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Sunday, 16 June 2013

Solidarity with Cuba more important than ever - CSC AGM report

“We are not terrorists, have never been terrorists. We are the victims of terrorists, of illegal invasions, of plane bombings and other attacks. The US should be number one on the list of the ‘sponsors of terrorism’. Not us. Cuba does not belong on that list” said Irelia Lopez from the Cuban Embassy to huge applause from a packed CSC AGM in London yesterday. It was a theme that threaded through all the different contributions on the day.

To continue now for 21 years labelling Cuba as sponsors of terrorism is all part of the unrelenting and worsening 50 year illegal blockade against it, because as Jeremy Corbyn MP said “Cuba is an example, across the continent and the world that another model is possible.” Reflecting on how at the time of the Grenada invasion 30 years ago Cuba was completely isolated and alone - “Today it shows a clear way forward and makes people question ‘ Do we have to have austerity, do we have to have mass unemployment and wasted lives consigned to dole queues?”

Talking about his visit to Grenada after the US invasion he described the quarters that the Cuban construction workers who were building the airport lived in. They had left in a hurry and he looked at the books left lying next to their beds. “There was poetry, classics, Shakespeare, language books, history books and dictionaries”. The US squaddies who he also met and whom were equipped to the teeth with state of the art weaponry were all sat around reading comics. “It is an image that has never left me” he said.

That comparison was also highlighted by Max Hyde the NUT Vice President when welcoming everyone to their building. “Compare Cuba which spends 10% of its GDP on education with ourselves, which spends 4%” she said. With smaller class sizes, free meals, free uniforms and a focus on the needs of all children “Cuba unlocks the unique puzzle that is a child” and ensures “every child can fulfil their potential”. That is why her union and she “are proud to support the campaign and the work it does”.

Rob Miller, Director of the Campaign in highlighting all the work of the past 12 months praised everyone for supporting Early Day Motion 497 on the case of the Miami Five. To achieve 126 MP signatures from all parties during the last session, made it the highest international EDM and was illustrative of all the work CSC members do on behalf of the campaign.

Whether raising money for Hurricane Sandy relief work, lobbying MPs, going on brigades, supporting Latin America conferences, organising speaking tours or events, CSC members are the lifeblood of the campaign and will need to play an even bigger role in the future.

Whilst seeing an increase in affiliate membership the campaign has seen a slight drop in the amount of individual members. “We all understand and recognise that in a time of economic crisis everyone is affected” said Rob but we must do all we still can to increase our fundraising activity alongside our solidarity work, “to ensure that the financial, material and human resources are maintained at the level required to deliver our programme of activity for the year ahead”.

Whilst applauding Rene Gonzales return to Cuba Rob highlighted the need for the campaign to step up its work on ensuring all of the Five now receive justice. With legal avenues in the US all but exhausted “It is down to us, here and across the world to bring so much pressure on governments and Obama by saying ‘enough is enough” argued Rob. That is why the AGM agreed with the Executive’s plan to organise in 2014 a prestigious International Commission of Inquiry into the Case of the Miami Five.

By bringing together in London a range of high profile family, academic, legal and other relevant witnesses the Commission will hear a final summary of the case and be at the centre of a major international campaign for justice on the Five around the world. The commission will provide the evidence “for a jury of millions” to at last hear all of the truth about what really happened. With support already pledged from UNISON the Commission will still require lots more help from members and affiliates to ensure it can kick start a worldwide final push for freedom.

As was said at the start of the meeting “The Miami Five are not the terrorists who walk freely on the streets in Florida but the people who were trying to stop terrorism”. Fundraising will be essential and more details will be published in the next issue of Cuba Si

Lots of people regularly say to CSC activists that they are members of the Campaign but then ask what Cuba Si is? As Rob made clear “Every member gets a copy sent to their home four times a year. If you don’t receive it you are not a member. It is as simple as that”

To ensure the cause and struggle for justice for the Miami Five continues and that the Campaign continues to go from strength to strength, all local groups and individual members were encouraged help try and recruit new members to the campaign or to support any of the fundraising initiatives CSC promotes – sponsored walks, cubanartgallery.org.uk and shopping online

In highlighting the rest of the annual work plan Bernard Regan CSC Secretary reflected on the increased attack on Cuba by Obama, with record extra territorial fines being levied on Banks around the world for trading with the country. “With an economy 250 times the size of Cuba’s it can only be Cuba’s shining example that drives the Obama administration on to try and force its collapse” said Bernard. “Maybe it’s the fact that in 2006 Cuba had 5.9 doctors per 1,000 people and the US had 2.3 per 1,000 that they don’t like”.

Although Obama has been pathetically short sighted in not abandoning the failed US policy on Cuba and ending the blockade, Cuba has continued to play a central role in the development and integration of co-operation in Latin America. The community of Latin American and Caribbean states (CELAC) was established in 2011 and Cuba’s role has been recognised by the fact that it is to be President in the forthcoming year. With every country in the hemisphere (bar USA and Canada) a member of CELAC the AGM called on the UK and EU to recognise it and ensure respect for the sovereignty of the nations involved, and no outside interference in its activities.

Whilst every speaker expressed huge loss and condolences for the tragic death of the great Hugo Chavez, his vision and achievements were not simply of one man, but of a continent arising and which will endure long into the future. ALBA and CELAC express a determination to chart a course built on independence and mutual respect for the sovereignty of all.

Diana Holland as Chair of the Campaign placed again on record her thanks to all the staff (Rob, Trish, Natasha, Dan and Becky). Wishing Dan and Becky, who are leaving, all the very best for the future, she reflected on a wealth of achievement that is simply amazing for such a small organisation. Praising volunteers and activists for all their hard work and commitment she reminded us that Cuba’s inspirational role in the world has to be defended at all cost and that we can learn so much from their example. “Our task has never been greater but it is a responsibility we have accepted today and I am sure together, we will achieve it”.