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      Online and on the streets, activists demand Lift the U.S. Blockade on Cuba!

      By Janine Solanki

      For over 60 years, the U.S. government has imposed a complete economic blockade on Cuba in an attempt to overthrow Cuba’s independent and sovereign government. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. blockade became especially cruel – the Trump administration added 243 additional measures to tighten the blockade and added Cuba to the U.S. State Department's “state sponsors of terrorism” list, making it even more difficult for Cuba to trade on the world market. Despite promises, the Biden administration hasn't eased the blockade or lifted any measures.

      Despite decades of U.S. slander campaigns and lies against Cuba on the world stage, the U.S. government has never been more isolated regarding its blockade policy against Cuba, and increasingly heads of state are speaking up against the U.S. blockade. On November 3, 2022, at the United Nations General Assembly, the world voted 185-2 in a motion condemning the U.S. blockade on the people of Cuba. The U.S. and Israel were the only two votes supporting the blockade.

      From the world stage to the streets, grassroots solidarity is vital to push for an end to the U.S. blockade on Cuba. In the last few years, to overcome limitations on gatherings due to the pandemic, car caravans were created to ensure protests against the U.S. blockade on Cuba could continue with social distancing. Cuban-American Carlos Lazo pioneered this idea and headed the Puentes de Amor (Bridges of Love) which first began caravans in Miami, Florida. The Car Caravan has since spread to several cities across the US, Canada, Cuba, and throughout the world.

      Each month, Friends of Cuba Against the U.S. Blockade – Vancouver (FCAB-Van) joins with other groups and Cuba solidarity activists to hold a Car Caravan against the U.S. blockade in coordination with other such actions worldwide. On Sunday, November 27, 2022, Cuba supporters joined for the last car caravan of the year, decorating cars with Cuban flags and signs demanding “Lift the U.S. Blockade on Cuba!”.

      For the last action of the year, on December 16, 2022, the Friends of Cuba Against the US Blockade-Vancouver held a candlelight vigil to end the U.S. blockade in downtown Vancouver instead of a car caravan. Vancouver Cuba solidarity activists welcomed Carlos Lazo of Puentes de Amor, who travelled to Vancouver to join the action. Cuban flags and picket signs attracted many passers-by in the busy downtown core, who stopped to listen to speakers, including Carlos Lazo, and to pick up literature at the information table.

      Vancouver Cuba solidarity activists with Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba and Friends of Cuba Against the US Blockade-Vancouver have also joined to support actions and webinars hosted by organizations worldwide. On November 25, 2022, a webinar titled “Continuing the Fight for Socialism with Fidel! End the Blockade!” was held by the Philippines-Cuba Cultural and Friendship Association. Tamara Hansen, the coordinator of VCSC and author of “5 Decades of the Cuban Revolution: The Challenges of an Unwavering Leadership” from Battle of Ideas Press, joined the webinar as a guest speaker, connecting Vancouver and the Philippines through Cuba! Tamara's talk is published in this issue of Fire This Time on page 2.

      Turning to another country, in the summer of 2022, the Committee in Solidarity with Cuba (CSC) of Puerto Rico alerted the Cuba solidarity community worldwide that the U.S. government and FBI had begun a campaign of harassment towards Cuba solidarity activists in Puerto Rico. This harassment campaign is not limited to Puerto Rico. It has also increasingly targeted Cuba solidarity activists in the U.S. Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba has joined in supporting Cuba solidarity activists under attack, and on December 15, joined with the US-Cuba Normalization Conference Coalition and Committee in Solidarity with Cuba (CSC) of Puerto Rico to organize the webinar “The FBI Must Stop Harassing & Criminalizing Cuba Solidarity!” This webinar featured speakers from the U.S. and Puerto Rico standing up against FBI harassment, including Gail Walker, Director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization / Pastors for Peace; Milagros Rivera, President of the Committee of Solidarity with Cuba in Puerto Rico and Director of the Juan Ríus Rivera Brigade; and Banbose Shango, with All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP) and a former co-chair National Network on Cuba. Alison Bodine, from Friends of Cuba Against the U.S. Blockade – Vancouver and Déborah B. Santana, an organizer with the Cuba Solidarity Committee in Puerto Rico, Brigadista with the Juan Rius Rivera Brigade and retired professor, moderated the webinar. The webinar was a tremendous show of support and defense for Cuba and for activists who support Cuba despite FBI harassment.

      Another online event Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba and Friends of Cuba Against the US Blockade-Vancouver participate in were the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC) virtual picket actions against the U.S. blockade of Cuba. This monthly online action brings together CNC member groups across Canada and solidarity activists from Quebec and Cuba supporters worldwide. The November 17 virtual picket action focused on the recent United Nations General Assembly vote, which overwhelmingly supported Cuba in condemning the U.S. blockade. The December 17 action focused on the Cuban 5 heroes, who had infiltrated anti-Cuban terrorist groups operating in the U.S. to protect Cuba. They were unjustly imprisoned in U.S. jails in 1998 for between 13 and 16 years. The December 17 action marked the anniversary of the freedom of all the Cuban 5 in 2014, and participants heard from featured speaker Gerardo Hernández, one of the Cuban 5 heroes released on this day.

      Whether online or on the streets, Cuba solidarity activists in Vancouver are continuing to defend Cuba and fight for an end to the U.S. blockade. Check out the next event at www.vancubasolidarity.com or follow Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba on Facebook @vancubasolidarity and Twitter and Instagram @VanCuba_VCSC.

      Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki

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