On January 17th 2018, Cuba solidarity activists and supporters came together for the first picket action of the year demanding that the US end its cruel blockade on Cuba, and return Guantanamo back to Cuba. Looking forward to 2018, will this be the year to end the blockade on Cuba?
Back on December 17th 2014, many believed the end of the US blockade was near, after the historic announcements by former US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro that the US and Cuba would be normalizing diplomatic relations. Shortly after this announcement, Cuba solidarity activists in Vancouver realized that this called for a time of heightened protest and public pressure on the US to end the blockade. Three years later, Friends of Cuba Against the US Blockade – Vancouver (FCAB-Van) is out in front of the US Consulate every month, raising voices and pickets signs to demand that the blockade on Cuba be lifted! With US President Trump now trying to reverse the progress that had been made towards lifting the blockade, it is more important than ever to make demands for an end to the blockade heard.
Over 60 years of the blockade on Cuba has caused tremendous strain on the Cuban economy, and on the Cuban people. Damages from the blockade total over $1.3 trillion, and the far-reaching measures of the blockade not only bar Cuba from trading with the US, but also limit Cuba’s ability to trade with other countries. This makes everything from medicine to school supplies, computers to construction equipment, and everything in between difficult and expensive to import to Cuba. Despite 60 years of this inhumane policy imposed by the US government, Cuba has not only survived but thrived, with a universal heath care system that has a better child mortality rate than the “first world” United States, a renowned education system that sees education up to a PhD free to its citizens, and great advancements in many fields including technology, art, sport, medical research and agriculture. Imagine how much more Cuba could do without the blockade?
The January 17th monthly picket organized by Friends of Cuba Against the Blockade – Vancouver started out, 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. Activists and Cuba supporters picketed in front of the US Consulate, energetically chanting “Trump Hands Off Cuba!” “End the Blockade on Cuba Now!” and “Return Guantanamo to Cuba Now!” Between rounds of picketing, protesters gathered to hear from speakers including FCAB-Van organizer Alison Bodine, who also was the emcee of the action, Tamara Hansen, who is the coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba. Protesters were reminded that beyond the action here in Vancouver, coordinated actions in Ottawa, Montreal and Kiev, Ukraine also happened on this day at US consulates and embassies, united in the demand to end to the US blockade on Cuba.
The action closed with the resolve to continue the monthly protests until the illegal US blockade on Cuba is lifted, and Guantanamo is returned to Cuba!
Follow Janine Solanki on Twitter: @janinesolanki
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