Conference plans to increase solidarity with Cuba in the Asia-Pacific

“Defending Cuba today is the only way to keep alive the hopes and dreams of social justice”, states the final declaration of the Fifth Asia-Pacific Regional Conference for Solidarity with Cuba. A stepped-up campaign of support for revolutionary Cuba against imperialism was the central decision of the conference, held in the capital of Laos on March 19-20.

The conference was attended by almost 200 delegates from 21 countries, and was the biggest and broadest of the regional solidarity gatherings, which are now held every two years. It was hosted jointly by the Lao-Cuba Friendship Association and the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

In his opening speech to the conference, Dr. Chaleun Yiapaoheu, the minister of justice of Laos and president of the Lao-Cuba Friendship Association, slammed the “unjust and immoral” 48-year US blockade of Cuba and the US laws that illegitimately penalise third countries that trade with Cuba. Eighteen times the UN General Assembly has passed a resolution calling for an end to the blockade. In the most recent such vote, last October, 187 countries voted for the resolution, while the US was supported only by Israel and the Pacific island of Palau.

Dr. Yiapaoheu also called for support for Cuba’s efforts “to protect itself from terrorist acts … financed and planned” from abroad. In particular, this required a continued struggle for the release of the Five Cuban Heroes, who have been jailed unjustly in the US since 1998 for the “crime” of exposing terrorist plots against Cuba being organised in the US. Last year the campaign to free the Five Heroes achieved a small step forward when three of the five were re-sentenced to shorter jail terms.

Delegates attended one of two working commissions: on the ideals of Jose Marti, Cuba’s 19th century independence leader, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro; and on increasing solidarity with Cuba through regional and national media networks.

After a wide-ranging discussion on revolutionary Cuba’s achievements and challenges, the first commission concluded that the Five Heroes are today providing an outstanding example of putting into practice the revolutionary ideals of Marti, Che and Fidel.

The second commission conducted a detailed discussion of the connections and relations between traditional media and the newer, internet-based media, and the use of both to increase public awareness of Cuba and to increase connections between supporters of the Cuban Revolution around the region. It called for greater publicising of Cuba’s achievements in health care, education and the environment, and of the magnificent humanitarian contributions of Cuban medical workers in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to the US blockade and the struggle to free the Five Heroes, the final declaration of the conference: rejected the US government’s pretence of being able to accuse Cuba or any other country of support for terrorism while well-known terrorists against the Cuban people walk freely in the US; demanded the return to Cuban sovereignty of the territory of the Guantanamo naval base, illegally occupied by the USA; condemned the corporate mass media’s false and negative portrayal of Cuba and reaffirmed the “commitment to promote awareness of the Cuban reality”; and deplored the recent European Parliament resolution falsely accusing Cuba of human rights violations.

The declaration went on to support the “independence, sovereignty and right of self-determination” of the Cuban people and the other peoples of the world, and pledged to “continue working for the widening and strengthening of the solidarity movement with Cuba in each of our countries”.

Eight of the conference delegates came from Australia, double the number at the 2008 conference, held in Sri Lanka. They came from the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society in Sydney, the Association for Friendship with Cuba in Adelaide and Perth and the Revolutionary Socialist Party.