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Mass rally, international conference

Cuba a hotbed of anti-imperialism

By Alicia Jrapko
Havana, Cuba

Two important events in November showed the high morale of the Cuban people and their country's leading role in the struggle against imperialist globalization.

The first was a mass mobilization on Nov. 18 against the Cuban Adjustment Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1966. It encourages Cubans to risk their lives on the open sea by offering them almost automatic residency if they reach the United States.

More than 150,000 people gathered here in Havana to protest this law, which promotes perilous and illegal emigration.

This law's political nature becomes obvious when it is compared to the treatment people from Haiti face. People fleeing Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, often do not even receive a hearing if they get to the United States. They are more likely to be locked up at the Krome Detention Center in Florida and flown back to Haiti in shackles.

The Cuban Adjustment Act has nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with attempts to destabilize the Cuban Revolution. At the protest here a fourth-grade "pioneer" from Santiago de Cuba loudly told the crowd, "There is no greater terrorism than to wish that Cuban children will die in the waves of the sea."

Plane hijacked to U.S.

The timing of this demonstration coincided with yet another act of hostility against Cuba. Once again, in violation of international laws and bilateral agreements with Cuba, a hijacked plane was allowed to land in the United States.

If the plane had come from any other country, this would have been considered an act of terrorism. It likely would have been turned around or even shot down.

The irony of this new act of aggression is that one of the passengers on the stolen aircraft had twice applied for a visa at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Washington denied his application both times. But when he hijacked a plane and flew illegally to the States, risking his life and the lives of others in the plane, including children, he was received with open arms.

The Cuban government requested that the United States immediately return the plane and deport the eight passengers. Instead, Washington granted legal residency to all the Cubans.

To further aggravate the situation, on Dec. 5 Circuit Court Judge Allen Postman ordered the seizure and sale of the aircraft to help pay off a $27.1 million settlement awarded to the ex-wife of a Cuban accused of being a double agent.

Conference against FTAA

While this latest shameful episode perpetrated by the U.S. government against Cuba was unfolding, more than 1,000 people from 41 Latin American, North American and European countries arrived in Havana to participate in the Second Hemispheric Meeting of Struggle Against the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

This event showed growing opposition to neoliberal economic policies implemented in Latin America almost three decades ago that have created nothing but misery and devastation for the great majority of people.

Making the meeting especially important is the failure of the North America Free Trade Agreement, which was the predecessor of FTAA. After eight years of implementation, this agreement among Mexico, the United States and Canada has left 60 million Mexicans in conditions of extreme poverty.

Leonel González, secretary of international relations of the Confederation of Cuban Workers, opened the meeting. Cuban President Fidel Castro and Political Bureau members Carlos Lage, Ricardo Alarcón, Pedro Ross and Felipe Perez Roque also participated.

Osvaldo Martínez, director of the Center of Investigations of the World Economy, asked in his opening remarks: "How could it be hidden that under neoliberal policies, Latin America has achieved a sad worldwide championship as the region of greatest inequality and injustice in the distribution of wealth?

"How could it be hidden that in Argentina, with its great capacity for food production, we see, since the application of neoliberalism, children undernourished and dying in the exact conditions of those in the Nazi concentration camps?"

The conference took on a special air because of recent electoral developments that brought left-leaning Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva and Lucio Gutierrez to the presidencies in Brazil and Ecuador, respectively.

Evo Morales, the popular Indigenous leader of Bolivian coca-growing peasants known as "cocaleros," was a keynote speaker on the first evening. He had come close to winning the presidency but lost in a runoff due to pressures from the U.S. government, whose ambassador in La Paz publicly threatened to stop U.S. aid to Bolivia if Morales won.

"It is time that the Latin American peoples freed themselves from injustice and inequality and that they demand that the natural resources return to the hands of the Latin Americans," he said.

In a major address, Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón spoke about the importance of the struggle to free the Cuban Five, who are incarcerated in U.S. prisons. The wives and mothers of the five Cubans were present during his talk. He stated his certainty that "this cause will continue having the solidarity, the understanding, and the support of those who believe in freedom and aspire to the justice of our peoples."

He added, "The united struggle of our peoples can achieve independence and true democracy, and we will be capable of conquering all the justices." He ended with a quote from Lula da Silva: "The powerful can destroy the roses but they will never stop the spring."

During an emotional speech that lasted more than three hours, President Fidel Castro told the fervent audience that the struggle against the FTAA started first when thousands of North Americans fought the battle of Seattle against the World Trade Organization, the parent of FTAA. He reminded everyone that U.S. President George W. Bush's father initiated the FTAA in 1991 in a meeting in Miami with Latin American presidents behind the people's backs. Then, on May 1, 2001, the Cuban president launched the idea of rejecting the annexation of the region and calling for plebiscites to see if the people agree with the implementation of the FTAA.

President Castro then highlighted the courage of the people of Brazil, who called a plebiscite, and the resistance of the people of Venezuela. He called on all participants to unite in order to defeat this U.S. project of annexation and recolonization.

After four days of discussion, a final declaration of the Second Hemispheric Meeting of Struggle Against the FTAA made a call to all peoples of the Americas: "The lives of our peoples and the independence of our nations are at stake: to fight against the FTAA is to fight against annexation and misery." The participants also unanimously called for the immediate release of the five Cuban political prisoners imprisoned in the United States.

This event foreshadowed significant battles to come in the struggle for a better world and against imperialism, with its so-called war on terrorism. The participants prepared to return to their countries with much enthusiasm, remembering the prophetic words of one of the greatest Cuban heroes, José Martí: "The time has come for Spanish America to declare its second independence."

Reprinted from the Dec. 19, 2002, issue of Workers World newspaper
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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