Monday, May 31, 2021

Egypt, Sudan Conclude War Games Amid Ethiopia’s Dam Dispute


CAIRO (AP) — Egypt and Sudan on Monday concluded joint war games that involved ground, air and naval units. The six-day drill meant to showcase deepening security ties between the two neighboring countries and present a show of force amid mounting tensions with Ethiopia.

The dispute stems from Ethiopia’s controversial, unfinished dam on the Nile River’s main tributary. Monday’s part of the drill, at a military base near Khartoum, was attended by the two countries’ chiefs of staff, Sudan’s Mohammed Othman al-Hussein, and his Egyptian counterpart, Lt. Gen. Mohammed Farid.

The exercises aimed at “strengthening bilateral relations and unifying methods on dealing with threats that both countries are expected to face,” said a statement from Khartoum.

Sudan and Egypt have deepened ties since the ouster of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 amid a public uprising against his nearly three-decade of rule. The growing Cairo-Khartoum rapprochement has caused concerns in Ethiopia.

Talks over the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam stalled in April.

The two countries want an international agreement to govern how much water Ethiopia releases downstream, especially in a multi-year drought, fearing their critical water shares might be affected.

International and regional efforts have since tried to revive the negotiations as Ethiopia plans to add 13.5 billion cubic meters of water in 2021 to the dam’s reservoir — even without a deal on the dam’s operation and filling.

In March, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi warned that his country’s share of the Nile waters was “untouchable” and that there would be “instability that no one can imagine” in the region if Ethiopia fills the reservoir without an agreement.

Egypt and Sudan have called for the U.S., U.N, and the European Union to help reach a legally binding deal. The agreement would spell out how the dam is operated and filled, based on international law and norms governing cross-border rivers.

The Blue Nile meets the White Nile in Khartoum, before winding northward through Egypt into the Mediterranean Sea.

Somaliland Vote Highlights Peace in Breakaway Somalian Region


KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The people of Somaliland are voting Monday in parliamentary and local elections, highlighting progress in the semi-autonomous region of Somalia that over the years has avoided the destructive violence plaguing other parts of the Horn of Africa country.

More than 1 million of Somaliland’s 4 million people are registered voters. The region has invited international observers for the elections, including political figures from elsewhere in Africa.

Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 as the country collapsed into warlord-led conflict. Despite lacking international recognition, Somaliland has maintained its own independent government, currency and security system.

John Githongo, an anti-corruption campaigner from Kenya who is in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, as an observer, in a Twitter post described the region as “the one Somalia with a bottom up democracy that seems to organically work.”

Greg Mills, director of a South Africa-based group that is observing the polls, said in a statement that the semi-autonomous region “represents an example of an African country which is committed to democracy and development and deserves the support of every African who wants to see progress on this continent.”

Somalia considers Somaliland as part of its territory. Several rounds of talks over possible unification have failed to reach a breakthrough and the region continues to assert its right to independence.

Somaliland’s relative stability over the years has sharpened the sense of failure in Somalia, where deadly attacks by Islamic extremists are frequently reported. Elections due there in February failed to take place because of the lack of agreement on how the vote should be carried out.

Talks between Somalia’s federal government and regional leaders that began in March broke down in early April, precipitating a political crisis that deepened when the lower house of parliament adopted a special law extending the terms of current office holders for two years and abandoned an agreement last year.

The decision sparked widespread opposition, leading to the mobilization of militias, exposing divisions within Somali security forces, and resulting in violent clashes on April 25.

Following the clashes, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed earlier this month asked the lower house of parliament to reverse its actions that included extending his mandate for two years.

Somalia announced last week that federal authorities had reached an agreement with regional leaders to hold indirect elections within 60 days.

Macron Suggests France May Pull Out Troops from Mali

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday suggested France will pull troops from Mali if the country’s institutional instability persists and inhibits the fight against Islamic extremists.

Macron told a news conference that “our priority in Mali is the fight against terrorism and the presence of our forces on the ground is not enough in this fight. It also requires the strengthening of stable and legitimate institutions.”

France has more than 5,000 troops in Africa’s Sahel region.

Macron’s comments come a day after West African leaders suspended Mali from their regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, over what they said amounted to a coup last week.

ECOWAS called for a new civilian prime minister to be nominated immediately, a new inclusive government to be formed and the 18-month transition of power leading to February 2022 elections to be carried out, saying a monitoring mechanism will be put in place to assure this.

“Neither France nor its partners are committed to getting involved (in Mali) if the ECOWAS demands are not respected,” Macron said.

Germany, which has several hundred soldiers taking part in the U.N. stabilization and European Union training missions in Mali, sees the need to continue those deployments, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in the joint news conference with Macron via videoconference.

She added, however, that there were “red lines” including the need to hold elections and for there to be no contact with Islamist forces, including by Mali’s current president.

She and Macron had agreed to have a “very, very close exchange” about developments in Mali and “if there is a situation (...) in which we see red lines are crossed, then we will coordinate our actions closely.”

A power vacuum amid a 2012 coup d’etat unleashed years of chaos in Mali and allowed Islamic extremists to seize control of northern towns. Ultimately, a French-led military operation ousted the jihadis from strongholds in 2013, but they have regrouped and since expanded their reach.

West Africa Leaders Suspend Mali from Region Bloc over Coup


FILE- In this Friday, Sept. 25, 2020 file photo, retired Col. Maj. Bah N'Daw, right, is sworn into the office of transitional president, and Col. Assimi Goita, left, head of the junta that staged the Aug. 18 2020 coup, is sworn into the office of transitional vice president, at a ceremony in the capital Bamako, Mali. Mali's military has released the transitional president and prime minister Moctar Ouane from detention Thursday May 27, 2021, after they resigned from their respective posts.(AP Photo, File)

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — West African leaders suspended Mali from their regional bloc Sunday over what they said amounted to a coup last week, Ghana’s foreign minister said after an emergency meeting to address the political crisis in Mali.

The bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, “is worried about the security implications for West Africa because of the continued insecurity brought about by the political upheavals in that country,” Foreign Minister Shirley Attorkor Botchwey said.

At the end of their summit, the heads of state of the ECOWAS member nations demanded that Malian authorities immediately release former transitional President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, who are being kept under house arrest.

In their statement, the leaders condemned the arrests by Mali’s military, which they said violated mediation steps agreed to last September, a month after a coup d’etat led by the same man who has now again taken power in Mali, Col. Assimi Goita.

ECOWAS also called for a new civilian prime minister to be nominated immediately, a new inclusive government to be formed and the 18-month transition of power leading to February 2022 elections to be carried out, saying a monitoring mechanism will be put in place to assure this.

In addition, the statement said, the head of the transition government, the vice president and the prime minister should not under any circumstances be candidates in the planned Feb. 27 presidential election.

ECOWAS urged all international partners, including the African Union, the United Nations, and the European Union, to continue to support the successful implementation of the transition in Mali.

The heads of state expressed “strong and deep concerns over the present crisis in Mali, which is coming halfway to the end of the agreed transition period, in the context of the security challenges related to incessant terrorist attacks and the Covid-19 Pandemic with its dire socio-economic impacts,” the statement said.

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo opened the summit in Accra on Sunday, saying ECOWAS must “ remain resolute in supporting the people of Mali to find a peaceful solution, and restore democracy and stability in the country.”

Mali’s constitutional court on Friday named Goita as the West African nation’s government leader days after he seized power by deposing the president and prime minister and forced their resignations. Their arrests last Monday by the military took place hours after a new Cabinet was named that left out two major military leaders. The court said Friday that Goita would take the responsibilities of the interim president “to lead the transition process to its conclusion.”

The deposed interim president and prime minister had been appointed following the August 2020 coup led by Goita. The military coup against then President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita led to mediations by ECOWAS that were also led by Nigeria’s former leader, Goodluck Jonathan. The transitional government was set up with Goita as transitional vice president. Elections were to be held in February and March 2022.

After taking power, Goita assured that the elections would still be held, though it wasn’t clear what part the military would play in the government.

The international community, including the African Union, has condemned the power grab. The U.N. Security Council has said the resignations of N’Daw and Ouane were coerced. The U.S. has already pulled its security force support and other bodies, including the EU and France, are threatening sanctions.

Goita has justified his actions by saying there was discord within the transitional government and that he wasn’t consulted, per the transitional charter, when the new Cabinet was chosen.

Akufo-Addo said Sunday that ECOWAS was committed “to the peaceful transition in Mali, with the basic goal of restoring democratic government, and working for the stability of Mali and of our region.”

He acknowledged that a May 14 dissolution of the government by the transitional prime minister was worrying and the reappointment of the new, broad-based government on May 24 hours before the arrests “generated considerable tension between various groups, particularly the military, as the former ministers for defense and security were not reappointed.”

Goita attended the summit after being named transitional president by the court. Presidents Umaro Sissou Embalo of Guinea Bissau, Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone, Alassane Outtara of Ivory Coast, Adama Barrow of The Gambia and Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria were also in attendance, along with presidents from Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo and Liberia.

The heads of state called for the immediate implementation of all the decisions made Sunday. Jonathan is expected to return to Mali within the week to “engage stakeholders on these decisions.”


Associated Press writer Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

The U.S. Government, an Accomplice of Terrorists, Accuses Cuba of Terrorism

Biden maintains brutal policy toward Cuba, following the steps of previous administrations and resorting to the most fallacious, absurd arguments to justify U.S. aggression

Author: Delfin Xiqués |

May 28, 2021 10:05:00

The political intolerance of an empire that has witnessed a Revolution taking place under its nose has hardened to the extent that - after 62 years of Cuba's heroic resistance - the most fallacious and absurd arguments are deployed to justify the hostility, including accusations linking Cuba to terrorism, a scourge that the island has in fact suffered at the hands of self-confessed terrorists to whom the U.S. government has provided financing, logistics and immunity. Is it really necessary to recount the criminal U.S. record against Cuba? Apparently another repetition is needed, although its promoters in the immoral north are well aware of the history.


One of the first terrorist attacks against the nascent Revolution occurred on October 21, 1959. On that day, a traitor pilot exiled in Miami, Pedro Luis Díaz Lanz, who had been an officer in the Cuban Air Force, flying a twin-engine B-25, bombed several Havana neighborhoods, causing 45 injuries and the death of two persons.

Diaz Lanz himself would later confirm his responsibility for the attack. With full impunity and protection from U.S. authorities, he departed from Pompano Beach, Florida, where no one created any obstacle to his plans.

Thus began the terrorist war against Cuba, sponsored by the U.S. government and conceived as state policy, fully documented and denounced by Cuba in international forums.

A wide variety of political, military, economic, biological, diplomatic, psychological, propaganda, espionage and sabotage methods have been utilized in the attacks. Armed gangs have also been organized and logistically supported, while desertion has been encouraged and plots hatched to assassinate leaders of the Revolution.

Numerous declassified secret documents provide evidence of these crimes, along with the millions of dollars approved annually for this purpose, an amount which is published in the media as just another line item in the government budget, behind the backs of taxpayers, who are largely unaware of the allocation’s final destination.

In this regard, the Cuban people’s demand for compensation from the United States government for damages states in its first Findings, "Hostile and aggressive actions carried out by the United States government against Cuba, since the triumph of the Revolution to date, have caused enormous material and human damage to the people, and incalculable suffering to the country’s citizens, hardships due to shortages of medicines, food and other items essential to life."

The document reports that the loss of human lives has reached 3,478 and 2,099 individuals have been permanently disabled as a result of bodily injury.

One of the bloodiest attacks perpetrated by the CIA was the explosion of the steamship La Coubre, in the port of Havana, as legitimately purchased weapons and ammunition were being unloaded, March 4, 1960.

More than a hundred Cubans died in the sabotage, including longshoremen, port workers and members of the Rebel Army. While the lives of six French crew members were lost.

It should also be recalled that when Comadante en jefe Fidel Castro attended the Ibero-American Summit on the Venezuelan island of Margarita, the military wing of the counterrevolutionary organization Cuban American National Foundation attempted to assassinate him.

Several of its members were arrested and, found on board the yacht La Esperanza, registered in the name of Francisco "Pepe" Hernández, later president of the Foundation, was a 50 caliber rifle of his, capable of perforating armored vehicles. In December 1999, they were all acquitted.

Another terrorist attack that deeply touched the Cuban people was the mid-flight bombing of a Cubana Airlines plane over Barbados, in which 73 persons perished, including passengers and crew. The intellectual authors of this terrorist attack were Orlando Bosch Avila and Luis Posada Carriles. (Both later died as free men in the city of Miami.)

They were detained in Venezuela, until the Foundation financed Bosch's freedom and facilitated the escape of Posada Carriles, who cynically acknowledged responsibility for the sabotage, while calmly walking the streets of Miami.

Referring to the sabotage, Fidel stated: "Surely U.S. citizens will understand the attack better if they compare the population of Cuba 25 years ago with that of the United States on September 11, 2001. The death of 73 persons on a Cuban plane downed in-flight is equivalent, given the United States’ population, to the mid-air destruction of seven U.S. airliners with more than 300 passengers each, on the same day, at the same time, by a terrorist conspiracy."

In 1997, several bombs exploded in Havana hotels, and Cuba denounced the fact that the culprits were residents in the United States. The State Department responded that it would investigate if Cuba provided information.

The FBI was forwarded a fat, secret dossier from Cuban authorities, in which the name of Luis Posada Carriles appeared as the instigator of the attacks. But nothing was done to arrest the criminals. Instead, the information provided by the island’s government was used to pursue, arrest and prosecute Cubans in the U.S. conducting surveillance to protect their people from these terrorist groups.

Three years later, in November of 2000, on the occasion of the People's Summit at the University of Panama, which was held simultaneously with the 17th Summit of the Americas, Cuban State Security agencies uncovered a terrorist plot to assassinate Fidel.

Diplomat Carlos Rafael Zamora, a witness to the events, recalled: "The Cuban side gave the Panamanian side a list of terrorists, their aliases and the types of passports they used to enter the country. All the individuals who participated in planning of the attack were identified. I witnessed the conversations held with Panamanian authorities, in which we expressed the Cuban delegation's concern regarding the presence of these terrorists and the threat they posed to the security of the Comandante en jefe and the delegation."

Upon arrival in Panama, Fidel denounced the terrorists' plans in a press conference and provided information that would allow for their arrest. Posada Carriles, using the alias of Franco Rodriguez Mena, was staying in room 310 at the Coral Suites Hotel in Panama City. He was detained there. Cuban agents neutralized the assassination attempt by four terrorists in the University’s principal auditorium, where they had hidden nine kilograms of C-4 explosive. Some 2,000 people would gather there to hear Fidel. It would have been a real massacre.

The government of President Mireya Moscoso, under national and international pressure, was obliged to prosecute the four implicated, but they were given purely symbolic sentences. Messages from the Foundation in Miami poured in calling for their release. Thus on August 26, 2004, just one day before Moscoso’s term as President came to an end, she pardoned them.

A terrorist attack that deeply touched the Cuban people was the mid-flight bombing of a Cubana Airlines plane over Barbados, in which 73 persons perished. Photo: Jorge Oller

Posada Carriles took many secrets to the grave. But it is no secret at all that he was a life-long terrorist assassin in the service of the CIA.

One of the most outrageous elements of the Trump's administration’s foreign policy was to add Cuba, once again, to the spurious unilateral State Department list of the countries they consider "state sponsors of terrorism."

The immorality of the U.S. government is so great that the absurd accusation about Cuban support of terrorism has been passed from “one hand to another” as a political inheritance, fully aware of the dimensions of this colossal infamy, as befits the imperialists’ arrogance, to be recycled by the Biden administration and serve as a justification for more sanctions that will not take Cuba by surprise. They reflect the empire’s unchanged interest in forcing this heroic country to surrender.

The U.S. government has yet to acknowledge the terrorist nature of an assault rifle attack on the cuabn embasy in Washington, April 30, 2020. Photo: @Embacubaeeuu

It apparently does not matter that the failed attempt has been underway for more than six decades. What a fiasco.

Cuban Solidarity Stands the Test

Thirty years after the return from Angola of Cuba’s last internationalists there, the more I am convinced that, beyond the military victory, the victory over South Africa and its allies was a profoundly human triumph

Author: Pastor Batista Valdés |

May 25, 2021 08:05:26

Thirty years after the return from Angola of Cuba’s internationalists, the more I am convinced that, beyond the military victory, the victory over South Africa and its allies was a profoundly human triumph.

Thousands of witnesses and participants could write entire books and spend hours reliving the transcendental moments they experienced over 15 years of combat and effort, displaying true altruism in Quifangondo, Cabinda, Ebo, Sumbe, Cangamba, Cuito Cuanavale, Calueque, hundreds of supply caravans and other works in which more than 370,000 Cubans participated directly or indirectly.

Not a single one was obliged to go, and none did so in search of personal glory, money, fortune, or rewards.

It was the response of an entire country to the request for help made by President Agosthino Neto to Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro (1975), in confronting the designs of foreign powers and the internal counterrevolution, to take Luanda and prevent the independence of Angola agreed upon in Alvor.

The Cuban solidarity operation was named Carlota, in honor of the African slave who in 1843 led a revolt against Spanish oppression at the Triunvirato sugar cane plantation in Matanzas.

Experts and researchers have written volumes about Cuba's military and political contribution to the destiny of Angola (sovereignty) and the continent (ending apartheid in South Africa and securing implementation of UN Resolution 435/78 for the independence of Namibia), and more could be written.

Much remains to be said about the human mark left on every inch of the land defended:

The Cuban doctor intent on saving a baby in the arms of an Angolan woman.

The gratitude of the child who, at the age of five, was found dying, without family, to whom our men gave shelter, a name (Alberto Manuel Gomez) and protection, raising him to become a magnificent young man.

The breath of life in every playground that Cuban hands built for barefoot children.

The Angolan soldiers in Ruacaná who learned to read and write thanks to Sergeant Alfredo Plascencia.

And this human mark is Raul in El Cacahual, two days after the last combatant returned, affirming in a firm voice what the Cuban people, "the true protagonists of the epic" showed, in a colossal demonstration of how much a small and united country can do, when moved by a just cause: "To our people and to you, Comandante en Jefe, I report: Operation Carlota has concluded!

Cuba Calls for the Immediate End of the Israeli Aggression against Palestine

Cuban Foreign Ministry releases statement condemning Israel’s criminal military assault on the Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem and indiscriminate bombing of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip

Author: Granma |

May 18, 2021 12:05:07

Israel’s latest attacks constitute another serious and flagrant violation of the UN Charter. Photo: AFP

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba expressed, through an official statement, its strongest condemnation of Israeli military forces’ assault on the Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem and indiscriminate bombing of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, which have caused more than a hundred deaths and the destruction of infrastructure and considerable material damage.

The Ministry emphasizes that these aggressions constitute another flagrant serious violation of the United Nations Charter, international law and international humanitarian law by Israel and evidence the continuity of its practices of colonization and occupation of Arab and Palestinian lands, which enjoy impunity and the complicity of the United States government, which has prevented any action on the part of the United Nations Security Council.

Cuba makes an energetic appeal to the international community, to all states, and the United Nations, in particular its Security Council, to demand an immediate end to Israeli aggression.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba also reaffirmed its full support for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on the basis of the creation of two states, allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and an independent, sovereign state with the pre-1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital, and guaranteeing the right of return of refugees.

When All Lives Matter

No aspect of life in Cuba escapes the blockade’s impact, which goes far beyond the economic hardships it creates

Author: Victor Fowler |

May 14, 2021 09:05:31

Photo: Cubaminrex

According to a document entitled “Economic Sanctions: Agencies Face Competing Priorities in Enforcing U.S. Embargo on Cuba,” published in November of 2007 by the United States Government Accountability Office, the embargo is "the most extensive set of U.S. sanctions against any country, including the rest of the countries designated by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism."

This proud note, coming from an official government source in the nation with the greatest economic power in all of human existence, a country that in more than a few productive and/or financial arenas, worldwide, exercises decisive control (at times dominant and even overwhelming) is enough to make clear the enormous disparity and asymmetry between the Cuban nation/social system and its aggressive opponent. I will attempt here an explanation of how I understand, adjust, manage, experience, survive, think, love, breathe, and believe, within this habitual violence.

2. The blockade/embargo is possible thanks to the monstrously asymmetrical relationship between its organizer/leader and its receiver/subject, a difference so disproportionate that it makes no sense to imagine any condition of equality or close to comparable options between Cuba and its "blockader" in economic or military terms, or in access to the mass media, digital networks and all components of the cultural industry, in general.

For this reason, it is practically impossible for any aspect of our lives to escape or be immune to its presence or pressure, be it development projects or spiritual discussions. This is the reality because the embargo/blockade affects, compromises, deforms, diminishes, damages, contaminates, prevents any possibility of access to resources the country could enjoy under conditions of "normality" - not under the exceptional conditions of one that is "sanctioned," marked, excluded, persecuted, forced to comply with rules exclusively established for it.

3. The above allows us to imagine the blockade/embargo’s fabric and reach as an interweaving flow of forces that, by far (in fact, in an almost immeasurable way) goes far beyond economic sanctions.

Although we must understand these latter measures as decisions made by political bodies within the apparatus of the government in question, this, which we call "political decisions," cannot be separated from the consequences and downward refraction of the political discourse/law in an infinity of actions of all kinds meant to insult, degrade, manipulate, lie, hide and create hatred for anything that might mean success, benefit, unity or simple tranquility within the space/time of the Cuban Revolution.

4. The vision of a downward spiral (just as the steps of a staircase are descended), added to the many derivations from a central body and, finally, the refraction (as happens with light passing through a prism) serve us to understand the embargo/blockade as a great hard core, in which political dictates are immediately translated into laws, and then refracted, divided, splintered, into the widest conceivable range of threats, obligations and calls to hatred in each and every aspect of life.

In this sense, the embargo/blockade must be understood as the impact of an enormous force exerted downward from the very pinnacle of power, savage pressure that, within its fundamental target, (the nation) strikes, obstructs, damages or changes the destinies of those who oppose it.

5. While the type of economic injury that the embargo/blockade causes is meant to hinder, deform, impede or destroy any development (of whatever type: productive, scientific, cultural, sports, industrial, agricultural, etc.) that may be generated within Cuban socialism, its collateral effects poison the notions of solidarity, brotherhood, family, friendship among Cubans in the country and their fellow citizens around the world.

This happens not because an emigrant must choose whether or not to help relatives and/or friends suffering the effects of the embargo/blockade in Cuba (even if he/she believes that there have been government mistakes and failures), but exactly because the implicit ideological purpose of the embargo/blockade is to extend the fusion of ideological-cultural patterns of individual salvation, demonize collective solutions, undermine authentic empathy and erase the existence of the embargo/blockade as such.

In this way, it is possible to send money to a given relative, and at the same time, applaud the embargo/blockade or politicians who support it, and continue to believe such behavior is just and supportive of the people living in the country.

6. Along with undermining empathy, the embargo/blockade masks (and promotes) a sense of naturalness that intends to convey the (terrible) message that the kind of absolute exceptionality involved in the extension, globalization and intensification of the policy, for almost six decades, is something "normal."

In this way, while a country and its people are obliged to live under conditions that cannot even be compared with any other in contemporary history, a paradoxical reality for which (strictly speaking) tools to conduct analyses are not even available. What does it mean to live this way? How are projects for development designed? What does it mean for hope, fulfillment, plans to build a family, the raising of children? Is there another reality with which Cuba’s can be compared?

7. We can disaggregate the impediments to economic development given how evident they are (because of their openness and nature), cases such as those involving refusals to grant credit, the disruption of a purchase attempted by a Cuban foreign trade company or fines on banks that agree to transfer funds to the island, among many other possibilities.

But the brutality of a series of rejections encourages the emergence of a mentality trained to resist pressure under survival conditions (convinced that this or that will never appear), as well as the most widespread creativity (in a situation in which to invent is to stay alive), and the introduction into the economy of the precarious, the intermittent, the casual, the random and/or discontinuous, which distort projects and remain "seeded" (performing a sort of structural weakening), waiting to sprout/explode at some future moment.

8. At the same time that the energy devoted to change and transformations within the space/time of the Cuban Revolution is great - to the point of leading us to consider resistance as normal, now and permanently - the blockade/embargo exists and its effects impact the foundations of Cuban national life.

Since it operates 365 days a year, in every inch of the national geography and for all citizens, it is a continuum, a network or fabric that (in the manner of a living organism) grows in the direction of tightening its grasp; that is to say, with the intention of capturing the entire organism/country it wishes to encapsulate and then asphyxiate.

As for its effects, these are experienced simultaneously in three temporal dimensions: in the country’s collective memory (as a defining element in the life stories of all Cubans); in our current reality (directly linked to the possibility of a better/worse life for the people); and as central to the aspirations and expectations of all inhabitants - since both the tightening of the blockade/embargo and its relaxation and/or disappearance would completely and immediately change the quality of life and/or personal projects of all Cubans.

9. Although the blockade/embargo arose at a precise moment (the year 1962) with the basic intention of preventing any imaginable development within the Cuban Revolution, as well as reversing the transformations it brought, the fulfillment of this objective is inseparable from a return to the conditions of economic, military and political subordination, as well as cultural penetration of Cuba, in accordance with the designs of U.S. political-economic elites.

In this sense, it is a clear expression of hegemony and imperial voracity disguised (and thus presented by the aforementioned elites and their ideologues) as a dispute between two countries that takes place on large international stages, in the manner of a supra-structural fence, with hardly any impact on the quality of life, dreams and projects of the island’s common citizens. This dissociation between the violence of discourse and its presence in concrete efforts to destroy the economic life of the island and any sense of "normality" in any field whatsoever, plus the distancing or inability to feel the extent and depth of damage caused to everyday people, illustrates the essentially sociopathic condition of those who crafted this policy, those who have reinforced it over the years, those who publicly sustain and applaud it ,and even, in the most bitter of cases, those who do not denounce it and do not oppose it in any of the many imaginable public spaces available or where a palpable impact could be achieved.

10. What we see from the perspective of small, individual lives must be projected globally to help us understand the way in which the embargo/blockade is always implemented as an international device that - on the basis of tension between pressure and obedience – is meant to absorb, reformulate, dissuade, crush, divert, and punish any attempt to establish "normal" relations with Cuba.

At the same time that in our country all lives are affected by the embargo/blockade, the same occurs in the lives of all those who - outside the island - support the Cuban Revolution or, simply, oppose the embargo; this less apparent truth becomes more obvious the closer we get to the "hard core" of message emission and policy making attacking the Cuban socialist project.

In these environments of ideological-political toxicity, the public, articulated defense of Cuba’s revolutionary project implies risks (the more intense the positioning) that the subjects experience in terms of promotion and, in general, opportunities for present and/or future realization.

The key here lies in the identification, with an equal sign, of government policies in Cuba or citizens’ way of life, with the stigma and negativity associated with socialist ideology; thus, the vilification of anything socialist (as the absolute opposite) functions as a curtain that serves as an impediment to recognition of the Revolution's anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and Third Worldist transformative potential.

11. Politicians, ideologues and defenders of the blockade need to erase, hide or reduce the embargo/blockade’s anti-human and destructive impact on the entire collective; for this reason, they must spread the idea that their actions are, above all, exclusively political gestures with no real effect (no kind of appreciable damage) on the daily life of the country’s people.

This refusal to recognize and accept the capacity to injure that is possessed and put into practice (with full awareness of the damage caused), accepting that the embargo/blockade can bring someone to the point of death, illustrates the perverse nature of an act that must hide behind an original lie to avoid questions about one's own alienation, pain and inhumanity.

The above explains the repeated practice of taking any isolated, strictly limited fact (for example, the photograph of a product in a store) - without adding any comment to facilitate deeper understanding - to give the impression that no embargo/blockade exists, that it is only a maneuver by the Cuban government, for whatever dark reason arguments of this type can muster.

The tasks of fabrication, implantation, maintenance, correction of errors and intensification of the embargo/blockade follow each other, complement and merge the same as a transnational mechanism (as we know) in a dialectical articulation that cannot but, at the same time, construct the subject pursued and promote hatred toward the other who suffers the violence.

This construction of the targeted person (of alleged aggressiveness and intransigence) is accompanied by a system of beliefs (ideology), as well as a set of structured teachings about what that the other, considered an enemy, is.

For this reason, the embargo/blockade could not exist if it did not simultaneously function as an ideological, communicational, cultural scaffold.

12. What we have written thus far is intended to go beyond the political and economic evidence, to analyze the embargo/blockade as a complex of actions that includes and is extended through communicational and cultural spheres. In this sense, communication and cultural production are both battlefields and protagonists in a battery of actions that constitutes a true cultural war.

This labyrinth of actions encompasses express violence, direct and with criminal intent (placing a bomb or shooting at an embassy, as we recently saw), as well as the exclusion of the island from the variety of relations that an organization, person or institution develops to carry out its usual work for fear of direct reprisal, criticism or simple rumors with political undertones; to this can be added any form of self-interested silencing of successes, as well as the exploitation of any type of falsehood and/or distortion about ways of life in the socialist experience on the island and (along with this) the creation of a spectacle around any shortcoming, failure or error (of whatever type) that may exist in the work of any authority in the country.

13. The internal logic of the embargo/blockade is directed toward refracting and multiplying the economic asphyxia in scenarios of social disorder and division, as well as in manifestations reflecting loss of self-esteem, renunciation of national sovereignty (or willingness to negotiate it) and/or weakening of our collective identity.

Any denial of the embargo/blockade and/or its effects on our lives (in all the far-reaching ways we have described) is a perverse action. Any masking of faults and/or failures, as well as any rejection of responsibility, with references to the embargo/blockade (typical of pseudo-communist bureaucrats), is a harmful and perverse act as well.

Any call for exchanges, debates, dialogues and other analytical-critical interventions related to the post-1959 development of Cuban society, as if the embargo/blockade has not existed, as if it were not (right now) a colossal mechanism of economic, social and cultural erosion (which promises to continue into the future) is in and of itself a reflection of attitudes that the embargo/blockade encourages and needs, for its effects to be even more deeply damaging.

Given all this, every example of expanding of knowledge about the world in which we live, as well as the internal dynamics of the Cuban process, are ways of circumventing and/or confronting the logic of the embargo/blockade. This includes every moment of good work, transparency, investigation and public dissemination of truths, every action that fosters national unity, self-esteem, sovereignty, independence and national identity.

Coda: Negotiating is not the problem. Of course, it will be necessary to negotiate (the most dissimilar issues) with corresponding U.S. government teams.

The problem is the connection between the asymmetry of the dialogue partners and the translation that such a difference merits in terms of law; in other words, whether it will be an exchange between sovereign equals or the staging of an interaction between an oppressor and an obedient subordinate.

Those who ignore this perspective fail to realize that the embargo/blockade issue (the persistence of its duration over decades, its accumulated effects and the likelihood of its continuity) projected/projects the Cuban issue as a universal model of radical confrontation between the "natural" order of big capital (as a sort of recipe for small nations in their relationship with the truly "big" ones) and any alternative that intends to move toward anti-imperialism, Third World unity, anti-colonialism and authentic sovereignty.

Cuba matters less than what occurs with Cuba and minds regarding a debate that - far beyond our small territory - encompasses oppositions like those that can be verified (for any subject and/or territory) between one’s own nation and a foreign one, memory and the denial of memory, individualism and collective action, hegemony and independence, sovereignty and regression, unity and disintegration, logics of hatred and resistance.

This is what the blockade is all about.

U.S. Deception Syndrome to Discredit Adversaries

The old story of sonic attacks in Havana, exposed as a fraud long ago, has been resuscitated by the Biden administration, a pretext used to justify denying the Cuban people fuel, food and medicine

Author: Raul Antonio Capote |

May 14, 2021 09:05:06

I swear, I can’t hear well. Photo: Osval

Trailers for what appears to be a new season of the series "The Havana Syndrome" are beginning to be broadcast on the paid media. The story follows the script of previous productions.

The one-sided plot of alleged aggression against U.S. officials is back, despite the efforts of Cuba, the international community and even a significant number of U.S. scientists who know that there is no evidence whatsoever of the possibility of so-called sonic attacks.

According to CNN, U.S. federal agencies are investigating two new incidents, this time on U.S. soil, including one near the White House in November of last year, "similar to the mysterious and invisible attacks that have caused debilitating symptoms in dozens of U.S. officials abroad," reports CNN.

The two "victims," one a National Security Council official, allegedly suffered the same unexplained symptoms that U.S. personnel in Cuba, China and Russia began to experience around the end of 2016: ear pain, vertigo, severe headaches and nausea, sometimes accompanied by an unidentified "penetrating directional noise."

We should recall that British and American scientists determined, in 2019, after analyzing a recording of the "penetrating directional noise," that it sounded most like an echo of the chirping of an Indies short-tailed cricket.

In another incident reported by a former U.S. official, according to cnn, shortly after a Russian helicopter flew over a remote base in Syria, Marines there developed symptoms similar to those they insist on calling, and establishing as a real phenomenon in international public opinion, the "Havana syndrome."

This is demonization, a rhetorical and ideological technique of disinformation, alteration of facts and descriptions, used to build a negative image and justify punishment of an adversary.

The story of alleged sonic attacks, baptized with full intention as the "Havana Syndrome," served as a pretext to seriously strain relations between Cuba and the U.S. during the Trump administration, and to justify all variety of coercive measures against our country, as evidenced by recently declassified documents.

And now, President Joe Biden's new National Security team has made the investigation of the sonic incidents a top priority, a senior official stated recently, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Bill Burns, the new CIA director, told Senators during his confirmation hearing that he intends to get to the bottom of the "Havana attacks."

Not surprisingly, Senator Marco Rubio alleged that the number of people affected could be higher and involve more than 40 diplomats and family members at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, and at least a dozen diplomats at the consulate in Guangzhou, China.

These totally unsubstantiated attacks have served to justify attempts to deprive the Cuban people of fuel, food and medicine.

For some, “It is necessary to lie like hell, not timidly, not for the moment, but fearlessly and forever .... Lie, my friends, lie, I will pay you back when the time comes," Voltaire wrote. Undoubtedly, they lie about Cuba, not timidly, like true demons.

The PCC and Today's Cuba

The Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) represents a specific national project based on social justice, sovereignty and anti-imperialism; a national project that is based on the interests of the working class, of the people

Author: Michel E. Torres Corona |

May 21, 2021 16:05:27

Martí, Mella and Fidel. Photo: Ilustrativa

The principal challenge of the Communist Party of Cuba is to be the vanguard: have the capacity to bring together the best of the good, as Che would say. And also, of course, be able to include those nuclei of intellectuals who are part to the system but may or may not have formal ties with the Party, and represent points of counter-hegemonic resistance, which must be assimilated, attracted and, in some way, offered an instrument for their thought.

The Party is not an entity for the preservation of the status quo. It is the force that organizes the popular masses to guide the revolutionary transformation of social reality. As the guiding political organization of Cuban society, it must channel the enthusiasm generated by the socio-political project that is the Revolution, the energy supporting the alternative system which the Party defends, and which, within or alongside the Party, we defend.

Moreover, the Party must work interacting within the ideological spaces that operate in Cuban society: schools, the media, etc. Based on the authority granted by the Constitution and that gained through its members work, the Party must have an influence in these environments to ensure that they do not simply reproduce liberal common sense, but rather contribute to the emancipation of human beings.

In its relationship with the press and mass media, the Party must modernize its communication methods, avoiding the danger of frivolity. The desire to reach "wider" audiences or the eagerness to be "modern" can divert the organization’s path and allow it to become a symbol of everything that the Revolution struggles against, of everything that should be rejected by the Revolution.

Socialism is not a model in the strictly economic sense, but rather a continuous process of struggle for a system with more advanced ideals and a deeper appreciation of human dimensions. No revolutionary, whether a Party member or not, can lose sight of this, or stop calling attention to this reality.

After the revolutionary victory, a popular phrase asserted, "The Revolution does not tell you to believe, the Revolution tells you to read." The people’s literacy was a major area of concern. Today we all know how to read and write, but we must deepen this literacy, develop new sensibilities, new intellectual perspectives. We can never be satisfied with what we have today: a reality of great achievements, but with shortcomings as well, not only in the material arena, which we must address.

The Party must therefore champion a society of ever more revolutionary and increasingly prepared members. The communist ideal has nothing in common with mediocrity and ignorance.

One of the party’s fundamental responsibilities is to determine the goals of the socialist society, to design a strategy to achieve medium and long term objectives. The party apparatus and its entire membership operate as a mechanism of political control of state administration, which must always be directed toward achieving the goals of socialism.

The Party must be present wherever the people are affected by any decision made by a local government, the administration at any level, or the central government.

Moreover, the Party must maintain strong ties with the people, beginning with its own members, and must overcome what is known as the iron law of Robert Michels, who asserted that any type of political organization tends to develop an oligarchy, that is, an elite which divorces itself from the will of the membership.

The PCC must prevent the stratification of its organizational structures, the bureaucratization of its officials (in the Leninist sense of the term). But the solution is not the sophism of some mid-point or the idea of radically separating the Party and the state: we are talking about a system in which the Party has no electoral role nor does it exercise authority (on the formal level) over state bodies, but it does have the constitutional established responsibility of guiding the efforts of Cuban society in the construction of socialism. The key lies in the differentiation of roles and their democratic nature.

Liberal thought suggests that there is a dichotomy, an irreconcilable contradiction between democracy and a single-party model. But a multiparty system existed in Cuba, and all types of liberal democratic and traditional party practices existent during the twentieth century were implemented. None of these was able to resolve our country’s systemic crises at the political and, of course, economic level.

It was the Revolution that freed the country from this dark and seemingly inexorable destiny. Although the logic of a vanguard is among the political values of socialist Cuba, it is always good to point out that it was not a Party that made the Revolution. It was within the heat of this process that a single Party emerged, as the organization that concentrated all revolutionary political forces.

The Communist Party of Cuba is not a political party in the liberal sense that has been given to parties: an ideological myth, a falsehood defining parties are mere electoral instruments. Parties are class-based organizations that represent class interests.

Our party represents a specific national project based on social justice, sovereignty, anti-imperialism; a national project that upholds the interests of the working class, of the people, which serves as the best guarantee of real exercise of democracy, which cannot be limited to formalities or rituals.

Our party is not a supranational, supra-state or supra-social organization, it is not a counter-power. It is one more channel for the exercise of popular sovereignty, without equidistance or opposition to the state. Our entire socialist political system clearly reflects the principle of the unity of power, the indivisibility of sovereignty which resides solely and exclusively in the people.

There is no separation or partition of powers, only differentiation of roles for all components of the political system.

The success of our single party system lies in the ability to convince those of us who live in Cuba to construct our life projects around the common project that is socialism, and that the manner of viewing reality required by this alternative model is our point of view, our way of assuming reality and, of course, of attempting to transform it. It is the hegemonic role of the Party, exercised in the ideological sphere, which is its principal and most important task.

Neither the PCC, nor any revolutionary should work on the basis of or for unanimity, but for the sake of unity. But not unity in the abstract, but precisely the unity of a people defending a specific national project, in opposition to other national projects that have been tried in Cuba and have not worked.

The future of our country, and the socialist dream with which we have been entrusted, depends on this unity.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Why Zimbabwe Has Interest in Mozambique Crisis

30 MAY, 2021 - 00:05 

Lincoln Towindo for the Sunday Mail

A CRUCIAL SADC extraordinary Double Troika meeting to discuss the security situation in Mozambique took place last week.

Somewhere along the picturesque shores of the Indian Ocean in Maputo, six regional leaders, among them President Mnangagwa, gathered to try and stitch up a forceful solution to the violent terrorist insurgency engulfing northern Mozambique and threatening regional peace and security.

The Double Troika brought together leaders from Mozambique, the current SADC chair, Malawi (incoming chair) and the United Republic of Tanzania (immediate-past chair).

Leaders of member states constituting the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation — Botswana (current chair), South Africa (incoming) and Zimbabwe (outgoing) were also in attendance.

Ahead of the summit, there was immense anticipation in public discourse of a “final solution” to deal with the marauding insurgents in northern Mozambique.

However, come the end of the meeting, there was no bold declaration of a statement of intent, as was largely anticipated in public spaces.

There was no indication of an anticipated deployment of the SADC Force Intervention Brigade into Mozambique.

Instead, a rather lukewarm post-summit communique referred to the region’s pledge of solidarity with Mozambique in her efforts to combat insurgency in pursuit of peace.

An anticlimactic end, some concluded.

I was fortunate to be among the pack of regional journalists who covered the latest summit.

Having covered a handful of SADC Heads of State meetings over the years, I have learnt to temper my expectations on summit outcomes publicised through official communiques.

More often than not, communiques are blasé and fantastically diplomatic in tone and give away very little of the whole story.

This is by no means meant to cast aspersions at the SADC institution, which is a fundamental bedrock of regional integration, development, peace and stability.

Over the years covering these summits, I have also cultivated a respectable army of high-level sources who have religiously attended these meetings for some time.

And oftentimes they whisper stimulating musings into my ear, of the goings-on within the hallowed corridors of regional diplomacy, which many may not be privy to.

Attending last week’s summit was one such opportunity to interact with some of them, after having last interacted during the last summit I attended in Gaborone, Botswana towards the backend of 2020.

These interactions have afforded me a broader perspective into understanding why a regional approach into handling the Mozambican crisis has seemingly turned into a protracted war of attrition, with no end in sight.

Here I will attempt to dissect the intricacies and diplomatic obstacles that appear to have the region tied up in knots, with the grim spectre of terrorist insurgency looming large.

This is by no an exhaustive dissection of all the challenges because there are others, in fact many others who are better placed to do that.

I will also attempt to zero in on Zimbabwe’s stake, options and ostensible opinions in this chapter of sub-regional diplomacy.

Mozambique’s preferences

Over recent months, there has been a shift in Mozambique’s position on foreign intervention.

Originally Mozambican authorities did not want outside involvement from SADC countries.


Because once there is regional intervention, their domestic issue becomes regional.

What this means is that the Troika will then have to report on Mozambique to the Heads of State, firmly locating the country on the body’s agenda.

SADC will also have to escalate the issue from summit to the African Union, which in turn will have to take it to the United Nations.

This is on account of the principle of subsidiarity under which these bodies operate.

The rule of subsidiarity provides that sub-regional organisations have the first right of involvement before they report to other structures all the way up to the UN.

But once the issue is escalated to the UN, it means that Mozambique will become a subject of the United Nations Security Council.

This is exactly what the Mozambicans are against.

And their reluctance is understandable because no country wants to be a subject of discussion at the Security Council.

Their apprehension stems from the fact that the more the UN and the Security Council are involved, the less their sovereignty is respected.

This is why they have been pussyfooting on the regional initiative.

Preferred solution

However, Mozambique prefers a solution which is largely bilateral.

And through seeking a bilateral solution, they are gunning for Zimbabwe’s involvement.

To them Zimbabwe is a trusted ally and also because they know the capabilities of the Zimbabwe National Army.

In addition, if Zimbabwe were to deploy bilaterally, this would preclude the requirement to report to SADC, AU or UN or the Security Council.

Enter the US/EU axis

On another level, we have the United States of America who are also courting Mozambique.

The US are, however, not keen to have body bags coming from Mozambique.

Instead, they prefer to send a small unit, which is situated away from the theatre of war.

What they want is to be put in charge of capacity building of the Mozambican army.

More interestingly, the US are keenly interested in the idea of Zimbabwe’s involvement.

The only problem to that is the sanctions regime imposed by the US through various instruments including the infamous Zidera.

This has placed the Americans in a double bind, which is that there is a package of sanctions against Zimbabwe and a requirement in Zidera which says that they cannot have military co-operation with Zimbabwe which is under those sanctions.

Yet they realise the vitality of extending support to the ZNA in the event that Zimbabwe deploys to Mozambique.

It has since become public knowledge that the US has been attempting to reach out, using back channels, to try and get Zimbabwe involved in Mozambique.

But of course, Zimbabwe has her own price to ask.

The country wants a complete and unconditional removal of all sanctions.

On the other hand, Zimbabwe’s foreign policy does not allow for the country’s military to be turned into an askari army because of foreign interests.

Zimbabwe believes that it has sufficient grounds to be interested in the politics and security of Mozambique without the involvement of the Americans.

Mozambique is considered a close ally and is a fellow SADC country, which also houses some of our routes to the sea.

So, Zimbabwe has ample vested interest in the stability of Mozambique.

However, it appears as if the US are the ones who are more anxious to get Zimbabwe involved.

Away from that, there is also the European Union that is also coming in.

The EU is looking at having a training force of around 300 soldiers.

So far Portugal and France appear the most interested.

But this where this matter becomes difficult for SADC.

SADC has a binding policy against non-African foreign involvement in the region.

The region does not want Europeanisation or Americanisation of the Mozambican conflict.

The problem with Americans, in regional leaders’ opinion, is that once they are in your neighbourhood they will never leave.

As a result, SADC finds itself in an unenviable situation where the host country does not want the deployment of regional forces but would prefer a bilateral initiative with the involvement of Zimbabwe.

The region is, on the other hand, not amenable to a foreign invasion.

There are fears however, that what we are seeing is an escalation in the conflict which essentially creates a situation where SADC might end up being overtaken by events.

But once the matter gets Americanised or Europeanised, it means it is now beyond the control of SADC.

SADC leaders fear that the region may end up becoming a vortex of international forces who are settling scores using SADC territory as a theatre for conflict.

Zim interests

Zimbabwe has direct interests in the Mozambican conflict.

Historically, the jihadist movement has always been trans-border.

The notion of creating a caliphate redraws the political geography in regions as we have witnessed happen in the Middle East.

So when Mozambique is under apparent attack by supposed jihadists, there are obviously worries from a sub-regional security point of view and also from a national security point of view in Zimbabwe’s case.

On the second level, Zimbabwe has direct economic interests: some of her key trade routes pass through Mozambique.

The country has a far flung plan to build two new ports south of Maputo and north of Beira through a quadrilateral initiative which also involves South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana.

Thirdly, Mozambique is an ally and fellow SADC member state and there is a standing SADC defence pact which states that when one is under attack, then everyone has to get involved.

Ethiopians Protest US Sanctions over Brutal Tigray War


Ethiopians protest against international pressure on the government over the conflict in Tigray, at a demonstration organised by the city mayor's office held at a stadium in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Sunday, May 30, 2021. Thousands of Ethiopians gathered Sunday to protest outside pressure on the government over its brutal war in Tigray, after the U.S. said last week it has started restricting visas for government and military officials of Ethiopia and Eritrea who are seen as undermining efforts to resolve the fighting. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Thousands of Ethiopians gathered in the nation’s capital Sunday to protest outside pressure on the government over its brutal war in Tigray.

Protesters at the rally in Addis Ababa carried banners that criticized the United States and others in the international community who are voicing concern over atrocities in Tigray, where Ethiopian forces are hunting down the region’s ousted and now-fugitive leaders. Troops from neighboring Eritrea are fighting in Tigray on the side of Ethiopian government forces, in defiance of international calls for their withdrawal.

But the protesters in Addis Ababa carried placards that said “Ethiopian young people denounce the western intervention.” Others said Ethiopia’s sovereignty was at stake.

The U.S. said last week it has started restricting visas for government and military officials of Ethiopia and Eritrea, who are seen as undermining efforts to resolve the fighting in Tigray, home to an estimated 6 million of Ethiopia’s 110 million people. Besides the visa restrictions, Washington is imposing wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia.

Atrocities including brutal gang-rapes, extrajudicial killings and forced evictions have been part of the violence in Tigray, according to victims, witnesses, local authorities and aid groups. Thousands of people are estimated to have died.

The Ethiopian government called the U.S. action “misguided” and “regrettable.”

“The Ethiopian government will not be deterred by this unfortunate decision of the U.S. administration,” said the statement tweeted by the ministry of foreign affairs.

“If such a resolve to meddle in our internal affairs and undermining the century-old bilateral ties continues unabated, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will be forced to reassess its relations with the United States, which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship,” said the statement.

The crisis began in November after Ethiopia accused former leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, of ordering an attack on an Ethiopian army base in the region.

Troops sent by Ethiopia’s leader, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, quickly ousted the TPLF from major cities and towns, but guerrilla fighting is still reported across Tigray.

More than 2 million people have been displaced by the war.


Spain and Morocco have been locked in a diplomatic spat over Western Sahara, which set off a chain of events that last week saw up to 10,000 mainly young people cross into the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta as Moroccan guards looked the other way.

Migrants speak with Spanish Civil guards after swimming to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from neighbouring Morocco on May 17, 2021. Antonio Sempere / AFP


MADRID - Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles on Saturday denounced as "unacceptable" Morocco's use of young people to violate Spain's borders following a record influx of arrivals early last week.

"One thing is clear: when minors are used as an instrument to breach Spain's territorial borders, this is unacceptable," she told RTVE public television at a ceremony to mark armed forces day.

Spain and Morocco have been locked in a diplomatic spat over Western Sahara, which set off a chain of events that last week saw up to 10,000 mainly young people cross into the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta as Moroccan guards looked the other way.

The arrivals overwhelmed the tiny enclave and although most have been sent back, there are still more than 800 mostly Moroccan minors in Ceuta, where the authorities are working around the clock to track down their parents.

The incident has sparked a war of words between Madrid and Rabat, with Robles last week accusing Morocco of "aggression" and "blackmail".

"It's unacceptable from any point of view, whether you're talking international law or humanitarian law," she said on Saturday.

"No country acting in a spirit of good neighbourliness could use minors in that way."

Spain, she said, had always been "one of Morocco's main supporters, but we demand respect from Morocco... because that is key to coexistence."

Madrid said 1,500 of the arrivals were minors while Amnesty International gave a figure of 2,000. Ceuta has accused Rabat of using "manipulative tricks" to encourage youngsters to cross to put pressure on Spain over Western Sahara.

The influx was made possible because Moroccan border forces deliberately looked the other way in what was widely understood as a punitive gesture after Spain offered hospital treatment to the leader of Western Sahara's independence movement.

Spain's two tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla have Europe's only land border with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants desperate to escape grinding poverty and hunger.

The huge influx of people had triggered fears of an upsurge in Covid-19 infection, but by Friday, that number stood at just 39 imported cases, health ministry figures showed.


SA has now moved to adjusted level 2 lockdown, the president announced on Sunday evening.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

Fellow South Africans,

It has been some time since we last held a family meeting.

When I last spoke to you, exactly two months ago, South Africa was recovering from a deadly second wave of coronavirus infections.

Then, the number of new daily infections had stabilised at a relatively low level, and we had placed the country on Coronavirus Alert Level 1.

While we continued to urge caution, the low levels of transmission allowed us to ease restrictions on the size of gatherings.

But now, after several months of low transmission, the number of infections has begun to rise sharply in several parts of the country.

We have seen a sustained increase over the last four weeks.

Over the last seven days, we have seen an average of 3,745 daily new infections.

This is an increase of 31 per cent on the previous week, and an increase of 66 per cent on the week before that.

The proportion of COVID-19 tests that are positive has more than doubled in the last month from around 4 per cent to more than 11 per cent, even as we have increased testing across the country.

We are advised that a positivity rate of over 5 per cent is a cause for concern.

The provinces of Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Gauteng have reached the threshold of a third wave of infections.

It may only be a matter of time before the country as a whole will have entered a third wave.

According to our health experts, the recent surge in new infections is due to the increasing number of social gatherings where people are not observing essential health protocols.

These protocols include the wearing of masks, social distancing, ensuring adequate ventilation and limits on the number of people who attend gatherings.

Other sites of increased transmission are funerals and so-called ‘after tears’ parties, as well as camps and sporting activities at schools.

Because rates of infection have been low for some time, and because we are all suffering from pandemic fatigue, we have tended to become complacent.

We have not been as vigilant about wearing our masks all the time, we have not been avoiding crowded places, and we have been socialising more.

As a result, infections are surging again.

The increase in daily cases is following the same trajectory as it did at the start of the previous two waves.

We have seen in other countries the tragic consequences of allowing the virus to spread unchecked.

The Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 has therefore recommended that the country urgently implement further restrictions to limit the increase in infections.

It bases this recommendation on the sustained increase in new cases in the last 14 days, increased hospital admissions in almost all provinces and an increase in the proportion of COVID tests that are positive.

Further restrictions are necessary to ensure that health facilities are not overwhelmed and that lives that could be saved are not lost.

Delaying the spread of the virus is especially important now to allow as many people as possible to be vaccinated before the third wave reaches its peak.

These recommendations have been discussed at the National Coronavirus Command Council and, earlier today, with Premiers, mayors and traditional leaders in the President’s Coordinating Council.

Based on these discussions, Cabinet has therefore decided that the country will be placed on Adjusted Alert Level 2 with effect from tomorrow.

This means that:

The hours of curfew will start at 11pm and end at 4am.

Non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres will need to close by 10pm. This is to allow their employees and patrons to travel home before the start of the curfew.

All gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors.

Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 per cent of the capacity of the venue may be used.

This includes religious services, political events and social gatherings, as well as restaurants, bars, taverns and similar places.

Several important measures remain in place.

It remains mandatory for every person to wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth at all times when in public spaces.

It is a criminal offence not to do so.

The owners and managers of public buildings, centres, shops, restaurants, taxis and buses all have a responsibility to ensure that people on their premises or in their vehicles wear masks, and that the appropriate social distancing measures are in place.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you must self-isolate at home for a period of 10 days from when you first developed symptoms.

If you have been in contact with a person who has COVID-19, you must also self-quarantine for a period of 10 days following your exposure, even if you do not show any symptoms.

Identifying and isolating all contacts of a positive case is our best mechanism to prevent the virus from spreading further, and so it is very important that we all obey the rules for isolation and quarantine.

Funerals remain restricted to no more than 100 people, and, as before, night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are not allowed.

While the country is headed towards a third wave of infections, we do not yet know how severe this wave will be or for how long it will last.

According to the scientists that advise government, the severity of this third wave will largely be determined by the amount of contact each of us has with other people.

This means that each of us needs to think about all the people we come into contact with each day and do everything we can to limit those contacts.

Sometimes it is unavoidable to be in contact with other people, such as at work or when shopping or in public transport.

In such cases, it is important that we strictly observe all the health protocols by wearing a mask, keeping our distance from others and ensuring proper ventilation.

But wherever possible, we should cut down on our contacts during this time.

That may mean postponing social engagements, avoiding public spaces and not travelling unless absolutely necessary.

Gatherings are the greatest sources of transmission, whether its weddings, funerals, social parties, religious services, political meetings or simply gatherings of family and friends.

We must remember that the virus does not move from place to place by itself; it relies on the movement of people.

The less we travel, the less the virus is spread.

It is especially important to avoid indoor spaces, as the coronavirus is spread through the air when a person speaks, coughs or sneezes.

If you need to meet someone, including a member of your family, it is safer to do so outside in a well-ventilated space.

Those who are at particular risk, including the elderly and those with comorbidities, should exercise caution and should limit their contacts as much as possible.

If each of us makes this effort now, we will help to flatten the curve of infections.

We will reduce the pressure on our hospitals, and, in doing so, we will save many lives.

As we continue to focus on reducing transmission of the virus through our behaviour, we have embarked on the biggest mass vaccination programme in our country’s history.

Two weeks ago, we started the second phase of the vaccination programme, targeting the balance of our health workers who had not yet been vaccinated during the first phase and all those in the country who are over 60 years of age.

This follows the first phase of the programme, in which nearly 480,000 health workers were vaccinated.

More than 67 per cent of public health workers have been vaccinated.

These health workers received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires a single dose.

Since the evidence shows that older people are at a far greater risk of severe COVID-19 illness and death, we have prioritised the elderly for this second phase.

Over the last two weeks, over 480,000 people have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine as part of the public vaccination campaign.

Because the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses to provide maximum immunity, these people will need to have second dose 42 days after their first dose.

In total, over 960,000 people in South Africa have received one vaccine dose.

Within the next few days, we will have administered vaccine doses to more than one million of the most vulnerable South Africans.

It has been heart-warming to see images of our elderly citizens receiving their vaccine, and to read the many stories of kindness and solidarity from those who have visited a vaccination site.

The positive experiences of the rollout so far reflect both the dedication and professionalism of our healthcare workers, and the intense preparation that has gone into ensuring that the rollout is successful.

The Electronic Vaccine Data System forms the backbone of the programme to manage registration and the allocation of vaccines.

The system links people who have registered to a vaccination site near them.

The system enables the national team to monitor vaccine use and to deploy vaccines to where they are needed.

Registration and vaccination of those over 60 years is going well.

We now have over 3 million people registered on the Electronic Vaccine Data System.

Since this is the first time this system is being used, it is understandable that there have been some initial problems, which have inconvenienced people and sometimes caused delays.

Fortunately, these have been attended to quickly and the system is being continually adapted and strengthened as the rollout proceeds.

There are other challenges we are working to address.

A significant number of the elderly have encountered difficulties in registering on the Electronic Vaccine Data System.

This is due to lack of access to the tools need to register online, such as a computer, internet access or mobile phone, or difficulties following the instructions in English.

We are working to get around these problems, and a huge drive to support the elderly to register is underway.

There are four ways that you can register to receive your COVID-19 vaccine:

By using the online registration platform available on the SA Coronavirus website

By dialling 134832# and registering via USSD

By sending the word “register” via WhatsApp to 0600 123 456

By calling the national toll-free call centre on 0800 029 999, where somebody will help you to register and answer any questions about the vaccination rollout

Each and every one of us can help our parents, our grandparents, or the elderly people in our community to register on the system and get protected.

All of the vaccines that are approved for use in South Africa are safe and effective.

They have carefully been tested in large trials and subjected to a rigorous approval process by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority and by a number of health authorities around the world.

Most importantly, they all provide protection against severe illness or death as a result of COVID-19.

We are continuing discussions with other vaccine manufacturers so that we are able to include different vaccines in our programme.

Some of these manufacturers are in the process of seeking the necessary approvals from our health products authority.

The mass vaccination campaign is a joint effort with all our partners.

There are now more than 400 vaccination sites in operation across the country in both the public and private sectors.

As we have previously reported, we have secured enough vaccines to reach all adults in the country, which is around 40 million people.

This includes 31 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a single dose, and which will be manufactured here in South Africa.

It includes 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses to provide full protection.

The scheduled delivery of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines has however been delayed due to regulatory issues related to lack of adherence to proper standards at a manufacturing plant in the United States.

We are waiting for these issues to be resolved before the first batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines can be released from the facility in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape.

While this is a challenge that has affected the supply of vaccines for many countries and not just in our country, we are in constant contact with the relevant authorities to ensure that our doses can be released as soon as possible.

Around 1.3 million Pfizer doses have already been distributed and nearly 500,000 administered.

The next 636,000 doses arrive tonight with weekly deliveries of an equivalent volume until end June, when we will receive 2.5 million doses.

Our reliance on the Pfizer vaccine for now has affected the pace at which we are able to open vaccination sites.

Due to the properties of the Pfizer vaccine which requires an ultra-cold supply chain, inclusion of smaller sites and sites in more rural areas is limited.

When the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been cleared, it will be much easier to administer.

It is a single dose vaccine and can be stored in a normal fridge.

While our vaccine rollout ramps up over the coming weeks, I urge everyone to be patient and to await their turn.

It is important that we allow healthcare workers and those above the age of 60 to be vaccinated first, as they are most at risk of severe illness or hospitalisation.

For the time being, only these two groups are eligible to receive a vaccination until the next priority groups are announced.

I would like to thank all of our social partners, including the private sector, labour, community organisations, religious groups and traditional leaders, for coming up with innovative ways to support this drive.

As the African continent we are pushing ahead with efforts to expand our vaccine manufacturing capacity with a view to be self-sufficient in vaccine production.

We are also part of the global effort to ensure that all countries have access to sufficient vaccines as a matter of urgency.

We are continuing to urge all countries to support a waiver of the TRIPS agreement at the World Trade Organisation so that COVID-19 vaccines and treatments can be produced on a greater scale, at lower cost and at a faster pace.

Just as our response to the pandemic has depended on all of us acting together, the vaccine rollout requires a whole-of-society effort to succeed.

Right now, our foremost priority is to scale up our vaccination campaign to reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, in every part of our country.

However, we need to delay the increase in infections for as long as we can to allow more of our most vulnerable citizens to be protected.

Every week that we delay the peak of the third wave allows us to vaccinate hundreds of thousands more people, and may well save their lives.

This is why it is crucial for us to act now, and to act together, to limit the spread of the virus by wearing a mask, avoiding gatherings and indoor spaces, keeping a distance from others and washing or sanitising our hands regularly.

With the acceleration of the vaccine programme, we are getting ever closer to overcoming the pandemic.

We cannot give up now. We cannot let down our guard.

It is up to each and every one of us to protect ourselves, our families and our communities until we are all vaccinated.

I ask you to summon your strength, your courage, and your tenacity as South Africans to stand together and to hold back this third wave.

We can and we will succeed, as we have succeeded before.

God bless South Africa and protect her people.

I thank you.

South Africa Returns to Stricter Lockdown, Virus ‘Surging’


A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at the newly-opened mass vaccination program for the elderly at a drive-thru vaccination center outside Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. South Africa aims to vaccinate 5 million of its older citizens by the end of June. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Sunday that his country will return to stricter lockdown measures in the face of a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases that indicate the virus is “surging again” in Africa’s worst-affected nation.

Positive cases in South Africa in the past seven days were 31% higher than the week before, and 66% higher than the week before that, Ramaphosa said in a live TV address. He said some parts of the country, including the commercial hub Johannesburg and the capital city Pretoria, were now in “a third wave.”

“We do not yet know how severe this wave will be or for how long it will last,” Ramaphosa said.

In response, Ramaphosa said that from Monday the nighttime curfew would be extended by an hour to start at 11 p.m. until 4 a.m. A maximum of 100 people would be allowed at indoor social gatherings and no more than 250 at an outdoors gathering. The number of people attending funerals will be limited to 100 people and after-funeral gatherings were banned completely, Ramaphosa said. Nonessential businesses must close by 10 p.m.

“We have tended to become complacent,” Ramaphosa said, warning virus infections were “surging again” at a time when the country moves into its winter months and people were more likely to gather together indoors, likely further increasing infections.

South Africa’s decision to go back to a stricter lockdown reinforces — as the crisis in India has already done so starkly — how the global pandemic is far from over.

“We have seen in other countries the tragic consequences of leaving the virus to spread unchecked,” Ramaphosa said. “We cannot let our guard down.”

South Africa has more than 1.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 56,000 deaths, more than 30% of the cases and 40% of the deaths recorded by all of Africa’s 54 countries, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. South Africa recorded 4,515 new cases over the past 24 hours and Ramaphosa said the “positivity rate” among tests conducted was now “a cause for concern.”

South Africa had been under lockdown level one, the lowest of its five levels, but was now reverting to an “adjusted level two,” Ramaphosa announced. Authorities did stop short of reimposing the strict measures like limits on people’s movements during the day and a ban on the sales of alcohol and tobacco products that were in place at times last year.

South Africa has seen two previous surges in infections, the first in the middle of last year and a second, much worse wave in December and January, when the emergence of a variant pushed infections and deaths to higher levels than the first surge. The virus was currently following “the same trajectory” as those waves, Ramaphosa said.

Experts have warned that this wave, arriving with the Southern Hemisphere winter, might be even worse.

The surge in cases also cast more attention on South Africa’s lagging vaccine rollout. Only around 1.5% of the country’s 60 million people have received a vaccine. Health workers were the No. 1 priority but less than 500,000 of the 1.2 million health workers have been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson one-dose shot. South Africa only began vaccinating its elderly citizens two weeks ago. In total, 963,000 South Africans had received a vaccine by Sunday, the government said, although half of those have only received the first of two required doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

South Africa has “secured” more than 50 million vaccines, Ramaphosa said, but currently has only 1.3 million doses in the country that are ready to be rolled out. More Pfizer-BioNTech doses are expected to arrive next week, and weekly after that, he said. South Africa hopes to vaccinate around 40 million people by the end of the year, a target that looks increasingly unlikely.