|L-R: Elizabeth Palmiero, Diana Holland, Adrian Weir|
Newly elected Cuba Solidarity Campaign Chair and current Unite Assistant General Secretary Diana Holland condemned the ongoing blockade which forbids US-owned and part-owned companies from trading with Cuba. Diana reflected on the extraterritorial nature of the blockade which penalises foreign companies that do trade or process finance from Cuba and re-emphasised Unite’s commitment to campaign against this economic injustice.
Diana referenced a report by the American Association for World Health which observed:
“that the U.S. embargo of Cuba has dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens. ... it is our expert medical opinion that the U.S. embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering - and even deaths - in Cuba. ... A humanitarian catastrophe has been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high level of budgetary support for a health care system designed to deliver primary and preventive health care to all of its citizens.”
“The blockade is still very much alive and kicking,” declared Diana. “Only last month the ING bank was fined millions of dollars for processing Cuban financial transactions because the US farcically keeps Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism”.
The economic blockade is just one facet of a dirty war against Cuba. “For over 50 years, Cuba has been subjected to continuous terrorist attacks organised, sponsored or tolerated by the US government and its agencies,” said Diana. This has included a range of chemical and biological attacks and the bombings to airliners and hotels.
To defend itself against terrorist attacks, Cuba sent five agents to infiltrate Miami-based terrorist organisations. After the FBI asked for Cuba’s help to deal with the terrorists, it used the evidence to arrest the Five. Despite condemnation by the UN and Amnesty International, the Miami Five remain unjustly imprisoned in America and their families are denied regular visitation rights.
For the first time, Unite welcomed all four wives of the Miami Five to conference. Elizabeth Palmiero – wife of Ramón Labañino– spoke on behalf of the wives and thanked Unite for their continuing support.
“The only thing our husbands are guilty of is protecting the Cuban people against terrorist attacks,” declared Elizabeth. “The case is political and there is no other way to resolve the injustice than building the pressure of international public opinion against the policies of the U.S. government”.
Elizabeth called on President Obama to intervene personally. “For the American authorities, it is not enough to keep our husbands in prison,” she said. “But they must use us – by denying us visitation rights – to further attack our husbands”.
“We have suffered but we know that tears won’t bring freedom to the Miami Five, so we must continue to fight”.
Diana concluded by reasserting Unite’s support of the Miami Five and their families and called on all Unite branches to affiliate to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.