|Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey|
Nearly 200 TUC delegates attended a lively Latin America solidarity meeting on Monday to hear from speakers on Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Nicaragua and mark the 13th anniversary of the arrest of the Miami Five. Chairing the meeting, NUT General Secretary Christine Blower declared it was “probably the best supported fringe at conference”.
Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary, started by paying tribute to the Cuban Che Guevara medical brigade in Nicaragua which – organised as a result of the ALBA agreement – has performed more than four million consultations since 2007. Len noted that “whilst the prospect for trade unionists in non-ALBA countries is bleak” Cuba is leading the way in providing “real and material benefits” to the dispossessed of Latin America.
Len told delegates about a “remarkable trade union rally” in defence of the Miami Five in Los Angeles recently which was addressed by Tony Woodley. British trade unions continue to raise the issue of the Five with American unions and, with legal avenues exhausted, only this “spirit of internationalism will break through the wall of silence”.
|Cuban Ambassador, Esther Armenteros|
Cuban Ambassador, Esther Armenteros, lamented the lack of coverage in the mainstream media of the 13th anniversary of the Miami Five’s arrest. Esther told attendees that the Miami Five “remain unjustly imprisoned for combating terrorism against our country and have been subjected to all sorts of humiliations”.
Esther reflected on a telephone conversation she had with Fernando González when she was working as a diplomat in South Africa. “After ten year in prison, Fernando’s voice was of such strength and conviction that, if I ever feel weak, I think of him”. The British trade union movement knows that it will take the same strength and conviction to bring justice to the Five. This, as Esther observed, will only be achieved by building international solidarity and taking the fight to the US.
Esther also drew attention to a recent Save the Children report which placed Cuba top in Latin America and 8th in the world for paediatrics and children’s medical care. The study was based on three fundamental variables: the number of doctors and nurses per thousand inhabitants, the coverage of the vaccination system and the proportion of women who gave birth with an obstetrician present. Cuba finished ahead of Germany, Russia, France, the UK and America. “How is this possible when we have been subjected to 50 years of economic blockade?” asked Esther. “The US has been stopping Cuba from buying drugs to help sick children – despite this, Cuba has come way ahead of the US”.
Venezuelan Ambassador, Samuel Moncada, hailed the trade union movement as the “most progressive section of British society”. Samuel reflected on the huge social strides made in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez declaring “excluding Cuba, we have the least unequal society in Latin America… and we are striving for the best public services after Cuba too”.
Before delegates mingled over Havana Club cocktails, Christine Blower thanked everyone for attending and Thompsons Solicitors for sponsoring the meeting. “Hope and change clearly is possible,” affirmed Christine as she urged everyone to get involved with CSC’s campaign to mark the 50th anniversary of the blockade which will be launched next month.
The mothers of the Five will join the annual Cuba Solidarity Campaign vigil for the Miami Five outside the US Embassy on 1st December and will be speaking at Latin America Conference 2011 on 3rd December. In Spring 2012, a prestigious exhibition featuring Cuban and British artists will include work by Gerardo and Antonio. For more information on these events and the Miami Five, please click here.