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  December 5, 2017

The First Secretary of the Cuban Embassy Visits Baltimore to Build International Solidarity

Miguel Fraga, First Secretary to the Cuban Embassy visits Baltimore to speak on international relations, ending the U.S. blockade of Cuba, and the importance of the 1959 revolution that started socialism in Cuba
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EDDIE CONWAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Eddie Conway.

Recently, Miguel Fraga, the Cuban Embassy First Secretary, came to Baltimore to speak at an event on deepening the U.S. relationship with the Cuban people and the fight for justice in Baltimore.

MIGUEL FRAGA: We believe that we can have relations between Cuba and the United States. We believe it's good for both sides, for both countries, for both people, and we really believe it's what the majority of the American people wants, also what the majority of the Cuban people wants, so we are working to try to create more opportunities between both countries, and I mean that we have opportunities in academic sector, in the cultural sector, sports interchange, but we also have opportunities for trade. We also have opportunity for more, and we are working on that.

As an embassy, we are in the middle, so we try to connect people in both sides, and that's my work. Unfortunately, I really believe that there is not enough information about my country here in the United States. There is a lot of misinformation.

Unfortunately, Cuba is the only country that you need a license to travel. As Americans, you can go wherever you want, but, in order to go to Cuba, you need a license, so the majority of the American people have not been able to travel to Cuba, have not been able to know what is the real Cuba, so my first advice is go to Cuba.

EDDIE CONWAY: There was a report back from a group of activists from the In the Footsteps of Che Brigade who traveled to Cuba this past year to learn about the country firsthand. The participants shared the lessons that Cuba and Che Guevara held for Baltimore.

JENNIFER UBIERA: I want to see how we can live in a people-centered democracy from the very beginning, and they brought up Cuba, and growing up in Miami, you would think I would know everything about Cuba because it's Miami, but, going to Cuba, it felt like it changed me. It actually renewed my hope in what's possible. It let me know that the revolution was possible, and it's not even talked about. It's not talked about like a living revolution. We just hear a lot of negatives things in the news, but, for anyone who thinks that, take the opportunity to go.

EDDIE CONWAY: One participant spoke about the political solidarity between Angola and Cuba during the liberation struggle for Angola.

JENNIFER UBIERA: Cuba and Angola, I didn't know that the Cuban army was as well-developed as it was, and we learned from some folks there who had fought in Angola that Cuba was the only country to go into the continent of Africa and to leave without taking any resources and only brought back their dead. Viva Cuba.

EDDIE CONWAY: Another participant saw the drastic difference between community relations with the police in Cuba and Baltimore.

STEVEN CECI: When I was there, and I was there for 10 days, literally, I think I may have seen about five or six police the whole time I was there and, for the most part, the police that I did see, they were there more as civil servants directing traffic, and I was talking to a couple of Cubans and they said, if any Cuban police officer discharges a weapon and it hits or it wounds a Cuban, they are automatically put in custody and until further investigation is done, whether or not they're released, where, here in the U.S., pretty much, cops, if they shoot somebody, if they kill someone, they are given a paid vacation, and we have a lot of experience of that here in Baltimore.

EDDIE CONWAY: The Cuban embassy secretary also spoke about the Latin American School of Medicine and the importance of healthcare in Cuba.

MIGUEL FRAGA: We create in the late '90s a school in Havana to train doctors. This happened after two hurricanes hit Central American countries, and we sent doctors there. We have a long tradition of sending doctors everywhere. Every time that you hear in the news that we send doctors to Venezuela because of their oil, I say, "Why we send doctors to Haiti? Why we have doctors in so many countries in Africa? Why we have doctors in so many countries in Asia? It's not because of their oil. It's because we believe in solidarity. We believe in cooperation. We need to work and we need to learn from each other."

Cuba has more than six doctors per 1,000 people in Cuba, and this is not a miracle. This is because we believe education is for free. It's not a business. It's an opportunity for everybody, so, for the reason, we have so many doctors, so many lawyers, so many architects, it's because we gave that opportunity to the people, but this school that you mentioned is the Latin American School of Medicine. We create that in the late '90s, as I said before, to train doctors because it's expensive to send doctors abroad. Our goal was to try to have people from those communities that can be able to be doctors and serve the people there.

EDDIE CONWAY: During the question-and-answer period, a resident of Baltimore asked about the change in foreign policy toward Cuba from the Obama to the Trump presidency.

RESIDENT: I want to know what really is the relationship now post-President Obama between the United States government and the people in Cuba. I have heard bits and pieces about Number 45 trying to undo the progress that was made under the Obama administration. 45, folks have to realize, he is not just racist. He's a fascist. His own people compare him to Adolf Hitler. So I just want to hear the real deal about what 45 is doing there.

NUBIA KIA: 500,000 people, half a million people from the United States went to Cuba, which show you people are really interested in going, and it wasn't just all relatives, a lot of tourists.

I mean, Trump doesn't like that, so he came out and says, "Okay, you can't just go to Cuba." People were planning family reunions there. People were going on their honeymoons. People were just traveling there. You can't do that anymore. Now, you have to go under the auspices of an educational group, but they haven't totally reverted back to the way it was, say, under the Bush administration where you could not go at all and where it was illegal to go, so, even if they rolled it back to where it used to be where you can't go at all, we will still go to Cuba.

EDDIE CONWAY: The embassy secretary also called for the U.S. to end its blockade on Cuba.

MIGUEL FRAGA: Every time that I hear somebody that say, "Okay, the blockade is to improve the human rights in Cuba," I say, "No. The blockade is the main violation of the human rights of the whole people of Cuba, so you need to remove the blockade," and, by the way, the blockade don't have any support. You can see the United Nations, November the 1st, a couple of weeks ago, 181 countries out of 183, so only two countries defended the blockade in the United Nations, but the whole world is asking.

RESIDENT 2: Are you talking about the U.S. and Israel?

MIGUEL FRAGA: Exactly, United States and Israel, but the rest of the world is asking to the United States to lift the embargo, so even the U.S. allies are with Cuba, and this is not because of solidarity. This is because they know that the blockade is hurting their interests in doing more business with Cuba.

Unfortunately, the new administration is going back to the old policy, the policy that has failed in the last 50 years, because the idea of the blockade is regime change. They want to destroy the Cuban Revolution, but they don't accept that the Cuban Revolution is what the majority of the Cuban people wants.

EDDIE CONWAY: The event also focused on the liberation of Cuba from U.S. domination and the 1959 Cuban Revolution that established socialism just 90 miles from the U.S.

RESIDENT: In 1959, they did something that you can shine over and don't think about. They overthrew the dictator and made a revolution there turn into a socialist revolution. That's number one. That's number one. As [inaudible 00:09:22] said earlier, that the Cuban people really proved that it can be done.

My advocacy here is to do the same thing in the United States, because we are the ones that will decide what goes on in the world today.

MIGUEL FRAGA: You see Cuba before 1959 and you see Cuba right now, and you're going to see that it's not a perfect society. It's not a perfect country, but it's a country with equal opportunities for everybody. It's a country that don't believe that healthcare or education are business. It's a country that believe that it's not a matter of gender, race, wealth. It's a matter of you are a human being and you have the same opportunities, so I believe it's about that.

Again, we know the difference between the American people and the American government, so we want better relation with the American people, and we believe that is what human beings must do, working together. Learn from each other, and we can accomplish a lot.

The only thing that we want is good will and respect, and we can accomplish a lot. We are not afraid of the relations with the United States. We have relations with 191 countries out of 183 United Nation members, so we have relation with a lot of capitalism countries. We don't believe capitalism is the answer for the problems that humanity have right now.

EDDIE CONWAY: For The Real News Network, this is Eddie Conway.


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