SOUTH Africa has demanded the removal of US forces and personnel from Guantanamo Bay.
And Cuban Five anti-terrorist and Hero of the Republic Gerardo Hernandez says Cuba would soon celebrate the end of the US’ unilateral embargo.
During a welcoming gala dinner in honour of the Cuban Five in Cape Town on Monday, South African foreign deputy minister Luwellyn Landers said Pretoria was extremely pleased with the rapprochement between Cuba and the US.
“As freedom-loving governments and civil society movements across the world, we must increase our international solidarity campaigns on all fronts (bilateral, multilateral platforms and civil society, etc.) to bring about a speedy lifting of the blockade against Cuba, without preconditions. We must also demand the removal of United States forces and personnel from Guantanamo Bay, so that Guantanamo Bay is returned to the Cuban people,” Landers said.
He said the Cuban Five – Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and René Gonzalez – were heroes of international solidarity and the struggle against international oppression of the poor and downtrodden.
Landers said Cuba’s example of international and Afro-Cuban solidarity was perhaps nowhere more evident than in the lives of its revolutionary leaders and disciplined cadres who fought side by side with Africa’s freedom fighters in pursuit of the dream of justice, freedom and peace.
“Afro-Cuban solidarity is not a theoretical paradigm but has been forged in the heat of battle. Over the past 50 years, Cuba has served as an inspiration to me as an individual and to the people of South Africa. The reasons for the admiration that we have for you and your nation are many, and can be best summed up by the words of President Comrade Fidel Castro who said: ‘Cuba knows no fear and despises deceit; it listens with respect but believes in its ideas; it firmly defends its principles and has nothing to hide from the world’,” said Landers. “To the Cuban 5 who are sitting here today, we say thank you to you for your selfless sacrifice and patriotism that you demonstrated in building international solidarity, fighting terrorism against your country and defending the ideals of the Cuban revolution. In a world where the dominant narrative of our youth is one of individualism, opportunism and materialism, your message of revolutionary commitment, idealism, dedication, discipline, social activism, and self-sacrifice for a just cause helps to inspire our youth and instill in them the revolutionary idealism that they are fast losing.”
The Cuban Five Heroes are currently on a tribute to international solidarity that takes them to South Africa, Angola and Namibia.
Hernandez, who was serving a double life sentence until his release in December 2014 following a thawing of relations between Cuba and the US, said Cuba, just like its five activists, would soon celebrate the end of the over 50 years US sanctions.
“We are here to express our appreciation… to express our thanks for the support of South Africa in the struggle for the release of the Five Cuban anti-terrorists,” Hernandez said.
The Cuban Five all served in Angola during the liberation struggle against Apartheid forces.
Cuba is involved in the reconstruction of South Africa after the demise of apartheid by training, inter alia, scores of South African youth in medicine in Cuba. Cuba’s ongoing support for the South African government’s main priorities through the implementation of joint programmes in health, social development, defence, housing and infrastructure is significant.
The Five on Sunday began a busy schedule of activities with a posthumous tribute to anti-apartheid leader Oliver Tambo whom they described as a great leader and friend of Cuba and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.
The Cuban heroes’ trip, arranged by the ruling African National Congress, is the first such group trip together outside Latin America since the Five’s travel to Venezuela early this year.
The visit to South Africa coincides with the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom Charter, and it’s an occasion to demonstrate their gratitude to the people and government of South Africa, and to Africans in general, for the global solidarity for their release.