Pope Francis visits Cuba

On 19 September, Pope Francis arrived in Cuba for a four-day, three-city tour. The visit marks the third papal visit to Cuba in just 17 years, ‘a remarkable record for any country, much less one with such a small observantly Catholic community’ (Washington Post, 19 September). It is particularly significant given Pope Francis’ role since 2013 in facilitating secret negotiations between Cuba and the US which led to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. During 18-months of secret talks, the Pope sent personal letters to Obama and Castro and hosted high-level meetings at the Vatican.

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Diplomatic relations restored between Cuba and the US

On 20 July, seven months after Cuba and the United States announced plans to restore diplomatic relations, embassies were opened in Havana and Washington. They were closed 54 years ago, in 1961. In 1977, ‘Interest Sections’ were opened up to function as substitute embassies but with fewer staff and functions. The restoration of embassy status, along with the removal of Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list in May 2015, marks the official re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

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Cuba first with meningitis B vaccine

Scientist Concepcion Campa Huergo led Cuban efforts to produce a Men B vaccine

From 1 September 2015 all babies in the UK will for the first time be offered a new meningitis B (MenB) vaccine called Bexsero, as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme. According to the NHS Choices website, this ‘makes England [sic] the first country in the world to offer a national, routine and publicly funded MenB vaccination programme’. However, 27 years ago, socialist Cuba’s Finlay Institute, under the personal direction of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, developed a MenB vaccine also as part of its national immunisation programme. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was proud Britain ‘will be the first country in the world to have a nationwide MenB vaccination programme’ (The Guardian, 29 March 2015). So who was the ‘first’ country to the MenB vaccine, Britain next September or Cuba in 1988? Charles Chinweizu explains.

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Building solidarity with Cuba – upholding the ideas of Che Guevara

On our visit to ICAP, the brigade spoke to Kenia Serrano who, as a member of the UJC in 2002, participated in Rock around the Blockade’s speaking tour across Britain. More recently, in March 2014 and in her current post as President of ICAP, she spoke at RATB’s rally for the Cuban Five in Trafalgar Square, London, which was organised in support of the International Committee of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five. Kenia told us:

‘The significance of international solidarity is something that constitutes a principle for the Cuban revolution. To see that people all over the world are in solidarity with the Cuban revolution is something that really constitutes a commitment for us, we are committed to continue in solidarity with other peoples because Cuba has been a recipient of world solidarity actions…

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Socialist Cuba ‘Revolution is permanent change’

Cuba Vive 2015

Eyewitness accounts from the Cuba Vive Brigade 2015

With contributions from all the brigadistas, compiled by Sam McGill

Between 20 April and 5 May, Rock around the Blockade (RATB), the Revolutionary Communist Group’s campaign in support of socialist Cuba, sent its 13th solidarity brigade to Havana for two intensive weeks of exchanges and visits. The Cuba Vive 2015 brigade was there to stand in solidarity with Cuban socialism, gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and achievements of 56 years of revolution and explore the implications of recent changes in Cuban-US relations.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of RATB’s foundation and of our first brigade, which visited Ciego de Avila in 1995. That was one of the worst years of the ‘Special Period’, Cuba’s deep economic crisis resulting from the loss of 35% of its GDP and 85% of its trade following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. All of our brigades have been hosted by the Union of Young Communists (UJC).

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