Health Workers Reach Index

A recent study by Save the Children ranking the reach and effectiveness of health workers across the world proved an embarrassment for the UK and the US in 14th and 15th place - trailing behind Cuba in 8th position. The study attempted to rank the best countries to be a sick child in, tracking the proportion of children who receive regular vaccinations, and mothers who have access to life-saving emergency care at birth.

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FRFI 223 October/November 2011

Photo: Ernesto Freire Cazañas

Ernesto Freire CazañasSince the mid-2000s, Cuba’s revolutionary government has introduced numerous measures to recover from the economic crisis of the 1990s and improve the efficiency of Cuban socialism. This process has intensified since 2008 to deal with economic and financial problems aggravated by the international crisis. Among these policies are changes to the employment structure. In September 2010, the Cuban Trade Union Confederation (CTC) announced plans to transfer one million unproductive state sector workers into alternative employment between 2011 and 2015; half of them by March 2011. Alternative employment includes understaffed areas of the state sector, cooperatives and self-employment. These changes were further detailed in the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, distributed and debated nationwide from November 2010, modified according to popular demand at the Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) (see FRFI 221) in April 2011 and approved in the National Assembly in July.

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We, participants in the 1er. Foro Nuestra América "Realidad, Identidad, Cultura, Ottawa, Canada, held today, October 8, 2011 take notice of the following facts:

The Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and Rene González, were arrested in 1998 in Miami, Florida. They were infiltrating terrorist groups there who had wrecked havoc against the Cuban people for many decades. The sole purpose of the five Cubans was to expose the terrorist activities to the American authorities in order to stop the murder and destruction against Cubans and Cuban property. The goal of the Cubans was also to contribute towards ending the danger to American lives because of the extremist and reckless activities carried out by the terrorists from their base in the south of Florida.

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Rene Gonzalez in prison with his daughters Irmita and Ivette during a visit.

On Friday 7 October, Rene Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five incarcerated in United States since 1998 for combating terrorism against Cuba, faces a ‘supervised release’ under life-threatening conditions. In 2001, Rene was sentenced to 15 years in prison charged with conspiracy to act as a non-registered foreign agent. He had already spent 33 months in ‘preventative custody’, including 17 months in isolation in ‘the hole’.

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the_oppressed_people_of_the_world_support_cuban_socialism_why_doesnt_the_swp

Thursday 30th June was the start of the annual 5-day Marxism event, organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), which I attended for the first time.

Having signed up for membership of the SWP in early March of this year, I was convinced by many friendly and enthusiastic fellow members that ‘this year would be the biggest and best ever and not to be missed!’. It certainly was the largest attended in over a decade (approximately 4,500 people according to the SWP) but I for one was left underwhelmed.

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An engaging new music video against the US blockade on Cuba has been released by the UK rapper Lowkey. The song Too Much recognises Cuba’s achievements as a defiant force against anti-imperialism despite US aggression and the blockade.

The track, and its' video filmed in Cuba, focuses on capitalism and its perverse obsession with material things, most obviously money, over human values and the physical and emotional well being of people in society. The video shows life in Cuba, where although people are still affected by the crisis of capitalism, a new socialist society is being built which puts humanity at its centre.

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The Latest Example of the Media Blockade of the Cuban 5
Source: International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, 23 June 2011.

We were more than a little surprised when a CNN journalist based in Los Angeles contacted SPARC Gallery interested in covering Gerardo Hernandez’s exhibit “Humor from my Pen” before its opening on June 4. We remained skeptical but after several phone calls back and forth an interview was set up.

On June 3 the CNN journalist arrived early to set up her camera and to go over what she would be covering about the background of Gerardo’s work and the case of the Cuban 5 in general.

She seemed genuinely interested and did a long interview with the organizers from the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 in both Spanish and English. She also interviewed the Executive Director of SPARC, Debra Padilla.

We did not know going into the interview just how much the journalist knew about the case of the Cuban 5 but after more than 3 hours she learned not only about the artistic talents displayed in Gerardo’s cartoons but also about the deep injustice that he and his four brothers have been enduring for 13 years for defending their country, Cuba, against terrorism.

We asked the journalist how long it would take before we would know if the interview was going to be aired and she told us she did not know but mentioned that her editor wanted to find someone with a different “point of view” to “balance” the story.

This other “point of view” is really the only view that the people of the US are fed on a daily basis when it comes to any topic related to Cuba. That view is a steady stream of vilification, distortion and dishonest reporting of the realities of Cuba living under a 50 year blockade. Despite this we were reminded of what one of the Cuban 5 has said to us on many occasions, “It is better to have bad coverage than no coverage at all”

Our surprise about the interview was even greater when we were told that the “balanced” segment was complete and going to be aired on a program of CNN called “Encuentro” on Wednesday June 15 at 2pm PST.

We immediately passed this new information along to many of our friends so they could see with their own eyes that after 13 years of silence we were going to get a little break on coverage of the Cuban 5.

Unfortunately it did not happen.

The best answer we were able to get from the journalist who did the interview was that it was an “executive decision” not to air the segment.

So many times we hear about freedom in the United States with a free media that covers all points of views; but in the end it is those at the top of the media chain of command who will determine what is news and what isn’t.

Perhaps CNN was having trouble glossing over the courage of the Cuban 5 in the war against terrorism, or to show them in a human light. Perhaps they could not find a way to deny that these sons of Cuba were extraordinary men sent to Miami to defend the sovereignty of their country. Or maybe they were nervous about the absolute double standard in the US where an admitted terrorist like Luis Posada Carriles can show his paintings in Miami while the Cuban 5, who were here to prevent terrorism, produce art behind bars.

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Here is my unprinted response to the whole-page article about recent developments in Cuba which appeared in the Financial Times, 25 April 2011: 

With typical journalistic hyperbole you claim that changes to the employment structure in Cuba amount to ‘a structural adjustment so harsh it would make even advocates of the “shock therapy” meted out in the former Soviet bloc wince’ (John Rathbone and Marc Frank, ‘Cuba Libre?’ 25 April 2011). You are mistaken.

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