Henrique Capriles: Venezuela’s Sore Loser

Dan Beeton

Reuters reported Sunday that the president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena has criticized opposition candidate Henrique Capriles for not presenting proof to back up his claims of fraud (also the focus of our post earlier today):

“We have always insisted that Capriles had the right to challenge the process,” Tibisay Lucena, president of the electoral council, said in a televised national broadcast.

“But it is also his obligation to present proof.”

She dismissed various opposition submissions alleging voting irregularities as lacking key details, and said Capriles had subsequently tried to present the audit in very different terms than the electoral council had agreed to.

“It has been manipulated to generate false expectations about the process, including making it look like the consequence of the wider audit could affect the election results,” she said.

Lucena’s statements that the election audit of the remaining voting machines, as initially called for by Capriles, will not change the results are correct, although perhaps not for the reasons she meant. As noted on Friday, we did a statistical analysis of the probability of the results of the audit of the first 53 percent of voting machines finding the results it did if the remaining 46 percent of voting machines in Venezuela had enough discrepancies to change the results of the election. The probability, according to our calculations, is less than 1 in 25,000 trillion.

The math is pretty straightforward. Considering how many votes by which Nicolás Maduro was declared the winner, and that the initial audit of 54 percent of machines didn’t find anything, and considering how many votes there are per machine, it is almost impossible for the remaining 46 percent of machines to have enough discrepancies to change the election results.

Perhaps because he realized the audit is not likely to change things for him, Capriles has shifted course, now demanding access to the electoral registry and fingerprint records. In light of this news, some have attempted seriously painful logical gymnastics in order to make Capriles’ arguments seem plausible. Writing for Foreign Policy, for example, blogger Juan Nagel asks “Does Henrique Capriles actually have a case to cry fraud?” But Nagel does not seem interested in actually examining the question; his mind seems already to have been made up. Shortly after noting that,

Voters identify themselves at polling centers by showing their government-issued ID card and scanning their fingerprints. The scanner then (supposedly) verifies the identity of the voter, and if it passes, unlocks a machine the voter uses to cast her vote.

Nagel writes:

One has to wonder: How could chavistas get away with this? The explanation, according to Capriles, lies in the fingerprint scanning machines. According to him, these machines allow anyone to vote, regardless of whether the fingerprint matches the records. [Emphasis added.]

But as election monitors who witnessed voting in the April 14 election described to us, the process is more fool-proof than Nagel summarizes. As noted in our April 14 live blog:

People must show identification, their serial number is then entered into a digital device and their photo comes up, then they give a thumb print to verify their identity again.

Rather than just “anyone” being allowed to vote, government ID is required, and the voter’s identity is verified. The voter then enters her/his finger print as a second check against fraud.

Despite the lack of evidence of fraud, or any plausible explanation for how the election could have been stolen in spite of the integrity of the Venezuelan electoral system, press reports and commentary continue to treat Capriles’ claims seriously. This stands in contrast to the foreign media’s treatment of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s cry of “fraud” following the 2006 election in which Felipe Calderon was declared the winner. “An Anti-Democracy Campaign; Mexico’s presidential loser takes a lesson from Joseph Stalin,” ran a Washington Post editorial headline. The Times of London declared him “Mexico’s bad loser: A demagogue prepared to hold the nation to ransom,” while the Toronto Globe and Mail called him “Mexico’s sore loser.” So far at least, no major U.S., British or Canadian paper has labeled Capriles a “sore loser” and the Washington Post has yet to compare him to Stalin.

The double standard between media treatment of the left-leaning López Obrador and the right-wing Capriles is even more striking considering that López Obrador led in the polls up until the vote. López Obrador and his supporters were understandably surprised when the official results declared Calderon to be the winner. Capriles, on the other hand, always trailed Maduro in the polls; the surprise on April 14 was not that he lost, but that he came as close to winning as he did.

More importantly, in the 2006 Mexican election there were “adding up” errors in nearly half the ballot boxes – i.e. the leftover blank ballots plus the voted (including spoiled) ballots didn’t add up to the blank ballots with which the ballot box location started out. The results were announced with millions of votes still uncounted, and there was a considerable lack of transparency – including a refusal by electoral authorities to release the results of a partial recount. Journalists covering the Mexican election at the time should have demanded answers from the authorities and commentators should have treated López Obrador’s complaints very seriously, since there really was no way to tell who had won that election. The burden of proof in Venezuela, however, should be on Capriles to explain exactly how the election could conceivably have been stolen.

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Margaret Thatcher Finally Dead

Iron Lady, Rust In Hell

Workers Vanguard

As everyone here will be only too well aware, it was Margaret Thatcher’s funeral today: a publicly funded, pomp-filled ceremonious insult to working people in this country and beyond. Anyone close to central London was subjected to a salute to Thatcher by artillery used in the Falklands in 1982, in her dirty little war against Argentina’s Galtieri dictatorship over windswept rocks in the South Atlantic. In that conflict, Thatcher earned the title “Butcher of the Belgrano” for a war crime: She ordered the sinking of the Argentine battleship General Belgrano outside Britain’s own declared war zone, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of young Argentine conscripts.

The death of nobody but Thatcher could be celebrated by such a huge swath of the population in this country. Just look at the “death parties,” as the bourgeois press termed them with horror, in Glasgow, Bristol, Brixton and Trafalgar Square. Think of the toasts raised in the pubs of former mining and industrial areas across northern England, Wales and Scotland and in the Catholic areas of Northern Ireland. Surely the outburst of jokes makes some new record, from “Thatcher’s only been in hell half an hour and she’s already closed down three furnaces” to the Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle’s “I was all for a lavishly funded public cremation for Thatcher. Right up until she died.” Government officials sniffed that the celebrations are “puerile” and grumbled that some of the participants are too young to remember Thatcher. So what? They know she’s a big part of the reason there’s no education, no jobs, no future for them. Capturing Thatcher’s disdain for everything outside of that citadel of finance capital, the City of London, her biographer, Charles Moore, told Radio 5 that Thatcher was “reviled in parts of the country that are less important.”

Reformists point to British society today as proof that Thatcherism didn’t work: the devastation of the manufacturing base, insufficient and unaffordable housing, generations of unemployed and financial deregulation for the City. Well, Thatcherism did work for the capitalist class. This is why Thatcher is so celebrated, not only by the bourgeoisie’s Conservative (Tory) Party but also by Labour Party leaders: Opposition leader Ed Miliband professed to “greatly respect her political achievements” while Tony Blair offered this “towering political figure” his sincerest form of flattery, noting that his own government retained “some of the changes she made in Britain.”

Distancing himself from New Labour’s fawning, maverick Member of Parliament George Galloway objected to “spending £10 million on the canonisation of this wicked woman,” complaining: “The comparison of Margaret Thatcher with Mr. Churchill is utterly absurd. We’d be conducting this conversation in German if it was not for Mr. Churchill.” Galloway’s admiration for Churchill, a colonialist pig who engineered the starvation of millions of Bengalis during World War II, is based on the myth that WWII was a war for “democracy” against fascism. In fact, Churchill was defending the interests of British imperialism against its rivals, particularly Germany. Fundamentally it was the Soviet Red Army that smashed Hitler’s military.

The capitalist media talk about how, before Thatcher came into office, Britain was “the sick man of Europe,” crippled by strike waves and outdated industry. In fact, British industry had been in decline relative to its imperialist competitors such as the U.S. and Germany since the late 19th century. This was exacerbated by the loss of Britain’s empire and near-bankruptcy following World War II. The bourgeoisie needed to increase their competitiveness on the world market, that is, to ratchet up the rate of exploitation of the working class. In the 1960s and ’70s, the Labour governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan tried to do this by cutting deals with the union tops over beer and sandwiches, through wage controls, strike ballots and a ban on secondary picketing, and when that failed by mobilising the police and army against striking workers.

During this period, miners, railwaymen, dockers and others waged strikes that shook the country, led by a powerful and militant shop stewards movement. However, while trade-union militancy was able to frustrate the capitalist system, it could not resolve the underlying conflict. There were two alternatives in the long term: either the bourgeoisie would be dealt with by workers revolution or the workers would be dealt with by the bourgeoisie. As it happened, the class struggle was derailed into electing a Labour government. When Callaghan’s Labour government proved unable to deliver for them, the bourgeoisie turned to Thatcher.

Anti-Union, Anti-Soviet Crusader for the Bourgeoisie

By 1990, after eleven bitter years of confrontation, Thatcher would be ousted by her own party as protests against the poll tax swept the country. In Scotland, where the tax was first tested out, Thatcher was so unpopular that the Tories’ fortunes have never recovered. So it’s no surprise that in the 1979 election, the Economist noted that Callaghan stood on a “platform of middle-ground conservatism” but Thatcher was dangerously radical and confrontationist. The Economist came out for Thatcher anyway, for offering the best hope to revive the economy. The bourgeoisie gambled that the unions did not have a leadership to match Thatcher in hard class war, and that gamble paid off.

The coal miners strike of 1984-85 was the defining event of Thatcher’s rule. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) represented the most powerful and militant section of the working class. They had brought down Edward Heath’s Conservative government in 1974, and Thatcher was out for revenge. She decided to destroy the NUM in order to bring the trade-union movement to heel, and she destroyed the mining industry to smash the NUM.

Thatcher’s victory over the miners was not inevitable. The miners fought heroically against fierce state repression for 12 months. Their strike was supported by broad sections of the working class—there were plenty of examples of dockers and railway workers refusing to touch scab coal. But Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock obscenely echoed Thatcher, denouncing miners for “violence” on the picket lines against the strikebreaking cops. The leaders of some unions openly scabherded, while the “left” union leaders mouthed fine words but curbed the workers’ militancy. In the final analysis, it was not the capitalist state that defeated the miners but the fifth column in the workers movement, including the left-talking leaders of the dockers union, who sent their striking members back to work twice during the miners strike.

We called on all unions to refuse to handle scab coal and for a fighting triple alliance of miners, dockers and railway workers to strike together. This would have amounted to a general strike, posing the question: who was going to start things up again? Which class would rule? It was this perspective the reformist Labour politicians and trade-union bureaucrats hated and feared above all. As our paper Workers Hammer (No. 67, March 1985) put it after the defeat of the strike:

“The NUM leadership under Arthur Scargill took this strike about as far as it could go within a perspective of militant trade union reformism, and still it lost. Why? Because militancy alone is not enough. From day one it was clear that the NUM was up against the full power of the capitalist state. What was needed was a party of revolutionary activists rooted in the trade unions which fought tooth and nail to mobilise other unions in strike action alongside the NUM. But all Arthur Scargill had was the Labour Party, and it would rather see the NUM dead than organise to take on the bosses’ state in struggle.”

In 1983, on the eve of the miners strike, Scargill was witchhunted by the misleaders of the Trades Union Congress, aided by Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party, for telling the truth that imperialist-funded “free trade union” Solidarność in Poland was anti-socialist. The failure of any delegate to defend him signalled to Thatcher that Scargill was isolated and she could launch her attack. For Thatcher, the miners and other militant workers represented “the enemy within” while the Soviet Union and East European deformed workers states were the ultimate “enemy without.” Polish Solidarność had a programme for capitalist counterrevolution. This is why, apart from the Union of Democratic Mineworkers who scabbed on the miners strike, it was the only “trade union” Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan ever liked.

Those trade-union bureaucrats who were the most anti-Soviet were also the most hostile to the miners strike. And the anti-Communist “socialists” like the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), whose devotion to capitalist “democracy” led them to support Solidarność, were far to the right of the majority of striking miners. The SWP had members in the steel plants who crossed miners’ picket lines. When we exposed this at a public meeting, their founder-leader Tony Cliff bragged about how many and where! Workers Power and (retrospectively) the Socialist Party supported the scab ballot Thatcher and Kinnock were trying to force on the NUM, with workers already on strike supposed to hold a strike vote. The miners had voted with their feet; their weapon was not the bourgeoisie’s strike laws but the picket line!

As for Lech Walesa, the leader of Solidarność, during the strike he took a stand on behalf of his imperialist patrons, praising Thatcher as a “wise and brave woman” in the Sunday Mirror under the headline “Why Scargill Is Wrong—by Lech.” Walesa came to Thatcher’s funeral to pay homage with other Cold Warriors like Henry Kissinger. (Scargill, on the other hand, was laying low, reportedly responding laconically to a friend’s text of the news “Thatcher dead”: “Scargill alive.”)

Baroness Bigot

During the miners strike, you saw how various minorities got behind the miners. They saw a powerful working-class struggle taking on their common oppressor: the Thatcher government and her brutal cops. Blacks, Asians, gays, Irish Republicans and Catholics championed the miners and gave them material assistance. In turn, the miners came to the defence of oppressed minorities, championing their cause even after the strike: participating in gay rights marches, for example. The miners were predominantly white and from rural areas, but the strike radicalised them. Many miners would say that before the strike they never knew what it was like to be black or Asian, or to be Catholic in Northern Ireland. After they had been on the receiving end of the cops’ violence, they could relate to that oppression.

The miners strike also impacted broader layers of the working class. In 1984, when the IRA set off a bomb at the Tory conference, a common joke was that the culprits should be shot because they missed Thatcher. A worker at a car plant in Birmingham quipped that the police had better get started rounding up suspects because there were 50 million of them. Ten years earlier, Irish workers had been physically driven out of this same plant after the criminal bombing of two city centre pubs was attributed to the IRA. During the strike, in the Catholic areas of Northern Ireland banners went up: “Victory to the Miners!” Large collections of food and money were taken up in Dublin. Irish trade unionists said they were repaying the miners for the support British workers gave them during the Dublin Lockout of 1913.

Thatcher personified the bourgeois onslaught against the working class and the oppressed overall. In 1981, Thatcher saw Bobby Sands and nine other Irish Republican hunger strikers die grisly deaths rather than discuss their demand to be treated as political prisoners. As support grew around the world for the men’s heroic struggle, Thatcher intoned: “Crime is crime is crime. It is not political.” Under Thatcher, British armed forces colluded with Loyalist death squads in the murder of Northern Irish Catholics, including Pat Finucane, a solicitor who defended Republican prisoners. As Labour’s Peter Mandelson recalls, when he became Northern Ireland Secretary in 1999 she advised him: “You can’t trust the Irish, they are all liars.”

Under Thatcher, the black and Asian youth whose parents had come to Britain in times of labour shortages were treated as a surplus population, left to rot in areas deprived of resources. They were at the mercy of racist cops that she spurred on. The Brixton police riots of 1981 and 1985 are hallmarks of the Thatcher years, when blacks who tried to protest police brutality were attacked by police and denounced by Thatcher as “criminal, criminal.”

Among the more nauseating claims about Thatcher is that by triumphing in the male-dominated world of bourgeois politics she struck a blow for women’s equality. Thatcher was a dedicated enemy of women’s liberation. She attacked single mothers and unashamedly campaigned to restore Victorian values. She openly maligned gays and managed to enact Section 28, the first anti-gay legislation in over 100 years, which prevented the “promotion” of homosexuality by school and local authorities. Moreover, the triumph of movements she supported internationally—such as the reactionary mujahedin in Afghanistan and capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and East Europe—came at the cost of women in particular.

Thatcher spearheaded the British capitalists’ reactionary campaigns. But some credit for the dismal situation of the trade unions in Britain today must be given to the “old Labour” misleaders who isolated struggles, disarmed militant workers and supported the drive for capitalist counterrevolution in the East. When asked what her greatest achievement was, Thatcher reportedly answered “Tony Blair and New Labour.” And under Tony Blair the Labour Party earned its claim to the Iron Lady’s legacy, trampling on the working class and gutting social services. Working people need a party that will fight for our own class interests, a workers party committed to sweeping away the bankrupt capitalist system. But we’ll take what comfort this deeply unjust world has to offer. Eighty-seven years old, her last days spent in a suite at the Ritz: it’s not exactly Mussolini’s end. Nevertheless, we are glad to see the last of this exceptionally vile representative of the capitalist class, and finally be able to “tramp the dirt down.” 

Assata Shakur is a Hero, not a Terrorist

Eugene Puryear

On May 2, the Federal Bureau of Investigation suddenly announced that they had placed Assata Shakur on its “Most Wanted Terrorists” list, making her the first woman to be so designated. The state of New Jersey also raised the bounty on her head to $2 million. These government actions came on the 40th anniversary of the shoot-out in which police allege that Shakur killed an officer.

It is clear that these are the vindictive attempts of the Empire still outraged that a rebel could escape, survive outside its reach, and continue to expose its long history of exploitation and oppression. The recent provocations are part of a long-term smear campaign by the U.S. government to erase her revolutionary legacy.

The FBI’s accusations target Shakur as an individual, but the labeling of her as a terrorist is an attack on all revolutionaries.

Shakur has been living in exile in Cuba for the last 29 years. So what changed in the recent days and weeks to now put her on the “Most Wanted Terrorists” list? The FBI presented no evidence against her and revealed no terrorist plots. Assata’s real crime, FBI spokesman Aaron Ford said, was that from Cuba she continues to “maintain and promote her … ideology” and “provides anti-U.S. government speeches espousing the Black Liberation Army message”—an ideology and message that the U.S. government has declared “terrorism.”

In other words, President Obama’s and Eric Holder’s FBI is charging Shakur with a political crime, the advocacy of revolutionary politics and Black liberation as “terroristic” and “criminal.” According to the outrageous “War on Terror” legal doctrines currently employed in Washington, she could be targeted for assassination. In addition, the designation of Shakur as a terrorist helps them justify the targeting of socialist Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

The defense of Assata Shakur is therefore part and parcel of a general defense of the right to espouse revolutionary politics, of Black liberation and of free speech more generally.

‘I wanted a name that had something to do with struggle’

Assata Shakur was born JoAnne Chesimard, and her change in name was reflective of her desire to fully identify with the revolutionary struggles of her African heritage. Assata means “she who struggles,” her middle name Olugbala means “love for the people,“ and her last name Shakur was taken in honor of her comrade Zayd Shakur.

It is no surprise that the U.S. government now seeks to further criminalize Shakur. In fact, it is just the latest extension of the government’s counter-revolutionary COINTELPRO initiative waged against the Black liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, the U.S. government was so fearful of the growth of revolutionary movements that J. Edgar Hoover even declared the Black Panther Party, of which Shakur was a member, the “greatest internal threat” facing the ruling class. It used a wide range of tactics, all the way up to assassinations of leaders, to disrupt this radical movement.

It must be recalled that the government described much of the political activity of the era—in the anti-war movement, the Black freedom movement, the fight for independence of Puerto Rico, and solidarity with revolutionary Cuba, among others struggles—as explicitly criminal.

Of course, while they were locking up and killing activists and revolutionaries within the country, the U.S. government was engaged in a wide-ranging brutal and murderous campaign in Southeast Asia. They were dealing cosmetically with the terrible conditions of poverty and class oppression inside the United States, while deploying troops to suppress growing rebellions among oppressed Black, Latino and Native peoples. They were launching coups in multiple nations. They were attempting—and sometimes succeeding—in assassinating revolutionary leaders. They were backing apartheid and Portuguese colonialism in Africa.

When Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that the U.S. government was the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” he laid bare the essence of the “American Century.”

It was in this world context, which in its core features is unchanged today, that Assata Shakur grew up. Millions took part in the growing movements against the injustices of the U.S. government and Shakur was one of those millions. As a college student, Shakur did not use her degree as an “escape valve” to distance herself from the mass of poor, oppressed and exploited people. Instead, she joined—body and soul—in the fight for their collective liberation.

Out of the mass movement in the United States, a wing emerged that advocated for various forms of armed struggle as a way to expedite the revolutionary movement and give solidarity to peoples of the Third World. Assata was part of this trend—and she and her comrades were targeted for severe repression, often framed and incarcerated under false pretenses.

Assata Shakur is not guilty

Shakur was falsely convicted of having killed an officer on May 2, 1973. While driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, Assata, Zayd Shakur, and Sundiata Acoli were stopped by state troopers, allegedly for having a “faulty taillight.” A shootout ensued where one state trooper killed Zayd Shakur, and another trooper, Werner Foerster, ended up dead. Shakur was charged with both murders, despite the fact that the other trooper, James Harper, admitted he killed Zayd Shakur.

Assata had been, following police instructions, standing with her hands in the air, when she was shot by Trooper Harper more than once, including a bullet to the back. Trooper Harper lied and said he had seen Shakur reach for a gun, a claim he later recanted. He also claimed she had been in a firing position, something a surgeon who examined her said was “anatomically impossible.” The same surgeon said it was “anatomically necessary” for her arms to have been raised for her to receive the bullet wounds she did. Tests done by the police found that Shakur had not fired a gun, and no physical or medical evidence was presented by the prosecution to back up their claim that she had fired a gun at Trooper Harper.

While she was in trial proceedings, the state attempted to pin six other serious crimes on her, alleging she had carried out bank robberies, kidnappings and attempted killings. She was acquitted three times, two were dismissed and one resulted in a hung jury.

Shukur was put on trial in a county where because of pre-trial publicity 70 percent of people thought she was guilty, and she was judged by an all-white jury. Without any physical evidence to present, the prosecution had to rely totally on false statements and innuendo aimed at playing on the prejudices of the jury pool against Black people, political radicals, and Black revolutionaries in particular. Finally, after years behind bars, the state secured her conviction for the Turnpike shooting.

Terrorism double-standard and potential of assassination

Being placed on this Most Wanted Terrorist list means that hypothetically Shakur could be targeted for assassination. The legal white paper released by the Obama administration around the confirmation of CIA Director John Brennan stated that the United States would pay no attention to another nation’s sovereignty in choosing targets who they deem to be “terrorists.” The massive expansion of the security powers and the methods used in the “War on Terror” are being fashioned to target revolutionary militants.

Placing Shakur on the Most Wanted Terrorists list is also a significant attack on Cuba. On May 1, 2013, the United States refused to remove Cuba from the “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list. The next day, Assata became a “Most Wanted Terrorist.” By claiming that Cuba supports “terrorism” and is harboring a “terrorist,” the government provides itself with a pretext to continue the illegal blockade of Cuba and starve the revolution of trade.

Further, the United States does absolutely nothing to apprehend, convict or punish in any way the violent anti-Cuba groups who routinely and openly boast from U.S. soil of planning terrorist attacks on Cuba. Despite having killed thousands of Cubans, none of these organizations or individuals have ever been placed on America’s list of “Most Wanted Terrorists.”

For instance, Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative who currently walks free in Miami, publicly admitted to The New York Times that he had engaged in a campaign of fatal hotel bombings in Cuba. In 1976, Posada was a key figure in the bombing of a Cuban airliner where 73 people perished. In 2000, Posada was caught attempting to set up a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro as he spoke to university students in Panama. If successful, the attack would have killed hundreds.

Threat to political prisoner solidarity work

Ominously, by criminalizing Assata Shakur, the government has also taken a step towards criminalizing the broader movement in support of political prisoners. Many political prisoners in this country have also been alleged to be members of the Black Liberation Army. If Shakur is a terrorist simply for giving speeches in support of the BLA, what about those convicted of crimes alleged to have taken place while they were members? Will political prisoner support groups now be targeted as “supporters of terrorism” or “terrorists” themselves?

The new attacks on Shakur aim to have a chilling effect on those who seek to express their support for political prisoners. This is especially true when one considers that drone strikes and indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay are the typical U.S. responses to those accused of terrorism.

The placement of Assata Shakur on the Most Wanted Terrorist list is another example that the U.S. government, and the capitalist class it represents, will go to any length to intimidate, repress and defeat potential threats.

Because Shakur remains a symbol of resistance, and is unrepentant in her politics, the government will never stop their attempts to smear, kidnap or kill her. But millions of people know the truth. Her legacy cannot be whitewashed or dismissed; it cannot be distorted. So even though she is in Cuba, the government remains afraid of her example. They know that while decades have passed, the conditions still exist to give birth to a million Assata Shakurs.

Cuba’s Impeccable Human Rights Record

“Few Governments Have Done as Much For Their People as Cuba”

Granma Internacional

The Cuban Foreign Affairs Ministry submitted, on April 23, its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the United Nations Human Rights Council, to be reviewed by the UN on May 1 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The document reports on the situation in Cuba, its legal framework and the human rights programs available for the benefit of all. At its center are the recommendations accepted by Cuba in 2009, in the first round of the UPR, a process with which all 193 UN member states are required to comply, according to Vice Minister Abelardo Moreno.

Many state, government and civil organizations contributed in drafting the report, Moreno added during a videoconference with Geneva, also attended by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelino Medina, and representatives from the diplomatic delegation which will present the report before the UN.

“The main violation of human rights in Cuba is the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the United States, which is an act of genocide,” expressed the Deputy Minister. However, he said, the country has succeeded in fulfilling a large number of Millennium Development Goals and scores highly in terms of human development.

“Few governments have done so much for their people as Cuba, since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, despite enormous obstacles,” he added after condemning the media campaigns which ignore or distort the country’s achievements, causing a negative impact on the Human Rights Council. Moreno also criticized terrorism promoted, organized and led by the United States, the recruiting of agents who attempt to destroy the Cuban constitutional system, acting contrary to the people’s right to self-determination, national security and integrity.

The Cuban UPR report, which was distributed to the press, highlights many achievements including in the areas of education, health, culture, sports, food, social security, religious freedom, treatment of prisoners, and gender equality.

***

Granma Internacional

Cuba is honored to present its second National Report to the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism. It does so proud of its humanistic work and its achievements in guaranteeing the exercise of all human rights for all its citizens.

The economic, political and media blockade imposed by the United States, which Cuba has resisted, undefeated, for more than 50 years, is a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights which provokes damage, shortages and suffering, but it has not detained the country’s equal opportunities, equity in the distribution of wealth, or social justice.

Persistent efforts on the part of the United States to impose a “regime change” on Cuba are a serious violation of the nation’s right to self-determination. These efforts have been unable to prevent the active, democratic and direct participation of its citizens in the construction of constitutional order, in government decisions and in the election of its authorities.

Before this Council is a country without homeless persons or people deprived of dignity, in which no child lacks an education of quality, the sick enjoy sterling medical attention and the elderly social protection. A nation in which the rights of workers, farmers, intellectuals and students are protected by law. A country with citizens’ security, without organized crime, or drugs. Before this Council is a united people, with profound social cohesion. A state in which no one has been executed without trial, tortured or disappeared, and there are no kidnappings or secret prisons.

This exercise coincides with International Workers’ Day, joyfully celebrated in Cuba’s plazas and streets by millions of compatriots and hundreds of friends from all over the world. They do so as free women and men, in defense of rights that have been won. They are not masses of justly angry people, workers on strike, students besieged by education costs and debt, immigrants persecuted by self-interest, racism and xenophobia. We offer our solidarity to all those fighting – everywhere on the planet – for human rights for all, for peace, for development, for the survival of humanity, threatened by colossal military arsenals and climate change.

Mr. President:

This report is the result of a wide-ranging and participative consultation process which involved countless government institutions, Parliament, civil society organizations and other relevant institutions.

The follow up on the recommendations accepted in the first UPR cycle was the principal objective of the work of the National Group, which coordinated the process and prepared the report.

From Cuba’s first presentation to this mechanism in 2009 through today, significant changes have taken place in the economy and society. Advances have been made in the institutional perfection process, greater citizens’ participation and control as a fundamental aspect of our democracy, and the undertaking to achieve sustainable development with social justice has been maintained.

Cuba remains committed to its irrevocable decision to advance its socialist, national, original, democratic and freely participative socialist development.

We did not come here to present a completed task, nor do we pretend that the Cuban socialist model should be considered for anyone or everyone. Nor do we accept that there is a unique or universal model of democracy, and far less the imposition of the political system of Western industrialized countries which have entered into crisis. We likewise reject the political manipulation, hypocrisy and double standards frequently present in the debate on human rights issues.

Mr. President:

One of the most significant events since the previous session is the adoption by the National Assembly of People’s Power of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines, which constitute a body of decisions essential to the updating of the Cuban economic and social model and a government program.

The guidelines were adopted after an extremely wide-ranging popular debate in which millions of Cuban women and men formulated, with total freedom, more than 400,000 amendments modifying two thirds of the draft document, and voted on each one of its 12 chapters. This was a unique experience of citizens’ direct popular consultation in order to reach consensus on government economic, monetary and social policies, in con junction with measures to overcome the effects of the global economic crisis and problems of the Cuban economy without neoliberal austerity formulas, without saving banks at the cost of unjust social cuts.

Cuba has continued strengthening the democratic nature of its institutionality with laws, policies and programs of a popular and participative nature, in accordance with the people’s aspirations.

New regulations have been adopted to expand the legislative base of human rights, such as those related to social security, housing, employment and exclusively self-employed work, the granting of land in usufruct, among others. In parallel, advances are being made in perfecting and updating the country’s legal system, by implementing a number of modifications responding to the needs of Cuban society and the highest international standards in this context.

Outstanding among these amendments is the Migration and Travel Act, which has had a notable impact and has benefited the Cuban nation’s relations with its émigré community, despite constant manipulation of the migration issue.

Mr. President:

The legal system for the protection of human rights in Cuba is not confined to their constitutional drafting. The system is duly developed and implemented in other substantive, procedural regulations, in accordance with rights recognized in the Universal Declaration and other international human rights instruments.

Cuba has made significant advances in the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. Education has is universally accessible and is free of charge at all levels of teaching.

Through its various programs, the Cuban state guarantees every girl, boy and young adult the possibility and right to study within the National Education System and to continue in their education as far as their aptitudes and efforts allow them, with equality of opportunity. The First Vice President of the Council of State and Ministers was invested with the responsibility to protect and supervise children’s rights.

The right to education is assured for every child and young adult with any kind of mental or physical disability through the Special Education Program, in cases where the full integration of differently-abled children in general educational institutions is not possible. Attention is given to these children throughout the country in different forms and at all levels of teaching.

In the most recent UNESCO World Report on the follow-up of Education for All (2012), Cuba appears in 16th place, given its educational development indices. UNESCO recognized Cuba as the Latin American and Caribbean country to direct the highest proportion of its national budget to education.

Under the Martí doctrine of “being educated in order to be free,” Cuba is outstanding in terms of its cultural development, its population’s full access to art and literature, for the preservation and defense of our culture and the enrichment of our spiritual values.

Cuba is equally recognized for its outstanding results and the high quality of its public health system, with universal coverage and free medical attention. With an infant mortality rate of 4.6 per 1,000 live births, Cuba has established indicators higher than those of many industrialized countries. With one doctor for every 137 inhabitants, Cuba is – according to the World Health Organization – the most endowed nation in this sector.

From 2009 through 2011, 19,371 mothers of children with severe disabilities received social security protection, thus giving them the possibility of personally caring for their children.

Attention to older adults is a priority and for that reason, multidisciplinary and cross-sector work is underway to guarantee quality of life for this growing population sector. Life expectancy at birth stands at an average of 78 years. In the next decade, more than 87% of Cubans will have exceeded 60 years of age.

Rights to life, freedom and personal security are sustained by the principle of respect for human dignity and constitute pillars in the conduct of Cuban authorities and the functioning of the entire society.

The five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters who are enduring unjust and long prison terms in the United States lack protection. They were tried without guarantees of due process, in an atmosphere of revenge and hatred, under a slanderous press campaign paid for by the District Attorney’s Office, subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, impediments to their legal defense, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and a number of them have been deprived of visits from their families.

We are deeply concerned at the legal impasse which is sustaining the permanent and atrocious violation of human rights occurring on the illegal Guantánamo Naval Base, Cuban territory usurped by the United States, a center of torture and deaths in custody, where 166 detainees have been held for 10 years, without guarantees, a trial or defense. Currently, 100 of them are on hunger strike, with 17 of these, whose lives are in danger, being force fed through tubes. This prison and military base must be closed and this territory returned to Cuba.

Cuba recognizes, respects and guarantees religious freedoms without discrimination of any kind.

Approximately 400 religions and religious institutions exist in the country.

The freedoms of opinion, expression, access to information and the press are recognized for all citizens. The high educational and cultural level of the people; the social and public nature of communications media; the inexistence of giant for-profit media corporations which in other places impose economic and political interests; the absence of generally stultifying commercial publicity; and the exercise of popular power, all facilitate the material conditions which allow for the enjoyment of these freedoms.

The right to truthful information, free of charge, should be guaranteed by the state. The democratization of internet, the transference of resources and technology appropriate for social communication, is an urgent need. The technological and content monopoly; the political and military use of networks; linguistic and cultural discrimination must be ended. The digital gap must be closed.

The blockade prevents Cuba from connecting to nearby underwater cables, making services more expensive and access for the population more difficult. It prohibits international providers from supplying Cuba with services, software and technology. Our country is denied, for example, diverse Google services and access to international digital platforms.

Between 2010 and 2013, the United States has, as well, allocated 191.7 million dollars to finance organizations, paid agents, the subversive use of information technology and illegal radio and television broadcasts promoting regime change in Cuba. Additionally, millions more are channeled through special services and private groups. Some U.S. allies participate in this effort.

Mr. President:

In Cuba, equality and non-discriminatory policies are fully guaranteed. Advances in terms of gender equality are outstanding. The Cuban government continues to implement numerous laws, policies and programs directed toward reaffirming these.

The percentage of Cuban women in the National Assembly of People’s Power, our Parliament, has reached 48.86%. Cuba occupies second place on a world scale in terms of the percentage of female parliamentarians. For the first time, two women are now Council of State Vice Presidents, and women constitute 41.9% of this body. A third of our ministries are headed by women.

Institutional racism has been eradicated, ample opportunities for development and concrete benefits are provided for less favored sectors, and we are struggling to assure complete, effective equality of opportunity to sectors historically marginalized and to dysfunctional families. Not yet overcome are certain racial prejudices and stereotypes surviving from slavery during our colonial past and a neocolonial regime which institutionalized racism and racial segregation.

Complementary to government efforts and full protection under the law, a decision was made to assign a Council of State Vice President the task of following up on and supervising the struggle against racism and racial discrimination.

We are proud of our African heritage. We share, in a disinterested fashion, the fate of our African brothers and sisters in their battle against colonialism and apartheid.

Another area in which sustained progress is being made is the struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The National Sexual Education Program has incorporated an ongoing educational strategy promoting respect for all sexual orientations and gender identities, establishing multiple opportunities for exchange based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

In relation to the promotion and protection of the rights of disabled persons, we have assured that the majority are able to access education and join the workforce. Support is offered in diverse arenas of social activity.

Mr. President:

Cuba’s penitentiary system is based on the principle of human betterment. Cuba fulfils all precepts of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and prioritizes a preventative focus through a number of social programs, among them those directed toward converting prisons into educational centers.

All inmates are guaranteed medical and dental attention free of charge, under the same conditions as the rest of Cuba’s population. They receive a wage commensurate with the work they perform.

In Cuba, 27,000,095 inmates, approximately half of the total, are studying at different levels in every penal institution in the country. Many of them are additionally learning a trade. This educational system has supported inmates’ reintegration into society and the workforce.

Mr. President:

Despite shortages and difficulties, in a disinterested fashion, our people have shared and share what we have with other nations, offering solidarity to contribute to the realization of human rights of other peoples around the world.

Since 2004, tens of thousands of citizens have regained their sight through Operation Miracle and 2.4 million ophthalmologic surgeries have been performed in 34 Latin American, Caribbean and African countries.

Since 2005, the (Henry Reeve) International Contingent of Doctors Specializing in Disaster and Serious Epidemic Situations has offered medical assistance to more than three million affected persons.

Cooperation with Haiti, a sister Caribbean country in need of resources for reconstruction and development, has been maintained. More than 12,000 Cuban collaborators have worked there.

Beginning in 2004, cooperation has expanded in literacy learning and development through the Cuban programs Yes, I can (UNESCO King Sejong Prize), I can read and write now and Yes, I can do more. As of November, 2012, 6.9 million people had completed the basic Yes I can literacy program and 976,000 had completed Yes, I can do more.

Mr. President:

Cuba maintains a high level of cooperation and interaction within procedures and structures established by the United Nations in terms of human rights, which are universally applicable, on a non-discriminatory basis.

We have always demonstrated out unequivocal openness to dialogue on all issues, with all states, on the basis of mutual respect, sovereign equality and recognition of the right to self-determination.

Cuba has established a positive dialogue with bodies created in accordance with international treaties in the area of human rights.

Since 2009, five National Reports have been prepared; three of which have been presented before the respective committees. Currently in the final stages of revision are Cuba’s Initial Report in accordance with the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of Children in relation to the sale of children, child prostitution and the use of children in pornography; as well as our Initial Report in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons.

Cuba is a signatory to 42 international human rights treaties and has complied with all of their stipulations. Other human rights instruments, including two Pacts, are being studied by relevant authorities.

Our country maintains cooperative relations with diverse humanitarian and human rights organizations throughout the world, both within our own territory and in the development of collaborative missions internationally.

Mr. President:

We are open to constructive, respectful dialogue which adheres to the facts. We will provide necessary information and clarifications.

Thank you very much.

China and Africa: The West Just Doesn’t Get It

New Worker

China has been investing heavily in Africa over the last few years but has not been telling the West much about the details — giving rise to all sorts of speculation about China’s motives, claims of unfair secrecy and Chinese ambitions to grab control of supplies of vital raw materials.

So United States researchers have been beavering away to build up a big public database of Chinese development in Africa, giving details of 1,700 projects in 50 countries since 2000. These researchers, from AidData at the College of William and Mary, have spent 18 months creating their database. They have been looking to discover any underhanded practices by the Chinese; they are certainly not pro-Chinese propagandists.

They found that China’s financial commitments in Africa are much larger than previously thought. China has committed $75 billion (£48 billion) on aid and development projects in Africa in the past decade, according to research which reveals the scale of what some have called Beijing’s escalating soft power “charm offensive to secure political and economic clout on the continent.”

This is still less than the $90 billion the US has spent in “aid” to Africa but is likely to be more useful to Africans because it does not include strings linked to privatisation of public utilities or the funding of mercenaries to destabilise governments it does not like.

They found that China is still keeping to the Eight Principles of Chinese aid that date from 1964:

1. Equality and mutual benefit form the basis of Chinese aid;

2. China respects sovereignty, never attaches conditions or asks for privileges;

3. China helps lighten the burden with interest-free or low-interest loans and by extending repayment terms when necessary;

4. The purpose of aid is to help countries become self-reliant;

5. Projects that require less investment but yield quicker results are favoured;

6. China provides quality equipment and materials manufactured in China at international market prices;

7. China will help recipient countries master the techniques of any technical assistance;

8. Chinese experts will have the same standard of living as those of the recipient country and are not allowed to make special demands.

The data obtained by this American research challenges western capitalist assumptions —Beijing’s unrelenting quest for natural resources.

There are few mining projects in the database and, while transport, storage and energy initiatives account for some of the largest sums, the data also reveals how China has put hundreds of millions of dollars towards health, education and cultural projects.

In Liberia, China has put millions towards the installation of solar traffic lights in Monrovia and financed a malaria prevention centre. In Mozambique, China’s projects include a National School for Visual Arts in Maputo. In Algeria, construction has begun on a multimillion dollar 1,400-seat opera house in the Ouled Fayet suburbs of western Algiers.

China has also sent thousands of doctors and teachers to work in Africa, welcomed many more students to learn in China or in Chinese language classes abroad and rolled out a continent-wide network of sports stadiums and concert halls.

Western analysts are going crazy trying to work out China’s motives and why it is doing so much that does not seem to bring in any direct profit. Western propagandists are forever cynically proclaiming human rights and humanitarianism while impoverishing and oppressing millions in the Third World.

They cannot grasp that these “sinister Orientals” have a better grasp of human rights — that, as Stalin said, “free speech” and “voting rights” are a poor joke to someone who has no job, no home and no idea where the next meal is coming from.

In other words, in spite of their successes in economic growth using capitalist methods, the Chinese state still retains working class, communist values and their humanitarianism is not a cynical pretence.