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To Cuba With Love

by Bob Fitrakis
FEBRUARY 21, 2015

Americans In Cuba With Love

“…Cuba’s voice is a voice that must be heard in the United States of America. Yet it has not been heard. It must now be heard because the United States is too powerful, its responsibilities to the world and to itself are too great, for its people not to be able to listen to every voice of the hungry world.” ~ C. Wright Mills, Listen, Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba, 1960.

Mills’ words are unfortunately still true today. Cuban people remain hungry and we have not heard their voices because the U.S. has silenced them for more than 50 years by imposing a brutal “blockade” that we call an “embargo.” If any ship in the world goes to a Cuban port, they may not enter a U.S. port for six months. Any company that trades with Cuba is banned from the U.S. market. If any product uses any materials, pieces or parts from Cuba, it is not allowed to be sold in the United States.

Cuba’s crime? Being the only nation in the western hemisphere with the cojones to resist the world’s only “megapower.”

It appears that President Barack Obama however, in the aftermath of a thrashing by the Republican Party in the midterm Congressional elections, suddenly heard the whispers of his own conscience and the Cuban people. On December 17, he announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the largest island in the Caribbean.

The action is largely symbolic, but did make it a bit easier for U.S. citizens to go to Cuba. You can now take an 80 minute-flight directly from the United States, receive an official visa and have a Cuban stamp on your passport. No more sneaking through Mexico or Canada, though you still cannot visit as a tourist.

We visited as educators and journalists with the folks from Code Pink.

Senator John McCain recently called Code Pink “low-life scum” for recently attempting a citizens’ arrest of Henry Kissinger for war crimes. The Code Pink organizers spurned in the U.S., sought affection elsewhere when they sent a delegation of 150 people “To Cuba with Love” from February 8-15, 2015. I was part of that “largest group to visit Cuba from the United States.” Code Pink director Medea Benjamin saw the trip as the “move toward world peace” and a “powerful solidarity message” to the Cuban people.

Because Cuba exists in part in a strange 1950s time warp thanks to the embargo that began in 1961 and continues to this day. The city of Havana seems frozen in time, like a 1950s postcard faded and frayed at the edges. The city of Havana’s architecture varies from crumbling but still stunning Spanish Colonial mansions to brightly colored stucco haciendas to huge art deco and art nouveau apartment buildings with each unit sporting its own balcony. In the rural areas, Cuba appears more Amish and pre-industrial with farmers using oxen and horse-drawn plows.

Cuban native Jesus Noguera Ravelo invited a small Code Pink group to his home in Havana, where he answered questions about life in Cuba and its future. He insisted that there has been more change in the last ten years than in the previous thirty.

Revalo had originally aspired to be a diplomat and majored in international studies. He was working on his Masters when he realized that, rather than stamping visas all day, he should be using his fluency in English to share the Cuban experience with English speaking visitors as a tour guide.

Tourism has been either the first or second leading industry in Cuba since the early 1990s. A key point is that Canada never broke diplomatic ties with Cuba and the rest of the English speaking world now has normal relations with the country.

The entire Code Pink group was greeted at the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People (ICAP) by its President Ricardo Alarcon, who served for 30 years as Cuba’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) and was President of the National Assembly of People’s Power from 1993 to 2013. He expressed hope that the Code Pink visit would be an “exchange of knowledge.”

While the head of ICAP was encouraged by the restoration of diplomatic ties after President Kennedy broke them off 55 years ago, he called the remaining embargo of Cuba continuing “economic warfare.” He called Obama’s decision “very positive.”

Alarcon questioned the logic of Cuba remaining one of four countries on the U.S. list of governments that sponsor terrorism, along with Iran, Sudan and Syria. That’s right – North Korea isn’t on the list nor was Libya when the U.S. and NATO attacked it in 2011. He pointed out the irony of the United States torturing people at Guantanamo while labeling Cuba a terrorist state.

He also mentioned the hypocrisy of any demand by the U.S. for Cuba to restore fundamental human rights. The point was well made, since the U.S. is the world’s largest surveillance state and tortured both the guilty and innocent on Cuban soil at Guantanamo. Most Cubans we talked with conceded that there were problems in Cuba, but wondered why a country they associated with torture and the open shooting of blacks on the streets of major U.S. cities would be so concerned about Cuban human rights instead of putting their own house in order.

Alarcon also noted that the U.S. retains great relations with many countries that do not recognize fundamental human rights, especially rights of women. He proudly pointed out that Cuba’s Parliament is 48.8 percent female and the governments of the local provinces elected 46 percent women. Currently the U.S. Congress had 19.4 percent women.

Alarcon also reminded the delegates that since 2003, Cuban mothers and fathers receive one year paid maternity/paternity leave. The U.S. government has no law requiring paid leave for new parents.

Cuba, after being abandoned by the Soviet Union in 1991 is transitioning away from its old Soviet-style model of state planning of economy used in the 60s, 70s and 80s. In the new economy, the country – having survived the “Special Period” of the 1990s when the Soviet Union withdrew support – some 440,000 workers are now self-employed. Revalo is now one of the so-called self-employed Cubans. Virtually all Cubans worked for the state government until the Special Period.

Alarcon noted “we should not be afraid of capitalists. This time it won’t be like when Columbus came.” He emphatically stated, “Cuba is not for sale. You must get the approval of the government, which will say yes or no” to capital investment in the country.

Our tour guide Betty, who works for the same co-op travel agency as Jesus, told us we need to remember that “most Cubans owned nothing in 1959 when the nationalization of property occurred. Fidel recognizes we have made mistakes. Here we are now without any model, without anybody to look to, working out our problems.”

Ravelo said that one of the country’s major changes was moving from sugar-only agriculture to diversified organic farming “because they had to.” Without financial credits from the Soviet Union and a guaranteed market for the sugar exports, Cuba could no longer employ the industrial strength model of heavy herbicides and pesticides.

When asked why there was not better internet service in Cuba and whether it had to do with an authoritarian government, Alarcon answered that it was “because the U.S. does not permit us” to get internet service and it has to go through Canada which never broke relations with Cuba.

Alarcon offered a question to the delegates: “Why did your government make it so hard to come to Cuba? We invite you to come and make up your own mind. Why does your government stop people from coming and making up their own mind? One state cannot dictate to another state.”

He also suggested that one day the people of the U.S. may not be under the control of a “plutocracy” but it may “take some time” and that “we don’t want to impose a social revolution on the United States.”

The Code Pink delegates listened to the Cuban people, shared knowledge and ideas, and agreed to take their words back to the people of the United States. Their key request is that the U.S. government end the blockade. The second request is to remove Cuba from the state-sponsored terrorist list. The third request is to stop torturing detainees at Guantanamo and return that land to the Cuban people.

As C. Wright Mills stated, “If we do not listen to them, if we do not hear them well, we face all the perils of ignorance—and with these, the perils of dangerous mistakes.”

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Green Party to march in the Pride Parade, Free Press FREE Movie on Tuesday!

Join the Green Party to march in the
Pride Parade this weekend and
Join us for the Free Press FREE Movie on Tuesday!

March in the Columbus Pride Parade Saturday, June 21 @ 11am Join the Franklin County Green Party and the Hart for Congress campaign Meet on Front Street (between Main and Broad) at 11am. Look for the Hart for Congress banner or call 614-374-2380 for directions.

March in the Columbus Pride Parade
Saturday, June 21 @ 11am
Join the Franklin County Green Party and the
Hart for Congress campaign
Meet on Front Street (between Main and Broad) at 11am. Look for the Hart for Congress banner or call 614-374-2380 for directions.

<a href=Growing Cities: A Film about Urban Farming in America Tuesday, June 24, 7:30pm Drexel Theater, 2254 E. Main St. This award-winning documentary examines the role of urban farming in America and asks how much power it has to revitalize our cities and to change the way we eat. A question-and-answer discussion will follow with a panel moderated by Michelle Moskowitz Brown, Director of Local Matters. Co-sponsored by Simply Living, the Columbus Free Press, and the Columbus Film Council. Contact: Chuck.Lynd@gmail.com or call 614-354-6172 colsfreepress@gmail.com or (614) 253-2571

Greens appear to have achieved historic victory Statewide write-in effort leaves the Greens as the only alternative in Ohio’s governor race

May 24, 2014
By Bob Fitrakis

The Green Party is fighting for its political life in Ohio. The gerrymandered, Republican-controlled state legislature outlawed all minor parties in Ohio in 2013 while both the Libertarian and Green Parties were in the middle of the petition drives for their gubernatorial candidates. Neither the Libertarians nor the Greens achieved ballot status by submitting signatures. While the Libertarian Party sued to maintain ballot status and lost in federal court, the Green Party invoked a seldom used state law that allows a statewide candidate to gain ballot status by getting 500 write-in votes.
The initial canvas of precincts showed the Green Party with 766 write-in votes for their gubernatorial candidate. The number, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, has now dwindled to 628 votes. By state law, all county boards of elections must certify their vote total and forward it to the Secretary of State’s office by May 27. The Secretary of State must post the actual results 30 days after the May 6 election.
Anita Rios, the gubernatorial candidate, is currently showing 4% in SurveyUSA’s statewide poll. In order for the Green Party to survive under the current Republican law, still being challenged in federal court, their gubernatorial candidate must get 2% in the November election.
The Green Party of Ohio has played a key role in Ohio election protection activities. In 2004, they sued to recount the controversial Bush victory in the Buckeye state. In 2008, the Green Party ran an extensive election protection effort and their 2006 gubernatorial candidate Bob Fitrakis (this writer) was involved in deposing the Bush family’s election IT specialist, Michael Connell. In 2012, this writer, then a Green Party congressional candidate, sued the Ohio Secretary of State in both state and federal court to halt secret, untested, experimental software patches from being placed on 20 county central tabulators.
Whether Rios and the Green Party appear on the ballot with the legal standing to sue and the right to certify election observers throughout the state on the upcoming election day depends on the 128 vote surplus that may be certified on May 27.
Green Party voters found it difficult in many counties, particularly Franklin County, to cast a write-in vote on the electronic voting machines. When voters pulled a Green Party ballot the voting machine would give them the option for a write-in without it mentioning what race it was for and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive preventing pollworkers from handing voters a list of official statewide write-in candidates unless the voter specifically requested it.
In Franklin County, 454 people voted Green and only 130 write-in votes were counted the day after the election. That number has since fallen to 122 write-in votes. In Cuyahoga County, that initially reported 141 write-in votes, the number declined to 79. With 100% of the counties reporting and the unofficial county canvas being reported by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, it is hard to imagine that the Ohio Green Party would lose another 128 votes.
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Bob Fitrakis ran as the Green Party-endorsed Governor candidate in 2006, as a Green Party candidate for U.S. Congress in 2012 and is currently the Lt. Governor candidate.

Fight Back – Episode: 01/22/14 Citizens United, Ohio Death Penalty, The ColumbusFreePress.com

Fight Back Dr. Robert Fitrakis and various guests. 01-22-14

Fight Back Podcast, October 06, 2012 Special Guest Ass’t Professor Of Economics, Dr. Fadel Kaboub

Fight Back Podcast, October 06, 2012
Special Guest Ass’t Professor Of Economics, Dr. Fadel Kaboub from Denison University

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Fight Back: Dr. Fitrakis Interviews Richard Charnin Statistician On Exit Polling And Election Irregularities

Bob Fitrakis on “Fight Back”: With the 2012 election fast approaching, is the U.S. election system designed for election fraud?
Bob interviews election fraud expert Richard Charnin discussing the importance of exit polls and evidence of election irregularities from past elections.
Richard Charnin (“TruthIsAll”) began his career as a numerical control engineer/programmer for a major defense/aerospace manufacturer. In 1976, he moved on to Wall Street as manager/developer of corporate finance quantitative applications for three major investment banks. For the 2004 presidential election, he projected that Kerry would win 337 electoral votes and 51.8% of the two-party vote, closely matching the unadjusted exit polls.

Listen and call in this Wednesday, November 30
7 – 8 PM
http://talktainmentradio.com
Call 877-932-9766
*************************
Here’s how to call in to the LIVE INTERNET radio show:
(on your computer – not on your broadcast radio dial)
On Wednesday nights at 7:00 pm
Go to: http://talktainmentradio.com
Click on “Listen Live”
Call 877-932-9766

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Two important events Tuesday February 22

Ohio Rally Against Senate Bill 5

Tuesday, February 22, 2011, starting at 1:00 p.m. and continuing into the evening there will be a massive rally at the Statehouse to oppose Senate Bill 5. Members and supporters are requested to stop by the OEA Building at 225 E. Broad St., Columbus, Ohio 43215 on Tuesday starting at 12:00 noon to pick up signs, updated talking points and instructions before heading over to the Statehouse. The rally is expected to gear up at 1pm. Click here to RSVP for this event!

The Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee considering SB 5 just published the hearing schedule, which will start at 4pm. In order to most fully organize and mobilize in opposition to this bill, we have decided, along with our community and labor coalition partners, to stage this rally starting at 1pm and running into Tuesday night. If you are unable to come during the day Tuesday, please plan to come to Columbus after school on Tuesday, stopping by the OEA first and then on to the Statehouse. This is an all-hands-on-deck week coming up, so please talk with your colleagues, neighbors and friends and bring them with you on Tuesday!

Please begin sharing this information and helping our members organize a tremendous turnout on Tuesday. While we do not know when the hearing will end, we do expect significant media attention all day Tuesday and into the evening. We need to demonstrate that all of Ohio is opposed to this bill. RSVP’s are helpful, but not required. We encourage you to continue to make your voice heard and contact your legislators about your opposition to Senate Bill 5.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2011
7:30PM

Free Press Free Film Night

THE POLITICAL PROSECUTIONS OF KARL ROVE
by Project Save Justice

In the hands of renowned filmmaker John McTiernan, director of the Hollywood blockbusters, Predator, The Hunt for Red October, and the Die Hard trilogy, The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove offers a documented record of the pervasive misuse of the Justice Department. Sadly, as the film documents, Democrats were targeted at all levels of the system and in many states across the country. The film reveals startling evidence supporting the use of the U.S. Department of Justice to create a permanent Republican majority. In fact, statistics show that in the 15 months leading up to the 2008 general election, indictments of elected Democrats increased by nearly 50%. The soul-stirring documentary offers convincing evidence to indicate that a vigorous and comprehensive strategy was pursued toattack lower levels of the Democratic Party designed to completely uproot and undermine any challenges to Republican political power.

Brought to you by the Free Press, the Drexel Theater, and the Central Ohio Green Education Fund.
Drexel Theater, 2254 E. Main St. Bexley
truth@freepress.org
253-2571

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