Archive for the Canada Category

“US faces another debacle on Pacific economic treaty” – TPP, fake free trade pact, in trouble [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Anti-China propaganda exposure, Australia, Canada, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, Chile, China, China-bashing, Economic crisis & decline, Economy, Encirclement of China, EU, European Union, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Media cover-up, Mexico, New Zealand, Obama, Peru, Protectionist Trade War with China, Singapore, south Korea, U.K., US imperialism, USA, USA 21st Century Cold War, Vietnam on April 5, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Mike Head
4 April 2015

Having suffered a decisive defeat in its efforts to block other countries from joining the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the US government faces mounting difficulties with regard to its most far-reaching move to dominate the Asia-Pacific region: the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

In Hawaii last month, the latest round of five-year-long TPP talks between the 12 governments involved broke up without any further agreement. For the third year in a row, the White House’s deadline for a final deal looks set to be breached in 2015.

Significantly, the main stumbling block this time was reportedly not ongoing differences between the US and Japan over auto and agricultural markets, but doubts over President Barack Obama’s capacity to get congressional approval for the pact.

Falsely presented as a “free trade” deal, the TPP is the opposite. It is aimed at creating a vast US-controlled economic bloc. In return for favoured access to the US market, which is still the largest in the world, the TPP requires its members to scrap all legal, regulatory and government impediments to American investment and corporate operations.

The TPP is an essential component of Washington’s military and strategic “pivot” to Asia, aimed at establishing unchallenged hegemony over the region, including China, which has thus far been excluded from the treaty. The “partnership” seeks to restructure every aspect of economic and social life across the Asia-Pacific in the interests of Wall Street finance capital and the largest US corporations, particularly the IT, pharmaceutical and media conglomerates.

A similar drive is underway to incorporate the European Union into a Transatlantic Trade and I nvestment Partnership (TTIP) bloc. Like the TPP, the European treaty is being negotiated behind the backs of the international working class amid tight secrecy, with hundreds of the world’s largest corporations taking part.

Obama has resorted to blatant anti-Chinese rhetoric in a bid to overcome opposition to aspects of the TPP from sections of the Democratic and Republican congressional leaderships. In one recent interview, the US president declared: “If we don’t write the rules out there, China’s going to write the rules and the geopolitical implications of China writing the rules for trade almost inevitably means that we will be cut out or we will be deeply disadvantaged. Our businesses will be disadvantaged, our workers will be disadvantaged.”

Washington is concerned that other imperialist powers, such as Germany, Britain and Japan, could strengthen their positions in China at the expense of the US unless America “writes the rules” for world trade in the 21st century.

Global financial commentators are drawing attention to what is at stake. Under the headline, “Round two in America’s battle for Asian influence,” David Pilling wrote in the London-based Financial Times on April 1: “Washington’s attempt to lead a boycott of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank ended in farce after Britain broke ranks and other nations from Germany to South Korea fell over themselves to join. If round one was a defeat for America, round two hangs in the balance.”

Pilling noted that the TPP’s exclusion of China, on the grounds that its economy was state-owned and centrally planned, was obviously concocted. “In a peculiar display of diplomatic contortion,” he wrote, “Vietnam — a country whose economy is as centrally planned and as rigged [sic] as the best of them — is somehow considered fit for entry.”

The Financial Times Asia editor pointedly added that the TPP was “just as likely to annoy America’s allies in the region as reassure them” because of its intrusive demands, which include the dismantling of state-owned enterprises, tendering restrictions, financial regulations, data protection rules and intellectual property laws.

Washington’s aggressive drive to establish the TPP and TTIP economic blocs marks a reversal of its post-World War II role, when the ascendancy of American industry permitted it to champion the reconstruction of its Japanese and European rivals, albeit always for its own benefit, including via the expansion of markets for its exports.

Today, amid the ongoing decline of US industry, its ruling elite depends increasingly on the parasitic activities of Wall Street, the exploitation of patents by Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the drug companies, and contracts for the supply of military hardware. These rapacious interests will most directly benefit from the TPP.

Many details remain secret, but pro-TPP lobbying efforts highlight the anticipated profit bonanzas. Mireya Solis of the Brookings Institution think tank stressed advantages such as “internationalisation of financial services, protection of intellectual property and governance of the Internet economy.”

US technology firms would benefit from a ban on requiring companies to house customers’ data within a specific country. “If we’re going to serve the customer of Malaysia from, say, a data center in Singapore, the data has to be able to move back and forth between those two countries,” Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, told the Wall Street Journal.

Central to the treaty are punitive Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) clauses, which permit transnationals to sue governments for losses allegedly caused by official policy decisions. WikiLeaks last month published a chapter of the TPP treaty showing that firms could bypass a country’s courts to obtain damages for changes in “environmental, health or other regulatory objectives.”

Apart from the US and Japan — the two biggest partners by far — the other TPP participants are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The willingness of many of these countries to make the required concessions to the US has been undermined by Obama’s failure to secure support for a Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill so that he can sign the TPP and then have it ratified by Congress with a single “yes” or “no” vote. Without TPA, Congress could force amendments to the negotiated pact, effectively rendering the agreement void.

According to a Japan Times report: “Several negotiating partners, including Canada and Japan, have publicly stated they will not put their final negotiating positions on the table until Congress grants TPA for the Obama administration. With a presidential election looming in the United States, further delay creates a real risk of TPP being delayed until 2017.”

Much of the US congressional resistance is bound up with protectionist lobbies, based on national-based industries and their trade unions. In response, the Obama administration is ramping up a campaign that explicitly spells out the expected benefits to corporate America.

On March 30, the White House published letters from former senior economic officials, including 10 ex-commerce secretaries representing every administration, Democratic and Republican, since 1973, urging congressional leaders to give Obama TPA authority.

The commerce secretaries stated: “Once completed, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will give the United States free trade arrangements with 65 percent of global GDP and give our businesses preferential access to a large base of new potential customers.”

This demand for “preferential access” by US imperialism threatens to break up the world economy into the kind of rival blocs that preceded World War I and World War II.

Edited by Zuo Shou

Article link: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/04/04/tppo-a04.html

Advertisements

Canada Casts Global Surveillance Dragnet Over File Downloads [The Intercept]

Posted in Canada, National Security Agency / NSA, NSA on March 20, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald

01/28/2015

Article link: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/01/28/canada-cse-levitation-mass-surveillance/

Secret ‘BADASS’ Intelligence Program Spied on Smartphones [The Intercept]

Posted in Canada, U.K. on March 17, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

by Micah Lee

1/27/2015

Full article link: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/01/26/secret-badass-spy-program/

Spotlight: Snowden files unveil U.S. attempt to control Internet [Xinhua]

Posted in Australia, Canada, Germany, Internet Global Hegemony, Iran, National Security Agency / NSA, New Zealand, U.K., US imperialism, USA on January 27, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

BEIJING, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) — The world-shocking global surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is just the beginning of the spook organization’s sprawling efforts to control the Internet, show new revelations attributed to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA is “planning for wars of the future in which the Internet will play a critical role” and seeking the ability to destroy enemy infrastructure remotely, German magazine Der Spiegel revealed in a recent report, citing “top-secret documents” from Snowden’s archive it has seen exclusively.

POLITERAIN, NOT SO POLITE

The Spiegel disclosure highlighted an NSA project code-named “Politerain,” which is operated by digital snipers with Tailored Access Operations, the department responsible for breaking into computers.

In its job posting, the program says it is “looking for interns who want to break things.”

On the basis of hacking into third-party computers, interns are also told to formulate plans to “remotely degrade or destroy opponent computers, routers, servers and network-enabled devices by attacking the hardware.”

Politerain spies, according to the leaked documents, have various programs for specific purposes. For example, Passionatepolka can be used to “remotely brick network cards,” Berserkr to implant “persistent backdoors” and “parasitic drivers,” and Barnfire to “erase the BIOS on a brand of servers that act as a backbone to many rival governments.”

Ultimately, the goal of the internship program was “developing an attacker’s mindset,” noted the German magazine.

SPYING IS JUST “PHASE 0”

Internal NSA documents, Der Spiegel said, indicate that surveillance of the Internet is merely “Phase 0” in the U.S. digital war strategy.

The aim of the surveillance is to detect vulnerabilities in enemy systems, which is “the prerequisite for everything that follows,” the German magazine added, citing the files.

Once “stealthy implants” have been placed to infiltrate enemy systems, thus allowing “permanent accesses,” then Phase 3 has been achieved — a phase headed by the word “dominate” in the documents.

At that stage, according to the report, NSA spooks can control and destroy “at will through pre-positioned accesses” critical systems and networks, which include anything important in keeping a society running: energy, communications and transportation.

“The internal documents state that the ultimate goal is ‘real-time controlled escalation,'” said the Spiegel report.

D WEAPONS

Atomic, biological and chemical weapons are widely referred to as the ABC weapons. Now the list has been extended to D — digital weapons.

“The next major conflict will start in cyberspace,” Der Spiegel quoted one NSA presentation as saying. To that end, the U.S. government is currently undertaking a massive effort to digitally arm itself for network warfare.

“For the 2013 secret intelligence budget, the NSA projected it would need around 1 billion dollars in order to increase the strength of its computer network attack operations. The budget included an increase of some 32 million dollars for ‘unconventional solutions’ alone,” revealed the report.

The NSA aims “to use the Net to paralyze computer networks and, by doing so, potentially all the infrastructure they control, including power and water supplies, factories, airports or the flow of money,” according to the Spiegel disclosure.

Among the D weapons is malware, and several programs of that sort have emerged in recent years that a number of indicators show are attributable to the NSA and its Five Eyes alliance, which also includes Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Spiegel report referred to Stuxnet, which was used to attack the Iranian nuclear program, and Regin, “a powerful spyware trojan that created a furor in Germany after it infected the USB stick of a high-ranking staffer to Chancellor Angela Merkel.” The latter was also used in attacks against the European Commission.

PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY

In what is called a guerilla war over data, the Snowden files show, little differentiation is made between soldiers and civilians, and any Internet user could suffer damage to his or her data or computer.

The potential damage D weapons can inflict goes well beyond the online world. For example, if U.S. spies use Barnfire to destroy or “brick” the control center of a hospital, “people who do not even own a mobile phone could be affected,” Der Spiegel noted.

While launching cyber-attacks, intelligence agencies like the NSA have adopted “plausible deniability” as their guiding principle, seeking to make it impossible to trace the sources of the attackers, the German magazine added.

“It’s a stunning approach with which the digital spies deliberately undermine the very foundations of the rule of law around the globe,” commented the magazine.

“This approach threatens to transform the Internet into a lawless zone in which superpowers and their secret services operate according to their own whims with very few ways to hold them accountable for their actions,” it added.

Article link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2015-01/19/c_133929625.htm

Charlie Hebdo, the free press and racism [Workers World]

Posted in Afghanistan, Africa, Anti-Arab / Antisemitism, Anti-Islam hysteria, Black propaganda, Canada, Capitalist media double standard, Corporate Media Critique, Fascism, France, Gaza, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Nazism, Palestine, Police, Police brutality, Police State, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Syria, Turkey, U.K., USA, USSR, Yugoslavia - former FRY on January 14, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

by Sara Flounders

January 13, 2015

How do we put in perspective the international media focus on the massacre of 12 journalists in Paris on Jan. 7 at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its racist anti-Muslim caricatures and lack of response to the routine, daily, racist police murders of Black youth in the U.S.? Why were any protests banned in France of 15 journalists who were killed among the 2,000 deaths in the Israeli assault of Gaza this past summer? Don’t those lives matter?

The Charlie Hebdo assassinations strengthen the hand of the state, which is using them in an ideological offensive, even if the state had a role in arming and training the killers.

Why are other murders not mourned, not respected, not even reported — even the murders of other journalists? A crucial role of the corporate media is to try to shape the perception of which lives matter.

Consider the mass outpourings following several different, very public killings in the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of youths have been in the streets again and again in the U.S. confronting the refusal of the state to prosecute killer cops, even when their murderous crimes have been seen on video by millions.

Hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets of Paris on Jan. 11. French, other European, U.S. and Israeli politicians led the march honoring the slain journalists.

Twice, on Dec. 27 and Jan. 4, thousands of police in uniform from all over the U.S. converged on New York City for separate funerals of two police officers shot in their patrol car in Dec. 20. Jet Blue offered free flights to all police traveling nationally to the funeral. The U.S. vice president, New York state’s governor and the city’s mayor attended the funerals. Roads in the areas were closed; giant outdoor TV screens were erected.

Not a free speech issue

The French government’s protection of the racist journal Charlie Hebdo had nothing to do with protecting freedom of speech. This is a deception that must be confronted. In 2012 the same government that protected this vile publication banned any demonstrations or protests or even public prayers opposing the racist publication.

French law allows for the prosecution of “public insults” based on religion, race, ethnicity or national origin. But the racist, sexist, bigoted, grossly insulting cartoons in Charlie Hebdo magazine were never once a source of any successful legal action.

However, France did ban anyone from even protesting the cartoons that insulted Muslims or the prophet Muhammed.

In 2012, as protests swept the Muslim world in response to an anti-Muslim film made in the U.S., French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said prefects had orders to prohibit any protest and to crack down if the ban was challenged. “There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up.” (Daily Mail, Sept. 21, 2012) Even prayer meetings and street prayers were banned. (CNN, Sept. 19, 2012)

In the same week Charlie Hebdo put out an extra run of cartoons featuring a grossly obscene caricature of a naked prophet Mohammed. The magazine was given extra police protection.

Freedom of speech and of the press is hardly sacred in France. It was punishable by a year in prison to even post on the Internet a notice of a demonstration opposing the Israeli onslaught on Palestine during the Israeli 2014 summer offensive on Gaza. France was the only country in the world to bar all demonstrations and protests in any form supporting Palestine during that time. The penalty was one year in jail and 15,000 euro fine.

It is worth noting the double standard: There is no similar crackdown against the current right-wing, fascist demonstrations against immigrants.

Role of Nazi caricature

Charlie Hebdo serves a very important purpose for French imperialism, and that is why its virulent racism has been protected at the very time that protests against it are prohibited.

Charlie Hebdo may have run cartoons to ridicule the powerful 40 years ago when it claimed to be left wing, irreverent and nonconformist. But there is a big difference between satire ridiculing the powerful — a French tradition going back to Voltaire — and the current imagery promoting fear and loathing of the oppressed and powerless. The latter is right wing and fascist in character.

In this period when Muslims are facing increasing, extreme right-wing attacks, and fascist mobilizations are growing in Europe, Charlie Hebdo functions as did the Nazi publication Der Sturmer with its vehemently anti-Semitic caricatures. Jewish people in Der Sturmer, as Muslims in Charlie Hebdo, were depicted with exaggerated facial features and misshapen bodies. Both publications use obscene, sexually explicit caricatures.

The Nazi newspaper’s caricatures were part of a policy to make Jews an object of hatred, fear, ridicule and disdain. At the end of World War II, Julius Streicher, the editor of Der Sturmer — though he didn’t run death camps but used the press to incite hatred — was put on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.

Charlie Hebdo is protected because it hardens the population against Muslim people in order to divide the population. The French government has announced a grant to Charlie Hebdo of 1 million euros, and Google donated 250,000 euros.

Charlie Hebdo is not freedom of expression and freedom of press. It is an instrument of war mobilization. It ran cartoons demonizing Serbs during the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia, and it supported NATO’s attack on Libya.

No free press

Although “free speech” and “free press” are being lauded and glorified in the murder of the French journalists, no such thing exists in any capitalist state. The press in France or in the U.S. is not free, open or accessible. The media are owned by and serve the interests of the ruling class. What can be said and who can say it is tightly controlled. The corporate media in capitalist society are owned to serve class rule. What is covered depends entirely on who can pay for publication or airtime. A handful of multibillion-dollar media conglomerates control almost all information, culture and entertainment in the Western capitalist countries — though in the past decade social media and the Internet have opened a few cracks in this overwhelming corporate control.

The media industry has an enormous impact in shaping what lives have value and what deaths go unreported, unmarked or consciously covered up.

The hundreds of thousands of deaths in wars initiated by U.S. imperialism, and with full support of French and British imperialism, are unmarked, unmourned and callously labeled “collateral damage.” The media ignore or barely mention the enormous toll in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. No mass sympathy is created when a U.S. drone wipes out a wedding party in Pakistan or a whole village with a hellfire missile.

The assassinations of journalists in these wars are hardly noted. There were no state funerals for the 166 journalists killed in Iraq under U.S. occupation. Chelsea Manning is in prison for releasing videos of U.S. helicopters gunning down two Reuter’s camera operators in Iraq and then circling to kill the family that stopped their van to try to help them.

According to The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, 15 journalists were killed in the 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza. They “were killed in civilian sites which are supposed to be safe for civilians.” Eight media centers were targeted and bombed.

U.S. bombers targeted and destroyed the RTS, Radio TV Serbia, in the 1999 U.S./NATO war on Yugoslavia, killing 17 journalists.

The most dangerous country in the world for journalists is Honduras. Since the U.S.-backed coup, 46 media and information workers have been assassinated.

The International Federation of Journalists sharply criticized NATO 2011 air strikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15. The IFJ stated that the strikes violated international law and U.N. resolutions.

If a free press existed, then Chelsea Manning would not be in prison or Edward Snowden and Julian Assange on the run, living in exile.

What media are even allowed coverage in imperialist countries demonstrates how little freedom of the press is respected. For example, PRESS TV, an Iranian news channel broadcasting in English, is banned from broadcasting via satellite throughout Europe, Canada and the U.S. Al-Manar, a Lebanese satellite station affiliated with Hezbollah, has also been banned by France, Germany and the U.S. Both Press TV and Al Manar have protested, to no avail, that this is a grave breach of freedom of speech. While both news channels are available via the Internet in limited form, Apple and Google have removed Al-Manar mobile apps.

National oppression

National oppression and racism in France cannot be ignored. There are 5.5 million residents of African origin, many of them born in France and most of them citizens. A large number are from Muslim background, although not all are practicing. They are isolated by poverty in suburbs that have high unemployment, inferior schools and substandard housing.

Just as prisons in the U.S. overwhelmingly imprison Black and Brown youth, so too do French prisons. About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country’s prison system are Muslim, according to Muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though Muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country’s population. (Washington Post Foreign Service, April 29, 2008)

Imperialism needs hatred of targeted peoples. Western politicians have cynically used Islamophobia to advance right-wing political agendas and curtail freedoms.

Who benefits?

Regardless of whether a police conspiracy is ever exposed, we do know that the French ruling class and the corporate media are always primed to take full advantage of such acts to reinforce the repressive state apparatus and sow division among the working class.

There should not be an iota of confidence in the news stories of this massacre at Charlie Hebdo. We know only what we are being told in the corporate media by French military police and state intelligence agencies. We do know that three men, who are now dead, were tools of imperialism in their wars of conquest in Syria and Libya. More than 1,000 French citizens of Arab and North African descent have been recruited, trained, armed and used as weapons conduits, saboteurs and terrorists in the efforts of U.S. France, Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to overthrow the government of Syria.

This leads to the fundamental question of whose policies are responsible for the massacre and who gains from the massacre?

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism, aided by the old colonial powers of Europe, has been engaged in a whole series of wars to reconquer countries that had achieved a high level of development based on sovereignty and control of their resources.

In their frantic efforts to recolonize Iraq, Syria and Libya, they have cynically whipped up sectarian divisions, organized deadly militias and promoted fanaticism and anarchy. That has aroused deep-seated rage against the U.S., France and Britain.

It is also highly unpopular that French imperialism is widely involved in Africa, primarily in the majority-Muslim countries of Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast and Djibouti, and in Abu Dhabi on the Arabian peninsula.

The French ruling class wants to divert mass attention from their expanding wars and increasingly militarized society. The mobilizations claiming to defend a free press by defending racism must be opposed and countered.

Article link: http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/01/13/charlie-hebdo-free-press-racism/

Copyright © 2015 Workers.org

Sony Hack – NYT Editors Find New Iraq WMD [Moon of Alabama]

Posted in Anti-communism, Bolivia, Canada, China, Corporate Media Critique, Iraq, Japan, Media smear campaign, New York Times lie, State Department, US imperialism, USA on January 3, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Dec. 19, 2015

A Japanese company with some offices in California was hacked. Several terrabytes of data were copied off its internal networks and some of it was put on file sharing sites. One of the items copied was a film produced in Canada that depicts as comedy the terror act of killing of a current head of state. The U.S. State Department applauded that movie scene. But there were tons of other data like social security numbers, payroll data, and internal emails stolen all of which that might have been the real target of the hackers.

The tools to hack the company are well known and in the public domain. The company, Sony, had lousy internal network security and had been hacked before. The hackers probably had some inside knowledge. They used servers in Bolivia, China and South Korea to infiltrate. There is zero public evidence in the known that the hack was state sponsored.

But the U.S. is claiming that the event is a “national security matter”. Who’s [sic] national security? Japan’s? Canada’s? Why? A private Japanese entertainment(!) company left the doors open and had some equipment vandalized and some of its private property stolen. Why, again, is that of U.S. “national interest”? Why would the U.S. even consider some “proportional response”?…

…the New York Times editors eat it all up:

[“]…North Korean hackers, seeking revenge for the movie, stole millions of documents, including emails, health records and financial information that they dished out to the world…[“]

How do the editors know that these were “North Korean hackers”? The same way the knew about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction? Make believe and anonymous claims by U.S. government officials? Yeah – those folks never lie. Right?

Edited/excerpted by Zuo Shou

Full article with supporting links: http://www.moonofalabama.org/2014/12/sony-hack-nyt-editors-find-new-iraq-wmd-.html

“Statement of President Raúl Castro” on normalization of US-Cuban relations [Workers World]

Posted in Canada, Cuba, Fidel Castro, Havana, Obama, US imperialism, USA, USA 21st Century Cold War on December 28, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Dec. 22, 2014

The Cuban government released the following statement by President Raúl Castro on Dec. 17.

Since my election as President of the State Council and Council of Ministers I have reiterated on many occasions our willingness to hold a respectful dialogue with the United States on the basis of sovereign equality, in order to deal reciprocally with a wide variety of topics without detriment to the national independence and self-determination of our people.

This stance was conveyed to the U.S. government both publicly and privately by Comrade Fidel on several occasions during our long-standing struggle, stating the willingness to discuss and solve our differences without renouncing any of our principles.

The heroic Cuban people, in the wake of serious dangers, aggressions, adversities and sacrifices, have proven to be faithful and will continue to be faithful to our ideals of independence and social justice. Strongly united throughout these 56 years of Revolution, we have kept our unswerving loyalty to those who died in defense of our principles since the beginning of our independence wars in 1868.

Today, despite the difficulties, we have embarked on the task of updating our economic model in order to build a prosperous and sustainable Socialism.

As a result of a dialogue at the highest level, which included a phone conversation I had yesterday with President Obama, we have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations.

As Fidel promised on June 2001, when he said, “They shall return!” Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio have arrived today to our homeland.

The enormous joy of their families and of all our people, who have relentlessly fought for this goal, is shared by hundreds of solidarity committees and groups, governments, parliaments, organizations, institutions and personalities, who for the last 16 years have made tireless efforts demanding their release. We convey our deepest gratitude and commitment to all of them.

President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgement of our people.

I wish to thank and acknowledge the support of the Vatican, most particularly the support of Pope Francisco, in the efforts for improving relations between Cuba and the United States. I also want to thank the government of Canada for facilitating the high-level dialogue between the two countries.

In turn, we have decided to release and send back to the United States a spy of Cuban origin who was working for that nation.

On the other hand, and for humanitarian reasons, today we have also sent the American citizen Alan Gross back to his country.

Unilaterally, as has always been our practice, and in strict compliance with the provisions of our legal system, the concerned prisoners have received legal benefits, including the release of those persons that the government of the United States had conveyed their interest in.

We have also agreed to renew diplomatic relations.

This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been solved. The economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease.

Though the blockade has been codified into law, the President of the United States has the executive authority to modify its implementation.

We propose to the government of the United States the adoption of mutual steps to improve the bilateral atmosphere and advance towards normalization of relations between our two countries, based on the principles of International Law and the United Nations Charter.

Cuba reiterates its willingness to cooperate in multilateral bodies, such as the United Nations.

While acknowledging our profound differences, particularly on issues related to national sovereignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy, I reaffirm our willingness to dialogue on all these issues.

I call upon the government of the United States to remove the obstacles hindering or restricting ties between peoples, families and citizens of both countries, particularly restrictions on travelling, direct post services and telecommunications.

The progress made in our exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems.

As we have reiterated, we must learn the art of coexisting with our differences in a civilized manner.

We will continue talking about these important issues at a later date.

Article link: http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/12/22/statement-president-raul-castro/

Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.