A strong history of fraternity and solidarity unites Cuba and Puerto Rico, demonstrated by the presence in Havana for over 50 years, of a mission from the sister nation, sole representative of Puerto Rico’s independence movement on the island.
Inaugurated March 8, 1966 by the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz and Puerto Rican independence activist Juan Mari Bras, the mission works to demand the decolonization of the Caribbean nation, subjected to five centuries of foreign domination, the last 118 by the United States.
The organization also directs its efforts to condemning the criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the U.S. government on Cuba, and facilitating cultural exchanges between both peoples.
As such, it has contributed to enabling Puerto Rican students to study in Cuba, like Alberto Rodríguez Rivera, who has just completed his fifth year of Medicine at the University of Medical Sciences in the central province of Las Villas. The young Puerto Rican is grateful for the knowledge he has gained, not only in regards to his profession but also life.
“My presence in Cuba is an act of solidarity,” states Rodríguez Rivera to Granma International. I participated in the student strikes in 2010 and they withdrew my enrolment from the Faculty of Biology where I was studying. That’s when Cuba accepted me and next year I should be graduating. Here, I have met many young people from other countries with whom I have talked about the colonial system in Puerto Rico. I have also spoken to them about demands for the release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, who has been serving an unjust sentence for over 35 years, for embracing ideals of independence for my country.”
In regards to Puerto Rico’s foreign debt crisis, the young student noted that Puerto Ricans should be compensated for the suffering and oppression caused by colonization. “They owe us respect for our sacred right of freedom, independence, sovereignty and dignity,” he noted.
Retired economist Néstor Nazario Trabal agrees, stating that “The United States has wanted to destroy Puerto Rican nationality by teaching English in schools and demeaning national identity, but our greatest victory has been our ability to preserve our own idiosyncrasies, language and culture. Despite so many years of colonization, Puerto Rico is a Latin American and Caribbean nation.”
Also a member of the National Hostosiano Independence Movement, Nazario Trabal noted that his people are currently fighting against the imposition of a fiscal control board set up by the U.S. government, without popular consultation, which has sweeping powers, above those of the governor, Legislative Assembly and any of the island’s institutions, to apply economic austerity measures in order to repay the country’s 70 billion dollar debt to exploitative hedge funds.
The pro-independence activist also expressed his gratitude for Cuba’s support, on June 20, during a UN Special Committee on Decolonization session, where the 36th resolution since 1972, supporting Puerto Rico’s petition for independence was approved.
Cuban solidarity was highlighted by Puerto Rican Wilma Riveron Collazo, during her speech at a ceremony held in the Cuban Institute of Friendship (ICAP) with the Peoples, celebrating the mission’s 50th anniversary on the island. Collazo stated, “I know of no other two peoples on planet Earth with a relationship of love, solidarity and fraternity like the one between Cuba and Puerto Rico.”
The island’s unwavering support for the Puerto Rican pro-independence cause was recognized with a commemorative medal presented first and foremost to Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro, President Raúl Castro, the Communist Party of Cuba and other organizations working in solidarity with the struggle for the decolonization of the island.
In this sense, decorated Hero of the Republic of Cuba Fernando González Llort, one of the Cuban Five and vice president of ICAP, highlighted the relationship between the two countries over the last 50 years and reaffirmed the Cuban people’s unwavering commitment to support their sister nation of Puerto Rico in its struggle and just demand for independence.