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.
Esperanza Spalding - We Are America from on ESP Media on Viemo.
Grammy Award-winning musician has a problem with using the phrase "protest song" to describe her new recording, "We Are America." The song, along with its accompanying music video, demands congressional action to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
" 'Protest' doesn't seem accurate to me," she tells NPR's Celeste Headlee. "We weren't thinking of a 'protest' song, we're thinking of a 'let's get together and do something pro-active, creative and productive' song."
Democracy Now presented today an exclusive with René González, former Cuban intelligence agent and freed member of the Cuban Five:
I'm Amy Goodman, with a Democracy Now! exclusive. We turn now to René González, the only freed member of the Cuban Five. He was released in October of 2011. He returned to Cuba in April of this year after being jailed in the United States for 13 years. I recently spoke to him from Havana via Democracy Now! video stream. I began by asking him why he came to the United States to investigate militant Cuban exile groups.
In August 1962, I was an ordinary Cuban child who had just turned eight years old. I can still remember the commotion all over Havana after someone sailed a boat to within a mile of the city's coastline and fired acannon at a hotel. They then turned north and headed for safe haven in Miami.
That experience repeated itself for me and for my four comrades, who are still in US prisons, as I was until recently. The five of us grew up in Cuba, witnessing the kidnapping and assassination of Cuban fishermen, and the culprits would then return to their safe haven in Miami. A gunboat crew attacked and killed the crew of a Spanish freighter off the coast of Cuba and then returned to their safe haven in Miami. In 1976, two terrorists of Cuban origin, after having organized the bombing of a Cubana airliner which killed 73 people, found safe haven back in Miami. Twenty years later, one orchestrated a bombing campaign against Cuban hotels, which cost the life of an Italian citizen.
The Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, are five Cuban men who are unjustly imprisoned in the United States after being arrested by the FBI on 12 September 1998 and convicted in US federal court in Miami in 2001, in a political prosecution by the US government.
This September marks 15 years since their arrest. The Five were falsely accused by the US government of committing espionage and conspiracy against the United States, and other related charges.
On the 15th anniversary of the arrest of the Cuban Five, the Hero of the Republic of Cuba Rene Gonzalez, has asked his people to saturate the island with yellow ribbons. "My desire is that on September 12 yellow ribbons will appear in trees, on balconies, on people's arms, on their pets or however they want to display it. That way this expression will make it impossible for visitors and the foreign media to ignore the fact that the Cuban people are still waiting for four of their sons who are imprisoned in the United States."
Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree
As we approach 15 years of the incarceration of the Five, it is important for us to reflect once again that these were men who's only mission in coming to the US was to defend their people. We must remember that they have been suffering for 15 years the most elemental violation of human rights including separation from their loved ones, but yet hold no hate or rancor towards the American people who have been denied the truth and even the existence of the Cuban 5.
From the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, we call on all people and committees in solidarity with the Cuban 5 to join Rene, the families of the Five and the Cuban people to bring yellow ribbons to all the activities taking place from September 5 to October 6, especially on September 12.
Bringing yellow ribbons to all the marches, rallies, and vigils that will be taking place in the United States and in front of US embassies around the world will be a strong visual expression against an injustice that has gone on way too long.
Yet more proof, if any were needed, to confirm just how much of US taxpayer's money is wasted by groups purporting to help bring Democracy to Cuba has been posted by Tracey Eaton on his blog Along the Malecon. He provides this link to the USAID website that details how much and to which organisations the millions of dollars are distributed each year. Some websearching provides illuminating reading.