By Resumen Latinoamericano North America Bureau
Last June, 2014, the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 organized the third “5 Days for the Cuban 5” in Washington D.C. At that time it would have been hard for the committee, or the solidarity movement as a whole, to imagine that six months later Antonio, Ramón and Gerardo would be back in Cuba embracing their loved ones and rejoining their other two brothers René and Fernando who were already back.
Those activities in DC last year were part of a growing international campaign for the release of the 5, and the third one of its kind that the International Committee had organized in Washington. The signs and banners reflected the possibilities of a “New Era of US-Cuba Relations”. The other theme of those 5 days was a call for an end to US regime change programs against the island.
Then came December 17, and along with the freedom of the three remaining anti-terrorist fighters there also came the opening for a new phase of the struggle to achieve real fundamental change in US policy towards Cuba.
The opening of the respective Embassies in Havana and Washington on July 20 marks the end of the beginning of this new period of relations between the two countries. And there have been some incremental steps forward like new people to people categories for US citizens to travel to Cuba and the removal of Cuba from the list of terrorist counties – a list that Cuba should never have been on in the first place.
It is important to remember that it is the US that needs to change after a one sided policy of hostility against Cuba for over 55 years. The unilateral blockade of Cuba for the most part is still intact and regime change remains the official policy of the US government codified into law in 1996 by the Helms – Burton Bill. Government allocations for regime change programs have been increased in 2015 and projections for 2016 are even greater. Normalization will never happen as long the US does not close the torture prison at Guantanamo and return to Cuba the land that it sits on.
With the Five back in their homes, the struggle in the United States must continue by focusing on the lifting of the criminal blockade of Cuba in all its aspects.
Picking up where they left off, with the freedom of the Cuban 5 and under a new name, International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity for the Peoples, plans for a series of activities against the blockade are currently under way for September 16-18 in Washington DC. They are encouraging people to come to add their voices in advocating Congress to not only lift the blockade but also to respect the self-determination and sovereignty of the Cuban nation. Supporters will raise awareness about the impact of the US blockade on the Cuban people but also how it affects the people of the United States.
Activities in Washington to Include:
Visits to Capitol Hill will take place September 16 -17. On September 17, in the evening, the opening of a photo exhibit of images capturing the initial response of the Cuban people to the return of the Cuban 5 to their homeland will take place at the University of DC Law School. And on September 18 the committee is organizing a daylong conference entitled The U.S. Blockade Against Cuba: Why It’s Wrong and What We Need To Do to End It. The conference will have a series of workshops with known panelists to discuss different topics of interest including issues of health, religion, legal issues, struggles in Latin America and the release of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. The occasion will also be an opportunity for participants to discuss and promote new initiatives.
A number of participants have already been confirmed, including the fighter for the independence of Puerto Rico and former political prisoner, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Jan Susler, Oscar Lopez’s attorney, Canadian professor John Kirk, who nominated the Cuban Medical Internationalist Programs for the Nobel Peace Prize, authors Stephen Kimber and Arnold August, attorneys Robert Muse, and Jose Pertierra among others. The committee has extended invitations to special guests from Cuba who specialize in Cuba’s renowned healthcare system.
For those who cannot be in Washington the International Committee has made an appeal for groups and individuals to organize events in their cities from September 16 -18.
To endorse the actions against the blockade go to: http://theinternationalcommittee.org/endorse/
For more information about September actions Against the Blockade visit: http://theinternationalcommittee.org/