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Vol. 79/No. 21      June 8, 2015

New Zealand event discusses
Cuban 5, miners’ struggles

BLACKBALL, New Zealand — “Because the Cuban people and government fought to free them, and because of support from people around the world, the Cuban Five are out of jail,” Cuban Ambassador María del Carmen Herrera said at the May 2 opening of an exhibit of paintings by Antonio Guerrero of the Cuban Five. The exhibition was launched at the Museum of Working Class History, together with a new permanent installation on Blackball’s mining past, as part of a May Day Forum in this small town on the west coast of the South Island.

Herrera said Guerrero’s watercolors, entitled “I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived,” depict the “17 months of isolation” the Five had been subjected to after their 1998 arrests and imprisonment in the United States on false charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. “Now the Five are back in Cuba,” she said, “fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Cuban people to defend their revolution.”

The permanent exhibition on Blackball’s history includes mining tools, a rat killed and preserved in a gas leak at the local mine and kept as a family heirloom (and, no doubt, as a reminder to workers to guard against leaks underground), and a reconstructed underground shelter for meal breaks.

This last item harks back to a victorious 1908 strike, which was fought to increase meal breaks from 15 to 30 minutes at the local mine, long closed.

Herrera also spoke on a panel titled “Looking for Direction Locally,” held as part of the day’s events. She said reports in the mainstream media that imply Cuba is heading “to the right and toward capitalism are absolutely wrong.”

With the overthrow of the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Cuban working people carried out “land reform and the nationalization of health care, education and the main industries in Cuba,” she said. “The U.S. couldn’t allow a system like this.”

The 1959 revolution, standing on the shoulders of others who fought over the previous 200 years for independence, was carried out “to prevent that independence being taken away,” she said.

Janet Roth contributed to this article.

Related articles:
Cuba defends its socialist revolution in talks with US
Cuban Revolution: Example of fight against Jew-hatred
Cuba internationalist care ‘product of revolution’
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