Report of Oct 17 Conference In CT

Oct 26, 2015 by

Co-sponsored by the Center for Public Policy and Social Research at Central Connecticut State University and The Greater Hartford Coalition on Cuba, the October 17th Conference featured a keynote address by Ariel Decal Diez of El Centro Memorial Martin Luther King, Jr., Havana.

Born in Camaguey, Ariel Decal Diez earned his master’s degree in Contemporary History and his doctorate in Historical Sciences at the University of Havana.

Since 2008, Ariel has been part of the Popular Education team at the MLK, Jr. Center where he helps design, organize and implement training for social activists both in Cuba and abroad.

Decal Diez is considered an expert in the training of cadres involved in organizing around issues of community education, participatory politics, health and gender-related concerns, as well as in related areas dealing with collective work, communication and coordination.

In his keynote address, Decal Decal talked about the ‘petals’ and the possible ‘perils’ surrounding the present and dramatic changes in U.S.-Cuba relations.

He was quick to note that to date the U.S. positions have been partial and inadequate since, as readers of CybaNews are well aware, the present ‘erection’ of Embassies in D.C. and Havana and some expansion of travel to Cuba by certain categories of U.S. citizens are in no way concomitant to the dismantling of the Bloqueo, elimination of all travel restrictions, restitution of Guantanamo to its rightful owners, serious consideration of Cuba’s legitimate call for a discussion of reparations for economic and social harm done by the more-than-fifty-year Blockade, etc.

The speaker punctuated his remarks with concrete examples of what for most Cubans, are non-negotiable institutions and practices in healthcare, education and environmental advances. Ariel consistently pointed out that Cuba is not a “paraiso,” and that its revolutionary project – rich in achievement but also plagued by various mistakes and shortcomings – is a work in progress, not a fait accompli.

With candor and honesty, Ariel underscored to what degree Cuba faces multiple and new challenges in this era of reform and the resumption of diplomatic relations with Washington

Up from Washington, First Secretary at the Cuban Embassy, Miguel Fraga, gave a second address elaborating on many of the points addressed by Ariel Decal Diez.

First Secretary Fraga stressed Cuba’s willingness to negotiate with Washington on any number of issues provided such negotiations are carried out within the framework of a mutual respect grounded in Cuba’s demand that the Island’s autonomy and sovereignty be recognized.

Tim Crane of The Greater Hartford Coalition on Cuba and one of the Conference’s principal coordinators introduced the third guest speaker, Marco Perez, M.D., a Puerto Rican-Ameican physician from New York City and a graduate of the Latin-American School of Medicine [ELAM] in Havana.

With the aid of slides and a power-point presentation, the young Dr. Perez paid tribute to the people and government of Cuba not only for the excellent scientific training he received on the Island, but likewise for the humanitarian impulses he attributes to his direct contact with Cuban society and iis citizenry.

Dr. Perez methodically and with great personal aplomb described in moving terms the positive results he experienced by studying alongside classmates representing dozens of countries from all over the globe.

He was quick to point out the preventive, socio-communtarian nature of his medical training in contrast to the prevailing atomized, pathologically-oriented orientation at the root of U.S. for-profit and non-univeral private insurance ‘industry’ at the mercy of lobbyists and big Pharma.

The Q&A session that followed the morning-long session was informative and lively. The audience was comprised of a relatively small number of CCSU students and a relatively larger presence of Cuba-Solidarity people from many areas of New England.

A particularly moving moment to the one writing this report occurred a moment after the Conference had officially ended with a delightful budget luncheon.

At the request of members of The Greater Hartford Coalition and Witness for Peace, [the latter has organized the *on-going multi-city tour of Ariel Decal Diez throughout New England and parts of northern New Jersey] a coffee ktatch of about twenty Cuba-solidarity folks representing various groups and organizations was held to discuss possible future solidarity projects.

Begging our pardon for the momentary intrusion, First-Secretary Fraga approached our table and eloquently expressed his heartfelt gratitude to us and to all throughout the States for the present and decades-long work of so many who have stood in solidarity with his people and his country.

But before darting off to catch his flight, he was regaled by a number of us at the table who quipped – and rightfully so – “You thank us? Oh, no, it is we who thank you and Cuba for your leadership and inspiration; we not only stand WITH Cuba, we struggle to REMAKE the U.S. system so that one day the U.S. might be more like Cuba has been and continues to be.” Amen to that!

Wally Sillanpoa

*still remaining: Ariel Decal Diez appearing: Monday, Oct. 26, LEWISTON, MAIINE, Bates College, 7:30 P.M., Muskie Archives, 70 Campus Ave.;
Tuesday, Oct. 27, WATERVILLE, ME, 4:30 P.M., Colby College, Diamond 122
Wed., Oct. 28, NORTH ANDOVER, MA, Merrimack College, time and location TBD
Thurs., Oct. 29, WALTHAM , MA, Bently University, time and location TBD

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