Beginning on November 14, unprecedented rainfall began to cause serious flooding across parts of British Columbia such that by the next morning, major roads and highways were closed, and many people were unable to leave their communities. Not only this, but severe winds knocked over trees and downed power lines, leaving nearly 50,000 people without electricity in the Greater Victoria Area.
Despite the rain and biting winds, peace activists in Victoria showed a steadfast determination to follow through with a solidarity rally which had been planned for several weeks and scheduled to coincide with a US-sponsored destabilization event in Cuba expected to take place the same day. The “Hands Off Cuba!” rally at the BC Legislature (located on the traditional territory of the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples) was a collaborative event organized by the local Communist Party of Canada (CPC) and Young Communist League (YCL) clubs along with the Vancouver Island Peace Council, a new chapter of the Canadian Peace Congress which was established over the summer. Other local organizations such as the Victoria Peace Coalition, Latinos Without Borders and Victoria Friends of Cuba also shared information about the event with their networks which helped to ensure a presence in the crowd. Victoria Friends of Cuba is extremely active in carrying out regular banner drops and car cavalcades in solidarity with Cuba and the group’s lead organizer, Randy Caravaggio, was expected to speak at the rally but was prevented from reaching Victoria due to road closures.
Other speakers at the event included Dock Currie on behalf of the Vancouver Island Peace Council who gave a well-articulated historical exegesis of the Monroe Doctrine, condemning the long history of American imperialism. Camilo Valbuena from the Young Communist League gave a powerful speech detailing the centuries of injustices across Latin America, describing the looting of its resources and the bloody murders of progressive leaders and revolutionaries. He went on to describe the remarkable achievements of the Cuban Revolution from healthcare to literacy to housing and more – many gains that are yet to be achieved elsewhere in Latin America or here in Canada. Communist Party organizer Tyson Strandlund was emcee of the event and announced the Cuban people’s clear rejection of US-backed regime change efforts which took place that morning as Cuban citizens had blockaded the homes of the counterrevolutionary leaders before they could make a move. This announcement was met with enthusiastic cheers from the audience whose spirits could not be dampened by the wet and the cold.
The heroic struggle of the Cuban people – from the work of the Henry Reeve Brigades in the fight against COVID-19 to the internationalist legacy of support for anti-colonial movements and oppressed nations – is of such universal inspiration that even a representative from the Vancouver Island Anarchist Collective took to the microphone to thank the CPC, YCL and Peace Council for their efforts in organizing the event in a rare instance of black and red solidarity.
In addition to the speakers, those at the event were treated to music performed by long-time labour activist Art Farquharson who deftly handled the guitar despite the finger-stiffening chill. Art opened with a piece by the legendary Pete Seeger, reminding the crowd that “not all Americans are bad.” He followed this with “The Internationale” in both English and French before switching to Spanish to perform the iconic “Hasta Siempre Comandante,” written in 1965 by Cuban composer Carlos Puebla in honour of the revolutionary legacy of Che Guevara.
Attendees were asked to sign the Canadian Network on Cuba’s (CNC) parliamentary petition calling on the Canadian government to speak out against the US blockade and interventionism and to act to defend not only Cuban, but Canadian sovereignty against US extraterritorial actions which also affect Canadian businesses that dare to trade with Cuba. Finally, participants were asked to donate to the CNC’s medical supplies for Cuba campaign which over the past several months has delivered eight full storage containers of syringes, PPE and medical supplies to the Cuban people, thanks in part to the efforts of CNC member organizations like the CPC and YCL.
Despite the weather, the event was a success. While it is abundantly clear that the Cuban reactionaries (“gusanos”) have no chance of carrying out the machinations of their Yanqui masters, the people of Cuba can nevertheless count on the peace movement in Victoria for solidarity and support in the struggle against US imperialism. In the words of Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodrigues Parrilla, “No one will rain on our party.”
Photo: Cory Greenlees
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