Building the Movement to Close Guantanamo & End the Blockade in the New Era

November 25, 2015

11-15Talk delivered by Nancy Kohn from the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity in Guantanamo City on Nov. 24th at IV International Seminar for Peace and Abolition of Foreign Military Bases. 

Sisters and brothers:

In Boston where I live, I wear a button every day that says End the U.S. Blockade of Cuba. You’d be amazed how many people come up to me and say, “I thought Obama already ended that.”  If you just rely on the corporate media for your information about U.S. – Cuba relations, it is easy to see how you could arrive at the conclusion that everything between the two countries was now normal.

We are fast approaching a year since the dramatic events of December 17 took place when President Raul Castro declared that Cuba, with their principles intact, was willing to have a dialogue on all issues, and President Barack Obama acknowledged that the U.S. policy towards Cuba for over 50 years was a failed one. This opened up a dialogue that has resulted in the establishment of diplomatic relations and Cuba being taken off the list of terrorist nations, a list, they should never have been on in the first place. And of course, we celebrate with great joy the freedom of the five Cuban heroes who were only guilty of defending their homeland from terrorist attacks.

But in this past year what else has really changed? Not much. The illegal blockade of Cuba still exists as strong as ever. Banks dealing in dollar transactions with Cuba continue to be fined; State Department regime change programs continue to be funded; the budget of Radio and TV Marti has expanded as they create new spurious programming against the leadership of the Revolution; U.S. citizens still cannot travel to Cuba without a license; Cuba still cannot export products to the U.S.; Cuban officials and professionals are still routinely denied visas into the U.S.; progressive organizations like IFCO/Pastors for Peace are still being harassed by OFAC and the IRS for challenging the restrictions on travel to Cuba; and of course, the most outrageous thing of all is that the torture center here in Guantanamo Province continues and the land it sits on is still occupied by the U.S. military.

The U.S. cannot accept the fact that the days of the Monroe Doctrine, that declared that all of Latin America belonged to them, are over. Guantanamo is the living nightmare of that period. It is the relic of an empire that is facing a revived Latin America that is uniting politically and economically in its own regional interest.

The talk coming out of Washington these days may sound kinder and gentler but their objective of over throwing the tremendous gains of the Cuban Revolution remains the same. Those of us in the international solidarity movement do not have the luxury to breathe a sigh of relief, now is the time to re double our efforts until all the injustices against Cuba are ended once and for all.

I am proud to be here today representing the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity in the U.S. and especially to be here with my companeros in the International Committee who reside here in Cuba. We were formerly known as the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, but we have adapted to the new stage of the struggle to end all U.S. hostility against Cuba and to support other struggles around the world. I am happy to say that our committee has not just stayed together but has actually grown in this new period and we are committed to push forward with the same enthusiasm and determination that we had in the long battle to free the five.

We know that the reason that the Cuban 5 were freed was not because of some noble gesture on the part of the U.S. government but because they were supported by an entire nation that never wavered and an international movement that just kept growing. It was a political struggle from the beginning to the end and this is the same formula that will bring down the blockade and close Guantanamo.

Our first major campaign in this new era of U.S.- Cuba relations took place in Washington DC in September. It was the natural continuation of our work around the five. One new dynamic was pulling together other groups in the U.S. who are our natural allies to plan the work from the beginning, including Pastors for Peace, the Venceremos Brigade, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the National Network on Cuba. We called the project Days of Actions against the Blockade, with activists coming from all over the U.S. to participate in grass roots advocacy in 57 Congressional offices and a series of public events that were designed to bring awareness that Cuba was more than just a nice destination point to travel to, but a country that needed our continued solidarity and that there was still a lot of work to be done.

As we gather here today in the shadow of this dreadful prison it is also important to mention that the U.S. not only has the highest per capita number of people locked away in the world, most for non-violent crimes, but it also has hundreds of political prisoners whose crimes are that they are fighters for freedom and justice. Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal are the ones most known but there are many more including Oscar Lopez Rivera who is the longest held political prisoner in Puerto Rican history. We must include all of them in our work and expose the hypocrisy of the U.S. government and their hollow pronouncements about human rights.

From all of us in the International Committee we look forward to working with all of you in the future. We invite you to join us in a social media campaign to celebrate the victories of the last year and recommit our efforts to ending the blockade. The twitter campaign will stretch from December 4th, when Gerardo Hernandez was moved out of Victorville Prison, through January 6th when Adriana and Gerardo’s daughter Gema was born. The main date is of course December 17th when the Cuban 5 were reunited in Havana. For more information about the Tuitazo you can go to our website:  Remember to use the hashtag D17CubaVa.

We believe that united we can bring an end to the criminal blockade, lift the travel ban, close the U.S. military base in Guantanamo and return the land to its rightful owners; the Cuban people.

Volvieron!        Venceremos!