British Unions firmly in support of Cuba

Campaign News | Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Trades Union Congress motion and debate on Cuba

This year's UK Trades Union Congress held on September 11th-14th in Brighton, England, passed the following resolution in support of Cuba. Key speeches from the debate on the resolution are also reproduced below.

Resolution 72

Congress expresses its alarm at the recent aggressive lobbying by the US Government, which is an attempt to involve the UK and European Governments in the further tightening of the US illegal blockade of Cuba.

Congress records its serious concern at the 'classified' meeting between FCO officials and Caleb McCarry, the Bush administration's Cuba Transition Co-ordinator.

Congress deplores the contents of the report by McCarry's Commission aimed at the destabilisation of Cuba following the death of President Fidel Castro and in turn exposes US plans for possible attacks on Cuban living standards involving the disbanding of co-operatives, privatising hospitals and schools and dismantling social security and pension provision.

Congress condemns these plans with their classified annex of measures which remain secret for 'national security reasons' with the object of ensuring 'effective implementation' and calls on the UK Government to raise these concerns with its counterpart in the US administration.

Congress is aware of the ongoing efforts of the TUC and Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) and congratulates them on successfully organising the European Trade Union Solidarity Conference in February 2006, recognising its vital importance in the face of these new threats to the Cuban people.

Congress resolves to maintain its support for the efforts of trade unions and the CSC within the trade union movement to build alliances and intensify through a broad-based campaign the fight against these new threats and to bring to an end the illegal and inhumane 45-year US blockade which is a violation of Cuba's sovereignty.

National Union of Mineworkers

The following AMENDMENTS were accepted

Add new paragraph at end:

'Congress recognises Cuba's outstanding international solidarity despite the blockade, including 25,000 health professionals in 69 countries and 10,000 free medical scholarships for students from developing countries. Congress particularly praises humanitarian efforts for Pakistani earthquake victims, 73 per cent of whom were treated by Cuban doctors - facts largely unreported by the media.'

National Union of Mineworkers


Insert new paragraph 4:

'Congress notes that the report opposes Cuba's 'interventionist and destabilising policies in other countries'. This indicates a threat to the supply of thousands of Cuban doctors to poor communities in Haiti, Guatemala, Bolivia and Venezuela.'

Communication Workers' Union


The President : I call Motion 72 on Cuba. The General Council supports the motion.

Steve Kemp (National Union of Mineworkers) moved Motion 72. He said: The continuing blockade of Cuba by the United States of America is a disgrace and a scandal that should rest uneasy on any person. It is a blockade not supported by the international community or indeed the European Union. It is an illegal blockade by any standards of international law, international law, that America only points to and relies upon when it suits America's purpose to do so: intervention in the Middle East, intervention in Iraq, intervention in Afghanistan and 50 years of attempted intervention in Cuba where the Americans have roundly failed. That is not good enough for George W; he seems to have it all worked out for the future of Cubans up to and including how they should run their lives.

In July of this year the Bush administration's Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba seemingly have come up with a plan that gives the notion that Washington not only knows what kinds of a government Cuba is going to have but also the report seeks to change and say what economy and civil society Cuba also ought to have. The report urges Bush to allocate $80 million dollars this year with the sum rising by $20 million dollars each year in an effort to end Cuba's government. Washington, the document says, should prepare to effect a speedy transition. It tells how the Cuban Government would be brought down, what would replace it and how it would introduce U.S. style democracy, market forces, privatisation, to a new US transitional Cuba. There would be $31 million dollars to fund opposition groups in Cuba and, in a more sinister move, the US in relation to Cuba's economy says 'The revenue does not go to the Cuban people but it is diverted to maintain the repressive security apparatus and fund Castro's interventionist and destabilising policies in other countries of the hemisphere'. Bush has the nerve and the gall to talk about destabilising countries. What the U.S. of course really means, and cannot stand, what sticks in their throat, is how Cuba rejects the US belief that countries' political systems have to be run by the free market, right wing philosophy, where money and who has the money dictates how they get on in society. It annoys the Bush administration that Cuba's health service, free at point of need, available to all without phoney insurance systems, ensures that child mortality rates are better than the richest country in the world as well and it really annoys the US administration when Cuba shows true international solidarity with the world's community by sending doctors and medics to parts of the world where knowledge and expertise is welcome, including, by the way, offers of Cuban health workers to go to the US and help the victims of hurricane Katrina last year in New Orleans.

Congress, the earthquake that struck Pakistan last year left 75,000 dead, 120,000 wounded, 3.3 million homeless. Cuba's response was not any weasel words or political posturing, they sent 2000 health workers and in the eight months in the country cared for over one million people, performed 12,000 operations, hospitalised 12,000 patients and had 440,000 people in tents and provided 432,000 physiotherapy treatments for 76,000 patients, not reported by the way ever in the British and the world press.

I tell Congress this, that is what I call global solidarity; that is what I call internationalism. It is not about intervening but is doing what I hope we all in Congress believe, and that is helping others in their hour of need. We should applaud it and not attack it like we have heard this week from the Bush administration.

Cuba is not perfect, not by any means, and in response to the Foreign Secretary this morning she and Congress should note Cuba's election in May to the new UN Human Rights Council. She should also note that the US refused to stand because it was afraid it would not be voted on because of its record of human rights abuse in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq prisons. I applaud the superb work of the Cuban Solidarity Campaign and the TUC in organising the Solidarity Conference this year. Campaign against the Bush proposals on Cuba; support Motion 72.

Tony Kearns (Communications Workers Union) seconded Motion 72. He said: As you heard from the speaker from the NUM, the US Government is stepping up its pressure on Cuba. Kaleb McCarry's report was to aim for regime change in Cuba. A question was asked of the Minister this morning about the British response. In November 2005 the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office had a meeting with Kaleb McCarry and so far the British Government have refused to reveal the content of that meeting. The direct question to the Minister today was not so much a fudge -- she completely ignored answering that question. The refusal of the British Government to give transparency to that issue is a disgrace. It is about regime change and we say here and now, no more meetings in support of the US foreign policy on Cuba. We have seen the US Government's idea of regime change around the world -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran. That is the reality of regime change as far as the US Government is concerned, and McCarry's Report claims that Cuba has a interventionist and destabilising policy in other countries. This is the country complaining about interventionist policies: interventionist policies in, I suspect, countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada and Vietnam. These are the models they would like the world to adopt. They know a thing about interventionist foreign policies but it is scant hypocrisy of the first order from the US Government -- destabilising policies, as the comrade from the NUM said, about the work in Pakistan. By the way Cuba sent 2000 aid workers, 40 per cent of whom were women, to Pakistan. Cuba's medical brigade, 25,000 doctors, are volunteering in 68 countries. That is more than the World Health Organisation and Medicines Sans Frontieres put together can supply around the world. Not only that, but when they are there these doctors are living and working in some of the poorest communities and countries in the world -- countries like Bolivia, Guatemala, Haiti, Venezuela, the type of countries where interventionist policies by the US Government economically have created the mess that Cuba is trying to resolve.

Cuba's operation miracle has provided eye operations to many thousands of people in Latin America and the Caribbean and without Cuban medical help these people would certainly go blind. The comrade from the NUM has pointed to the work in Pakistan. What this is all about -- let us be honest -- is that the United States Government just cannot stand the idea that there is an alternative economic political and moral model that is different from theirs, that actually helps the poor of the world whilst theirs destroys the poor of the world.

We as the CWU follow the lead of the NUM in defending Cuba against United States aggression. It is as simple as this. If supporting Cuba means healing the world's poor and sick, and if supporting Cuba means curing the world's poor and blind, and if housing the world's poor and displaced means supporting Cuba's interventionist policies, then count me in, count the CWU in and the TUC should support this proposition.

Motion 72 was CARRIED

British unions continue to pressure government on Cuba policy

Foreign Secretary promises to 'look into' McCarry connection

Britain's Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett has promised to investigate the government's relationship with the Bush administration's so-called Cuba Transition Coordinator, Caleb McCarry.

Answering questions at the TUC conference in Brighton on Wednesday, 13 September, she told union delegates that she knew nothing about a meeting that Foreign Office officials had with McCarry last November, or that the FCO had repeatedly refused to reveal the contents of the meeting to MPs.

In the absence of an explicit denial, there is a fear that the FCO might have secretly endorsed the US plan of trying to force a regime change in Cuba after the death of Fidel Castro.

In response to the question, put by Jane Stewart of the union Amicus, Beckett replied: "I am not familiar with the content of the meeting or why the MPs' questions have not been answered", but added that she "would look into it" when she returned to her office.

Later, in the international debate, the TUC unanimously passed Motion 72 recommitting itself to working with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to campaign against the US blockade of Cuba and the Bush administration's new threats towards the island laid out in its second Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba(CAFC) report released in July. Caleb McCarry is the architect of the report.

Motion 72 on Cuba, moved by General Secretary of the NUM, Steve Kemp also raised concerns about the meetings between the FCO and McCarry, as well as praising Cuba’s international solidarity, demonstrated by the medical brigades working in 68 countries around the world.

On Monday 11 September TUC delegates packed into a Cuba and Latin America fringe event hosted by the TUC where they heard Cuban Embassy representative Zelmys Dominguez Cortina denounce the continuing threats against her country.

Colin Burgon MP explained the campaign to find out about the meetings between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Caleb McCarry.

A film recording the events of the successful European Solidarity Conference with Cuba and Latin America held in February 2006 was well applauded by delegates. The meeting also heard from speakers from Venezuela and Colombia.

After the meeting around 800 delegates enjoyed Cuban music, speeches and dancing at the TUC Latin America night hosted by Thompsons solicitors.

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