Notes from NNOC December Meeting in Washington DC

Dec 29, 2013 by

December 2013

NNOC Meeting

December 6-9, 2013

Washington, DC

The 2013 meeting of the National Network On Cuba was held on December 6-9, 2013 in Washington DC. The meeting began on Friday evening with a reception at the Cuban Interests Section hosted by the Chief of the Interests Section, José Ramón Cabañas.  The evening meeting took place at the same time that the Interest Section was faced with curtailment of counsellor services as a result of its inability to conduct financial transactions and the threat to close its bank accounts. Nonetheless, the Section warmly received all guests and NNOC delegates.  A statement from ICAP (NNOC’s sister organization) president, Kenia Serrano was read, in which she recognized the long history of solidarity and commitment to the shared work. She emphasized the ongoing work and necessity to increase the campaign for the release of the Cuban 5 and highlighted the agreements made in Holguin in November 2013 including the 3rd “Five Days for the Five” which will take place in Washington DC from June 4-11, 2014.  She acknowledged the work of Pastors for Peace and the Venceremos Brigade and encouraged massive participation in the October 2014 3rd World Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba.  There was also a moment of reflection on the life of Nelson Mandela and the important relationship of Cuba with the liberation struggles in Southern Africa.

The business meeting took place on Saturday and Sunday, December 7 and 8 at the office of the Institute for Policy Studies which generously hosted the meeting.  During the meeting recognition and words of appreciation were offered to Saul Landau and Bernie Dwyer.  There were voting representatives from 15 NNOC organizations among the 36 attendees.  Two new groups were unanimously elected as new NNOC member organizations: Maryland-Cuba Friendship Coalition which is among other activities working to build the 3rd World Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba and Kwanzaa Associates which has organized tool drives and brought the donated tools to the Cuban CTC.

Election for co-chairs was held and current co-chair Banbose Shango was re-elected.  A new co-chair, Franklin Curbelo from the Minnesota Cuba coalition was also elected.  A review of NNOC finances was presented and co-chairs reported on some of the activities they participated in.

Member organizations reported on their activities from the past year including many that sponsored exhibitions of Antonio’s Gerardo’s art work, film showings, book tours and author talks, programs on political prisoners, delegations/travel challenges, participation in five days for the Cuban 5, working cooperatively with labor, political prisoner, and community groups, radio programs, and support for medical students.

A motion was made and unanimously approved to express condolences on the death of Nelson Mandela.

The Saturday afternoon session began with representatives from the Cuban Interests Section: Juan Lamigueiro and family, and Alexander Valentin joining the meeting.  The presentation began with an acknowledgement of the contributions of Nelson Mandela and how everything that Cuba is doing is inspired by Mandela.  The October UN vote condemning U.S. policy was 188-2 against the blockade.  The kinds of action Obama could take to improve relations include removing Cuba from the terrorist list, allowing travelers to make purchases in Cuba, increasing medical and biotechnological cooperation, easing financial transactions,  expand items that can be exported to Cuba, and others.

Current economic developments and the discussion and approval of these changes by all areas of Cuban society were presented.  The updating of the economy to make it more compact, efficient, and less bureaucratic was explained.  The recent opening of the Port of Mariel to international trade and new international investment arrangements were reviewed.  Easing of travel restrictions find a number of Cubans returning to Cuba as well as Cubans working abroad. A new generation of leadership in evident with the average age of elected officials less than 40.  The principals of the revolution have not changed with key areas such as health and education remaining as part of the state sector. The main objective for solidarity groups in 2014 is the freedom of the Five as well as lifting the blockade.

A question and answer period followed.  Some of the areas of discussion included resolution of the banking situation, economic and political relationship with Latin American including ALBA, the integration of the socialist model with the private sector, social equality, race relations and ways to address disparity.

The World Solidarity with Cuba Meeting will take place in Havana at the end of October, 2014.  Discussion focused on participation and the ways to build attendance from the United States.  The ideas of licensed travel, travel challenges, and both approaches were discussed.  There are specific regulatory expectations for licensed people to people groups and participation in this conference may not meet the requirements of licensed travel.  There has been no enforcement or penalties issued to travel challengers in years.  Cheryl LaBash agreed to work with Pastors for Peace and the Venceremos Brigade on travel challenges.  The new member organization, Maryland Cuba Friendship Coalition is already working on licensed travel and will work with the NNOC.  Steve Eckardt will work with Leslie Salgado of the Maryland Cuba Friendship Coalition.

Sunday, December 7, featured a demonstration of the NNOC website:  WWW.nnoc.info.  The website is a collective effort with all the co-chairs contributing to it.  The message to the NNOC meeting from ICAP had already been posted on the website.  There is the ability to add a lot more to the website. Among the suggestions was a link to Jane Franklin’s book.  Steve Eckardt volunteered to help with the website (he was the NNOC long serving coordinator of our previous website).  A discussion also took place regarding the NNOC list serve and the feasibility of moving it to another site (seems there are more cons than pros to doing that).  The use of social media was presented and a motion to create a Facebook page was approved unanimously (12-0). A motion to open a twitter account was also approved unanimously (12-0).

There was also a discussion of the date and place for the next NNOC meeting keeping in mind other already scheduled activities such as 5 days for the 5, summer travel challenges, and the Solidarity Conference.  It seems that the most logical time for the next meeting is spring 2015.  A suggestion was made for more member conference calls.

A motion was made and approved (12-0) to endorse and support the March, 2014 International Tribunal on the Five in London and also to create and send a video message to the Tribunal.

It was noted that ELAM students returning to the U.S. face financial difficulties in preparing to take exams, etc.  Tom Whitney will research possible remedies.

Alex Valentin closed the meeting with words of encouragement and acknowledgement of our cooperative work.

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