Yesterday I was arguing with a friend about the importance of journalism in the current Cuban situation. He wanted to convince me to join his opposition party and I reminded him that a reporter should not have any kind of militancy. It was an affectionate conversation, peppered with jokes, but one which made clear the different positions that must be taken by a reporter versus a politician.

Now here I am, remembering the conversation of a few hours ago and posting on my personal blog the face and name of a shared dream. A medium that we hope will support and accompany the necessary transition that is going to take place in our country. A space dedicated to narrating a reality where there are people like my friend, but also other people who applaud the current system, out of conviction, opportunism or fear. A space to report on Cuba from within Cuba.

It will be a difficult road. In recent weeks we have seen a preview of how official propaganda will demonize us for creating this medium. Already, in fact, several people on our work team have received the first warning calls from State Security. However, we have no reason to be hesitant. 14ymedio emerges with nothing to hide. Information regarding its editorial approach, ethics and financial commitments will be available on our web page which will go live on May 21. Although we had hoped to have it working today, I have to admit that technology is, at times, extremely capricious.

For those who are wondering why this name, so unique and different, the fact is that we originate from the fourteenth floor in the fourteenth year. In addition, it includes the “Y” that has accompanied me all these years, and the word “media” with all its journalistic connotations. We wanted to shy away from appropriating the name of Cuba for use on our masthead, and instead we have chosen the most universal of codes: numbers.

Now, all that’s missing is that it pleases you, generates debate, and provides you with information. Thanks in advance!

43 thoughts on “14ymedio

  1. All this is a bunch of crap. The only way Cuba will change is sending the Castro gang to Hell and establish a new order. This newspaper is just a way that this lady have to make money from the foolish Americans politicians, we the TP have to pay for this bullshit.

  2. Pingback: Yoani Sánchez lanceert digitale krant | CUBA

    PRAVDA: Colombian Paramilitaries brought into Venezuela – 15.05.2014

    Pravda ru is a Russian online tabloid not ashamed to feature woo, denialism, and various conspiracy theories. It also covers “normal” news, but often with a heavy Russian nationalist slant. Pravda means “truth” in Russian, something you probably won’t get by surfing on it. Pravda.ru is not to be confused with Pravda, the former Soviet Communist newspaper, which is currently a Russian-language newspaper owned by the Communist Party of Russian Federation. The name (and a few former collaborators, apparently) is the sole link with that newspaper.

  4. Previous post:

    I do “know” non-pig Cuban farmers.

    Hank, about your other question.

    What would Nick do if a Cuban pig farmer told him what he doesn’t want to hear? Simple, Nick wouldn’t listen. He never listens on this blog, does he?

  5. Hank,

    Unlike Nick, I don’t know any Cuban pig farmer friends.

    I do not non-pig Cuban farmers, and they live under the same dictatorship as the Cuban pig farmers.

    Perhaps pig farmers have special knowledge of CIA conspiracies, but more likely they can just smell a Marxist comrade coming from 100 miles away.

    I imagine 8 out of 10 Cuban pig farmers will tell Nick exactly what he wants to hear. And the other 2 out of 10 tell him more or less what he wants to hear.

    Since I don’t go around Cuba foaming at the mouth about CIA conspiracies and the evil USA, the Cuban farmers I know tell me what they really think.


    Ukraine loses Donbass and Crimea for good
    Russia respects the will of the residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, the press service of the Kremlin said.

    Moscow set out a hope for a dialogue between representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk. The Kremlin also pointed out the high turnout at the referendum, despite attempts to disrupt the vote.

    The press service of the Kremlin also noted that Russia condemns the use of force against civilians in Ukraine, including the use of heavy weapons.

    Co-chair of the public movement “The Donetsk Republic,” Tatiana Dvoryadkina, in an interview with Pravda.Ru, shared her views on what may happen in Ukraine after the referendums in Luhansk and Donetsk republics.

    “What may be the consequences of the referendum that took place in the breakaway republics of Luhansk and Donetsk? What’s next?”

    “After the results are announced, we will then legally register the Donetsk People’s Republic as a subject in two or three days. We then expect to appeal to the junta, to offer them a civilized divorce, solve everything and then we will set off for an independent journey. We will continue to consult with economists on our independence, and we will announce the outcome by the end of the week.”

    “How did the referendum go?”

    “We cried with happiness. So many people came – we certainly did not expect that. Yesterday, the journalists, who were present at polling stations, said they personally saw the ballots being counted. For example, at one poll station, seven thousand people voted, of whom only 100 people voted against the republic. At another, smaller poll station, three thousand people voted, and only ten of them were against. So it turns out we have about 74-76 percent of those, who voted “for” the republic. The people came and were standing for 3-4 hours in lines to take part in the referendum.

    “All is well, unless they put a spoke in wheel. In the village of Selidovo, a few kilometers from Donetsk, there are tanks. In Krasnoarmeysk, two people were killed yesterday – Kolomoisky’s army is there. They introduced themselves as the army “Dnepr.” They arrived, cordoned off the area and killed people. APCs, the Right Sector are surrounding us.”

    “What do you think will happen if Russia recognizes the results?”

    “I do not know it yet, we will have to discuss these questions. We were planning to arrange mass festivities, as it was in the Crimea, but the weather did not let us. So we will have to sit down and discuss everything.”
    “Ukraine has lost the Crimea and Donbas – does one have to recognize it as reality?”

    “Of course, as we can not be brothers and sisters, if they kill us. Yesterday, a man was assaulted for wearing a St. George ribbon. What do they want to shoot us for? For our wish to hold a referendum? Ukraine has lost the Crimea and Donbass for good. Let them send tanks and APCs against us, but we will stand tall till the end.”

    In the Luhansk region, according to preliminary data, about 95.98 percent of voters voted for federalization, deputy chairman of the Central Election Commission Alexander Malykhin said.

    “We are having the final count of votes in the northern territories of the Luhansk region, where the APCs of the National Guard blocked poll stations,” said Malykhin. He said that the turnout for the referendum made up 70 percent in Luhansk and 81percent – in the Luhansk region.

    Most residents of Ukraine’s Donbass (90 percent of voters) voted for state independence of the Donetsk region at the referendum on the status of the region, the chairman of the Central Election Commission of the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk, Roman Lyagin said.

    “Since counting ballots was surprisingly easy, the number of people who voted against was relatively small, and we were able to count everything fairly quickly and easily. The figures are as follows: “for” – 89.7%, “against” – 10.19% and 0.74% of ballots were ruined,” said Lyagin.

    The official and final protocol will be announced on Monday, May 12.


    Colombian Paramilitaries brought into Venezuela

    15.05.2014 18:30

    For 10 years the political right, with its allies abroad, has supported the transfer of Colombian paramilitaries for its violent plan against Venezuela. This is an act of intrusion, of sedition and terrorism against a constitutional, democratically elected Government. The west, once again, says one thing and does another.

    Since 2004, the Venezuelan right, with support from its allies abroad, has included the use of Colombian paramilitaries as a key part of the plan of sedition against Venezuelan democracy and constitutional government. Last May 9 completed a decade since the capture of 153 Colombian paramilitaries hired to assassinate the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, and bring chaos to Caracas and the rest of the country.

    The information gathered by the Venezuelan intelligence detailing the operation to thwart that attempt was made in the early hours of Sunday, Mother’s Day, when employees of the defunct Directorate of Police Intelligence (DISIP), currently Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) and the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DIM) entered Daktari farm, located in El Hatillo municipality in the state of Miranda, near Caracas, owned by businessman Robert Alonso, who is currently a fugitive from Venezuelan justice and lives in Miami, United States, from where he conspires against Venezuela.

    Venezuelan intelligence agencies found that the paramilitaries had planned to assassinate Chavez during a dinner with bankers in Casona (presidential residence), while other irregular units would assail the Miraflores Palace and others would go to the armory located at the National Regional Guard Command # 5 and air base of La Carlota. An aviation official seized an aircraft to bomb the headquarters of government.

    The property owner, Alonso, joined the “Plan Guarimba” and the rightist coalition “Democratic Coordination” (the main promoter of the coup executed in April 2002), the predecessor of the current opposition coalition, called the Bureau of Democratic Unity (MUD).The business is now known as “Greater Guarimbero” and received help from Miami’s violent groups calling for the overthrow of President Nicolas Maduro and performing terrorist acts that have left, since February this year, 41 people killed – and hundreds wounded among the wreckage in public and private institutions – including arson attacks and murders carried out by snipers, in the continuing plan to end the Bolivarian Revolution, which 15 years ago implemented social policies of fair redistribution of wealth in the country, which has on its soil the largest oil reserves on the planet.

    Pedro Carmona Estanga, the coup leader who usurped power in Miraflores during the coup of 2002; former Secretary General of Democratic Action (AD), Rafael Marín; the entrepreneur Gustavo Zigg Machado; the then First Deputy of Justice (PJ) Liliana Hernández and the military coup member Jael Contreras Rangel were linked to the assassination of some persons, identified by Venezuelan authorities as a result of subsequent investigations and confessions of paramilitaries.

    “Killing with a foreign Knife”

    In 2006, the direct involvement of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was confirmed in the paramilitary invasion of the State of Miranda. The statements of the former director of the Computer Administrative Department of Security (DAS) Rafael García thus confirmed.

    “Yes , there was a destabilization plan against the Venezuelan government and many people committed in the Colombian government,” said Garcia in a statement to Colombia Week Magazine, about which he also expressed that “the plan contemplated the murder of several leaders of that country (Venezuela).”

    In this context, last May 02, the Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace Affairs, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, reiterated that in the current terrorist actions against Venezuela, Uribe is also deeply rooted. “Seeing that the hand of Álvaro Uribe is behind these plans ( … ) gives us chills. He’s the master of false positives, an expert in what they call there ‘Killing with a foreign knife’ “, stated the Minister.

    In the book “The paramilitary invasion, Operation Daktari” (2012), by Luis Britto García and Miguel Pérez Pirela, Rodríguez Torres (director of Sebin while capturing the paramilitaries) reports that in a meeting held on April 23, 2004 (infiltrated by Sebin) among Air Force officers and National Guard – later arrested – an officer asked why they would use Colombian paramilitaries and “a National Guard commander lieutenant colonel, said that it was necessary to use Colombian paramilitaries because first, they were not Venezuelans, and second, they would not have problems of conscience in shooting because they would not be shooting their fellow countrymen. What mattered to them was payment. This was the answer”.

    In the same meeting, there was talk about the plan to bomb the programme Alô Presidente, which would be held on April 25 in Maracaibo, Zulia State. This plan was also defeated. Before the discovery of the Colombian paramilitaries in the Daktari estate, and these confessions including recognition of the Colombian government, the political right wing chose to disqualify the fact through their media companies and political tribunes. Just as they did with the 58 foreigners held by security organisms during conflicts.

  8. FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: A secret recording shocks chavismo – by Juan Nagel

    Venezuelans are used to seeing private political conversations thrust into the public sphere. The mischief-maker most known for airing gossip is Mario Silva, the chavista shock jock and host of the state TV daily commentary show “The Razorblade.” Silva has long made a practice of broadcasting the apparently compromising conversations of politicians that displeased the late President Hugo Chávez. Chávez would even frequently lend his support by calling in; sometimes he even appeared on the air.

    A self-declared Marxist and radical revolutionary, Silva has long been untouchable. His broadcasting of private conversations — something Venezuelan law expressly forbids — is typically done with complete impunity. Yesterday, however, the proverbial shoe was on the other foot, as Venezuela’s opposition presented a secret recording of Silva himself that shocked the political spectrum.

    In the one-hour recording made public yesterday, Silva is overheard in a face-to-face conversation with an agent of Cuba’s Intelligence Services, giving him what would appear to be a briefing of the inner workings of chavista corruption. The main target of Silva’s rant was none other than Diosdado Cabello, the president of the National Assembly (Venezuela’s single-chamber Parliament) most recently (in)famous for taking away opposition lawmakers’ right to speak inside Parliament, along with their salaries.

    Long seen as the main rival to Maduro, Cabello comes across in the recording as a scheming oligarch, wanting “to control everything” but “not interested in being president.” According to Silva, Cabello is the head of a tangled web of fraudulent companies taking advantage of Venezuela’s currency exchange controls. He said that Cabello uses his influence to fleece the state by obtaining cheap dollars without merit, which he then sells in the black market for enormous profits.

    Cabello’s main accomplices in this scheme according to Silva are the Venezuelan tax agency and CADIVI, the office in charge of administering the fixed exchange rate regime. He also claimed that there’s a faction within the military that’s beholden to Cabello and opposed to Maduro. Silva alleges that Venezuela’s recent devaluations were carried out as a way of restraining Cabello and his cronies.

    More seriously, Silva claims that the Venezuelan elections system can be tampered with, and wonders if recent election results were modified by the Cabello faction. He suggests that Maduro is a weak president who is controlled by his wife. Finally, he also says that, a few days before the election, Maduro saw his own face magically appear in a painting of Chávez that hangs in the museum where Chávez is buried. (Silva says he feared that if the story were leaked, Maduro would be labeled as “insane” and would lose the election.)

    The way that it plays out will reflect who holds the key to power within chavismo: either the heavily corrupt, nationalist military wing headed by Cabello or the radical, pro-Cuban wing that Silva represents. Early indications are that Silva is backtracking on all the claims he made on tape and even suspending his show for unexplained “medical reasons.” Though still early, Silva’s apparent self-immolation suggests Cabello’s power inside the revolution is remarkably resilient.

    As disturbing as the revelations are, they are not terribly shocking. Authoritarian regimes seldom find it easy to handle succession when a larger-than-life leader dies. It happened in Russia with the de-Stalinization process after the death of the dictator. It also happened in China when Mao Zedong died and his successors quickly acted against the “Gang of Four.” Something similar could be under way in Venezuela.

    Then again, this could also mark the beginning of the unraveling of chavismo. This echoes what happened in Peru in the year 2000, when a series of videos of politicians being bribed leaked by an intelligence mastermind led to the toppling of Alberto Fujimori’s regime. The opposition has said more videos are on their way.


  9. RAW STORY NEWS: Harvard honors jailed Venezuelan opposition leader with alumni award – by Agence France-Presse
    Harvard University announced Friday that it had given an annual alumni achievement award to jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez for his “support of democracy and transparency.” Lopez, who has been held in a military prison since he was arrested in February in the midst of a massive opposition protest rally, is a 1996 graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Master in Public Policy program. The arrest of Lopez and other opposition leaders for allegedly inciting deadly violence has helped fuel ongoing demonstrations protesting rampant crime, runaway inflation and shortages of basic goods.

    “Lopez took a leading role, demanding an open discussion about the constitutional way to deliver the changes that the population demanded,” Harvard’s alumni board said in a statement.

    He was the first recipient to receive the university’s Alumni Achievement Award in absentia.

    His wife, Lilian Tintori, who is currently on a visit to the United States, traveled to Boston on Thursday to receive it.

    Harvard highlighted Lopez’s role in the protests and as mayor of Chacao, a municipality of Caracas that he was elected to govern at age 29.

    “After finishing his term as mayor of Chacao in 2008 with a 92 percent approval rating, Lopez was favored to become mayor of Caracas,” the statement said.

    “Amid his growing popularity, the government banned Lopez from running for any elected position.”



  10. Neutral Observer,

    I read Nick’s latest, as you did.

    I also read your brilliant reply and your comments regarding the misery that is Cuba. I know of similar examples, and much worse, as I am sure you do too.

    Nick seems to have huge respect for Cuban pig farmers and what they think about issues like biological warfare.

    I have no reason to not respect Cuban pig farmers. I don’t actually know any Cuban pig farmers myself, but Nick’s odd reply regarding biological warfare and his unquestioning belief that such a thing has taken place, based on what Cuban pig farmers have told him, raises questions, to put it mildly.

    If a Cuban pig farmer were to tell Nick that regime change in Cuba, via free and fair elections, is a good thing, would Nick believe him?

    If that same Cuban pig farmer were to take Nick aside and whisper in his ear to tell him that blowing innocent civilians out of the sky goes against every norm of civilized society, would Nick believe him?

    What if a Cuban pig farm cooperative were to get together and say to Nick, “We think you should be more open-minded and read books whose premise you may not agree with,” would Nick believe them?

    What if the Cuban pig farmers told Nick they were tired of seeing their countrymen enslaved by the dictatorship that rules Cuba? Nick might ask, “What do you mean by enslaved?” To which the Cuban pig farmers might reply, “No Cuban citizen has the right to work for a living wage. Instead, any foreign corporation that wants to do business here has to pay the dictatorship to hire its slaves, the Cuban citizens, and the slaves get paid a fraction of the wage that is paid to the dictatorship.”

    And then the Cuban pig farmer might let Nick in on a little secret. The secret is that if a foreign business actually does well in Cuba, the Cuban government expropriates the business and takes it away.

    I wonder if Nick would believe the Cuban pig farmers if they told him any of these things?

    Or maybe Nick wouldn’t care about any of this because it doesn’t affect him. Nick would probably just chuckle while drinking his mojito with the false security of his airplane ticket in his pocket to get him out of that place.

  11. History: The Power Struggle in Ukraine and America’s Strategy for Global Supremacy…A REALITY AND THE “INVISIBLE HAND” BEHIND CONFLICT IN THE WORLD …

    By Peter Schwarz
    Global Research, May 15, 2014
    Originally published on Global Research on December 26th, 2004.

    In 1997, former US security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski published a book entitled The Grand Chessboard that attracted considerable attention and treated America’s strategy for global supremacy. By chessboard, Brzezinski meant Eurasia, the enormous land mass comprising two continents and containing the majority of the world’s population.

    According to the core thesis of the book, “America’s capacity to exercise global primacy” depends on whether America can prevent “the emergence of a dominant and antagonistic Eurasian power.” Brzezinski then concluded: “Eurasia is thus the chessboard on which the struggle for global primacy continues to be played.”

    How the change of power in Ukraine was prepare

    While the US has sought for a long time to remove Ukraine from the sphere of Russian influence, its support for the opposition around Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko is of more recent origin. More precisely, this opposition only developed when serious tensions emerged between the US government and long-time Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.

    Kuchma, who replaced Leonid Kravchuk in 1994 as president, was quite prepared to work closely with the US and the European Union. He cooperated fully with the International Monetary Fund, expressed himself in favour of European Union membership and even lodged a formal request in May 2002 for NATO membership. Ukraine also sent its own troops to Iraq, to support the American occupation of the country.

    Kuchma was always forced, however, to maintain a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, he worked against the break-up of Ukraine into an eastern region oriented to Russia and a western half of the country that looked to the West–a threat that hung in the air continuously after Ukraine established its independence. On the other hand, he had to take into account the country’s strong economic dependence on Russia. In particular, the Ukrainian power supply depends nearly completely on Russian oil and gas.

    Kuchma made absolutely clear, however, that he was determined to maintain the independence of Ukraine, which is the guarantor of the wealth of the national elite. The dissolution of the Soviet Union, which had been sealed by Kuchma’s predecessor Kravchuk together with the Russian president Boris Yeltsin and Belarus’s Stanislav Shushkevic at the end of 1991, created the conditions for the concentration of social wealth in the hands of a few clans of oligarchs. This policy of “unrestrained privatisation” swept through Ukraine and Russia during the 1990s and was unreservedly supported by the Great Powers.

    Kuchma is closely connected with the oligarch clan of his hometown Dnipropetrovsk, which is led by his son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk. Pinchuk is regarded as the boss of the oligarch clans of Donetsk and is the second-richest man in of the country after Rinat Achmetov.

    The leader of the opposition, Viktor Yushchenko, stood loyally at the side of Kuchma during the period of privatisation. In 1993, he took over as president of the Ukrainian central bank and acted as the country’s contact man for international finance. In 1999, he was appointed prime minister by Kuchma. The second leading figure in the opposition, Yulia Tymoshenko, followed in the wake of Kuchma’s Dnipropetrovsk clan into high government office. She was a member of the Yushchenko government and made millions through dealing in natural gas.

    Kuchma dismissed Yushchenko in April 2001. His policy of opening the country up to international capital through reform of the energy sector encountered resistance from the clans of oligarchs in the east of the country. After a temporary solution, Kuchma finally appointed the scion of the Donetsk clan, Viktor Yanukovich, as prime minister.

    Nevertheless, the US still refused to exclude any and all cooperation with Kuchma and Yanukovich. In the autumn of 2003, both men visited the US. Kuchma met with President George W. Bush, while Yanukovich was received by Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials. A year before, a meeting of ministers in Prague had agreed upon a timetable for Ukraine’s admission into NATO.

    However, tensions developed that finally pushed Kuchma more closely in the direction of Moscow and were crucial in the decision by the US to give substantial support to the opposition candidate.

    First, there was the so-called Kolchuga affair. Two years ago, Washington accused Kuchma of personally certifying sales of the early warning system Kolchuga to Iraq.

    In contrast to conventional radar systems, the Ukrainian early warning system works passively and cannot be located by the airplanes it has detected. With a range of 800 kilometres, it is considered to be the most effective of its kind. Iraqi defence batteries would have been able to detect oncoming US planes without giving away their own location.

    Supported by the US accusations, a Kiev judge launched an investigation into Kuchma’s activity on suspicion of corruption, misuse of power and arms trafficking with Iraq. He was supported by the Ukrainian opposition. The supreme court, however, intervened to stop the procedure.

    Kuchma always rejected the accusations made by the US government, and no proof was ever found that the Kolchuga system was supplied to Iraq. Nevertheless, relations between Ukraine and the US deteriorated in 2002 as a result of the affair. Kuchma tried once again to improve relations in the following year by dispatching Ukrainian troops to Iraq–a decision that met with broad popular opposition.

    Oil and gas

    A second point at issue is the control and use of Ukraine’s oil and gas pipelines. For Russia, Ukraine is the most important transit country for its oil and gas exports. The large pipelines, built since the 1970s, linking Soviet oil and gas fields and western Europe, make their way across Ukrainian territory. For their part, the US and the European Union have sought for some time to establish a transportation route for oil from the Caspian region that bypasses Russia, using Ukraine for this purpose.

    A pipeline has been built extending from Odessa to Brody, connecting the Black Sea to the Polish border. Caspian oil can now be pumped through Georgia to the Black Sea, and after a short transit by sea directly to Polish refineries, and from there to Europe. Both Russia and the bottleneck represented by the Bosporus strait are bypassed en route.

    The pipeline, 674 kilometres in length, was completed in May 2002, with the support of the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown, and has since then stood empty. The pipeline is waiting for oil from the Caspian region as well as the connecting pipeline in Poland, which still has to be built.

    Eventually, the Ukrainian government negotiated with Russian oil companies over use of the pipeline in the reverse direction. Russian oil could thereby be shipped from Odessa over the Black Sea and exported to the world market. For a period of five months, a section of the pipeline was actually used for this purpose. Then alarm bells began to ring in Washington. Cheney personally pressed Yanukovich during his visit to Washington to refuse to agree to the use of the pipeline in the opposite direction. In February of this year, the cabinet in Kiev finally passed an appropriate resolution. Since then, the pipeline has been inoperative.

    The influence of Russian energy companies in Ukraine is also regarded with concern by Washington. Two years ago, ambassador Carlos Pascual sharply criticised the Gazprom company (which has links to the Russian state) at a meeting of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. One has the impression, he said, that Russian companies received investment possibilities “without paying the full value of the assets that they are investing in, which is not good for Ukraine.”

    Herbst went on: “[T]here are a couple of examples recently that, I think, are to Ukraine’s strategic disadvantage, particularly in the gas and oil sector. In the recent agreement that was signed between Gazprom and Naftogaz [Ukraine’s national gas and oil company] on the development of an international consortium, that agreement…specifically states that those two companies together must decide on any management proposals for an international consortium to control Ukraine’s international gas transit system. In other words, Gazprom has a veto over what Ukraine wants to do in the management of its gas transit system. Gazprom cannot be happier: This has been one of the things that they have been seeking to get since 1992.”

    There can be no doubt that Washington’s interests will be better protected by Yushchenko than by Yanukovich, who is supported by Moscow. In addition, Yushchenko has emphasised his attachment to the values of “the rule of law” and the free-market economy–shorthand for security and guarantees for foreign investment funds.

    Conflicts between the Great Powers

    US ambitions for global supremacy are encompassing ever-larger parts of the globe. In the course of the struggle for the Ukrainian presidency, American and Russian interests have clashed in a manner and sharpness that vividly recall the period of the Cold War. Following the bloody conflict in the Balkans and the forcible subjection of Iraq, Ukraine and Russia itself threaten to become the scene of violent struggles.

    European–and above all, German–interests are also directly affected by the change of power in Ukraine, and, in the longer term, the two rising Asiatic great powers, China and India, are also involved. In addition to purely geostrategic criteria, another issue just as important for the world economy of the twenty-first century lies at the heart of this conflict–control of the worldwide power supply of oil and gas. In this respect, the significance of the issues fought out in Ukraine recall the conflicts that erupted in Europe at the start of the twentieth century over control of mineral resources.

    If one considers the fact that the European Union receives nearly 20 percent of its oil and 44 percent of its gas imports from Russia, with 80 percent of these products passing through Ukrainian pipelines, then the significance of the balance of power in Ukraine for the economic future of Europe becomes clear.

    As is well known, conflicts over the mineral ore reserves of Lorraine and the coal of the Ruhr district contributed largely to the outbreak of the First World War. The situation with regard to international energy and transport routes is just as explosive today. For the time being, the disputes are still being conducted on a political level, characterised by manoeuvres and tactical shifts. But all the conditions for a further escalation are present. America’s strategy for supremacy threatens to plunge mankind into a maelstrom that will make the current Iraq war appear relatively benign.

  12. Nick,

    As you know, you praised the cold-blooded murder of civilians flying their Cessnas in international airspace.

    Nothing was said about terrorists flying over your house and no Cessnas flew over your Cuban pig farmer friend’s house either.

    Just you saying that you would blow civilians out of the sky out in internationals waters.

    Why do you keep misrepresenting what you and others say on this blog?

    CIA swine flu conspiracies? Well, if a pig farmer told you so, it must be true.

    Did the same pig farmer also tell you that hurricanes love Cubans and only kill capitalists?

    Or did Fidel Castro invent a cure for death? He did, after all, invent a Super Cow that turned Cuba into a land of plenty.

    So maybe Castro has a cure for death as well. Maybe the CIA won’t let us get our hands on this latest miracle of socialism.

    What does your pig farmer friend say?

    Nick, it is your prerogative to believe that hurricanes love Cuba and hate the USA. Whatever makes you happy.

    Hands Off Venezuela! Right-wing Destabilization Campaign, Seaks to Seize State Power
    What Has Been Happening Since February and Why It Matters

    By Susan Spronk
    Global Research, May 04, 2014
    Socialist Project

    The recent destabilization campaign waged by the right-wing opposition has yet again made Venezuela a darling of the international media.

    While there is always a deafening media silence when the Bolivarian government wins an electoral mandate, throughout the month of February 2014 viewers were assailed with images of “innocent” student protesters – mostly from the academic bastion of the Venezuelan elite, the Central University of Venezuela – being brutalized by state security forces.

    Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro announces new initiatives to address current economic problems, arguing that population’s universal welfare is a key aim behind policymaking.

    Apparently the axe that has chopped budgets for investigative journalism has fallen heavily on Venezuela. Mainstream media outlets re-broadcast images from Twitter without bothering to fact-check, not realizing that they were actually from places like Egypt and Syria or that they depicted Venezuelan state security forces that had been disbanded two years ago. The February traumas were almost another “media coup” in the making.

    The mainstream media’s attempts to manufacture consent and condone the opposition-sponsored violence against the Maduro government should ring alarm bells for anyone on the left. While we can have legitimate debates about how anti-capitalist the Bolivarian revolution has truly been, since Hugo Chávez took office in 1999 “the process” (as it is known in Venezuela) has achieved the greatest redistribution of social wealth since the Cuban Revolution in 1959. As well, “twenty-first century socialism” should be distinguished from earlier historical versions because of its commitment to democratic forms of decision-making. By fostering forms of democratic control over the economy through systems such as workers’ collectives and community councils, Venezuela is experimenting with what may be the most radical attempts to decentralize decision-making to the local level.

    Twenty-First Century Socialism

    For these reasons, socialists ranging from Karachi, Pakistan to Toronto, Canada have demanded that imperialist powers keep their “hands off Venezuela.” Not only does Venezuela give us much to learn from this creative experiment with “twenty-first century socialism,” but it also continues to play a crucial role in Latin America and the rest of the world – opening spaces for the election of left governments and inspiring extra-parliamentary movements that demand radical social change.

    However, it is important to recognize that as with any socialist experiment, it has been riddled with contradictions and tensions. Nonetheless, the Bolivarian revolution is worth defending because of its importance to the region and its worth in its own right.

    This is not the first time that the Venezuelan opposition has used extra-parliamentary and parliamentary tactics to try to force a “regime change.” In April 2002 Chávez was deposed for 48 hours in a U.S.-sponsored coup d’etat, only to be restored to office by loyal members of the Presidential guard who were inspired by the hundreds of thousands of citizens who poured on to the streets of Caracas and demanded the return of their President.

    The second extra-parliamentary attempt occurred a few months later from December 2002-January 2003 when the opposition-controlled oil company Petroleum of Venezuela organized a “strike,” shutting down production in an act of economic sabotage. In response, workers who identified with the Bolivarian revolution took matters in their own hands, taking over oil refineries and distribution centres, delivering domestic gasoline which eventually inspired the movement for worker-controlled factories.

    Having failed with these tactics, in August 2004 the opposition resorted to parliamentary methods. Right-wing forces under the umbrella organization Súmate (funded by U.S. aid money) organized a referendum campaign to recall the president. Again, they lost as 58 per cent of voters cast ballots in favour of Chávez. Fed up with playing by the rules, in 2005 the opposition parties refused to participate in the presidential elections, allowing the Bolivarian forces to sweep the parliament, and then complaining that Venezuela was a “dictatorship” due to one-party rule.

    Emboldened by the overwhelming show of support from the Venezuelan people, at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2005, Chávez declared for the first time that he was a “socialist,” having realized that social democracy would never achieve social justice or overturn the highly unequal structures of capitalism.

    Chávez’s Declaration

    The February 2014 insurrection is yet another extra-parliamentary attempt by the opposition forces to topple the government. They aim to capitalize on a perceived moment of weakness in the Bolivarian revolution largely due to the death of Hugo Chávez.

    Widely recognized to be an incredibly charismatic leader, he was often described as the “glue” that held the revolution together. Chávez’s charisma was undeniable. He had a wicked sense of humour; something he displayed weekly on his television talk show, Aló Presidente (Hello President). Not only was he smart and funny, but incredibly charming; often serenading the audience with traditional folk songs, or sharing his reflections on socialism, economic theory and love. (Who amongst us, I ask, would be able to stomach seeing Stephen Harper’s mug on TV every week. What a dreadful thought!)

    While Chávez’s personal charisma undoubtedly played a role in “the process,” it also did little to change the political culture of the Latin American strongman and the widespread belief of Venezuela as a “magical state” in which the president had powers to transform oil into cars, constitutions, housing, etc. The socialists left of Chavismo whom Jeff Webber and I have interviewed over the past five years suggest that such hero worship is a problem. As Juan Contreras, a militant from one of the most revolutionary barrios of Caracas, once put it in an interview in 2012 (about seven months before Chávez died), “Chávez’s charisma is at once a strength and a weakness for the movement. When he got sick recently, there was a power gap, no one talked about ‘revolution,’ we were all paralyzed. Like any mortal, Chávez could die any day. Anything could happen to him; he could choke on a fish bone. This is why we need a collective leadership (‘direccióncolectiva’).”

    February Traumas

    After winning his fourth presidential mandate by a wide margin in October 2012, Chávez succumbed to a battle with cancer in early March 2013. On April 4, 2013, Chávez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver and one Chávez’s must trusted advisers, won the presidential elections, this time only winning by a narrow margin of 1.7 per cent over the main opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles (compared with Chávez’s more decisive mandate of 11 per cent).

    Sensing a withering of the Chavista forces, the opposition waited for a moment of “crisis” to organize protests against the government. Due to the hoarding of basic goods by opposition-owned and controlled distribution chains, Venezuela has been experiencing shortages of basic food products such as flour and cooking oil, and other essential goods such as toilet paper for months. While the situation might seem trivial, these shortages do wear down the people’s patience, particularly in a country that has grown accustomed to periods of material and consumerist abundance due to its vast oil wealth.

    Stoked by main opposition leaders, the first protests were organized on “Youth Day” in early February 2014. Blockades were erected throughout eastern Caracas – the wealthy part of the capital city – but then spread into other wealthy neighbourhoods across the country. While the international media has reported on a government-sponsored “campaign of terror,” in reality the rich have barricaded themselves in their own neighbourhoods, facing off with the state security forces in nightly contests.

    The poor, who overwhelmingly support the government, have been notably absent. Indeed, life has been more-or-less normal in the western part of Caracas. It is amazing how a few strategically placed cameras can give the outside world the impression that there is general mayhem.

    And the poor, who are most affected by economic issues such as inflation and shortages, and who are the least to blame, do not have domestic servants to wait in line for goods and cannot afford to hoard supplies. Most tragically, a majority of the people who have lost their lives in the period of unrest have been innocent bystanders or government-supporters, including three motorcyclists (a method of transportation that is almost exclusively used by the poor) who were beheaded by invisible razor wires erected by opposition protesters.

    While there are some real economic problems in Venezuela that affect the rich and the poor alike, as economist Mark Weisbrot reports from the front lines of Caracas, this is a revolt of the well-off, not a terror campaign by the government.

    What is Going to Happen Next?

    The government has called for “dialogue” with the opposition. Thus far, hard-line opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma (former opposition Mayor of Caracas) and Maria Corina Machado (a congress representative), who have openly called for violence in the streets, have boycotted any dialogue. Only the main opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, who ran against Chávez and Maduro in the past year’s presidential races, attended initial talks. Throughout this period, Capriles had been hoping to cast himself as the middle-of-the-road “good guy,” less radical than his colleagues who basically foam at the mouth when they speak about the Bolivarian Revolution. Other opposition leaders like Leopoldo Lopez (the former Mayor of a wealthy area of Caracas and leader of opposition party Popular Will) and Daniel Ceballos (Mayor of San Cristobal) are currently in prison for supporting or encouraging the violence.

    While the right-wing opposition has a unity of purpose – to seize state power so that they can once again channel wealth toward their cronies and restore a more brutal form of capitalism – the squabbles that are emerging in the wake of their defeat could divide them; at least temporarily.

    The dialogue thus far has also exposed the corrupt practices, such as hoarding, of the Venezuelan opposition. As Chris Gilbert recently reported, some products “magically” appeared on shelves just a few days after the kingpin of Venezuela’s largest food and beverage chain Polar, Lorenzo Mendoza, decided to join the dialogue organized by the Maduro government.

    Other events that have developed include: two opposition mayors who failed to follow a Supreme Court ruling to remove the barricades have been arrested for their insubordination; the head of the National Guard was replaced immediately when some officers failed to obey government orders not to suppress the protesters; and there is a warrant out for the arrest of the officers that fired the shots that claimed the life of at least one opposition supporter.

    In terms of the economic situation, in mid-February, Venezuela announced a new exchange rate system that seeks to undercut the black market in dollars, which was wreaking havoc on the value of the currency and fueling inflation. Gilbert argues that while it is too early to draw any conclusions, the reform is “off to a good start,” and that it has already stabilized the rate of inflation which means that the value of peoples’ salaries will not erode as quickly – a problem that weighs most heavily on the poor.

    While the dialogue within the upper echelons of the state may bring more peace to the wealthy districts of Caracas, their importance for the rest of the process should not be over-emphasized. Whatever pacts may be signed between the opposition capitalists and the ruling government may bring toilet paper back to the shelves but they will have little bearing on the lives of the average Venezuelan. As long-time observer of Venezuelan politics, Steve Ellner correctly observed,

    “the final outcome of the process of transformation in Venezuela will be determined not so much by those on top, but rather by the rank and file of the PSUV and allied parties and social movements in a variety of venues including, to a great extent, the streets.” •

    Susan Spronk is a member of the Socialist Project in Ottawa and has been a community organizer and a trade union activist for over 20 years. Also see “February Traumas,” Bullet No. 942.

  14. Agents of Destabilization in Venezuela: The Dirty Hand of the National Endowment for Democracy
    By Eva Golinger
    Global Research, April 26, 2014
    Anti-government protests in Venezuela that seek regime change have been led by several individuals and organizations with close ties to the US government. Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado- two of the public leaders behind the violent protests that started in February – have long histories as collaborators, grantees and agents of Washington. The National Endowment for Democracy “NED” and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have channeled multi-million dollar funding to Lopez’s political parties Primero Justicia and Voluntad Popular, and Machado’s NGO Sumate and her electoral campaigns.

    These Washington agencies have also filtered more than $14 million to opposition groups in Venezuela between 2013 and 2014, including funding for their political campaigns in 2013 and for the current anti-government protests in 2014. This continues the pattern of financing from the US government to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela since 2001, when millions of dollars were given to organizations from so-called “civil society” to execute a coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002. After their failure days later, USAID opened an Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in Caracas to, together with the NED, inject more than $100 million in efforts to undermine the Chavez government and reinforce the opposition during the following 8 years.

    At the beginning of 2011, after being publically exposed for its grave violations of Venezuelan law and sovereignty, the OTI closed its doors inVenezuela and USAID operations were transferred to its offices in the US. The flow of money to anti-government groups didn’t stop, despite the enactment by Venezuela’s National Assembly of the Law of Political Sovereignty and NationalSelf-Determination at the end of 2010, which outright prohibits foreign funding of political groups in the country. US agencies and the Venezuelan groups that receive their money continue to violate the law with impunity. In the Obama Administration’s Foreign Operations Budgets, between $5-6 million have been included to fund opposition groups in Venezuela through USAID since 2012.

    The NED, a “foundation” created by Congress in 1983 to essentially do the CIA’s work overtly, has been one of the principal financiers of destabilization in Venezuela
    9781566566476_p0_v1_s260x420throughout the Chavez administration and now against President Maduro. According to NED’s 2013 annual report, the agency channeled more than $2.3 million to Venezuelan opposition groups and projects. Within that figure, $1,787,300 went directly to anti-government groups within Venezuela, while another $590,000 was distributed to regional organizations that work with and fund the Venezuelan opposition. More than $300,000 was directed towards efforts to develop a new generation of youth leaders to oppose Maduro’s government politically.

    One of the groups funded by NED to specifically work with youth is FORMA (http://www.forma.org.ve), an organization led by Cesar Briceño and tied to Venezuelan banker Oscar Garcia Mendoza. Garcia Mendoza runs the Banco Venezolano de Credito, a Venezuelan bank that has served as the filter for the flow of dollars from NED and USAID to opposition groups in Venezuela, including Sumate, CEDICE, Sin Mordaza, Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones and FORMA, amongst others.

    Another significant part of NED funds in Venezuela from 2013-2014 was given to groups and initiatives that work in media and run the campaign to discredit the government of President Maduro. Some of the more active media organizations outwardly opposed to Maduro and receiving NED funds include Espacio Publico, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), Sin Mordaza and GALI. Throughout the past year, an unprecedented media war has been waged against the Venezuelan government and President Maduro directly, which has intensified during the past few months of protests.

    In direct violation of Venezuelan law, NED also funded the opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Table (MUD), via the US International Republican Institute (IRI), with $100,000 to “share lessons learned with [anti-government groups] in Nicaragua, Argentina and Bolivia…and allow for the adaption of the Venezuelan experience in these countries”. Regarding this initiative, the NED 2013 annual report specifically states its aim: “To develop the ability of political and civil society actors from Nicaragua, Argentina and Bolivia to work on national, issue-based agendas for their respective countries using lessons learned and best practices from successful Venezuelan counterparts. The Institute will facilitate an exchange of experiences between the Venezuelan Democratic Unity Roundtable and counterparts in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Argentina. IRI will bring these actors together through a series of tailored activities that will allow for the adaptation of the Venezuelan experience in these countries.”

    IRI has helped to build right-wing opposition parties Primero Justicia and Voluntad Popular, and has worked with the anti-government coaltion in Venezuela since before the 2002 coup d’etat against Chavez. In fact, IRI’s president at that time, George Folsom, outwardly applauded the coup and celebrated IRI’s role in a pressrelease claiming, “The Institute has served as a bridge between the nation’s political parties and all civil society groups to help Venezuelans forge a new democratic future…”

    Detailed in a report published by the Spanish institute FRIDE in 2010, international agencies that fund the Venezuelan opposition violate currency control laws in order to get their dollars to the recipients. Also confirmed in the FRIDE report was the fact that the majority of international agencies, with the exception of the European Commission, are bringing in foreign money and changing it on the black market, in clear violation of Venezuelan law. In some cases, as the FRIDE analysis reports, the agencies open bank accounts abroad for the Venezuelan groups or they bring them the money in hard cash. The US Embassy in Caracas could also use the diplomatic pouch to bring large quantities of unaccounted dollars and euros into the country that are later handed over illegally to anti-government groups in Venezuela.

    What is clear is that the US government continues to feed efforts to destabilize Venezuela in clear violation of law. Stronger legal measures and enforcement may be necessary to ensure the sovereignty and defense of Venezuela’s democracy.

    Eva Golinger is the author of The Chavez Code. She can be reached through her blog.

  15. Cuban Five: A Prisoner Exchange that Could Improve Relations Between Cuba and the United States
    By Salim Lamrani
    Global Research, May 15, 2014

    Since 2009, U. S. agent Alan Gross has been serving a fifteen year prison sentence in Cuba for providing material support to the Cuban opposition. In the meanwhile, three Cuban agents have been incarcerated in the United States since 1998. The possibility of an exchange of prisoners exists. The case of Gerardo Hernández, one of the three Cubans sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment, lends itself particularly well to such a humanitarian agreement. Here, in 25 points, are the reasons why.

    1. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the radical sector of the Florida-based Cuban exile community increased its terrorist attacks against Cuba. The tourism industry – a vital sector of the fragile Cuban economy – was a particular target. Bomb attacks resulted in dozens of casualties. Faced with the immunity these violent fringe groups were receiving from U.S. authorities, the Havana government decided to send several agents to the United States to infiltrate these criminal organizations and prevent the realization of further potentially lethal acts.

    2. In June 1998, after gathering evidence about the terrorist activities of 64 exiles living in Florida, the Cuban government invited two FBI officers to Havana in order to present them with the evidence that it had accumulated. But, rather than arresting those responsible for these crimes, the FBI arrested the five Cuban intelligence services agents who had infiltrated the criminal organizations: René González Sehweret, Ramón Labañino Salazar, Fernando González Llort, Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez and Gerardo Hernández Nordelo.

    3. Following a trial that has been denounced by many legal institutions for its numerous irregularities, the five Cubans nonetheless won their case on appeal from a three-judge panel of the Atlanta Court of Appeals. The tribunal found that they had not received a fair trial. The U.S. government, however, lodged an appeal and the Five eventually received a total of four sentences of life imprisonment, and an additional sentence of 77 years. On October 13, 2009, the Atlanta Court of Appeals instructed the Florida court to modify the prison sentences for three of the five defendants. The review that was conducted resulted in Antonio Guerrero’s penalty of life imprisonment plus 10 years being changed to 21 years plus 10 months, plus an additional penalty of five years of supervised release. On December 8, 2009, Fernando González’ sentence of 19 years was reduced to 17 years plus nine months. In the case of Ramón Labañino, his sentence of imprisonment for life plus 18 years was reduced to 30 years in prison. Rene González and Fernando González were freed after serving their entire sentences.

    4. Gerardo Hernández was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment plus 15 years in prison for conspiracy to commit a quadruple murder. He is accused of being directly involved in an incident that occurred on February 24, 1996. That day two planes, manned by four pilots from the Florida-based organization Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR), were shot down by Cuban armed forces after having violated Cuban airspace 25 times in 20 months.

    5. José Basulto, president of BTTR, a former CIA officer who had participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion, is heavily implicated in terrorist acts against Cuba. In a Miami television interview Basulto publicly admitted to having participated in several strikes against Cuba, including a bazooka attack on a hotel in August of 1962.

    6. BTTR was founded in 1991 to assist the Cubans trying to reach Florida by sea. In 1994, Washington and Havana signed immigration agreements that authorized the granting of 20,000 visas per year to Cubans wishing to emigrate. These agreements also provide that any person attempting to reach the United States by sea would be returned to Cuba. With this agreement, BTTR lost its reason for being and has since begun organizing raids inside Cuban airspace.

    7. A chronology of events permits us to capture the key elements of this story. During the months preceding the serious incident of February 24, 1996, Cuban authorities warned the United States frequently, both through diplomatic notes and unofficial channels, that repeated violations of its airspace constituted a threat to Cuban national security and that the planes involved were running the risk of being shot down. Washington chose to ignore these warnings.

    8. Ignoring the risk of being shot down, BTTR aircraft on several occasions provoked the Cuban armed forces by entering Cuban national airspace. In addition to its forays over the capital, BTTR planes created interference between the Havana control tower and aircraft landing at José Martí International Airport, thereby endangering the lives of thousands of Cuban passengers and foreign tourists.

    9. On July 13, 1995, BTTR planes flew over the city of Havana and dropped 20,000 leaflets, inciting the population to rise up against the government.

    10. On the same day, Cuban authorities sent a letter emphasizing the possibility of a military response to the Federal Aviation Administration. The letter underscored the illegal incursions into Cuban national airspace and the “serious consequences” that such acts could entail if they were to continue .

    11. The Government of the United States, instead of taking the necessary measures to prevent such violations of international law, allowed BTTR the latitude necessary to pursue their incursions, despite the fact that the organization, since 1994, had repeatedly filled false flight plans with the Federal Aviation Administration.

    12. At no time had Gerardo Hernández participated in the Cuban airspace violations, nor had he incited BTTR members to commit these illegal and dangerous acts. Moreover, Hernandez had never participated at the necessary hierarchical level within BTTR to prevent these flights. Everything was under the control of José Basulto.

    13. The State Department issued several statements warning BTTR that its planes ran the risk of being shot down if they continued to violate Cuban airspace.

    14. In January 1996, BTTR dropped 500,000 leaflets over Havana inciting the population to overthrow the government. On January 15, 1996, Cuba once again demanded that the U.S. put an end to the repeated violations of its airspace.

    15. After new breaches of their national airspace in January 1996, Cuba warned Washington that if these overflights continued, the aircraft would be shot down. Havana reiterated these warnings to all U.S. public figures who visited the island between January 15 and February 23, 1996.

    16. On January 22, 1996, the State Department sent an alert to the Federal Aviation Administration: “One of these days, the Cubans are going to shoot down one of those planes .” José Basulto had repeatedly stated in the media that he was aware of the danger.

    17. In February 1996, Cuban authorities sent a message to their agents in Miami indicating that in no case should they participate in BTTR flights.

    18. On February 23, 1996, the Federal Aviation Agency sent an “Alert Cuba” message to several agencies indicating that BTTR planned a new foray into Cuban airspace the following day. “The State Department said it would be unlikely that the Cuban government would exercise restraint this time .”

    19. On 24 February 1996, the government of the United States warned the Cuban authorities that three BTTR planes had taken off from Miami and were able to penetrate Cuban airspace.

    20. After several warnings, two of the three planes were shot down by Cuban forces in Cuban airspace, an action that constitutes an act of self-defence under international law. No country in the world – certainly not the United States – would have waited until the 26th violation of its airspace by an organization, after having made numerous appeals for help, to take such a measure.

    21. However, the United States asserts that, according to its satellite data, the two planes were shot down in the international zone, which would constitute the crime for which Gerardo Hernández is accused. Of course, publication of satellite data would remove any ambiguity about the matter. However, since 1996, the United States has refused, for reasons of “national security,” to make this information public despite repeated requests from Gerardo Hernández’ lawyers.

    22. In any case, Hernández has not been implicated in the decision to shoot down the planes, a decision that was taken by the Cuban authorities at the highest level.

    23. In order to convict Gerardo Hernández, the prosecution needed to prove that there had been an illegal scheme afoot to shoot down BTTR aircraft in international airspace and that Hernández had precise knowledge of this scheme and in fact had supported such an action. The prosecution was unable to provide any evidence demonstrating the involvement of Gerardo Hernández in this drama. Better yet, the prosecutor acknowledged that “the evidence presented at trial that attempts [to prove the involvement of Gerardo Hernández] represents an insurmountable obstacle for the United States .”

    24. Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch of the Atlanta Court of Appeals has spoken about the case of Gerardo Hernández: “A shoot down in Cuban airspace would not have been unlawful […]. It is not enough for the Government to show that a shoot down merely occurred in international airspace: the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernández agreed to a shoot down in international airspace. Although such an agreement may be proven by circumstantial evidence, here, the Government failed to provide either direct or circumstantial evidence that Hernández agreed to a shoot down in international airspace. Instead, the evidence points out toward a confrontation in Cuban airspace, thus negating the requirement that he agreed to commit an unlawful act .”

    25. For all of these reasons, Barack Obama should use his powers as President of the United States and pardon the three Cubans that are still imprisoned. This will have the immediate effect of freeing Alan Gross and improving relations between Washington and Havana.

    Translated from the French by Larry R. Oberg

    Docteur ès Etudes Ibériques et Latino-américaines at the University of Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani is a Lecturer the University of La Réunion, and a journalist who specializes in relations between Cuba and the United States.

    The author’s latest book is The Economic War against Cuba. A Historical and Legal Perspective on the U.S. Blockade, New York, Monthly Review Press, 2013. http://monthlyreview.org/press/books/pb3409/ (prologue by Wayne S. Smith and preface by Paul Estrade).

  16. PDVSA to sell U$D 5 billion in 2024 bonds, company total debt is now up 11% to U$D 48.3 billion

    State energy giant PDVSA, says it will raise U$D 5 billion through a private sale of 10-year bonds to the country’s public banking sector. The bonds will carry a coupon of 6% and funds from the sale will go toward investment, including social development projects. It will not be registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and will only be available to “qualified institutional investors” on the secondary market. Venezuela could use bonds to pay off part of its swelling debt load with private companies ranging from airlines to pharmaceuticals to car part importers. Russ Dallen, a partner at brokerage Caracas Capital Markets, said that in addition to debt repayment, he expects Venezuela to use part of the latest bond offer to feed a currency market called SICAD II, which was launched by the government in March to try and pump more greenbacks into the economy. “The government is in default with everyone except bondholders,” says Jorge Piedrahita, the chief executive officer at brokerage Torino Capital LLC. “We think this issuance will go very fast and won’t be enough to solve the dollar shortage, although the scarcity index will likely fall.” “The latest sale follows a U$D 4.5 billion issuance of 2026 PDVSA bonds in November, of which U$D 3 billion was destined to pay off accumulated debts with oil service providers while the remainder was sold to the central bank. The new bond increases PDVSA financial debt by 11%, bringing the total to U$D 48.3 billion. (Business Week: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-05-14/venezuela-s-pdvsa-to-sell-up-to-5-billion-of-new-dollar-bonds; Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/15/venezuela-pdvsa-bonds-idUSL1N0O015C20140515; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/economia/140514/pdvsa-issues-usd-5-billion-in-pdvsa-2024-bonds; Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-14/venezuela-s-pdvsa-to-sell-up-to-5-billion-of-new-dollar-bonds.html; Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2192068&CategoryId=10717; The Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304908304579561992878582798; and more in Spanish: (El Universal: http://www.eluniversal.com/economia/140515/deuda-de-pdvsa-crece-11-y-alcanza-los-483-millardos)

    Venezuela reached an agreement with China to produce one million barrels per day with Chinese CNPC, according to Economic Vice President Rafael Ramírez, who is also Mining and Oil Minister, and President of PDVSA. He said the hopes to sign this agreement at the next high-level meeting. (Veneconomy, http://www.veneconomy.com/site/index.asp?ids=44&idt=39282&idc=4)

  17. Humberto: maybe 14YMEDIO will be as good as Venezuela Analysis….with a “slightly” Right bias, but offer Right Wing point of view criticism of the Right…..then, it may stay open where others have being “shutdown”….


    ST. LOUIS TODAY NEWS : From Cuba to cap and gown, political refugees graduate in St. Louis – by Elisa Crouch

    Jennifer and Jessica Armas Gomez had each saved $200 for this moment — a trip to Plato’s Closet, a resale shop in Fairview Heights, trying to figure out what Americans wear at commencement.

    In just a few days, they’d graduate from Soldan International Studies High School in St. Louis. What to wear under the gown was a monumental decision.

    It was a nice problem to have.

    “I never thought I’d be able to graduate from high school,” said Jennifer, who turns 21 in September. “I thought it was going to be impossible.”

    In Cuba, this certainly would have been the case.

    The hardships began with a single afternoon. Jennifer tells the story. It was 13 years ago, the day 150 Cuban police surrounded the house and took their parents to jail. She was 7 years old, and Jessica was 5. Both were in school as the house was ransacked.

    Over the years, police had pressured her father to become a snitch — someone who would report on the activities of his neighbors. He refused, he said. Just as he refused time and again to profess being a Communist. His growing resentment of the Cuban government led him to become president of an organization that fought for human rights in that country.

    Of the two sisters, Jennifer is the more talkative one. The caregiver. She cared for her great-grandmother the two years the government didn’t allow her in school. It taught her a lot about how to take care of someone. She now wants to become a nurse.

    Jennifer and Jessica are almost always together. In addition to school, they work about 40 hours a week busing tables at Mi Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant in University City. Jennifer also sells Mary Kay cosmetics. She does Jessica’s makeup. Their boyfriends are co-workers at a different restaurant.

    “We help each other,” Jennifer said.

    They always have. For much of their childhood, they faced rejection from classmates who denounced them for their father’s political resolve — his involvement with anti-Castro organizations.

    Whenever they left the house, someone followed them — people who did surveillance work for the government. At church, an officer would watch them from the last row. And an officer would always sit behind Jose Patrico Armas, their father, as he sang in the choir.

    “Like I was a criminal,” he said.

    He spoke from the family’s four-bedroom house on Morganford Road, a foreclosure they fixed up and moved into last fall. Inside their living room, Armas sat back into the deep pleather sofa as he remembered what it felt like to be followed. The pressure affected all four of them mentally.

    “Thank God I’ve been able to forget a little bit,” he said.

    Some of the memories are tucked inside a manila folder, filled with letters he’d written in protest to the Cuban government.




    ENGADGET NEWS: Cuba’s first independent digital news will be sent via cellphones and flash drives – Jon Fingas

    Cubans haven’t had an above-ground, independent digital news outlet in their country so far — not surprising when their government only allowed personal cellphone and computer sales six years ago. However, all that’s set to change when blogger Yoani Sanchez launches her digital newspaper 14ymedio on May 21st. Rather than simply publish news on the web, the team will get the word out through whatever technology Cubans can use: cellphones, email, CDs and even USB flash drives are fair game.

    The group is already getting some pushback from the Castro administration, which still treats criticism of the communist party as a criminal offense. However, 14ymedio’s by-any-means-necessary approach to digital distribution could make censorship difficult; officials can’t simply block a website or email address. Whether or not Sanchez’ project lasts, it’s a potentially important experiment in a land where networking tends to be either closely monitored or very unofficial.



    U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: Cuba’s first mobile email experiment causes chaos, widespread problems with cell-phone service – by Andrea Rodrigguez

    HAVANA (AP) — On an island where most people have no Internet access, the arrival of mobile phone email service was embraced with joy.

    Tens of thousands of Cubans began emailing like crazy in March — for days, until the service started to fail, taking much of Cuba’s already shaky voice and text-messaging mobile service down with it

    The island’s aging cellphone towers became swamped by the new flood of email traffic, creating havoc for anyone trying to use the system. Users had to make eight or nine attempts to successfully send an email. Even voice calls by non-subscribers’ began to drop mid-conversation. Callers sounded like they were phoning from the bottom of the sea. Ordinary text messages arrived days late, or not at all.

    Since then, the state telecom monopoly Etecsa has issued a rare apology and the troubles have eased. But problems with the service, dubbed Nauta, offer a rare window into the Internet in Cuba, where the digital age has been achingly slow to spread since arriving in 1996, leaving the country virtually isolated from the world of streaming video, photo-sharing and 4G cellphones.

    Cuba’s government blames the technological problems on a U.S. embargo that prevents most American businesses from selling products to the Caribbean country. Critics of the government say it deliberately strangles the Internet to halt the spread of dissent. Other observers offer a less political explanation: a government desperate for foreign exchange is investing little in infrastructure improvements while extracting as much revenue as possible from communications services largely paid for by Cubans’ wealthier overseas relatives.

    Experts say that last explanation appears to be the primary culprit in the case of Nauta, in which the government tried to open connections with the world but floundered due to apparent poor planning and underinvestment.

    “Cuba is extremely broke,” said Larry Press, a professor of information systems and expert on Cuban telecommunications at California State University, Dominguez Hills. “If they had access to tons of capital they would probably expand (Internet service) further.”

    About 100,000 people — around 5 percent of Cuban cellphone users — had subscribed to the service even though it cost 50 times that of many U.S. data plans.

    With cellular rates as high as 35 cents a minute for domestic calls, Etecsa earned roughly $500 million last year, revenue that’s been rising slowly since 2008, according to Emilio Morales, a systems engineer who heads the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, a private consultant that analyzes Cuba’s scanty public information about government revenues and operations to produce estimates widely considered reliable by Cuba-watchers.

    “There are few businesses in Cuba that work as well as Etecsa,” he said.


    Venezuelanalysis is a news website that aims “to provide on-going news about developments in Venezuela, as well as to contextualize this news with in-depth analysis and background information. The site is targeted towards academics, journalists, intellectuals, policy makers from different countries, and the general public.”[1] Its founder Gregory Wilpert characterizes the website as “a left social movement perspective on the Bolivarian Revolution in the English language. It’s a fairly rare perspective, in that it is clearly pro-Bolivarian Revolution, but also critical of some aspects from a leftist perspective”.[2] It has been varyingly described as “pro-Chávez”[3][4][5] and “left-leaning.”[3][6] The site says it relies entirely on reader donations,[1] although Wilpert stated in a 2007 interview that the site had received “some funding” from the Venezuelan government’s Ministry of Culture.[7] Since then, the site has depended 100% on reader donations and is fully independent of any governmental institutions.

    Gregory Wilpert, founder and editor, describes the website as providing, “a left social movement perspective on the Bolivarian Revolution in the English language. It’s a fairly rare perspective, in that it is clearly pro-Bolivarian Revolution, but also critical of some aspects from a leftist perspective.”[12] Wilpert’s wife Carol Delgado was named Consul General of Venezuela in New York in 2008.[13][14] The Global Post described Wilpert as “perhaps the most prominent Chavista”.[15]

    Its website[16] lists contributors from England, Australia, and the US with a mix of activist and academic credentials, including Chávez Code author Eva Golinger, who periodically contributes to the site.[16]



    Terrorism in Venezuela and Its Accomplices – By Steve Ellner, May 15th 2014

  23. Hank,
    Rather than respond to the rational points that I put to you, you choose instead, in your latest comment directed at me, to rant yourself back down the same old dead end street.
    However I shall respond to the points you have raised (yet again).

    What would you do if a known terrorist was flying over your neighbourhood Hank ?
    Invite him in for a beer ??
    In fact maybe you would actually like to buy beers all round for the various Florida based terrorists that have waged their bloody vendetta against Cuba.

    If Cuban Pig Farmers tell me they were victims of biological warfare, who should I be inclined to believe most ?
    You or them Hank ?
    What’s your point anyway ? Do you not think the USA would stoop to this tactic ??
    Much as I am a big fan of many aspects of the USA, it has to be admitted that on the world stage over the last half century, the USA has committed much graver crimes than killing a bunch of pigs.

    I don’t have compassion huh?
    I have a lot of compassion for the victims of the U.S. harboured terrorists that you seem to so readily turn a blind eye to.
    And I don’t really need to be told about ‘misery’ in a country that I have been all the way round several times over the last 20 years, by someone who has never set foot on the island.

    Regarding book recommendations. I recommend that you stick to reading fairy-tales Hank.
    Nice and easy to follow.
    No complicated English usage that may confuse.
    Nice simple plot:
    Good Guys vs The Wicked Bad Guys.
    You could even sprinkle in a bit of your unwavering dogma to spice the fairy-tale up a little.

    Oh and Hank…
    Your latest lame attempt at insulting me ???
    Hate to break it to ya buddy.
    But this was so lame…
    it actually made me chuckle.

  24. Hank,

    Re: misery of the Cuban people.

    I just read an email from a Cuban friend.

    It was the first email in 4 months. I was afraid he had died.

    He had prepared the email on a friend’s computer 4 months ago, put it on a USB key and waited for a chance to send it.

    It took my friend 4 MONTHS of waiting in line at least once a week before an email computer became available.

    He wrote that he waited several hours each time in huge line-ups but had to give up.

    This week, he finally waited in line for OVER 10 HOURS and got lucky.

    Waiting 4 MONTHS to get on the internet for less than 5 MINUTES.

    And that’s not even the real internet, just a secret police monitored connection to send emails.

    What is really incredible is that this misery, which is so outlandish and newsworthy, goes completely unreported by the foreign press in Cuba.

  25. Hank,

    That’s the irony of Castro’s “socialism”. The biggest fans of this socialism are the completely self-centered.

    Like Castro, his fans have difficulty admitting they make mistakes.

    Like Castro, none of his fans ever give two hoots for real poor people. It’s just an abstraction used to attack “capitalism”, a system they all prefer anyway.

    Or to use your words, they are all NUTS.

  26. Hank,

    Rather than being remotely able to respond to the unbiased and rational points that I put to you,
    you choose to rant on and on down the same old dead end roads.
    This seems to be the only level of debate we get from you.

    If a known terrorist were to be flying repeatedly over your neighbourhood what would you want to do Hank?
    Maybe you would wave this terrorist down and invite him round to your local bar for a cold beer huh ?
    Maybe you just like being on the same team as terrorists huh ?

    If Cuban pig farmers tell me that they were victims of biological warfare, who should I listen to Hank? Them or you?
    Do you really presume that your beloved USA would not stoop to this level Hank?
    Is this what backs up your opinion ?
    Well even though I am a great admirer of many aspects of the USA, it is a documented and undeniable fact that they have committed many worse crimes in than infecting a bunch of pigs.
    The truth will come out one of these days regarding this sad little chapter in the litany of the attacks and crimes that the world’s biggest superpower has committed against little ol’ Cuba.

    Perhaps when all is said and done. historians will catalogue the whole of this history in one big fat volume.
    Perhaps they will call it ‘The Book of Imperialist Failure’.

    Regarding your current choice of reading matter: stick with the fairy-tales Hank – Not too complex.

    Regarding ‘misery in Cuba’, there’s nothing you can tell me about this subject, as I have been all round the island many times. An island you have yet to set foot on.

    Regarding your choice of reading matter: stick with the fairy-tales Hank – Not too complex.

    Regarding the previous point I put to you….
    Do you really think that the type of hard-line dogmatic viewpoint that you come out with is going to be even the slightest bit beneficial to Cuba as it moves forward ??

    Regarding your very lame little attempts at insulting me, Hank….
    Well I hate to break it to you buddy…
    But they are so very lame, they just make me chuckle.

    Terrorism in Venezuela and Its Accomplices
    May 15th 2014, by Steve Ellner
    The private media and important actors both at home and abroad including Washington have downplayed, and in some cases completely ignored, the terrorist actions perpetrated against the Venezuelan government over the past three months. Among the latest examples of terrorism news that have been underreported abroad is the assassination in late April of Eliézer Otaiza, an historic leader of the Chavista movement and the president of the city council of Caracas. Another is a series of reports issued by Interior Secretary Miguel Rodriguez Torres with a wealth of documents – including videos, emails, phone call registries, and phone call recordings – that establish connections between terrorist activity and sectors of the Venezuelan opposition.

    An example of how the charges of opposition-promoted terrorism get brushed aside is the opening remarks of Robert Menendez, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in hearings to study proposed sanctions against Venezuela. First, Menendez enumerates numerous charges of government human rights violation based on statements by various individuals who are anything but impartial (such as Moisés Naím, who was Planning Minister under the government that Hugo Chávez staged his coup against in 1992). Then Menendez goes on to minimize the seriousness of the widespread violence carried out by the opposition. After recognizing “there has been violence on both sides,” he adds “but we should be perfectly clear that the primary responsibility for the excessive, unjustified use of force rests with the Maduro Administration.”

    Anyone who gets their information solely from these sources could easily reach the conclusion that with the exception of a few minor excesses, which are normal and inevitable in protest movements of this sort, what is happening in Venezuela represents a flagrant violation of human rights on the part of the government.

    Objectively speaking, the overall picture created by the discourse of political adversaries and the media’s coverage encourages the radical fringe of the opposition that is engaging in violence on an extensive scale. In this sense, those who downplay the importance of the opposition-promoted violence and exaggerate or fabricate actions of security forces to control the protests consciously or unwittingly serve as accomplices of those responsible for destructive activity.

    The above statement needs to be accompanied by words of caution. A journalist or political actor certainly has the right to make accusations without being accused of aiding or abetting those belonging to the violent fringe or playing into their hands. The problem, however, is two-fold. In the first place, all analysts agree that cherry picking amounts to distortion of the facts and that the media has the obligation to present all relevant information. To do otherwise is to encourage culprits and blame those who are innocent.

    In the second place, accusations made or insinuated by the media and the opposition are often formulated without any proof whatsoever. These statements serve to neutralize any negative reaction to the opposition-promoted violence. In modern-day vernacular, the tactic is called “damage control.” Thus, for instance, the opposition newspaper “Tal Cual” published an article by Sebastián Boccanegra which criticized Chavista spokespeople for alleging that the opposition was behind the assassination of Otaiza (a hypothesis that Interior Minister Rodríguez Torres put forward on the basis of an analysis of the circumstances of his death). Boccanegra then defended the hypothesis that it was the work of delinquents without offering any evidence. Similarly online posts by the opposition completely devoid of evidence attributed Otaiza’s assassination to infighting among Chavista factions.

    Similarly, the opposition’s demand for the liberation of student prisoners serves to draw attention away from the violent actions of the protesters. On May 13, the opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) suspended a much-anticipated “peace dialogue” meeting on grounds that the government had failed to liberate student prisoners. The MUD statement, like those of the opposition in general, lacked any acknowledgment that many of the prisoners, if not most, participated in acts of violence. Obviously the determination as to whether individual prisoners are guilty of unlawful activity corresponds to the courts and not the national executive. The demand for the liberation of the students has become a major slogan of the opposition and street protests.

    Recently the Chavista television commentator Miguel Pérez Pirela called on his colleagues to use the word “terrorism” instead of the term “guarimba,” which is a local slang-word referring to foquista-type urban violence.

    The list of actions that qualify as terrorist is extensive. One of the most affected sectors has been the metro of Caracas. Metro stations in the eastern part of the city controlled by opposition mayors have been devastated (as well as the one in Parque Carabobo near the city’s center), 90 metro buses have been damaged, and 200 passengers have been injured. On May 13, metro workers marched to the Attorney General’s headquarters (which had also been heavily damaged by opposition protesters several months earlier) to demand a firm government response. The terrorist list also includes the killing of six national guardsmen and three policemen, the complete demolition of the campus of the military school UNEFA in the city of San Cristobal, the destruction of public buildings including the Housing Ministry, the burning of a truck that distributes gas of the state company PDVSA-Gas Comunal in the state of Táchira, as well as vehicles of the state food chain PDVAL, reported cases of attacks on 162 Cuban doctors who work for the state-sponsored Misión Sucre, and the list goes on and on.

    The statements coming out of the U.S. Congress and Obama administration condemning human rights violation fail to recognize that sectors of the opposition have been involved in acts of terrorism. It is ironic that the same government that justifies massive indiscriminate surveillance throughout the world and intervenes in numerous nation’s of the Middle East and Africa in the name of anti-terrorism turns a blind eye to terrorist activity in Venezuela and ends up actually encouraging it. The State Department’s revocation of the visa of the president of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello (on the absurd grounds that he acted as a bag man on behalf of Osama bin Laden) attempts to discredit the very Chavista who represents a hard line in the struggle against terrorism in Venezuela. Terrorism cannot be defined as actions only carried out by one’s enemy. If that is case, the term loses all credibility.

    Steve Ellner teaches at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela and is the editor of Latin America’s Radical Left: Challenges and Complexities of Political Power in the Twenty-First Century recently released by Rowman and Littlefield.

  28. Nick,

    The only Nut here is you.

    Correction – the biggest Nut here is you.

    You’ve argued on this comments section of Yoani’s blog in favor of “blowing people out of the sky” in their little unarmed Cessna airplanes, referring of course to the shoot-down by the Castros of the Brothers to the Rescue planes. And if the Brothers to the Rescue were to try it one more time in their unarmed Cessnas, you’d blow them out of the sky all over again.

    I haven’t read a more disgraceful, contemptible statement in favor of outright murder ever. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    You assert the United States has conducted biological warfare against Cuba by sending a pig flu virus there to kill pigs, but you’ve provided absolutely no evidence for such an outlandish claim. That’s the definition of Nutty.

    You “chuckle” when sincere, articulate, posters here confront you with the sheer misery in which people in Cuba exist. Your only response is to deflect such questions and attack the questioner. And then you “chuckle” at the very thought. Your arrogance is something to behold.

    You have a warped sense of humor, Nick. What’s funny about misery in Cuba? Why do you chuckle about that?

    I happen to be reading Albert Speer’s memoirs. His description of the absolute contempt Hitler had for people is chilling. But it wasn’t just contempt, Nick, it was a unique form of loathing and a lack of any degree of empathy for his fellow humans.

    You don’t seem to have much compassion for people, Nick. Why do you “chuckle” when people here tell you about misery in Cuba? Why is that misery amusing to you?

    I don’t think you have an open mind either. If you did, you’d be reading:

    “Muerte Bajo Sospecha, Toda La Verdad Sobre El Caso” by Angel Carromero.

    You know, the book that tells the story about how the Castros murdered Paya and Cepero.


    If you are reading the book, what page are you on, Nick?


    May 15 (Reuters) – Cuba’s prize-winning dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez is launching the island’s first independent digital newspaper next week to challenge the communist-ruled country’s state-controlled media.

    Sanchez said the online publication will be named “14ymedio,” in honor of the year of its launch and the 14th floor Havana apartment where she writes her popular Generation Y blog on daily life and politics in Cuba.

    Going up against Cuba’s heavy media restrictions will be difficult for her team of 11 journalists, she admitted on her blog on Wednesday.

    “In recent weeks we have seen a preview of how official propaganda will demonize us for creating this medium,” Sanchez wrote, adding that several of her online team have received warning calls from Cuban state security officials ahead of the official launch on May 21.

    Public criticism of Cuba’s communist system can be considered enemy propaganda, punishable by stiff jail sentences.

    Most Cubans will not be able to read the new publication. Only 2.6 million out of a population of 11.2 million have access to the Internet. And most of those who do have only been able to explore a limited, state-controlled basket of approved websites.

    Sanchez, 38, has won several prestigious media awards in the United States and Europe and has been included on Time magazine’s annual list of 100 most influential people.

    Vowing to be independent and transparent, Sanchez said she opted for online journalism to voice her criticism of Cuba’s one-party system, rather than becoming an opposition politician.

    She hopes 14ymedio “will support and accompany the necessary transition that is going to take place in our country.”

    The editorial team will be led by Sanchez’s husband, Reinaldo Escobar, and the new website will take over hosting the Generation Y blog which will continue its seven-year run.

    Besides herself and Escobar, the staff includes two professional journalists, a dentist, a civil engineer and a hairdresser, Sanchez told Reuters in an interview.

    She prefers to call “14ymedio” a digital medium, rather than newspaper, seeing newspapers as a medium of the past. It will cover a broad range of topics from politics to lifestyle and culture, as well as interviews.


    Under Cuba’s laws for private sector employment, the reporters will operate under state licenses for “typists,” which Sanchez said was “the closest thing to journalism” that exists under current regulations.

    The staff will be unpaid. “This is not earning a living; it’s a passion,” she said.

    Cuba’s state-run International Press Center, which handles the foreign media, declined to comment on the legality of 14ymedio’s launch.

    Six of the nine reporters have been called in for questioning by state security officials, Sanchez said. “They were pressured and told I was a bad, bad person,” she said.

    The publication has no office in Havana nor email connection, so reporters will rely on mobile phone text messaging. Stories will be uploaded to the website server by public wifi access at local hotels.

    Launched with $150,000 in initial funding, the website was designed in Europe. The funding came from small donors, she said.

    “We don’t accept any government money, only from individuals connected to journalism,” she said, adding she hoped to move to a subscription platform in the future. (Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

    A new option for travel to Cuba offers balconies and beaches, in addition to Havana and historic cars.

    Canadian-based Cuba Cruise this winter started offering seven-night sailings around Cuba, with boardings in both Havana and Montego Bay, Jamaica. The majority of passengers were Canadian and European, according to a spokeswoman. About 10 percent were Americans.

    The Calgary-based tour company chartered the 1,200-passenger Louis Cristal, owned by Cyprus-based Louis Cruises. In this, its inaugural season in Cuba, the ship is sailing through March; it will start up again in December.

    Seven-night itineraries include daylong stops at Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city; Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Holguin, where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492; and Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth. In addition, the ship spends one day in Montego Bay, where independent American travelers typically board.

    Americans who book the cruise on their own are likely in violation of U.S. law, which generally prohibits individual travel to Cuba (but it’s worth noting that the prosecution of leisure travelers is almost nonexistent, according to experts).

    There are ways, however, to take a Cuba Cruise through licensed U.S. travel companies. Boston-based Road Scholar (roadscholar.org) last year offered five nights aboard the ship as part of a 12-night Cuba tour and is planning to offer a similar itinerary again later this year (with rates starting at about $4,795).

    In addition, Insight Cuba will likely offer several nights aboard the ship as part of a longer tour, though the details are still being worked out, according to Tom Popper, president of Insight Cuba.

    If you book yourself, rates for the cruise start at about $800 per person for an inside cabin; the company is running a buy-one cruise, get-one free promotion

    Read more: http://www.cubaheadlines.com/2014/03/14/38647/canadian_based_cuba_cruise_offers_a_new_view_of_the_island_from_the_water.html#ixzz31qD6G1nz
    Original article here!

  31. Mr Observer.
    Your comments compete with themselves for ascendancy on the nutty scale.
    And your repetition of the term ‘hovel dwellers’ shows you up for what you are.
    Regardless of the current situation in Cuba, the fact that so many people in this world live in circumstances so impoverished compared to those of yourself will never be solved by the hard line ultra capitalist economic policies which you idolise to such an extent.
    Nevertheless, I do thank you for the chuckles that your nutty remarks inspire….
    and for the fact that you have managed to reduce the abusive nature thereof.

  32. As a regular reader that has for a long time admired your courage, I want to wish you the best of luck on this new enterprise. It is people like you that perhaps will help Cuba and its people return to a more free and open society after a long and painful detiur into hell.


    FINANCIAL TIMES UK: Venezuela is Latin America’s trust-fund kid – by John Paul Rathbone ( John Paul Rathbone is the FT’s Latin American editor, having previously edited the Lex column. He is the author of “The Sugar King of Havana)

    For many outsiders, and many insiders too, Venezuela is maddeningly hard to understand. For some, it is a socialist utopia; for others, a dictatorship. Neither fully or usefully explains how a country with the world’s largest oil reserves also suffers toilet paper shortages. So here is another point of view. Strip away the ideology, and Venezuela is an out-of-control trust-fund kid: gauche, confused, spending more money than it has, addicted to oil revenues and in denial about that addiction too. Absurd? If you had $3tn-worth of oil reserves in your private account, you might end up the same.

    There were opportunistic Cubans, liggers extraordinaire, who receive subsidised oil in return for medical and intelligence services that Venezuela cannot provide itself (in Havana, it is striking the contempt many Cubans have for their Venezuelan counterparts – for their incompetence, their inefficiency, for simply being fat).

    There were also Russian arms dealers; energy-hungry Chinese, happy to lend against future oil deliveries ($50bn so far); and some of the truly needy, such as the region’s poorest nations.

    This patronage rebuilt Venezuelan self-esteem and, crucially, the welfare of its poor (as well as being an invaluable propaganda tool). It was also a return to the ways of old – only even more mismanaged, wasteful and corrupt than before. Weakened institutions may well prove Chávez’s most unfortunate legacy.

    The high is wearing off. The economy is on the ropes. Inflation, at more than 57 per cent, is eroding social gains. Sapped by under-investment, the oil industry no longer pumps the revenues Venezuela needs.

    Political life is violently polarised: street riots have left more than 40 dead and hundreds wounded. It is time to get sober. Yet, like many addicts, Venezuela seems in denial. Even gentle critics, such as the salsa singer Rubén Blades, are dismissed as imperialist stooges.



    THE GUARDIAN UK: Cuban blogger to launch island’s first independent digital newspaper – Yoani Sánchez’s online publication called 14ymedio will challenge communist-ruled country’s state-controlled media
    Cuba’s prize-winning blogger, Yoani Sánchez, is launching the island’s first independent digital newspaper next week to challenge the communist-ruled country’s state-controlled media. Sánchez said the online publication will be named 14ymedio, in honour of the year of its launch and the 14th-floor Havana apartment where she writes her popular Generation Y blog on daily life and politics in Cuba. Going up against Cuba’s heavy media restrictions will not be easy, she admitted in an announcement on her blog on Wednesday.

    “It will be a difficult road. In recent weeks we have seen a preview of how official propaganda will demonize us for creating this medium,” Sánchez wrote, adding that several of her online team have already received warning calls from Cuban state security officials prior to the official launch on 21 May. Public criticism of Cuba’s communist system can be considered enemy propaganda, punishable by jail sentences.

    Sánchez, 38, has won several prestigious media awards in the United States and Europe and has been included on Time magazine’s annual list of 100 most influential people.

    Vowing to be totally independent and transparent, Sánchez said she opted for online journalism to voice her criticism of Cuba’s one-party system, rather than becoming an opposition politician. “A reporter should not have any kind of militancy,” she said.

    Instead, she hopes 14ymedio “will support and accompany the necessary transition that is going to take place in our country”.


  35. Nick,

    The point is you are so close-minded you repeat Castro’s most absurd propaganda word for word.

    Again you fail to explain why Cuba has so few hurricane victims.

    Do you or a family member go out across Cuba and count the victims?

    Are hurricanes socialist in nature? Do they save their fury for capitalist USA? Do they spare the comrades?

    I don’t look down on hovel dwellers. Some of my best Cuban friends are hovel dwellers who have lost their roofs in hurricanes.

    I look down on imperialists like you, who enjoy the high life in Cuba and support the oppression of Cuban hovel dwellers.

    I look down on your simpleton view of the world.

  36. Mr Observer,
    You would miss the point even if stood right in front of you and whacked you over the head.
    My honest answer to your nutty and less than honest question is this:
    For the second time:
    My take on a country I regard as a ‘second home’ does not come from what I have heard from either of the Castro brothers, but rather from my own experience and that of my friends and family.
    If you choose not to follow this basic point which I have simplified as much as I possibly can just for you, that’s your prerogative.
    As it is also your prerogative to look down on those less fortunate than you and refer to them as hovel dwellers.
    It is far from the first time that your innate ‘North American Superiority Complex’ has surfaced here.


    REUTERS: Italy’s Alitalia scraps Venezuela flights over currency dispute: sources – by Christian Veron and Deisy Buitrago

    Italian airline Alitalia has canceled service to Venezuela as of June 2 due to delays in repatriating revenue under the country’s 11-year-old currency control system, two sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

    Venezuela owes airlines some $4 billion, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), because the airlines are required to sell tickets in the local bolivar currency but the government has not granted them approval to repatriate that revenue.

    “The last flight arrives on June 1, the plane will go back (to Italy) and will not return,” said a local company employee, who asked not to be identified, adding that customers would be reimbursed for canceled flights.

    An airline industry source separately said the company suspended service due to the dispute.

    Neither source specified the amount Alitalia is owed.

    The airline had been running five flights per week between Caracas and Rome until May, when it reduced service to only two, according to local media.

    Alitalia as well as Venezuela’s Water and Air Transport Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    The Venezuelan Airlines Association said in late March that the government had promised to allow foreign airlines to repatriate ticket sales revenue that had been stuck in the country for over two years. Several weeks later, the IATA complained that the government was not doing enough to resolve the issue.



    STATE MONOPOLY OF THE MEDIA: The media is a key arena in which the right to freedom of expression is exercised. It plays a critical role in any society, for example raising awareness of human rights and exposing human rights violations. The media has the potential to help shape public opinion and to monitor and assess the performance of those holding public office at all levels; it is an important tool for scrutinizing government practices in all societies no matter their political ideology. The absence of an independent media is a serious obstacle to the enjoyment of freedom of expression and the adequate review of corrupt and abusive official practices. Restrictions on the Cuban media are stringent and pervasive and clearly stop those in the country from enjoying their right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.8 The state maintains a total monopoly on television, radio, the press, internet service providers, and other electronic means of communication.9 According to official figures, there are currently 723 publications (406 print and 317 digital), 88 radio stations, four national TV channels (two devoted to educational programming), 16 regional TV stations and an international TV channel. All are financed and controlled by the government.10 Three newspapers provide national coverage: Granma, which is the organ of the Cuban Communist Party, Juventud Rebelde and Trabajadores.

    In Cuba, access to the internet remains under state control. It is regulated by the Law of Security of Information, which prohibits access to internet services from private homes. Therefore, the internet in Cuba has a social vocation and remains accessible at education centres, work-places and other public institutions. Internet can also be accessed in hotels but at a high cost. In October 2009, the government adopted a new law allowing the Cuban Postal Services to establish cyber-cafés in its premises and offer internet access to the public. However, home connections are not yet allowed for the vast majority of Cubans and only those favoured by the government are able to access the internet from their own homes.
    However, many blogs are not accessible from within Cuba because the Cuban authorities have put in place filters restricting access. The blogs affected are mainly those that openly criticize the Cuban government and its restrictions on freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and movement. For example, Generation Y is one of the dozens of blogs that are filtered or intermittently blocked by the government and are not accessible inside Cuba.

    Click to access amr250052010en.pdf

  39. THE COMMENTATOR: Venezuela’s petty socialism – Venezuela’s socialism will be durably remembered as an archetype of economic failure, political repression and ludicrous leadership. Even its closest allies are taking heed – by Fabio Rafael Fiallo

    This was the case of Brazil’s Dilma Roussef, Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa. Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, another close partner of Hugo Chávez, abstained from taking part at a parade organised on that occasion.

    Why such a lack of interest? The reason is simple: Chávez’s “twenty-first century socialism” is no longer a source of inspiration for Latin American leaders.

    Venezuela ranks dismally low in terms of economic performance and, according to forecasts made by the UN Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), will be the continent’s sole country in recession in 2014.

    Thus, noting that stringent foreign exchange controls have brought about soaring inflation (57 percent on annualised basis) and dramatic, communist-like shortages of essential goods in Venezuela, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has kept the dollarisation of his country’s economy – although he had in the past denounced it and promised to abolish it.

    Noting that fiscal profligacy has obliged Venezuela to pay double-digit interest rates for its public debt, Bolivia’s president Evo Morales has taken the path of fiscal prudence.

    Noting that expropriations have brought Venezuela’s industrial sector to a standstill, Daniel Ortega has opened his country’s economy to foreign investment, in particular to U.S. firms.

    For sure, these heads of State continue to be allies – indeed, accomplices – of the Venezuelan regime, not only because that regime lends them petrodollars on advantageous terms in return for their support, but also because they share with Caracas the same anti-USA rhetoric, a similar willingness to muzzle the opposition and the independent press and, not the least, a common desire to perpetuate themselves in power, by dubious means if need be.

    Yet, in the economic realm, they all look at Venezuela as a counter-model to keep away from.

    In Latin America, to manifest affinity with Chavismo used to win votes. No longer. This was first understood by Peru’s president, Ollanta Humala, who, in the 2011 presidential contest that brought him to power, buried past slogans and ceased to advertise himself as his country’s Hugo Chávez.

    Conversely, in Costa Rica’s presidential elections this year, the candidate identified with Chavismo, José María Villalta, arrived third with merely 17 percent of the ballot.

    Pursuing the analogy with Monicelli’s film it can be said that, in a manner similar to the bureaucrat’s son, the Venezuelan youth has emancipated itself from the incantation of “twenty-first century socialism” and is playing a leading role in the protracted wave of street protests. Doing so has taken a heavy toll, which is counted in hundreds of detainees and tens of youngsters tortured and killed.



  40. Great news, Yoani. I hope you are able to pull this off and be successful.

    You asked a while ago what makes a great journalistic enterprise – like a newspaper – and what distinguishes the news from mere political debate or propaganda [I’m paraphrasing, of course].

    I think the answer to your question is that, at its most fundamental level, a news report should answer the following six questions in an unbiased way that reports all sides of the issue at hand:

    Who is the story about;
    What is the story about;
    Where did the events of the story take place;
    When did the events of the story take place;
    Why did the events of the story take place;
    How did the events of the story take place.

    News reports should be supported by truth-based facts that can be checked by others.

    Facts can be supported by quotes from eyewitnesses, or people who have first-hand knowledge of the events reported in the story. Facts can also be supported by authenticated documents, or even photographs, and the like.

    When any one of the six questions above are not answerable because there is not enough information, or that information is being purposely withheld or distorted, that should prompt more investigation.

    If you report stories that answer the six questions above, your readers will know the facts of the story and will be able to make their own conclusions.

    Honest debate will follow from the stories you report, as long as there is free access to truth-based facts.

  41. Nick,

    Hard to answer a simple question, isn’t it?

    You sure waste a lot of words avoiding an honest answer.

    You recite every absurdity that Castro’s propaganda machine puts out, yet you can’t explain one word of it.

    I guess that’s what you mean by open-minded.

  42. Mr Observer,

    Your past aggressive tone is perhaps due to your aggressive nature ?
    Dunno/don’t care.
    But please feel free to blame it on whatever you like, be it my supposed ‘abuse of defenceless dissidents’ or whatever else that brews in your ever more nutty imagination.

    I feel overwhelmingly sure that abusive regimes are way more dangerous than someone like you, be they totalitarian regimes or not.

    If you ludicrously choose to believe that the so called ‘totalitarian’ regime of Cuba is/has been more abusive than the so called ‘democratic’ regimes of the USA, or indeed the UK, have been over the last half century-plus, then that’s your prerogative.

    If you choose to describe the abodes of Cuban people as ‘hovels’, then that would also be your prerogative.
    There are a great many people in the poorer parts of this world who live in what you would no doubt describe as ‘hovels’ when compared to the graceful living quarters of you lucky old Canadians.

    Re your absurd hurricane questions….
    As I say, I am most grateful to you that these nutty and ridiculous comments cause me so much merriment and chuckles.
    But really Mr Observer,
    I cannot take them seriously enough to put up any kind of a response.

    But I can assure you that my take on a country I regard as a ‘second home’ does not come from what I have heard from either of the Castro brothers, but rather from my own experience and that of my friends and family.

    If you think that you know better regarding loss of life due to hurricane,
    Then once again, that would be your prerogative.

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