Vinnie receiving the Friendship Medal from Decorated Hero of the Republic of Cuba, Antonio Guerrero, one of the Five Cuban anti-terrorists. Photo: Courtesy of the interviewee

Vinnie Molina is a long-time Cuba solidarity activist and currently President of the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society’s (ACFS) regional branch in Perth.

Born in Guatemala, he was forced to seek refuge in Mexico following his intense political work during the 1980s and 90s against the U.S. backed war in the Central American nation, which left thousands dead and disappeared.
Today Vinnie lives in Australia, where he is also a trade union leader in the construction sector.

In an interview with Granma International, he noted that the ACFS “was founded in the city of Perth, capital of the state of Western Australia, in April 1994.
“A group of friends from different backgrounds came together, concerned by the damaging impact of the United States’ criminal economic, commercial, and financial blockade on the Cuban population, and children in particular. Remember that at that time the island was facing an economic crisis caused by the fall of the socialist camp in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, as well as the tightening of Washington’s anti-Cuban unilateral blockade, which sought to bring down the Revolution. We learned that this crucial moment was known as the Special Period in time of peace, as the country had to solve serious problems despite not having been through a war as such.

“The group of founders included the late Vic Williams and his wife Joan Williams, both members of the Communist Party of Australia; Dorothy Parker, from the country’s Workers’ Party; Diana McTiernan, from the Green Party; Joana Zaliki, and hundreds of others without any political affiliation, but who stood in solidarity with the Cuban people.
“I must mention Dr. Katherine Edyvane, a great friend of the homeland of José Martí, who did voluntary work on the island in the 1990s and participated on Cuban medical missions in Timor-Leste and Pakistan. She last visited Cuba in May 2015 and unfortunately passed away later that year in December, a victim of cancer. Her ashes were scattered at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp in the municipality of Caimito, in the western province of Artemisa.
“Our efforts focus on promoting friendship between both peoples and demanding the return of the territory occupied by the illegal U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo.”
Vinnie went on to explain that members also undertook important work in support of the international campaign for the release of the Cuban Five, unjustly imprisoned in the U.S, as well as organizing the Cruz del Sur voluntary work brigade which travels to Cuba every December; during which participants contribute to agricultural and other socially relevant tasks, meet and speak with the Cuban people, and learn about the history and reality of the island. In this sense, he noted that the 35th brigade is already being organized, and this year will visit the Comandancia de la Plata, the rebel army’s camp in the Sierra Maestra.

Vinnie (holding the flag) participating in a protest on September 18, 2017, outside the U.S. Consulate to demand an end to the blockade of Cuba. Photo: Courtesy of the interviewee

The solidarity activist went on to state that “On the 17th of every month we organize a protest outside the U.S. consulate in Perth to demand a definitive end to the criminal economic blockade, where we hand out materials to passersby in order to let them know that despite the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the White House continues to impose its interventionist policies on the Cuban people.”

What motivated you to join the friendship association?

I wanted to learn more about the solidarity work of the Cuban medical brigades in remote communities in Guatemala, first in response to health emergencies and then as part of the Comprehensive Health Program offered to various Central American nations affected by Hurricane Mitch. I remember that the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) was founded that same year (1998); offering free tuition to thousands of young people from across the continent and from which over 28,5000 doctors from 103 nations, including 170 from the United States, have graduated.

As a member of the Communist Party I found out about the Cuban friendship association when I arrived to Western Australia in 1996, and immediately signed up.
I never feel completely satisfied with our work, but I’m proud of what we have achieved so far.
This includes monthly meetings to learn more about Cuban socialism and plan solidarity actions. We maintain a good working relationship with the Havana-based Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) and support projects which raise funds and provide resources for Cuba’s health and education sectors.
We are currently contributing to a scientific research program in the city of Bayamo, in eastern Cuba.
For us Latin Americans and many people around the world, Cuba shows what an underdeveloped country, lacking in natural resources, can do to bring social justice and equality to its people. This translates into building a socialist society, far removed from the laws of the market.
What is more, Cuba is for us Latin Americans an example of independence, dignity and self-determination.”

How many times have you visited Cuba?

I have had the opportunity to visit eight times. First as a delegate to the World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana in 1997, and later as a member and coordinator of the Cruz del Sur brigade in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2016.
In particular, I recall the visit I made in May 2015 when, at the proposal of ICAP, I received the Friendship Medal, a distinction awarded by the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba. I was presented with the medal by Decorated Hero of the Republic and one of the Cuban Five, Antonio Guerrero. This recognition fills me with pride, commitment and love toward this Caribbean island.”

What do you feel for Cuba?
I feel a great respect and admiration for Cuba and Cubans. I will never forget the example ofComandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz and the revolutionary leadership which has guided the Revolution in difficult moments and today stands strong in the face of the complex world in which we live.