The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 24      June 23, 2014

Supporters of Cuba join
debates at LASA conference
CHICAGO — Supporters of the Cuban Revolution were able to advance the international fight to defend the revolution and free the Cuban Five at the Latin American Studies Association international congress held here May 21-24.

The gathering drew 4,000 Latin American studies professors, students, publishers and others from the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Middle East. Among the participants were 122 delegates from Cuba, who made a substantial political contribution to the three-day event, which included nearly 800 panel discussions, scheduled from early in the morning to late at night.

To disorganize the Cuban delegation, the State Department denied visas to two leading academics, who have come to the U.S. many times, and waited until just days before the congress opened to grant visas to most others. The delegation was nevertheless the biggest ever at a LASA congress, registering the progress of the association’s long-term battle against U.S.-government restrictions on Cuban academic exchanges.

Cuban defenders of the revolution took part in dozens of panel discussions on a range of topics from U.S.-Cuba foreign relations to economic and agricultural reforms in Cuba, racism, the place of women in the revolution, culture, youth in Cuba today, Cuba’s relations with other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and many others. Panels on U.S.-Cuba relations produced lively discussions, as did those on Cuba’s foreign relations with Venezuela, Vietnam, China and Russia.

One panel of Cuban delegates entitled “The Cuban Economy That’s Coming: New Rules of the Game,” provoked an animated discussion about the challenge to increase productivity in light of the U.S. economic blockade and the devastating blows to the country’s infrastructure by the economic crisis of the last quarter century. Participants debated the place of agricultural cooperatives, efforts to reduce underemployment and whether there is a “model” for Cuba to follow.

An exhibit hall featured scores of publishers from universities around the world. This year, for the first time, LASA organized a program that allowed exhibitors to give book presentations.

Pathfinder Press, which publishes books on revolutionary struggles of the working class and its allies, had a booth and sponsored a presentation of two of its newest books: Voices From Prison: The Cuban Five and I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived by Antonio Guerrero. It drew some 50 delegates from Cuba, the United States, Argentina, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, China and other countries.

“We must break out of the circles of solidarity groups and reach much deeper into broad public opinion,” said Raúl Garcés, dean of the communications department at the University of Havana and featured speaker at the book presentation, speaking on behalf of the Cuban delegation.

“Unlike most others who exhibit at the LASA conference, Pathfinder Press is not a university publishing house,” explained Mary-Alice Waters, editor of the new books and the publisher’s president. “The only university Pathfinder is associated with is the university of life and struggle of the working class and its allies. That’s why prominent among our publications are more than 60 titles in print on the Cuban Revolution.”

The Pathfinder booth was visited by a steady stream of conference delegates from more than 15 countries. Many were interested in getting involved in the campaign to free the Cuban Five. Top sellers were I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived and Voices From Prison.

One delegate from China bought 14 books. A professor of Latin American studies at Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey, was very pleased to see the Militant newspaper’s front-page article on the coal mine disaster that killed more than 300 miners in Soma, near her hometown. She bought a copy of the paper and planned to order a subscription through her university library.

On the last day, a reception and rally to welcome the Cuban delegation drew 150 people, including participants in the LASA congress and defenders of the Cuban Revolution from the Chicago area and Upper Midwest region. The “Evening in Solidarity with Cuba and the Cuban Five” — organized by the National Network on Cuba; Cuba solidarity committees from Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis; and other groups — was planned to coincide with the LASA congress. It was held downtown at the Grace Episcopal Church.

Speaking on behalf of the Cuban delegation were Tony Romero, professor of economics at the University of Havana and organizer of the delegation to the LASA congress; Nancy Morejón, one of Cuba’s most prominent poets and president of the Writers Section of the Cuban Union of Artists and Writers, who read three of her poems about the Cuban Five; and Alberto Roque, a leader of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education.

Other speakers included Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five; Alejandro Molina, co-coordinator of the National Boricua Human Rights Network, which is fighting to free Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar López Rivera, imprisoned in the U.S. for 33 years; John Beacham of the ANSWER Coalition; and Mary-Alice Waters.

The gathering also heard special greetings sent by Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino.

Many of the Cuban delegates planned to travel to other cities and universities before returning home.

The next LASA international congress will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 27-30, 2015.
Related articles:
Hundreds gather in DC for 3rd ‘5 Days for the Cuban 5’
Who are the Cuban Five?
‘Cuban Five are fighters – in and out of prison – I like that’
Antonio Guerrero’s paintings exhibited in Philadelphia
Exhibits of paintings by Antonio Guerrero
NY Puerto Rican Day wins support to free Oscar López
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