Statement on the death of Fidel Castro Ruz

Fidel Castro Ruz, 1926-2016

Fidel Castro Ruz, 1926-2016

“Fidel Castro will be remembered as a giant among global leaders whose view was not only one of freedom for his people but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet”, so said the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins in an official press statement released in response to the announcement Fidel’s demise.

Cuba Support Group Ireland is grateful to our President for his courage to release such a statement, but then, our president is a man of courage. And learning. And experience, especially when it comes to the affairs of Latin America. He has walked in solidarity with the victims of US imperialist aggression in many parts of the world, not least in Latin America. His words are balanced, measured, informed and appropriate. They are also in stark contrast to the ignorant utterances of other world leaders, not least the president-elect of the United States of America.

For Cuba Support Group Ireland, Fidel was more than a great leader, Fidel was our guide to a better world. He has pointed the way ahead and explained the reasoning which informed his vision. It is now for us, his followers, to pick up his flag, the flag of justice, humanity and truth, and march on.

Thank you, Fidel, for sharing with us a life of service, dedication, discipline and humanity.

Patria o Muerte,
Venceramos!

Cuba Support Group Ireland,
25 Nov 2016

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Obama has fined 49 companies for violating the Embargo against Cuba

Obama Won't Lift Cuba Embargo, by Carlos Latuff

Obama Won’t Lift Cuba Embargo, by Carlos Latuff

https://vimeo.com/187303502

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On Barack Obama’s watch, a total of 49 fines have been imposed on US and foreign entities for violating the US Embargo against Cuba, based on a recent review of the records of the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

untitledThe cumulative value of such fines amounts to $14,397,416,827, (yes, $14 BILLION), an unprecedented figure in the history of the application of the US Embargo against Cuba.

Dispite both countries re-establishing diplomatic relations over a year ago, after more than half a century without embassies, Washington’s economic, financial and commercial siege against the small Caribbean island nation, is still very much in force.

Even since the announcement of December 17, 2014, when the process of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States began, eight entities have been fined (5 American and 3 foreign). The cumulative value of fines imposed amounts to $2,836,681,581, (almost 3 bullion USD). These fines have had a marked chilling effect on early interest from banks in particular seeking to gain a foothold in Cuba.

The intimidating effect on the banking and corporate sector is palpable in Ireland and across Europe where even humanitarian NGO’s bank accounts continue to be banned from operating.

The entities that have been fined by the United States since 17 December 2014, for violating the US Embargo are listed as follows:

  • Commerzbank, Germany: $1,710,000,000
  • PayPal, United States: $7,658,300
  • Navigators Insurance Co., United States: $271,815
  • Crédit Agricole, France: $1,116,893,585
  • Gil Tours Travel, Inc., United States: $43,875
  • WATG Holdings, Inc., United States: $140,000
  • CGG Services S.A., France: $614,250
  • Halliburton, United States: $304,706

Undoubtedly, the Blockade of Cuba persists. It harms the Cuban people (as it was designed to do) and intimidates legitimate commercial organisations all around the world that wish to carry on entirely legal trade with Cuba.

It amounts to a global extortion racket of a scale and reach that the mafia can only dream of.

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Irish co-production “Viva” premiers in Havana’s Latinamerican Film Festival

 

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According to a 1959 law, cinema is ”the most powerful and provocative form of artistic expression, and the most direct and widespread vehicle for education and bringing ideas to the public.”
 

The International Festival of New Latin American Cinema held annually in Havana really has to be seen to be believed.

Unlike the elitist European festivals that we have become accustomed to, here there is no red carpet, no celebrity, no separation of cinema workers (actors, directors, etc.) and other workers (the public). You can see seven films for ten Cuban pesos (50 euro cent) and there are lots of free peripheral events including workshops, press conferences and concerts which are open to all and sundry, not to mention a fantastic selection of over 400 films and documentaries.

December saw the 37th festival, with whole parts of the city converted into one giant cinema. The cinemas themselves are just amazing. None of your multiplexes here, but huge palaces for the public to live out their cinematic dreams, fantasies and realities. Free outdoor screenings are a common feature, with films projected onto the gable walls of some of the bigger buildings.

Long gone are the days of stories of people queueing for food in Cuba; instead we find young and old in queues for high quality, easily accessible cinematic art. As they don’t all have their noses stuck into smartphones, the queues themselves become lively centres of exchange of opinions on and recommendations for the films on show, as ad hoc juries are formed by the public passing verdict on the latest releases. The conversations often continue inside the cinema before the film begins. Directors and actors are usually present for Q&A sessions after screenings, and if not, are often available in the lobby for an informal chat. They also hold daily press conferences at the Hotel Nacional, which again are open to the general public eager to ask questions about the films they have just seen.

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Ireland was well represented at the festival with the screening of Viva. Directed by Paddy Breathnach and partly funded by RTE and Bord Scannán na hÉireann, the film examines the relationship between a young transvestite cabaret singer and his estranged macho father, recently released from prison. Filmed entirely on location in Havana with some of Cuba’s best known actors, such as Luis Alberto Garcia and Jorge Perugorría, the film was a huge hit with the Cuban public, who gave the actors and crew a standing ovation at it’s premiere. The film will be Ireland’s submission for the Foreign Language category in this year’s Academy Awards.

The 37th festival invited the public to “see, conserve, develop and bet for the cinema.” In a period of change and challenge in Cuban history, the people of Cuba will decide their own destiny and I have no doubt that they will be steadfast in their production, promotion and protection of popular culture.

Liam Bradshaw.

Read an interview with the director

 

 

 

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Cuba/US Normalisation – What’s Really Going On?

Whats really going onCanadian author and academic, Keith Bolender, pays a welcome return visit to Ireland this month.

His previous speaking tours in 2013 ad 2010 were well attended and those who heard him speak know of his authorative views on matters of US/Cuban relations.  His latest focus is on the normalisation process going on in diplomatic relations between the two countries.

And, not surprisingly, he sees a very different picture than that propagated in the media.

Join Cuba Support Group Ireland in welcoming Keith to Connolly Books on Monday next, 21 September 2015, where he will give a public talk on the diplomatic normalisation process currently in train and its chances of success.

He will reveal the landscape of US/Cuban relations, the legacy of disconnection and the need to construct a shared view of their histories before any real progress can be made in normalisation.  He explains the depth of misunderstanding of Cuba that has been deliberately inculcated in the US mindset and the long and difficult road that US governments will have to travel to begin to understand the nature of the Cuban Revolution.

He will also look at the internal reconfiguration of the Cuban economy with the widespread emergence of private sector employment in the service industry.  Over 500,000 jobs have been created through self-employment in Cuba in the last 5 years, the economy is predicted to expand by 6% this year and the tourist industry is experiencing record growth.

With hotel bedrooms now in short supply, what effect can be expected from the return of US tourists, banned by their own government for over half a century from setting foot in Cuba? What are US visitors finding when the visit Cuba?  How different is from the picture of Cuba painted by their stenographic media for all that time?

These are just some of the issues Keith will address at 7pm on Monday 21 September 2015 in Connolly Books, Dublin.

 

Media interviews can be arranged through Cuba Support Group Ireland 087 2360234

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Protest Against The Continuing US Blockade of Cuba

Rosie Hackett bridge 01Join us on the Rosie Hackett Bridge, Dublin, Ireland at 5pm on Friday 18th September 2015 to protest against the continuing blockade of Cuba.

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Spectacular Evidence of Anti-Cuban Bias in Irish Times Editorial

So here we have proof of Irish Times bias. What even the US President can call “a failed policy” the Irish Times characterises as “mutual”.

What is mutual about history’s longest and most intensive military siege?

What is mutual about illegal military invasion?

What bombs did Cuba detonate on US territory?

How many “mutual” murders and maimings occurred of US citizens to match the 3,454 dead Cubans and 2,099 maimed on the orders of of 11 consecutive US administrations?

Just how much of the $117billion in costs endured by Cuba was “mutually” inflicted by Cuba on the mighty US economy.

Irish Times readers may be easily mislead by deliberate disinformation placed in front of them by a sucession of duplicitous editors. Not so readers of this column.

Least anyone doubt that the wording or context of the Irish Times editorial has been misused, we reproduce it in all its damning glory below:

US-Cuba relations: Yankees return

Human rights will top agenda for Secretary of State John Kerry

Fri, Aug 14, 2015, 00:01

The flag which came down on January 4th 1961, will go up again today. The Havana US embassy reopens in the building it left on that day. Since 1977 it has been simply the “US Interests Section”.

But Cuba remains, if not frozen out entirely, still in the Cold War space . A market of more than 11 million people is still largely off limits to most US companies although foreign firms have been rushing in to take advantage of the thaw. It is still the only country US citizens are barred from visiting as tourists though attempts are being made in Congress to lift the remnants of sanctions and allow free travel – a recent poll found 72 per cent of Americans support ending the embargo imposed in 1962. It is a view shared now even by a majority among traditionally militant anti-Castroite Cuban-Americans.   It has been an issue in the US presidential election too, with this week Hillary Clinton criticising two of her Florida Republican opponents Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio for their refusal to recognise the real benefits of diplomacy over sterile confrontation. That debate is in itself a measure of how the terms of a once-toxic debate have been transformed.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, the first since 1945 to visit Cuba, will today oversee the ceremony that marks the welcome recent restoration of diplomatic relations by Barack Obama. They had been severed on that day in 1961, three months before the failed, CIA-orchestrated Bay of Pigs invasion by US-armed Cuban exiles, ushering in a period of mutual bitter hostility, economic war, the flight of countless refugees, and espionage and counter-espionage, best exemplified by what the Cubans claim were up to 600 US attempts to kill Fidel Castro.

Kerry emphasises that in his meetings with the Cubans today, although dissidents will not be present, human rights will be centre stage.   Obama’s landmark decision, importantly, is also helping to restore battered US relations in the region where the Cuban embargo has long been a running sore.

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Justice for the Cuban 50

US Ambassadors Residence protest

Cuba Support Group Ireland will demonstrate outside the US Ambassadors Residence in Phoenix Park, Dublin today, 3 July 2015, to draw attention to the ongoing failure of the US authorities to bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the mid-air bombing of a civilian airliner enroute to Cuba.

50 Cuban citizens were among the 73 victims on board the stricken aircraft, Cubana 454,
downed by a terrorist bomb of the coast of Barbados in October 1976. There were
no survivors. Today the “Justice for the Cuban 50″ campaign is
launched to bring attention to the failure of the US authorities to honour
international agreements it has signed in relation to terrorism and air traffic
safety which require it to bring to trial, or extradite, those responsible for
this crime.

The masterminds behind this bombing are well known. One has even claimed
involvement in an interview with a Miami based journalist and author, Ann Louise
Bardach. Declassified documents show that the CIA also reported his name to the
US President within days of the bombing. He was subsequently caught red-handed
handling explosives in the process of preparing a bomb destined to explode
in a Panamanian auditorium. He was convicted of terrorist crimes and sent to jail. The
circumstances of his escape and reappearance in Miami have never been
satisfactorily explained.

An outstanding extradition warrant for Luis Posada Carriles remains unanswered.
He lives freely in the state of Florida, USA. We call on the Obama
administration to answer the extradition request and initiate the legal process
to transfer the accused to a jurisdiction where he will face trial for the
murder of the 73 innocent victims, including the 50 Cubans who are the subject
of today’s protest.

 

Further information: cubasupport@eircom.net

Background: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubana_de_Aviaci%C3%B3n_Flight_455

 

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Bernie Dwyer’s Ashes Laid to Rest in Cuba

Bernie will be with the Cuban 5 and Cuba forever

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By: Iliana García Giraldino photos: Karoly Emerson

The rhythmic sound of the waves and the warm sea breeze enveloped the ashes of a dear friend of Cuba- Bernie Dwyer of Ireland. Her ashes were scattered into our sea by Gerardo, Antonio, Fernando y René, alongside the family members and friends of the much loved social activist, who right up until her death, and despite being gravely ill, did not stop fighting for the freedom of the Cuban 5.

Silent emotion and angst were sharpened by the memory of the great human being Bernie was. This day, the 6 March 2015, her children Juliana, Cristina, Lissa-Anne and David wept, along with the man who had been her husband, Dave. Their pain was shared by the 5 heroes and their families, by work colleagues at Radio Habana Cuba (RHC) –where she had worked for over a decade- by her neighbours, friends and comrades at the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

This was an inspiring moment. The 5 heroes for whom Bernie struggled for years scattered her ashes. Sadly Bernie never got to see them freed.

She wanted to share her ashes between her homeland and Cuba. “We are her children, but you all are also her family, she has come home” Juliana movingly stated, unable to hold back her tears, which interspersed her words.

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The Havana coast was the venue for the powerful ceremony. Minutes before Gerardo had spoken to Bernie’s family, telling them that it was thanks to people like Berne Dwyer that “we are today enjoying our freedom and happiness.”…“Some people think of solidarity in terms of the results it achieves, I believe that what was more important was her role in our day to day lives as prisoners” he said adding: “we needed her solidarity and support all the time, and Bernie was very important to us in that sense.”

“I am very sorry I did not get the chance to meet her myself, our families told us about her, and I did speak to her on the phone”, Gerardo said. He rejoiced for those who had the opportunity to know her as a “fighter, friend or sister.”

He said that “after we found out about her illness we were astonished at how she had just carried on battling for the five of us, and working very hard. Her example was always an inspiration for us and gave us strength.”

“When we came back to Cuba”, Gerardo added, “I expressed our gratitude to those friends who fought for us and are now no longer with us, one of them was Bernie”.

“I think you have been very lucky having a family member like Bernie, and we are very lucky to have had a friend like her. She will be with the Cuban 5 forever.”

Gerardo concluded his oration making it clear that Bernie’s support was not just for the Cuban 5 but for the whole of Cuba and all just causes: “every revolutionary Cuban is grateful for what Bernie did”.

Mirta, Antonio’s mother, spoke on behalf of the families of the Five who “got to know Bernie personally and what she meant for the cause…. we had a strong friendship with her, we held her very dearly and are infinitely grateful to her.”

“I am privileged to be here to speak with you, her children, about how Bernie was. I am proud to have known this woman who was full of love. When she fell ill, she went away, she recovered and she returned. She was a woman of extraordinary values, of great integrity. We want to say how much we love her, respect her and are grateful to her” she added.

Everyone embraced Bernie’s family members, in a ceremony dedicated to her memory, which had started that morning, in the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp (CIJAM), in Caimito, where a plaque was unveiled in her honour, around which ashes were scattered.

Bernie 03Kenia Serrano, President of ICAP, also participated throughout the day of memory for our beloved friend.

Fernando and Mirta were also among those at the CIJAM. Here Elio Gámez, first vice president of ICAP, spoke of his great honour in of having the opportunity to pay tribute to Bernie, whose links with Cuba began in the CIJAM back in the 1980s, as part of a European solidarity brigade. Bernie founded the Cuban solidarity campaign in Ireland. She subsequently moved to Cuba where she was to be honoured with the Medal of Friendship and the Félix Elmuza Award.

He added that Bernie was a member of the International Committee for the Liberation of the Cuban Heroes, a compañera dedicated to her work, and an activist for the five who participated in numerous international events. He added that Bernie was a woman of great conviction ”hard to defeat, happy, good humoured, revolutionary, our friend and sister, in the front line with her work… and whose work made a huge contribution to ICAP, who we will never forget”.

Lissa-Anne, enveloped by the memory of her mother, made clear to her friends that this was a difficult moment for her and her family, expressed gratitude for the tributes and the love felt for Bernie in Cuba, evoking her tenacious struggle for the Cuban 5.

Later in the day the ceremony took place by the sea, in the neighbourhood of Miramar, near to where Bernie, the prize-winning documentary maker, had lived. Her neighbours were notable by there presence, “she was one more of us”, recalled Liliam and Miriam.

Isabel, one of her colleagues from RHC, could not hold back the tears. She remembered when Bernie did her two tours of the United States, overcoming numerous obstacles and costs on the way, to get the truth about the Cuban 5 out. She recalled her titanic struggle against her cancer, and the way she kept up her solidarity work until the last minute possible. Bernie died on the 10th July 2013.

Everyone agreed that it was very sad that Bernie had not lived long enough to witness the release of the Five. “Life is not fair” I thought imagining how happy she would have been to be there. I said this to Gerardo, who with his clear gaze and from the heart responded “there is no doubt that’s the case, but life is bit by bit. If she had not been the exceptional woman that she was, she would not have managed to bring together today so many friends who loved and admired her to pay tribute and gratitude to her.” Gerardo’s words were comforting.

Bernie lives on in her children, in Ireland and Cuba, in the shining, optimistic and solitary horizon where her ashes blew along the eternal path of the good, the noble, the generous, and those who struggle. These are the human beings who sow seeds of love and become unforgettable as we look towards the future.

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Raul Castro’s speech to the National Assembly following the release of the Miami Five

STATEMENT BY ARMY GENERAL RAÚL CASTRO RUZ, FIRST SECRETARY OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA AND PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCILS OF STATE AND OF MINISTERS AT THE CLOSING CEREMONY OF THE FOURTH SESSION OF THE EIGHTH LEGISLATURE OF THE NATIONAL PEOPLE’S POWER ASSEMBLY HELD AT HAVANA’S CONFERENCE CENTER ON DECEMBER 20, 2014, “YEAR 56 OF THE REVOLUTION”.

(Stenographic versions – Council of State)

Raul CastroComrades all:

We have all lived through intense and exciting moments in the last few days.

In this very month of December we successfully held the Fifth CARICOM-Cuba Summit. Last Sunday we held the Thirteenth Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America and, on that occasion, we paid a well-deserved tribute to their founders: our close friend and Bolivarian President, Hugo Chávez Frías, and the Commander of the Cuban Revolution, Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz (APPLAUSE).

Present in this session are Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio, a source of genuine rejoicing and happiness for all of our people –I will elaborate on this important even towards the final part of my statement. Also present here are comrades Fernando and René and the relatives of the Five Heroes, as well as the young Elián González, his father Juan Miguel and Colonel Orlando Cardoso Villavicencio, Hero of the Republic of Cuba, who endured a harsh incarceration for more than ten years in Somalia.

As has been the usual practice in the sessions of our Parliament, it is now my turn to make a review of the country’s economic performance throughout the year that is about to conclude, as well as of the economic plan and budget for the year 2015, which have been thoroughly discussed by deputies in all the 10 commissions of the Assembly and also in yesterday’s plenary session.

The Ninth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party that was held on Thursday last was also devoted to the discussion of these issues. That is why I will just refer to them very briefly.

As has been already explained, the Gross Domestic Product, known as GDP, increased by 1.3 per cent, a figure below the originally planned rate, as a result of the insufficient economic performance during the first semester of the year, when we were faced with significant financial constraints deriving from the failure to meet the expected level of revenues from abroad, the adverse weather conditions and the internal insufficiencies in economic management.

Although, in fact, during the second semester of the year, we managed to modestly reverse that trend and achieve better results.

Next year’s economic plan will consolidate and reinforce the trend towards a more solid growth of the Cuban economy, based on the optimal use of our reserves in terms of efficiency; the restoration of productive sectors, particularly the manufacturing industry; a more efficient use of energy sources and a higher number of investments in infrastructure and material production, while preserving social services, such as public health and education, for our population.

A GDP growth of a little more than 4 per cent has been projected for the year 2015. This is an attainable goal, considering that, as different from the situation faced in the early months of 2014, a better funding has been guaranteed with sufficient time in advance, which in no way means that it will be an easy task. We will have to continue coping with the effects of the global economic crisis and the US blockade that still remains in force and creates undeniable obstacles to the development of our economy.

At the same time, we will continue to strictly honor the commitments entered into when we rescheduled our debts with our main creditors, thus contributing to the gradual recovery of the international credibility of the Cuban economy.

Yesterday afternoon, the National Assembly approved the Law on the State Budget for the year 2015, which envisages a 6.2 per cent deficit in the GDP, considered to be an acceptable rate under the present circumstances. New taxes will be implemented and the tax burden on the business system shall be reduced in accordance with the gradual implementation of the Tax Law.

Likewise, a series of steps have been taken to improve tax control against indiscipline and tax evasion by both juridical and natural persons.

In this regard, we should not only penalize those who fail to comply with their duties, since impunity would be an encouragement to the infringement of the legal norms in force. We have also considered it to be necessary to promote among all institutions, enterprises, cooperatives and self-employed workers a culture of civic behavior towards taxation as well as the view that taxes are the main formula to re-distribute national income in the interest of all citizens.

Furthermore, the process of implementation of the Guidelines of the Economic, Political and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, approved by the sixth Congress has continued. As has already been announced, we are now on a qualitatively higher stage of this process in which we are addressing extremely complex tasks, the solution of which will affect all the aspects of national affairs.

I am referring, first and foremost, to the process aimed at unifying both currencies, an area in which a very sound progress has been achieved during the second half of this year from the conceptual point of view. We have managed to streamline a comprehensive program of measures in order to avoid damages to the economy and the population.

The decision to generalize sales in CUP at the hard-currency stores has been positively welcomed by citizens, and this process will continue to expand in a gradual way.

This is an auspicious occasion to ratify two concepts that we should not ignore.

The first is that the Unification of Currencies is not the universal or immediate solution to all the problems our economy faces.

This important decision should be complemented by a series of macro-economic measures that would favor the ordering of the monetary regime of the country through a series of instruments that would guarantee a proper national financial balance, which will decisively contribute to improve economic performance and the construction of a prosperous and sustainable socialism in Cuba.

The second, and no less important concept, is that all bank accounts in foreign currency, Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) and Cuban pesos (CUP), as well as the cash in the hands of the population and the national and foreign juridical persons shall be protected.

We have known about the well-intended and not very-well intended opinions that are being expressed both inside and outside the country about the rhythm of the process to update our economic model.

There has also been an open encouragement from abroad to speed up privatization, even of the main production and service sectors, which will b equal to laying down the flags of socialism in Cuba.

It seems as if the latter have not bothered to read the Guidelines which clearly states as follows, and I quote: “The economic system that shall prevail in our country will continue to be based on the people’s socialist ownership over the fundamental means of production, governed by the socialist principle of distribution: “from each according to his/her capacity to each according to his/her contribution”, end of quote.

We will continue to implement the agreements adopted by the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in a responsible and firm way, at the speed that we may sovereignly determine here, without jeopardizing the unity of Cubans, without living anyone to his or her own fate, without resorting to shock therapies and without ever renouncing the ideals of social justice of this Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble.

Next year we will initiate the preparations for the celebration of the Seventh Congress of the Party in April of 2016. Prior to that there will be a broad and democratic debate among all Communist Party members and the entire people about the process of implementation of the Guidelines.

Closely associated to the updating of the economic model is the process for the gradual, I repeat, gradual decentralization of faculties from the ministries down to the business sector.

This is not something that can be done overnight, if we want to succeed. We will require a reasonable time to prepare and train, as we have been doing, our cadres at every level; modify the old-fashioned mentality and get rid of old habits; and work out and implement the legal framework and specific procedures that would enable all of us to see to it that the decisions are adequately implemented and mistakes are timely corrected, thus avoiding unnecessary setbacks.

Among other steps, a decision was made to expand and make more flexible the social object of the Socialist state-owned enterprises in order to increase their autonomy. The mission assigned to them by the State was redefined and they were entrusted with the faculties required for the marketing of their production surplus. Likewise, the removal of administrative limitations, which will allow for the payment of salaries based on results, was also established.

These transformations shall be gradually implemented, without haste, in an orderly, disciplined and rigorous manner.

The just aspiration of earning higher salaries is a very sensitive question. We can not allow ourselves to make any mistakes, nor letting ourselves be drawn by desire or improvisation.

We would be happy to see that the salaries earned by those workers who work in those sectors recording the most efficient results and reporting benefits of particular economic and social impact are gradually increased.

However, I should state very clearly that we can not distribute a wealth that we have not been capable of creating. Doing so would have serious consequences for the national economy as well as for the personal finances of each and every citizen. Pouring out money into the streets without an equivalent increase in the offer of goods and services will generate inflation, a phenomenon that, among other harmful effects, would reduce the purchasing power of salaries and pensions, which will particularly affect the most humble. And we can not allow that to happen.

The first year of implementation of the new salary policy in quite a few enterprises has revealed that there has been a violation of the salary cost index per every gross value-added Peso. In other words, higher salaries have been paid without the corresponding backing in production. On several occasions I have warned that this should be considered as a serious, very serious indiscipline that should be resolutely confronted by the administrative cadres and trade union organizations.

The fact that in our social system, trade unions defend workers’ rights is secret to no one. To effectively do so, trade unions should be the first to look after the interests of any given workers group, but also the interests of the entire working class, which are essentially the same interests defended by the entire nation.

We can not leave any room for selfishness and greed to thrive and consolidate among our workers. We all want and need better salaries, but first we have to create wealth and then distribute it according to the contribution each one can make.

Obviously, there are many other issues related to the updating of the economic model which I have not mentioned. In several of them there have been deviations that we are called to correct in due time, in the spirit of never having to back. But for that we have to work in a very serious and responsible way.

No one in the world could ignore Cuba’s outstanding international record in the course of the year that is about to conclude. Cubans are faced with a huge challenge: We must put the economy on a par with the political prestige that this small Caribbean Island has earned thanks to the Revolution, the heroism and the resilience of our people. Economy remains the most important unresolved matter and it is our duty to place it, once and for all, down the right path towards the sustainable and irreversible development of socialism in Cuba.

As I said at the beginning, the deputies and the entire people feel deeply moved and excited about the possibility of sharing the presence in Cuba of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René, which makes true the promise made by Comrade Fidel thirteen years ago. The extraordinary example of firmness, sacrifice and dignity of the Cuban Five has filled with pride an entire nation that struggled tirelessly for their liberation and now welcomes them as true heroes (APPLAUSE).

I should reiterate the profound and sincere gratitude to all solidarity movements and committees that struggled for their release and to innumerable governments, parliaments, organizations, institutions and personalities for their valuable contribution.

The Cuban people are grateful for this just decision made by the US President, Barack Obama. Such decision has removed one obstacle that hindered the relations between our two countries.

The entire world has had a positive reaction to the announcements made last Wednesday; it has assessed their importance for international relations, particularly for the US links with the region. They have led to favorable statements being made by governments, presidents and well-known personalities, which we sincerely appreciate.

This has been the result of talks held at the highest level and under absolute secrecy, thanks to the contribution made by Pope Francis and the facilities offered by the government of Canada.

Besides, this result has been possible thanks to the profound changes occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region where governments and peoples call for a new US Cuba policy.

We welcome the decision announced by President Obama to begin a new chapter in the relations between both countries and introduce the most significant changes in the US Cuba policy in more than 50 years.

We likewise recognize his willingness to hold discussions with the US Congress about the lifting of the blockade and his desire to achieve a better future for both nations, our hemisphere and the world.

We share the idea that a new stage could open up between the United States and Cuba that will begin with the resumption of diplomatic relations, which should be based on the Conventions governing Diplomatic and Consular Relations and regulating the conduct of Diplomatic and Consular Missions and their officials.

We will engage in the high level contacts between both governments with a constructive, respectful and reciprocity spirit and with the purpose of moving towards the normalization of relations.

As I expressed last December 17, a very important step has been taken, but the essential problem still remains unresolved, which is the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, that has been further tightened during the last few years, particularly in the area of financial transactions, through the application of skyrocketing and illegitimate fines on banks from several countries.

Our people should understand that, under the circumstances that have already been announced, this will be a long and hard struggle which will require the international opinion and the US society to mobilize in order to continue calling for the lifting of the blockade.

Every data indicate that the majority of US citizens and an even broader majority within Cuban émigrés favor the normalization of bilateral relations. Within the US Congress, which codified the blockade provisions into law, there is also an increasing opposition to that policy.

We hope the US President would resolutely use his executive prerogatives to substantially modify the implementation of the blockade in those aspects in which Congress approval is not required.

At the same time, we will analyze the scope and the form of implementation of the positive executive measures announced by President Obama.

The instructions he has given to review Cuba’s unjustifiable inclusion in the List of States that Sponsor International Terrorism is encouraging. Facts have shown that Cuba has been a victim of multiple terrorist attacks, many of whose perpetrators have so far enjoyed impunity. As we all know these attacks have taken a toll on thousands of human lives and maimed persons.

The pretexts used to launch those attacks are absolutely groundless, as is known by the entire planet. They only serve political interests under the false pretense of justifying the tightening of the blockade, particularly in the financial sector.

Never has any terrorist action against any US citizen, interest or territory been organized, financed or perpetrated from Cuba; nor will that ever be permitted. Every time we have received any information about terrorist plans against the United States we have relayed that information to the US Government to which for several years now we have been suggesting the establishment of a cooperation agreement in that area.

We have always been ready to establish a dialogue, on an equal footing, to discuss a wide range of issues on the basis of reciprocity and without casting a shadow on our national independence and self-determination and, as Fidel has pointed out, without renouncing any of our principles.

I reiterate that it will only be possible to move forward based on mutual respect, which involves the observance of the principles of International Law and the UN Charter, among them, the sovereign equality of States, peoples’ equal rights and self determination, the peaceful settlement of international controversies, the principle of refraining from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or independence of any State and the obligation not to intervene in matters which are within the domestic jurisdiction of States, which means that any form of interference or threat to the political, economic and cultural elements of any given State is considered a violation of International Law.

In accordance with the proclamation of the Latin American and Caribbean region as a Zone of Peace, which was signed by the Heads of State and Government on January 29 this year in Havana in the context of the CELAC Summit, all States have the inalienable right to choose their own political, economic, social and cultural system, without any interference whatsoever from another State, which is a principle of International Law. That document was signed here in Havana by all Heads of State and Government of this continent, with the exception of the United States and Canada, which were not invited to attend.

Between the governments of the United States and Cuba there are profound differences which include, among others, different views about the exercise of national sovereignty, democracy, political models and international relations.

We reiterate our willingness to establish a respectful dialogue on our differences based on reciprocity. We have firm convictions and many concerns about what is happening in the United States in terms of democracy and human rights, and we would agree to talk on the basis of the principles referred to previously, about any issue, and about all what the US might be willing to discuss, about the situation here Cuba but also about the situation in the United States.

No one should expect Cuba to renounce the ideas for which it has struggled for more than a century, and for which its people have shed lots of blood and run the biggest risks in order to improve its relations with the United States.

It is necessary to understand that Cuba is a sovereign State whose people, through a free referendum held to approve the Constitution, chose a socialist path as well as its political, economic and social system (APPLAUSE).

We will demand respect for our system in the same way that we have never intended the United States to change its political system (APPLAUSE).

Both governments should take mutual steps to prevent and avoid any action that might affect the progress achieved in bilateral relations, based on the observance of the law and the constitutional order of both Parties.

We do not ignore the vicious criticisms that President Obama has had to put up with as a result of the already mentioned announcements by some forces that are opposed to the normalization of relations with Cuba, including some lawmakers of Cuban descent and ringleaders of counterrevolutionary groups who refuse to lose the means of support granted to them by the several decades of conflicts between our two countries. They will do whatever it takes to sabotage this process. We should not rule out the perpetration of provocations of every sort. On our part, a prudent, moderate and reflexive –though firm- behavior shall prevail. (APPLAUSE).

In Cuba there are numerous and different mass, trade union, farmers, women, students, writers and artists and social organizations, which have even a representation at the Council of State, as well as non-governmental organizations, many of them represented by several deputies in this Assembly, which will feel offended if they are mistaken for a few hundreds of individuals who receive money, instructions and a breath of air from abroad.

At the multilateral organizations, such as the United Nations, we will continue to advocate for peace, International Law and all other just causes, and we will continue to denounce the threats to the survival of the human species posed by climate change and the existence of nuclear arsenals.

We will continue to promote the exercise of human rights, including the economic, social and cultural rights, by all persons, as well as the right of all peoples to peace and development.

The Cuban Revolution is deeply grateful to the peoples, parties and governments from which it has received an unwavering and permanent solidarity, and shall continue to orient its foreign policy based on our unshakable allegiance to principles (APPLAUSE).

A symbol of the above are the special relations that we maintain with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to which we will continue to offer our support, in the face of the attempts to destabilize the legitimate government that is headed by Comrade President Nicolas Maduro Moros. We reject every attempt to impose sanctions against that sister nation (APPLAUSE).

As I said a few days ago, we are willing to cooperate with the United States at the multilateral and bilateral levels, as well as in the event of any dangerous situation that may require collective and effective humanitarian responses that should never be politicized.

Such is the case of the combat against the Ebola virus in West Africa and its prevention in the Americas, as was proclaimed by the ALBA Special Summit that was held in Havana on this issue on October last.

Just as I have stated in the recently held CARICOM and ALBA Summits, I appreciate the invitation conveyed to me by the President of Panama, Juan Carlos Valera, to attend the Seventh Summit of the Americas and I confirm I will attend in order to explain our positions, in an honest and respectful way, to all Heads of State and Government without any exception.

Cuba’s attendance to that Summit has been the result of the solid and unanimous consensus achieved within Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that is living through a new era and has united, amidst its diversity, under the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) which Cuba was honored to preside last year.

We do not forget that ALBA, with its continued appeal and the support of all countries of the region, managed to remove the old and opprobrious sanctions imposed against Cuba back in 1962 by the Organization of American States, at a meeting held in the Republic of Honduras, where hardly one month later a coup d’état was perpetrated that ousted Comrade Zelaya, the president of that country.

Comrades all:

Within just a few days we will be celebrating the upcoming New Year and the fifty sixth anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution. Only two days ago, on December 18, we marked the fifty eighth anniversary of the occasion when we reunited with Fidel at a place called Palmas de Vicana, in the Sierra Maestra mountains (APPLAUSE), in the heart of the Sierra Maestra, and Fidel’s historical exclamation when he knew that, in total, we had seven rifles to resume the struggle: Now we will for sure win the war! (APPLAUSE).

The unshakable faith in victory that Fidel instilled in all of us shall continue to lead our people in the defense and further improvement of the work of its Revolution.

Happy New Year!

We salute the new fifty-seventh year of the Cuban Revolution!

Thank you, very much (OVATION).

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International Tribunal of Enquiry into the case of the Miami Five

 

Cuba Support Group Ireland is pleased to announce that it is a sponsor of the International Commission of Enquiry into the case of the Miami Five, to be held in London next month.

Proceedings will get under way on Friday, 7 March at The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1PL. A full list of events is available on the Voices for the Five website here: http://www.voicesforthefive.com/downloads/Commission-Sessions.pdf

Cuba Support group Ireland will be represented by a 4 person delegation comprising National coordinator, Belfast coordinator , Limerick coordinator and National treasurer.

Our first public event in support of the Five took place outside the US Embassy in Dublin on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. That war, one of the longest in the modern era, is over, but the Five are still not free.

Since establishing the Irish campaign for the Miami Five in 2002, CSGI has been successful in building support in Ireland for the five Cuban men “arbitrarily detained” in the USA.  The struggle continues with the Free the Cuban Five campaign.

“Arbitrary detention” was the finding of a 2005 investigation conducted by the highest level UN committee responsible for adjudicating on such matters, a committee that called on the US government to rectify their situation.  Nothing happened.

50 members of Dáil Éireann submitted a brief to the US Supreme Court in 2009 in support of their appeal. The court responded by refusing to even hear the appeal, extinguishing the last legal remedy available.

The US Judicial System stands accused of presiding over a system of kangaroo courts, swayed by public opinion, unable to distinguish between paid-for “journalism” and reality and resolutely impervious to the damage being done to its own reputation internationally. It is a system of justice simply not fit for purpose.

Amnesty International have called their treatment “a form of torture”.

The US Government was even caught acting contrary to the US Constitution in running stories in the Miami press on the case during the trial and specifically prejudicial to the proceedings, using paid mercenaries employed as journalists in many of the major Miami-based newspapers, radio and TV broadcasters.  This is explicitly forbidden by the US Constitution.  No one was ever held to account for this crime, even the US Supreme Court chose to brush it under the carpet.

So it is that an International Commission of Jurists, drawn from across the globe, will examine the evidence presented in the original case together with the startling new evidence (including prejudicial propagandising by the US Government) amassed in the intervening 16 years and pronounce on its findings.

There is only one thing sure: its deliberations, unlike those of the US Judicial system, will have the benefit of objectivity.

If you are unable to attend the proceedings (and there are still tickest available for some of the events) you will be able to follow them live on twitter @cubasupport

 

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