Report prepared by Banbose Shango, Alicia Jrapko and Cheryl La
National Co-chairs of the National Network On Cuba
The VII Continental Conference in Solidarity with Cuba was held in Caracas , Venezuela July 24 to July 27, 2013. More than 300 delegates from 35 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East attended.
Inspired by the example and legacy of the great Liberator of Latin America and the Caribbean Simon Bolivar, Jose Marti, Fidel Castro, the eternal Comandante Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias, of Raul Castro and Nicolas Maduro, the Conference marked the 230th anniversary of Bolivar’s birth, the 160th anniversary of the birth of Jose Marti, the 60th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes barracks, the 55th year of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and the 59th birthdate of the great Venezuelan leader who died in March, Comandante Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias.
The delegation from the United States included representatives of several NNOC member organizations. Among the NNOC member organizations represented were IFCO , Pastors for Peace, All Africa People’s Revolutionary Party (GC), ANSWER, Socialist Workers’ Party, International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, ANSWER, Plumbers Brigade, International Action Center, and three co-chairs of the National Network On Cuba, Banbose Shango, Alicia Jrapko and Cheryl LaBash. To offset the high cost of U.S.-Caracas air travel, the Conference organizers subsidized housing, meals and transportation to conference events.
The Cuban delegation was headed by Ana Maria Mari Machado, Vice-President of the Cuban Parliament and Kenia Serrano, President of ICAP. The Cuban delegation also included Irma Sehwerert, mother of Rene Gonzalez; Aili Labanino, the daughter of Ramon Labanino; Camilo Rojo, son of a victim of terrorism; Leonela Relis, developer of Yo Si Puedo, the renown Cuban literacy method; Miguel Barnet, president of Cuba’s union of writers and artists (UNEAC); Aleida Guevara, daughter of "Che," Rosa Miriam Elizalde, editor of Cubadebate.cu; and many others.
On July 24, the first event at Bolivar Plaza recognized the 230th birth of Simon Bolivar with flowers and program. Near the plaza, a Solidarity Exposition lined the street with displays and information of Cuba-Venezuela advances in culture, sports, literacy and medicine through Barrio Adentro, Misiones Ribas and Robinson, and Operation Milago.
The main events took place at the Principal Theater in the morning followed by lunch and plenary discussions at Colegio Universitario Francisco de Miranda where a statement from the NNOC was read. A panel discussion was also held at the National Assembly. Noteworthy both in the main metro transfer station and the conference room of the university venue was the prominent display of the historical contributions of Afro-Venezuelans and also African revolutionary leaders. Topics included the 2014-2015 Plan of Action, the struggle against the U.S. blockade of Cuba , solidarity and continental integration; actions to free the Cuban 5; the struggle against terrorism and the legacy of Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias. A panel commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Network in Defense of Humanity, featured noted Argentine author Stella Calloni who is known for her writing on the bloody U.S. "Operation Condor" intervention in Latin America.. She stressed the danger of U.S. bases to Latin American and Caribbean independence and spoke out against the imperialist-backed war against the government of Syria .
Calloni was one of the many internationally recognized authors present including Stephen Kimber whose new book "What lies across the water, the true story of the Cuban 5" uncovers the facts leading to their arrest and unjust conviction; Arnold August and Salim Lamrani.
On July 26, delegates watched the televised celebration in Santiago , Cuba that dramatized the achievements of continental unity. Representatives of the Boliviarian Alliance of the Americas – ALBA spoke — including Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Antigua and Barbuda ‘s Winston Baldwin Spencer; Saint Lucia ‘s Kenny Davis Anthony and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ‘ Ralph Gonsalves, and the Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino and other leaders and international guests. This program aired on Cuban television was viewable in the U.S. over the internet, as well.
The Santiago program echoed the conference’s major theme of continental solidarity achieved with the vision of Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias and the Bolivarian Revolution of the Venezuelan people.
The youth string orchestra thrilled the packed Theater Teresa Carreno at the Inaugural Cultural Gala where Venezuelan Vice-President Jorge Alberto Arreaza Montserrat spoke following the concert.
The Conference completed debate and adopted the Declaration of Caracas and Plan of Action on Saturday afternoon, then gathered at the statue of Marti where Cuban doctors and other Caracas residents joined the delegates to march to the Cuartel de la Montana 4F, the mausoleum and museum of Comandante Hugo Chavez life. This hilltop military fortress is the site of Chavez Feb. 4, 1992 rebellion launching the Bolivarian revolution. The spirited and winding march up the hillside was greeted by residents waving from the windows of high rise apartment buildings.
The final declaration included unwavering solidarity with Cuba, its independence, self-determination, sovereignty, dignity and achievements; support for the heroic process of the Venezuelan people and their Bolivarian Revolution ratified democratically in the recent elections recognizing its leadership and outstanding role in unity and integration of the people and government through the mechanisms like ALBA, CELAC, UNASUR and PETROCARIBE and others; rejected the genocidal, inhuman and anachronistic blockade imposed on Cuba by North American imperialism and denounce its permanent aggression policy; condemn the political interference by the U.S. against the Cuban people, internal political subversion financing counterrevolution and mercenaries; demanded the immediate and unconditional liberation of the Cuban 5 — Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez — heroes unjustly imprisoned in the U.S. and the violation of their rights; demanded the extradition of known terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela, denouncing him and other terrorists who freely live with impunity in the streets of Miami with the approval of the U.S. authorities; condemned the aggressive political and interventionism of the U.S. and its allies in the various regions of the world like the installation of military bases; demanded the return of U.S. occupied Guantanamo; roundly rejected the U.S. aggression and servile actions of the governments of Austria, France, Spain and Portugal against the constitutional president of the Plurinational Republic of Bolivia, Evo Morales that constituted an affront to the people of Our America and that a return to colonial status is in force in various regions of the world; condemned colonialism and its manifestations and victims in Puerto Rico and other people of the Caribbean who are struggling for independence.
The document saluted the return of Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert to his family and Cuba; recognized the achievements of the Cuban Revolution acknowledged by United Nations agencies like UNECEF, UNESCO, FAO and others, despite the criminal U.S. blockade; saluted Cuba’s current presidency of CELAC that constitutes important space for unification and integration of our people, and greeted the first conference of social movements from these participating countries.
And finally, thanked the government and people of Venezuela , the Movement of Venezuela-Cuba Mutual Solidarity, Bolivarian youth for the extraordinary work that made the Conference possible.
Some points in the action plan included: intensified use of social and alternative media to tell the truth about Cuba . ICAP will create a method for centralizing information to push this battle forward; expand the Movement in Solidarity with Cuba with other sectors like students, unionists, intellectuals, sports, religious and social and cooperative organizations, with priority to mobilize parliamentarians at every level to make statements of support for Cuba; redouble the campaign to free the Cuban 5 and the Puerto Rican prisoners; prioritize assistance to the next 5 Days for the Cuban 5 and other actions in the U.S.; strengthen the campaign for the 5 on the 5th of every month; mobilize delegates for the IX Colloquium for the freedom of the Cuban 5 and against terrorism in Holguin from November 13 – 17 along with the International Seminar for peace and the abolition of foreign military bases in Guantanamo November 17 – 20; and keep the agreement from the II World Solidarity Conference declaring Oct. 10 as a World Day of Struggle against the U.S. blockade of Cuba; summon the Diaspora living in the U.S. to promote the international campaign to free the Cuban 5.