Alicia Jrapko: “The blockade is genocidal, criminal, irrational, and immoral”

The United Nations General Assembly begins and once again the voice of Cuba will rise against the blockade imposed by the United States on this little island, but while diplomacy does its part in New York, the US people accompanies us from Washington in this fair claim to put an end to the genocide.

Alicia Jrapko, a beloved friend of Cuba, partner of our most urgent causes, talked to CubaSi via email on the Days of Action against the Blockade that the Solidarity Committee organizes in the North American capital.

Would you tell us on the main actions you plan to carry out?

“This is the fourth day against the blockade in Washington DC that our committee develops. The actions include public activities with special guests and visits to the Congress. Although last year’s event focused on healthcare and this year’s on education, the fact is that the blockade affects the daily life of an entire population”.

Why the emphasis on education?

“The goal of the events at DC is to raise awareness on the blockade of the United States, but at the same time, we want that the people reflect on some important questions, for example: why the budget priority of the US government is to increase military spending, rather than granting priority to education? And in contrast: why Cuba, a small and blocked country, gives priority to education from the day-care center to higher education? All these questions help us show the great injustice of the U.S.-Cuba policy. For example, many people are unaware that 32 million adults in the U.S. do not know how to read. And these are the official figures. However, in Cuba, since the triumph of the Revolution not a single school has been closed. Despite the economic difficulties, the blockade, Cuba’s achievements in terms of literacy and education are the admiration of the entire world. Two US graduates from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) will accompany us and be able to bear witness to the generosity of the Cuban government for offering free education to young Americans from humble families, with the sole condition of returning to their communities and offer healthcare with a global and humanistic vision. They will also be able to talk about how the blockade affects Cubans”.

The screening of documentary “Maestra” (Teacher), by filmmaker Catherine Murphy, is part of the activities.

“One of the main events of this day, on September 26, will take place at a movie theater, where we will show two documentaries: “Maestra”, on Cuba’s Literacy Campaign in 1961, and “Lucha Sí!”, the fight for public education in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Following the screening of the documentaries, we will have a presentation chaired by the filmmakers of both films with the participation of the public, ELAM graduates and a Cuban educator who took part in the National Literacy Campaign, Norma Guillard. The other activities will be at universities, and this year we’ll also have one in a high school in Washington DC”.

Last year, the emphasis fell on Cuba’s achievements as regards health; now, on education. However, many question Cuba’s respect for human rights. What do you think?

“Regarding Cuba’s respect for human rights, my opinion is that the country that violates human rights most is the United States. The right to health, to education, to a decent dwelling are real human rights that Cuba practices with all its inhabitants. That is not the case of this country, where health and education are privileges for an elite, and entire families increasingly shelter under the bridges of the big highways, or sleep in their automobiles, should they have them. That is a real human rights violation. The topic of human rights violation is a great hypocrisy and a big lie, which actually has no valid arguments, a big manipulation from the groups interested in reversing the few positive steps that have been taken to change the U.S.-Cuba policy, something that most of the US people want, including Cuban Americans”.

Why do you continue fighting along with Cuba for the end of the blockade? What motivates you?

“As a Latin American living in United States, I think that solidarity with Cuba is fundamental. Cuba has been an example for Latin America as regards the construction of a supportive society, with very humanistic values, in contrast with consumption societies, where the material thing is the priority. Cuba has played a fundamental role in Latin American integration. I feel a lot of indignation whenever I hear the lies of the media outlets and many people who ignore Cuban reality. Cuba is a supportive country with all peoples in the world, it is the first country to offer aid before natural disasters, and it is an example of what can be done when priority is set on the basic needs of the human being. It’s not perfect, like any society, but I do know that Cubans work together every day to improve it, and that is what U.S. does not want. Cuba’s potential is huge, and if it has achieved so much even blocked, it’s unimaginable what it could have done or might do in a future without blockade. The blockade is genocidal, criminal, irrational, immoral. I live in this country since long ago and injustice hurts me greatly. I know Cuba and the troubles they face every day because of the blockade. I am convinced that what the U.S. does not forgive Cuba is to be independent and sovereign. But I can assure you that there is an increasingly large number of people in this country who love and respect Cuba”.

You are a woman who has been very close to Cuba. How would you define our country and our people?

“I define Cuba as example of a society that is built based on solidarity, and as an alternative to the capitalist world. I define the Cuban people as an educated and dignified people who fight at all costs against injustice, without giving up their principles and “without losing tenderness”. Many people from the United States go to Cuba and return enamored with its culture, its sportspeople, its urban crops, its cooperatives, the respect and affection that Cubans profess one and other. There’s no other explanation than that of a country, which dedicates its daily effort to build a society with deep humanistic values. The fight against the blockade has been very long. Soon, it will be demonstrated at UN once again that the entire world is against the blockade. I am convinced that, sooner or later, Cuba, its people and its government, accompanied by friends from all over the world, will also overcome this injustice”.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

French Citizens Condemn US Blockade on Cuba

Paris, Sep 16 (Prensa Latina) The solidarity organization ''Cuba Si France'' turned its stand at the L''Humanite Festival into a platform to reject the blockade imposed by the United States on the Caribbean island, which is still in force today.

'Many people are confused and think that the blockade ended. But we should clarify that this hostile policy is not only maintained, but tightened, and creates every day more difficulties for the economic development of the island,' the French lawmaker Andres Chassaigne said.

Chassaigne, who is the honorary president of Cuba Si France, also condemned the extraterritorial nature of this economic, commercial and financial siege, which affects Cuba's relations with the rest of the world.

The president of the association, Charlie Bouhana, reaffirmed the support for the Cuban people in their fight against the blockade.

He stated that despite the difficulties caused by Washington's policy, 'Cuba continues to write its own history,' in which 'the strength of the Revolution has allowed it to move forward.'

During the ceremony, attended by a large audience, the constitutional reform under debate in Cuba was also analyzed.

The event was part of many activities dedicated to Cuba at the L'Humanite Festival, which is considered the main meeting of progressive forces in France.

The festival began on Friday, September 14, with participation of more than 600,000 visitors.


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Cuba Describes U.S. Blockade as Main Obstacle for Its Development

Havana, Sep 2 (Prensa Latina) The economic, commercial and financial blockade of the United States constitutes the main obstacle for the development of Cuba, as it affects plans aimed at the country''s progress, denounced the island's government.

In its most recent report on the impact of the current fence for almost six decades, Havana warned that it slows down the implementation of the Cuban Economic and Social Development Plan and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the latter adopted in 2015 by the 193 member states of the UN.

According to the Cuban Foreign Affairs Ministry, the blockade not only hits the links with the United States, but its extraterritorial nature also attacks economic, commercial and financial exchanges with the rest of the world.

On October 31, the United Nations General Assembly will vote for the twenty-seventh consecutive occasion since 1992 a draft resolution demanding the lifting of sanctions imposed on the island, an initiative similar to the ones that have always been categorically supported by 191 countries in the last three years.

According to the report of the Cuban Foreign Ministry facing the new vote, the blockade accumulates damages that reach 933.6 billion dollars, taking into account the depreciation of the dollar against the value of gold in the international market.

The arrival of Repulican President Donald Trump at the White House in January of 2017, meant an additional hit to the efforts of the Caribbean country in pursuit of its socio-economic development.

'Many foreign counterparts have interpreted that they can not make deals or continue operating with the companies included in the list,' the report stressed.

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U.S. Blockade Damages Cuban Food and Agricultural Industries

Havana, Aug 26 (Prensa Latina) The food and agricultural industries are today two of the most affected sectors in Cuba due to the U.S. economic blockade on the island, lasting almost six decades, revealed a report by the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

In the most recent analysis of the financial hits caused by the Washington policy, it is detailed that during the period of April, 2017 to March, 2018, the losses represented four billion 321.2 million USD, an increase of 66 million 195 thousand 100 dollars compared to the previous period.

The greatest damage, says the report, is the prohibition to put national products in the U.S. market.

In the case of rum, the Havana Club considered one of the most prestigious worldwide in the elaboration of spirits, a loss estimated in 90 million 930 thousand USD is inflicted by the ban to access the U.S. market.

Other brands like rum Santiago de Cuba, Isla del Tesoro and Cubay, with an exporting potential to the U.S. market of no less than 200 thousand boxes a year, cannot put their products in that market, despite the interest expressed by the main distributors of that country.

The revenues which the island could not Access would have allowed the reinvestment and the creation of a solid infrastructure in the food industry, adds the report.

The Cuban government had to make great efforts to achieve the results obtained in food security which, despite the damages caused by the blockade, are recognized by specialized agencies of the United Nations System, elaborates the document.

According to recently published data by the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), Cuba is considered as the only

country in Latin America and the Caribbean free of severe infant malnutrition.

Cuba presents sincwe 1992 a resolution project demading the end of the U.S. blockade before the U.N. General Assembly, will again present it for the 27th time next October 31.

During the voting last year, it had the support of 191 of the 193 member countries, with the sole opposition of the United States and Israel.

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Pittsburgh tells Trump and Congress: #UnblockCuba

The Pittsburgh City Council took action to strongly support the sovereignty of the Cuban people on July 24.

A resolution in the form of a proclamation, sponsored by Councilmember Anthony Coghill and co-sponsored by the other eight council members, backed a renewed cooperative engagement with Cuba by the U.S., as well as restoration of the full diplomatic staff at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., and at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Members of the initiating organization, Pittsburgh-Matanzas Sister City Partnership, and other supporters were present.

Pittsburgh-Matanzas Sister City Partnership President James Ferlo and Vice President Lisa Valanti spoke briefly, and Valanti read a greeting from the Cuban Embassy. Others present included a representative from U.S. Congressperson Mike Doyle.

Pittsburgh’s resolution expresses the will of yet another U.S. community to end the U.S. commercial, financial and economic blockade of Cuba. It also sent a special message of solidarity to Cuba just two days before that country celebrated the 65th anniversary of the July 26, 1953, attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. That attack began the final stage of Cuba’s long struggle for independence and self-determination culminating in victory on Jan. 1, 1959.

Pittsburgh joins eight other U.S. cities taking a similar action: Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond and Sacramento, Calif.; Hartford, Conn; Brookline, Mass.; Minneapolis; and Helena, Mont. Activists plan to introduce additional resolutions in Midwest, Eastern and Southern cities.

The body of the resolution reviewed the history of exchanges and efforts between Pittsburgh and Cuba since 1998, including mayoral visits, trade delegations, memoranda of understandings between Penn State University and the University of Havana, and sporting exchanges. In July 2016, a spectacular youth “Boxing on the Bridge’”exhibition was held with participants from Cuba and Pittsburgh competing in the center of Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente Bridge spanning the Allegheny River.

The Pittsburgh resolution noted that only congressional action can unravel the web of many laws restricting trade and travel with Cuba. It calls for the repeal of the Helms-Burton and Torricelli acts and “urges Congress to pass the strategic pieces of legislation that would completely repeal the blockade and travel ban” — action that would benefit the people of both countries.

For instance, while 2.5 billion pounds of unsold meat and poultry are now warehoused in the U.S. and dairy farmers are going out of business (Wall Street Journal, July 22), the Pittsburgh resolution points out that there are commodities “that Cuba presently purchases from far away countries and wants to purchase from the U.S.” These economic pressures are fueling incremental but important amendments to the 2018 Farm Bill and Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 to loosen some of the blockade’s financial grip.

A video recorded in the Pittsburgh City Council chambers is viewable on the National Network on Cuba’s Facebook page:

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French Foreign Minister: We Want to Be Cuba's Partner

Havana, Jul 30 (Prensa Latina) The French minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, expressed his government's interest in becoming Cuba's partner in the framework of the Caribbean island''s update of its economic model.

After touring Old Havana, the foreign minister repeated France's intention to reinforce bilateral ties with Cuba.

In statements to the National TV News, the head of French diplomacy commented that President Emmanuel Macron asked him to convey a message to his Cuban counterpart, Miguel Diaz-Canel, and to tell him that France wants to maintain the dynamics of existing relations.

We have exceptional ties that were consolidated during then President Raul Castro's visit to France in 2016.

On Monday, the French foreign minister met with his Cuban peer, Bruno Rodriguez, who described bilateral relations as positive, and pointed out that cultural, economic and academic exchange goes well.

There is a significant potential to strengthen ties between the two nations, noted the Cuban foreign minister, who highlighted France's leadership in Europe and in the struggle to preserve the environment.

Rodriguez thanked the French State for its stance against the US commercial, economic, and financial blockade on Cuba for more than half a century.

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Canada Demands End of U.S. Blockade on Cuba (+Photos)

Havana, Jul 23 (Prensa Latina) Friends of Cuba in Canada gathered in front of the U.S. consulate in Vancouver to demand the end of the economic and financial blockade, which has caused countless damages to the people of the Caribbean country.

Activist Tamara Hansen told Prensa Latina via Facebook that the mobilization took place as it has every month since the initiative was launched on September 17, 2015.

Under the slogan 'Lifting the US blockade Against Cuba Now' and organized by the Friends of Cuba against the U.S. Blockade-Vancouver (FCAB-Van) group, the peaceful demonstration called on the White House to listen to the international outcry.

On November 1, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against the blockade for the twenty-sixth consecutive time, supported by an overwhelming majority (191 votes in favor and only two against, the United States and Israel).

During the solidarity demonstration, participants carried banners reading: 'Cuba Yes, Blockade No!' and 'Return Guantanamo to Cuba Now!', referring to the territory illegally occupied by a US naval base in that eastern province of the Caribbean island.

The blockade, imposed in 1962 and maintained by both Democratic and Republican governments, is the longest economic siege in human history, experts say.

A statement by the group almost three years ago, when the monthly sit-ins in Vancouver began, stressed that 'despite the normalization of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States (...), many of the criminal policies (...) have been in place for more than 50 years'.

FCAB-Van is the successor to the Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver. It was founded shortly after the celebration of the victory over the return of the island's anti-terrorists unjustly imprisoned in the United States on September 12, 1998.

FCAB-Van publicly warned that'as long as the cruel blockade exists, the group will return each month in front of the U.S. consulate in Vancouver', as they did for the return of the Five to their homeland (Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez).

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Cuban economy grows 1.1 percent in first half of 2018

Cuban Gross Domestic Product had a discreet growth of 1.1 percent at the end of the first half, when the county faced shortages in hard currency, said Miguel Diaz-Canel, President of the Council of State and Ministers.

In his closing speech of the first ordinary session of the IX Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power (ANPP), the president said that the result "is encouraging in the midst of so many adverse factors.

He argued that the tense situation in the external finances remains, due to the failure to meet planned revenues from exports, tourism and sugar production, as well as the harmful effects of recent weather events.

Diaz-Canel said that such circumstances caused an impact on the arrival of inputs and raw materials, while stressing, therefore, the need to adopt additional measures to control the main assurances of the plan in this second part of the year.

He called for more focused work on import issues and other foreign exchange expenditures, and for maximum use to be made of available resources, without forgoing planned objectives such as those related to development and basic services to the population.

According to the President, thus addressing this situation will allow us to lay the foundations for making the 2019 economic plan objective, realistic and sustainable, based on solid and achievable foundations.

Díaz-Canel said a plan will be sought that will encourage, despite the difficulties, the continued development of priority programs in pursuit of growth and progress, as long as it contributes to the gradual restoration of the nation's financial credibility. (ACN)

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