#ESPN Tried to Shame #Cuba’s Slums But Instead Highlighted America’s Own Sports Dystopias

ESPN Tried to Shame Cuba's Slums But Instead Highlighted America's Own Sports Dystopias
Photo ESPN’s SportsCenter tweeted of the houses just outside a stadium in Havana (Twitter)

ESPN’s SportsCenter tried to publicly shame President Obama today and his attendance at a Cuban baseball game by tweeting the photo above with the caption, “Meanwhile, next to the stadium in Havana…”

ESPN Tried to Shame Cuba's Slums But Instead Highlighted America's Own Sports Dystopias

The implication was that there was poverty just outside the stadium where Obama was watching the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team. But the first response to the tweet reminds Americans that we have no right to get on any high horse about poverty. In fact, the conditions outside our own stadiums appear much more dire.

ESPN Tried to Shame Cuba's Slums But Instead Highlighted America's Own Sports Dystopias

People started to tweet Google Street View shots showing the streets outside of major American stadiums.

ESPN Tried to Shame Cuba's Slums But Instead Highlighted America's Own Sports Dystopias

Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky pointed out that Willets Point, where the Mets play at Citi Field, doesn’t even have sidewalks or sewers.

ESPN Tried to Shame Cuba's Slums But Instead Highlighted America's Own Sports Dystopias

So I guess before you start calling out Cuba for being poverty stricken, maybe sports commentators at ESPN should get out of their box seats and look outside some American stadiums.

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo’s Paleofuture blog

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New State Department program targets Cuban youth

Just three days after Barack Obama left Cuba, the State Department today announced a $753,989 community internship program targeting “young emerging leaders from Cuban civil society.”
Non-profit organizations and educational institutions are invited to submit proposals. The deadline is May 20. The first awards are expected to be given in late July or early August.
The State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs plans to manage the program, aimed at financing two- to four-month professional development programs “which will fuel the participants’ development of action plans for nongovernmental community activities in Cuba.”
The announcement states:
“Cuban civil society is not formed into well-established organizations that would typically be found in a society with a strong democratic tradition. Through participation in the program, participants will develop a set of leadership tools and skills to manage and grow civil society organizations that will actively support democratic principles in Cuba.”
The announcement is below:


The United States Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) announces a Notification of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to support the Community Internship Program for Cuban Youth. Subject to the availability of funds, WHA intends to issue an award in an amount not to exceed $753,989 in FY2015 Economic Support Funds for a project period of three years. The anticipated start date for this activity is August 2016 and WHA intends to support one award as a result of this NOFO.

WHA invites U.S. nonprofit organizations and U.S. educational institutions to submit proposals for the Community Internship Program for Cuban Youth, which will support the participation of young emerging leaders from Cuban civil society in a two- to four-month professional development program. The program will include specialized training and an internship with a nonprofit organization in the United States, which will fuel the participants’ development of action plans for nongovernmental community activities in Cuba. Cuban civil society is not formed into well-established organizations that would typically be found in a society with a strong democratic tradition. Through participation in the program, participants will develop a set of leadership tools and skills to manage and grow civil society organizations that will actively support democratic principles in Cuba.

WHA reserves the right to fund any or none of the applications submitted and reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the program and the availability of funds. The authority for this NOFO is found in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended. The CFDA Number for this funding opportunity is 19.750.

This NOFO consists of this cover letter plus the following sections:

I. Funding Opportunity Description
II. Award Information
III. Eligibility information
IV. Agency Contacts

The complete solicitation package includes the mandatory Proposal Submission Instructions, which includes Application and Submission Instructions and Application Review Information.

Eligible organizations interested in submitting an application should read this NOFO thoroughly to understand the project sought, the application submission requirements and evaluation process.

This funding opportunity is posted on Grants.gov and may be amended. See the Application and Submission Instructions for further details. Potential applicants should regularly check the website to ensure they have the latest information pertaining to this NOFO.

Any questions concerning this NOFO should be submitted in writing via email to the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at WHAGrants@state.gov by May 6, 2016 [Subject line “Community Internship Program for Cuban Youth” and your organization name]. Responses to questions will be made available to all potential applicants through an amendment to this NOFO and posted on Grants.gov.

Francisco L. Palmieri
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
U.S. Department of State



U.S. foreign assistance for Cuba seeks to empower Cubans to freely determine their own future by increasing human capacity, promoting community level engagement, and expanding civil society networks. Since 1996, the United States has provided assistance to increase the flow of information on democracy and human rights to Cuba through a variety of U.S. and foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The U.S. Department of State has engaged with independent civil society groups on education, communication, and civic issues. The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) seeks to build upon these earlier, successful capacity-building efforts and provide professional development opportunities to current and future civil society and community leaders through coursework and internships on nonprofit management. Civil society organizations in Cuba have had few models to follow as they grow to serve the needs of their communities. With an increased ability to travel, Cubans are eager for more information and want to take advantage of professional development opportunities not afforded to them otherwise.

To support further progress, the U.S. Department of State has allocated $753,989 in FY 2015 Economic Support Funds for a professional development program that supports the management of independent organizations in Cuba. All activities will need to be implemented in accordance with the relevant legislation. Assistance to Cuba is governed by a complex series of statutory and other restrictions. The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (also referred to as “Helms-Burton Act”, P.L. 104-114) provides notwithstanding authority to furnish assistance and provide other support for individuals and independent NGOs to support democracy-building efforts for Cuba.

By supporting the growth of civil society and contributing to the development and diversification of human capital in Cuba, this project will fund the participation of young emerging leaders from Cuban civil society in a two- to four-month professional development program, consisting of specialized training and an internship with a nonprofit organization in the United States, which will fuel the participants’ development of action plans for nongovernmental community activities in Cuba. Cuban civil society is not formed into well-established organizations that would typically be found in a society with a strong democratic tradition. Through participation in the program, participants will develop a set of leadership tools and skills to manage and grow civil society organizations that will actively support democratic principles in Cuba.

The goal is to foster a new generation of civil society leaders who will possess the skills and knowledge to professionalize Cuba’s civil society base. This cadre of young professionals will model effective leadership of civil society organizations that are accountable to the public, promote community engagement, support diversity, and further democratic principles in Cuba.

In order to fulfill this purpose and meet this goal, this project will build the professional capacity of 25-30 Cubans to advance social justice causes by providing a short training and internship program in the United States within a three-year period. Participants will learn to function professionally and effectively in leading or managing a civil society movement at the grassroots level.

In order to fulfill and meet the above-stated purpose and goal, the recipient of this grant will fulfill several major components.

To promote networking among emerging civil society leaders, participants will travel to the United States in two to four cohorts over three years. Cohorts need not be the same size. Each cohort will follow the sequence of components below:

A. Orientation and Training: Participants will start with a group orientation and professional development activities.
B. Internship: Interns will participate in immersion experiences with well-organized, community-based NGOs in the United States, matched on area of interest.
C. Planning and Networking: During the U.S. program, participants will prepare a small project on a subject related to the internship, and will also develop a plan of action for activities in Cuba upon returning home.

Applicants must describe the design and management of all of the components within the proposal narrative or in the attachments. Applicants should also be sure to describe the roles and responsibilities of the project management team and partner organizations or institutions.

1. Recruitment and Selection

Recruitment Plan and Partners:
Applicants for the administration of this project will describe in their proposals a robust recruitment and selection plan that will include a) outreach that will generate a strong pool of qualified candidates; b) the promotional materials that will be developed and disseminated; c) details on engaging geographically, racially/ethnically, and socio-economically diverse candidates; and d) participant selection criteria and a candidate screening process. Staff of the recipient organization should not plan to travel to Cuba to conduct on-island recruitment, so applicants must provide detailed plans to recruit and interview candidates from the United States. Before final decisions are made, the grantee will recommend the principal and alternate participants to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Program participants will be Cuban citizens and residents who demonstrate an interest in independent organizations. As emerging leaders, participants will be between 20 and 35 years of age and may be university students or young professionals. English language skills are preferred but will not be a requirement; therefore, the orientation and training must be conducted in Spanish (or interpreted for select components), and internships with U.S. organizations and communities that can accommodate Spanish-speakers must be incorporated into the program. The participants should also demonstrate the aptitude (maturity, independence, self-reliance, etc.) for success in a program abroad. Participants must demonstrate a stated desire to return and work in the management of independent organizations in Cuba. The implementing organization’s recruitment plan must actively seek a candidate pool representing gender, racial, socio-economic, and geographic diversity in Cuba.

Each participant must be able to receive a U.S. visa and commit to returning to Cuba upon completion of the program. The award recipient will issue the relevant forms to support the students in obtaining appropriate visas. The award recipient and all sponsored participants must comply with all visa regulations.

Pre-departure Orientation:
The award recipient will provide participants with a substantive pre-departure orientation – any combination of video-conferencing, in-person sessions, written materials (provided in hard copy, USB drives, or CD/DVD), and/or low-bandwidth websites – to effectively prepare them for the program. This will include the provision of details on the program components, cross-cultural adjustment, travel and financial matters, terms and conditions of the program, and health insurance. Guidance should also outline what to bring to the United States, how to communicate with home, and other logistical matters.

2. U.S. Program

A. Orientation and Training: Participants will start with a group orientation and up to one month of specialized training and site visits to familiarize them with democratic practices in the United States. The training will focus on professional development needs for emerging civil society leaders, including information technology training for research, documentation, advocacy, and outreach, as well as train-the-trainer activities aimed at increasing the impact of the program once participants have returned to Cuba. Training will also cover the topics of ethics, accountability, and social inclusion. Site visits will introduce the participants to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations in the United States. This section of the program will be led in Spanish.

B. Internship: Interns will participate in immersion experiences with well-organized NGOs in the United States. Interns will be matched with organizations based on interest area, language ability (including organizations and communities that can cater to Spanish-speaking interns), and relevance to the participants’ goals and community needs. The internships will expose the Cubans to a range of organizations in a consolidated democracy that support their interest in making choices independent of state authority and are salient to their daily lives. Small, locally-oriented organizations will be more relevant for the interns than large, national organizations. Thematic areas such as environmental protection, health, literacy and education, youth development, gender violence, supporting persons with disabilities, legal aid, and substance abuse are expected to be of interest to young Cubans. Through the course of the internships, participants will explore methods for NGO strategic planning, fiscal management, needs assessment, and public relations, among other aspects of NGO management.

In the proposal narrative and/or attachments, applicants to this NOFO should describe how they will recruit potential host organizations, match interns with organizations, support the living situations of the interns in U.S. communities, and ensure that the internships deliver the professional development opportunities in nonprofit organizations as outlined above. As previously noted, interns are not expected to be proficient in English; proposals should describe how Spanish-speakers will be accommodated in host organizations and communities.

C. Planning and Networking: As part of the professional development program, participants will do research, write a short paper, or prepare a case study on a subject related to the internship, the results of which will be shared with their peers, as appropriate. They will also develop a plan of action to implement in Cuba that organizes nongovernmental grassroots activities for a social cause. These program assignments will be introduced in the orientation, and re-addressed at a workshop arranged for each cohort before the participants return home. The implementing organization must provide follow-on support to participants, perhaps through a small grants program to operationalize democratic management goals (e.g., developing by-laws or a strategic plan to reach the disenfranchised) and/or through a mentorship program developed with civil society actors in the United States and/or other countries in Latin America.

3. Follow-on with Alumni

Staying engaged with the alumni is important for evaluating the success of the project as well as continuing to support the alumni in engaging in networks of their professional peers in the United States and in Latin America. Applicant organizations should describe various approaches to facilitate this engagement. All proposed follow-on activities for alumni must be developed in close consultation with WHA and reflect the goals and objectives of the project. Proposals should include an outline of and timeline for follow-on alumni programming, information on how it will be coordinated, and how longer-term linkages with alumni may be fostered and maintained.

4. External Evaluation

As part of the award, the recipient organization must identify an external evaluator that will complete a comprehensive evaluation of the results of the project, guided by the stated purpose and goals. Specifically, the evaluation should measure whether participants learned a wide range of skills specific to the management and sustainability of a nonprofit organization, including accountability to boards, staffs, volunteers, clients, funders, and members of the public, as applicable. During the course of the program, participants will hone critical thinking, interpersonal, goal-setting, and organization skills, especially through the hands-on experience in the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit organization.

To the extent possible, given limitations on access to alumni and the time frame of the award, the evaluation should also measure the longer-term impact of the award, including the participants’ abilities to more effectively establish, lead, manage, and grow independent organizations in support of democratic principles in Cuba. The evaluation should ascertain if participants returned to Cuba with practical tools for managing an independent organization, including staff and volunteer recruitment and retention, fiscal management, public relations, and evaluation.

The proposal must include a plan for this evaluation.

The federal grant amount of $753,989 will support the participation of 25 to 30 interns in a professional development program over three years. Factors such as the length of the program and the locations of the internships will affect the costs for each participant. The budget will include roundtrip airfare between Cuba and the United States; room and board (which could include homestays or university dormitories); local transportation; provision of orientation, training, and a closing workshop; and other program-related expenses.

Allowable program costs may include the following:
• Recruitment and advertising materials and expenses
• Pre-departure orientation expenses
• Passport and visa fees, as necessary, including travel costs for interviews
• Roundtrip airfare between Cuba and the United States
• Monthly stipend for room and board
• Winter clothing, if necessary
• Travel within the United States and local transportation (excluding automobile purchases)
• Orientation and training expenses (e.g., travel, lodging, meals, materials, honoraria for speakers)
• Health insurance (accident and sickness)
• Withholding for taxes, if necessary. Applicants should assist participants in complying with federal income tax regulations and for calculating appropriate amounts that must be withheld from the participants’ support in accordance with the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

NOTE: Grant funds may not be used for expenses related to spouses, children, or family relocation or reunification.

By the end of the project, the Community Internship Program for Cuban Youth is expected to have supported 25-30 participants in completing a comprehensive professional development program that includes an internship, specialized training, and a plan for civic engagement. The program will allow the participants to establish themselves in Cuba as professional resources for organized civil society efforts and be better connected to civil society organizations in other countries. Alumni will have the tools to promote causes by attracting broad audiences, modeling social responsibility and good governance, and mobilizing independent actors within civil society to promote freedom of expression and assembly.

The recipient will develop a project-level Project Monitoring Plan (PMP) with annual and end-of- project targets and results anticipated for key performance indicators. The following table shows required indicators that must be measured, as well as illustrative targets, which the recipient will be responsible for monitoring and reporting during and after the project. The recipient should propose additional outputs, indicators, and/or targets as necessary. WHA will regularly monitor the project’s performance to assess whether project activities are on track and targets are being achieved.

Required outcome indicators for the project are provided below. The recipient is expected to identify targets for these indicators based on what it can reasonably achieve within the performance period of the project, based on the expected overall project results described above.

Outcome Indicators
Number of individuals who report acquiring a robust body of knowledge about multiple facets of nonprofit management.
Number of individuals who utilize their U.S. experience to establish or manage a nonprofit or independent organization in Cuba or participate in one as an employee, board member, or volunteer (within a year of participation in the project)

Output indicators and illustrative targets that should be used for the project are provided below. The recipient should review these and either confirm the illustrative targets or propose alternative targets, as appropriate.

Output Indicators
Illustrative targets:
Number of People who Have Completed USG Assisted Civic Education Programs
At least 25

The recipient will be required to collect baseline data for all the PMP indicators during the first year of the project. In addition, applicants should define certain terms included in the outcomes and indicators at the very beginning of the project so that it is possible to measure the change during and at the end of the project. Such baseline information will be critical for both monitoring and evaluation of project progress and results.


The U.S. government may issue one award resulting from this NOFO to the responsible applicant whose application conforming to this NOFO is the most responsive to the objectives set forth in this NOFO. The U.S. government may (a) reject any or all applications, (b) accept other than the lowest cost application, (c) accept more than one application, (d) accept alternate applications, and (e) waive informalities and minor irregularities in applications received.

The U.S. government may make award on the basis of initial applications received, without discussions or negotiations. Therefore, each initial application should contain the applicant’s best terms from a cost and technical standpoint. The U.S. government reserves the right (but is not obliged) to enter into discussions with one or more applicants in order to obtain clarifications, additional detail, or to suggest refinements in the project description, budget, or other aspects of an application.

Please refer to the Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for more information on how to apply to this NOFO, including information on proposal’s content and formatting. Please use both the PSI and this announcement to ensure that your proposal submission is in full compliance with the requirements. Proposal submissions that do not meet all of the requirements outlined in the NOFO and PSI will NOT be considered.

Pursuant to 2 CFR 200.400(g), it is U.S. Department of State policy not to award profit under assistance instruments. NOTE: Overseas-based nonprofit organizations are legally required to comply with the 2 CFR 200.

Issuance of this NOFO does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government, nor does it commit the U.S. government to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of an application. In addition, a final award of any resultant grant agreement cannot be made until funds have been fully appropriated, allocated, and committed through internal WHA procedures. While it is anticipated that these procedures will be successfully completed, potential applicants are hereby notified of these requirements and conditions for award. Applications are submitted at the risk of the applicant. All preparation and submission costs are at the applicant’s expense.

It is the responsibility of the recipient of this NOFO to ensure that it has been recorded as received by Grants.gov or Grant Solutions in its entirety. The Department bears no responsibility for data errors resulting from transmission or conversion processes associated with electronic submissions.

The federal award signed by the Grants Officer is the authorizing document.

Reporting Requirements
Recipients will, at a minimum, be required to submit Quarterly Progress Reports (to include the SF-PPR, as the cover page) and Quarterly Financial Reports (SF-425). Progress Reports will compare actual to planned performance and indicate the progress made in accomplishing each assistance award task/goal noted in the grant agreement and will contain analysis and summary of findings, both quantitative and qualitative, for key indicators. Financial Reports provide a means of monitoring expenditures and comparing costs incurred with progress.

NOTE: It is the Department of State’s policy that English is the official language of all documents. If reports or any supporting documents are provided in both English and a foreign language, it must be stated in each version that the English language version is the controlling version.

Mandatory disclosures (2 CFR 200.113)
The non-federal entity or applicant for a federal award must disclose, in a timely manner, in writing to the federal awarding agency or pass-through entity all violations of federal criminal law involving fraud, bribery, or gratuity violations potentially affecting the federal award. Non-federal entities that have received a Federal award including the term and condition outlined in Appendix XII—Award Term and Condition for Recipient Integrity and Performance Matters are required to report certain civil, criminal, or administrative proceedings to SAM. Failure to make required disclosures can result in any of the remedies described in §200.338 Remedies for noncompliance, including suspension or debarment.

Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS)
i. A federal awarding agency, prior to making a federal award will review and consider any information about the applicant that is in the designated integrity and performance system accessible through SAM (currently FAPIIS) (see 41 U.S.C. 2313); ii. Applicant, at its option, may review information in the designated integrity and performance systems accessible through SAM and comment on any information about itself that a Federal awarding agency previously entered and is currently in the designated integrity and performance system accessible through SAM. iii. Federal awarding agency will consider any comments by the applicant, in addition to the other information in the designated integrity and performance system, in making a judgment about the applicant’s integrity, business ethics, and record of performance under Federal awards when completing the review of risk posed by applicants as described in §200.205 Federal awarding agency review of risk posed by applicants.

Applicant organizations must demonstrate commitment to non-discrimination with respect to beneficiaries and adherence to equal opportunity employment practices. Non-discrimination includes equal treatment without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and political affiliation. Applicants are reminded that U.S. Executive Orders and U.S. law prohibits transactions with or support to individuals or organizations associated with terrorism.

Proposals that reflect any type of support for elected members of government or for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated to terrorist organization or narcotics trafficker will NOT be considered.


(1) Eligible Entities: Applicants that are eligible to apply are U.S. nonprofit organizations and U.S. educational institutions.

To be eligible for a grant award, in addition to other conditions of this NOFO, organizations must have a commitment to non‐discrimination with respect to beneficiaries and adherence to equal opportunity employment practices. Non‐discrimination includes equal treatment without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and political affiliation.

Applicants are reminded that U.S. Executive Orders and U.S. law prohibits transactions with, and the provision of resources and support to, individuals and organizations associated with terrorism. It is the legal responsibility of the Recipient to ensure compliance with these Executive Orders and laws. This provision must be included in any sub‐awards issued under this grant award.

(2) WHA encourages applications from potential new partners.


Any prospective applicant desiring an explanation or interpretation of this NOFO must request it in writing by the deadline for questions specified in the cover letter to allow a reply to reach all prospective applicants before the submission of their applications. Any information given to a prospective applicant concerning this NOFO will be furnished promptly to all other prospective applicants as a Questions and Answers amendment to this NOFO, if that information is necessary in submitting applications or if the lack of it would be prejudicial to any other prospective applicants.

Please be sure to check Grants.gov for any updates or amendments to the NOFO and to see published Questions and Answers regarding the NOFO.

Any questions concerning this NOFO must be submitted in writing by email to WHAGrants@state.gov by the deadline for questions indicated at the top of this NOFO’s cover letter. Please use the name of the program, Community Internship Program for Cuban Youth, and your organization’s name in the subject line.

Raul Castro Insists Obama Should Use Powers to Lift Blockade


Despite the improving ties between Cuba and the U.S. Cuban President Raul Castro has said he will not abandon the ideals that generations of Cubans have fought for.

Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday again called on his U.S. counterpart Barack

Obama to use his executive powers to lift the 53-year blockade against the Caribbean island and warned that his country would not bow to pressure or conditions that put Cuba’s sovereignty at risk.

“The essential thing now is that President Barack Obama uses with determination his vast executive powers to modify the implementation of the blockade, which would give meaning to what has been achieved so far and permit for solid progress to continue,” Raul Castro told Cuban lawmakers on Tuesday.

The Cuban leader also called on the people of his country to maintain its socialist values and national sovereignty amid the full restoration of diplomatic relations with the U.S., but warned against any attempts to meddle with the self-determination of his country.

“We will never accept conditions that lacerate the sovereignty and dignity of our homeland,” he emphasized.

Despite the strengthening of ties between the U.S. and Cuba, Raul Castro said Cuba will not compromise its values and political system.

“It should not be expected for Cuba to abandon the cause independence or give up the principles and ideals that generations of Cubans have fought for a century and a half,” he told lawmakers during the closing of a National Assembly session

During the assembly the socialist leader said that in order fully normalize relations with the U.S. the Guantanamo Naval Base must be returned and the export embargo that has been imposed against Cuba since 1960 removed, reported the official press.

“What is essential now is that President Barack Obama use his broad executive powers to modify the embargo, which would give meaning to what has been achieved thus far and allow solid progress to occur,” Raul Castro added. During the address Castro also touched on the thousands of Cuban migrants left stranded in Costa Rica on route to the U.S.

Last month, Nicaragua closed its border and prohibited an influx of people attempting to enter the country. Guatemala and Belize quickly followed suit after Mexico said it would also refuse them entry, arguing that its current migration laws would prohibit such a move.

However an agreement with Costa Rican government  was made Monday to relocate the thousands of Cubans.  According to a release from Costa Rica’s Presidency, the countries agreed to conduct a pilot exercise to fly out some of the Cubans to El Salvador, where they would be put on buses to cross Guatemala and enter Mexico.

“Our government has been in contact from the very beginning of this situation with the region’s governments, searching for a suitable and quick solution, as pope Francis has also called for, and taking into account the difficult circumstances of the migrants,” said Castro.
Relations between the U.S. and Cuba have thawed somewhat this year with travel and import sanctions levied by both sides.


US Groups: Long, Proud History Supporting Cuban Revolution

Venceremos Brigadistas in the U.S. Call for an End to the U.S. Blockade Against Cuba.

The Cuban people have withstood over 50 years of U.S. aggression. Their steadfast and sage leadership has helped propel the success of the Revolution. Nonetheless, solidarity is essential. For as long as the U.S. blockade against Cuba has existed, so too has solidarity from within the belly of the beast been alive.

This has helped to stay imperialism’s hand. Despite an exhaustive, systematic misinformation campaign; despite banning travel from the U.S. to Cuba; despite fear­mongering and CIA and FBI intervention, the U.S. government has never succeeded in dividing the U.S. people from Cuba. The solidarity movement in this country has been constant and strong. In the early days of the Revolution, when the world was on fire from glorious national liberation movements and the emerging U.S. civil rights struggles, Fidel and Che inspired young and old in the U.S.

Later, as the Cold War waned, the legacy of the repressive McCarthy period remained in play. Groups created to organize support for Cuba were subjected to FBI/CIA infiltration. But nothing could stop the solidarity movement. Not then, not now. The early 1960s witnessed the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1960, the Fair Play with Cuba Committee was established in New York. Freedom of Information Act records show that government informants were used to “raise controversial issues and to take advantage of ideological splits” in FPCC.

Later, Cointelpro did exactly that in the Black and Latino/a liberation struggles. Still, the FPCC opposed the Bay of Pigs invasion and the blockade, and was sympathetic to Cuba even during the missile crisis, when war hysteria and anti­Communist rhetoric were at a fever pitch. The FPCC pressed on, setting up committees in over 25 U.S. cities. Among its notable supporters were Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Jean Paul Sartre and the brilliant James Baldwin.

Next came a special moment in people’s history. A Cuban delegation, in New York for United Nations business, met hostility at a midtown hotel. Rosemari Mealy writes in Fidel & Malcolm X: Memories of a Meeting, “African-American Muslim leader El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz–Malcolm X welcomed … Fidel … to … Harlem’s Black-owned Hotel Theresa.

Malcolm X and a welcoming committee invited the Cubans to come to Harlem, where he ensured they would be greeted with open arms. Indeed, Harlemites by the thousands gave Castro a rousing, even magnificent welcome, keeping a round-the-clock vigil in the pouring rain … To Harlem’ s masses, unfazed by the red-baiting and anti-Cuba hysteria of the day, Castro was that bearded revolutionary who had told ‘White America to go to hell.’

They crowded the streets to see and cheer the Cuban delegation … and its revolutionary leader.”  The next year, in July, noted African-American journalist William J. Worthy Jr. traveled to Cuba without State Department approval. When Worthy died in 2014, the Washington Post called him a “defiant journalist, a correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper who made news — and inspired a folk song — by challenging U.S. policies.” The Post noted that Worthy “without a valid passport … traveled to Cuba in 1960 to report on the effects of Fidel Castro’s … revolution. When Mr. Worthy returned … he was convicted of illegally entering the U.S.

The conviction [was]  later reversed by an appellate court.” In 1969, a coalition of young people formed the Venceremos Brigade, now the world’s oldest Cuba solidarity organization. The VB aimed to show concrete solidarity “by working side by side with Cubans and challenging U.S. policies. The first brigades participated in sugar harvests and subsequent brigades have done agricultural and construction work.” The VB has organized travel to Cuba every year since its formation, taking almost 10,000 people. It has never requested permission from the U.S., defying the ban despite risks of high fines, legal threats, loss of jobs and even imprisonment.

The U.S. solidarity movement has had an uphill climb but it has not stopped. In the early 1990s, at a difficult time for Cuba, two major events helped turn the tide. The fall of the socialist camp in Europe had ushered in the Special Period in Cuba, a period of extreme war-like conditions. Hunger and shortages resulted from the loss of favorable trade with the former Soviet Union.

Washington thought it could finally bring the Revolution to its knees. Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act, further tightening the blockade in an attempt to strangle Cuba. The effort failed. Inside Cuba, the Special Period pulled the nation together to weather the storm. Inside the U.S., the solidarity movement acted.

In January 1992, over 5,000 people filled the Jacob Javits Center in New York City for a Peace for Cuba International Appeal rally. They demanded an end to Helms-Burton and all attacks on Cuba. The rally got the attention of the right-wing “gusanos,” who brought busloads from Miami as well as the attention of Florida Governor Lawton Chiles, who sent a letter to the organizers demanding it be canceled.

Javits Center officials nearly caved-in to the counter-revolutionary threats. But rally initiator, former U.S. Attorney General, Ramsey Clark from the International Action Center, along with organizers and supporters like Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee and others prevailed.

As soon as it was announced that a message from President Fidel Castro was to be read the crowd thundered with joy.

Later that same year, the Reverend Lucius Walker organized the first US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan. This historic mobilization brought material aid to Cuba, openly defying Washington’s ban and restrictive licenses. Many caravans followed.

During one, the U.S. prevented the aid from entering Mexico. Walker and the caravanistas held a hunger strike at the border. Time Magazine wrote an article entitled, “Government and Pastors Stalemate: Government blinks”.

It was a turning point.

Gail Walker, IFCO/Pastors for Peace Executive Director, said, “…the changes we are seeing in U.S.-Cuba relations are due to the years of steadfast solidarity. I believe that the movement’s firm respect for Cuba’s sovereignty has helped pave the way for what I hope will eventually end in the full normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. Still the blockade is not over and our efforts to crush the blockade once and for all are more crucial than ever.”
There are many other examples of U.S. solidarity with Cuba. Of note should be the work done by Reverend Walker, Reverend Joan Campbell and others with the National Committee to Free Elian.

When young Elian Gonzales found himself in the U.S., an international campaign began to get him back to Cuba. Thanks to the work of Cubans and supporters, little Elian made it home.
Next, the International Committee to Free the Cuban Five, along with the VB, Pastors for Peace, Puerto Rican and African American organizations, the National Network on Cuba and others, worked tirelessly for years to free the five Cuban patriots imprisoned in the U.S.

#Obama talking with cuban comedian “Panfilo”

Ever the good sport, the U.S. President even spoke Spanish in the televised clip.  On the eve of his first official state visit to Cuba, U.S. President Barack Obama received a highly important phone call from one of the Caribbean island’s most influential figures.

No, not revolutionary leaders Fidel or Raul Castro, but Panfilo, a character in a hugely popular comedy show, “Vivir del cuento”, on Television Cubana.

In the three-and-a-half minute video, Obama answers the phone to Panfilo, confirming that the elderly man has reached the White House.

“I can’t believe it! The real White House!” the comedian says, clutching a retro-looking phone.

“Oh my God, I’m talking to President Obama!”

Ever the good sport, Obama asks the comedian if he is indeed speaking to the real Panfilo, “from the TV show?”

Like a true Cuban, Obama asks in Spanish, “Que bola?” (“What’s up?”)
Panfilo goes on to give Obama some friendly advice, “don’t come with heavy luggage or you will get stuck at the airport,” and offers to find a car to pick him up, and even says Obama and his wife Michelle can stay in his bed.

But, he warns, the first lady would “have to sleep on the side next to the chest of drawers so she can sleep well.”

“The other side of the bed has a spring that sticks out and bothers me when I sleep,” he adds.

The historic new relations between Cuba and the U.S. could prove to ease the full-court press the U.S. has maintained against Cuba. Cuba has suffered under a blockade, invasion, sabotage, terror and destabilization campaigns led by the U.S.

In light of this, Cuba insists that in order for the normalization of relations between the two countries, the U.S. must end the 55-year-old blockade; return the illegally-held Guantanamo Bay; change its immigration policies toward Cuban migrants; stop transmitting radio propaganda into the country and attempting to build an opposition; and finally stop all attempts at regime change.

This is not the first time that Obama has taken part in a comedy skit. In 2014 the president was interviewed by Zach Galifianakis in the comedian’s parody show Between Two Ferns.
“Sorry I had to cancel a few times, my mousepad broke,” The Hangover actor tells a deadpan Obama.
Then the next President will have a full show for cubans?

Whether it’s #Bernie or #Hillary, #Trump or #Ted, will #USelection2016 ever change anything in the country run by Wall Street greed sustained by foreign intervention?

Racial injustice, Guantanamo, gun violence, free trade deals, deportations, threats on countries in its backyard, wars in the Middle East — the next president of the United States will have a lot on ther plate.

Super Tuesday saw a dozen states, American Samoa and Democratic voters who live outside the U.S. voting on who should be the presidential nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties. More delegates were up for grabs on March 1 than on any other day in the campaign, with most going to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, although neither got the decisive victory they hoped would assure them their respective parties’ nomination.
Now the race turns to states more friendly to Bernie Sanders, including those like Michigan hit hard by the “free trade” policies Clinton promoted as secretary of state.

The frontrunner for the Democratic Party, backed by its establishment and the arms industry, is still Clinton, who has won 672 delegates compared to 477 for Sanders (her lead becomes formiddable when counting so-called “superdelegates,” 458 of whom support her,
compared to 22 for Sanders).

Clinton’s history ranges from dubious — flip-flopping on issues such as gay marriage — to outrageous: backing a coup in Honduras. It’s that history Sanders is hoping to exploit.
According to the latest polls, a Sanders win would be good for the Democratic Party: he’s doing better against Donald Trump in a general election than Clinton herself. The self-styled democratic socialist has won over the youth and intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Coronel West with his calls for free college and healthcare, giving the Hillary campaign a run for its Wall Street money. Bill Clinton has compared the Sanders insurgency to the right-wing Tea Party, but while Sanders may not be the left-wing hero some are hoping
for — run-ins with the Black Lives Matter movement and his stance in favor of airstrikes in Syria and the Afghanistan war have raised eyebrows — such desperate comparisons reflect the desperation of the Democratic Party establishment.

Meanwhile, for the Republican Party, it increasingly looks like The Donald might actually win this thing. Trump’s transition from capitalist scumbag to would-be capitalist statesman has been fuelled by racism and xenophobia and fascistic rhetoric that has even
been debated in the United Kingom Parliament. But Republicans don’t seem to mind that his policies are built on an attack on logic and based on an irksome personality that has somehow formed a cult.

#Obama to Declassify #US Records on #Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’

Soldiers with automatic rifles control access to Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

Ahead of his visit to Argentina, the U.S. president will release military and intelligence records on U.S. involvement during the 1876-1983 dictatorship.

The United States government will declassify documents from U.S. military and intelligence agencies related to Argentina’s 1976-83 “Dirty War,” the seven-year period when a U.S.-backed military dictatorship cracked down on left-wing opponents, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The move coincides with President Barack Obama’s visit to Argentina next week on the 40th anniversary of the 1976 coup that installed the dictatorship.

More than 30,000 people were killed or disappeared during that brutal period. Argentina returned to democracy in 1983. The declassification effort will include records from U.S. law enforcement agencies, the Department of Defense, the Department of State and the presidential libraries at the National Archives. It follows the declassification in 2002 of more than 4,000 State Department cables and other documents related to human rights abuses from the 1976-83 period.

“President Obama, at the request of the Argentine government, will announce a comprehensive effort to declassify additional documents, including for the first time military and intelligence records,” U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice said in a speech hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington. “On this anniversary and beyond, we’re determined to do our part as Argentina continues to heal and move forward as one nation,” she said.

On previous trips, Obama has failed to apologize to Latin American nation’s for CIA activities in the region during decades past. Argentina have welcomed the announcement. “Anything that helps analyze what happened during this chapter is a positive,” an Argentine government spokesperson told Reuters, declining to comment further
on a matter he said Obama and President Mauricio Macri would address.

Obama plans to visit Parque de la Memoria, or Memory Park, to honor the victims of that period. The U.S. president has been criticized by human rights activists and leading figures in Argentina over the timing of his visit as it coincides with the anniversary of the coup.
The right-wing Argentine president, Mauricio Macri, who took office in December 2015, has been eager to cozy up to the United States after years of fraught relations between the two countries under the leadership of the Kirchners.

#Impeachment Bid Begins in #Brazil as Protesters Defend #Democracy

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take the streets of the main cities of Brazil this Friday across the country.

The Workers’ Party have called  on all Brazilians to fill every corner of Brazil to defend democracy as the impeachment process begins in Congress.

Congress right-wing opposition members kicked off impeachments sessions against President Dilma Rousseff as hundreds of violent anti-government protesters had blocked a main avenue in Sao Paulo rejecting the appointment of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as minister. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets across Brazil to show their support for democracy, for Rousseff and Lula da Silva, as both face a right-wing smear campaign, many demonstrators have already begun to gather in the capital of the state of Alagoas.

At least 60 leftist organizations, including labor unions and grassroots movements, will participate in the mass rallies in at least 15 main cities, including Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and  across the country. According to teleSUR correspondents many of attendees have already started to gather in Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. Maceio, capital of Alagoas, was the first city to begin the day with pro-government rallies.

The leadership of the ruling Workers’ Party, or PT, have called all Brazilians to fill every corner of Brazil to defend democracy and to show the right-wing that the social changes achieved by the governments of Lula and Dilma will not be reversed and much less will they go unnoticed.  Last year, the opposition launched a plan to defame and discredit Rousseff. They’ve pushed forward impeachment proceedings after attempting to implicate her in a corruption scandal known as “Car Wash,” affecting the state-run oil company Petrobras.

However, she has denied all the allegations and has denounced the apparently false accusations as attempts to bring her government down through a “coup.” Opposition has also targeted former leader Lula, founder of the PT, who has been accused of corruption in the Petrobras case, and more recently has been accused of trying to dodge charges against him through his appointment as chief of staff by Rousseff.

Brazil’s Right Wing Seeking Regime Change?

As the largest country in Latin America suffers a contracting economy, its President Dilma Rousseff has faced record-low approval ratings, fueled by a continuous campaign to link her and top members of the governing Workers’ Party to a massive fraud scheme in the state-owned oil giant Petrobras.

The scandal has become an ongoing theme in Brazil’s mainstream media and has even been used by media giant Grupo Globo to openly call for Rousseff’s impeachment, a call backed by prominent opposition lawmakers. But it is not only Rousseff who the right-wing opposition has in its crosshairs. Former president and Workers’ Party leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sued four journalists and the editor at Veja magazine in 2015 for publishing a front page special linking him to the Petrobras scandal.

Lula led Brazil’s economic boom from 2003 to 2010 and is still widely popular among the population. The former president has been a fervent supporter of Rousseff and his influence was decisive during the 2014 presidential elections. He is also likely to return as the Workers’ Party’s presidential candidate at the next elections.

Many believe that the right wants the scandal to damage not only the incumbent president, but her potential successor too.

When Lula’s house was raided on March 4, this came on the back of a smear campaign against the expresident. In February 2016, Lula hit out at critics trying to tarnish his name, saying, “They are punching below the belt, there is a project in play to destroy me and our legacy.”

The former president said the accusations of corruption leveled against him have no basis in fact and no proof has been offered that can tie him to the scandal involving the state-owned oil company Petrobras. “I could have made millions and millions, but everyone who knows me knows that I was never interested in making money, but rather in transforming the country,” said Lula.

Social movements have also rallied around Lula. Under the banner of the Popular Front, they expressed their “repudiation” at efforts to link Lula to the corruption scandal.

They have accused investigators of being selective about how they were carrying out their investigation into the corruption scandal, deliberately targeting the former president and his Workers’ Party. The Popular Front also struck back at media outlets for their “criminal and manipulative” handling of the story and for attempting to smear Lula.

“The Brazil Popular Front will not accept the coup-mongering and anti-democratic stance that both sectors of the judicial branch and the mainstream media try to impose on the Brazilian people,” said a statement released in February.

In October, Deputy Luiz Sergio Nobrega de Oliveira, head of a parliamentary commission in charge of the investigation into the Petrobras scandal, said “there was no proof” against Rousseff and Lula in any of documents examined by the parliamentary commission, exonerating them of all responsibility in the Petrobras scandal.

What lies behind any politicization of the corruption issue?

Brazil is currently headed by a shaky governing alliance of the Workers’ Party and the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). This alliance is being torpedoed by the President of Congress Eduardo Cunha, a leading PMDB member, but one who is closely allied with the opposition. Many believe he is seeking to exploit the issue to strengthen his own power base.

The lawmaker has said that the current alliance in Congress will not hold until 2018, in a clear message of warning to the governing Workers’ Party.

His party mate and head of the Senate, Renan Calheiros broke with the ruling party in a similar fashion. Yet Cunha himself is under investigation in the Petrobras scandal and the investigations into the Petrobras scandal have also embroiled Calheiros in the fraudulent scheme.

Nonetheless, the media has emphasized Cunha and Calheiros as powerful voices, who put constant pressure over the government. Some have even called Cunha the prime minister – a position that does not exist in the country’s constitution – and Cunha himself has announced a constitutional reform proposing changing the presidential system to a parliamentary one.

The proposal has been backed by the main opposition party, the Social Democrat Party of Brazil (PSDB), whose Senator Aecio Neves was the party’s presidential candidate in the 2014 elections. It appears there is an unholy alliance seeking to exploit a corruption scandal to try to drag the country’s politics rightwards.

Political Manipulation of Corruption

The efforts to link the Workers’ Party to the Petrobras scandal have, so far, been the main strategy followed by right-wing parties and politicians to justify an impeachment of Rousseff. They were also the main strategy used to attack Rousseff in the 2014 presidential campaign.

Despite not having enough votes in Congress to initiate an impeachment process, the media campaign, together with repeated calls for impeachment by opposition parties, have helped create negative public opinion. Even though no evidence has been found linking the president to the Petrobras scandal, polls have shown large numbers believe Rousseff herself was responsible for the corruption scandal.

This is, in part, because the media has gone to great lengths in trying to portray the governing Workers’ Party as a corrupt, bureaucratic party that has poorly managed the state company. Lincoln Secco, an historian and Workers’ Party expert from the University of Sao Paulo, told teleSUR in 2015 that the media plays a key role in the current situation by exclusively targeting the Workers’ Party and not necessarily the government’s right-wing allies.

“Scandals involving the PT (Workers’ Party) are shown every day on television. (But) there is barely any criticism to the PMDB government in Sao Paulo,” he explains.

However, the investigations so far into the Petrobras corruption scheme show that politicians from many parties – not only the Workers’ Party – were involved in the illegal network, including some from the main opposition party, PSDB, and others from former presidential candidate Marina Silva’s Socialist Party.

But the focus remains on the Workers’ Party. The raid of Lula’s home came just a few days after he said he could be a candidate in the 2018 presidential election. With many believing that Rousseff has been fatally wounded by the baseless allegations, will Lula increasingly become the right’s target?

Letter to the President of the #US by Adolfo Perez Esquivel – Nobel Peace Prize

President of the United States of America

Mr. Barack Obama

First please receive a fraternal greeting of Peace and Wellbeing

We have learned of your historical visit to Cuba and Argentina to strengthen bonds of cooperation with the recently elected government.

We followed closely the positive advances that, through Pope Francisco, have led to open the doors of hope and dialogue between the people of Cuba and the United States. You well know it is a long road to achieve lifting the blockade and close the military base that your country maintains in Guantanamo, where human rights of the prisoners are violated, without the possibility of achieving freedom. We hope you can do it in spite of the strong opposition of Congress of your country.In a letter you sent me last year, in contrast to your predecessors, you have acknowledged that your country violates human rights and have mentioned your will to “end this chapter of the history of the United States”.

That is why it is important for you to know that you are coming to Argentina. In 1976, while you were 14 years old and your country celebrated two centuries of Independence we began the most tragic period of our history with the installation of state terrorism that submitted our people to persecution, torture, death and disappearances to erase the right to liberty, independence and sovereignty.

I write to you as a survivor of this horror that, like many more, were victims of persecution, jail and torture for defending their human rights against the Latin American dictatorships imposed by the Doctrine of National Security and “Operation Condor” financed, trained and coordinated by the United States. It was this collective battle that awarded me the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the peoples of Latin America.

Meanwhile, the United States trained the Latin American Armed Forces in the School of the Americas (SOA) in techniques of torture and kidnappings. Here it promoted the local elites and neo liberal policies that destroyed the productive capacities of the country and imposed an illegal and illegitimate foreign debt. While acknowledging these actions we also recognized the solidarity of the people of the United States. Although exceptions were the former US president Jimmy Carter and the Secretary of Human Rights, Patricia Derian who denounced the actions of the dictatorship.

You will arrive in our country on the National Day of Memory for Truth and Justice, the same day that culminated 40 years of the last genocidal dictatorship of Argentina. It is also the 200th year of our national independence. Certainly you cannot ignore that your country has many pending debts with us and many others.

If your intention is to come here and acknowledge ,in the name of the United States of America, that your country backed the coups of the past and present in the region. By announcing that your country will sign and ratify the Rome Statute and submit to the International Court of Justice you will no longer be the only country in America that did not ratify the American Convention of Human Rights. It is good news that the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), will be closed as well as the “International Academy for Fulfillment of the Law” (ILEA), inherited from the School of the Americas. And that you will close the military bases the US has in Latin America. Then you will be welcomed any day in Argentina.

But, if you come intending to impose the Free Trade Treaty and to defend the privileges of transnational corporations that plunder the land of our peoples and mother earth. Or are you coming to support the illegitimate demands of the financial funds, the “Vulture Funds” as we call them here? Or is your intention to recommend the failed recipe of intervention by the Armed Forces in issues of internal security and with the excuse of fighting drug traffic and suppress popular movements? In that case we have no choice but to remember the words of the liberator Simón Bolívar who warned: “The United States seems destined by providence to plague Latin America and plunge in poverty in the name of liberty”.

The world power you represent has been behind all attempts at destabilizing popular governments in our continent, particularly Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras and many others. Upon 200 years of our independence I feel obliged to inform you that we do not accept old or new colonialisms; we do not accept a new Washington Consensus that imposes reforms of hunger and exclusion. The Latin American peoples already defeated the imperial project of the FTTA and will again confront all new attempts to impose similar ones.

If your intention is not to announce these reparations or prevent new unfortunate suffering then your visit will be a warning to most of the Argentine people as a provocation against our national identity: the defense of human Rights and of the peoples.

Many of us have been surprised by you official communication that your visit is to acknowledge the contribution of Mauricio Macri in defense of Human Rights in the region. The first time that Macri defended publicly human rights was to mention another country in which he does not acknowledge political manipulation against Venezuela is a policy of Human Rights.

We expect that this alleged recognition is not a destabilizing offensive against the sister Bolivarian Republic.

In the meantime Venezuela recently passed the “Special Law to prevent and punish Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatments” increasing sentences to those who apply these practices.

In Argentina we are worried that in 2014 there were only 6 843 cases of torture in jails and now the president has said nothing, not one word. Not before or now.

I mention this because it is a concern of yours regarding your own country that has the largest number of prisoners in the world (one of every four prisoners are in North America) and also you know well that in these centers torture is applied routinely. As demonstrated in the complete report “Program for the Detention and Interrogations by the CIA” of the US Congress in 2014. We are urged to fight these practices throughout the world.

Peace depends on Justice. In reality we are committed to this road for those who are hungry and thirsty for Justice to guarantee full validity of the Rights of Persons and Peoples, of yesterday and today. This has granted Argentina the right to bring to court those who committed crimes against humanity.

For this reason it is important for you to know that on March 24 no president or personality can represent the Argentine people in all its diversity and represent itself with the slogans and peaceful demonstrations in all the streets and plazas of the country.

Clearly Pope Francisco declared in the Meeting of Social Movements in Bolivia: “The future of humanity is not only in the hands of great leaders, great power and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of the Peoples”.

That is why, if you don’t postpone your visit, you may hear what the Argentine people have to say to the world.

I again greet you with Peace and Wellbeing, wishing you strength and hope for the peoples.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel