No War on CUBA Town Hall Meeting on US-CUBA Relations draws over 200 people! [CD of this meeting now available]
by Bob Snyder, NWC
Despite the hot, muggy weather over 200 people packed the All Souls Unitarian Church in Wash., DC on June 24th to hear 5 panelists speak on US-Cuba relations. The No War on Cuba Movement (NWC) sponsored the Town Hall meeting to raise community awareness about US aggression against Cuba in the past and at present. WPFW radio station (FM 89.3) taped the event and broadcast it later that evening.
The 5 panelists were: Nancy Wright, member and spokesperson for the No War on Cuba Movement; Rev. Lucius Walker, founder of Pastors for Peace; Jose Pertierra, Cuban-American immigration rights attorney; Jose A. Prieto Sanchez, Cuban Interests Section Representative; Leonard Weinglass, attorney for Antonio Guerrero, one of the five Cuban patriots unjustly imprisoned in the United States. The 2 hour event was moderated by No War on Cuba Movement member, Sue Ashdown. It was followed by a Q & A session with the audience.
NWC spokesperson NANCY WRIGHT opened the evening with a summary of the history between the two countries, including the US’ most recent aggressive actions that led concerned Cuba solidarity activists to form the No War on Cuba (NWC) movement at the end of April. These recent actions included the US order that 14 Cuban diplomats in Washington and New York be sent back to Cuba and blatant attempts by US government, through its Interests Section in Havana, to foment unrest with the express purpose of overthrowing the Cuban government. Ms. Wright explained that in light of the recent US war of aggression and occupation in Iraq and explicit statements by several US officials, NWC is concerned that a US military invasion is not out of the question. As a result, NWC demands a 180 degree turn in US policy towards Cuba by: 1.) organizing an end to the US blockade against Cuba and promoting the normalization of relations between the two countries; 2.) supporting our human right to travel to Cuba and opposing any US imposed sanctions and restrictions towards Cuba which limit exchanges and interactions between US and Cuban citizens; 3.) respecting Cuba's sovereignty and freedom from US government-sponsored, influence, harassment, intervention, terrorism, aggression, or invasion.
The Rev. LUCIUS WALKER spoke about the 40 year US imposed trade blockade and travel restrictions against Cuba and the various hardships that the Cuban people have endured over the years due to this unjust policy. He carefully detailed how the US blockade has been imposed on other countries trading with Cuba leading to widespread shortages throughout the island over many years. As founder of Pastors for Peace and with over 13 years of experience in collecting and transporting much needed medical and humanitarian donations and supplies to Cuba through the US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravans despite the blockade, Rev. Walker provided inspiring and first-hand accounts of their successful experience in challenging the US blockade He also highlighted the valiant effort of the Cuban people to maintain free education and health care in the face of the oppressive US blockade. His talk was followed by some in the audience chanting, "Cuba Si, Bloqueo No!"
Cuban American attorney, JOSE PERTIERRA, gave a humorous account of first entering the US in the early 60s when he was 9 years old and ending up in Los Angeles rather than Miami. Growing up in LA gave young Pertierra the opportunity to be free of the Miami mafia mentality so pervasive in Miami. "It's no surprise that Miami recently hosted the largest pro-war demonstration in the United States. Cuban-American demonstrators passionately shouted "Today Iraq, tomorrow Cuba" during their rally in Miami," said Pertierra.
Pertierra further explained that “under the guise of promoting ethnic diversity within the Administration, President Bush appointed over two-dozen right-wing Cuban-Americans to positions of influence in the federal government. Emboldened by their inclusion in the highest echelons of power in the Washington, Elian's Miami relatives and their fanatical supporters think that the time is ripe to finally topple the Cuban revolution. The US lied to us about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and the US lies to us about Cuba having biological weapons. They lied to us about rebuilding Afghanistan and they will lie to the American people about why the US needs to invade and liberate the Cuban people.” “ It’s a lie that all Cuban-Americans of Miami today favor toppling the Cuban leadership,” said Pertierra. Indeed a recent poll showed that more than half of South Florida's Cuban-American population favors dialogue with Cuba's leaders. "A new generation of Cuban-Americans wants a normal and respectful relationship with their home country." Pertierra concludes, "I, for one, cast my lot on the side of our poet and patriot, Jose Marti, and say with him: "Con los pobres de la tierra quiero yo mi suerte echar. El arroyo de la sierra me complace mas que el mar. I hope you do the same!” Full text of his speach.
JOSÉ A. PRIETO SÁNCHEZ represented the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC at the NWC public forum. He focused on the current and more recent statements, sanctions and hostility directed at Cuba from the United States and US officials in Cuba and other countries. In addition he recalled the escalation of Cuba-bashing rhetoric from various US government sources and the US coercion of the European Union to pile on with condemnations. He noted that the US’ heavy-handed efforts to get others to gang up on Cuba fell on deaf ears when Colin Powell went to speak at the OAS..
Human Rights attorney, LEONARD WEINGLASS, spoke on the issue of the unjustly tried and imprisoned five Cuban nationals currently being held in five separate prisons around the United States. He recounted how the Cuban overnment had to send “the five” here to monitor Cuban exile groups actively planning terrorist acts and a military invasion of Cuba because the US government and its security agencies repeatedly ignored earlier warnings and information provided to them by the Cuban government. To this day, Cuban exile groups continue their training for terrorist acts and invasion, and the US government continues to ignore these illegal activities (these activities are a violation of the US Neutrality Act). The Cuban government agents are imprisoned in the US, a few for life, only because of attempts to apprise the US government of terrorist activities operating on its own shores. Weinglass brought the audience up to date on the appeal process, the harsher treatment of the Cuban 5 under the Bush Administration and the request that Cuba solidarity supporters mobilize around this issue as this has been the only way in the past to make sure that the law is followed appropriately.
At the close of the evening, a fellow NWC member spoke to one of the videographers at the event who is not a member of NWC and is not familiar with US-Cuban issues. She said, “I learned so much here tonight. I had no idea of how terrible US foreign policy towards Cuba is.” We think that about sums it up.
CD of this meeting