News Analysis

D.C. Rally, Car Caravans: ‘End U.S. embargo of Cuba! Lift the Sanctions!’

The following is a round-up of some of the marches, rallies, and car caravans that took place in more than a dozen U.S. cities, as well as Canada and other countries, on July 25, 2021. Protesters demanded an end to Washington’s 60-year-old economic war on Cuba, which has been recently intensified with 243 new sanctions imposed under the Trump administration that are now enforced by U.S. president Joe Biden. These punitive measures are aimed at strangling the Caribbean nation economically and increasing the hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. (The compilation below was originally published on July 28 and updated on July 29, 2021.)


WASHINGTON, D.C.

By Pete Seidman

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 27—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 over the last year. They were joined by a busload of protesters from New York City organized by the New York-New Jersey Cuba Sí coalition and others. Additional organizations that helped build the demonstration included CODEPINK, the ANSWER (Act Now and Stop War and End Racism) Coalition, the National Network on Cuba, and numerous local groups and different political tendencies that had sponsored meetings for Lazo along his pilgrimage to D.C.

Carlos Lazo (center) and other Cuban Americans who walked 1,300 miles from Miami to Washington, D.C., cross Arlington Memorial Bridge July 25. (Photo: Nancy Cole)

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” (Lift the blockade! Bridges of Love). 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 meant to them.

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

Provocation by rightists fails

The scene at Lafayette Park was not so serene. Perhaps as many as 2,000 right-wing Cubans who call for U.S. intervention in Cuba, many bussed-in from Miami, had assembled in an area adjacent to the site of the rally chanting “Patria y vida” (Homeland and life), a watchword of the interventionists that is counterposed to the revolutionary Cuban slogan “Patria o muerte” (Homeland or death).

These counter-demonstrators were part of a highly-orchestrated counterrevolutionary commotion in the United States. Their effort aimed at using 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 the protests in the Caribbean island 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 D.C. 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.

All the walkers from Miami to D.C., along with Jorge Medina, the Miami caravan founder and YouTube personality known as “El Protestón Cubano,” came up on stage to cheers of the crowd during 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, Florida), a message from longtime Miami Cuban solidarity activist Max Lesnik, and words from Medea Benjamin, a leader of CODEPINK 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.[1]

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 the (Service Employees International Union) SEIU-1199 in Baltimore. Other speakers included José Pertierra, a Cuban-American attorney, Sean Blackmon from the ANSWER Coalition, Omari Musa representing the D.C. Metro Coalition in Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, and Robin Harris, a leader of the Green Party from Orlando, Florida.

Washington, D.C., 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 the well-known Cuban song Guantanamera and his song Puentes de Amor.

A video of the rally can be viewed here.

A major success for opponents of blockade

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 D.C. 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. As speeches reported in World Outlook have shown, the leadership of the revolution has a profound analysis of the various political forces that resulted in these outbursts.[2] 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, where he said: “Most Cubans support Castro (…) There is no effective political opposition (…) The only possible way to make the government lose domestic support is by provoking disappointment and discouragement through economic dissatisfaction and hardships (…) Every possible means should be immediately used to weaken the economic life (…) denying Cuba funds and supplies (…) with the objective of provoking hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government.”

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.

ENDNOTES

[1] For more information on the Syringes for Cuba Campaign see: Saving Lives Campaign Sends 4-million Syringes to Cuba.

[2] For more information on response by Cuba’s revolutionary leadership to July 11 protests see: We Will Defend the Revolution Above All Else and Cuban President Calls for Solidarity, Respect, Social Responsibility.


LOS ANGELES

By Mark Friedman, World-Outlook contributor, Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, July 26, 2021—Car caravans and other actions that took place in a dozen U.S. cities yesterday demanding an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba were among the largest yet organized and received substantial media coverage.

This is noteworthy as a welcome exception to the generally inaccurate and unbalanced coverage so common in the U.S. media when it reports on Cuba. That has included recent death threats against Carlos Lazo, a key leader of the caravan effort in the U.S., and Cuban-Americans who joined him on a pilgrimage from Miami to D.C., to present U.S. president Joe Biden tens of thousands of signatures on petitions opposing the blockade. The July 25 actions were timely, coming just as Biden has made clear his intention to maintain the Trump-imposed sanctions, while adding others of his own.

The Los Angeles (LA) caravan was one of the most successful yet with about 50 participants, including 20 young people taking part for the first time.  It included more than half a dozen Cuban Americans and other political activists and politicians. Four television stations and the Los Angeles Times covered the event. (The Times rejected publishing an opinion piece by this reporter, however.)                                                                

Channel 7 (ABC) coverage of the LA action can be seen here.

Channel 7, local ABC affiliate in Los Angeles, covers July 25 car caravan demanding an end to U.S. blockade of Cuba. (Photo: Screen capture from TV broadcast)

Afro-Cuban-American Luis Herrera explained to those gathered the impact of six decades of the blockade as a major factor leading to recent protests in Cuba. Another Cuban American, speaking in Spanish, denounced the U.S. embargo and added that the people of Cuba will never surrender to the empire.

Diana Cervantes, a young Latinx leader of the US Hands off Cuba Committee in LA, reviewed the disinformation campaign that has appeared on Twitter, Facebook, CNN and elsewhere, some of it under the hypocritical #SOSCuba hashtag. She pointed to obvious inaccuracies and false representations of events that allegedly occurred in Cuba, but in fact did not:

“Twitter published images of evictions from the polling stations in Catalonia, Spain as if they occurred recently in Cuba. They also used a photo not from the July 11 protests in Cuba, but from Madrid demonstrations in 2012 supporting coal miners,” she said.                            

“Facebook circulated a photo not of protests in Cuba, but riots in London before the final of Euro 2020 soccer. And used the return of Cuban doctors on a Mexican air force plane to create the idea that troops were coming.

“CNN doctored a photo of a Cuban protest in defense of socialism making it appear as anti-government.”

Cervantes also celebrated the arrival “of two million syringes in Havana, organized by the Syringes for Cuba campaign, needed by Cuba to inoculate the population with their own highly successful Soberana and Abdala vaccines against Covid.”

Greetings to the rally came from local politicians, Puerto Rican activist Lawrence Reyes, the ANSWER coalition, Harriet Tubman center, Cuba News group, and others. The next efforts by the LA committee will be participation in the large August 29 LA Cuban Music Festival. Those interested in joining in this work here and helping to end the embargo should contact: LA.US.Handsoffcuba@gmail.com.

Mark Friedman co-chairs, with Brenda Lopez, the US Hands Off Cuba Committee in LA.


CHICAGO

By Linda Loew

CHICAGO, July 25, 2021—About 75 Chicagoans marched and rallied today, calling for an immediate end to the crippling U.S. blockade of Cuba. They also called for lifting all additional restrictions against trade with and travel to Cuba.  

July 25 march in downtown Chicago demanding lifting of U.S. sanctions against Cuba. (Photo: Linda Loew)

The march in downtown Chicago, from Michigan Ave to the Federal Plaza, was in solidarity with Cuban Americans who walked more than 1300 miles from Miami to Washington, D.C., to demand an end to the embargo, arriving today in the nation’s capital.

The Chicago solidarity action was endorsed by ANSWER Chicago, Chicago Cuba Coalition, Centro Autonomo, Chicago Anti-War Coalition, Make Noize for Change, Committee in Solidarity with Latin America, Party of Socialism and Liberation, Socialist Workers Party, and Southsiders for Peace.  

Let Cuba Live! Lift the Blockade! US Hands off Cuba!


PHOENIX

By Duane Stilwell

TEMPE, AZ, July 27, 2021—Determined to join the monthly caravans against the U.S. blockade of Cuba across the United States, a spirited group of 14 people, most of them in their early 20s, held a “Bicycle Caravan” at Tempe Town Lake on Sunday, July 25.

The group tied a banner reading “Let Cuba Live: End the US embargo of Cuba” to the railing of a popular pedestrian bridge that crosses Tempe Town Lake, in the heart of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

July 25 protest on pedestrian bridge crossing Tempe Town Lake into heart of metro Phoenix. (Photo: Brandy Phoenix)

At a rally on the bridge, the group gathered to exchange the most recent information on Cuba, the latest news on Cuba’s own vaccines against Covid-19 and its ambitious immunization campaign, and the lies about Cuba on social media. But most important of all, the group was glad to finally attend a public event against the criminal U.S. blockade of Cuba in the fifth largest American city.

The organizing and outreach effort started less than two weeks before the event, but the group came together quickly and learned valuable lessons that will help make this a monthly protest against U.S. foreign policy. Going forward we have a list of contacts, an email address, press releases sent to local media, and a dedicated group of activists. We plan to organize a larger car caravan next month.


ALBUQUERQUE

By Yvonne Hayes

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO, July 29, 2021—Activists here held their third caravan on July 25. It was the largest and broadest so far, with more than 50 participants in about 25 vehicles.

A highlight of the pre-caravan sendoff was a short presentation on the work being done in New Mexico to send young people to study medicine in Cuba, helping on their return to fill the wide gap in health care in this state.

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