Three Mambises of our times

Source:  Granma
February 25 2018

Speech by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, in the tribute ceremony held in the Capitolio building, February 24, 2018, “Year 60 of the Revolution”

Compañeras and compañeros:

raul july 2015 2.jpg

Today, February 24, we celebrate the 123rd anniversary of the resumption of our War of Independence called for by José Martí.

The profound significance of this date marked the maturity and the crystallization of the project proposed by Martí, who in order to lead it and to make it happen, founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party.

When everything seemed lost, his ability to find an alternative and overcome any setback, led him to summon the people to a definitive effort: the war that he believed necessary when he thought it unavoidable. He continually called for national unity, articulating the best traditions of the past, without overlooking all those who were willing to sacrifice and give their lives for a greater cause.

A month later, on March 25, 1895, in Montecristi, the Dominican Republic, Martí, along with Major General Máximo Gómez, signed the Manifesto which set out the scope and aims of the struggle. Together they left for Cuba to join the liberation struggle, landing at Playitas de Cajobabo on April 11, just like Major General Antonio Maceo had done a few days before at Duaba.

As Fidel stated on the 100th anniversary of the Ten Years War, “Martí gathered up the flags of Céspedes, Agramonte, and the heroes that fell in that struggle and led Cuba’s revolutionary ideas in that period to their highest expression.”

Three brave compañeros

There is no better moment than this to award the honorific title of Hero of Labor of the Republic of Cuba – in fitting recognition of a lifetime of work committed to the Revolution – to three brave compañeros who already hold the honorable title of Heroes of the Republic of Cuba. I am referring to José Ramón Machado Ventura and Comandantes of the Revolution Ramiro Valdés Menéndez and Guillermo García Frías.

José Ramón Machado

As for Machado Ventura, I could highlight that he joined the struggle against the tyranny as a medical student at the University of Havana, and 65 years ago he participated in the first March of the Torches, in January 1953.

In 1957 he joined the Rebel Army in the Sierra Maestra and served as a doctor and guerilla fighter in various battles. He was a founder of the Second Front; and organized and led the Military Health Department until the end of the struggle, where he was wounded in combat. He developed a broad network of field hospitals and dispensaries which not only offered services to combatants but also, and most importantly, the area’s population, who in many places had never seen a doctor before.

After the triumph of the Revolution he was appointed Head of Medical Services of Havana and of the FAR(Revolutionary Armed Forces) and later Minister of Public Health.

He is a founder of the Communist Party of Cuba and in 1975 was elected as a member of the Political Bureau. He was First Party Secretary in various provinces.
Since 2011, he has served as second secretary of the Central Committee. He is a vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers.

Ramiro Valdés

Ramiro Valdés Menéndez joined the revolutionary struggle at a young age. He participated in the March of the Torches in January 1953 and in the attacks on the Moncada Garrison that same year, during which he was injured. He was imprisoned on the Isle of Pines and lived in exile in Mexico, where he joined the Granma expedition.

He was involved in multiple battles in the Sierra Maestra, and participated alongside Che in the invasion of the West as second commander of the Ciro Redondo Column No. 8.

Since the triumph of the Revolution he has occupied important posts, including Minister of the Interior on two occasions, and as a vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, a position which he currently holds. He is a member of the Party Political Bureau.

A lot more can be said about each one of these figures on this occasion, but in the case of Ramiro, I have always admired him because he is the only one of us who – in addition to those actions taken some months before Moncada, during which we marched in the first March of the Torches led by Fidel 65 years ago – was wounded in the taking of the main post during the Moncada assault; where he was shot in the heel with the bullet lodging itself in his foot. When we met up, or when we were brought together again at the Vivac (prison) in Santiago de Cuba, he showed me his blood-stained socks, but said he didn’t know where the bullet was. The years went by and he began to limp in the Sierra Maestra because of a callus he had on the sole of his foot. On various occasions he was unable to continue marching with the rest of the initial group of the liberation war, until one day, he began to scrape away at the callus with his own knife until the bullet of the Moncada attack appeared, shot by an enemy as he fell to the ground mortally wounded.

There are dozens or hundreds of heroic feats or important acts linked to each one, and which of course were not even recorded in the few campaign diaries that were written. What is more, unlike the rest of us in the liberation war, Ramiro had the good fortune and honor of being the second commander of the Column led by Che to Las Villas.

Guillermo García

Guillermo García Frías, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, organized a network of campesinos to help the Granma expeditionaries and take them to the Sierra Maestra. An astute man, he personally led Fidel and the other combatants to Cinco Palmas and recovered various rifles.

He was the first campesino to join the Rebel Army, with an outstanding record, first as a combatant and later as second commander of the Third Front when it was founded in early March 1958, led by then Comandante Juan Almeida.

There are hundreds of anecdotes about Guillermo; of the early days and following the Granmalanding, we will only touch on some aspects. It was he who led Fidel and two other compañeros, Faustino Pérez – who was a doctor – and Universo Sánchez, one of which was unarmed having left his rifle behind on treating the wounded in the first clash at Alegría de Pío.

That is to say that Fidel arrived to the Sierra Maestra with two other combatants, only one of which was armed. It was Guillermo García that got them around the blockade on the old road from the Pilón sugar mill to the municipal capital of Niquero; it was he who – fulfilling other urgent missions given him by the Comandante en Jefe, from Purial de Vicana, or Cinco Palmas de Vicana, where they first set up camp – gathered together almost all of us who originally joined up, including Ramiro himself, Almeida, Che, Camilo; and thus the initial group of three, then five more, then eight, gradually reuniting this important group of compañeros.

One of the first actions he took in support of the nascent guerilla force, was the number of rifles he collected in the days following these events of which I am speaking, from the 15th to the 18th, which together with the few we already had weren’t event sufficient to form a platoon, but were enough to launch the first attack; and although it might not have been the best moment to do so, with hundreds of soldiers hot on our heels, Fidel said that, with this first battle, we had to show the people that the guerillas were still here and would continue the war. This was the reason behind the battle of La Plata, barely a few weeks after this initial group, with the help of Guillermo García, were reunited. Other tasks would follow later.

As the first campesino to join the Rebel Army, he was also the first to be promoted. He had an outstanding track record, first as a combatant and then as second commander of the Third Front, under the command of Almeida.

After the triumph of the Revolution, he occupied various positions in the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Later he also served, among other roles, as a Political Bureau delegate in the former province of Oriente; a vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, Minister of Transport, and President of the Flora and Fauna Enterprise Group, where he has done an outstanding job.

He was a member of the Party Political Bureau from 1965 through 1986, and is currently a member of the Central Committee and Council of State.

Loyalty to the Revolution

Regarding characteristics shared by these three Mambises of our times I can cite their loyalty to the Revolution and to Fidel, their commitment to work, modesty and humility, which have made them worthy of the recognition and respect of the Cuban people.

It is not by chance that we are commemorating this date in the Capitolio building, whose tenacious restoration, has enabled the attributes of one of the most important buildings in the country to be highlighted, and in whose crypt rest the ashes of the Unknown Mambí, before which an eternal flame burns as a tribute of the people to their founding fathers and the glorious Liberation Army, and is surrounded by the flags of nations of the continent.

Today, this building is the headquarters of the National Assembly of People’s Power. It is also irrefutable proof of the care and interest that must always be put into preserving the cultural heritage of the nation.

Let me take this solemn moment to extend a well-deserved congratulations to Havana City Historian, Eusebio Leal, and those collaborators who have been most closely associated with the massive restoration of the Capitolio; including architect Perla Rosales; engineers Mariela Mulet, Yohanna Aedo and Tatiana Fernández; restoration expert Patricia Coma; professor Juan Carlos Botello and his students from the Vocational School; historian Lesbia Méndez; director of the City Historian Office’s Construction Enterprise, Conrado Hechavarría; and German expert Michael Diegmann.

On a day like today, as we honor those noble Cubans who in 1895 returned to the battle field to free Cuba, I repeat Fidel’s words spoken in 1965: “We would have been like them then, and they would have been like us now!” This is the commitment we have upheld and will also be that which guides the present and future generations, in order that the Homeland continues to be free.

Thank you very much. (Applause)

Dr. Mutulu Shakur – It is time for his release

Source:  Moorbey’z blog / mutulushakur
February 26 2018

mutulu shakur.jpgDr. Mutulu Shakur has been a federal prisoner since 1986. He has been denied parole eight times, has taken full responsibility for his actions, has served as a force for good and anti-violence throughout his decades of incarceration, is an elder and has multiple health complications, has a loving family that needs him, and upon release will continue to inspire people to seek self-improvement through peaceful and constructive means, as he has done while incarcerated.

The acts of which Dr. Shakur was convicted some thirty years ago were committed in the context of a movement seeking equal opportunities for black people who, it is widely conceded, were suffering catastrophically from disenfranchisement, segregation, poverty and exclusion from many of the fundamental necessities that make life worth living.

Dr. Shakur participated in civil rights, black liberation and alternative health care all as part of movements of the late 1960’s to the 1980’s. It was a period of civil conflict in which millions of Americans participated in social movements for justice and freedom.

Read full article here

 

AFRICOM – Staggering But Not Yet Down For The Count

Source:  Black Agenda Report
February 21 2018

“The AFRICOM serpent has spent more than a decade slithering into almost every African country and establishing a venomous presence.”

africom staggering but.jpg

Even though Donald Trump thinks Africa is a “shit hole” the continent forced its way into his life anyway in October when four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger. After Trump deflected blame to others and made a soldier’s widow cry, he apparently returned quickly to his fantasies about boatloads of Norwegian immigrants swarming Ellis Island.

The military establishment was not so quick to change the subject. Their detailed investigation of the Niger matter has produced what is reported to be a damning assessment of the capacity of the U.S. military to carry out its imperialist agenda in Africa. The rest of us aren’t allowed to read it yet because, as the New York Times explained: “…public release has been delayed until General [Thomas] Waldhauser [head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)] appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee to present the command’s annual ‘posture hearing,’ scheduled for the last week of February.”

The New York Times goes on to say: “Defense officials said that the delay in part aims to keep senators from focusing on the Niger ambush during the hearing and, in turn, excoriating General Waldhauser when he testifies before the committee.” The convenient temporary suppression of the report will allow the General to present senators with the usual upbeat AFRICOM propaganda about U.S. soldiers digging wells and bringing medicine to downtrodden African villagers while giving friendly advice to African armies about how to fight terrorism.

“The convenient temporary suppression of the report will allow the General to present senators with the usual upbeat AFRICOM propaganda.”

Findings about failures of the campaign to militarize Africa are welcome news after the AFRICOM serpent has spent more than a decade slithering into almost every African country and establishing a venomous presence. Even better news is that the study reportedly “…calls for the Pentagon to scale back the number of ground missions in West Africa, and to strip commanders in the field of some authority to send troops on potentially high-risk patrols.”

With respect to the military deaths in Niger, the New York Times noted: “…[T]he ambush has exposed holes in the argument that the Pentagon has made under three different administrations: that in many far-flung places, American troops are not actually engaged in combat, but just there to train, advise and assist local troops.” Not only is the U.S. military engaged in combat, it has also formed an unholy alliance with France that gives both countries the opportunity to wreak havoc in Africa tag-team style. For example, in 2012 when one of Mali’s soldiers, who had been trained by AFRICOM, staged a coup that displaced Mali’s democratically elected government, the French military stepped in to try to clean up the mess.

“The study calls for the Pentagon to scale back the number of ground missions in West Africa, and to strip commanders in the field of some authority to send troops on potentially high-risk patrols.”

The U.S. has also had France’s back. State Department documents show that while Muammar Gadhafi lived, France coveted Libya’s oil and wanted desperately to stop plans to create a Pan-African currency backed by Libyan gold. In an effort to satisfy French desires, the U.S. stepped in and did the dirty work of arming vicious Libyan racists and terrorists who, in turn, not only committed a grisly assassination of Gadhafi, but also began a campaign of genocide against blacks in Libya.

In Niger, when French uranium mining operations in Arlit and a military installation in Agadez were attacked in 2013, the U.S. military stepped in, and its continuing involvement there eventually cost the lives of four U.S. soldiers last year. A Guardian article about the 2013 attacks said: “The militants vowed to hit any country that helped France…” Someone apparently made good on that threat.

Meanwhile, U.S. politicians claim they are clueless. Senator Lindsey Graham said: “I didn’t know there were 1,000 troops in Niger. This is an endless war without boundaries, no limitation on time or geography. We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing.” Even though Donald Trump is probably less informed than Graham, his administration not only increased the number of drone strikes in Somalia, but also removed limits on drone strikes and commando raids that Barack (The King of Drones) Obama established in 2013.

“The U.S. has formed an unholy alliance with France that gives both countries the opportunity to wreak havoc in Africa tag-team style.”

Nevertheless, AFRICOM itself may already be downsizing. Lauren Ploch, a Congressional Research Service Africa analyst commented: “AFRICOM’s security cooperation spending was down in 2017 from the previous few years.” If the recently completed report on U.S. military engagement in Niger has the expected impact, the U.S. military presence in Africa will be scaled back even more — at least temporarily. But because the long-term interests of the U.S. Empire demand the continuing western capitalist domination of the African continent, the generals and strategists will no doubt huddle and figure out a more effective way to sell the AFRICOM idea, and it will return.

A temporarily scaled-back AFRICOM will present a window of opportunity that will probably close quickly. Those who want to prevent the further military domination of Africa must therefore make haste to do whatever possible to ensure that an already disintegrating AFRICOM project crumbles into dust and is swept away forever by African desert winds.

Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes frequently about the U.S. military presence in Africa. He can be contacted at mfancher(at)comcast.net

Drones in the Sahara

Source:  The Intercept
February 18 2018

A Massive U.S. Drone Base Could Destabilize Niger — and May Even Be Illegal Under Its Constitution

drones in the sahara.jpg

LATE IN THE morning of October 4 last year, a convoy of Nigerien and American special forces soldiers in eight vehicles left the village of Tongo Tongo. As they made their way between mud-brick houses with thatched roofs, they were attacked from one side by dozens of militants, if not hundreds. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Nigeriens and Americans fled, some on foot, running for cover behind trees and clusters of millet, their boots caked in the light brown earth. By the time the fighting was over, five Nigeriens and four Americans were killed, their bodies left naked in the bush after the militants took their uniforms.

The news went straight to the front pages in the United States and sparked a conflict between the family of one of the soldiers and President Donald Trump, after the president made insensitive remarks during a condolence call to the soldier’s widow. But the story also spread like wildfire throughout Niger, where the big news wasn’t so much that American soldiers had been killed, but that Americans soldiers were fighting in the country in the first place.

“I was surprised to learn that Americans had died in the Tongo Tongo attack,” Soumana Sanda, the leader of an opposition party in the Nigerien Parliament and taekwondo champion, told me in an interview in his pristine and sparsely decorated office in Niamey, the country’s quiet capital on the banks of the Niger River. “That was the moment I found out, as a Nigerien, as a member of parliament, as a representative of the people, that there is indeed (an American) base with ground operations.”

It was the same on the street. Moussa, a middle-aged man who sells children’s textbooks and novels on a busy corner in Niamey, captured the feelings of many I talked with. “We were surprised,” he said. “For us, this is another form of colonization.” Out of apprehension that he could get in trouble for voicing his views openly, he declined to give his last name.

US building a $110 million drone base in Niger

In fact, U.S. Special Operations forces have been in Niger since at least 2013 and are stationed around the country on forward operating bases with elite Nigerien soldiers. What happened in Tongo Tongo is just a taste of the potential friction and instability to come, because the pièce de resistance of American military engagement in Niger is a $110 million drone base the U.S. is building about 450 miles northeast of Niamey in Agadez, a city that for centuries has served as a trade hub on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, not far from Mali, Algeria, Libya and Chad. In January, I hopped aboard an aging plane that followed a roundabout route to one of America’s largest-ever military investments in Africa, its latest battleground in an opaque, expensive, and counterintuitive war on the continent.

drone base aerial view.jpgAerial view of the American drone base in Agadez, Niger, on June 4, 2017.
Photo: Google Earth

FLYING INTO AGADEZ requires a tour around Niger’s countryside. I boarded a 30-year-old Fokker 50 propeller plane that is owned by Palestinian Airlines and leased to state-owned Niger Airlines with a Palestinian crew. After stopping in the southern cities of Zinder and Maradi, we descended on Agadez, its rectangles and triangles of compounds and dirt roads forming a mosaic, with the surrounding reddish beige of the desert stretching out in all directions as far as the eye can see.

On the southeast edge of the civilian airport, accessible by tracks in the sand used mainly to exit the town, is Nigerien Air Base 201, or in common parlance “the American base.” The base, scheduled for completion in late 2018, is technically the property of the Nigerien military, though it is paid for, built, and operated by Americans. It is being constructed on land formerly used by Tuareg cattle-herders. So far, there is one large hangar, ostensibly where the drones could be housed, a runway under construction, and dozens of smaller structures where soldiers live and work.

The air strip will be large enough for both C-17 transport planes and MQ-9 Reaper armed drones, as The Intercept’s Nick Turse found out in 2016. A Nigerien military commander with direct knowledge of the base, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press, told me that it will be mainly used to surveil militants like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Mourabitoun, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, and local Islamic State affiliates including Boko Haram, which operate in border zones in neighboring countries. The U.S. currently flies drones out of an airport in Niamey, but those operations will be shifted to Agadez once the new base is completed.

American Special Forces operate separately from the drone base, which is run by the Air Force. The Green Berets are on the ground “training” Niger’s special forces and carrying out capture missions with them from the outposts of Ouallam near the Malian border, Aguelal near the Algerian border, Dirkou along the main transport routes between Niger and Libya, and Diffa, along the southeastern border with Nigeria and Chad, according to the same Nigerien commander. I’ve actually seen them at the Diffa base, a prominent local journalist has seen them at Dirkou, and I spoke to a person who worked at the Aguelal base.

When asked to confirm the American presence in those areas of Niger, U.S. Africa Command spokesperson Samantha Reho replied, “I cannot provide a detailed breakdown of the locations of our service members in Niger due to force protection and operational security limitations. With that said, I can confirm there are approximately 800 Department of Defense personnel (military, civilian, and contractor) currently working in Niger, making that country the second-highest concentration of DoD people across the continent, with the first being in Djibouti at Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.”

The U.S. is just one of several Western militaries that have established and strengthened military ties to Niger over the past few years. France has had soldiers in the country since 2013, when it launched Opération Serval in neighboring Mali. In 2015, France reopened a colonial fort in Madama, close to the border with Libya — unthinkable during the times of Moammar Gadhafi; the Libyan leader maintained a sphere of influence in the region that would have been at odds with a French military presence. Germany sent its own troops in Niger to support the United Nations peacekeeping mission across the border in Mali, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel even visited Niger in 2017. And Italy recently announced it would send 470 troops to a French base in the north of Niger to fight migrant transporters.

sugarcane vendors in niger.jpgSugarcane vendors stand outside during a ceremony at a police station in Agadez, Niger, Jan. 15, 2018.   Photo: Joe Penney

Read full article here

Caribbean Association of Cuba rejects Trump’s racist remarks

Source:  Granma
February 26 2018

maria rollock cuba caribbean

María Rollock Hernández, President of the Caribbean Association of Cuba, noted that “Our peoples are working for peace and unity, and we are offended by these disrespectful and arrogant remarks.” Photo: Nuria Barbosa

President of the ACC, María Rollock Hernández, speaking to Granma International, noted that “Our peoples are working for peace and unity, and we are offended by these disrespectful and arrogant remarks.”

The Caribbean Association of Cuba (ACC) vehemently rejected in Havana U.S. President Donald Trump’s racist and xenophobic remarks.

During a meeting with U.S. Senators held in mid January, Trump asked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” in reference to Haiti, El Salvador, and other African countries, provoking a wave of criticism from across the globe.

Peace and unity

The ACC statement reads: “Our organization, responding to the sentiments of its members, descendents of the Greater Caribbean, expresses its most energetic condemnation and rejection of the recent xenophobic and racist remarks by current President of the United States Donald Trump, for his disrespect, erroneous and de-contextualized view of Caribbean, Latin American and African nations, all of which have equal rights before the United Nations.”

President of the ACC, María Rollock Hernández, speaking to Granma International, noted that “Our peoples are working for peace and unity, and we are offended by these disrespectful and arrogant remarks.”

The organization, founded on March 3, 1932, is composed of over 700 members from 26 nations and works to promote the traditions, culture, history of struggle and achievements of different countries of the Caribbean.

The ACC brings together citizens and descendents of nations such as Antigua, Jamaica, the Bermuda Islands, Montserrat, Haiti, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Venezuela, Saint Lucia, the Caiman Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, Aruba, Anguilla, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Grenada, Belize, and Cuba, who work to strengthen ties between members.

Norman Girvan Centre for Caribbean Studies

The Caribbean Association of Cuba is a non-governmental organization affiliated with the Association of Caribbean States and the University of Havana’s Norman Girvan Centre for Caribbean Studies.

It also forms part of Cuban civil society and maintains links with the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP); Casa de las Américas; Foreign Ministry; Cuban Movement for Peace; among other national institutions.

What is more, the organization works to promote popular participation in socio-economic, political and cultural integration processes designed to strengthen Caribbean identity, while also facilitating the creation of social tools to boost regional unity.

Daughter to a Barbadian father, Rollock Hernández noted that: “Since its creation, our organization has been permanently open to strengthening the ties of friendship and solidarity with the peoples. We offer a cultural program to educate the new generations in the traditions and representative elements of art from the region. In order to do so we maintain socio-cultural exchanges with many nations in the area.”

One such activity is the Caribbean Festival or Festival of Fire, which takes place every year in July, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, with performances by dance and music groups, and expositions by popular artisans and visual artists. A theoretical event is held parallel to the festival, during which the results of research into Caribbean issues are presented.

Activities are also held to commemorate national celebrations and Independence Day in each country, as well as the ACC’s anniversary, including workshops, expositions, cultural events and others dedicated to historic themes, with the participation of neighbors, friends, members of the community and guests.

In this regard, Rollock Hernández noted that “In June we organize an international event focused on Cuban and Caribbean culinary arts, and in October we undertake activities in honor of Cuban Culture Day with a celebration of Latin American and Caribbean culture highlighting the friendship and solidarity of the peoples.”

Cuba to create an entity to preserve and spread the legacy of Fidel

Source:  La Santa Mambisa / Cubadebate

raul presides over meeting re fidel's legacy feb 2018.jpgMeeting of the working group in charge of elaborating proposals for the creation
of an institution that conserves and spreads the memory of the historical leader
of the Cuban Revolution. Photo: Revolution Studies.

In a meeting chaired by Army General Raul Castro Ruz , first secretary of the Central Committee of the Party, a working group was set up to prepare proposals to create an institution aimed at the preservation of documentary heritage, the study and dissemination of thought and the work of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz .

To complete the hard work, described by Raúl as of the utmost importance and which will be attended by the country’s top management, some thirty experts from different specialties and representatives of various agencies, entities and institutions were invited.

As explained by the first vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez , in charge of controlling the fulfillment of this task, the objective is to collect and perpetuate in an institution the valuable information that over the years has gone Treasuring about the activities that the Commander in Chief developed during his fertile life and that are part of the historical memory of the nation.

To this end, Presidential Decree No. 21 was announced .  The Decree allows for the creation of the group of comrades who will elaborate the ideas for the establishment of the aforementioned institution and will be presided over by Alberto Alvariño Atiénzar.   On behalf of all those present,  Alberto Alvariño Atiénzar said that they assumed a historical task, of great political responsibility and to which they would dedicate themselves with absolute consecration.

The Presidential Decree specifies that in the proposals that are submitted, the conceptual bases, principles, mission, functions and structure of the institution must be defined, among other matters.

The decision is in accordance with the provisions of Law No. 123 , of December 27, 2016, on the use of the name and figure of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, for the future of any institution that is created for the study of his invaluable trajectory in the history of the nation.

The Panther Movie: Why is It Dangerous? Why Do We Fall for It?

Source:  Moorbey’z BlogBlack Agenda Report
February 27 2018

black panther film 2.jpgThe Panther Movie: Why is It Dangerous? Why Do We Fall for It?

“Our situation is so dire that we will reach out for this Hollywood fantasy as if it can be helpful, healing, and a lens through which to view history.”

The Panther movie is out and people are going in droves to check it out. Both Black and white. This requires clear hard-headed thinking. It’s not about the actors in the film and their careers. Can’t blame a brother or a sister for needing a payday and a chance to make it inside the system, in this case Hollywood. It’s certainly not about the capitalists promoting it on all media, as they have the dual interest of making money and controlling our consciousness to prevent our movement from making sure they stop making all this money. It has to be about our clear understanding of history, and how we can get free from this system.

The first thing is that they know how to go fishing. Beautiful Black people celebrating culture and positive relations. A view of traditional Africa that defies all logic and historical experience but gives Black people a view of the past that can be imagined as the technological future. This fits the imaginative rethinking of ancient Egypt as an answer for our future. Our situation is so dire that we will reach out for this Hollywood fantasy as if it can be helpful, healing, and a lens through which to view history. There is dialogue about freedom, but in no way reflects the past or gives positive advice for us.

“The King of Wakanda is a friendly associate with the CIA.”

Lies can’t get us where we need to go. Let’s take a quick look at this film. It is a replay of the conflict of the 1960s between cultural nationalism and revolutionary nationalism, the US organization of Karenga and the Panthers of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The story is about who is going to control the Kingdom of Wakanda. The point of conflict is the Panther as a metaphor for a Black liberation change agent. The cultural nationalist is the King of Wakanda, who uses their special natural resource plants to become the Black Panther. He is a friendly associate with the CIA. The reference to the actual Black Panthers, meaning the child of Wakanda who grew up in Oakland, is a sort of gangster living a Fanonian fantasy that violence will change the world. He too is the son of a member of the royal family. This guy was trained by the CIA and begins the film in alliance with a white South African fascist. The big lie is that to be a Panther one has to be of “royal blood,” and not simply a victim of the system who stands up to fight back. Another big lie is that the CIA is an ally in the fight for a better world.

The film is a commercial hodgepodge of references to other popular films:

  1. A young women plays the part of the tech-savvy Q of James Bond movies
  2. The space ships are a nod to Star Wars
  3. The CIA agent is the star from the Hobbit movies
  4. The car chases refer to the Fast and Furious films
  5. Moving into Wakanda makes you think of Stargate

In 2018 we live in a moment of spontaneous movement and there is the possibility that another version of the real Panthers will likely emerge. Some original Panthers are still incarcerated and being brutalized by the system they dared to oppose. A movie like this has the bait to pull us in like fish about to be hooked by the system. People see the film and feel good, but isn’t that what people say about first getting high on drugs. We know how drug addiction turns out.

This film is dangerous and we must be vigilant against culture used to control and oppress.

Abdul Alkalimat is a native of Chicago, Illinois and received his PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago. He is currently a Professor in African American Studies and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Go to his website to find out more about his lifelong history of activism, with a focus on

Militarizing Schools, Criminalizing Students

Source:  The Real News Network
February 26 2018

Since 1999, 10,000 additional police officers have been placed at schools, with no impact on violence. Meanwhile, about one million students have been arrested for acts previously punishable by detention or suspension, and black students are three times more likely to be arrested than their white peers, says policy analyst Samuel Sinyangwe.

TRANSCRIPT

SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real New Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. The tragic shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida has ignited a national discussion about gun control and school safety. The suspected shooter, white supremacist Nikolas Cruz was trained in the army’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Program, where the US military officers taught him to shoot rifles at targets as small as a coin.Cruz, a violent racist who in social media messages fantasized about murdering black people, Mexicans, and gay people, used an AR-15 assault style rifle in the attack, killing 17 classmates, and wounding at least 15 more. Some advocates have proposed hiring more school police and giving heavier weapons for officers who are already in schools as a solution. This is a trend that has been growing steadily, with the number of police doubling in the past two decades.In 1996, 20% of public schools had a police officer in the building. Today, there are officers in 43% of public schools. Yet, there is little evidence that these officers have stopped any school shootings. In fact, Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had a school officer on the premises, but he was not able to do anything about preventing the shooting.Meanwhile, racial justice activists warn that putting more officers in school could actually increase violence, not prevent it. Evidence of this emerge in viral videos posted on social media that has shown us school cops brutalizing students. Joining us now to discuss the over-policing and militarization of our schools is Samuel Sinyangwe. Samuel is a policy analyst and data scientist who works with communities of color to fight systemic racism. He co-founded the project Mapping Police Violence, which collects data on police violence. Thank you so much for joining us Sam.

SAM SINYANGWE: Thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES: Sam, do you think putting more police in schools can stop these kinds of shootings in the future?

SAM SINYANGWE: As a data scientist, it’s important to consult the evidence in the data to actually figure out whether this strategy of increasing policing and criminalization in schools in as effective one. The data is pretty clear that more police officers in school—which we’ve seen, as you mentioned, over 10,000 additional police officers are now in schools compared to when Columbine happened in 1999, which really helped start this trend—it hasn’t had a noticeable impact on rates of police shootings, the likelihood that a police shooting will happen. There are not a wealth of cases that you can point to where a school police officer stopped and prevented school shootings. The only data and evidence that does exist is evidence that shows that more police in schools leads to more criminalization of students, and especially black and brown students.Every single year, about 70,000 kids are arrested in school, and black kids are three times more likely to be arrested than their white peers. Kids are being arrested for things that previously would’ve resulted in a detention or a suspension. Now they’re being arrested for things like disorderly conduct and fighting in schools without weapons. Things that kids do in middle school and high school, and that would not have been resulting in criminal charges against those students. Except, for the fact that there are police officers now responding to those incidents instead of school principals and administrators.We see 70,000 kids a year, that’s about 1 million kids, over 1 million kids that have been arrested and many of which have been hit with a criminal record and incarcerated over the past two decades since this trend began. And so, we look at this incredible amount of violence and abuse of students in schools over the past two decades and you ask the question: why? And there’s really not a solid argument as to why we need all of these police in schools, let alone adding more of them, which is what the conservatives and the right wing think we should be doing.

SHARMINI PERIES: Since 1999 Columbine shooting, as you said, since then, the Department of Justice spend more than $753 million to hire school police officers. Since 2010, the DOJ and the officers’ hiring program has spent more than $1 billion to hire thousands more school officers. What has the effect been and this kind of money, how can it be used to prevent these kinds of shootings taking place without putting cops in the schools?

SAM SINYANGWE: $1 billion is being spent and there is literally no decisive evidence to suggest that schools are any safer after $1 billion has been spent. Instead, all we’ve seen are kids with criminal records now, kids being arrested, kids being put on the school to prison pipeline as a consequence of our taxpayer money going to support these school resource officers.Instead of spending that money on school resource officers, school police officers, we could be investing that money in our kids, we could be investing that money in education, and we could be investing that money in coming up with solutions that actually prevent gun violence. Things like restricting access to guns, creating a better system of identifying people who have warning signs. Whether that is domestic violence and other warning signs like this shooter had. That can help us identify and intervene and prevent kids from shooting up schools before it comes to the point that we saw.And so, there are effective strategies here. There are strategies that many states and cities have begun to implement to restrict access to guns that have reduced gun violence, and that should be scaled across the nation if Congress was doing their job. That’s exactly what we need them to do.

SHARMINI PERIES: Since the Parkland shooting, the sheriff in surrounding county of Broward County I believe announced that deputies will now be allowed to carry rifles on school grounds. How is the community responding to this?

SAM SINYANGWE: The thought of having police officers on school grounds with AR-15 rifles and knowing … As we’ve seen over the past several years, there have been incident after, incident after incident on video of police officers gunning down unarmed black youth. And so, having to go to school every single day to a school that is militarized with these police officers knowing that you could easily be mistaken for a shooter or a threat as we’ve seen so many people who have just been walking down the street, people who have been driving and stopped for a traffic infraction. People who have been choked to death for selling loose cigarettes.We’ve seen all these different cases across the country of people being abused by the police. And now, giving the police even more fire power is not a solution that works. The solution that works is to effectively restrict access to guns and make sure that AR-15s don’t end up in the hands of people who want to kill amazing numbers of people because they have underlying issues and problems that need to be solved. By our mental health system, by our criminal justice system, by all of the systems that are in place to help prevent it from getting to that point in the first place. And certainly, to prevent somebody like that from getting access to an AR-15.

SHARMINI PERIES: Sam, I know when people feel fear, they think the way in which to protect themselves is to buy more arms, put a gun in your purse, and militarize and arm ourselves even more. Have you seen that any other jurisdiction that has had a different strategy here to deal with this kind of violence in our society and has taken a step back and said, “Well you know, increasing the number of guns out there is not the solution.”

SAM SINYANGWE: Yeah. Just to hit this point home on militarization, there is no evidence that increased militarization of the police does anything positive at all for society, and plenty of evidence to suggest that it erodes police community trust, that it results in more violence against civilians. That is the strategy that conservatives are trying to double down on, is creating more violence to respond to violence.That’s just something that we can’t do, that will not work for our kids, will not work for our communities. What we need to be doing is following the examples of other countries that in response to incidents like mass shootings have implemented much more far-reaching gun control measures that have entirely restricted and in many cases, eliminated the prevalence of assault weapons—in some cases, semiautomatic hand guns and other weapons—from society. I think that should be the goal.We shouldn’t have a society where people have weapons that can kill scores of people. We’re a society of over 300 million people, and it’s not sustainable to expect 300 million people to be able to manage such a powerful weapon system like that in a responsible way. So, we need to be looking at what’s working in other countries, implementing that here and following the lead of states and cities that are taking the lead on this issue.For example, passing assault weapons bans like have been passed in eight states. Passing rules that make it much harder for people who have a history of domestic violence from getting access to a gun. Creating waiting periods where you cannot just buy a gun whenever you want. You have to wait, which means if you are in a particular mood and you just flipped out and want to be violent, you can’t just get access to a gun immediately.There are some common-sense measures that we can implement right now as we move towards the goal of a broader society that is not as prevalent with guns and prolific with so many different killing instruments. And, we’re actually investing in people, in what makes us healthy, what makes us safe, what helps us learn—and not what kills one another.

SHARMINI PERIES: Thank you very much Sam. I thank you so much for joining us today and look forward to following this national discussion on how to demilitarize as well as make our society less violent. I thank you so much.

SAM SINYANGWE: Thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.

Gun Control will Not Cure a Society that Produces Monstrous Behavior

Source:  Dear Kitty Some Blog / The Real News Network

TRANSCRIPT

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. In a previous interview with Dr. Gerald Horne, we discussed how guns, and God, and country are all part of the religious faith of the far right in the United States. The idea that guns and the individual right to defend oneself is more an act of faith than an act of logic, when one actually works through the arguments of how one actually achieves public safety, but there’s a reason why, or some reasons why, I think, that a lot of ordinary people can believe in such a faith, because part of that faith is a recognition of the decay of values in the society, the chaos in society, the violence in society. A lot of that is attributed — by such people who believe in these things — to the Democratic Party, and the intellectual elites, as they see them, the elites in the Democratic Party. I frankly think there’s something to that argument.Now joining me to discuss that again is Dr. Gerald Horne. Dr. Horne holds the John J. and Rebecca Moore Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. His latest book is The Counterrevolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. Thanks for joining me again, Gerald.

GERALD HORNE: Thank you.

PAUL JAY: When one looks at what’s happened to a large extent in popular culture, certainly what’s happened in terms of the growing inequality gap in terms of economics, ordinary working people who had some sense of stability from an economy that used to be far more reliable, and with that ideological and institutional beliefs that seemed far more reliable, and a lot of that seems up in the air now. People feel very threatened, both economically and in terms of their core beliefs. They feel like this society doesn’t believe in much of anything anymore.That leads, I think, leads people with some legitimacy to think that a lot of the leadership of the Democratic Party and their promises are such hypocrisy, and that some of this violence needs to be laid on their doorstep. When the charge for gun control is led by that leadership of the Democratic Party, it feels hypocritical, because they’re not dealing with some of the conditions that lead to so much mental illness, so much psychosis in this society. The numbers of these mass shootings are certainly increasing. This feeling that society’s spinning out of control, and that the Democratic Party leadership has a lot to do with that, and of course that gets exaggerated, because it’s not like when the Republicans are in power it’s better, but this all gets manipulated a lot. Anyway, what are your thoughts, Dr. Horne?GERALD HORNE: I would say that there are profound sociological reasons for what is occurring with regard to mass shootings. First of all, consider the fact that overwhelmingly and disproportionately those who pull the trigger are men. We should not take that for granted. We should instead seek to analyze why that might be the case, and it does not take an expert in sociology to quickly arrive at the conclusion that many men in this country have been unsettled by the changing role of gender in this country, by the enhanced role and authority of women, by the rise of feminism. There hasn’t been an adequate ventilation and discussion of this particular question, and as a result, it has left many men without any kind of understanding of what’s going on in the society in which they’re operating, leading men, as the saying goes, many men at least, to cling with bitterness to their guns.Secondly, with regard to foreign policy, I find it quite striking that a central aspect of U.S. foreign policy in recent decades has not only been war, that is to say settling political and sociological problems from the barrel of a gun, be it Libya, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, but also helping to fuel a certain kind of religious zealotry, particularly in pre-1979 Afghanistan, and not least in pre-2011 Libya, and then of course that particular phenomenon comes home to roost with the killing in Texas engineered by Nidal Hasan, the killing at the Pulse nightclub, for example. That general idea of settling political and sociological problems through the barrel of a gun should not be thought of as just an exemplar of religious zealots such as Nidal Hasan in Texas. It’s part of the U.S. culture, as noted in our previous segment, going back to European settlement in the 1600s.PAUL JAY: Look at Hollywood movies and television shows, at the number of movies and shows that glorify the most outlandish amounts of killing and slaughtering. That’s not new. We’ve had decades of that kind of culture developing. Again, I go to ordinary working people that buy into this kind of God, gun, and country ideology. It’s a legitimate concern when they look at what the kind of stuff that Hollywood produces, the level of violence of it, but I also think one of the points that the NRA woman made had a kernel of truth to it. I mean in the town hall CNN organized. According to her, there were 39 points where the young man that did the shooting was in connection with the state or social agencies in some ways, whether it was the police force or some kind of social agencies, and they kept diagnosing him as having mental illness. They saw some of his very threatening posts on social media.DANA LOESCH: We have to start, number one, following up on red flags. 39 times in the past year, it was law enforcement or it was social services that went to this individual’s home.PAUL JAY: The irony of her statement is, she supports — and the NRA and that right –precisely supports the kind of politics that cuts back on social services, that cuts back on mental healthcare, that cuts back on public health interventions. The lack of interventions in the schools, which is partly a resource question and partly a lack of agenda, but the number of severely depressed, disturbed kids that simply go through school … Now, most of them don’t shoot anybody, but often they shoot themselves. Suicide rates are also skyrocketing. It’s not just about mass shootings.Why is there such an opiate epidemic? This society is sick. The people who only focus on gun control, and here again I would point to the leadership of the Democratic Party and much of the liberal class that think gun control is the answer, without dealing with the issue of the rot in the society that is so screwing up people’s heads that massive drug addiction, deep depression, high suicide rates … We talk about that healthy society, and yes, of course, let’s also talk about gun control, but not to talk about the rest, that is hypocrisy.GERALD HORNE: First of all, with regard to Hollywood, it’s well known, point A, that that particular industry, in the film and television, has a more than normalized complement of executives at the top who tend to be campaign donors to the Democratic Party. Point B, as your comment suggested, the cultural products that they produce tend to glorify violence. Then point C is that the ratings agencies are much more willing to censor, if you like, scenes of sexuality as opposed to scenes of violence, and let ‘er rip when it comes to scenes of violence.Then there’s the question of mental health, which is quite tricky, because on the one hand, it would be a mistake, as the Republicans are tending to do, to lay this tragedy at the doorstep of mental illness. As suggested, there are many people who have mental problems who do not necessarily pick up an AR-15, and march into a public school, and mow people down. At the same time, the Republicans are pleading inconsistent accounts, as the lawyers like to say, because on the one hand they’re trying to point the finger of accusation at mental health. On the other hand, they’re defunding government programs that address mental health. Obviously, they can’t have it both ways. They are pleading inconsistent accounts, and certainly they need to be held to account for their inconsistent hypocrisy.PAUL JAY: This thing that this NRA woman says at the town hall, where she over and over again called this young man, the shooter, a monster, “He’s a monster.”DANA LOESCH: I don’t believe that this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm. This monster carrying bullets to school, carrying bullets to school …PAUL JAY: No, he’s another child of ours. He’s one of our kids. He wasn’t born a monster. If what he did was monstrous, not if, what he did was monstrous — but how does he become that kind of monster? She doesn’t want to deal with that whatsoever. She wants to demonize him. It’s virtually back to this good and evil argument. Somehow he’s an evil seed, and the good — God, guns, country — we need to go get these monsters. Of course, to do that, we need our guns.GERALD HORNE: I think what you’re saying is another problem, as well, which is that it’s well known that in this country, when there are prickly and tricky political and sociological problems, there is a tendency not to analyze the society, the soil from which these problems grow, but to denounce individual proxies. You see that in particular with regard to what happens in the black community, for example. That is to say, rather than denouncing white supremacy, or the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, ongoing racism, etc., there is a laser-like focus on the imagined frailties and debilities, for example, of single black mothers.You see that as not necessarily isolated with regard to the black community. You see this also with regard to this question of mass shootings. Rather than do a historical analysis of European settlement, and colonialism, and dispossession of Native Americans, which would then lead to an indictment of society, it’s much easier to affix individual blame on a particular teenager, as is happening in Florida as we speak.PAUL JAY: Just to pick up on something you said, in terms of the history of this ideology of the right to have a gun, and how connected it is with the God, and country, and so on, it wasn’t all that long ago it was considered a right by a lot of Southerners, white Southerners, they have a right to lynch black people.GERALD HORNE: Sure. Once again, there is a reluctance to dig too deeply with regard to the nettlesome problems of this society. You see this, as you have suggested a moment or two ago, with regard to some of the liberals on Capitol Hill. That is to say, when there is a kind of tragedy that has just unfolded in Florida, the mantra is, “That’s not who we are.” That is to say, “This is not a problem of these United States of America and the kind of society that has developed over the decades and centuries ago.” If you take that particular point of view, that leaves you with an individual analysis of looking at the real and imagined problems of individuals, which fundamentally does not get you anywhere, because it does not lead to profound and sweeping changes of society, which is so desperately needed in this country.PAUL JAY: Yeah, it leads to more shootings in schools. Thanks very much for joining us, Gerald.GERALD HORNE: Thank you.PAUL JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

U.S. congressional delegation reaffirms need to improve relations with Cuba

Source:  Granma
February 21 2018

U.S. members of Congress expressed the need to continue the process, initiated by the Obama administration, toward the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, during a February 21 press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

us congressional delegation in cuba.jpgPhoto: Prensa Latina

U.S. members of Congress expressed the need to continue the process, initiated by the Obama administration, toward the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, during a February 21 press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

The group, led by Democrat Senator and Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman, Patrick Leahy, arrived in Cuba last weekend, here to review – together with local authorities – changes in Washington’s policy toward the island since President Donald Trump assumed office in January 2017.

During the press conference, Leahy mentioned the meeting that he and his colleagues held yesterday with Cuban President, Raúl Castro, describing the encounter as extremely frank and pleasant, during which Cuba’s desire to continue improving bilateral relations, despite current circumstances was expressed.

The Senator for Vermont criticized the new direction taken by the Trump administration with regard to Cuba policy, and in particular measures related to the withdraw of diplomatic personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Havana and the expulsion of members of Cuba’s diplomatic corps from its headquarters in Washington.

A grave error

This is a grave error which harms the interests of both governments and peoples and above all those who need to visit either country for family or business purposes, as well as so many other things that were frozen under the pretext of the health incidents reported by U.S diplomatic staff in the Cuban capital, noted Leahy.

Regarding this issue, the U.S. Senator highlighted the Cuban government’s cooperation in resolving the case and stated that he believes the island’s authorities do not have the slightest intention to harm U.S. citizens who visit Havana.

What is more he noted that not a single one of his colleagues had any fears about travelling to Cuba as they believe the island to be a safe place, and have even travelled here with their spouses, and in Leahy’s case, with his 13 year old granddaughter.

The group, which will return to the U.S. today, February 21, also includes senators Ron Wyden from Oregon and Gary Peters from Michigan, as well as House Representatives James McGovern (D-Massachusetts), Kathy Castor (D-Florida) who was not present during the press conference, and Susan Davis (D-California).

For his part McGovern criticized recent steps by the Trump administration to reduce the number of staff at the U.S and Cuban embassies as well as other changes by the White House which have had negative implications for bilateral relations, as they affect travel by Cuban and U.S. citizens to both countries.

On Monday, February 20, the Congressional delegation held a meeting with Director General for the United States at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Carlos Fernández de Cossio, who thanked them for their efforts to improve relations.

The Cuban official also reiterated that no evidence of the alleged sonic attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel in Havana exists, as sectors intent on preventing any advance in the normalization of relations between the two countries, are claiming.