The 24th London Latin American Film Festival 14 -23 November 2014

London Latin American Film Festival

The 24th London Latin American Film Festival runs from 14th to 23rd November offering, as always, a unique and eclectic mélange of feature films, documentaries and shorts, in the sumptuous comfort of the Bolivar Hall; and the University College London/Institute of the Americas.

13 The Gallery, Islington is the venue for the sizzling Launch Night Party and Exhibition, for art, drinks and, of course, the most fascinating conversation London has to offer. See you there on November the 13th.

To start the Festival off with a real bang, we present ‘The Heart of Caracas’ a stunning feature documentary from Simon Toro, which charts the birth and development of this tumultuous city and offers a vision of its future as a beacon to all Latin America.

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Listening to the “incredible” without credibility - Otto Reich

otto-reich copy

By Miriam Palacios, United Kingdom

18th October 2014

Here I was, at the Oxford Union, the 17th October 2014 listening to the notorious American Otto Reich who chose to serve the flag of the U.S. rather than to serve the people of Cuba. This is a man who departed from Cuba for U.S. soil instead of being with us during the literacy campaign, or the program vaccinating children to eradicate poliomyelitis in Cuba. Truly he is not part of Cuban achievement in Health and Education but is the worst enemy the Cuban people can ever have. Now he is here in the U.K. convincing who ever comes across his path that the Embargo against Cuba is the right thing to support. His first failure in this campaign was to convince the ex-British Ambassador in Cuba, Mr John Dew.

I was asked by the organizers of the Al Jazeera TV program “Head to Head” to ask one short question of Mr Otto Reich, no comment or introduction allowed, it had to be 15 seconds and no more. Otto Reich was the special guest of the program interviewed by the sharp journalist Mehdi Hasan. During the first part of the program, which will be available in the first weeks of December, Medhi managed to unveil few inconsistencies between what Reich said and what he actually did and what he was involved in , as well as some facts around different historical moments in Latin America where Reich justified US policy and actions in the region.

I will not give away more information of this program, which I strongly recommend to watch once edited. However I cannot wait so long to expose Mr Otto Reich.

My question:

Can Mr Otto Reich explain why Cuba is on the list of terrorist countries and if it is the way to re-enforce the trade and financial restrictions to Cuba when the Embargo will be finally lifted?

His answer:

“Cuba is a terrorist country because of its actions of exporting weapons to North Korea and by shooting down a plain in International waters in which four men lost their lives” I couldn’t exercise the right of reply due to limited time of the program.

The first point to which Reich referred was the incident last year of the North Korean ship seized by Panamanian authorities in the Canal, carrying 240 metric tons of obsolete defensive weapons manufactured in the 1950s. Cuba explained that they were being sent for refurbishment because of the need to maintain Cuba’s defensive capacity to preserve the national sovereignty. Fact: Cuba would not need to divert resources for defensive capacity in the absence of U.S. hostility and the actions of terrorist groups based on U.S. territory or if the Bay of Pigs invasion to Cuba never had happened. Fact: Cuba is included in the list of “State sponsors of Terrorism” since 1982 by the United States Department of State, long before the incident Otto Reich referred to. The inclusion of Cuba in this list might be related to the Cuba’s assistance to Angola specially in the decisive battle of Cuito Cuanavale (1975 -1987), but bringing this subject up now might be too embarrassing for the U.S. since Nelson Mandela referred to: “[Cuito Cuanavale] as the turning point for the liberation of our continent—and of my people—from the scourge of apartheid”

I managed to discuss “face to face” with Mr Reich after the program and I focused in his second argument about the shooting down of the “innocent” aircraft in international waters by the Cuban air force. I told him that early this year I had the opportunity to attend to the International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five that took place in The Law Society, London. There, the Attorney for the Five, Peter Schey spoke of the U.S. government’s refusal to provide vital satellite images of the planes shot down after several warnings. This made up part of the evidence against Gerardo Hernández for which he is serving a double-life sentence. The air crew were members of the Brothers to the Rescue, a terrorist organization base on Miami with the mission to promote civil disobedience against the Cuban government by releasing political leaflets over Havana. Then, I insisted, to Reich that his allegations about shooting down planes is false because the evidence has never been shown. By this time Reich changed the conversation into Spanish pretending not to know about the case of the Cuban Five, or it could be that he was avoiding other people hearing and understanding what I was discussing with him.

Back to my question of enforcing trade and financial restriction to Cuban institutions. Reich didn’t say that European and multinational Banks were fined billions of US dollars for violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading With the Enemy Act (TWEA) by illegally conducting transactions on behalf of customers in Cuba, subject to sanctions enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). All of those Acts and bodies are in place to ensure that the inclusion of Cuba in the list of terrorist countries is also a profitable business. Those billions of dollar fines seem to go to different U.S. entities such as Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and Federal Reserve. The whole system of including Cuba in the list of terrorist countries seems to succeed in obstructing the Cuba’s trade and financial activities, by ensuring that banks end their business with Cuba and at the same time make money out of the forfeit process.

I found at the end of that evening that Mr Otto Reich definitely feels closer to the U.S. Federal Reserve than to the Cuban people left behind.

NY Times: End the U.S. blockade of Cuba

Nytimes HQ

On Oct. 28, the U.N. General Assembly will once again debate the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba. For 22 years, the U.N. has condemned the blockade; last year, the vote reached a record high of 188 countries for the resolution, and only two—the U.S. and its loyal ally Israel—against. Quite likely this year’s vote will have the same result.

Significantly, The New York Times, the most influential newspaper in the country, has chosen this time to call for an end to what it calls the embargo. Supporters of Cuba use the more accurate term “blockade” because of the worldwide effects of U.S. policy. The Times also calls for dropping Cuba’s designation as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” a particularly ironic label coming from the U.S. with its history of sponsoring terrorism against Cuba and many other countries. Finally, the Times calls for establishing full diplomatic relations with Cuba.

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The Origins of the Ebola Crisis

Ebola Cuba

Tariq Ali:Today we are going to discuss medicine and what is going on in Africa but not just there, in other parts of the world too, and how privatised medicine is now dominating the field except in a few oasis there are still left Cuba, Venezuela, etc. With me is Professor Allyson Pollock, one of the best known public health scientists and experts in her field anywhere. Ebola. What are its origins and how did it spread so quickly in these three African countries and is now causing panic elsewhere?

Kissinger Planned Attacks on Cuba

Files documenting plans for airstrikes and the sending of Marines are being posted online and published in a new book, “Back Channel to Cuba.”

Newly released files reveal that in 1976, Henry Kissinger, then U.S Secretary of State, planned to launch airstrikes against Havana, strike ports and military installations in Cuba and send Marine battalions to the U.S. Naval Base at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay.

The information, revealed by the New York Times, is contained in documents from the National Security Archives being posted online and published in “Back Channel to Cuba,” a new book written by William M. LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University, and Peter Kornbluh, the director of the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project.

Kornbluh explains that Kissinger, Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977, had considered improving relations with Cuba, but he was infuriated by Fidel Castro’s decision to send troops to Angola in 1975 to help the newly independent country defend itself against attacks from South Africa and right wing guerrilla forces.

According to one transcript, Kissinger stated to President Gerald Ford in a 1976 meeting in the Oval Office, “I think sooner or later we are going to have to crack the Cubans.”

“You can see in the conversation with Gerald Ford that he is extremely apoplectic,” Kornbluh said, adding that Kissinger used “language about doing harm to Cuba that is pretty quintessentially aggressive.”

The documents indicate that Kissinger wanted to propose an attack on Cuba after the 1976 presidential election, but Jimmy Carter won thereby foiling his plans, Mr. LeoGrande is reported to have said.

He added that Kissinger was so furious about Fidel Castro upsetting his plans for Africa that he was ready to “clobber the pipsqueak.”

Kissinger was prepared to use scores of aircraft against Cuban ports and warned that the United States could risk losing its base at Guantànamo.

His plans also called for a military blockade of Cuba even though, he warned, that such measures would probably lead to a conflict with the Soviet Union, a top ally of Cuba at the time.

“If we decide to use military power, it must succeed,” Mr. Kissinger said in one meeting. “There should be no halfway measures — we would get no award for using military power in moderation. If we decide on a blockade, it must be ruthless and rapid and efficient.”

Source: Telesur

How I teach – One song, so many lessons

By Heather Martin

A Cuban anthem opens up a world of new ideas and concepts

Take one song, three verses, 12 lines (not counting repetitions and chorus). Not only are you teaching Spanish vocabulary, grammar, syntax and pronunciation but you are also exploring history and geography, literary genre and the poetic function, social and political awareness, citizenship and morality, creative writing and translation. I give you Guantanamera.

The three most famous verses of Guantanamera, the definitive patriotic song of Cuba, are surprisingly distinct in tone. The first is autobiographical, setting the scene and introducing the protagonist; from here, a lesson on narrative technique and another on world geography could ensue.

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Cuba sends humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza and offers to receive wounded during Israeli aggression

fidel palestina

EGIPTO, September 10, 2014. The Cuban Embassy in Cairo delivered, to the Embassy of Palestine and the Egyptian Red Crescent, a load of six tons of medicines and disposable material for Gaza, as a sign of solidarity and support to the brother people of Palestine.

The donation of the people and the Government of the largest of the Antilles, reaffirms the historic support of the Cuban Revolution to the noble cause of the Palestinian people, who continued to be the victims of the hostile policy of the State of Israel, as demonstrated by the recent aggression against the Gaza Strip, which caused considerable material damage and more than 2000 dead, most of them civilians.

For its part the Palestinian authorities expressed the gratitude of its people and Government, for the noble gesture of Cuba, as well as its historical and invariable position beside to the just cause of the Palestinian people. The medical aid that is sent will relieve the terrible situation that lives Gaza, due to the shortage of drugs and other medical supplies required for the operation of hospitals.

The Palestinian side also thanked the disposition of Cuba to receive injured Palestinians, during the brutal aggression of Israel, to be cared in hospitals and institutions of Cuba.

Source: Minrex

Solidarity Campaign in UK Denounces Visa Refusal to Cuban Anti-terrorist

Rene Gonzalez

The Cuban solidarity campaign has called for emergency protests

The United Kingdom’s Cuba Solidarity Campaign called for demonstrations after British authorities denied a visa to Cuban antiterrorist Rene Gonzalez. Gonzalez, together with his spouse Olga Salanueva, was invited to join supporters in London from September 8 to 10.

The U.K.  government rejected three legal injunctions to revoke this decision, despite Gonzalez having received an invitation from 29 British legislators to attend a meeting in parliament, and another from the Trade Union Congress in Liverpool.

Gonzalez’s European tour is part of a global campaign to support the Cuban Five and to oppose terrorism. The tour will run from September 4 to October 6.

Last March, Rene Gonzalez was likewise denied entry by the British government in order to attend a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the case of the Cuban Five, as the group is known. The session took place in the British capital.

September 12 will mark the sixteenth anniversary of his arrest. He and his colleagues Fernando Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino and Antonio Guerrero were arrested in 1998. The last three are still behind bars.

Source: Telesur

Who Governs Cuba? - Exploring the Social Composition of the Cuban Leadership

Parlamento cubano

by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Not least among achievements of Cuba's socialist revolution is expanded political participation, even exercise of power, among formerly disadvantaged groups.   Rafael Hernández, editor of the Cuban journal Temas, details this story.  He studied participation and entry into leadership positions in terms of age, gender, race, and profession.  He mentions one consequence of inclusion that may be problematic.

Hernández advances Cuban Communist Party (PCC) membership as a measure of political participation.  The combined membership of the PCC and Union of Young Communists (UJC) numbered 1,175,148 in 2012 -- 22.1 percent of Cuba's labor force that year.  Of PCC members, 35 percent are of African descent, a figure equal to Hernández's estimate of the proportion of African-descended people among all Cubans.  Afro-Cubans make up 42 percent of UJC members.  Women make up 39 percent of party members and 52 percent of UJC members.  The median age of PCC members is 50.

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Nación y Emigración