The Biden administration is hosting what it calls “the Summit of the Americas” in Los Angeles the week of June 6-10, but without inviting Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Latin American countries are raising a chorus of protests against exclusion.
First, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced he would not participate, followed quickly by Presidents Luis Arce of Bolivia and Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala. Statements from the Caribbean nations and Argentina, Chile and Honduras also called for an inclusive meeting. The centerpiece of the Biden administration’s unity threatens to become a diplomatic and public relations debacle.
In the meantime, people in the Bay Area and around the world are connecting with those on the island nation. In July 2020, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors became the first major city in the United States to pass a unanimous resolution calling for medical cooperation with Cuba and an end to the more than 60-year-old US economic blockade. Most cities around the bay have also passed the Saving Lives resolution, for a total of 48 jurisdictions nationwide.
From April 23 to May 8, the two of us, as members of the (San Francisco) Bay Area Cuba Saving Lives committee, traveled to Cuba with 30 other people on a trip organized by the national (American) network on Cuba to participate in these three events: May Day parade, international solidarity meeting and Guantánamo seminar on the abolition of foreign military bases.
Initially, we stayed at the ICAP (Institute for Friendship with the ICAP People) International Camp in Artemisa Province, where we worked on cooperative farms, mainly weeding around yucca plants.
Before going to Havana to attend the May Day parade, we also visited a factory that assembles buses as well as a block party in one of the cities of the same province. During the block party, one of us spoke with four young people in their late teens or early twenties about their experiences leading up to July 11, 2021.
As a reminder to readers, on July 11, dozens of Cubans engaged in protests, sometimes accompanied by violence and destruction of property, in several cities in Cuba. These protests were reported in mainstream US media as spontaneous.
However, while Cubans are certainly suffering economically, largely due to the US embargo or blockade as well as the Covid pandemic, some of the protesters’ speeches have focused on criticism of the Cuban political system and the calls for regime change. We believe that the emphasis on the political dimension (regime change) stems from programs, including the use of social media, which have been funded by the US government to support Cuban artists, journalists and musicians, who have been the main organizers of the demonstrations. .
When one of us spoke with these young people at the April 30 block party, they explained that they had seen posts on social media – presumably those indirectly sponsored by the US government – calling on people to participate in anti-government demonstrations. However, for them, these messages had the opposite effect: they rejected these calls and instead organized a pro-government (or, as they called it, pro-revolution) demonstration in their city.
On May Day, we went to Revolution Plaza in Havana to watch the May Day Parade., the first held since 2019 because of the pandemic (see photo). The parade in Havana, marked by the slogan “Cuba Vive and Trabaja(Cuba Lives and Works), included at least 600,000 fully-masked and highly animated marchers, while similar parades across Cuba had more than 5 million marchers.
Leading the parade were health professionals and institutions (i.e. helping to fight Covid.
Interestingly, and unlike Labor Day parades in the United States, the groups marching, whether from the health, education, cultural, agricultural or industry, did so behind banners or signs indicating the institution they worked for (rather than banners of their unions or professional organizations).
Then, on May 2, we participated, with nearly 1,100 people from 60 countries, in the Encuentro Internacional de Solidaridad con Cuba (International Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba), held at the Havana Convention Center ( view the photo). The meeting consisted of informative speeches given by officials from the Cuban ministry and mass organizations as well as delegates from various countries. Following these, those assembled adopted a “Declaration of Solidarity with Cuba”, which said in particular:
“Cuba resists and advances in the face of the sustained policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade, intensified with 243 unilateral coercive measures by the Trump administration and [at that point] maintained by the Biden administration, amid a global pandemic. …
We call on the world to mobilize in defense of the [Cuban] Revolution… No more blockades! Long live internationalism and peace!
At the Meeting, delegates also adopted a “Declaration on the Summit of the Americas,” which, as noted above, is scheduled to take place June 6-10 in Los Angeles. The Declaration reads in part:
We have learned that the US government, in what amounts to yet another discriminatory and politically motivated action, is seeking to exclude Cuba from the 9e Summit of the Americas…
We express our firm opposition and categorically condemn any attempt to divide our peoples, as implied by the exclusion of Cuba or any other sister nation in Latin America from the mentioned summit. …
Participants in the meeting also promoted two other summits scheduled for June to thwart the Summit of the Americas organized by the Organization of American States: a) the People’s Summit for Democracy, organized by trade unionists, activists, organizations of grassroots and progressives in the Americas. also in Los Angeles, June 8-10; and b) the Workers’ Summit of the Americas, scheduled for Tijuana, Mexico, June 10-12.
It should be mentioned that although 23 members of Cuban civil society have been invited to the People’s Summit, the Biden administration has so far denied their visas. The Workers’ Summit was deliberately organized to include representatives from countries (Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela) that were excluded from participation in the Summit of the Americas but are hosted by the Mexican government.
Subsequently, we traveled to Guantanamo City to attend the “7e International Seminar for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases”, organized by the World Peace Council on May 4-5.
The seminar, attended by 84 delegates and guests from Argentina, Germany, Barbados, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Denmark, United States States, Spain, Philippines, Greece, Guyana, Mexico, United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, Palestine, Syria, Sierra Leone, Sweden, Switzerland, Venezuela and Norway, included presentations by Cuban government officials and mass organizations as well as delegates from several other countries. We learned the story of the US military base (and prison) at Guantánamo, which was established in 1898 and was used to launch US military actions against other countries, including the Dominican Republic (1923), Haiti (1914 and 1915), Honduras (1923), Mexico (1911 and 1915) and Nicaragua (1923).
The Seminar concluded with the adoption of a “Final Declaration”, which said in particular:[We]the fighters for peace, gathered in Guantanamo, pledge to: …
Reinforce the demand for the closure of all foreign military bases, installations and enclaves and the immediate withdrawal of foreign occupation troops from the countries where they have been deployed…
Continue to demand the return of the territory illegally occupied by the US naval base at Guantánamo to its rightful owner.
Denounce actions against the environment and the health of populations where foreign military bases are located.
After the seminar, we spent the afternoon and evening in the municipality of Caimanera, which is the closest population center to the US military base at Guantánamo Bay. It is the city which, before the Cuban Revolution in 1959, was the site of recreation for American military personnel (i.e. alcohol and prostitution) and was the source of most of the workforce. grassroots civilian work.
We were treated to a neighborhood party and cultural performances. Caimanera residents are still suffering due to limitations on their movement within THEIR province and restrictions on where they can fish in Guantánamo Bay. The messages we received from the people of Caimanera were that Americans and others should come and visit Guantánamo (see poster photo) but also that people should continue to fight to close the American military base and prison ( see the photo of the banner held by the medical staff).
We hope that sharing some of our experiences on this recent trip to Cuba has been helpful to readers. We encourage everyone to find ways to go to Cuba to learn directly on their own.