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      Interview with Cuban 5 Hero Fernando González

      Interview by Max Tennant
      Transcription by Azza Rojbi

      Fire This Time: So, this is the fifth year, since you've been out of the U.S. jails and being among the great Cuban people. I just want to know what you feel being with the Cuban people and being finally free.

      Fernando González: I feel home. I was in the United States just for the reasons that you all know, what we were doing in the United States, but I belong in Cuba.

      I always assumed that my presence in the United States was temporary. No matter how long it was, it was temporary. I was always ready to come back to Cuba and now I'm where I belong.

      FTT: Are you still closely in touch with the other Cuban four heroes? And is there any mutual plan or work that you're planning on doing together?

      Fernando: Well we stay in touch. It's not easy to put us five together in the same place because we are all involved in different responsibilities and everyone has a family to attend to, a job to fulfill. And there is always somebody that is away from Havana or somebody who's got a family situation. So even though we stay in touch and we see each other frequently, putting the five of us together in the same place is a task for superman. But I guess superman is going to be around this holiday. We're going to get together, commemorate the anniversary of our return.

      FTT: I just want to thank you again and ICAP for the great planning and helping with making the Calixto Garcia Brigade a great success. I just also want to know about the successful Anti-Imperialist Solidarity Meeting, for Democracy and Against Neoliberalism that ICAP held. I just want to know what is your assessment of the conference and what is planned for the next step?

      Fernando: Well, it is hard for me to evaluate the results of the conference, because I was part of the organizing committee. So basically, I don't like to evaluate what I was a part of. But in general terms I could tell you that it was, in my opinion, a very good conference.

      The goals that we set for ourselves with the conference were achieved. I think it's the first time that so many social movements and political parties got together in the same event. And I think it was important because the struggle was the same no matter where you come from. If you looked at it from the perspective of a political party, if you look at it from the perspective of a social movement or if you look at it from the perspective of the solidarity movement all of them are working in solidarity not just with Cuba, but with all the just causes. We mentioned the Palestinian people right and Puerto Rican right to self-determination or the Syrian people having their right of sovereignty in deciding their own future without a war that has been imposed from abroad. We talk about the people of Western Sahara who have the right to have their own country and territory.

      The message of unity was a very moving message that we tried to make during the event. I think the message was clear and was very well taken. It's not that it wasn't before but I get the feeling that the political parties, the social movements, the solidarity movement are working, and are walking towards consultation of actions. Actions that are really with a bigger impact in terms of the struggle of the peoples, in terms of their solidarity with Cuba.

      I think it's also important to convey the fact that we've been struggling against the blockade for almost 60 years now, the solidarity movement has been fighting along with the Cuban people all these years. But we're living in a very particular and special juncture in the economic war against Cuba and no other U.S. administration had gone so far, as far as this administration in its efforts to strangle the Cuban people.

      The blockade is a set of rules and regulations and laws that have been put together through the years. We were living, and we have been living for decades under that blockade and we were able to advance and develop the country despite those regulations and we could have done way more if we didn't have the blockade against Cuba.

      This administration has gone beyond this set of rules that is the blockade itself. And they are really carrying out an economic war against our country, trying to really cut off every single source of financing for our country. And we need these sources. We need them, we need the oil to keep the economy going. We need the oil to have power in our houses. We need the finances to invest in the country. We need foreign investment to carry out our governments' plans. It is really a special moment and we're trying to convey the urgency of this moment. And I get the feeling that the delegates to the event got the message.

      FTT: Leading on what you were saying about the blockade, what are the important projects for ICAP right now?

      Fernando: Whoever we meet now, wherever we go, and with anybody that we receive, we try to explain this, we try to explain to many people. I don't have to explain to you because you've been involved in solidarity with Cuba for so long and I know of the Fire This Time's knowledge about the Helms-Burton law and what the application of that law means. But we try to explain that to ordinary people. So, we try to raise consciousness and raise awareness about what this specific moment implies for the Cuban people and not only for the Cuban people. It has implications also for the Canadian people because something that is not very well known, and most people are not very familiarized with is that the extraterritoriality of the blockade and the Helms-Burton law and the application of Title 3, imposes on other countries laws that were not passed by the Parliaments of this countries. Why would a Canadian company have to limit itself to doing business with Cuba because the government of the United States passed a law?

      That is an unlawful thing in itself. But even if it were lawful, which is not, we can go on and on explaining why it's not. But even if it were lawful it was not passed by the Canadian parliament. And I could say the same for the Italian parliament or for the English House of Commons or any other country. So why a Canadian company have to abide by this regulations and laws that have never been voted in Canadian parliament. it is an infringement on the Canadian, Italian, English sovereignty. And I will say if I were a Canadian, or an English individual or a Swedish individual or whoever I will be very much offended because they are limiting my freedom, my liberty and my sovereignty.

      FTT: Since you've become president of ICAP, you've been at the centre of a lot of ICAP projects and planning. What is your assessment of the Cuba Solidarity movement right now around the world? How do you think it could be improved?

      Fernando: Well, I think Cuba has enjoyed the company of a solidarity movement that is unheard of before. I mean no country, no social project, no struggle has been accompanied by so many people for so long. The Cuban revolution has had solidarity movement since the very beginning. So, it's 60 years of solidarity with Cuba. I could say even that we can find expressions of solidarity even before the revolution. But organized solidarity has been since the very beginning of the revolution and we are soon going to celebrate the sixty first anniversary. And it is spread out around the world, we at ICAP have links with 2010 friendship associations in 162 countries.

      So, we can say that there is a responsibility to think about the future. It is the responsibility not only of Cuba but of those members of associations in countries around the world to think about what is the future of solidarity with Cuba. What the solidarity with Cuba will be 20 years from now. So, the responsibility to work for the continuity of solidarity movements, I would say is a priority for what we do at ICAP.

      There are countries in which younger generations are more involved than in others. And it is important to have the younger generations join the solidarity movement. The younger generations throughout the world live in a world that is very different than the world in which I grew up. I would say that an individual that is 40 years old has lived all of his or her life under a neo-Liberal ideology, that is not only an economic policy but it is an ideological view of the world that has been tried to be imposed over all other views . And people under those ideological schemes are led to believe that they are isolated individuals. They are not trying to find solutions in a collective way. They just see themselves as an isolated individual fighting against forces that most of the times they don't even understand where they are come from.

      And that's something that has an impact on political movements, on solidarity movements. You can see it in political parties, that it is hard for them to find younger individuals to get involved in the struggle. The youngsters receive so much influence from the media, from the society in general, that it is hard for them to get involved in social issues. On top of that you have younger generations that don't believe in politicians anymore. They don't believe in political parties; they just look at the political world and they don't think that the politicians and the political parties would solve any of their problems. So, they become cynical. They don't believe that we need to find the solutions through collective efforts. And that has an impact also on the solidarity movement.

      We must work against those ideological influences, to get the younger generations to understand the value of being a part of collective, something that is bigger than an individual. I don't think happiness would be found just by trying to live for the well-being of myself. As a person, I need to be part of something else bigger than myself, being part of my family, being part of my country, being part of the world.

      FTT: What do you think is the most important campaign for solidarity groups, not just around the world, but especially in the U.S. and Canada?

      Fernando: Canada is so close to the United States that it is important for the Canadian solidarity movement with Cuba try to convey this special juncture of the blockade to the Canadian people, to the Canadian political structure, work towards making aware those lawmakers in Canada of how unjust the blockade is, and also how the blockade impacts Canada.

      And I am not only talking about parliament, I am talking about city councils and regional elected bodies to denounce this blockade, to pass resolutions against the blockade. Maybe the city council in Vancouver, if there is a political balance of forces there that we can have a resolution against the blockade passed by the city, it is important. Anything that makes the United States government feel the pressure, the same way we did in the case of the Cuban 5.

      FTT: You said many times you're going to be coming to Canada for a tour. But always something comes up. I was just wanting to see if you could put on record when you were going to finally be coming to Canada.

      Fernando: Listen I was in Canada in Toronto for the solidarity meeting in May 2015. I feel I still owe all the Canadian solidarity groups a visit in which I could travel to different cities of Canada. That is something that I need to do. I want to do that. It won't probably be during 2020 but I will try to schedule it for at least 2021.

      FTT: And then my last question, what is your message for Cuba Solidarity activists in Canada?

      Fernando: The fact is that Canada is very close to the United states. The impact of Canadian solidarity movement with Cuba on the United States is so important in many ways. When I say close it is not just geographically close and physically close, it is that there is so much inter relationship between the Canadian political structure and the United States political structure. What the Canadian solidarity movement does for us is of the utmost importance, as what the United States solidarity movement does. I don't see much difference between the solidarity movement in the United States and that in Canada. I see it equally strategic in the solidarity struggle in support of Cuba.

      FTT: Thank you so much for your time and I wish you all the success and the friendship with building the Cuba solidarity work around the world.

      Fernando: Well, good to have you here.

      FTT: Thank you.

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