Building socialism for the 21st century in Ecuador
In April 2009, Rafael Correa was elected to his second term as President of Ecuador with 51% of the vote. This gave him a mandate to continue and deepen the programme of reforms and structural changes initiated since he first became president in November 2006. In three years Correa’s government has introduced an unprecedented social and economic programme of reforms – the Citizens’ Revolution – to reverse the poverty and exploitation suffered by the majority of the population in a country which has been ravaged by neo-liberalism. Correa has announced that Ecuador is building socialism for the 21st century and joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).
On Saturday 1st November 2008, RATB supported a dayschool organised by the LSE Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! Student Society on the subject of 'Che Guevara, Cuba and Socialism in Latin America'. Attendees heard in-depth analyses of the revolutionary processes in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.
On Monday 11 January 2010 the London Guantánamo Campaign held a demonstration outside the US Embassy in London to mark 8 years of the Guantánamo Bay torture camp. A vigil by protesters in orange jumpsuits and black hoods was followed by an hour of speeches demanding the closure of the camp and justice for all detainees.
Nicki Jameson spoke at the demonstration on behalf of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! She pointed out that the US presence at Guantánamo Bay is an illegal occupation of Cuban territory dating back to the 1903 Cuban-American Treaty, which was signed under threat of military action.
Despite Barack Obama’s pledge to close the camp by 22 January 2010, this deadline will not be met. Just under 200 prisoners are still held there. Of these around 50 have been cleared but will not be released until the US can find countries to accept them. There may be sufficient evidence to try around 25 in the US, but much of this evidence was obtained using torture.
It is not clear why the US are still holding the approximately 120 remaining detainees. One of the speakers, journalist Andy Worthington, suggested that in Shaker Aamer's case it may well be that his release would be too embarrassing for the US government because of his extensive knowledge about what has happened at Guantánamo.
On Saturday 6th June activists from Rock around the Blockade and the Revolutionary Communist Group hosted a demonstration at Grey’s Monument, Newcastle in solidarity with the Cuban 5 and to demand their release. This action was called in response to the Cuban call for an international day of action to free the 5, because the Court of Appeals is making a decision this month as to whether or not if they will hear their case.
We were there for 5 hours telling people about the case of the Cuban 5, handing out leaflets, with placards and banners reading ‘Free the Cuban 5! End the Illegal US Blockade!’
One question which is asked often is ‘Who are the Cuban 5, and what’s it got to do with us in Britain?’
On Saturday 12 September 2009, to mark the 11th anniversary of the incarceration of the Cuban 5, over 60 people protested in a busy shopping street in the Angel, near central London , to demand the release of the Cuban 5, as part of an international day of action.
The event was called by Rock around the Blockade (RATB), a campaign in solidarity with socialist Cuba and against the US blockade, to demand the immediate release of the five Cuban heroes. Under the title Break the Chains: Free the Cuban 5, Free all Political Prisoners of Imperialism, the rally highlighted the use as a torture camp of Guantanamo Bay , in illegally occupied Cuba , to hold prisoners of the imperialist ‘war on terror’. Speakers also exposed the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Britain , thousands of whom are daily detained and deported under Britain ’s racist immigrations laws. Detainees include nearly 500 children currently incarcerated.
On 6 December 2008, two activists from London Rock around the Blockade (RATB) were thrown out of a conference on Latin America organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC). Their crime? Handing out fliers advertising an RATB rally in London 17 January 2009 organised to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. RATB had requested a stall at the Latin America conference but CSC Director Rob Miller had personally refused. When he and fellow CSC Executive Committee member Natasha Hickman saw the RATB comrades publicising our event, they insisted that they leave immediately, threatened to call the police and summoned security officers to enforce their decision. Subsequently we published a statement on the RATB website which condemned this as an act of sectarianism.
This was not the first incident of its kind. Indeed, for a long time RATB has suspected the CSC of waging a campaign to undermine our activities, including, for instance, telling local CSC branches not to participate in or support RATB’s 2008 Cubans Are Coming speaking tour with Che Guevara’s deputy Orlando Borrego, Jesus Garcia and Yoselin Rufin (www.cubansarecoming.org). Now we have proof that this campaign exists.
Following the opening session at the Latin America 2008 conference held on Saturday the 6th of December in the TUC Congress House, Rob Miller, Director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, expelled two ticket holders for handing out leaflets for a Rock around the Blockade event in six weeks time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. In an act of hostility and further evidence that Miller regards the RATB as 'competition', he personally summonsed five security guards and threatened to call the police on our activists for the palpable crime of campaigning in solidarity for the Cuban Revolution. With CSC staff member Natasha Hickman at his side, Miller pulled £20 out of his own wallet as a refund for the tickets bought.
On 13 September 2008, to mark 10 years in prison for the Cuban 5, supporters of Rock Around The Blockade and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! held an open air rally with speakers, leaflets and petitions in the centre of Manchester. Hundreds of informational leaflets were given out with queues of people forming to sign our giant wall petition for the 5
On Saturday 6 June 2009, members of Rock Around the Blockade gathered outside the US embassy in London to protest at the unjust imprisonment of the Cuban 5, and to show solidarity with the prisoners and with the Cuban state.
The Cuban 5 were imprisoned by the American government over a decade ago on false charges of espionage, when in fact they were attempting to infiltrate right-wing anti-Cuba terrorist groups based in Miami.