Reforestation in Cuba

This 6 September 2019 video is called Cuba Increases Forested Areas.


Close Guantánamo Bay torture camp now

Mass demonstration of hunger strikers outside the US embassy in London, England demanding that the Guantanamo Bay prison is shut down

From daily News Line in Britain:

Shut G-Bay Down! 17 Years Of ‘Temple Of Torture’

8th May 2019

SEVENTEEN years since it opened, Guantánamo Bay remains as significant and problematic as ever, says Reprieve.

Here are five of the most compelling reasons why Guantánamo Bay should be closed for good, says Reprieve.

1. The ‘worst of the worst’ myth

More detainees have died in Guantánamo than have been convicted of a crime.

The US’s claim that Guantánamo detainees are the ‘worst of the worst’ does not stand up – US authorities started to release those who had been abducted and imprisoned as early as 2002, the year the prison opened.

Now, only 40 remain from a total of 780.

In fact, within a year of opening, Guantánamo’s operational commander complained that he was being sent too many ‘Mickey Mouse’ detainees.

As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights points out: ‘According to official information, only 8% of Guantánamo detainees were characterised as ‘fighters’ for Al-Qaeda or the Taliban; 93% were not captured by US forces; and most were turned over to US custody at a time in which the United States offered bounties for the capture of suspected terrorists.”

The majority of the detainees were never even charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one.

In total, the US has only convicted six of the 780 prisoners who have been through Guantánamo’s gates.

2. Trump’s temple of torture

Leaked documents from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2004 detail ‘an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture at Guantánamo.’

The ICRC documented the use of humiliating acts including solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions, exposure to loud and persistent noise and music, and regular beatings.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur for Torture has made it clear that indefinite detention in itself amounts to torture.

The main conclusion of the US Senate’s 2014 probe into CIA torture was that it ‘was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence.’

But Donald Trump has said he would like to ‘bring back waterboarding’ and ‘a hell of a lot worse’, adding: ‘Don’t tell me it doesn’t work – torture works … if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway.’

3. The expensive mistake

It costs the US tax payer $445 million a year to keep the remaining 40 detainees held in Guantánamo. This means that it costs $29,000 per prisoner per night to keep Guantánamo open – far more than any federal or state prison.

4. The legal black hole

In opening Guantánamo Bay in 2002, the US Government sought to create a legal black hole – where it argued neither US nor international law applied.

Choosing an offshore facility in Cuba as the base, the administration claimed that detainees were not covered by the US Constitution because they were not on US soil, and that their enemy combatant status meant they could be denied legal protections.

The ‘legal protections’ in question ranged from being denied access to lawyers and fair trials to the systematic use of torture.

5. The prison of no exits

Last year, Donald Trump proudly announced that nobody else would be released from Guantánamo.

There are 40 men still in the prison – five of those have already been cleared for release in a rigorous process involving six separate US agencies including the Department of Defence and the Director of National Intelligence.

They have been deemed to pose no threat, yet Donald Trump won’t allow them to leave.

Reprieve says: ‘We led the fight for access to the men held at Guantánamo, and were one of the very first organisations allowed inside.

‘Since then, we have secured freedom for more than 80 men illegally detained without charge or trial – more than any other organisation.

‘After 9/11, the US government systematically designed and implemented a programme of abducting and torturing terrorism suspects, before imprisoning them without due process in Guantánamo Bay.’

Reprieve’s Clive Stafford Smith, who was one of the three lawyers who demanded and successfully sued for access to the prison, said: ‘Since 2002, 779, including at least 15 children, have been imprisoned at Guantánamo.

‘The vast majority of them were sold to the US for large bounties – typically, around $5,000 for each man.

‘So far, just four detainees have been convicted of a crime – fewer than the number who have died in detention.

‘No-one has ever been held accountable for the illegal detention and abuse at the prison camp and it remains open to this day.’

Meanwhile, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve, has condemned Tory Home Secretary Sajid Javid for undermining UK opposition to the death penalty.

Commenting on a leaked letter from Javid to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year, Foa said: ‘Sajid Javid has undermined the UK’s decades-long opposition to the death penalty and Guantánamo Bay in an attempt to outsource our justice system to the US.

‘There is no reason why people accused of murdering British citizens should not face British justice in a British court.

‘Justice is not served by turning such individuals over to a US justice system which has an appalling record of trying such cases, in large part as a result of torture and mistreatment.

‘Guantánamo Bay has, over a period of 16 years, seen repeated attempts to hold any judicial process fail.

‘Only four out of 780 detainees have been convicted in the military courts system.

‘The death penalty, as the government has accepted many times, is not effective as a deterrent and has led to gross miscarriages of justice.

‘Instead of kowtowing to the Trump Administration, Sajid Javid should use the laws already in place to bring these cases before a British court.’

On Monday, the US Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the government’s indefinite detention of an inmate at the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison camp. Moath al-Alwi has been imprisoned and tortured for nearly two decades without ever having been convicted of any crime. The court’s action is for all practical purposes a repudiation of basic democratic rights and a tacit endorsement of the regime of abductions, renditions, torture, secrecy and indefinite detention without trial that has been erected in the course of the “war on terror”: here.

Crickets, not evil Cuban commies, ‘attacked’ US diplomats

Anurogryllus celerinictus cricket, photo by Brandon woo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Crickets in love behind ‘sonic attack’ at the US American embassy in Cuba

Who or what is behind the mysterious ‘sonic attacks’ that took place at the United States embassy in Cuba? Diplomats who stayed there between the end of 2016 and the end of 2017 were faced with unexplained health problems, such as hearing loss, headaches and nausea. According to the United States, Cuba was the instigator: it supposedly carried out attacks with sound waves.

The truth now seems a little more innocent. An American and a British scientist conclude after examining a sound recording that there is no question of an audio weapon, but of crickets during their mating season.

“I can almost certainly say that the released recording is a cricket, and we think we know what species it is”, says one of the researchers to The New York Times. It is Anurogryllus celerinictus, a cricket species that lives in the Caribbean.

The researchers came to this conclusion after studying a sound recording that was published in 2017 by news agency AP. At the time, various media, including the NOS, wrote that the sound “most closely resembles the chirping of crickets“. …

The ‘sonic attacks’ affair escalated sharply at the end of 2017. The US withdrew more than half of the staff of its embassy in Havana. No visa applications were processed at the embassy, ​​and a negative travel advice for Cuba was introduced for Americans. Cuban diplomats in the US also had to leave the country. Cuba denies any involvement in an ‘attack’.

Anti-Cuban Donald Trump’s war on baseball?

This video says about itself:

Baseball Fiesta in Barcelona 1992 – Summer Olympics

Cubans play baseball just as Brazilians play soccer – it’s their national sport. Pick any street in Havana and you are as likely to see impromptu games taking place as you are to see locals walking to the shops.

The sport was introduced to the island by American sailors back in the 1860s. Banned during the first Cuban War of Independence from Spanish rule in 1869 because Cubans began to prefer it to bullfighting, the baseball ban only increased interest in the sport.

Baseball became a symbol of Cuban freedom and independence and even former President Fidel Castro was known to pitch a few balls from the mound in his day.

Cuban baseball players are among the best in the world. The national team became Olympic champions three times. So, the biggest baseball competition in the world, Major League Baseball in the USA, wants Cuban players. However, for a long time, Cuban-United States relations were very bad. That meant Cuban players could only travel to the US, eg, via Mexican criminal gangs extorting them.

Under the Obama administration, there was some improvement in US-Cuban relations. However, Donald Trump has ruined much of that improvement. In spite of that, the baseball federations of both countries did not give up, and have an agreement now.

After United States President Donald Trump’s war on American football … after Trump’s war on United States basketball … now Trump‘s war on United States baseball?

From the Washington Post in the USA:

MLB, Cuban Baseball Federation reach agreement; Trump administration signals it has issues with deal

19 December 2018

Major League Baseball on Wednesday reached a historic agreement with Cuba’s baseball federation, modeled after those with leagues in Japan and Korea, that would regulate and streamline the entry of Cuban players coming to the U.S., the league announced. But it remains to be seen whether the Trump administration’s harder line against the Cuban government leaves room for the agreement to work in practice.

The agreement, the result of years of negotiations between MLB, the MLB Players Association and the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB), is designed to end decades of fraught relations between MLB and Cuba and eliminate the need for Cuban players to defect. …

However, a State Department spokesman said that players will have to travel to a third country to apply for a visa, like other Cuban nationals, per current U.S. policy.

LGBTQ rights and religion in Cuba

Gay Pride march in Havana, Cuba

By Father Geoff Bottoms in Britain:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

CUBA: Referendum to decide if gay marriage becomes law

Cuba’s newly proposed constitution will, if adopted, open the door for same-sex marriage in the country. Catholic priest Father Geoff Bottoms offers his reflections on Cuba, same-sex marriage and the Catholic church

TWENTY-FIVE years ago, Cuba broke new ground with the first overtly gay film Strawberry and Chocolate directed by Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio.

Set in 1979 it is the story of a flamboyant gay artist Diego who attempts to seduce a straight and idealistic young communist called David but without success.

David conspires to befriend Diego so that he can monitor the artist’s subversive life for the state, yet as they discuss politics and the nature of free artistic expression a genuine friendship develops between the two.

This video is a clip from the film Strawberry and Chocolate.

It could almost be a parable of the evolving promotion of gay rights in Cuba that has been in train for decades.

Take for example the LGBTQ cultural centre known as El Mejunje, meaning The Mixture, located in the centre of the city of Santa Clara. Founded in 1985 it is an open space shared by everyone regardless of sexual orientation in order to promote social integration and includes a theatre, a cafe, an art gallery and a small music venue ranging from rock and roll to Cuban folk music.

Activities also include social and cultural initiatives aimed at both children and adults, film screenings and there is a gay disco every Saturday night.

Discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of sexual orientation is now illegal in both the state and private sector, with recent legislation imposing fines and suspending the licences of employers who discriminate on the grounds of race, gender or sexuality.

Sex-change operations were legalised as long ago as 2008 and are carried out at no cost to the patient, with dozens being performed in the last year.

Yet the leading light in the campaign for gay rights has been Mariela Castro, the director of the National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX), who is a member of the National Assembly and daughter of former president Raul Castro and Vilma Espin.

CENESEX has been advocating same-sex marriage since 2007 and Cuba is set now to become the latest country in Latin America to approve gay marriage after the National Assembly recently approved a new constitution that defines marriage as “the consensual union of two people, regardless of gender.”

This replaces the current constitution’s definition of marriage as the “voluntary union between a man and woman.” The new constitution will be put to a referendum later this year.

Needless to say the churches are opposed on the whole to any such change to the traditional understanding of marriage and five Protestant denominations have openly criticised the move.

The Roman Catholic Church’s position is that homosexual inclinations are “intrinsically disordered”. although gay people should be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.

Yet Pope Francis is on record as saying that he is in no position to judge and that gay people should realise that God loves them and made them like that, so they should love themselves.

The Anglican Communion is divided on gay issues and same-sex marriage in particular with some branches actively providing gender-neutral wedding services or a blessing of civil unions.

The Methodist Church is in the process of reviewing the whole concept of marriage which includes the possibility of gay weddings.

The problems about sexuality which continue to sap the churches’ energies are really about gender.

Early Christianity understood women’s bodies to be inferior versions of the superior male body, but this was replaced during the Enlightenment with a binary model that prevails to this day.

As a result of this understanding, a pattern of patriarchy, androcentrism and sexism emerged in both church and society that has been challenged by the both the sciences and the feminist movement which paved the way for a more enlightened attitude towards sex, gender and sexual orientation that is more fluid and increasingly seen as forming a spectrum or continuum.

It is in this context that marriage is being evaluated so that even on a traditional understanding marriage is now seen more as an equal partnership than a question of the woman being subordinate to the man.

All of this is a far cry from the bride’s promise in the medieval marriage rite “to be bonny and buxom at bed and at board” where the relationship was bound up with the idea of property.

It remains to be seen whether Cuba’s inclusion of same-sex marriage in the proposed new constitution is ratified by the people so that it joins Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia in Latin America in recognition of gay marriage.

Homosexuality was an issue in the early days of the Cuban Revolution and the country has made great strides in the area of LGBTQ rights compared with seven other Caribbean island nations where homosexuality is a criminal offence.

If approved, Cuba’s evolving social project is set to become even more revolutionary.

Father Geoff Bottoms is a Catholic Priest and member of the Cuba Solidarity campaign executive committee. He will be leading a study tour to Cuba in November 2018 including visits to El Mejunje.