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      Cuba Si, Bloqueo No! Solidarity Activists Worldwide Continue
      Over 2 Years of Monthly Virtual Picket Actions

      By Janine Solanki

      Around the world, over two years of the pandemic have dealt a serious blow to the daily lives of working people. This impact is significantly worse for any country under sanctions. The U.S. government instead imposed a “maximum pressure” approach to their cruel and illegal blockade of Cuba. Under the Trump administration, 243 new measures were added to the blockade of Cuba, making the economic situation and difficulty accessing much-needed medical supplies even more dire. The Biden administration continued on this path.

      Cuba Solidarity – Adapting and Building

      Before the pandemic, there were consistent actions against the U.S. blockade, with monthly pickets in Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa, Canada, and Kyiv, Ukraine, at U.S. consulates and embassies. However, the acceleration of U.S. attacks on Cuba compounded by the pandemic reinforced the responsibility of the Cuba solidarity movement to strengthen efforts to defeat the U.S. blockade on Cuba, despite the challenges that the pandemic put on in-person organizing. The Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC), an umbrella group of 23 Cuba solidarity groups across Canada, followed the initiative of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba and launched “virtual” picket actions on May 17, 2020. With the understanding that any political campaign must be consistent to be effective, building these virtual picket actions in a consistent manner was vital. As of May 17, 2022, there have been two years of continuous virtual picket actions on the 17th of each month, organized and operated from Vancouver by the Vancouver Community in Solidarity with Cuba and Friends of Cuba Against the U.S. Blockade - Vancouver. These actions have also included two 24-hour virtual pickets that spanned the globe!

      Global Solidarity with Cuba

      By utilizing new technologies and skills in the new era of online organizing, these virtual picket actions and organizers’ efforts have strengthened cooperation and the building of an international Cuba solidarity movement. These actions have reflected the local organizing of groups across Canada and worldwide and have helped to expand local campaigns to be international! For example, the Cuba Support Group Ireland (CGSI) has spoken on virtual pickets to encourage people to join their #WalkingForCuba campaign. Carlos Lazo from “Puentes de Amos” (Bridges of Love) has spoken at the pickets to encourage participation in one of the most important campaigns in the Cuba solidarity movement today - Car Caravans against the U.S. blockade. What started with Carlos Lazo biking over 5,000 km from Seattle to Washington DC against the U.S. blockade in Summer 2020 has become an international Car Caravan movement. These actions are a turning point for those in the Cuban-American community, especially in Miami, who want to see normalized relations between Cuba and the U.S.

      The virtual picket actions feature different speakers every month and, after two years, have represented over 100 nations coming from every continent. Activists in Latin America and the Caribbean have also strongly participated in the virtual picket actions. The most critical front in the fight against the U.S. blockade is from within the belly of the beast, in the United States itself. Nearly every virtual picket will have the participation of both speakers and attendees from the U.S., including from the National Network on Cuba (NNOC), IFCO/Pastors for Peace, CodePink, Los Angeles US Hands Off Cuba Committee, Cuba Si Coalition, Hands Off Cuba/Venezuela South Florida Coalition, the U.S.-Cuba Normalization Committee, among others. Of course, Cuban voices have still been part of the actions, but with pre-recorded videos and Cuban attendees watching via the Facebook livestream. Cuban speakers have included representatives from institutions such as the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba (CTC), Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC) and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), as well as Cuban doctors, professors and students. Cuba’s national heroes, the Cuban 5, have also spoken on the virtual pickets, including Fernando Gonzalez, President of ICAP, and Rene Gonzalez, both heroes imprisoned in the U.S. for over 15 years.

      Defense of Cuba Continues! #UnBlockCuba

      From around the world, the virtual picket does a full circle and comes back to Canada with greetings from member groups of the Canadian Network on Cuba. The virtual picket action is usually co-chaired by CNC executive members Tamara Hansen (Coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba and author of “5 Decades of the Cuban Revolution: The Challenges of an Unwavering Leadership) and Julio Fonseca (President of the Juan Gualberto Gomez Association of Cuban Residents in Toronto). To wrap up the action, the “picket” part of the event is announced, and participants are invited to turn on their videos and hold “lift the blockade on Cuba” signs and Cuban flags. While participants wave and chant enthusiastically, geographically, they may be distant but in spirit and online these Cuban solidarity activists are together for Cuba! In unity, we will win. We must build a worldwide united front against the inhuman and illegal U.S. blockade on Cuba to win the battle against the blockade.

      Even as in-person events start up again, these virtual pickets continue to be a space to reflect local activities and to unite the Cuba solidarity movement worldwide. As these virtual picket actions build, so does further cooperation and coordination in the fight to end the U.S. blockade on Cuba!

      Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki

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