Co-chair report by Cheryl LaBash
Dec. 5-6 National Meeting
Our last meeting Oct 2019 was followed by the vote at the United Nations. We were getting ready for the May Day Brigade and preparing for the March U.S. Cuba Normalization conference. End the blockade brochures would be distributed to member organizations for use at tables and meetings. We looked forward with with optimism to 2020 but found the the new year began with something very different. We confronted the deaths and the unemployment and lockdowns from the pandemic, just at the time final preparations were in motion for the March conference.
Suddenly there were no venues available and then the question was what what would we do
The National Network on Cuba did have experience with online meetings webinars. Using this foundation the US Cuba Normalization carried out a plenary and two of the previously scheduled panels on the March Conference weekend, presented virtually.
The pandemic raged overwhelming hospitals inexperienced in treating the disease, especially hard hit Black and Brown working class, immigrant and Indignous communities like Detroit, the Bronx and Queens in New York City. Panic reigned in the U.S. while Cuba mobilized in an organized way to fight the disease with solidarity. And Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade doctors
Out of the organizing for the March Conference, in response to the pandemic crisis, the Canadian Network on Cuba and the NNOC issued a joint statement that began the Saving Lives Campaign. While maintaining the work of posting information to the NNOC website, writing and issuing statements answering anti-Cuba slanders broadcast on 60 minutes right up through the current US inspire provocations at San Isidro — several NNOC co-chairs and our treasurer all who also represent local groups focused on involving more NNOC member organizations in the Saving Lives Campaign
Urging and organizing for City Council resolutions has been part of the NNOC work since 2016. Wherever we spoke and in all our meetings the resolutions were encouraged and publicized. Only one of the 13 resolutions passed by city councils from March 2016 to September 2019 were initiated by Cuba solidarity organizers. It is this existing network and experience tha united in the Saving Lives Campaign resolutions.
Although we were unable to do the face to face meetings and organizing with the methods we have used, unseen benefits gave us new strengths. The past tensions over the necessity of meeting in New York or Washington DC on the east coast were erased. Except for time zone constraints we could meet, organize and collaborate together more fully on the West Coast and East Coast — and now Internationally. It means sharing our strengths, talents and learned skills beyond our cities. When CubaSi’s talented and dedicated graphic and web designer was stricken with Covid before the three day conference — Canadians with the skills filled in. Out of many we are uniting in real ways. Have you notice that our movement is no longer arguing about which tactic is correct? Use all of the avenues to fight against the blockade — in the streets, in Congress, in City Hall, in schools, online. And a shout out to the young leaders in new member organizations like the LA US Hands off Cuba! And the Democratic Socialist of America that has fought for and won resolutions and action against the blockade and unstintingly recognizing Cuba’s sovereignty.
The past year has also brought the cruelist measures ever inflicted on the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban people by the U.S. Technology has enabled the U.S. government to ratchet and fine tune the economic, financial and commercial blockade — from lifting the waiver on Title 3 of Helps Burton, to blocking remittances, flights and cruises, as a prelude to the latest “color revolution” agitation under the name of ‘San Isidro’
But if we look at the world objectively, never has it been clearer that the blockade is out of step with the sentiments of the people in the U.S. Millions have gone to Cuba and seen it for themselves. The 9 resolutions. passed since May 5 plus 3 in labor councils and work in state legislatures show this. And the powerful voice of Cubans living in the U.S. has been lifted to end the blockade through car and bicycle caravans in Miami and now other cities. The campaign for the Nobel Prize for the Henry Reeve Brigade has gotten tens of thousands of supporters.
Cuba’s health care for people to Save Lives is a powerful beacon to people in the U.S. who are suffering in the pandemic and economic crisis.
Never has the possibility of ending the unilateral U.S. blockade been closer. Internationally and domestically the blockade is losing ground even while it tightens its grip.
Remember when Gerardo, Ramon, Fernando, Tony and Rene were in prison. Gerardo had two life terms plus 15 years. We used every muscle and creative thought to free them. Pushing and pushing on the wall that seemed unbreakable — and then it gave way. Gave way from the international movement and the changed relations of forces in the global south, including the solid support of Cuba in Latin America and the Caribbean. How important is it to the U.S. to maintain the blockade today? This reality was observable before the recent election.
December 17 marks the 6th anniversary of all of the Cuban 5 coming home and the beginning step to normalization of US-Cuba relations. A 24 hour virtual picket on that date including ICAP’s Dec. 17 activity will take place. On May 21 the United Nations General Assembly will vote against the U.S. again. It and the period from now until then including the opening of Congress in early January, the inauguration, the upcoming May Day Brigade. All part of the Action Program adopted at the US-Cuba normalization Conference Nov 13-14-15.