Cuba slams inclusion in U.S. human trafficking blacklist

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Thursday rejected his country's inclusion in a U.S. blacklist of the worst offenders of human trafficking.

The U.S. State Department added Cuba to the lowest tier in its annual 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, alleging Havana's medical diplomacy, which sees Cuban doctors and healthcare workers assigned to work overseas, is a "modern form" of human trafficking. Cuban officials "force or coerce participation in these missions," the report said.

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"More lies and slanders by U.S. in ranking Cuba in the lowest tier of trafficking in persons report, attacking Cuban medical cooperation," Diaz-Canel said via Twitter.

Far from criminal, Cuba's unique program is an "example of solidarity, humanity and noble and legitimate collaboration between countries of the South," said the president.

"We denounce this immoral, lying and perverse accusation," he added.

Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodriguez called the U.S. decision "another baseless lie to justify new hostile measures" against the island.

The United States lacks the moral authority to evaluate or grade any country, especially in this matter, said Rodriguez.

"Cuba is distinguished for its zero tolerance policy and exemplary performance in preventing and fighting human trafficking with a low rate of this scourge," Rodriguez tweeted.

Over 8,000 Cuban medical workers in Brazil as part of a bilateral cooperation program were forced to leave the country late last year after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accused the Cuban government of keeping most of the wages paid to the doctors, who he described as "slave labor."

In response, Cuba said Bolsonaro's statements were unacceptable.

Washington said in its annual report that Cuban doctors abroad are coerced by government officials to remain in such programs by withholding their passports, restricting their movement, using "minders" to monitor their movements outside of work, and threatening to revoke their medical licenses or retaliate against their family members in Cuba.

United States-Cuba ties have deteriorated since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, dramatically reversing the normalization of relations begun by his predecessor Barack Obama.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba Welcomes US Pastor for Peace Defying Trump Sanctions

'Our caravans extend solidarity to the Cuban people', say the Pastors for Peace organization that annually visits the blockaded island in protest of U.S. policy.

The Pastors for Peace Caravan is preparing for their annual visit to Cuba Saturday, a visit the government is celebrating this year in particular as it comes amid new travel restrictions by the US government.

Ana Silvia Rodriguez, Cuba’s ambassador at the United Nations says the upcoming ‘Pastors for Peace Caravan’ to the island by United States religious figures sends a clear message of difiance to the current U.S. administration that Cuba and religious protesters won't accept its hostile policies.

Pastors for Peace have been visiting the island since 1992, often delivering medical and other supplies that have been able to enter the island due to the nearly 60-year U.S. blockade. This year, the pastors say: “Our caravans extend solidarity to the Cuban people.” Starting Saturday, participants will visit Havana and the Cienfuegos region where they will “explore how the Cuban people are moving forward in healthcare, organic farming, sustainable tourism, the diversity of religious expression in Cuba, and Cuba’s efforts to tackle legacies of racism, sexism, homophobia, and more.”

Since the religious caravan began nearly 30 years ago, the visit has been an act of ‘civil disobedience’, according to organizers who protest who are against U.S. policy that has long-prohibited its citizens from traveling to the island nation.

Participants in the tour that has now helped thousands of U.S. citizens see first-hand the daily life of Cubans, will, this year, be able to see how increased santions on Cuba by the President Donald Trump administration are affecting average people there.

The new restrictions include a ban on cruise tour ships moving between the U.S. and Cuba, which is affecting the island's travel and tourism that it is economically depends on. The restrictions also include cracking down on ‘educational trips,’ like the pastors caravan.

Minister Rodriguez criticized the administration's newest restrictions, suggesting Trump and his cabinet "are afraid that people from the U.S. will learn the true reality of my country."

  • Published in Cuba

Mercenaries on the Web and Internet as a Weapon of War against Cuba

In line with its editorial policy, the Cuban mafia official newspaper, El Nuevo Herald, has once again spread fake news on Cuba.

It happened this Sunday when the newspaper published a report by the “independent” website 14 y medio about a second twitter clash, allegedly involving only Cuban users who called on ETECSA to lower Internet prices.

With the manipulation of the Twitter clash results, a fabrication refuted by statistics — it proves the skill of the aforementioned newspaper to distort actual facts — El Nuevo Herald tried, from the headline itself, to presenting the clash as an initiative taken by “students, computer engineers, clients from NAUTA Hogar service.” However, everyone knows that these “operations” are part of the US government policy of using Internet as a weapon of war against Cuba.

As it happened the first time, this Twitter outburst to claim the dropping of prices in ETECSA was summoned by mercenaries with the style of Yoani Sanchez, by chance “editor-in-chief” of an independent newspaper that serves as source of information to El Nuevo Herald. From the Plan Bush’ era until now, this newspaper has been given millions USD to allegedly turn it into an opinion leader to the Herald’s service in social networks.

As we are aware, it is nothing new in Cuba nor the world that the US government maneuvers to fabricate false protests on the web.

The same practice was used against Iran during the 2009 elections. In the course of the so-called Green Wave — where Twitter played such a paramount role to the extent that the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered to postpone a scheduled maintenance to Twitter servers for Iran —, most of those activists who denounced fraud in the elections, riots, and suppression in this Middle East nation, were not there as we had been led to believe, but in US soil.

The “experiment” carried out by the US State Department during the riots in Iran — also known as the Facebook and Twitter Revolution—resulted in 20 casualties.

In the case of Cuba, we recently denounced an attempt to manipulate, with a similar purpose, the Constitutional Referendum. Twitter was once again the mean through which the hashtag #YoVotoNo could give rise to the popular rejection and hence, offer the world a misrepresentation of anti-governmental opposition.

The OCB (Office of Cuba Broadcasting) — Radio and TV Marti are part of it — is among the main actors involved. This office has just released a public document where it is proven the creation of digital teams in the island whose goal is to creating “fake Facebook accounts to spread information as webpages opened in Cuba increase the chances to wind up in the profile’s stories of Cuban users of Facebook,” in light of the increased access to Internet.

Then, as now in the case of the “protest” against ETECSA, mercenary Yoani Sanchez was among the leaders of this subversive project. She is a puppet whose ego has been boosted by great amount of money given by the US government.

Let’s bear in mind her words while referring to a possible Green Wave in Cuba in an interview granted back in 2009. That year, she stated:

“We are not quite there right now. Cuba’s civil society is still a bit fragmented. The converging points, ways to associate each other are indeed weak. Nonetheless, the possibility is not that far. There is a chance we get there in a couple of years. By then, there will be more sophisticated technologies and perhaps the Cuban Green Wave could be even more powerful.”

Those who recently introduced themselves into the world of Internet thanks to the efforts made by ETECSA to overcome the US blockade should know that she and the “independent” website she is running, are both part of a Task Force group that by means of “strengthening the US policy towards Cuba,” tries to foster through Internet the “free and unregulated flow of information in the island.”

The “free and unregulated flow of information” is in line with the string of lies that newspapers such as El Nuevo Herald publish on Cuba every day and whose purpose is no other than, Helms-Burton and other genocide badly conceived plan willing, triggering a crisis that encourages destabilization from social networks.

Suffice to say that people of this kind do not care about the wellbeing of the rest of the population. Their welfare is at odds with the essence of their mission and goal: the comfort earned by working for a foreign power.

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Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz/CubaSí Translation Staff

  • Published in Now

US to Weigh Sending New Military Forces to Middle East

The possible deployment of more US military forces and means in the Middle East will be analyzed by the national security team of President Donald Trump, according to government officials.

The evaluation will be made after attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, but it is not clear when a decision will be made and the president will be informed, said the sources, quoted by CNN.

They pointed out that the debates will focus on the objectives of détente and defense against which Washington considers an Iranian attack, and the specific forces necessary to fulfill those goals.

In that regard, they mentioned additional soldiers, Patriot missiles, fighters and ships for several purposes.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran of attacking the ships, accusations that were rejected by Tehran.

The tankers Kokuka Courageous and Front Altair, operated by a Japanese company and owned by a Norwegian shipping firm, respectively, were hit by explosive devices as they left the Straight of Ormuz, some 50 kilometers off Iran's shores.

Pompeo said in an interview with Fox TV on Sunday that the United States would guarantee the free circulation of ships in that zone.

  • Published in World

Cuban Private Sector Hit Hard by Recent US Sanctions

In May, Trump fully enforced the Helms-Burton Act's Titles III and IV, suspended since 1996 that will expand the U.S. commercial and financial blockade against Cuba.

The non-state sector in Cuba is already registering a significant blow as a result of the U.S. sanctions implemented by President Donald Trump, with craftmanship dropping by about 60 to 80 percent in sales, according to local media.

During the Craftmanshift Fair in La Rampa, Hector Danilo Rodriguez, union leader, told Prensa Latina that the situation was the result of Trump's restrictions on travels to the Cuban territory, which impacts directly on tourism to the island.

"This (drop in sales) affects the payment of taxes and our families," he said, adding that "the Helms-Burton Act affects us directly because we do not have access to the raw material we need, nor the production techniques, on the top of the fact that it makes tourism impossible."

In May, Trump fully enforced the Helms-Burton Act's Titles III and IV, suspended since 1996 that will expand U.S. commercial and financial blockade against Cuba. In 1996, former U.S. president Bill Clinton approved the Helms-Burton Act under the idea that the blockade against Cuba had an extra-territorial scope and was not limited just to the island.

Title III allows U.S. citizens, including Cubans who acquired their nationality, to file lawsuits against foreign companies linked to properties nationalized after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, but it has never been activated. President Trump announced in March the U.S. would begin to enforce the measure, May 2.

The Helms-Burton Act's Title IV prohibits entry into U.S territory people being sued under Title III.

The most likely short-term effect is the large-scale withdrawal of foreign investors from Cuba, a country whose economy has around US$2 billion in foreign investments.

In addition, the Trump administration has announced more travel restrictions to the island, rolling back measures made by the Barack Obama administration, and is limiting remittances to US$1,000 per person per fiscal quarter. As of June 5, U.S. citizens are prohibited from making group educational and cultural trips known as “people to people” travel to Cuba, Secretary of Commerce Steve Mnuchin of the U.S. Treasury Department announced on March.

Cuban authorities have responded by developing six economic sectors: tourism, biotech and pharmaceutical industry, renewable energy, food production, professional services exports, and construction.

  • Published in Cuba

Iran renews ultimatum over nuclear deal amid tanker tensions

Iran will continue scaling back compliance with its commitments under the nuclear deal unless other signatories show "positive signals", the Iranian president told a meeting of Russian, Chinese and other Asian leaders in Tajikistan.

Iran stopped complying in May with some commitments in a 2015 nuclear deal that was agreed with global powers, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord and tightened sanctions.

Tehran said in May that Iran would start enriching uranium at a higher level unless world powers protected its economy from US sanctions within 60 days.

"Obviously, Iran cannot stick to this agreement unilaterally," President Hassan Rouhani told the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.

"It is necessary that all the sides of this agreement contribute to restoring it," he said, adding that Iran needed to see "positive signals" from other signatories to the pact, which include Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

He did not give details on what actions Iran would take or say what positive signals Tehran wanted to see.

France and other European signatories to the deal, which aimed to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, have said they wanted to save it, but many of their companies have cancelled deals with Tehran under financial pressure from the US.

Western powers have accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies, saying it wants nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Tanker incidents

Rouhani made no mention of attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman this week, which Washington has blamed on Tehran, raising concerns about a confrontation.

Iran has denied any role in the attacks, calling the accusations "ridiculous" and "dangerous".

On Friday, acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said the administration of President Donald Trump was focused on building international consensus following the oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz.

The two vessels - the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-owned Front Altair - were damaged on Thursday morning as they were leaving the Gulf of Oman, the second such incident in four weeks that sent Brent crude prices up and heightened tensions in the region.

Shanahan, asked later whether he was considering sending more US troops or military capabilities to the Middle East, said: "As you know we're always planning various contingencies."

But he then returned to the issue of building consensus.

"When you look at the situation, a Norwegian ship, a Japanese ship, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, 15 percent of the world's oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz," he said.

"So we obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate. We also need to broaden our (international) support for this international situation," he added.
Tanker incident video

Shanahan said the Pentagon's role would include sharing intelligence, as the US military's Central Command did on Thursday by publicly releasing a grainy video it claimed showed Iran's military removing an unexploded mine from Kokuka Courageous, hours after the suspected attacks.

Iran said the video proved nothing and that Tehran was being made into a scapegoat.

"The more information that we can declassify, the more information we can share, we will. And that's our intent," Shanahan said.

The release of the black-and-white footage came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said US intelligence agencies had concluded that Iran was responsible for the attacks, without offering concrete evidence.

On Friday, in a TV interview on Fox News, Trump said, "Iran did do it".

"You know they did it because you saw the boat," Trump told the Fox and Friends show. "I guess one of the mines didn't explode and it's probably got essentially Iran written all over it."

But Yutaka Katada, owner of the Kokuka Courageous, cast doubt on part of the US account, telling reporters on Friday that the vessel's crew saw a "flying object" before a second blast on the boat.

Calling reports of a mine attack "false", he said: "The crew was saying it was hit by a flying object … To put a bomb at the side of the boat is not something we are considering."

For its part, Iran rejected the accusations as the United Nations, Russia and Qatar called for an international investigation into the reported attacks.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, said the US had "immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence".

The allegation "only makes it abundantly clear" that the US and its regional allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were moving to a "Plan B", Zarif said, which was to "sabotage diplomacy" as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Iran to defuse escalating US-Iran frictions.
Arab League caution

On Friday, the head of the Arab League called on the Iranians to "be careful and reverse course".

Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit noted, after meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at UN headquarters in New York, that there are conflicting reports about how Thursday's tanker incidents occurred.

"We believe that responsibilities need to be clearly defined," he said. "The facts will be revealed, I am sure, it's only a matter of time."

Aboul Gheit added "My call to my Iranian - and I call them Iranian brothers: Be careful and reverse course because you're pushing everybody towards a confrontation that no one would be safe if it happens."

The British government said it agreed with the US conclusion that Iran attacked the tankers.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that its own assessment concluded "it is almost certain that a branch of the Iranian military," the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, had attacked the tankers.

It said it also believed Iran was behind an attack last month on four tankers near the UAE port of Fujairah.

On May 12, days after Washington announced the military deployment, four oil tankers near the port were damaged in what the UAE called "sabotage attacks".

The US blamed Iran for the incidents, saying Iranian-made limpet mines were used in the attacks. Tehran also rejected these claims.

  • Published in World

Iranian President Blames U.S. for Middle East Tensions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this Thursday blamed the United States for causing all the tensions in the Middle East with its economic war against the Islamic Republic.

Rouhani spoke during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who began a two-day official visit to the Persian nation on Wednesday.

'We welcome the government of Japan and its prime minister for their decision to expand political, economic, regional and international relations,' said the president.

The fact that the Japanese government maintains its interest in buying Iranian oil, he added, and in solving financial and other problems, is a point for the development of bilateral relations.

According to the Iranian dignitary, tensions are rooted in the U.S. economic war against the Islamic Republic, which if stopped, will see positive regional and global developments.

In any case, he pointed out, Iran will not start any war, nor will it respond vigorously to aggression.

The visit of the leader of the Japanese government focuses on the possibility of reducing tensions between Iran and the United States, which have been rising since May 2018, when Washington abandoned a sealed nuclear agreement between Tehran and six world powers.

The Japanese authorities support the Comprehensive Joint Action Plan or nuclear pact, because Tokyo is affected by the US's withdrawal of that consent and sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Although Japan is asking the United States to reconsider its boycott policy against Tehran, President Donald Trump hopes that Abe will intercede to find a solution to the current conflict.

'Given the concern over growing tension in the Middle East, Japan wants to do everything possible to achieve peace and stability,' the Japanese leader said.

  • Published in World
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