Braving the heat, around 100 European friends from 14 countries visited the Caribbean island July 5-22 as part of the 46th José Martí Solidarity Brigade, here to offer their individual efforts, above all, to productive activities.
Based at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp, located in the municipality of Caimito, Artemisa province, the brigadistas – from Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, the UK, Switzerland, Turkey and Greece – undertook a varied program of activities, including meeting members of the community, and participating in agricultural tasks, conferences on Cuba’s reality, as well as cultural and sporting initiatives.
Speaking to Granma Intenrational Julie Rauserberger, a Social and Cultural Anthropology student from Belgium expressed her desire to rouse young peoples’ interest in international solidarity activism. This is the 27 year old’s first trip to Cuba, traveling with her 19 year old cousin Tara Rauserberger, a telecommunications professional, and friend Joni Andries, studying event management.
“In the brigade they have explained the damage caused by the genocidal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on the Cuban people by the United States for over 50 years; the contributions to humanity by independence leader José Martí and heroic guerilla Ernesto Che Guevara; as well as the construction of a non-capitalist social model,” stated Rauserberger,.
Lazaros Kikidis from Greece, who has traveled to Cuba with the brigade on two pervious occasions, noted his admiration for the progress achieved by the island through the updating of its economic model proposed in the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, held in 2010.
He highlighted that the Cuban people offer the world daily examples of how to fight for sovereignty and against the injustices of the exploitative capitalist system.
Kikidis noted that his country is currently suffering a severe economic crisis caused by the harsh austerity measures imposed by the so-called Troika – composed of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.
He criticized the ongoing austerity policies, which aim to protect big business at the expense of the working class - affected by a rise in unemployment, wage reductions, an increase in the cost of living, and undermining hopes of building a stable society.
”We are in the streets fighting for our social gains,” he stated.
Kikidis, a teacher, spoke about all the activities carried out to secure the release of the Cuban Five, who were unjustly imprisoned in the United States for over 16 years, noting his joy at the news of their release on December 17, 2014.
Likewise, María Concepción Perera from Portugal, described the large international campaign undertaken, which included the creation of solidarity committees for the Freedom of the Cuban Five in around 100 countries. She noted that to date, these groups continue to work to refute misleading media depictions of Cuba’s reality.
“I am a member of the Portugal-Cuba Friendship Association,” noted Perera who has visited the island with the brigade 12 times.
She noted that the Association organizes numerous activities to spread the truth about Cuba and disseminate the messages of the Revolution and remarks by its leadership.
The group also celebrates historic dates, organizes expositions, and conferences on various topics related to Cuban socialism, as well as trips to the Caribbean nation.
Manuel Morales Reyes, stated that he is a member of the Hispano-Cuban Association in Andalusia, Spain and is on his third trip to the island with the brigade.
“Every time I visit the island I see greater advances in its economic and social development. I learn about Cuban culture and speak with people and I am very fond of Cubans. I want to contribute in some way to the people’s struggle; I feel spiritually enriched when I walk the streets and visit places,” noted the agricultural worker from the Montalvan region in Cordoba.
Morales Reyes also highlighted that he enjoys the opportunity to speak with people from different nations on the brigade, with whom he talks at length about the situation in Europe, strengthening their conviction to struggle for a better society on the so-called Old Continent.
For Morales the different languages are not a barrier, as there is always someone on hand to help translate. “The most important thing is to share our experiences of the struggle for social change.
This sentiment is shared by Francoise McCavana from France, who explained to the members of the brigade about the mass protests taking place in different cities across the country demanding that a labor reform approved by the President be revoked.
According to McCavana the measure could mean greater unemployment, a loss of historic gains achieved by the working class, greater exploitation of workers, and violations of labor rights. The social worker based in the city of Marseille highlighted that this is her first trip to Cuba, where she is learning about the construction of socialism; describing the Cuban revolution as a great example for the world.
Meanwhile, Russian student Iván Alexandrevich Medvédev expressed compassion for the Cuban people, who have thwarted the United States’ annexationist and colonial provocations in the interest of maintaining their national sovereignty.
He also described Cuba’s long history of resistance in the struggle against global imperialism - proof that the capitalist system and major world powers can be defeated, he said.