Brookline PAX 2017 newsletter

Cuba Solidarity in Brookline

Peter Miller

Final vote to overwhelmingly support the “End the Embargo Resolution” at the May 31, 2016 Town Meeting, courtesy of Brookline Interactive Group. (Click to enlarge.)

Since December 17, 2014, when Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro made simultaneous announcements that the U.S. and Cuba would undertake efforts to normalize relations, Brookline has been a center of supportive educational and political activities and Brookline PAX has played a major role. That work — focused on the three major issues of ending the Embargo, returning Guantanamo to Cuban sovereignty, and respecting that sovereignty by ending “regime change” policies and practices — has had regional and even national impact as well as local influence and is projected to continue into the future.

Opposing the Embargo

The long-standing US embargo on Cuba is the major matter at issue. Universally condemned by the United Nations, 191-0-2 on the last vote last October when even the U.S. abstained from supporting its own policy — “El Bloqueo,” as it’s called in Cuba, is blockade-like in its restrictions on trade, not just with the U.S. but extended to any foreign company trading with Cuba, limiting its ability to do so with the U.S. Travel restrictions are still in place; those with U.S. passports cannot travel to Cuba as tourists. An ever-growing majority of those in the U.S. oppose the Embargo, including those in the south Florida Cuban-American community and large numbers of conservatives and business interests, a state of public opinion that provided a foundation for President Obama’s role in the joint initiative and accelerating under it.

When Brookline Town Meeting passed its resolution calling for an end to the US Embargo last spring, this joint effort between the Boston area July26.org Cuba Solidarity Coalition and Brookline PAX received major assistance from Frank Farlow in shepherding the proposal though the petitioning process, the Board of Selectmen and Advisory sub and main Committees, and, along with the encouragement of other PAX members and activists, at Town Meeting. Although the initial effort to include a condemnation and call for an end to covert USAID “regime change” programs was not approved, the main “Resolution Calling for an End to the United States’ Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo against Cuba and Respect for Cuba’s Sovereignty” passed by an overwhelming 98%.

The idea of local proposals calling for an end to the Embargo originated earlier in the year with campaigns in the San Francisco Bay Area, in Richmond, Berkeley, and Oakland. Supported by the National Network on Cuba (nnoc.info), the Brookline resolution has helped make this a truly national effort. A similar resolution was recently passed by the Hartford City Council, and the process is underway in Albany. The campaign has been highlighted by the National Congress on Latin America, “Ending the U.S. Embargo on Cuba at the Grassroots,” and was a featured workshop at the recent National Conference on Cuba, where Newark Mayor Ras Baraka provided one of the keynotes.

Returning Guantanamo to Cuban Control

The U.S. military prison at Guantanamo is a double mark against U.S. policies and practices, the home of illegal confinements and gruesome torture that would not be tolerated on our own shores and a vestige of our colonial imperialism in Cuba on-going since the Spanish-American War. Focusing on the latter with interviews of Cubans living in the surrounding communities, the July 26th Coalition and Brookline PAX along with the National Network on Cuba and the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity cosponsored the Boston-area premiere of “All Guantanamo Is Ours” last July 26. With preprogram publicity in the Tab and on the PAX, July26.org, and Greater Boston Activist ACT-ma.org elists, people packed the meeting/movie room at the Coolidge Corner Library for the short documentary with follow-up discussion led by Nancy Kohn, who had attended the previous year’s International Seminar in Guantanamo on Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases.

The Boston-area premiere of the documentary “All Guantanamo Is Ours” at the crowded Coolidge Corner Library meeting/movie room with follow-up discussion led by Nancy Kohn, July 26, 2016.

The 37-minute documentary is available through the International Committee and is on youtube both as preview and in its entirety with English subtitles.

July 26 is the Cuban holiday that commemorates the 1953 rebel attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba, the start of the revolution. The date was adopted by Fidel Castro as the name of the movement and organization that developed — Movimiento 26 de Julio or M-26-7 — and gives its name to the Boston-area Cuba solidarity coalition. It was the day after Revolution Day in 2015 that the U.S. and Cuba opened embassies in each other’s capitals for the first time since 1961.

Looking to the Future, among upcoming events:

On July 26, Brookline resident Lee Schlenker, currently doing community service in Cuba, will give a presentation on Witness for Peace and its history/program there, the panorama of grassroots solidarity with Cuba work and its plans in the Northeast, 7:00, downtown Boston at Encuentro 5, 9A Hamilton Place, next to the Orpheum Theatre at Park Street Station.

In mid-October, look for a cultural-political program in Brookline and elsewhere in the Boston area with Cuba’s leading novelist Leonardo Padura. More at https://july26.org/october-2017-leonardo-padura-festival/

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Peter Miller (peterm@igc.org) edited the Brookline PAX newsletter 1980-83 and is the Brookline PAX representative on the july26.org coalition, manages its web site, and blogs about media and technology development in Cuba and the Solidarity movement there and at peterbmiller.wordpress.com/cuba-project.  The Brookline PAX newsletter version of this article is at www.brooklinepax.org.

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