On Saturday, May 4, 2019, nearly 200 people crowded into the Peter Kaye & Alma VanDusen Rooms at the Vancouver Public Library to welcome the Cuban Ambassador to Canada, Her Excellency Josefina Vidal to Vancouver for the very first time.
In a meeting organized under the umbrella of the Canadian Network on Cuba, local Cuba solidarity groups: Friends of Cuba Against the U.S. Blockade – Vancouver; the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association-Vancouver; and Vancouver Communities and Solidarity with Cuba came together to jointly organize the successful evening event.
The program was opened by co-MCs Tamara Hansen, the coordinator of Vancouver Communities and Solidarity with Cuba and Michael O'Neill, an executive member of the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association-Vancouver.
Her Excellency Josefina Vidal gave an educational and dynamic talk, giving her unique perspective on “Cuba Today.” Ambassador Vidal focused on Cuba’s social, economic, and political successes and challenges, as well as current events including the recent popular vote approving Cuba’s new constitution.
Ambassador Vidal’s in-depth analysis comes from her long and distinguished diplomatic career. She served in both the Cuban Embassy in France and the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. Afterwards, she spent 15 years at the Cuban Foreign Ministry as both Deputy Director and later Director of the North America Division. In 2012, she became Director General of the newly created United States General Directorate. In this capacity, she lead the Cuban delegation in the first and second rounds of Cuba-U.S. talks, which paved the way for the restoration of diplomatic relations between both countries under Cuban President Raul Castro and American President Barack Obama, as well as the freedom of our 5 Cuban heroes held in U.S. jails. In January 2018, she was awarded the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cuba and in March she was appointed Ambassador of Cuba to Canada.
The Vancouver event on May 4 also featured a lively question and answer period with Her Excellency, in which many people with diverse perspectives participated.
The event concluded with a drumming song by Coast Salish Elder, Kelly White, who presented the ambassador with a beautiful colourful star blanket. Audience members were invited to stand and clap to the beat of the drum, bringing everyone together in a symbolic act of unity as the event ended.
Fire This Time Newspaper wishes to share with our readers the superb talk by Her Excellency Josefina Vidal, Cuban Ambassador to Canada. Her speech, with some minor edits for clarity, is printed on the following pages.
We are also printing the opening comments delivered by Tamara Hansen, who encouraging everyone to get involved in the Cuba solidarity movement.
Opening comments delivered by Tamara Hansen, coordinator of Vancouver Communities and Solidarity with Cuba
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome! We are very honored to have here today with us our amazing Cuban Ambassador to Canada Her Excellency Josefina Vidal.
My name is Tamara Hansen, I'm the coordinator of Vancouver Communities and Solidarity with Cuba, and I will be MCing this evening with Michael O'Neill who is an executive member of the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association-Vancouver. I wanted to begin tonight by recognizing that we are gathered on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations. As I mentioned we are very excited that this evening is going to be a conversation with Her Excellency Josefina Vidal, Cuban Ambassador to Canada. But I also want to recognize that we have some other important guests with us this evening including José Anselmo López Perera, the minister counsellor of the Embassy of Cuba and Canada. José Anselmo also happens to be Josefina Vidal's husband.
We are also very honored to have with us former city councillor, lawyer, and a very important supporter of the case to free our 5 Cuban heroes, Tim Louis. Of course, we thank all of you folks for being here tonight with us. We are so honored to be here in excellent company.
[Later in the event Tamara also welcomed the Consul de Segunda of the Venezuelan Consulate in Vancouver, Tatiana Vizcaya. She was welcomed by thunderous applause and support by the those in attendance.]
While we are excited to hear from Her Excellency Josefina Vidal and her perspective on Cuba today, we also wanted to take a moment to remind everybody that tonight is organized entirely by volunteers and supporters of the Cuba solidarity movement. Our movement is organized in Canada by an umbrella organization called the Canadian Network on Cuba, which is across Canada coalition of 20 organizations working together to promote Cuba solidarity. Of course, all of our work is made possible because of the amazing support of great folks like you gathered here with us tonight. As the coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba, I want to encourage you all to get involved and to learn more about the reality of Cuba and why we are so passionate about promoting Cuba and its amazing social projects - as well as defending Cuba against attacks, especially those by our neighbours to the south, the United States. Many of you might know they have recently strengthened their unjust and cruel blockade on Cuba by invoking Title III of the Helms-Burton law. I don't want to go into detail about that because I'm sure that is the part of our ambassador's talk this evening.
Today with a new constitution - approved by a referendum in February 2019 in which over 90 percent of Cuban voters participated - the Cuban Revolution is an important example for the world of what is possible with socialism. Throughout six decades of revolution, Cuba has pushed forward to become a leader in health care, education, music, sports, and sustainability, among other disciplines. Despite remaining a so-called 'third-world' or developing country under harsh U.S. blockade.
The revolutionary people of Cuba are also working consistently to include those who are traditionally marginalized in societies around the world: Workers, youth, elders, women, people with disabilities, people of colour, and the LGBTQ+ community. With a goal of integrating all of those marginalized people into dynamic politics, culture, and life on the island. This is not an easy task and not something that could be accomplished in just 60 years of revolution. But the progress made, and the government and institutional support of that progress is truly impressive. Whether it is by coming to a monthly picket action against the blockade on the 17th of every month at the US Consulate; by signing up to an email list; buying a book; joining a Cuba cultural event or conference; or traveling to Cuba with the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade - We hope that tonight we will be able to invite you and encourage you to get more involved in the Cuba solidarity movement.
In defending and promoting Cuba we also enrich our own struggles for justice in Canada. As the Cubans always say, "Un mundo mejor es posible" - a better world is possible. And a better world is more and more necessary every day. So, let us join together and work towards it. Viva Cuba! Viva Fidel! Viva Che! Viva Raul!
Click here to read Josefina Vidal speech
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