Houstonians protest U.S. military intervention in the Middle East
| July 13, 2014 | 4:43 pm | Action, International, Local/State, National | No comments

Houston – On Saturday, July 12, 2014, about 25 activists braved the Houston summer heat and a thunderstorm in front of the Galleria shopping center to express their opposition to U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. It was a peaceful, spirited demonstration called by the Progressive Workers Organizing Committee. A number of organizations participated including LCLAA, Houston Peace and Justice Center, Houston Communist Party, CPUSA including a number of labor activists.

The Shame of Iraq Once More
| July 11, 2014 | 9:01 pm | Analysis, International | No comments

- from Zoltan Zigedy is available at:

http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

zoltanzigedy@gmail.com

As the Sunni Jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham conquer city after city in northern Iraq and as black-clad soldiers from Shiite military muster to repel them, it is tempting to blame the chaos there on ancient religious hatreds. But the strife in Iraq today is less the mystifying product of of primordial grievances than the predictable result of very modern power politics.
The US shouldn’t repeat the mistake made two decades ago, when a generation of Western leaders explained away the wars that ripped Yugoslavia apart as the result of primeval ethnic hatreds. Then as now, such resignation is an easy way to avoid hard thinking. Hatreds Bred by Power Politics, Daniel Benjamin (Wall Street Journal, June 28-29, 2014)

Benjamin, a former US State Department coordinator, is right on both counts: politics fundamentally drives the crisis in the Middle East and simplistic, but convenient explanations for the catastrophic events supplant any real analysis.

Apologists in both Parties and the supplicant media want to pass off the blame to the victims of the quagmire that the US and its allies have created in the Middle East. They insist that it is not a malignant foreign policy designed to advance US corporate interests and install puppet governments lurking behind the violence and chaos, but tribal and religious animosities, disdain for “human rights,” and ignorance of “democratic” values that thwart the “civilizing” mission of the US and the EU. Just as US ruling elites evaded the lessons of defeat in Vietnam, their twenty-first century counterparts revive the same chauvinistic, self-serving explanations for the hatred and mass slaughter they perpetrate.

To his credit, Benjamin insists on more nourishing explanations. As an insider and participant in shaping US policy, he knows better; he knows that interests– economic and politic interests– play the decisive role in shaping the events now spinning out of control in Iraq. He concedes, regarding “the demons of sectarianism,” that “[a]t key points, the US has even unintentionally abetted them…” [My italics] While this confesses far more than most of the US foreign policy commentariat wants to admit, it falls far short of the truth…. To continue the article, go to: http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

Some questions on the unity of the international communist movement
| July 11, 2014 | 8:56 pm | International, Party Voices | No comments

SIMA-KKE-1_jpg_2111823977http://www.solidnet.org/greece-communist-party-of-greece/cp-of-greece-some-questions-on-the-unity-of-the-international-communist-movement-en-ru-es

communist movement [En, Ru, Es, Pt, It, Ar]
Monday, 07 July 2014 15:01 Communist Party of Greece

Some questions on the unity of the international communist movement
[En, Ru, Es, Pt, It, Ar]

The fact that it was not possible for the 15th International Meeting
of communist and workers’ parties that took place in Lisbon in 2013
to issue a Joint Statement intensified the discussion concerning the
situation of the international communist movement and the question of
its unity.

In the framework of this discussion we see completely schematic and
simplistic positions that avoid using the specific criteria that
arise from our worldview, from historical experience, from the
contemporary development of capitalism, and the necessity to resolve
the basic contradiction (between capital and labour) that governs
capitalism as this would require a self-critical examination of
strategic guidelines and the monitoring of whether they respond to
the current needs of the class struggle, the struggle for
socialism-communism.

The effort to slander the communist parties that struggle against
capitalism and highlight the necessity and timeliness of socialism is
a sign of great weakness. Even more so when the 15th IMCWP is used
in a selective way despite the fact that many parties exposed the
bankrupted strategy of “left governments”, highlighted the necessity
of the struggle for revolutionary change and opposed the effort to
impose a joint statement which was far removed from the principles
our worldview and functioned against the political, ideological
independence of several communist parties.

However, things have always been more complex than the scholastic
assessments like “right-wing or left-wing opportunism” as some of our
comrades in other countries sought to present the controversy that
took place at the 15th International Meeting, comrades who refuse to
draw conclusions from the course of the communist movement. Because
opportunism must be exposed in a concrete way and not with “centrist”
aphorisms, taking into account that in the history of international
communist movement e.g. in the period when Lenin was trying to form
his party there was also a “quagmire” between the revolutionary and
opportunist current. Later (1921-1923) there was the two and a half
International which had formally distanced itself from the
opportunist Second International while later on it joined it creating
the so-called “Labour and Socialist International”. Lenin wrote: “the
gentlemen of the Two-and-a-Half International pose as
revolutionaries; but in every serious situation they prove to be
counter-revolutionaries because they shrink from the violent
destruction of the old state machine; they have no faith in the
forces of the working class[1]“.

The steps of the KKE in the elaboration of its strategy

It is well known that the communist movement had been facing various
ideological deviations already before the overthrow of socialism in
the USSR and the other socialist countries like the currents of
Trotskyism, Maoism and “eurocommunism”. The CPSU and other communist
and workers’ parties struggled against these ideological-political
currents in one way or another. However this does not mean that these
parties, amongst them the KKE, were free from weaknesses, mistakes,
ideological shortcomings. The KKE is one of those CPs which after the
overthrow of socialism showed great interest and studied the causes
of the defeat. It examined them carefully, studying many party
documents of that period in the framework of an arduous collective
work.

At its 18th Congress, after a rich inner-party discussion, the causes
of the overthrow of socialism were embodied in a respective
resolution of the Congress. According to the resolution causes are
related to the economic basis of the socialist society, to mistakes
made in this field (see the restoration of the instruments of
“market” in socialist economy), as well as to the political
superstructure, the role of the party and the Soviets (see the
decisions of the 20th and 22nd congress of the CPSU). Our party has
also focused its attention on serious problems that existed in the
strategy of the international communist movement: the mistaken view
on the stages towards socialism which has never been confirmed as
well as the mistaken view on ” peaceful transition” that fostered
many parliamentary illusions combined with the mistaken division of
social democracy into a “left-wing” and a “right-wing” and the
equally schematic and mistaken distinction of the bourgeois class
into a “national” and a “comprador” section etc

It is necessary to carry out a substantial discussion

We would like to pose several serious issues in order to contribute
to a substantial discussion in the communist movement.

First, our party argues that the revolution in our country and in all
countries where capitalism has developed into its monopoly,
imperialist stage (imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism)
has a socialist character. This arises from the character of our era,
the sharpening of and the necessity to resolve the basic
contradiction between capital and labour, the indisputable maturation
of the material conditions for socialism today.

It is self-evident that there is no scientific basis that allows the
characterization of this analysis as sectarian and labels as
revolutionary the analysis that sets the communist movement back many
years, undermines the basic criteria of our worldview and supports
the mistaken view “about stages” on the grounds that the strategy of
a communist party is not determined by the solution of the basic
contradiction of our era but by the correlation of forces.

This is a big problem. The rationale of stages objectively (despite
any intentions) entails the search of pro-people solutions on the
terrain of capitalism on the grounds that the “intermediate stage”
will contribute to the maturation of the subjective factor and will
operate as a bridge to socialism, something that in many cases is
regarded as a result of parliamentary processes. This approach has
not been confirmed anywhere and in any period. It is in contradiction
with the lessons of the Great Socialist October Revolution in 1917.
The worst thing is that the rationale of stages leads to the search
of solutions for the management of the system e.g. of
“left-progressive or patriotic governments” that will (objectively)
manage the interests of the monopolies which will continue to have
the ownership over the means of production and the political power.

This choice fosters illusions; it does not contribute to the
preparation of the labour movement for fierce class confrontations;
it condemns it to backwardness and makes it vulnerable to bourgeois
ideology and politics, it entangles it in the web of parliamentary
illusions.

Second, our party argues that the revolution in Greece will have a
socialist character and thus it determines the line for the rallying
of forces and struggle, placing emphasis on the regroupment of the
labour movement and the reinforcement of the class orientation, on
the strengthening of the class unity of the working class. At the
same time, it works for the construction of the people’s alliance,
i.e. the alliance between the working class, the poor farmers, the
small self-employed, women and young people from the working class
families. In the current conditions this alliance is expressed
through the coordination of the struggle of the militant rallies:
PAME in the working class, PASY in the farmers, PASEVE in the
self-employed in urban centres, MAS in students, OGE in women.

The people’s alliance is a social alliance and has an
anti-capitalist, antimonopoly orientation. It will be reinforced in
the daily struggle concerning all the problems of the people, it will
adapt and prepare itself so as to play the leading role in the
conditions of the revolutionary situation (which has an objective
character and all parties must prepare themselves for it), in the
popular uprising for the overthrow of the capitalist barbarity.

In this direction, the KKE, the class oriented movement and the
people’s alliance are in the forefront of the struggle in Greece.
They mobilize hundreds of thousands of working people, forces that
come in conflict with the forces of capital, the parties and its
governments, the imperialist European Union. There are numerous
examples of this struggle. The positions that try to incriminate the
revolutionary struggle with the slander about sectarianism,
downplaying the vanguard, mass activity of the KKE and PAME and the
other militant rallies that struggle for specific goals concerning
all the problems of the people against the monopolies and capitalism
are causing damage to the communist movement.

Obviously the struggle for socialism cannot be postponed for the
indefinite future neither is it a matter of proclaiming it.

For example unemployment is a scourge and torments millions of
working people. What should the communists say? Should they say that
this problem can be solved in the framework of capitalism with a
“left government”? This has no basis because the causes of the
problem continue to exist. The solution of the problem of
unemployment and generally the satisfaction of the contemporary needs
of the working class and the popular strata requires the solution of
the central problem of power, the socialization of the means of
production, central planning. Thus the necessity and timeliness of
socialism emerges from the very developments.

The development of capitalism has led to the maturation of the
material preconditions for the construction of the new, socialist
society. This is undeniable. It is also a fact that a revolutionary
situation has not been formed and that the creation of class,
political consciousness in the ranks of the working class is delayed
and that the consequences of the counterrevolution are negative.
Consequently, the maturation of the subjective factor is a very
serious issue.

With what line and with what content can the maturation of the
subjective factor be carried out? Can it be achieved on the basis of
positions concerning left governmental solutions which objectively
will manage the system, will be assimilated or will be politically
bankrupted? Can it be achieved through vague references concerning
“deep anti-monopoly transformations” on the terrain of capitalism?

What are these transformations? The nationalization of enterprises,
the increased taxation on the profits of capital, the restriction of
its “unaccountability”, as certain parties argue?

All these things have been tried and constitute different aspects of
the system’s management. The basic problem will remain unsolved. And
the basic problem is which social class will possess political power
and the means of production.

The actual experience of “left governments” demonstrates that (left)
management of capitalism even with the use of “revolutionary slogans”
not only can not provide an answer regarding the paving of the way
for socialism, but on the contrary functions as a means of
assimilating the people’s consciousness into parliamentarianism,
fosters false hope and delays the organization of the working class,
its struggle in the direction of challenging the exploitative system,
its preparation for the overthrow of capitalism.

Even a positive electoral result of a CP does not constitute a
guarantee of a substantial change in the correlation of forces, when
e.g. the popular forces are rallied around positions, slogans that
express the political line of adopting a “humane” management of
capitalism at a national level and does not pose the issue of
overthrowing the system and withdrawing from the imperialist unions
(e.g. EU-NATO)

The example of Brazil itself, which in this period is in the news due
to the World Cup, is characteristic. A “left government” is managing
capitalist power in Brazil. It is apparent according to the
statistical data that the country’s richest 10% possesses 42.5% of
the national income, 40 times more that that possessed by the poorest
10%, while 5% of the richest possess an income larger than that of
the poorest 50%. The monopolies are dominant in Brazil despite the
“left” government. The gross profits of ten big business groups in
sales turnover amounts to 25% of the GDP. These groups prevail in
industry, mining sector, in the trade of agricultural products as
well as in trade and services in general. This means that monopolies
prevail in all sectors of the economy of Brazil.

At the same time, the low salaries of the working people do not at
all correspond to the Brazilian economy’s rate of development as the
profits of the businessmen rank amongst the highest in the world. The
social problems are on a long-term trajectory which will lead to even
further exacerbation.

What does the KKE do in Greece?

The KKE is trying to contribute to the preparation of the subjective
factor (Party, working class, alliances) for revolutionary
conditions, for the realization of its strategic tasks.

For this reason its insists on the timeliness and necessity of
socialism, not through phraseology “devoid of content”, but by
popularizing issues regarding working class power, socialization,
central planning with examples from important sectors of the economy.
It insists on its position for the regroupment of the labour movement
and the strengthening of its class orientation so that the labour
movement does not limit itself to negotiating the conditions for the
sale of labour power, but so that it becomes a force that will
struggle for the overthrow of capitalist barbarity.

It works for the social alliance, the alliance of the working class
with the poor farmers and urban self-employed, in order to strengthen
the struggle in an anti-monopoly-anti-capitalist direction, focusing
on the development path which has the people’s needs and not profits
as its criterion.

The KKE’s struggle against the EU is not being waged from the
standpoint of utopian solutions that a union of the monopolies can be
transformed into a union of the peoples. Nor is it restricted to the
confrontation against the “integration processes” of the imperialist
union but poses the issue of withdrawal from the EU and NATO with
working class-people’s power and socialization of the concentrated
means of production.

This is also related to issues of sovereignty, independence. Our
party approaches these issues from a class standpoint, from the
standpoint of changing the class in power and the utilization of the
productive potential of the country and this is connected to the goal
of disengagement because otherwise the people’s sovereignty can not
be safeguarded, the bourgeois class will remain dominant, dozens of
ties of dependency will remain in place.

The fact that the KKE has ceased to separate social-democracy into
two sections -”good” and ‘bad’- and does not divide Greece’s
bourgeois class into a “national” section and a section “subservient
to foreigners” does not mean that the KKE does not take into account
and does not seriously study the differences that the political
parties in Greece have, as well as the existing contradictions inside
the bourgeois class, as well those amongst the strong capitalist
countries and amongst the imperialist unions. On the contrary! What
we have completely abandoned is the management of capitalism in any
form, a management that is linked to the rationale of
“left-progressive or patriotic governments”. We openly struggle so
that the working class in our country and internationally does not
fight “under a false flag”.

Someone could say: fine, these are the positions of the KKE but we
have other conditions in our country.

What is the basic issue?

We live in the era of monopoly capitalism, imperialism, the
characteristic feature to a greater of lesser extent of the economic
base of the capitalist state is the monopolies, which dominate all or
many sectors of the economy and own the means of production.

The bourgeois state is the “collective capitalist”, it is the state,
the power of the monopolies.

The working class is the exploited class.

Consequently, whatever “national specificities” exist they do not
change this situation, they do not change the basic rule, the
necessity of the socialist revolution, of the construction of
socialism, so that the exploitation of man by man is abolished and
the conditions for a classless society are formed.

The KKE does not refer to “models” of revolution, or to a mechanistic
transferring of the revolutionary experience. It assesses the
difficulties, the complex character of the revolutionary process. But
the basic issues are the following:

Are the laws of socialist revolution and construction valid or not?

Will the working class conquer power or not?

Will it struggle together with its allies, obviously in difficult
conditions and in conflict with the counterrevolution, for the
socialization of the means of production?

Will working class power attempt to implement central planning?

These are the problems which we are obliged to discuss, and we can
say that aphorisms regarding sectarianism impede this discussion,
conceal retreats and strategic impasses.

On the Crisis in the International Communist Movement

The KKE studied its history, the issues of socialism, the strategy of
the international communist movement. It came to useful conclusions
regarding the past, present and future and plays the leading role in
the struggle of the working class in Greece. Its positions and
experience, which are reflected in its party documents, public
statements in international forums, are recognized by many CPs.

Other CPs followed other paths. Some of them have cut the “umbilical
cord” with the October Revolution and abandoned our worldview (e.g.
CP USA) and our symbols (PCF). Some are in coalition governments or
seek to take part in such governments together with social-democrats
inside the framework of capitalism. They laud the imperialist EU and
fight to make it “better”. They support the imperialist
interventions, for example, in Libya and in the Central African
Republic (as parties from the ELP and GUE have done). These parties
have crossed the “Rubicon”, in the sense of their acquiring bourgeois
characteristics.

Other CPs did not take care over the last 25 years to focus on and
study the developments, to draw conclusions. So we see that some of
these parties repeat, for example, the positions of Gorbachev circa
1985 about “openness” and “democracy” to explain the causes for the
overthrow of socialism in the USSR.

Nevertheless, when conclusions are not drawn, the corresponding
changes to strategy and tactics on the basis of dialectical
materialism are not made. These CPs continue to “dogmatically”
support the strategy which most CPs had in the 1960s and 1970s and
which has assimilated all the mistaken viewpoints that we mentioned
above. And this leads them, despite the “revolutionary rhetoric” and
expression of loyalty to Marxism-Leninism, to struggle for the
improvement of capitalism through the rationale of its
“transformation”, through various versions of “left-progressive or
patriotic governments” on the terrain of capitalism.

The strengthening of opportunism is reflected in the
ideological-political and organizational crisis of the international
communist movement.

Of course, there are CPs that in very difficult conditions study the
developments, follow the discussion in the international communist
movement, take steps in the elaboration of their tactics and strategy
in the struggle to strengthen the labour and communist movement in
their countries and internationally.

On this basis, the unity of the communist movement can not be
constructed with faulty material, with parties that, even if they
keep the communist title, have abandoned Marxism-Leninism, use
bourgeois arguments concerning the history of the communist movement.

The unity of the international communist movement can only based on
the defense of Marxism-Leninism, on the struggle for the
revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, for the socialist revolution.

Despite the differences of the historical period, the experience
gained in confrontation against the opportunism of the 2nd
International is important for today because now an even greater
concentration of forces and discipline is required for the struggle
against opportunism, which is reinforced in various ways by the
imperialist powers, like the EU. A glaring example is the “European
Left Party” (ELP), which is funded by the EU. What unity can be built
with parties that are in the leadership of the ELP and have made
their choices? On what basis, with what goals?

What can be the goal, for example, of a Joint Declaration on the EU
parliamentary elections with parties of the “hard core” of the ELP,
this instrument that has been created in the EU’s framework for
“European Parties” and works to castrate the revolutionary communist
movement?

We leave to one side the fact these parties participated actively in
the election campaign of SYRIZA for the EU parliamentary elections
against the KKE, even if this is not insignificant, but we will focus
on the essence, the choices that create space for the development of
opportunist positions, fostering confusion amongst the workers and do
not in any way help the unity of the international communist movement.

The unity of the international communist movement in order to be
robust and stable can not be merely based on a minimum of issues,
where there may exist a consensus. What is required is a deeper
ideological-political unity of the CPs on the principles of
Marxism-Leninism, proletarian internationalism, the elaboration of a
modern revolutionary strategy.

Of course, the KKE has very responsibly dealt with forms that can
contribute to the exchange of views, and the development of joint
activity , like the International Meetings of the CPs and for this
reason it made great efforts from the very first years of the
counterrevolution up to today, efforts that have been appreciated by
many CPs.

The KKE also seeks joint activities on various issues with CPs that
have differences with it. In any case this is not something new. It
even seeks the study of serious topics for the development of the
strategy of the communist movement, the stable development of the
joint struggle against the EU, the forces of capital in Europe, it
participates in and supports the effort of the “INITIATIVE” of 29
Communist and Workers’ parties.

However the unity of the international communist movement goes beyond
this and has enormous demands. Even more so, it must be clear that
unity does not mean the imposition of positions via Joint Statements
when there are intense differences on positions of strategic
importance, as was attempted at the last International Meeting. This
attempt met with the opposition of the KKE and other CPs, not because
the KKE seeks the role of a “guide” or “leading centre”, these are
not serious assessments and have no relationship with reality. The
opposition of the KKE and other parties to the draft Joint Statement
was due to the fact that there were positions contained within it in
contradiction with the positions of the KKE and dozens of other CPs,
as well as with our theory. And the respect for the political line of
these CPs alone should have led to the option of reaching an
understanding, as the KKE has done several times in the past in the
Meetings in Athens, by not insisting on the issuing of a joint
statement.

In the run up to the 16th International Meeting of CPs in Guayaquil,
Ecuador, it is necessary for the correct conclusions to be drawn so
that there will not be a similar situation that is unpleasant for
everyone. Because unity can not be imposed, it must be built!

International Relations Section of the CC

Statement of Presbyterian Church on Cuba and USA
| July 4, 2014 | 4:18 pm | International, Latin America | No comments

Date: Friday, 2014 June 27 22:59

http://www.nnoc.info/presbyterian-church-u-s-a-takes-actions-regarding-cuba/

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Takes Actions Regarding CubaJun 27, 2014 by NNOC Admin« The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s Annual Report 2014 The just-concluded General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved two resolutions regarding Cuba. End Designation of Cuba as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” By a vote of 481 to 63, the General Assembly adopted resolution 11-03: “Petition the President of the United States and the U.S. Department of State to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism as soon as possible.” [1] The stated rationale for the resolution included the following:“[T]here is no evidence that Cuba has provided [logistical and financial or political support to groups that carry out terrorist attacks on civilians] in recent decades or is currently providing it.”“To the contrary, Cuba has made international commitments to combat terrorism, has ratified all twelve international counterterrorism conventions, and has offered to sign a bilateral agreement with the United States on counterterrorism.”“In an immediate response to the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., by Islamist militants belonging to Al Qaeda, Cuba expressed solidarity with the U.S, condemning the attacks and offering Cuban airports for the emergency diversion of airplanes from U.S. airports.”“Cuba is a sponsor of the peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo or FARC) guerrillas and the Columbian government and is playing a constructive mediating in these talks in an effort to bring an end to one of the regions’ longest-standing conflicts and has been lauded by the Columbian government for its assistance.”“Cuba collaborates with the U.S. in counter-drug traffic efforts, interdicting narcotic shipments in the Caribbean and has been publicly thanked by the United States government for this cooperation.”“Under these circumstances, keeping Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism weakens the credibility of the entire list. . . . Removing Cuba from the list would send a positive signal to all Latin American governments and would enhance the image of the U.S. in this hemisphere and around the world.”End Restrictions on U.S. Citizens Traveling to CubaBy a hand vote the General Assembly approved resolution 11-05: “Petition the President of the United States, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to remove all of the restrictions on travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba, which it is legally possible for them to do, and to openly and vigorously advocate to Congress the repeal of all laws restricting the constitutional right of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.” The resolution also stated: “Petition the majority and minority leaders of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to work to repeal all of the laws restricting travel to that nation.”The rationale for this resolution included the following: “[M]illions of U. S. citizens are unable to visit Cuba because of restrictions still in place that limit travel to that nation. Speaking to the Organization of American States in 2013, U. S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, stated that ‘our people are actually our best ambassadors.’ . . . Increased travel by U. S. citizens will help support thousands of . . . [new] Cuban entrepreneurs and will enable them to purchase food and clothing and provide for their other basic needs.” Consultation of U.S. and Cuban Presbyterian Churches The General Assembly also considered Resolution 11-06 calling for developing a process for consultation between the U.S. and Cuban Presbyterian churches. By a hand vote, it was referred back to the appropriate church committee to find the necessary funding for such a process in light of the U.S. church’s “commitment to deepening our relationship [with Cuba] by careful analysis of the ongoing complex situation in Cuba.”ConclusionThe biennial General Assembly is the national governing body of the Presbyterian church (U.S.A.) that brings together commissioners and advisory delegates from all 172 presbyteries in the U.S., as well as other delegates and observers from around the world.

Cuba responds to Google CEO’s call for open Internet
| July 4, 2014 | 4:14 pm | International, Latin America | No comments

Published July 02, 2014
EFE
The U.S. economic embargo prevents Cubans from accessing many Google services, Communist Party daily Granma said Wednesday, reacting to comments by the search giant’s chief during a recent visit to the island.

CEO Eric Schmidt and three other Google executives traveled to Cuba last week “to promote the virtues of a free and open Internet,” dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez said in a post on her site, 14ymedio.

Cuba is “one of the few countries in the world that cannot access a good part of the services” offered by Google because the California-based company is bound by the “unjust laws” of the U.S. economic embargo, Granma said.

Neither Android apps nor platforms such as Google Analytics are available to Internet users in Cuba, the newspaper said.

Granma noted that Schmidt criticized the U.S. embargo in comments online after his visit to Cuba.

Very few Cubans have Web access from their homes and the only option for most people is going to a government-run Internet cafe or to a hotel serving tourists.

Connection charges are steep for a country where the average monthly wage is $20.

While Cuba’s Internet links improved substantially with the arrival in 2011 of an underwater fiber-optic cable connecting the island with Venezuela, the government says it will take years to upgrade telecommunications infrastructure to the point where widespread home Web access will be possible. EFE

Father Geoffrey Bottoms sends a letter to President Obama
| July 4, 2014 | 4:09 pm | Cuban Five, International, Latin America | No comments

Father Geoffrey Bottoms is a British Catholic priest. He is an executive member of the British Cuba Solidarity Campaign and has visited Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, and Fernando González in their various US prisons and met regularly with their families. He also leads Group Study Tours of Cuba each year on behalf of the British campaign. Father Bottoms is a follower of liberation theology and is actively involved in the labour and trade movement. He is a member of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union in the UK.

July 5, 2014

Dear President Obama,

As a Catholic priest in Britain I have followed the case of five Cuban prisoners in the United States known as the Cuban Five since 2002. They were convicted in Miami of charges ranging from failure to disclose themselves as foreign agents to conspiracy to commit espionage and even murder and were given sentences stretching from fifteen years to double life. In reality they were defending their people against acts of terrorism by certain Cuban-American groups in Miami hostile to Havana that have killed almost three thousand five hundred people and injured over two thousand others.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the recommendation of its Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and Amnesty International have both raised concerns as to the fairness and impartiality of a trial that took place in such a hostile environment as Miami where there were irregularities in the due process of law. An International Commission of Inquiry held in London in March of 2014 led by three internationally renowned judges reached a similar conclusion.

I have attended three appeals on behalf of the Five in Miami and Atlanta and heard the arguments for myself. I have also visited three of the prisoners and met with their families and am convinced that there has been a gross miscarriage of justice.

Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez have both returned to Cuba having served their sentences but I am appealing for the release of Gerardo Hernandez serving double life in USP Victorville, California, Antonio Guerrero serving 22 years in FCI Marianna, and Ramon Labanino (known as Luis Medina) serving thirty years in FCI Ashland. The appeal process has now reached the stage of Habeas Corpus with fresh evidence having come to light of journalists in the pay of the US government writing biased reports both before and during the trial itself.

Mr. President, I know that you are a man of peace having won the Nobel Peace Prize and that you are also a man of faith who attempts to put his Christian principles into practice in public life. I therefore appeal for the release of the remaining three Cuban prisoners in the interests of furthering relations between the US and Cuba and world peace. Surely a humanitarian resolution to this case can be found?

The world has moved on since 1959 and it is obvious that US policy towards Cuba since then has failed to achieve its objectives. Meanwhile much suffering has been caused not least to these men and their families and especially Adriana, the wife of Gerardo Hernandez, who has been consistently denied a visa to visit her husband since 1998. I believe that they are victims of this failed strategy.

Both your country and Cuba stand to benefit from a relationship of mutual respect and co-operation and your presidency could be defined by ending decades of this sterile policy towards a noble and heroic developing country on your doorstep that only wishes to pursue its humanitarian future free from outside interference.

Can you do it? Yes you can!

With the greatest respect,

Fr. Geoffrey Bottoms
Sheffield UK.

ZunZuneo and the U.S. Policy
| June 29, 2014 | 8:19 pm | International, Latin America | No comments

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/06/27/destabiliziation-in-latin-america/

Destabiliziation in Latin America
June 27, 2014

ZunZuneo and the U.S. Policy
Destabiliziation in Latin America
by Matt Peppe

News from the AP about the U.S. government’s secret project to create a Cuban Twitter or “ZunZuneo,” to be used for disseminating propaganda and fomenting unrest in Cuba, spurring young people in that country to overthrow their government, comes as no surprise to anyone with even the most cursory understanding of U.S. policy in Cuba and Latin America in general. It is but a tiny part of a 55-year-old, completely unprovoked, genocidal policy against a nation whose only offense is failing to subordinate itself to the will of the U.S. government.

ZunZuneo was initiated and run by the ostensibly “humanitarian” U.S. Agency for International Development through a series of shell corporations which were not supposed to be traced back to the government. The project is typical of the type of subversion and interference with another nation that the U.S. government has always felt entitled to undertake, regardless of the principles of sovereignty and self-determination fundamental to international law.

Due to Cuba’s successful revolution in 1959 and their ongoing ability to resist U.S. subversion of their socioeconomic system, U.S. actions against the tiny nation in the Carribean have been harsher than any other victim who fails to recognize the U.S. as its rightful master. Early destabilization efforts included a vicious campaign of terrorism against Cuba, part of a massive CIA effort that later evolved into a policy of providing safe haven to terrorist exile groups and looking the other way as they violate the U.S. Neutrality Act and international law.

The largest act of subversion is, of course, the blockade, euphemistically known in the U.S. as an “embargo.” The U.S. blockade against Cuba has now lasted more than a half century as a punishment for Cuba achieving self-determination. The blockade is an act of warfare, as it is based on the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 (TWEA), which is only applicable during times of war. The blockade has been expanded and strengthened over the years with various violations of international law such as the Helms-Burton Act and the Torricelli Act. The policy of the U.S. blockade has been found to be an illegal violation of international law for 22 straight years by 99% of the world’s nations, who have demanded its end.

The attempted subversion of a country’s political system is not unique to U.S. actions against Cuba, nor is it unique to USAID. Other U.S. government agencies, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), have long carried out similar actions. Such organizations purport to be apolitical groups for “democratic” promotion but are in reality nothing more than fronts, essentially political action committees (PACs). Due to the concealment of their purpose, they are more like political slush funds used to advanced the perceived interest of the United States.

Of course, they are not used to promote American “values” or “humanitarian principles” with abstract names like “freedom” and “democracy”, but the interests of the corporate sector eager to seek new investment opportunities outside their own country and control over the resources that they refuse to recognize as the property of local populations.

For example, over the last 15 years in Venezuela the U.S. spent $90 million funding opposition groups, including $5 million in the current federal budget. During this time, since Hugo Chavez first assumed office, his revolutionary party has won 18 elections and lost only 1. The margins of victory during Chavez’s tenure reached higher than 20%. After his death, his hand-picked successor Nicolás Maduro won by a margin of 1.6% in 2012. This is a very narrow margin, to be sure, but as Dan Kovalik points out it is a margin of victory larger than JFK’s victory over Richard Nixon and certainly larger than George Bush’s victory over Al Gore. Bush actually lost the popular vote but was declared the winner by the Supreme Court in an instance of political mettling that would be hard to imagine in any other democracy in the world.

Despite the success of the Chavista party, the opposition, aided and abetted by the U.S. government, has tried to portray the elections as “questionable” or “illegitimate”. Secretary of State John Kerry led the way by calling for a recount, encouraging the opposition to challenge the results of the election and refuse to concede.

“Washington’s efforts to de-legitimise the election mark a significant escalation of US efforts at regime change in Venezuela,” wrote Mark Weisbrot. “Not since its involvement in the 2002 military coup has the US government done this much to promote open conflict in Venezuela… It amounted to telling the government of Venezuela what was necessary to make their elections legitimate.”

In fact, international organizations monitoring the Venezuelan Presidential vote attested to the “fair and transparent” election process and former President Jimmy Carter called the country’s electoral system “the best in the world.”

The U.S. government has also refused to recognize the vast advances social progress made under the current government. Under Chavez, the country drastically reduced poverty, especially extreme poverty, with the latter falling from 23.4% in 1999 to 8.5% in 2011. As the government has put its massive revenues from oil sales to use to provide universal education and health care for all Venezuela’s citizens, people traditionally shut out of the country’s economic gains have benefited tremendously. Venezuela has gone from one of the highest rates of income inequality in Latin America to the lowest, a truly Herculean accomplishment.

Yet this does not even factor into the U.S.’s policy toward Venezuela. As a cable published by Wikileaks from 2006 demonstrates, the U.S. policy of destabilization and regime change against Hugo Chavez was pursued until his death. Now, with the perceived weakness of Maduro and the propaganda value of violent street protests portrayed in the international media as a “student movement”, it seems that Kerry is like a shark who smells blood in the water when he slanderously proclaims a “terror campaign” and foments further unrest.

U.S. government officials must feel frustrated at their inability to project their will for Venezuela to be subservient to the United States. After all, it has proved much easier in countries such as Honduras to oust a democratically elected President as happened with Manuel Zelaya.

“Zelaya was initiating such dangerous measures as a rise in minimum wage in a country where 60 percent live in poverty. He had to go,” wrote Noam Chomsky, who goes on to note that the U.S. virtually alone in the world in recognizing the “elections” later held under military rule of Pepe Lobo. “The endorsement also preserved the use of Honduras’ Palmerola air base, increasingly valuable as the U.S. military is being driven out of most of Latin America.”

Unsurprisingly, four years after the coup a Center for Economic and Policy Research report finds that “much of the economic and social progress experienced from 2006 – 2009 has been reversed in the years since,” with “economic inequality in Honduras” rising “dramatically.”

The next success of Obama’s administration in Latin America was the coup in Paraguay, in which the right-wing, elite opposition was able to drive democratically-elected Fernando Lugo from the Presidency and thus stop his program of promoting land rights for a long-oppressed peasant population.

“The United States promotes the interests of the wealthy of these mostly-poor countries, and in turn, these elite-run countries are obedient to the pro-corporate foreign policy of the United States,” writes Shamus Cooke.

There was also the coup last year against the progressive former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, Gustavo Petro. His supposed abuse of power was de-privatizing garbage collection in the capital city, which allegedly harmed the “freedom of free enterprise.” The anti-democratic actions in Colombia, a beneficiary of an enormous amount of U.S. aid, have not affected the U.S. policy toward the nation. Kovalik notes that the actions taken against Petro are part of a much larger pattern.

“While the press, as well as the U.S. government, will not acknowledge it, the elimination of progressive political leaders by coup d’ état is taking place in Latin America with increasing frequency,” Kovalik writes.
Of course this is part of long-standing U.S. policy that has destroyed democracies in countries such as Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and many other nations since the end of WWII alone. The anti-democratic measures enabled and supported by the U.S. have taken decades to recover from, if the nations victimized have been able to recover at all.

Media reporting of the story has tended to downplay or apologize for the Cuban Twitter program by stressing the U.S. government denials that it was meant to overthrow the government, or it was beneficial in allowing Cubans to communicate with each other.

Not surprisingly, Cubans themselves do not see it this way. They understandably do not appreciate an underhanded attempt to collect their personal data or to use them as pawns in a political game.

This should be a reasonable position for any American to understand. Would you support China or Russia setting up a social network meant to overthrow your government to impose one more to their liking?

Certainly not. The plot in the fictitious House of Cards of infiltration of the U.S. political process by foreign money probably seems shocking to the average American. In this country, it is a crime for foreign countries or nationals to influence democracy and domestic affairs through political contributions.In reality, this is exactly what the U.S. government has carried out in foreign countries for decades. ZunZuneo is demonstrable proof they continue to do so to this day. ZunZuneo is not just a case of USAID and the U.S. government getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar. It is part of an ongoing assault against sovereignty and self-determination of any country who opposes U.S. foreign policy. People of these countries are just as smart, capable, and deserving of a government independent of outside interference as U.S. citizens are.By simply recognizing that their government has no business in determining another country’s political affairs, and demanding that their government stop spending their tax dollars to do so, U.S. citizens could do more to advance democracy and the ideals their country claims to stand for than the U.S. government has ever done.

Matt Peppe holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at SUNY Albany and a bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature from NYU. His writing about U.S. foreign policy and Latin America has appeared in Countercurrents, La Respuesta Magazine and other outlets. You can read his blog or follow him on twitter.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/06/27/destabiliziation-in-latin-america/