On 28-29th January 2014, Havana hosts the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC in Spanish), with the participation of the heads of states, chancellors and other representatives of all 33 independent nations in the region. The Summit rounds off Cuba’s one-year presidency of CELAC, which focussed on combating regional poverty, hunger and inequality. Cuba is part of CELAC’s three member troika, along with Chile, which held the presidency in 2012 and Costa Rica which takes over in 2014. Over 30 documents are being drawn up for discussion and analysis, including a Plan of Action, and standards and principles which will govern cooperation. The Summit was preceded by two days of discussions by national experts on 25-26 January and a meeting of chancellors on 27 January. The Summit is expected to emit specific statements, for example, demanding that Britain return Las Islas Malvinas (the Falkland Islands) to Argentina and that the US blockade of Cuba be lifted.
BRUSSELS, Belgium – After years of debate, the European Union is in the final stages of eliminating an existing agreement concerning Cuba and establishing a bilateral agreement with the island nation on several issues.
Earlier this month, Holland’s Foreign Minister, Franciscus ‘Frans’ Timmermans, urged the European Union to encourage more dialogue with Cuba while on a state visit to Havana. “We simply need more human contacts,” he said. “We have seen that not meeting each other and not talking about the issues that divide us does not really help. Dialogue could really bring the relationship forward.”
On 20 January, the 55th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution was celebrated at a cultural and political event in the Venezuelan Embassy’s Bolivar Hall. The event was attended by diplomats from the Cuban Embassy and the embassies of other countries which are members of ALBA – the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. Also present were British trade unión leaders and ex - miners, members of solidarity organisations in solidarity with Cuba and Cubans living in Britain.
Netfa Freeman is a longtime activist/organizer who has worked on Cuba solidarity issues for several years. A frequent traveler to Cuba, Netfa talks about his visit last November in support of the Cuban 5.
Gregory Elich: You've recently returned from Cuba, where you attended the Ninth International Colloquium to Free the Cuban 5. In 1998, five Cubans who were monitoring the activities of U.S.-based anti-Cuba terrorist groups were arrested by the FBI and imprisoned on charges of espionage. What can you tell us about the current status of the Cuban 5?
Netfa Freeman: Well, all five were arrested in September of 1998. As far as their current status, I suppose the first thing people should know is that one of them, René González, was released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Marianna, Florida on October 7, 2011, after serving his entire 13-year sentence. On April 22, 2013 René returned to Cuba for his father's funeral and on May 11, Judge Lenard allowed him to stay there provided that he would renounce his United States citizenship. Soon to be released from the Fed pen in Safford, Arizona is FernandoGonzalez, in February. This will also be because Fernando's sentence will have been served.
This is an anti-communist diatribe, without a single fact but full of distortions and outrights lies. Not even Amnesty International claims that Cuba’s prisoners are tortured – or in any other way abused. In fact, the only place where there is torture in Cuba is in the US base on illegally occupied Cuban territory at Guantanamo.
Among the key aims in the process of ‘updating’ the Cuban economy, approved by the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in 2011, is the reunification of Cuba’s two currencies: the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). In October 2013 it was announced that steps towards this had begun. The CUP has been Cuban currency since 1961. In 1993 during the economic crisis of the Special Period, the US dollar was legalised and ‘dollar shops’ initially opened to sell non-essential or imported items to tourists, as the tourist industry became a growing source of income. The CUC was introduced in around 1993 to substitute the function of the US dollar. It was pegged to the US dollar but printed and controlled by the Cuban Central Bank. Helen Yaffe reports.
Labour MPs Natascha Engel and Grahame Morris cast a Commons spotlight on vicious US abuses of Cuba yesterday.
Ms Engel harried Foreign Office ministers over the US blockade of the socialist island, while Mr Morris called for action over the case of the Miami Five Cubans imprisoned by the US.
Foreign Office Minister David Liddington faced a demand from Ms Engel to "use all of his influence to persuade the US to lift the blockade, which is bad for Cubans, bad for trade and bad for British business."
President Barack Obama The White House Washington, DC
Dear President Obama,
As a naturalized citizen of the United States I want to ask you, my President, to commute the sentences of four persons, often known as the Cuban Five. Their names are: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González. [The fifth, René González,was recently released from prison after serving his sentence].
I am particularly interested in their case because I think their imprisonment, the result of a flawed trial, is a roadblock to normal relations between the United States and Cuba. Let me explain.