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      A Huge Success: 8th Continental Conference in Solidarity with Cuba Attracted Hundreds of Activists From All Over America

      By Thomas Davies

      8th Continental Gathering in Solidarity with Cuba held in the capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, drew to a close on a high note with the successful adoption of a Final Declaration and a new united Continental Plan of Action created and agreed upon by the 400 delegates from 30 countries.

      The Continental Plan of Action, which was presented to the final plenary by Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) organizer Thomas Davies, is especially important. It is the first Continental Plan created since the December 17th, 2014 announcement of the reestablishment of formal diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States and the freeing of the remaining Cuban 5 political prisoners held in US jails.

      Previously groups internationally had focused on activities for the freedom of the Cuban 5, especially the successful “5th of the Month for the 5” campaign which saw coordinated actions on the 5th of every month. The new plan of action begins by reinforcing the campaign for groups to hold similar activities on the 17th of every month.

      These actions focus on the 3 major demands of the international Cuba solidarity campaign:
      Lift the immoral and illegal US Blockade of Cuba
      The US must return the territory of Guantanamo Bay to Cuba
      US Government must stop the creation and financing of “regime change” programs against the Cuban government.

      The gathering also focused on some important remaining political prisoner cases in the US, especially the case of Ana Belen Montes. Miriam Montes Mock, her first cousin, explained how Ana Belen, a former US Defence Intelligence Agency agent, was sentenced to 25 years in jail for sharing classified information with Cuba. She never asked for payment, and this information saved hundreds of lives and allowed Cuba to protect itself from aggressive attacks organized and paid for by the US government. For acting on her conscience she has been imprisoned in the US for the past 14 years.

      A large delegation of close to 100 people from Puerto Rico also energetically reinforced the need to continue focusing on the case of Oscar Lopez Rivera. The 73 year old Puerto Rican revolutionary and freedom fighter has been imprisoned in the US for 35 years for the accusation of being a member of a Puerto Rican nationalist group. This Continental Meeting was co-organized by the the Puerto Rican Solidarity with Cuba Committee, the Dominican Republic Solidarity with Cuba Campaign and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP). Representing the Canada Delegation, VCSC and Friends of Cuba Against the US Blockade (FCAB), actively participated in all areas of the Continental meeting, and shared many examples from their ongoing campaigns. FCAB continues to organize monthly protests in front of the US Consulate in Vancouver on the 17th over every month, and VCSC has organized a full 2 day program celebrating the 90th Birthday of Comandante Fidel Castro.

      Frei Betto, the famous Brazilian priest and liberation theologist, gave a special presentation where he touched on his time as a political prisoner, his ongoing friendship with Fidel Castro and the current regional political context. He urged groups to return to their home countries to organize in solidarity with Cuba, and also emphasized sharing with young people the revolutionary and human values represented by Fidel and the Cuban Revolution.

      ICAP President Kenia Serrano Puig and Vice President Fernando Gonzalez were present for the entire 3 day gathering, and gave closing remarks to the final plenary. Significantly, Fernando pointed out that as one of the “Cuban 5”, he was a political prisoner in a US jail cell during the last Continental Meeting. He thanked the solidarity organizations for their hard work and successful campaign for his freedom. He also emphasized that even though there have been some steps forward in US-Cuba relations, the objective of the US government continues to be the destruction of the Cuban Revolution. He urged groups to build on their successes and continue their important Cuba solidarity campaigns.

      Fernando’s remarks were met with huge applause as the hundreds of delegates began shouting slogans of “Abajo el Bloqueo!” as well as singing and joining hands to close the important continental meeting united, motivated and determined.

      Lift the US Blockade on Cuba Now!
      Return Guantanamo to Cuba Now!
      End ‘Regime Change’ Programs Against Cuba Now!

      Follow Thomas on Twitter:@thomasdavies59

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