Jeremy Corbyn MP will join Miami Five hero Fernando Gonzalez in an online meeting next week to look at Cuba’s incredible international response to the worldwide health crisis and the ongoing struggle against the US blockade.
The meeting, Solidarity and Resistance: Cuba’s 60 years of Inspiring Internationalism, will be on Monday July 27 at 6.30pm and is open to all.
Back in March, in the early days of the crisis, Corbyn made his final speech to Parliament as leader of the Labour Party.
He said then that “the internationalism of the doctors from Cuba who have gone to fight the virus in Italy is inspirational.”
Since then Cuba has gone on to send over 3,000 medics to over 30 countries across the world in an incredible testament to the small Caribbean island’s health system and its deep-rooted philosophy of international solidarity.
The Cuban health professionals have treated people suffering from the virus in the Caribbean, Americas and Africa, as well as Italy and Andorra.
Recently a brigade of Cuban doctors were welcomed into the French territory of Martinique for a two-month mission.
Britain, too, has co-operated with Cuba to support the posting of two Cuban brigades to the British overseas territories of Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
On June 26 the British embassy in Havana tweeted that the British government “appreciated the Cuban medical assistance to fight the pandemic in our overseas territories.”
On June 30, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that Covid-19 illustrated the “need for global co-operation” and thanked Cuba once again for its help to repatriate more than 600 passengers on the cruise ship Braemar in April.
There is currently an international campaign for Cuba’s Medical Brigades to be awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.
More than 30,000 people have signed the appeal and it has been endorsed by writers Alice Walker and Noam Chomsky and actors Mark Ruffalo and Danny Glover.
Cuba’s response to the current crisis is just the latest chapter in a long and proud history of international medical co-operation that has been praised internationally by the United Nations and the World Health Organisation.
This includes sending missions to Pakistan in the aftermath of the Kashmiri earthquake (2005), to Haiti to assist with the devastating cholera outbreak following the earthquake (2010) and to west Africa in the region’s fight against Ebola (2015).
In the last 56 years 400,000 Cuban health workers have responded to natural disasters and helped build health services in 164 nations.
Yet US aggression against the island continues even in the face of the worldwide pandemic and the US blockade has stopped shipments of critical PPE and ventilators from reaching the island.
In June three Republican senators Rick Scott (FL), Marco Rubio (FL) and Senator Ted Cruz (TX) introduced a Bill which aims to classify Cuban medical brigades as victims of human trafficking, and calls for punitive sanctions against countries which work with them.
Such threats to humanitarian assistance from one country to another are an affront to people across the globe, and particularly repugnant during an international health pandemic which has killed more than half a million people.
Yet Cuba has learned to fight to stand up to such aggressions over the past 60 years.
Cuba’s history of internationalism goes well beyond the current health crisis and includes Cuba’s role in Africa in fighting against apartheid, Operation Miracle, which has now treated more than four million patients with sight-saving operations, and treating 25,000 children suffering effects of radiation poisoning following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
The online meeting will also hear from Cuban MP and Miami Five hero Fernando Gonzalez who himself spent 15 years incarcerated in US prisons.
The Miami Five had infiltrated far-right anti-Cuban terrorist groups based in Florida and gathered information to thwart terrorist attacks against Cuba.
Instead of arresting the real terrorists, the FBI arrested the Five and they were given long sentences.
Only after a huge international effort were they released as part of the rapprochement between Havana and Washington in the latter days of the Obama administration.
Part of their story is currently being shown on Netflix through the feature film the Wasp Network.
Today Fernando heads up the Cuban Institute of International Friendship (Icap), which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and the meeting will hear just why international solidarity is so important.
The meeting takes place on the anniversary of the 1953 Moncada Barracks attack which saw Fidel Castro lead a small group of revolutionaries in the failed attempt to kick-start the revolution.
The attack led to the creation of the 26th July movement which played the leading role in the revolutionary struggle over the following years, ultimately leading to the 1959 victory.
The day is commemorated as a national day of celebration in Cuba each year.
The meeting will also hear from Gail Walker, the US activist who leads the blockade-busting Pastors for Peace caravans each year that send vital material aid to Cuba and spread the anti-blockade message across the United States itself, and Barbara Montalvo, the Cuban ambassador to Britain.
The US is threatening smaller countries who have sought, and received, Cuban medical assistance during the pandemic.
The fact that countries such as France, Italy and Britain have all worked with Cuba to facilitate such international co-operation should be welcomed.
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign hopes that countries across the globe will stand up to these bullyboy tactics from a US administration that has repeatedly shown its failings and inability to offer assistance to its own people, let alone people across the globe, during the current crisis.
Now is the time for co-operation across borders, not sanctions and threats.
Rob Miller is director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
The meeting Solidarity and Resistance: Cuba’s 60 years of Inspiring Internationalism is on Monday July 27 at 6.30pm. Register in advance via www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk.