LETTER FROM WITNESS FOR PEACE SOLIDARITY COLLECTIVE DELEGATES TO CUBA



(Español abajo)


We, the undersigned who are recent delegates to Cuba, celebrate the Biden Administration’s repeal of some of the sanctions imposed under the Trump Administration, many of them during the pandemic. While the policy changes are small and tailored to the State Department's foreign policy interests, these are very necessary shifts that will provide some relief of hardship caused by U.S. sanctions. This repeal is the fruit of grassroots action by our transnational solidarity movement. We respond to the Cuban people’s call for the end of the blockade. We will push for more! We are thirty-three people who work across the U.S. and in Colombia in education, arts, sciences, farming, and community organising. We recently spent busy days meeting with hundreds of Cubans of every walk of life- from grassroots organisers, to artists, farmers, youth musicians, doctors, Afro-Cuban leaders, people's historians, students, LGBT+ activists, ecologists, and faith leaders. We heard directly from them and saw firsthand how U.S. sanctions harm every part of their daily lives- from getting food to transportation, housing, basic necessities, and medicine. They all declared their right to live without a Blockade and urged us to share that message widely.

This new lifting of sanctions is welcome; and, we call for all sanctions to be lifted. The sanctions have a dizzying effect on lives. They harm racialised, women, LGBT+, and the cash-poor most. They stunt the people's efforts to build an alternative political and economic model. This is no small thing. Cubans defy the same neoliberalism and privatisation that we have witnessed ravage the world. They defend the universal healthcare system we desperately needed to save the 1 million lives lost to COVID-19 across the U.S. Cubans do this while extending medical and political solidarity around the globe. So, we celebrate that the people-to-people licence has been reauthorised; and, call for the lifting of all U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba. Since 1998, thousands of delegates have participated in licensed travel to Cuba with Witness for Peace and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Centre to hear firsthand about its grassroots popular education initiatives, community-rooted theology, and work on racial and gender justice as an island-wide and regional movement strategy centre. Now, more organised groups will travel to Cuba for cultural, professional, and educational activities. We celebrate the elimination of limits on family remittances and the permission of donative ones; and, call for an end to the restrictions that have shuttered essentially all remittances to the Caribbean country since November, 2020. While we learned that some Cuban families do not have family abroad to provide financial support, the Cuban people expressed to us how important remittances are to the entire economy. They shared their frustration at the U.S. restrictions that create obstacles for Cuban immigrant communities sending resources to their families on the island and for organisations that want to donate to their good work. We celebrate the expansion of U.S. consular services and the speeding up of visa processing; and, call for all visa applications to be processed in Cuba. We learned of a backlog of around one hundred thousand visa applications that have kept families separate, stalled careers, denied the right to travel, and cost innumerable resources by requiring that Cubans travel to a third country. We celebrate the announced expansion of flights to Havana and the resumption of flights to other provinces. The additional scarcity faced by local economies in provinces, will now be less harsh. We could only enter Cuba through Havana because of U.S. restrictions. There are regional airports that now we, Cuban families, and tourists, can use to travel across the largest country in the Caribbean. As past delegates, now in our home communities, we keep thinking about the Cuban people we met and the over 11 million across the island's city and rural areas. They need the Blockade to be ended, and the world does too. When hearing from experts and community members about the Family Code and the path to affirm the rights of children, adoptees, diverse families, elders, and people with disabilities, we asked ourselves: What would be possible without the U.S. Blockade? When hearing from a young dance teacher with a commitment to arts for the majorities and not only the rich, we asked ourselves: What would be possible without the U.S. Blockade? After a talk by a respected Cuban athlete about the investment in sports as a de-commercialised right for all Cubans, we asked ourselves: What would be possible without the U.S. Blockade? When immunologists, who worked on developing the home-grown vaccines Abdala, Soberana 02, and Soberana Plus to ensure the wellbeing of all Cubans and as many as possible in the Global South, spoke about the difficulty of having their life-saving research recognised due to blockade-related bureaucracy, we asked ourselves: What would be possible without the U.S. Blockade? When artists and writers told us about the difficulty of accessing design applications, paint, or printers, and a dancer about the barriers they face in travelling to conferences and performances without going through the neighbouring U.S., we asked ourselves: What would be possible without the U.S. Blockade? When a trans collective described their hard-fought gains at recognition through the Family Code and their community work for health and housing justice, we asked ourselves: What would be possible without the U.S. Blockade? Workers told us about the achievements of their labour struggle in maternity and sick leave, anti-discrimination, pariticpation in decisions in their workplace both in law and practice. When we witnessed hundreds of thousands march across the Plaza during the May Day Parade, jubilantly celebrating the essential and frontline workers as heroes, we asked ourselves: What would be possible without the U.S. Blockade? When the neighbourhood-level family doctor shared in detail how her team mobilises their few resources to keep people as healthy as possible while pregnant, living with hypertension, battling chronic illness, and keep their doors open at no cost to the community, we asked ourselves: What would be possible without the U.S. Blockade? In our homes across almost all states of the U.S., we have and will continue to join marches and monthly caravans, share what we have learned to all who will listen, contact local elected officials and members of Congress to advocate for change in US policies toward Cuba, collect food and medicines made scarce by sanctions, host and attend educational events, write articles and make presentations that challenge the corporate campaigns of misinformation, participate in the National Network on Cuba municipal, school board, and labour union resolutions for medical cooperation, as well as city council resolutions.


We commit ourselves to more grassroots action for the end of all U.S. sanctions against Cuba, the U.S. policies and financing that violate the sovereignty of the Cuban people, the military occupation of Guantanamo Bay, and for reparations to the Cuban people. We will build solidarity as peoples. A new world would be more possible without the U.S. Blockade against Cuba.


Signed:


Pambana Gutto Bassett, Co-director, Cuba Programme and Board Chair, Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective, Havana, Cuba and New York, USA


Justin Jiménez, Co-director, Cuba Program, Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective, Havana, Cuba and Boston, MA, USA


Sarah Davenport, Delegation Coordinator and PhD Candidate, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA Jim Dimock, Delegation Coordinator and Professor, Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN, USA Julia Thomas, Delegation Coordinator and Journalist, New York City, NY, USA Eric Nelson, Delegation Coordinator and Retired Wildlife Biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Winona, MN, USA Debi Niebuhr, Delegate and Delegation Coordinator for 3 years; Retired Massage Therapy Instructor at MSCSE, Winona, MN, USA Saruh Almendarez, Organizer, Urban Tree Connection, Pennsylvania, USA

zuri arman, Black Studies PhD Student; Co-editor, (De)Cypher: Black Notes and C̶r̶i̶t̶i̶c̶i̶s̶m̶, Rhode Island, USA Georie Bryant, Symbodied, North Carolina, USA Erin Carson, Labor Organizer, Durham, NC, USA Shae Cron-Mills, Undergraduate Student, Metropolitan State, MN, United States Diego Mauricio Cortés, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Bradford, PA, USA Denny Davis, Deacon. St Agnes Parish, Vermillion, SD, USA Angie Del Arca, Legal Assistant, CA, USA James Dimock, Retired Gold Miner,