Photo: Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel addresses the crowd. Credit: Estudios Revolución
On Sept. 23, Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel and Foreign Minister of Venezuela Yvan Gil addressed a New York City auditorium packed with solidarity activists. Organizers in the room traveled from across the entire United States, not just for a chance to hear these speakers express their views, but also to reaffirm their commitment to ending the criminal blockades against Cuba and Venezuela and removing Cuba from the United States’ “state sponsors of terrorism” list. The high-energy event featured several U.S.-based speakers as well, including Manolo De Los Santos of The People’s Forum, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research Director Vijay Prashad, and Dr. Samirah Addrey, a graduate of Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine. For nearly three hours, the lecture hall was filled with applause and repeated cheers of “Let Cuba live!”
The title of the night’s event was “Voices of Dignity: The People vs. Blockades.” The event tied together the blockades against Cuba and Venezuela with the broader fight against the domination of the major Western powers over the economic and political world order. For instance, attendees met Vijay Prashad’s demands for France out of Africa with raucous applause. And the gathering was explicitly connected with the fight for a whole new type of society as Manolo De Los Santos affirmed to the crowd, “We are not afraid to say we believe in a socialist project. We are not afraid to say this system needs to change.”
In his speech, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Gil recounted the many obstacles Venezuela has faced to its sovereignty over recent years, from the attempted right-wing coup led by Juan Guaidó, to multiple assassination attempts on President Maduro, to recent U.S. attempts to create tensions with neighboring Guyana. “We have defended very strongly our resources, our territory, and our sovereignty. And imperialism cannot forgive us for this and is doing everything possible to destroy our revolution,” he explained. Gil also emphasized how continuing support from the people of Cuba, the United States and internationalists all around the world has been essential to fighting against all these attempts to overturn the sovereign government of Venezuela.
Taking the stage to a standing ovation after the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Cuban President Díaz-Canel spoke of Cuba’s long history of struggle against imperialism, but also focused on the shared mission of those in the room to build a socialist future. Díaz-Canel proclaimed, “Pessimism is not the nature of revolutionaries! That is not an option for those of us who believe a better world is possible. It is not an option for those of us who have the belief that it is worth it to fight for that better world.”
Díaz-Canel laid out the injustice at the heart of the world order and Cuba’s vision of an alternative:
“We have suffered the exploitation of our riches and our human resources. And these riches and resources came to enrich the European metropolis. And in more recent times our people have also been the victims of expressions of neo-colonialism. We [the Global South] account for more than 80 percent of the world’s population. We are also the people who have been hit the hardest by hunger, poverty and preventable deaths. We have been hit the hardest by illiteracy, human displacement and all the consequences from underdevelopment. We are also the nations that suffer most from climate change … We are calling for solidarity rather than greed. Cooperation not imperialism. Harmony, respect and tolerance – and not discrimination, racism and intolerance.”
In addition to speeches, art and culture were featured throughout the program. Performers included Linqua Franqa, DJ Cardamami and the Arturo O’Farrill Quintet.
Both Díaz-Canel and Gil traveled to New York City last week for the 78th UN General Assembly debate, the annual event where top leaders of all nations give addresses. After multiple days of meeting with high-profile officials from countries around the world, Díaz-Canel reserved his final night in the United States to address the people’s movement.
This event reaffirmed that blockades only serve the interests of the corporate executives and war mongers who profit from imperialism, not the interests of the people. Attendees left electrified and more determined than ever to achieve the task laid out in the slogan of the event: Build the future! Break the blockade!
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