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      By Janine Solanki

      For the last 60 years the U.S. government has imposed a criminal blockade against Cuba, costing Cuba's economy over $1 trillion in losses over the last six decades. The U.S. blockade prevents Cuba's access to everything from vital medicines to construction supplies.

      In order to counter the increasingly harsh U.S. blockade, individuals and organizations in the U.S. and Canada came together to organize the International Conference for the Normalization of US/Cuba Relations. While planned for March 21-22, 2020 in New York City, due to the Covid-19 pandemic the conference was rescheduled to November 13-15, 2020. The International Conference for the Normalization of U.S./Cuba Relations is now more important than ever, which is why the organizers are not waiting for the rescheduled dates but organizing ongoing online webinars about Cuba and the U.S. blockade.

      March 21

      The first online webinar organized by the U.S. Cuba Normalization Organizing Committee was on March 21 and 22, the original conference dates. The March 21 webinar was a conference opening plenary, with speakers including Ambassador Ana Silvia Rodríguez from the Cuban Mission to the United Nations and Cuba solidarity activists from throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada. The next day was the first International Cuba Solidarity Webinar titled “The Impact of the Blockade of Cuba on the People of the U.S. & What We can Do about It.”

      April 9

      The next International Cuba Solidarity Webinar was “Cuba Leads in the Global Fight Against Covid-19” held on April 9. This webinar was MC'd by Alison Bodine from Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice in Vancouver, Canada, and Claudia de la Cruz, the Executive Director of The People's Forum in New York City. The webinar started with a featured speaker representing Cuba, Ambassador José Cabañas from the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC. Speakers joined from many time zones, one of the benefits of an online forum! Dr. Helen Yaffe joined from Scotland where she is a lecturer in Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow, as well as author of several books on Cuba. Dr. John Kirk joined from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he is a professor in the Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University. Dr.Isaac Saney, also in Halifax, is the co-chair of the Canadian Network on Cuba.

      April 18

      The next webinar was held on April 18, on the theme “Cuba Leads in Global Fight Against Covid-19 – Worldwide Health Crisis Demands Solidarity, Not Sanctions”. Alison Bodine also chaired this webinar, along with Brenda Lopez, co-coordinator of US Hands Off Cuba Committee in Los Angeles. For this webinar the Cuban Ambassador to Canada, Josefina Vidal, spoke and represented Cuba. Speakers also included: Dr. Christine Knight, a graduate of Cuba's Latin American School of Medicine; Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink; Dr. Horace Campbell, Professor of African American Studies and Political Science in Syracuse, NY; Fernando Perez-Viart, former MD from Cuba and President of Louisiana's Cuban Club.

      May 2

      This webinar was chaired by two members of teachers federations: Tamara Hansen, in Vancouver Canada, also coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba, Executive Committee member of the Canadian Network on Cuba, and author; and Lucy Pagoada-Quesada, in New York City, Official Coordinator of the Honduran Libre Party. From Cuba, despite technological limitations due to the U.S. blockade, Cuba was represented by: Gilda Chacón Bravo from International Division of the Central Union of Cuban Workers, and World Federation of Trade Unions, Americas Region, Cuba; and Yamil Martínez Marrero, former General Secretary of the Trade Union at Cuban Institute of Friendship With the Peoples and Member of the National Secretariat, Union of Public Employees in Cuba; Tulio Virguez, International Secretary of the Venezuelan Public Sector Workers Union.

      Find out how to join and watch previous webinars at http://www.us-cubanormalization.org/

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