I wrote this book review of Stephen Kimber's 'real story of the Cuban Five' for Science & Society. It is not due to be published until October 2014 (Vol. 78, No.4), but they have kindly given me permission to post it on my blog prior to publication. I wanted to post the review early to draw attention to an important event which takes place in London next month: the International Commission of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five, on 7 and 8 March. The Commission website can be found here: The following day, Sunday 9 March, there will be a rally to demand justice for the Five in Trafalgar Square from 2pm. Details here:
Stephen Kimber, What Lies Across the Water: the real story of the Cuban Five, Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2014. 296 pages. $29.95 CAD. ISBN: 9781552665428
Review by Helen Yaffe*
According to the author, this book owes its existence to serendipity. In 2009 Stephen Kimber was in Havana researching for a love story he planned to write when, he explains, he ‘got sideswiped by the truth-is-stranger-but-way-more-interesting story of the Cuban Five.’ (1) Thanks to serendipity, Kimber has produced the first full-length book in English about the case of the Cuban Five. During his research, the Canadian writer, broadcaster and professor of journalism read 20,000-pages of court transcripts, and a mass of books, media reports and documents. He conducted interviews and established correspondence with the Five in prison. The book is organized chronologically into sections which are sub-divided by diary-like entries providing updates on the entire ‘cast of characters’. This work is meticulously researched, factual without being dull and written with sensitivity and honesty - warts and all. It is as gripping as an action-packed movie and deeply moving.
This is a fun romantic comedy starring British actor Nick Frost. His character (Bruce Garrett), who was a talented salsa dancer as a child, returns to dancing 25 years later when he meets his new boss Rashida Jones (Julia) and seeks to conquer her through salsa.
Bruce seeks out his old teacher (Ian McShane) and his sister Sam (Olivia Colman) to help him get his jive back. All this while competing with his work colleague (Chris O'Dowd ) who also tries to seduce Julia.
The overweight character Bruce breaks the stereotype of a professional dancer and of traditional dance films. He is a funny, amiable character and the film excellently combines English humor with ‘latino spirit’ and dance. Most of the audience will not only laugh through the film, but will also be taken with the urge to dance salsa – whether or not they know the moves.
Other key characters in the film are played by Rory Kinnear, Kayvan Novak, also known as the Phone Jacker, and the stunning Yanet Fuentes, a Cuban dancer who featured on the BBC1 competition ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ The background music is authentic and vibrant, including tracks by Tito Puentes and Juan Formell - Los Van Van.
Despite debates about the origins of salsa as a dance form, it is an integral part of Cuba’s culture and Cuban salsa – both music and dance – has been enriched with a particular style and rhythm. This film is bound to be a hit with salsa lovers and be a big conversation topic in salsa classes across Britain. Whether or not you’re interested in dance, I recommend everyone see this great, entertaining film.
By Jim Lobe WASHINGTON, Feb 12 2014 (IPS) – If President Barack Obama wants to move more quickly to normalise ties with Cuba, it appears he has gained the political space to do so, according to analyses of a major new bipartisan public-opinion poll released here Tuesday by the Atlantic Council.
The survey, which was conducted last month, found that 56 percent of U.S. adults nationwide now support normalising ties or engaging more directly with Havana, while just over a third (35 percent) are opposed.
On 7 and 8 March, Rock around the Blockade will join legal professionals, writers, academics and solidarity activists from around the world at the International Commission for the Cuban Five, which takes place in London.
The Cuban Five are five Cuban men arrested in Miami in 1998, convicted on trumped up charges and condemned to long prison sentences. They were in fact trying to prevent acts of terrorism against Cuba by infiltrating violent anti-Cuban groups in Miami. None of the charges against them involved violence, weapons or damage to property. Since 1959, nearly 3,500 Cubans have died and over 2,000 have been injured as a result of terrorist attacks or aggression – mainly launched from Miami. To read more about the history of the Cuban Five click here.
Rock around the Blockade will be inviting participants of the International commission and everyone who supports the Cuban 5 to join us for a rally in Trafalgar Square, central London, on Sunday 9 March at 2pm. The rally will be held on the north pavement outside the National Gallery, with music, an open microphone, placards, and a giant Cuban flag. Everyone is welcome.
In 2011, one of the Cuban Five - Rene Gonzalez was released after serving 13 years in US prisons. He is now back in Cuba and will travel to London for the International Commission. On 27 February, the second of the Cuban Five, Fernando Gonzalez will be released after 15 years. The rally will join the international campaign both celebrating his release and demanding his safe return to Cuba. We will also be demanding that the remaining three Cubans - Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero - be released immediately.
Rock around the Blockade will be organising additional protests in Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. More information uploaded soon.
by The LAWG Cuba Team: Mavis, Emily and Zuleika on February 07, 2014
On February 7th, 1962 President John F. Kennedy laid the groundwork for the infamous economic embargo on Cuba. As a result of the Cuban government nationalizing some U.S. companies and becoming buddies with the former Soviet Union, President Kennedy slapped trade sanctions on Cuba prohibiting the importation of any Cuban goods. The following year, 1963, the embargo was tightened to include penalties that prohibited foreign companies that traded with Cuba to also trade with the United States. The ban on travel for U.S. citizens was also implemented that year. While a whole lot has changed since 1962, the embargo on Cuba remains the same.
Piero Gleijeses is a professor of US foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. His most recent book is Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991, Chapel Hill, 2013. His other books include The Cuban Drumbeat: Castro's Worldview, Seagull Books, 2009; Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington and Africa, 1959-1976. Chapel Hill, 2002; Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944-1954, Princeton, 1992; The Dominican Crisis: The 1965 Constitutionalist Revolt and American Intervention. Baltimore, 1978 (revised edition: La esperanza desgarrada: la rebelión dominicana de 1965 y la invasión norteamericana, Dominican Republic, 2012).
Letter to Obama
February 5, 2014
I will not address the juridical flaws of the case against the Cuban Five. These flaws are well known and others have written you about them. The Five were tried in a kangaroo court and received very heavy sentences because of the crimes of Fidel Castro.
Important that we remain alert and ready to act to assure Fernando's return home to Cuba
On February 27, 2014, when Fernando González is released from Safford federal prison in Arizona, he will have completed 15 years, 5 months and 15 days of an unjust imprisonment imposed after a U.S. government political prosecution.
Each day has been a cruel punishment for Fernando and his Cuban Five brothers, who courageously sacrificed their well-being to defend their homeland and people of Cuba from the scourge of terrorism that emanates from Miami, with the full knowledge and protection of Washington.
But Fernando will not simply walk out of Safford on Feb. 27. As one of his appeals attorney Richard Klugh explains, since Fernando is not a U.S. citizen, he will be detained temporarily by Immigration authorities.
On 28-29th January 2014, Havana hosts the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC in Spanish), with the participation of the heads of states, chancellors and other representatives of all 33 independent nations in the region. The Summit rounds off Cuba’s one-year presidency of CELAC, which focussed on combating regional poverty, hunger and inequality. Cuba is part of CELAC’s three member troika, along with Chile, which held the presidency in 2012 and Costa Rica which takes over in 2014. Over 30 documents are being drawn up for discussion and analysis, including a Plan of Action, and standards and principles which will govern cooperation. The Summit was preceded by two days of discussions by national experts on 25-26 January and a meeting of chancellors on 27 January. The Summit is expected to emit specific statements, for example, demanding that Britain return Las Islas Malvinas (the Falkland Islands) to Argentina and that the US blockade of Cuba be lifted.
BRUSSELS, Belgium – After years of debate, the European Union is in the final stages of eliminating an existing agreement concerning Cuba and establishing a bilateral agreement with the island nation on several issues.
Earlier this month, Holland’s Foreign Minister, Franciscus ‘Frans’ Timmermans, urged the European Union to encourage more dialogue with Cuba while on a state visit to Havana. “We simply need more human contacts,” he said. “We have seen that not meeting each other and not talking about the issues that divide us does not really help. Dialogue could really bring the relationship forward.”
On 20 January, the 55th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution was celebrated at a cultural and political event in the Venezuelan Embassy’s Bolivar Hall. The event was attended by diplomats from the Cuban Embassy and the embassies of other countries which are members of ALBA – the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. Also present were British trade unión leaders and ex - miners, members of solidarity organisations in solidarity with Cuba and Cubans living in Britain.