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Two great losses for revolutionary community

Published Apr 9, 2012 9:26 PM

On the very same day, March 26, Betty Fry and Ernesto Bustillos, two of San Diego’s most steadfast and farsighted revolutionary activists, died of unrelated causes.

Firm defender of revolutionary Cuba

Mild-mannered, engagingly warm and a firm defender of revolutionary Cuba, Fry was the heart and soul of the San Diego Friends of Cuba. Her home near San Diego State University, which she shared with revolutionary activist Chuck Drury until his death in 2007, was well known to the FBI. It was not just where Fry lived but the place where she hosted countless meetings, where public activities were planned, and local activists involved in many struggles and occasional international visitors met to discuss political issues and share potlucks.

Fry was a workhorse for the periodic visits of the Pastors for Peace Cuba caravans. Since 1992 these nationwide efforts, under the leadership of the late Rev. Lucius Walker, have represented open challenges to the ongoing U.S. blockade of Cuba. Her special touch was evident at the welcoming dinners, not just in her always gracious remarks as host, but also in details such as the attractive table displays that she somehow found the time to put together.

In 1996, her home served as the organizing center for a bitter, months-long struggle at the San Ysidro border crossing into Mexico, where the caravan tried to get donated medical computers past U.S. customs and on to Cuba. The publicity generated by a three-months-long hunger strike by Rev. Walker and four young activists at the border resulted in an astounding victory over U.S. government intransigence. The seized computers were released and the caravanistas, along with their precious cargo, were able to complete their journey to the revolutionary island nation.

Fry directly challenged the blockade herself by frequently visiting Cuba. In 2000, she traveled to Miami to join protests demanding that young Elián González, then being held hostage by relatives in the U.S., be allowed to return to his father in Cuba. She also spent countless hours educating anyone willing to listen about the need to demand freedom for the Cuban Five.

Betty Fry’s ashes will be taken to Cuba. An appreciation of her life will be held at the San Diego Unitarian Universalist meeting house on April 21. ¡Betty Fry, presente!

Leading figure in Mexicano liberation movement

Unión del Barrio has been on the front lines of the struggle for Chicano/a, Mexicano/a liberation in Southern California for several decades. It has forged strong bonds of solidarity with the Latino/a communities of San Diego, Los Angeles and Oxnard, Calif., consistently challenging police brutality and racial profiling in these communities, defending the rights of migrant workers and the undocumented, exposing the racist criminality of the California prison-industrial system, demanding quality education for Latino/a youth, and promoting revolutionary politics and culture. It has demonstrated its solidarity with Cuba, Venezuela and the ALBA movement — the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas — with many meetings and forums.

The recent death of the founder, coordinator, chairperson and general secretary of Unión del Barrio, Comrade Ernesto Bustillos, is a great loss to the people and to the movement.

In the words of the organization’s statement announcing his death: “Ernesto Bustillos was an unwavering and dedicated combatant to the cause of the poor, the exploited and oppressed peoples the world over. He was a fervent anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and anti-colonialist. But most importantly, he exuded a deep love for his people. Always an internationalist, and a national liberation fighter, Compañero Ernesto stood tall among the struggling Mexicano people on both sides of the imperialist border.

“Ernesto was a guiding political leader for Unión del Barrio and for our movement, advancing at every turn the struggle for Raza self-determination and liberation. Before and since the founding of Unión del Barrio in 1981, he struggled every day, and he never gave up la causa, completing tasks for the organization to his final days.” ¡Ernesto Bustillos, presente!