Kerry Speaks Out on Cuba at OAS

Oldtimers. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES —If the government of Raul Castro does not undertake “a broader” political reform agenda Cuba is in danger of falling behind in the advances of this century, said US secretary of state, John Kerry in Washington on Monday, reported dpa news.

Kerry spoke just over a week after President Obama hinted that change should occur in the US policy regarding Cuba.

“If no more changes occur soon, it is clear that the twenty-first century will, unfortunately, leave the Cubans behind,” Kerry said at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS), in his first major speech on Latin America since taking over as head of U.S. diplomacy earlier this year.

In a region like the Americas that has made much progress in democracy Cuba remains the “exception,” he noted.

Kerry stressed that Washington welcomes some of the recent changes introduced by the government in Havana, such as the removal of restrictions on travel or to create small businesses.

But such reforms “should not blind us to the reality of authoritative daily life for ordinary Cubans,” he said .

“In a hemisphere where citizens everywhere have the right to choose their leaders, Cubans are the only ones who do not. In a hemisphere where people can criticize their leaders without fear of being arrested or suffer violence, Cubans still can’t do so.

“We look forward to the day, and hopefully soon, when the Cuban government assumes a political agenda of broader reform that allows its citizens to freely determine their own future,” said Kerry. He asked for support from the region to demand these changes.

“We hope to show unity for this aspiration because in each country, including the United States, every day that we did not press for personal liberties and representative government, we risk taking a step backward, something none of us can accept,” he said.


28 thoughts on “Kerry Speaks Out on Cuba at OAS

  • November 25, 2013 at 1:52 pm
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    Thanks for the tip, I searched for and found a Youtube video of the performance. Very interesting stuff. I’m sure you have read Leonardo Padura’s “Adios Hemingway” ? It’s a fun story, but not much new insight into Hemingway .

  • November 25, 2013 at 1:48 pm
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    Rummel’s figures include the people who were executed as well as those who died while escaping from Cuba over the subsequent years. He does not evaluate the executions as to whether or not the victims were innocent civilians or card carrying Batistianos with blood on their hands. Rummel’s focus is on what he called “Democide”, the killing of citizens by a government. His catalog of State murder includes all perpetrators and he takes no sides, neither a pro-Left nor Pro-Right, neither pro-capitialist nor pro-marxist.

    Amnesty International also called for Canadian authorities to arrest Bush when he visited Vancouver in 2011. Fortunately, our government was not so stupid as to engage in such a silly stunt.

  • November 25, 2013 at 5:52 am
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    Since Chavez and especially under Maduro Venzuela has suffered a setback in its democracy. Elections are indeed no longer free and fair with a regime that controls all the media and represses the legitimate opposition even with armed gangs.
    Maduro, trained in Cuba, is a Castro-wannabee.

  • November 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm
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    If you want there to be an alternative for Cubans to what currently exists in cuba, it is not a good idea to fight against the choices made by Venezuelan voters a few miles to the south.

  • November 23, 2013 at 5:21 pm
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    I have similar expectations about the conclusions that historians will draw. At the same time, without becoming an apologist for the leaders of the revolution, it shouldnt be forgotten that Cuba did not have the options and sovereignty that the US and Europe (where I come from) had and that it was therefore bound to develop differently.

    Historians will recognise that Cubans failed to stop their government from violating human rights. Hopefully it will also be recognised how American and European (where I come from) citizens, while enjoying freedom of speech and access to information, shamefully failed to prevent our governments from causing the atrocities and suffering in Cuba that we are responsible for, before and after ’59.

  • November 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm
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    Did you ever see Pulitzer Prize winner, John DeGroot’s play, PAPA? It had a brief Broadway run many years ago and did indeed show more warts. John asked me to perform it a few years ago but, regrettably, I was not available.

  • November 23, 2013 at 11:37 am
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    Finally. I do not agree with your assumptions but based upon what you believe, I understand your conclusions. Thankfully, historians will have the last word on the success or failure of the Castro years. I believe what is finally said about the revolution will not see this time in Cuba as a positive.

  • November 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm
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    Its clear to me that the economy of a 3th world country
    with 11 million inhabitants is not the biggest concern for the richest country
    in the world. Missing out on a few billions worth of trade with cuba will not
    make a difference to the overall US economy.

    The fact that other countries are of more importance to the US does not mean that
    the US does not care at all about Cuba. The US government naturally tries to influence
    countries, countries that rank high on the list and countries of less
    importance.

    I am sure that no one in the Eisenhower administration proposed to forget about
    oppressing Cubans when they installed an obedient dictator in Iran, even though
    the profits made in Cuba were nothing compared to those made Iran.

    When it comes to the general American population, they either dont care as you
    say or they are misinformed. I don’t think it really matters whats the best way
    describe them because they rarely have a say in foreign policy. Im not sure if the
    old Cuban elite are the ones who press the government or if they are just
    usefull in promoting the policies designed by the planners in Washington.
    Together with other privileged sectors they shape America’s foreign policy.
    That usually results in trying to change the economies of other countries in a way that follows
    their interests. To use your terminology, the US government strives to improve
    ‘business friendliness’, which means opposing democracy by pressuring
    elected governments to follow orders from Washington. This is done by violence
    and economic pressure. The US has used extreme methods during the past century
    to influence Cuba. Such methods will keep being applied to Cuba to a certain
    extend, no matter what kind of political system Cuba will have.

    The American electorate, the international community or perhaps
    Cubans who are tired of authoritarianism might limit the options of future
    American governments.

    I understand that some Americans have a different view
    about all of this. To me that seems to be the result of a deep
    believe that ‘my government is doing good’. ‘When my government for 40 years tries to starve
    Cubans and forbids anybody to sell them medicines, we are trying to
    bring about free elections. When my government organizes terrorist attacks against Cuba we
    are promoting freedom of speech. When my government punishes anybody within its
    reach who sells Cubans a pencil or an eraser we are struggling for human
    rights.’

  • November 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm
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    Plimpton wrote about the Hemingway firing squads before Fontova did, and he put a different slant on the story. In Fontova’s account, Hemingway was enjoying the ghoulish scene. In Plimpton’s account, Hemingway was appalled by what was happening and showed him the executions as a way of explaining his own disillusionment with Castro. Plimpton’s original account rings truer than Fontova’s. But I doubt either version makes it into your hagiography.

    I love Hemingway’s writing, (his stories contain both love and violence in fact), but he was not always a nice man and he supported some truly awful people long after he should have known better. He could be a great friend but he could also be a real bastard. It would be refreshing to see a play or movie presenting the real Hemingway, warts and all.

    Have a great time in Havana. I enjoyed seeing Cuban children playing stick ball in Centro Habana and had the pleasure of handing them a few baseballs and a Blue Jays cap I brought with me.

  • November 22, 2013 at 11:42 am
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    Dear Griffin…The Fontava account is based on a third hand account from a supposed Plimpton source. If you want the true stories, I suggest you find Enrique Cirules new book of Hemingway in Cuba Stories. Reread A FAREWELL TO ARMS. Talk directly to those who actually knew Hemingway. I have. I am currently working on a new book with someone who did. His stories are of love not of violence. Have you read MY CUBAN SON by Rene Villarreal who managed the Cuban estate? More love and more understanding. No gloating over firing squads. Griffin, I’m sure you’re a better person than the one who used sarcasm to score a point based on questionable assumptions. On Dec. 10, I arrive in Havana for a week to work with the children’s baseball team originally started by Hemingway. I get email there: [email protected]. Contact me, I’ll buy you a drink and tell you a few stories based on my dozen years of writing about Hemingway. http://www.briangordonsinclair.com.

  • November 22, 2013 at 8:23 am
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    Closer to the truth is that the economic embargo is maintained in Cuba because of American indifference. That a very small but powerful group of anticastristas have been able to keep the embargo in place despite mixed results is owed to the reality that most Americans could not care less about what happens to a tin-pot dictatorship of a poor Third World Caribbean island. Likewise, there is no real loss to the US economy because we don’t do business in Cuba. There are ONLY 11 million Cubans and most of them are dirt poor. The government has a reputation for not paying their bills and imprisoning foreign businessman. The US stock market hit an all-time high of 16,000 yesterday, even without doing business in Cuba! In a post-Castro Cuba , America’s response is easy to predict. America’s support of business-friendly democracies throughout Latin America is well-established. Cuba would be no different.

  • November 21, 2013 at 10:55 pm
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    Back in 2002, Genocide Watch used to cite Rummel’s claims of 75,000 deaths Cuba at this silly little table at their website — just a one liner with no supporting evidence whatsoever. Not any more. I can’t be sure that it was my intervention, but soon after I contacted the president of GW on this matter, Rummel’s outrageous claims were quietly withdrawn from that table.

    All claims against Fidel were dismissed long ago. Not long ago, however, Amnesty International called for the arrest of your man, Dubya, on war crimes. He just missed being arrested by Swiss authorities when he decided last-minute to cancel a speaking engagement in their country. Lucky for him, but it’s only a matter of time!

  • November 21, 2013 at 3:49 pm
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    I do not have enough knowledge of US foreign policy in Asia to answer your question. However, I think that democracy abounds in Latin Amarica THANKS to the fact that american influence is waning.
    For example, thanks to the inability to remove the elected Venezuelan government by force in 2002, which Dan could have to added to his comment below.

    The option of economic strangulation has also been weakened over the years. Nevertheless the US still maintains the embargo in order to change cuba. The fact that the US is willing to miss out on trade and investment opportunities in cuba in order to prevent Cuba’s development does not give the least cause for optimism. For the past 50 years the US has been isolating, starving and sometimes even killing Cubans. How can you expect the American politicians who have been responsible for this policy to support the same Cubans who would wish to democratically influence their government in a post castro era ?
    Now we are just talking about the past 50 years. When you look at the period when the US governed cuba you will find one striking similarity – political repression.

  • November 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm
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    The estimates of Cubans killed range from 35,000 to 141,000 (1959-1987) according to the site of R. J. Rummel, who estimates the midrange estimate at 73,000. This death toll includes all those Cubans who have died while trying to escape the island.

    http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/COM.TAB1.GIF

    Belgium and Spain steps have taken steps to indict Fidel Castro on genocide charges.

  • November 21, 2013 at 3:13 pm
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    Just curious, when you perform as Hemingway on Stage, do you include that touching seen when Hemingway mixed up a pitcher of daiquiris and then drove his friend George Plimpton to a picnic so they could watch Che’s firing squads execute scores of Cubans at la Cabaña?

  • November 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm
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    Exactly. Is this a perfect answer? Hardly. Is it an improvement over what currently exists in Cuba? Absolutely.

  • November 21, 2013 at 1:01 pm
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    On what basis do you make this claim? The US has honored every commitment that we made to Vietnam in our agreement to lift sanctions against that country. Likewise, we have acknowledged and continue to work with Myanmar after lifting our longtime embargo on that country. What are your facts to the contrary? American influence in Latin America is indeed waning. However, democracy abounds except in Cuba. Even the more progressive nations are still democracies. There is no denying that money and influence from south Florida-based Cubans will play a role in a new Cuba. But that is their right as Cubans who wish to have a say in their country of birth.

  • November 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm
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    Oh. Open and free multi-party elections ? Like the ones in Venezuela ? The ones the US government spent millions of dollars to influence, change or de-legitimize b/c it didn’t agree with the choices made by the people of Venezuela (or Nicaragua, Chile, El Salvador …) ?

  • November 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm
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    Cubaqus, you should know that the readers of HT are not on the whole the average misinformed, deluded Americans. Your comments about the Castro “regime” murdering 130,000 Cubans and John Kerry providing internet access to Cuba can only I imagine elicit rolling eyes and shaking heads.

  • November 21, 2013 at 10:43 am
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    Kerry claims to support human rights and democracy while also inflicting what can only be called genocide on the Cuban people with his universally condemned and illegal trade sanctions — a hypocrite, just like you.

    For 22 years in a row now, it is has been obvious that not even your closest allies at the UN are buying into your lies and rationalizations for what can only be called a form of genocide. The last vote on the US embargo was held only a few days ago at the UN General Assembly. Only Israel, who trades freely with Cuba anyway, voted with your political masters against a resolution condemning these cruel and inhumane sanctions and calling for their immediately and unconditionally lifting. The only abstentions were a handful of tiny US island-colonies in the South Pacific. On this insane policy, you are truly isolated on the world stage. Deal with it.

  • November 21, 2013 at 7:20 am
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    Remember, John Kerry is the man that paid for Cuba’s first internet access through his wife’s foundation.

    No bias or hypocrisy on his part. only on yours when you again abuse this forum to post your exposed “genocide” lie.

    You again spew the same propaganda lies. No international organization has ever called the trade sanctions “genocide”. Amnesty International never did.

    Cuba is a totalitarian state under a Stalinist model and has no freedom of speech, the first requirement for democracy. that Amnesty International has confirmed.

    As far as genocide goes:

    – it is the Castro regime that is one Genocide Watch’s list and that is responsible for killing up to 130,000 people.
    See: http://www.cubaverdad.net/genocide.htm

    – as for why food and medicines aren’t making it to Cuba: blame the regime. By 2008 the US was Cuba’s largest food supplier and 5th trading partner. Inability to pay and dogmatic bias on the part of the Castro regime reduced that trade.

    “”The U.S. says it approved $142 million in commercial and donated medical exports to the communist island in 2008. So why did less than 1 percent of it get there?”
    “It’s not the embargo,” said John Kavulich, a senior policy adviser at the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Economic Trade Council, which provides nonpartisan commercial and economic information about Cuba. “These are economic and political decisions not to buy.” Cuba often waits for allies to donate what it needs, Kavulich said. “They’d rather get things for free than pay for them.”

    “It’s unclear why U.S. medical exports aren’t reaching Cuba”, Dallas Morning News, 5 December 2009.”

    http://saludcuba.blogspot.be/p/bloqueo.html

  • November 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm
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    There is no reason to believe that a big power as the US government will live up to its pro democracy rhetoric if the current cuban regime would collapse.
    Fortunately, american imperialism is in decline and to me it seems unlikely that they will resort again to violence in order to impose their will on the cuban people, as they did up to a decade ago. Despite the fact the american ruling elites are still able to withstand pressure of the majority to end the embargo, their hands are probably tied when it comes to preventing independent development in a post-castro Cuba.
    Perhaps this is good time for the cuban people to ‘get rid of him’ and struggle again for more freedom.

  • November 20, 2013 at 11:16 am
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    I cannot take seriously anything John Kerry says. In 1985, as a freshman Senator, John Kerry visited Nicaragua where he shook hands with Daniel Ortega. He returned to Washington where he eagerly promoted the lies Ortega told him that the Sandinistas were building democracy, while blinding himself to the jailing, tortures and executions of Ortega’s political enemies.

    Meanwhile, over the next 2 decades in the Senate, Kerry used his crucial position on the Ways and Means Committee to make millions of dollars buying and selling stocks in companies affected by proposed legislation.

    A few short years ago, Senator Kerry traveled to Damascus to meet with the dictator Assad. Kerry pushed for Obama to re-open US diplomatic relations with Syria. Assad was called a reformer and economic support for pro-democracy groups was cut off as “unhelpful”. When the vicious civil war broke out in Syria, the US continued to call Assad a reformer for months, even as Assad’s army slaughtered thousands of Syrians. By the time Obama came round to calling for Assad to go, he had lost all credibility among Syrian opposition groups.

    Recent reports hold that Kerry’s negotiations with his Iranian counterpart at talks in Geneva were a farce and that the real negotiations had already been carried out during several months of secret talks between Iran and Obama’s closest advisor, Valery Jarrett.

    Given all that, one cannot take seriously anything that John Kerry says. He has no principles and is not even much trusted by his boss. That Kerry was sent to the OAS to give a speech indicates the low priority Obama gives to the region. He has far bigger headaches to deal with.

  • November 19, 2013 at 9:16 pm
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    What a hypocrite you are, Mr. Kerry! The US regime is by far the greatest abuser of human rights in the Americas with its genocidal embargo targeting every man, woman and child on the island. Of these cruel and inhumane sanctions, Amnesty International has reported:

    “The US government is acting CONTRARY to the Charter of the United Nations [i.e. acting illegally] by restricting the direct import of medicine and medical equipment and supplies, and by imposing those restrictions on companies operating in third countries.”

    “The RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED BY THE EMBARGO help to deprive Cuba of vital access to medicines, new scientific and medical technology, food, chemical water treatment and electricity.”

    “UN agencies working in Cuba, such as the WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA, continued [as of 2012] to report the negative effects of the US embargo on the health of the population, particularly members of marginalized groups. Access to specific commodities, equipment, medicines and laboratory materials remained scarce as a result of restrictions imposed on the importation of items manufactured by US companies and their subsidiaries or produced under US patents.” (AI website)

    You can forget about the Cuban people allowing your agents to operate with impunity on the island, if that’s you mean by “democracy” in Cuba, Mr. Kerry. Cuba is already more democratic than the USA ever was. Candidates for elections are not nominated by any distant, money-driven political machines as in the US, but the people themselves in open public meetings in every neighbourhood on island or by their democratically elected local representatives who themselves were nominated in this way. It costs nothing to get nominated for and to win even the highest political office in the land. To make matters worse — in your view any way — voters in national elections have option of rejecting everyone on the ballot and calling for an entirely new slate of candidates — a prospect that would, no doubt, horrify your own party hierarchy!

    The fact that your agents are getting nowhere within the Cuban political system in no way undermines Cuba’s democratic credentials. Quite the contrary. According to your own man in Havana, the previous USINT chief, Jonathan Farrar, they are nothing more than money-grubbing losers who couldn’t let elected dog-catchers (my paraphrasing).

  • November 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm
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    Thanks for the history lesson Dr. Jones. However, as someone who claims to want to improve relations between the US and Cuba, you should keep in mind that realistically it is Cuba who needs the US in larger measure if Cuban life is to improve than it is the US that needs Cuba for life in America to continue to improve. Cuban pride may sting a little to be lectured by their less than perfect neighbor to the north but nothing that the US proposes will bring harm to Cuba. Open and free multiparty elections, an independent media and the release of political prisoners. What is wrong with any of that? The Castros are barely there as it is. Retire, exile, burn at the stake, whatever, but get rid of ’em. They have had nearly 55 years to give us the ‘New Man’ and it has failed. Life will go on without them.

  • November 18, 2013 at 10:34 pm
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    Secretary Kerry…Greetings from Ernest Hemingway in the persona of Hemingway On Stage. I know Cuba and I know the damage that the American blockade has done to the people of that island. If you remove the blockade/embargo and its extra- territorial restrictions, the people of Cuba will rise out of the poverty your country has caused. I am a good friend of Cuba. I am also a good friend of America. You are better than this.

  • November 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm
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    Is this the same John Kerry who testified in the US Senate about the crimes the US committed was committing in Viet Nam?

    Is this a re-incarnated Teddy Roosevelt and Mr. Magoon, imposing the Platt Amendment, southern racism, nepothysm and a puppet Cuban government in 1902?

    Is Secretary of State Kerry related to Mr. Walker and Mr. Hog, whose brutal imposition of hunger, sickness and death upon thousands of English speaking Caribbean and Haitians migrants in Banes, Tacajo, Naranjo Dulce or Macabi, the United Fruit Co. imperial wishes?

    Is Secretary of State John Kerry hoping to re-enact in Cuba,the horrendous crimes committed by Mr. Walker and Mr. Hog on behalf of the United Fruit Company in Banes, Tacajo, Naranjo Dulce, Macabi and tens of other Soweto’s, upon thousands of defenseless English Speaking Caribbean and Haitians semi-slave migrants, exploited to death, by these slave drivers?

    Have Secretary of State John Kerry every heard of the beatings, torture and murders committed at GITMO and in Guantanamo city by the US military, long before the t well documented water boarding of so called Taliban or the $4,000.00 a year payment offer, for 45 square miles of one of the best natural bay in this hemisphere?

    Have Secretary of State John Kerry read the reports, describing the firing on the spot of over 700 Cuban Civil Service employees from GITMO in 1964, who performed their loyal services during every military conflagration the US was involved in, and who were rewarded by unilaterally withholding their retirement payment for 40 years?

    Who should be lecturing Who and demanding change in social, humanitarian and political conduct?

  • November 18, 2013 at 12:09 pm
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    I could not agree more with Secretary Kerry’s comments. The freedom to sell ‘dura fria’ (popsicles) is nice, but POLITICAL REFORM is what Cubans need to advance their society.

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