RATB activities, the British left and the European Social Forum The 9 October anniversary of Che Guevara’s death in combat was marked in London by an energetic, innovative and very enjoyable evening, hosted by RATB member JJ. Singers, musicians and poets performed, extracts from Che’s writings were read out, speeches were made regarding Boycott Bacardi, the Miami 5, Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia and the evening was rounded off by an enthusiastic rendition of Guantanamera. All money raised has been donated to the Che Guevara Study Centre in Havana. There will be a similar evening in January to mark the 46th anniversary of the Revolution. We welcome all participants – so watch this space for news of the date. Members of RATB attended the European Social Forum held in London in October. Cuba was prominent on the agenda. Cuban speakers included Aleida Guevara, Che Guevara’s daughter, speaking at many meetings and at the final rally, UJC member Raul Van Troi Navarro and Noel Carillo, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. That so many people got to hear about Cuba straight from the mouths of Cubans involved in building a socialist society is very important, especially given
that the most of the left in Britain does not take a principled stand in support of Cuba. RATB members regularly attend the meetings of the Socialist Workers’ Party to expose the reactionary lies put forward by Mike Gonzales. But to add insult to injury, those who bleat on about supporting the Cuban
we acknowledge their elections, where over 98 percent of the electorate vote without coercion, and we salute their dedication to humanity, to improving the lot of all their people, through health care, education, access to culture, and to helping the poor and oppressed abroad through their internationalist missions.
The film is inspiring in that it shows that currently young people dedicated to the Revolution in Cuba are finding their own and new ways of expressing their political thoughts, using the medium of rap and hip hop music. They are constructively critical of their society, all the while placing these comments in the context where they recognise that the Revolution continues to provide a basis from which a just and equal society can be built. They rap in support of the Miami 5, for the freedom of black political prisoners in the US and when
The newsletter of Rock around the Blockade December 2004/January 2005 Founded by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
Cuba counters US dollar starvation threat Cuba has made a surprise move to counteract US imperialism’s latest attempts to strangle the island’s economy. The Cuban government announced in October that, as from 8 November, the US dollar would no longer circulate as legal tender in Cuba. This means neither the Cuban people nor foreign visitors will be able to use dollars to purchase goods or services in Cuba nor will anyone, including foreign companies operating in Cuba and Cuban state enterprises, be able to make dollar cash deposits in Cuban banks. For all these activities the US dollar will be replaced by the Cuban convertible peso, a currency that has been operating alongside the dollar and the national Cuban peso for several years. The convertible peso is valued at par with the dollar.
Furthermore, holding dollars will not be illegal. Anyone can hold as many as they like. Dollar bank accounts held by Cubans will be secure and dollars deposited before 8 November will not be charged when converted to the peso. The Cuban people were given two weeks advance notice
T |people but not the government, those who tell lies about Cuba, those who claim to have all the answers, were prepared to sit on platforms with Cuban representatives and not open their mouths – thoroughly cowardly behaviour. Let us be clear, we defend Cuba, the Cuban people and their elected leaders. We defend their struggle for a socialist society,
In October, RATB in conjunction with London School of Economics, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! society showed the film Hip Hop Cubano by Inventos to a packed meeting. We had the honour of having Eli, the film’s director with us from the US, and Basi, from London, who collaborated on the film and they both took questions afterwards.
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they visit the US, they express their disgust at the poverty and degradation barely hidden by capitalism’s glitzy mask. The Hip Hop festival took place in Havana in November (postponed due to the hurricane). The government supports the youth, and the maturity and confidence of the young people who perform are a tribute to their society.
Events LONDON forthcoming events: January 2005 – date to be confirmed – evening of music, politics and poetry to mark the 46th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution. Saturday stalls with petitioning and leafleting take place every week - get in touch to know where to meet up.
he decision to remove the dollar from circulation follows several months of US intimidation against foreign banks in order to prevent them circulating dollars that Cuba needs for its international trade transactions. In May, the US Federal Reserve fined UBS, the largest Swiss bank, $100 million for sending freshly printed dollar notes to Cuba and three other countries under sanction by the United States. This was followed by a massive propaganda campaign by the Miami mafia and their friends in the US Congress accusing UBS of ‘money-laundering’ and warning other international banks that they would also be under investigation. These actions are part of a wider strategy to disrupt dollar flows into and out of Cuba included in the so-called ‘Plan for Assistance to a Free Cuba’ issued by the Bush administration last spring. Other associated actions have been a massive reduction in the size of remittances Cuban Americans are allowed to send to their relatives on the island and the tightening of travel restrictions for US citizens wanting to visit Cuba. On 10 October Daniel Fisk, Under-secretary for Western Hemispheric Affairs,
boasted that these combined measures will have lost Cuba at least half a billion dollars in revenue this year. At the same time Fisk announced that another of the ‘Plan’s’ recommendations had been initiated – to establish a Cuban Assets Targeting Group to identify and stop new ways that hard currency moves into and out of Cuba. The removal of the dollar from circulation within Cuba will reduce the vulnerability of the Cuban economy to the US attacks whilst ensuring that the majority
of dollars in the country are available for essential international purchases by the Cuban government. Anyone bringing dollars to the island will be charged 10% to convert them to pesos. This tax reflects the new adverse risks for Cuba involved in handling dollars. However, other foreign hard currencies such as the pound sterling, the euro and the Canadian dollar will not attract a conversion charge. Cuban relatives sending remittances from abroad have therefore been advised to use one of these other currencies.
of the new measures and banks and exchanges were open for extended hours in order to allow them to convert any dollars they held without incurring a charge if they so wished. The removal of the dollar from circulation is another example of the bold and imaginative responses made by Cuba to counter the mounting aggression of the US empire. It is only because Cuba has a co-ordinated socialist economy and a united revolutionary people that it is able to do so.
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Bush and Miami mafia free more terrorists
hroughout months of campaigning, George W Bush knew the vote of the Cuban exile community in his brother Jeb’s state of Florida would be as key to his election in 2004 as it was to his fraudulent victory in 2000. Bringing the exile community onside has always meant an unholy alliance with the vicious and reactionary Cuba American National Foundation (CANF) and the Cuban Liberty Council (CLC), whose sinister influence seeps like poison not only through the politics of Florida and the US but also throughout Latin America and beyond. Many members and associates of these organisations held influential positions within the last Bush administration and no doubt will continue to do so in the next. One example of this alliance
was evident in Panama on 25 August when, with just a week left in office, right-wing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso freed four international terrorists who had attempted to blow up the venue where Fidel Castro was speaking in November 2000. While trumpeting its self-serving ‘war on terrorism’, in practice the US pulled strings to secure the release of convicted terrorists with a long history of death squads, assassination plans and torture. In August 2000, two highranking members of CANF travelled to El Salvador to meet Posada Carriles, a known terrorist, to plot the assassination of Castro during the Iberoamerican Summit in Panama. With money and fake documents they provided, Posada Carriles travelled to Panama and Honduras to meet Rafael Nodarse, the arms trafficker now sheltering him. In Costa Rica, Carriles selected his
accomplices, all known to the FBI. Gaspar Jimenez Escobedo, wanted by the Mexican police, is the murderer of a Cuban fishing technician; Guillermo Novo Sampol killed Chilean chancellor Orlando Letelier, on orders from Pinochet; Pedro Remon Rodriguez was the assassin of Cuban diplomat Felix Garcia. All were under the command of Posada, a CIA-trained, long-term terrorist responsible for blowing up a Cuban civil aeroplane in 1976, killing all 73 passengers on board. Posada escaped, on CIA advice, to El Salvador, from where he directed narcotraffic operations to fund weapons for the USbacked Nicaraguan contras. In January 1994, with funding from CANF, Posada launched a failed assassination attempt on Castro in Honduras. Between 1994 and 1996, he set 44 bombs and plotted two further assassination attempts in 1997 and 1998. In a 1998 interview, he admitted that he had recruited Central American mercenaries who, with CANF funding, smuggled 14 bombs
Cuba united in protecting the people
ews constantly filters in from round the world of tragedies in the aftermath of hurricanes and other natural disasters. Cuba has managed to eclipse the efforts of developed and rich countries ten fold in its preparation and forward planning for such disasters. When Hurricane Charley hit Florida in August, at least 16 people died and hundreds went missing. In Cuba, everyone was accounted for when the same hurricane caused the collapse of 2916 buildings and 70,000 homes in the city of Havana and Havana province. Four people died and five were injured; only one seriously. High levels of organisation and commitment to the safety
of the Cuban people prevented worse casualties. The Cubans prevented any fatalities when the even more devastating force of Hurricane Ivan hit western Cuba a month later. On 14 September Cuban president Fidel Castro went to Pinar Del Rio to show support as the people there faced Ivan; one of the strongest hurricanes ever to tear through the Caribbean. Castro said that he was impressed by the speed with which residents of the province were evacuated from the coastal areas and remained optimistic because of the island’s ability to unite and protect itself against any disaster. Ivan’s strong winds pounded the town of Courtez, in Western Pinar Del Rio. In the fishing villages over 4,000 people had been evacuated four days before the hurricane hit. Nearly 180,000
of the province’s 730,000 residents were evacuated before the sea began to enter the streets. During evacuation people could take personal possessions and all were provided with shelter, food, clothing and care. By comparison, Cuba’s neighbour Haiti, now under occupation by US backed troops, had some 200,000 in the city of Gonaives, 80% of the population, still homeless two weeks after being hit by Hurricane Jeanne and people were drawing water out of pools filled with the carcasses of dead animals. Nevertheless, the US media have used this case of natural disaster to attack Cuba. The "Miami Herald", mouthpiece of Jeb Bush and the Miami mafia wrote ‘After 45 years of Castro rule, Cubans understand that the government has the last word. When state agents came, most people did not question the orders to evacuate.’ Opportunistic press reporting like this devalues the preparation and efforts of the government and the
into Cuba. Eight exploded and an Italian tourist was killed. On 17 November 2000, he and his accomplices were arrested in Panama carrying over 100lbs of plastic explosives and jailed. Yet this year President Moscoso decided to go above Panamanian law and release the four men, despite huge protest demonstrations in Panama. While in office, Moscoso introduced unpopular neoliberal measures in Panama, robbed the country’s international development funds and slavishly followed US policies. Her sister is a personal friend of Posada. The releases took place shortly before Panama’s 1 September elections where Moscoso lost to Torrijos, son of the famous leftwing national General Omar Torrijos. He immediately condemned the releases as ‘shameful’. Meanwhile, the four terrorists flew briefly into Miami on a private jet to a hero’s welcome from the reactionary exile community as the US administration turned a blind eye. Florida governor Jeb Bush is, after all, a long-standing friend of leading CANF members.
people of Cuba that has saved thousands of lives in the face of adversity. After Hurricane Charley hit Cuba, Richard Boucher, acting spokesman for the US state department, issued a statement saying that the US interest section in Havana would offer Cuba $50,000 of aid via so called independent non-governmental Cuban organisations to help with damage caused by the hurricane. Such organisations are little more than a front for US plots against Cuba. The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs totally rejected the cynical and hypocritical offer saying, ‘Cuba will not accept any supposed aid from the government of a country that is attacking us and attempting to bring us to our knees through hunger and need. Cuba will move forward through the efforts and dedication of its people and its Revolution. No Cuban has been – or ever will be – left unprotected in the wake of a natural disaster or other emergency, whatever its nature or magnitude. The humanism and solidarity of the project that we defend would not allow that.’
UN vote on Cuba Cuban continues Cuba won another impressive victory in this year’s United Nations debate on the US blockade. Once again 179 nations voted to end the blockade with just three nations opposing the motion and one abstaining.
he result is particularly significant given the dangerous escalation of aggression by the United States against Cuba over the past year. In addition to further measures to disrupt Cuba’s international trade and starve the island of dollars (see article this issue) the so-called ‘Plan for Assistance to a Free Cuba’ announced by President Bush last spring aims to ‘bring the Cuban regime to a swift end’. The Plan provides finance and support for intensifying subversive activities and broadcast propaganda against Cuba and details of the regime the United States would establish if it were to gain control of the island. These include the privatisation of the Cuban economy and all health, education and social services; the eviction of Cuban farmers and families from lands and homes confiscated after the Revolution together with demands for compensation; ending wage, employment and pension guarantees for the Cuban people and the prosecution of anyone associated with the Revolutionary government, party, mass organisations, security forces or ‘progovernment citizens’ (which would mean just about everyone in Cuba). The United States would also establish and train a new police force and enforce constitutional changes. The Plan cites what the US has done in Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of what they have in mind! With such horrific ultimate outcomes of the blockade planned by the US, what are we to make of those few countries that refused to oppose it at the United Nations. Well, alongside the United States every year stands Israel. Given its bloody role as a tool of imperialism and its dependence on billions of dollars of US aid every year that is hardly surprising. The other country that has voted with the United States for the past few years is the Marshall Islands; joined this year by Palau. Micronesia has abstained for the past two years. All these three countries are poor island nations in the Pacific
Ocean. They have all been under US administration for several decades in the past and now have compacts of association with the US. Indeed, all these countries together with Israel are so closely tied to the interests of the United States that the Cuban newspaper Granma could claim that really there was only one vote in favour in favour of the blockade Each of the Pacific nations is reliant on US aid and on the US military for their ‘defence’. The Marshall Islands received $1 billion between 1986 and 2002. The islands include the infamous Bikini US nuclear test site and houses a US army base at Kwajalein. Palau has received $700 million over 15 years in return for military facilities and the right of US access for 50 years. Both its TV stations are run by the US military. Micronesia presently receives $100 million a year. So, what is the outcome of this US ‘generosity’ for the people of these countries? According to the CIA’s own information the three countries suffer variously from pollution, lack of drinking water, inadequate waste disposal and over-fishing. In all three countries life expectancy is less than 70 years. In Cuba it is 76 years and rising. The infant mortality rate in Palau is 15.3 deaths per thousand live births. In Marshall Islands and Micronesia it is more than 30. In Cuba it is 6.2. In Micronesia there is over 10% illiteracy and it is only a little better in the other two countries. In Cuba illiteracy was virtually eradicated within a couple of years of the Revolution. Unemployment in Micronesia stands at 16% and in Marshall Islands it is a massive 30.9%. In Cuba unemployment is around 3% but even this low level is being reduced by the introduction of paid study as work. The lessons seem obvious for the people of these Pacific Islands as it does for all the poor people of the world. Their interests lie not with submission to US imperialism but, like Cuba, with an independent and socialist future.
its revolutionary attitude to education
Despite the economic and political measures against Cuba imposed by the US in June this year (see this issue) and despite the ongoing US Blockade keeping Cuba under siege; despite all the critical periods it has been through, Cuba ‘has never closed one school or hospital, because the government puts a priority on study and education’ (Grisel Ponce, Cuban literacy teacher).
n the 45 years since the triumph of the Revolution, Cuban people have produced a society that is literate, educated and empowered. They not only continue to push forward with new ideas and methods to improve still further access to education and culture in their own country, but they also continue to send literacy teachers abroad to help develop literacy programs and train literacy teachers. ‘This is because we have a great task to help humanity’, Mercedes Zamora, a Cuban literacy teacher, explains. The 12th World Congress of Comparative Education has just been held in Havana, attracting 1,000 delegates from 85 countries, including 258 from the US. An example of the current work within Cuba is the transformation in secondary schools. Classes of 15 pupils, each with their own multidisciplinary teacher, are the focus this year. The aim is to help strengthen home-school relationships, form social values in the pupils and encourage healthy social discipline and behaviour. The young person going through adolescence will benefit from the support and encouragement of one person who knows them well, teaches most subjects and is able to guide their development. Non-traditional programmes to expand community based university education are being expanded. 350,000 students enrolled in higher education this term, 40,000 more than last year. 93 Degree courses are on offer and 800 higher educational centres are now in operation, covering all 169 Cuban municipalities. Over 45,000 university lecturers are available to teach in the community universities which will play a big part in making higher
education even more accessible to the whole population. Cuba has sent literacy teachers around the world. In Angola, 712,018 illiterate people out of six million were taught to read and write by the Cuban over a five-year period, from November 1976. In Haiti, using a Cuban devised radio literacy programme, 150,000 out of two million illiterate people learned to read and write in twelve months from February 2000. In Venezuela, between July and December 2003, with Cuban input one million people learned to read and write and the number is still rising. Since June 2003, Cuba has had ten literacy teachers in New Zealand. This is the first such programme being run in a ‘developed’ nation. The teachers are working on the Greenlight Learning for Life programme called Yo si puede (yes, I can) which includes the use of television and video classes and involves 5,000 people. Despite official New Zealand statistics claiming 99 percent of the population is literate, an OECD survey found that 45 percent of New Zealand adults have literacy levels below what is required for everyday demands. This functional illiteracy is disproportionately higher for Maori and Pacific Islanders who are among the most oppressed sections of New Zealand’s population. New Zealand MP Rodney Hide of the right wing ACT party denounced New Zealand’s collaboration with Cuba, calling Cuba a ‘basket case’ and its literacy work ‘indoctrination’. Cuban Ambassador to New Zealand, Miguel Angel Ramirez replied: This has been the only system that has been able to guarantee free education, free health care and social justice for the whole population and not for an exclusive elite.’