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Issue #1640      May 28, 2014

Cuba: a potent symbol

Why is the example of Cuba still a potent symbol for so many people in Australia and around the world? Today there are thousands of friendship societies which have sprung up around the world to cultivate an affinity and develop solidarity with its Revolution, society and people.

Cuban Ambassador Pedro Monzon addresses Consultation in Melbourne.

In Australia there are nine ACFS groups and also three groups over the Tasman in New Zealand. Every year a city is selected to host the National Consultation. This year, the 32nd National Cuban Consultation was held in Melbourne on May 17-18 at the offices of the Maritime Union of Australia with over 50 delegates and the Cuban Ambassador Pedro Monzón in attendance.

MUA branch secretary Kevin Bracken opened the Consultation, recalling his visit to Cuba for May Day in Havana in 2013 and the warmth, openness and cohesiveness of the people of Havana.

Bracken said Australians have much to admire and learn from Cuba; from their low infant mortality rate (4.2 per 1,000 live births for 2013), the respect they show for their young people and the pride they show in their sovereignty and independence. This is contrasted to Australia under Prime Minister Tony Abbott who is turning the country into an individualistic, “dog eat dog” society.

In his address, Monzón emphasised the importance of Cubans maintaining their sovereignty and independence.

This struggle which includes resisting and coping with the harsh, cruel economic blockade by the US government that “has had a fundamental role in shaping the Cuban society and had affected the flexibility of the Cuban economy.”

The state plays a vital and central role in the economy – ensuring that essential industries are not left to the operation of market forces, such as health and education.

Following the Ambassador Monzón’s presentation and a robust Q&A session, various state branches presented their reports, outlining the activities undertaken during the year to promote Cuba in their state.

This included a report on the 31st Southern Cross Brigade which this year had been based in the coastal city of Veradero and toured the surrounding area including Matanzas. That was the site of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 by Cuban expatriates which was successfully thwarted by government forces led by Fidel Castro.

A number of resolutions were adopted including on the Cuban Five calling for their release from unjust imprisonment.

There was also discussion of the ongoing benefits to the Aboriginal community of Wilcannia in outback New South Wales which had benefited from the Cuban Adult Literacy Program, “Si se puede!” (Yes I can!). The program is now being picked up by other Aboriginal communities with the support of Indigenous campaigner Jack Beetson and the Literacy for Life Foundation.

It was confirmed that there will be a visit by a relative of the Cuban Five to Australia in August 2014. It was decided to hold the 1025 Consultation in Adelaide in 2015.

There was the traditional Saturday night of culture which was taken to a high standard with a number of musicians, dance by Xochitquetzal Dance Group and the very talented sisters Helena Ring (Operatic singing) and Lisa Ring (Flute and keyboard).

Next article – Govt secrecy prevails

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