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June 20, 2014 - No. 59

Cuba's Fight for Human Rights

Mariela Castro Espín to Speak in Toronto



Sunday, June 22 -- 2:00 pm
United Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St.
Admission $10.00 -- for advance tickets call 416-469-2481
Sponsored by: People's Voice, Rainbow-Sea of Red Collective,
Queer Commission, Communist Party of Canada (Ontario)

Cuba's Fight for Human Rights
Mariela Castro Espín to Speak in Toronto

44th General Assembly of Organization of American States in Asuncion, Paraguay

Latin American Cooperation Trumps U.S. Domination

El Salvador Celebrates Inauguration of New President
Historic Success for Salvadoran People

Five Days for the Cuban Five
Third Annual Gathering Held in Washington, DC
Actions in Canada Demand Release of Remaining Cuban Patriots Unjustly Imprisoned in U.S.

World Cup in Brazil
Denying Rumours with Actual Facts - Workers' Party of Brazil

Coming Events
25th Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba Tour of Southern Ontario - Canadian Network on Cuba


Cuba's Fight for Human Rights

Mariela Castro Espín to Speak in Toronto

Mariela Castro Espín, Deputy to the Cuban National Assembly of People's Power and Director of the Cuban National Centre for Sexual Education (CENESEX) is visiting Canada in June to present on the topic of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Cuba. She will speak at a public event at 2:00 pm on Sunday, June 22 at Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St., Toronto on the topic of LGTBI Equality: Progress and Challenges in a Changing Cuba. She will also be speaking at the WorldPride Human Rights Conference, Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto, on Friday, June 27 between 1:30 and 3:00 pm, University College, Room 161. Her presentation is entitled LGBTI Human Rights in Cuba: Reflections from 24 Years at CENESEX. On the same panel, Manuel Vasques Seljido, also with CENESEX, will address the issue of LGBTI rights in Latin America.


Mariela Castro Espín speaks in Montreal, October 20, 2013.

Mariela Castro is a champion in defence of human rights against discrimination based on gender and sexual identity. In 2004, Mariela prepared an education strategy for legal, educational, media and health initiatives with the purpose of promoting the rights and dignity of trans people and their social destigmatization. From this work, a resolution of the Ministry of Public Health was adopted in 2008 which legitimizes specialized health care for trans people, including surgery for sex reassignment, as a free service of the Public Health System.

Mariela has participated in the preparation and promotion of modifications to Cuba's Family Code that include respect for free sexual orientation and gender identity and legal recognition for same sex couples. She also coordinates public campaigns to promote respect for free sexual orientation and gender identity, including the celebration throughout the country for the International Day against Homophobia, which she has presided over since 2007.

TML calls on everyone to attend these events which will provide valuable information on how Cuba and its people fight to affirm the rights of all, and specifically the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, as part of defending their national sovereignty from U.S. pressure to give up their way of life and political system of their choosing.

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44th General Assembly of
Organization of American States in Asuncion, Paraguay

Latin American Cooperation Trumps U.S. Domination

The 44th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) was held June 4-5 in Paraguay amid increasing U.S. efforts to interfere in Venezuela and tighten its blockade on Cuba. Yet the more that the U.S. refuses to recognize the sovereignty of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, the more it has become isolated in its aggressive position. Host country Paraguay put forward a motion that insisted on the participation of Cuba at the next Summit of the Americas in 2015. One after the other, governments of all countries gave their support for the motion. It was opposed only by the U.S. and Canadian delegations.

The show of unity was underscored by several nations vowing to not participate in future meetings without the unconditional acceptance of Cuba into the affairs of the organization. Bolivian envoy Diego Pary Rodriguez said that Cuban exclusion would mean "we consider ourselves excluded as well from the next Summit of the Americas." That position was shared by the delegations of Venezuela and Nicaragua. Argentine Foreign Affairs Minister Hector Timeran stated that it would be "very difficult" for the country to take part in another summit if Cuba is excluded. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa confirmed that his country would not attend the summit without Cuban participation. He also proposed that the headquarters of the OAS and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights be relocated from Washington, DC.

Motions passed at the 44th OAS Assembly demonstrated the failure of the U.S. to wield the organization for its own purposes. In the declaration of the 44th session, entitled "Development with Social Inclusion," the U.S. was reduced to inserting its position into footnotes based on Cold War definitions of human rights. Opening the session, OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza called for positive support from the international community for the political process in Venezuela "without pressure or sanctions." A motion was passed expressing support for the ongoing peace talks being held in Cuba between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) and the government of Colombia.

(With files from: Prensa Latina, Xinhua, OAS)

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El Salvador Celebrates Inauguration of New President

Historic Success for Salvadoran People


Salvadoran President of Salvador Sánchez Cerén at his inauguration, with First Lady Margarita Villalta, June 1, 2014.

On June 1, Salvador Sánchez Cerén was inaugurated as President of El Salvador. The Legislative Assembly convened to transfer the office of the presidency before a thousands-strong crowd at the international convention centre in San Salvador. At the ceremony former President Mauricio Funes, elected in 2009 as the first President from the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), officially handed over the presidential sash to his successor. Sánchez Cerén, a former teacher and veteran of the struggle against military dictatorship from 1980-1992, was elected in a runoff vote on March 9.

The inauguration ceremony was opened by the President of the Legislative Assembly, Sigrido Reyes, who saluted the representatives of the trade unions, campesino (peasant) organizations and students' and women's organizations that have been at the forefront of the popular struggle in the country since the 1960s. The ceremony was marked by a sombre recognition of the struggle against state repression of the Salvadoran people.

President Sánchez Cerén spoke after being sworn in by Reyes: "After long years of struggle for justice and democracy in my country, I humbly and with deep respect accept this presidential sash. I receive it with a commitment to exercise the presidency for all Salvadorans, here and abroad." The main refrain of President Sánchez Cerén's speech was that national unity is needed to solve problems faced by the Salvadoran people. President Sánchez Cerén used the occasion to honour the memory of historic leaders of El Salvador's revolutionary movement, including Mélida Anaya Montes, a founder with Sánchez Cerén, of the ANDES-21 teachers' union, and Schafik Handal, former leader of the Communist Party of El Salvador and a FMLN commander. President Sánchez Cerén noted that the new government is taking office "with a lot of hope and happiness," but that "this is only possible due to the labours of our heroes and martyrs, those men and women, visionary people, who gave their lives dreaming of a democratic country."



Top left to right: Vice-President Oscar Ortíz and his wife Elda Gladis Tobar Ortíz; President Salvador Sánchez Cerén and First Lady Margarita Villalta. Centre left to right: President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, President of Bolivia Evo Morales, FMLN General Secretary Medardo González; Cuban Vice-President Salvador Valdés Mesa.

The inauguration was attended by delegations from more than 100 countries. Among the leaders in attendance, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Bolivian President Evo Morales, and Cuban Vice-President Salvador Valdés Mesa were cheered most vigorously by the crowd.

Following the inauguration, a popular celebration was held in San Salvador's Plaza Cívica, the site of a 1980 massacre carried out by the armed forces of El Salvador. Undaunted by the rain, the crowd paid tribute to champions of the sovereignty of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, including Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and Schafik Handal.

In his speech to the jubilant crowd at the popular celebration, President Sánchez Cerén expressed his dream for El Salvador. "El Salvador is worth the struggle. It's worth sacrificing ourselves. And it's worth struggling all of our lives for our dream... In my dream, El Salvador will become a country of buenvivir [good living], where everyone can have happiness, where inequality is torn down, where we all see each other as brothers and sisters -- this dream is worth fighting for."

TML congratulates President Salvador Sánchez Cerén and his Vice-President Oscar Ortíz, the FMLN, and the people of El Salvador on their historic success, and on the consolidation of the achievements of the election of the people's forces in 2009.


Popular celebration at Plaza Civica in San Salvador.

(With files from: Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, FMLN. Photos: FMLN)

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Five Days for the Cuban Five

Third Annual Gathering Held in Washington, DC


June 10, 2014

The third annual Five Days for the Cuban Five was held from June 4 to 10 in Washington, DC. Organized by the International Committee to Free the Cuban Five, the events press for the release of the remaining three Cubans held prisoner in the U.S., Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. Actions coinciding with the events in Washington were held in more than 40 countries.

The events were preceded by a press conference in Miami on May 29 demanding the U.S. government disclose its relationship with anti-Cuban terrorists sheltered in Florida. The beginning of events on June 4 coincided with the 49th birthday of Gerardo Hernández, who is serving a double life sentence plus 15 years.

The five days in Washington brought together more than 250 parliamentarians, lawyers, religious leaders, writers, artists and activists from around the world. The Five Days for the Five connects the unjust imprisonment of the Cubans in the U.S., who were monitoring Miami-based anti-Cuban terrorist cells, with the issue of U.S.-Cuban relations and the more than 50 year-long criminal blockade imposed upon Cuba.

On June 4, the events began with a press conference at the National Press Club by Canadian journalist Stephen Kimber and Cuban Five attorney Martin Garbus. Kimber said there were a number of hopeful developments on the front of U.S.-Cuban relations, including a visit to Cuba from the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a bipartisan letter to President Obama calling for change in U.S. policy towards Cuba.

Garbus explained that a number of facts about the case are unprecedented in U.S. legal history. According to government documents, between 1996 and 2001, when the Five were convicted, tens of millions of dollars were paid directly by the government to journalists who were producing up to five spurious articles per day on the case for the U.S. monopoly media as part of a disinformation campaign. These facts did not come to light until after the trial.

"The papers that we have submitted to the court name specific journalists, name specific monies they got, which agencies they got the monies from. It also includes the articles and statements they made, and it shows the relationship between, let's say, Radio Marti's analysis [a U.S. government-funded anti-Cuban broadcaster] of the facts, and the stuff that then winds up in the Miami Herald, and then on national and local NBC and CBS stations," said Garbus.

June 5, 2014

On June 5 and 6, a conference took place on "A New Era in U.S.-Cuban Relations," including several panels and an exhibition of cartoons by Gerardo Hernández and watercolours by Antonio Guerrero. The event on June 5 was opened by actor Danny Glover, himself a longtime advocate for the release of the Cuban Five.

Other topics included the recently revealed U.S. social network "ZunZuneo" which aimed to foment unrest on the island, the history of terrorism against Cuba and the latest developments in the legal case of the Five. The conference concluded with a performance by the hip hop group Dead Prez the night of June 6.

Significant discussion took place on the recent "prisoner swap" undertaken by the U.S. government in Afghanistan, and whether it suggests the possibility of an agreement for the freedom of the Five. Cuban authorities have indicated that Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen convicted of acts against the independence and territorial integrity of Cuba, could be released under such an exchange.

The final work of the late U.S. filmmaker Saul Landau was screened on June 6. Entitled "Cuba Sexual Revolution," it carries an interview with Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Centre for Sex Education and champion of lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender rights on the island. Landau, a friend of Cuba and recipient of the Cuban Medal of Friendship, died in 2013 after a battle with cancer.

Participants emphasized the importance of the work undertaken in Miami by the Cuban Five to prevent attacks against Cuba, which have taken thousands of lives since the 1960s and left thousands more disabled.

A rally of more than 500 people was held June 7 outside the White House, followed by a march to the State Department building. Speakers included Rafael Cancel Miranda, a fighter for Puerto Rican independence. More than 20 activists from the Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver also held an action on bicycle in the morning, before the march.

On June 8 parliamentarians from more than a dozen countries paid visits to Capitol Hill. A delegation from Chile paid tribute to Orlando Letelier, Chilean Foreign Minister in the Popular Unity government, who was murdered in Washington in 1976 by a CIA-sponsored anti-Cuban group.

Congressional visits took place from June 9 to 10, followed by a closing political and cultural event at Bolivarian Hall.




June 7, 2014

(With files from: Prensa Latina, U.S. National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five. Photo: B. Hackwell, B.I. Mata Plascensia, U.S. National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, Free the Five Committee-Vancouver.)

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Actions in Canada Demand Release of Remaining Cuban Patriots Unjustly Imprisoned in U.S.

Vancouver

The Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver held its 102nd monthly picket action on May 5 in front of the U.S. consulate. Participants chanted slogans such as "Freedom for the Five NOW! Justice for the Five NOW!" and heard a message from a Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver organizer currently in Cuba as part of the 23rd Ernesto Che Guevara volunteer work brigade. The picket recognized Ottawa activists, holding their sixth consecutive monthly picket on the same day. A 21-person BC delegation left for the third annual Five Days for the Five in Washington, DC following the picket.

Toronto

On June 7, Toronto activists held a spirited picket in front of the headquarters of CTV-CP24, a 24-hour Toronto television station to contribute to smashing the silence in the monopoly media on the unjust imprisonment since September 1998 of the Cuban Five. Organized by the Toronto Forum on Cuba, the picket brought together justice-minded Canadians and friends of Cuba from Latin American, First Nations, LGBT, Muslim, and anti-war groups to demand the release of all the Cuban Five. These groups included the Hugo Chavez Peoples' Defense Front, the Hamilton Anti-War Committee, Juan Gualberto Gomez Association of Cubans in Toronto, the Rainbow Sea of Red Open Collective with Cuba, the Kitchener-Waterloo Anti-Colonial Collective, the Latin America and Caribbean Solidarity Network, and the Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle. Activists with the Toronto Forum on Cuba pledged to carry on the fight with a busy schedule of actions this summer. Speakers highlighted the hypocrisy of the claims of the U.S. government to be fighting terrorism, while sponsoring terror in Syria and Venezuela and jailing the five Cubans for working to prevent attacks on Cuba.


Ottawa


Activists in Ottawa held their sixth consecutive picket for the Cuban Five on the fifth of every month across from the U.S. Embassy.

(With files from: Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver and Toronto Forum on Cuba; Photos: Free the 5-Vancouver, D. Mateo, R. Allen)

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World Cup in Brazil

Denying Rumours with Actual Facts

Over the last months, the Dilma Rousseff administration and the Workers' Party (PT) have been the target of a massive campaign in the media and the social networks against the hosting of the World Cup. Criticisms can always improve any given project, yet what we are witnessing in Brazil, now with international repercussions, is a pessimism and disinformation campaign led by the opposition, with critical support from the big media, in an attempt to undermine the government. This campaign makes use of fair claims made by the population for improvement in public services for the purpose of promoting a rhetoric hinged on the inefficiency of the State and public spending. It also seeks to separate the holding of the Cup from the federal government, simultaneously criticizing it yet mobilizing pro-Cup feelings to boost big business profits. Our international friends in sectors of the left have shown concern over news of the potential passage of legislation that would favor crackdowns on protests and social movements, in light of the 2013 demonstrations. Given this major disinformation campaign, we would like to share some facts with our friendly foreign parties.


Sao Paulo, May 15, 2014. News agencies report that the government is negotiating with those organizations protesting the World Cup regarding their grievances to minimize the disruption to the sporting event. Investigations are also underway regarding police violence against protestors, Vermelho reports. (Xinhua)

The most frequent argument in the media is the statement that World Cup funds are being spent on stadiums at the expense of health and education. The World Cup has a budget of nearly R$ 26 billion. The construction of the stadiums (R$ 8 billion) accounts for roughly 30% of this total. It is worth stressing, however, that there are no Union budget funds in the stadiums, whose construction was funded by National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES), local resources, and the private sector. About 70% of the Cup's spending is not on stadiums, but on infrastructure, services, and labor training/capacity-building programs. Expenditure on urban mobility is just about the same as on stadiums -- 45 urban mobility projects prioritizing public transport. These projects include dedicated bus lanes; stations, terminals, and Traffic Control Centers; BRT (Bus Rapid Transit); and LRVs (Light Rail Vehicles). The federal government invested over R$ 8 billion in these works.

As for airports, R$ 6.28 billion was invested to improve airport infrastructure in passenger terminals, runways, and facilities, and in operational upgrading. The 21 passenger terminal modernization and construction projects will increase by 81% passenger capacity in World Cup host city airports. Additionally, these airport infrastructure improvements have been designed to meet the needs of millions of Brazilian passengers, who have grown from 30 million to 100 million over the last decade.

According to the Ministry of Labor, overall some 700,000 direct and indirect wage jobs have been or will have been generated by June 2014. In a study released by the Ministry of Tourism, the World Cup is expected to have an impact worth R$ 30 billion on the country's GDP. For further information, log on to website www.copa2014.gov.br.

The Cup has not received any funds from the health and education budgets, which have increased year after year. It is worth noting the multiplication of educational programs, such as an increase in the number of day-care centers; the expansion of public elementary and technical education; a rise in the number of places offered through the construction of new public federal universities and student credit programs; plus the 50,000 students sent abroad to attend undergraduate and graduate programs in foreign universities through the Science Without Borders program. What's more, over the next years, 75% of the oil exploration royalties and 50% of the Pre-Salt Social Fund are earmarked for education.

In the health area, we point out the strengthening of the universal Single System of Health, with an investment worth R$ 15 billion in hospital facilities, coupled with the Mais Médicos program -- in cooperation with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) -- to attract and foster Brazilian and foreign medical doctors to work in the country's most socially vulnerable regions, plus earmarked investments of 25% of the oil exploration royalties in health. In seven months the Mais Médicos program had over 6,600 professionals participating, distributed in almost 40% of the Brazilian municipalities. By the end of 2014 they will be 13,000.

Summarizing, the Cup has not used budgets allocated to such areas as health, education, transport, and public safety. Funds for health and education are rising each year. For example, the budget of the Ministry of Education rose from R$ 86.2 billion in 2013 to R$ 89.1 billion in 2014. The health budget for fiscal 2014 is R$ 106 billion, a 31 percent increase in comparison with 2011.

We acknowledge and support the progressive agenda of claims emanating from the recent demonstrations. After all, these have also been our historical demands, which, albeit at a slower pace than we wish, we have managed to implement. But we cannot accept the leveraging of these legitimate demands by sectors of the right that only seek to reintroduce neo-liberal policies designed to dismantle the State. Another theme that has been highlighted by the media, especially abroad, regards the likelihood that a bill, known as the "anti-terrorism" law, be approved to prevent violent actions during the demonstrations. Actually, there is a bill being considered in Congress that was proposed by a joint Chamber/Senate committee, with the support of rightwing and public security sectors. The Workers Party states that we are totally against any legislative initiative designed to criminalize social movements and legitimize arbitrary police action. Our greatest problem is not the demonstrations during the World Cup but, rather, the structural violence that has come to pervade the Brazilian society over centuries of inequality and criminalization of poverty.

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Coming Events

25th Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba
Tour of Southern Ontario

The Canadian Network on Cuba is pleased to announce the schedule for the annual Pastors for Peace Cuba Caravan Southern Ontario Tour. The Pastors for Peace Cuba Caravan is a project of the award-winning Inter-religious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO. Each year the Cuba Caravan travels across Canada and the U.S. collecting goods and/or donations to be delivered to Cuba in defiance of the illegal U.S. blockade. For Cuba, the Caravan is an important effort to end the blockade against the island, which causes shortages of food, medicine and other important supplies. It is an illegal and immoral policy that uses hunger and disease as political weapons.

The 2014 Southern Ontario tour features the inimitable Reverend Luis Barrios, who will bring to life the significant issues surrounding the US blockade against Cuba.  With his in depth knowledge of US- Latin American-Caribbean history and relations, Reverend Barrios will leave no stone unturned as to why the blockade should end, and the rights of Cuba and all countries to self-determination should be respected and defended.  His profound passion for the justice, his charm and sense of humour make for a riveting presentation you won't soon forget. 

Rev. Barrios is a professor of psychology and ethnic studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice-City University of New York. Since 1988, he has been a weekly columnist of El Diario La Prensa in New York City, one of the oldest Spanish newspapers in the United States. Rev. Barrios is also the associate priest at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in West Harlem and the spiritual advisor for the Iglesia San Romero de Las Americas-UCC in the Washington Heights community. He is an active member of the IFCO-Pastor for Peace Board of Directors and was heavily involved in the 2005 campaign to free the computers seized at the border. He has since participated as a speaker in several caravans to Cuba.

He is a passionate exponent of the use of non-violent civil disobedience to challenge unjust laws and policies. In 2009 he spent several months in jail for his participation in a protest about training in torture methods at the U.S. military's "School of the Americas" in Fort Benning, Georgia.

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