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Vol. 81/No. 7      February 20, 2017

(front page)

Cuba brigade: Unique chance to learn about
the revolution

Working people and youth have a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about Cuba’s socialist revolution and to offer their solidarity with the Cuban people by joining the 12th May Day International Brigade April 24 to May 8. Last year more than 200 people from 34 countries participated in the brigade, which is sponsored by the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

For the first time, a U.S. contingent will be part of the brigade. “It’s a fantastic opportunity,” Steve Eckardt, co-coordinator of the Chicago Cuba Coalition, which is organizing the U.S. contingent, told the Militant. “Participants will visit three provinces besides Havana and meet with members of the Federation of Cuban Women, the Central Organization of Cuban Workers, the Federation of University Students and other mass organizations.”

“The low cost of the brigade is extraordinary,” Eckardt said, just $512 for the entire two weeks, including food, housing and transportation. And flights to Havana from the U.S. are quite inexpensive today, he said.

The brigade will start at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp, in Artemisa province. Mella was a leader of student protests at the University of Havana and founder of the Cuban Communist Party. After being expelled from school and arrested by the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado, Mella escaped Cuba, ending up in Mexico. Organizing there to overthrow the Machado regime, he was assassinated in 1929.

Along with meetings with people from Cuba’s mass organizations, brigadistas will take part in talks and discussions on topics such as “Socialism in Cuba Today: Relations with the U.S.” and “The Cuban Economy.” Participants will work in the fields on area farms for four hours a morning for five days.

Other activities are planned each day, including films, visits to museums in Havana and Santa Clara, free time to explore these cities, visits to farms and production cooperatives, and opportunities to talk with brigade members from around the world.

On May Day, the brigade will join the annual mass demonstration in Havana for International Workers Day, the celebration of revolutionary labor struggles worldwide. And the next day they will participate with other political activists in an International Meeting in Solidarity with Cuba at the Convention Palace in Havana.

This year’s brigade is “a special tribute to the Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara,” ICAP’s call says. Castro, the central leader of the revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in January 1959, died in November. This is the 50th anniversary of the death in combat of Guevara, killed by Bolivian government troops and CIA agents while leading a guerrilla column against the dictatorship there. Guevara is a symbol of the Cuban Revolution’s solidarity with the struggles of working people around the world.

For the last six days of the trip, participants have two options.

After May Day, brigade members will travel to the provinces of Villa Clara and Cienfuegos where they will visit health centers, the Benny Moré School of Arts, meet with members of area Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and with students from the University of Medicine, and tour historical sites.

For an additional cost, participants can instead attend the Fifth Seminar for Peace and for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, in Guantánamo May 4-6. The seminar will take place in Guantánamo, the invitation says, because “117 square kilometers of [Cuba’s] territory has been illegally occupied by a US naval base that was turned into a center of torture.”

The meeting is organized by the World Peace Council, the Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples, and ICAP, and co-sponsored by the Organization of Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAAL), the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Center for Reflection.

The seminar takes place as the Cuban and U.S. governments have re-established diplomatic relations, unilaterally broken by Washington in 1961 as one of the opening guns of its 50-year-long military, economic, and political efforts to crush the revolution and the example it sets for working people in the United States, across the Americas, and the world over. The U.S. rulers maintain their brutal economic embargo and continue to occupy Guantánamo “against the legitimate will of the Cuban people for more than half a century,” the invitation says.

There’s a lot of interest in Chicago in joining the brigade. “A dozen people attended our first meeting on the brigade here,” Eckardt said. It shows the “opportunity for us to reach young people around the country.”

“I encourage people to get in touch with us as soon as possible,” he said. “The spaces should fill up quickly, and we need to make sure everyone has all the travel documents they need. What’s more, we also plan a little course of study on Cuba, because the more you know before you go there, the more you’ll appreciate and learn from the trip.”

To find out more about participating in the May Day brigade, contact the Chicago Cuba Solidarity Committee at (312) 952-2618 or email:
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