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A Tale of Two Cruise Ships: The Cuban Difference

By Tim Anderson | American Herald Tribune | April 26, 2020

On 19 March two cruise ships with COVID19 infected passengers and crew were evacuated, one in Havana and the other in Sydney. The first evacuation, of the Braemar, was so successful and uneventful that it barely raised a ripple in the world media. The second, of the Ruby Princess, led to at least 21 deaths, 700 infections and a criminal investigation.

Why was there such a big difference and what can we learn from this contrast?

The evacuation of the British-American cruise ship Ruby Princess, with 2,700 passengers and 1,100 crew, was an unmitigated disaster and with the worst outcomes of all 28 cruise ship epidemics in early 2020. The ship returned early to Sydney after 13 passengers reported respiratory problems. COVID19 tests were taken of the sick passengers but on 19 March the other 2,700 were allowed to leave, apparently without proper health checks. Those people are now known to have spread the virus across Australia. A month later 190 crew had become infected and it was reported that this mismanaged evacuation was responsible for more than 10% of all COVID19 infections in Australia.

Responsibility for the Ruby Princess disembarkation was shared between the ship, the Australian Border Force and the NSW State Department of Health. The NSW police investigation of the incident arises because of “discrepancies” between versions of events given by the cruise line and the state agencies. The police will look for breaches of the law, but may not have much of a role in the oversight of failures in public health management.

Evacuation of the British-owned Braemar, on the other hand, was a successful operation. This ship had 682 passengers and 381 crew. After one disembarked passenger in Canada tested COVID19 positive, five more were detected on board. With this public knowledge, the British ship was refused disembarkation permission in Barbados and The Bahamas, even though both island-nations are members of the British Commonwealth. It was also refused access to Sint Maarten, a small Dutch territory. Finally, Cuba allowed access.

On 16 March Cuban Foreign Affairs announced that it would:

“allow the docking of this vessel [Braemar] and will adopt established sanitary measures to receive all citizens on board, in accordance with protocols established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Cuban Ministry of Public Health”

That meant thorough testing, sanitary protection measures and contact tracing. At this stage there had only been a handful of COVID19 infections in Cuba, including the death of one Italian tourist. Just a few days earlier Cuba had developed a national strategy to deal with the virus, in coordination with the regional branch of the WHO, the Pan American Health Organisation.

This evacuation of around 700 people involved 43 Cuban doctors, port officials and bus drivers. Passengers were given medical check-ups, protective equipment and then taken to Jose Martí Airport to board four aircraft for the United Kingdom. Cuban authorities said any persons too sick to travel could remain under care in Havana. A British paper said a group of about 80 were sent to a British Ministry of Defence isolation hospital at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. That group comprised two passengers and four crew plus 28 passengers and 27 crew who had already been quarantined, along with isolated passengers’ partners. There have been no reports of any deaths from the Braemar.

After that evacuation the 43 Cuba workers involved in the operation were placed in an isolation hospital near Matanzas for two weeks. On 2 April, as they returned to their families, the 43 were met with a warm welcome at La Cujae University, 30 kilometres east of Havana, “to avoid large crowds of people” and thus any further infection risk. All tested negative to COVID19 infection and none showed any fever or other symptoms during those 14 days.

Peter Deer, on behalf of the Braemar owners, expressed his “most sincere thanks to the Cuban authorities, the port of Mariel and the Cuban people for their support”. British Ambassador Anthony Stokes was effusive, expressing his “immense gratitude and that of my country” for the Cuban operation. Ambassador Stokes addressed “the 43” in impeccable Spanish, saying:

“I highly appreciate the courage and humanism of those who decided to be in the front line, knowing that this would be a complex and delicate operation, and that later they would have to be two weeks in isolation, separated from their families and dear ones. I am profoundly happy to know that, today, they have returned to their home, safe and sound … During Operation Braemar I was witness to the numerous qualities of the Cuban people, their humanitarian principles, friendliness and industriousness, facets of the Cuban character which I have come to know and love.”

So what are the lessons from the Havana operation, and what made it so different from the Sydney fiasco?

Dr. Francisco Durán García, National Director of Epidemiology in Cuba’s Ministry of Health, said that the final safety of the health workers “demonstrated the effectiveness of the strict measures taken during the operation, amongst others the isolation of the exposed personnel”, which included bus drivers and port workers as well as health professionals. Cuban journalist Jose Díaz Pollán added that “each one of these people had effective protective equipment”.

There are good and well equipped health workers in Sydney, too. However it seems evident that the effective coordination employed in Havana was lacking in Sydney. Cubans often speak of “inter sectoral coordination”, which means strong links between education, health, transport, police and other authorities, in priority matters. This is often decried in western countries as the ‘authoritarian’ nature of socialist systems. But inter-sectoral coordination works well in public health, and that was clearly lacking in Sydney.

References:

[1] Anderson, Tim (2020) ‘Public Health, COVID-19 and Recovery’, American Herald Tribune, 10 April, online.

[2] Anderson, Tim (2020) ‘How Has Cuba Faced the COVID-19 Epidemic?’, American Herald Tribune, 14 April, online.

[3] Bellew, Lesley (2020) ‘’Quarantines and cancelled tours – but at least we get free drinks’: A diary on board a cruise hit by coronavirus’, The Telegraph, 19 March, online.

[4] Cockburn, Paige (2020) ‘How the coronavirus pandemic would look in Australia if Ruby Princess had never docked’, ABC, 23 April, online.

[5] Cubadebate (2020) ‘De alta médica los 43 cubanos que apoyaron la operación del crucero MS Braemar’, 2 April, online.

[6] Díaz Pollán, Jose Guillermo (2020) ‘Sanos y en sus casas trabajadores de Transtur, GEMAR y la aduana vinculados al crucero Braemar’, Cubadebate, 2 April, online.

[7] Granma (2020) ‘De alta médica los 43 cubanos que apoyaron la operación del crucero MS Braemar’, 2 April, online.

[8] Marsh, Sarah and Nelson Acosta (2020) ‘Passengers of British coronavirus-hit cruise ship evacuate in Cuba’, Reuters, 18 March, online.

[9] MINREX (2020) ‘Cuba will accept and assist travelers on British cruise ship MS Braemar’, Granma, 16 March, online.

[10] Nguyen, Kevin and Sarah Thomas (2020) ‘Ruby Princess coronavirus deaths to be subject of criminal investigation by NSW Police homicide squad’, ABC, 5 April, online.

[11] OnCubaNews (2020) ‘In Cuba, British cruise ship with COVID-19 cases; evacuation of passengers underway’, 19 March, online.

[12] Radio Rebelde (2020) ‘UK thanks Cubans for supporting MS Braemar cruise’, 19 March, online.

[13] Rashad Rolle (2020) ‘Virus Ship Told: You Can’t Land – Cruise Liner With Five Infected Not Allowed To Dock’, The Tribune, 12 March, online.

[14] Ross, Monique and Damien Carrick (2020) ‘The Ruby Princess coronavirus saga could lead to homicide charges. These cases offer insight into a key legal issue’, ABC, 23 April, online.

[15] Stone, Jon (2020) ‘UK thanks Cuba for ‘great gesture of solidarity’ in rescuing passengers from coronavirus cruise ship’, Independent, 7 April, online.

[16] Zhou, Naaman (2020) ‘Ruby Princess crew fear for their health as ship leaves Australia’, The Guardian, 23 April, online.

April 26, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Coronavirus: Consequences of Staggering Magnitude

By Alain DeBenoist | Occidental Observer

Excerpts from the interview, April 2, 2020; translated by Tom Sunic.

… A few years ago I wrote that only in a state of emergency one can take full measure of somebody. Now we know where we are at. A statesman makes decisions, gives orders and requisitions. Macron, however, relies on the advice of “experts” who, as a rule, never agree with each other.

… There was a wish to include in the logic of the (free) market a sector which by definition lies outside the free market. Public services have been systematically weakened and destroyed. Now it is us who are paying the price. And this is just the beginning, because the confinement will last for weeks, if not for months. We are not at the end of the beginning, much less at the beginning of the end.

… At the start, as a rule, everyone stands together. However, as we arrive at “the day after” and when the time comes for accountability, the people’s judgment will show no mercy. If this matter ends up, as I suspect it will, in a social crisis of huge magnitude, then the Yellow Vests movement will look like, more than ever before, as a dress rehearsal. We can now clearly see that it will be most difficult for the working class and the middle class to put up with [coronavirus] confinement.

… [The European Union ] didn’t commit suicide for the simple reason that it had already been dead. One of the merits of the crisis has been to allow everybody to see its dead body. Faced with the epidemic the leaders of the European Commission are showing signs of shock. They are now going to release funds which will be distribute by “helicopter,” after ramping up the monetary printing press. But in real terms nothing comes of it. It was not Europe that came to the rescue of Italy, but China, Russia and Cuba. Fidel Castro’s posthumous revenge!

… [The economic crisis ] will last much longer than the current epidemic; it will do far more damage and kill far more people. If it goes hand in hand with a global financial crisis, we will be witnessing then a tsunami: an economic crisis and therefore a social crisis, financial crisis, health crisis, ecological crisis, migration crisis. In 2011 I published a book called Au bord du gouffre (On the Brink of the Abyss). It seems to me that we have arrived there now.

… We should also anticipate political and geopolitical consequences of staggering proportions. The unfolding of the epidemic in a country such as the United States, whose health system, organized of course in a liberal fashion, is one of the world’s least performing, will be challenged to play a decisive role. It must be followed very closely (the global epicenter of the epidemic today is New York). The United States will likely come out of it much weaker than Russia and China, its only two rivals for the time being. Again, we are only at the beginning…

April 5, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Empire’s Cuban Colony 1898-1959

Tales of the American Empire

The Cuban struggle for independence in the 1890s was closely covered by the American press. Some newspapers agitated for American intervention and featured sensational stories of Spanish atrocities against the native Cuban population. Spain posed no threat to the United States, but Cuba had very profitable plantations coveted by American tycoons. On February 15, 1898, the US Navy warship USS Maine was visiting Havana harbor and was rocked by an explosion, killing 260 of the crew and sinking the ship. America’s ruling class used this incident and their money and media to pressure the US Congress to declare war on Spain to seize Cuba.

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

US Diplomats in Cuba May Have Become Ill Due to Chemicals in Pesticide Fumigation – Report

Sputnik – 20.09.2019

US and Canadian diplomats in Havana, Cuba, may have become ill due to a neurotoxin used in pesticide fumigation and not by alleged sonic attacks, a clinical study commissioned by Global Affairs Canada revealed.

In August 2017, the US State Department said nearly two dozen diplomats working at the US embassy in Cuba were affected in an incident involving a mysterious audio device and some of the diplomats suffered permanent hearing loss and possible brain injuries.

“While proving the source of exposure and cause of injury is difficult, if not impossible at this time point, embassy records show a significant increase in fumigation in recent years with weekly exposure to high dose records show a significant increase in fumigation in recent years with weekly exposure to high dose pesticides in and around many diplomats’ residences,” the report, published on May 24, said.

Fumigation in Cuba increased in 2016 as the government mobilized to fight the spread of the Zika virus, the report said.

Canadian diplomats may have been more exposed to the neurotoxic agents during the routine fumigation going on around and often inside their houses, the report also said adding that the symptoms experienced by the diplomats and their families were low-dose exposure.

The clinical study consisted of a team of researchers from Halifax with the Brain Repair Center, Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the report noted.

Twenty-five “exposed” individuals participated in the study including 11 who others who have never lived in Havana, the report said.

September 20, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | 2 Comments

Give Guantanamo Back to Cuba

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | August 6, 2019

The U.S. Empire, which controls much of the world through hundreds of military bases in foreign countries, through foreign regimes run by domestic U.S. puppets, and through foreign dependency on U.S. foreign aid, got its start in 1898 during the Spanish American War. It was that war that enabled the Empire to acquire its imperialist domain in Cuba known as Guantanamo Bay, which is now the Empire’s premier international indefinite-detention prison, torture center, and kangaroo judicial system.

The late 1800s were a time of worldwide empires. Great Britain, France, Spain, and others were empires, possessing and oftentimes brutally controlling people in faraway colonies. Although the U.S. Constitution had called into existence a limited-government republic, by the time the latter part of the 19th century had arrived, many Americans had been swept up in the pro-empire fervor, owing largely to the Progressive movement, which was also influencing America toward embracing the worldwide move toward socialism and interventionism. The Progressive idea was that in order for the United States to become a great nation, it needed to become an empire, just like other empires.

In 1898, Cuba and other possessions of the Spanish Empire were fighting for their freedom and independence. Since this was a time in which U.S. officials were still following the Constitution’s declaration-of-war requirement, President William McKinley sought and secured a declaration of war against Spain, with the ostensible aim of helping the Spanish colonies win their freedom and independence.

It was a lie and a double cross of those who were fighting for their freedom and independence. In fact, the real aim was to replace the Spanish Empire by defeating it and taking possession and control over its colonies, with the aim of making America great by converting it into an empire.

Upon winning the war, the U.S. took control of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The Filipinos kept fighting, this time against the world’s newest empire, the United States. For a good account of that war and what it did to American values, see “America’s Other Original Sin” by Andrew J. Bacevich, which appeared this week in the American Conservative.

The Cubans, on the other hand, surrendered to U.S. power. As part of its victory, the new U.S. Empire forced Cuban officials to enter into a lease that granted the empire a perpetual lease of the 45-square-mile property known as Guantanamo Bay.

The lease provided for payment of $2,000 per year in gold coin. After President Franklin Roosevelt nationalized gold in the United States, in 1934 U.S. officials forced Cubans to accept a modification of the lease that enabled the Empire to pay Cuba $4,000 in U.S. paper money, an amount that, needless to say, has significantly decreased in value over the decades owing to the Empire’s inflationary financial policies.

The Cubans don’t cash the checks the Empire sends them because their position is that the lease isn’t valid anyway.

From a legal standpoint, the Cubans are right. Since the lease agreements for Gitmo were made under conditions of force, fraud, and duress, they have been null and void from their inception. Moreover, since the leases provide for no fixed expiration date, that also makes them null and void under the law.

Of course though, the law is irrelevant. All that matters is force. Since the U.S. Empire is much more powerful than the Spanish Empire was, there is absolutely nothing the Cubans can do to regain their property.

Beyond the illegality of the U.S. Empire’s control of Gitmo, Americans need to ask a critically important question: What business does the U.S. government have owning and operating an imperialist military outpost in a foreign country? America was founded as a limited-government republic, not an empire.

Moreover, the Progressives have been proven wrong in the assertion that the way to national greatness lies in empire. It’s the exact opposite. An empire weakens, corrupts, and ultimately destroys a nation, not only through the out-of-control spending and debt required to sustain it but also through the moral degradation that comes with forcibly controlling and brutalizing people in faraway lands.

After all, look at the stain of immorality that the U.S. national security establishment — i.e., the Pentagon and the CIA — has brought to our nation because of Guantanamo Bay. How can a nation whose government establishes an indefinite detention prison, a torture center, and a kangaroo judicial system in an overseas imperialist outpost, with the express intention to avoid the Constitution and the Supreme Court, be considered a great nation? That’s the sort of thing that totalitarian nations, not great ones, do.

It’s time to dismantle the U.S. Empire and restore our founding principle of a limited-government republic to  the United States. A great place to start would be by giving Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba, followed by a termination of all foreign aid, a closure of all foreign military bases, and an end to regime-change operations around the world.

August 6, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 3 Comments

Cuba should be careful not to normalise Israel’s colonisation of Palestine

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | July 13, 2019

In 1947, Cuba was one of the few countries opposing the UN Partition Plan, which laid the groundwork for Israel’s colonisation of Palestine. At the time, the Cuban envoy to the UN Dr Ernesto Dihigo spoke out against Zionist settler colonialism and, with clarity, pointed out the UN’s incompetence and refusal to implement its rhetoric regarding the free determination of people.

Decades later, and at a time when Palestinians are risking the loss of what remains of their land, Cuba must rethink its strategy which runs the risk of normalising Israeli colonialism and human rights violations committed against the Palestinian population.

Israeli media has reported that Doron Markel, chief scientist at the Jewish National Fund (JNF), was invited to an international environmental conference held in Havana, Cuba. Needless to say, Israel was given a golden opportunity to present itself as a model to emulate by lauding its scientific expertise, while eliminating the violent narrative of land and water theft to achieve its goals.

There are no formal diplomatic ties between Cuba and Israel. However, inviting a representative of the JNF to Cuba, an organisation which has been at the helm of displacing the Palestinian people, is tantamount to a tacit decision to normalise the violence upon which Israel has been able to build a prosperous image. For every Israeli achievement, there are hidden Palestinian victims.

The forestation which Markel spoke about must be perceived within the context of destroying Palestine’s own environmental heritage. Likewise, Israel’s water strategy requires mentioning how its theft deprives Palestinians of adequate access to water. Markel’s statement that “science can serve as a bridge” between two countries that have not yet established formal diplomatic relations is a demand for Cuba to normalise Israel’s violations against the Palestinian people. Inviting a JNF representative already points towards such a route.

In one of his memorable speeches to the UN, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro stated: “Colonies do not speak. Colonies are not known unless they have the opportunity to express themselves.”

By inviting an Israeli representative, Cuba has departed from this truthful observation by Fidel and experienced by the Cubans themselves before their liberation.

Cuban support for Palestine is rooted in the shared experience of anti-colonial struggle. The country should be leading by example, rather than accommodating Israeli narratives that speak about achievements at the expense of the Palestinian population. This normalisation of Israeli violations and its neoliberal endeavours is contrary to the Cuban revolutionary struggle and fails to uphold the internationalist principles upon which Cuba was able to impart support to oppressed people around the world, including Palestinians.

While not representative of people’s sentiment, the Cuban government has made its politics ambiguous as a result of this invitation. It is therefore pertinent to ask where Cuba is heading in terms of its own commitment to supporting the anti-colonial struggle of other oppressed people internationally. The US, the EU and the UN have all normalised Israel. Will Cuba rekindle its commitment to its principles or follow the trend that has discarded the Palestinian people’s legitimate political demands?

Read also:

PDFLP condemns renewed US sanctions against Cuba

July 13, 2019 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Bolton hails sanctions for ‘severing ties’ between Cuba & Venezuela

RT | July 4, 2019

US President Donald Trump’s national security hawk John Bolton has vowed to “sever ties” between Havana and Caracas with sanctions on oil and other exports after an Italian oil shipping firm folded under pressure.

The US State Department has lifted sanctions from the Italy-based PB Tankers oil shipping company, commending it for taking steps to “ensure that its vessels no longer were complicit in supporting the former Maduro regime.”

The company was sanctioned in April along with three others, accused by the US of aiding Maduro government by transporting oil from Venezuela, including to Cuba. The inclusion on the list came like a bolt out of the blue to PB Tankers, which said it was “shocked and concerned” by the development, while pledging to comply with the demands.

While the Italian firm caved in to the US’ browbeating, Washington slapped sanctions on Cubametales, a Cuban state-run company. In a statement on Wednesday, the State Department called it a “prime facilitator of oil imports from Venezuela” for its attempt to breach the US economic blockade.

Bolton apparently took pride in having bullied businesses into denying services to Venezuela, tweeting that the US “will continue to take actions” to end what he called an “oil for repression” scheme.

“We will continue to sever the ties between Cuba and Venezuela that contribute to repression,” he wrote.

Cuba has denounced the new sanctions as an illegal meddling attempt.

“The US has no right to impose unilateral measures on entities of Cuba or any other country trading with Venezuela,” Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez tweeted.

The Trump administration has been hell-bent on stamping out the close cooperation between Venezuela and Cuba, which along with Russia, China, Turkey and several other Latin American nations, took Maduro’s side in the ongoing political turmoil.

Washington has accused Havana of playing a “destabilizing” role in Latin America, and in Venezuela, in particular, hitting it with rounds of sanctions for refusing to abandon its major ally.

Bolton went as far as claiming the Venezuelan military would defect from Maduro to self-declared ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido if Cubans “let them do it.”

Bolton has never been shy about the US’ true intentions in Venezuela, openly encouraging regime change while claiming that Guaido enjoys “overwhelming public support” after the failed coup attempt, an assertion that did not age well considering that the stalemate between the Maduro government and the opposition is still ongoing.

July 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 2 Comments

Trudeau government squeezes Cuba

By Yves Engler | June 3, 2019

Ottawa faces a dilemma. How far are Trudeau’s Liberals prepared to go in squeezing Cuba? Can Canadian corporations with interests on the island restrain the most pro-US, anti-socialist, elements of the ruling class?

Recently, the Canadian Embassy in Havana closed its Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship section. Now most Cubans wanting to visit Canada or get work/study permits will have to travel to a Canadian embassy in another country to submit their documents. In some cases Cubans will have to travel to another country at least twice to submit information to enter Canada. The draconian measure has already undercut cultural exchange and family visits, as described in a Toronto Star op-ed titled “Canada closes a door on Cuban culture”.

It’s rare for an embassy to simply eliminate visa processing, but what’s prompted this measure is the stuff of science fiction. Canada’s embassy staff was cut in half in January after diplomats became ill following a mysterious ailment that felled US diplomats sent to Cuba after Donald Trump’s election. Four months after the first US diplomats (apparently) became ill US ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis met his Canadian, British and French counterparts to ask if any of their staff were sick. According to a recent New York Times Magazine story, “none knew of any similar experiences afflicting their officials in Cuba. But after the Canadian ambassador notified his staff, 27 officials and family members there asked to be tested. Twelve were found to be suffering from a variety of symptoms, similar to those experienced by the Americans.”

With theories ranging from “mass hysteria” to the sounds of “Indies short-tailed crickets” to an “outbreak of functional disorders”, the medical questions remain largely unresolved. The politics of the affair are far clearer. In response, the Trump Administration withdrew most of its embassy staff in Havana and expelled Cuban diplomats from Washington. They’ve rolled back measures the Obama Administration instituted to re-engage with Cuba and recently implemented an extreme measure even the George W. Bush administration shied away from.

Ottawa has followed along partly because it’s committed to overthrowing Venezuela’s government and an important talking point of the anti-Nicolás Maduro coalition is that Havana is propping him up. On May 3 Justin Trudeau called Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel to pressure him to join Ottawa’s effort to oust President Maduro. The release noted, “the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Lima Group [of countries hostile to Maduro], underscored the desire to see free and fair elections and the constitution upheld in Venezuela.” Four days later Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland added to the diplomatic pressure on Havana. She told reporters, “Cuba needs to not be part of the problem in Venezuela, but become part of the solution.” A week later Freeland visited Cuba to discuss Venezuela.

On Tuesday Freeland talked with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Venezuela and Cuba. Afterwards the State Department tweeted, “Secretary Pompeo spoke with Canada’s Foreign Minister Freeland to discuss ongoing efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela. The Secretary and Foreign Minister agreed to continue working together to press the Cuban regime to provide for a democratic and prosperous future for the people of Cuba.”

Ottawa supports putting pressure on Cuba in the hopes of further isolating/demonizing the Maduro government. But, the Trudeau government is simultaneously uncomfortable with how the US campaign against Cuba threatens the interests of some Canadian-owned businesses.

The other subject atop the agenda when Freeland traveled to Havana was Washington’s decision to allow lawsuits for property confiscated after the 1959 Cuban revolution. The Trump Administration recently activated a section of the Helms-Burton Act that permits Cubans and US citizens to sue foreign companies doing business in Cuba over property nationalized decades ago. The move could trigger billions of dollars in legal claims in US courts against Canadian and European businesses operating on the island.

Obviously, Canadian firms that extract Cuban minerals and deliver over a million vacationers to the Caribbean country each year don’t want to be sued in US courts. They want Ottawa’s backing, but the Trudeau government’s response to Washington’s move has been relatively muted. This speaks to Trudeau/Freeland’s commitment to overthrowing Venezuela’s government.

But, it also reflects the broader history of Canada-Cuba ties. Despite the hullabaloo around Ottawa’s seemingly cordial relations with Havana, the reality is more complicated than often presented. Similar to Venezuela today, Ottawa has previously aligned with US fear-mongering about the “Cuban menace” in Latin America and elsewhere. Even Prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who famously declared “viva Castro” during a trip to that country in 1976, denounced (highly altruistic) Cuban efforts to defend newly independent Angola from apartheid South Africa’s invasion. In response, Trudeau stated, “Canada disapproves with horror [of] participation of Cuban troops in Africa” and later terminated the Canadian International Development Agency’s small aid program in Cuba as a result.

After the 1959 Cuban revolution Ottawa never broke off diplomatic relations, even though most other countries in the hemisphere did. Three Nights in Havana explains part of why Ottawa maintained diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba: “Recently declassified State Department documents have revealed that, far from encouraging Canada to support the embargo, the United States secretly urged Diefenbaker to maintain normal relations because it was thought that Canada would be well positioned to gather intelligence on the island.” Washington was okay with Canada’s continued relations with the island. It simply wanted assurances, which were promptly given, that Canada wouldn’t take over the trade the US lost. For their part, Canadian business interests in the country, which were sizable, were generally less hostile to the revolution since they were mostly compensated when their operations were nationalized. Still, the more ideological elements of corporate Canada have always preferred the Cuban model didn’t exist.

If a Canadian company is sued in the US for operating in Cuba, Ottawa will face greater pressure to push back on Washington. If simultaneously the Venezuelan government remains, Ottawa’s ability to sustain its position against Cuba and Venezuela is likely to become even more difficult.

June 3, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , | 11 Comments

US sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Venezuela breach human rights: UN expert

Press TV – May 7, 2019

A UN rights expert has slammed unilateral US sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, saying the use of economic measures for political purposes violates human rights and international law.

In a statement released on Monday, Idriss Jazairy, UN special rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures, warned that the US bans against the trio might precipitate man-made humanitarian catastrophes.

“Regime change through economic measures likely to lead to the denial of basic human rights and indeed possibly to starvation has never been an accepted practice of international relations,” he said.

“Real concerns and serious political differences between governments must never be resolved by precipitating economic and humanitarian disasters, making ordinary people pawns and hostages thereof,” he added.

Jazairy also voiced worries about Washington’s termination of sanctions waivers for major Iranian crude buyers, saying the move harms not only the Iranian nation, but also their trade partners.

“The extraterritorial application of unilateral sanctions is clearly contrary to international law,” he said.

“I am deeply concerned that one State can use its dominant position in international finance to harm not only the Iranian people, who have followed their obligations under the UN-approved nuclear deal to this day, but also everyone in the world who trades with them,” he noted, referring to the landmark 2015 agreement — officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Recently, the US ended six months of waivers which allowed Tehran’s eight largest customers to continue importing limited volumes. It also threatened the buyers of Iranian oil with sanctions if they fail to stop their purchases.

The anti-Iran American sanctions had been lifted under the JCPOA, but they returned in place last year when the US abandoned the multilateral accord.

Elsewhere in his statement, the UN rights expert denounced the economic hardship caused by the US sanctions in Cuba and questioned Washington’s claim that its sanctions against Venezuela were aimed at “helping” its people.

He further called on the international community to “challenge” Washington’s restrictive measures against sovereign countries which amount to “a threat to world peace and security.”

“I call on the international community to engage in constructive dialogue with Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and the United States to find a peaceful resolution in compliance with the spirit and letter of the Charter of the United Nations before the arbitrary use of economic starvation becomes the new ‘normal’,” Jazairy said.

May 7, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Russia FM Blasts US Illegal ‘Methods of Blackmail’ Against Cuba

teleSUR | May 4, 2019

Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged the international community to unite in condemning the United States’ new anti-Cuban blockade measure, which came about after President Donald Trump lifted the waiver on Title III of the once-dormant Helms-Burton Act.

“We emphasize again that the methods of blackmail and pressure used by Washington are absolutely illegal. We call on all responsible forces to defend the U.N. Charter and international law in order to jointly put an end to the anti-Cuba blockade,” the Russian ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also pointed out that Washington is threatening more sanctions on Cuba in the vein of the “Monroe Doctrine” in an “overt encroachment” on the sovereignty of the Latin American nation.

The new sanctions were made known when United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Title II would come into effect on May 2, permitting U.S. nationals to sue Cuban entities or foreign entities operating on the island prior to the Cuban Revolution for damages.

Moscow said the measures are excessive since Cuba has repeatedly expressed readiness to resolve existing contradictions with the United States regarding bilateral issues.

The Helms-Burton Act is a bill passed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1996. However, this is the first time that any U.S. administration has authorized its implementation.

“Through the devaluation of democratic principles and rejection of international legal norms, the U.S. neglects the values it promotes, creating obstacles for all countries leading a separate policy and refusing to follow Washington’s directions,” the Foreign Ministry noted.

Canada, the European Union as well as other countries have rejected the activation of the Helms-Burton Act, explaining that it violates the norms of international law.

May 4, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Trump opens Cuba up to property confiscation lawsuits, angering allies & foes alike

RT | April 17, 2019

The Trump administration is set to permit lawsuits against Cuba over property confiscated in the revolution, in a bid to dismantle the ‘troika of tyranny’ resisting Washington’s total dominance in what it sees as its ‘backyard.’

Cubans who fled to the US under Fidel Castro’s government will be able to sue companies using their former property under a 1996 law that went unenforced until President Donald Trump seized on it earlier this year as a potential weapon to pressure Cuba into dropping its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, after the country refused to support US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido when he declared himself president in January.

The Trump administration is expected to announce the measure on Wednesday after last month’s soft rollout, which limited lawsuit targets to about 200 businesses and government agencies already under “enhanced” sanctions due to their links with Cuba’s government. No lawsuits have yet been filed under the new rules, though the State Department says there may be as many as 200,000 potential claims by plaintiffs including multinational corporations – who may be reluctant to file lawsuits that could effectively target their own overseas clients.

Previous presidents have avoided activating the provision because of the torrent of litigation it could unleash against joint ventures run by US allies in partnership with the Cuban government. While the US has maintained its embargo against the Cuban government for over half a century – aside from the short-lived attempt by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama to relax the harsh economic sanctions – many of its allies do business with Cuba. While Trump appears to value punishing Cuba for its alliance with Maduro over making nice with America’s European allies, critics argue that Americans will be affected by the new law as well.

“This decision punishes the Cuban people and American companies – companies who were given permission by the US government to do business and are now having the rug pulled from underneath them,” James Williams, President of anti-embargo group Engage Cuba, told Bloomberg. Existing “carve-outs” in the Helms-Burton provision reportedly protect American companies in some areas, specifically the travel industry and telecoms, though it’s unclear whether those exceptions also cover companies belonging to US allies operating in those sectors.

The US move is a violation of international law, EU ambassador to Cuba Alberto Navarro told a press conference. Canada, France, Spain, the UK, and other countries with large Cuban investments have threatened to sue through the World Trade Organization if the US attempts to interfere in their dealings with a sovereign nation.

Cuba has volunteered to reimburse owners of confiscated properties – if the US first reimburses the Cuban government for the billions of dollars in damages resulting from its 60-year embargo.

April 17, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | 2 Comments

Cuba: Electric Sabotage Against Venezuela is Terrorism

teleSUR – March 11, 2019

The government of Cuba has described the attack on Venezuela’s electricity system which occurred last Thursday as a terrorist act.

In a statement, the government of the Cuban Revolution argues that the attack has been “aimed at damaging the defenseless population to use as a hostage in the unconventional war unleashed by the United States against the Venezuelan government.”

In this context, it argues that it is an escalation of violence that evokes the oil strike of 2002 and that arises after the interventionist failure of 23 February, when they tried to forcibly enter a supposed “humanitarian aid”.

The statement also denounces a campaign of lies coordinated by U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton against Venezuela. One of those lies, says the statement, is that “Cuba has between 20 and 25 thousand military personnel in Venezuela who threaten the officers of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces.”

“Cuba categorically rejects this lie, as it equally firmly rejects any suggestion that there is any degree of political subordination from Venezuela to Cuba or from Cuba to Venezuela,” the Cuban government asserts.

March 12, 2019 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments