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U.S. groups openly challenge the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba

Despite world economic crisis, socialist government continues to prioritize the most important necessities for the population

On Aug. 3, the Venceremos Brigade returned to the United States from Cuba, marking the 40th trip to the island nation without a license from the U.S. government. The brigade allows activists a unique chance to meet with the Cuban people—from Cuban officials to workers and students—to learn about life in Cuba, the problems created by the U.S. blockade and how the socialist government works.

Brigadistas
Brigadistas contributed voluntary labor
in solidarity with the Cuban people
Photo: Gloria La Riva

This year, 144 activists participated in the trip demanding an immediate end to the illegal U.S. travel ban and criminal blockade, which seeks to strangle development on the island and force an imperialist counterrevolution.

Also on Aug. 3, the 20th U.S./Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, organized by IFCO/Pastors for Peace, returned to the United States after collecting 132 tons of humanitarian aid for delivery to the Cuban people and visiting Cuba for a nine-day program of education and fellowship.

Rev. Lucius Walker, founder and executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, had the unusual opportunity on this trip to have extended meetings with both Cuban President Raul Castro and with ex-President Fidel Castro.

Difficulties continue to be imposed on the Cuban people, as many supplies are limited or unavailable because of the U.S.-imposed blockade. However, in true internationalist form, Cubans actively seek the friendship of the people of the United States in spite of the policies imposed by the U.S. government. They make a clear distinction between the people and the U.S. government.

It does not take long to notice that the socialist government in Cuba prioritizes the most important necessities for its population. Even with the hardships of the blockade, quality health care and education are accessible and free, housing is guaranteed, employment is a right and every Cuban receives an allotment of food staples.

While in Cuba, the brigade worked in urban gardens alongside Cuban farmers, helped with construction projects, visited health care clinics, attended cultural events and met with Cuban officials and entertainers. There was ample free time as well to explore various cities and get to know the local residents. The trip was well rounded and offered an extensive opportunity to experience Cuban life.

This year’s trip especially significant

This years’ travel challenge was especially significant as Cuba is celebrating its 50th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution. We were visiting on July 26, one of Cuba’s major national holidays, and the date of the attack on the Moncada barracks by a group of young revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro in 1953. The attack failed but helped open the way for the triumph of the Revolution a few years later—a great achievement for the workers of Cuba.

However, this year’s celebrations were tempered by the new realities of further hardship as the world economic crisis is beginning to impact Cuba, exacerbating difficulties already caused by the blockade. Even though leaner times lay ahead, the spirit of revolution is evident as Cubans look for solutions determined to keep the socialist state alive and well.

This year marks a critical time for the end of the blockade and travel ban as identical legislation is being debated in both houses of Congress with bipartisan support. At the same time, President Obama has stated he will lift restrictions on travel and remittances for Cuban Americans. As Dagoberto Rodríguez of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained to us at the Julio Antonio Mella Internationalist Camp, (where we stayed in our second week) despite that promise, the Obama government has yet to even prepare those regulations.

The brigade serves to place additional pressure upon the U.S. government through active resistance to its inhumane policies. The invaluable experiences gained while in Cuba prepare activists to speak on the realities of the socialist state upon return home in the effort to combat the myths perpetrated by the U.S. government and espoused by the Cuban right-wing counterrevolutionaries in Miami.

With a changing climate in Washington, D.C., it is imperative as social justice activists to keep the pressure on U.S. politicians to finally end the barbaric blockade and support Cuba’s right of self-determination and sovereignty from U.S. imperialism. Now more than ever, we must stand united with the Cuban people and lobby our representatives to end the 47-year-old blockade imposed against Cuba.

Viva Cuba! Viva Revolución! Viva Fidel! Viva Raúl! Venceremos!

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