US Has No Moral Authority to Judge Cuba on Human Rights

The US Government has no authority to point at Cuba on human rights issues, the island''s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez stressed, reacting to a statement by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on alleged violations.

'Pompeo lies and libels,'underlines Rodriguez in a tweet the Foreign Ministry reproduced in social media.

The Cuban FM demanded from the US Government and its Secretary of State to lift the economic, trade and financial blockade Washington has maintained over almost 60 years.

He also wrote about Washington's poor performance on human rights for its condition as 'global repressor' and for its cruel treatment of migrants, minorities and poor people.

Director General of the US Office of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, also lambasted Pompeo's writing on Cuba.

With usual lack of decency the US Government shows when dealing with human rights, Pompeo issued a letter he said he had sent to Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, but it had not been received at the time he made it public.

He further said the US Government is dishonest when it expresses concern over human rights in Cuba or elsewhere.

'Its historical trajectory, its constant and flagrant abuses against its own population and that of many countries, and its alliance with dictatorial regimes guilty of vicious crimes disqualify the moral authority of US leaders,' emphasized Fernandez de Cossio.

To him, the letter and its public handling are actions of propaganda.

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THE US STATE DEPARTMENT USES THE GRANTING OF VISAS TO AFFECT DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH CUBA.

Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba

During the past few months, the US State Department has been concocting a new pretext to affect bilateral diplomatic relations, associated to the granting of the diplomatic and official visas required by the staff of the respective embassies in Washington and Havana to perform their duties.  The maneuver consists in claiming that Cuba is hindering the granting of visas for designated officials at the US embassy in Cuba, which allegedly hinders the work of that diplomatic mission.

In doing so, the State Department deliberately conceals the fact that it was the US government the one that, unilaterally, decided to downsize its staff in Havana in September, 2017, including particularly the staff in charge of consular services, with the consequent encumbrance for Cuban and US citizens who depend on those services. The US government was the one which decided to arbitrarily and unjustly expel 15 Cuban diplomatic officials from the Cuban embassy in Washington in October of that same year.

Since that date, the work of both diplomatic missions has been affected by these unilateral decisions.  Likewise, the granting of the visas required by the staff of the respective embassies has been subject to whimsical approvals and delays by the State Department.

Data speak for themselves.  Since the end of September, 2017, the US government has only granted 26 visas and denied 6 for the staff required by Cuba at its embassy in Washington.  During that same period, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba has granted 105 visas for the temporary and permanent diplomatic and administrative staff of the US embassy in Havana, and has only denied one in reciprocity for the actions taken by the State Department.  This is a clearly unbalanced behavior which is not in accord with the standards of reciprocity that are considered an essential practice in diplomatic relations.

To accuse Cuba of creating an unsustainable situation for the work of the US embassy is a flagrant distortion of the truth.  The Cuban government is not responsible for the instability and irregularity generated unilaterally by the US government that affects the work of the diplomatic missions of both countries in the respective capitals.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is still willing to meet the requirements of both parties for the functioning of the respective embassies on the basis of reciprocity.

Havana, November 28, 2018.


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Opposition Strategy Affects Venezuelan People, Analyst Asserts

The subversive strategy implemented by sectors of the right wing and their adventurous maneuvers to take political power affects all Venezuelans in equal terms, assured analyst and journalist Jose Vicente Rangel.

At his program Jose Vicente Today, broadcast by TeleVen, former Venezuelan Vice President considered that, due to the failure of seditious actions, the December 9 municipal council elections are a favorable opportunity to retake the democratic path.

In this sense, he indicated that destabilizing actions of the right not only harm the left-wing militancy and the government, which is facing an economic war provoked by these sectors, but also the rest of the society.

'When will they abandon subversive and adventurous politics? It's a failed strategy that affects all Venezuelans,' he questioned during his usual television program.

On the other hand, Rangel stressed the need to strengthen institutions in order to generate appropriate responses to the demands of civil society and political organizations.

The functioning of democracy and its institutions is also a key factor,' he emphasized.

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COALITION OF U.S. AG GROUPS MEET WITH CUBAN OFFICIALS TO ADVANCE TRADE

Representatives of U.S. agribusiness, the farming lobby and related industries opened a three-day conference in Cuba on Thursday aimed at increasing sales and cooperation with a country that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly lambasted and promised to tighten sanctions on. 

Cuba, which seeks increased trade with Cuba and the lifting of the trade embargo, is sponsoring the event. 

U.S. farmers and agribusinesses have sold $5.7 billion in food to the Communist-run Caribbean island since 2000, when an amendment to the trade embargo allowed agricultural sales for cash, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a New York-based organization that monitors the bilateral trade. 

Cuba imports up to $2 billion a year in food products. U.S. farmers want a larger piece of the pie, but are stymied because Cuba cannot make purchases on credit and there is no U.S. trade cover as with other countries, according to Paul Johnson, co-chair of the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba. 

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"Rural America supported President Trump and will continue to support President Trump and we want him to remember those people also want to open up the Cuban market," he told Reuters. 

Trump has promised to undo the gradual improvement of relations with Cuba begun by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and has drastically reduced staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana and Cuba's Embassy in Washington. 

However, much of the economic relationship, from food sales to travel and communications, remains partly due to the political clout of organizations such as the coalition. 

Johnson said trade had not met its potential and changes under way in Cuba, including market oriented reforms and a new president without Castro as a last name, represented an opportunity to be grasped. 

Republican Congressman Rick Crawford from Arkansas, whose state was a major exporter of rice to Cuba before the Revolution, made the opening remarks at the conference. 

He later told Reuters "polling shows the majority of Americans favor improved relations" despite opposition from hard line Cuban exiles, many of whom are in Florida. "There are 49 other states," he said. 

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China Urges US to Stop Meddling in Other Countries' Affairs

China urged the United States on Wednesday to focus on solving its social problems instead of meddling and criticizing internal affairs of other countries, such as the anti-terrorism program developed in the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang (northwestern region).

Hua Chunying, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, criticized that US legislators intend to pass a law condemning the alleged violation of human rights with this project.

She considered it inadmissible that these congresspersons take the power to question issues of other nations when they only spend taxpayers' money without serving them properly and ignore their social reality.

How much do you know about the real situation that happens in other countries? How much do you know about the situation of your own people? (...) they are more concerned about the internal affairs of other countries, based on misinformation and strong ideological prejudices, Hua said.

At that point, the spokeswoman recalled a report from last year on the persistence of racial discrimination in the United States, the mistreatment of African-Americans and other ethnic minorities.

Hua responded in this way to information about the presentation in a few hours before the US Congress of a bill to empower the government of President Donald Trump to respond to the alleged violations of China's human rights in Xinjiang.

On repeated occasions, the Foreign Ministry defended the educational programs developed in centers of that autonomous region to instruct in the domain of the language, legal knowledge and professional techniques to individuals instigated, linked, coerced and attracted by terrorist and extremist activities.

Western media in recent times disclose materials criticizing the opening and operation of such facilities.

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American farmers need the Cuban market

Farmers across the country are worried. Net farm income this year has hit a 12-year low and is expected to drop nearly 20 percent overall. With falling domestic demand, higher production prices, and competition from foreign producers already hurting our farmers, retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm exports by China, the EU, Canada, Mexico and Turkey are an added weight on the shoulders of our growers and producers. American farmers are tough patriots, but they need strong export revenues to stay in business. Building new export outlets for American farmers and allied industries has become an imperative, and Cuba should be part of that mix.

The list of farm sectors reeling from punitive foreign tariffs is long and getting longer. In soybeans, for example, nearly $14 billion worth of exports to China -- or roughly one third of total US soybean production in 2017 -- will be impacted by China’s new tariffs. In dairy, retaliatory tariffs will cost our farmers $1.5 billion this year and another $3 billion in 2019. In pork, almost half of all U.S. exports are being impacted by tariffs. This is not just a near-term concern. Once foreign market share is lost, reclaiming those sales is an uphill fight.

The positive reactions out of American agriculture to the new North American trade deal is testament to the urgent need for U.S. agribusiness outlets. In the case of Cuba, however, which offers an important growth opportunity just 90 miles away and an overnight voyage for shipping containers from U.S. Gulf and East Coast ports, a different solution is needed.

Cuba is one of only a very few foreign markets where the potential for U.S. agricultural growth is quantifiable and achievable. That island spends $2 billion a year on agricultural imports to feed its 11 million people and 3 million annual tourists. Most of its imports are from Vietnam, China, the European Union, and other faraway locations, where freight rates are many times higher than ours.

Arkansas for instance is the No. 1 U.S. rice exporter, and Cuba has the highest per capita rice consumption in the Western Hemisphere. However, since FY2009, Cuba has not imported any significant quantity of rice from the U.S. The U.S. held nearly 40 percent of market share in FY2004, but it has been lost to Vietnam and Brazil, who offer credit to Cuba.

Likewise, soybeans are also a top export item for states like Arkansas and others and with recent trade disputes, it is important to diversify our trading partners. Of Cuba’s nearly $2 billion in agricultural imports, 13 percent are soybean products. In Minnesota, U.S. soy exports could mean combined sales of up to $14 million, corn sales could reach up to $16 million; dairy has potential of $4.3 million. Similarly, many of Kansas’ top agricultural products are staple imports for Cuba. Kansas exports over $800 million annually in wheat, but there is virtually no wheat trade between Kansas and Cuba.

Cuba would readily buy our high-quality agricultural products were it not for our outdated financing rules on U.S. farm sales to Cuba. While the farm bill amendment allowing market promotion monies to be spent in Cuba is a step in the right direction, to position American farmers as the No. 1 agricultural supplier to Cuba, we need legislation allowing private credit and financing in agricultural sales to that market.

Now more than ever, when simple fixes like this could help our farmers make export strides in our own backyard over Vietnam, China, and other distant locations that compete with our farm community, we should quickly make them happen. The savings represented by this fix -- $690 million over 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office -- is all the more reason to get this done now.

For lasting export growth for American farmers, we should also advance efforts to provide reciprocal bilateral trade improvements that help foster a more stable, mutually beneficial US-Cuba trading relationship.

As China and other U.S. export markets are redefined, our country no longer has the luxury of shunning meaningful agribusiness markets located right under our nose. Expanded access for U.S. agriculture into Cuba and other new outlets has become nothing less than a matter of economic health, if not survival, for rural America.

Crawford represents Arkansas’s 1st District and is chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. Marshall represents Kansas’ 1st District and is a member of the Agriculture Committee. Emmer represents Minnesota’s 6th District. All three are members of the Congressional Cuba Working Group.

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U.S. to Ban More Cuban Entities from Transactions

The U.S. government will expand the list announced almost a year ago of Cuban entities with which U.S. citizens are prohibited from making transactions, national security advisor John Bolton reported.

During a speech given in Miami, Florida, about the increased pressure from the Donald Trump administration on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, the adviser announced more than twenty new institutions subjected to that measure.

The aforementioned list was released on November 8, 2017 as part of additional limitations imposed by Washington on travel and trade with the neighboring nation, and included about 180 entities allegedly linked to the island's defence sector and national security.

That relationship includes the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, five business groups, 83 hotels, two travel agencies, five marinas, 10 stores of different types, among other organizations of various kinds.

According to Bolton, the Presidential Memorandum of National Security on strengthening U.S. policy toward Cuba, signed by Trump in June 2017, is just the beginning of his efforts to put pressure on this country.

Although Cuba has expressed its willingness to engage in a bilateral dialogue on a basis of respect, without conditioning or impositions, the adviser said they will only approach a Cuban government that 'is ready to undertake necessary and tangible reforms.'

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Brett Kavanaugh: Judge or Foul Word?

The large segmentation that faces the North American society has just gone even deeper.

The New York Times commented, this Saturday, in Washington that the senate appointed Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court of the United States.

This case viewed by some as a victory of the president, ended up with investigations on inappropriate sexual behavior.

As SHERYL GAY STOLBERG wrote, the balance of the voting was 50 in favor and 48 against.

Her article pointed out that while the voting of those legislators was ongoing, in the surroundings of the Capitol demonstrators gathered and were dragged out by police officers of the White House.

While repressed by the police they shouted “This is a stain is in the history of the United States!”, “do you understand?”, yelled a woman, while she finished the voting.

After several discussions, the Republican Party supported the Kavanaugh’s appointing.

Senator Joe Manchin III from West Virginia the only democrat who backed him up.

The final result was no surprise because senators had already pronounced in this regard.

Observers say that this decision will bring serious consequences for the North American society, the Senate and the Supreme Court.

The rejection was huge, after the voting another group of demonstrators sat on the Capitol steps and shouted: “No, no, no!”, next they were restrained by police officer wearing uniform as well as civilian clothes.

Where lies one of the most controversial points in Kavanaugh’s appointing?

Women and survivors of sexual assaults feel powerless because their accusations went unheard.

A crucial moment in the debate was when the republican senator John Cornyn, from Texas in his speech qualified of “mafia tactics” referring to the activists and survivors of sexual assaults.

One of the demonstrators who came face to face with the republican senators shouted: “I am with the survivors”, “this it is a corrupt process!.”

Some of the future colleagues of judge Kavanaugh were concern on the image of the Court, as did judges Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

Judge Kagan expressed in Princeton University “people believe that the Court is not politically divided, that should not be an extension of the politics but that somehow should be above it, although that doesn't happen in all cases.”

Judge Kavanaugh will bend, further, the ideological tendency of the court towards the right and will consolidate a rigid conservative majority.

Substituted magistrate, Anthony M. Kennedy, 53 years old, “moderate conservative” could continue in the Court many more years, because of his age.

The Times added that Donald Trump, when appointing Kavanaugh in the Court, fulfilled one of the promises of his electoral campaign, scarce days before the midterm elections.

The newspaper said that the leader has used Kavanaugh process to mobilize the republican far-right and at the same time make fun of Christine Blasey Ford, an academic researcher who accused the judge of raping attempt when they were teenagers.

This case whose testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and published in The Washington Post unleashed waves of accusations that raised an FBI investigation on Kavanaugh’s conduct.

Another of his accusers, Deborah Ramírez, affirmed: “Thirty five years ago, the students of the room chose to laugh and look the other way, while Brett Kavanaugh perpetrated sexual assaults.”

And she added, now “While I see many of the senators speak and vote in the Senate, I feel like am back in Yale, where half of the room is laughing and looking the other way. Only this time, instead of drunken university students, they are the North American senators who deliberately ignore his behavior. This is how we victims get isolated and silenced.”

In his audience at the Senate, Kavanaugh defined Blasey’s accusations as “a calculated and orchestrated political coup.”

The democratic senator Chris Van Hollen, from Maryland said “at the beginning of the process she had doubts and I’m afraid that, in the end, they persist more than ever.”

He added, “Any hope that Kavanaugh is an impartial judge was shattered by his declaration during the last hearing.”

Here it is another example of the Senate in whose hands are important decisions in the political life of the United States.

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