ITEMS OF INTEREST

Plaque Dedicated to Jose Maria Heredia Overlooking Horseshoe Falls.

Cuban-Niagara Falls Connection.

Above Niagara Falls is a plaque for the twenty year old Cuban poet Jose  Maria Heredia who travelled to Niagara Falls in 1824. There he wrote his brilliant but sad poem Ode to Niagara (link). His face is seen on a commemorative plaque placed on the stone wall near the brink of the Horseshoe Falls. This poem is taught to all Cuban school children.

Cuban Disaster Response – Extending Help to Children
Victims of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster.

Fidel greeting Children from Ukraine

Children of Chernobyl Speak Out

Cuba’s response to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster illustrates the deep humanitarianism of the Cuban revolution. While the international community had responded swiftly and effectively to the immediate crisis, a pervasive body of evidence suggested that the medical impacts of the nuclear explosion were likely to remain devastating for the long term. Responding to these claims, Cuba created the “Chernobyl Children” program. This large initiative afforded free, comprehensive medical care for all affected kids ages 5 to 15. For nearly 25 years, Cuban doctors have provided curative care for a total of 24,000 children. In accordance with typical Cuban health care norms, children at the Tarará Pediatric Hospital are treated with an integrative approach – they’re served by a wide variety of specialists, and receive access to cutting-edge Cuban medical treatments, such as a slew of new vaccines, biotechnology resources, and more.

The Chernobyl radiation accident is undoubtedly the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of mankind. Vast areas of Europe were contaminated by radioactive fallout. In the Ukraine alone it is estimated that more than 4 million people were exposed to radiation. While this accident happened 30 years ago (26 April 1986), the totality of the health consequences are still to be determined.

Religious Freedom

Contrary to western popular opinion, Religious Freedom exists in Cuba. Being a practicing Catholic or of other faiths is completely accepted in Cuba.

Cuba is a secular state a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins. The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic Church. Afro-Cuban religions, a blend of native African religions and Roman Catholicism, are widely practiced in Cuba.

David Suzuki Documentary on Cuban Agriculture

At the time of the collapse of the Soviet East Bloc, Cuba was faced with an economic and agricultural disaster. This is a fascinating David Suzuki documentary showing how Cuba had to change its agricultural practices or face starvation.  Click Here

Cuban Cops Are Tops

This link is to get up close up and listen to a Cuban cop chatting with our CCFA Niagara Chapter President Dave Thomas . See Video Here.

Article 64 of the Cuban Constitution states that “Defense of the socialist motherland is every Cuban’s greatest honor and highest duty”. Conscription into either the armed forces or the national police force is compulsory for those over the age of 16. Conscripts have no choice as to which service they are assigned.

Click Here for Wikipedia  write-up on law enforcement in Cuba.

Human Rights Hypocrisy: US Criticizes Cuba

http://marjoriecohn.com/human-rights-hypocrisy-us-criticizes-cuba/

March 18, 2016

In advance of President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba on March 20, there is speculation about whether he can pressure Cuba to improve its human rights. But a comparison of Cuba’s human rights record with that of the United States shows that the US should be taking lessons from Cuba.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains two different categories of human rights – civil and political rights on the one hand; and economic, social and cultural rights on the other.

Civil and political rights include the rights to life, free expression, freedom of religion, fair trial, self-determination; and to be free from torture, cruel treatment, and arbitrary detention.

Economic, social and cultural rights comprise the rights to education, healthcare, social security, unemployment insurance, paid maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, reduction of infant mortality; prevention, treatment and control of diseases; and to form and join unions and strike.

These human rights are enshrined in two treaties – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The United States has ratified the ICCPR.

But the US refuses to ratify the ICESCR. Since the Reagan administration, it has been US policy to define human rights only as civil and political rights. Economic, social and cultural rights are dismissed as akin to social welfare, or socialism.

The US government criticizes civil and political rights in Cuba while disregarding Cubans’ superior access to universal housing, health care, education, and its guarantee of paid maternity leave and equal pay rates.

Meanwhile, the US government has committed serious human rights violations on Cuban soil, including torture, cruel treatment, and arbitrary detention at Guantanamo. And since 1960, the United States has expressly interfered with Cuba’s economic rights and its right to self-determination through the economic embargo. –Read More-

The US embargo of Cuba, now a blockade, was initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during the Cold War in response to a 1960 memo written by a senior State Department official. The memo proposed “a line of action that makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the Castro government.” That goal has failed, but the punishing blockade has made life difficult in Cuba. In spite of that inhumane effort, however, Cuba guarantees its people a remarkable panoply of human rights.

Healthcare

Unlike in the United States, healthcare is considered a right in Cuba. Universal healthcare is free to all. Cuba has the highest ratio of doctors to patients in the world at 6.7 per 1,000 people. The 2014 infant mortality rate was 4.2 per 1,000 live births – one of the lowest in the world.

Healthcare in Cuba emphasizes prevention, rather than relying only on medicine, partly due to the limited access to medicines occasioned by the US blockade. In 2014, the Lancet Journal said, “If the accomplishments of Cuba could be reproduced across a broad range of poor and middle-income countries the health of the world’s population would be transformed.” Cuba has developed pioneering medicines to treat and prevent lung cancer, and prevent diabetic amputations. Because of the blockade, however, we in the United States cannot take advantage of them.

Education

Free education is a universal right up to and including higher education. Cuba spends a larger proportion of its GDP on education than any other country in the world. “Mobile teachers” are deployed to homes if children are unable to attend school. Many schools provide free morning and after-school care for working parents who have no extended family. It is free to train to be a doctor in Cuba. There are 22 medical schools in Cuba, up from only 3 in 1959 before the Cuban Revolution.

Elections

Elections to Cuba’s national parliament (the National Assembly) take place every five years and elections to regional Municipal Assemblies every 2.5 years. Delegates to the National Assembly then elect the Council of State, which in turn appoints the Council of Ministers from which the President is elected.

As of 2018 (the date of the next general election in Cuba), there will be a limit of no more than two five-year terms for all senior elected positions, including the President. Anyone can be nominated to be a candidate. It is not required that one be a member of the Communist Party (CP). No money can be spent promoting candidates and no political parties (including the CP) are permitted to campaign during elections. Military personnel are not on duty at polling stations; school children guard the ballot boxes.

Labour Rights

Cuban law guarantees the right to voluntarily form and join trade unions. Unions are legally independent and financially autonomous, independent of the CP and the state, funded by members’ subscriptions. Workers’ rights protected by unions include a written contract, a 40-44-hour week, and 30 days’ paid annual leave in the state sector.

Unions have the right to stop work they consider dangerous. They have the right to participate in company management, to receive management information, to office space and materials, and to facility time for representatives. Union agreement is required for lay-offs, changes in patterns of working hours, overtime, and the annual safety report. Unions also have a political role in Cuba and have a constitutional right to be consulted about employment law. They also have the right to propose new laws to the National Assembly.

Women

Women make up the majority of Cuban judges, attorneys, lawyers, scientists, technical workers, public health workers and professionals. Cuba is ranked first in Save the Children’s ‘Lesser Developed Countries’ Mother’s Index. With over 48% women MPs, Cuba has the third highest percentage of female parliamentarians in the world. Women receive 9 months of full salary during paid maternity leave, followed by 3 months at 75% of full salary. The government subsidizes abortion and family planning, places a high value on pre-natal care, and offers ‘maternity housing’ to women before giving birth.

Death Penalty

A study by Cornell Law School found no one under sentence of death in Cuba and no one on death row in October 2015. On December 28, 2010, Cuba’s Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of Cuba’s last remaining death row inmate, a Cuban-American convicted of a murder carried out during a 1994 terrorist invasion of the island. No new death sentences are known to have been imposed since that time.

By contrast, as of January 1, 2016, 2,949 people were on death row in state facilities in the United States. And 62 were on federal death row as of March 16, 2016, according to Death Penalty Information.

Sustainable Development

In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a leading global environmental organization, found that Cuba was the only country in the world to have achieved sustainable development. Jonathan Loh, one of the authors of the WWF report, said, “Cuba has reached a good level of development according to United Nations’ criteria, thanks to its high literacy level and a very high life expectancy, while the ecological footprint is not large since it is a country with low energy consumption.”

Hypocrisy

The hypocrisy of the US government in lecturing Cuba about its human rights while denying many basic human rights to the American people is glaring. The United States should lift the blockade. Obama should close Guantanamo and return it to Cuba.

Socialist Cuba has been able to maintain sustained forest growth

Forests in Cuba now make up 30.6 percent of the country’s land area, thanks to a reforestation initiative carried out by the socialist government, according to a report.
Titled, “Environmental Outlook: Cuba 2015,” from the National Officer of Statistics and Information, the report details recent improvement in Cuba’s forests, up from 27.6 percent in 2010.

Cuba started the reforestation program in 1998 and is part of a select group of developing countries that have been able to maintain sustained forest growth.

A report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2011 said that Cuba has the highest proportion of its forest designated for protective functions in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The province of Pinar del Rio had the highest reforestation, with 47 percent, closely followed by Guantanamo with 46.7 percent. Other provinces with healthy coverage included: Matanzas, 39.1 percent; Holguin, 38.3 percent; Santiago de Cuba, 33 percent; and Granman, 26.7 percent.

The Isle of Youth Special Municipality had the highest rate of forest coverage area with 65.2 percent and Las Tunas had the lowest at 19 percent.

Before Spanish colonization of the island, Cuba was estimated to have forest coverage of 90 percent of its total land area. At the time of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, only 14 percent of Cuba was thought to be covered in forest. Both the foreign-owned timber and sugarcane industries played significant roles in destroying much of Cuba’s lush forest areas.

Increased forest coverage has been proven to help fight against pollution, improve air quality and health for humans and animals. Deforestation is a major contributor to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

US Allocates ‘Democracy Funds’ for Cuba

June 13, 2015

Despite claiming to be taking steps to normalize relations with Cuba, the U.S. has allocated funding for the NED.

The US Committee on Appropriations approved on Friday US$30 million for “programs to promote democracy and strengthen civil society in Cuba, of which not less than US$8,000,000 shall be for NED,” as quoted from the committee report.

The NED is the National Endowment for Democracy, a fund used by the U.S. to undermine left-wing and socialist governments and support opposition groups by supposedly promoting “democracy.”

“The Committee directs that funds shall only be used for programs and activities pursuant to section 109(a) of the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 and section 1705 of the Cuban Democracy Act (CDA) of 1992, and shall not be used for business promotion, economic reform, entrepreneurship or any other assistance that is not democracy-building,” the report states.

The committee also stipulated that any locally awarded grants of over US$1 million should be to groups in Cuba that have “experience promoting democracy” there.

If the project for 2016 funding is approved by congress, it will be in addition to US$20 million already assigned for this year.

The measure comes as the U.S. said last year that it wanted to normalize relations with Cuba, and the two countries have since held a number of talks. Last month the U.S. removed Cuba from its list of so-called terrorist countries, but it has not yet put an end to its decades-long economic blockade on the island.

Further, yesterday the Appropriations Committee also did not approve funding for opening a U.S. embassy in Cuba.

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