Monday, November 26, 2018

Cuba Por Vida by Cindy Sheehan

An Exclusive Report on her recent inspiring trip to Cuba

Cuba Por Vida by CINDY SHEEHAN
First appeared in ROL, USA Newsletter #111

At Gates of Gitmo Torture Camp: 2007
2007 was the first time I went to Cuba—the timing was around the anniversary of the U.S. (under the Bush regime) opening the prison/torture camp at Guantanamo Bay. My traveling companions included an Arab woman whose son was currently detained at Guantanamo; a man who had been detained there; and a mother whose son was killed in the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. We were quite the group of people whose lives had been fundamentally changed by the actions of the demented U.S. Empire. Despite promises to the contrary by the Obama regime, Guantanamo Prison Camp is still open for torture business all these years later.

For my first trip, I recall having to “sneak” into Cuba via Cancun on a very rickety plane of Cubana Airlines. During our visit there, we stayed at hostels and guest houses and we ate very simply of beans and rice and vegetables most of the time. We traveled to Guantanamo from Santiago de Cuba in a very old school bus with springs that had seen better days during the Nixon regime. It was a heavenly trip and I fell in love with the people, culture, and revolution!

After that trip, I have been to Cuba several times more—always “illegally,” but always with varying degrees of what we would call “Western comfort.” Toilet seats, door handles, food choices, and building supplies are at a premium because of the U.S. blockade, but what’s always in abundant supply in Cuba is the friendliness of the people and the revolutionary spirit.

Recently in June of this year, I had another opportunity to travel to Cuba and, for the first time, I took a regularly scheduled U.S. flight from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Havana! Incredibly, I flew Southwest Airlines and even earned miles for future trips! It was very easy to obtain a visa at a special counter and, even though it was much more simple to get to Cuba, part of the delicious feeling of disobeying the U.S. regime was missing. Although there are still restrictions for U.S. citizens going to Cuba, we are now allowed to bring back Cuban cigars and Cuban rum and souvenirs (up to a certain dollar amount). With this new situation, I would encourage everyone to travel to Cuba and see for themselves about how we have been lied to and lied to our entire lives about the “oppressive” society.

I was watching a mainstream show recently and the host was in Cuba to find “buried treasure,” and he said that despite living under “authoritarian rule,” the people of Cuba were always singing and dancing and have huge smiles on their faces! Perhaps, this is because there is not an over abundance of oppression, but a not-so-buried treasure of human kindness in Cuba? How could a people feel oppressed when their basic needs are recognized and fulfilled by the Cuban government? The people of Cuba and the non-authoritarian authorities that I have been in contact with along the path of my journey, recognize that their enemy is U.S. imperialism and the rotten, decades long U.S. blockade of Cuba, not their own government or leaders.

Even though the inhuman blockade has done its job of blocking, or severely limiting essential goods, food, medicine, and other products, the people of Cuba have made do for all these years because of their will. We asked a woman who was the president of a farming co-op in Villa Clara province how the blockade affected her and her community and her answer was simply, “the U.S. does what the U.S. does, but our job is feeding our community and we will do that despite the U.S.”

Our tour group encountered that kind of spirit all over Cuba.

Again, in Villa Clara we met with some English students at a gathering at La Universidad Marta Abreu. I spoke at an exchange with the students. They were appalled and a little skeptical of what I shared with them about higher education in the U.S.: basically, as we all know, it’s prohibitively expensive and USAian youth either go into life-long debt, join the military, or are born into families that profit off of war, so they don’t have to worry about the cost.

In Cuba, education is compulsory to the 9th grade. After that, students can choose to go three ways: into university prep, an apprenticeship, or to vocational school depending on their test scores and desires. The university students we met at Marta Abreu (from Santa Clara, a heroic figure in Cuban history; a supporter of Cuban independence from Spain and “benefactor” to the early efforts) told us that once they are accepted to university, the requirements are strict, but there is no cost for school, supplies, lodging, or food. We all know about the famous medical school Cuba maintains for free for students all over the world, and I have been there. However, to be in the provinces to see how “oppressed” (read healthy and happy) university students really are increased my resolve to expose the lies of the U.S. empire about Cuba. I wish my son Casey didn’t feel he had to join the military to get a university education, or even that my daughter Carly didn’t owe around 50k for her degrees. Poor (monetarily) Cuba, unlike the wealthy U.S., recognizes that education is a human right, not a privilege for the few.

Another aspect of Cuban society that is so contrary from what we experience in the U.S. is the way that labor relations are handled.

Our tour group visited a factory in Cuba that made plastic bags. While most of us were not in favor of the product, that was not the point of the visit. What we were to get out of this exchange was that there is no tension between worker and management. There are no “sides” in the traditionally adversarial relationship because even managers are workers in Cuba and everyone in the factory is working towards the same thing: the most efficient and safe way to mass produce their product. I have observed that here in the U.S., (with notable and rare exceptions) even some union executives seem to work against the workers for the bosses and mostly the Democrat party.

One thing about Cuba that is so impressive to me is that while it is a very poor country, most of the resources go to the people and not to funding a huge military and cancerous empire all over the world. Fidel is almost universally loved in Cuba because the people there know that he devoted his life to them and despite hundreds of assassination attempts by the CIA, he stood firm in his revolutionary ideals and never wavered in his service to not only the people of Cuba, but by sending doctors and teachers all over the world (where they would be welcomed), he shared the true wealth of Cuba.

Finally, our week of traveling to have our faith in the people of Cuba (after the death of Fidel and retirement of Raul) confirmed, was “crowned” by a ceremony that was hosted by the living mothers of the Cuban Five.

In 2013, I traveled to Holguin Cuba to participate in a colloquia around the international efforts to Free the Cuban Five … I think readers of this newsletter are familiar with the case, but the Cuban 5 were five anti-terrorist agents who came to the USA and infiltrated counter-revolutionary organization against Cuba to prevent further acts of terrorism against their country. In an effort to be transparent with the U.S., Cuba passed some sensitive information to the U.S. government, and the five were promptly arrested and after trumped up charges and a truly kangaroo court, the five were convicted of spurious charges and sent to various U.S. prisons for various lengths of term.

That year in Holguin, as a pledge to do everything I could to help secure the Freedom of the Five, I presented the mothers: Mirta Rodríguez (mother of Antonio ), Magali Llort (mother of Fernando) and Irma Sehwerert (mother of René) my most precious treasure, a necklace that Casey gave me when he was in the Army and obviously before he was killed in Iraq. I also promised to return to Cuba to retrieve my necklace when their sons were home.

Cindy with Mothers in Holguin

Well, lo and behold, on December 17, 2014, we awakened on the West Coast to the news that in a “prisoner exchange” the remaining members of the Cuban Five were back in Cuba!

To make a long story short, I was able to finally receive my necklace back in a very emotional ceremony that was attended by four of the five Cuban campaigners and their three living mothers! In true Cuban style though, there was much dancing, singing, eating, and laughter along with the free-flowing tears!

Cuba is a paradise, but it is not a perfect paradise. In my humble opinion, the return of limited “free enterprise” there is not a positive development. This is the first visit where I witnessed many examples of a growing income inequality (mostly in Havana). However, I cannot imagine that the people of Cuba would be very interested in returning to the days before their beloved Che and Fidel helped to liberate them from U.S. imperialism, the cancer of capitalism, and the Batista dictatorship.

Cindy receives her necklace back from Cuban 5 and their mothers


As a child of the Cold War, my experience with Cuba and its lovely people, has done more than almost anything, except Casey’s murder, to highlight the treachery and viciousness of the U.S. Empire that killed Casey and has oppressed, or killed millions more over the years.

Always question, never surrender!

Viva, Cuba, y hasta la victoria, siempre!


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