Aleida Guevara – daughter of Che Guevara – received a standing ovation after delivering a powerful speech against the US blockade of Cuba at a CSC fringe meeting at TUC conference on Monday.
Over 250 delegates attended what Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey called “the biggest fringe meeting at the TUC” as Aleida spoke about a “blockade which marks everybody”.
“In health, the blockade is felt very strongly,” she said. “For instance, there was a child diagnosed with a heart condition but we didn’t have the necessary equipment to treat. We have the know-how and the money to buy the equipment – but no-one will sell it to us because it is licensed by an American pharmaceutical company.”
Despite struggling under a fifty year-old blockade, Cuba has made exceptional advances in the field of healthcare and the development of medicines and vaccines. As Aleida noted, “Cuba is producing a vaccine to treat lung cancer, but the US government won’t allow EU pharmaceuticals to buy it. Why should we allow this to happen?”
Aleida thanked the trade unions for their continuing solidarity and said that this support “has allowed us to extend solidarity to the rest of the world. There are more than 24,000 health professionals working in 66 countries around the world, and this doesn’t include the projects we have in the ALBA countries like Venezuela where we have 10,000. All this is possible because your solidarity exists”
Len McCluskey, said he was proud of the role Unite has played in support of CSC, the Cuban people and the Miami Five. “If there is a still a branch in this room that isn’t affiliated to CSC, then please do. Our solidarity links are very important to what happens in Cuba.”
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said that his union stood with the Cuban people – not just against the blockade – but because of the example which Cuba provides. “Why do the RMT believe that Cuba is such a beacon? Because they have decided to go down a different route. They have shown that there is a different world out there not based on the size of your wallet.”
“We have to decide what sort of a world we want to live in. The Cuban people don’t have a problem with the American government, it’s the American government that has a problem with them. Cuba is fighting for a different world that lives in peace, a world with housing, education and health. Viva Cuba!”
In his last TUC as General Secretary, Brendan Barber said he was “honoured to be the first TUC General Secretary to visit Cuba” and “proud of the links and relationships we have built up with trade unions in Cuba”. He urged the movement to intensify its support for the Miami Five on the fourteenth anniversary of their arrest.
As Aleida concluded, “no country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another. Fidel taught the Cuban people that if the people unite, there is no power in the world that can stop it. We are united, only 90 miles away from the US, and we have been able to maintain a socialist society. We have many problems, but we have heart.”
“Thank you for your resistance. In my country, it is very easy to be a revolutionary, but for you to keep going with solidarity, this gives us a lot of strength.”
Click here for full details of Aleida Guevara's speaking tour.