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ON November 4 last year, a day after the US yet again opposed the UN general assembly’s resolution condemning the blockade on Cuba, I tabled a statement of opinion in the Senedd expressing solidarity with the Cuban people.
In my statement, which garnered support from a third of the Senedd, I proposed that the Senedd: 1) expresses its solidarity with the people of Cuba; 2) notes that 185 countries voted against the US blockade of Cuba at the United Nations, with only the US and Israel supporting its continuation; 3) further notes that this inhumane policy has been in place for more than 60 years causing severe shortages of food, medicines and fuel; 4) recognises that despite the blockade, Cuba has made real achievements in health and education policy, with the results widely applauded by Unesco and the World Health Organisation; 5) believes that the Welsh government should develop links with Cuba in areas of mutual interest.
Last month, almost one year on since I tabled that statement, I had the pleasure of welcoming both Barbara Montalvo Alvarez, the Cuban ambassador to Britain, as well as Bob Oram, executive member of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, to Plaid Cymru’s annual conference in Aberystwyth to discuss the latest situation in Cuba. On behalf of UNDEB — Plaid Cymru’s trade union section — it was a privilege to chair the event and extend Plaid’s solidarity to the people of Cuba.
Ambassador Alvarez opened with a stark account that outlined the impact of the 243 additional sanctions imposed by Donald Trump and the consequences of being illegitimately designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism (SSOT).
Speaking about how the sanctions against Cuba are exacerbated by the fact that the country remains on the unilateral and illegitimate SSOT list, Ambassador Alvarez pointed to the legitimating function of the list which serves to undergird the blockade that continues to be upheld by the Biden administration as a symbol of hostility.
Cuba was first designated as an SSOT in 1982 by the Reagan administration, and on December 17 2014, during a fleeting period of improved diplomatic relations under Obama’s presidency, the label was removed.
Beyond the specific policies, the shift in discourse by a US president gestured towards the biggest change in US-Cuba policy since diplomatic relations were severed in 1961. Of course, this progress would soon be undone by Trump, who in the twilight of his presidency redesignated Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism on January 12 2021.
Beyond serving as political fodder, the label has tangible material consequences for the everyday lives of Cubans, making life more difficult whether they live on or off the island.
Ambassador Alvarez emphasised that despite the blockade and the acute challenges that come with it, solidarity with Cuba will never be diminished.
She expressed her deep gratitude and appreciation for the work carried out in the Senedd and looked forward to its continued development in the future.
Cuba Solidarity Campaign executive member Bob Oram commenced his remarks by welcoming Plaid Cymru’s support and stressed the importance of championing the cause of justice for Cuba, advocating for unity around four crucial demands:
1) Cuba’s unequivocal right to independence and national sovereignty; 2) an end to the inhumane blockade; 3) the immediate removal of Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list; 4) the termination of the illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay, including the closure of the US military base and its widely condemned detention centre.
Guantanamo Bay still stands as a haunting monument to human rights violations perpetrated by the US in the name of national security. It remains a jarring feature of US foreign policy that the ruling interests of the US have the temerity to designate others as state sponsors of terrorism, given their heinous track record of interventionism abroad and the litany of coups, brutalisation, and disappearances that the country’s intelligence services have either orchestrated or conducted directly.
All of this, of course, as Naomi Klein writes in her famous 2007 book The Shock Doctrine, is part of an “ideological crusade that has culminated in the radical privatisation of war and disaster” whose “main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever-widening chasm between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor and an aggressive nationalism that justifies bottomless spending on security.”
Contrast this with Cuba’s extraordinary track record of medical internationalism, its continuous reassertion of social justice and a needs-based economy, and its commitment to sustainable development in the face of climate change.
For six decades, Cuba has withstood manifold aggression from the world’s dominant economic and political power. It has endured overt and covert military actions; sabotage and terrorism by US authorities and allied exiles; the imposition of the blockade to suffocate the economy and the Cuban people; obstruction of third parties’ trade; and pressure on regional and international governments to isolate and ostracise the island.
Despite this, Cuba is far from isolated — the revolutionary government today has diplomatic relations with 195 countries — more countries than have membership of the UN and an increase of 50 since 1958. This testifies to the abject failure of the US policy of isolation.
I was proud to stand firm with Cuba at conference and put the issue of solidarity with this small but extraordinarily resolute island nation at the forefront of our agenda. Wales has much to learn from Cuba’s revolutionary resilience.
Luke Fletcher is the Plaid Cymru economy spokesperson. Follow him on X at @FletcherPlaid.
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