DC Rally and Multiple Caravans: ‘End the Cuban Embargo!’ ‘Stop the Sanctions!’

DC Rally and Multiple Caravans: ‘End the Cuban Embargo!’ ‘Stop the Sanctions!’
Carlos Lazo (center) and other Cuban Americans who walked 1,300 miles from Miami to Washington DC cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge on July 25. (Photo: Nancy Cole)

The report below is a compilation of some of the marches, rallies and caravans that took place on July 25, 2021 in more than a dozen cities in the United States, as well as demonstrations in Canada and other countries. The watchword in all of them: Demand an end to the 60 years of Washington’s economic war against Cuba, which has recently been intensified with 243 additional sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

 

The Biden administration continues to enforce these sanctions, plus an additional one. These punitive sanctions have the goal of economically strangling the Caribbean nation to intensify the hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

By Pete Seidman

WASHINGTON, DC, July 27, 2021–Some 400 people rallied in Lafayette Park near the White House on July 25. They demanded that President Biden end the U.S. blockade of Cuba and immediately lift the more than 240 sanctions and other measures taken against Cuba by the previous administration.

The rally welcomed Carlos Lazo and six other Cuban-Americans who had just entered the city after walking 1,300 miles from Miami. The walkers were bringing petitions bearing some 26,000 signatures with these demands.

Among the participants were many Cuban-Americans from Miami who were activists in the caravans against the blockade that have taken place on the last Sunday of every month for the previous year. They were joined by a busload of protesters from New York City organized by the New York-New Jersey Cuba Si coalition and others. Additional organizations that helped build the demonstration included Code Pink, the ANSWER coalition, the National Network on Cuba, and numerous local groups that had sponsored meetings for Lazo along his pilgrimage to D.C. as well as other political tendencies.

The day was full of dramatic moments. As the walkers crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge, they were greeted by supporters chanting, “Abajo el bloqueo! Puentes de Amor.” The group proceeded to the nearby Lincoln Memorial. In silence, they took photos and then descended the steps where they stopped and in a reverential whisper started a chant of “Abajo el bloqueo” that grew in volume until it drew the attention of the many tourists in the area.

Then they marched to the nearby monument to Martin Luther King, Jr., where, with many cameras clicking, each of the walkers explained what Martin Luther King, Jr., meant to them.

Cuban Americans who walked from Miami to D.C. at the Martin Luther King Memorial on July 25. With the cameras clicking, each of the walkers explained what MLK meant to them. (Photo: Nancy Cole)

The scene at Lafayette Park was not so serene. Chanting “Patria y vida,” a watchword of the interventionists counterposed to the revolutionary Cuban slogan, “Patria o muerte,” perhaps as many as 2,000 right-wing Cubans, many bussed in for free from Miami, had assembled in an area adjacent to the site of the rally. These counter-demonstrators were part of a highly-orchestrated counterrevolutionary commotion in the United States. This aimed to use the July 11 protests in Cuba as a pretext to justify amping up the economic warfare that has been the primary cause of the problems prompting these protests in the first place.

For the last three months, Cuban rightists in Miami have unsuccessfully tried to intimidate and drown out the caravans. Organizers recruited peacekeeping marshals to make sure such tactics would not succeed at the DC event. The goal was to put the onus for any violence on the counter-demonstrators and the police if they failed to protect our right to protest.

A ring of volunteers, clad in neon green vests, formed a perimeter around the demonstration that held fast and calm in the face of the rightists’ attempts to create arguments or physical confrontations. No doubt noticing the disciplined defense of the action and seeking to avoid the political price they might pay for attempting to attack it, organizers of the rightists were seen trying to keep their people away from any large-scale disruption. As this became clear, the mood of the demonstration shifted from tense readiness to a joyful appreciation of the music and speeches of the day’s program.

Following a welcome by co-chair Cheryl Labash of the National Network on Cuba and an invocation by Rev. Graylan Hagler of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, all the walkers, along with Jorge Medina, the Miami caravan founder and YouTube personality known as “El Protestón Cubano,” came up on the stage to the cheers of the crowd. There were chants and the singing of the Cuban National Anthem.

Those who completed the trek from Miami to DC, along with Jorge Medina, the founder of the Miami caravan and YouTube personality known as “The Cuban Proteston,” took the stage to cheers from the crowd during the July 25 rally. (Photo: Nancy Cole)

The program continued with remarks by Medina, Carlos Lazo, Sandra Soca (a walker and leader of the caravan movement in Tampa, FL), a message from longtime Miami Cuban solidarity activist Max Lesnik, and words from Medea Benjamin, a leader of Code Pink and also the campaign to raise funds to send syringes to Cuba. Benjamin announced that people in the United States had contributed more than $500,000 for this project and that the first shipment of what will total 6 million syringes had arrived in Cuba just a few days before.

The second half of the program was co-chaired by Nancy Cabrera, a leader of the Casa de las Americas of New York City. She introduced Adeyemi Bandele, educational director of SEIU-1199 in Baltimore. Also, José Pertierra, a Cuban-American attorney, Sean Blackmon from the ANSWER coalition, Omari Musa representing the DC Metro Coalition in Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, and Robin Harris, a leader of the Green Party from Orlando, FL. Washington, DC, area artists—Luci Murphy, the group WAYTA, and Patricio Zamorano—contributed their talents to the spirited protest. The program closed with Lazo leading all in singing Guantanamera and his song Puentes de Amor.

A video of the rally can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/Ygb0PTcUde8

The day was a major success for opponents of the blockade. We took our message to the very door of the White House despite a hysterical campaign being whipped up by Washington.

It is notable that the action received almost no coverage in the major media, including in Miami, where all the news was about the rightist convergence on DC. This is a serious disservice to all those who want to understand what’s really happening within the Cuban communities of this country. Despite media depiction of a united block calling for U.S. intervention against Cuba, the July 25 rally shows that in fact this community is divided and polarized over the issue of the blockade.

President Trump’s reversal of the extremely popular policies of the Obama administration allowing travel and the sending of family remittances has generated a wave of discontent within the Cuban community. The caravan movement took hold among these newly politicizing opponents of the blockade. This underscores the importance of the caravan’s open door to anyone who opposes the blockade regardless of other opinions about the Cuban government.

As Cuba’s revolutionary leadership has responded to the protests that took place July 11, things have calmed down considerably on the island. The leadership of the revolution has a profound analysis of the various political forces that resulted in these outbursts. The government’s efforts have isolated the outright agents of interventionism seeking to manipulate blockade-caused discontent on the island.

As this has become clear, the hysteria in Miami has begun to die down. Protests that numbered in the thousands immediately following July 11 have now begun to number in the hundreds.

The illusion is blowing up that this was the social revolution envisioned by State Department official Lester Mallory in his famous 1960 memorandum. July 11 is not the moment where U.S.-imposed suffering would finally produce a desperate counter-revolution against the revolution.

As the dust settles, hundreds of Cubans will begin to see that fighting to end the U.S. blockade is the only realistic way to help their families. New opportunities for Lazo’s vision of Puentes de Amor, the caravan movement, and all opponents of the blockade will flower.

—Pete Seidman

U.S. Hands Off Cuba and Venezuela, South Florida Coalition

PS: I borrowed several of the photos from Jon Flander’s wonderful posting on Facebook.

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