In doubling the bounty on former Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur’s head, the Obama administration is announcing that Black radicals are candidates for his Kill List. The message is as unmistakable and dramatic as the billboards that have been erected in Newark, New Jersey, and elsewhere screaming for the exiled freedom fighter’s blood.
One does not wind up on the FBI’s Most Wanted list based on the number of murders committed or millions of dollars stolen. The Most Wanted list is among the nation’s most political documents, in which individuals are meant to personify the scope and type of offenses that the U.S. government considers most in need of stamping out. The list is a kind of propaganda, a symbolic display of what the state considers dangerous behavior.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, the two Black men who are most responsible for making Assata Shakur the face of domestic terror in the United States, are fully conversant in the language of symbolism. They are publicly defining the Black liberation movement – or what’s left of it, or those who might attempt to revive it – as a priority domestic target for repression. Shakur, a 65-year old grandmother who has not left Cuba for the past 29 years, poses no physical danger to the American state. She represents a political threat, through her “ideology,” as brazenly stated by the FBI. The Bureau has marked Shakur for priority assassination on the basis of, in the FBI’s words, her “anti-U.S. government speeches espousing the Black Liberation Army message.” “Terrorism” is somehow inherent in the message of Black liberation. Advocacy of Black liberation, is the threat. The reward of $2 million is meant to silence Assata Shakur’s political speech, and remove her as a symbol of resistance to the U.S government.
For the National Security State, “terror” is a powerful word, with vast legal ramifications. The Obama administration is informing Americans and Cubans that Assata is as much fair game for assassination by drone as the late Anwar al-Awlaki. Barack Obama and Eric Holder are serving notice that those who share Assata’s ideology – as understood by the FBI – are subject to eradication as well, because it is an ideology of terror. And they are telling those who give “substantial support” to Assata that they are subject to detention by the U.S. military without trial or charge, for the duration of the war against “terror.”
The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations will hold a demonstration on Thursday, May 9, from 5 to 7pm, in front of the Harlem State Office Building in New York City, to give substantial and unwavering support to the safety and freedom of Assata Shakur; Freedom for Sundiata Acoli and Sekou Odinga, Black Liberation Army members held in U.S. prisons; and Freedom for All Political Prisoners.
They tried to kill Assata in 1973, and their still trying. They tried to kill the Black liberation movement, but its not dead yet. Join the Black is Back Coalition and a host of other concerned organizations at the Harlem State Office Building, on 125th Street, at 5pm, on Thursday. Tell the real terrorists what you think about them, their austerity, their mass incarceration, and their wars.
Glen Ford can be contacted at GlenFord@BlackAgendaReport.com.
For more information, go to Black Is Back Coalition event Facebook page:
Mérida – Venezuela and Cuba signed 51 bilateral agreements related to energy management and social programmes in areas including healthcare, education and recreation this past weekend and pledged to spend $2 billion on bilateral social development projects this year.
The agreements were signed during Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s visit to Cuba over the weekend.
“We came to ratify a strategic…[and] historical alliance,” Maduro told Cuban press.
Details of the bilateral agreements are yet to be released, though Maduro described the deals as focusing on “social development”.
After meeting with Maduro, Castro told the press that the agreements reaffirm Cuba’s “unyielding will to continue co-operation in solidarity with Venezuela, determined to share our fate with the heroic Venezuelan people”.
The agreements represent Cuba’s largest source of foreign capital, according to AFP.
In his first trip abroad since being sworn in as Venezuela’s new president, Nicolas Maduro also met with former Cuban president Fidel Castro.
“I spent over five hours with Fidel, talking, sharing memories of Comandante Chavez, remembering how he and Chavez had built this alliance, which is more than a strategic partnership,” Maduro stated, according to the Havana Times.
The visit was criticised by Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who during his recent election bid advocated for cutting most ties with Cuba.
“Our great lackey is travelling to Havana to get instructions from his boss,” he tweeted on Saturday.
Venezuela is Cuba’s largest trade partner, currently providing the island nation with more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day. In exchange, over 30,000 Cuban medical personnel work in Venezuela.
During his election campaign, Capriles maintained his long standing policy that if elected, “not another drop of oil” would be sent to Cuba.
However, his views on the doctors are less consistent; alternating between offering them citizenship and accusing them of being spies involved in a “Castro-communist” plot and threatening them with deportation.
Maduro indicated that his administration would maintain continuity with former president Hugo Chavez’s Cuba policy, stating that the two countries “will continue working together”.
According to the Uruguayan newspaper La Republica, Maduro’s next international trip will be to Uruguay, where he is expected to meet with the country’s leftist president Jose Mujica.
The newspaper cites diplomatic sources as stating that the trip will take place around May 7, and will be part of a regional tour.
However, La Republica’s report on Maduro’s travel plans have not been officially confirmed by the Venezuelan government.
By Ron Paul | April 14, 2013
Earlier this month, entertainers Jay-Z and Beyoncé were given a license by the US government to travel to Cuba. Because it is not otherwise legal for Americans to travel to Cuba, this trip was only permitted as a “cultural exchange” by the US Treasury Department. Many suspect that the permission was granted at least partly due to the fame, wealth, and political connections of the couple.
Some Members of Congress who continue to support the failed Cuba embargo, demanded that the Administration explain why these two celebrities were allowed to visit Cuba. The trip looked suspiciously like tourism, they argued in a letter to the White House, and American tourism is still not allowed in Cuba. They were photographed eating at the best restaurants, dancing, and meeting with average Cubans, which these Members of Congress frowned on.
Perhaps it is true that this couple used their celebrity status and ties to the White House to secure permission to travel, but the real question is, why can’t the rest of us go?
The Obama administration has lifted some of the most onerous restrictions on travel to Cuba imposed under the previous Bush administration, but for the average American, travel to the island is still difficult if not impossible.
However, even those who are permitted to go to Cuba are not allowed to simply engage in tourist activities — to spend their money as they wish or relax on a beach.
The US government demands that the few Americans it allows to travel to Cuba only engage in what it deems “purposeful travel,” to “support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.” They must prove that they maintain a full-time schedule of educational activities, according to Treasury guidelines for “people-to-people” travel.
Leave it to the federal government to make the prospect of visiting that sunny Caribbean island sound so miserable.
The reason the US so severely restricts and scripts the activities of the few Americans allowed to travel to Cuba is that it believes travel must promote the goal of taking “important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens.”
Although I have no illusions about the Cuban government – or any government for that matter — it is ironic that the US chose to locate a prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba because the indefinite detention and torture that took place there would have been illegal on US soil. Further, the US government continues to hold more than 100 prisoners there indefinitely even though they have not been found guilty of a crime and in fact dozens are “cleared for release” but not allowed to leave.
Does the administration really believe that the rest of the world is not annoyed by its “do as we say, not as we do” attitude?
We are told by supporters of the Cuba embargo and travel ban that we must take such measures to fight the communists in charge of that country. Americans must be prohibited from traveling to Cuba, they argue, because tourist dollars would only be used to prop up the unelected Castro regime. Ironically, our restrictive travel policies toward Cuba actually mirror the travel policies of the communist countries past and present. Under communist rule in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere it was only the well-connected elites who were allowed to travel overseas – people like Jay-Z and Beyoncé. The average citizen was not permitted the right.
Although the current administration’s slight loosening of the restrictions is a small step in the right direction, it makes no sense to continue this nearly half-century old failed policy. Freedom to travel is a fundamental right. Restricting this fundamental right in the name of human rights is foolish and hypocritical.
To restore good relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, damaged by several years of neglect, is one of many difficult tasks now facing the Obama administration. A measure that could have far-reaching consequences and notably improve the U.S.’ battered image in the continent would be to return Guantánamo to the Cuban people.
Guantánamo has a convoluted history. Initially, the U.S. government obtained a 99-year lease on the 45 square mile area beginning in 1903. The resulting Cuban-American Treaty established, among other things, that for the purposes of operating naval and coaling stations in Guantánamo, the U.S. had “complete jurisdiction and control” of the area. However, it was also recognized that the Republic of Cuba retained ultimate sovereignty.
In 1934, a new treaty reaffirmed most of the lease conditions, increased the lease payment to the equivalent of $3,085 in U.S. dollars per year, and made the lease permanent unless both governments agreed to end it or the U.S. decided to abandon the area.
In the confusion of the early days of the Cuban revolution, Castro’s government cashed the first check but left the remaining checks un-cashed. Since these checks were made out to the ‘Treasurer General of the Republic’, a position that ceased to exist after the revolution, they are technically invalid.
The U.S. has maintained that the cashing of the first check indicates acceptance of the lease conditions. However, at the time of the new treaty, the U.S. sent a fleet of warships to Cuba to strengthen its position. Thus, a counter argument is that the lease conditions were imposed on Cuba under duress and are rendered void under modern international law.
The U.S. has used the argument of Cuban sovereignty over Guantánamo when denying basic guarantees of the U.S. Constitution to the detainees at that facility by indicating that federal jurisdiction doesn’t apply to them. If the Cuban government indeed has sovereignty over Guantánamo, then its claims over the area are legally binding and the U.S. is obligated to return Guantánamo to Cuba.
Since 1959, the Cuban government has informed the U.S. government that it wants to terminate the lease on Guantánamo. The U.S. has consistently refused this request on the grounds that it requires agreement by both parties.
Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, an American lawyer and professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, has noted that article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties states, “A treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.”
He also believes that the conditions under which the treaty was imposed on the Cuban National Assembly, particularly as a pre-condition to limited Cuban independence, left Cuba no other choice than to yield to pressure.
A treaty can also be void by virtue of material breach of its provisions, as indicated in article 60 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. According to the original terms of the lease agreement, the Guantánamo Bay territory could only be used for coaling and naval purposes.
However, the use of the Guantánamo facility as an internment camp for Haitian and Cuban refugees — or, even more ominously, as a demonstrated torture center by the U.S. military — indicates a significant breach of that agreement, fully justifying its immediate termination.
President Jimmy Carter courageously returned the Panama Canal to the Panamanians, thus setting an important precedent in international relations. President Carter did what was legally right, and lifted U.S. prestige not only among Panamanians but throughout the hemisphere.
It can be said that the proposal of returning Guantánamo to Cuba is hopelessly naïve, since it would give an unnecessary boost to the Castro brothers. However, this would be balanced by a wave of goodwill and respect towards the U.S. throughout Latin America. In addition, returning Guantánamo to Cuba will allow the U.S. to close one of the most tragic chapters of its legal and moral history, and it will compensate Cubans for the miseries they have had to endure due to the U.S. embargo and the stubbornness of the Cuban leaders.
Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.
- Guantanamo exposes reality of US fascism (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Activists join Guantanamo hunger strike in week of fast (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Guantanamo Bay has become money pit – former prison official (theinternetpost.net)
A front-page article in the print edition of today’s Washington Post details how New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez twice approached federal health-care officials about Dr. Solomon Melgen’s outstanding $8.9 million debt to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which the doctor claims was the result of being over billed. Melgen, personally and through his ophthalmology company, has made major contributions to Menendez’s political campaigns.
This is the latest news to follow reports that on Wednesday, January 30, the FBI raided Melgen’s offices, soon after which the senator’s office described the doctor as “a friend and political supporter of Senator Menendez for many years.” Two days later, following John Kerry’s resignation from his seat as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become Secretary of State, Menendez took over the position, one of the most powerful and prestigious in Congress.
Menendez, who is Cuban American, has taken a hard line against easing travel restrictions to Cuba and has been described as “fiercely pro-embargo.” The New Jersey Democrat has also worked closely with lawmakers across the aisle on policy towards Iran, including his co-authorship of sanctions legislation with Republican Senator Mark Kirk last year.
Early reports of the FBI’s search focused on allegations that in 2010 Senator Menendez accepted free flights to the Dominican Republic from Dr. Solomon Melgen and had sex with prostitutes during these trips, a claim he has vehemently denied. It was also noted that Menendez is not married, and that prostitution is legal in the Caribbean nation. The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating the senator, who in January of this year wrote a $58,000 personal check to reimburse Melgen for two trips.
But the FBI’s raid appeared to be linked to two parallel investigations of Melgen, one regarding Medicare fraud, the other political corruption. Both investigations may involve the doctor’s relationship with Senator Menendez.
The Associated Press noted that Dr. Melgen, a registered Democrat, has made political contributions to the tune of $193,350 since 1998, $14,200 of which has gone to Menendez. More significantly, the New York Times also reported that Melgen’s medical practice gave $700,000 to a super-PAC that spent more than $528,000 in support of Menendez’s re-election campaign in 2012.
This support has recently been scrutinized in light of a July 2012 Senate hearing, in which Menendez reportedly questioned two officials about why the Obama administration had not been more aggressive in promoting U.S. business interests abroad. During this questioning, the senator specifically highlighted a contract between the Dominican government and a company that would provide x-ray equipment for the country’s ports, namely for the purpose of detecting narcotics trafficking. The contract has been held up due to its enormous cost, which is estimated to be as much as $1 billion over 20 years. In the Senate hearings, Menendez did not refer to the company, ICSSI, by name. He also did not mention that Melgen has an ownership interest in the company.
Furthermore, the New York Times reports that Pedro Pablo Permuy, a long-time former aide to Menendez, was slated to be a top executive at ICSSI. Permuy was a senior legislative aide to the senator from 1993 to 1995 and his national security advisor from 2001 to 2003. Permuy denied being either a board member or an employee of the firm. But Dr. Melgen’s cousin, a lawyer based in Santo Domingo who on Monday publicly defended the doctor and senator and called for the contract’s enforcement, said that Mr. Permuy “will run the operations.” According to a spokesperson for Menendez, the senator knew nothing of his long-time former aide’s involvement with the company.
Over the weekend Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose former aides founded the super-PAC that contributed heavily to Menendez’s most recent re-election campaign, expressed his “utmost confidence” in the New Jersey senator and said he has no problem with his colleague’s continued chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee. And Menendez’s aides have said he regularly advocates for U.S. business abroad, and that doing so is appropriate for members of that committee.
In March 2010, New York Democratic Representative Charles Rangel stepped down as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee after being admonished by the House Ethics Committee and losing the support of his party. Given the news from today’s Washington Post and the ongoing Senate Ethics Committee and FBI investigations, it remains to be seen whether leaders of either party will call for Menendez to step down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
- Timeline of Melgen-Menendez Involvement in Dominican Port Deal (breitbart.com)
This isn’t “Everything You Wanted to Know About Alan Gross, But Were Afraid to Ask.” Unanswered questions about Gross abound more than three years after Cuban authorities nabbed him in Havana.
The Agency for International Development dispatched the American development worker to Cuba on a highly sensitive mission in 2009. Cuban authorities followed his movements at first, then arrested him and deposited him in jail. Discovering how he got there, ever so far from his home in Maryland, is a winding trail of money, bureaucracy and barely intelligible acronyms.
Below is a post aimed at answering some basic questions in the case and adding context to new details that emerged this month in court records, confidential memos and other documents (see links to source material at end of post).
Who hired Alan Gross?
A global development company, Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI, based in Bethesda, Md., and with offices in London, Islamabad and other cities. The company had revenue of nearly $300 million in 2012.
What’s DAI’s connection to USAID?
DAI is one of USAID’s top contractors. USAID has awarded more than $4 billion in contracts to DAI since 2000.
On Sept. 27, 2005, USAID signed a $25,000 contract with DAI as part of the agency’s “Instability, Crisis and Recovery Programs.”
The contract description shown in federal records is cryptic: CMM IQC.
What does that stand for?
CMM refers to the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance. The office works with USAID and its partners, along with the State Department and the Pentagon. “These new partnerships,” USAID says, have boosted the U.S. government’s ability to fight the “Global War on Terror.”
IQC is Indefinite Quantity Contract, an agreement that delivers an unspecified quantity of products or services.
What was DAI supposed to do?
USAID hired DAI to conduct “conflict and fragility” assessments, which involved:
- A review of risk factors in specific countries or regions
- The development of work plans
- Fieldwork and reports
- Planning and implementation of meetings and other duties.
What does that have to do with Cuba?
Under the 2005 contract, DAI became one of USAID’s go-to contractors for a range of tasks. So when USAID wanted to assign a sensitive Cuba project in August 2008, it turned to DAI.
What was that project called?
The Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program, or CDCPP.
How did Alan Gross get involved?
By 2008, Gross was in debt and had evidently been trying to land a Cuba-related contract for at least a year. He had been to the island before and knew key people who were handling U.S. government-financed projects in Cuba.
Key people? Any names?
Gross was in contact with Marc Wachtenheim, then director and founder of the Cuba Development Initiative at the Pan American Development Foundation, or PADF, another big USAID contractor.
In 2004, Wachtenheim had asked Gross to deliver a video camera and other items to José Manuel Collera, former head of the Freemasons fraternal organization in Cuba. Gross delivered the package and the PADF paid him $400.
What was Gross doing in Cuba in 2004?
At his 2011 trial, Gross testified that he went to the island as a tourist in 2004. He stayed at the four-star Hotel Raquel in Havana. It’s unclear if he traveled to Cuba again before 2009. His 2006 company tax records cited ongoing humanitarian work in Cuba.
Anything special about Collera?
Collera was an important contact for Wachtenheim, but turned out to be a spy. In 2011, Collera revealed that he was a state security agent known as “Agent Gerardo.”
What became of Wachtenheim?
Cuban state security agents secretly caught Wachtenheim on surveillance video while he met with Collera and others. Presumably, agents could have detained Wachtenheim, but they did not interfere with his travels to the island.
Wachtenheim reached out to Gross again in 2007. He gave him $5,500 and asked him to buy a Hughes model 9201 satellite terminal that was to be taken to Cuba. The equipment allows users to send information over the Inmarsat Broadband Global Area Network, or BGAN, satellite network. It’s not clear who delivered it and how it was used. The equipment may have been tied to an unrelated PADF program. Raúl Capote, a Cuban professor who worked for Cuban state security, said James Benson, a U.S. official in Havana, delivered a portable BGAN terminal to him and said, “Marc Wachtenheim sends you this.”
That same year, Gross pitched a Cuba proposal to Wachtenheim. He called it “Information and Communications Technology for Cuba: A Pilot Project.”
Wachtenheim didn’t bite. Cuban authorities found out about the project because information about it was on a flash drive Gross had when he was arrested in December 2009.
How did Gross finally get the DAI subcontract?
In 2008, Gross learned that DAI had received a Cuba-related contract, described as a “Washington, DC-based project focused on promoting democratic governance in Cuba.”
One version of the story is that Gross then contacted John McCarthy, chief of party for the Cuba project at DAI, and told him he wanted in. Gross told a different story at his trial, saying DAI had asked him to submit a proposal for an upcoming project that he “knew nothing about.”
Whatever the case, Gross got the job even though he didn’t speak Spanish, was not a Cuba specialist and didn’t appear to have extensive experience on the island.
What happened to McCarthy?
He was promoted. He is now DAI’s Global Practice Leader.
So why did DAI hire Gross?
Gross’s connections certainly didn’t hurt. A DAI official who recommended him to USAID on Oct. 21, 2008, wrote:
I can comment on Alan Gross as a former colleague (we overlapped at Nathan from the late 1980s to the early 1990s) and general acquaintance (we stayed in touch over the years) with whom I have exchanged insights about economic development and new business opportunities in this arena every few months.
Alan is a very conscientious and trustworthy individual. He is particularly strong in situational and issues analysis, brokering of technologies and programmatic concepts, and the identification of business opportunities (and this last is a reference to business start-ups, pilots, and innovative ways of overcoming constraints to business growth). I cannot comment on JBDC, as I have never contracted services directly from his company.
Back up. What’s the reference to Nathan?
Gross was a senior partner at Robert R. Nathan Associates from 1987 to 1991.
What about JBDC?
Joint Business Development Center, Inc., was a business and economic development group that Gross founded and ran.
Who designed DAI’s Cuba project?
The project was “based entirely” on Gross’s Dec. 29, 2008, proposal. Gross called it the “ICTs Para La Isla Project.”
How long was the project supposed to last?
The initial phase was set for 15 weeks: Feb. 10, 2009, to June 10, 2009.
How much was Gross paid?
The original subcontract amount was $258,274. Gross asked DAI for a project extension and $332,334 in additional funds. USAID agreed and Gross signed the deal on Oct. 26, 2009, bringing the subcontract amount to $590,608.
How much did Gross actually receive?
DAI paid the original $258,274. Neither USAID nor DAI has revealed how much more he received. The contractor has said Gross was paid for the “deliverables” he completed.
Under the contract terms, Gross would have gotten $65,132.80 before departing on his last Cuba trip.
Then he would have received $21,168 after returning to the U.S. and filing a trip report with DAI, but he was arrested before he could do that. So it is quite possible he received just $65,132.80, not the full $332,334.
Did Gross have to pay his own expenses out of that budget?
Yes. His proposed $332,334 budget, for instance, included at least $167,445 in expenses. That means Gross would have taken home only $164,889 if he had completed the contract.
What were some of big costs that Gross expected to pay?
- Airfare and lodging in Havana and Miami, $40,112
- Satellite modem user charges for just four months, $68,640
What was his salary?
Gross charged DAI $620 per day. That came in just under USAID’s limit of $626.54, which was the agency’s maximum allowable salary without a waiver in 2009. Gross figured he’d collect that amount for 102 days under the contract extension, giving him $63,240.
So how could Gross have taken home $164,889?
Ah, therein lies the beauty of a federal contract. He threw in company overhead, $21,854; fringe benefits, $21,528; administrative costs, $35,081; and an expense that was simply described as his “fee,” a tidy $35,081, which may have been added to compensate for any cost overruns and other unexpected expenses.
What did Gross accomplish under the subcontract?
He installed three BGAN broadband Internet connections as part of a pilot project. The satellite modems were evidently placed at Jewish synagogues or offices in Havana, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba. Gross wrote in a memo:
A wireless network where none previously existed was developed and made operational at 3 target group communities….The target group is now capable of receiving, transmitting, storing and conveying mass information through multi-modal means not previously available.
Gross said “activities initially developed” in Havana and the two other cities now “can be expanded to other identified target groups.”
Although not part of the Contractor’s initial scope of work, basic content was provided to each of the three communities. This includes three encyclopedias, pictures and video of each other’s communities (developed during three field visits), a significant array of music, and more than a terabyte of storage capacity at each site.
How many trips did Gross make to Cuba under the DAI subcontract?
Four during the initial phase, and one after the contract extension. He was arrested during the fifth trip.
How many trips did he plan under the contract extension, in addition to the five?
Seven, which would have brought the total to 12. His goals were to:
- Beef up security at the three Internet sites he had already established because he feared they’d be detected.
- Study and monitor usage at the sites.
- Supply “up to three new beneficiaries” with telecommunications kits he called “Telco-in-a-Bag.” They were each to include a satellite modem, laptop and other equipment that would fit in a backpack.
When was Gross arrested?
Dec. 3, 2009.
Was anyone else jailed?
None of Gross’s Cuba contacts were reported jailed, but Wachtenheim was reportedly in Cuba around that time and was forced to leave the country in a hurry.
Capote, the professor who was also known as Agent Daniel, said Wachtenheim had traveled to Havana in December 2009 and had called him to arrange a meeting, but he didn’t show up.
Later he called to apologize. Capote recalled the conversation.
Wachtenheim: I had to urgently leave Cuba. Do you have your equipment with you? Do you have it?
Capote: I have it.
Wachtenheim: Make it disappear. Get rid of it quickly.
Cuban authorities had arrested an American who was “very awkward and naive,” Wachtenheim explained. He said Capote needed to get rid of his BGAN because having it would be “very dangerous” for Capote and for the American.
What were the charges against Gross?
In February 2011, Cuban authorities charged Gross with “actions against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” Prosecutors also accused him of taking part in a “subversive project aiming at bringing down the revolution.”
How did Gross explain his work?
In a statement given to the court, Gross said he saw the Cuba project as a way to help support his family and “pay off accumulated debts,” and improve Internet access for members of the Jewish community in Cuba.
Let me be absolutely clear and unambiguous: I have never, would never, and will never purposely or knowingly do anything personally or professionally to subvert a government or political system, or bring harm to anyone…I do deeply regret that my actions have been misinterpreted as harmful and a threat against the security and independence of Cuba. Surely, this runs counter to what I had intended.
How did the arrest impact DAI?
On Sept. 14, 2010, USAID modified its contract with DAI. The agency made changes to the scope of work, cut the funding amount from $28,310,630 to $6,857,817, and scheduled early termination of its agreement with the contractor.
Did USAID or DAI say how the contractor spent $6,857,817? Was there any accountability to taxpayers?
No and no. USAID has not made public any reports on the outcome of the Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program. The agency said “due to the sensitive nature of content,” no reports on the program would be submitted to USAID’s huge online database, the Development Experience Clearinghouse.
Have auditors examined USAID’s Cuba programs?
Yes. USAID paid the DMP Group at least $1.47 million to audit the agency’s Cuba programs in 2009 and 2010.
However, USAID has refused disclose any meaningful audit results. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, USAID in 2011 released a 10-page heavily redacted report that contained few details.
Who used the Internet connections that Gross set up?
Neither DAI nor USAID has reported usage details. Trusted Cubans who were vetted in some way evidently managed the sites, so access was limited. Gross’s subcontract required a usage analysis, but no documents on that have been make public.
Where are the BGAN modems, laptops and other equipment now?
Cuban authorities seized the gear.
How did the project advance the democratization of Cuba?
It is not clear the project had any impact in Cuba, despite its cost and the jailing of Our Man in Havana.
- CDCCP Task Order
- DAI contract amendment
- Cuba judgment vs. Alan Gross
- DAI-CDCCP document
- DAI reply to Gross family lawsuit
- Alan Gross budget proposal
- August 2008 DAI meeting notes
- Cuba indictment vs. Alan Gross
- John McCarthy statement
- Vetting of Alan Gross
- Sept. 27 contract record
- Gross’s “Para La Isla” proposal
- DAI contract modification
- USAID salary memo
- Cuba responds to unsubstantiated U.S. claims regarding the Alan Gross case (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Documents Describe US “Transition Plans” for Cuba (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Secrecy, politics at heart of Cuba project
U.S. officials stressed the importance of secrecy during a 2008 meeting with a Maryland contractor that had been chosen to carry out a new democracy project in Cuba, according to a confidential memo (download 8-page document).
The project wasn’t considered classified, however, because the U.S. Agency for International Development wanted to create the illusion of transparency.
Development Alternatives Inc., of Bethesda, Md., won the USAID contract on Aug. 14, 2008, and quickly hired Alan Gross, who was later arrested in Cuba while working on the project.
DAI – not USAID, as some websites have reported – wrote the confidential memo to summarize what was said during a private Aug. 26, 2008, meeting with top USAID officials.
During the meeting, DAI learned that the U.S. government had “five to seven different transition plans” for Cuba. DAI would “not be asked to write a new one.”
Instead, the contractor would carry out a daring plan to set up satellite Internet connections under the nose of Cuban state security agents.
USAID promised to protect the identities of contractors and their associates in and out of Cuba. “The program is not pressing (and will not press) them to disclose networks,” said the memo, which DAI filed in federal court on Jan. 15 as part of its reply to a $60 million lawsuit filed by the Gross family in November 2012 (See Spanish-language translation of this post here, h/t Letras Afiladas).
The memo stressed the unusual nature of the Cuba program:
The project was not classified because USAID wanted to send the message that this is a transparent process. Also, a classified project imposes significant security, documentation burdens and delays on all its stakeholders.
USAID wanted no delays and was eager to move ahead. The memo said:
This Administration expects immediate results from this program, definitely before mid-January.
That deadline likely had something to do with the departure of George W. Bush, a strong supporter of USAID’s programs in Cuba, and the arrival of Barack Obama, who was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009.
The DAI memo summed up a top USAID official’s view of the political undercurrents:
- This project has received and will continue to warrant intense political scrutiny and pressure for results and fiscal integrity.
- Target populations for grants are those NGO reaching out to pro-democracy and human rights change agents and those Cubans with a different vision for their country.
- USAID is not telling Cubans how or why they need a democratic transition, but rather, the Agency wants to provide the technology and means for communicating the spark which could benefit the population.
- This project will be difficult to implement because an ‘ossified’ Cuban government prevents change, and because most government resources go to its police and control machinery.
- The Cuba program attracts significant attention and scrutiny by US Congress, where some support and others question existing activities.
- There is, of course, skepticism on this project, influential political and civic leaders have the perception that this program is paying too much for work that could be significantly less expensive through other contract or award options.
The challenge, the memo said, would be finding “creativity to implement this project in the face of opposition from the Cuban State…while protecting the security of participants and change agents.”
The project was entitled “Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program,” or CDCPP. The memo gave explicit instructions on how the initiative should be described if any lawmakers should ask about it.
Explanation to the Hill regarding CDCPP: to empower pro-democracy, pro-human rights and those looking for alternative visions for the island. The program seeks to expand the reach of their ideas and activities, to build and fortify networks and their capacity to act, and to increase the flow of communication to and around the island.
That vague description gave no clues to the project’s clandestine nature, but the DAI memo was clear:
CDCPP is not an analytical project; it’s an operational activity. USAID approval is needed for everything. We cannot freelance.
The memo said USAID picked DAI in part because of its international reach.
USAID would like to tap into the global network of contacts that DAI has in terms of democracy promotion…
Planes flying in to Cuba from Europe, Central America and the Caribbean look “less conspicuous.”
Grant limits to non-U.S. NGOs “have no funding ceiling,” the memo added. But:
Cuban security apparatus is very strong so non-US NGOs should be vetted.
The DAI memo spelled out what the contractor should say in response to any inquiries from the public or the media:
Yes, we have been awarded CDCPP and we are working with USAID on discussions, but the project is not fully operational yet. Please refer other questions to (redacted) of USAID.
The memo said USAID stressed:
DAI said that meant:
We must not post anything on our website or issue a press release on the awarded contract.
DAI wound up picking Gross to handle “new media” – the satellite Internet connections – described as the “most sensitive component in a very sensitive project.”
And during four trips to Cuba, Gross established three Internet connections – one in Havana, two outside the capital.
DAI paid him $258,274. He requested more money to continue the project and was promised $332,334, which would have brought his subcontract total to $590,608, an October 2009 memo shows (download 6-page document).
In late November 2009, Gross returned to Cuba a fifth time. Cuban authorities arrested him on Dec. 3, 2009, and accused him of crimes against the socialist state.
DAI said it paid Gross “the full amount owed under the Subcontract for completed deliverables.”
That evidently means Gross would have been entitled to just $65,132.80. That would bring his total payments to $323,406.80, not the full $590,608 he could have collected if he were not arrested.
Gross called his effort “Para La Isla” – For The Island. According to a proposal (download 13-page document) he wrote after his first four trips to Cuba:
Efforts to date under the Para-La-Isla (PLI) Pilot have been focused on establishing and operationalizing 3 sites on the Island through which target group members now have greater access to information than they had previously.
Activities in support of these efforts included the selection, configuration, logistics and training on the use of specific information and communication technologies (ICTs). Primary objectives of the Pilot dealt with the efficacy of the technologies deployed and the contractor’s demonstration that these technologies work.
In the Sept. 17, 2009, memo, Gross proposed six eight additional trips to Cuba that his company would carry out from Nov. 1, 2009, to Oct. 31, 2010.
The memo stated:
Activities initially developed under this pilot at the first site in the capital city have been replicated and expanded to two other target group member communities in the provinces. These activities can be expanded to other identified target groups.
That likely means that Gross and DAI had envisioned taking the program beyond the Jewish community where Gross installed his first Internet connection.
Gross had supplied his Cuban collaborators with Broadband Global Area Network equipment, BGAN for short. The equipment, which fits into a backpack, can be used to establish a broadband Internet connection from anywhere in the world. Users can also make phone calls, send e-mail messages and set up a WiFi network.
During follow-up visits, Gross wanted to learn how Cubans were using the BGAN equipment, increase the number of users at each site and boost security so they wouldn’t be caught.
He considered it “highly probable” that state security agents would detect the satellite connections in the provinces. He wrote:
Radio Frequency activity in the Capitol City is more difficult to monitor than in the provinces because of an already existing level of RF congestion (e.g., from government, commercial sites, embassies, etc.). Therefore, monitoring and detection in the use of ICTs is less likely to occur in the Capitol City. Conversely and because there is little RF congestion in the provinces, monitoring and detection of ICT devices is highly probable.
Even limited use of BGANs and wireless networks will be monitored and detected because Island government technicians routinely “sniff” neighborhoods with their handheld devices in search of ham-radio and satellite dishes. While wireless computer networks (intranet) are not likely to cause any problem if detected, discovery of BGAN usage for Internet access would be catastrophic.
Gross planned to install special SIM cards in the three BGAN systems that would disable their GPS tracking feature and make them more difficult to detect. He wrote:
In order to improve and supplement security tactics and protocols already in place, the contractor will use an alternative SIM card, called “discreet” SIM card, that will increase the level of technical security with each of the 3 BGANs deployed. Discreet SIM cards impede the ability to track or detect specific aspects of non-terrestrial transmitted signals, regarding location and IP identification of transmission. This is accomplished by:
- Masking the IP address of the BGAN, in case some entity is able to “hack” into the transmission at either end, and
- Masking the signal so that its GPS location cannot be pinpointed within 400 km.
During the last three of the six trips that Gross planned, he had hoped to supply “up to an additional three prospective new target group sites” with what he described as “Telco-in-a-Bag.” He wrote:
Beneficiaries will utilize this equipment to support activities that are consistent with CDP program. A standard configuration will include:
- Hardware and software (e.g., computers, modems)
- Content sharing devices (e.g. iPods, flash drives, smartphones)
- Activation and Service (BGAN and mobile)
- Training on the use of this equipment will be similar to the first 3 sites (excluding training on Ruckus Wireless equipment)
- Local Technical Support to be provided by local contractor staff for trouble-shooting, technical assistance, maintenance, etc.
Gross said each ‘Telco-In-A-Bag” would include:
- Unlocked SmartPhones
- Sim Card
- 2GB miniSD Expansion Memory Card
- iPod 120 GB
- Composite AV Cable for use with iPod & TV
- RF Modulator for TVs, Coaxial Cable
- BGAN satellite modem (1 T&T, 2 Nera)
- Discreet BGAN Sim card
- Wireless Router
- Surge Protector (3-outlet) & Adapters
- Polycom Communicator for Notebook
- WD External Hard Drive, 500 GB
- USB Memory Stick (4 GB Flash Drive)”
The memo said that Gross and DAI would reach “an amicable agreement on how to resolve or settle” any differences if forces beyond their control prevented the project’s completion.
But there was no amicable agreement after Gross was arrested and Gross and his wife, Judy, sued DAI and USAID.
On Jan. 15, DAI asked a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit. Lawyers for DAI wrote (download 57-page document):
The Cuban government, reprehensibly, has sought to manipulate its detention of Mr. Gross to strengthen its hand in dealings with the United States. This has included seeking to exchange Mr. Gross’s release for the U.S. Government’s release of five Cuban spies. As Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen observed, “[t]he Cuban dictatorship is clearly using Mr. Gross to strengthen its grip on power and gain leverage with the United States.”
Against this backdrop, Plaintiffs have filed the present tort suit seeking monetary damages from the Defendants. The fundamental premise of the Complaint is that Plaintiffs may bring tort claims against the Defendants based on the tragic harm that has befallen Mr. Gross.
This premise is wrong. Plaintiffs’ allegations are inextricably intertwined with Federal laws and policies that bar Plaintiffs’ claims, and also fail to state a claim on which the Court can grant relief. Plaintiffs’ claims must be dismissed for eight distinct reasons, any one of which would justify dismissal.
The DAI lawyers – Steven J. Weber, Sarah M. Graves and Matthew J. Gaziano – also said that the company did not have duty to protect Gross. They said he was an independent contractor who should have done more to avoid arrest.
…the Subcontract explicitly states “[t]he Subcontractor shall take all reasonable precautions to prevent damage, injury, or loss to all persons performing services hereunder, the Work, all materials and equipment utilized therein, and all other property at the site of the Work and adjacent thereto.” § 7.3. Thus, § 410 is inapplicable on its face, and the general rule restricting liability to independent contractor employees should prevail.
In sum, DAI had no duty to protect Mr. Gross from the type of injury he suffered, and no exception to this rule is applicable given his admitted status as an employee of an independent contractor. Whether his injury was foreseeable is a factual question that does not change this analysis.
The Cuban government – not DAI – are ultimately to blame for any harm done to Gross and his wife, the contractor’s lawyers said.
DAI deeply regrets that Mr. and Mrs. Gross have suffered harm due to the actions of the Cuban government while Mr. Gross was undertaking activities in Cuba to further the U.S.Government’s foreign policy. For the reasons stated above, however, the Complaint against DAI must be dismissed in its entirety and with prejudice.
- Alan Gross and his descent into hell (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Cuba responds to unsubstantiated U.S. claims regarding the Alan Gross case (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Furious though it may be, the current debate over health care in the US is largely irrelevant to charting a path for poor countries of Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Islands. That is because the US squanders perhaps 10 to 20 times what is needed for a good, affordable medical system. The waste is far more than 30% overhead by private insurance companies. It includes an enormous amount of over-treatment, making the poor sicker by refusing them treatment, creation of illnesses, exposure to contagion through over-hospitalization, and disease-focused instead of prevention-focused research. 
Poor countries simply cannot afford such a health system. Well over 100 countries are looking to the example of Cuba, which has the same 78-year life expectancy of the US while spending 4% per person annually of what the US does. 
The most revolutionary idea of the Cuban system is doctors living in the neighborhoods they serve. A doctor-nurse team is part of the community and know their patients well because they live at (or near) the consultorio (doctors’ office) where they work. Consultorios are backed up by policlínicos which provide services during off-hours and offer a wide variety of specialists. Policlínicos coordinate community health delivery and link nationally designed health initiatives with their local implementation.
Cubans call their system medicina general integral (MGI, comprehensive general medicine). Its programs focus on preventing people from getting diseases rather than curing them after they are sick
This has made Cuba extremely effective in control of everyday health issues. Having doctors’ offices in every neighborhood has brought the Cuban infant mortality rate below that of the US and less than half that of US Blacks.  Cuba has a record unmatched in dealing with chronic and infectious diseases with amazingly limited resources. These include (with date eradicated): polio (1962), malaria (1967), neonatal tetanus (1972), diphtheria (1979), congenital rubella syndrome (1989), post-mumps meningitis (1989), measles (1993), rubella (1995), and TB meningitis (1997). 
The MGI integration of neighborhood doctors’ offices with area clinics and a national hospital system also means the country responds well to emergencies. It has the ability to evacuate entire cities during a hurricane largely because consultorio staff know everyone in their neighborhood and who to call for help getting disabled residents out of harms way. At the same time New York City (roughly the same population as Cuba) had 43,000 cases of AIDS, Cuba had 200 AIDS patients.  More recent emergencies such as outbreaks of dengue fever are quickly followed by national mobilizations. 
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Cuban medicine is that, despite its being a poor country itself, Cuba has sent over 124,000 health care professionals to provide care to 154 countries.  In addition to providing preventive medicine Cuba sends response teams following emergencies (such as earthquakes and hurricanes) and has over 20,000 students from other countries studying to be doctors at its Latin American School of Medicine in Havana (ELAM, Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina). 
In a recent Monthly Review article, I gave in-depth descriptions of ELAM students participating in Cuban medical efforts in Haiti, Ghana and Peru.  What follows are 10 generalizations from Cuba’s extensive experience in developing medical science and sharing its approach with poor countries throughout the world. The concepts form the basis of the New Global Medicine and summarize what many authors have observed in dozens of articles and books.
First, it is not necessary to focus on expensive technology as the initial approach to medical care. Cuban doctors use machines that are available, but they have an amazing ability to treat disaster victims with field surgery. They are very aware that most lives are saved through preventive medicine such as nutrition and hygiene and that traditional cultures have their own healing wisdom. This is in direct contrast to Western medicine, especially as is dominant in the US, which uses costly diagnostic and treatment techniques as the first approach and is contemptuous of natural and alternative approaches.
Second, doctors must be part of the communities where they are working. This could mean living in the same neighborhood as a Peruvian consultorio. It could mean living in a Venezuelan community that is much more violent than a Cuban one. Or it could mean living in emergency tents adjacent to where victims are housed as Cuban medical brigades did after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Or staying in a village guesthouse in Ghana. Cuban-trained doctors know their patients by knowing their patients’ communities. This differs sharply from US doctors, who receive zero training on how to assess homes of their patients.
Third, the MGI model outlines relationships between people that go beyond a set of facts. Instead of memorizing mountains of information unlikely to be used in community health, which US students must do to pass medical board exams, Cuban students learn what is necessary to relate to people in consultorios, polyclínicos, field hospitals and remote villages. Far from being nuisance courses, studies in how people are bio-psycho-social beings are critical for the everyday practice of Cuban medicine.
Fourth, the MGI model is not static but is evolving and unique for each community. Western medicine searches for the correct pill for a given disease. In its rigid approach, a major reason for research is to discover a new pill after “side effects” of the first pill surface. Since traditional medicine is based on the culture where it has existed for centuries, the MGI model avoids the futility of seeking to impose a Western mindset on other societies.
Fifth, it is necessary to adapt medical aid to the political climate of the host country. This means using whatever resources the host government is able and willing to offer and living with restrictions. Those hosting a Cuban medical brigade may be friendly as in Venezuela and Ghana, hostile as is the Brazilian Medical Association, become increasingly hostile as occurred after the 2009 coup in Honduras, or change from hostile to friendly as occurred in Peru with the 2011 election of Ollanta Humala. This is quite different from US medical aide which, like its food aide, is part of an overall effort to dominate the receiving country and push it into adopting a Western model.
Sixth, the MGI model creates the basis for dramatic health effects. Preventive community health training, a desire to understand traditional healers, the ability to respond quickly to emergencies, and an appreciation of political limitations give Cuban medical teams astounding success. During the first 18 months of Cuba’s work in Honduras following Hurricane Mitch, infant mortality dropped from 80.3 to 30.9 per 1000 live births. When Cuban health professionals intervened in Gambia, malaria decreased from 600,000 cases in 2002 to 200,000 two years later. And Cuban/Venezuelan collaboration resulted in 1.5 million vision corrections by 2009. Kirk and Erisman conclude that “almost 2 million people throughout the world … owe their very lives to the availability of Cuban medical services.” 
Seventh, the New Global Medicine can become reality only if medical staff put healing above personal wealth. In Cuba, being a doctor, nurse or support staff and going on a mission to another country is one of the most fulfilling activities a person can do. The program continues to find an increasing number of volunteers despite the low salaries that Cuban health professionals earn. There is definitely a minority of US doctors who focus their practice in low income communities which have the greatest need. But there is no political leadership which makes a concerted effort to get physicians to do anything other than follow the money.
Eighth, dedication to the New Global Medicine is now being transferred to the next generation. When students at Cuban schools learn to be doctors, dentists or nurses their instructors tell them of their own participation in health brigades in Angola, Peru, Haiti, Honduras and dozens of other countries. Venezuela has already developed its own approach of MIC (medicina integral communitaria, comprehensive community medicine) which builds upon but is distinct from Cuban MGI.  Many ELAM students who work in Ghana as the Yaa Asantewaa Brigade are from the US. They learn approaches of traditional healers so they can compliment Ghanaian techniques with Cuban medical knowledge.
Ninth, the Cuban model is remaking medicine across the globe. Though best-known for its successes in Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean, Cuba has also provided assistance in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Cuba provided relief to the Ukraine after the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, Sri Lanka following the 2004 tsunami, and Pakistan after its 2005 earthquake. Many of the countries hosting Cuban medical brigades are eager for them to help redesign their own health care systems. Rather than attempting to make expensive Western techniques available to everyone, the Cuban MGI model helps re-conceptualize how healing systems can meet the needs of a country’s poor.
Tenth, the new global medicine is a microcosm of how a few thousand revolutionaries can change the world. They do not need vast riches, expensive technology, or a massive increase in personal possessions to improve the quality of people’s lives. If dedicated to helping people while learning from those they help, they can prefigure a new world by carefully utilizing the resources in front of them. [...]
Discussions of global health in the West typically bemoan the indisputable fact that poor countries still suffer from chronic and infectious diseases that rich countries have controlled for decades. International health organizations wring their hands over the high infant mortality rates and lack of resources to cope with natural disasters in much of the world. 
But they ignore the one health system that actually functions in a poor country, providing health care to all of its citizens as well as millions of others around the world. The conspiracy of silence surrounding the resounding success of Cuba’s health system proves the absolute unconcern by those who piously claim to be the most concerned.
How should progressives respond to this feigned ignorance of a meaningful solution to global health problems? A rational response must begin with spreading the word of Cuba’s New Global Medicine through every source of alternative media available. The message needs to be: Good health care is not more expensive — revolutionary medicine is far more cost effective than corporate controlled medicine.
1. Fitz, D. (December 9, 2010). Eight reasons US healthcare costs 96% more
than Cuba’s—With the same results.
2. Dresang, L.T., Brebick, L., Murray, D., Shallue, A. & Sullivan-Vedder, L. (July-August, 2005). Family medicine in Cuba: Community-Oriented Primary Care and Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 18 no. 4: 297-303.
3. Cooper, R.S., Kennelly, J.F. & Orduñez-Garcia, P. (2006). Health in Cuba, International Journal of Epidemiology, 35: 817–824.
4. Pérez, J. (May 15, 2012). Gender and HIV Prevention. Slide presentation at the Pedro Kouri Institute of Topical Medicine, Havana, Cuba.
5. Whiteford, L.M. & Branch, L.G. (2008). Primary Health Care in Cuba: The Other Revolution. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
6. Fitz, D. (February 14, 2012). Med School Classes Cancelled in Havana.
7. Kirk, J.M. & Erisman, M.H. (2009). Cuban Medical Internationalism: Origins, Evolution and Goals. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
8. Fitz, D. (March, 2011). The Latin American School of Medicine Today: ELAM. Monthly Review 62 no. 10: 50–62.
9. Fitz, D. (September, 2012). Cuba: The New Global Medicine. Monthly Review 64 no. 4: 37–46.
10. Brouwer, S. (2011). Revolutionary Doctors: How Venezuela and Cuba are Changing the World’s Conceptualization of Health Care. New York, Monthly Review Press.
Don Fitz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
- 80 percent of Cuban AIDS patients since 1986 alive (vancouverdesi.com)
THE last few days have seen an intensification of statements and false reports from the U.S. government related to the case of U.S. citizen Alan Gross, particularly related to the alleged deterioration of his health.
Once again, the U.S. government is lying to the public, by affirming that Mr. Gross is suffering from cancer and is not receiving adequate medical attention.
These lies have not stopped, not even after his family and U.S. authorities were given the results of the biopsy of a lesion on Mr. Gross’ back, which leave no doubt that he does not have cancer.
From the very first day, a team of Cuban doctors of international repute have systematically attended to Mr. Gross. This team has the results of a biopsy and other examinations which demonstrate that Mr. Gross is not suffering from cancer or any other illness representing a threat to his life. The U.S. has no evidence to demonstrate the contrary. If these distortions persist, we shall be obliged to divulge further evidence.
The U.S. government is also lying about Mr. Gross’ prison conditions, his schedule of telephone calls and visits.
The U.S. government is continuing to lie as to the causes which led to Mr. Gross’ detention, with the sole purpose of evading his direct responsibility for his situation and that of his family.
The U.S. government has never addressed the case of Alan Gross seriously and has only reiterated the unsustainable position that it has nothing to negotiate with Cuba in order to find a solution. At the same time, it insists on demanding from Cuba a unilateral decision which does not consider our humanitarian concerns related to the case of the Five. This is not realistic. I reiterate today Cuba’s disposition to immediately establish a dialogue on the issue of Gross.
On the basis of these fabrications and curiously coinciding with the anniversary of Mr. Gross’ detention, the U.S. government has pressured the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to force a decision declaring Mr. Gross’ detention arbitrary. Today, we denounce these acts of pressure, which led to a violation of the customary procedures and timing of the Group’s work.
Yesterday, December 4, the government of Cuba received the opinion of this group describing Alan Gross’ detention as arbitrary.
Today, we are circulating via the MINREX website Cuba’s response to the United Nations Group, which demonstrates that the detention of Mr. Gross cannot in any way be described as arbitrary.
Alan Gross was detained, tried and sentenced with all guarantees and rights of due legal process and in fulfillment of principles related to judicial independence. Mr. Gross violated Cuban laws by committing acts that constitute serious crimes, acts which are severely punished in most countries, including the U.S.
The United States does not permit any other government to ignore its regulations and clandestinely send individuals to its territory, with government funding from this other government, to establish illegal and covert communications systems, without undertaking any kind of procedure or registration, far less so when the objective is to destabilize the existing order.
Mr. Gross has received decorous and humane treatment since he was arrested.
The United Working Group is the same body which, in May 2005, declared arbitrary the detention of the five Cuban anti-terrorists, taking into consideration that they were held in solitary confinement for 17 months, did not have due access to lawyers and the evidence related to the case, as well as the existing climate of predisposition and prejudice which contributed to the Five being presented as guilty from the outset, given the absence of objectivity and impartiality.
The government of Cuba once again invites the U.S. government to serious talks on these issues in order to achieve a humanitarian solution acceptable to both sides.
International Press Center
Havana, December 5, 2012.
Diatribes and Curious Silences
The Democrats just put out their platform on Latin America, and it demonstrates only the loosest connection to reality. Thus, while praising the “vibrant democracies in countries from Mexico to Brazil and Costa Rica to Chile,” as well as “historic peaceful transfers of power in places like El Salvador and Uruguay,” the Democrats continue to point to Cuba and Venezuela as outliers in the region in which the Democrats plan “to press for more transparent and accountable governance” and for “greater freedom.” Of course, it is their Platform’s deafening silence on critical developments in the region which says the most about their position vis a vis the Region.
Not surprising, the Democrats say nothing about the recent coups in Honduras and Paraguay (both taking place during Obama’s first term) which unseated popular and progressive governments. They also say nothing about the fact that President Obama, against the tide of the other democratic countries in Latin America, quickly recognized the coup governments in both of these countries. Also omitted from the platform is any discussion of the horrendous human rights situation in post-coup Honduras where journalists, human rights advocates and labor leaders have been threatened, harassed and even killed at alarming rates.
As Reporters Without Borders (RWR) explained on August 16, 25 journalists have been murdered in Honduras since the 2009 coup, making Honduras the journalist murder capital of the world. In this same story, RWR mentions Honduras in the same breath as Mexico (a country the Democrats hold out as one of the “vibrant democracies” in the region) when speaking of the oppression of journalists and social activists, as well as the general climate of violence which plagues both countries. As RWR stated, “Like their Mexican colleagues, Honduran journalists – along with human rights workers, civil society representatives, lawyers and academics who provide information – will not break free of the spiral of violent crime and censorship until the way the police and judicial apparatus functions is completely overhauled.” And indeed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 38 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992, and it has been confirmed in 27 of these cases that the journalists were killed precisely because they were journalists. Meanwhile, in Mexico, over 40,000 individuals have been killed due to the U.S.-sponsored drug war – hardly a laudable figure.
Of course, in the case of Honduras, and Paraguay as well, things are going fine for U.S. interests post-coup, with Honduras maintaining the U.S. military base which President Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in the coup, had threatened to close. Similarly, in Paraguay, one of the first acts of the new coup government was agreeing to open a new U.S. military base – a base opposed by Porfirio Lobos, the President (and former liberation Bishop) overthrown in the coup. The other act of the new coup government in Paraguay was its agreement to allow Rio Tinto to open a new mine in that country, again in contravention of the deposed President’s position. The Democrats simply do not speak of either Honduras or Paraguay in their Platform.
Instead, the Democrats mostly focus on their alleged desire to bring freedom to Cuba, saying nothing about the strides already made by Cuba itself where, according to a January 27, 2012 story in the Financial Times, entitled, “Freedom comes slowly to Cuba,” “there are currently no prisoners of conscience.” This is to be contrasted with Colombia, the chief U.S. ally in the region, which houses around 10,000 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. The Democrats, shy about such unpleasant facts, simply say nothing about Colombia – this despite the fact that Colombia just announced historic peace talks with the guerillas which have been engaged in a 50-year insurgency in that country. Apparently, this does not deserve a mention amongst the Democrats’ anti-Cuba diatribe.
Meanwhile, the Democrats also single out Venezuela as a country which it is hoping to free from its alleged chains. What the Democrats fail to note is that Venezuela already has a popular, democratically President in Hugo Chavez who is making life better for the vast majority of Venezuelans, and who appears poised to receive the majority of the votes of the Venezuelan people in the upcoming October elections as a consequence. Thus, according to Oxfam, “Venezuela certainly seems to be getting something right on inequality. According to the highly reputable UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, it now has the most equal distribution of income in the region, and has improved rapidly since 1990.” Again, contrast this with the U.S.’s chief ally Colombia and with Mexico, the two countries with the worst problems of inequality in the region. As the Council on Hemispheric Affairs noted earlier this year, “both Colombia and Mexico suffer from some of the world’s most unequal distributions of wealth. In 1995, Colombia was ranked the fifth most unequal country (of those with available statistics), with a Gini coefficient of 0.57, while Mexico was ranked the eighth worst with a Gini coefficient of 0.52. Between 2006 and 2010, Colombia’s inequality ranked 0.58, while Mexico’s coefficient was 0.52, qualifying them as two of the lowest ranked countries in the world.” The Democrats, uninterested in such trivialities as social equality, simply ignore such inconvenient data.
For its part, U.S. labor, as represented (albeit very poorly) by the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, continue to march in step with the U.S. government and the Democrats in their imperial delusions about the Region. Thus, while for some time simply hiding the fact that it has been working in Venezuela at all, the Solidarity Center, in response to pressure about this issue, has recently admitted on its website that it has been continuously working in Venezuela these past 13 years – i.e., to and through the coup in 2002 which the Solidarity Center aided and abetted by funneling monies from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to the anti-Chavez CTV union which was a major player in the coup.
Stinging from the just criticism over this, the Solidarity Center now claims — reminiscent of George W. Bush who fancied himself a “uniter” as opposed to a “divider” – claims that it is in Venezuela to unite the divided labor movement. Thus, the Solidarity Center states: “[g]iven the political fragmentation and divisions between unions in Venezuela, Solidarity Center activities work to help unions from all political tendencies overcome their divisions in order to jointly advocate for and defend policies for increased protection of fundamental rights at the workplace and industry levels. The Solidarity Center currently supports efforts to unite unions from diverse political orientations (including chavista and non-chavista, left and center) to promote fundamental labor rights in the face of anti-labor actions that threaten both pro-government unions and traditionally independent unions.” In its statement, the Solidarity Center says nothing about the progressive labor law which President Chavez just recently signed into law without any help from U.S. labor. This law, among other things, outlaws outsourcing and subcontracting, shortens the work week, increases minimum vacation time, increases maternity leave and requires employers to provide retirement benefits.
The Solidarity Center statement about Venezuela is laden with irony as well as hubris. The U.S. labor movement is itself greatly fragmented, with two competing houses of labor (the AFL-CIO and Change to Win) as well as divisions even within these two confederations. That the Solidarity Center would presume to be able to unite any union movement outside its borders is laughable. Indeed, only imagine the reception from the labor movement in this country if China’s labor confederation purported to intervene in the U.S. to help unite the labor movement here. Aside from wondering how exactly the Chinese unionists planned to do this, many would wonder about the ends to which such unity, once miraculously created, would be applied. And, one must wonder the very same about this in regard to the Solidarity Center’s role in Venezuela. First of all, the so-called “chavista” unions want nothing to do with the Solidarity Center, funded as it is by the NED and U.S.-AID, especially after the 2002 coup. Again, they would have to question what the Solidarity Center, which just received a massive grant of $3 million for its work in Venezuela and Colombia, would want to “unify” the Venezuelan union movement to do. The question appears to answer itself, and it is not a pretty one.
A modest proposal for the AFL-CIO and its Solidarity Center is to focus on uniting the labor movement at home in the U.S. to challenge the power that capital has on our political system; pressing for better U.S. labor law (on this score it could learn a lot from Venezuela and its labor movement); abandoning its labor paternalism (if not imperialism) and leaving it to the Venezuelans to unite their own labor movement. Similarly, the Democrats, instead of worrying about ostensibly bringing U.S.-style democracy (more like social inequality and militarism) to other countries in the Region, should spend more time trying to make this country less beholden to corporate and monied interests, and thereby more democratic in the process. But again, this is not what the Democrats are about. What the AFL-CIO is about, aside from blindly supporting the Democrats, is anyone’s guess.
Alberto C. Ruiz is a long-time labor and peace activist.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela rejects most firmly and categorically the false and defamatory content of the “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011″ published by the State Department of the United States of America on July 31, 2012.
The government of the United States, once again, presents these unilateral and interventionist reports which express a tendentious and distorted opinion of the policies of other countries, on a matter such as terrorism about which, moreover, that country has no moral ground on which to make pronouncements.
It is precisely the government of that country and its double morality which has been widely denounced by Venezuela at the United Nations for giving shelter and protection to recognized international terrorists, as is the case with Luís Posada Carriles, sought by Venezuelan justice for placing a bomb on flight 455 of Cubana de Aviación, which cost the lives of 73 people in 1976; and the case of Raúl Díaz Peña, a terrorist sentenced under Venezuelan law for having placed explosives in the diplomatic missions of Spain and Colombia in Caracas in 2003. Both are protected by the hypocritical anti-terrorist policy of the U.S. government.
It is lamentable that for those countries such as ours that are truly committed to the anti-terrorist struggle on an international level, that countries like the United States maintain the practice of issuing reports that have no validity because they contain no verified information, and, therefore, are obviously political instruments for defamation. An example of their malicious lies is the list of “State Sponsors of International Terrorism,” which unilaterally and arbitrarily includes the Republic of Cuba, a country that complies with periodically presenting true and exact information to the pertinent mechanisms of the United Nations for matters relating to confronting terrorism.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela considers the publication of this defamatory document an unfriendly act and rejects it in its totality, while reiterating its complaint against the United States for continuing to allow its territory to serve as a refuge for international terrorists sought by Venezuelan justice.
- CITGO to Help 50,000 Families Conserve Energy This Summer (prnewswire.com)
Earlier this week Al Jazeera English published an article by Nikolas Kozloff, a former academic turned author who now spends his time writing satire and lambasting the Venezuelan government while hiding behind his Oxford PhD as a veil of objectivity. The focus of Kozloff’s latest article was the Cuban-Venezuelan “Barrio Adentro” initiative, a social mission which provides free healthcare to Venezuela’s poor, and free, community based training for Venezuelan medical students.
Despite the program being one of the government’s most popular, and the fact that it is often cited as an exemplary case of Cuban internationalism and solidarity, in his article Kozloff instead decides to detail the alleged “harrowing” conditions that Cuban doctors are subjected to while treating patients in Venezuela.
According to Kozloff’s article, Cuban medical personnel are overworked, obliged to treat 60- 70 patients a day, constantly spied on, and used by the Venezuelan state for political purposes. The sources of Kozloff’s outlandish statements are none other than leaked documents from the US embassy in Caracas, which, the cables reveal, has been aiding dissident Cuban doctors to apply to the US government for “humanitarian parole” so that they might be transferred to Miami as “asylum seekers”.
According to the documents, 73 Cuban medical personnel were transferred to Miami by 2009. Despite the fact that over 80,000 Cubans have worked in the mission, with 30,000 Cuban medical personnel currently working in Venezuela, Kozloff finds that these 73 Cubans are representative enough of the whole Barrio Adentro mission for him to conclude that the program is “fraying at the edges” in the run-up to this year’s elections.
But questionable e-mails written by staunchly anti-Cuban US diplomats might not be the best sources for judging the merits of a social program which has, by all accounts, dramatically increased Venezuelans’ standards of living. So much so, that despite the vast amounts of propaganda against the healthcare program, the opposition’s candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, has been forced to pledge that he will maintain it should he by some miracle win the elections this year.
Kozloff’s selective analysis of the state of the Barrio Adentro program is typical of most “political commentaries” covering the Venezuelan elections in the international press, which are currently contributing to a distorted understanding of Venezuela’s political reality in the run up to the October elections.
Opposition Out of Touch
While most commentators either stress Capriles’ youth (he’s 39) and his energetic campaign, or apparent “indecision” on the part of Venezuelan voters, the reality on the ground is quite different in Venezuela. The opposition have faced defeat after defeat for the past two months.
Not only do nearly all polls in Venezuela give Chavez a 20-30% lead over his opponent, but the Capriles campaign has also made several tactical mistakes. In a move that alienated working class voters in May, Capriles announced that he did not attend the country’s International Workers’ Day march because he was an “employer” and not an employee. His campaign has also been responsible for the persecution and assault of several community media journalists, harking back to the days of repression under previous governments.
In the international arena, in a subtle snub against the Venezuelan opposition coalition, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stated in an interview that Chavez represented “stability” for the continent that was both essential for regional unity and beneficial for Colombia. Meanwhile US ally and former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe’s vocal support for Capriles has backfired, only serving to reinforce the perception of Capriles as the candidate of US imperialism amongst the Venezuelan public. Just this week, Capriles’ US advisor, Peter Greenberg, also admitted that Chavez’s lead over Capriles was “irreversible”.
These concerns are also being echoed by conservatives inside the country with even rightwing journalists such as Rafael Poleo mourning Capriles’ “hopeless” election campaign and members of the opposition coalition demanding that the campaign be restructured. “Capriles could be out anywhere today, but the rest of the country does not know about it… (his) strategy is not working, his candidacy is not growing, and Chavez’s illness has hyper-personalized electoral debate. People are only talking about Chavez”, explained Oscar Schemel, President of the Hinterlaces polling company.
Throughout this election campaign the opposition’s most serious failure is to have misunderstood the extent to which new mechanisms of participatory democracy have grown in Venezuela. The concept of democracy has taken on new meaning and the working class and organized communities are currently at the helm of an unprecedented experiment with radical new forms of democratic participation. Citizens’ democratic participation is now channelled through communal councils, communes, socialist workers’ councils and cooperatives, which extend the democratic process into their everyday lives and allow them to transform their own socio-cultural surroundings. Venezuelan democracy is no longer reducible to national elections every 6 years, rather it is something constructed every single day.
Following an unsuccessful 12-year battle against Chavez waged on its own terrain, the opposition is now attempting to compete on the Revolution’s terrain and the results are perhaps even less rewarding. The opposition has totally failed to understand just how Venezuela’s political terrain is constantly shifting and continuously being propelled forwards by the country’s new grassroots democratic format.
Just like Kozloff, the Venezuelan opposition continues to look at Venezuela from a distance. Their sources are US diplomats, US political advisors or the Venezuelan elite. From this perspective, Barrio Adentro is merely a political strategy. For Kozloff, it is merely the product of a transient deal with Cuba which can be rolled back should another government take power. For Capriles it is a program he must pledge to maintain in order to have any chance of winning votes.
But for many Venezuelans Barrio Adentro is more than a political strategy and more than a program, it is a social process which has become an integral part of their everyday lives, which has brought dignity, value and identity, and shaped their communities and changed their educational possibilities. These are changes that can’t be perceived from the upper class district of Altamira in Caracas, and much less from a newsroom in New York.
- Germany Asks European Union to Step Up Support for Venezuela’s Opposition (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuelan Opposition Promises “Renewal” for Venezuela-Israel Relations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Why Do Venezuelan Women Vote for Chavez? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Capriles and Chavez Neck and Neck, and Pigs Might Fly, or Conduct a Poll (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Immigration to Venezuela Double that of Emigration (alethonews.wordpress.com)