See tour scheduleBY PAUL PEDERSON
Those who joined the welcome and the planning meeting included representatives of groups helping organize and host the tour, as well as others who oppose Washington’s aggressive policies against Cuba. Among them were Olivia Burlingame from Pastors for Peace in Washington; Banbose Shango and Patricia Moral of the Sister City Project, which works to build closer relations between the U.S. and Cuba through city-to-city ties; Mwiza Munthali, information director of the TransAfrica Forum, a group that works to influence U.S. policy toward Africa; Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press; and others.
Víctor Dreke has been a leading participant in Cuba’s revolutionary movement for more than half a century. He is speaking on "Cuba and Africa: 1959 to today" to students, farmers, unionists, and others. The first speaking engagements are at several campuses in Washington, D.C.
Ana Morales, a doctor and professor at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, headed the Cuban medical mission in Guinea Bissau in 1985. She helped found the first medical school in that country, donated by Cuba. Morales is touring with Dreke, speaking on "Cuba’s medical missions in Africa."
"We’re going to talk about the reality of Cuba, which many people in the United States aren’t aware of," Dreke said in an interview at the beginning of the tour. "We’re open to answering any question they have about any topic they want. We will explain the efforts Cuba is undertaking to break out of the U.S. economic blockade. We will talk about the work of Cuban doctors in Africa and the struggle there against the AIDS epidemic. We will also talk about the five Cubans imprisoned in U.S. jails."
Dreke became active in the Cuban revolutionary movement as a teenager in the popular struggle against the Batista dictatorship.
Following the 1959 victory of the Cuban Revolution he held numerous responsibilities in the revolutionary armed forces and political leadership of the battle to transform Cuban society. He commanded the forces fighting CIA-backed counterrevolutionary bands in the Escambray mountains of central Cuba in the early 1960s.
In 1965 Dreke served under Ernesto Che Guevara as second-in-command of the more than 100 Cuban volunteers who fought alongside national liberation fighters in the Congo.
In 1966 he returned to Africa, serving as head of Cuba’s military mission to Guinea-Bissau, where Cuban volunteers joined forces led by Amilcar Cabral in the struggle for national independence from Portugal. Dreke returned to Guinea-Bissau in 1986-89.
Today he serves as vice president of the Cuba-Africa Friendship Association and helps lead work in African development projects .
The tour in Washington, from October 19 to 25, includes speaking engagements at Banneker High School, American University, Howard University, the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, and the College of Notre Dame.
On October 27 Dreke and Morales head to Georgia. Their first stop is Valdosta, a town in southern Georgia, where they will visit a farm and meet with members of the People’s Tribunal, a civil rights organization made up of farmers and rural workers. In Atlanta they are scheduled to speak at Clark Atlanta University and Spelman College, and at a citywide meeting October 31.
Following the Atlanta visit, they have been invited to speak in a number of other cities including Birmingham, Alabama; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Boston.