A Victory for the People in Havana (Videos)
Former Cuban Parliamentary Speaker Hails Restoration of Ties
HAVANA TIMES – Hundreds of dignitaries from Cuba and the United States gathered outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., to mark the historic restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries after 54 years. Crowds of people cheered as the Cuban national anthem played and three Cuban soldiers stood at attention while the flag was raised.
Bruno Rodríguez became the first Cuban foreign minister to visit Washington since the time of the Cuban revolution. Later in the day, he met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department. The U.S. Embassy in Havana also became fully operational Monday but will not host a flag-raising ceremony until August 14, when Kerry will pay a visit to the capital.
Earlier Monday, Cuba’s flag was raised at the State Department, joining the flags of more than 150 other countries that have diplomatic relations with the United States. Democracy Now! spoke with Ricardo Alarcón, former speaker of the Cuban National Assembly.
AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! has just returned from Washington, D.C., where the Cuban flag was raised at the newly reopened Cuban Embassy for the first time in more than half a century. Hundreds of dignitaries from both Cuba and the United States gathered outside the embassy to mark the historic restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries after 54 years. Crowds of people cheered as the Cuban national anthem played and three Cuban soldiers stood at attention while that flag was raised. Even those without invitations rallied outside the embassy gates.
Inside the embassy, before about 700 invited guests, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez addressed the audience, calling for the removal of the U.S. trade embargo and for the return of Guantánamo Bay to Cuba.
BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ: [translated] The historic events we are living today will only make sense with the removal of the economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes so much deprivation and damage to our people; the return of occupied territory in Guantánamo; and respect for the sovereignty of Cuba.
AMY GOODMAN: Bruno Rodríguez is the first Cuban foreign minister to visit Washington, D.C., since the time of the Cuban revolution. Later in the day, he met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department. The U.S. Embassy in Havana also became fully operational on Monday but will not host a flag-raising ceremony until August 14th, when Kerry pays a visit to Havana. Earlier on Monday, Cuba’s flag was raised at the State Department, as well, joining the flags of more than 150 other countries that have diplomatic relations with the United States.
Back at the opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., I spoke with Ricardo Alarcón, the former president of the Cuban Parliament. I asked him about the significance of this historic day.
RICARDO ALARCÓN: We have to say that it was and it is the result of many years of struggle by many people—the Cuban people, but many friends here in this country and around the globe. And I think it’s a victory. It has to be recognized as a victory for us, for our people, and for all those who were opposing the U.S. policies during this half a century. At the same time, it should be recognized, the merit of President Obama for having realized that it was high time to abandon a policy that he, himself, recognized as a failure. This is still—we have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go ahead of us. But for the first time, it will be the Americans and Cubans dealing with each other on an equal footing.
Something very important, Amy, that I think that everybody should remember: Last Saturday, the United States was the only country in the Western Hemisphere who didn’t have an embassy in Havana. And Cuba couldn’t—was the only country in the Western Hemisphere without an embassy here. Now what has happened is that the U.S. has joined—has joined the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. This story began when the U.S. succeeded in isolating Cuba from the rest of the hemisphere, and now the first chapter has ended with the U.S. ending its isolation from the rest of the continent.
AMY GOODMAN: How did it happen?
RICARDO ALARCÓN: You should not overstate the role of diplomats, the profession. The real force that brought about this result was the struggle of the peoples—first of all, the Cuban people, for having resisted for so long time all the odds that that U.S. policy imposed upon us, but also a victory for the rest—the resistance of the rest of the peoples in this hemisphere, including many, many American friends.
AMY GOODMAN: You have been a diplomat for decades.
RICARDO ALARCÓN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Cuba was just taken off the list of terrorist nations in the United States. How does that feel, not to be considered a terrorist anymore?
RICARDO ALARCÓN: Frankly speaking, you had asked Nelson Mandela how did he feel about being in that list. Mandela was considered a terrorist probably for a longer period of time. His entire life, when he was in prison, when he got out of prison, when he was elected president of South Africa, when he got the Nobel Peace Prize, he was on the list of the State Department list of terrorists. And they took him out in 2008, I suspect, because they were suspecting Mandela was going to die and was going to die in that infamous list. By the way, it was a senator from Massachusetts, now secretary of state, who said at that time that it was a shame on the U.S. policy to have that list and in that list people like Mandela. In the list or not being in the list, it doesn’t matter. The embargo is a matter of other laws, other different laws that has to be removed.
AMY GOODMAN: Ricardo Alarcón, I want to thank you very much for being with us.
RICARDO ALARCÓN: Thank you very much, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Ricardo Alarcón, the former head of the Cuban Parliament. He is coming to Washington, D.C., and leaving almost immediately, as well as the other members of the parliamentary delegation. His visa only allowed him to be at the Cuban Embassy and travel back and forth to Dulles Airport.
Secret Talks & Sperm Deals: Sen. Patrick Leahy Details Back Story to Renewed U.S.-Cuban Ties
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont also attended Monday’s opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. He played a pivotal role in the secret negotiations between the United States and Cuba, and helped with the release of the Cuban Five.
Leahy made headlines last year when it was revealed that Leahy helped the wife of one of the members of the Cuban Five become pregnant. Gerardo Hernández, the baby’s father, is one of the three former Cuban intelligence agents released in December as part of a prisoner swap amidst thawing ties with Cuba. While he was not allowed conjugal visits, Hernández was able to impregnate his wife by having his frozen sperm transferred to her in Panama, a process authorized by U.S. officials, funded by the Cuban government and facilitated by a staffer for Leahy. We speak to Leahy and his wife, Marcelle, at the Cuban Embassy.
AMY GOODMAN: I also spoke with Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who was with a congressional delegation who was honoring the opening of the embassy and the raising of the Cuban flag. Senator Leahy has played a pivotal role in secret negotiations between the United States and Cuba for years and helped release the Cuban Five, including Gerardo Hernández. I asked Senator Leahy about the significance of the day.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Well, I find it quite emotional. You know, I think one of my first trips to Cuba, 15 or so years ago, I went to a baseball game, a U.S. team playing in Havana. They played the Cuban national anthem and the U.S. national anthem. Everybody in there stood at attention and cheered both national anthems, including Fidel Castro. And it was very emotional. This morning, you’re standing in this—now on Cuban soil in this embassy. And to see the American flag, the Cuban flag flying side by side, to hear both our national anthems, I found it very emotional and very satisfying.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you have been instrumental in achieving this moment. You have been involved in the secret negotiations with Cuba to get to this point, to normalize relations. Can you tell us what you did?
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Well, I had many, many meetings down there and some meetings in Washington, but a lot of meetings in New York. Bruno Rodríguez and others could come to there.
AMY GOODMAN: The foreign minister.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: The foreign minister, I’m sorry. The foreign minister could come to the Cuban U.N. Mission without getting permission, in New York. So I’d meet him there. Raúl Castro joked with me, knew I showed up one day on crutches because I had damaged my leg hiking in Vermont the day before. But then we had others who would go to Canada. And the Canadians deserve a great deal of credit, because they set a venue where Cubans and U.S. negotiators could meet secretly in Canada and negotiate.
Then, I sent a letter to the pope before he met with the president. The president thought he heard some of my talking points. The pope sends a letter back to Cardinal Ortega in Havana, who brings it to the president in the White House, tells a great story of walking in a room. A man walks up to him and says, “Hello, Cardinal, I’m Barack Obama.” He said, “I knew who he was.” But these are all step-by-steps.
One of the most important, the so-called accidental handshake between President Obama and President Castro at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. There was no accident. President was criticized for it. I said, “Nelson Mandela, if he had been at a world leader’s funeral, he would have shook hands even with enemies.” And then the meeting they had in Panama, both got along very well.
And finally, everything came together. It was a thrill. I took the president’s plane, went down, picked up Alan Gross on December 17th. Another plane brought the remaining members of the Cuban Five down. Third one picked—went down to another airfield, picked up a CIA asset that the Cubans had held for years and years. We’re all on the ground 31 minutes, took off, flew back. It was a new day.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of the Cuban Five, they’re all now released.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: They’re all now in Cuba. You were also, shall we say, seminal, your office, in the birth of the child of one of the Cuban Five. Can you talk—
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: You want to make sure you explain that carefully, because one reporter said, “What about this Cuban woman you helped get pregnant?” I said, “Well, no. I mean, what happened, the wife of one of them had come to my wife.”
AMY GOODMAN: Gerardo Hernández.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: And I said—she was reaching an age where she might not have children anymore. She loved her husband. Was there some way they could arrange for her to become pregnant by her husband? We worked with the Bureau of Prisons. We had—we actually had times this had been done. The Cubans paid for it all. She was impregnated in Panama.
AMY GOODMAN: Where was Gerardo imprisoned?
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: He was imprisoned out West in the United States. His sperm was given to her; she was impregnated. They have a beautiful little girl. They named her—well, the English word is “Gem.” And it is amazing. But I give my wife as much credit for that, and Eric Holder, who worked with me in the Bureau of Prisons to make it happen.
AMY GOODMAN: The embargo hasn’t been lifted.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: No, but it will be. If the American public—if it was put to a vote of all the American public, it would be lifted tomorrow.
AMY GOODMAN: And could a next president, if it was a Republican president, reverse all this, close the embassy?
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: No, nobody is going to. It’s too popular with the American people.
MARCELLE LEAHY: I’m Marcelle Leahy.
AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts on this day? You are here with your husband, Senator Patrick Leahy.
MARCELLE LEAHY: My husband and I have been traveling to Cuba for a little over 15 years. And we are just overwhelmed with the thought that now we’re going to begin the normalization of relations. This is, unfortunately, not the end; it’s the beginning of a lot more hard work. And it’s long overdue.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I was asking Senator Leahy about the Cuban Five, saying he was seminal in the birth of a child. But he said, “You’ve got to explain that,” but then went on to say, “It’s actually my wife.” Can you talk about your experience in Cuba and how your exchange led to something quite amazing?
MARCELLE LEAHY: I think he’s giving me more credit than I deserve, but I did meet with Adriana, and her story was very emotional. And it’s a young couple who have seen the years slip by, and they want to have a child. They want to have more family. And person to person, human being to human being, I don’t know how you could be anything but moved by her story, by her sincerity. And she asked me to intercede with my husband, and I told her that he had heard her words and that he was a good man and that I would talk to him, but I didn’t have to intercede. And things involved, because of a lot of hard work from other people, and they now have a beautiful little girl. It’s as it should be. And maybe if there was a little bit of help towards moving along our negotiations, with the willingness of our two countries to work this out, it makes me very happy.
AMY GOODMAN: Marcelle Leahy and her husband, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, speaking at the newly reopened Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. Patrick Leahy was extremely important over the last 15 years, involved with secret negotiations with the Cuban government around normalizing relations.
Is the Era of U.S.-Backed Anti-Castro Terrorism Over? Reflections on Restored Ties Between Nations
AMY GOODMAN: The great Cuban musician Silvio Rodríguez, one of hundreds of people outside the Cuban Embassy on July 20th—that was Monday—2015, as the Cuban flag was hoisted for the first time in front of the Cuban Embassy as it opened for the first time in 54 years. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. That’s right, well over 600 dignitaries, politicians, activists from Cuba and the United States gathered in Washington Monday to mark the reopening of the Cuban Embassy there after being closed for over half a century. We turn now to some of their voices. I began by speaking to Arizona Democratic Congressmember Raúl Grijalva of the Tucson area.
REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA: We begin an important diplomatic step today, normalization to follow. Lifting the embargo needs to be done. And discussions about returning land to Cuba that is rightfully theirs—Guantánamo—needs to follow. But today, I think, marks a growing-up day for the United States, where we are going to act like adults in our own hemisphere, quit being punitive with Cuba. And the Cuban people have endured. I visited there two months ago, and their resilience and their strength is unbelievable.
AMY GOODMAN: Guantánamo, will it close?
REP. RAÚL GRIJALVA: I think it’s rightfully—there was a seizure, and it’s been a military base. It’s been a—continues to be a prison. That is rightfully Cuban land, and in the long agenda, it’s got to be returned.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Barbara Lee of the greater Oakland, California, area is here. Your thoughts today?
REP. BARBARA LEE: Ah, well, this is what change is all about. And I think our president really, you know, stepped up. He understood the importance of having normal diplomatic relations between our two countries. And I think this is a great day. I was actually here in Washington, D.C., in 1977, when this became the interest section. And I’ve been to Cuba many, many times, over 20-some times, trying to get to this point, in terms of the small efforts that I’ve been mounting. So I’m very happy. We have a long way to go to lift the embargo and allow for full travel—
AMY GOODMAN: What’s it going to take?
REP. BARBARA LEE: Getting our legislation passed. We have legislation that would end the embargo, and we’ve got to get members of Congress to vote for it. And you know how that is. But we’re going to keep working on that. And we’ll see that day, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Guantánamo will be closed?
REP. BARBARA LEE: I don’t know. I think all issues are on the table. And that’s what the beauty of having diplomatic relations brings. I mean, you have to be able to discuss all of the issues—Guantánamo, the Cubans have a host of issues, America has a host of issues. But we can’t even talk—until today. So, this is great.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Smith and Michael Ratner, they, in addition to being illustrious attorneys, are the co-authors of the book, Who Killed Che? And what’s the subtitle?
MICHAEL SMITH: How the CIA Got Away with Murder.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about your feelings on this day.
MICHAEL SMITH: I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’ve been dreaming of this ever since I became a socialist in college 50 years ago. The United States was defeated here. They thought they could isolate Cuba for 50 years. They tried. They not only assassinated Che, but they tried to assassinate Fidel. They isolated Cuba from the rest of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The tables were turned on them. Last year, the Panamanians, which is not a left-wing government, told the United States, “Unless you allow Cuba to come to the Summit of Americas, you don’t have to come. We want Cuba.” And the United States started thinking, “We’ve got to switch tactics.” It’s not like they’re still not trying to restore Cuba to the capitalist empire, but they’re not doing it in the old ways.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner, your thoughts today?
MICHAEL RATNER: Well, Amy, let’s just say, other than the birth of my children, this is perhaps one of the most exciting days of my life. I mean, I’ve been working on Cuba since the early ’70s, if not before. I worked on the Venceremos Brigade. I went on brigades. I did construction. And to see that this can actually happen in a country that decided early on that, unlike most countries in the world, it was going to level the playing field for everyone—no more rich, no more poor, everyone the same, education for everyone, schooling for everyone, housing if they could—and to see the relentless United States go against it, from the Bay of Pigs to utter subversion on and on, and to see Cuba emerge victorious—and when I say that, this is not a defeated country. This is a country—if you heard the foreign minister today, what he spoke of was the history of U.S. imperialism against Cuba, from the intervention in the Spanish-American War to the Platt Amendment, which made U.S. a permanent part of the Cuban government, to the taking of Guantánamo, to the failure to recognize it in 1959, to the cutting off of relations in 1961. This is a major, major victory for the Cuban people, and that should be understood. We are standing at a moment that I never expected to see in our history.
AMY GOODMAN: Bruno Rodríguez, the foreign minister of Cuba, gave a rousing speech inside the embassy. Talk about what he said still needs to be accomplished. He wasn’t exactly celebrating a total victory today.
MICHAEL SMITH: No, because things still aren’t normal.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Smith.
MICHAEL SMITH: The United States is still spending $30 million a year trying to subvert the Cuban government. They still illegally are holding Guantánamo. And they still have—and this is the most important thing, because it’s costing Cuban people $1.1 trillion in funds to develop their country—they still have the blockade. So, unless those three things are changed, you’re not going to have a normal situation.
MICHAEL RATNER: Let me tell you, as someone said to me here, if Obama wants to solve Guantánamo and the prisoners at Guantánamo, give it back to Cuba. There will be no prisoners left in Guantánamo. Easy way to do it, satisfy the Cubans, satisfy Guantánamo. Let it happen now.
Think about Cuba’s place in history, when we think about it for young people, not just for the fact that it leveled a society economically, gave people all the social network that we don’t have in the United States, but think about its international role. You think about apartheid in South Africa, and the key single event took place in Angola when 25,000 Cuban troops repulsed the South African military and gave it its first defeat, which was the beginning of the end of apartheid. It had an internationalism that’s just unbelievable. And I remember standing in front of—in the 100,000 people in front of a square in Havana in 1976. I was on a Venceremos Brigade. And Fidel gave a speech, and he said, “There is black blood in every Cuban vein, and we are going into Angola.” I’m telling you, I still cry over it.
WAYNE SMITH: I’m Wayne Smith. I was third secretary of embassy in the U.S. Embassy in Havana in 1978—I’m sorry, 1958. And I was there until we broke relations in January of 1961. So I was there when we pulled the flag down. Now here I am when we pull the flag up.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk—
WAYNE SMITH: All these years later. Thank God, it’s come to this.
AMY GOODMAN: Describe what happened then in 1961. It was President Eisenhower, is that right?
WAYNE SMITH: We broke relations with Cuba. They loaded us all on a bus, took us to the port and put us on a ferry to take us up to Washington—not to Washington, I’m sorry, to the United States. So, that was it. We got on the ferry, and most of us were very sad that we were breaking relations, but, well, these things happen.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you think you’d be back pretty soon?
WAYNE SMITH: Yeah, we all did. We thought we’d be back in a couple of years.
AMY GOODMAN: How many times—
WAYNE SMITH: Couldn’t possibly be 54 years.
AMY GOODMAN: How many times did the U.S. attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro?
WAYNE SMITH: I don’t have any idea. I was not in the CIA, thank God. But they did attempt to assassinate. That’s for sure.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is most important, especially for young people, to understand about this day in U.S. relations with Cuba?
WAYNE SMITH: That our policy did not work. We refused to dialogue with Cuba. We tried to overthrow Castro—Bay of Pigs and all that. And then we had the embargo and a refusal to negotiate. That accomplished nothing. Look, it was totally counterproductive. As we began this policy in early 1960, Mexico was the only Latin American country that did not have diplomatic trade relations with Cuba. By 2014, the United States was isolated. Obama has switched to a new policy of engagement and dialogue. That might answer our—that might achieve something. The old policy did not. It was totally counterproductive. OK.
KARLA RAMOS: My name is Karla Ramos, and I’m with the FMLN, Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, the leftist party from El Salvador. And I’m here to celebrate with the people of Cuba. I think this is a big day for Cubans and for U.S. citizens, too. We dreamed for a long time to see this, to see the end of this very cruel embargo that the U.S. have done. If Cuba made it with no resources at all for 50 years, we can do it, too. In El Salvador, now that the FMLN is in power, we struggle for that. We are struggling to have the best education system, to have the best medical system, to have—to end poverty. And I think this struggle inspire us and motivate us to continue this struggle and to continue fighting with human rights, to people’s rights, to end poverty and to end hunger.
Cubans are great. I think what they’re doing for the Cubans in Cuba are also wonderful things that we don’t see here in the U.S. or in El Salvador, like free education, like zero infant mortality, best medical treatment. Even rich people, U.S. citizens go to Cuba to get medical treatment. So, they have done a lot of great things. And Cubans never stop supporting us. Cubans never stop giving us all the political and the social support to the people, not to the government, but to the people. We had a lot of natural disasters in El Salvador, and the doctors from Cuba were always there to support us, to help us. We also—they also gave us a scholarship for students who started medicine in Cuba, who are now good, great doctors providing the best medical services in El Salvador. So, we’re very grateful with Cuba for all the things that they have done for us.
ROBERTO VILLARROEL: [translated] I am Roberto Villarroel. I’m from Bolivia. I have been here for 15 years. I’m president of the Coalition of Popular Movements of Washington. We are here supporting the new relations, the new diplomatic phase between the United States and Cuba. But we are happier for Cuba, because after 50 years of political and economic strangulation, now they’re going to be free once again, free with their people, free with the people of the world, free with all the popular movements of the world, free like the Vatican, free like all other countries of Europe, free like everyone. Today is a day of happiness.
ESTELA VÁZQUEZ: My name is Estela Vázquez. I’m an executive vice president of 1199 SEIU. And I am here representing 400,000 members of 1199 that are celebrating, along with all the peace-loving people worldwide, the re-establishment of relations between Cuba and the United States. This is the culmination of 54 years of struggle. And it was gained on the terms of the Cuban people, with mutual respect and without imposing conditions on Cuba. So we welcome this re-establishment of relationship.
AMY GOODMAN: Why is this important to your union membership?
ESTELA VÁZQUEZ: Because it’s a question of human rights. It’s a question of respect for the self-determination of the Cuban people. And our union has been, for 54 years, calling for the end of the blockade, normalization of relations, freedom for the Cuban Five. And finally, we see the achievement today.
PHYLLIS BENNIS: My name is Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies. This is an amazing first step. It’s only a first step, but it’s hugely important symbolically to see the Cuban flag finally flying over their embassy, like a normal embassy, here in Washington. I’m not much of a flag waver, not my country, not anybody’s country, but to finally see this as a normal embassy, this is huge. For half a century, for five decades, we have seen the U.S. trying over and over again to overthrow the regime. “Regime change in Cuba” has been the mantra of one U.S. government after another, one U.S. president after another. Finally, that’s beginning to change.
For decades, we have seen Cuban terrorists in this country, anti-Castro terrorists, who, among other things, assassinated my colleagues in 1976, Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, just a few blocks from here on Sheridan Circle, with a car bomb, in what was then the worst act of international terrorism here in the United States—approved by the United States, allowed by the United States. And it was at the behest of the U.S.-backed junta in Chile. The first time I went to our annual memorial at the spot where they were killed, just a few blocks from here, on Embassy Row, Sheridan Circle—you could walk from here in 10 minutes—and I looked at the plaque right at the spot where they were killed, and it had their birth dates and the date of their death. I was exactly Ronni Moffitt’s age. We were nine days apart. And I realized that Ronni and I were like the same person. So, it’s a very powerful thing for me to see that—knowing that it’s not going to happen again.
This is the beginning of the U.S. normalizing relations with Cuba, so that anti-Castro Cubans, whatever they want to do, will no longer have the support of the United States State Department, the United States government, in carrying out their terrorist acts. When Cuban exiles shot down a plane over the Bahamas, a plane that had taken off from Venezuela, with—killing 73 people, including the entire Cuban youth fencing team, a nine-year-old child—it was all civilians—it was an act of global terror that was—and the guy who was responsible for it still is living in Miami without any accountability. This is the beginning of ending that. It’s not the end, but it’s the beginning of ending that.
JAMES EARLY: My name is James Early. I’m a member of the board of the Institute for Policy Studies.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re here on this day, a historic day at the Cuban Embassy. In fact, you’re about to drive Danny Glover away, so you’re in your car, but you’re sitting in front of a now-open Cuban Embassy with a flag flying high. Talk about the significance of this.
JAMES EARLY: Well, my first thought is Operation Truth, which was the word of Fidel Castro when he was here in 1959. He said, “This is an operation of truth. We carry the weight of the Cuban revolution.” This flag is a manifestation of the achievements of the Cuban revolution, and, in that context, its failures and its errors, which it is self-determined to deal with, now with hopefully less interference externally from the United States, so that they can get on with their internal negotiations of a democracy inside Cuban socialism. I say that because when I listened to the foreign minister, Bruno, today, he was very clear, he was very precise, that this is an achievement of the Cuban socialist revolution.
AMY GOODMAN: Can we end where we began today, with just one last comment? We spoke to your passenger earlier this morning, before the flag was raised, and his name is Danny Glover.
DANNY GLOVER: As I moved through the crowds, I saw Wayne Smith there. Wayne has been a long advocate. And I saw others who had been there. Senator Leahy was there, and those who had been advocates to what is happening and what the possibilities are. And I think—I think we all have to do our work. There’s so much more work that we have to do as citizens. And to begin that and begin there, we have to engage the Cubans. We have to understand. We have to know that there’s a new history that’s being written at this particular moment. And there are going to be some changes in the way we think about it and see Cuba, you know? We’re going to be—we’re going to—they’re going to do things their own way, and we know that from the past, you know? James has been talking about the issue of Afro descendants for 40 years. I’ve been talking for it about 20 years now. And the thing is about it, we’ve had to pull and push, and pull and push, and even though that pull and push, we felt it was productive. You know, this gives us another opportunity to talk about the things that we talk about, relating Ferguson, relating Black Lives Matter, relating all that’s happening here to young people here.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s actor, activist, director Danny Glover, among more than 600 people at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., yesterday, Monday, July 20th, 2015, the day the Cuban Embassy was opened in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Embassy was opened in Havana, Cuba, for the first time in 54 years. To see all our coverage of Cuba over the years, you can go to democracynow.org. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
4 thoughts on “A Victory for the People in Havana (Videos)”
Canada has and still is a great country! Progressive and as much as people laugh at the incredible and talented folk that have moved south, Dan Aykroyd, Neil Young and even Justin Bieber, who did it all himself, a classic example of how to make it in the free world. I do have much hope for Cuba and it’s their decisions that will hopefully move them forward! I think I can now travel to Cuba without any pre conditions so that would make me more of a Republican than sitting on the sidelines.
Yes Griffin, the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba has done a great job of stifling information about the free outside world. I have explained to dozens of Cubans – including members of the medical profession – that “free” medical services were first introduced in the UK in 1948 and are now common across Western Europe and in Canada which has never had a national socialist government. Without exception, they were unaware of that and thought that such services were a concept of Fidel Castro. A similar condition applies to education. Most Cubans think that free school education is another Castro concept.
All this demonstrates the success of the Castro family regime in isolating Cubans from the world at large. The people have been dependent for information for fifty five years upon the regime controlled media – and that has worked effectively. The Propaganda Department has however ensured that Cubans were made aware that the US doesn’t have a “free” national health program – and to most Cubans the US is representative of the free world.
Canada has been a friend of the Castro regime. It’s not so clear that Canada has been a friend of the Cuban people. Sherritt has done profitable business in Cuba, but other Canadian businessmen in Cuba have found themselves arrested, tossed in jail and their property seized.
I heard a Cuban tour guide boasting to a busload of Canadian tourists that Cuba is the only country in the Americas with free healthcare for all it’s citizens. When I pointed out to him that Canada has had “free” public healthcare since 1966, the Cuban tour guide was surprised. He was unaware of this fact.
It was good to see that Senator Leahy recognized the role played by Canada in facilitating the process which brought about the diplomatic recognition. Cuba has been fortunate in that Canada and Mexico alone in the Western Hemisphere did not withdraw diplomatic recognition following the 1959 revolution. Without Canada, tourism in Cuba would have been very limited – 45% of total tourists being Canadian. Sherritt International a Canadian company has mined and refined Cuba’s nickel and aided the oil and electrical energy sectors. US citizens have evaded the US laws intended to prevent them visiting Cuba, by flying to Toronto and then by Canadian airlines to Cuba. There is a plaque in Terminal 3 of Jose Marti International Airport commemorating its opening by Canada’s Prime Minister and Fidel Castro in 1999. Trudeau another Canadian Prime Minister gifted Cuba $3 million of Canadian taxpayer money and lent another $5 at no interest to Fidel Castro during a visit to Cuba.
Cuba has in short had a very good friend in Canada. However Canada is that worst of all things for the Castro family regime, it is a parliamentary democracy where a free people decide government by vote and with six active parties including the Communist Party which doesn’t possess a single Member of Parliament. It is for that reason that mention of Canada in Granma or on TV in Cuba is almost unheard of. Randy Alonso Falcon the so-called “Director General” of the nightly program Mesa Redondo, doesn’t have the word Canada within his smarmy vocabulary whereas Venezuela has many hours of attention per day. Such is Cuba’s recognition of friends.
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