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Cuba Advocates Denuclearization in United Nations Meeting

Ambassador Ana Rodriguez at the UN Headquarers, New York, U.S., June 1, 2020.

teleSUR | August 26, 2020

The Deputy Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations Ana Rodriguez Wednesday reaffirmed her country’s commitment to denuclearization and advocated for a world free of nuclear weapons.

She stressed that it is disconcerting how some countries persist in their drive to modernize atomic arsenals and develop new types of nuclear weapons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rodriguez also pointed out that it is impossible to think about a world free of nuclear weapons when the United States violates both the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The Cuban ambassador recalled that the U.S. has withdrawn from several international agreements on disarmament and arms limitation such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

She also mentioned that Cuba supports an effective and total ban on all kinds of nuclear tests. Her government also advocates the closure and dismantling of all facilities used for such purposes.

Rodriguez pointed out that the spending great amounts of money to develop nuclear weapons is unacceptable as international cooperation to face global health problems is needed.

Currently, there are approximately 13,400 nuclear weapons in the world, 3,720 of which are deployed and 1,800 are on high operational alert.

August 27, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

USA’s Militarization of Latin America

By Yanis Iqbal | Dissident Voice | August 24, 2020

Maj. Gen. Andrew Croft, the commander of 12th Air Force, wrote on 22 August: “I have seen an increasingly contested strategic space where Beijing and Moscow are aggressively investing time and resources in Latin America to support their authoritarian models of governance. The Air Force must reinforce the strength of our longstanding commitment to the Western Hemisphere. We lose ground when we are unable to commit to spending the time and resources to fly our aircraft south and train alongside our partners.”

Croft’s statement reflects the growing American hysteria against the presence of any extra-regional actors in the Latin American continent. For US policy-makers, Latin America is not an aggregation of sovereign nations but a large lump of subordinated states constituting “America’s backyard”. Consequently, this conceptualization of Latin America as a natural extension of the American empire has led to viewing the engagement of any South American country with China, Russia and Iran as a “threat” to peace and security.

On February 7, 2019, Admiral Craig S. Faller – the commander of the United States Southern Command – told the Congress that the Western Hemisphere is facing “a troubling array of challenges and threats”. These threats included alarmist assertions about the growing dominance of China, Russia and Iran and a general demonization of the socialist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua:

“China has accelerated expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative at a pace that may one day overshadow its expansion in Southeast Asia and Africa. Russia supports multiple information outlets spreading its false narrative of world events and U.S. intentions. Iran has deepened its anti-U.S. Spanish language media coverage and has exported its state support for terrorism into our hemisphere. Russia and China also support the autocratic regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests. We are monitoring the latest events in Venezuela and look forward to welcoming that country back into the hemisphere’s community of democracies.”

In response to the perceived threats posed by the China-Russia-Iran nexus, the Secretary of Defense has decided to conduct an assessment of the sufficiency of resources available to the U.S. Southern Command, the U.S. Northern Command, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out their respective missions in the Western Hemisphere. This assessment is required to include “a list of investments, programs, or partnerships in the Western Hemisphere by China, Iran, Russia, or other adversarial groups or countries that threaten the national security of the United States.”

In addition to warlike preparations, USA has also pursued a policy of increased militarization wherein it has tried to ensure “technological superiority” with regard to “anti-US actors”. In March, 2020, USA decided to send additional ships, aircraft and forces to South America and Central America in order to combat the influence of Russia and China. According to Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of Southern Command, “This really was born out of a recognition of the threats in the region,”. Along with the mobilization of the Southern Command, USA has substantially enlarged its security aid to Latin America: From $527,706,000 in 2019, US security aid to Latin America has increased by 10% to $581,270,000.

Chinese Footprint

The present-day US militarization of Latin America is rhetorically driven by an imperialist discourse framing the continent as a possession of the American empire which China, Russia and Iran are trying to appropriate. To take an example, R. Evan Ellis, a Latin America Research Professor at the US Army War College, stated before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that China’s engagement with Latin America “threatens the position of the United States, our security and prosperity, and the democratic values, rights, institutions and laws on which we depend.” To substantiate his statements, Ellis enunciated various strategies through which China is undermining USA’s dominance:

  • “Trade with, loans to, investment in, and other forms of economic and other support to anti-US regimes, indirectly enabling their criminal activities and contributions to regional instability”.
  • “Through providing an alternative to commerce, loans and investment from the West, making governments of the region less inclined to support the US on political, commercial, or security issues, or to stand up for rule of law, democracy or human rights, particularly where it might offend the PRC;”

In both these points, one can observe the imperialistic high-handedness with which Ellis is declaiming his pro-US rhetoric. While Beijing’s efforts to engage with sovereign nations and construct an alternative to the global American empire are regarded as enabling “regional instability”, no questions are asked about USA’s expansionist quest to imperialize the entire world through militaristic tactics.

In order to vilify China and smear its non-aggressive foreign policy, hawkish security experts have framed the country’s diplomatic involvement with various Latin American nations as a type of authoritarian tactic. Using this line of reasoning, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) writes: “Beijing has now officially established its own version of soft power… which emanates from its undemocratic system and rests on its ability to shape the viewpoints of others through co-optation and persuasion.” Not having any empirical evidence to prove its unconvincing statements, NED talks vaguely about the “hypnotic effects” exercised by “Chinese-style warm welcome”: “The Chinese-style warm welcome, the carefully selected tours that include visits to sites with symbolic historical and cultural significance, and ad hoc friendly discourse delivered by the Chinese hosts can have hypnotic effects on their foreign guests.” This is an indication of the extent to which America hysteria against China can reach.

In the same way as NED, the Brookings Institution has also tried to slander China’s diplomatic initiatives in Latin America to preserve the coercive dominance of USA in the continent. As per the think tank, “it would be fair to assume that China’s growing economic power and ambitions of global leadership, coupled with its inherently closed and repressive model of political control, will hurt the region’s prospects for strengthening its liberal democratic systems and respect for human rights.” While saying this, the Brooking Institution conveniently forgets that it the US, with its Western-styled liberal democracy, that has hurt the region most in the form of coups, violence and overt brutality against social movements. Most recently, a US-backed coup in Bolivia has resulted in two massacres and massive repression of social movements.

The Iranian Connection

Like China, Iran, too, experiences American hostility towards its engagement with Latin American countries. Lieutenant Andrew Kramer of the U.S. Navy terms Iranian support for the “economically backward governments” of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as efforts “to maintain pockets of instability and hostility close to U.S. borders.” Echoing this perspective, William Preston McLaughlin, a Colonel (Ret.) of U.S. Marine Corps and Magdalena Defort, an Intern Analyst at the Foundation of Defense of Democracies, argue that “Iran’s presence in Latin America is an imminent threat to peace and political stability in the Western Hemisphere because its forces interact with Latin America’s deeply rooted revolutionary ideology and various well-intentioned but flawed “liberation theology” social movements.” Here, both of the analysts are merely parroting the imperialist “Monroe Doctrine” that subverted the sovereignty of Latin American nations and tethered the people of the continent to the whims of the American empire. Through the Monroe Doctrine, USA relegated the entire Latin American continent to the status of the empire’s handmaiden and constantly used its military muscles to overpower any regional initiatives challenging the dynamics of subjugation. Now, when Iran is lending support to the anti-imperialist administrations of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, it has come under the radar of USA for ostensibly destroying peace and political stability in the Western Hemisphere. In August 2020, for instance, USA confiscated four Iranian fuel shipments that had been bound for Venezuela, making it clear that it would not tolerate anti-imperialist opposition in Latin America.

In addition to portraying Iran as a threat to global peace, both the analysts also used a shrill, scaremongering rhetoric to over-exaggerate the strength of the country. According to the analysts, “Iran has used every agency within its borders to help extend Iranian tentacles into the political, cultural, economic, and military life of Latin America.” This bears striking resemblance to the traditional war-mongering US narrative that frames Hezbollah as a menace to justify the militarizary raising funds, seeking recruits, probing for our weaknesses and challenging our defenses,”. Through these discourses, USA seeks to unleash a new war against the anti-imperialist axis of Latin America which is standing up to militaristic predatoriness of the global hegemon.

Russian Presence

Besides Iran and China, Russia is another nation perceived as a “threat” to US security. General John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) noted in his Congressional testimony, “it has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian presence” in Latin America. In his command’s 2015 Posture Statement, Kelly added:

“Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.”

John Kelly’s representation of Russia as a military threat has been repeated by the Commander of US Southern Command, Admiral Kurt W. Tidd who said in his February 2018 Posture Statement to the US Senate Armed Services Committee that:

“Russia’s increased role in our hemisphere is particularly concerning, given its intelligence and cyber capabilities, intent to upend international stability and order, and discredit democratic institutions… Left unchecked, Russian access and placement could eventually transition from a regional spoiler to a critical threat to the U.S. homeland.”

With the help this narrative, USA has aggressively pushed forward the agenda of greater militarism in Latin America as it strives to maintain “technological superiority” in relation to Russia and expand its already large military expenditure.

On top of depicting Russia as a military threat, US analysts have additionally portrayed the country’s support of socialist governments in Latin America as a danger to the economically empty liberal democracies of the West. According to IBI Consultants, a National Security consulting company specializing in Latin America, Russia’s growing presence in Latin America “is now an integral part of an alliance of state and nonstate actors that have shown their hostility toward the United States in their ideology, criminalized behavior, and anti-democratic nature.” Reiterating this point, on July 9, 2019, Admiral Faller declared before the Congress that “Russia seeks to sow disunity and distrust, propping up autocratic regimes in Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests.” For Faller, those nations which don’t doggedly toe America’s imperialist line automatically become “threats” to democracy and if Russia shows solidarity with these anti-imperialist nations, it, too, classifies as a threat to US interests.

As the USA continues to militarize Latin America, it is increasingly becoming clear that it wants to protect its old, imperial structures from being challenged by anyone. It has been explicitly acknowledged even by pro-US analysts such as Ellis that US military assistance in Latin America “potentially serves U.S. strategic interests by helping to inoculate receiving states against radical or anti-democratic [read “socialist”] solutions which find receptivity when populations lose faith in the ability of a democratic political system and a free market economy to effectively address the corruption, inequality, injustice, and other dysfunctionalities plaguing their country [Emphasis mine].” US military assistance, therefore, is not apolitical and is ideologically tarnished with the objectives of stabilizing free market economies-bourgeoisie democracies and subverting socialist countries.

The United States Intelligence Community’s assessment of threats to US national security had stated in 2019 that “anti-US autocrats [in the Western Hemisphere]will present continuing challenges to US interests, as US adversaries and strategic competitors seek greater influence in the region.” Here, “anti-US autocrats” refers to the socialist administrations of three Latin American countries: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. These three countries have been facing strong US belligerence for their anti-imperialist stance. US sanctions against Cuba have tightened during the pandemic; USA’s hybrid war against Venezuela has intensified as Trump has decided to use frozen funds to topple Nicolas Maduro and USAID (United States Agency for International Development) has strengthened its regime change operations against the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Due to the support lent by China, Russia and Iran to the socialist governments of Latin America, USA has decided to eradicate these extra-regional actors from its “own” backyard and re-proclaim a complete American dominance in the region. In times like these, the international community needs to oppose the militarism of USA against new regional alliances in Latin America.

Yanis Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India.

August 24, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

YouTube Shuts Down New Channels from Venezuela and Cuba

teleSUR | August 21, 2020

Without prior notice, YouTube Thursday removed three Venezuelan channels and two Cuban channels from its platform.

“We were loading to the platform not only live transmissions but also our complete programs. There is no clear explanation for this action,” said Barry Cartaya, a presenter of Venezolana de Television (VTV), a state-run television station based in Caracas.

“This page isn’t available. Sorry about that. Try searching for something else,” is the message popping up when the people try to access VTV channels.YouTube eliminated over 68,000 videos that the Venezuelan media stored in this platform since2011.

The VTV channels affected by the U.S. company are Multimedio VTV (314,000 subscribers), VTV Programs (87,000 subscribers), and VTV Signal Live, which allowed journalists and correspondents to directly post their productions to inform the public.

In Cuba, outlet Cubadebate also denounced the closure of two Youtube channels, namely, Mesa Redonda (19,700 subscribers) and Cubavision Internacional (8,200 subscribers).

Local analysts consider YouTube’s decisions might be related to the sanctions President Donald Trump is applying against individuals, companies, and institutions of both countries.

According to YouTube’s own rules, a channel can be closed when it has committed three serious offenses during a certain period. In the cases of the Venezuelan and Cuban channels, however, these offenses did not exist.

August 22, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia to Start the Production of Its COVID-19 Vaccine in Cuba

teleSUR | August 11, 2020

Russia’s Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Chief Executive Officer Kiril Dmitriev announced that Cuba could begin producing the COVID-19 vaccine, the Sputnik V, in November.

“Cuba has a large capacity to produce medicines and vaccines with highly qualified staff. We could coordinate with its government to start the vaccine production in November,” Dmitriev stated.

He also pointed out that the third stage of vaccine trials will begin in Russia on Wednesday. Later the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines will continue testing it.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko announced the registration of the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine, the Sputnik V, which is named after the first artificial satellite launched into orbit by the USSR in 1957.

Before being tested in 76 volunteers, the Russian COVID-19 vaccine passed all the necessary safety and efficacy tests in several animal species.

On Tuesday morning, outlet Sputnik reported that that the Russian vaccine, which was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute, can protect a person from the coronavirus for up to two years after injection.

“Such a prolonged period of protection is possible due to the vaccine being based on viral vectors – a harmless human adenovirus delivers a portion of the COVID-19 virus to a human body forcing it to form an immune response to it,” the Russian outlet explained.

August 12, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 3 Comments

The Evil, Immoral, Vicious, and Hypocritical Embargo Against Cuba

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | July 20, 2020

The banality of evil that characterizes the U.S. national security state is demonstrated perfectly by the continuation of its deadly economic embargo against Cuba, which has been ongoing for some 60 years.

What’s the point of the embargo? After all, the Pentagon’s, CIA’s, and NSA’s official enemy Fidel Castro died years ago. Why continue to intentionally inflict harm on the Cuban people?

And make no mistake about it: Inflicting harm on the Cuban people is the purpose of the embargo. Its aim is to impoverish or starve Cubans into ousting their post-Castro regime and installing another pro-U.S. right-wing brutal dictatorship similar to the one that Castro ousted from power in the Cuban revolution.

In fact, the first embargo that the U.S. implemented against Cuba was during the reign of the crooked, corrupt, and brutal pro-U.S. right-wing dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. That was an arms embargo. U.S. officials didn’t want weaponry imported into Cuba because that might enable the Cuban people to oppose Batista in a violent revolution.

During his reign, Batista partnered with the Mafia, the premier criminal organization that was smuggling drugs into the United States. As part of their partnership agreement, Batista let the Mafia operate gambling casinos in Cuba. As part of that cozy relationship, Batista would have his henchmen kidnap under-aged girls in Cuba and turn them over to the Mafia, which would then provide them as perks to the high-rollers in its casinos. That’s one of the things that brought on the Cuban Revolution.

That’s the guy that the U.S. national-security state was hell-bent on keeping in power. Thus, it should surprise no one that the CIA, like Batista, later entered into partnership with the Mafia, knowing full well that the Mafia was engaged in massive criminal activity. The purpose of the CIA-Mafia partnership was assassination. They were working together to assassinate Castro.

It stands to reason that the Mafia would try to assassinate Castro. It has lost all its casinos to Castro’s nationalization. And it was in the business of killing people.

But the U.S. government? In the business of murder? And in partnership with the biggest criminal organization in the world?

Don’t forget something important here: Castro, Cuba, and the Cuban people have never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. No invasion. No terrorist attacks. No assassinations.

In fact, it has always been the other way around. In the more than six decades of bad relations between Cuba and the U.S., it has always been the U.S. government that has been the aggressor. An invasion, terrorist attacks, assassination attempts, and the embargo, all on the part of the U.S. government.

U.S. national-security state officials always justified such actions under the notion that Cuba was the spearhead of a worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the United States, one that was supposedly based in Moscow. It was always a ridiculous notion but that was the mindset of CIA, NSA, and Pentagon officials during the Cold War — that Cuba’s communist regime posed a grave threat to U.S. “national security.”

But the Cold War ended more than 30 years ago. Do the CIA, NSA, and Pentagon still think that the United States is in danger of falling to the Cuban communists?

Of course not. Now, it’s just sheer viciousness. Now, it’s just a matter of doing everything possible to oust the current regime in Cuba from power and restoring a Batista-like dictatorship, one that will be loyal and deferential to the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.

The viciousness is demonstrated by the fact that the embargo doesn’t just criminalize Americans who do business with Cuba. It also targets foreign companies who do so. If they are caught doing so, they are targeted for prosecution or economic banishment here in the United States. In the minds of U.S. officials, it’s more imperative than ever to squeeze as many Cubans as possible into death and suffering.

Needless to say, the embargo has made things significantly worse for the Cuban people during the COVID-19 crisis. That’s fine with U.S. officials. The more Cubans who die, the greater the chance of an internal regime-change operation.

Sure, there is no doubt that Cuba’s socialist economic system is a major factor in the economic suffering of the Cuban people. But there is also no doubt that the U.S. embargo has served as the other side of a vise that has squeezed the economic lifeblood out of the Cuban people.

A dark irony, of course, is that the embargo has enabled the U.S. government to wield and exercise the same type of economic control over the American people that the Cuban socialist regime exercises over the Cuban people. It’s called adopting socialism to oppose socialism.

When will the evil, immoral, vicious, and hypocritical U.S. embargo against Cuba be lifted? When a critical mass of the American people, including those who go to church every Sunday, have a crisis of conscience and demand that it be lifted.

July 20, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 2 Comments

It Was JFK Who Blinked in the Cuban Missile Crisis

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | July 13, 2020

By the time he graduates public high school, most every student in America has been indoctrinated with the notion that it was Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev who “blinked” during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually it was President John Kennedy who “blinked” during the crisis, and it was a good thing he did.

Every public school student across America is also indoctrinated with the notion that the Soviet Union installed “offensive” missiles in Cuba during the crisis, which the U.S. national-security establishment gravely maintained were a grave threat to U.S. “national security.”

That’s a lie too. The Soviet missiles were defensive in nature. Their aim was to deter another U.S. invasion of the island or, in the event that deterrence failed, to enable Cuba to defend itself against another unlawful U.S. invasion with nuclear weapons.

It’s important to keep in mind an important fact: In the long relationship between communist Cuba and the United States, it has always, without exception, been the United States, not Cuba, that has been the aggressor.

Cuba has never attacked or invaded the United States or even threatened to do so. It has also never initiated any act of terrorism within the United States. Instead, it has been the U.S. government that has done those types of things against Cuba.

There is the brutal economic embargo that the U.S. government has enforced against Cuba almost from the start of the communist regime there. Its aim has always been to inflict impoverishment, suffering, and death on the Cuban people as a way to achieve regime change in the country.

Operating through the CIA, the U.S. government also orchestrated numerous assassination attempts against Cuban leader Fidel Castro. President Lyndon Johnson referred to the CIA’s assassination program as “a damned Murder, Inc.” The CIA had entered into an assassination partnership with the Mafia, the most crooked murderous private organization in the world.

The CIA also sponsored terrorist attacks inside Cuba, for the purpose of destroying government-owned enterprises and to foment revolution. The attacks produced both death and property damage.

The CIA also sponsored a military invasion at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, which was designed to oust the Fidel Castro regime and replace it with another U.S. puppet regime, similar to the one that Castro had ousted from power in the Cuban revolution. The invasion failed and Castro’s forces killed or captured the CIA’s invaders.

After the Bay of Pigs debacle, the Joint Chiefs of Staff continually exhorted Kennedy to order an all-out U.S. military invasion of Cuba for the purpose of regime change. As part of its efforts, the Pentagon presented Kennedy with a regime-change plan called Operation Northwoods. It called for terrorist attacks to be carried out on American soil that would result in the loss of American life. The plan was to blame the attacks on Cuban agents, which would then give Kennedy the rationale for invading Cuba. Kennedy rejected the plan.

Castro was well aware of the steadfast determination of the CIA and the Pentagon to invade Cuba.  But while he could defeat a rag-tag army of CIA-trained Cuban exiles, Castro knew that there was no way he could win if the U.S. military attacked and invaded Cuba.

That was when he asked the Soviet Union to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. It was his only chance to deter an invasion. He had also decided that if the invasion came, he was determined to resist it with nuclear weapons.

Needless to say, the Pentagon was livid with Kennedy. If he had accepted Operation Northwoods, the Joint Chiefs of Staff felt, this problem would never have arisen. Now America was faced with nuclear weapons 90 miles away from American shores, which, the JCS maintained, were a grave threat to “national security” even though they were defensive in nature.

The Pentagon exhorted and pressured Kennedy to order a bombing and an invasion of Cuba. Otherwise, the Pentagon maintained, there was no way America could survive.

Kennedy resisted the pressure. And it was a good thing he did. What he and the CIA didn’t know is that Soviet tactical nuclear weapons were fully armed and that Soviet commanders on the ground had been given battlefield authority to use them. If Kennedy had followed the recommendation of the Pentagon to bomb and invade Cuba, it is a virtual certainty that it would have led to all-out nuclear war.

Kennedy ended up striking a deal with the Khrushchev in which the U.S. would not invade Cuba and the Soviets would withdraw their nuclear weapons. That’s precisely what Castro wanted. That’s why the missiles had been put there in the first place. Kennedy also secretly promised to remove U.S. nuclear weapons from Turkey that were aimed at the Soviet Union.

Thus, contrary to what public school students are taught about the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was Kennedy, not Khrushchev, who “blinked” during the crisis. It’s a good thing that he had the wisdom to do so because his action saved the world from nuclear holocaust.

But the military and the CIA were furious. They considered Kennedy’s resolution of the crisis to be akin to surrender, treason, and cowardice. More important, by agreeing to leave a permanent communist outpost 90 miles away from American shores, Kennedy, the national security establishment felt, had placed America in grave jeopardy insofar as “national security” was concerned.

For more details, see FFF’s ebook JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne, who served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s.

July 15, 2020 Posted by | Book Review, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

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