Cuban UN Ambassadors Visit to Connecticut
by Henry Lowendorf, Greater NH Peace Council and Millie Grenough, City of NH Peace Commission
Perhaps the highest level Cuban diplomatic delegation just visited Connecticut since Fidel Castro stopped at New Haven’s Union Station on his way to Boston in 1959. On September 9 and 10, Cuban United Nations Ambassadors Pedro Luis Pedroso and Yuri A. Gala made the extraordinary trip to Connecticut to celebrate the passage of two resolutions by two major city councils that call on the United States to end its illegal 62-year blockade of Cuba.
Their appearance was also the occasion to encourage further such resolutions and various collaborations between Connecticut and Cuba.
“Extraordinary” because the US blockade extends its economic and political war on Cuba to limiting the movement of Cuban diplomats at the UN to a small radius of Manhattan, violating the agreement by the US to honor the right of UN representatives to travel freely. Permission to travel to CT was based on a formal invitation by the CT state legislature, led by Representative Edwin Vargas of Hartford.
The two anti-blockade resolutions were passed respectively by the Court of Common Council of Hartford in 2021 and the New Haven Board of Alders in 2022.
Overall, the Cuban delegation to Connecticut was organized by Wallingford resident, Cuban-American José Oro, a leader of No Embargo Cuba, along with a large coalition of Cuba solidarity and peace activists from around the state. Oro described one glaring effect of the blockade as preventing Cuba from obtaining ventilators from Switzerland to provide life-giving oxygen to seriously ill Covid-19 patients because a small percentage of ventilator parts are manufactured in the US. Despite the blockade, Cuba was able to develop three successful vaccines. The global solidarity movement was called on to provide syringes, another item blocked from Cuba.
The first stop for the delegation was a working breakfast at Quinnipiac University where President Judy Olian welcomed the Ambassadors, who spoke on the priority that Cuba has given to education, the cost of which is fully covered from elementary school through college.
Quinnipiac Professors Mohammad Elahee, Matthew O’Connor and Osman Kilic explored the possibilities for faculty and student exchanges, micro-lending, small-business and sustainable development, and medicine and health.
Following Quinnipiac University the delegation met state and Hartford city legislative leaders and Cuba solidarity activists in the State Capitol, City Hall and the union office of Local 1199.
On Sept. 10 the delegation arrived in Willimantic to meet with state Rep. Susan Johnson, City Council member Emmanuel Pérez, Professor Ricardo Pérez of Eastern CT State University, Black Lives Matter leader James Flores, and leaders of the Willimantic Rainbow Connection, Power UP-Coventry and Veterans for Peace. Subsequent actions are planned to develop a sister city relationship and to pass a no-blockade resolution by the Willimantic City Council. Middletown and Hamden are exploring similar resolutions.
On Saturday afternoon the New Haven Free Public Library welcomed the Ambassadors who spoke and answered questions from a large audience. José Oro [aforementioned organizer and Wallingford resident] announced a new effort to reverse the cruel and false US listing of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.
At a farewell gathering, Joelle Fishman, Acting Chair of the City of New Haven Peace Commission, presented gifts from New Haven to the Ambassadors. Al Marder and Henry Lowendorf from the Peace Council, and John Lugo from Unidad Latina en Acción expressed gratitude to the Ambassadors for strengthening the human connection with New Haven and Connecticut. Jesus Puerto, owner of Soul de Cuba Café provided delicious Cuban dishes to nurture the relationship.