Conference in solidarity with Cuba to meet in Cambodia

An important meeting in solidarity with revolutionary Cuba will be held in the Cambodian capital near the end of March. The Sixth Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of Solidarity with Cuba will take place here from March 22 to 25.

The first such Asia-Pacific solidarity conference was held in Calcutta in 1995. Since 2006, they have been held every two years. The previous conference was organised in Vientiane in 2010.


East Timorese student doctors training in Cuba.

The conference will open with an exhibition of paintings by Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five, who are political prisoners in the United States, held since 1998 for the “crime” of opposing terrorism.

Five heroes

More Cubans have been killed in terrorist attacks launched from the United States than the number of people killed in the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. Most of these attacks have been launched by Cuban counter-revolutionary groups based in Florida, whose activities are winked at or tacitly assisted by the US government. The attacks include the world’s first bombing of a civilian airliner, which destroyed a Cuban flight in 1976, killing all 73 persons aboard.

As these terrorist actions escalate and the US government refused to stop them, in the mid-1990s the Cuban government sent the five volunteers to Florida to infiltrate the terrorist groups and discover their plans so that Cuba could prevent them from being carried out.

In 1998, the Cuban government invited FBI representatives to Havana and gave them documentary evidence of the violations of US law being committed by the terrorists, including the names and addresses of the chief culprits. The FBI promised action, but instead, with a blaze of publicity about a “Cuban spy network”, the US government arrested the Cuban Five instead of the terrorists. The US courts insisted on trying the case in Miami, where Cuban counter-revolutionaries carry out widespread acts of intimidation. Indeed, several prospective jurors openly stated that they would be afraid to deliver a verdict that conflicted with “community opinion”. During the trial itself, right-wing leaders regularly sat in the public gallery, where they were visible to the jury, often wearing military or paramilitary uniforms.

The injustice of the jailing of the Five is reflected in the broad international support for their release. When the defence appealed to the US Supreme Court in 2009, 12 “friend of the court” briefs were submitted — the largest number ever submitted in a criminal case. In the US, they came from, among others, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild, the National Jury Project, the National Conference of Black Lawyers and the Center for International Policy and Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Internationally, one brief came from 10 Nobel laureates, another from a large number of legislators, including the entire Senate of Mexico and the National Assembly of Panama, another from a range of legal and human rights organisations and professors from Latin America, Germany, Japan, Portugal, Spain and Britain, and a fourth from the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the American Association of Jurists, the Indian Association of Lawyers and other legal associations from Belgium, Britain, France, Italy, Japan, the Philippines and Portugal. The court nevertheless refused to hear the appeal.

In October last year, one of the Five, Rene Gonzaelez, was released after serving his sentence of 15 years. However, the US has refused to allow him to return to his home, insisting that he remain for three years of “supervised release” in Florida — where he is in continual danger of attack by counter-revolutionary terrorists.

Assistance to region

Another feature of the solidarity conference will be a documentary exhibition about students from Asia and the Pacific who are studying in Cuba. Cuba’s unselfish assistance to the region is so impressive that information about it sometimes makes it into the “mainstream” media. Last July, Fairfax’s National Times online publication carried an article by Hamish McDonald titled “Cuba nurses East Timor to health and gives Australia a medical lesson”.

Cuba’s medical and educational assistance to East Timor began less than a year after the country attained its independence from Indonesia. Today, McDonald reported, there are 278 Cuban doctors in the country, most of them deployed in sub-district clinics.

“In addition”, McDonald wrote, “the first of about 700 Timorese sent to medical schools in Cuba under scholarships provided by Havana graduated last year, after six years of study, and also have been sent out to local medical units. A further 150 Timorese have been studying in the faculty of medicine set up with Cuban assistance at the National University in Dili in December 2005.” The Solomon Islands and Kiribati, he noted, have also sent medical students to Cuba. Students from poor countries are on full scholarships.

The “lesson” that McDonald thought the Australian government should learn from Cuba concerned the contrast between Western governments’ “expensive systems that fall apart when the foreign experts are withdrawn” and Cuba’s assistance to East Timor: “The Cubans come and work under the local health department, not in separate clinics reporting to a foreign aid agency. The foreign expertise is a holding operation until the local personnel are trained up over six years to replace them.”

Cambodia also has benefited from Cuban scholarships for its students, particularly in the 1980s, when the country was just beginning to rebuild after the destruction caused by the Khmer Rouge regime. Some of those students will be attending the solidarity conference.

On March 23, the conference will divide into two committees to discuss: combating the US economic blockade of Cuba; and how to make greater use of the media to strengthen solidarity and spread the truth about Cuba’s revolution.

The conference presents a rare opportunity for socialists in the region to act in solidarity with revolutionary Cuba. If you are interested in attending, further information can be obtained from: Director Asia y Oceanía ICAP director.dao@icap.cu, or contact us at the RSP <nationaoffice@rsp.org.au> .