Over the weekend of June 22-25, the National Network on Cuba, of which the Bay Area Cuba Solidarity Network is a member, organized a series of activities in Washington, DC to protest US policies against Cuba. While the overall US Government’s polices restricting trade with and travel to Cuba (i.e., the embargo or blockade) was the general focus of the protest, particular attention was given to Cuba being placed on the State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism.”
President Ronald Reagan placed Cuba on the list in 1982, but President Barack Obama removed the country from that list in 2015 after a thorough review of the policy.
However, Donald Trump, in the waning days of his time in office, reinstated Cuba on this list and, to date, the Biden Administration has not undone this meritless designation.
Being on this list undermines Cuba’s economy, even beyond the overall embargo or blockade. It restricts Cuba from obtaining US foreign assistance and loans from international organizations as well as discourages other countries, companies, and people from trade or other financial transactions with Cuba because they could face financial penalties instigated by the US government. That is, being on this list means that Cubans cannot access funds from their families abroad, obtain medicines or certain foods, and key resources from other countries.
Cuba solidarity activists gathered at the park with a statue of José de San Martin. This location is of symbolic importance, not only because it is across the street from the US State Department but also because the statue commemorates the 19th century Latin American General who led Argentina, Chile, and Peru in the anti-colonial struggle against Spanish rule.
Behind banners and placards, the group then took to the streets in a march, chanting slogans, such as “President Biden, take Cuba off the list” and “Cuba si, bloqueo no.” Along the route, they passed the headquarters of the Organization of American States, an international organization that the US has used in its economic and propaganda war against Cuba, as well as Nicaragua and Venezuela. The spirited march ended at the plaza outside the White House to participate in a enthusiastic rally, where 20 or so speakers addressed the crowd of 500 activists and led them in more chanting.
Following the rally, solidarity activists reconvened at the Thurgood Marshall Center, where speakers opened a critical discussion about US imperialism, including the use of unilateral coercive measures or sanctions, and the impact on people in Cuba, North Korea, Palestine, and the Philippines.
Earlier in the weekend, on Thursday, June 22, dozens of people attended a screening of the film, “Cuba’s Spies,” a documentary focusing on the Cuba 5 (Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González), who in 1998 were tried and sentenced in Miami to multi-year prison terms for being “spies,” though in fact they were gathering intelligence about US-based Cuban American groups which had a history of engaging in subversive and other terrorist actions on the island of Cuba.
On Friday, June 23, ACERE (Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect) and CodePink coordinated lobbying visits to House and Senate offices, seeking to educate and encourage elected officials to pressure President Biden to take Cuba of the SSOT list and to oppose HB 314 and SB 588, which have been introduced by Rep. Salzar (Republican, Florida) and Senator Rubio (Republican, Florida) to codify Cuba being on the SSOT list. Those participating emphasized not only how these bills would cause further harm to the Cuban people but also how they would usurp the authority of the executive branch of the government.
Later, on Friday at 5:00 pm many solidarity activists participated in a vigil, organized by the General Board of Church and Society, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, and the NNOC, uniting in prayer, advocacy, and reflection for the removal Cuba from the US government’s arbitrary list of state sponsors of terrorism and calling for an end to the US economic blockade of Cuba.
The next evening, the DC Metro Coalition in Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution hosted a meeting at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, featuring speakers, including Alejandro Pila, the Second Chief of Mission of the Cuban Embassy. Prior to the inspiring and informative talks by the speakers, people attending the event watched the film, “Maestra,” a documentary of the mass mobilization of young Cubans as part of the very successful literacy campaign in 1961 (incidentally, the same year that US-government supported mercenaries landed at the Bay of Pigs in a failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban Revolution). The crowd of 100 or more activists also enjoyed the performance of the Black Workers Center.
Finally, it should be noted that during this weekend rallies and other protest actions also took place in a range of cities throughout North America, including in San Francisco, 24 June 2023 (see photo #3). Although I wasn’t able to participate in this action in San Francisco, organized by the ANSWER Coalition and the Bay Area Cuba Solidarity Network, I am proud to have represented us at the events in Washington, DC.