By Bill Hackwell
May 1, 2023
This morning at the Palace of the Revolution, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel received over 300 friends of Cuba who had traveled from the United States to demand an end to the blockade. Brigades, groups, and other delegations are in Cuba to take part in the May 1 activities celebrating the International Day of Workers and to show their solidarity with the Cuban people who have withstood the longest continuous blockade in modern history.
Students, trade unionists, lawyers, and political activists are here, many making their first visit to the socialist island. Recognizing this, President Díaz-Canel observed that “We not only receive sanctions and blockades from the United States, but we also receive your friendship, support, trust, and hope”.
The president underscored the significance of what he described as one of the largest delegations visiting the island in decades while acknowledging that it is made up of a combination of people who were visiting for the first time and others with a long history of solidarity and support for the Cuban Revolution.
Voices of support for Cuba
Manolo de los Santos, co-executive director of The People’s Forum and researcher at the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, explained how the struggle of the Cuban and North American people is the same: “It is the struggle against imperialism, it is the struggle against the domination of capital over lives and the planet; and it is the struggle for that future we all want to build, where we all fit, where diversity is respected, where there is social justice.”
He further noted that the delegation he brought has witnessed the strength of the Cuban people, how they resist and bring out the best of their creativity. “Our commitment upon our return will not only be to raise our voice, but to organize a different political project in the United States. We will always be by Cuba’s side,” he said.
Chris Smalls, a trade unionist who organized and founded the first Amazon warehouse union, was visiting the island for the first time and spoke about the immediate affinity that he felt with the Cuban people. “We have to build support against this cruel blockade. We have shown that when young people unite, it is impossible to impede the will of the people.”
Smalls recalled how after the union victory, President Biden invited him to the White House and told him that he was making a good kind of trouble and to keep it up. “That is exactly what I am doing today: making trouble by calling for the end of the blockade.”
Although he acknowledged that he is aware that when he returns to his home country, he will face many accusations for being here today, his message to Cuba was very clear in his words: “We love you, and we will fight with you until the blockade is lifted”.
Bill Camp, a labor leader in California who has been instrumental in getting labor council resolutions passed throughout the state to get Cuba off the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism, clearly delineated the inspiration of many in the hall by saying, “We honor Cuba’s leadership because you have set the right course, and we are very happy to be here”.
Many young people spoke alongside him, including Calla Walsh and Shaquille Fontenot, new co-chairs of the National Network on Cuba, who described the work ahead for the US solidarity movement, including a national protest to be held at the White House on June 25th to get Cuba off the unfathomable List of State Sponsors of Terrorism.
A Better World is Possible
The Cuban President shared how much it means to hold meetings like this one “with representatives of the American people, with representatives of the American workers, with representatives of the American youth, who come with this message of encouragement and support, which we know also requires an effort and has a price for you, because you must then face the hatred of those who are against Cuba, the hatred of those who are against the most progressive ideas in the United States.”
The blockade, above all, he stressed, is a “violation of the human rights of Cubans and condemns a people to vicissitudes that can only be explained by the arrogance of the policy of the United States government.”
But be assured, he stressed, that “this is a people who have had the capacity, in the midst of so much aggression, to never confuse the genocidal policy, the criminal policy, the aggressive policy of the United States government, with the kindness, friendship, values, culture, and history of the American people.”