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      Activists: "End the U.S. Blockade on Cuba!"

      By Janine Solanki

      The new year has come with a new message from Cuba solidarity activists around the world. With resolute hope and conviction, the message is, “Let's make 2021 the year to end the U.S. Blockade on Cuba!”

      Throughout 2020, the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC) embraced the new digital reality caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, holding webinars, fundraising campaigns and virtual monthly picket actions against the unjust U.S. blockade. The CNC got 2021 off to a great start with three online Cuba solidarity events in January.

      Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cuba solidarity groups in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal, Canada and Kiev, Ukraine, organized monthly actions against the U.S. blockade on Cuba in front of U.S. consulates and embassies. For most of 2020, the CNC hosted monthly virtual pickets that have brought together CNC member groups and activists and supporters across Canada, the U.S., and around the world. On January 17, the CNC held the first monthly virtual picket action of 2021! This month's action was chaired by CNC executive members Tamara Hansen, coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC), and Isaac Saney, CNC co-chair and professor at Dalhousie University. The program included speakers from across Canada, Quebec, and internationally from Argentina, Dominican Republic, Ukraine, and Australia. CNC member groups shared their greetings before wrapping up the action with the now customary group photo. Participants turned on their video and held up protest signs, and chanted, “lift the blockade on Cuba now!”

      In the last year under the pandemic and many years prior, Cuba has shown the world its exemplary medical solidarity, especially by sending medical brigades of health care workers abroad. However, the U.S. blockade on Cuba has made accessing medical supplies extremely difficult and costly. On January 23, the CNC held a webinar to launch new fundraising to send medical supplies to Cuba. This 3-month campaign aims to raise $50,000 to fill and ship a container with the critical supplies that Cuba needs. Tamara Hansen chaired this webinar alongside Elizabeth Hill, CNC co-chair and President of the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association – Toronto. The event had an insightful program of speakers, including Cuban Ambassador to Canada Josefina Vidal; Dr. John Kirk, Cuba Researcher and Professor at Dalhousie University; Professor Keith Ellis, coordinator of the CNC Medical Supplies Fundraising Campaign; Conner Gorry, Senior Editor for MEDICC Review based in Havana, Cuba; Teresita Keosseuian, Asociacion de Cubanos Residentes en Canadá “Juan Gualberto Gomez"; Sean O'Donoghue, Secretary of la Table de Concertation de Solidarité Québec-Cuba; and Dr. Isaac Saney; and Janine Solanki, National Coordinator of the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade. The Medical Supplies Fundraising Campaign is still ongoing, and more information on how to contribute is at www.canadiannetworkoncuba.ca

      One of the main projects of the CNC is the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade, which has been travelling to Cuba annually since 1993. Due to the pandemic, the Che Brigade was postponed in 2020 and looks forward to returning to Cuba later in 2021 for the 27th Che Guevara Brigade. Until then, the Che Brigade has been bringing a bit of Cuba to people in Canada through webinars! On January 31, the Che Brigade held the online event “José Martí: Revolutionary, Visionary, Leader,” marking the 168th anniversary of the birth of the Cuban independence hero. The program included Ambassador Josefina Vidal, who spoke to José Martí in history and today, and Yamil Martínez Marrero from the Canada Desk of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), which hosts the Che Brigade in Cuba. To give another view into the life and ideas of José Martí, his beautiful poetry was read by Claudia Peralta, coordinator of the Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association – Calgary and organizer with the Calixto Garcia Brigade. Participants heard exciting anecdotes and testimonials from former brigadistas James Plewak, an Anishinaabe leader and former chief of Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation in Manitoba, and Azza Rojbi, coordinator of Friends of Cuba Against the U.S. Blockade – Vancouver. Janine Solanki, the Che Guevara Brigade's National Coordinator, took participants through the “day in the life” of a brigadista and encouraged participants to join the next Che Guevara Brigade. Throughout the program, the audience was treated to musical performances by legendary Cuban musician Gerardo Alfonso and the passionate musical duo Sangre Morena. The discussion period that followed was a good indication that many people are excited to join the next Che Brigade to Cuba!

      As we go forward into 2021, it is with love and solidarity for Cuba, and a commitment to the struggle to end the inhuman U.S. blockade on Cuba! For more information of CNC events and actions, check www.canadiannetworkoncuba.ca or follow on Facebook @CanadianNetworkOnCuba and on Twitter and Instagram at @cdnntwrkoncuba

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