Wednesday, 28 June 2017


Fidel Castro passed away last November and we have the 50th anniversary of Che Guevara’s death coming up on the 9th of October. However a very significant anniversary has gone unheralded. The 6th of October 2016 was the 40th anniversary of the downing of Cubana Flight 455 in the Caribbean. The flight was on its way from Barbados to Jamaica. 73 persons lost their lives when two bombs exploded on board. 57 Cubans were on board. Among the dead were all 24 members of the 1975 national Cuban fencing team that had just won all the gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean championships; many were teenagers.
The tragedy is on a list of 37 terrorist attacks on planes on Wikipedia. It may well now be one of many but it is not forgotten in Cuba. School children re-enact the crash for foreign visitors and once you see that re-enactment you understand why it is seared into the national consciousness. Cuba is convinced that the explosions were CIA sponsored.

The Wikipedia entry on the incident makes interesting reading. CIA operatives are clearly implicated in the article. From the Bay of Pigs to the many attempts on Fidel Castro’s life, Cubans are familiar with the ways of the CIA. It’s hard to believe that a country that has been under such consistent attack from the CIA will now change its ways and fall into step with the capitalist world. Why would it? As Fidel said: They talk about the failure of socialism but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America?

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Dear Donald Trump: A letter from Cuba

Friendship has always existed between the people of Cuba and the US. We want to build bridges, not walls.

There can be no true friendship between the governments of Cuba and the United States. They represent two opposing political systems and the first has long been denying the right of the second to exist and vice versa. The most we can expect is tolerance and respect.
And that is exactly what we achieved, in a way, after December 17, 2014 under Barack Obama's administration. By "we", I mean the 11 million Cubans living on the island and the two million immigrants living abroad.
But people do not have to play by the same rules as governments. There has always been true friendship between the people of Cuba and the people of the US.
In February 2015, I travelled for a conference to Traverse City, in Michigan. I had been living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for more than six months as I pursued the Nieman fellowship in journalism at Harvard University, and I was feeling homesick. There is only one cure for Cuban homesickness: a hug.
At a tiny airport in Traverse City, with temperatures close to zero degrees, my American host hugged me. And it felt like home.

The "people-to-people" programmes, fostered by several policies during Obama's government, took a bet on the ability of both societies to share the best of our countries, without intermediaries. We, the people, often try to find those things that bring us together rather than those that divide us.
I was born in 1985. I don't remember the collapse of the Soviet Union, but I still remember what we called the "Special Period", which, by the way, was neither short nor special. Eighty-five percent of Cuba's trade relations had been with the Soviet Union and the rest of the socialist camp. This meant that most of our clothes, food, technological supplies and pretty much everything else besides sugar came from the Soviet Union at highly-subsidised prices.
People still remember the years after this as the "there is no" era: there is no food, no shoes, no clothes, no public transportation. Scarcity was the norm. The reason given by Cuban politicians for this scarcity was the US embargo.
Today, the US embargo is still given as the reason for anything that goes wrong with the Cuban economy. And almost every Cuban agrees that the embargo must be lifted, not as a concession to the government, but as an opportunity for Cuban society to be more prosperous.
It is our right, as Cuban citizens, to be given a fair opportunity to develop our nation without other countries making us pay a price for any mistakes.
If we fail to do so, if we cannot develop a so-called "sustainable and prosperous" society, the US would not have to subvert the political system in Cuba because there would be no political system to subvert. So far, we have not had this chance.
It is your duty, Donald Trump, as the President of the United States of America, to represent all of your citizens and not only a couple of politicians who keep speaking on behalf of the Cuban people without having ever set foot on the island.
It is my president's duty to represent all Cuban citizens, even those who have left the country for economic or political reasons.
Both leaders have spoken loudly: we want relationships, we want embassies, we want the negotiations to keep going, we want to reach an agreement in every area and we are open to dialogue.
We people want to be close, not far. We want to build bridges, not walls.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016


Last April Bob Hawke opened the exhibition “Memories of the Struggle” at the Museum of Australian Democracy (Old Parliament House). The exhibition explores Australia’s involvement and leadership in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was reportedly overwhelmed by the response he received in Australia when he visited in 1990, four years prior to being elected leader of his country.

South Africa when he attended Mandela’s funeral in December 2013. In fact Raul was one of only six foreign leaders invited to speak at the funeral. The chairperson of the African National Congress introduced Raul as follows: “we will now get an address from a tiny island of people who liberated us … the people of Cuba.”People will also remember the warm reception Raul Castro received in

Nelson Mandela described the Cuban Army’s success against South Arica in Angola as “destroying the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor… (and) inspiring the South African people”. He claimed “Cuito Cuanavale was the turning point for the liberation of our continent.”

Many factors lead to the demise of apartheid, not the least being the power of Mandela, however Australia and Cuba can lay credit together in being instrumental in the liberation of South Africa from the scourge of apartheid.

Log onto:  for more information on the exhibition

The exhibition will be on display for 12 months.

Monday, 21 March 2016

                                              Welcome to Yexenia
For many Australians, Cuba is still a mystery. This has been made worse by the long-running stranglehold on information about Cuba by the United States. The North American Government has enforced a strict embargo on all forms of trade and communications with Cuba. Cuba has suffered embargoes and military adventures from the USA from well before 1847. So, what’s new? Obama has promised the USA that he will continue to enforce the illegal embargo and blockade.

Image result for cuban flagEven today, many Canberrans have sent financial help to Cuba, only to discover that their money never reached Cuba, but was confiscated, in transit, by the US Treasury. They were horrified to learn that the Bank of New York has a controlling hand on all Australian banks and financial institutions.

Fortunately, Cuba has sent Yexenia Calzado, one of the Island’s most prominent officials, to visit Australia and to discuss Cuba’s present predicament and plans for the future with all and sundry. 
Yexenia Calzado
A public meeting to meet Yexenia has been arranged for Friday 8 April in the Belconnen Labour Club. The meeting will start at 7.00pm. She will talk on International relations and will be happy to answer all questions.
In Cuba, Yexenia is an officer of ICAP, the Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos, a  department responsible for fostering goodwill among ordinary people throughout the world. However, she concentrates on forming close relations within the Asia-Pacific region. She is an outstanding speaker on the role of Cuba and an outspoken opponent of censorship.
Australians will be able to hear how Cuba has achieved such international prestige as a provider of international health and education services that Australia is hoping to achieve sometime in the distant future.
Visitors will be able to enjoy an excellent (and inexpensive) dinner in the Belconnen Labor Club, before or after the meeting. 

Meet Yexenia at 7.00pm on Friday 8 April in the Belconnen  Labour Club
  For further information contact: 
Brian Hungerford on 6282 4747 or Iain Calman on 0431987563