FIST, in Cuba, shows solidarity with revolution
Published Aug 16, 2007 9:35 AM
Members of FIST and Workers World Party traveled to Cuba from July 18 to 28
to defy the travel ban and to witness the gains of the socialist
revolution. Following is Part 3 of reports from their experience.
Visit workers.org to see the previous reports.
Cuba defends all expressions of sexuality
FIST was invited to the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) on July
24 for a presentation and discussion about the methods undertaken in Cuba to
defend the rights of and provide resources to lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender
Cubans. CENESEX has been greatly aided in this process by the Cuban
Women’s Federation, which has been reaching out to people’s
sensitivity as human beings.
CENESEX presented information about their successful efforts to educate Cubans
in all walks of life to be sensitive and open to all expressions of sexuality.
Unlike the vast majority of political structures in the U.S., this education
also targets the police and institutions as well as the population as a whole.
Anti-gay and anti-trans violence on the island is now virtually
Flags honoring Cuban martyrs
MalecÃ³n in Havana.
WW photo: LeiLani Dowell
In universalizing their free medical treatment, Cuba provides free transitional
surgery and hormones for transgender Cubans. Their efforts towards health care
services have been so successful that the rate of HIV infection on the island
is nearly 60 times less than in other Caribbean nations!
The FIST delegation presented CENESEX with a framed “Rainbow Solidarity
to Free the Cuban 5” poster describing the recent efforts to build the
international campaign of solidarity for Cuba inside the LGBTQ movement. Leslie
Feinberg, co-chair of the LGBT caucus of the National Writers Union/UAW, author
of groundbreaking books “Stone Butch Blues and Transgender
Warriors,” and participant in the delegation, presented one of her books
to transgender staff members at CENESEX. The gifts were received with warm
More about CENESEX can be read at
Defending the revolution
On the afternoon of July 25, FIST was invited to visit the Anti-Imperialist
Tribunal. Outside the tribunal flew 138 black flags, each with a single white
star, honoring the many Cuban lives lost to terrorist acts committed mainly by
groups in Miami.
The director of the tribunal gave the delegation a detailed history of the
site, which for decades has been designed to politically defend the Cuban
revolution against U.S. imperialism. When the U.S. cancelled diplomatic
relations with Cuba shortly after its socialist revolution, both the U.S. and
Cuba had to go through a third country to house their embassies.
The U.S. and Cuban Interest Sections are housed in the Swedish offices in
Havana, adjacent to the Malecón—a famous walkway along the Havana
coastline which many Cubans frequent. The U.S. site has been used as a
battleground for anti-revolutionary propaganda. The U.S. uses the windows of
the fifth floor of this embassy to broadcast a large, bright marquee with
slogans meant to undermine the revolution.
With their infinite creativity, the Cubans built the anti-imperialist tribunal
right next door, expropriated the embassy parking lot and installed the 138
huge flags to honor their fallen Cubans. When rumors surfaced that Cuba would
bomb the embassy they quickly replaced the military personnel surrounding the
building with Cuban children, an occupation that could not be viewed as
provocative or threatening. The Anti-Imperialist Tribunal now features a
memorial commemorating all internationalist freedom fighters, including peoples
from the U.S. such as Clara Barton, Henry Reeve, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner and
Comités en Defensa de la Revolución
The FIST delegation also had an opportunity to spend some time with a local
Committee in Defense of the Revolution (CDR) on the eve of July 26, the
anniversary of the revolutionaries’ attack on the Moncada barracks in the
city of Santiago de Cuba in 1953. The CDRs—neighborhood-based
organizations tasked with the defense and further development of the Cuban
revolution—were organized in September 1960 following the overthrow of
the Batista regime. Their slogan is, “In every neighborhood,
Revolution!” They are assigned the task of guarding the neighborhoods and
providing medical assistance, if needed. CDRs are fundamental building blocks
of the organization of the Cuban revolution.
The delegation had the opportunity to talk to local community members and
members of the local CDR during the neighborhood’s July 26 celebrations.
This included a very special encounter with a community member who had been
part of the July 26th movement, who was assigned to make patches for the
revolutionaries and who marched into Havana on Jan. 6, 1959—one day
before Fidel Castro. Her perspective on what the revolution had done for the
country was positive. After the revolution she decided to work rather than go
to school, and now at 70 years of age she was passing on her experiences with
the revolution, not only to us, but to her grandchildren who were
Reverse travel challenge and struggle against blockade
When the FIST delegation returned to the U.S., they did so publicly and without
a permit, to openly defy the travel ban and bring attention to the inhumane
economic blockade on Cuba.
On the warm, sunny afternoon of July 28, FIST members met with U.S. activists
from the Venceremos Brigade and the U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange to march across
the mile-long Peace Bridge from Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, into Buffalo, N.Y.
As the 80 marchers entered the U.S. from Canada, they were joined by more than
100 activists from Pastors for Peace simultaneously returning from their trip
to Cuba, entering back into the U.S. from Mexico via Hidalgo, Texas. During
their trip, Pastors for Peace delivered more than 90 tons of material aid to
Initially enacted by the U.S. Congress after Cuba’s socialist revolution,
an economic blockade directly and on a daily basis weighs heavily on the Cuban
food supply, transportation, housing and even on the fact that Cubans cannot
rely on the necessary raw materials and equipment to work with.
In 1992, the Torricelli Act further tightened the blockade by prohibiting any
U.S. corporate subsidiary from trading with Cuba—70 percent of which
trade was in foods and medicine—calling on Western allies to enforce the
blockade, sanctioning Latin American countries that trade with Cuba,
prohibiting any ship that trades at a Cuban port from entering a U.S. port in
the next six months and allowing funding of opposition groups on and off the
This year’s protest was particularly important given that the Bush
administration recently established a task force designed specifically to
enforce the blockade.
The effects of the blockade could be seen all over the island, forcing
unnecessary shortages on the Cuban people—sidewalks were torn up, toilets
were leaking, cars were outdated and inefficient, certain foods were
unavailable, and more. Yet, despite these hardships, the Cuban people have
persevered. They defend their homeland and their government to their
death—thus the slogan, “Patria o Muerte.”
The FIST youth delegation returns to the U.S. with concrete experiences of the
gains of a socialist revolution and will continue with their work to openly
challenge the blockade and to organize for the freedom of the Cuban 5.
Ultimately, the delegation knows that the greatest way to show solidarity with
the Cuban people and all workers and oppressed of the world is to get the U.S.
off their backs by creating a socialist revolution inside the U.S.
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