Report of May 21 NNOC Spring Online Meeting

Jul 25, 2017 by

May 21, 2017
NNOC Spring online meeting

REPORT

Attending:

NNOC co-chairs: Alicia Jrapko (Oakland), Banbose Shango (Oklahoma City), Cheryl LaBash (Detroit), Greg Klave (Minnesota Cuba Committee), Nalda Vigezzi, Treasurer: Don Goldhamer

Calling in: Pepy Rossy (Albany); Steve Eckhart and Dan Fein (Chicago); Bill Hackwell, Luz Santana (Connecticut); Rhone Frazier (Code Pink), Mary Alice Waters (Socialist Workers Party); Christopher Town (Socialist Action); Arnold August; Omari Musa (DC); Gail Walker (IFCO-Pastors for Peace); Lou Wolf (DC); Malcolm Sacks (VB); Gloria Verdieu (IAC-San Diego); Cynthia Roberts (WILPF, Cuba Amistad, Bloomington,Indiana); Rita Barouch (Richmond-Regla Friendship, CA); Tom Blanton (DC); Cindy Domingo and John Waller; ? Boston; Omawale Dupont (Chicago); Malia (Altruvista-Witness for Peace); Liz Mulden (Witness for Peace – Midwest); Tom Whitney (Let Cuba Live – Maine)

Introduction by Nalda: Thanks to Chicago for the great job on the NNOC Face to Face Meeting; thanks to International Ctte and Cuba for the Fidel is Fidel Exhibit; Emotional participation of Jose Lopez in the Public program in Chicago, passing of Fidel and release of Oscar Lopez from prison shows how important our work is.

  1. Financial report – Don Goldhamer $6700 in bank. Registration fees covered the expenses of conference including the expenses of our Cuban guests; $5300 income $1800 from registrations; expenses were $1600 for the conference expenses; $2250 for co-chair travel and $400 for Fidel exhibit; rest was office/internet expenses.

 

  1. Report back from Cuba (meeting with ICAP, Guantanamo Seminar) Greg recapping ICAP meeting in Havana on April 30.

More than 70 people from the U.S. attended the April 29 ICAP/NNOC meeting at Casa de Amistad. Large delegations came from the May Day Brigade which for the first time had more than 50 U.S. participants at the Jose Antonio Mella Camp and several union delegations from various cities in California, a delegation from the New York State Nurses Association, 1199 SEIU, NNOC member organizations and Alianza Martiana in Florida.

Remarks by the new President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) Fernando Gonzalez welcomed the participants. He encouraged people to share their experiences, concerns and ideas on how to develop solidarity, recruit and strengthen our movement. Gonzalez himself one of the Cuban 5 heroes who endured long imprisonment in the U.S. expressed gratitude on behalf of all five brothers saying the victory would not have been possible without the work in the U.S. He gave special recognition to the personal cost to Cuban supporters of the Revolution in south Florida.

A short video of the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro was viewed.

Co-chair Nalda Vigezzi remarked that this was the first meeting since the death of Fidel Castro. She congratulated Fernando Gonzalez on becoming Pres. Of ICAP and thanked the ICAP’s North American Department who were also present: Sandra Ramirez, Leima Martinez and Yanela Gonzalez. All participants introduced themselves beginning with current NNOC co-chairs: Nalda Vigezzi, Alicia Jrapko, Cheryl LaBash, Banbose Shango and Greg Klave.

Nalda Vigezzi presented the NNOC Action Plan from the 2016 NNOC Annual meeting held in Chicago and printed in the National Network on Cuba brochure distributed to everyone. She recalled how at a similar meeting two years ago, it was agreed to do activities calling for the end of the U.S. blockade of Cuba on the 17th of each month recognizing the historic Dec. 17, 2014 date when the last three member of the Cuban 5 were freed and Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama agreed to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries; encourage local and state resolutions; work with business organizations, agricultural interests, health care advocates, tour operators, education groups; support the May 2017 conference on closing foreign bases; engage and support young people traveling to Cuba, especially participation in Venceremos Brigade and Pastors for Peace travel challenges; co-ordinate efforts and resources to bring Cubans to the U.S. and for speaking opportunities in local communities; share Cuban reality through cultural activities (music, art, dance, film etc); support ELAM medical opportunities for young people in the U.S.; recruit and encourage participation the in 50th anniversary commemoration of the assassination of Che Guevara and continue to support local intiatives.

Nalda announced the NNOC Spring Conference call meeting on Sunday, May 21.

The first of six brief presentations began with Ike Nahem reporting on the March Cuba conference held at Fordham Law School in New York City where 230 people registered. 50% of the registrants were from New York and New Jersey, 17 states and 4 Canadian provinces; 3 from Puerto Rico including independence hero Rafael Cancel Miranda. Twenty one Cuban representatives participated from ICAP, the UN mission, representatives of the Federation of Cuban Women, FIDM and other women attending UN meetings and President of Cuba’s Union of Artists and Writers Miguel Barnet who is a noted expert on the question of race in Cuba. The U.S. approved visas for representatives of the Cuban Young Communists and Central Workers Union too late for them to attend the conference.  Cuban hero Gerardo Hernandez videoed a special message to the conference that was shown in the closing plenary.

Financially the conference raised a surplus of $2,000. Regardless of different perspectives, everyone came together. Family members of people killed by police spoke at the Saturday evening cultural event and in workshops.

For the future: looking toward national protests around the date of the United Nations vote in October and working on speaking tours of Cuban representatives in the U.S. Although the U.S. can try to keep out speakers, they can’t keep out the Cuban Mission to the UN or the Embassy in Washington.

Youtube videos of some plenaries and workshops are available at the revamped website: nationalcubaconference.org

Alicia Jrapko explained the Sept. 11 – 16 Days of Action in Washington, D.C.  against the U.S. Blockade of Cuba. This 2017 effort will focus on health care and the cost of the blockade on the people of Cuba and in the United States. In addition to three Cuban health professionals, the crew will include at least one ELAM graduates. Universities, medical schools and health care organizations particularly those involved with Diabetes and  lung cancer have been contacted.

Manolo de los Santos reported on IFCO/Pastors for Peace two part 2017 caravan which just completed an April round of meeting across the U.S. through six routes encouraging constituents to meet with elected representatives about legislation to end the travel restrictions and the economic, financial and commercial blockade. The second part is traveling to Cuba without a license from July 15-30.

ICAP’s Leima Martinez spoke about the Venceremos Brigade after a veteran of the 1971 VB explained how it had changed her life.

The importance of City Council and State resolutions calling for ending the blockade was addressed by noted photographer Bill Hackwell.  Hackwell listed the cities that have passed resolutions: Richmond, Berkley, Oakland and Sacramento, California. [Bill Camp from the Sacramento AFL-CIO gave copies of the Sacramento resolution to ICAP.]; Hartford, Connecticut; Brookline, Massachusetts.  Efforts are underway in San Francisco, Detroit, Albany, and Pittsburgh. California and Alabama have passed state resolutions and Pennsylvania is in the works. Fernando Gonzalez pointed out that there is an annual Conference of Mayors where these resolutions could be presented.

A group of U.S. students at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine spoke about the program where 87 U.S. students are currently enrolled. More than 140 have graduated.

Action proposals:

  • For health, talk with people about socialism in Cuba at the grass roots. Amputation affects people of color disproportionately at a ratio of 3 to 1; work directly through civic outreach; example of Louisa Campos tour about Cuba’s Literacy Campaign brought to the graduation of GED students who wanted to know how to help end the blockade after she spoke; food and agroecology is another way to reach out
  • Intersect with the mass movements
  • Education and action around the UN vote in October
  • Intersect with single payer
  • Oppose travel ban
  • Oppose regime change
  • Oscar Lopez will be in Chicago
  • NNOC webinars on 17th of each month to report on national developments in solidarity with Cuba and have topical videos and guests.Moderated by various NNOC member organizations.

Fernando addressed important points for our movement:

  • Ending the financial, economic and commercial U.S. blockade of Cuba
  • Guantanamo – close prison, return base
  • Regional offensive coming from U.S.; Elections in Ecuador/Bolivia; setbacks in Brazil and Argentina; Venezuela – CELAC, ALBA to face war waged by imperialism

Member organizations were encouraged to share written materials through facebook or submit them for posting on the NNOC website.

May 2 report by Cheryl LaBash.Solidarity Conference brought the perspective of Latin American and Caribbean region was brought forward. Three speakers from the U.S. : Sister from Black Lives Matter in Chicago; the Pres. Of the New York Nurses Association and Alicia Jrapko  from  the International Committee all spoke from the floor.

Fifth International Seminar for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases report by Banbose Shango held at the Medical Science University in Guantanamo, Cuba, May 4-6. It was attended by 270 delegates from 32 countries – Angola, Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Chad , Colombia, Comoro, Cuba, El Salvador, Spain, U.S., Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Italy,  Japan, Korea, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Palestine, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Seychelles, Swaziland, and Venezuela. Most speakers talked about how foreign military bases affected them and their countries and the need, not only to close the U.S. base at Guantanamo, but close the U.S. bases all over the world.  The U.S. has more than 800 military bases in 70 countries. Most of the bases are drain on those countries and societies. The representative from Japan talked about the horrendous series of rapes of little girls by U.S. soldiers. One of the largest U.S. military bases in the world is in Japan.  Addressed the existing and planned bases in Latin America and the Caribbean: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, Aruba, Mexico, Maldives Islands owned by Argentina but neo-colonial government trying to give it to Britain. Palestinians spoke about the affect on Palestine since 1948 around the date of the Nakba. Linked the closing of the Guantanamo base to the struggle of the Palestinian people. A resolution was adopted and will be put on NNOC web page and Facebook. NNOC.info and Facebook.com/CubaNetwork

 

  1. VB and P4P scholarship discussion. Proposal introduced by Nalda that the member organizations authorize granting the Venceremos Brigade and Pastors for Peace each $500 scholarships to aid young caravanistas participate in the travel challenges. The NNOC supports ethical travel to Cuba and the new organization R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Dues and registration fees have not been increased. Costs to member organizations have been reduced by holding conference calls instead of a spring face to face meeting. At this moment people can travel at will to Cuba, this is a show of support for the travel challenges that continue to confront the U.S. restrictions that are still on the books.

Opposition raised to singling out two groups when everyone is working, as inappropriate, opens a can of worms, concept of NNOC is everyone doing their own thing, lobby, organize trips with or without licenses.

Recognize the current situation where ethical travel is critical and considered

 

4.   Report from each group about activities they are doing moderated by Greg.

NNOC Report was given by Cheryl:

On Dec. 17, 2014 a lot changed.  We are still grappling with understanding how formal U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations have changed the landscape for our movement. New possibilities and problems confront our work. After a lifetime of defending Cuba’s sovereignty in a hostile U.S., isn’t one of our biggest challenges the widely held, wrong perception that the blockade no longer exists? Now everyone who can afford it wants to go to Cuba, and they are going! In reality, the new measures are aimed to demobilize our movement but was counteracted by the strong U.S. mobilization for the May Day Brigade and the upcoming Oct. 1 – 15 Footsteps of Che Brigade.

In this part of today’s agenda NNOC member organizations will report on some amazing local campaigns, small and large efforts, achievements and plans. How can we strengthen each other over great distances?

As a way to increase communication between member groups and improve united national action, for the next six months we propose to try out a series of webinars with some new features.

First, beginning on June 17, we propose to have webinars monthly on that date when possible, honoring the international call for action on the 17th.  This means it will fall on various days of the week. Second, in addition to topics about Cuba – using panel discussions, videos, guests participating from Cuba and Cubans visiting the U.S — we plan short news reports summarizing the work of NNOC member groups over the past month. ICAP has said they want to participate in these webinars. In the second NNOC webinar on Guantanamo, we connected IN REAL TIME with Sandra and Leima opening new communication possibilities.  We will prioritize making that happen. Through this project, you will be able to engage with ICAP on a regular basis.

Carrying this ambitious proposal beyond a six-month trial depends on  NNOC members 1) reporting developments in your area related to ending the blockade,  returning Guantanamo, legislative, labor, and more.  2) agreeing to MC or prepare part of the webinar program including visuals, music, infographics or gather and write the news script. 3) most important, publicizing the webinar through new creative ways as well methods we regularly use.

Two of the six months are already in the planning stages. On June 17 young activists have agreed to share their experiences at May Day, the International Solidarity Conference and the May Day brigade. And in October the focus will be on the upcoming vote against the blockade in the United Nations, including the history of the votes, the cost of the blockade, possibly some international interviews.  Let’s be in touch to plan member organization participation.

Albany: Reaching out to broader audiences through film showings in conjunction with different communities. 9 films. Showed Community Doctors with ELAM Grad Cori Marshall, hosted Pastors for Peace, legislative support gotten for Freedom to Travel Bill and possibly to end the blockade. Trying to bring Oscar Lopez but not successful, please contact if you can help get Oscar to Albany. We have invited the Cuban Ambassador in October, there are 2 universities that are interested. Two members for May Day and Guantanamo, planning to participate in demonstrations around the date of the UN vote.

Boston: best Pastors for Peace in history; Congressman McGovern and First Secretary Fraga who followed up with speaking in 3 or 4 engagements. Harvard had a conference on Cuba.

New York City: July 26 event. Preparing for Oscar Lopez, main thing gearing up for the UN vote organizing demonstrations that coincide with vote, probably first week in November. Report back from brigades.

IFCO/Pastors for Peace highlighting some of the things we are working on, organized the annual caravan on a changed basis. A spring educational caravan in April, 48 events in 30 different states. Thank you to everyone who hosted the events, couldn’t be successful  with broad support. Travel challenge in July. IFCO’s 50th anniversary, aiming for 50 people to go to Cuba without a license, important to recognize the blockade is in full effect. Need to be forceful in opposing the blockade. Continuing the med school program – 145 graduate, 90 currently enrolled, 27 graduating this year. Interviewing for the next class as the program continues. Two documentaries, Community Doctors feature length film and 30 minute Dare to Dream made by Jennifere Wager. Information is on IFCO’s website. Delegation focused on many issues, looking forward to partnering with the Cuba solidarity community and the VB. Celebrating our 50th Anniversary this year.

Socialist Workers Party in addition to the work members of the SWP does in local coalitions and the important work done in NY for the Conference in March, members of the SWP are involved in regular weekly propaganda work defending the Cuban revolution, going door to door in various working class neighborhoods along with general political issues of the day. Organized broadly for the May Day brigade and Guantanamo Conference. The importance of the Guantanamo question going forward from here is a concrete way to pose the real questions of Cuban sovereignty and U.S. policy. Members of the SWP participated in Asian Pacific Solidarity conference and upcoming in the African Continental Solidarity conference bringing solidarity messages from NNOC which are well received. Participation in a major cultural activity in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq, a book fair where Pathfinder was invited and SWP members attended. Organized the translation of books into Kurdish and Arabic.

Venceremos Brigade reiterate a lot of what Gail said about our shared belief in continuing the travel challenge as travel seems easier and the blockade is less visible. We don’t believe in acquiescing to the current policy played off as normalized. Our focus has been building the 48th contingent from July 21 returning on August 4. More information will be forthcoming – everyone look for ways to support us on the return as we see what happens with the new administration when we are at the border.

Maine Let Cuba Live, website and support of Pastors for Peace, aren’t doing much, not able to recruit young people.

Hartford continues successful monthly film series, bringing more young people into the Cuba movement. June focus is Oscar Lopez and struggle with students in Puerto Rico, in contact to a Western Mass org in contact with Puerto Rican students. Film on June 20 about the imposition of the Emergency Financial Control Board in contrast to Cuba’s ability to weather the global economic crisis of capitalism compared to the colony of Puerto Rico. Haven’t discussed actions on the 17th of every month. Assumption is plugging into whatever NY demonstration is called around the UN vote.

Washington DC report back from 7 from DC part of May Day delegation with young people and others. Event for July 26. Two radio programs on wpfw with May Day Brigade participants. At the last meeting one of our members is going to the African Regional Conference in Namibia. DC Metro coalition sent a message to the conference and a contribution to defray cost.

African Awareness organized several programs focusing on Cuba, did a reception with Pastors for Peace and a special program in honor of Fidel in February. Radio, videos displayed on public access throughout the country. Educational Black History Cultural Tour to Cuba July 22 – 30 and another in December Educational and Unity Tour to Cuba. International Pan African Conference with a Cuba component. And the many many shows Africa on the Move

Chicago at the center of transformation of U.S. politics openness to a workers government and the example of Cuba. Steve is national coordinator of the U.S. delegation to the May Day brigade, first and largest delegation, most from Chicago, particularly Black Lives Matter. NNOC meeting helped reach out, had to turn away 14 people although Cuba tried hard to accommodate. Three days ago we welcomed Oscar Lopez first place he came after release. Leafleted for first reportback from the Brigade. Completely transformed with youth, African-Americans and Puerto Rico.

International Committee reported on the Days of Action Sept. 11 – 16. Oscar Lopez event on May 31for a fundraiser for Oscar. Appeal for sponsorship at $50 for name listing. 3rd Days of Action is on health care awareness of blockade on Cuba and in the U.S. Three Cuban health professionals, who worked internationally against Ebola, head of pediatric oncology. Visas are in process. ELAM students are interested. NNOC meeting in Cuba was helpful intersecting with ELAM students, New York Nurses and others. A doctor from Sweden will be attending. Continuing to do grass roots advocacy on Capitol Hill trying to get the doctors up there to the Diabetes Caucus which is the largest caucus in Congress. Trying to get them into medical schools, there’s a team already working on that. And then on the 15th or 16th a closing event. Encouraged that we are picking up steam.

Richmond/Regla Friendship City successful event with Jane Franklin and her book, co-authored a NACLA article with Peter Miller on ending embargo at grassroots; continue to do resolutions in their cities and states. It is available on line. Host organization for IFCO tour with Manolo de los Santos and Abeeku Ricks; showed Dare to Dream. Wheelhouse Baseball goes to Cuba annually. Margaret Randall was in the area, met with her. She has a new book on Cuba’s international solidarity work.

Seattle In early spring showed Estela Bravo’s film about Fidel in tribute to him, in April the caravan event and a community college speaking engagement for Manolo de los Santos with a good response; advocacy meeting with our new Congressional rep from Seattle. An African-American Baptist church is being supported to send a delegation of 10 people to Cuba in October. Exploring having Jennifer Wager come to Seattle in July. Still taking applications for the caravan. Go to website or contact John Waller directly.

Altruvistas co-sponsored events with Jane Franklin and Margaret Randall, Fidel is Fidel event at a college; coordinating with ICAP on trips – solidarity, economy trips, eight low income famers and people of color got full scholarships to join food first, food sovereignty tours; two more in June and famers from Texas; worked with ICAP and Amistur with Cubanacoa, a Polynesian group traveling around the world linked to Hawaiian selfdetermination of indigenous Hawaiians. Another program coming up with them in June. STEM educators working with the ministry of education, funding 80 Cuban teacher training from DC and Philadelphia. Looking forward to RESPECT travel core values.

5.  Discussion about date and city for Fall 2017 Meeting introduced by Alicia

A form for cities to send formal proposal will be sent out soon. What it means to be a host city?

Provide space for meeting on Saturday and Sunday, logistics, breakout  space; reception Friday night; providing housing and transportation for Cuban guests; housing for people coming from out of town or list of economical housing; visiting other cities; we are proposing the meeting on October 21-22. Thinking the UN vote will be at the beginning of November, it would be good to have a meeting before that.

Chicago motivated having the meeting in Chicago again in 2017.

6.    Final thoughts, suggestions, and ideas, responses to the group reports or the NNOC report facilitated by Banbose

New York Coalition announced a graphic and save the date would be coming out soon for the activities around the 2017 UN vote against the blockade. Based on discussions in Cuba during May Day there is international support for doing this.

Co-chair Nalda called for more discussion about co-chair proposal on scholarship proposal for travel challengers. Motivated recognizing IFCO/Pastors and VB and youth involvement.

Session facilitator Co-chair Banbose called for two opinions for and two opposed.

Clarification requested by African Awareness for qualifications.

Chicago representative spoke opposed saying it is arbitrary selection among equal organizations.

Altruvistas representative suggested discussing a scholarship fund, qualifications would be developed, and the person could decide which trip. Decide parameters are we looking for young people, or a sector that hasn’t been involved, or a region that needs to be represented more.

International Committee supported Altruvistas suggestion for discussion at next NNOC conference. But for this year pointed out the IFCO/Pastors for Peace is in its 50th year since 1992 has taken caravan after caravan and VB goes back to almost to the time of the revolution. We all know how the Cubans feel about them, they cherish them. It isn’t such a big amount, the thrust is right to involve young people and people of color. The International Committee is for it.

Covert Action Quarterly spoke for citing the IRS attack on IFCO’s tax exempt status; both Pastors for Peace and Venceremos Brigade focus on bringing in young people. Why shouldn’t we be supporting that?

Minnesota Coalition clarified discussion that the proposed scholarship moneys are not for organizations, but for individuals who will go, specifically for young people. It is incorrect to pit organization vs organization as I have heard. Need to develop a program to bring people in and support the long term proposal made by Altruvistas.

Chicago Coalition stated it is a slippery slope. NNOC is an umbrella organization, some lobby, some take trips with and without license. Opposed

Richmond/Regla agreed with International Committee and Altruvistas about long term programs, but with summer coming, no question that VB and IFCO have the longest track records and for helping individuals on these two organized delegations this summer.

Facilitator asked for comments from IFCO/Pastors for Peace and Venceremos Brigade the organizations sponsoring the summer travel challenges for which the co-chairs proposed offering scholarships to individual participants.

IFCO/Pastors for Peace representative wanted to leave it to the collective to discuss. Important for people to know that this is not something Pastors or Venceremos Brigade has sought out.

The idea of solidarity and how we build support for continuing work and recognizing that IFCO and VB are not the only groups doing work which has been acknowledged in terms of history and the immanent trip, delegations coming up. The importance of continuing this work with all the challenges we face with travel these days. A wonderful gesture and something we embraced. If the decision is to go forward we would accept the support for expanding bringing young people – particularly people of color – people who want to, need to but can’t because of finances is part of the challenge. Support for scholarship pool suggested by Altruvistas. Two travel challenges are on the horizon. There would be a report of how the funding was used and how the person who was able to receive it used it.

Venceremos Brigade representative said the scholarship proposal was something we didn’t ask for but something we appreciate as a gesture. The VB has sustained for a long time with a staff of volunteers without any type of formal funding other than the fundraising we do. The fundraising we do goes to our scholarship fund. I am not trying to lobby for it. If the collective decides not to do it we still will appreciate any other donations made to our scholarship fund. We provide partial scholarships to about half if not more than half of the participants every year. It is increasingly difficult.

African Awareness the process is dangerous in terms  of the criteria. If people want to support any organization NNOC has enough individuals who can contribute to individual organizations. It does not need to come from the entity of the NNOC. It reminds me of the criteria of how capitalists make decisions on what is in the best interest. I don’t have a good taste of this process right now. I am not speaking for or against it. I am just trying to understand the basis for it coming under the name of the NNOC and how we choose two organizations for this.

Socialist Workers Party thinks it is a problem to single out one or another organization or groups as having priority of their activities. I understand what everyone is saying that this is not supporting an organization. In fact is it support for the particular activity that Venceremos Brigade and Pastors for Peace is organizing. There is not agreement on supporting each other’s activities for many different reasons. If there is money coming out of NNOC organized activity it needs a much different discussion on how those resources are used. One of the main things that ICAP is organizing is the Che Brigades in October. They are very anxious to have participation from the U.S. and elsewhere. It would be very good. Can’t say that VB and Pastors for Peace has special status. Others have continuity back to the beginning of the revolution. Yes ICAP considers this work as very important but they consider the work of other organizations as very important also. I think we are getting into a real problem which is evident. I am not opposed to the scholarship fund that is available to everyone on an equal footing. It has to be well thought out, which I don’t think this proposal is. That is why we are getting the differences we are.

The facilitator proposed to restate both proposals.

Nalda pointed out that because of the late hour and not agreement that we should table the discussion until all the organizations can weigh in. She reiterated that this proposal did not come from either of the organizations.

Full report will be submitted as soon as possible. May continue this discussion through emails.

 

 

 

 

 

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