Translated by Diana Barahona
The XV Iberian American Summit, held in Salamanca, Spain, on October 14 and 15, was the scene of an important condemnation of Washington’s policies toward Cuba.1 The 19 Latin American nations, Spain, Portugal and Andorra adopted two resolutions, one which stigmatizes the U.S. â€œeconomic, trade and financial blockadeâ€, and another, which denounces the inconsistent struggle against terrorism, dealing severe political setback to the Bush administration.2
After this common position–unprecedented in the history of Iberian American summits–the U.S. embassy in Madrid expressed its dissatisfaction and deplored the decisions taken by the nations against the economic sanctions imposed on Cuba.3 The summit participants also demanded the prosecution of Cuban-born terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, protected by the Bush administration, and whom the French press still dare to call an â€œanti-Castro militantâ€4 and a â€œdissidentâ€.5 But since his victims are Cubans and Latin Americans they do not hold any great interest for the press.
In France, Reporters Without Borders, which for a long time has cleaved to Washington’s anti-Cuban political line, was the only European body to state that it was offended by the resolutions taken during the Salamanca Summit and repeated the words of the U.S. embassy in Spain. The organization said it was â€œvery disappointed by the concessions made to Cubaâ€. For its secretary general, Robert Menard, to condemn the iniquitous economic sanctions which hurt the Cuban people is not an act of justice but a â€œconcessionâ€ made to the Cuban government. In the same way, to demand the prosecution of the worst terrorist in the American Hemisphere, whose hands are soaked with the blood of innocents, and to reaffirm the struggle against world terrorism no matter what the form, is not a demonstration of respect for legal and moral principles but a simple response to the “â€emands . . . of the authoritarian Havana regimeâ€. RSF’s oath of fealty to Washington has for some time gone beyond the limits of decency.6
Even the most faithful U.S. allies such as Colombia joined the rest of the Latin American nations in their unequivocal condemnation of international terrorism. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe pointed out that his country had to â€œsign a statement against terrorism in any part of the worldâ€, implicitly referring to the protection given by U.S. authorities to Cuban-born terrorists.7
On his part Chilean President Ricardo Lagos was more explicit: â€œWe condemn the attacks on the twin towers–World Trade Center–in New York, the trains in Madrid or the London metro, when they attack tourist centers in Bali, but also when they put bombs on planesâ€, in reference to the horrific crime committed by Posada Carriles against a Cuban commercial airline in October of 1976, which cost the lives of 73 people and whose 29th anniversary was just commemorated by Cuba.9
Among other things, the resolution against terrorism demands that Posada Carriles be tried or extradited to Venezuela, where he has citizenship and from whose justice he fled: â€œWe reaffirm the value of extradition as an essential tool in the struggle against terrorism and exhort those states that have received requests for the extradition of terrorists presented by member states of our community to duly consider them, with full respect for the applicable legal frameworkâ€. The text emphasized as well the need to put an end to the impunity of terrorists and to deny asylum or refugee status to anyone who has committed criminal acts.10
Posada Carriles, whose extradition was denied by Judge William Abbott under the ridiculous pretext that he risked being tortured in Venezuela, requested political asylum in the United States. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced this charade of justice and the â€œcynicism of the empireâ€. â€œIn Guantanamo they torture people. It is they who torture, who murder, who bomb [and] who kill childrenâ€ in Iraq. Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel characterized Abbott’s decision as being as â€œvile and as sinister as the act of terrorismâ€ of 1976, adding that in reality, â€œthe decision was made by the Bush familyâ€.11
Venezuela challenged Washington to present one shred of evidence that Posada Carriles risked being tortured if he were extradited. To this day none has been presented. Rangel also pointed out Bush’s strange silence on the matter: â€œBush has said absolutely nothing about the presence of a terroristâ€ in his country while he is usually â€œso loquacious in other casesâ€ of terrorism.12 The links that unite Luis Posada Carriles with the father of the current U.S. president, George H.W. Bush, in the years when he was CIA director, doubtless explain the silence from the White House.
Regarding the illegal economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Cuba, the resolution cited the â€œunacceptable application of unilateral coercive measures which affect the well-being of the people and obstruct processes of integrationâ€.13 The economic blockade against Cuba has been condemned every year for the last 14 years by the overwhelming majority of the members of the United Nations who have unsuccessfully demanded its elimination.
For the first time in the history of the Iberian American summits, the term, â€œblockadeâ€, used by the Cuban government to refer to the economic sanctions, replaced the word, â€œembargoâ€, used by Washington to describe the punishment inflicted on the Cubans. The White House’s euphemism is aimed at playing down the seriousness and scope of the state of siege in effect since 1960. The president of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, expressed his satisfaction: â€œIt is a historic difference [since the Iberian American community] has used a more precise, more exact language, even going so far as to demand an end to recent measuresâ€ of aggression adopted by President Bush in May of 2004.14
In effect, the severity of the economic sanctions seriously affects the physical and psychological well-being of the Cuban population, which explains the unanimity of the condemnation of the 22 Iberian American foreign ministers.15 The blockade against Cuba affects the island’s population at every level, even in the area of health. For example, a Cuban child who needs a liver transplant may die since the decoding equipment for the immunosuppressant, Tracolimus, produced only by a U.S. pharmaceutical laboratory, may not be exported to Cuba.16
In the same way, Abbot Laboratories did not respond to a demand by Cuba regarding the acquisition of a device, which only they manufacture, necessary to monitor blood levels in children who need a liver transplant.17 In total, from 1962 to 2004, the blockade cost Cuba’s economy $82 billion, representing more than double the country’s GNP.18 In the field of health the blockade cost $75.7 million just in the period between June of 2004 and April of 2005.19
Health Minister Jose Ramon Balaguer said that â€œthe blockade imposed by the United States has caused the Cuban people enormous sufferingâ€.20 With respect to the amendment passed by the U.S. Congress in 2000, which provides that the economic sanctions should not prevent the sale of medicines, Balaguer was skeptical: â€œThe obstacles, the restrictions, bureaucratic delays [and] the permits that the Treasury Department must issue mean that in reality all of that propaganda related to the Congress’s agreement is falseâ€.21 Regarding this, the Cuban National Assembly issued a call to the parliamentarians of the whole world asking them to demand an end to the U.S.’s economic aggression against Cuba.22
The blockade imposed on Cuba also prevents U.S. scientists from travelling to the island. In September of 2004, six intensive therapy specialists from universities in Washington, Texas, Pittsburgh and California were unable to participate in the scientific congress, â€œVentilation 2005â€, in Villa Clara, which gathered 300 world experts, because the Treasury Department denied them authorization to travel to Cuba.23 In the same way, the U.S. government denied a visa to the Cuban doctor, Vicente Verez Bencomo, whose investigative team won a prize from the San Jose, California, Museum of Technology for the discovery of a vaccine against the bacteria that cause meningitis.24
The Salamanca Summit was also marked by the absence of Fidel Castro.25 The Cuban president preferred to stay on the island coordinating aid to Guatemala, victim of deadly flooding caused by Hurricane Stan.26 The Cuban government sent the impressive number of 535 doctors and several tons of materials to aid the victims of the natural disaster.27 The Cuban aid has not been matched by any country, even the most developed.
The Guatemalan authorities praised the professionalism and the dedication of the Cuban doctors. The director of the Acatenango Health Center declared that the doctors from the Caribbean archipelago had â€œthe will, experienceâ€, and the knowledge of their profession to which â€œthey devote themselves . . . unstintinglyâ€. The head of the provincial Health Zone, Telma Santizo, said the following: â€œThe Cubans provide good support; they do not mind going wherever they are told in the communities, besides having a high professional level, since they are very well-trainedâ€.28
Another illustration of Cuban excellence in the field of health is the development of the biotechnology sector. Some Cuban researchers have just developed a monoclonal antibody that is effective against brain cancer in children. The antibody is currently produced and sold by the Chinese-Cuban company, Biotech Pharmaceutical.29
In the area of education, the Venezuelan minister of this sector, Aristobulo Isturiz, presented the Cuban literacy program, â€œYes I Canâ€, during the 33rd general conference of UNESCO. According to the minister, said method taught 1,400,000 Venezuelans to read and write. Marcio Barbosa, assistant director general of UNESCO, praised the effort of the government of Hugo Chavez in this area, which contributes to the fulfilment of the main objectives of the Paris-based institution.30 The application of the method, â€œYes I Canâ€, allowed the city of Caracas to declare itself free of illiteracy for the first time.31 After that, all of Venezuela was declared free of illiteracy–the first country after Cuba–rewarding the initiative shown by the Chavez government, whose achievements are exceptional. The president thanked the Cuban people, saying that without Havana’s help, it would have been impossible to carry out the Robinson Mission of education.32
The Venezuelan president, who irritates Washington more each day because of his demonstrated determination to free his people from extreme poverty, took advantage of one of his weekly broadcasts, â€œAlÃ³ Presidenteâ€, to respond to the accusations of the White House and express his thoughts: â€œSome say that I am a tyrant . . . many say that there is a tyranny in Cuba. No, in Cuba there is a liberating process . . . As a fundamental rule and practice, tyrannies deny education to the majority to manipulate them. No tyranny does what we are doing because knowledge is liberatingâ€.33
On October 17, 2005, Hugo Chavez, as well as the Peruvian and Brazilian presidents, Nicanor Duarte and Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, denounced the horrors of hunger during the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. Chavez took advantage of the occasion to point out the fact that the U.S. defense budget of $500 billion could support the FAO for 500 years and in this way would go a long way toward solving the problem of famine.34
The U.S. government likes to demand that other nations respect human rights while it violates them systematically in its own territory. Just in California, close to 180 minors are currently serving life sentences without any right to parole according to a report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This study shows that for every 2,300 Californians, one black youth between 14 and 17 years of age is currently serving a prison sentence, while one white youth is convicted for every 50,000 people. A black youth is therefore 22 times as likely to receive a prison sentence as a white youth. Fifty-nine percent of the minors who receive life sentences are first-time offenders and 16 percent of them were between 13 and 15 years of age.35 Those who lecture should show a little more humility.
1 CÃ©cile Chambraud, « Lâ€™Espagne tente de dÃ©samorcer la polÃ©mique sur ses relations avec Cuba », Le Monde, 18 de octubre de 2005.
2 Granma, « Comunidad Iberoamericana reclama enjuiciar a Posada Carriles », 13 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/juev13/reclama.html (sitio consultado el 17 de octubre de 2005).
3 CÃ©cile Chambraud, « Cuba trouble le sommet de Salamanque », Le Monde, 16 de octubre de 2005.
4 FranÃ§ois Musseau, « La communautÃ© ibÃ©ro-amÃ©ricaine sâ€™organise », Radio France Internationale, 16 de octubre de 2005.
5 Radio France Info, « Journal de 12H30 », 16 de octubre de 2005.
6 Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res, « Sommet ibÃ©ro-amÃ©ricain : Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res trÃ¨s dÃ©Ã§ue par les concessions faites Ã Cuba sans contrepartie », 17 de octubre de 2005. www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=15307 (sitio consultado el 18 de octubre de 2005).
7 CÃ©cile Chambraud, « Lâ€™Espagne tente de dÃ©samorcer la polÃ©mique sur ses relations avec Cuba », op.cit.
9 Andrea Rodriguez, « Recuerdan atentado a aviÃ³n civil cubano y exigen justicia », El Nuevo Herald, 6 de octubre de 2005.
10 Granma, « Cominicado especial de apoyo a la extradiciÃ³n de Posada Carriles », 17 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/lun17/comunicado2.html (sitio consultado el 18 de octubre de 2005).
11 Ian James, « Venezuela Criticizes Court Ruling on Posada », The Miami Herald, 29 de septiembre de 2005.
12 Granma, « Venezuela denuncia vÃnculos de la familia Bush con terroristas », 30 de septiembre de 2005. www.granma.cu.espanol/2005/septiembre/vier30/vinculos-e.html (sitio consultado el 3 de octubre de 2005).
13 Nidia DÃaz & Jorge Luis GonzÃ¡lez, « UnÃ¡nime apoyo de los cancilleres iberoamericanos a lucha contra el bloqueo y por la extradiciÃ³n del terrorista Luis Posada Carriles », Granma, 14 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/vier14/unanime.html (sitio consultado el 17 de octubre de 2005).
14 Andrea Rodriguez, « Cuba satisfecha porque IberoamÃ©rica habla de â€˜bloqueoâ€™ », El Nuevo Herald, 17 de octubre de 2005.
15 Vivian Sequera, « Cuba logra aprobaciÃ³n de condena al terrorismo y a embargo de EEUU », El Nuevo Herald, 13 de octubre de 2005.
16 Raisa Pages, « Pueden morir niÃ±os cubanos por ausencia de respuesta de laboratorios estadounidenses », Granma, 14 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/juev13/43foro-e.html (sitio consultado el 17 de octubre de 2005).
17 Granma, « Un centenar de trasplantes hepÃ¡ticos pese al bloqueo », 15 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/vier14/42trasplan-e.html (sitio consultado el 17 de octubre de 2005).
18 Raisa Pages, « Pueden morir niÃ±os cubanos por ausencia de respuesta de laboratorios estadounidenses », op.cit.
19 Andrea Rodriguez, « Cuba : Embargo costÃ³ a salud 75 millones de dÃ³lares en un aÃ±o », El Nuevo Herald, 4 de octubre de 2005.
22 MarÃa Julia Mayoral, « Piden diputados cubanos a Parlamentos del mundo oponerse al bloqueo de EEUU », Cuba vs Bloqueo, 18 de octubre de 2005. www.cubavsbloqueo.cu/Default.aspx?tabid=1054 (sitio consultado el 20 de octubre de 2005).
23 Freddy PÃ©rez Cabrera, « Niega Gobierno de Estados Unidos permiso a cientÃficos para viajar a Cuba », Granma, 23 de septiembre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/septiembre/vier23/niega.html (sitio consultado el 23 de septiembre de 2005).
24 Orfilio Pelaez, « CientÃfico no podrÃ¡ viajar a EE.UU. para recibir premio », Granma, 29 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/sab29/cientificos.html (sitio consultado el 31 de octubre de 2005).
25 El Nuevo Herald, « Castro no toma aviÃ³n para Salamanca », 14 de octubre de 2005.
26 Sergio de Leon, « Emergencia pone a EEUU y Cuba a cooperar con Guatemala », El Nuevo Herald, 12 de octubre de 2005.
27 Ulises Canales, « Cuba aporta a Guatemala 535 mÃ©dicos para asistir a damnificados », Granma, 12 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/mier12/aporta.html (sitio consultado el 14 de octubre de 2005).
28 Ulises Canales, « Guatemaltecos elogian profesionalidad y vocaciÃ³n de mÃ©dicos cubanos », Granma, 15 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/vier14/medicos-e.html (sitio consultado el 17 de octubre de 2005).
29 Granma, « BiofÃ¡rmaco cubano logra sobrevida en niÃ±os con cÃ¡ncer de cerebro », 5 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/mier5/41bio.html (sitio consultado el 17 de octubre de 2005).
30 Fidel Vascos GonzÃ¡lez, « Presentan Ã©xitos del mÃ©todo Yo, sÃ puedo en la UNESCO », Granma, 10 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/lun10/presentan.html (sitio consultado el 17 de octubre de 2005).
31 Ventura de JesÃºs & Jorge Luis BaÃ±os, « Caracas, libre de analfabetismo », Granma, 17 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/lun17/caracas.html (sitio consultado el 18 de octubre de 2005).
32 Ventura de JesÃºs, « Venezuela : Territorio libre de anafabetismo », Granma, 29 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/sab29/venezuela.html (sitio consultado el 31 de octubre de 2005).
33 El Nuevo Herald, « ChÃ¡vez niega que existan tiranÃas en Cuba y Venezuela », 9 de octubre de 2005.
34 Granma, « Con lo que gasta EE.UU. en armas se podrÃa subvencionar la FAO por 500 aÃ±os », 18 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/mar18/conloquegasta.html (sitio consultado el 20 de octubre de 2005).
35 Human Rights Watch & Amnesty International, The Rest of their Lives without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States, octubre de 2005. http://hrw.org/reports/2005/us1005/ (sitio consultado el 31 de octubre de 2005) ; Jorge Morales Almada, « Sentenciados con cadenas perpetuas 180 niÃ±os en California », Granma, 13 de octubre de 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/octubre/mier12/sentencian-e.html (sitio consultado el 14 de octubre de 2005).