By JEFF MACKLER
Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruiz is slated to lead a delegation of 40 top Cuban economists, political leaders, and trade specialists to the weeklong World Trade Organization (WTO) conference that opens in Seattle on Tuesday, Nov. 30.
President Castro is also expected to address the Dec. 3-6 National Network on Cuba (NNOC) solidarity conference that immediately follows the WTO.
NNOC co-chair Ignacio Meneses told Socialist Action that over 2000 activists are expected to attend the Seattle Cuba conference, originally slated for Detroit, but changed in order to coincide with the WTO.
Conference sessions are planned that focus on U.S.-Cuba relations, Cuba’s economy, youth, religion, democracy, labor, health and education, and women.
The conference will discuss and plan a number of solidarity actions, including building participation in the Second Meeting of World Solidarity with Cuba in Havana, Nov. 10-14, 2000; supporting pending legislation permitting the sale of food and medicine to Cuba; and organizing exchange visits and tours by Cubans and U.S. citizens.
A major solidarity rally is planned early in the conference, perhaps the evening of Dec. 3, with President Castro the featured speaker. Representatives of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, D.C., indicate that although they cannot positively confirm that President Castro will attend, they expect him to be present.
Major participants at the NNOC gathering include Cuban Ambassador Fernando Remirez de Estenoz; The Rev. Lucius Walker, director, IFCO/Pastors for Peace; Pedro Ross Leal, general secretary of the Cuban Confederation of Workers; Baldemar Velasquez, general secretary of the Union of Cuban Youth; and many others.
The Cuban NNOC delegation of 20 is separate and apart from the Cuban WTO delegation. In total, some 60 Cubans are expected to attend both conferences.
The WTO invitation to President Castro reflects a growing debate among the leading imperialist nations, especially the United States, as to how to both undermine the revolutionary Cuban state and, at the same time, take advantage of the trade opportunities offered by this island nation of 11 million people.
Substantial elements of the U.S. ruling class believe that a partial relaxation of the 30-year U.S. embargo and blockade of Cuba, combined with modest imperialist investment, can serve to divide the present Cuban leadership and pave the road for capitalist restoration.
They believe that this tactic, as opposed to an invasion, is more efficient in regard to the common goal of U.S. rulers to return Cuba to the status of a U.S. semi-colony.
The unprecedented invitations sent to President Castro are a key indication of this emerging U.S. policy shift among an important layer of the U.S. ruling class
In addition to the American delegation to the WTO itself, invitations to President Castro and the Cuban delegation have been sent by the Seattle City Council, the King County Council, Seattle area Congressman James McDermott, the President Washington State University, the National Council of Churches, and many others.
Of course, many invitations to President Castro have been issued by organizations in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, including the NNOC, Socialist Action, Pastors for Peace, U.S./Cuba Friendshipment, and Peace for Cuba.
Cuba’s willingness to bring its case to the United States affords solidarity activists a unique opportunity to exchange views with Cuban leaders first hand and to learn about the current state of the Cuban revolution.
The Cubans, of course, are beleaguered as few other nations in history. With limited resources and an imperialist embargo on the one hand, and the virtual elimination of their previous trade with the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe on the other, they have been compelled to allow foreign investment in order to secure the hard currency to maintain the basic social programs that emerged from their socialist revolution.
The Cubans are well aware of the dangers to their revolutionary state arising out of imperialist investment. They have taken stringent measures to limit the capacity of foreign capital to dominate Cuba’s course of development.
At the same time, they understand fully that revolutionary Cuba, a proud but isolated outpost of socialist internationalist principles, has few alternatives.
President Castro’s visit offers Cuba several promising openings to challenge the imperialist-imposed blockade. First, Cuba will utilize the world stage provided by the WTO to present Cuba’s often-repeated demand for a cancellation of the third-world debt, a debt imposed by the inequalities inherent in all trade with underdeveloped nations. Cuba’s solidarity with all nations struggling under the imperialist yoke will sound loud and clear.
Second, the Cuban delegation will use the occasion of the WTO to press its case for an end to the illegal U.S. embargo/blockade, taking advantage of whatever divisions that exist between the major imperialist exploiters to maneuver to Cuba’s economic and political advantage.
Finally, President Castro’s presence coincides with a planned mass demonstration on Tuesday, Nov. 30, against the destructive consequences of U.S. and imperialist trade policies worldwide.
Demonstration organizers estimate that 40,000 may attend this opening day protest. President Clinton is expected to open the WTO conference on that day.
Solidarity activists are urged to register for the NNOC conference by contacting the Weston Hotel in Seattle at: (1-800) WESTON1 or (206) 728-1000. NNOC rooms at the Weston all have two large beds and cost $129 per day. Conference registration is $40.
Checks should be made payable to “U.S. Cuba Conference,” and mailed to National Network on Cuba, P.O. Box 39188, Redford, MI 48239.
Phone/Fax: (313) 561-8330. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.