Cubans are coming (1)

Yes, they are coming to town in April for the 8th Asia Pacific Regional Conference for Solidarity with Cuba (APRCSC). The Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) now 56 years old, will be represented by the Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia, Madame Ibete Fernandez, who is also accredited as ambassador to the Philippines. What a pity that we closed our embassy in Cuba in October 2012; Cuba followed suit in June 2013; the reason given for both closures was financial. The historical half-sisters, Cuba and the Philippines, felt that untimely rupture quite deeply.

When the first ever APRCSC was held in India on 22-23 September 1995, Cuba was in dire straits. The Soviet Union had unceremoniously crumbled in December 1991 and Cuba was economically devastated by the loss of its principal trading partner and economic lifeline, the one that bought up all her sugar after she repelled USA’s invasion at the “Bay of Pigs.” The Cuban National Assembly had to pass laws designed to attract direct foreign investments, without changing the socialist character of its government. But, on the eve of APRCSC-1, the US Congress passed the Helms-Burton Bill, which made the economic embargo stricter, sanctions would be imposed on countries and companies that continued to have anything to do with Cuba.

One can only imagine how overwhelmed the Cubans must have felt when they were received by a rally of ten thousand when the first conference opened in India. Members of the delegation declared they no longer felt that Cuba was alone in its arduous struggle to survive. Throughout the conference, they felt energized by the solidarity and friendship of people the world over. Pro-Cuban organizations from Australia, People’s Republic of China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, New Zealand, North Korea and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam sent delegations to India.

Then as now, the principal objective of all the regional conferences for solidarity is to strongly oppose the economic embargo imposed by the USA, In India, the head of the Cuban delegation affirmed: “Even if no bombs are falling, we are the only country in the world that has suffered a blockade for more than 30 years, imposed by the world’s superpower.”After the conference and despite the embargo, India sent wheat to Cuba,and Vietnam rice and school supplies.

This year, the 8th APRCSC will be held in the Philippines on 8-9 April. Three Filipino-Cuban solidarity groups have joined hands to promote vigorously the ultimate objective, which is the lifting of the embargo. Some officers of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) are arriving in time for a pre-conference activity, the Cuba Health Forum that will take place on 6 April, at the Science Hall of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) on Taft Avenue, in Manila. This event will be co-sponsored by the University of the Philippines’ Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the College of Public Health as well as organizations like Health Justice Philippines, Inc., INAM Philippines, Inc., Medical Action Group, and the Alternative Budget Initiative-Health Cluster.

Those interested should register on 6 April, at the PGH Science Hall, from 1:00-1:30; a documentary about the Cuban health system will be shown while waiting for the forum to start. After Chancellor – Doctor Carmencita Padilla’s welcome remarks, a Cuban doctor will speak about “Universalizing Health Care in Cuba” followed by a Filipino counter part who will tell us all about his studies and work in Cuba. Both will surely be bombarded with questions during the open forum.

I hope the Secretary of the Department of Health, Dr. Paulyn Ubial (or Undersecretary Mario Villaverde) finds time to attend. Recently, President R. Duterte sent them to Cuba for a bird’s eye view of the health system, I would like to know if what they saw is applicable here.

The 2-day 8th Asia Pacific Regional Conference for Solidarity with Cuba(APRCSC) will be held on 8-9 April, at the Holiday Inn Hotel on Ortigas avenue corner ADB avenue (Pasig city), near Crown Plaza and Robinsons Galleria. On both days, registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Aside from Cuba and the Philippines, the following countries are sending delegates: Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Egypt, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, North Korea, Lao People’sDemocratic Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papa New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, United States of America and Socialist Republic of Vietnam. See you there!