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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Participation and elections in Cuba – a lesson in democracy

Visit to the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) in El Cerro, Havana

On 19 April, just before the brigade arrived in Havana and two weeks before the British general election circus, Cuba held nationwide municipal elections. The Municipal Assemblies of people’s power represent the dynamic base of the revolution. We met with Osmani Castro from Havana’s Provincial Assembly who explained how the process works; ‘In Cuba, nobody is without protection. We have a system of civic protection and social assistance from the state and in this system, the municipal delegate is the core of all decisions large or small. It is up to the delegate to analyse the situation of people who are ill, are alone, or are very old, and ensure these people receive the care and attention they need. So if my house is on fire or hit by a hurricane, I am not alone, I am not going to live under a bridge. Cuba is a safety net. It is the responsibility of the delegate, not personally to solve everything for people, but to gather the community and try to involve them in the process of finding a solution.’

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Fernando Gonzalez from the Cuban Five meets the brigadistas

Fernando Gonzalez from the Cuban Five meets the brigadistas

During our visit to ICAP we were joined by Fernando Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five. Rock around the Blockade campaigned for the freedom of the Five throughout their imprisonment, so when Fernando entered the room he was greeted with spontaneous applause; an emotional standing ovation in recognition of the Five’s principled stand throughout a long, harsh, unjust incarceration. Fernando, who is now Vice President at ICAP, said:

‘It’s good to see you, it’s good to have a group of very young people here. There are few things that you miss when you get out of prison; you leave that experience behind and you basically don’t miss anything. If I miss one thing it is receiving your newspaper (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!), every issue. It’s true! It was very interesting reading every time. Let me tell you something – it is a newspaper that is circulated around the whole prison; many people were interested in what the newspaper had to say because it is a view that is not common in the United States. So much for the freedom of press! Views like the ones expressed in your newspaper you never find in what you call the mainstream media.

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