On Saturday, July 23, international collectives, political and cultural groups, as well as many visitors, celebrated the Fiesta de Solidaridad con Cuba in Berlin – a reference to the Movimiento Revolucionario 26 de Julio (MR-26-7) and its origins, when Cubans and friends honor the attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba in 1953 as the beginning of the revolution that triumphed on January 1, 1959.
The traditional gathering, organized by Cuba Sí, a working group from the German leftist party Die Linke, combined music, photography, and political activism from Cuba, Latin America, and beyond. It included Colombian musicians and activists from Brigada RPF and multiple groups of Palestinian solidarity networks as a compelling metaphor of what Cuban solidarity has increasingly meant.
The vibrant celebration of Cuban solidarity began with participants paying tribute to the revolutionary José Ramón Balaguer who died on July 15. He had performed critical roles in the country’s leadership, including serving as the Minister of Health (2004-2010).
Rigoberto Zarza, director of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples in Europe, shared with Angelika Becker, chairwoman of Netzwerk Cuba, some reflections on the current situation of the socialist country. He pointed out that, unlike the other nations, in these 2.5 years of outbreak, Cuba faced two different sorts of pandemics: firstly, COVID-19 was a particular health and economic challenge for a country that has been deprived of material conditions for its full development. The second was the unprecedented and opportunistic escalation of the US sanctions, which started with Donald Trump and have continued under Joe Biden’s administration.
The designation of Cuba as a terrorist country brought many economic implications, such as the prohibition on receiving money from abroad. According to Rigoberto, other sabotage acts include the chasing of boats bringing fuel to the island and the implications of the new wave of liability under the Helms-Burton Act, setting grounds in the United States jurisdiction for legal demands from third-country companies against expropriations carried on by the revolutionary government.
But then, both crises have sparked the Cuban people’s creativity to deal with the challenges under the government’s guidance, essentially through two core strategies. The country adopted economic measures to increase the independence of municipal and provincial governments in the policy-making process. On the other hand, there were substantial legislative advances as a result of the updates of multiple acts after the 2019 constitutional review. For instance, the Family Code was approved by the parliament and will be submitted for popular consultation on the September 29, through which the population and its representatives set parameters to rights, layers of protection for seniors and children, and the increased role of the youth regarding the multiple models of families they intend to protect as a society.
Another highlight was the youth gathering with various German and European collectives and the Cuban Ambassador in Germany, Juana Martínez, where they exchanged experiences, concerns and questions while reflecting upon the Cuban people’s challenges and successful strategies to deal with the growing importance of the young generation to resistance and revolution as live paths.
Martínez emphasized the importance placed by Cubans on information and access to its multiple dimensions. The ambassador stated that the leadership has defined the motto “do not tell people to believe, but to read,” recalling that notwithstanding the gap in conditions to deal with the information war against Cuba, access to information is the core strategy to show and engage the youth in the current and prospective project of a socialist society. She also mentioned the current trend of young generations in the Cuban political scenario – the average composition of its parliament is 35 years-old members; among the whole Congress, 87% were born after the revolution, an unseen phenomenon in its history. That means that Cuba has witnessed an increasing engagement of citizens who grew up with granted social, cultural and economic rights, enforcing the need to engage them in the revolutionary process.
During the pandemic, the Cuban youth demonstrated its capacity to adapt and resist old and new challenges, supporting the scientific community and the implementation of policies while promoting through multiple organizations, like the communist youth, university unions and political groups, a participatory approach to the struggle.
Answering many concerns about the threats to Cuba in the audience, the ambassador was categorical: the challenges are universal, no matter from where the youth we are referring to come from. But if human beings are the only ones capable of thinking, it also means that we are the only ones capable of fighting. The revolution is a continuous dynamic of participation and interest. This can only be achieved through information and ensuring that it can reach our young generations and stimulate the build-up of an independent and savvy perception.
The guest of honor at the fiesta was Dr. Francisco Durán, the Chief Epidemiologist of Cuba, leader of the Tropical Medicine Institute Pedro Kourí, who talked about the trajectory of health policy management on the island and abroad. Elaborating on the compelling evidence of the thriving Cuban strategy to tackle the pandemic – including a 98% rate of the vaccinated population above two years old with three doses of four locally produced vaccines and 11 weeks without deaths – Durán underscored the reasons behind it. Despite the economic constraints in dealing with the outbreak, Cuba’s principle was to protect its people and other populations in need instead of making any profit from the health crisis. Its first vaccines was distributed to other countries – Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Iran. And another 54 nations have received medical equipment, medicines, and Cuban personnel, including Italy, one of the first epicenters of the epidemics.
“More than one vaccine: one country.” In a big contrast to the enhancement of the pharmaceutical industry that lobbied and made economic gains from medicinal advances, the institutions and resources from Cuba are public goods, which means that the Cuban approach, represented by state-owned research centers and the work of the Ministry of BioCubaFarma, also developed thanks to international solidarity, aimed at serving the peoples.
After two years of interruptions due to COVID-19, those who are firm in solidarity with Cuba had the chance and privilege to convene again from and towards solidarity. The opportunity to meet around Cuba and its living, resilient and vibrant revolution is a compelling reminder of how it is inextricably linked to Internationalism. Hasta la próxima y (hasta) la victoria. Siempre.
The article was written by Cuban solidarity activists in Berlin.