President Obama set to leave office, but the blockade remains

Source: Granma
October 25 2016

by: Josefina Vidal | internet@granma.cu

 

obama-leaving

Talk by Josefina Vidal, director general for the United States at the Ministry of Foreign Relations (MINREX), during an event against the blockade organized by Cuban youth at the University of Havana, October 17, 2016, Year 58 of the Revolution

 (Council of State transcript / GI translation)

Good morning everyone.

josefina vidal talks about the blockade.jpg

Photo: Yander Zamora

Thank you all very much for the invitation, to add my voice to those of young people gathered here, and the people of Cuba, as I have already done online, on social media, to the ‘Cuba votes against the blockade’ event; because the blockade harms the Cuban people, damages Cuba as a whole, damages the functioning of our economy, damages Cuba’s relations with third countries and those of third countries with Cuba, and even damages the relations we could have with the United States itself . For all these reasons we will vote against the blockade, and those who have not, still have the chance to on the “Cuba contra el bloqueo” (Cuba against the blockade) website.

United States-Cuba Normalization

Before having a conversation – as I understand that this is a conversation with you and that I will take questions from you, I do not want this to be a monologue – I would like to share a few introductory thoughts – I will not be very extensive in my introduction – considering that just three days ago, there were announcements made in the United States related to Cuba, there were two announcements: first, a presidential policy directive, entitled ‘United States-Cuba Normalization’ and secondly, the fifth package of measures to modify the application of certain aspects of the blockade.

There have been discussions on this, since last Friday, at the Foreign Ministry, through the Cuban press, on digital sites like Cubadebate, but I think it is important, as we had a little more time over the weekend to think about this, as these measures were announced just last Friday, October 14, to share with you some thoughts and some preliminary conclusions, which we have reached following the study and analysis of these two announcements.

Firstly, I would like to refer to the presidential policy directive on Cuba. It is the first directive on Cuba approved and issued by President Obama who, as you know, is set to leave office in a few months, on January 20, 2017 to be exact, when a new administration, resulting from the elections to be held on November 8, will assume the leadership of that country, that is to say very soon.

Read more at: Obama to leave office but the blockade remains

The blockade persists

Source: Granma
November 1 2016

The extraterritorial application of the blockade is preventing the donation of a piano to Cuba from the UK.

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Author: Nuria Barbosa León | internet@granma.cu

Members of the Cubanos en UK group organized the fundraising campaign to send a piano to Cuba. Photo: Courtesy of Cubanos en UK

YOUNG Cuban residents in the UK never imagined that they would face obstacles to sending a grand piano to the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory in Havana.

The idea arose when pianist Eralys Fernández Méndez offered several master classes to students of basic piano at the mid-level music school in 2015, and realized the need to donate such an instrument to the center where she had trained in the early 1990s.

Speaking to Granma International, Eralys Fernández Méndez noted that she was inspired to do something after witnessing the high professional level of staff at the Conservatory, and the interest in learning demonstrated by students and teachers. She added: “Some of them were my teachers when I was a student and later my colleagues upon graduating from the Conservatory. This is a way to thank them for the teaching I received, and their good work in the training of pianists.”

Immediately, other Cubans, such as Daniesky Acosta Linares, graphic designer and director of the Cubanos en UK group, composed of Cubans living in the UK, organized a charity concert of classical music to raise funds to buy a grand piano for the school. The tickets for the event held on March 12, 2016, were sold through the site http://www.eventbrite.co.uk.

In just a few days, 360 pounds sterling was collected through the purchase of 36 tickets sold through the online platform, which allows users to search for, buy and sell tickets for events, a common practice in the digital age.

Following the successful concert, on March 17 the organizers received a message from Eventbrite noting: “We were contacted by our bank to let us know that the payout we initiated on 17 March 2016 for £360 has been temporarily held.” A month later, Eventbrite confirmed that the ticket money was withheld “pursuant to U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) regulations and sanctions program.”

Acosta Linares noted, “This experience has made us see more clearly some of the complex aspects of the criminal U.S. blockade policy against our country. Today we know that the blockade has an extraterritorial character, which even violates the laws of third countries, including the UK.”

In his opinion, the most logical thing would be that when operating in the UK, Eventbrite comply with British regulations, which do not include any sanctions against Cuba. Instead, the policy is a violation of the sovereignty of the European country.

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Pianist Eralys Fernández Méndez selecting a suitable grand piano to send to the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory in Havana. Photo: Courtesy of Cubanos en UK

Cuba’s annual report on Resolution 70/5 of the United Nations General Assembly, entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”, presented to the national and foreign press in Havana on September 9, 2016, by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, contains numerous examples of the economic damages caused by this unilateral coercive measure to the Caribbean island.

The document notes that between April 2015 and March 2016, the direct economic damage caused by the blockade to Cuba totaled more than 4.68 billion dollars at current prices, calculated conservatively using methodology recognized by prestigious U.S. institutions.

The Cuban Foreign Minister clearly expressed: “President Barack Obama said the blockade did not work, it has not worked and must be lifted; he said it has not served the historical U.S. objectives or purposes over these more than five decades. He did not say that it is illegal, a violation of international law; he did not say it is a violation of the human rights of Cubans; he did not say it is immoral, that it violates all ethics; neither did he say that it is cruel and causes human damages.”

Pastors for Peace faces attacks on solidarity work

Source:  Granma
August 30 2016

by: Lissy Rodríguez Guerrero | informacion@granma.cu &  Jesús Jank Curbelo | informacion@granma.cu

pastors for peace face attacks.jpgPhoto: JUAN ANTONIO BORREGO

Despite the new attitudes to Cuba among many sectors in the U.S., this renewed attention is not always beneficial to the island or its friends.

For a quarter century, the IFCO / Pastors for Peace organization has organized multiple aid caravans loaded with donations of all kinds, including medicines, vehicles and school supplies, to Cuba and other nations.

Pastors for Peace was recognized as a non-profit organization by the U.S. government

gail walker pastors for peace.jpgAccording to Gail Walker, executive director of the organization, these efforts are an expression of love and solidarity with the Cuban people, in opposition to the blockade.

Pastors for Peace was recognized as a non-profit organization by the U.S. government, due to its fundraising work or action in support of a specific cause or set of causes. As such, the organization has enjoyed tax-exempt status.

IRS attempting to strip it of its non-profit status

As Walker stressed in an interview with Rosa Miriam Elizalde, published by Cubadebate, the organization’s work with Cuba provides no motive for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to strip it of its non-profit status, as it is attempting to do.

The executive director explained that given President Obama’s opposition to the blockade, they had hoped that the efforts of the IFCO / Pastors for Peace would be respected. But the reality is that despite the new approach to Cuba among many sectors in the U.S., this renewed attention is not always beneficial to the island or its friends.

Walker noted that we must recognize that the United States government continues its campaign to undermine Cuba and its revolutionary principles.

Walker explained that should the IRS strip the organization of its status, it will be required to pay taxes on income received from donors, thus negatively impacting on its budget and ability to remain functioning.

Donors would likely reduce or discontinue their donations

She added that certain donors would likely reduce or discontinue their donations, as these would no longer be considered tax-exempt humanitarian contributions.

Similarly, projects that we support financially will have to find other sponsors whose non-profit status remains intact, she said.

Online petition to President Barack Obama

Therefore, we have asked our support network to assist us in a number of ways. These include an online petition to President Barack Obama, the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, and a dozen members of Congress who have held progressive positions and have declared themselves in favor of improving relations with the island, Walker explained.

She noted the organization’s hope that a large number of signatories will serve to bring this senseless attack to the attention of many lawmakers who have advocated for the end of the blockade.

However, she stated that regardless of the penalties imposed against Pastors for Peace by the U.S. government, the organization will continue steadfast in its mission: to assist the dispossessed and fight against human and civil rights injustices.

Cuba’s response

Of course, the island did not hesitate in expressing its support for Pastors for Peace.

icap logo 1The Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) made public its condemnation of the situation, and called on all friends across the world to show their solidarity and support for the organization.

“We stand in solidarity with our IFCO / Pastors for Peace brothers and sisters, who (…) have promoted social-community projects in defense of the poor classes inside and outside the United States and have defied the blockade imposed by that government on our country for more than 50 years,” read the statement, published on the ICAP website.

An attack on solidarity

ICAP added that organizations like this “are necessary in this world marked by war and social injustice,” and that “an attack on IFCO is an attack on solidarity.”

One of the sectors most benefited by IFCO / Pastors for Peace has been education, concentrated in recent years in the donation of school supplies, as Cira Piñeiro Alonso, first deputy Education minister told Granma.

She added that the technical and vocational education sector has received learning support materials, instruments and tools for developing skills in the island’s trade schools; while special education has benefited from the donation of school buses.

Helping the Cuban state overcome limitations resulting from the blockade

Notebooks, colored paper, pencils, crayons and toys for pre-school day care centers have also featured among the contributions.

According Pineiro, these resources have enabled the Cuban state to overcome the limitations resulting from the blockade, which prevent the purchase of essential teaching materials. As such, the Cuban education sector reiterates its gratitude and solidarity with Pastors for Peace.

U.S. Congresspersons Seek to Intensify Blockade against Cuba

Source:  Cuban News Agency
July 13 2016

The House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress was the scene of a new maneuver of the anti-Cuban lobby that managed to include sanctions against the Caribbean nation in the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill.

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The Congresspersons -openly opposed to the rapprochement between Havana and Washington- continued their anti-Cuban campaign after managing to obtain the removal last week of amendments that would allow U.S. citizens to travel freely to Cuba and make agricultural trade viable without current conditions of payment in cash and in advance.

In the text that appeared in the House of Representatives, far from eliminating the economic, commercial and financial sanctions against Cuba, the position towards Cuba on issues such as the ban on travel to Cuba for certain educational exchanges in the called people-to-people exchanges is intensified.

Banning of imports

Among the amendments adopted as part of the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill is the banning of imports related to nationalizations made by the Cuban government.

Ban on financial transactions

The ban on financial transactions involving Cuban military, as well as funds to approve the licensing of trademarks, trade names or names that have been confiscated by the Cuban government without the express consent of the United States, are also among the purposes of anti-Cuban lobby of the Capitol.

Despite the inclusion of these amendments against Cuba, the result of pressure from Congresspersons Mario Diaz-Balart -member of the Appropriations Committee-, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, there is still a long way for sanctions to become law.

U.S. farmers

As part of a debate on its own bill of financial services, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment presented by Democrat senators Patrick Leahy and Jerry Moran that seeks to allow U.S. farmers to increase private funding for the export of agricultural products to Cuba.

Another one, presented by the senators themselves and approved by voice vote, proposes to lift the ban on travel to the island.

In reviewing the texts that are shaped in the House of Representatives and the Senate on the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill, differences in letter are appreciated, so they should be submitted to Congressional Conference Committee where Democrats and Republicans will reconcile a final text that then must be voted in the plenary of both instances of the Legislature.

Travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba

The fact that the text of the senators has amendments that allow travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba and that restrictions are lifted in the area of exports of agricultural products to Cuba, and that of representatives measures to intensify the blockade in those areas, can be used by both parties as reasons for political fights around the budget law, taking into account many factors, including the interests of each party and the positions of the Executive regarding the topics covered.

Diaz-Balart told U.S. media that “there is bipartisan support in the House to strengthen the sanctions and reject the pacifying policy” as evidenced by the adoption of the legislative proposal that “contains multiple clauses to strengthen sanctions.”

President Obama

However, the congressional newspaper The Hill predicted that President Barack Obama would veto the law –if approved with its current text by Congress-, not because of travel to Cuba but because several pieces of this text put a check to important government initiatives.

Cuba is the only country in the world to which U.S. citizens are prohibited to travel as tourists, so only a limited number of them is authorized to travel to the island, under certain licenses.

Cuban authorities have said that the normalization of relations between the two countries will go through the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, which today the House of Representatives intends to intensify, and the return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. in Guantanamo, among other topics.

Cuban youth writes President Obama

Source:  Cuba Inside the World

March 22nd, 2016
Havana, Cuba.

Mr. President,

Almost some hours ago, I had the opportunity to listen to all your speech through our national television channels, and I should recognize, that precisely your words motivated this letter that now, right after I have reflected on what you have said, I decided to write you.

obama in cuba 2.jpgI speak to you from the respect that a young Cuban feels for a man who has been able to change the history of his country, regarding its foreign policy toward Cuba, which will be an indelible merit during all his life, and the best is that it will be a multilaterally attained merit.

It pleases me very much that this new stage is openings itself in our countries, when in Cuba we still have the historic leadership of the Revolution, because you should know, that if it were not so, this process would be much more complicated for United States, because Cubans would still be more distrustful.

I would like to make reference to some aspects of the speech that you pronounced a few moments ago in the great theatre of Havana’s “Alicia Alonso”.

Respect for opponents – a natural characteristic of the Cuban people

The people of Cuba have always noted the difference relative to the rest of the world in the treatment of its enemies. The fragment of the poem of Jose Marti that you mentioned is proof of it, as well as the conduct maintained by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, our Army General Raul Castro Ruz, the heroic guerrilla Ernesto Che Guevara and the immortal lord of the vanguard Camilo Cienfuegos Gorriaran – these leaders offered medical attention and respected, morally and physically, the life of the officers and men of the army of the dictator Fulgencio Batista during the war that led to the revolutionary triumph.  Therefore, the respect to its opposites is not a new conduct in Cuba, but a natural characteristic of our people.

I now expect US funding of internal subversion will stop

I see with approval that you express today in my country, right after more of half century of unbending contradicctions, that the governance of Cuba is a matter of Cuba and that the United States has nothing to do with regard to this matter and I expect that those were not only words and that the funds of your congress, aimed at the internal subversion in the island, stop being approved, that N.E.D and USAID, stop promoting programs against the independence and self-determination of Cuba, and they really allow the will of the Cuban people to impose the changes that we need and in which we also are already working on.

More black men in the US are murdered than those in high political office

Your personal history, your emigrant father, your mother of few resources and your present day position, is unquestionably an example of your personal sacrifice, of your will to come through but, sadly, it is not the history of most men that like you have grown up in United States. I personally know many black men murdered in the U.S. than those concentrated in a triumphant way in the politics of your country.

Cuba is a nation of similar opportunities, without social exclusion, and as well you have pointed out, it allows and promotes a similar education for boys and girls, no matter the color of their skin, or the religion and ideology of their parents. Therefore our children can forge a future with the same possibilities and their individual effort will be also determining in the consecution of their objectives.

The difference is that community and society promote these conducts just in the some way and they back the state policies with regard to this matter.

The end of the cold war and the hostility towards Venezuela

You mentioned the end of cold-war, but I am worried that the existence of socialist or progressive nations in Latin America becomes a new block of contradictions.

The case of Venezuela is one of the issue that exemplifies what I am mentioning and feel that the U.S. could commit the mistake of burying methods, and it would be unlucky for our peoples.

I want to tell you from my youth, that I regard my land as a country of democracy, a country where workers have not only voice and vote, but they also represent the majority and the policies of the Revolution are focused on them, because the workers, peasants, and we, the youngsters, are the main objective of the Cuban politics, of the social, economic and cultural development, and I also live very confident and completely proud of this.

The leaders of Latin America have changed

You mentioned that our potentialities are in our capacity of creation and I agree with you, and you also mentioned our capacity of inducing to the world, and there, I would like to make a brief comment. Cuba not only induces to the world, but It has also been able to mobilize it since 1959, and it is that mobilization precisely which has made you change your foreign policy toward our country, because nations have allied themselves to Cuba. The leaders of Latin American have changed and the U.S. was little by little being left alone.

Marti:  The grateful ones talk about the light not the stains of the Sun

We know that our society is imperfect, that we should work on aspects that you have pointed and in many others that you could not image, precisely because we are a perfectible society, but we have things, Mr. President, that shine over our imperfections, and as also Jose Marti said “The sun burns with the same light with which it heats up. The sun has stains. The ungrateful ones only talk about its stains. The grateful ones talk about its light”.

Cuba cannot forget the past

You make continuous references to the need to abandon the past. Cuba cannot forget the past, because the past is not ballast, it is a reminiscence, it is an impulse and it is our essence. Cuba can by virtue of the future, sit on my table to talk about any issue, but interlocutors should be good men, even when they are from different ideologies, they cannot be persons without decorum, without honour and without homeland pride. Cubans, precisely due to history, do not talk with mercenaries or stateless who turn their back on their people by virtue of self-interest. Individuality is respected in my homeland, but as I learned from childhood the collective interest are above self-interest.

Cuba neither had nor has any fear

I would like to come to an end, thanking you for your visit one more time, your honesty and the charm shown to our people, but It would be false on my part if I don’t include in these words, my appraisal of a sentence of your addressed to the Army General when you said “you need not to be afraid of U.S. threat”. Mr. President Barack Obama, Cuba neither had nor has any fear, the Revolution has confronted the aggressions from your country during centuries without cowardice, today we face peaceful coexistence with respect and diplomacy but the future does not frighten us, we are not afraid of the United States, any way this continues to be a people of “Homeland or Death”

Receive a cordial greeting from this young Cuban.

Julio Alejandro Gomez Pereda.

U.S. President can modify blockade of Cuba

Source:  Granma
February 10 2016

by Sergio Alejandro Gómez | informacion@granma.cu

The same powers used by John F. Kennedy to establish the blockade can be used today to dismantle it

President Obama can use his executive powers to substantively modify the blockade.

kennedy signs blockade against cuba.jpgFifty-four years ago, February 3, 1962, the signature of President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office was enough to order the complete blockade of Cuba, which went into effect four days later.

bay of pigs us defeatedExecutive Order 3447 was based on foreign aid laws and the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act, and cut all ties with Cuba, where an unstoppable revolutionary process was underway – one which had already defeated the mercenary troops dispatched by Washington at Playa Girón on the Bay of Pigs.

Kennedy authorized the Treasury Secretary to adopt measures and draft regulations to implement a ban on all imports from Cuba, and likewise ordered the Commerce Secretary to continue and intensify efforts to restrict U.S. exports to the island, including food and medicine.

Washington’s aggression toward the Revolution

Washington’s aggression toward the Revolution had begun much earlier, practically since its very beginning January 1, 1959. The country’s sugar quota was eliminated and diplomatic relations broken in 1961, with legal manoeuvring giving way to military operations, like the Bay of Pigs, and undercover efforts to undermine the government, like the so-called Operation Mongoose.

oas logo 2A few days before Kennedy’s executive order, meeting in the Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este was the Organization of American States’ Foreign Ministers Council, where the U.S. exerted pressure for the approval of a resolution to exclude Cuba from the established inter-American system.

Attempting to isolate Cuba

The U.S. made clear its strategy of attempting to isolate Cuba in the international arena, while at the same time making every effort to cause hunger and desperation internally.

Half a century later, the President himself admitted that this plan had failed.

Moreover, regional forces are now aligned in a very different way. An end to the blockade of Cuba is a unanimous demand across the region, reiterated at the most recent Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Summit, held in Quito.

CELAC 11At the same time, the entire world, especially the countries and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, celebrated, as a victory of their own, the announcements made December 17, 2014, when Presidents Ba­rack Obama and Raúl Cas­tro revealed their intention to reestablish diplomatic relations and move toward normalization.

Condemned by 191 countries in the United Nations

191 - 2 cAfter the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington, global attention has shifted to ending the economic, financial and commercial blockade which was condemned by 191 countries in the United Nations, and supported by only two, the United States and Israel.

Although much of the legal and pseudo-legal fabric which constitutes the blockade’s framework has been codified into law over the decades, in particular with approval of the Helms-Burton law, the U.S. President still maintains broad executive powers to modify its implementation.

Just as President George W. Bush utilized his prerogatives to increase economic aggression toward Cuba during his administration, Obama has been doing the opposite, since December 17, 2014.

Following the blockade modifications announced earlier, a new series of measures was made public January 27, mainly regarding the granting of credit to Cuba for specific purchases of authorized non-agricultural U.S. made products, as well as permission for U.S. companies to establish certain commercial relations with Cuban state enterprises. (A 2000 law remains in effect requiring Cuba to purchase agricultural products with cash and in advance.)

Obama has the power to go further in dismantling the blockade

These latest changes were made by the Departments of Treasury and Commerce, which are part of the executive branch and therefore under the authority of the President, thus confirming the reality that Obama has the power to go further in dismantling the blockade.

Left intact were prohibitions on Cuba’s use of the U.S. dollar in international transactions; on exports to the United States of products made by Cuban state enterprises; and on investments by U.S. companies in other sectors beyond telecommunications (which have been approved). These elements represent the basic core of the blockade and remain in full force.

The President’s authority is limited by law in just four areas. He cannot allow travel by U.S. citizens for the purpose of tourism; permit subsidiaries of U.S. companies in third countries to do business with Cuba; lift the prohibition on commercial relations with former U.S. properties which were nationalized; or end the requirement that agricultural products be purchased in cash, in advance.

Beyond these issues, he has a broad field of action.

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If Kennedy used his executive prerogatives in 1962 to close a door which would stay locked for more than 50 years, the current President has the key to reverse the situation, and consolidate a new chapter in his country’s relations with Cuba, making it part of the legacy he leaves of his years in the White House.

The blockade continues to be a flagrant violation of International Law

October 24 2015

by Bernardo Guanche Hernández, Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica at a public function organized by the Jamaica-Cuba Friendship Association, October 24, 2015.

amb bernardo oct 2015 2

Bernardo Guanche Hernández, Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica

It is an honour for me and all Cubans present here to share this activity that has been organized by the Jamaica-Cuba Friendship Association with the support of other friendship groups.

October is an important month for Cubans, which bring to our minds the courage of our people and of its historic leader during the days of the October Crisis. The tenth month of the year reminds us of the death in battle of Ernesto Che Guevara, the horrible crime of Barbados and the physical disappearance of Camilo Cienfuegos.  The month of October is also one of the most important for Cuban Culture.  On October, the notes of our national anthem was sung for the first time in Bayamo, a date we have just celebrated in the recent day.

During the last years, in October, at the United Nations, Cuba has received the support of the majority of the countries of the world against the US blockade.

Cruel policy

For 55 years, the cruel policy of economic strangulation against our country has been kept. The blockade has been and continues to be a flagrant violation of International Law; it is contrary to the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter and constitutes a violation of the right to peace, development and security of a sovereign State.

raul y obama panama 2015 1aThe establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States has been an initial positive step in the process towards the normalization of bilateral relations. Nevertheless, after December 17, the implementation of the blockade against Cuba has remained unchanged.  Actually, under President Obama’s administration, the blockade has been further tightened and its extraterritorial implementation has been intensified.

President Obama has broad possibilities to significantly modify the implementation of the blockade by making use of his executive powers, without requiring the support of the US Congress.

For its part, the US Congress has not approved any of the bills seeking to eliminate some of the blockade regulations.

Based on all of the above, Cuba will reiterate the appeal to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States, in the new draft resolution to be presented on October 27, 2015.

Diplomatic relations

This takes into account the new bilateral circumstances between Cuba and the United States, welcoming the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and recognizing the willingness expressed by the US President to work for the lifting of the blockade.

The international community’s mobilizing role in support of the lifting of the blockade imposed against Cuba is essential and will be an important factor in support of President Obama and those members of US Congress who favor the end of this cruel policy, in face of their adversaries and critics.  The international solidarity and support that Cuba has received during these long and tough years has been crucial to the change of US Cuba policy. The blockade against Cuba should cease.

In spite of blockade, Cuba will continue contributing to the social development of others. Cuba shares its modest resources with many other developing countries through genuine international cooperation. The collaboration Cuba maintains in Jamaica in health, education and other areas is an example of this.

Guantanamo

Today it is very important to remember also that acting in the light of the process towards the normalization of relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of América, which is an element that contributes to the stability of Latin America and the Caribbean, we consider that the return to the Republic of Cuba of the territory occupied by the US Naval Base in Guantanamo should be an essential element of that process.

I´d like to express our gratitude to all the friends of Cuba who have gathered here this morning. On behalf of my country, let me again thank you very much for your support and solidarity.

Long live the Friendship between Jamaica and Cuba
Viva la Amistad entre Jamaica y Cuba!
Thank you 

Speech by Cuban FM at opening of Cuban embassy in the US

Source:  Cuban News Agency

July 20 2014

Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla delivered a speech at the ceremony to re-open the Cuban embassy in Washington DC this morning.

bruno rodriguez washington july 20 2015Her Excellency Mrs. Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State;

Officials of the US Government accompanying her;

Honorable members of Congress;

Esteemed Representatives of the US Organizations, Movements and Institutions who have made huge efforts in favor of the change of the US Cuba policy and the improvement of bilateral relations;

Esteemed Representatives of the Organizations and Movements of the patriotic emigration;

Distinguished Ambassadors;

Comrades of the Cuban Delegation;

José Ramón Cabañas, Chargé D’ Affairs;

Officials and workers of the Cuban Embassy;

Esteemed friends;

The flag that we revere at the entrance of this room is the same that was hauled down here 54 years ago, which was zealously kept in Florida by a family of liberators and later on by the Museum of our eastern city of Las Tunas, as a sort of premonition that this day would certainly come.

Flying once again in this place is the lone-star flag which embodies the generous blood that was shed, the sacrifices made and the struggle waged for more than one hundred years by our people for their national independence and full self-determination, facing the most serious challenges and risks.

Today we pay homage to all those who died in its defense and renew the commitment of the present generations, fully confident on the newer ones, to serve it with honor.

José Martí and Fidel Castro

We evoke the memory of José Martí, who was fully devoted to the struggle for the freedom of Cuba and managed to get a profound knowledge about the United States: In his “North American Scenes” he made a vivid description of the great nation to the North and extolled its virtues. He also bequeathed to us a warning against its excessive craving for domination which was confirmed by a long history of disagreements.

fidel y nixon 2We’ve been able to make it through this date thanks to the firm and wise leadership of Fidel Castro Ruz, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, whose ideas we will always revere with utmost loyalty. We now recall his presence in this city, in April of 1959, with the purpose of promoting fair bilateral relations, as well as the sincere tribute he paid to Lincoln and Washington. The purposes that brought him to this country on such an early time are the same that have pursued throughout these decades and coincide exactly with the ones that we pursue today. Many in this room, whether politicians, journalists, outstanding personalities in the fields of arts or sciences, students or American social activists, have been able to treasure unlimited hours of enriching talks with the Commander, which allowed them to have a better understanding of our reasons, goals and decisions.

This ceremony has been possible thanks to the free and unshakable will, unity, sacrifice, selflessness, heroic resistance and work of our people and also the strength of the Cuban Nation and its culture.

Several generations of the revolutionary diplomacy have converged in this effort and offered their martyrs. The example and vibrant speech of Raúl Roa, the Chancellor of Dignity, have continued to inspire Cuba’s foreign policy and will remain forever in the memory of the younger generations and future diplomats.

Greetings from President Raul Castro

I bring greetings from President Raúl Castro, as an expression of the good will and sound determination to move forward, through a dialogue based on mutual respect and sovereign equality, to a civilized coexistence, even despite the differences that exist between both governments, which makes it possible to solve bilateral problems and promote cooperation and the development of mutually beneficial relations, just as both peoples desire and deserve.

We know that this would contribute to peace, development, equity and stability in the continent; the implementation of the purposes and principles enshrined in the UN Charter and in the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, which was signed at the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States held in Havana.

Completing the first stage of the bilateral dialogue

Today, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the re-opening of embassies complete the first stage of the bilateral dialogue and pave the way to the complex and certainly long process towards the normalization of bilateral relations.

The challenge is huge because there have never been normal relations between the United States of America and Cuba, in spite of the one and a half century of intensive and enriching links that have existed between both peoples.

The Platt Amendment, imposed in 1902

The Platt Amendment, imposed in 1902 under a military occupation, thwarted the liberation efforts that had counted on the participation or the sympathy of quite a few American citizens and led to the usurpation of a piece of Cuban territory in Guantánamo. Its nefarious consequences left an indelible mark in our common history.

In 1959, the United States refused to accept the existence of a fully independent small and neighboring island and much less, a few years later, a socialist Revolution that was forced to defend itself and has embodied, ever since then, our people’s will.

I have referred to History to reaffirm that today an opportunity has opened up to begin working in order to establish new bilateral relations, quite different from whatever existed in the past. The Cuban government is fully committed to that.

Only the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade which has caused so much harm and suffering to our people; the return of the occupied territory in Guantánamo and the respect for Cuba’s sovereignty will lend some meaning to the historic event that we are witnessing today.

Every step forward will receive the recognition and the favorable acceptance of our people and government, and most certainly the encouragement and approval of Latin America and the Caribbean and the entire world.

Independence, sovereignty and non-interference

We reaffirm Cuba’s willingness to move towards the normalization of relations with the United States in a constructive spirit, but without any prejudice whatsoever to our independence or any interference in the affairs that fall under the exclusive sovereignty of Cubans.

To insist in the attainment of obsolete and unjust goals, only hoping for a mere change in the methods to achieve them will not legitimize them or favor the national interest of the United States or its citizens. However, should that be the case, we would be ready to face the challenge.

We will engage in this process, as was written by President Raúl Castro in his letter of July 1st to President Obama, “encouraged by the reciprocal intention of developing respectful and cooperative relations between our peoples and governments.”

Respect and recognition to the President of the United States

From this Embassy, we will continue to work tirelessly to promote cultural, economic, scientific, academic and sports relations as well as friendly ties between our peoples.

We would like to convey the Cuban government’s respect and recognition to the President of the United States for urging the US Congress to lift the blockade as well as for the change of policy that he has announced, but in particular for the disposition he has shown to make use of his executive powers for that purpose.

We are particularly reminded of President Carter’s decision to open the respective Interests Sections back in September of 1977.
I am pleased to express my gratitude to the Government of the Swiss Confederation for having represented the Cuban interests for the last 24 years.

On behalf of the Government and the people of Cuba, I would like to express our gratitude to the members of Congress, scholars, religious leaders, activists, solidarity groups, business people and so many US citizens who worked so hard for so many years so that this day would come.

To the majority of Cubans residing in the United States who have advocated and called for a different kind of relation of this country with our Nation, we would like to express our recognition. Deeply moved, they have told us that they would multiply their efforts and will remain faithful to the legacy of the patriotic emigration that supported the ideals of independence.

We would like to express our gratitude to our Latin American and Caribbean brothers and sisters who have resolutely supported our country and called for a new chapter in the relations between the United States and Cuba, as was done, with extraordinary perseverance, by a lot of friends from all over the world.

I reiterate our recognition to the governments represented here by the Diplomatic Corps, whose voice and vote at the UN General Assembly and other fora made a decisive contribution.

From this country José Martí organized the Cuban Revolutionary Party to conquer freedom, all the justice and the full dignity of human beings. His ideas, which were heroically vindicated in his centennial year, continue to be the main inspiration that moves us along the path that our people have sovereignly chosen.

Thank you, very much.

Source:  Speech by Cuban FM at opening of Cuban embassy in the US  Cuban News Agency

Venezuela President Maduro Says Meeting With Obama Cordial

Source:  TeleSUR
April 11 2015

“We believe that it was the Summit of the Truth: all the moral reasons we have that keep us united were freely expressed”  Nicolas Maduro

In an exclusive interview with teleSUR, Venezuela’’s president confirmed the meeting which comes amid U.S. bellicosity toward Venezuela.

maduro in panama 2015On the request of Venezuela, Barack Obama and Nicolas Maduro held a meeting beside the official program of the Summit of the Americas, in a bid to rescind the sanctions the United States means to impose on Venezuela.

Earlier in March Obama signed an executive order, which claimed that Venezuela represented an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” opening the path to concrete sanctions against the Latin American state.

The Summit of the truth and the shout of Latin America

In an exclusive interview with teleSUR, Maduro said “The Summit aims at discussing and reviewing [various] issues. We believe that it was the Summit of the Truth: all the moral reasons we have that keep us united were freely expressed. Venezuela received the unanimous support of the region, and this support is a vote of peace.”

“I think that in the aftermath of the Summit, will be opened in the following days, the possibility of going through a process of dialogue with the U.S. government and explore a path of respectful relations, as well as repeal the executive order. This is the shout of Latin America,” Maduro said.

Explaining what the meeting was like, Maduro said “We told each other the truth, I would even say it was cordial.”

“I am not the enemy of the United States, nor is our people, nor [was] our Commandant [Hugo Chavez],” he added.

Widespread condemnation from CELAC and UNASUR

Every Latin American nation openly condemned Obama’s stance on Venezuela via regional bodies like the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) or the United Nations of South America (UNASUR). The U.S. Department of State replied by expressing its “disappointment” the sanctions had not proved popular in Latin America.

“I am disappointed that there were not more countries to defend (the sanctions). They were not made to harm Venezuelans or the Venezuelan government,” said Roberta Jacobson, the U.S. sub-secretary for Latin America.

Over 13 million signatures worldwide

Over 13 million signatures worldwide have also been collected demanding Obama to withdraw his decree. Maduro stated during his speech at the Summit that he brought 11 million Venezuelan signatures with him, which will be provided to Obama “via diplomatic channels.”

An era of a new history

In a speech delivered to the summit Saturday, Maduro emphasized that, “We are in an era of new history,” alluding to the new diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. However, he went on to criticize that many issues still have not changed.

Obama admits

In an interview with the EFE news agency, U.S. President Barack Obama had admitted that Venezuela “does not pose a threat” to the United States, explaining that the executive order labeling Venezuela as a threat was only a formality so the Congress could impose sanctions on the country.

Obama told EFE, “The sanctions that we imposed were focused on discouraging human rights violations and corruption.” He added that the United States will lobby other Latin American nations to “encourage the Venezuelan government to live up to its commitment to promote and defend democratic governance.”

The meeting between Maduro and Obama took place following Saturday’’s historic meeting between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro.

RELATED:Maduro: I extend my hand to you Obama

Source:  Venezuela President Maduro Says Meeting With Obama Cordial  TeleSUR

Maduro’s Letter to the People of the United States: Venezuela is not a threat

Source: TeleSUR

March 17 2015

Letter to the People of the United States: Venezuela is not a threat

An open letter from Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, and the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the people of the U.S., published in the New York Times.

maduro writes letter to us citizensWe are the people of Simon Bolívar, our people believe in peace and respect for all nations.

Freedom and Independence

More than two centuries ago, our fathers founded a Republic on the basis that all persons are free and equal under the law.

Our nation made the greatest sacrifices to guarantee South American people their right to choose their rulers and to enforce their own laws today. The historical legacy of our father, Simón Bolívar, is always remembered. Bolívar was a man who gave his life so we would inherit a nation of justice and equality.

We believe in Peace, National Sovereignty and International Law 

We are a peaceful people. In two centuries of independence, we have never attacked another nation. Our people live in a region of peace, free of weapons of mass destruction, and in freedom to practice all religions. We uphold respect for international law and the sovereignty of all people of the world.

We are an Open Society

We are a working people, we care for our families, and we have freedom of religion. Immigrants from around the world, live among us, whose diversity is respected. We have freedom of press and we are enthusiastic users of social media.

We are friends of the American people:

The histories of our people have been connected since the beginning of our struggles for freedom. Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan hero, fought with the American people during their independence fight. We share the idea that freedom and independence are fundamental elements for the development of our nations.

The relations between our peoples have always been peaceful and respectful. Historically, we have shared business relations in strategic areas. Venezuela has always been a responsible and trustful energy provider for the American people. Since 2005, Venezuela has provided “heating oil” through subsidies for low-income communities in the United States, thanks to our company CITGO. This contribution has helped tens of thousands of American citizens survive in harsh conditions, giving them relief, and necessary support in times of need, evidencing how solidarity can create powerful alliances across borders.

Incredibly, the U.S government has declared our country a threat to its national security and foreign policy

In a disproportionate action, the government of Obama has issued a “National Emergency” declaring Venezuela as a threat to its national security (Executive Order, 03-09-2015). This unilateral and aggressive measure taken by the United States Government against our country is not only unfounded and in violation of basic principles of sovereignty and self-determination under international law, but also has been unanimously rejected by all 33 nations of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the twelve member states of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).  In a statement made on March 14, 2015, UNASUR reiterated its firm rejection of these coercive measures that do not contribute to the peace, stability and democracy in our region and called on President Obama to revoke his Executive Order against Venezuela.

We reject unilateralism and interventionism

President Obama, without any authority to interfere in our internal affairs, unilaterally issued a set of sanctions against Venezuelan officials with potentially far-reaching implications, interfering in our constitutional order and our justice system.

We advocate for a multipolar world

We believe that our world must be based on the rules of international law, without interference in the internal affairs of other countries. We are convinced that the relationship of respect between all the nations is the only path for strengthening peace and coexistence, as well as for ensuring a more just world.

We honor our freedoms and uphold our rights 

Never before in the history of our nations, has a president of the United States attempted to govern Venezuelans by decree. It is a tyrannical and imperial order and it pushes us back into the darkest days of the relationship between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the name of our long-term friendship we alert our American brothers and sisters, lovers of justice and freedom, of the illegal aggression committed by your government on your behalf. We will not allow our friendship with the people of the United States to be affected by this senseless and groundless decision by President Obama.

We demand:

1- The U.S. Government immediately cease hostile actions against Venezuelan people and democracy.

2- President Obama abolish the Executive Order that declares Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security, as has been requested by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

3.The U.S. Government retract its libelous and defamatory statements and actions against the honorable Venezuelan officials who have just obeyed our laws and our constitution.

Our sovereignty is sacred 

The principles of the founding fathers of the United States of America are followed today with the same dignity by the people of Simón Bolívar. In the name of our mutual love for national independence we want the government of President Obama to think about and rectify this dangerous precedent.

We are convinced that the defense of our freedom is a right we shall never give up because the future of the humanity lies also in our country. As Simón Bolívar said: “The freedom of the New World is the hope of the universe”. 

“Venezuela is not a threat, but a hope”

“Independence or nothing”

Simón Bolívar

Source: Venezuela’s Maduro writes letter to US citizens TeleSUR