February 2022 marked 60 years since President Kennedy signed the economic blockade into law. This angering anniversary means that every Cuban under 60 was born and has lived their whole life under this unjust and brutal U.S. policy.
Since marking 60 years of the blockade in February, it has been a challenging year for Cuba. The Saratoga Hotel explosion, the Matanzas fire, and most recently, Hurricane Ian. From Canada, we have been fundraising and working to provide solidarity, but we know the more important help is to bring an end to the cruel U.S. blockade of Cuba.
Some people argue it has no effect – so why does the U.S. government keep it?
In just the first seven months of 2021, the blockade caused Cuba losses of more than $2.5 billion. This number represents an average impact of more than $365 million per month and more than $12 million per day. Cuba cannot purchase any product, from medical equipment to school supplies, if it has more than 10% or more components manufactured in the United States. Anyone who dares to ship products to Cuba by air or sea risks having their ships and airplanes barred from entering the United States ports for six months.
The acceleration of U.S. attacks on Cuba and Cuba’s challenging post-pandemic recovery reinforces our responsibility to strengthen our efforts to defeat the blockade on Cuba. This must be a political priority for the solidarity movement, all friends of Cuba around the world, and the great heroic Cuban people.
As working people discover more about Cuba around the world, we know how Cuba’s inspiring vision of the socialist project has shown what it means to put human beings ahead of profit. Cuba’s leadership in healthcare, education, pandemic response, and response to climate change all provide necessary examples for working people in our own countries – in Canada, the Philippines, and worldwide.
It is up to us to overcome the lies and slander against the Cuban revolution and show working people that a better world is possible and necessary — and that, despite challenges — Cuba is showing us the way forward! Cuba today undoubtedly is the vanguard of the struggle to win a new world, a socialist world.
Building an international Cuba solidarity movement
While Covid-19 has made our Cuba solidarity work very different and more challenging, we have also been able to use new technologies to maximize our cooperation across time zones and borders. Like tonight, it is 5pm in the Philippines and 1am here in Vancouver, Canada – but we are here together, united on Zoom for dear Cuba.
While we work locally or nationally in the U.S. and Canada, we strive to build a stronger and more effective Cuba solidarity movement worldwide.
I want to suggest further extending this collaboration to worldwide international activities as an ongoing and consistent activity. We need to have a strong international movement to bring working and oppressed people to join us in campaigning against the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Our friends at the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) have started part of this work over the decades. Another key has been the tremendous recent work of Carlos Lazo and Puentes de Amor. However, we must explore new ways to broaden our solidarity movement. We try to focus on the blockade as a single issue in this area of work. This way, we can unite with people who do not agree with all political aspects of our work for Cuba but will unite with us on the specific issue of the blockade and sanctions against Cuban families. We know that Cuba needs this urgently!
On the other hand, it is our work to defend the socialist character of Cuba. In that area of our work, we hold events highlighting the gains of the Cuban Revolution. We watch films about Comandante Fidel Castro. We have events about Cuba’s campaign to eradicate illiteracy and the important popular democratic nature of Cuba’s socialism – such as the recent passing of the new revolutionary families’ code. Cuba’s democracy is unique and has the best political and democratic structure worldwide.
In defending Cuba’s socialism and the gains of the Cuban socialist revolution, we also educate people in Canada about the need for social justice and socialism in Canada. We ask why Cuba, a so-called third-world country, can provide free college and university education for its people while here in Canada, college and university students struggle with deeper debt?
Cuba solidarity in Canada & Internationally
During the campaign to free the five Cuban heroes, three cities across Canada committed to organizing monthly picket actions at United States embassies and consulates in Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal. In my city, Vancouver, we organized 110 monthly picket actions before our 5 heroes were free! What an amazing celebration that was!
We then began monthly picket actions to end the U.S. blockade on Cuba in 2015. We were joined by our co-fighters in Kyiv, Ukraine, who organized monthly street actions against the blockade up until March of this year due to the security situation in their country. There have also been consistent monthly actions against the blockade in Perth, Australia, and other cities for years.
I highlight these monthly actions because we believe that all political work must be consistent and organized into campaigns to be effective. We know that U.S. imperialism is very organized and consistent in its attacks on Cuba, so our response to U.S. aggression must also be serious, consistent, and united to build an effective international movement. Unity and consistency are two crucial and necessary factors to do an effective and successful campaign.
We have two consistent monthly actions currently demanding an end to the unjust U.S. blockade on Cuba. The first is the monthly virtual pickets on the 17th of every month, people from around the world join on Zoom and Facebook to talk about their opposition to the unjust U.S. blockade on Cuba, as well as their local activities and perspectives. Since the start of the pandemic, we have also had three 26-hour monthly virtual picket actions with speakers from over 100 nations, with speakers from every continent except Antarctica!
The second consistent monthly project has been to unite with the international caravan movement on the last Sunday of every month. Carlos Lazo and Puentes de Amor have inspired us in Vancouver and across Canada. This movement needs to keep growing and bringing together the Cuba solidarity movement and Cubans living abroad.
There are so many other ideas and areas to build: online petition campaigns, creative campaigns to build awareness, banner drops, art displays, poetry contests, Twitter storms, sharing articles and videos on social media, global days of action, letter writing to print and alternative media, Passing resolutions in the city councils and labour councils, webinars, rallies petitions, resolutions, campaigns to call politicians, etc.
Where do we go from here?
It has been a tremendous honour to speak to you today about the Cuba solidarity movement. I am so inspired to be talking to friends and organizers of the Philippines-Cuba Cultural & Friendship Association, to hear about our common struggles and to be inspired to continue to push for change and socialism!
This work must continue to find common ground and points of unity, develop collaboration and teamwork with patience, confidence building, and trust, to build a united front internationally to defend socialist Cuba! We need to work with consistency, cooperation, and creativity to build a solid campaign to end the criminal U.S. blockade on Cuba once and for all!
Our international work has grown in leaps and bounds, so let’s continue working together to defend Cuba against the U.S. empire and its cruel and unjust blockade!
Lift the Blockade on Cuba!
¡Abajo el bloqueo contra Cuba!
¡Viva Cuba revolucionaria!
¡Viva Diaz Canel!
Follow Tamara on Twitter: @THans01
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