By John Catalinotto | [url=http://www.workers.org]http://www.workers.org[/url]
A coalition of activists from IFCO/ Pastors for Peace, African Awareness Association and the Venceremos Brigade will unite on July 19 to once more defy the U.S. blockade of Cuba. It will happen on their return from a trip to the revolutionary island. All the delegations will re-enter the U.S. on that date, some from Mexico and some from Canada.
Among those going on the trip are Workers World Party members Teresa Guti errez and LeiLani Dowell, both candidates for office in the upcoming elections in the United States. Gutierrez is the WWP candidate for vice president, has visited Cuba many times, and has been a leader for decades in organizing solidarity for Revolutionary Cuba within the United States.
In the recent past Gutierrez has played a leading role in organizing support for the Cuban 5 political prisoners. These are Cubans convicted for alleged espionage activities in the United States. The five prisoners explain that what they were really doing was tracking the activities of the terrorist anti-Castro organizations in southern Florida that have been responsible for the murders of hundreds of Cubans.
LeiLani Dowell is a candidate for U.S. Congress in California’s 8th District, which includes most of San Francisco. She is a WWP member running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket, who is also taking part in this trip with the Venceremos Brigade.
Dowell said, “The Venceremos Brigade has been challenging the travel ban to Cuba since 1969. This year is especially important due to heightened restrictions that the Bush administration has placed against those wanting to travel to Cuba. The travel ban is part and parcel of a greater offensive against Cuba by the Bush administration. It even restricts the visits of family members here to their relatives in Cuba, allowing them only once every three years.
“We want to take part in defending the sovereignty of Cuba. While the Bush administration claims to be bringing freedom to peoples across the globe, he’s attacking Cuba—a society where the people have free health care, there is virtually no illiteracy, housing is very inexpensive and education is free,” said Dowell.
None of the delegations will apply to the U.S. government for permission to visit Cuba. All will join to openly reject the travel ban as they cross the border back into the United States, either into Texas or New York state. The delegations are preparing to leave from the U.S. on July 3. Approximately 200 people, all U.S. citizens, are taking part.
“We are running election campaigns this year,” said Dowell, “to show everyone that there is an alternative to the capitalist system as well as to the capitalist political parties. By going to Cuba, we have an opportunity to see that alternative in a living, breathing society.
“When we come back and I get back campaigning, I’ll be able to speak with first-hand experience about Cuba and how socialism works there,” Dowell said.
Solidarity with Cuban 5
In Cuba the delegations will meet with the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP). They will visit some of the neighborhood Committees to Defend the Revolution and various organizations representing youths, labor, women and other mass organizations. On July 17 they will attend an anti-imperialist rally in Havana.
WWP’s vice presidential candidate Gutierrez said she expected that “we will learn while in Cuba how much the Cuban people support the Cuban 5. From what we have seen in the past, these five people trapped in U.S. prisons are heroes to over 11 million Cubans. At our campaign meetings and other rallies we will have a great opportunity to continue to publicize the case of the Cuban 5. We plan to double our efforts to free these heroes.”
Gutierrez added that it would be “important to use the election campaign speaking engagements to bring up the battle against the travel ban and build solidarity with the Cuban people and educate the U.S. population about the advantages to the workers brought by socialism in Cuba.”