A year of intense work is how Kenia Serrano Puig, President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) described 2016, while speaking to the national press in Havana in honor of the institution’s 56th anniversary, and the lead up to the anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution, on January 1.
Also a deputy to the National Assembly, Kenia highlighted the multiple expressions of gratitude sent from around the world, praising Fidel Castro’s contribution to the struggle for just causes, and noted that actions in solidarity with Cuba undertaken at the end of the year were dedicated to the 90th birthday of the Comandante en Jefe, who founded ICAP and promoted efforts to help other Third World nations.
”Various tributes took place, expositions were organized, friends found different ways of reproducing Fidel through various mediums, taking him to the tops of mountains. Encounters were held, anecdotes collected, all underscoring Cuba’s position with regard to its principles, the main architect of which is Fidel,” added Serrano Puig.
She noted that the Cuba Solidarity Movement is composed of 2,045 unique organizations in 152 countries, featuring members of diverse ages and represents a vanguard that has supported the Caribbean island for almost 60 years.
Exemplifying this support are the over 25,000 visitors affiliated with different solidarity projects, from around 60 countries who visited Cuba over the last 12 months, Serrano noted.
Today, the movement is redefining its focus after a successful end to the long campaign to secure the release of the Cuban Five (Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, René González and Fernando González); an overwhelming victory for the island and its supporters. The Cuba Solidarity movement is now looking to strengthen unity among its ranks in order to create a united front against attacks by right wing political forces in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and the United States.
The persecution of former President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández, staging of a parliamentary coup in Brazil against Dilma Rousseff, and embroiling Inacio Lula Da Silva in a corruption scandal, are all maneuvers carried out against progressive governments and democratically elected presidents, while many friends of Cuba, who protest to demand their rights, are also being persecuted, stated Serrano.
According to the Cuban official one of the key solidarity initiatives of 2017 will be a tribute to heroic guerrilla Ernesto Che Guevara on the anniversary of his vile murder in Bolivia, which will include a visit by a voluntary work brigade in October, staying at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp, celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.
Meanwhile, other solidarity contingents will visit the island throughout 2017, with members calling for an end to the genocidal economic, commercial and financial blockade, imposed and maintained to date by the United States, despite the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Participants will also demand the return of the Guantánamo territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base, which includes a detention center where prisoners are tortured, she emphasized.
Serrano also noted that the movement is aiming to increase its online presence, expanding its membership base, unite and strengthen associated organizations.
To this end friends of Cuba will be undertaking various activities, an example of which were the initiatives organized during the week of tributes to Comandate en Jefe Fidel Castro, following his death last November 25, which included messages of condolences and support from 120 nations.
“During the period of national mourning we saw many leaders and figures suddenly come to Cuba, there are touching anecdotes of people that took out loans to get a flight to Cuba,” she noted.
Serrano went on to highlight, “We believe that Fidel’s passing is also a call to solidarity, to continue forward with energy. The solidarity movement has also assumed the commitment of all of us here in Cuba, not to regard Fidel Castro as a monument, but consider him from the perspective of his work, his rebelliousness, his ideas, his struggle for just causes.”
Serrano also discussed Cuba’s support of global struggles including that by the peoples of Western Sahara and Palestine to achieve full sovereignty, as well as for Puerto Rican independence, and the release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, among others.
She emphasized the island’s support of progressive processes such as Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, the Citizens’ Revolution in Ecuador, construction of the Pluri-National state in Bolivia, and the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua.
She called on those present to continue consolidating the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, issued during the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Cuba, noting that 2016 saw the concretization of actions toward this end, with the island playing host the Colombia Peace Talks, encounters between members of different religious factions, and visits by Presidents from around the world.
Serrano talked about the continuation of solidarity efforts in the future and highlighted the importance of supporting the global movement, because “the work transforms us, the work is the seed of solidarity, the work unites people, and ensures that the peoples of the world continue visiting us.”