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EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg were due to discuss the lifting of EU sanctions against Cuba on Monday, June 16. However, the substantive discussion is likely to be postponed because of the crisis in the EU posed by the Irish No vote to the Lisbon Treaty.
The British government has been and continues to be one of the main proponents of the diplomatic and economic sanctions that were imposed on Cuba in 2003. This is typical of the hooligan stance of Britain in the international arena and its refusal to dissociate its foreign policy from that of US imperialism. All the other EU states, apart from the Czech Republic and Sweden, are now opposed to the sanctions being maintained. Although the sanctions were suspended in 2005 they were not annulled, and remain a symbol of the ill-will against Cuba and its people, who have stood firm against all the plots and aggressive manoeuvres of the US regime. The US has maintained an economic, financial and trade blockade against Cuba for almost 50 years. The Bush regime pays its hired hands to unsuccessfully try and destabilise Cuba, and then refers to these mercenaries as political prisoners when they are jailed for their criminal activities.
The British government must drop its opposition to the lifting of sanctions. They are a gross affront to the Cuban people who are making their own decisions on the future direction of their country. The British people, in contrast, are having to fight the battle of democratic renewal in order to wrest decision-making power from being the preserve of the big parties in a parliamentary system which denies the people control of their own lives.
It was reported that the parliamentary all-party Cuba group had been told that the British government would change its stance on EU sanctions against Havana in the farcical horse-trading that preceded the Commons vote on Gordon Browns 42 days. However, this was met with scepticism and derision given the depth of Britains subservience to the US.
The stand of the British government is so despicable that while high-level diplomatic contacts with the Cuban government are frozen, Gordon Brown welcomes war criminal George W Bush to Downing Street protected from the wrath of the people by riot police and an exclusion zone.
The only just stand is the removal of sanctions which will open a path for a just, normal and comprehensive co-operation between the EU and Cuba. The true friends of Cuba will also give the Cuban people their unstinting support in the affirmation of their self-determination and organising to defend their revolution and advance socialist construction. The British government must be condemned for its reactionary stand against Cuba, the Cuban people and the right of all peoples to determine their own affairs free from outside interference. Lift the sanctions; hands off Cuba!
WDIE condemns the shameful decision of the Atlanta Court of Appeals which upheld the convictions of the five Cuban anti-terrorists unjustly imprisoned in US jails. On June 4, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued another negative decision in the case of the five Cuban anti-terrorists who are being unjustly held in US prisons for their role in gathering information about the activities of violent anti-Cuban groups operating in southern Florida. In its judgment, the court dismissed almost entirely the latest appeal by the Cuban Five against the wrongful convictions and harsh sentences that were imposed on them after a biased trial with a Miami jury in 2001 during which they were falsely accused of spying against the US government.
The International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five pointed out that the Atlanta Appeals Court's written opinion, which employs startling political rhetoric, states that the defences arguments lacked merit and clearly favours the government.
The International Committee declared that only solidarity, constant condemnation and international mobilisation will secure freedom for the Five.
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) stated that it finds the holding of the 11th circuit court of appeals decision in the Cuban 5 case a politically motivated travesty of justice.
IADL has consistently claimed that the prosecution of these five was illegitimate and politically motivated designed mainly to placate the Cuban community in Miami which has engaged in many hostile and terrorist acts against the Cuban people, as well as to carry on the United States' campaign to isolate and harm the Cuban people.
IADL believes the original prosecution of these men is the height of hypocrisy, especially in light of the government's protection of known terrorist Luis Posada Carrilles. IADL supported the original opinion of the panel of Judges in August 2005 who found that the defendants did not get a fair trial in Miami, given the prejudice and fear generated against them in the Miami community. IADL condemned the decision of the full 11th Circuit which overturned that decision.
Demonstrations were held in many cities in the United States. In Miami, a press conference was held June 6 at the headquarters of Alianza Martiana by the member organisations of the coalition to protest the panel decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. On June 6, some 90 people joined together at the busy downtown intersection of Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, in an action called by the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five and supported by many organisations and individuals. The day before, hundreds of calls were made by volunteers to phone lists, to notify them of the court decision and the protest today. Supporters of the Five Heroes gathered in the driving rain in Seattle carrying colourful signs and distributing hundreds of statements on the Appeals Court decision. Demonstrations were also organised in New York City; Washington, DC; Boston; Philadelphia; Detroit; Chicago; Minneapolis and Orange County.
In Canada, demonstrations were held in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
Here in London, less than 24 hours after receiving the news that the US Court of Appeal had upheld the convictions of the Cuban Five, activists gathered outside the US embassy in London at 7:00 pm as part of the day after campaign to condemn the ruling. This emergency protest was called by Rock around the Blockade, as part of the world-wide campaign for the release of the Cuban Five. They held up placards demanding, Free the 5, and placed Cuban flags, placards and pictures of the five Cuban heroes on the eight-foot barriers protecting the US Embassy.
A second demonstration took place on June 7 at 12:00 noon in Trafalgar Square. Members of Rock around the Blockade demonstrated on the north pavement of the square. A statement in solidarity, sent by Gloria La Riva, Free the Five USA, was read out, as were the inspiring words of Gerardo Hernández following the verdict: We'll do all the time we have to do, 30 years, 40, whatever, and as long as a single one of you is outside resisting, we are also going to resist, until justice is done.
Demonstrations were also held in Barcelona in the Catalan region of Spain, and in Guatemala and Peru in Latin America.
Press conference given by Felipe Pérez Roque, Cuban Minister of Foreign Relations, to the Cuban and foreign press, Ministry of Foreign Relations, May 22, 2008
Good morning to all correspondents.
We thank you for being here today, Thursday, nearly at the close of this week that has been so hectic and fun.
I have called you here today to call upon the President of the United States, to call upon Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to call upon the US government to answer, to stop avoiding the questions that remain suspended in the air, unanswered, questions about what has been brought to light, before public opinion, about the sordid links between anti-Cuban terrorism in Miami, US diplomats accredited in Havana and the groups of US mercenaries that operate in our country.
I have called you here today to reiterate Cubas call on the US President, Secretary of State and government, a call they must answer. We have a right to know. You, journalists, public opinion, our people, the people of the United States have the right to know the dark plot, which has not entirely come to light, that surrounds these shocking ties, about which we have offered abundant information in recent days.
We call on the US president, we call on the Secretary of State, we call on the US government to stop avoiding the issue, to stop resorting to pretexts, to put an end to the silence, to stop hiding. We call on them to publicly appear and respond to the serious accusations which have been leveled against them. I have also called you here today to respond to the farcical spectacle put on by the US President at the White House yesterday.
Three days ago, we denounced the scandalous conduct of US diplomats accredited in Havana, particularly that of the Head of the US Interests Section in Havana, as the facilitator of contacts and the movement of money between terrorist Santiago Álvarez and mercenary groups operating in Cuba.
As of today, the government of the United States has not denied these accusations and has avoided answering questions regarding the illegal conduct of its officials, who have been caught red-handed, acting like the vulgar envoys of a terrorist who, to top things off, serves a jail sentence in the United States.
Lets have a look at what the State Department spokesperson, Mr McCormak, said when asked about this matter.
The direct question was: Is there any policy that prevents US diplomats from being a means of delivering cash to those who may be dissidents in Cuba? That was the question: Is there any policy that prevents this? His reply was: Im not aware of the mechanics or the regulations that guide it."
Then, this is put to him: The accusation from the Cubans is that the head of the Interests Section has been delivering cash from private US groups they refer to a terrorist cell, which resorts to violence, to a man who is imprisoned in the United States, as private groups to the political opposition in Cuba. they call what we have seen in the course of these days, these mercenaries brawling among themselves, thirsty for money, a "political opposition". When told that Cuba claims the Head of the Interests Section is involved in this, the spokesperson replies: I dont know the specifics of this. I am not aware of the mechanics.
Again, he is asked: But ( ) the head of the Interests Section, can he go ahead and wire money or send money to these groups? Spokesman McCormak's response: "Look, I cant you know, Im not here to talk about the specific mechanics of this. Im sure that we can find some expert who can delve into the weeds of this."
Then, the journalist says to him :Youre kind of here to answer questions that we have about ( ) this issue and the Cuban Government has come out ( ), as though to say, if you haven't come here to answer these questions, why have you come here at all?
With such evasive answers, with a stammering tone, did the authorised spokesperson and State Department official respond to the accusations.
As you can understand, we were very amused as we watched this scene unfold.
When the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas Shannon, was asked about this matter, he replied: the United States has a well known policy of humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people ( ) And we will continue that practice and policy.
Were back to square one. Is it or is it not authorised? The government of the United States, does it support or condemn this practice?
The Vice-Minister for Latin America has but evasive answers and ready-made phrases to offer, which ultimately say nothing to us. But, in addition to leaving the question unanswered, the Assistant Secretary of State's response is brutally cynical. To say that they have a well known policy of humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people, speaking on behalf of a government that has taken the policy of blockade on Cuba and the persecution of the Cuban people to insane levels, that has tried to asphyxiate us, to kill us through hunger and disease, to say they have a well known policy of humanitarian assistance shows a complete lack of scruples. In the end, he offers no answer.
Then the US Interests Section comes along, it does not make a public appearance, but rather publishes and distributes a communiqué which Washington, as expected, asks it to send out. What does the communiqué issued by the Interests Section, which doesnt show its face, say?
We permit US private organisations to do so as well. I understand the doing that as well implies as the Head of our Interests Section has done.
This assistance has no political purpose, but is intended to address the day-to-day needs of families who are struggling to survive in the current system.
This is what the US Interests Section communiqué says.
We feel that these very serious accusations have not been fully answered and, therefore, we have come here today to stress the seriousness of this matter and to insist on the need of a public appearance and an answer to public opinion.
It is also cynical that the same government that, under blockade law and all its regulations, deprives Cubans residing in the United States of the right to send their relatives in Cuba remittances, that this same government should act, through its diplomatic agents, as an intermediary, such that terrorists like Santiago Álvarez and his accomplices are able to send money to Cuba, in this case not to their relatives but to mercenary elements, with the aim of promoting subversive activities in Cuba, in support of its blockade policy and the aggressions against our country, which have nothing to do with humanitarian assistance, money to pay for the services of salaried and mercenary agents. It is the height of depravity that the same diplomatic agents responsible for monitoring the policy which prevents Cubans living the United States from sending money to their relatives in Cuba from sending economic aid that these same agents should be the carriers, the envoys, the transporters of money destined to mercenary groups in Cuba. It is an unprecedented fact, really, in the annals of Cuba's diplomatic relations.
The US government's inability to offer a serious response to these accusations has now become evident. This is why we want to clearly reiterate the very serious facts that have been denounced this week.
Three key elements stand out among the many facts that have been published: First, the participation of diplomats from the US Interests Section in Havana in the remittance of money, by the notorious terrorist Santiago Álvarez, who lives in the United States, serving a jail sentence there, to mercenaries in Cuba, mercenaries implementing US policy in Cuba. They acted not only as envoys but also, even, as moneylenders in tight situations. That is to say, the Head of the Interests Section gave the mercenaries a cash advance to cover their expenses, in anticipation of getting that money back from Santiago Álvarez. This is a fact.
The second and very serious fact is that these mercenary elements in Cuba, in exchange for the money they received from Santiago Álvarez through US diplomats, as payment, let's say, for the money they receive, helped Santiago Álvarez, who is in jail in the United States, when he stood trial, to secure a reduction of his sentence for possession of an arsenal of weapons destined to violent actions against Cuba. They gave him documents, which they sent him from Havana, which have allowed this terrorist to present himself as a benefactor of the human rights cause, someone who "supports groups in Cuba that struggle for human rights", and not a terrorist. This has allowed him to have his conviction reduced.
So, we have a case here in which Cuban mercenaries based in our country, using the US Interests Section, facilitate access to documents which have a say in a trial against a terrorist accused of possessing an arsenal of weapons ready to be used against Cuba, which allows him to get his sentence reduced. This is something of the utmost gravity.
I think we should insist on the content of two documents which were presented this week. The first is a message from Mrs. Carmen Machado to Mrs. Martha Beatriz Roque, in which Carmen Machada a close collaborator of terrorist Santiago Álvarez' writes the following:
I wanted to ask you a favour," this is addressed to Martha Beatriz. If it's not possible, dont be embarrassed and dont worry, because our Friend Santiago Álvarez will understand. I need a letter from you, signed by you, that confirms the relations weve maintained with the Juridical Rescue Foundation, of which that support and those relations "as you know, the main collaborator is Santiago Álvarez". We need a letter where you state this.
The letter would be addressed to Judge James Cohn the Judge whos reviewing this man's case. This is the judge who is going to have the last word as regards how long a sentence our Friend is going to get and the person who can reduce it to what he was promised". Santiago Álvarez was promised a reduction of his sentence and, to do this, the judge needs a letter which states that Santiago aided Cuba-based mercenary groups that struggle according to the United States for human rights. This letter would only be read by the lawyers the terrorist's lawyers, "our lawyers", she writes, "and by Judge Cohn." The prosecution, which represents the State, would neither have access to nor read the letter.
That is to say, Cuban mercenaries write a letter to help a convicted man get his sentence reduced. To do this, they get the help of the US Interests Section in Havana, and they keep the prosecution, which in turn represents the State, in the dark, so that it knows nothing of the letter, which only the judge and defence attorneys can read. "The aid that we have offered you and other relatives of political prisoners (Biscet), and those we have still to help. That would give his actions legitimacy in the eyes of this trial of his", Santiago's trial, that is.
Please, if this is possible, I would be eternally grateful to you."
They request this from her. And Mrs. Roque and other mercenaries in Cuba write the letter and send it.
Then, we have this other document, in which Martha tells this woman: "I must inform you that there is a serious problem with the document I wrote and sent you with respect to the money received. Received from whom? From Santiago Álvarez. The young woman from the Roosevelt Centre there, in the US Interests Section misplaced the original with my signature. As you can imagine, if she works at the Interests Section she also works for Cuban State Security. I don't understand this association and this accusation levelled at the young woman from the Roosevelt Centre. The mercenary adds: "I informed Michael Parmly of this and they told me they were going to think of what to do", to find the letter whose original copy was lost. Theyve used the copy there, but the original is nowhere to be found. It is a serious problem, because State Security will surely bring the original, or a whole ream of documents, to light on the Round Table programme." She adds: "I wanted you to know this and to tell my friend, of whom I am also proud". Because ha had sent her a message expressing how proud he was to see how she was fighting to have his sentence reduced.
I've been at pains to emphasise the seriousness of this issue: American diplomats in Havana have colluded with mercenaries in the service of the United States here in Cuba, together with a judge in Florida and the defence lawyers, to reduce the sentence against the terrorist Santiago Álvarez, using a document produced and sent via the US Interests Office and its mail system.
I therefore believe that the United States government should own up to this new arrangement, to this set-up whereby Cuban-born terrorists operate in cahoots with US diplomats and US mercenary groups in Cuba; a set-up that moves money around, conspires against justice and works for the forces of subversion against Cuba. This is a second element; consequently, Cuba expects a thorough investigation by Washington of this serious matter, and Cuba expects the results of that investigation to be made public. We have the right to know.
There is a third element, which has come to light this week. I have mentioned the first involvement of US diplomats in the money-go-round among terrorist groups and mercenaries in Cuba; the second the involvement of these same people in a conspiracy to get the sentence of a detained terrorist lightened; and the third, the illegal conduct of the US Interests Office in Havana in encouraging, funding, organising, directing and monitoring in detail, in depth. Remember that "CNN, wow!". In other words, the detailed coverage of who they are, the people involved, of what is being done. It monitors, directs, funds and organises the carrying out of provocative activities by mercenary elements in Cuba aimed at destabilising order in our country. There are three very serious aspects that implicate American diplomats in Havana.
Also demonstrated, I think, in the most irrefutable way, has been the mercenary character of these so-called dissident groups, their fifth-column nature, how they get guidelines and money, not just from Washington but also, even, from terrorist groups, from anyone willing to put up the money.
I must stress that these acts break Cuban law, break US law and breach conventions and rules of international law.
What would happen if Martha Beatriz Roque, the mercenaries that have been under the spotlight the last few days, lived in the United States and were accused of receiving money from a terrorist group acting against America via Cuban or other foreign diplomats? What would have happened if they were discovered and tried in America for receiving funds from terrorist groups planning action against the United States? What does American law provide in such a case? What was it President Bush said? "Anyone who encourages a terrorist, who shelters a terrorist, becomes a terrorist also. Wasn't that it?
So, today we are asking: What does Washington know about all this plotting? What does the Secretary of State know? What does she have to say? Did she know what her diplomats were doing here in Havana? Now she knows, what does she think about it? Does she approve of their operating as envoys? Does she support Mr Parmly in his activities via e-mail and as paymaster of terrorist groups and of mercenary groups in Cuba? What have they to say? What does Washington say? It had better say something.
Does it reject, condemn these actions, or whitewash them, condone them, support them? What does the US government say? What has it investigated? What does it have to say about this new web of links between terrorist groups, US diplomats and mercenary groups? We call on them to drop their evasive, mealy-mouthed language and seriously address matters of a gravity that cannot be played down or disguised.
This is the core of our message. Washington must speak out, it must say whether it agrees with or intends to investigate these actions, which involve crimes under American and Cuban law and fly in the face of international law.
The illegal conduct of the US Interests Office in Havana breaches, in the first place, the bilateral agreement between our two countries which led to the setting-up of the Interests Section and which dates from 30 May 1977. The agreement provides that the purpose of these offices is to facilitate communication between the two governments and carry on routine diplomatic and consular functions. In this context, the US and Cuban governments reaffirmed their commitment to the provisions of the international treaties governing diplomatic and consular relations. The content of those treaties was reaffirmed.
What does the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations the key document here have to say? What does the 1961 Vienna Convention say? It says that "The functions of a diplomatic mission consist, inter alia, in: Representing the sending State in the receiving State; Protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, within the limits permitted by international law; Negotiating with the Government of the receiving State In other words, the usual, well-known, diplomatic functions. Promoting friendly relations it cites as a duty and function of diplomatic representations, as well as developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations".
The US Interests Section in Havana is attached to the Swiss Embassy, so that its conduct is also a breach of and insult to Swiss diplomacy, which agreed to represent these interests in Cuba, and our in America, and has also been placed in an extremely embarrassing position.
These are the functions. Nowhere does it say that the functions of a diplomatic representation include funding, lending money to, providing a mail service for, directing or organising political groups opposed to the government to which it is accredited; all of those are infractions.
Moreover, according to Article 41.1 of the Vienna Convention: "Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State" and "The premises of the mission must not be used in any manner incompatible with the functions of the mission".
Well, converting the representation into a command HQ, its premises into conference centre for mercenaries to hold events, to conspire, drives a coach-and-horses through the Vienna Convention, as Washington well knows. That's why we are pointing the finger, because they would never allow an accredited diplomatic representation in their country to behave like this. That's why we are calling them to account, to stop hiding, to stand up and tell world opinion what they think about these serious and well-proven facts.
But also, yesterday, in the middle of this situation, the US Interests Office staged and orchestrated a new provocation against Cuba and arranged a meeting in the residence of one of its officials in Miramar (Calle 7 and 24), a house that has become as was saying a kind of campaign headquarters for the counterrevolution in Cuba and the US-based mercenary groups. It staged an event there with all these people, some of whom have been completely unmasked in the last few days, for the purpose no less of listening to the speech by President Bush. All this in the middle of the situation described, regardless of everything that had been said and discussed. There they went, to applaud like mad ... Some have avowed that they were really moved at seeing the president on television, that it was an uplifting experience for them. What they said is on record, a reflection of the fifth-column like status of some of these people.
OK, they went there, they clapped, they agreed with everything that was happening and they listened to Bush's speech.
As to the speech by Bush and all that show in the White House, all I can say is that it was a decadent spectacle, a cynical and irrelevant speech, an absurd piece of propaganda in poor taste. That's what I have to say about yesterday, because it's obvious that President Bush is a spent force, a departing president, packing his bags prior to leaving for the Texas ranch, discredited, a politician that has been overwhelmingly rejected in his own country.
President Bush is less popular now than Nixon was in the throes of the Watergate scandal, when he was on the point of being impeached, hes set a new record as has been said -, a man who shames Americans, who the Republican party candidates and those of his religious faith avoid being seen in public with, do not want his support, because that damages their electoral prospects; a pariah, a man shunned by all. That is the reality. That is today's president of the United States, who is retiring and leaving the presidency, having been the president who ordered illegal invasions, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, torture, illegal flights, kidnapping, who appeared in public defending torture. In other words, a man who followed a policy exclusively to serve his buddies, the powerful oil interests and others of the American power groups.
That is the departing president. What is his legacy? What has he left? Well, yesterday, that show for the benefit of the usual audience one of the few groups that still applaud him in the United States, the Miami-based Cuban mafia, which is a minority section of the Cuban American community. He has no further business, this is just a show, nobody takes any notice. The election campaign proceeds without him; if he shows up in one place, the Republican candidates appear elsewhere; they want nothing to do with him, he's a jinx. This is the man we see, irrelevant, regarded by everyone with a mixture of scorn and distaste. That's the truth, that's the man we see. He stands there, threatens Cuba, utters four incoherent phrases, three he tries to say in Spanish. This is the decadent, mediocre spectacle we have seen
That's our opinion of what he said.
But there's one thing I should stress, because yesterday President Bush did something in his speech yesterday, in the middle of that mediocre farce he likened a Miami singer to José Martí, he paid homage to a Miami singer, saying he was as great a figure as Cuba's national hero. To do that in Washington, two days after the anniversary of Martí's glorious death in battle, is a gross insult to the dignity of the Cuban people, which we reject and condemn in the name of that people. The Cuban people will never forget so serious an affront.
That is what we have to say, that is our reaction to these events and to yesterday's public appearance by the president of the United States.
Stenography Team Council of State
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