Granma International On line
Havana, Cuba. Year 16 - Thursday, May 23, 2013
A ghost from the Bush era pursues Obama
Dalia González Delgado
GUANTANAMO is robbing Obama of sleep. Ten years after the opening of the prison, on illegally occupied territory in Cuba, the issue had been forgotten by many until a hunger strike by hundreds of prisoners returned it to the public consciousness.
Referring to Guantánamo, The New York Times wrote in an editorial that the detention center "became the embodiment of his [Bush’s] dangerous expansion of executive power and the lawless detentions, secret prisons and torture that went along with them."
Obama, hoping to indicate that he had not forgotten his campaign promise, recently said, "I continue to believe that we've got to close Guantanamo. I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing…
"The idea that we would still maintain, forever, a group of individuals who have not been tried - that is contrary to who we are."
Not everyone agrees with the President. Washington Post journalist Benjamin declared, "Even if Guantanamo itself miraculously closes, we’ll have to build it again somewhere else."
"Guantanamo Bay prison does not serve American security interests," according to Ken Gude, from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington think tank.
But his reasoning, like Obama’s, is pragmatic, not humanitarian. Even BBC Mundo stated that there was no need to keep the prisoners in Guantánamo, commenting that the site would inevitably be closed at some point.
The reality is that no steps have been taken in the direction suggested by Obama. In fact University of California professor Raúl Hinojosa commented to Russia Today that the hunger strike has made clear that the U.S. is not in control of the situation, given that the administration "has no answer at this time."
According to General John Kelly, of the U.S. Army Southern Command and the commanding officer at the prison, the detainees had hope that Obama would close the facility and "were devastated... when the president backed off."
The prison was opened after the September 11, 2011 attacks, to house those suspected of terrorism, although no evidence existed against them. The indefinite detentions, and testimony given by those released, have earned the detention center an appropriate reputation as a concentration camp. Different forms of torture are practiced there, including isolation within cells at extreme temperatures and waterboarding.
Guantánamo is one of the worst legacies of George W. Bush, who showing no sign of remorse, recently stated that he felt fine about the "hard decisions" he had made "to protect America."
The legal limbo in which 166 prisoners live – there had been more than 700 – has generated criticism internationally, from countries as well as human rights organizations.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), president of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has requested that the administration re-start the process of transferring and releasing 86 prisoners who, three years ago, were granted permission to return to their countries of origin.
Although Obama may not have the political will to close the prison, he could at least exert pressure to reinitiate this process halted two years ago.
A look at Cuba’s model of wellbeing
Dr. Patricia Arés Muzio
ON many occasions, I have asked my students what might be the principal reasons to support for saying that it’s good to live in Cuba. The majority of the responses refer to universal health care, education, social security. These are precisely the pillars of our socialist model, but they constitute, for many young people, common realities of our daily lives, thus becoming altogether customary, frozen in the popular discourse, practically irrelevant as a result of constant repetition.
I would go so far as to say that there is a Cuban model of wellbeing that has been incorporated with such uncritical familiarity that it has become invisible to us, paradoxically more often noted by those who are no longer here, after having lost it, or by visitors who live in other realities in their countries of origin. In daily life in Cuba, most conversation is generally about the difficulties, above all those of an economic nature. Very rarely is there talk of our assets or strengths.
Some of my professional experiences have led me to think a great deal about our socialism, seen as an alternative culture and civilization. When, as psychologists and other specialists, we were involved in the process of securing the return of Elián González , this issue emerged as a significant one.
More recently, ideas about Cuba’s model of wellbeing have reemerged in my practice as I have conversed with older Cubans who have returned to the island; with children who, as a result of their parents’ decisions, must leave to reside in another country, and young people who have returned from Spain after having experienced being thrown onto the streets there, without money to pay their rent.
I recall that when Elián was in the United States, his grandfather Juanito told him over the phone how he was making a chivichana (an improvised box-car on skate wheels) for the boy to have upon his return. The next day, Elián’s Miami relatives appeared on our television screens giving Elían a life-like remote control car. When his father told Elían his dog missed him, the next day the boy appeared with a Labrador puppy. If he said he had bought Elían a little Elpidio Valdés book, the next day there was Elián dressed up as Batman. Nevertheless, his family’s affection, the love of those waiting for him here, the solidarity of his young classmates and teachers, were more powerful than all the material things in the world.
Conversing recently with an older man who made the decision not to return to the United States after living there for 19 years, he told me, "It’s true, Doctor, you can live more comfortably there, but that's not all there is to life. Over there, you’re nobody, you don’t exist for anyone."
He told me he spent long hours alone in the house, waiting for his children and grandchildren to return from work or school. He was left imprisoned because they told him not to go out, since, according to them, he was too old and they wouldn’t let him drive. The neighborhood, he said, looked like a deserted model town, he hardly saw anyone at all, and no one would take the time for a conversation.
On a visit to see a daughter living in Cuba, he decided to stay. He told me he was exercising in the park, playing dominoes in the afternoons, helping his grandson and two little friends with their homework. He had found some mates from the "old guard" and with money sent from the States, he helped his family here and had enough to cover his expenses. Here are his very words, "Some acquaintances told me I was coming back to hell, but in reality, Doctor, I feel like I’m in heaven." Clearly the lifestyle he is now living is not heaven, but it does offer greater wellbeing.
One day, a young boy was brought to see me, the son of two diplomats, who was on vacation here. He didn’t want to return with his parents to the mission where they were working. He was rebelling, on strike, saying that they should leave him here with his grandmother, that he didn’t want to leave, didn’t like being there. When I asked the parents about the boy's life abroad, they explained that he lived locked up, for reasons of security, and hardly had any friends to play with after school. His cousins, who he adored, weren't there. Since he had been back in Cuba, he was as free as a bird, his parents said, going to the corner park with his neighborhood friends, going out with his cousins, playing baseball and football in the street. He spent the day surrounded by his grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors. During my interview with the boy, he told me that his cousins said he was a fool for wanting to stay in Cuba, passing up the opportunity to live in another country. He said, "When I'm here, I really miss the pizza with pepperoni, but I would trade a million pizzas to stay and live right now in Cuba."
A young man who had returned from Spain told me that he had been left without work and, of course, didn't have the money to pay his rent. The landlady gave him three months to come up with it and when he couldn't, he was evicted onto the street. But the saddest thing was that no one, none of his friends lent him a hand, saying that given the economic crisis, "he would have to figure something out as best he could." He was obliged to return to his parents’ home in Cuba, since his only other option was sleeping in the subway. "In the end, it’s your own people who are willing to take you in," he affirmed.
I've been thinking about this testimony which could very well serve many young people who see nothing good whatsoever about living in Cuba, who only imagine a better life abroad, overvaluing life there as successful, with great opportunities.
I ask myself: What do we have here that is lacking in other places? What did the diplomats' boy, the older man and the young one who returned from Spain, discover during their time abroad, that those of us living here don't see?
Does the lifestyle offered by contemporary capitalist societies truly constitute a model of wellbeing, despite being sold in the mass media as the promised dream of progress? Are we talking about the good life or living well? Of a life full of things or a full life? Is it necessarily economic and technological development which guarantees personal and social wellbeing?
I will attempt a synthesis of these professional experiences to shed light on what I believe are some of the fundamental elements of Cuba’s model of wellbeing.
FIRST PLACE: THE FEELING OF INCLUSION, OF NOT LIVING ANONYMOUSLY
This is an issue of profound spiritual and ethical connotations. When you arrive in a Cuban neighborhood and ask for someone, generally you are told, "He lives in that house."
All Cubans have a name and a life story because we all belong someplace, be it a family, school, community or workplace, and have social participation. We have all assumed responsibilities during our lives, attended neighborhood meetings, visited the family clinic, voted in the same locale, bought our food at the same markets or had the same person pick them up for us. Surely, at some point, we've all said, "The same faces everyday..." but that is precisely where a vital element of great solidarity and humanism resides.
Social anonymity - which the grandfather I interviewed described when he said "You don't exist" - is far removed from the way we live in Cuba. It is the experience of living without a place of your own, without being recognized or noticed. The opposite is not necessarily a physical place, but rather a symbolic one where there is belonging and participation, a place that gives meaning to life. Living 'nowhere' is feeling isolated, alone, strange and this is one of the problems the world currently faces. Even places where many people co-exist are no longer meeting places, but rather true nowheres. It is incredible that in a subway where hundreds of people see each other everyday, few say a single word, most showing more interest in their technological media than in human interaction.
Other non-places are airports and malls, cathedrals to consumerism. Many people around you and absolutely no contact. If you fall, people hesitate to help you up, since so many laws exist to supposedly protect people, from an individualistic point of view. People are afraid of being charged with sexual harassment if they touch you. Non-contact and indifference are legislated.
Today, the social reality in other countries has left people more excluded than included. Given the existence of social inequality as a consequence of Cuba’s current economic reality, our policies promote social inclusion in an effort to overcome differences of gender, ethnic origin, physical ability and sexual orientation. Cuba, as a social system, is attempting to construct a world in which we all belong and in which spontaneous human reciprocity is promoted by the very conditions of life. In other geographical locations on the neoliberal world map, people are divided by class, interpersonal relations are eroded by a variety of differences and some are separated from others by invisible borders, which damage cohesiveness and participation.
DIVERSE AREAS OF SOCIALIZATION
Areas of socialization are important in life, social structures are a resource and support for everyone, given that it is within them that people can develop their full potential. Currently, families live in isolation in many parts of the world, and the higher the standard of living, the greater their cloistered lifestyle. Nobody knows their neighbors, who is who; within the home members do not have much interaction, given that the technological invasion is such that a father can be chatting with a colleague in Japan and not have the least idea what is happening with his son in the adjoining room. Studies in various countries have revealed that the daily average of direct conversation between parents and children (particularly fathers) does not exceed 15 minutes.
One of the major impacts of the current hegemonic capitalist model is lack of family time or other community areas; during the week the family as a group does "not exist." Long and intensive working days, multi-occupations in order to meet ever-growing consumer demands have banished former family rituals and traditions. Psychologists and sociologists have stated that the greatest impact of this reality is infant isolation and the absence of links with older adults. Many middle or upper class children arrive home from school without seeing an adult face until late in the evening, or have a child minder who provides food but who cannot supplant the affection and attention of parents.
Technology has appeared as an antidote to solitariness, but lacking restrictions imposed by adults, this can lead to an addiction to video games, increase violence and stimulate early eroticism. Access to public places, streets and parks as meeting places are infrequently available for children and adolescents, given the lack of citizens’ security. Space and time universes in the urban network directed toward youth are perceived by adults as places of threat and danger rather than places for recreation and the construction of social ties. In Cuba, parks and plazas continue being areas of socialization for different generations.
Cuban families are interwoven within social networks of interchange, with neighbors, organizations, schools, relations, and including the émigré community. Characteristic of the Cuban way of life are socialization areas, or a social network in which nobody is excluded or unnamed. I would say that, in addition to the family as home, the basic nucleus of Cuban society is the social and neighborly interchange network, which represents one of the major and invisible strengths of the Cuban model of wellbeing. It is here where the greatest success of the social process is located, taking the form of social solidarity, social containment, constant social interchange. This capital is only perceptible to those who lose it or embark on a different lifestyle outside of the country.
In spite of unresolved economic difficulties and problems, the family exists in Cuba. Family life becomes intensive after the school or college day, when children and students begin their family-community life. Family life in Cuba does not take place behind closed doors. Those doors are also frequently opened to fumigators, neighbors, family nurses, grassroots leaders or self-employed vendors. People have to leave their homes daily, to go to the store or collect food items from a neighbor, dispose of the garbage, visit the pharmacy, fetch the children from school. Family life in Cuba is multi-generational, persons from all age groups interact and older adults do not live in senior citizens’ homes, their real place in general being the community.
SOCIAL SOLIDARITY AS OPPOSED TO INDIVIDUALISM
In the present day international arena, individual wellbeing is given greater importance than social wellbeing. The predominant economic development model places people before the desire to live "better" (at times to the cost of the rest) and above collective wellbeing. The discourse is, "I’m not doing anyone any harm, I don’t want anyone interfering in my life, I like it, it’s good for me, it’s my body, my life, my space," and electing a conduct which will maximize their benefits and income. "We" has been replaced by "I." Egoistic conduct in the present hegemonic world is identified and praised as "instrumental rationality," when in real terms what this rationality conceals is great social insensibility.
Social solidarity exists in Cuba, although we are currently living in a kind of parallelism between solidarity conduct and the insensibility of certain persons. The socialization of transport, or the botella (hitching a ride), for example; plus making neighbors part of one’s family, sharing neighborhood private telephone lines, passing on school uniforms and certain medicines, offering one’s house as a temporary classroom in the wake of a hurricane, are all examples of cooperative interchange. A young girl studying at the Lenin Senior High (a weekly boarding school) told me that her group of friends equitably shared out everything they brought from home and thus all ate the same, independently of whether some brought more and others, next to nothing. The most important aspect was friendship and sisterhood. This was a generalized practice.
CREATIVITY AND COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE
In Cuba, in addition to conversing and having multiple social interchanges, we have the luxury of serious discussions with a number of people. Everyone knows something about something, everyone can express an opinion or have good ideas. Cubans have a political culture, a sports culture, and others are well informed about art. We have an accumulated cultural capital, part of our social heritage and invisible wellbeing. We are not an ignorant people, given the educational levels attained. Cuban men and women are impressive in their capacity to converse, express ideas and beliefs. One of my major problems as a clinical psychologist attending to patients is that time flies, because we are used to conversing. Some people bring me a written list so as not to forget something they want to say. We are used to giving ourselves time and this has become a luxury in an age when nobody has spare time, where the hurried syndrome is apparent.
During visits to give lectures in Latin American countries or in family study classes I have taken there, students express a family-social reality which leaves me perplexed, on account of the burden of accumulated social problems which cut across social class. From what I hear, I have realized that we are light years apart, because the issue is not an economic one, but one derived from ignorance; accumulated mental poverty; social stigmas; class, gender and race prejudices; violence against women; magical solutions to problems which lack any scientific basis; child sex abuse; polygamy; genetic defects resulting from irresponsible sexuality or incestuous relationships; all of these are daily problems. They are problems associated with social neglect, the absence of social prevention programs. What is daily life for them is the exception for Cubans.
As a professor, I feel that our population is educated and developed and we live that almost without realizing it. Although the quotidian may seem insignificant, it is the great backdrop of history. Young émigrés usually become aware of a very distinct social reality with which they have to do battle.
HOW TO PROMOTE THE CUBAN MODEL OF WELLBEING?
The objectives of Cuba’s new economic model include increasing productivity. The major challenge of this model is to strengthen our proposal for wellbeing, which represents an alternative to the dominant anti-model, a concept shared and reiterated by virtually all indigenous peoples on the continent and in the world. This concept comes from a long tradition within diverse religious manifestations.
All of these visions, including the Cuban one, is that the global objective of development is not constantly having more, but being more; not amassing more wealth, but more humanity. It is expressed in terms of living well instead of better, which implies solidarity among all, reciprocal practices and the desire to attain or restore environmental balance and at the same time improve the living conditions of the population. However, improvements in living conditions are not going to resolve the problems of a social nature we have accumulated. The economic dimension cannot be isolated from the social, cultural, historical and political dimensions, which endow development with a comprehensive and interdisciplinary context, in order to recover the sense of wellbeing and decorous living as a fundamental objective.
One does not have to be a social scientist to notice that, apart from living conditions, there are many families in Cuba who, more than material poverty, are mired in spiritual poverty. Some families suffer from mental poverty expressed in life strategies distanced from the most elemental decent conduct, in consumer habits removed from the country’s realities, close to having surplus objects, removed from shared wellbeing in their aspirations. This is the source of the culture of banality and frivolity reflected in the current hegemonic model.
The accumulation of material problems arising from the acute economic crisis of the 1990’s has substantially deteriorated values at the social level. Values are not principles, but must be accompanied by behavior to avoid them losing their effectiveness. If practices contradict principles, then we are facing a crisis of values.
Cuba is not removed from the hegemonic influences of the current unipolar and supposedly global world. We must continue trying to build an alternative model of wellbeing, despite all the influences which generate the colonization of subjectivity; one of inclusion, despite the modulating effect of our social policies. Ideals are valueless in the market, only consumer capacity. Non-consumers become "unrecognized" human beings, excluded from any kind of social recognition.
In the present-day world, there is an over-saturation of information, some of which is very good, but a large volume which is plagued by mediocrity and superficiality. The media of the current hegemonic model foment banality with the aim of selling more. We are crammed with entertainment, soap operas, series and violent movies which possess incredible enchantment because they entrap, but we run the risk of being drawn into idleness and addiction (to drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, easy money, games of chance, video games).
When the Nobel Peace prize winner Gandhi pointed to the seven capital sins of contemporary society he was precisely referring to the global context in which we are immersed: riches without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without utility, commerce without morality, science without humility, adoration without sacrifice and politics without principles.
In general terms, publicity and the market associate wellbeing with pleasure, with being successful, having status.
It is a fact that if we do not have a strong culture, the tendency to think that wellbeing lies in having and letting ourselves be ensnared by consumerism grows like a weed. We are subjecting ourselves to ignorance. The ethic of being requires a moral foundation, training, family education, an education of greater magnitude in general, and that is what we have to promote as a society.
FOMENTING SOCIAL SOLIDARITY
With the strengthening of self-employment in Cuba, the community signifies a vital area for many families. Family-community-organizations-work are fortified in their links. However, new social landscapes constitute an excellent opportunity for strengthening community life, in addition to promoting work to the benefit of shared wellbeing. Cuba contributes the difference in the context of solidarity and the social responsibility we have incorporated.
It is necessary to promote a culture of solidarity and social responsibility which will serve as an antidote to the penetration of the culture of the market. It is important that people maintain their solidarity ethics, that the collective project does not fragment.
FORTIFYING COMMUNITY AREAS
Families and the community have increased in importance in Cuba as scenes of life. When visitors observe the community way of life here, they sometimes comment that life in their country used to be like that, but for more than a decade now, people have been living behind closed doors. And houses are empty during a large part of the day. In the main, this is due to the emergence of new technologies, ever-increasing hours of work, more frequent changes of job and home, ever-growing and more densely populated cities. The exacerbated growth of individualism is making it increasingly difficult to have a sense of community. Community has been reduced to the minimal family nucleus, and in these circumstances it is very easy to fall into isolation, which brings with it loneliness and depression, creating an extensive social collapse, with results as drastic as increased violence, drug abuse and mental illness.
When people of all ages, social and cultural groups feel a sense of belonging to a community, they tend to be happier and healthier and create stronger, more stable and cooperative social networks. A strong community contributes many benefits, both individual and to the group as a whole, thus helping to create a better society in general. The great challenge is not to close the doors, not to lose sensitivity toward others, the neighborhood and the environment, to continue being concerned for the common good.
Different forms of insertion in the economy have not noticeably deteriorated the existing social tissue, Cuban society is not a stratified one of social class, but woven together in family, neighbor and social networks, maintaining an ethic of solidarity.
One important aspiration is to find innovative solutions within the community for many existing social problems, fundamentally based on the concept of the community empowering such solutions. For this, greater community dynamism is needed at the local level.
It is important to maintain citizens’ involvement in social life, to preserve caring for these areas, respecting senior citizens, children, women, people with disabilities and above all, maintaining a sense of social responsibility in educating younger generations.
Taking into account all these aspects, I believe we have a great social responsibility to uphold the Cuban model of wellbeing, that the country has unprecedented conditions for marking the difference, which is precisely by continuing to resist the colonization of culture and subjectivity, and that the great challenge is to continue proposing other models of human beings and collectivity which genuinely lead to the paths of true humanization.
Mitigate risks, reduce dangers
OVER the last few years, the world has suffered blows from nature which may appear to be the consequence of human environmental excesses. Occurring with greater frequency are earthquakes, floods, mudslides, avalanches, tropical storms and hurricanes, all of serious magnitude.
When nature unleashes its full power, no force on earth can contain it. There is no way to re-route a hurricane, stop a tsunami or prevent a tornado.
BETTER PREPARED, LESS EXPOSURE TO DANGER
Cuba has historically been hit by hurricanes and dangerous tropical storms. A phenomenon produced, according to experts, by the country’s geographic position as an island in the Caribbean, with a tropical, humid climate. Despite the development of meteorologists’ ability to make predictions, many specifics cannot be foreseen. Thus, we must accept the fact and mobilize our resources to mitigate risks, reduce the dangers which lead to loss of life and our most indispensable property. This requires preparation and training, precisely what Cuba’s Civil Defense has been offering annually for the past 27 years.
During the third week in May, all of Cuba participates in Meteoro exercises, with the goal of reducing risks associated with natural disasters and prepare the population for the coming hurricane season, which is of most concern.
This year, May 18-16, activities were organized, many based on the experience gained during last year’s Hurricane Sandy which caused serious damage in eastern provinces, especially the city of Santiago de Cuba. The destruction in Cuba, several other Caribbean and the United States was so severe that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced the withdrawal of Sandy from the list of names given hurricanes in the Atlantic basin.
PLANNING FOR THE COMING HURRICANE SEASON
Work groups, government bodies and command structures at all levels participated in Meteoro-2013. The country’s Civil Defense Chiefs of Staff organized the first day to provide information about steps taken during every stage of an emergency event, evaluating response measures and the roles of different institutions. On the second day, actions involving mobilization of the population were undertaken. The organization of Defense Councils at all levels and the cohesion of command centers conducting response and recovery efforts during such contingencies were evaluated using simulations in several communities, workplaces, service centers and schools in the country’s 15 provinces, as well as the Isle of Youth special municipality.
According to a report from the National Information Agency, studied were measures to mitigate the dangers caused by severe drought in several provinces; threats to water quality; and experience gained by the National Water Resources Institute during Hurricane Sandy. The report added that Mercedes López Acea, president of the Havana Provincial Defense Council, called for thorough training to reduce, as much as possible, the damage caused by storms and hurricanes, as well as other natural or technological emergency events. Thus simulations were organized to practice rescue and transportation of those injured; in addition to clearing of ditches, storm sewers and drains; tree pruning; collection of rubbish and the protection of valuable resources and property.
The Isle of Youth Defense Council practiced its planned response to a storm surge of sea water into the Las Casas River. In the province of Cienfuegos, exercises focused on water collection in its six reservoirs and the situation of river basins in Matanzas and Villa Clara which feed reservoirs in the southern part of the province. In Ciego de Avila emphasis was placed on environmental clean-up and efforts to protect telephone service in the Jardines del Rey resort area, which is at risk during adverse weather conditions. Camagüey focused on reducing the danger of flooding, forest fires, oil spills and other potential disasters. In Las Tunas where epidemiological concerns exist, actions emphasized avoidance of illness and eliminating breeding sites of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads Dengue Fever. Authorities in Granma held municipal workshops on the response to outbreaks of cholera.
The Meteoro 2013 experience was a reminder of the importance of prevention, based on the specific dangers in each region. The last natural disaster to hit Cuba has contributed to heightening awareness that preventative measures and organization must be even more effective.
A LONG HISTORY OF DESTRUCTIVE HURRICANES
• ON many occasions during the last century, Cuba was hard-hit during the hurricane season, June 1 through November 1. Several will not be soon forgotten, such as the powerful, erratic Flora (1963), one of the most devastating which ravaged the eastern part of the island for three days, leaving more than 1,000 dead. Then there was Alma (1966), Kate (1985), called the storm of the century, which ruined acres and acres of crops. Lili (1996), Michelle (2001), Charley (2004), Dennis (2005), and three months later Wilma (2005), which did not pass directly over the island but caused serious flooding in western provinces.
More recently, specialists believe storms have become more intense as a result of global warming and other factors. Of these, Cuba experienced Gustav (August 2008), which practically destroyed the Isle of Youth and sections of Pinar del Río, Cuba’s westernmost province. Ike (September 2008) arrived a few weeks later and caused damage across the country. Paloma (November 2008) hit the central region hard.
Fresh in our memory, with the recovery as yet incomplete, was Sandy (October 2012), whose fury practically leveled the heroic city of Santiago de Cuba.
Created more than 50 years ago, Cuba’s Civil Defense system has gained experience during each of these storms and has won praise from international organizations for its preventative measures and rapid response to natural disasters.
Haitian Prime Minister begins official visit to Cuba
Aliana Nieves Quesada
HAITIAN Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe began an official visit to Cuba yesterday, May 15, during which he is to meet with authorities with a view to extending bilateral relations.
Upon his arrival, Lamothe expressed his intention to thank the Cuban government for its solidarity and cooperation and to confirm the progress of young Haitians studying in Cuba.
The Haitian Prime Minister was received at José Martí International Airport by Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Rogelio Sierra, and his agenda includes a meeting with First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel and a tribute to José Martí, Cuba’s national hero, in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución.
Cuba is developing important cooperation projects in Haiti, centrally in the health sector. Since the beginning of Cuban medical cooperation in 1998, 11, 327 Cuban health personnel have provided services in that country.
In the wake of the Haitian earthquake in January 2010, more than 400 Cuban doctors working there at the time immediately responded to the emergency. Currently, 686 Cuban health personnel are working in Haiti.
We were, we are and will be the Five
To my brother René in freedom
That September 12, for which there is no adjective to describe its violence, I was the last to arrive in Miami and, thus, the last to be placed in an extremely cold cell, with a bare mattress, a bedspread and a roll of toilet paper; all of us in isolation.
The silence was dismal on that 13th floor of the Miami Detention Center. Pure animal instinct tells you to move around within that confined space. From time to time, I stopped before the narrow pane of glass in the metallic door, through which a guard constantly observed us during his rounds. In a cell facing mine at one end, I looked at a man who also stopped at his narrow window from time to time. An austere, bearded face, bare chest, and asked myself, ‘Who can that guy be? Isn’t he cold?’
It was René; I didn’t know him yet.
In those early days, of which there is still much to be told, they took him and me down to the courtroom. There, we were to plead innocent or guilty which, in our case, was declaring ourselves worthy or unworthy, honest or dishonest, loyal or traitorous. We two were convinced of our innocence. But there was one, who I didn’t know either, who was going to plead guilty. Each one of us went before the judge separately, but René read betrayal on the face of that piece of work, who was trying to involve me with some story.
Later, René said to me, ‘I’ve got to talk to that guy.’ I just asked him to keep calm.
That is how I got to know him.
That is how we became the five, brothers.
For that reason, his freedom is our freedom, his pain and his joy are also ours.
For that reason, our unjust imprisonment will continue being his imprisonment.
For that reason, we were, are and will be the Five, the fusion of one man, one Cuban like millions of compatriots, loyal to their people and their homeland.
Tony Guerrero Rodríguez
May 10, 2013
Marianna Federal Prison. (Juventud Rebelde)
René no longer a U.S. citizen
Claudia Fonseca Sosa
SINCE Thursday, May 9 at 2:00pm, René González Sehwerert is "just a Cuban patriot." At that time, in Havana’s U.S. Interests Section (USIS), he received the document certifying his renunciation of U.S. citizenship, a procedure which will allow him to remain in Cuba.
"Now I am simply a Cuban citizen, a Cuban patriot, something which, in any event, I have always been, without that implying any antagonism whatsoever toward the American people, toward the country in which I was born," the anti-terrorist fighter stated in a press conference, after displaying the certificate he had requested from the USIS on May 6, with his lawyer Philip Horowitz.
René explained that the request to renounce his U.S. citizenship had to be made outside U.S. territory and that he had previously lodged this petition, which had been rejected by the prosecution on the grounds of "lack of credibility." When he came to Havana on April 22, because of the death of his father, he lodged it again.
He noted that the process of applying for and receiving the certificate was characterized by "the cooperative attitude of both parties, but this does not mean that the petition has been granted as a humanitarian gesture, but that they had run out of excuses for denying it."
The next legal step is that René’s lawyer must present "a status report" to Judge Joan Lenard of the Southern District of Florida – the same judge who sentenced René to 15 years’ imprisonment in 2001 – and then wait for her to modify the conditions of his supervised release.
"However, I will not feel completely free until my four brothers are in our homeland with their families," he said, affirming that from now on he will devote himself to promoting the case. "I am in Cuba, but we are still the Five," he stated.
"I should like to reintegrate into society as a useful man and be part of the process of socioeconomic updating underway in the country," he added.
In response to a question on how he felt being back with his wife Olga Salanueva, his daughters and grandson, René affirmed, "Love conquers all," and that despite having lost important moments in his family life, little by little he will recover what was taken away from him.
The battle against our own limitations and deficiencies
Expanded Council of Ministers Meeting
Leticia Martínez Hernández & Yaima Puig Meneses
MAY 10, during an expanded meeting of the Council of Ministers, President Raúl Castro Ruz reiterated the need to avoid inefficient use of resources since, “conservation is a principal source of income within the economy,” not always given the priority it merits. The solution, he said, cannot be looking elsewhere for what can be produced within the country.
These observations from the President emerged during the meeting which addressed issues of vital importance to the updating of Cuba’s economic model. It was agreed that the great battle today is one against internal limitations and deficiencies within all sectors.
Raúl emphasized the importance of expanding training and development courses for directors and workers – ultimately responsible for the implementation of every measure approved – to thus advance the process. Errors, he said, lead to extensive economic losses, citing problems which have occurred over the last few years in investment projects.
The first point on the agenda was a report by Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez, Minister of Economy and Planning, outlining basic principles of a policy designed to improve the country’s investment process. The policy’s fundamental goal is to update and align all relevant legal norms, which should lead to greater efficiency, he explained.
Yzquierdo, also a Council of Ministers Vice President, reported that a diagnostic study undertaken revealed a series of difficulties, including among the most important, the failure to take full advantage of capacity; a lack of leadership on the part of investing entities, and inadequate development of and respect for contracts.
The policy approved by the Council of Ministers on this occasion defines the investor as the principal actor throughout the process, which must be comprehensively conceived and include an analysis of all productive entities involved, with the participation of all relevant management bodies.
Considered next was a policy to restructure and more efficiently utilize machinery and heavy equipment. Industry Minister Salvador Pardo Cruz reported that such a plan was of vital importance to assure the rational use of installations and equipment.
He recalled that before 1990, the metallurgical industry was developed with surplus capacity. After this year, deterioration began, he said, with stoppages, under-utilization of capacity, a decline in the technical workforce and lack of maintenance.
A full national census recently conducted revealed the existence of 58,000 pieces of machinery and equipment belonging to 2,000 entities, a large number in poor condition or obsolete. Also noted were the under-utilization of equipment (30%), low levels of engineering support and a lack of information.
During the period 2001-2010, 680 million convertible pesos (CUC) were spent on importing products previously manufactured within the country, Pardo Cruz reported.
On this particular point, Raúl again insisted that all possible repairs, as well as regular maintenance, be completed, saying, “Many old machines which are currently out of order can still be of use.” He referred to the example of the Revolutionary Armed Forces which has been able to modernize armament, given the prohibitive cost of new equipment on the international market.
The Council of Ministers thus approved a plan to define priorities and reorganize work to adequately utilize machinery and equipment, with a view toward stopping the deterioration and indiscriminant dismantling of these resources.
Use of existing equipment will be reorganized and short term metallurgical manufacturing plans made to meet the needs of emerging productive entities. Also to be explored are alternate forms of complementary cooperation and possible collaboration between state and non-state facilities, maintenance/repair shops and local industry, which would contribute to lowering costs.
Next, Leonardo Andollo Valdés, from the Implementation and Development Permanent Commission working on 6th Party Congress policy guidelines, described principal aspects of the functional and structural reorganization approved by the Food Industry Ministry (MINAL). The Council of Ministers approved the proposal.
Andollo Valdés explained that the first stage of this reorganization took place in 2009, when the Food Industry and Fishing ministries were merged. Current changes have as their main goal the delineation and separation of government regulatory responsibilities from those of enterprise management.
Despite the fact that in 2009, a Central Enterprise Management Organization (OSDE) for the sector was established, Andollo Valdés emphasized, it has yet to function as expected. The current reorganization should allow this body to fully assume its responsibilities, as well as ensuring that both government regulatory work and enterprise management are carried out more efficiently and comprehensively.
Another policy approved during the Council of Ministers meeting was directed toward improving the country’s law enforcement system, of vital importance to the maintenance of order in society.
According to Justice Minister María Esther Reus, efforts are currently governed by more than 80 laws, with contradictory duplications regarding the same issue, in some cases.
Some 30 different inspection corps exist, with more than 15,000 inspectors, including too many who are inadequately prepared to function professionally, thus facilitating repeated acts of corruption.
The application of more exemplary measures, such as the suspension of a license or confiscation, is rare. Current laws, she commented stipulate the imposition of fines, which in many cases basically legalize the violation as opposed to correcting it.
Reus González said that the imposition of fines is not always reflective of systematic, consistent work and described the amounts established as disproportionate, with no consideration given repeated, versus first-time, infractions.
The policy approved will include in a single, general statute-level law definitions of infractions and measures to be taken, using a single procedure for its implementation within the context of the updating of Cuba’s economic model.
Among other measures, fine amounts will reflect the gravity of the offense and be based on the minimum salary. Repeated violations will incur greater fines and discounts will be available to those who pay within 72 hours of the citation. Entities charged with collecting fine payments will be given authority to retain property, salaries, bank accounts and other income, in the event a fine is not paid.
The Justice Minister reported on the process underway of registering all state-owned buildings. She explained that this effort has as its goal reinforcing institutionality and respect for the law, while protecting state property.
Additionally, registering these buildings will allow for other steps to be taken to update the economic model. “For example,” she said, “before renting buildings to self-employed workers, these must first be registered. This will allow state-owned locales to be made available to new forms of management.”
NEW STRATEGIES FOR SALES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS
Marino Murillo Jorge, head of the Implementation and Development Commission, reported on the agricultural products sales policy currently functioning in Havana, Artemisa and Mayabeque – a positive experience which will be extended to other parts of the country.
He explained that state regulated prices are maintained for products such as rice, beans, potatoes, some root vegetables, onion, garlic and tomato. At the same time, producers may contract directly with state distributors, eliminating intermediaries who previously hampered the process. Additionally, after fulfilling contracts with the state, producers may sell their produce to third parties engaged in the distribution of such food items.
State buyers, such as agricultural markets and social entities, have access to the wholesale market, on equal footing with non-state buyers.
Murillo, also a Council of Ministers Vice President, described the creation of a wholesale agricultural market, El Trigal, located in the Havana municipality of Boyeros.
He also pointed out that agricultural markets will function on the basis of two modalities - either administered by the state or managed as agricultural cooperatives.
THE SEARCH FOR GREATER ACCOUNTABILITY
Later during the meeting, Gladys Bejerano Portela, Comptroller General of the Republic, presented a summary of the comprehensive audits undertaken during 2012, which provided valuable information shedding light on the principal causes and conditions leading to inefficiency, failure to abide by regulations, illegalities and corruption.
She reported that the Self-Audit Guide has become a useful tool in preventative efforts.
"Nevertheless, even though the latest information shows improvement in internal review evaluations of audited entities with respect to previous checks, serious problems and vulnerabilities still exist," Bejerano, also a Vice President of the Council of State, emphasized.
"It is imperative that analyses go beyond visible consequences and unearth the real causes," she said. This will require, she continued, proper conduct and preparation by directors and administrative officials, since it is their responsibility, in the first place, to lead their entities in respect for the law and contract obligations.
FOCUS ON FOREIGN TRADE
Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, reported on exports of services, confirming that this has become the principal source of hard currency income for the country and has strong potential to continue expanding. He emphasized that, during the last year, major areas of growth have been the health and tourism sectors.
Malmierca Díaz also outlined the principal direction of work to continue promoting this activity, which requires careful training of the multiple actors involved in the export of services, in order to develop a "true export culture," to obtain the results needed by the country.
"Given the current economic conjuncture Cuba faces, which affects foreign trade, diversification of markets and exportable services is a critical task," he said.
Referring to the issue, Raúl acknowledged the noble efforts and prestige earned by Cuban doctors working to save lives in remote areas, where no one else goes.
The Minister also presented a report on irregularities detected in the functioning of joint ventures with foreign capital and international contracts which are affecting the country's economy.
After briefly describing what occurred, he emphasized that "the findings of investigations carried out by the Comptroller General's Office merit careful study, with a view to extracting experience and avoiding the repetition of these same errors in the future."
Malmierca Díaz stated that the principal causes of such problems include a lack of rigor, supervision and high expectations throughout the businesses involved, as well inappropriate conduct and attitudes among directors and officials implicated, be they a result of ignorance, incompetence or unethical practices.
ILLEGAL FUEL SALES
Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez reported on irregularities and criminal behavior detected in fuel sales.
The principal losses occur within refineries, transportation hubs and gas stations, given poor control of fuel deliveries and the lack of measurement instruments, or the utilization of these without required certification.
Yzquierdo Rodríguez explained, "The high demand and profits that this illicit trafficking generate lead to continual harassment of workers in this sector on the part of unscrupulous persons who subsequently sell fuel at as much as 60% below the official price."
The Minister announced measures to be adopted to address the situation. Among these, he mentioned the development of a comprehensive program to acquire technology for secure systems of reception, storage and distribution of gasoline; the verification of measurement instruments; and the conclusion of investments in the Ñico López, Camilo Cienfuegos and Hermanos Díaz refineries, directed toward improving the level of control and automation within delivery terminals.
Likewise, GPS systems installed on trains and motorized vehicles will be strengthened and expanded, while a proposal to sell gasoline to self-employed transportation providers is being evaluated, with no implication that this would raise prices charged passengers.
The Council of Ministers was also informed of progress being made in compiling data gathered during the 2012 Population and Housing Census. Marino Murillo addressed the issue and reported that work is being completed satisfactorily, confirming that definitive figures will be delivered, as planned, on June 30.
NATIONAL DEFENSE COUNCIL
On May 11, an expanded meeting of the National Defense Council took place, during which Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the body, described the country's level of preparedness in 2012 as satisfactory.
Special attention was focused on the evaluation of
experience gained during Hurricane Sandy's
trajectory across the eastern portion of the
country, particularly the province of Santiago de
Cuba, so that lessons can be learned to better deal
with similar events in the future.
Lázaro Barredo Medina /
General Editor: Gustavo Becerra Estorino
SPONSOR: Teledatos-Cubaweb. La Habana
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