From 11 - 14 of October 2019, Rock Around the Blockade proudly hosted Cuban environmental historian Professor Reinaldo Funes Monzote, alongside the Cuban ambassador to Britain Teresita Vicente Sotolongo, and associated embassy representatives for a speaking tour. In cities across Britain Professor Monzote spoke about the amazing progress made in Cuba on the environment and how the revolutionary socialist process has enabled Cubans to repair the environmental damage done to their country by centuries of colonial rule and imperialist domination. Reinaldo told us about how Cuba’s land was historically used for sugar farming by colonialists. Slaves were used to produce huge amounts of sugar cheaply for consumption in the countries that dominated Cuba: Spain and the US. This continued until the Cuban revolution triumphed in 1959. Since then it has been the task of the revolutionary government to reforest areas of land that were deforested to make room for sugar production and to undo the economic underdevelopment that occurred as a result of Cuba’s history as a subjugated country.
Growing US aggression against progressive governments in Latin America is being accompanied by Cold War rhetoric from Washington. Speaking to right-wing Venezuelans in Florida, President Donald Trump proclaimed on 18 February that ‘the twilight hour of socialism has arrived’. Visiting the country at a decisive moment, we brigadistas learned first-hand that Cuba is getting ready to prove Trump wrong. Will Harney reports.
As previously reported (see FRFI 269), for months the Trump administration has been threatening to activate a long-dormant piece of anti-Cuban legislation, Title III of the Helms-Burton Act which has been suspended by every president since the Act itself was passed in 1996. The sword fell on 17 April, anniversary of the failed 1961 US invasion of Cuba at Playa Giron (the Bay of Pigs). National Security Advisor John Bolton, speaking to right-wing Cuban exiles and former mercenaries at the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association in Miami, announced that the suspension on Title III would be fully lifted from 2 May.
There are increasing outbreaks of measles globally: 112,163 confirmed cases in 2019 so far (900 in England and Wales in 2018). Almost 110,000 people died from measles in 2017 – mostly children under the age of five. Complications can result in disabilities such as blindness and hearing loss. Europe had over 83,500 cases in 2018 in Ukraine (16 deaths), Greece, Italy, France, Serbia, Russia and Georgia, as well as Israel. Astonishingly (or not), Germany, Italy, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine remain endemic for measles, the world’s most infectious illness, but one which is entirely preventable with a simple, effective, safe vaccine. Driving the outbreaks are disadvantaged and marginalised communities of unvaccinated and under-vaccinated people, such as Irish Travellers or Orthodox Jews. There are inequalities in vaccine uptake by ethnicity, deprivation and geography. Between 2010 and 2017: the US had 2,593,000 unvaccinated children, France had 600,000, and the UK 527,000; in sub-Saharan Africa over 17m infants are unvaccinated annually.
On 24 April 2019 the BBC published an article which was clearly intended to attack the Cuban revolution, while it lacked any seriousness or credibility: "Cuba's government mocked by stampede of ostrich memes". The article tries to mock the Cuban revolution with very questionable foundations. A member of the recent Rock Around The Blockade 2019 Brigade has written the following reply:
To Pascal Fletcher and the BBC:
I feel like the BBC needs to do a little bit of research before publishing articles. You have been very quick to amplify the voices of social media users - whether Cuban or not - who are critical of the government. However, you haven't offered facts or the views of "the other side". Any credible news source should show some balance and use evidence in their reporting. In fact, how about you start reporting on Brexit using memes and comments on online forums as your only source?
I have just been on a solidarity brigade to Cuba with Rock Around The Blockade, which has given me the chance to see the situation in Cuba for myself and talk to many experts. I therefore feel compelled to present you with some important facts.
On 16 October US delegates to the United Nations announced a political campaign called ‘Jailed for What?’. The campaign aims to portray Cuba as a politically repressive country. The US asserts falsely that Cuba has 130 political prisoners who are being punished for exercising their right to free speech. Cuban and Bolivian delegates disrupted the campaign’s launch meeting at the UN, banging tables and chanting ‘Cuba sí, bloqueo no!’ (‘Cuba yes, blockade no!’) to drown out the allegations coming from US delegates. Cuba dismisses the allegations, saying that the US aims to use this as an excuse to maintain the economic blockade of the island. Referring to the Trump administration’s renewed hostility towards Cuba (see FRFI 259) the Cuban Ambassador to the UN, Anayansi Rodriguez Camejo, released a statement after the meeting: ‘the United States lacks the morals to give lessons, much less in this matter’ and ‘It is part of the actions aimed at subverting the legitimately established constitutional order and of the interventionist agenda that has gained renewed momentum under the current administration, whose fascist, racist and xenophobic ideas are a matter of grave concern in the international community’.
Speech by representative of Cuban Embassy to RATB ‘Cuba Today: Democracy and Socialism’ meeting – 19/05/18
The following speech was delivered by Julio Pujol Torres, the Counsellor for Political Affairs at the Cuban Embassy to the UK, at a meeting organised by Rock Around the Blockade on 19 May to launch our 2019 solidarity brigade to Cuba.
First of all we want to thank the comrades of Rock Around the Blockade and the Revolutionary Communist Group for inviting us to the Launch of the Brigade two thousand nineteen – ‘Cuba today: socialism and democracy’ - precisely today, when we commemorate the one hundred and twenty-third anniversary of the fall in combat of the Apostle of our Independence Jose Marti.
It is a pleasure for us to be here today with you. We want to offer our full support to this idea of solidarity with our people of Cuba.
Just a few weeks ago millions of Cubans marched in all squares from our country to greet the international workers' day and to support to our victorious Revolution that continues the struggle to consolidate the construction of a prosperous and sustainable socialism, which guarantees the greatest justice for all Cubans, despite imperialism's attempts to destroy us in all possible ways.
By Cassandra Howarth | FRFI
Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the status and quality of life of Cuban women has improved dramatically with women now constituting almost 60% of all professionals and more than half of scientists. Women are also becoming increasingly represented in government, and in the national parliament 53.2% of members are women. The ministers for Education, Finance and Pricing, Domestic Trade, the Food Industry, Labour and Social Security, Science, Technology and the Environment, and the Minister and President of the Central Bank of Cuba are also all women, as well as the heads of the National Environmental Agency, and eight out of 15 provinces in Cuba are led by women.
By Seamus O’ Tuairisc | FRFI
The US has plans to make use of Facebook and other social media in order to generate political dissent in Cuba. The US government has charged the Miami-based network Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) with the task of overseeing the spread of propaganda and disinformation through social media. The OCB is a subsidiary of the state-owned Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an agency which owns and supervises other networks that broadcast pro-US propaganda overseas, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.
The Solar Photovoltaic Park of the Central University 'Marta Abreu' in the Las Villas province of Cuba.
By Ben Geraghty | FRFI
Cuba’s new constitution will incorporate articles enshrining Cuba’s commitment to sustainable development and the protection of the environment. This is a long-standing commitment of which the most recent major iteration was an announcement in 2014 that the country aims to source 24% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
Currently about 5% of Cuba’s energy is produced by renewable sources, but there is huge potential for renewable energy development due to Cuba’s geography giving it access to a variety of biofuel sources, a windy coastline and generous amounts of sunshine. Luis Hilario Berriz Perez, president of the state enterprise Cubasolar, explains that ‘Cuba’s territory, of about 111,000 square kilometres, receives solar radiation equivalent to the energy produced by 50 million tons of oil, every day. That is, the solar radiation Cuba receives in a single day, is greater – in its energy value – than all the oil consumed in five years.’ However, there are major barriers to energy development; not least the US blockade. Cuba has been forced to look outside of the US’ sphere of influence for solutions to its energy needs.