U.S. interest in the “backyard”

Hillary Clinton called on on Haiti on the way to revive interest in the southern hemisphere of America which deeply resents U.S. domination. Like neighbouring Cuba the island was battered by successive hurricanes last year which wiped out crops. Schools are private and so if parents can’t pay fees children get no education.
Cuba on the other hand, although poor – and kept so by 50 years of U.S. imposed sanctions – provides universal education and health care. The system trains so many as doctors and teachers that Cubans can be found helping countries throughout Latin America and further afield. When Mew Orleans was devastated Cuba offered aid but the thought was too much for President George W. Bush and it was declined.
Now Obama is speaking about equality through Latin America and has offered a thaw in relations with Cuba. Cuba on their part have said yes they are willing to talk about anything, but not of there are pre-conditions. Although Obama talks about equality clearly the U.S. agenda still maintains its concern about “freedom” and seems to want to dictate what kind of regime governs the country. In the past Cuba was a playground for the rich and the poor certainly did not have access to the care provision that the government has organised in spite of huge difficulties. People’s lives are a high priority here and civil defence arrangements ensured a minimum loss of life in the event of storms which stayed low even compared with the United States. The wealthy free-market countries are loathe to recognise this and give credit. Who knows they might have something valuable to learn.

Cuba it appears is the only country not invited to Port of Spain, Trinidad and it left the President of Argentina and others to point out the anachronism. The U.S. appears to be out of step with the other countries at the conference in this respect.
“Although Obama’s remarks were greeted with enthusiastic applause, the message of new partnership he brought to the summit was overshadowed by opposition to U.S. policy toward Cuba, the only Latin American country not invited to the hemispheric gathering. As he sat on the stage with them, several speakers called on Obama to lift what Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner called the “anachronism” of the decades-old U.S. trade embargo of the island.” Source Washington Post 18/4/2009.
However the U.S. still appears to be laying down terms:
The administration has been careful to accompany its outreach to Cuba with demands that the government allow more political and personal freedoms before the embargo is lifted. ‘They’re certainly free to release political prisoners,’ White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters yesterday. “They’re certainly free to stop skimming money off the top of remittance payments as they come back to the Cuban island. They’re free to institute a greater freedom of the press.”
But events appeared to be outpacing the administration’s efforts to adjust its Cuba policy on its own terms. Earlier yesterday, the secretary general of the Organization of American States said he would ask its membership to readmit Cuba — ejected in 1962 at U.S. urging — when that organization meets next month. Bipartisan bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to lift all travel restrictions and ease the embargo.
And it was not at all clear that Cuba is ready to grasp the olive branch Obama is extending.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that a reported willingness by Cuban President Raúl Castro to discuss “everything” with the United States was a “welcome overture.” Her comments followed news accounts from Cuba that quoted Castro as expressing willingness to talk with the United States about ‘human rights, press freedom, political prisoners, anything they want to discuss,’ as long as it was a conversation between ‘equals’ that respected Cuba’s sovereignty.
But Castro’s comments, taken as a whole, reflected no change in policy. They were made in the context of an extended anti-U.S. diatribe reminiscent of the harshest accusations by his brother and predecessor, Fidel. Raúl Castro spoke at a Thursday gathering of an “alternative” group of leftist Latin American presidents, including Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega — all of whom gave similar speeches denouncing the United States.
Castro recounted U.S. sins, from the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to the ongoing economic ‘blockade.’ He accused the United States of supporting and funding ‘mercenaries’ who have been tried and convicted in Cuba, and then demanding their release as “so-called dissidents and patriots.” As for the Organization of American States, he said, the only reason it waited until 1962 to kick communist Cuba out was because it hoped before then to overthrow Fidel Castro and install its own “puppet government.”
What Cuba wanted, Raúl Castro said, was U.S. release of five ‘young heroes; convicted by a Miami jury in 2001 of spying for Havana.
‘My reaction was, this was nothing new,’ Michael Shifter, vice president for policy at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, said of Castro’s Havana speech. ‘This wasn’t an overture at all.’ Even Castro’s remarks about a dialogue, he said, were made ‘in an aggressive way.’ “

The U.S. it seems still has the power to lay the conditions. They continue to hold “The Cuban Five”, a group who uncovered a terrorist plot against Cuba, but who were themselves held in jails across the U.S. denied visits from family. At the same time one of those involved the the blowing up of a Cuban airline has until recently remained untouched.
National Committee To Free The Cuban Five Press Release
U.S. organization calls on President Obama to free
the five United States-held Cuban political prisoners
Composite of the Five
Gloria La Riva, National Coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, today called upon President Obama “to right a tremendous injustice committed over 10 years ago, and release Gerardo Hernández, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, who were railroaded into prison and sentenced to long terms in jail. The Cuban Five committed no “crime” other than trying to protect their country and people from terrorist attacks originating from Miami.”
In December, 2008, Cuban President Raul Castro said that Cuba is willing to release any number of prisoners that the U.S. government names in Cuba, to send them and their families to the United States, if the U.S. releases the Cuban Five. “Just give us our five heroes,” he stated. He repeated that offer yesterday, April 16, at the ALBA meeting in Venezuela.
La Riva also called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to immediately grant U.S. entry visas to the wives of two of the five, Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo Hernández, and Olga Salanueva, wife of René González, who have been denied visas for ten years by the U.S. government. The denial of visiting rights to spouses of prisoners is a violation of international law, as Leonard Weinglass, an attorney for the Five has pointed out. Amnesty International has taken up their issue, calling on the U.S. government to grant the wives U.S. visas.
Background to the case
The “Cuban Five” appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in late January and expect to hear whether the Court will grant a hearing on their case for a retrial, sometime before June.
The Cuban Five were arrested Sept. 12, 1998 in Miami, and convicted June 8, 2001 after a seven month trial. Their sentences range from 15 years to double life, but three will be re-sentenced in Miami later in the year.
In the Cuban Five’s first appeal, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned their convictions and ordered a new trial, ruling that Miami was an improper venue for men who were openly identified as working for Cuba.
They were on a mission in Miami since the early 1990s to infiltrate and monitor the actions of Miami-based terrorist organizations, in order to stop terrorist attacks on Cuban and U.S. people. Despite extensive evidence that defendants related to the Cuban government could not receive a fair trial in the heated anti-Cuba atmosphere of Miami, the trial judge refused to grant a change of venue.
But the Bush administration appealed the Five’s victory and in Aug. 2006, a full-panel ruling of the 11th Circuit Court reinstated their convictions. Despite worldwide support from European and Latin American parliamentarians and hundreds of human rights organizations, they remain in five separate U.S. prisons, sentenced from 15 years to double life.
Tom Goldstein, prominent Washington attorney with distinguished history of arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, has filed for a “writ of certiorari” to the Court, requesting the Court to accept the Five’s appeal on the issue of venue and other constitutional violations. The filing was supported by a record twelve amicus curiae briefs, from prominent individuals and organizations including ten Nobel Prize winners, 87 members of the Mexican Senate, and Mary Robinson, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland.
A wealth of background information on the case of the Cuban Five, including copies of all the relevant legal documents in the case, can be found on the website of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five at www.freethefive.org.
About the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five
The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, based in San Francisco, was founded in 2001, shortly after the conviction of the Cuban Five. It has worked tirelessly since then, along with more than 300 other similar groups worldwide, to raise awareness of the case of the Cuban Five and to demand that justice be done and that the Cuban Five be freed.
Interviews Available
Upon request, interviews can be arranged with Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee, and others including Leonard Weinglass, well-known civil rights attorney and one of the appeals attorneys for the Five, Andrés Gómez, a Cuban-American resident of Miami and a longtime leader of the movement against U.S. policy on Cuba, including ending the blockade and freeing the Cuban Five, and Livio di Celmo, the brother of one of the victims of the terrorists whose activities the Cuban Five came to the U.S. to stop.
Please call 415-312-6042, 408-823-3391, or 415-821-6545 to arrange interviews.
National Committee To Free The Cuban Five
Gloria La Riva
415-312-6042 (cell)
National Committee To Free The Cuban Five
2489 Mission St., Rm. 24
San Francisco, CA 94110

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