09/20/13 - Morning Star Online - Building Cuba's links
Cuban trade unionists Yamil Eduardo Martinez and Yudith Camps Alejo took
time off during their month-long tour of Britain to speak to Peter Lazenby
Yamil Eduardo Martinez and Yudith Camps Alejo have lived all their lives
suffering the effects of an illegal blockade of their country by the US.
Martinez, 40, and Camps Alejo, 27, are Cuban trades unionists.
Cuba Solidarity Campaign is hosting their visit to Britain, where they are
on a speaking tour aimed at building solidarity links between young union
activists in the two countries, raise support for an international campaign
against the blockade - which was imposed by the US after the 1959 Cuban
revolution - and gather support for demands for the release of the Miami
The tour - supported by the Ken Gill Memorial Fund, established in memory
of one of Britain's most respected trades unionists - includes meetings in
Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow.
Martinez and Camps Alejo addressed a well-attended fringe meeting at the
Trades Union Congress in Bournemouth, also addressed by TUC general
secretary Frances O'Grady.
The tour follows visits to Cuba by 200 young British trade unionists who
formed May Day brigades and took part in Cuba's May Day celebrations.
They have been telling meetings of young trade unionists how the blockade
prevents firms trading with Cuba - not only those in the US but around the
The US imposes fines on companies who trade with Cuba, blocking importation
of medical supplies and equipment, educational materials, computers and
They say increased international pressure is vital to bring the blockade to
The UN voted by 188 votes to three to condemn the blockade when the issue
was debated in November last year. The three odd ones out were the US,
Israel and the tiny state of Palau, which is in economic hock to the US.
Another key aim of the visit is to raise support for the international
campaign to free all of the Miami Five. These are Cubans who investigated
terrorism against Cuba planned and executed by right-wing Cuban exiles in
the US which has led to the deaths of more than 3,000 Cubans over the
When the five presented their evidence to the US authorities they were
arrested, accused of espionage and after a mockery of a trial in 2000 were
given prison sentences ranging from 15 years to double life.
One of the five Rene Gonzalez was released this year and is back in Cuba.
Martinez said: "We need more support for the release of the Miami Five and
the lifting of the blockade."
During their visit they attended a candle-lit vigil outside the US embassy
in London to mark the 15th anniversary of the imprisonment of the five.
Martinez said one obstacle to both aims - the ending of the blockade and
the freeing of the five - was the manipulation of the media in Britain and
"We are struggling against the misinformation campaigns run by the big
media against Cuba," he said. "This happens with all the big media,
particularly in the US. The trial of the Miami Five was not covered in the
"Our aim is to show the world what the revolution is about, and what is
actually happening in Cuba."
Despite the effects of the blockade, Cuba has built a health service of
international repute, and sends tens of thousands of doctors to African and
southern and central American countries.
It has created a comprehensive education system and is implementing an
ambitious house-building programme.
Both live in Havana where they work for a Cuban institution devoted to
building links of international friendship and solidarity with countries
around the world.
Martinez is usually responsible for Latin America and the Caribbean, Camps
Alejo for Africa and the Middle East.
"We are talking about 2,000 friendship associations across 152 countries
around the world," said Martinez.
During the visit they have been warmly welcomed by hundreds of young trade
"It has been a great experience," said Martinez. "Everywhere we have been
we have seen solidarity with Cuba. We felt at home. People have been very
"We have been suggesting that young trade unionists join the Cuba
Solidarity Campaign to be informed regularly about Cuba, and get involved
in the May Day solidarity brigade. It is an excellent experience of being
in Cuba and actually seeing the May Day rally."
Up to a million Cuban workers attend it every year.
"The programme has been very well organised. There has been a lot of
dialogue between the trade union movement and the Cuba Solidarity
Campaign," Camps Alejo said.
"We hope young trade unionists will come on board and join the campaign and
"We want to thank everyone for the solidarity we have received and for the
interest that has been shown about what is happening in Cuba. We want to
continue building the links between our two nations."
Contact the Cuba Solidarity Campaign for information about the tour and
about the Young Trade Unionists brigade to Cuba May 2014 at
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