For the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people of Cuba took to the streets in large numbers on International Workers’ Day, May 1. An estimated 600,000 Cubans took part in the massive mobilization in the capital Havana accompanied by over 1,000 international activists from 60 countries.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez wrote on Twitter “[It is] a demonstration of a working people that will not give up and will fight creatively in the face of the extreme intensification of an opportunist and criminal blockade. The plans of imperialism will fail in the face of the strong determination of the Cuban people to defend their revolution.”
Among the international delegations present on the island that marched on May Day is a group of 100 young people from diverse social movements and organizations in North America. The delegation brought together by the International Peoples’ Assembly held a banner in the parade reading “Build The Future, Break the Blockade!” The delegation includes leaders from The People’s Forum, Black Youth Project 100, Dissenters, the ANSWER Coalition, the Palestinian Youth Movement, CODEPINK and others.
In addition to their participation in the May Day parade, the delegation will be meeting with diverse sections of Cuban society such as scientists, artists, labor, LGBTQ, community and anti-racists activists. These encounters, organized by Cuba’s Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Center, seek to bring diverse perspectives and debates on the impact of six decades of the US blockade on daily life in Cuba.
Manolo De Los Santos, Co-Executive Director of the People’s Forum who helped organize the delegation, said “this historic trip will reaffirm the special ties of friendship and solidarity that have existed between Cuban and North American youth going back to the 1960s.” He added that “we travel in full opposition to Biden’s continuation of 243 sanctions that hurt and gravely affect the Cuban people”
The blockade continues
The US government under Donald Trump and now under Joe Biden has refused to loosen its blockade against the Cuban people even amid the global public health crisis. The US blockade has cost Cuba over $130 billion in six decades, and its health care sector has suffered over $2.9 billion in damages and losses.
The pandemic has hit Cuba especially hard as it suspended all tourism activities for over a year and a half in order to curb the spread of the virus on the island. Before the start of the pandemic, Cuba’s tourism sector contributed to around 10% of its GDP. The sharp decline in GDP has impacted Cuba’s ability to import crucial food and medicine for the population, among other essential items which has significantly impacted the standard of living for the majority of Cubans.
Read more: The United States tries to take advantage of the price Cubans are paying for the blockade and the pandemic
Despite these overwhelming challenges, Cuba was able to produce five vaccines against COVID-19, two of which, Soberana II and Abdala, are among the most effective globally.
In this context of increased pressure against Cuba, solidarity movements and organizations across the world have mobilized material support and solidarity for Cuba. In addition to organizing and participating in the ongoing youth brigade, The People’s Forum has organized several fundraising campaigns to bring syringes, powdered milk, and other food products to the island, and published a public letter signed by prominent artists, intellectuals, and activists demanding that Joe Biden lift the unilateral coercive measures imposed against Cuba during the presidency of Donald Trump.
In a few minutes I’m joining @Puentesdeamor1 @codepink @PeoplesForumNYC to fly to Havana with a plane full of love for the Cuban people and 18K pounds of of food.
Now is the time to end the US blockade. #LetCubaLive pic.twitter.com/zuRRlFEP5j
— Manolo De Los Santos (@manolo_realengo) November 5, 2021