December 17, 2017 marked 3 years since the historic announcements were made by former US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, that the US and Cuba would be normalizing diplomatic relations. Along with this announcement, the remaining three of the Cuban 5 heroes who had been unjustly held in US jails for 16 years were released and returned home to Cuba. This was a huge victory for Cuba and for Cuba solidarity activists and supporters around the world, who had campaigned for years against the imprisonment of the five Cuban heroes. In the 1990’s the Cuban 5 were sent to the US to infiltrate anti-Cuban terrorist groups, in order to protect Cuba from terrorist attacks launched from US shores.
In Vancouver, Canada, the Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver had organized 110 monthly picket actions, until the victorious release of the Cuban 5. With the Cuban 5 freed and the US and Cuba in talks about the blockade and opening diplomatic relations, Cuba solidarity activists decided they would be returning to the US consulate for monthly protests – but now demanding that the US lift the blockade on Cuba, and return Guantanamo to Cuba. Friends of Cuba Against the US Blockade – Vancouver (FCAB-Van) was established with this purpose and have been at the US consulate every month making their demands heard!
The importance of pushing forward with protest and raising public pressure against the US blockade proved to be the correct decision – in the last three years some positive steps forward were made, but now US President Trump is trying to reverse the progress made, and the US blockade still stands against Cuba. This is despite world opinion against the blockade, as was demonstrated in the 26th annual United Nations General Assembly resolution on November 1st, 2017, which had 191 countries voting in favour of ending the blockade and only the US and Israel shamefully voting against the resolution. The blockade puts a huge strain on the Cuban economy, and now after 60 years those damages total over $1.3 trillion dollars.
On December 17, 2017, Friends of Cuba Against the US Blockade – Vancouver gathered for a picket action in front of the US Consulate. The monthly action is coordinated with actions at US consulates and embassies in Ottawa, Montreal, and even Kiev, Ukraine! The protest started and later closed with a traditional song and drumming led by Eagle Eyes, an Indigenous elder and activist from the Sechelt nation, which acknowledged that the action was being held on unceded and traditional Indigenous territories. Protesters then held up picket signs demanding an end to the US blockade and calling for the return of Guantanamo to Cuba, and marched and chanted energetically in a picket line in front of the US Consulate. Alongside local speakers, the protesters also heard a solidarity message from Ottawa Cuba Connections, from their picket in front of the US Embassy.
As we go forward into 2018, Friends of Cuba Against the US Blockade is committed to continue organizing and protesting. As with the case of the Cuban 5 heroes, these actions will not stop until the US blockade is lifted, and Guantanamo is returned to Cuba! To find out more about FCAB-Van events and actions, visit http://www.vancubavsblockade.org, follow on Facebook or Twitter @NoBloqueoVan.
Lift the Blockade on Cuba Now!
Return Guantanamo to Cuba!
Follow Janine Solanki on Twitter: @janinesolanki
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