BY BEVERLY BERNARDO
TORONTO — “We are aware that the intention of the U.S. is to overthrow our revolution,” Fernando González, one of the Cuban Five, told a May 30 meeting here on “Cuba in the Struggle for a Better World.” He was responding to a question on the recent moves to re-establish diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana and the stated intention of President Barack Obama to end the U.S. embargo of the island. “But we know our history and are ready for it. McDonald’s is not going to own Cuba. We have a long history of struggling and winning, and we’re going to win this too.”
More than 250 people attended the meeting at the Steelworkers union hall that featured González and Dr. José Portilla García, a Cuban doctor who was finishing a cross-country tour entitled “Africa Called, Cuba Answered.” The event was held in conjunction with the Seventh Convention of the Canadian Network on Cuba.
Many of those in the audience were partisans of the successful fight to free the Cuban Five, revolutionaries framed up by the U.S. government in 1998 on charges that included conspiracy to commit espionage. A large number of participants came from Toronto’s Latin American community.
Among those on the platform were Julio Garmendia Peña, Cuban ambassador to Canada; Sandra Ramírez from the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples; and other Cuban diplomats in Canada.
Portilla, who had headed Cuba’s medical missions to the Congo and Angola, spoke first. “Today there are 52,000 health care workers in 67 countries around the world. We sent 256 of these workers to Africa where we worked very hard to fight Ebola,” he said. “Many people asked why the Cuban people have responded in this way. We have a very good teacher, Fidel. He taught us to have solidarity with people everywhere in the world.”
González said that the work of the internationalist medical volunteers had a big impact on the morale of the Five in prison. One day he received “a letter from a Cuban doctor on an island in the Pacific with only 10,000 people — but it had a group of Cuban doctors and nurses. I felt so proud, so happy to be part of a revolution that was able to do such things and determined to do whatever it takes to defend it.”
“We have sent doctors,” he added during the lively discussion period, “but we also sent soldiers to Angola for 14 years and helped Namibia win its independence.”
“In the 1980s the U.S. offered Cuba the possibility of talks if we withdrew from Africa. We were going through hard times, but Cuba’s principles come first,” he said. “Solidarity is part of our culture. It would not have been possible without our socialist revolution.”
González described how the FBI tried to get the Five to become turncoats when they were arrested. “The FBI agent told me I was missing the opportunity to live in the land of the free,” he said, “and said Fidel Castro was not going to lift a finger to save me. I had to control my laughter because I knew the long history in Cuba of never leaving a soldier behind.”
González also responded to questions on what the next tasks are for supporters of the Cuban Revolution. Along with fighting to end the U.S. economic, commercial and financial embargo of Cuba and demanding the return of Guantánamo to Cuba, he called for supporting efforts to win freedom for other political prisoners in the U.S., including Mumia Abu-Jamal and Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican independence fighter with whom González “had the honor to share a prison cell for four years.”
The Cuban revolutionary also denounced U.S. threats to Venezuela. “Cuba is never going to abandon its friends,” González said.
Vol. 79/No. 23 June 22, 2015