Over 200 people from 21 countries joined the 2nd edition of the “Por los caminos del Che” (Following Che’s Footsteps) international solidarity brigade, currently visiting Cuba.
The brigadistas, visiting sites linked to the Heroic Guerrilla through October 15, participated in the central act to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his assassination in Bolivia, October 8, at the memorial complex that honors the legendary Comandante in the city of Santa Clara.
Other sites visited include the Cueva de los Portales, in Pinar del Río, the Morro-Cabaña complex in Havana, the Las Villas Front Memorial and Mausoleum, the Armored Train Museum; the monument to the martyrs of Sancti Spíritus; the Camilo Cienfuegos Sculptural Complex; El Pedrero in the municipality of Fomento; and the Cemetery of the Martyrs of Column 8.
Argentine brigadistas Claudia Menéndez, Loli Bracamontes and Ana Tenaglia, told Granma International that the figure of Che today helps reclaim the sense of struggle and strengthen the masses in the face of the onslaught of neoliberal capitalism. They bring a message of solidarity, while continuing to ask about the whereabouts of activist Santiago Maldonado, defender of the rights of the Mapuche people, and call for the release of political and social leader Milagro Sala.
The friends are active in the Argentine Cuba Solidarity Movement (MASCUBA) in the city of Córdoba, which is undertaking various activities throughout this year and the next to honor several important historic dates relating to the island. Next June 14, they will commemorate the 90th anniversary of the birth of Ernesto Che Guevara; and 2018 will see activities to mark the centenary of the Argentine university reform of 1918, a movement which spread around the world, promoted in Cuba by student leader Julio Antonio Mella. These events will culminate with activities to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 2019.
Claudia Menéndez denounced the suffering of her people, due to the sale of national heritage to monopolies; the rise in unemployment; as well as the criminalization of protests and the persecution of trade union leaders, activists and social movements underway in Argentina today. “We also denounce the media war imposed on us through various means, where lies are spread and news misrepresented in order to ideologize the population toward passivity in the face of neoliberal measures,” she stated.
Meanwhile, Ana Tenaglia commented on the huge protests held in recent months in several Argentine cities over educational reforms, against unemployment and the rising prices of basic goods.
She added: “In these circumstances, Che is alive, showing the way forward in our struggles. He helps us to breathe every day, so we do not tire, on the basis of his concepts, his bravery and his internationalism.”
Her thoughts were shared by Loli Bracamontes, who defined Che as the hope of a better future, to encourage us that another world is possible.
Meanwhile Bagueli Gonatas, from Greece, noted that the austerity measures implemented in his country have generated widespread discontent at the increase in the cost of living, taxes and unemployment. “We want people to understand that we are fighting against a common enemy that is imperialism in all its manifestations, especially that of the United States.”
For these reasons Gonatas joined the Greek-Cuban Solidarity Association and the José Martí Cultural Society. “My work has been to translate from Spanish to Greek various articles about the Revolution to be published on blogs and alternative websites,” he explained, adding that along with other compañeros he organizes groups that wish to visit the island or join the international brigades. Today they have a national network to attract people and raise awareness about the benefits of this initiative.
“Our organization,” he noted, “has as its purpose the denunciation of any policy of the Greek government that does not respect Cuba’s sovereignty; we challenge the blockade and travel bans year after year, saying that no president, law or policy can prevent relations with this courageous people.”
Viviana Mejías Castrillón, from Colombia, explained that the Solidarity with Cuba Movement in Bogotá accompanies the Cuban Revolution on all fronts of its international battles, firstly by calling for an end to the criminal U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed for more than 50 years; for the return of the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base; and U.S. interference in Cuba, specifically through radio and television broadcasts.
She explained: “Right now, we are holding lectures on Fidel’s thought in Bogotá, together with the Alba-movimiento organization, composed of different social groups. We have come together to study the contributions of the Comandante en Jefe and to continue his legacy. In November, we will organize the national meeting of solidarity with Cuba groups in the city of Barranquilla, where we will invite several Cuban intellectuals to update us about the country’s history and current reality. Today we are grouping together to collect donations that we will deliver to Hurricane Irma victims.”
Her compañero, Ramón Jaramillo Correa, reported that the city of Medellín has seen various activities in schools, workplaces, and local parks to publicize U.S. interventionist and hostile policies against Cuba. There, activists also intend to carry out a variety of activities next year to commemorate Che’s birthday, the 60th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, and a tribute to Camilo Cienfuegos to mark the 60th anniversary of his disappearance, on October 28, 2019.
He stressed: “We will pay tribute to the Cuban people for helping us to reach a peace accord in our country. Likewise, Cuba continues to accompany us to enforce what was agreed and to build true and lasting peace.
“We want to thank this sisterly people for granting more than one thousand free scholarships to young Colombians affected by the war. Today, 198 from different provinces have begun their studies, belonging to the most materially deprived social groups, and to diverse ethnic groups. I’m referring to indigenous peoples, Blacks, afro-descendants and campesinos, who are unable to study medicine in Colombian universities because of the high cost.”
He added that they are very concerned about the setback in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. President Donald Trump’s conduct is unsurprising, as no U.S. government has been benign toward the Cuban Revolution, he added, noting: “What strikes us is this fabrication of a sonic attack on its diplomats in Havana, something difficult to believe and verify. Firstly, because they apply many security norms in all countries for fear of being attacked, on being the main aggressors of the peoples of the world. Also, because it shows they won’t recognize the reality of Cuba, a completely peaceful country for its residents and visitors.”
Jaramillo spoke out against this new U.S. slander against the island, and called on the current administration to respect the agreements signed under Barack Obama, to advance bilateral relations.
Meanwhile, U.S. trade unionist Rafael Justo Luna, who lives in the Bronx, New York, highlighted the hundreds of murders that take place on the streets of his country at the hands of the police. “We decided to organize as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Every Monday at seven in the evening, our group demonstrates in the streets telling the stories of people killed by police for being Black, Latino or poor” he explained.
He stated that the media justifies these murders by inventing stories about victims, and defending police violence. “We demonstrate to the people of the United States that they are bring killed for being Black, for being Latino, for being an immigrant, for being a worker. We believe we are witnessing a total genocide.”
Justo added that he will share these stories with his fellow brigadistas, to make known the suffering and struggles in the United States. He concluded by saying: “Cuba for us means the rule of the working and the oppressed. We admire the courage of the Cuban people to rise up and change the fate of their country. Che is a symbol to rise up every day, to keeping fighting.”