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TUC Congress ’19 Marking the 80th anniversary of Cuban trade unions

The general secretary of Cuba’s trade union confederation will make an historic address to TUC congress, one of many acts of solidarity with the socialist nation, writes ROB MILLER

ULISES Guilarte de Nacimiento, general secretary of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC), has been invited by the TUC to mark the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the CTC and the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution in 2019. He will address Congress on Sunday.

This year Congress will also see Steve Gillan of the POA moving Motion 74 on Cuba and the US blockade during the international debate, and speak alongside Ulises and the Cuban ambassador at a Cuba fringe meeting and reception at the TUC on Monday September 9 straight after congress.

Ulises was elected general secretary of the Cuban Workers Central in February 2014 and was previously the regional secretary of the construction workers union in Havana.

He is accompanied by Ismael Druillet Perez, head of the CTC international department and former general secretary of the Cuban teaching union (SNTECD).

This is the first time in 10 years that there has been a Cuba motion or Cuban speaker at congress and it could not come at a more vital time.

Under Donald Trump the US blockade has been tightened to unprecedented levels. He has banned cruise ships, and made travel to the island even more difficult for US citizens.

He has all but closed the US embassy in Havana, and made it almost impossible for Cubans to apply for US visas. Cuban trade unionists are barred from attending conferences with sister unions in the US.

State-run hotels have been blacklisted. And in May this year the White House implemented Title III of the 1996 Helms Burton Act. In doing so, it unleashed the most severe economic sanctions against Cuba since the blockade was first introduced in 1962.

As Motion 74 states: “The decision to implement Title III of the Helms-Burton Act expressly aims to deter vital foreign investment.

“It could see British companies being sued in the US courts for ‘trafficking’ property nationalised after 1959. New measures to reduce Cuban-Americans’ ability to visit family or send money home takes US aggression and cruelty against Cuba to unprecedented levels.

“Congress considers this an act of economic warfare intended to cause tangible suffering to the Cuban people with the objective of creating unrest and instability.”

Four lawsuits have already been filed, including one by US multinational Exxon Mobil, which is taking two Cuban companies to court for $280 million for their use of oil refineries and petrol stations nationalised in 1960.

All of this is intended to scare foreign banks and companies from investing in or trading with Cuba in an effort to stifle the island’s economy and development.

The long-term goal of the blockade policies is to force regime change to install a government compliant with US interests.

These new policies undo all of the small steps forward taken during the Barack Obama presidency.

In response to the measures Ben Rhodes, the White House official who was responsible for Obama’s Cuba policy, said: “The only real consequence of Trump’s policy will be to hurt millions of Cubans — denying them resources, drying up remittances, choking off the foreign travel they depend upon to make a living. It’s an immoral end achieved by Trump’s actions.”

Motion 74 calls for increased solidarity with Cuba and for the TUC to lobby the British government to ensure extraterritorial blockade legislation does not prevent British companies and organisations from trading with Cuba.

The motion also recognises Cuba’s achievements, specifically its “world renowned achievements in education, health, social welfare, women’s representation and international humanitarianism: including 400,000 medical volunteers in 165 countries since 1960; training 31,000 doctors from 65 countries since 1998; and the second highest number of women MPs in the world (53.2 per cent).”

The motion calls on congress to continue to support the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in its “work alongside British unions against the blockade,” including support for the Unions for Cuba Conference in November 2019.

Throughout 2019 CSC has been celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Revolution and 80th anniversary of the CTC with a series of speaking tours and events.

The Unions for Cuba conference on Saturday November 2 is the highlight of the year and aims to strengthen solidarity and friendship between British and Cuban workers and their unions.

Already, 16 Cuban trade union leaders representing national and regional levels and six industrial sectors have been invited to participate in the conference and the ensuing week of activities.

Speakers include Frances O’Grady, (TUC), Len McCluskey (Unite), Kevin Courtney (NEU), Karen Lee MP, Ismael Drullett (CTC) and trade union leaders from British and Cuban health, education, public administration, communications, transport and energy unions.

For more information about Unions for Cuba, or to book tickets please contact CSC on campaigns@cuba-solidarity.org.uk or call (020) 7490-5715.

TUC Congress fringe meeting Cuba: 60 years of Revolution: Solidarity against the blockade, Trump and Intervention takes place on Monday September 9 at 5.30pm in Meeting Room 1D of the Brighton Centre.

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