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Vol. 81/No. 30      August 14, 2017

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Celebrations in Cuba, U.S. mark Cuban Revolution

Tens of thousands gathered in Cuba’s western city of Pinar del Rio July 26 to celebrate the 64th anniversary of the 1953 attack on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel Céspedes garrisons by Fidel Castro and other young Cuban revolutionaries that marked the opening of the revolutionary struggle culminating in the 1959 overthrow of the U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista dictatorship.

Supporters of the revolution in the United States and other countries also organized meetings and other events to commemorate the revolution, protest continuing efforts by Washington to attack it, and build the fall “In the Footsteps of Che Guevara International Brigade” to Cuba.

Castro was captured in the Moncada attack, then tried and imprisoned. His speech to the courtroom — “History Will Absolve Me” — became the program the July 26th Movement campaigned around to win support and members. This underground struggle helped to build political pressure that forced the dictatorship to release Castro and other founders of the movement.

“This is the first time we are having this celebration without Fidel,” José Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee and veteran of the revolutionary war, told the crowd. Castro died last November at the age of 90. “But this does not mean that his image, work and example do not remain alongside our heroic people, committed in their daily work.”

Machado compared the living and working conditions of Cubans in Pinar del Rio under capitalism and today. Before the revolution 85 percent of farms did not belong to the peasants who worked them. There were only 248 doctors in Pinar del Rio. Today 4,577 doctors provide health care, along with a nursing staff of 5,635. The infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births today stands at 1.7, it was 60 in 1958. Life expectancy has gone from 53 years to 79. Three thousand additional health care workers from the province are serving in 43 countries, many in Venezuela.

Illiteracy has been reduced from 30 percent to practically zero and unemployment from 30 percent to 1.3 percent, Machado said.

“In this long difficult battle, we are convinced that the children of this indomitable land will continue to take the front lines, as did your parents and grandparents,” Machado said, speaking to the new generations of Cuban revolutionaries who, over the next decade, will shoulder day-to-day leadership of the socialist revolution.

Machado condemned Washington’s recent moves to tighten its decadeslong economic embargo against Cuba and called for the U.S. to end its intervention into the internal affairs of Venezuela, reaffirming “once again, our unwavering solidarity with the Venezuelan people.”

In New York 125 people, including a large delegation from the Cuban Mission to the United Nations, attended a celebration July 29 organized by Cuba Si!, July 26 Coalition, and Casa de las Americas at the New York State Nurses Association hall.

‘We will not return to the past’

“No! We will not return to the past. We will never again be the people who suffered torture, inequality, social exclusion, exploitation, poverty, illiteracy, marginalization and oppression,” said Anayansi Rodríguez, Cuba’s ambassador to the U.N. “We reaffirm that any strategy that seeks to destroy the revolution, whether through coercion and pressure or through subtle methods, will fail, as they have failed during the last 55 years.”

“We will never resign ourselves to giving up the construction of our socialism,” she said.

“Before the indelible remembrance of the martyrs of the Moncada, we ratify our most firm conviction of being faithful to the ideas of Fidel; to continue building a prosperous and sustainable socialism; to remain deeply internationalist,” Rodríguez said. “And in that endeavor we are sure that we will continue to count on your permanent support.”

Organizers showed a 12-minute video of Fernando González, president of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), addressing delegates at the Fifth Continental Africa Conference in Solidarity with Cuba in Windhoek, Namibia, June 5-7. It was introduced by Willie Cotton, who had been a member of the Socialist Workers Party delegation to the conference.

González was one of the Cuban Five, who spent a decade and a half in U.S. prisons for their actions in defense of Cuba’s revolution. He was one of the over 400,000 Cubans who volunteered between 1975 and 1991 to fight in Angola to defend that country’s newly won independence, to help defeat the invading apartheid South African army and to win the liberation of Namibia.

“That’s when I realized I didn’t know anything about colonialism. No matter how many books I had read, this was the real experience,” he told conference attendees in Namibia, “seeing the effects of colonialism in Africa, but seeing also the peoples of the continent fighting the consequences of colonialism and fighting to overcome colonialism itself.”

In Chicago 70 people came together July 28 to celebrate the Cuban Revolution and to build the “In the Footsteps of Che Guevara” brigade that will travel to Cuba Oct. 1-15. Guevara, one of the central leaders of the revolution, fell in combat in 1967 while leading a guerrilla column as part of the struggle against the Bolivian dictatorship of René Barrientos and its backers in Washington.

One of the featured speakers was José López, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, who brought greetings from his brother. Oscar López recently won his freedom after more than 35 years in U.S. prison for his activities in the fight for Puerto Rican independence. “Today we are here to celebrate the attack on Moncada that set in motion the Cuban Revolution which has meant so much for Latin America,” José López said.

Maintenance worker Chris Oyola came to the meeting after he heard about it that afternoon at a rally organized by his union, part of their fight for a new contract. “I didn’t know much about Cuba. What I had heard was a lot of bad stuff,” he told the Militant. “Here I heard positive stuff. I would like to go on this brigade.” Meeting participants contributed some $450 toward brigade expenses.

In Washington, D.C., Miguel Fraga, first secretary of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, spoke to 40 people at a meeting sponsored by the D.C. Metro Coalition in Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, held at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ.

Fraga repudiated slanders in the U.S. press saying Cuba only sends doctors and other volunteers to Venezuela to get oil.

“We defend Venezuela. Our unity with that sister country is based on cooperation,” Fraga said. “Cuba’s relations with countries lacking medical care are not for oil, but for solidarity.”

Cuban health workers went to Pakistan after they had a devastating earthquake there in 2005,” he said. “We did not have relations with Pakistan and expected nothing in return.”

Naomi Craine in Chicago, Sara Lobman in New York, and James Harris in Washington, D.C., contributed to this article.
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