Caracas conference honors Chávez, fights to free Cuban 5

Marching to Cuartel de la Montaña 4F, July 27.Photo: Verónica Canino

Marching to Cuartel de la Montaña 4F, July 27.
Photo: Verónica Canino

Caracas, Venezuela — The 7th Continental Conference in Solidarity with Cuba was held in Caracas, Venezuela, from July 24 to July 27, with more than 300 delegates from 35 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The Movement of Venezuela-Cuba Mutual Solidarity and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People organized the plenaries, discussions, cultural events and the final march to Cuartel de la Montaña 4F — the hilltop military garrison where revolutionary leader Comandante Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías led the first rebellion, on Feb. 4, 1992, for Venezuela’s anti-imperialist transformation. The site is now his burial place, and includes a museum depicting his life and contributions.

The conference coincided with and commemorated the 230th birthdate of Simón Bolívar, whose struggle for Latin American unification and liberation was continued by Chávez, and the 60th anniversary of the July 26, 1953, audacious attack on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel Céspedes barracks leading to the triumph of the Cuban socialist revolution on Jan. 1, 1959.

Although the conference title was Solidarity with Cuba, it celebrated the many advances made through Cuba’s solidarity with the world and also Venezuela’s impact, through the leadership of Chávez, in realizing the unity of Latin America and the Caribbean projected by Bolívar.

Adopting program of solidarity
and fightback

A plenary at the Colegio Universitario “Francisco Miranda” in central Caracas on July 27 concluded debate and adopted the amendments to its Caracas Declaration and Action Plan.

Conference topics included the 2014-2015 Plan of Action; the struggle against the U.S. blockade of Cuba; solidarity and continental integration; prioritizing assistance to the next “5 Days for the Cuban 5” to demand their freedom, along with the Puerto Rican political prisoners; the struggle against terrorism; the legacy of Comandante Hugo Chávez Frías; and the intensified use of social and alternative media.

One of the most important and initial components of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas is abolishing illiteracy, a fundamental basis for independence. Cuba’s 1961 literacy campaign began its development of human capacity that has enabled Cuba to aid many other countries. Among many Cuban speakers, Leonela Relis developed the multimedia literacy program, Yo Sí Puedo (I can do it), now used in 88 countries, from a broadcast radio literacy campaign she began while teaching in Haiti in the late 1990s.

Noted Argentine author Stella Calloni — known for her writing on the bloody U.S. “Operation Condor” intervention in Latin America — stressed the danger of U.S. bases to Latin American and Caribbean independence and spoke out against the imperialist-backed war against the government of Syria.

Other internationally recognized authors present were Stephen Kimber, who wrote the new book, “What Lies Across The Water, The True Story of the Cuban 5,” as well as Arnold August and Salim Lamrani.

The conference noted the welcome return of former Cuban 5 prisoner René González to his homeland and family. René’s mother, Irma Sehwerert, and Aili Labañino — daughter of imprisoned Ramón Labañino — represented the Cuban 5 families, with Camilo Rojo, whose father died in the 1976 Cubana 455 terror-bombing out of Barbados.

It was a short walk to the statue of Cuban hero José Martí, where international delegates, white-jacketed Cuban doctors, young militants from Venezuela’s consejos comunales (community councils) and others assembled. Hundreds marched, chanting, filling the winding streets up and up the mountain. Residents of the “23 de Enero” (Jan. 23) neighborhood waived greetings, leaning out of their high-rise apartment building windows. Banners read, “Jail Posada Carriles, free the Cuban 5.” Venezuela recently renewed its demand that the U.S. extradite the admitted, convicted and wanted terrorist, Posada, who lives free in Miami.

Revolutionary chants hailed socialism, the legacy of Comandante Hugo Chávez, Cuba, Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro, and recently elected Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. After singing Venezuela’s stirring anthem, “Gloria al bravo pueblo,” the international delegates had one remaining act before them — to march to Chávez’s hilltop tomb on the eve of what would have been his 59th birthday.

The writer was a delegate at the conference as a co-chair of the National Network on Cuba, an International Action Center organizer and a WW contributing editor.

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