January 14, 2017 – Talk given by Alicia Jrapko, U.S. co ordinator of the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity at event in Berkeley California commemorating the life and impact of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution.
In thinking about our work in the progressive movement there can be no denying the influence that Fidel’s life and legacy has had on our efforts over the years. His vision that was brought to reality in the Cuban Revolution remains a guide and beacon of hope for people around the world.
Despite the fact that the criminal US blockade has cost Cuba $833 billion dollars it has still been able to raise the living standard of the entire population in every social index from free access to education to health care for all. The continual lies and slander that we hear on a daily basis from the corporate media has no answers as to how Cuba has not only been able to achieve this, but continues to improve on it. In 2016 for example the province of Pinar del Rio was able to record the lowest infant mortality rate at 2.1 deaths per 1000 live births.
One of the reasons that the blockade has lasted so long is because all 11 US administrations since the revolution have arrogantly underestimated the determination for sovereignty of the Cuban people. This strength is the direct result of Fidel and the Cuban Revolution and lives deeply in the great majority of Cubans. I always remember when visiting Gerardo Hernandez of the Cuban 5 when he was serving two life sentences for defending his country against terrorism how he never for a moment thought that he would not be free.
He explained that after they heard that Fidel acknowledged them and publically stated they would return that it was then just a matter of when.
There are many now, even in the progressive movement, who believe that everything between the countries has been normalized and that it is inevitable that the blockade will soon end. We do not believe that this is the case and the struggle against the blockade must continue. Just this week, Obama announced the end of the policy of wet foot-dry foot and the Cuban medical profession parole program, both of which offered preferential treatment to Cubans, encouraging unsafe and disorderly migration; a policy that was implemented as another way to destabilize the Cuban government. We applaud this but there is still a long way to go and even the modest gains that has taken place since Dec 17, 2014 are now facing threat of been overturned by the new administration.
Regardless if that happens or not the cruel unjust blockade continues intact and the official policy of the US government when it comes to Cuba remains Regime Change. For 2017 the US has already allocated 15 million dollars for so called democracy programs in Cuba. And financial institutions around the world continue to be fined in the billions by the US Treasury Department for the crime of doing business with the island.
We can see by the great outpouring of strength of the Cuban people during the commemoration after Fidel’s death that the Cuban Revolution is alive and well. Following their resolve and the memory of Fidel we must start from this day forward to continue our active solidarity with Cuba. The struggle to end the blockade and the struggle to close Guantanamo are our responsibilities because it comes from this government here.
In six days we will be going into a new period…. One of uncharted waters, we have no idea because of Trump’s independence from the political establishment how this is going to turn out, but what we do know is that it does not going to be good. Just yesterday, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he will advice Trump to maintain the blockade. In light of the attacks on the gains that have been made in Latin America and the escalating imperialist war threats around the world the unity that Fidel stressed is more important than ever.
To honor him we need to build a broad movement independent of the political establishment that will bring together all of our common struggles against disparity and injustice including immigrant rights, the struggle against racism, sexism, bigotry and homophobia, the struggle to free all political prisoners, protecting the environment, and much more.
VIVA FIDEL! The Struggle Continues