By Asma A. Adl
Islamic Post Staff Writer
Cuban President Raul Castro spoke at a meeting of Latin American leftist leaders in Venezuela recently stating that Havana is prepared to discuss any issue the new U.S. administration. “We’ve told the North American government, in private and in public, that we are prepared, wherever they want, to discuss everything —human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners– everything, everything, everything that they want to discuss,” as reported by CNN. Mr. Castro insists that the communist island nation be treated as an equal.
President Obama, during a press conference in Mexico City stated Washington is ready to “recast our relationship” with Cuba. The President also says that his decision to relax travel and remittances to Cuba are very significant and merit reciprocal steps by the island’s communist government; that the importance of the steps taken should not be overlooked, also stating that they are extraordinarily significant for Cubans and Cuban Americans alike. “I think what you saw was a good-faith effort, a show of good faith on the part of the United States that we want to recast our relationship [with Cuba],” he said, if Cuba is ready to change.
Mr. Obama does acknowledge that the debate will continue over the prohibition of U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, also stating that “there is not much discussion of the ban on Cuban people traveling elsewhere, and the severe restrictions that they are under.”
President Obama says with understanding that “50 years of frozen relationships will not thaw overnight.”
By Safiyah Abdul Khafidh
Islamic Post Staff Writer
(IP) –The astonishing progress Cuba has made in organic agriculture, urban gardens, biodiversity, natural and traditional medicine has earned it the recognition of being the only country in the world that has achieved sustainable development. The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet 2006 Report assessed sustainable development using the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) and the ecological footprint. The HDI is calculated based on life expectancy, literacy, educational levels and per capita GDP, while the ecological footprint measures a country’s use of its natural resources and effects on the ecosystem or demand on the biosphere. According to the above 2006 report, Cuba is at the top of the list of countries worldwide, challenging even the US with its impressive statistics from the United Nations HDI 2007/2008 REPORT: 77.7 in life expectancy, 99.8 in literacy, a rate of 6 in infant mortality per 1000 live births and 9.8 on public expenditure on education (%GDP) as compared to the US 77.9, 99, 6 and 5.9, respectively. The same report assesses Cuba’s energy consumption to be one eight of that in the US. Leading the way in helping Cuba perfect its level of sustainability is its two year old energy revolution, focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The uniqueness of the Cubans approach lies in their integration of technical, social, educational and economic measures. It has five main aspects: energy efficiency and conservation, implementing more renewable energy technologies, increasing the efficiency and availability of the national electric grid, more exploration and production of gas and oil and cooperating internationally.
In tackling the problem of energy efficiency, Cuba realized the answer was not necessarily in finding more ways of generating energy but in decreasing the demand for energy. It set about distributing, free of charge, over nine million compact fluorescent light bulbs, replacing the less efficient incandescent bulbs, making Cuba the first country in the world to phase out the tungsten filament bulbs. People were discouraged from cooking with kerosene and purchased electrical cooking appliances like rice cookers and pressure cookers. Within the two years of the energy revolution, Cubans have replaced nearly two million refrigerators, over one million fans, 182,000 air conditioners and 260,000 water pumps with more energy efficient appliances.
Their primary conservation measure employs the use of a new residential electrical tariff. Those using less than 100 kWh (kilowatt hours) a month pay only a fraction of a cent per kWh. Consumers increasing their usage of 50 kWh a month pay a much higher rate, while those using over 300 kWh a month pay 1.30 pesos per kWh (5.4 US cents). The media, by means of billboards, newspaper articles and a weekly television program dedicated to energy concerns, is also an effective tool used in the energy revolution.
Energy education has been the most cost effective measure that Cuba utilizes in transforming its energy program. The Ministry of Education implements a national energy education program aimed at teaching students, teachers, workers, families and communities about energy efficiency and conservation, as well as renewable sources of energy. Teresa Palenzuela, an energy saving program specialist said, “If we begin to insist on (energy efficiency) at the preschool age, we are creating a conduct for life.” In schools, the energy theme is deeply integrated into the curriculum, crossing many disciplines. The national energy program hosts energy festivals, targeting students to express their thoughts on energy through songs, poetry and theater. In each of the schools, the best energy efficient projects go to the festival at the municipal level, then moving on to the provincial and finally to the national level. At the national level, it is so popular that people line up for blocks to enter. Yet, there are no winners. The students just share their knowledge and experiences.
The use of wind and solar energy is expanding. One hundred wind measuring stations are being installed and two new wind farms have been built and under construction is Cuba’s first grid connected 100 kWh solar electric plant. All schools, health clinics and social centers in rural areas were electrified with solar energy. Currently, 2,364 of the solar electric systems are on rural schools, making lights, educational television and computers available to every student in the country.
Cuba is getting rid of its very old, centralized, inefficient electrical grid and building towards distributed generation of electricity, which allows for diversity of electrical sources. In 2006, Cuba eliminated blackouts by installing 1,854 diesel and fuel oil micro-electrical plants across the country. Also installed were 4000 emergency backup systems to facilities such as hospitals, schools, food production centers and sites critical to the country’s economy. They also upgraded the electrical transmission network. The residue left over after sugar cane is processed, called bagasse, is burned and turned into energy to power the sugar plants as well as feed the electrical grid. Cuba does not support using food crops for fuel while millions suffer hunger. However there are some liquid biofuels projects, one in particular involving the use of non edible oil.
Finally, mention must be made of Cuba’s social workers or “trabajadores sociales,” founded by Fidel Castro who calls them “Doctors of the Soul,” and the role they are playing in the energy revolution. These are youths, whose task is to bring social justice in various aspects such as labor, education, culture, sports and the environment. Thirteen thousand of them have visited homes, facilities and businesses replacing light bulbs, teaching people how to use their new energy efficient appliances and educating on energy conservation. They also work in the bus system and the sugarcane harvest to achieve more energy efficiency. Under the Bolivian Alternative for the Americas, they travel to other countries assisting with the energy crises.
‘We need a global energy revolution,” says Mario Alberto Arrastia Avila, a Cubaenergia expert. “But in order for this to happen we also need a revolution in consciousness. Cuba has undertaken its own path towards a new energy paradigm, applying concepts like distributed energy, efficiency, education, energy solidarity and the gradual solarization off the country.”
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, Sept/Oct Volume - 2008, World | Tags: Cuba, Iran-Contra, Terrorism, Venezuela
A three-member panel of judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of the US District of Western Texas is hearing an appeal by the United States (as Plaintiff) related to the dismissal of an indictment lodged against Luis Posada Carriles on charges that false statements were used in the course of an interview conducted during his naturalization proceedings. Carriles, a notorious operative once on the CIA payroll, and who has allegedly been named as the mastermind behind the bombing of a Cuban airliner in which 73 people were killed, was described by Peter Kornbluh , then Senior Analyst of the National Security Archive, during a 2007 hearing before The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, as “one of the top ten most prolific purveyors of political violence in contemporary history.”
The District Court charged initially that the government had “engaged in deceptive conduct and outrageous tactics” during the naturalization proceedings; the court also had “the suppression of statements” made by Carriles that were subject to “incompetent translation” , apparently to expedite the acquisition of US citizenship for Carriles, who now resides in Florida.
The decision of the Court has effectively reversed the dismissal of the indictment, and demands that the suppressed statements from Posada’s naturalization interview be submitted before the Court, reopening the case for further litigation.
The protracted record of Posada’s covert political involvements precedes his culminating effort to become a U.S. citizen by two decades. Carriles was born in Cuba, and was opposed to the domination of his native country by Fidel and Raul Castro. The appellate court brief elaborates the scenario:
“In 1961, Posada became involved with the planning for the Bay of Pigs invasion and was brought into contact with the CIA. He later enlisted in the United States Army, was commissioned a second lieutenant, and received special training at Fort Benning with other former members of the 2506th Cuban Brigade who had been commissioned in the United States Armed Forces.
“Posada was honorably discharged from the Army in March 1964. Unclassified documents contained in the record indicate that from 1965 until 1974 he operated as a paid CIA asset, although Posada asserts that he maintained a relationship with the CIA well into the 1980’s. Posada went to work for the Venezuelan secret police in 1967 and eventually became the head of a security division in charge of surveillance, VIP protection, weapons, and explosives.
“In this capacity, he directed counterinsurgency operations against leftist guerillas supported by Castro. Posada was later arrested by Venezuelan authorities in connection with the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Aerolineas aircraft in which all 73 people aboard were killed. After several years, he escaped from prison while still awaiting trial. Venezuela still seeks extradition; Posada, for his part, denies any involvement and claims that the charges were orchestrated by Castro.
“After his escape from a Venezuelan prison, Posada made his way to El Salvador. There he became involved in supplying arms and materiel to aid the U.S.-backed Contras fighting against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, an operation that came to light as part of the Iran-Contra affair. Posada moved to Guatemala in 1989 and was employed in security by the state telephone company. In 1990, he was shot several times in the face and torso during an assassination attempt allegedly carried out by Cuban agents. Throughout the 1990’s he lived under assumed names in various Central American countries. When a series of hotel and tourist-site bombings occurred in Havana in 1997, Posada was suspected of involvement.
“The following year, he was the subject of two front-page articles in the New York Times in which he claimed a coordinating role in planning and executing the bombings. Posada later asserted, however, that his statements had been misunderstood and distorted by the reporter who interviewed him. In 2000, Posada was arrested in Panama in connection with an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro at a summit meeting in that country. He was detained for several years and ultimately convicted of crimes against national security (a Panamanian offense related to the manufacture or acquisition of bomb-making materials1) and counterfeiting public records.”
Having been pardoned by the president of Panama before he left office in 2004, Posada sought legal asylum in the United States. Despite his illegal entry, he arranged an interview for that purpose, but on the day of the interview withdrew his asylum petition and instead held a press conference in Miami announcing his “presence.” As the brief continues, “Immigration officials took Posada into custody later that afternoon, and a few days later, on May 21, 2005, he submitted to an interview. Posada was ultimately placed in removal proceedings and, on September 27, 2005, ordered removed “to any country, other than Cuba and Venezuela, willing to accept him.”
From this point, Posada remained detained in an immigration-law equivalent of limbo. On October 12, 2005, Posada filed an application for naturalization with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). This application and the related naturalization proceedings ultimately formed the basis for Posada’s indictment on false statement charges.
The Appellate Court finds serious issue with the fact that in the course of the overview of Posada’s past (normally, the previous five years of activity are investigated in evaluating a naturalization applicant’s character record), Posada’s violent political activities were conveniently overlooked. It asserts that, indeed, an applicant’s history must be viewed beyond the statutory period in order to make an accurate judgement, especially for a person known to have a less-than-pristine past, and that this extended overview is necessary and within the interpretation of the law.
The case has subsequently been sent back, or remanded, to a lower court for re-litigation of the initial indictment, and possible deportation of Carriles.
-Raheemah Atif contributed to this report