Friday, June 14, 2019

3265. The U.S. Is Purging Chinese Cancer Researchers From Top Institutions

By Peter Waldman, Bloomberg News, June 13, 2019
Wu in her former office at MD Anderson.
Photo: May Zhou/China Daily
The dossier on cancer researcher Xifeng Wu was thick with intrigue, if hardly the stuff of a spy thriller. It contained findings that she’d improperly shared confidential information and accepted a half-dozen advisory roles at medical institutions in China. She might have weathered those allegations, but for a larger aspersion that was far more problematic: She was branded an oncological double agent.

In recent decades, cancer research has become increasingly globalized, with scientists around the world pooling data and ideas to jointly study a disease that kills almost 10 million people a year. International collaborations are an intrinsic part of the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Moonshot program, the government’s $1 billion blitz to double the pace of treatment discoveries by 2022. One of the program’s tag lines: “Cancer knows no borders.”

Except, it turns out, the borders around China. In January, Wu, an award-winning epidemiologist and naturalized American citizen, quietly stepped down as director of the Center for Public Health and Translational Genomics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center after a three-month investigation into her professional ties in China. Her resignation, and the departures in recent months of three other top Chinese American scientists from Houston-based MD Anderson, stem from a Trump administration drive to counter Chinese influence at U.S. research institutions. The aim is to stanch China’s well-documented and costly theft of U.S. innovation and know-how. The collateral effect, however, is to stymie basic science, the foundational research that underlies new medical treatments. Everything is commodified in the economic cold war with China, including the struggle to find a cure for cancer.

Behind the investigation that led to Wu’s exit—and other such probes across the country—is the National Institutes of Health, in coordination with the FBI. “Even something that is in the fundamental research space, that’s absolutely not classified, has an intrinsic value,” says Lawrence Tabak, principal deputy director of the NIH, explaining his approach. “This pre-patented material is the antecedent to creating intellectual property. In essence, what you’re doing is stealing other people’s ideas.”

The NIH, the world’s biggest public funder of basic biomedical research, wields immense power over the nation’s health-research community. It allocates about $26 billion a year in federal grants; roughly $6 billion of that goes to cancer research. At a June 5 hearing, NIH officials told the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance that the agency has contacted 61 research institutions about suspected diversion of proprietary information by grant recipients and referred 16 cases, mainly involving undisclosed ties to foreign governments, for possible legal action. Ways of working that have long been encouraged by the NIH and many research institutions, particularly MD Anderson, are now quasi-criminalized, with FBI agents reading private emails, stopping Chinese scientists at airports, and visiting people’s homes to ask about their loyalty.

Wu hasn’t been charged with stealing anyone’s ideas, but in effect she stood accused of secretly aiding and abetting cancer research in China, an un-American activity in today’s political climate. She’d spent 27 of her 56 years at MD Anderson. A month after resigning, she left her husband and two kids in the U.S. and took a job as dean of a school of public health in Shanghai.

This is the first detailed account of what happened to Wu. She declined to be interviewed for this article, citing a pending complaint she’s filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Her story is based on interviews and documents provided by 14 American colleagues and friends and records obtained through the Texas Public Information Act.

Historians will have to sort out whether Wu’s story and others like it marked a turning point when U.S. research institutions got serious about China’s avarice for American intellectual property, or a dangerous lurch down the path of paranoia and racial profiling. Or both. In any case, recent events in Houston and elsewhere indicate that Chinese people in America, including U.S. citizens, are now targeted for FBI surveillance.

In an April speech in New York, FBI Director Christopher Wray described the reason for the scrutiny of ethnic Chinese scientists. “China has pioneered a societal approach to stealing innovation in any way it can from a wide array of businesses, universities, and organizations,” he told the Council on Foreign Relations. Everyone’s in on it, Wray said: China’s intelligence services; its state-owned and what he called “ostensibly” private enterprises; and the 130,000 Chinese graduate students and researchers who work and study in the U.S. every year. “Put plainly, China seems determined to steal its way up the economic ladder at our expense.”

Wray’s rhetoric has caused deep anxiety in the Chinese American community, “because so many have been questioned by the FBI,” says Representative Judy Chu, the California Democrat who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “I’m very concerned about whether this ultimately leads to an erosion of Chinese Americans’ civil rights.”

Wu graduated from medical school in Shanghai and earned her Ph.D. in 1994 from the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. She joined MD Anderson while in graduate school and gained renown for creating several so-called study cohorts with data amassed from hundreds of thousands of patients in Asia and the U.S. The cohorts, which combine patient histories with personal biomarkers such as DNA characteristics and treatment descriptions, outcomes, and even lifestyle habits, are a gold mine for researchers. (Some examples of the use of cohorts: Wu and her team showed that Mexican Americans who sleep less than six hours a night had a higher risk of cancer than Mexican Americans who get more sleep, and that eating charred meat such as barbecue raised the risk of kidney cancer.) In 2011, Wu leapfrogged over older colleagues and was named epidemiology chair, making her the top-ranked epidemiologist at the nation’s top-ranked cancer center.

Along the way, Wu developed close ties with researchers and cancer centers in China. She was encouraged to do so by MD Anderson. The center’s president in the early 2000s, John Mendelsohn, launched an initiative to promote international collaborations. In China, MD Anderson forged “sister” relationships with five major cancer centers, cooperating on screening programs, clinical trials, and basic research studies. Dozens of ethnic Chinese faculty members at MD Anderson participated, eager to visit family and friends and contribute their expertise to addressing China’s enormous burden of about 4.3 million new cancer cases a year. In 2015, China awarded MD Anderson its top honor for international scientific cooperation, in a ceremony attended by President Xi Jinping.

Wu was a model collaborator. She attended Chinese medical conferences, hosted visiting Chinese professors in Houston, and published 87 research papers with co-authors from 26 Chinese institutions. In all, she has co-authored some 540 papers that have been cited about 23,000 times in scientific literature. (Her papers are all easily retrievable with a few clicks on MD Anderson’s website.)

“MD Anderson was very much an open door. The mission was ‘End cancer in Texas, America, and the world,’ ” says Oliver Bogler, the cancer center’s senior vice president for academic affairs from 2011 to 2018 and now chief operating officer of the ECHO Institute at the University of New Mexico.

The globalization of science, in particular basic science, has been sweeping. “Faculty don’t see international borders anymore,” says Adam Kuspa, dean of research at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “If someone in another country has a piece of the puzzle, they want to work with them.” Relationships often begin at academic conferences, jell during invited visits for symposiums or lectureships, and culminate in the melding of research into scientific papers. Since 2010 the NIH itself has offered about $5 million a year in special grants for U.S.-China collaborations, with 20% going to cancer research, and a counterpart in China has pitched in an additional $3 million a year. The joint projects have produced a number of high-impact papers on cancer, according to an internal NIH review.

For Kirk Smith, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who studies the health effects of air pollution, the benefits of collaboration have been surprising. He never imagined, back in the 1980s when he started researching Chinese air pollution with Chinese scientists, that one day his colleagues would become influential policymakers at home. In the past six years, Smith’s partners have pushed through standards that have led to air pollution reductions of 21% to 42% in China’s most populous areas. The results have borne fruit in the U.S., too. Twenty years ago scientists forecast that air pollution from China, blowing across the Pacific, would cause California to exceed its clean-air standards by 2025. Now that won’t happen, says Smith, who was granted an honorary professorship at Tsinghua University this spring.

Wu’s work, like a lot of the academic research now in danger of being stifled, isn’t about developing patentable drugs. The mission is to reduce risk and save lives by discovering the causes of cancer. Prevention isn’t a product. It isn’t sellable. Or stealable.

Suspicion of Chinese scientists at MD Anderson began to take root around 2014. The year before, a Chinese researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee had been arrested on federal charges of economic espionage; prosecutors said he stole three vials of a cancer drug in early-stage lab testing. (He pleaded guilty to the far lesser charge of accessing a computer without authorization and was sentenced to time served, four and a half months.) At the time, MD Anderson was pushing to commercialize basic research into cancer drugs; today the center has alliances and partnerships with almost three dozen pharmaceutical makers and other private companies. Security was enhanced. Foreign guests were kept on a short leash.

The chain of events that ultimately led to Wu’s departure began in the summer of 2017, when the FBI notified the cancer center it was investigating “the possible theft of MD Anderson research and proprietary information.” (MD Anderson declined to speak about the FBI investigation except to say it did not report theft of intellectual property to the bureau.) A federal grand jury followed up with a subpoena for five years of emails from some MD Anderson employees. A few months later, the center gutted its international research program and put what was left of its collaborative-project arm under a business department. Bogler and former colleagues within the center say the focus then shifted away from research collaborations and toward business opportunities. MD Anderson spokeswoman Brette Peyton said in an email that the center’s global programs haven’t changed.

In November 2017 the FBI asked for more information. This time, no subpoena followed. Instead, the cancer center’s president, Peter Pisters—then on the job for barely a month—signed a voluntary agreement allowing the FBI to search the network accounts of what a separate document indicated were 23 employees “for any purpose … at any time, for any length of time, and at any location.” Did all of the network accounts handed over to the FBI belong to Chinese or Chinese American scientists? MD Anderson refuses to say.

“Because MD Anderson was cooperating with the FBI’s national security investigation, and because the FBI had the power to issue another subpoena, we chose to voluntarily provide the requested emails,” Peyton said.

In Wray’s telling, China’s challenge to the U.S. today is unlike any this nation has faced. Whereas the Cold War was fought by armies and governments, the contest is being waged, on China’s side, by the “whole of society,” the FBI director said, and the U.S. needs its own whole-of-society response. But what does that look like in a society with more than 5 million citizens of Chinese descent, many of whom work in the very science and technology fields said to be under assault?

The FBI is telling companies, universities, hospitals—anyone with intellectual property at stake—to take special precautions when dealing with Chinese business partners and employees who might be what Wray calls “nontraditional” information collectors. U.S. Department of Justice officials are doing roadshows to brief local governments, companies, and journalists about China’s perfidy. Visas for Chinese students and researchers are being curtailed, and more Chinese engineers and businesspeople, especially in the tech sector, are being detained at U.S. airports while border agents inspect and image their digital devices. The FBI is pursuing economic espionage investigations “that almost invariably lead back to China” in almost every one of its 56 field offices, Wray said.

They’ve made some big arrests. Last year the agency lured an alleged spymaster affiliated with China’s Ministry of State Security to Belgium, where he was arrested and extradited to the U.S. to face espionage charges. The suspected agent, named Yanjun Xu, allegedly disguised himself as an academic and used LinkedIn to entice a Chinese American engineer at GE Aviation in Cincinnati to come to China to give a presentation on composite materials for the aerospace industry. The engineer brought along some of his employer’s confidential documents. Xu pleaded not guilty in October and remains in custody in Ohio awaiting trial. The GE Aviation employee wasn’t charged.
Federal agents have also made an alarming number of spy arrests that proved unwarranted. From 1997 to 2009, 17% of defendants indicted under the U.S. Economic Espionage Act had Chinese names. From 2009 to 2015, that rate tripled, to 52%, according to a December 2018 article in the Cardozo Law Review. As the number of cases soared, evidence of actual espionage lagged behind. 

One in five of the Chinese-named defendants was never found guilty of espionage or any other serious crime in the cases between 1997 and 2015—almost twice the rate of wrongful accusations among non-Chinese defendants. The disparity, wrote the paper’s author, Andrew Kim, a visiting scholar at South Texas College of Law at Houston, reflects an apparent bias among federal agents and prosecutors who assume ethnic Chinese scientists must be secretly working for China.

“In the same way racial profiling of African Americans as criminals may create the crime of ‘driving while black,’ ” wrote Kim, who practices law at the Houston office of Greenberg Traurig, “profiling of Asian Americans as spies … may be creating a new crime: ‘researching while Asian.’ ”

In 2015, FBI agents stormed the Philadelphia home of Xiaoxing Xi, a Temple University physicist, and arrested him at gunpoint in front of his wife and two daughters for allegedly sharing superconductor technology with China. The charges were dropped five months later, after Xi’s lawyers proved the system in question was old and publicly available. But Xi says his life will never be the same. He lost most of his graduate students and research funding and remains preoccupied with fears that the government is still spying on him. “Seeing how such a trivial thing could be twisted into felony charges has had a dramatic psychological impact,” he says. “I was doing academic collaboration that the government, the university, and all the funding agencies encouraged us to do.”

Last spring, FBI agents in Houston, armed with a batch of emails from the 23 accounts, knocked on the doors of at least four Chinese Americans who worked at MD Anderson, asking whether they or others had professional links to China. The agents were particularly interested in scientists connected to China’s Thousand Talents Plan, a government initiative to lure back top scholars from overseas with well-paid jobs in China. A report last year by the U.S. National Intelligence Council said the recruitment program’s underlying purpose is “to facilitate the legal and illicit transfer of U.S. technology, intellectual property and knowhow” to China.

“I told them I wasn’t going to snitch,” says one person, who was surprised to find two agents at his back door one afternoon. They told him not to discuss the encounter, says the person, who asked not to be named, and inquired about joint research projects in China. He tried to explain that there are no secrets in basic science, because everything gets published. Over their two-hour talk, he says, the agents were less focused on national security issues—say, espionage or trade secret theft—than on the more soul-searching subject of loyalty. They wanted to know, in effect, are you now or have you ever been more committed to curing cancer in China than in the U.S.? An FBI spokesman wouldn’t comment, but said in an email that the bureau can’t initiate investigations “based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin or religion.”

That June, MD Anderson gave the FBI another consent letter, this time permitting it to share any “relevant information” from the cancer center’s employee accounts with the NIH and other federal agencies. That signaled a new focus for the ostensible national security investigation: compliance with federal grant requirements. It was here that Wu became a target.

In five memos addressed last fall to Pisters, MD Anderson’s president, a top NIH official cited dozens of employee emails in claiming that Wu and four other scientists at the cancer center violated confidentiality requirements in grant reviews and failed to disclose paid work in China. “Because NIH awards generally are made to the institution and not the [researcher], we remind you of the gravity of these concerns,” wrote Michael Lauer, NIH’s deputy director for outside research. He gave Pisters 30 days to respond.

The investigations of the MD Anderson employees were handled by the center’s compliance chief, Max Weber, and his boss, general counsel Steven Haydon. On the advice of her lawyer, Wu, who had an often-combative relationship with the administration, declined to be interviewed by Weber but submitted written responses to questions. In them she acknowledged lapses, but maintained they weren’t duplicitous. She admitted sharing NIH grant proposals with U.S. colleagues—not to leak scientific secrets, she said, but to get help with her workload. Wu told Weber she used office administrators and more junior researchers to perform such tasks as downloading and printing grant proposals and typing and editing review drafts. Weber concluded that Wu’s use of others to help with grant reviews violated MD Anderson’s ethics policies.

If that’s true, the position is at odds with common practice in academia. “If you searched through MD Anderson or any large research institution, you’d find people with these kinds of compliance issues everywhere,” says Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken School of Public Health at George Washington University. Assisting senior scientists with confidential grant reviews, a rite of passage for many younger researchers, is considered “part of the mentoring process” by older faculty members, Goldman says. “Is it wrong? Probably. Is it a capital offense? Hardly.”

Wu also admitted failing to disclose to the NIH all the names and affiliations of her Chinese collaborators, as required in grant filings. She told Weber that was because she’d worked with many of them there in Houston, when they were visiting scientists at MD Anderson. At any rate, their affiliations in China were clearly noted in published papers. Weber concluded, in the report he submitted to Pisters, that visiting scientists were still “foreign components” and must be disclosed.

Wu acknowledged accepting various honorary titles and positions in China, such as advisory professor at Fudan University, her alma mater—but she wasn’t paid, she said. She produced emails showing she twice withdrew from Thousand Talents consideration, because the positions entailed too much travel. In his report, Weber wrote that Wu failed to disclose compensated work at several Chinese cancer centers. He offered no proof that she’d been paid, but included potential salary amounts for certain positions in his report, conditioned on “actual work performed,” he wrote. He offered no evidence that she did any work.

In the end, Weber based most of his conclusions on “adverse inferences” he drew from Wu’s insistence on responding to his questions in writing. For example, he cited a 2017 article on the website of Shanghai’s Ruijin Hospital that said Wu had been honored at a ceremony after signing a contract to become a visiting professor. “Given Wu’s failure to appear at her interview, I infer that this fact is true,” Weber wrote.

Yet a week after that article appeared, Wu emailed Ruijin Hospital’s president to say she couldn’t accept the appointment before clearing it with MD Anderson’s conflict-of-interest committee. Twelve days later, she emailed him a draft consulting contract that specified the pact was subject to all rules and regulations of MD Anderson, including those related to intellectual property. “If you agree, I will submit it to our institution for review,” Wu wrote. The Chinese hospital did agree, and she submitted the draft contract to MD Anderson. She never heard back from the conflict-of-interest panel before resigning.

Weber didn’t mention either email in his report. Wu was placed on unpaid leave pending disciplinary action, including possible termination. She quit on Jan. 15. Wu didn’t exercise her right to challenge Weber’s findings at a faculty hearing, Peyton said. “Subsequent protestations of innocence are unfortunate.” Weber didn’t respond to a request for an interview.

To friends and many colleagues, Wu’s case represents overkill. There was no evidence, and no accusation, that she’d given China any proprietary information, whatever that term might mean in cancer epidemiology. She should have been given the chance to correct her disclosures without punishment, her supporters say. “Innocent yet meaningful scientific collaborations have been portrayed as somehow corrupt and detrimental to American interests. Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Randy Legerski, a retired vice chair of MD Anderson’s genetics department and former chair of its faculty senate. Adds Goldman of George Washington: “The only thing we’ve lost to China is our investment in Xifeng Wu.”

In an interview, Pisters wouldn’t comment on any of the five investigations of Chinese researchers, but said MD Anderson had to act to protect its NIH funding, which reached $148 million last year. The cancer center has a “social responsibility” to taxpayers and its donors to protect its intellectual property from any country trying “to take advantage of everything that is aspirational and outstanding in America,” he said.

On a Saturday this March, about 150 ethnic Chinese scientists and engineers packed a University of Chicago conference room for a panel discussion titled “The New Reality Facing Chinese Americans.” Speakers from the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office assured everyone that multiple layers of government review ensure agents follow the law, not prejudices.

Panelist Brian Sun, partner-in-charge of the Los Angeles office of Jones Day, shot back that prosecutors’ inflammatory rhetoric in Chinese spying cases has repeatedly stoked public fear, only to have prosecutions collapse. The audience gasped when he described the failed espionage indictment of National Weather Service hydrologist Sherry Chen, who was charged in 2014 with accessing data on U.S. dams to give China. At one point prosecutors said the information could possibly be used during wartime to cause mass murder by blowing up the embankments. It turned out that federal investigators knew Chen had legitimate work reasons to retrieve the dam information, and she never passed any of it to China.

“That’s the kind of shit we deal with,” Sun said. “Don’t rush to judgment, and do your homework before you charge.”

Nancy Chen, a retired federal employee, closed the meeting by raising the unspoken dread in a room full of scholars familiar with the long history of U.S. laws and executive orders aimed at Asian immigrants. “The greatest fear is that history may repeat itself in this political climate, and Chinese Americans may be rounded up like Japanese Americans during World War II,” she said. “The fear and worry is real.”

The FBI agent thanked Chen for her comments and said the “atmospheric” information is always good to know.

So far, MD Anderson and Emory University, which fired two Chinese American professors in May, are the only U.S. research institutions known to have parted company with multiple scientists over alleged breaches of NIH disclosure rules. The University of Wisconsin at Madison rebuffed an FBI request for computer files of a Chinese American engineering professor without a subpoena, according to a person familiar with the matter. Yale, Stanford, and Berkeley, among other institutions, have published letters of support for Chinese faculty members and research collaborations. “An automatic suspicion of people based on their national origin can lead to terrible consequences,” wrote Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ in February.

Baylor College of Medicine, located next door to MD Anderson at Houston’s Texas Medical Center, received NIH inquiries about four faculty members. It didn’t punish anyone, but used the opportunity to correct past disclosure lapses and educate faculty members about more rigorous enforcement going forward, says Kuspa, the school’s research dean. Local FBI activity has rattled enough nerves already, he says. “Chinese scientists have come to me shaking.”

After attending several FBI briefings on the China threat, Kuspa wonders if the bureau understands how long and painstaking cancer research is. It can take two decades from discovery of a promising molecule to approval of a chemotherapy drug. Even then, progress in cancer treatment is measured in months of life, seldom in years. How much basic cancer research could China really steal?
“I joke with my boss after those FBI meetings, ‘Darn, I guess the Chinese are going to cure cancer. I’ll buy that pill,’ ” Kuspa says. “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do—educate the entire world to have a fact-based approach to health?”

Thursday, June 13, 2019

3264. Earliest Evidence for Cannabis Use Discovered in Ancient Tombs

By Michele Donahue, National Geographic, June 12, 2019
2,500-year-old burials at Jirzankal Cemetery in western China feature wooden braziers that burned cannabis plants containing an unusually high level of the psychoactive chemical THC. Photo:
Wu Xinhua.

The earliest direct evidence for human consumption of cannabis as a drug has been discovered in a 2,500-year-old cemetery in Central Asia, according to a research paper published today in in the journal Science Advances.

While cannabis plants and seeds have been identified at other archaeological sites from the same general region and time period—including a cannabis ‘burial shroud discovered in 2016—it’s been unclear in each context whether the versatile plant was used for psychoactive reasons or for other ritual purposes.

An international team of researchers analyzed the interiors and contents of 10 wooden bowls excavated from burials at Jirzankal Cemetery, a site on the Pamir Plateau in what is now far-western China. The bowls contained small stones that had been exposed to high heat, and archaeologists identified them as braziers for burning incense or other plant matter.

When chemical analysis of the braziers revealed that nine of the ten once contained cannabis, the researchers compared the chemical signature of the samples against those of cannabis plants discovered 1,000 miles to the east at Jiayi Cemetery, in burials dating from the eighth to the sixth century B.C.

They saw that the Jirzankal cannabis had something the Jiayi hemp did not: Molecular remnants of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC—the chemical responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive effects. The strain of cannabis found at Jiayi does not contain THC, and would have been primarily been used as a source of fiber for clothing and rope, as well as nutrient-rich oilseed.

The Jirzankal cannabis features higher levels of mind-altering compounds than have yet been found at any ancient site, suggesting that people could have been intentionally cultivating certain strains of cannabis for a potent high, or selecting wild plants known to produce that effect.

Cannabis is known for its “plasticity,” or ability for new generations of plants to express different characteristics from earlier generations depending on exposure to environmental factors such as sunlight, temperature, and altitude. Wild strains of cannabis growing at higher altitudes, for instance, can have a higher THC content.

While the researchers are unable to determine the actual origin of the cannabis used in the Jirzankal burials, they suggest that Jirzankal’s elevation some 10,000 feet on the Pamir Plateau may have put people in close proximity to wild strains with higher THC content—or that the cemetery could have been sited at that elevation for ease of access to desirable strains.
According to Spengler, this new study demonstrates that already 2,500 years ago, humans were potentially targeting specific plants for their chemical production

Robert Spengler, director of paleoethnobotany laboratories at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and study co-author, says that the constant stream of people moving across the Pamir Plateau—an important crossroads connecting Central Asia and China with southwest Asia—could have resulted in the hybridization of local cannabis strains with those from other areas. While hybridization is another factor known to increase psychoactive cannabis strains’ THC potency, the question of whether it was intentional, or just by happy accident, is also still unclear.

“It’s a wonderful example of how closely intertwined humans are and have been with the biotic world around them, and that they impose evolutionary pressures on the plants around them,” he says.

The discovery at Jirzankal also provides the first direct evidence that humans inhaled combusted cannabis plants in order to obtain its psychoactive effects. No evidence of smoking pipes or similar apparatus has been found in Asia before contact with the New World in the modern era, but the inhalation of cannabis smoke from a heat source is described by the fifth-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, who described in his Histories how the Scythians, a nomadic tribe living on the Caspian Steppe, purified themselves with cannabis smoke after burying their dead: “The Scythians then take the seed of this hemp and, crawling in under the mats, throw it on the red-hot stones, where it smolders and sends forth such fumes that no Greek vapor-bath could surpass it. The Scythians howl in their joy at the vapor-bath."

Herodotus also notes that the cannabis plant “grows both of itself and having been sown,” which University of North Carolina classics expert Emily Baragwanath says is usually interpreted as meaning the plant was cultivated—lending credence to the researcher’s ideas about purposeful cannabis hybridization.

"People have been skeptical of Herodotus’ ethnographies of foreign peoples," she adds, "but as archaeology looks closer, it keeps finding affinities between the real world and what’s in the Histories."

Mark Merlin, an ethnobotanist and cannabis historian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, says the wide diversity in cannabis around the world today is a testament to how long people have been involved with the plant and harnessed its many uses. “It’s a real indication of how long humans have been manipulating cannabis,” he says.

3263. Thomas L. Friedman on Climate Change Mitigation as Capitalist Rivalry

By Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times, June 11, 2019

Just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all from Donald Trump, he sinks to a new low that leaves you speechless and wondering: Is he crazy, is he evil, is he maniacally committed to unwinding every good thing Barack Obama did, or is he just plain stupid?

I mean, what president would try to weaken emission standards so American-made cars could pollute more, so our kids could breathe dirtier air in the age of climate change, when clean energy systems are becoming the next great global industry and China is focused on dominating it?

Seriously, who does that?

But that’s the initiative Trump has embarked upon of late — an industrial policy to revive all the dirty industries of the past and to undermine the clean industries of the future.

It is a policy initiative that is not only perverse on its face, but that utterly fails to connect so many dots that are right now harming our national security, economy, weather and competition with China.

Think of the dots Trump refuses to connect:

Dot No. 1: Get the term “global warming” out of your head. What’s actually happening is better described as “global weirding.” The warming of the atmosphere makes the weather weird. First, the hots get hotter. This then leads to greater evaporation, which means there’s more water vapor in clouds for precipitation. So the wets get wetter and the floods get wider. But the droughts in dry areas also get drier.

Some of the colds can even get colder, as when a weakened polar vortex, which normally keeps cold air trapped in the Arctic, allows more frigid polar air to push southward into the U.S. At the same time, the hurricanes that are fueled by warmer ocean temperatures get more violent.

That’s why you’re seeing weird weather extremes in all directions. So, The Washington Post reported that in Montana: “On March 3, the low temperature tanked to a bone-chilling minus-32 in Great Falls. Combined with a high of minus-8, the day finished a whopping 50 degrees below normal.” At the time, the city was in its longest stretch below freezing on record.

But then The Post reported that on May 11 in a town “near the entrance to the Arctic Ocean in northwest Russia, the temperature surged to 84 degrees Fahrenheit” — in May! Near the Arctic! And this happened at the same time that “the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eclipsed 415 parts per million for the first time in human history.”

Now let’s go to Dot No. 2: On May 30, the National Weather Service declared that in the continental U.S. “there’s never been a wetter 12 months than the period that recently ended” — since it began keeping records 124 years ago, CNN reported. But this global weirding not only devastated Midwestern farmers, requiring huge insurance payouts, it also hammered the U.S. military.

The Air Force had to request $4.9 billion to repair just two weather-ravaged bases. As NPR reported, “about one-third of Offutt Air Force Base, in eastern Nebraska, was underwater earlier this month as flooding hit large swaths of the Midwest. And Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle was hit hard by Hurricane Michael in October.”

The then-Air Force secretary, Heather Wilson, declared “that 61 projects — consisting largely of operations and maintenance — at air bases in 18 states would not happen if the supplemental disaster funding does not come through.”

Dot No. 3: So on June 6, Trump signed a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill, boasting: “Just signed Disaster Aid Bill to help Americans who have been hit by recent catastrophic storms. So important for our GREAT American farmers and ranchers.”

Dot No. 4: THE VERY SAME DAY, this newspaper reported, “The world’s largest automakers warned President Trump on Thursday that one of his most sweeping deregulatory efforts — his plan to weaken tailpipe pollution standards — threatens to cut their profits and produce ‘untenable’ instability in a crucial manufacturing sector.

“In a letter signed by 17 companies including Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Volvo, the automakers asked Mr. Trump to go back to the negotiating table on the planned rollback of one of President Barack Obama’s signature policies to fight climate change.”

The story explained that Trump’s new rule “would all but eliminate the Obama-era auto pollution regulations, essentially freezing mileage standards at about 37 miles per gallon for cars, down from a target of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.” And because California and 13 other states are committed to fulfilling Obama’s or other higher standards, and will go to court to make sure they can, it will split the U.S. auto market into two — a huge problem for the car companies.

Personally, I have no sympathy for the automakers. They brought this on themselves. They, and those in Congress who coddle them, have a long history of assisted suicide.

They got the G.O.P. to more or less freeze the 1980s mileage improvement standards that grew out of the 1970s oil crisis, claiming it would be too expensive for them to keep improving. And what did we get? More pollution in America and therefore more childhood asthma and other health costs, and a bankrupt auto industry that had to be bailed out in 2008 in part because the Japanese out-innovated it in the 1980s and 1990s by holding to higher mileage standards and creating more fuel-efficient fleets.

And now these same foolish and selfish Detroit auto executives, in combination with Trump’s coal-lobby-led Environmental Protection Agency, want to rerun the same play. The companies just wanted Trump to not get as crazy in rolling back standards as he did.

As any industrial designer will tell you, smart, steadily rising environmental standards spur innovation and inspire companies to race to the top and become global market leaders. Obama’s emission standards spurred the U.S. auto industry to catch up, and now Trump wants the companies to slow down their innovation and pollute more, in order to drive up their short-term profits. It’s like burning your furniture to heat your house.

As University of Oregon Law Professor Greg Dotson, a former senior energy congressional staffer, pointed out in an essay on titled “Why E.P.A.’s U-turn on Auto Efficiency Rules Gives China the Upper Hand”: “Reversing course on the E.P.A.’s tailpipe standards threatens to yield this competitive advantage to other nations … China’s recently adopted goals for plug-in vehicles overtake California’s program by requiring an aggressive deployment of plug-in vehicles beginning in 2019 with a target of seven million new plug-in cars sold per year by 2025. The Chinese government is even openly discussing the appropriate date to discontinue sales of internal combustion engine vehicles within China.”

Yup, let’s make China great again!

If you want to know what a real president would be doing, just look at Michael Bloomberg’s “Beyond Carbon” initiative, which has committed $500 million for the biggest coordinated campaign ever to promote clean energy.

Nine new governors were elected in 2018 on platforms to power their states by 100 percent clean energy, as California has already committed itself to. Some are small, like New Mexico, and may need technical assistance for their plans. “Beyond Carbon” is designed to support such states. It also offers aid to utilities, cities and businesses that need help or staffing to adopt innovative programs to clean their air and water and to lower carbon emissions, particularly by shutting down coal power plants and replacing them with clean energy.

Alas, when you actually connect all of the dots they draw a line pointing straight backward:

Trump is trying to lower auto emission/mileage standards that were making our car companies more competitive against efficient Chinese and Japanese automakers — and making our air cleaner — while Trump is signing multibillion-dollar bailouts for farmers and Air Force bases ravaged by extreme weather that has been amplified by climate change that is amplified by carbon pollution, while Trump is having his bureaucrats hide evidence of climate change and while Trump is forcing Americans to pay billions in tariffs on Chinese imports to protect against, among other things, future competition from Chinese electric vehicles that have zero emissions and zero oil consumption.

This is not strategic. This is not winning. This is not patriotic. It’s just foolish, destructive and cynical.

Monday, June 10, 2019

3262. Interview With the Organizer of The Trotsky Conference in Cuba

By Rob Lyons, Socialist Action, June 7, 2019
Trotsky with his wife Natalia Ivanovna Sedova in Mexico, 1938. 

From the 6th to the 8th of May, the first International Academic Conference examining the life and ideas of the great Ukrainian revolutionary and leader of the Russian revolution Lev Davidovitch Bronstein, now universally known as Leon Trotsky, was held in Havana, Cuba. The Conference was organized by the Juan Marinelo Cultural Center in conjunction with the Cuban Institute of Philosophy, and was hosted by the Casa Benito Juarez in Old Havana.

Sponsoring organizations included the Trotsky House and Museum in Mexico City, the Editions Carlos Marx, of Mexico, and the Center for the Study and Investigation of the thoughts of Leon Trotsky, Mexico City and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

What was surprising about the site of the conference was the hitherto blatant animosity of sections of the the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party towards Trotskyism and the Cuban Trotskyists. The opening statements of the conference organizers included an apology to the Cuban Trotskyists unjustifiable jailed by the government in the late 1960’s.

The changing attitudes towards Trotsky and his ideas are expressed most clearly in the personal testimony of the political evolution of the sparkplug behind the conference, Frank Garcia Fernandez (FG) a teacher and graduate student in sociology, whose doctoral thesis is on Trotskyism in Cuba.

The interview was conducted by Rob Lyons (RL) Socialist Action’s international solidarity coordinator, based in Costa Rica, and an attendee at the conference.

RL: Let me say first of all that the Conference has caused much commentary in sections of the revolutionary left, especially in the Americas, given the Cuban government’s antipathy towards Trotsky and Trotskyism. What motivated you and your co-organizers to swim against this stream? A related question is, of course, in your opinion is there a greater openness to discuss the ideas of Trotsky among the Cuban political vanguard and the Party membership?

FG: First of all, thank you very much for interviewing me and I send a revolutionary greeting to all the comrades who are reading this article.

When I first read Trotsky’s name I was 10 years old. It was in a book—not published in Cuba—about flags and shields of the world. I liked them a lot as a child and even today I collect flags. Each country represented brought a brief historical review. The Soviet Union, at the time of publication of the book, still existed, and in its chapter read: Lenin and Trotsky led the October Revolution.

From a young age my uncle had trained me in Marxism; all my family is revolutionary: former members of the July 26 Movement; but the communist was him: a brave militant of the old PSP[1] whom I respected and admired a lot. As you will understand, he had no fondness for Trotsky. Since I was a child I had read a lot of Soviet children’s literature about the October Revolution and, of course, there was no mention of Trotsky, I asked my uncle who that man mentioned in the book’s flags was. A traitor, he told me. And I did not question it: my uncle had been tortured almost to death in 1958 by the Batista police for the simple fact of spreading communist literature.

After that I continued to admire Stalin: he had defeated fascism and, although in Cuba there was not a good deal of talk about him, neither did he speak badly. However, one could read Soviet literature with titles such as The Bolshevik Party Struggle Against Trotskyism. My admiration for Stalin – deepened by my uncle who only criticized him for the cult of personality – mixed with my rejection of Gorbachev and his clique who, in addition to destroying the Soviet Union directed criticism against Stalin, made him identify Trotskyism with the perestroika and, my reaction was that I felt Stalinist. So I continued until my arrival at the University of Havana. There I became friends with Latin American students who were members of the youths of their respective communist parties, who also did not have good judgment about Trotsky, although many did not admire Stalin either. Subsequently, thanks to a Colombian friend – Álvaro Jácome Boada – I discovered the figure of the revolutionary priest Camilo Torres, and later Paulo Freire and Popular Education.

Already in my personal bookstore I had a book by Trotsky: The Revolution Betrayed. This was thanks to the fact that in February of 1998 I met those who are now my friends: the members of the American SWP that came and go, all the febreros, to participate with the Pathfinder publishing house in the International Book Fair of Havana. As in 1998 I was a Stalinist—I had a picture of Stalin in my room—I did not read The Betrayed Revolution until 2012, when I had theoretically completely dismantled Stalinism. The Pathfinder followed me giving away books by Trotsky and James P. Cannon—In defense of Marxism, History of American Trotskyism, etc.—and my interest in Trotsky grew.

By that time, I read a book by the Cuban historian Ana Cairo, which mentioned that on Sept. 12, 1933, a party whose name was the Bolshevik Leninist Party (PBL) and that was Trotskyist had been founded in Cuba. In another book, this time by Cuban researcher Julio César Guanche, he was still talking about Juan Ramón Breá and Sandalio Junco, both founders of the PBL. Both Cairo and Guanche insisted that almost nothing was known about this part of the story and they called for continuing the research that Rafael Soler had begun in 1997 on the PBL. I entered the Juan Marinello Cuban Cultural Research Institute in October of 2012 and began a long investigation on this subject that I have not finished yet.

In November 2016 I decided to teach a postgraduate course on the life and work of Leon Trotsky at the Central University of Las Villas, in Santa Clara. Although I was born and live in Havana, I have very good relations with that city. The course was received with an excellent reception especially by the university students. I had realized that Trotsky was a very necessary and absent piece of Marxism in Cuba and it was an idea that I confirmed while teaching those classes.

So I suggested the idea to my colleague and friend Fernando Martínez Heredia[2] to call from the Cuban Institute of Cultural Research Juan Marinello to an international event about the forgotten Bolshevik, but he suggested that to do it in November of 2017: He wanted to take advantage of the centenary date of the October Revolution. Unfortunately for all, Martínez Heredia passed away in June of 2017. I continued with my research for the master’s thesis that dealt with the history of Cuban Trotskyism. When I finished the master’s degree, in April 2018, and after taking a short break, I decided to prepare this event that just concluded on May 8, 2019, just as a tribute to the centenary of the Communist International, the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution and the memory of Antonio Guiteras[3] and Sandalio Junco, both murdered that same May 8 but in different years.

As you see, this event is fruit, I believe, more than a historical circumstance, it is the product of a personal theoretical-ideological evolution. It is true that in the 80s of the last century this event would have been impossible in Cuba, it is true that Cuban intellectuals such as Martínez Heredia, Desiderio Navarro, Jorge Fornet, opened a path towards critical Marxism through the Marxist critique that at some point it had closed. It is also true that thanks to Commander Fidel Cuban society has a broad knowledge of Marxism, a strong cultural preparation that makes Trotsky not fall into a vacuum now, and it is true that for all this there is in Cuba a positive predisposition towards all heretical Marxism, critical and unorthodox, but I also believe that, without a sense of protagonism, the event arose from a very personal motivation and I know that it took many people by surprise who would never have expected this to happen.

But it is also my opinion that after the event itself, even more with the publication of the book that will collect the memories, we will see a before and after between the Cuban university researchers and students: the image of Trotsky will be desacralized and demystified. The idea of ​​bringing Trotsky to Cuba and the studies that exist around him will have been achieved. Mainly thanks to the Cuban working class, who is the one I first thanked when the event was inaugurated, because it was the workers who made this socialist revolution. Among them, that old PSP member who was my uncle.

RL: For me, the highlight of the conference was the sheer breadth of the topics that made it to the agenda, and the overall quality of the research behind them, in most cases. 

Unfortunately, because the agenda was so crowded, the conference participants were limited in their ability to discuss these ideas and new research in detail. Could you explain some of the obstacles that were presented in organizing the conference, as well as what institutional and political support you received? I know that it was a monumental task to achieve this successful event.

FG: For the event to have been better it must have had four days. The tables would have had extensive debates, which is, along with the translations and the time that was lost due to the translations, the main weak point of the event. But those of us who live in Cuba know that the economic crisis we are facing today, largely because of the imperialist blockade, did not allow us to hold an event that lasted four days. I did not even suggest it to the officials who worked with me, Rodrigo Espina, Elena Socarras, Georgina Alfonso, Miguel Hernandez, Wilder Pérez Varona, Yohanka León: thank you very much.

Three days were a feat. That was the main reason, the economic one, for which the Juan Marinello Institute had to seek support at the Institute of Philosophy and the Institute of Philosophy was the main organizing institution because in fact the subject had much more to do with its lines of research than with the Marinello’s Institute. Finally, the event came out winning. Along with Casa Benito Juárez were three Cuban institutions that were initially involved, then four, if we count the Young Filmmakers Exhibition, the institution that generously provided the room where the documentary about Trotsky The World’s Most Dangerous Man was screened. If it had not been for these good wills, we would not have had an event.

And it is true that there were misunderstandings. The main one was the negative predisposition of certain officials towards Trotsky. And it is that when the Soviet Union fell in Cuba we all knew that Stalin was the abominable character that we know today, but nobody here took away the stigma of a traitor that existed on Trotsky. If we add to this that some Trotskyist groups have been extremely critical of the Revolution, I say that often caused by a mixture of dogmatism and lack of knowledge about the Cuban reality, if we add the first and second factor, we will see that the reaction of some people was normal. And it is feared by some people that some of those groups that I mentioned came to try to create Trotskyist political organizations in Cuba. Something that has no chance because nobody in Cuba is interested in doing it. But the event, due to its strict academic factor and because those who came showed great respect for the country where they were, prevented certain unfounded suspicions from happening.

RL: At one of the pre-conference meetings where we discussed the organizing of the future conferences like this, I argued that it was the power of the Cuban revolution which was able to act as the magnetism, as Celia Hart once said, that was able to gather such a fractious group of strong willed individuals in one room. I think it is a testament to the power of the ideals of the revolution, upheld like people like yourselves and your partners, that can motivate more such gatherings. What are your plans and ideas for future academic gatherings of this type? Do you think there can be momentum built by those interested militants and academics, outside and inside Cuba, to hold a similar conference? How can our readers help in meeting the challenges of a second event?

FG: On Wednesday, May 1, in Department 301 Aguiar Street, in Old Havana, where the Brazilian researchers invited to the Daniel Perseguim event, his partner Karina Quintanilha Ferreira and Edson Oliveira, were staying five days before the start of the event, the first coordination meeting was held for the preparation of the 2nd Leon Trotski International Academic Event. The following Sunday, May 5, the birthday of Karl Marx, we had the second meeting and it happened in El Vedado, in the department of the American researcher Alex Steiner. This was an idea that emerged, at the same time and separately, from the Brazilians researchers Daniel Perseguim -as already mentioned-, Morgana Romao and Marcio Lueira. Apparently, according to my friend Daniel Perseguim, who seems to be at the head of a valuable group of Brazilian academics who promote the idea, as he has informed me, the event should be in October 2020 in Sao Paulo. The first steps are being taken to obtain the necessary financing. This time, although there will be no magnetism that generates Cuba and its revolution, this time it seems that there will be no problem in having a greater number of public and exhibitors who want to participate. This is perhaps one of the greatest ideas that could have emerged at the event. I never thought it was something that was going to happen. When he told me for the first time, I thought it was a good wish, but nothing more. Then he set the date and time. It was the complete afternoon of Workers’ Day, something very symbolic, where they were—in addition to those I have already mentioned—Bryan Palmer, Paul Le Blanc, Clara Figueiredo—all these guests at the event—the Brazilian architect and photographer Gabriel Kogan and the Cubans students Lisbeth Moya González and Eduardo Expósito. In Cuba I was forced to establish a quota: 40 Cubans and 40 foreigners. We could not receive more despite having registered 192 requests only as public. I tried to prioritize those who brought research: that was the reason why there were tables of 4 or 5 exhibitors: the idea was that knowledge would reach the Cuban public. The room, who were present could testify, was only for 80 capacities.

Now the best way they can help the second edition is done is to achieve funds that certain institutions grant for events like these and as soon as the official announcement is launched, everyone could help us a lot in the dissemination. For that, for the information, the mail is available and also I offer mine In August of the 2020, taking advantage of the commemorations that will be made in the Trotsky House Museum in Mexico, we will have a coordinating meeting to international level. Before, they will be done via Skype or Hangout.

RL: North American imperialism has increased its pressure on Cuba, and has become more bellicose in its claim to rule over its “patio”, another revival of the Monroe Doctrine. Since the revolution and the establishment of the Fair Play for Cuba Committees, Trotskyists have played a major role in building solidarity with the revolution and have consistently been in the forefront of its defense. I think the pronouncements of a long list of the conference participants testify to that fact. Do you see a political role for future conferences in helping to re-ignite the solidarity movement? What modalities between the complexity of organizing this conference, the need for solidarity and the political dynamics at play within Cuba need to be analyzed and reinforced, in your opinion?

FG: The last day of the event in the afternoon, when everything seemed to end, the Canadian comrade Rob Lyon raised his left fist and began to sing ‘La Internacional’. For a moment it seemed that no one would follow the idea, but immediately Juan León Ferrara, the last Cuban Trotskyist, continued it and then we all followed. In the lively room, the International was heard singing in Iranian, Indian, Turkish, German, English, Spanish, Russian, French, Portuguese: we lived for a few minutes the feelings that a member of the COMINTERN could feel. That was the best example that the best solidarity networks can come out of that event. It is beautiful to see how, above theoretical and political differences, this can happen. As long as violence does not mediate between differences, we will all win. It is pure dialectic.

From there, a support network has to emerge for young Cubans who are interested in Marxism and, although they have a good bibliography in Cuba, they want and need more. We Cubans do not need to have Trotskyist parties in our country, we do not need anything at all. Trotsky was an excellent theorist and an excellent revolutionary, but no bigger than Gramsci could be in theory or Fidel leading a revolution. He, like the ones I just mentioned, are part of the system of ideas we have called: Marxism. And that we do need, more and more new Marxist theory.

I was ashamed because I did not know who Helmut Dahmer was, Robert Brenner, I did not know about September Group, John Elster, Erik Olin Wright, Gerard Allan Cohen. Now, thanks to the arrival of Brenner, and although I could not sit down with him to speak for a moment, only words crossed in the corridors, and it hurt me very much how the presence of that great intellectual was wasted – as happened with Helmut Dahmer-, Now, thanks to Brenner, we have discovered titles such as Mercaderes and Revolucion, An Introduction to Marx, Classes, The Theory of Karl Marx’s History: A Defense. They were books that we did not even know existed, we had barely heard of analytical Marxism.

Thanks to the event we have re-established contacts with the necessary Eric Toussaint and Michael Löwy, we are building links with Tariq Ali, we are trying to contact Slavoj Zizek; Thanks to the event Alex Callinicos, that great absent theoretician in Cuba, Callinicos has contacted us personally, thanks to researcher Héctor Puente Sierra, invited to the event.
The event managed to awaken among the Cuban students present a great interest for Trotsky and the new Marxist theory. In Havana there is the student of journalism Lisbeth Moya González, in Santa Clara, with a much more favorable situation to spread the work of Trotsky, are the compañeras Verde Gil and Ana Isabel, besides the excellent young comrade, student of philology, Yunier Mena Benavides who was an excellent speaker. They want new books. I ask that you look them up on Facebook and send them literature that is not in digital format. They have created a study group called the Cuban Communist Forum. It is not a political group: it is a circle of study on Marxist theory, because they want to read theoreticians like Daniel Bensaïd, Pierre Broué, Nikos Poulantzas and all the others that I mentioned. Marx and Lenin are not enough, much less with Hegel and Feuerbach. That is the main call I make for the solidarity network to be established: send books.

RL : I know from the reaction of the participants that, with the exception of some of the technical problems, that the conference was a success from an academic and, quite frankly, a political viewpoint. Now that the stress and excitement has worn off a little bit, what is your analysis? Did you and your co-organizers achieve what you had hoped for? What message would you like to send regarding some of the post-conference commentaries and questions?

FG: I think so, that to a large extent we achieved what was thought. But the Cuban public failed, it was a disclosure error, a lack of time to advertise correctly.. I am consoled that at least the students who were present were activated with the spark of the event. Now in Santa Clara, they ask me every week to take copies of The Revolution Betrayed. We still have some copies of the ones brought by the comrades of Karl Marx Socialist Studies Center.

It was also achieved that we bring many books to academic institutions as is a very valuable text by Trotsky named Latin American Writings published by the Center for Studies, Research and Publications Leon Trotsky, or Trotsky in the mirror of history, perhaps the best knower of the old Bolshevik in Latin America, Gabriel García. And the idea of ​​the 2nd was born. International Academic Event Leon Trotsky, something unexpected. So far I have only received congratulations, but I know there were many mistakes, many incoordination’s: those who suffered them I apologize. Hopefully the next one will be better. I hope those who came have understood Cuba. Always remember that the best way to help is to protect ourselves from all incomprehension. Silvio Rodríguez already said in a beautiful song: “A friend is the one who protects you.”


[1] PSP (Popular Socialist Party): acronym adopted by the communist party founded in 1925 ascribed to the Communist International. Not to be confused with the current Communist Party of Cuba founded in 1965 as a result of the merger of the July 26 Movement, the March 13 Revolutionary Directorate and the aforementioned Popular Socialist Party.
[2] Cuban intellectual He founded and directed the journal Critical Thinking of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Havana during the decade of the sixties. From there he spread the theory of a revolutionary Marxism opposed to Soviet manuals. In this magazine he published, among others, Michael Löwy and Ernest Mandel. It gave direct support to the national liberation movements of Latin America. In the decade of the nineties he founded the Antonio Gramsci Chair. From 2011 until his death in June 2017, he directed the Juan Marinello Cuban Cultural Research Institute.
[3] Historical Cuban revolutionary socialist leader of the decade of the thirties of the last century. He fought against the dictatorship of General Machado, overthrowing him and forming part of the government that would be established in September 1933. He served as prime minister, being the president the reformist Ramón Grau San Martín. Overthrown by the head of the army in a coup d’etat, he passed to the political opposition returning to the armed route. He fell in combat, accompanied by the Venezuelan internationalist fighter Carlos Aponte in 1938, on May 8.