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Vol. 81/No. 22      June 5, 2017

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Conference in Cuba demands US get out of Guantánamo

CAIMANERA, Cuba — Across the bay from the Guantánamo military base that Washington has occupied for more than a century, participants in the Fifth Seminar for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases joined leaders of the Cuban Revolution and workers and youth in this city’s town square May 6 to demand U.S. out!

“We demand the United States return to Cuba and its people illegally occupied territory of the Guantánamo Naval Base, and the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade,” said a statement adopted at the conference that was read at the protest. The statement also condemned U.S. imperialism’s aggressions around the world.

The more than 200 participants in the May 4-6 conference came from 32 countries. It was organized by the Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples (MovPaz), the World Peace Council and the Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) and took place in Guantánamo, the capital of this eastern Cuban province.

In addition to substantial Cuban participation, there were large delegations from the U.S. and Canada.

Among U.S. participants, many of whom had joined hundreds of thousands of Cubans marching in Havana on May Day, were members of anti-war organizations and political groups, including Veterans for Peace; the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; individuals from Cuba solidarity coalitions in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York City and Albany, New York; Code Pink; and the Socialist Workers Party.

Other international delegates included Samuel Wanitsch, chairman of the Swiss-Cuba Association; Daniel Ortega Reyes, president of the Party of Christian Unity in Nicaragua and Nicaraguan deputy to the Central American parliament; Aleida Centeno Rodríguez, member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party; and two delegates from Okinawa, Japan, where residents have long protested the U.S. military base there.

Movpaz President Silvio Platero Yrola chaired the sessions, which opened with talks by José Ramón Balaguer, member of the secretariat of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and head of the party’s Department of International Relations; Nancy Acosta Hernández, president of the Assembly of People’s Power in Guantánamo province; Maria do Socorro Gomes, president of the World Peace Council, who hails from Brazil; and others.

The U.S. occupation of Cuban territory here “is a blow to the legitimate national interests of Cubans and is a moral affront and aggression against the country and its sovereignty,” said Manuel Carbonell Vidal, vice rector of the Raúl Roa García Institute of International Relations in Havana, at the opening session.

“There can be no ‘normal’ relations between the two countries so long as Washington occupies sovereign territory of the Republic of Cuba,” said a statement submitted to the seminar by Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of New York, and Maggie Trowe, SWP mayoral candidate in Albany. Both attended the conference. From the SWP’s widespread campaigning door to door in workers’ districts, they said, “We can attest to the possibility of winning the political battle to convince the majority of U.S. working people that the U.S. government should get out of Guantánamo now and end its economic, financial, and commercial war against Cuba forthwith.”

The Committee for the Defense of the Revolution and residents of the Villa Toa neighborhood of Guantánamo invited delegates for a lively evening of salsa dancing May 4, a spread of tropical fruit and an opportunity to ask residents about life in Cuba.

We told retired cook Adis Martínez the U.S. rulers say most Cubans didn’t support socialism or historic Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who died last November. “No, we like it here,” she replied. “We’re very sad that Fidel died. But other generations are ready to defend the revolution.”

The visit to Caimanera was a moving experience. As our buses entered the bustling town, people lined the streets to welcome us. From a hill nearby delegates could see the U.S. base’s administration buildings, telecommunications domes, and two giant American flags, a daily reminder of Washington’s unending campaign against the Cuban people and their socialist revolution.

“I had thought the U.S. base was out in some remote uninhabited place,” said Veterans for Peace leader Patrick McCann, who lives in Miami. “It’s right in the middle of a populated area!”

While Cubans are now allowed to move some supply ships through the portion of Guantánamo Bay occupied by the U.S. Navy to the ocean, they are denied all other access, including to excellent fishing grounds.

On a cross-island bus ride delegates got to visit a number of sites memorializing the revolutionary struggle in Cuba. In Santiago de Cuba they went to the cemetery where José Martí, leader of the 19th century struggle against Spanish colonial domination, and Fidel Castro are buried. They visited the Moncada Barracks, where on July 26, 1953, Castro led a group of revolutionaries in the assault that opened the struggle against U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, an effort that grew into a mass revolutionary movement that triumphed in 1959.

During the journey Veterans for Peace member Monisha Rios and Yania Marrero, an ICAP representative and veteran of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, exchanged experiences that highlighted the differences between an army structured to defend the revolutionary rule of workers and farmers and one organized to defend Washington’s imperialist interests against the people of the world.

“Basic training was physically demanding, crawling though fields and woods, learning how to handle weapons, but it made me stronger,” Marrero said. “Here in Cuba we prepare for what we call the War of the Entire People, so that everyone in the country is ready in case of an invasion.”

Rios explained why she had joined the U.S. Army. “I was poor and I wanted to get some skills I could use to get a job,” she said. “I guess I believed what the government says, that the U.S. Army defends democracy. But I learned that’s a lie.”
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