Minneapolis, MN – On January 29, 35 cars caravanned through south Minneapolis in an effort to draw attention to the treatment of Cuba by the United States. The Solidarity Committee on the Americas and the MN Cuba Committee held their monthly Cuba caravan to demand an end to the U.S. blockade against Cuba and also the removal of Cuba from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
Even though Minnesota’s harsh winter was at its peak with gusty winds making it feel like 20 below zero, activists dressed in many layers, taped signs to their cars, rallied for Cuba then took the caravan through residential streets.
Before the caravan began, people held banners and signs and chanted, “When Cuba is under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!” The banners read, “Cuba off the U.S. terrorist list,” and “Take your knee off Cuba! End the blockade now!”
Sarah Martin of the Solidarity Committee on the Americas (SCOTA) explained, “In 2015, Obama removed Cuba from the U.S. state sponsor of terrorism list. Trump put them back on citing only that Cuba provided a haven for Colombian insurgents, who were in Cuba due to the island’s role in facilitating the historic peace accords. Since when is providing a place for peace negotiations terrorism? By being back on the list, Cuba is again subjected to a series of severe sanctions and international financial restrictions and transactions that limit the nation’s ability to purchase medicines and medical supplies for its population and reboot its economy after the COVID pandemic. We demand Biden take action now and remove them from this list.”
Before introducing the main speaker, Martin described SCOTA’s delegation trip in November 2022. Mary Kosuth, a Minneapolis graduate student, was a part of it. Kosuth pointed out that before going to Cuba, she is at the age where one starts to see bad things on repeat and feeling defeated. “For years, I was an overwhelmed, underinsured, undervalued, and demoralized mother of two. I had no future but to grind away at a thankless job, too exhausted when I got home to do things I was passionate about. I was too exhausted to be involved in my community. I couldn’t even fight for my own dignity at work, how could I fight for the dignity of others on evenings and weekends? I was demoralized.” But after the trip, she told the crowd, “I fell in love with Cuba!”
Kosuth continued, “I saw real health care. I saw doctors living in the neighborhoods they served. They weren’t golfing. They weren’t holed up in gated communities shopping at Whole Foods. They lived among their patients. All children get the same education. I saw food grown organically and distributed locally. We visited an urban farm where food was grown with few pesticides and no inorganic fertilizers. I saw people working together, helping one another, rearing children and caring for their elderly, struggling together, in community, in solidarity. All of these incredible, inspiring, beautiful things are taking place right now, despite, a 61-year U.S. embargo.”
Kosuth ended by saying, “So, what is the U.S. government afraid of? Why does it feel so threatened by Cuba? Maybe they are afraid that citizens like me will see a way of life where people are treated with dignity and respect. Cuba personified, is a generous, affable, and genuine person. A person who looks you in the eyes when you speak and when you shake hands goodbye, Cuba pulls you in for a hug and calls you family. The United States personified, holds you like a tractor beam, in a suspicious glare, calculating your worth, your value, always thinking of what it has to gain. Of those two personalities, who would you rather be around?”
Before the caravan got going, there was a discussion to change the route to include the governor’s mansion, to be in solidarity with the “Justice For Tyre Nichols and all stolen lives” protest. Joe Callahan, a member of the MN Cuba Committee, explained, “In Cuba, many police officers are not armed with guns.” Callahan gave an example of Cuba’s police force, “In 1994 there was rioting on the docks in Havana, in which two policemen were killed, by people trying to seize a ferry boat to go to the U.S. In response, supporters of the revolution, including Fidel, headed down there, and Fidel gave orders that no weapons were to be used.”
The crowd agreed to change the route, noting the importance of being there with others. As the caravan drove almost six miles through the residential streets from Minneapolis to the governor’s mansion in Saint Paul, people on the streets and other cars driving by saw the decorated cars with messages of “Hands off Cuba!” “Take Cuba off the U.S. Terrorlist.” The people in the caravan honked while other cars honked in support and people waved to them.
The caravan ended at the governor’s mansion, joining the rally of over 200 people demanding justice for Tyre Nichols and an end to police murders.