan economy by external players, meaning the United States and others. Also the elites within Venezuela. There’s a 74.5 percent participation rate in this vote. People thought, or at least some people speculated, that a high turnout might benefit the government. It doesn’t seem to have. It seems like a lot of people did not buy the argument that it’s primarily an economic war against Venezuela that is the source of the problem, and they seem to be blaming the government. What do you make of that?

VELASCO: It’s unsurprising. Polls have been pointing in that direction for a long time already, that the argument about an economic war was not seeping into the bulk of the population. And that discourse is always problematic, because of course if you continue going on with it then the longer you hold on to that particular kind of claim, the longer you’re admitting that you’re losing the war. So I think that it’s [undermined] credibility on the part of the government. But something you said I think is really significant. As big as this victory is for the opposition, [22] seats, it also implies a tremendous risk in terms of reading this as a vote for the opposition rather than a vote of castigo, punishment vote, against the government.

And that, I think, implies significant challenges for the opposition coalition, which is already very fractured internally and has a tremendous amount of diversity in terms of policy positions, et cetera, to be able to read this as a sort of unitary sentiment in support of an alternative that remains extremely diffuse rather than sort of a rejection of Maduro. Which it should also be said is not necessarily a rejection of Chavismo, per se.

JAY: Greg, to what extent do you think this is the result of economic war, or the inability of the Maduro government to solve the economic problems?

WILPERT: Well, I think it really boils down to what do you mean by economic war? The government seems to always imply that there’s a kind of a conspiracy going on that is undermining the government. And I think there’s certainly an element of that. Certainly that plays a role. But what I think is a much more important component is that the government introduced a variety of policies that went against certain vested interests in Venezuela. Particularly I’m thinking of things that started back in 2001 and 2002, which was the land reform and taking over the oil industry, which led to the coup attempt and to the oil industry shutdown, which led to–you know, there’s a whole series of events that one has to look at that led them to a currency control in order to control capital flight.

And it’s this currency control that I think is the crux of the problem. And I think it was a necessary measure, given the capital flight that happened in the wake of the coup attempt and the oil industry shutdown. But that currency control, that exchange rate control was never lifted afterwards. And that’s what I think is really the key problem. In many ways it was successful policy, led to four years of continuous, ten percent-plus economic growth, tremendous redistribution of wealth. Decline of poverty, and so on. So in that sense it seemed to be a very successful policy.

However, it entered into dangerous territory once the price of oil came down in 2008, and then again in 2013. And that’s when that policy became unmanageable, and created a lot of opportunities for people to make a tremendous amount of money out of the black market for the currency and out of black market for price controlled goods.

JAY: And if I understand it correctly, if you’re within various sections of the business community elites and you can get hold of the official exchange rate dollars, which is what, 12-15, roughly speaking, Bolivars to the dollar. And now black market, what is it, 300, 400, 500. If you can buy them low and go out in the black market and sell them, it’s a very lucrative business.

WILPERT: Yes, exactly. It’s extremely lucrative. Or you can claim that you’re importing something and then actually not importing it, or import it and then export it again, and sell it. Or buy things that are imported at the low rate and at the price controlled rate, and then export them and sell them in Colombia or Brazil at up to 100 times what they cost in Venezuela.

And so it is these, you know, economic opportunities for smuggling and for arbitrage, and for basically cheating, that the economic situation has created. And like I said, that economic situation is actually a result of what were at first beneficial policies. It’s just that they weren’t really dealt with in moments of crisis, particularly when the price of oil went down in 2008 and 2013.

JAY: Alejandro, there seems to be a kind of paralysis of some sort. In the last couple of years this trend towards this very high inflation, almost I think some people are saying one of the highest inflation rates in the world, now great shortages of food. Black market currency, and so on. But there seems to have been very little change in policy the last couple of years. And not much planning for a steep drop in the price of oil that seems to have caught everyone by surprise. And I guess to some extent, that’s true for the whole world. A few years ago I guess nobody would have predicted plus-$100 oil would go to under $40 a barrel.

But that being said, there doesn’t seem to have been much of a response the last couple of years to all of this by the government.

VELASCO: That’s exactly right. I mean, welcome to, welcome to a petrostate. This is sort of a tired dynamic, especially in Venezuela, where periods of boom are not met with a significant degree of planning long-term, but rather with significant amounts of investment in the short-term that don’t anticipate for those inevitable busts when they come.

I think the challenge in the case of Chavismo is that it took this dynamic but it expanded it, precisely because instead of focusing some of those resources towards productive sectors of the economy, primarily it was using those to lift, as Greg was mentioning, lift the population out of poverty through direct [addition] of resources and services of the state in ways that certainly hadn’t benefited them in the past. [Other] sectors of the population. Once oil prices dropped as far as they did, then what Venezuela’s left with is a very weakened domestic productive apparatus to be able to satisfy the enormous demand for imports that Venezuela relies on.

At the same time, the timing of that drop in prices meant that the government rarely had a very limited number of tools available to it to withstand the political storm that would come by implementing very severe economic measures, like for instance, devaluing the currency, eliminating the subsidy for gasoline. Eliminating subsidies for social programs, et cetera.

And so now, of course, all of these measures are on the table. And it would be interesting to see if the government brings the opposition to the fold in terms of enacting some of these measures, which will be very painful in the short-term, and somehow be able to place some of the blame on those reforms to, onto the opposition.

JAY: Greg, you’ve written an article recently, and if I understand your main argument has been as long as subsidized food can be exported, or I should say smuggled, into neighboring countries, you really can’t be subsidizing the cost of food. What you really need to do is let wages go up so people can afford more market-rate prices. Explain that, and is it too late for them to try something like that?

WILPERT: I think that’s the only solution. Because right now the prices within Venezuela are absolutely crazy. I mean, when I go out I can get, I mean, you mentioned for example the exchange rate before. It’s 800–actually right now, the black market exchange rate is closer to 800 Bolivars to the dollar, whereas the two official exchange rates are at 6 and 12 Bolivars to the dollar. There’s a third one that’s about 200, but I think that’s hardly ever being used.

So if you–so there’s some products, especially price-controlled products, that you can get. But you have to stand in long lines, if you can find them, for dirt cheap. The 800 Bolivar exchange rate, I mean, they’re worth pennies for, let’s say, I don’t know, two dozen eggs, or something.

JAY: If you have dollars to begin with.

WILPERT: Yeah. I’m saying the equivalent of somebody, let’s say like me, who’s coming in with dollars, would be the equivalent of pennies. Or–.

JAY: But if your only income is Bolivars, you’re screwed.

WILPERT: Right. Well, no. You can–no. If you actually get it at that price it’s a decent price, and you buy it. The thing is, it’s such a good price that everybody tries to buy it. So then you have to start rationing it, and telling people, well, you can only buy it on certain days, and things like that. Or what also happens is people who don’t really need that product buy it up and then sell it, you know, turn around and sell it for ten times that price on the black market. And the reason they can do that is because if they, they could also sell it to Colombia, where they’ll get 50 times the price.

And so in other words, the neighboring countries essentially raise the price of the black market, in effect. Not all the way to the level of in the neighboring countries, but the temptation is tremendous for someone to take these price-controlled products right out of the country again because of the hundred-fold profit that they could make. And no government could survive with such a huge disparity between the prices within the country and outside of the country. And so that really needs to be addressed. And the only way I can see that being addressed is by raising prices, but I think I’m obviously also raising salaries. In other words, taking the subsidy away from the prices and the products, and putting it into, into incomes.

JAY: Right. Alejandro, just to sort of wind things up, at least something like around 40 percent of the people that voted voted in favor of the socialist government. There’s a lot of young people who might not have been even old enough to vote who are very Chavista and pro-government. How is this all going to unfold? These are millions of people that are not going to be, perhaps, so willing as President Maduro says he is to accept the end of a Chavista government.

VELASCO: Yeah, I mean, that is the, the million-dollar question right now. I think that much will depend on what the opposition does. I think that is, it moves very quickly along the lines of what Greg was describing before, especially in terms of the [constitutional] assembly. Calling for a constitutional assembly. I think this may be read by some of those–not even those who voted for the government, but those who voted against the government, not necessarily because they sort of supported an opposition platform, which is really [inexistent]. I think those are the factors that you really need to sort of pay attention to.

A case of a constituent assembly that is framed in the context of getting rid of everything that Chavismo stood for, I think that will be met with considerable, considerable opposition on the part of those populations, which will then have the appeal or be able to reach to sectors that have shown themselves to be [truly] supportive of the government, even in these dire straits. So you know, so I think that this, this result, actually comes with a tremendous amount of caveats for the opposition. And time will tell if they read it as such or if they overreach.

JAY: Greg, just finally on a somewhat similar note. I mean, if in fact the opposition at the end of this whole process winds up winning the government and the presidency, given who they are, one would expect them to head towards kind of neoliberal policies, austerity policies. And with millions of such politicized people who have been supporting the government, I mean, Venezuela starts to get ungovernable.

WILPERT: Yes. I think–that’s one of the things that Chavez often said of himself. He said that I’m the guarantee for the governability of the country. The opposition never really understood what that meant. But what he means is exactly kind of what you’re implying, is that when the opposition comes into office, the country will become ungovernable. And not through any fault of Chavez’s, but just because they would head in a direction that most of the population would probably not like.

But I should also mention in relation to that is that one of the big problems that the opposition has, and Alejandro mentioned this, actually, but I just wanted to emphasize this, that the opposition is extremely internally divided. And so they’re going to have a terribly difficult time if they take the constitutional convention route, to even agree on a new constitution. And that could drag out forever. Chavez was, you know, he was able to bring people together, was able to put together a constitution in record time, like three or four months. The kind of, the opposition, would never be able to do something like that. And not only that, they would probably have a hell of a time even agreeing on who the presidential candidate is, and what their political program will be. And so that’s, those are the huge challenges that they’re facing at this point.

JAY: All right, gentlemen, thank you both for joining us.

VELASCO: Thank you.

WILPERT: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

After Venezuelan Elections, Maduro Calls for ‘Debate, Consultation, Action’

Source:  TeleSUR
December 7 2015

Maduro has spoken on public television and called for strategies to unite and strengthen the Bolivarian movement.

nicolas maduro dec 2015.jpgPresident Nicolas Maduro called for unity of the Bolivarian revolution. | Photo: teleSUR

After yesterday’s parliamentary electoral loss, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in a meeting of Bolivarian governors and ministers, and speaking on public television Monday night, called for a range of consultation methods in order to “strengthen” the Bolivarian movement.

Discussion, reflection and a timeline of action

Maduro argued that discussion and reflection were necessary, to then come up with a plan of action among the social movements, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and other pro-revolution parties and organizations.

The president said that after an all-day meeting, reflecting on the results that saw the MUD opposition coalition gain a significant majority in parliament, his cabinet had made a number of decisions and come up with a timeline of action.

43% of the votes

“We got 43 percent of the votes … the counterrevolution triumphed yesterday, for now,” he said, using former President Hugo Chavez’s famous phrase to mean that a loss is just short-term.

“They have come for the neoliberal restoration of the far right,” he said, arguing that a defense of the revolution’s gains was necessary.

He called for debate and a rebuilding of strength of the revolution, because, “the Venezuelan right wing has just one program: to destroy the Bolivarian revolution.”

ANALYSIS:  The Causes and Consequences of Venezuelan Election Results


Maduro announced a week of discussion in order to come up with a united strategy of the revolution. “Unity should be the main aim,” he said, adding, “Nobody should be confused by an adverse situation.”

For Tuesday, the president called for a special meeting of all the organizations and parties that make up the GPP—the umbrella group of those who support the revolution.

For Saturday, he called a meeting of the presidential councils of popular power: those councils that were elected by the bases to represent indigenous people, workers, youth, women, and other social sectors.

A central document for the Bolivarian revolution

Then finally, for next Wednesday, he called a meeting of all PSUV delegates, in Caracas, “in the morning, until necessary.” Nine hundred delegates will evaluate the situation, make plans, and create proposals, he said.

Maduro argued that it was important to come up with a “central document for the Bolivarian revolution” and to also create a separate commission for the National Assembly, which would work on defending the workers’ rights law, the social movements, and other legislative gains.

“This oligarchy will never represent you,” Maduro told Venezuelans in his address Monday, referring to the new elected opposition legislators, who will swear-in in January.

Source:  After Venezuelan Elections, Maduro Calls for ‘Debate, Consultation, Action’