There are 95 Cuba solidarity associations working to strengthen ties of friendship with the island, across 45 countries in Africa and the Middle East, according to José Prieto Cintado, vice president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), speaking with Granma International about the work undertaken by these groups last year.
In particular, Prieto, with a degree in International Political Relations, highlighted the Fifth Cuba-Africa Friendship and Solidarity Encounter, held June 5-7, 2017, in the city of Windhoek, Namibia.
“One hundred and eighty three delegates from 19 countries attended, including a group from the United States. An action plan was approved, which features strategic initiatives for the 2017-2019 period. We hope to hold the Sixth Continental event in Nigeria next year,” stated the ICAP official.
He went on to note that Cuba solidarity organizations from the continent center their efforts on demanding an end to the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by United States government on Cuba, with protests outside U.S. embassies and consulates across the region, taking place on the 17th of every month.
Activists also continue to call for the return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo, and show their support for other just causes around the world, in particular the struggles of the people of Western Sahara and Palestine, as well as the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.
Prieto noted that although Africa and Cuba are geographically distant, the two share close historic ties which have continued to be strengthened ever since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
In this sense he noted that visits by head of state and senior officials from the continent have helped promote and expand relations, while the significant number of African youth studying on the island is another expression of Cuba’s close ties with the region.
Prieto went on to explain that groups publish articles in news outlets and share information on social media about Cuba’s reality and medical collaboration in their part of the world, in order to refute defamatory media campaigns against the Cuban Revolution.
“The solidarity movements have undertaken various initiatives and we provide them with information,” noted the ICAP official, who praised the efforts of African students who have graduated from Cuban universities in defense of the island.
He explained that many African professionals who studied in Cuba are now working in their countries of origin and hold fond memories of the years they spent on the island.
“They represent reinforcements within solidarity organizations, while recent graduates breathe new life into associations and help to strengthen their work,” explained Prieto.
These young people support the work of Cuban officials at the island’s embassies and consulates on the continent. Many also volunteer as translators for Cuban collaborators serving on medical and educational missions in their countries, accompanying and supporting their work in remote areas.
Unlike solidarity brigades from other continents which travel to the island every year to undertake voluntary work at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp in Caimito, there is no such collective from Africa. However, many individuals from the region visit Cuba as members of International May Day contingents or delegations wanting to honor the legendary Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara.
Given a lack of direct flights between Havana and nations of the continent, many of those traveling to the island must make connections in third countries, some as far away as Europe or the United States, he highlighted.
Visas also represent another issue, as individuals from Africa and the Middle East are prohibited from making flight connections in certain countries, making it difficult for persons from the region to visit Cuba as tourists.
Nonetheless, various delegations of parliamentarians and political party members from Africa visited Cuba in 2017, where they expressed their willingness to continue strengthening exchanges in the fields of trade, healthcare, and education, noted the ICAP official.
Prieto went on to add these groups have also been working to pass parliamentary motions condemning U.S. interventionism and the blockade of Cuba.
“The delegations that visit ICAP pay tribute to the independence leaders of their countries in the Park of Africa’s Founding Fathers in the capital,” he noted, adding that Cuba has a long history of supporting African independence struggles.
Prieto likewise explained that there are many in the Middle East who not only support and work in solidarity with Cuba, but also defend the island against any and all manifestations of imperialist aggression.
“Iran is a nation that has carried out notable solidarity work, while Palestinians always show us love, despite the difficult conditions they live in and harassment they are subjected to. Sometimes you find a Cuban symbol in a tent in the desert, showing that Cuba solidarity is present, not only as an expression of appreciation for what we have done, are doing, and will continue to do for them, but because the Cuban Revolution is also an example,” stated Prieto Cintado.
Meanwhile, Yahimí Rodríguez Flores, coordinator for Africa and the Middle East at ICAP, stated, “The solidarity movement is heterogeneous and includes government members, workers linked to industry and trade, professionals, doctors, trade unionists, and teachers, with varying political positions. However, they are all united by a common factor: their sympathy, respect, and love for the leaders of our Revolution, especially Fidel Castro,” stated the young specialist.
Last year Rodríguez Flores travelled to Mali and Guinea where she witnessed “the difficulties our friends face, who share their scare resources with us and maintain a space to support Cuba,” stated that ICAP official, who also holds a degree in History.
“Just walking through the streets and someone realizes that you’re Cuban, they immediately associate you with the name Fidel Castro. The love the people of Africa feel for Cuba gives me goose bumps. Things like this would happen to me in the airport, in a market, at a ministry or organization. Someone would hear you speaking in the street and all of a sudden say to you: I love Cuba, I love Fidel Castro.”
Cuba solidarity organizations in Africa, key lines of action:
- The lifting of the criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba
- The return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo
- Disseminating information on Cuba’s reality and combating defamatory media campaigns against the island
- Supporting the people of Palestine and Western Sahara in their struggles for independence and sovereignty
- Supporting social initiatives offering an alternative to capitalism, above all in Venezuela
Cuba Solidarity Associations in Africa:
-Sub-Saharan Africa: 78 in 36 countries
-The Middle East: 17 in 9 countries
Associations of graduates from Cuba
- Sub-Saharan Africa: 30 in 23 countries
- The Middle East: 6 in 5 countries