On Tuesday, 9 June, sixty people crowded into Ryerson University’s Oakham House to hear Jorge Martín, the international secretary of Hands off Venezuela (HOV), speak about the history of Cuba, and the prospects for Cuba’s future.  The event was organized by HOV Toronto/Bolivarian Circle “Louis Riel”,  with endorsements from the Venezuelan and Cuban consulates and the Toronto Forum on Cuba.  The event started with a rousing speech by Jorge Sorberon, the Cuban consul, who spoke about the gains of the Cuban revolution.  He said that it has been 50 years since the start of the revolution, and still the gains of the revolution are evident in society—people have free health care, education, housing, etc. 

Following this speech, Maura Rivas, the Venezuelan vice consul, stood up to speak about the need for solidarity with the people of Peru where there has been a massacre of indigenous people, as well as the people of Mexico, who have recently experienced a tragedy with the loss of forty-four lives in a daycare.  The crowd then held a moment of silence to remember these losses, and reflect on the need for international solidarity.  Afterward, Rivas expressed the need to overcome the economic blockade of Cuba, and the importance of connecting all Latin American countries with each other.

Maria Paez Victor, a leading member of the Bolivarian Circle Louis Riel, followed on Rivas’ thoughts by pointing to the exchanges that have occurred between Cuba and Venezuela.  For both of the revolutions to survive, they must not exist in isolation.  Maria spoke about how illiteracy has been abolished in Venezuela, and how Venezuela is now exchanging oil for doctors with Cuba.

After the introductory remarks were complete, Jorge Martín addressed the crowd.  He began by listing the incredible gains of the Cuban revolution.  He used statistics and data to point out the achievements of the Cuban revolution in contrast to the situations facing many advanced, capitalist countries; for example, the life expectancy in Cuba is 77.7 years, while the life expectancy in the USA is 77.9 years.  Jorge then placed these statistics in the context of Cuban history, and pointed out that in order for a revolution to succeed, there needs to be a break with capitalism.  He referenced Venezuela on this matter.  Jorge summed up his talk by speaking about the Cuban situation today.  He spoke about the system of dual currency, self employment, and the opening up of Cuban markets to foreign capital; he pointed out that Cuba did these things because it could not survive in isolation after the fall of the USSR, but that at the same time they have introduced many distortions in the economy.  He then addressed how the world crisis of capitalism is affecting Cuba, and how tropical storms last year led to a important losses for the Cuban economy. He pointed out how capitalism was undermining the Cuban economy through unequal terms of trade and therefore the urgent need to spread socialism to other countries as a guarantee for the defence of the Cuban revolution And finally, he spoke about US relations with Cuba.  Jorge Martin ended on an optimistic note, though—hopeful for an international revolution.

Following a Q&A session, Jorge Martín referenced a speech by Fidel Castro, who said that the main danger facing the Cuban revolution comes from inside, from the possibility of bureaucracy and corruption, and from its own mistakes.  Jorge finished the entire event with a quote from Che Guevara,  when he said that in Latin America the bourgeoisie could not play a progressive role and that it was a question of “socialist revolution or an abortion of a revolution”, which led to enthusiastic applause.

After the speeches there was a lively and enjoyable discussion. The audience cheered at the mention of the OAS’s decision to nullify its expulsion of Cuba in 1962, and as well for Cuba’s decision not to want to rejoin such a body. All in all it was a successful event which further strengthens the unity of the Cuban and Venezuelan solidarity movements.