Wednesday, 24 August 2011

UK actors to perform Harold Pinter’s works in the Havana Theatre Festival

Roger Lloyd Pack
The life and works of Harold Pinter, the Nobel prize winner, actor, writer and former patron of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign will be celebrated in Havana in November this year.

A group of UK actors led by Andy de la Tour and Roger Lloyd Pack will bring a selection of Pinter’s works to Cuba for the first time. As well as performance there will be rehearsed readings as well as film screenings and discussions exploring the life of Harold Pinter and recognising his internationalism and commitment to a better world.

The group will be a central element of the acclaimed Festival de Teatro de La Habana (Havana Theatre Festival) which runs across a host of venues and open air spaces between 28 October – 6 November, 2011. The festival showcases works by hundreds of Cuban and international companies through its broad and extensive 10 day programme.

Roger, who played Barty Crouch in the Harry Potter films and is well known for his TV roles such as Trigger in Only Fools and Horses said he was most looking forward to “meeting the Cuban people to share his appreciation of Pinter’s work while hopefully enjoying their famously ‘relaxed’ attitude to timekeeping”

CSC will be running a small study tour to enjoy the Festival. You can download further information and booking form here. Places are limited.

Theatre Festival Tour
26 October – 10 November,
Tour includes flights, accommodation at the Hotel Nacional Havana as well as programme of visits.
Contact email or call 020 8800 0155 for more details.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Cuba: US has no right to call us terrorists

Convicted terrorist and mass murderer Luis Posada Carriles
remains protected by the United States 
Since the victory of the Cuban revolution in 1959, the United States has funded and instigated overt and covert attempts to undermine the island’s sovereign government. Over 3,000 Cubans have died as a result of US-backed terrorist attacks on the republic; the Miami Five remain incarcerated in the U.S for fighting terrorism and convicted terrorist Posada Carriles remains protected in Miami. Despite this, the U.S. government inexplicably and hypocritically continues to name Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The following article originally appeared in the Morning Star.

Havana has rejected its inclusion on the new US State Department terror blacklist.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that the US government “has absolutely no moral nor any right to judge Cuba, which has an unblemished history in the fight against terrorism and has also been consistently a victim of this scourge.”

It accused the US of “political manipulation of such a sensitive issue as the fight against terrorism.”

The Foreign Ministry added that “the terrorist actions against Cuba which were organised, financed and perpetrated from the US territory, often with the complicity of the government itself,” have killed 3,478 Cubans and injured another 2,099.

It said the only reason Cuba had been included on the list “is to discredit Cuba and justify the economic embargo, which has been maintained for half a century.”

Syria, Sudan and Iran were also on the list of countries deemed by Washington to have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”

It was released last Thursday. 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

American majority wants Cuban embargo lifted

This story originally appeared on RT.

Poll after poll show a growing number of Americans want an end to the US embargo on Cuba. It has been in place for over half a century and though it was designed to bring down Fidel Castro, it is Cuba’s citizens who have felt its impact most.

Despite promises from President Obama downwards, it seems America’s powerful anti-Castro lobby is not about to let the embargo drop any time soon.

Following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the US imposed an embargo on all trade, investment and travel in an attempt to bring down the communist government of Fidel Castro

Cubans who fled the island for the US pushed to keep this agenda alive, and so the anti-Castro lobby was born.

“They give a lot of money, US elections are in fact privately financed, and so they've been able to figure out how to play the game. Even though they are a small percentage of the population they play a very big in a key swing state,” Frank Sharry, founder of America's Voice organization, said.

Polls consistently show that two-thirds of Americans favor ending the embargo and normalizing relations with Cuba, and some in Congress agree.

“It’s about time we talked to Cuba and stopped fighting these wars that are about 30 or 40 years old,” Senator Ron Paul said.

But anti-Castro groups have given a total of $1.798.124 in donations to House and Senate candidates from 2004 to 2010, keeping US Cuba policy virtually unchanged.

Fewer than one per cent of Americans are of Cuban origin and the majority emigrated before the end of the Cold War. Unlike the rest of the Hispanic population in the US, 58 per cent of Cubans are US citizens.

"Cubans that arrive and set foot on beaches in Florida are on their way to citizenship. Haitians that arrive and set foot on the beaches of Miami are on their way to a detention center and deportation,” Frank Sharry said.

Cuban Americans are also a force to be reckoned with in Congress. They are the most over-represented community in Congress, with two senators and four representatives, including the powerful Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

"I welcome the opportunity to have anyone assassinate Fidel Castro and any leader who is oppressing the people," Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said. 

They have powerful political action committees behind them, like the US Cuba Democracy PAC, the number one campaign donor in 2006 with $569.624.

“Our community is very focused and concentrated in New Jersey and Florida and so we have to make an effort to get out there and create the relationships,” Mauricio Claver-Carone, Director of US-Cuba Democracy Lobby Group, said.

Their agenda has been known to change many politicians’ minds, including President Barack Obama’s.

“I think it’s time to end the embargo,” Senator Barack Obama said back in January 2004.

Yet he changed his mind while campaigning before the Cuban American National Foundation, stressing that: “As president I’m not going to end the embargo.”

But while the majority of Americans favor ending the sanctions against Cuba, even protesting in the streets, they have yet to match the strength of the anti-Castro lobby.

Examples of previous polls in America which have rejected the blockade of Cuba can be found here and here.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Historic Labour Event in Support of the Miami 5 in Los Angeles

Mike Gracia, Cristina Vazquez, Ernesto Medrano and Tony Woodley
On August 13 more than 200 workers, labour leaders and community activists came together at the United Service Workers West (SEIU) Hall to participate in an event in solidarity with the Cuban 5. Coincidently that same day Rene Gonzalez one of the five spent another birthday in prison far away from his love ones.

As part of the event those attending were able see the travelling exhibit of Gerardo Hernandez's political cartoons entitled Humour from my Pen. During the event the participants watched a short video of Danny Glover and another video of the campaign of the British unions in support of the Cuban 5.

The significance of this meeting was that it marked the first that a union from the US organized an event solely to inform their rank and file and the leadership about the colossal and ongoing injustice being committed against the Cuban 5. The purpose of the event was to expand the exposure of the case that is boycotted by the media, to the US labour movement and to ask them to join the struggle.
Tony Woodley addressing crowd

Tony Woodley, former president of UNITE, the largest union in England, who travelled all the way to Los Angeles to participate in the event  spoke about the importance of solidarity. "Make no mistake about it this is an historical event," Woodley told the crowd. "The Cuban 5 enjoy a great deal of support on the international level but that is not the case inside the United States. The solidarity is absolutely crucial in this case and the political struggle will be decisive for the return of the Five to Cuba." Woodley shared with the audience an emotional meeting he had with the families of the Five on his last visit to Cuba."The Five and their families are all people with great pride and nothing will break their spirit."

Workers and union leaders present at the meeting represented a number of unions from Southern California including service workers, transportation workers, teachers, musicians, healthcare workers, electricians and others. Mike Garcia president SEIU-USWW welcomed the audience and reminded them that the struggle is the only tool that the workers have in their fight for justice. "The struggle for the freedom of the Cuban 5 should be part of the struggle of US workers because it is part of the same fight."

Cristina Vazquez from Workers United briefly explained who the Cuban 5 were and went on to say, "Many of you are learning about the Cuban 5 for the first time at this meeting because this story has been kept out of the news media. Every day we fight against injustice and one of our biggest struggles has been the reunification of families and immigration reform. This fight is no different than that; here we have wives, children and parents who have been separated for 13 years. We need to be the voice of the families of the Cuban 5, we need to be the voice here for the people of Cuba who want their 5 heroes back home." Vazquez encouraged the audience to pick up postcards designed by the union she represents to be sent to President Obama asking for the release of the Five.

Alicia Jrapko from the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 spoke about the different campaigns in the US to spread the word about the case.  Jrapko explained to the audience that this is a case of human rights and basic justice. "These men came to the US unarmed simply to defend their country from terrorist attacks coming from US soil. With a stroke of a pen Obama can free them. Join us in demanding that."

In recognition of the support from labour, members of the International Committee presented wooden plaques with the symbolic logo on behalf of the Cuban 5 to Tony Woodley, Mike Garcia and Cristina Vazquez.  Another plaque was awarded to Natasha Hickman editor of CubaSi!, a publication in solidarity with Cuba produced by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in the UK.

An informational table with a display explaining the case of the Cuban 5 received a lot of attention with most people signing up to receive updates of the case and took with them hundreds of post cards to send to Obama.  Many copies of the new documentary Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up were also purchased at the table.

Mike Garcia, referring to the case of the Cuban 5, loudly closed the meeting by asking the audience several times Se Puede? And they responded each time louder; Si Se Puede!

This report was originally produced by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5

Friday, 12 August 2011

New revelations on US campaign against the Miami Five

Documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) constitute overwhelming evidence that the US government paid for a campaign against the Miami Five, five Cuban antiterrorists imprisoned for almost 13 years now.

The campaign involved prominent reporters from the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and the Diario Las Americas newspapers and Miami-based radio and television stations which were on the U.S. government’s payroll during the same period in which these five men were on trial.

The documents were requested by the US National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), and the Liberation newspaper. These documents establish that during the trial the Miami media were saturated with reports that were highly provocative and damaging for the Cuban antiterrorists. The note of the US solidarity organization adds that new appeals to the government by the National Committee, Liberation and the PCJF for the handing over of other documents are still pending, in order to continue exposing – it asserts – the systematic and illegal policy of the US government in the juridical process of The Five.

The Reporters For Hire website presents the information revealed by way of the FOIA at the disposal of the public. It cites as an example the case of Enrique Encinosa, who has defended bombs attacks against Cuban hotels, and was hired by the US government while he was working as “independent” director for news at a powerful radio station. Encinosa boasted in a radio interview on the Internet about having been involved in paramilitary organizations against the Cuban Revolution, and during the trial against the five Cubans he regularly broadcast news at the WAQI ("Radio Mambi") and was a frequent commentator about their arrest and prosecution. He received, according to the FOIA, up to a total of 10,400 dollars for presenting a weekly program in Radio Marti, from October 1st, 2000, to September 30, 2001, a period that covered the trial against Cubans Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, and Rene Gonzalez, which lasted from November 27, 2000, to June 8, 2001.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Times have changed in Cuba, but softly the struggle continues

On his first visit in 1967, John Pilger witnessed the effects of US efforts to isolate the island. In this week’s New Statesman, Pilger recounts his thoughts on Cuba.

On my first day in Cuba, in 1967, I waited in a bus queue that was really a conga line. Ahead of me were two large, funny women resplendent in frills of blinding yellow; one of them had an especially long bongo under her arm. When the bus arrived, painted in Cuba's colours for its inaugural service, they announced that the gringo had not long arrived from London and was therefore personally responsible for this breach in the American blockade. It was an honour I could not refuse.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Beyond the Frame – Contemporary Cuban Art

Breaking the Silence: Beyond the Frame - Contemporary Cuban Art
23 April – 28 April 2012, Gallery 27, Central London

Doreen Weppler-Grogan reports on a major new exhibition of Cuban art featuring the work of Miami Five prisoners Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo Hernandez, alongside contemporary Cuban artists which CSC will bring to the UK in April 2012.

By staging a major exhibition and sale of Cuban art in London next spring, CSC is determined to see that the media silence surrounding the campaign for justice for the Miami is brought to an end.

However, Beyond the Frame – Contemporary Cuban Art will have more than a campaigning focus.  It is a serious presentation of Cuba’s visual arts, involving contributions by 25 of Cuba’s foremost artists, and a product of a close working relationship with the Visual Arts Council in Cuba. Alongside the artwork from Cuba will be contributions from two of the Five.