U.S.’s ‘Cuba Internet Task Force’ exposed as attack on Cuban sovereignty

Washington, D.C. — This Workers World reporter was able to intervene in favor of socialist Cuba as the new Cuba Internet Task Force held its inaugural public meeting on Feb. 7 in the U.S. State Department headquarters here.

The task force’s conclusions are set up to promote the same violations of Cuba’s sovereignty practiced since Cuban revolutionaries toppled the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship in 1959.

Those U.S. tactics, aimed at regime change, have failed. The mission description of the State Department’s task force admits its goals in euphemistic language: “The task force will examine the technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba including through [U.S.] federal government support of programs and activities that encourage freedom of expression through independent media and internet freedom.” This means the U.S. aims to encourage those hostile to the Cuban government to use the internet for these goals.

It’s no surprise the U.S. Agency for Inter­national Development sits on the task force. USAID contracted Alan Gross to install military grade covert communication devices in Cuba in 2009. Gross was arrested in December 2009 and spent 5 years of a 15-year sentence in a Cuban prison.

The U.S. government initiated and funded the TV/Radio/Internet propaganda media, given the misappropriated name of Cuba’s national hero, José Martí. This media group has a seat on the task force, as does its oversight agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Initially, 10 slots for 3-minute public comments were planned for the Feb. 7 public meeting. Five speakers of the original 10 opposed the task force objectives and its attack on Cuban sovereignty.

WW reporter speaks at meeting

Besides covering the public meeting, Workers World participated; this reporter’s remarks are published here:

“Even after the last presidential election, Pew Research polls demonstrated that 75 percent of people in the U.S. support diplomatic relations with Cuba and 73 percent support ending the U.S. blockade of Cuba. I am one of them. The statistics hold for Cubans in the U.S., too. One hundred and ninety-one of 193 countries voted to oppose the blockade just last November at the United Nations General Assembly.

“The Federal Register announcement says the purpose of the Cuba Internet Task Force is ‘to examine technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba.’

“Have any of you been to Cuba? When you go, you will see as I have with my own eyes the Cuban people communicating using smartphones at the expanding number of hotspots. They are talking with friends and relatives in the U.S. and other countries. Home internet is beginning. Public notice is given about the plans for reducing internet prices. And the prices really do go down. Cubans use Facebook and Twitter and email.

“In 2009, I was with a group of British union officials in Havana when their cell phone rang — their phones worked in Cuba, but mine did not. Canadian phones worked in Cuba. Now my phone works in Cuba, too. The Cuban telecom company ETECSA has agreements with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and Google. Those agreements became possible when this government — not the Cuban government — this government stopped blocking them.

“After 120 years, the United States must come to grips with the fact that Cuba does not belong to the United States. How is it proper to sit in the U.S. State Department and discuss this matter as though Cuba is not a sovereign country?

“Do you want to assess challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access? Let’s start with my city, Detroit. The FCC reported as recently as 2015 that 40 percent of my city’s residents have no access to the internet. Let’s use the budget for this Task Force and the previous radio/TV and internet regime change projects dreamed up in Washington for infrastructure to bring quality, affordable internet access to all in cities like Detroit and rural areas, too.

“So to improve internet access in Cuba, negotiate with the Cuban government in a respectful and equal way, end the blockade and travel restrictions, and return the occupied Guantánamo territory to the Cuban people.”

  • Published in Cuba

Leahy leads congressional delegation to Cuba

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) heads a bicameral congressional delegation that is visiting Cuba this week, during the congressional recess.

Leahy for two decades has been centrally involved in efforts to replace the failed 50-year-old U.S. Cuba policy of isolation with a new path toward normalization. Leahy is the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and also serves as the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations, which oversees the State Department’s budget. Other congressional leaders who accompany Leahy are two other senators and three members of the House of Representatives.

The purpose of the visit is to meet with U.S. and Cuban officials, officials of other governments, and Cubans in the emerging private sector to discuss: the presidential transition in Cuba; U.S. and Cuban investigations of health incidents involving U.S. government personnel in Cuba; cooperation on maritime security, search-and-rescue, narcotics and human trafficking, and migration issues; the impact of the withdrawal of U.S. Embassy and Cuban Embassy personnel and of revised Treasury Department regulations on U.S.-Cuban relations; and opportunities for public health, law enforcement, scientific, environmental, commercial, educational, cultural, and other engagement with Cubans.

The delegation departed the United States on Saturday, Feb. 17, and return on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

  • Published in Cuba

Habanos Festival returns to celebrate Cuban cigar industry

Cuba's annual celebration of its cigar-making industry, the Habanos Festival, will kick off on Feb. 26 in Havana, drawing cigar aficionados and buyers from around the globe.

The glamorous week-long festival features launchings of new premium brands, including this year's much-anticipated line of Cohiba Robusto Reserva, from the 2014 harvest.

Cuba's best-known brand, Cohiba was popularized by the legendary revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who was rarely seen without a cigar until he quit in his later years to encourage a healthier lifestyle among the people.

The festival, organized by Habanos S.A., a joint venture between state-owned Cubatabaco and Altadis, a French-German subsidiary of the British multinational Imperial Tobacco, which markets the cigars worldwide, also features gala dinners, tours of cigar factories and tobacco farms, and a renowned auction of custom-made humidors, with funds going to support the country's free healthcare system.

Habanos spokesperson Daymi Difurniao said this year participants will learn about the most diverse aspects of the cigar industry, and tour plantations in western Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, home to the world's best tobacco leaf.

"It is an opportunity to appreciate the beautiful plantations in San Juan y Martinez, recognized as having the best soil for attaining the leaves used to make renowned Cuban cigars," said Difurniao.

San Juan y Martinez, along with San Luis, Guane and the city of Pinar del Rio, make up the region of Vueltabajo, Cuba's prime tobacco-growing region.

In Vueltabajo, some 18,000 hectares of different tobacco varieties are planted each year. This year, production is expected to surpass 20,000 tons of leaves, more than previous harvests.

Another festival highlight is the traditional Habanosommelier International Contest, a culinary event that pairs cigars with a gourmet dish or cocktail.

This year, organizers are introducing the first-ever Habanos World Challenge, where cigar lovers from around the world will compete to test their knowledge about the world of cigars.

There will also be an evening dedicated to the history and success of the festival, now in its 20th edition.

In the past, the Habanos Festival has been attended by celebrities such as the late author and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez; American actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger; and British model Naomi Campbell, among others.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba Girls Development Camp set for ninth year

OTTAWA - Warm weather while playing your favourite sport in a country where the game is practically a religion, and in the month of February! That will be the reality for 25 lucky female baseball players next week when the annual Girls Baseball Development Camp gets underway in Havana, Cuba.

For the ninth consecutive year, Women’s National Team manager André Lachance is bringing a talented group of young players to the baseball hotbed for a week of baseball and a cultural experience that is equally important as the on field component.

“I said it every year, but a key to this trip being so successful is the overall experience that the participants receive,” he said. “On the baseball field, athletes are dealing with different weather and playing outdoors for the first time in months. Off the field, it’s an opportunity to travel to a new country and experience a different culture which is a first for many.”

Noémie Lapointe (Laval, Que.) is returning to Cuba after attending last year’s camp and recalls realizing how much the sport of baseball means to the Cuban people and their culture.

“I quickly understood that the passion and the need to play baseball isn’t just located in one place or one heart,” she said. “In fact, I love how everyone there seems so devoted to that sport. It brings out an energy that I love to be around.”

Lapointe used last year’s camp in Cuba and a strong performance at the Women’s Invitational in Windsor later in the year to earn an invite to the Canada-USA Development Program in Washington, DC where she got her first taste of the Women’s National Team program.

She’s excited for the 2018 season, a World Cup year for the National Team, and wants to use the upcoming experience in Cuba to help reach her goals.

“My number one goal (for 2018) is to make Team Canada and participate in the World Cup,” explained Lapointe. “I’m using the trip to Cuba to see where my progress is at right now and to see what I still need to work on in order to meet my goals.”

A teammate with Lapointe during the Canada-USA Development Program last summer, Vancouver’s Emma March will be heading to Cuba for the first time and is excited about the prospect of playing baseball in a foreign country.

“Hopefully this trip to Cuba will not only give me a great opportunity to compete against strong Cuban players but also give me more practice for the upcoming season,” said March. “I believe that competing against other girls around the world will make me stronger and more prepared to face other girls in Canada.”

Like Lapointe, March got her feet wet with the National Team program in 2017 and has her sights set on taking the next step with the program this year.

“My goal for the 2018 season is to make it onto the Women’s National Team. I’d love to have the opportunity to play with them (at the World Cup) in Florida and I believe that hard work, practice and this Cuba camp will help me achieve my goal.”

While the baseball aspect is really important for March, her hope is to soak in as much about the Cuban baseball culture as she can while also form new relationships with her Cuban counterparts.

“Seeing as it is my first time traveling to Cuba to participate in this camp I hope to get a new perspective of what baseball means to other girls around the world and the difference in the lives of girls who enjoy playing baseball in Cuba and in Canada,” added March. “I hope to meet some Cuban players to understand what it’s like playing in Cuba and the struggles they may face being a girl.

"I hope to come out of the trip with new insight into the meaning of girls baseball, I’d love to make new friends and come home more grateful for the life I have in Canada, how lucky I am for having many opportunities to play the sport I love and never take them for granted.”

It will be a busy schedule for the 25 athletes, coaches and support staff attending the camp with daily games, practices and off field activities planned.

Baseball Canada will be providing updates throughout the week via our Twitter account: twitter.com/baseballcanada.

Cuba Development Camp Roster

Sena Catterall, Québec
Kassie Orr, British Columbia
Alexis Galloway, Alberta
Elizabeth Gilder, British Columbia
Danielle Smith, Newfoundland
Isabella Bortolotto, British Columbia
Celia Leaf, British Columbia
Alexane Fournier, Québec
Sophy Gagné, Québec
Olivia Sheldon, Manitoba
Sarah Moir, Manitoba
Ellie MacAulay, Nova Scotia
Miya Waldron, Ontario
Caitlin Tomotsugu, Ontario
Arianne Lévesque, Québec
Bridget Kelly, Québec
Lily Susin, Ontario
Tara Taylor, Ontario
Emma March, British Columbia
Lochlahn March, Ontario
Allison Schroder, British Columbia
Noémie Lapointe, Québec
Erica Ahad, Québec
Meghan Jasmin, Québec
Maylee Matchett, Ontario


André Lachance, Québec
Aaron Myette, British Columbia
Kate Psota, Ontario
Wayne Parro, Ontario
Charles St-Laurent, Québec
Chloé Gagnon, Québec

  • Published in Sports

Cuba Refuses Interference and Exclusion of Venezuela from Summit of the Americas

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba strongly condemns the pronouncement of a group of countries in the hemisphere issued on February 13 in Lima, which constitutes an unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, while categorically rejects the decision to reconsider the participation of the Venezuelan Government in the eighth Summit of the Americas to be held next April in Peru.

A few days ago the US Secretary of State, during a tour through several countries of the area, declared the full validity of the Monroe doctrine, the most notorious instrument of American imperialist interventionism in our region. He called for a military coup against Venezuela’s constitutional Government and advocated for hardening the sanctions against that country.

The decision taken is not alien to these statements and efforts.

In this context, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalls the arbitrary and aggressive executive order of the United States, renewed in January 2017, which describes Venezuela as “an unusual and extraordinary threat to national security and exterior policy” of the superpower, and the most recent warnigwarning of President Donald
Trump on using “a possible military option if necessary” against it.

It is unbelievable and incredible that a supposed “unconstitutional rupture of the democratic order” is now used as a pretext, precisely in a country that has held in a few months municipal, regional elections and for a Constituent Assembly and has just called presidential elections, as it was claimed before, even using external interference or by unconstitutional and violent methods.

Cuba denounces this pronouncement and Venezuela´s exclusion from the eighth Summit of the Americas are contrary to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and to the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by the heads of State and Government of the member countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs ratifies the invariable solidarity of Cuba with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and with the civic-military Union of its people that constitutional President Nicolas Maduro Moros heads.

The words of the President of the Councils of State and of Ministers Raul Castro Ruz, pronounced on July 14, 2017 are totally up-to-date, when he said,

“The aggression and the coup violence against Venezuela damage all our America and only benefit the interests of those striving to divide us to exercise their domination over our peoples, not minding to generate conflicts of incalculable consequences in this region, as we are witnessing in different parts of the world. Today we warn that those who are trying to overthrow the Bolivarian and Chavez Revolution by unconstitutional, violent and coup routes will assume a serious responsibility before History.”

  • Published in Cuba

Raul Castro Welcomes Namibian Prime Minister

Cuban President Raul Castro welcomed on Thursday in Havana Namibian Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila who is on an official visit to Cuba.

In a friendly atmosphere, both leaders exchanged on the excellent relations between both governments and peoples and ratified the mutual commitment in working in strengthening the existing relations.

Both Heads of States also discussed on the different issues of the international scenario.

The Namibian delegation included the Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Peya Mushelenga and the African nation’s ambassador to Cuba Jerobeam Shaanika.

The Cuban delegation included First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel and the Minister for Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca and the First Vice President of the Foreign Ministry Marcelino Medina Gonzalez.

  • Published in Now

Cuba and Ecuador sign agreement on Education

Cuba and Ecuador signed an agreement of cooperation and mutual recognition of professional diplomas and homologation of Higher Education studies, as part of the activities of the 11th International Congress Universidad 2018.

Both countries were represented by Jose Ramon Saborido, Cuba´s Minister of that sector; and Augusto Barreras, Secretary of Higher Education, Science and Technology in the Andean nation.

Saborido told ACN that the agreement includes all areas of higher education, will influence the development of institutions and will provide solutions to the demands and challenges that society imposes.

The agreement will enhance academic and scientific exchange, the formation of human resources, the realization of joint projects, undergraduate and postgraduate training and will not be applied to a specific university, but will include the system of Ecuadorian universities, whether public or private, Saborido said.

Maria Augusta Calle, Ecuadoran Ambassador in Havana, told ACN that her country's interest in establishing this type of ties is not new, but is the result of the effort that has been made for 10 years.

There is a large number of Ecuadorian students who are studying or have graduated in Cuba, hence the recognition of their university degrees is essential for the validation of their studies, the diplomat noted.

Similarly, we have a lot of cooperation from Cuban professionals in Ecuador, and they also need the validation of their diplomas to better perform their activities, she added.

Ecuador is one of the foreign delegations with the highest representation in Universidad 2018, event attended by two thousand delegates from some 60 countries, with headquarters in Havana´s Conventions Palace until tomorrow.

  • Published in Cuba

A New Giselle Season at Havana’s Grand Theater Alicia Alonso

The ballet Giselle will again thrill audiences at and bring beauty to Havana’s Grand Theater with a Cuban National Ballet Company season Feb 23/25 - March 1/4.  

Choreographed by Cuba’s dance legend, Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso, after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, the shows of the ballet classic will be danced by premier dancers Anette Delgado, Viengsay Valdés and Grettel Morejón and Sadaise Arencibia. The role of Albrecht is set to be assumed by Rafael Quenedit, Patricio Revé and Raúl Abreu; while Hilarión will be danced by Ernesto Díaz, Luis Valle and Ariel Martínez. Claudia García and Chavela Riera will make their debut as Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, a role who will also be danced by principals Ginett Moncho and Ely Regina Hernández.

Inspired by a German folk tale, Giselle is one of the most important pieces in the repertoire of the Cuban National Ballet Company. Cuban ballet and dance were recognized in the world scene for the first time with Giselle and Alicia Alonso as its exceptional performer.

Edited by Damian Donestevez
  • Published in Culture
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