by Hayat Imam
It is increasingly clear that the unjustifiable Blockade of Cuba by the U.S. is a sanction on the collective idea of Cuba, and what Cuba stands for. I offer this brief tribute today to the inspiration and hope the name of Cuba brings to the rest of the world.
From my earliest years growing up in South Asia, I was around people who hailed the Cuban Revolution as a “Light in the Dark”, bringing hope to poor people everywhere. With the Cuban Revolution (which began in 1953 and triumphed in 1959) as a shining example, movements were sparked in every Continent to achieve liberation from colonizers, for the right to chart our own social and economic destinies.
Not surprisingly, it was my dream to see Cuba with my own eyes one day and, to my deep contentment, that wish was fulfilled in 2017, on a tour with Code Pink. On this trip, we attended a conference to stop all U.S. Bases, including Guantanamo in Cuba; and we were honored to walk in solidarity with thousands of Cubans on May 1st, International Workers Day.
How could I not fall in love with Cuba all over again? The images are seared in my heart: an elderly Black man, enjoying the sun with his old White friend – just hanging out! Well-fed, happy children, playing hopscotch; public art surprising us on sidewalks, and unexpected street corners; signs of sustainable agriculture and cooperative farming everywhere; free healthcare for every citizen; committed students applying themselves to the task of learning with caring, because education at all levels is completely free, and many will be among the 600,000 health workers who are serving people in the world; science and technology contributing to the world with extraordinary advances, for example in cancer research and cures; and, finally, no event starting without music! So here we have it – a revolution where we can dance!
It was with joy then, that I anticipated the visit to Boston of Her Excellency, Ms. Lianys Torres Rivera, Cuban Ambassador to the USA in June of 2022. Two women reached out to make this happen: Ms. Merri Ansara, Board Member of Mass Peace Action (MAPA), and Ms. Torres, with her staff at the Embassy. Merri put together a dedicated committee of Mass Peace Action Staff and Members, partnering with Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), to work on this extremely successful visit. The July 26th Coalition also collaborated with us on a moving gathering for area solidarity activists.
The key message Ms. Torres gave to all of us at the Solidarity Meeting with the Boston Community is a request to tackle the misinformation, as well as the deliberate disinformation, which is the only news reaching the U.S. public from a biased media. We will often read that Cuba is a “failed” State without acknowledging two crucial points:
- a) The U.S. is the reason for hardships in Cuba
- b) In fact, Cuba is succeeding in remarkable ways
While the rest of the world was inspired by the Cuban Revolution – the U.S. Government was not! Egged on by business interests, the US had already snuffed out other nascent moves towards economic liberation and independence in those days. Remember the toppling of Mossadeq in Iran (1953), the CIA coup to throw out Jacob Arbenz in Guatemala (1954), the assassination of Patrice Lumumba a little bit later (1961)? Fearing the Cuban Revolution, the U.S. Government imposed a Blockade (el Bloqueo) on Cuba in 1961. This embargo on trade for over sixty years, is the longest act of petty vengeance in modern history, repeatedly condemned in the United Nations.
But, sadly, things have only gotten worse. According to Code Pink, ex-President Trump put in place 243 coercive measures on Cuba, including a completely unjustified “State Sponsor of Terrorism” designation. The disheartening fact is that President Biden, who could end these injustices with an Executive Order, still has not. Certainly he needs to hear from us on this.
In answer to a question about the effects of the Blockade, Ms. Torres asked us to imagine how tough it is for an economy to flourish if external forces like a Blockade, or a terrorist designation, prohibit banks from doing business with Cuba; when buying oil, and other needed goods, is impossible; when it cannot buy the components necessary for technical innovations and Telecom requirements. The U.S. sues companies if they do business with Cuba, and it does not allow investments in Cuba. Ambassador Torres gave us a clarion call: “You don’t have to think like we do, but we want Respect.”
And they deserve that. The amazing piece of this story is that, despite all these hurdles we have placed before them, Cuba has made remarkable strides at every level. Cuba has written a new Constitution, which we would all do well to study. The Constitution offers a new economic model that welcomes private companies who can also keep social good in mind; a new code on Family Law that takes into account the many kinds of Cuban families, with heads of family who are single, or elderly, and includes same sex marriage. It is being called the Code of Love. Powerfully, the obligation to fight Climate Change and look after the environment has been written in as law! Decisions are begun and discussed in a most democratic fashion in every neighborhood, and finally decided through a popular referendum.
When it comes to the COVID pandemic, Cuba has produced 5 successful vaccines, contained the virus, and now considers the pandemic fully under control. Schools are open and functioning normally and at present there are no deaths per day. Of course, the cost to the economy has been huge, largely as a result of the Blockade. But for the Cuban Government, looking after its people was a priority.
A most beautiful memory from my Cuba trip is the tomb of Fidel Castro. It was not a “Taj Mahal” – just a huge rock, which is what Fidel requested. When he was with his fellow guerillas in the mountains, whenever someone died, all they could do was mark the grave with a rock. And that is what he wanted when he died. In his whole life he never forgot why he and his comrades fought: not for riches, or fame, or fortune, only for the good of the people.
These are the achievements of Cuba we never hear about. But, as Ambassador Lianys Torres Rivera said: “You can be the voice of the Cuban people here.”
Hayat Imam is a member of MAPA’s Board of Directors, Dorchester People for Peace, and the Raytheon Antiwar Campaign.