May 2 (Granma) With the purpose of accompanying the Cuban people during this year’s May Day celebrations, 290 friends of Cuba from 32 countries joined the 13th May Day Solidarity Brigade and undertook an intense program of activities that included voluntary agricultural work and meetings with intellectuals and artists of the island.
The activities began with a tribute to the student leader and founder of the Communist Party of Cuba, Julio Antonio Mella (1903-1929), in the camp that bears his name in the municipality of Caimito, Artemisa province, where the brigade members stayed. There they planted a tree as a symbol of friendship between the peoples.
They also participated in the International Solidarity with Cuba Encounter May 2, at Havana’s International Conference Center, as well as a tribute to the Heroic Guerrilla, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, to mark the 90th anniversary of his birth this year, and Cuban independence hero Ignacio Agramonte.
The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) reported that the largest delegations came from Latin America (103 brigade members from 13 countries) and North America (76 from the United States and 22 from Canada). They were also joined by the 26th Ernesto Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade from Canada.
The international friends of Cuba visited sites of historical interest in the provinces of Havana, Villa Clara, and Camagüey; They heard talks on the process of updating the Cuban economic and social model, spoke with leaders of political and mass organizations, and learned about the recently concluded general elections, in which the new National Assembly of People’s Power (Cuban parliament) was elected, as well as Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez as President of the Councils of State and Ministers.
In an exclusive interview with Granma International, Francisco Rivera, a Nicaraguan who lives in the United States, stressed that May Day is a huge celebration in Cuba. “Unfortunately, in the country where I live, few people remember the date. Though some unions do, to demand labor rights,” he explained, and pointed to the right to organize as one of the essential demands.
Rivera left Nicaragua in 1978, fleeing persecution by the Anastacio Somoza dictatorship. As a student leader he had organized several protests against the regime at the University of Managua, even occupying the campus as a form of protest. His activism continued in Denver, Colorado, where he now resides.
“I think the American people must remember their history. I have been fortunate to participate in struggles as a trade unionist in the U.S. and I have lived very rich experiences. None of the labor rights enjoyed today by U.S. workers were given away, but conquered with the blood of their martyrs,” Rivera stressed.
He explained that the main issues for workers in the U.S. today are related to the 2008 financial crisis and its consequences, which include an increase in the cost of living, basic services, and taxes for the poorest.
“This means that many workers struggle to support their families. For example teachers, who have staged several strikes in recent months,” he added.
Rivera also referred to mobilizations in several cities in defense of the rights of immigrants and against police murders of Blacks and Latinos. He criticized the reigning impunity surrounding such incidents, resulting in increasing repression and numerous families mourning the loss of their relatives.
Rivera is active in a solidarity with Cuba organization in the U.S., which mobilizes to demand the lifting of the criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed for almost 60 years by successive U.S. governments against the Cuban people. Members also work to spread the truth about the island, and the brigade offers an opportunity to learn more and explain the reality on their return.
Brazilian Juarez Zamberlan, visiting Cuba for the first time, expressed similar opinions. He has been active in efforts to win the release of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, unjustly imprisoned April 7, to prevent his re-election. He also criticized the current Brazilian government headed by Michel Temer, who participated in the parliamentary coup against then-President Dilma Rousseff.
The recently retired bank worker, from Três Passos municipality, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, explained that he had prepared a banner calling for Lula’s freedom and Temer’s removal to hold up in the Plaza de la Revolución on May Day. He expressed his interest in learning more about the island by talking to Cubans, and telling them about the setbacks in his own country.
Meanwhile, Tuyet Nhung and Truc Dao, from Vietnam, spoke of the special ties between Cuba and their homeland, forged during the U.S. war against their country, when Cuba provided extensive solidarity.
They noted that following the Vietnamese victory against the U.S., many of their compatriots have graduated from Cuban universities, trained in various professions key to the development of the country. These are reasons to accompany Cubans in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución on May Day, they stressed.
Augustine Saakuur-Karbo, General Secretary of the Teachers and Educational Workers Union of Ghana, referred to the care provided by Cuban doctors in rural areas and communities in Africa. He thanked the Revolution and its historic leader Fidel Castro for their support for the independence and economic and social development of several countries of the African continent.
He also highlighted the courage of Cubans in defending their sovereignty in the face of U.S. imperialism and against the blockade. He praised the gains made in the construction of a socialist society.
Meanwhile, Inge Hogh, a member of the Communist Party of Denmark, has been visiting the island since 1986, and this was the sixth time she was here for May Day. She described the annual march as overflowing with joy and filled with color, in a clear demonstration of the unity of the people and their support for their leaders and the social project they are building.
She added that she was very grateful to be able to share such an important day with Cubans and insisted that the island will never be alone in the effort to build its future, that it will always be able to count on the international solidarity and friendship of the peoples of the world.