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Issue #1855      February 6, 2019

Beacon of Solidarity

Final Declaration of the 36th Southern Cross Brigade 2019

We, the 36th Southern Cross Brigade of Australia and New Zealand, having come to the end of their three week stay at Campamento Internacional Julio Antonio Mella, wish to express our gratitude to all who have made this unique and fulfilling experience possible, and to the Cuban people, who have consistently greeted us with warmth, openness and in the truest sense of solidarity.

We feel so fortunate to have visited during such a pivotal moment of celebration, remembrance and renewal – encompassing both the 60th Anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and the final weeks of the extensive and far-reaching process of renewing the Cuban Constitution.

We have been deeply moved, again and again, by the revolutionary vigour and courage of the Cuban people, and their deep commitment to honouring their brave forebears “from Cespedes to Castro”, and most especially at being warmly welcomed at events to honour the Caravana de Libertad in Ciego de Avila, Santa Clara and Havana.

We’ve been witnesses to the outpouring of revolutionary pride surrounding the 60th anniversary of the events of the First of January, 1959 and the subsequent Convoy of Victory, and recognise with a deep sense of gratitude the willingness of the Cuban people to allow us to stand alongside them during these poignant and exhilarating moments.

A profound highlight for many Brigadistas was the opportunity to meet and speak with veterans of Cuba’s revolutionary struggle.

We are also deeply impressed by what we’ve seen, heard and learnt about the process to rejuvenate the country’s Constitution. recently through the democratic process to update its constitution which will be put the Cuban people in a referendum on 24 February 2019. The referendum has been proceeded by an extensive period of consultation during the past year including among the Cuban diaspora. This resulted in over 2,100 suggestions being received of which 750 were included in the document which is being circulated to the Cuban people and if approved by the referendum by a majority of the people will become the new constitution.

The rigorous process of discussion around the new Constitution and subsequent amendments displays an exceptionally high commitment to a truly participatory democracy, the likes of which is unheard of in our own countries. The proposed new Constitution will be put to the Cuban people in a referendum on February 24 this year.

We’ve heard from distinguished scholars, historians, authors and physicians, who have used their expertise to bring so many aspects of the history and current reality of Cuba to life. We’ve been honoured by cultural performances across the country, including a gala performance of the Cuban Ballet, and been welcomed into the Barrio of Caimito by a local branch of the CDR.

We’ve visited monuments of intense significance, such as the Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara, and the Memorial to the Martyrs of Moncada in Artemisa. Through our visit to a provincial Hospital in Ciego de Avila and to the Central Unit of Medical Co-operators in Havana, we’ve learnt about Cuba’s radical and long-standing accomplishments in providing health care as a fundamental human right, as well as the exemplary commitment to internationalism that sees Cuba send tens of thousands of health care practitioners to many of the most underserved parts of the world.

We’ve gained insight into Cuban civil society through representatives of political and civil society organisations such as the Cuban Communist Party, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Federation of University Students, the Young Communist League and many others.

The Southern Cross Brigade strongly reiterates its solidarity with the Cuban people. We will return home renewed and re-inspired by the courage and revolutionary spirit of this great country, ready to work at every turn to strengthen the friendship between the peoples of Oceania and Cuba and to counter anti-Cuban propaganda.

As extremists and demagogues proliferate around the world, the humanist principles the Cuban project is based on take on ever more global significance and urgency.

We take with us from Cuba the messages we’ve learnt from this dignified and sovereign society that centres humanity, that fosters a community that cares for one another, that provides free education and access to health care as core human rights, prioritising from the very start of its existence the struggle to eliminate illiteracy, disease, poverty and discrimination.

We loudly declaim the brutality of the absurd and devastating US Blockade on Cuba, the impacts of which were painfully visible at every turn, from daily minutiae to life saving medical equipment.

We call on the Australian and New Zealand governments to deepen their economic and diplomatic relations with Cuba, for an immediate end to the blockade, the return of occupied territory at Guantánamo Bay and an end to the hostilities and regime change policies sponsored by the US government.

We are deeply grateful to the excellent emissaries of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People (ICAP) who served as leaders, translators, historians, guides, teachers and friends. ICAP Brigade Director Rafaela Valerino, our interpreter and veteran of many Brigades, Ezequiel Morales, and Amistur official and interpreter Candida Rosa Sanson Abascal all worked with the utmost professionalism and kindness to ensure our Brigade was such a success.

The stimulating and varied program came off with barely a hitch, and the level of thought and preparation that went into creating the plethora of experiences was evident.

We also extend our gratitude and affection to the many staff at CIJAM who went above and beyond to facilitate our successful brigade and highly enjoyable stay at this beacon of international solidarity.

Next article – CPA solidarity with Venezuela

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