With messages of admiration and support for the Cuban Revolution, over 180 friends from 16 countries – members of the 23rd Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity with Cuba Brigade – dedicated their stay on the island to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, on his 90th birthday.
The brigadistas also demanded the definitive lifting of the criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States for over 50 years on the island, the return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo, an end to subversive programs directed toward Cuba and compensation for the human and economic damages caused to the Cuban people as a result of Washington’s failed unilateral policy of aggression against Havana.
From August 1-14, the solidarity brigade, based at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp, located in the municipality of Caimito in the western province of Artemisa, participated in agricultural work, spoke with experts on the updating of Cuba’s economic and social model, visited sites of historic interest and met residents of Havana, Matanzas and Villa Clara.
This was Honduran teacher Javier Rivera Zamora’s first visit to the island, who was keen to learn about the country’s history and revolutionary social project.
The young educator noted that the press in his country intentionally distorts information about Cuba in order to discredit the nation. However, he highlighted that during his experience on the island he has felt great faith in the revolutionary government and appreciated the safety on the streets.
Cristian Mora (right) from Ecuador highlights Cuba’s solidarity efforts with his country, especially the island’s medical brigades, which treated victims of the devastating earthquake which hit Esmeralda and Manabí in April of this year. Photo: Orlando Perera
Rivera Zamora emphasized that where he lives in the city of Santa Bárbara, on the border with Guatemala, and in the country in general, it is common to see “gang wars and young people killing one another. They kill us adolescents every day in an unstoppable violence.”
He also recalled an extraordinary experience, when on arrival to Havana his luggage failed to appear and he was left with nothing more than a small bag of travel documents. His compañeros at the camp offered him shoes and clothing. Today, he believes that friendship and solidarity are the most important human values.
Meanwhile, Duban Vélez Mejías from Medellín, Colombia, is visiting Cuba for the fifth time with the brigade and explained that members carry out various actions in their home countries to encourage people to visit the island.
”We have the accumulated experience of over 10 years struggling for the release of the Cuban Five, who were unjustly imprisoned in the United States from 1998 to 2014,” she stated.
In this regard, Vélez Mejías noted that on the fifth of every month Cuba solidarity activists would gather in a public square to explain the case and distribute informative material. “Such actions consolidated us as a solidarity movement and we continue to celebrate important dates, hold cultural activities and meetings, in order to spread the truth about Cuba,” she added.
Vélez Mejías continues to work to promote the brigade in Colombia and inform citizens about the opportunity to share with friends from different countries on the continent, as well as reflect on common problems caused by neoliberal policies imposed by governments responding to U.S. dictates. She also highlighted the importance of activities geared toward promoting Cuban culture.
Vélez Mejías expressed her hope that Cuba continue to be an example for Latin America and the world.
Peruvian, Justiniano Rodríguez Flores, who was accompanied by his daughter Flor de María and has participated on four brigades, shares a similar opinion. He noted substantial changes toward the country’s development and expressed his admiration for this dignified people, who have overcome obstacles imposed by the West.
“In Peru we hold congresses and forums to organize promotional activities and protests against the economic blockade of Cuba. We encourage people to come on the brigade so they can learn about socialism as an example to help strengthen our struggle as workers. I witnessed various strikes against mass lay-offs in my country, in a relentless and hard struggle,” noted the Peruvian friend.
Meanwhile, Cristian Mora Larrea from Ecuador, stated that he discovered the brigade after receiving an invitation from the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) sent to the Alliance-Country Movement. Several young members of this movement signed up to participate, motivated among other reasons by the opportunity to participate in the main act for the 50th anniversary of the Continental Organization of Latin American and Caribbean Students, held on August 11, at the University of Havana.
“We have come with a message of peace,” stated the young Ecuadoran, “we oppose the arms race, wars and at the same time we are fighting for a better world, to abolish class exploitation and achieve equality and social justice. We want to establish a new world order, based on a political system which benefits the people and not financial institutions.”