Monday, May 8, 2017

My May 2017 Trip to Cuba


Translated from Spanish to English by Google Translate & Rhone Fraser, Ph.D.

The Fifth International Seminar For Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases was held May 4th to 6th 2017 in Guantánamo, the easternmost Cuban province and the first anti-imperialist trench in America to have a part of its territory illegally occupied by a foreign military base against the will of its people.

This new edition of the Seminar had a total of 217 participants from 32 countries, including leaders of the World Peace Council (CMP) and its member organizations, as well as personalities, peace fighters, anti-war supporters and friends of solidarity. Cuba, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Cuba, El Salvador, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Kiribati, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Palestine, Puerto Rico, SADR, Dominican Republic, Seychelles, Switzerland and Venezuela.

Participants noted that the event took place in the context of a complex international situation characterized essentially by the persistence of the aggressiveness of US imperialism and its NATO allies trying to reconfigure a new world map commensurate with their geopolitical and geostrategic interests.  These interests increase their interference in nations of all continents and oppression of their peoples.

To achieve these denounced objectives of intervention, domination and blackmail against the peoples of the world, imperialism relies on a set of tools among which stands out the proliferation of bases and military installations in many countries of the planet.

In essence, the United States is the country with the largest number of military bases in the world, followed by its imperialist NATO partners, and it has the largest nuclear arsenal in the history of mankind.

The persistence of the acute economic crisis of capitalism, which, among its most negative effects, has added to the misery, hunger, poverty and inequalities in the nations of the so-called Third World.

Interference wars have affected the stability of several countries in the Middle East and Africa, as a consequence of massive and disorderly migratory phenomena that have caused the death of a large number of immigrants seeking refuge in European nations. In general we reject them.

The presence of a new Republican Administration in Washington, which has generated innumerable questions, criticism and great skepticism, and whose most recent military actions sound the drums of a war of great consequences for humanity.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, imperialism and its lackeys in charge of the national oligarchies of several countries are attempting to reverse the process of progressive change initiated by leftist forces more than a decade ago and seek to re-establish neoliberal policies that advance imperialism.

To this end, the empire and its acolytes appeal to a dirty economic, political and media war aimed at confusing the peoples and destroying the framework of social achievements reached by progressive governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and others, where today The future of the whole region.

In that context, the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace approved by the second CELAC Summit held in Havana in January 2014 becomes more effective as the most important political commitment adopted by all Latin American and Caribbean States.  This is reaffirmed in the declarations issued at the fourth summit held in Quito, Ecuador, in January 2016, and at the fifth summit held in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, in January 2017.

Recognizing the people who are fighting in the world for the Abolition of the Foreign Military Bases and for the above, this fifth international seminar calls for a redoubled struggle against aggressive imperialist actions that threaten world peace.

On my first full day of the Fifth Seminar for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases in Guantánamo, I am learning a lot.  Keep in mind that the U.S. government still holds and tortures detainees at a military base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, without charge. 

I am writing a manuscript about the difference between journalists who do not question U.S. imperialism, whom I call industry journalists, and journalists who do question U.S. imperialism, whom I call advocacy journalists.

The reality of industry journalism and their journalists is present in the fact that no mainstream U.S. journalists or mainstream U.S. press covered this seminar.  Because, ultimately, they do not support the abolition of U.S. military bases in Guantánamo and across the world.  

The mainstream U.S. press supports industry journalism.  Industry journalism supports U.S. imperialism. 

This is why I must study advocacy journalists.  

And after reading what James Edward Jackson Jr. (1914-2007) wrote in The Worker periodical that he edited, I gained the most important context to put my experience in at this seminar.  This is the context of an advocacy journalist who is like his advocacy journalist predecessor Pauline Hopkins (1859-1930). 

Hopkins celebrated the Haitian revolution in her periodical Colored American Magazine.  She describes it as a war of liberation and compares it to the U.S. Civil War for her Black readers.  James E. Jackson celebrated the Cuban revolution in his periodical The Worker and wanted his readers to understand the importance of it.  These two political revolutions in the Caribbean are questioned or insulted by almost every industry journalist in the United States. 

In the November 6, 1962 edition of the paper he edited, The Worker, also in the book The View From Here, James E. Jackson wrote: 

“the quicker the U.S. government enters into negotiations with the government of Cuba on the question of the demilitarization of the Guantánamo base (preliminary to returning it to Cuba whose right to it is an inalienable privilege of her sovereignty), the sooner the total energies of the people of Cuba can be turned to the peaceful pursuits of the economic, social and cultural development of their country.”

Fifty five years after Jackson’s writing this, the U.S. government has still not demilitarized Guantánamo Bay and has consequently chose to hinder the economic, social and cultural development of Cuba.  Jackson in this newspaper wrote about another advocacy journalist for the Baltimore Afro-American, William Worthy, who was prosecuted by the U.S. government for “having sojourned in Cuba enroute home from abroad.”  The government claimed that Worthy did not have a “valid passport.” 

 In the August 28, 1962 edition of The Worker, Jackson wrote that “the injustice in the William Worthy case is all the more outrageous in light of the fact that during the past two years thousands of so-called refugees have poured into the United States from Cuba without passports, valid or otherwise, but none of them have been prosecuted.”  Fellow Afro-American writer Ralph Matthews wrote that “Worthy had the temerity to find something good to write about in a regime which displeased the money interests of America.”   

William Worthy was one who was defying U.S. imperialism and writing as an advocacy journalist.   

Because of James E. Jackson, I am.

Because of Pauline Hopkins, I am.    

Because of William Worthy, I am. 

I am learning about the reality of industry journalism and I am learning what the “humanitarian” intervention that it promotes looks like, especially after listening to one commenter in the audience on the Seminar’s second day, from what he called "the Fund for Reconciliation and Development." 

This commenter talked about the lack of feeling involved in the process of writing the declaration following this seminar.  The Fund for Reconciliation and Development that he comes from, however, is a project of the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) who, as Eduardo Galeano has written in The Open Veins of Latin America, bans trade of any country with North Vietnam and Cuba.   

Not only does USAID come in and prevent trade with these countries because of their socialist economy, they also force the governments they work with to pass laws that makes foreign exploitation of a nation’s land and resources much easier.   

This is “humanitarian” intervention.   

It is actually imperialist intervention cloaked in "humanitarian" aid. 

It was clear that the organizers of this conference, MOVPAZ saw the group that I traveled with, CODEPINK, as on the same side of this Fund and as one that would support “humanitarian” intervention. 

This was striking to me because I do not like to see myself on the side of imperialism, but as a U.S. citizen in Cuba, I could not help but be seen as on the side of U.S. imperialism.  

Therefore, I could understand why MOVPAZ would not be eager to heed most suggestions from my delegation’s leadership who is my activist-mentor, Medea Benjamin.  

This commenter talked about working in Vietnam.  This kind of work however is simply passing laws to help foreign U.S. companies undermine democratic leadership, as the U.S. based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is trying to do in Cuba and is tragically doing in Venezuela. The Obama administration approved funds for the NED to continue undermining the gains of their socialist revolution. 

I had a conversation with Baboshe Shango of the National Network on Cuba about the ways that mainstream U.S. book publishing industry welcomed the story of Carlos Moore, a dark-skinned Cuban who focused on what he called the anti-Black racism of the revolutionary society in Cuba.  

One of the reasons, Shango said, that Moore said that Cuba is still dealing with the problem of anti-Black racism, was because Fidel Castro in a parade waving to a crowd one day, passed him and did not wave back.  This was Moore’s resounding proof of the existence of anti-Black racism.  

This is actually no proof at all.  Cuban historian Esteban Morales has been one of the most articulate voices of the racism in Cuba and still supports the necessary Cuban revolution.  

The objective of industry journalism is to discredit the Cuban revolution by emphasizing its racism.  

However a close read of the work of Cuban people will reveal that one can still identify the racism in Cuba while working to support the Cuban revolution and its goals.  U.S. industry journalism says otherwise however. 

Small reasons like this are the ways that the mainstream will use to say that racism and sexism are big problems in revolutionary Cuba even though the U.S. mainstream and U.S. military promotes more racism and sexism than any other government in the world.  

Leslie Feinberg has written about this quite eloquently in her book Rainbow Solidarity in Defense of Cuba published by the Workers World Party where she writes that "today it is U.S. imperialism that has set up concentration camps--from Abu Ghraib to Guantánamo--where anti-gay and anti-trans rape and humiliation are incorporated into the science of torture" (27).  

I noticed a recent Facebook post by my friend Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, who pointed out the practice of pink washing, which is using the social construction of sexuality to justify imperialism.  In the protests I have noticed of Abdul-Aliy, I can see how the mainstream uses the face of gay, lesbian, cis, and trans activists or their face to justify imperialist behavior such as denying HIV meds to populations of color, or making it cost prohibitive.  

Or encouraging a colonial structure where two non profit organizations fight each other for the same limited funds, using the lives of people of color as fodder from which to profit more from HIV medication that is sorely needed. 

This kind of disregard for Black lives happened during George Washington's hesitation to arm Black troops during the so called “Revolutionary War” (or the war for the U.S. to disregard British abolition) or the Civil War, where Abraham Lincoln hesitated to arm Black troops until he found it absolutely necessary.   

While Lincoln was deliberating whether to do so, people of color were dying at the hands of committed slaveowners.  Those who run nonprofits in the twentieth and twenty first centuries sit on life saving medication, while those who suffer with HIV die. 

Carlos Moore should have carefully weighed his critique of anti-Black racism in his book expressed the fact that while Cuba does suffer from racism, it does not compare to the racism exacted by the United States on its citizens of color. 

Obama made headlines recently for earning $400,000 to speak at the University of Chicago, but instead of castigating him, which is easy, we should castigate the imperialists like Penny Pritzker whose money helped “elect” him president. 

Instead of castigating Obama, we need to castigate the owners of these newspapers, who helped prop him up and will now set him up to look like the thief when in fact the real thieves are the industrialists, or the owners of the newspapers like Jeff Bezos of the Washington Post and Sidney Harman of Newsweek, who approved the mocking November 2016 cover of Newsweek after Obama's announcement to normalize relations with Cuba that says mockingly “viva el capitalismo” with the face of Che Guevara who would absolutely NOT approve of the way his image is being used to support capitalism.  

This racist and imperialist propaganda is more dangerous and sinister than Obama making $400,000 on one speech.  Industry journalism usually supports sinister behavior by industrialists.  

We have to remember who the real enemies are. Malcolm X said in 1964 that if we are not careful about the propaganda we receive, we will end up hating the ones being oppressed and loving the ones doing the oppressing.  

I am noticing how Medea Benjamin who is a role model to me is pushing for more aggressive actions against the U.S. military base in Guantánamo which occupies about 71 square miles around Guantánamo bay.  

Medea suggested a flotilla and a protest on the base, yet noticed that the organizers of this seminar declined her suggestions.  She said she knew that the organizers would decline her suggestions because they are very careful not to provoke any military action from the U.S. Marine military presence that has notoriously murdered Cuban people in their own waters in years past. 

One of the teachers who I met in my first trip to Guantánamo in November 2015 I saw a second time on this trip and he told me about a Cuban fisherman whom the U.S. Marines shot and killed. 

I am also aware that it is up to us, as U.S. citizens, or estadounidenses, to let the Cubans lead their own struggle and not to take over their struggle as our U.S. presence, even as antiwar activists are wont to do. 

I am glad I ran into an ELAM (escuela latinoamerica de medica) student that I met in February 2015.  Between him and a Sierra Leonean that I met at Dulles Airport who told me he knows the work of Chernoh Alpha Bah,  another advocacy journalist, I promised to have a discussion with this student about Chernoh Bah’s important book Ebola Outbreak in West Africa.   

This book is about the profit motive of U.S. pharmaceutical companies in Africa, as opposed to the motive of Cuban doctors in Africa and the entire world.  This reminded me that the movement to end neocolonialism is on its way. 

Also at this seminar was the historic screening of the film All Guantánamo Is Ours by Hernando Calvino Ospina and the review of it by Javier Salado Villacin.  

I saw something in this film the second time that I did not see the first time, and that was the film’s interview with Rody Rodriguez who said that he was not a revolutionary but he had many revolutionary friends.  One day he heard someone shout in Spanish the word “worm!”  This reminded me of the main character in Elias Miguel Muñoz’s novel The Greatest Performance where the main character’s family are called worms because they flee Cuba after the revolution.  

This novel has THE BEST read of the type of gay men I have met in my life who desire and attract sugar daddies and then complain later about how the sugar daddies “ruined” their life, when in each moment they chose to be with them.  

In the Cuban revolution, the Cubans were rejecting the sugar daddy of Spain then the United States, whose mafia ran the casinos.  Before the revolution.  However, after the revolution, the relationship with the sugar daddy had to end.  

Ruby Dee said we shouldn't get mad at Cuba or Castro because they love their people and didn't want to see it run by these mafia. 

From our tour guide from Amistur Cuba, I learned about the Santería orishas, including Babalu Aye, who is in charge of healing. I also had casual conversations with a Cuban woman who had flowers that she said were for the La Virgen de la Caridad, and that she is Catholic.  I see immediately the importance of Catholicism in the lives of Cubans and also how Catholicism was a vehicle for the practice of Yoruba in the tradition of Santería.  

The first talk on the second day of the Seminar that I remembered was by Bassel Ismael Salem.  He gave a presentation called “The Zionist Entity ‘State of Israel’ Military Base of Imperialism and Zionism in Palestine.”  He explained how the base at Guantánamo was aiding Zionism in Palestine, because it started torturing detainees there in 2002, after the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center.  

He mentioned three models of colonization and and how Israel is an economic power and an ideological project involved in savage capitalism.  Salem said that the Zionists are the biggest threat to world peace and that we must put an end to these three models of colonization.  

Ricardo Sanna then gave a presentation on the Italian Military occupation of Sardinia that reminded me of what George Jackson wrote in Blood in My Eye about the U.S. and English support of Benito Mussolini in his socialist beginnings that quickly turned totalitarian.  

There was a presentation on Okinawa and the U.S. military base there.  When they occupied, they placed Japanese in concentration camps.  This reminded me of the play I produced and directed in 2012 called Dirty Hearts written by Sonia Sanchez that featured a Japanese maiden, Shigeko, who represented a character with a higher social status than that of the U.S. Black capitalist, represented by her character Carl.  

Sanchez presents Carl as a tragic figure who, as long as he believes in the fairness of the U.S. economy, will routinely be trumped by white capitalists and Japanese maidens like Shigeko who, like the bourgeoisie before the revolution, depend on their European sugar daddies.  

 I am forever grateful to the energy and generosity of the actress Yokko who portrayed Shigeko unforgettably in the production I produced and directed. 

The presence of U.S. military bases leaves people of color including the Cubans and the Japanese in a similar position and the removal of the bases require our unity.  Tony Martin in Race First wrote about Japanese sailors shipping Marcus Garvey’s Negro World newspaper to Japan and Yuri Kochiyama was a strong supporter of the work of Malcolm X in his final year.   

We need this collaboration to remove the military presence of the U.S. from the globe. 

Ian Hansen, a professor at York College, gave an unforgettable talk about how the history of the American Psychological Association’s support of the “enhanced interrogation” program by the U.S. government inside the Guantánamo prison.   

He said that 779 men have been imprisoned since January 11, 2002 and that there are 41 men from 13 countries are in the prison including three convicted and 7 charged, but there is no trial for any of these detainees.  Five have been cleared for release by the Obama administration, but Obama did not release them before he left office.  Nine died in prison, including 3 classified suspiciously as suicides.  Hansen said that two things allowed the U.S. government to torture inside their military base in Guantánamo with impunity: one, a legal protection for those who torture, and two, a public perception that the torture is designed to obtain life saving information. 

This reminded me of what Paula Giddings wrote about how advocacy journalist Ida B. Wells's campaign against lynching included shaming the nineteenth century mainstream press by informing the mainstream press in England about the practice of torture. 

This is what advocacy journalist Robert F. Williams did with “the Kissing Case” when the Monroe, North Carolina, Klan-friendly local police jailed a young eight year old Black boy for kissing a white girl.  Williams informed the mainstream presses in Europe.  Because of their coverage, the Jim Crow Monroe police were forced to release this eight year old boy.

Hansen identified the individuals who designed this “enhanced interrogation” program of torture as James Mitchell and Bruce Jensen.  

This was leaked to the public because of a reporter Scott Gerwehr who talked to Brad Olsen of Psychologists of Social Responsibility. 

I also wondered if this group would consider or have considered any helpful collaboration with the Association of Black Psychologists. I fear that Hansen’s organization would simply be hostile to the paradigms of the U.S. based Association of Black Psychologists.  

I learned that the U.S. government denied the Association of Black Psychologists to hold their recent conference in Cuba, and this reminded me of the government persecution of advocacy journalist William Worthy who was detained for reporting on the successes of the Cuban revolution.  

Like Thomas Jefferson's racist embargo on Haiti, the U.S. government's racist embargo on Cuba is still trying to control and censor the conversations between people of color in countries with two different economies. 

Hansen said that the American Psychological Association removed the distinction between what is allowed and what is ethical.  Stephen Behnhke undermined, neutralized resistance within this professional against professionals who opposed the use of their training for torture of detainees held without charge in a foreign prison.   

On the last day of this visit, we traveled by bus to Caimanera, going to the Caimanera Hotel.  We were able to see the border that the U.S. Marines set up on the Southern region of the Guantánamo Bay. 

I asked the question about why the Cuban revolution was not able to claim this base indefinitely since the revolution that started in 1959.  

 This question was answered by the interview Medea had with a local youth leader Olga and a local historian Joaquín Toirac Adamos at the Caimanera Hotel. 

He said that Castro planned to expel the U.S. Marines from Guantánamo by cutting off the water supply of the entire bay in 1962.  He warned the civilians around the bay to leave the area because he was cutting off the water supply.   

However, as Adamos said, the U.S. Marines were able to get their water supply from the neocolonial leadership of the closest island of Jamaica.   

I was disappointed to learn this, because I was hoping that Jamaicans would have cooperated with the Cuban revolution.   

Not only did the U.S. Marines get freshwater from neocolonial Jamaica to support their military base during the Cuban revolution, they also gave guns and money to the Jamaica Labour Party to, as James E. Jackson said “bully the…nation…into submission to Washington—Wall Street’s Will” (The Worker, 7/23/61).   

Unfortunately Jamaica since its so called “independence” in 1962, has been bullied into submission into Washington--Wall Street's Will.  

In 1983 Fidel Castro said at the Conference on the External Debt of Latin America and the Caribbean: 

“how could a government, and a country, which has to go every month to discuss with the International Monetary Fund what it must do at home, be called independent?  This is a make-believe independence, and we see this as a struggle for national liberation, which can truly bring together, for the first time in the history of our hemisphere, all the social strata in a struggle to attain their true independence.”  

According to this 1983 speech, Jamaica has a “make-believe independence” and is still missing a struggle for national liberation, namely because it includes the maroon nation which, unlike Cuba, seems unwilling to cooperate with a national government and has historically been unwilling to cooperate with a colonial or neocolonial government.  This was evidenced by the support Jamaica gave to the military naval base in 1962.   
Following this interview with Joaquín, I was interviewed by a journalist from Radio Caimanera about my role and her photographer who identified me from our previous visit.  Town Square, my delegation and the other delegations from other organizations joined for the reading of a declaration from this conference.  At this reading, I reunited with two teachers from Caimanera who I met on my first trip to Caimanera in 2015.  One of these teachers gave me a history of Cuba, which I will read and always cherish:

Although I was disappointed with the role of Jamaica in supporting the U.S. military base in Guantánamo, I was pleased to learn of a cultural center in Guantánamo that acknowledged the religious beliefs of those in Trinidad, Jamaica, and Barbados.   

On the second day of this trip, I was very pleased to meet Trinidad native Lennox Yearwood, the lawyer for Assata Shakur who is somewhere in Cuba.  I am glad I was able to tell him THANK YOU for representing Assata so fiercely and for showing the world how her case was a frameup for her political beliefs. 

One of the more significant things I learned about was the unity of the Cuban people.  Their common practice of Santería I believe played an influential factor in their decisive military victory at Playa Girón and the larger success of the Cuban revolution.   

And their common understanding of capitalism and socialism and the urgency of maintaining the goals of their socialist economy which is to provide for them free healthcare and free education.   

I believe in that and as I have written for The Advocate in Spring 2015, we must defend the gains of the revolution, and make sure that our work is not being used to justify industry journalism which justifies continued imperialism that the U.S. naval base symbolizes.  

We must learn how to use our privilege as U.S. citizens, like the anti Vietnam war movement did, and do everything possible to close the Guantánamo prison!  Andrew Cornell wrote in his history of the Movement For A New Society (MNS) that in order to protest the Vietnam war, the Quaker founded group MNS blocked the USS Nitro ship from loading munitions bound for the Gulf of Tonkin (27).   

An International Longshoreman Workers’ Union member suggested to me that a similar movement can be done to close Guantánamo. And I have to join this movement, especially after I learned that Fidel Castro played an instrumental role in freeing 1950 Smith Act detainee Henry Winston.  ¡Sí se puede!  -RF.