Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 17:11:50 CDT
Solidarity with Cuba more crucial than ever
By Greg Butterfield, New York, 20 October 1995
A high-ranking Cuban delegation is expected in New York Oct. 21-22 to attend ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. The same weekend, supporters of the socialist island and opponents of the United States economic blockade will rally here in large numbers.
These important events come at a critical juncture in the long struggle to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba.
On one hand, the Cuban people's determination to defend the gains of their revolution is crystal clear to both friends and enemies. Cuba's communist leadership enjoys strong popular support--which was dramatically demonstrated when 500,000 people marched against the Helms-Burton Bill in Havana Aug. 5.
Washington, on the other hand, is increasingly isolated in its efforts to strangle Cuba. U.S. allies in Western Europe, not to mention oppressed countries in Latin America and throughout the Third World, have opened trade relations with Havana.
For three years running the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the blockade.
Major international conferences in solidarity with Cuba were held in Asia and Southern Africa in late September and early October. The ninth Meeting of Latin American and Caribbean Environmental Ministers, recently concluded in Havana, issued a statement condemning the U.S. blockade. (Granma International, Oct. 11)
Thousands are expected at a rally in New York Oct. 21 called by the National Network on Cuba, a coalition of over 70 organizations. The marchers will demonstrate the swelling opposition to U.S. policy.
At the same time, the government in Washington--both the Republican-controlled Congress and the Democratic Clinton administration--are working overtime to find a way to destroy the Cuban revolution and reinstate the rule of U.S.- based corporations and Wall Street finance capital.
SETBACK FOR HELMS-BURTON
Supported by the Contract-with-America gang, arch-racist, anti-gay Sen. Jesse Helms is pushing what amounts to a contract on Cuba: the Helms-Burton bill. If passed into law, Helms-Burton would essentially authorize the U.S. government to punish other countries that do business with Havana.
It seeks to reverse Cuba's increasingly successful efforts to secure hard currency and technology by establishing joint ventures with foreign companies.
Helms-Burton would also allow U.S. citizens whose property was expropriated by the revolution to use U.S. courts to sue any foreign company or individual who set up operations on that property. Many countries view the bill as a blatant effort to infringe on their national sovereignty.
On Oct. 12, the Helms-Burton legislation suffered a setback when Republican leaders fell four votes short on a procedural motion to close discussion on the bill. Without a two-thirds majority, the Senate cannot move on to a binding vote.
The closure vote's failure is widely seen as a reaction to growing international and domestic opposition to the blockade. Debate on the bill is scheduled to resume Oct. 17.
In September the House of Representatives passed the bill 294-130.
President Clinton has weaved back and forth on whether he will veto the bill if it passes. Secretary of State Warren Christopher spoke out publicly against Helms-Burton.
Helms and Clinton represent two wings of U.S. imperialist opinion. Yet they share the same goal: to destroy the rule of the working class in Cuba, and that nation's independence from imperialist control.
When Clinton issued an executive order easing some travel restrictions Oct. 6, he was careful to reiterate his support for the blockade.
The Clinton administration wants to pursue what is called "track two" of U.S. policy. It calls for undermining the Cuban revolution from within by flooding the country with anti-communist propaganda, Washington-anointed "human- rights" experts, and funding for counter-revolutionary organizations.
Still, the U.S. capitalist class's resolve to maintain the 33-year blockade is eroding. Profit-hungry bosses are less and less willing to stand back while their European competitors rush to a potentially lucrative new market.
This was the message of an unprecedented Oct. 6 Havana meeting between Cuban leaders and executives of 50 major U.S. corporations, including General Motors, Sears, the Gap and Time-Warner.
Responding to reports in the Washington Post and Boston Globe that Cuban President Fidel Castro will attend the UN function Oct. 21-22, Republican presidential candidates fell over themselves making heated declarations and outright threats against the Cuban leader.
Sen. Phil Gramm said Castro should "go to jail" if he tries to enter the country. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole threatened legislation to prohibit the Cuban president's visit.
"These kinds of provocations fuel the right-wing elements in the Cuban exile community," says Teresa Gutierrez, coordinator of the International Peace for Cuba Appeal and co-chair of the Oct. 21 rally. Gutierrez told Workers World, "Gramm, Dole and Helms are deliberately heightening the danger of fascist attacks on Cuban representatives."
Gutierrez says Clinton abetted these threats by refusing to promptly issue visas for the Cuban delegation and putting into question whether they would be permitted to attend. Visas for foreign delegations attending UN functions are usually a formality.
Last year right-wing exiles attacked the Cuban Mission to the UN, aided by New York police. Cuban diplomats who defended the mission were arrested. One was expelled from the U.S.
"We have to take these threats very seriously," says Gutierrez. "Supporters of the revolution are mobilizing to defend the Cuban Mission during the UN events."
NEXT STEPS FOR CUBA MOVEMENT
After the Oct. 21 action, what's next for the Cuba solidarity movement?
"The solidarity movement is strong," Gutierrez says. "It has to stay strong.
"It must continue to broaden and grow, and to take advantage of the differences within the ruling class here to push for an end to the blockade. Campaigns to provide material aid must continue.
"The movement should be on guard against any and all efforts by imperialism to undermine the revolutionary leadership of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Communist Party as they guide the country through the difficulties of the `special period.'
"For those in the U.S. who are in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and its principles, our course is clear: Mobilize the people, defeat the Helms Bill, end the blockade, and stand firm with the Cubans as they defend their right to self-determination and a socialist future."
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