Sue Monk and Lachlan Hurse (ACFS) organized an event on the first day of 2022 to launch ‘From Australia to Cuba with Love’. This is intended to challenge the blockade that is imposed by the United States on Cuba. It’s been there for over 60 years. On this podcast we’ll hear Sue Monk and Lachlan Hurse talking about the ‘From Australia to Cuba with Love‘ campaign.
I want to counter-pose ‘From Australia to Cuba with Love‘ to a recent appointment by the United States government. The Biden Administration has recently appointed Caroline Kennedy to be the US Ambassador to Australia.
Caroline Kennedy is a 63 year old daughter of John F. Kennedy, who as US President, brought the world to the brink of nuclear destruction in what is now known as the 1962 October crisis, where JFK threatened nuclear war with the Soviet Union over its deployment of missiles in Cuba, which is only a small distance from the Miami coast of the United States.
So it’d be interesting to hear what the new ambassador to Australia has to say about the Australia Cuba Friendships society campaign to end the blockade by the United States of Cuba.
Anyway, let’s go to the event today in the teeming rain in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, which is the beginning of the ‘From Australia to Cuba with Love’ campaign.
Lachlan Hurse, Ovidio (who led the singing), Sue Monk (ACFS)
Thanks everyone for coming, especially for coming out on this rather bleak day. I’d like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we gather the Jagera and Torrubul people. We pay our respect the elders past and present and we are reminded that their sovereignty was never ceded.
So today is the 63rd anniversary of the Cuban revolution. So on this day in 1959 Batista, the dictator of Cuba, who was a tyrant, who led a government that was cruel, repressive and failed to look after the Cuban people, he received a message that his forces were defeated at a battle in Santa Clara. And he was, I think at some New Year’s Eve do at a casino in Havana, and he decided that he was going to abdicate, leave the country, he could no longer rule. And as a result of that revolutionary forces had succeeded in their quest to defeat the government, and to install a new government which was going to implement a platform that was outlined by Fidel in a trial, which was later became history will absolve me where he would institute agrarian reform, literacy, a fairer society for everyone, which is what we’ve seen today in the subsequent 63 years. So I think we can feel proud to stand in solidarity with the Cuban revolution and what it achieved, particularly when you see how Latin America has suffered at the hands of the United States intervention over the intervening years. So today, we’re continuing the long line of international solidarity with the Cuban Revolution. by kicking off our ‘from-Australia-to-Cuba-with love’ campaign, which has got a few different aspects to it.
First and foremost, our idea is to raise the profile of Cuba and the blockade, there’s a lot of misinformation or no information about the current status of the blockade, people, some people think has been lifted. Some people … they don’t understand how it’s been implemented here, even in Australia, and through the extraterritorial walls of the United States has imposed …. there’s a lot of information that we to get out there.
Some people don’t realize, that Australia since 1992, I think it has …. first of all, abstained and from 1996 on has consistently voted against the blockade in the United Nations. So it’s a bipartisan position of the Australian government, that we oppose the blockade. But we don’t do anything about it. Basically, we put our hands up once a year in the United Nations, but we don’t actually do anything to help end the blockade and that’s part of this campaign and we will try to increase the pressure on Australian political leadership to try to push the campaign to end the blockade.
One of the other things is to help fundraise, and thanks to everyone who’s donated so far. And for those who’ve sponsored others, that’s wonderful. It will be used to purchase medical equipment that will go to Cuba. And finally, there’s another aspect to it. And that is to try and mobilize a new group of people and find new supporters for the Australia Cuba Friendship society. So if you’ve got grandkids, friends, anyone who who might be interested in participating in this …
Please encourage them to sign up. It’s a fun activity that doesn’t require much more than what you’ve done tonight …. signing up and, and joining us in some of our activities.
In kicking off, I’m going to hand over to Sue who is really been the person who has initiated this whole campaign. And she saw a very nice message from the Institute of Friendship with Cuba that was texted to us earlier this morning.
Sue Monk (ACFS)
Before I just read that message out, I wanted to say a little about why we’re doing this particular event, which is quite different from the events we’ve been doing since the Brisbane Australia Cuba Friendship Society was formed back in 1985, 86, mid-80s anyway, in Brisbane, ’82 in Sydney … it has been around a long time. And most of our work has been fundraising for really important and really good projects in Cuba, looking after visiting Cubans who come over and on a national level, the organization of the brigades that go over every year that we’ve COVID, that hasn’t been able to happen the past couple of years. But back in the 90s, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba’s major trading partner at that time table really nosedived. It was desperate and starvation conditions for Cuba. And similarly with COVID, Cuba has experienced a problem with food, transport, lack of access to material goods, and in particular access to syringes to distribute and implement their vaccination program. So again, it’s been a critical situation. And so one of the things that we discussed in our meetings was, how do we do something a little bit differently …. so that we’re not just continually fundraising, fundraising fundraising. We would never have to fundraise if the blockade was lifted, the single most thing that’s affecting Cuba’s development is the US blockade. So we wanted to refocus back on the US as the major problem for Cuba.
So I want to give you just an example that came through today, I don’t know if anyone’s on gets the Code Pink emails that come through … that’s an organization in the United States of people that are also promoting awareness of the blockade within the United States. And so the one that came through this morning, was saying that they’re sending out a message, a call for fundraising again, to say that they have managed to get together approximately 10,000 kilograms of milk powder, because there’s a milk shortage, again in Cuba, and they’ve got all the milk powder ready to go. But of course, there’s no company that’s going to take it there. So they’re going to raise …. they’re looking to raise $17,000 US dollars, to charter a plane to get the the milk over to Cuba. It just shows you how ridiculous this situation is that solidarity groups around the world have to raise enormous amounts of money to help Cuba overcome the shortages caused by a very malicious and vindictive punitive US government policy.
So we’ve just had last year a big fundraising campaign across Australia where we sent syringes over to Cuba, a very successful campaign. But it’s very hard for us to keep asking the same people over and over again to money, money, money all the time, what we need really more than that, is to get the blockade lifted. So we’re hoping that during this 15 weeks, some of this will be talking to politicians to say, did you know that the Australian Government votes consistently to end the blockade? What are we actually going to do about it?
And the other thing we’re going to try and do is to … get on to the banks to see if we can get them to transfer money again. So for anyone wanting to send money to Cuba, you cannot do it from a bank in Australia. So those things make it very, very difficult for the Cuba.
So I’m just onto the message things that we got that from Leima (Martínez) today. Leima is the director of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with People and she she sent this message of support and gratitude for the activity that we’re doing. And I just like to read out a little bit to you.
(Reading): Dear Friends, the hatred has progressively intensified in the policies and economic sanctions imposed by the US government against Cuba reaching unprecedented levels of severity. If not, how can we explain that during the pandemic, this government prevented the acquisition of medicines and supplies and even oxygen at the moment of greatest need for Cuba in the fight against COVID-19. What to do in the face of such political opportunism and cruelty as a government that uses one of the deadliest pandemics of all time as an ally?
(Reading): Peace, love and solidarity, the core values of the campaign and collective challenge that starts today, January 1 for Brisbane, and will extend throughout Australia until April 16 is the answer.
(Reading): You who will be riding walking, swimming, running or dancing will not only cover the distance of 14,896 kilometers (from Canberra to Havanah), while the world glorifies individualism, fake news and imperialist, fascist plunder, you call for unity to defend just causes, multiply the truth with arguments with live stories, and stand up for the rights of people to their sovereignty.
(Reading): From the Cuban Institute of peace, friendship with the peoples we thank all the organizers, the Southern Cross brigade and other Cuba Friendship societies in Australia for dedicating this beautiful and important initiative to multiply the call to put an end to the economic, financial and commercial blockade that tries to strangle the Cuban people … to blockade policies as strategically designed to hinder Cuba’s commercial exchange with third countries as much as possible. That is why it is a vital importance … to defend at every opportunity, the right of our two countries to maintain, expand and strengthen ties for mutual benefit.
It is our sovereign right to multiply commercial opportunities, educational opportunities, such as the Yes-I-Can literacy program, with the exchange of scientific experiences and the best environmental experiences and sustainable local development projects.
Today, Cuba and its friends proudly celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the Cuban revolutions, the revolution that maintains its commitment to social justice and aspirations of progress for its people. And to this end has undertaken a process of political, social and economic transformation with the people and our communities as protagonists. The revolution has the legitimate right to defend an alternative, more sensitive model centered on the essential values of the human being, and that responds to the needs of a more just and equitable world.
(Reading): The Cuban people have demonstrated that it is possible even in a geopolitical context of extreme adversity, to take collective possession of national resources, and place the human being at the center of the project of society. Thanks to this model, we have a scientific and medical community that has managed to control the pandemic, despite the difficulties.
(Reading): Thanks to all of you for the long and extensive work of solidarity. Thank you for promoting new initiatives in the difficult context of the pandemic. Thank you for your support. Cuba is not alone, as demonstrated by that ‘From-Australia-to-Cuba’ with love. Long live solidarity.
Applause .. Viva Cuba!
Vicente Feliú y Silvio Rodriguez – Créeme (Original Con letras)