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      Picketing to Fight Back, Dancing to Fundraise, Vancouver Stands with Cuba

      By Janine Solanki

      On October 26, 2016, the United Nations General Assembly voted for the 25th time against the U.S. blockade on Cuba. While year after year the world has voted overwhelmingly in favor of condemning the US blockade, this year for the first time not a single country voted against the resolution. 191 countries voted in favour of the resolution and 2 abstained – the US and Israel, who have historically always voted against the resolution.

      While this UN vote is a huge victory, the US blockade is still in place. On December 17, 2014 US President Obama made a historic announcement that the US would normalize relations with Cuba. In the last two years important steps forward have been made, such as the reopening of embassies and resumption of diplomatic relations, and the easing of some limited travel and trade restrictions by the US. However after 57 years the blockade is still in place and still placing massive strain on the Cuban economy and limiting access to everything from medicines to building materials to even the internet, as the US does not allow Cuba access to the same fiber cables running to rest of Latin America and the Caribbean.

      In Vancouver, Friends of Cuba against the US Blockade (FCAB-Vancouver) has been organizing monthly picket actions on the 17th of each month, marking the date of Obama's still unfulfilled promise to end the blockade on Cuba. On November 17, Cuba supporters came out to the US consulate in Vancouver with picket signs, banners, and their voices raised loud and clear to demand “End the Blockade on Cuba Now!” and “Return Guantanamo to Cuba Now!” Protesters picketed out in front of the US Consulate, and heard from local speakers as well as a phone message of solidarity from Ottawa Cuba Connections, who also hold monthly picket actions in front of the US Embassy in Ottawa.

      Despite the strains of the US blockade, Cuba constantly is showing the world how much can be accomplished with limited resources, and with a government and society committed to it's people. This was the case when Hurricane Matthew hit Eastern Cuba on October 4, 2016. Thousands of homes and public institutions were destroyed, and crops were devastated. However, thanks to Cuba's excellent emergency preparedness and evacuations, not a single life was lost in Cuba. Cuba is now faced with the task of rebuilding, a task made more difficult due to the US blockade. The same hurricane hit neighbouring Haiti, causing the deaths of over 1000 Haitians. Cuba hasn't forgotten their revolutionary internationalism. Cuba’s revolutionary government sent 40 more doctors and emergency medical personnel to reinforce the 600 Cuban doctors and other health professionals already stationed in Haiti before the hurricane.

      Here in Vancouver, Cuba supporters are doing their part to help Cuba's reconstruction efforts and to support Cuba's medical team in Haiti. Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) is hosting a Zumba class series, with proceeds going to hurricane relief in Cuba and to Cuban doctors in Haiti. On Friday November 18th and 25th, participants put on their sweatpants and workout gear to take part in this fun and dynamic fundraiser, learning this Latin dance inspired workout routine! Anyone who attended can attest to the amount of fun and laughter at the classes, with more than a few people wanting to continue beyond the 4-class series! The class is for people of all ages and abilities, and will continue on December 9th and 16th.

      Whether it's dancing to Latin beats or raising picket signs in protest, Vancouver is standing with Cuba and against the unjust US blockade on Cuba. To find out about upcoming events against the US blockade go to vancubavsblockade.org and for Zumba classes for Cuba and other Cuba solidarity events check out vancubasolidarity.com

      End the Blockade on Cuba Now!
      Return Guantanamo to Cuba Now!
      US Government - Stop the Campaign of ‘Regime Change’ in Cuba and Immediately Stop Interfering in Cuba’s Sovereignty and Self-Determination!

      Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki

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