|Volume 9, Issue 4||Fall 1999|
Direct charter flights to Cuba from New York City will begin on December 3rd for the first time since 1962. On August 3, the Clinton administration first announced the opening of New York and Los Angeles to such flights , previously only possible through Miami. As with the Miami charters, only travelers licensed by the Treasury Department will be allowed on the flights. Marazul Charters will operate the first set of charters. The 3½ hour flight costs $629 for a round-trip fare. The charter will leave Kennedy International at 8:35 every Friday night and return before dawn on Saturday morning. More flights will be added in response to demand. The majority of the 150 seats on the first flight had already been sold by early November. Most of the passengers are expected to be Cuban-Americans from New York and New Jersey.
NNOC Conference coincides with WTO Summit. Due to the possibility of Cuban President Fidel Castro attending the WTO summit, the National Network on Cuba, a coalition of organizations working to normalize relations with Cuba, held its US/Cuba 2000 conference in Seattle on December 3-6. The conference and preparation coincided with the tens of thousands of environmental, human rights and labor activists convening to protest corporate globalization and free trade policies of the WTO. US/Cuba 2000 featured panels and teach-ins covering a wide range of Cuban issues, including democracy, the island's economy, health and education in Cuba, and the situation of women. Workshops included members of Congress, academics, labor leaders, and Cuban government officials. Cuba is one of the WTO's founding members, but also one of its strongest critics, insisting that the organization do more to contribute to fair and equal development for the Third World. The Cuba government has also sought to overturn the 1996 Helms-Burton Act as a WTO-illegal obstruction of trade due to the way the act imposes extra-territorial barriers on countries trading with Cuba. The Cuban government consistently challenges the neo-liberal agenda advanced by the WTO. In the past, President Castro has warned that corporate globalization threatens to turn "the Third World into a huge free-trade zone, full of maquiladoras that will not even pay taxes." Information provided by Caryn Mandelbaum, Global Exchange.
Ibero-American Summit in Cuba. In his closing remarks on Novemebr 16, Fidel Castro hailed the IX summit as a "fruitful and fertile" exchange. The final declaration reaffirmed a commitment to political pluralism and human rights, as well as calling for the US "to put an end to the application of the Helms-Burton law, in conformity with resolutions approved by the General Assembly of the UN." Chile and Argentina boycotted the summit in protest of Spain's attempt to extradite Chilean General Augusto Pinochet. Nonetheless, the Document of Havana did include the "energetic rejection of the application of unilateral and extraterritorial laws or national measures that infringe upon international law," seen as endorsement of Chile's position. US Administration officials applaud the call for democracy and human rights in Cuba while discounting the censure the US embargo as a matter of US policy, not international law.
U.N. again calls for United States to end embargo against Cuba. For the eighth consecutive year, the U.N. General assembly overwhelmingly supported a resolution calling for the end of the U.S. embargo against Cuba. This year's vote of 155-2 with eight abstentions, compared favorably to last year's tally of 157-2 with 12 abstentions. Like last year, only Israel voted with the United States, despite their own record of trade with Cuba. Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Micronesia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Senegal and Uzbekistan all abstained. The resolution referred particularly to the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, viewed by many in the international community as a violation of international law and sovereignty by penalizing international companies that trade with Cuba. Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly as well as former Foreign Minister and UN permanent representative, spoke first on the resolution by "officially announcing to [the] assembly that a lawsuit will be filed against the government of the United States for compensation of over $100 billion on account of the enormous damages caused to the people of Cuba by the blockade." Alarcon argued that the U.S. embargo is intended "to destroy the Cuban people," and should be considered an act of genocide, thus punishable under the 1948 convention against genocide.
Why Should We Care About Agriculture in Cuba?
By Cristina Kanizares
One of the biggest problems faced by proponents of organic agriculture is the firmly established agroindustry, which claims that organic, small-scale, sustainable methods of food production are simply not economically viable. The popular perception is that toxic chemicals, the demise of the family farm, and the consolidation of the control over our food system into a few, powerful, transnational corporations are all necessary if we are to feed the world's ever-expanding population.
Cuba is proving that preconception a myth. It is the first nation to attempt to convert its entire system of food production to sustainable methods. This conversion does not mean a simple substitution of organic inputs for chemical ones; Cuba has changed the very structure of its agricultural system. The formerly monolithic state farms have been slowly parceled out to cooperatives and individual farmers, thereby increasing their efficiency and allowing the farmers greater food security. In the cities, unused land has been made available to its citizens for cultivation, creating a vast system of organic urban gardens. The more than 8,000 gardens in Havana alone produced 541,000 tons of food in 1998 and accounted for as much as 30% of the nutritional needs of certain areas.
Cuba has become a leader in the world of organic agriculture. Its research and development and its extension agencies have (continued ...)
In this issue ...
Agent Orange Update
Debt Relief and the Economic Crisis
Vietnam Women's Union Hosts Energy Training
What Happened to the Trade Agreement
The Legacy of the Khmer Rouge
Conference Report III