TUC General Secretary speaks to Cuban trade unions

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Brendan Barber's speech

CTC International Solidarity Conference

Saturday 2 May 2009

I am proud to bring greetings from the British trade union movement and the 6.5 million workers we represent.

I am proud to be the first general secretary of the Trades Union Congress to come to Cuba - especially so on the occasion of your May Day celebrations, on the 50th anniversary of the revolution, and on the 70th anniversary of the CTC.

And I am proud of the links between British and Cuban trade unions, with CTUC general secretary Salvador Valdes Mesa and international secretary Raimundo Navarro attending our Congress in Liverpool later this year.

Let me begin by saluting the huge social achievements of the Cuban people over the past five decades, delivering levels of literacy, numeracy, public health and access to clean water that would shame many richer nations.

And let me also salute Cuba's profound sense of internationalism - not just providing aid, practical support and medical assistance to the world's poorest nations, but fighting global injustice too.

Cuba has contributed much to international solidarity; and Cuba needs our solidarity in return.

Most importantly, we must keep campaigning for an end to the illegal US blockade of Cuba, condemned repeatedly by the United Nations.

The blockade is illegitimate, unjustifiable, and hurts people in Cuba and beyond. It has failed to do anything but blight the reputation of the US and harm the people of Cuba.

There have already been some positive signs from the Obama regime, and I hope the new President finds the courage to do the right thing and reverse this brutal and unnecessary embargo.

The British trade union movement will keep pressing for change; reasserting Cuba's fundamental right as a sovereign nation to determine its own economic and political future.

And we are also absolutely committed to ending another terrible injustice: the imprisonment of the Miami Five.

We share Amnesty International's condemnation of the inadequate appeal process and the denial of basic human rights to family visits.

That's why we support the call for an immediate retrial; and working with colleagues in the American trade union movement to put pressure on the US government.

We also want to see change in the European Union and United Kingdom's approaches to Cuba, although they are nowhere near as hostile as the US policy.

We want to see better trade links between our countries - with UK companies who deal with Cuba no longer subjected to US threats.

We want to see more engagement between the British and Cuban governments. I have, for example, urged Ministers in our Government to visit Cuba and see for themselves what has been achieved.

I want to see the European Union adopt a more positive approach to Cuba, building on some recent positive developments and rejecting those who want to restart the Cold War.

International solidarity is at the heart of trade unionism, and at this time of global crisis, it is more important than ever that we work together, in the interests of working people.

We can learn a lot from each other - in a spirit of mutual understanding, support and solidarity.

Comrades, it has been a pleasure to address you.

On behalf of the British trade union movement, I wish the Cuban trade union movement and the Cuban people all the best for the future.

Viva Cuba, Viva Revolution!

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