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Cuba Still Being Punished


John Simkin
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http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/st...2005865,00.html

Duncan Campbell

Monday February 5, 2007

The Guardian

An Oslo hotel, owned by the US Hilton chain, refused a booking by a Cuban trade delegation to the city's travel fair last month because of the US embargo of the communist Caribbean island.

The Hilton group is also banning Cuban delegations from all of its hotels around the world as are other American hotel companies, a Hilton spokeswoman in London told the Guardian yesterday.

"We are a US company," said Linda Bain, vice-president for communications at the group. "The dilemma we face is that [if we took a booking from a Cuban delegation] we would be subject to fines or prison and if anyone [from the company] tried to enter the US, they would be arrested." She said they were now seeking clarification of their position from the US government.

Norwegian trade unions and anti-racist organisations complained about the Scandic hotel's actions and are now moving union conferences elsewhere until the policy is changed.

"It is not allowed by law in Norway to discriminate on grounds of gender, religion or nationality," said the deputy leader of the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees, Anne Grethe Skaardal. "It is unacceptable for the US to dictate to the whole world."

The hotel ban is just one of the latest of many similar actions prompted by the US embargo of Cuba.

Last month freelance journalist Tom Fawthrop, who has written for the Guardian and the Economist, was puzzled that he had not been paid for an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that he had written about the Cuban health service. On enquiring what had happened, he received this message from Citibank Global: "Due to US sanctions, your payment was stopped for the following reason - reference to Cuban doctors. The Office of Foreign Asset Controls is requesting clarification. Please advise details of Cuban doctors and also purpose of this transaction."

Last year, Ann Louise Bardach, the American journalist and author who wrote the book Cuba Confidential, was also puzzled that she had not received payment for consultancy work on the Channel Four Film, 638 Ways to Kill Castro. She took the matter up with the production company in London and it transpired that the payment had indeed been sent but had been held up in the US because the word "Cuba" appeared in reference to the payment.

When the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, based in north London, needed to buy a new office computer they approached Dell, whose headquarters are in Texas. The order was placed and accepted but a few days later they were contacted by Dell seeking information about the destination of the computer. They explained that it was for use in London offices. Dell then wanted to know about the organisation's funding and the names of their executive members. The campaign decided to take their custom elsewhere.

"The fact that the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, a UK based NGO, are restricted from buying a Dell computer for use in our north London offices, illustrates the far reaching effects of a blockade that is increasingly imposing US bigotry and absurdity onto the lives of UK citizens," said Rob Miller of Cuba Solidarity.

The hotel ban has also operated in different parts of the world. Last year, the Mexican government fined the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel in Mexico City around £60,000 for expelling 16 Cuban guests.

Last night the Labour MP Colin Burgon contacted the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, to ask her to issue a "robust rebuttal" to the hotel ban.

The Labour MP Ian Gibson, the chairman of the group, described the ban as "small-minded". A vote on the embargo at the UN last year showed that 183 countries oppose it and four (the US, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands) support it. The embargo, which is supported by the Bush administration, is opposed by opposition groups in Cuba which describe it as counter-productive. A growing number of US politicians also seek to have the embargo lifted.

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In order to not unfairly boycott ALL U.S.A. products, services, businesses etc it would be good to know which don't behave like Dell, Hiltion and the others listed here. This theft of money from people who write or say anything true about Cuba is deplorable. Which US business leaders do not approve of this sort of behaviour? There must be some. I'd like to know where to direct my (meagre) funds to see an end to this apartheid.

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In order to not unfairly boycott ALL U.S.A. products, services, businesses etc it would be good to know which don't behave like Dell, Hiltion and the others listed here. This theft of money from people who write or say anything true about Cuba is deplorable. Which US business leaders do not approve of this sort of behaviour? There must be some. I'd like to know where to direct my (meagre) funds to see an end to this apartheid.

When I visited Cuba people would come up to me on the streets, shake me by the hand, and thank me for not joining the economic boycott against them.

When I entered the country the immigration official asked me if I was likely to want to visit the United States in the future. I said that I would. He therefore said he would not stamp my passport because if he did, I would not be allowed into the United States again.

It is about time the whole world started boycotting US products, services, businesses, in order to stop them interfering in other countries. It is the one message they would fully understand.

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It is about time the whole world started boycotting US products, services, businesses, in order to stop them interfering in other countries. It is the one message they would fully understand.

Such a boycott stands no real chance of happening. If people stop buying from the U.S., then maybe just maybe the U.S. would stop buying from them. The U.S. is far and away the biggest consumer in the world. If such a boycott were to take place, it would almost certainly lead to a world-wide recession.

But don't worry...our reign as the big dog is coming to a close. The massive amounts of debt piled up by the Bush Administration will force a down-sizing of our government, which will inevitably lead to reduced spending. A big part of the reduction will come from Defense. I would like to think there will be a tax increase on the obscenely wealthy, but wouldn't bet on it. After Bush's daddy raised taxes, and paid the price, few presidential candidates have had the sac to tell the American people that raising taxes on the wealthy can be a GOOD thing for the economy. Clinton raised them a little and the economy soared. Hopefully someone besides his wife will remember that in 08.

Edited by Pat Speer
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But don't worry...our reign as the big dog is coming to a close. The massive amounts of debt piled up by the Bush Administration will force a down-sizing of our government, which will inevitably lead to reduced spending. A big part of the reduction will come from Defense. I would like to think there will be a tax increase on the obscenely wealthy, but wouldn't bet on it. After Bush's daddy raised taxes, and paid the price, few presidential candidates have had the sac to tell the American people that raising taxes on the wealthy can be a GOOD thing for the economy. Clinton raised them a little and the economy soared. Hopefully someone besides his wife will remember that in 08.

Not according to this article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2006815,00.html

Ewen MacAskill in Washington

Tuesday February 6, 2007

The Guardian

President George Bush is proposing to slash medical care for the poor and elderly to meet the soaring cost of the Iraq war.

Mr Bush's $2.9 trillion (£1.5 trillion) budget, sent to Congress yesterday, includes $100bn extra for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for this year, on top of $70bn already allocated by Congress and $141.7bn next year. He is planning an 11.3% increase for the Pentagon. Spending on the Iraq war is destined to top the total cost of the 13-year war in Vietnam.

The huge rise in military spending is paid for by a squeeze on domestic programmes, including $66bn in cuts over five years to Medicare, the healthcare scheme for the elderly, and $12bn from the Medicaid healthcare scheme for the poor.

Mr Bush said: "Today we submit a budget to the United States Congress that shows we can balance the budget in five years without raising taxes ... Our priority is to protect the American people. And our priority is to make sure our troops have what it takes to do their jobs."

Although Democrats control Congress and have promised careful scrutiny of the budget over the next few months, Mr Bush has left in them in a bind, unwilling to withhold funds for US troops on the frontline. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, said the days when Mr Bush could expect a blank cheque for the wars were over but she also insisted the Democrats would not deny troops the money they needed. Democrats could block Mr Bush's proposed cuts to 141 domestic programmes.

John Spratt, the Democratic chairman of the House budget committee, said: "I doubt that Democrats will support this budget and, frankly, I will be surprised if Republicans rally around it either."

Kent Conrad, the Democratic chairman of the Senate budget committee, said: "The president's budget is filled with debt and deception, disconnected from reality, and continues to move America in the wrong direction. This administration has the worst fiscal record in history and this budget does nothing to change that."

The Vietnam war cost about $614bn at today's prices. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Iraq war has so far cost $500bn. About 90% of the spending on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars goes to Iraq. In addition to the spending on Iraq and Afghanistan this year and next, Mr Bush is seeking $50bn for 2009.

Mr Bush said the fact there was no projected figure for 2010 did not mean he expected US troops to be out of Iraq by then. He said he did not want to set a timetable "because we don't want to send mixed signals to an enemy or to a struggling democracy or to our troops".

Included in the budget is $5.6bn for the extra 21,500 US troops that Mr Bush ordered to Iraq last month. Some Democrats have threatened to withhold this part of the budget but more than half of the troops are in place with the others on the way. A plan to build the Joint Strike Aircraft has been withheld. Its absence, at the request of the Pentagon, could have a knock-on effect for jobs in the UK.

In the run-up to the invasion in 2003, the Pentagon's projected estimate of the total cost of the war was $50bn. A White House economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, was fired by President Bush when he suggested that the total cost would be $200bn.

The New York Times noted that the cost of the war would have paid for universal healthcare in the US, nursery education for all three and four-year-olds in the country, immunisation for children round the world against a host of diseases, and still leave about half of the money left over.

The Pentagon has long complained that it is overstretched. Mr Bush wants to raise its budget from $600.3bn to $624.6bn for 2008 - about 20% of the total budget.

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I don't know about that Pat. The boycott is happening to some extent. Ethical choice in Hotel accommodation, for example, is a simple thing. Dell is just one computer company. Many countries other than the US have publishers. Shifting wealth to those who support the decades long worldwide condemntation of the Cuba Embargo will help US industry to understand that they can readily become irrelevant unless they distance themselves from the economic terrorism the US is waging on a sovereign member of the world community. As the wealth is redistributed according to ethical considerations a market where US participation is irrelevant can emerge. In fact through such organisations as the Non Aligned Movement it already is. Every individual can make this simple choice themselves, do I buy this one or that one, simple. The result would not be recession but rather a level playing field, ethics in business, and peace. It's really up to certain US business interest groupings to decide whether they want to participate in the global community or to find themselves increasingly irrelevant and isolated.

Edited by John Dolva
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I don't know about that Pat. The boycott is happening to some extent. Ethical choice in Hotel accommodation, for example, is a simple thing. Dell is just one computer company. Many countries other than the US have publishers. Shifting wealth to those who support the decades long worldwide condemntation of the Cuba Embargo will help US industry to understand that they can readily become irrelevant unless they distance themselves from the economic terrorism the US is waging on a sovereign member of the world community. As the wealth is redistributed according to ethical considerations a market where US participation is irrelevant can emerge. In fact through such organisations as the Non Aligned Movement it already is. Every individual can make this simple choice themselves, do I buy this one or that one, simple. The result would not be recession but rather a level playing field, ethics in business, and peace. It's really up to certain US business interest groupings to decide whether they want to participate in the global community or to find themselves increasingly irrelevant and isolated.

People can and probably do refuse to buy American products for ethical reasons. Governments, on the other hand, risk economic warfare by officially enforcing boycotts against the United States. Think of the hypocrisy involved. How can a country boycott the U.S. because we treat Cuba unfairly, and not be accused of treating us unfairly? In the world of realpolitik, Castro was an American creation, who betrayed us. We then began a boycott and attempted to kill him. He then asked for and received offensive nuclear weapons and pointed them at us. To most heads of state, our relationship with him is none of their business.

Besides, at this point it's academic. Castro will be dead within the year, and U.S. businesses will swarm into Cuba like flies on sherbet. I hope to see you at the Havana Hilton this Christmas.

And John, I didn't mean that Bush would cut military spending. He's gonna suck us dry. I predict he'll then embark on a speaking tour of all the military contractors benefiting from his little war, and get paid a million bucks or more per speech. This is how his father got back in the swing of things after pardoning his cohorts in the Iran-Contra affair. Like father, like son.

Edited by Pat Speer
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"Besides, at this point it's academic. Castro will be dead within the year, and U.S. businesses will swarm into Cuba like flies on sherbet. I hope to see you at the Havana Hilton this Christmas."

I doubt that very much. Such misunderstanding and contempt of the Cuban people and their defence of their system which has nothing to do with whether Castro is alive or not is the very reason that the US interest groupings seeking to interfere in Cuba will fail. It reminds me of Tim Gratz's and others like him that seem to assume that Cubans are stupid cowards and only desire to be swallowed up into the US empire. There's not much of US society to recommend itself to the Cuban citizen. That's why such devious and criminal actions are used against them.

At least Kennedy sought to present an alternative. Unfortunately for the Interest Groupings today seeking to make life miserable for Cubans, that road leads also to a demand within the US for a fair society.

The world wide boycott of these dinosaur economic forces is a way that all the worlds citizens together can bring them to heel. Fortunately there are no laws that say 'buy american'. Not supporting the businesses that carry out this unwanted meddling in sovereign nations is a good wat to say to the anti cuban interest groupings : 'get stuffed'.

I'm not sure, but if the interview I saw some months ago is correct then Ted Turner (while expressing himself in a most amusing style) is possibly someone to do business with.

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I think it is long past due for America to not only end the embargo, but to normalize relations with Cuba. The oft-ballyhooed claim of "Cuba's record on human rights" by those who favor the boycott may hold some truth, but compared to some of the regimes with which the American government has crawled into bed, Cuba is far from the most egregious offender.

There are also those that say that there is little to be gained for America to normalize relations and end the embargo. I respectfully disagree with this.

A free and open trade policy with Cuba would provide American business another source of its beloved "cheap labor" with far fewer costs associated with long overseas transport (as is the case with China and other far-east providers). In the end, both economies would benefit. And, perhaps most important of all, Cuban cigars would again be available in the 'states...

And Pat, I wouldn't count on any tax increases anywhere except in the middle class...

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John Dolva, it's well known that Cubans long for a closer relationship with the U.S. It's also well known that American businesses are dying to get into Cuba. There has been one thing and one thing only preventing the inevitable. The U.S. government's reluctance to make nice with Castro. Once Castro is gone, they'll have the cover of saying "well, we refused to deal with Fidel, but now that he's gone, it's a brand new day, etc..." I'm not saying that as soon as Castro dies, McDonalds will open 20 locations in Havana. But the U.S. tourism industry is bound to move in, and be greeted with open arms. Thereafter, Cuba will return as a top honeymoon/weekend getaway for Americans of all stripes and sizes... You can bet on it. While few, if any, in Cuba long for Batista, most have wanted a change in their country for quite some time. Or so I've been led to believe by those I know who've traveled there.

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The New York Times noted that the cost of the war would have paid for universal healthcare in the US, nursery education for all three and four-year-olds in the country, immunisation for children round the world against a host of diseases, and still leave about half of the money left over.

Theoretically true, but irrelevant, since everyone knows that the Congress would never appropriate that kind of money for "socialized medicine" etc. Only a good war can open such floodgates of loot.

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Pat, certainly they long for an end to the embargo and the suffering it brings. This is the change they want. Not the one you seem to suggest. They have a fair and democratic society free from the excesses of US capitalism. By having open access to that which is denied by the embargo and the meddling in the affairs of the countries that wish to trade with them, their type of society will flourish. And in turn the other Latin/southern american nations and all the members of the non aligned movement will continue to create an alternative which will benefit all. Not because of anything the US may have to offer. But because of what they would stop doing.

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