Black Lives Matter in Cuba

Source:  TeleSUR
August 21 2017

By: Andrew King

Afro-Cubans in Havana Plaza | Photo: EFE

It is precisely because of Cuba’s anti-racist and pro-worker policies that the U.S. government has labeled the country “a violator of human rights.”

As activists unite to confront white supremacy in the United States, it is important for us to study other societies outside the U.S. that have made true strides in racial and economic justice, in order to better envision the world that we want to create.

OPINION: Britain’s Open University Bows to US Pressure over Cuba

After listening to President Donald Trump’s June speech on Cuba, in which he reversed all the steps that the Obama administration had made to improve relations, one might not think to look towards this island nation as such an exemplary society. However, one must understand the history of Cuba to see why the U.S. government is escalating the six-decade war and embargo against the socialist country. It is not hard to see that the issue of race is central to the capitalist empire’s war on this socialist stronghold.

The Revolution’s Early Measures Against Racism

Like most colonial nations, institutional racial oppression was brutal in pre-revolution Cuba. Black Cubans formed the most oppressed sector of society: they faced rampant job discrimination in which they had no access to most positions in government, health care, transportation, and retail. A system of Jim Crow-style segregation relegated Afro-Cubans to specific neighborhoods and schools, and they were banned from hotels and beaches.

Illiteracy was widespread among the most oppressed sectors, and medical care was out of reach. Few know that after Castro’s failed guerilla attack on the Moncada Garrison in 1953, it was a black lieutenant from then Dictator Fulgencio Batista’s army that found him in the hills, and — sympathizing with the rebel cause — saved Castro’s life by sending him to jail in Santiago rather than to the Moncada Barracks where he would have been shot and killed along with the 70 guerilla soldiers who met such a fate. History works in mysterious ways.

When the revolution triumphed six years later, one of new government’s first measures was to abolish racial discrimination in employment and recreational sectors. When the rebel army tanks entered Havana, they crushed the hotel fences, which represented the old racial order signifying where the black and poor could not go. Castro’s government abolished the private school system of the white Cuban elites and established a well-funded and integrated public school system for all.

OPINION: US Human Rights Record, Not Cuba’s, Should Be Condemned

Laws were passed to outlaw racial discrimination

Revolutionary laws were passed to outlaw racial discrimination in housing, employment, healthcare and education. Hence, while the white upper class Cubans fled to Miami, there were no questions of loyalty from working class blacks as to whether they would support the socialist government. The fight against racism and the struggle for socialism go hand in hand.

The revolution dramatically improved the socioeconomic conditions of black workers and farmers, cutting rents in half, redistributing land, and providing universal free education and healthcare to all. Before 1959, over a quarter of Cubans were illiterate. The revolution launched a massive literacy campaign, sending brigades of student teachers into the most remote areas of the countryside, and in 1961, Cuba was declared free of illiteracy. Today Cuba has a 99.8 percent literacy rate, the highest in Latin America.

Solidarity with African-Americans

fidel y malcom.jpgCuba has always been a guiding light in the black freedom movement. Fidel’s historic visit with Malcolm X in Harlem’s Theresa hotel in 1960 was symbolic of the Cuban revolution’s blow against colonialism and world white supremacy. Both Malcolm and Castro understood the centrality of racism to the capitalist system: “you can’t have capitalism without racism,” Malcolm once famously said. Along the same vain, at the 2001 World Conference against Racism , Castro argued that:

“Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are not naturally instinctive reactions of the human beings but rather a social, cultural and political phenomenon born directly of wars, military conquests, slavery and the individual or collective exploitation of the weakest by the most powerful all along the history of human societies.”

Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur, former leader of the Black Liberation Army and one of “America’s Most Wanted’, escaped prison in the 1970s, and sought refuge on the socialist island. Cuba has vowed to protect this revolutionary heroine, a crime for which the empire will never forgive her. This past June, when President Donald Trump demanded that Cuba return Shakur, Cuba’s Deputy Director of American Affairs said: “It is off the table .” Throughout the ‘70s, other African-American revolutionaries such as Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael all visited the revolutionary Caribbean nation. Over the decades, black pastors and community leaders have led key US-Cuba solidarity initiatives such as Pastors for Peace which has made over 20 annual trips to Cuba and raised awareness to end the embargo of the island. Indeed, the African-American people have been the most consistent and loyal of friends to the Cuban people.

Cuba’s Contribution to African Liberation Movements

Less well-known is Cuba’s historic and pivotal role in supporting the African Liberation movements of the 1960s and ‘70s. For a period spanning over a decade, the small island nation sent over 300,000 volunteer soldiers to Angola, not in pursuit of diamonds, oil or natural resources like the imperialist nations, but to assist the anti-colonial fighters of Angola in their struggle against the South African apartheid army which had invaded the newly independent nation.

Fidel y Amilcar Cabral.jpgAs Guinea Bissau’s legendary independence leader Amilcar Cabral once said of this selfless solidarity: “When the Cuban soldiers go home, all they will take with them are the remains of their dead comrades.” Cuban forces struck the decisive blow to defeat the apartheid army in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

In addition, Cuba sent troops to battle alongside independence fighters in Algeria, the Congo, Ethiopia and Guinea-Bissau. In his 2000 speech at Harlem Riverside Church, Fidel exclaimed that:

“Half a million Cubans have carried out internationalist missions in numerous countries in different parts of the world, especially Africa. They have been medical doctors, teachers, technicians, construction workers, soldiers and others. When many were investing in and trading with the racist and fascist South Africa, tens of thousands of voluntary soldiers from Cuba fought against the racist and fascist soldiers.”

It was these historic feats of internationalist solidarity that prompted Nelson Mandela to visit the Caribbean nation after his release from prison, where he proudly stated : “The Cuban people have a special place in the hearts of the people’s of Africa.”

Socialist Health Care

One of the landmark pillars of the revolution has been the establishment of a world-class health care system which provides free, quality medical care to all Cuban citizens, and has disproportionately benefitted the island’s black and historically marginalized citizens. While all Cubans have free access to comprehensive medical care, people of color in the United States (the richest country on earth) face extreme health disparities and make up over half of the 32 million nonelderly uninsured. Cuba has twice as many primary care doctors per capita than the United States, due to its prioritization of community-level preventative care.

OPINION: The World Must Learn From Cuba

Infant mortality rate is an important indicator of a country’s health. In pre-revolution Cuba, the infant mortality rate was over 50 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Now it is down to 4.3 . Meanwhile the United States, one of the richest nations on earth, has a rate of 7.7 . Further, when you look at underserved regions of the US like Mississippi — which has the largest black population of any state – the infant mortality rate is 9.6 , double that of the Cuba’s. In other words, Black babies matter in Cuba — more so than they do in the US.

Revolutionary Doctors

If there’s one accomplishment the international community cannot ignore it is Cuba’s ‘medical internationalism’ which in 2014, saw 50,000 Cuban doctorssaving lives in over 60 developing nations across the globe. While activists around the world attend protests, Cuba demonstrates her belief that black lives matter by sending doctors and medical personnel overseas to African and Caribbean nations to literally save black lives. Cuban doctors operate a comprehensive health program, which makes 3,000 doctors available for the region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Speaking on Zimbabwe, a nation where the former apartheid regime did not train any black doctors, Fidel explains that, “We sent teams of 8 to 10 doctors to every province: specialists in comprehensive general medicine, surgeons, orthopedic specialists, anesthiologists and x-ray technicians.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Cuban government assembled the Henry Reeve Brigade — 1,500 fully equipped health professionals trained in disaster medicine — which were brought together on an airstrip, ready to depart for New Orleans immediately to help save black lives.

Cuban doctors in Haiti

President Bush rejected the offer. Many of these same doctors then went to Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s first free black republic, where today there are several hundred Cuban doctors and specialists providing free health care to 4 million people. After the deadly 2010 earthquake, Cuba health professionals arrivedwithin 72 hours as some of the first responders.

OPINION: Representation and Resistance: Slavery Depictions in Cuba vs. US

The United States, on the other hand, sent thousands of marine soldiers to the island. This juxtaposition speaks volumes regarding the values of capitalist and socialist societies. In the aftermath of catastrophic disaster, one society exploited the crisis and sought to control black life; the other sought to save it. More recently, the same international Medical brigade spearheaded the fight against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, sending surgeons, intensive-care doctors, epidemiologists and pediatricians. These efforts earned Cuba an award from the World Health Organization.

Over 100 scholarships for African American and low-income students from the United States

If it were not enough to export its own doctors to countries in need, the Cuban revolution has also taken up the admirable task of training doctors from other countries free of charge in Havana’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). ELAM currently has an enrollment of over 19,000 students most of which are from Africa and Latin America. Medical school is free for all students, and this includes over 100 scholarships for African American and low-income students from the United States who have agreed to use their training to serve low-income communities at home.

Despite these social gains, Cuba is far from a racial utopia; blacks are still underrepresented in high-level government positions and in the lucrative tourism industry, and whites have had disproportionate access to the new market-driven sector of the economy that emerged during the special period. However, most can acknowledge that it is quite difficult for a society to overcome a racial legacy of 400 years of colonialism, in just 50 years of revolution. The struggle against racism in Cuba is an ongoing process.

Lift the embargo on Cuba

It is precisely because of these anti-racist and pro-worker policies, and Cuba’s audacity to stand tall in the face of empire, that the U.S. government has labeled her “a violator of human rights.” On the contrary, it is the U.S. government whose police forces continue to take black lives with impunity, and wage a war on the poor, who is the real human rights violators. Let us lift the embargo on Cuba and put the embargo on US capitalism and racism. Let us not forget that if there ever was a place where black lives truly matter, it’s Cuba.

Andrew King is a public policy doctoral student at UMass Boston, an activist-scholar, and has supported Black Lives Matter organizing and other racial and economic justice campaigns. Andrew has also done solidarity organizing with and research on Latin American social movements and has traveled to Venezuela and Cuba. He can be reached at andrew.king003@umb.edu.

 

Nicolás Maduro pays respects to Jose Marti and Fidel Castro

Source:  Granma

August 16 2017

by: Yaima Puig Meneses y Yudy Castro Morales | internet@granma.cu

The Venezuelan President was accompanied by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Combatant Cilia Flores, and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez  Parilla

raul y nicolas aug 2017 1.jpgPhoto: Estudio Revolución

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Moros visited the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, yesterday August 15, accompanied by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, to pay his respects to Cuba’s national hero José Martí and Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro, on the 91st anniversary of his birth.

The two leaders, along with First Combatant Cilia Flores, and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, observed the changing of the guard ceremony at the graves where the remains of Martí and Fidel rest.

The first tribute was to the Teacher, in his mausoleum, where they deposited white roses alongside the single starred flag.

Before the granite boulder that holds Fidel’s ashes, they placed flowers, since the Venezuelan President could not miss a visit on the 91st birthday of the Comandante en Jefe who always championed the Bolivarian Revolution.

The group also paid tribute to July 26 Movement martyrs and those who gave their lives as internationalists after the triumph of the Revolution in January of 1959.

raul y nicolas aug 2017 2.jpgPhoto: Estudio Revolución

In a brief tour of Santa Ifigenia, Raúl spoke with Maduro about Cuba’s history, explaining why Carlos Manuel de Céspedes is considered the country’s founding father; recalling Mariana Grajales and María Cabrales, mother and widow of General Antonio Maceo, respectively; and informing the visiting President about several officers in the War of Independence who are buried in the historic cemetery.

Stopping alongside the tomb of Frank País García, they also left flowers, and Raúl recalled the valiant youth who was murdered, as was his brother Josue, by the Batista dictatorship.

Soldier of ideas

 

It is unquestionable that Fidel is incarnated in the hearts of millions of Cubans and admirers throughout the world.

We evoke him dressed in his customary olive green uniform with its epaulets of Comandante en Jefe, with his upright gait, friendly manner, inquisitive gaze; and the deep anti-imperialist convictions he shared with Martí; his iron will to overcome the hardest blows, his wisdom… and above all his infinite love for humanity, for the poor, to whom he dedicated his entire life.

The eminent Cuban writer, debater, professor and diplomat Raúl Roa García said of Fidel, “He hears the grass growing and sees what’s happening around the corner.” He is our undefeated Comandante, confronting any danger whatsoever to safeguard the sovereignty and dignity of Cuba. He is the man who, alongside the people, defeated a bloody military dictatorship and the dark imperialist designs of 11 U.S. administrations, which failed in their efforts to eliminate, even with attempts on his life, the example, the symbol, the soldier of ideas he was.

Che’s farewell letter to Fidel

It’s worth recalling the farewell letter Che Guevara wrote to Fidel, in which the legendary Argentine-Cuban said, “I have lived magnificent days at your side and felt the pride of belonging to our people in the luminous and sad days of the Caribbean (missile) Crisis.

“Few times has a statesman shone as brightly (as you did) on those days. I am also proud to have followed you without hesitation, identifying with your way of thinking, seeing, and evaluating dangers and principles.”

Today, the prolific seeds he sowed in millions of followers across the entire planet are flowering. And resounded in the sure words of Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, during the closing of the constituent session of the National Assembly of People’s Power 7th Legislature, February 24, 2008, when he said, “Fidel is Fidel. We all know it well. Fidel is irreplaceable and the people will continue his work when he is no longer physically present. Although his ideas always will be those which have made it possible to uphold the bastion of dignity and justice our country represents.” He was not mistaken.

This August 13, when Fidel would have celebrated his 91st birthday, he continues among us, surrounded by the affection of his people. He bequeathed to us his abiding guidance, his revolutionary firmness, his unwavering optimism and confidence in victory. Thus our best tribute will be making a reality of his principles every day, regardless of where he might be.

 

Fidel: An example of revolutionary conviction and permanent faith in victory

Source:  Granma
August 11 2017

Raúl Castro’s words, as early as 1959, summed up the significance of Fidel’s example and his lasting presence among the Cuban people

fidel 1.jpg

“Fidel is wherever work is undertaken; spiritually Fidel is wherever the Revolution advances. Fidel is wherever an intrigue is destroyed, wherever a Cuban is working honestly, wherever a Cuban, whoever he may be, finds himself doing good, wherever a Cuban, whoever he may be, is defending the Revolution, Fidel will be there.”

Cienfuegos, September 5, 1959

Raúl Castro Ruz

Related information

Fidel’s doves

March of the torches across all of Cuba

Source: Granma
January 16 2017

by María Elena Álvarez Ponce | internet@granma.cu

The people united will march the night of January 28, on the eve of the anniversary of José Martí’s birth, from San Antonio to Maisí, with Fidel as always

march of the torches in cuba.jpg

Photo: Yaimí Ravelo

The night of January 28

Havana.–From San Antonio to Maisí, for Cuba and Martí, and as always with Fidel, the people united will march the night of January 28, in a tribute to José Martí, on the eve of the anniversary of his birth.

In 168 municipalities 

Confirming the news was Susely Morfa González, member of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Central Committee and the Council of State, first secretary of the Young Communists League (UJC). She reported to the press that marches will take place in 168 municipalities across the country, in which men, women, youth, children, workers, older adults, retirees, homemakers, veteran combatants, and students will fill the nation’s streets to honor the national hero.

The demonstrations of patriotism will begin in unison shortly after 10pm on the night of the 27th, in an unequivocal show of support for the Revolution by a people which is true to its roots, proud of its history, conscious of all that has been accomplished, and confident in the future being constructed, she said.

World Festival of Youth

Together we will raise torches, the flame of life and liberty, as Fidel and his generation did on the first such march held in 1953, Morfa explained, departing from the University of Havana’s Grand Staircase and culminating at the Fragua where the youthful José Martí was imprisoned.

The Young Communist League leader additionally noted that the march will take place after a meeting of the national committee making preparations for Cuba’s participation in the upcoming World Festival of Youth, set to take place this coming October in the Russian city of Sochi. (ACN)

Russian Institute grants 2016 Man of the Year award to Fidel

Source: Granma
December 23 2016

by: Prensa Latina(PL) | internet@granma.cu

During a ceremony in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, the Russian Biographical Institute grants award to the leader of the Cuban Revolution  in memoriam.

fidel-2

Brilliant contributions

The Russian Biographical Institute granted its Man of the Year award to Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro in memoriam, in the category of international relations, for his brilliant contributions of international significance, diplomatic sources reported yesterday, December 22.

The ceremony took place in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, according to Prensa Latina.

Fidel’s role

Cuba’s ambassador in Russia, Emilio Lozada García, received the recognition from the institution’s president, Sviatoslav Rybas, who emphasized Fidel’s role in revolutionary processes around the world, and in strengthening relations between Russia and Cuba.

He noted that the Biographical Institute’s expert council, which selects prizewinners, was planning to make the award in recognition of Fidel’s 90th birthday, when his lamentable death occurred.

Vladimir Putin

The Cuban diplomat expressed gratitude for the award in the name of his people and government, and described Fidel’s November 25 death as a loss for Cuba, Latin America, and all of humanity.

For the last 24 years, the Man of the Year award has been granted to important figures in politics, culture, and science by this prestigious institution.

In the category of international relations, also recognized this year were Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation; Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China; and Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan.

UN General Assembly honors Fidel

Source:  Granma
December 21 2016

by: TELESUR | internet@granma.cu

Organized by Cuba’s permanent commission to the UN, the special tribute was requested by a group of countries from several continents.

fidelat the un 1979.jpgFidel speaking at the UN in 1979. Photo: Jorge Oller

On December 20, the United Nations General Assembly paid tribute to the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, who died last November 25.
The special tribute was organized by Cuba’s permanent commission to the UN, following a request by a group of countries from several continents.

Representatives speaking on behalf of global and regional organizations recalled Fidel and his legacy, according to reports by Telesur.
Venezuela’s permanent representative to the UN, Rafael Ramírez, noted that his country is eternally grateful to Fidel for his support of the Bolivarian Revolution. “I had the privilege of hearing him speak, of meeting and working closely with this globally renowned politician,” he stated.

A wise, modest man, loyal to his people and his socialism

Ramírez described Fidel as a wise, modest man, loyal to his people and his socialism. “On behalf of Venezuela we pay heartfelt tribute to a giant of Latin America and the Caribbean, as Nicolás Maduro said, Fidel has fulfilled his task, history has absolved him, and now it’s our turn to uphold his name.”

Likewise, Dominican Ambassador, Francisco Cortorreal, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), highlighted the importance of Fidel’s legacy for regional integration, based on the principles of sovereignty, peace, and solidarity among peoples, reported Prensa Latina.

Meanwhile, the Group of 77+China described the leader of the Cuban Revolution as an extraordinary statesman.

The UN’s solemn tribute to Fidel Castro began with a minute’s silence, after which Assembly President, Peter Thomson, highlighted the vision of the revolutionary leader, with his call to save the world from war, underdevelopment, hunger, poverty, and the destruction of natural resources vital to the survival of the human species