Rodríguez was speaking to more than 100 people at an event here to celebrate the July 26, 1953, attack on the Moncada army garrison in Santiago de Cuba. That action, led by Fidel Castro, began the revolutionary struggle by workers and peasants to bring down the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista that ended in victory less than six years later, opening the first socialist revolution in the Americas.
“Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States were re-established a year ago due to the self-sacrificing and heroic resistance of our people for more than half a century,” Rodríguez said at the July 22 program. But for there to be normal relations, the U.S. government must end “the economic, commercial, and financial blockade,” return the Guantánamo naval base, end “destabilizing” television and radio broadcasts to the island, and compensate “our people for the human and economic harm we have suffered and continue to suffer.”
Such relations, she said, will never be achieved by telling the Cuban people “to forget our past” of U.S. imperialist exploitation and oppression, referring to the message President Barack Obama presented in a public speech in Cuba earlier this year.
Juanita Young, a longtime activist against police brutality and mother of Malcolm Ferguson, killed by a New York police officer in 2000, spoke about the trip to Cuba that she and other family members of people killed by the cops made this past spring.
One Cuban leader told the delegation, “Obama’s demand that Cuba ‘forget the past’ is like asking you to forget your sons,” Young said. “If we lived in Cuba, our sons would still be alive.”
Young said she saw a “different way of living” in Cuba. She noted the lack of police intimidation at the massive May Day demonstration, the 11- and 12-year-olds who volunteered to help younger students at the primary school the delegation visited, and the treatment she received at the local hospital when she was ill. “People don’t compete as much. They try to help each other,” she said.
Rosemari Mealy gave a historical overview of the conditions in Cuba under the Batista dictatorship and Fidel Castro’s courtroom speech at his trial following the 1953 attack, “History Will Absolve Me.” She described the Cuban Revolution’s record of “solidarity with countries around the world suffering from imperialism,” calling attention to the hundreds of thousands of Cuban volunteers who, over 15 years, helped defeat South Africa’s apartheid army after it invaded Angola in 1975, and the place of Cuban medical personnel in responding to the Ebola epidemic in Africa.
The program was organized by the New York Cuba Solidarity Committee, and held at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center.
Ben Ramos presented a message on behalf of Pro Libertad, which campaigns to free Puerto Rican political prisoners. Participants also enjoyed musical performances by Bomba Yo and Circa ’95.
Fernando González, one of the Cuban revolutionaries who was framed up and imprisoned in the U.S. for many years, “was a cellmate of my brother,” López said. Oscar López Rivera is a Puerto Rican independence fighter imprisoned by Washington for more than 35 years.
“The U.S. ultimately had to recognize Cuba, and my brother will be freed,” López said. He announced that the Puerto Rican Cultural Center is organizing buses to Washington, D.C. for an Oct. 9 national protest outside the White House demanding freedom for Oscar López.
More than 60 people took part in the celebration, held July 28 and sponsored by the Chicago Cuba Coalition. Other speakers included Tom Hansen, director of El Centro Autónomo, where the event took place; Rixio Barrios, deputy from the Consulate of Venezuela in Chicago; and Mary Johnson, a long-time fighter against police brutality and co-founder of Families of the Wrongfully Convicted, who is fighting to win freedom for her son who was railroaded to prison.
Cuban leader: ‘It’s up to US to dismantle its hostile policies’
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home