From The Hill Times Print E-mail

OPINION | BY JIM HODGSON | April 27, 2023

Jim Hodgson is the former program coordinator for the United Church of Canada’s partnerships in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Photograph courtesy of Jim Hodgson

An informal alliance of Canadian churches, trade unions, development agencies, and other civil society groups is encouraging the federal government to increase aid to Cuba in this time of exceptional need, and to press the United States to ease its sanctions.

On April 13, more than 20 organizations— including Oxfam, CARE, and the United Church—wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Me?lanie Joly and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan. In the letter, they express their alarm at the “deterioration of the Cuban economy and consequent impacts on the Cuban people.”

While Canadian tourists began to return to Cuba this past winter, effects of the three-year pandemic linger and are magnified by the decades-long imposition of sanctions (sometimes referred to as the “embargo” or the “blockade”) by the U.S.

Worse still, the administration of then-U.S. president Donald Trump put Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and the current Joe Biden administration has kept it there, making financial transfers and trade more difficult.

The logic of the sanctions has always been to cause sufficient dissatisfaction so as to provoke regime change. Just 16 months after the 1959 triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for inter- American affairs Lestor Mallory told his superiors in a memo that most Cubans supported the change.

“The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship,” wrote Mallory.

Throughout these past six decades, Canada has taken a different approach to Cuba. Those who signed the letter to Joly and Sajjan noted that Canada and Mexico were the only two countries in the Western hemisphere in the 1960s to preserve diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Canadian civil society groups have come together now, as many did in the early 1990s when Cubans faced hardship in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Churches and aid organizations then convinced the Canadian government to work with them in co-financing of development projects.

Such efforts continue today. Most recently, Global Affairs Canada made a commitment of up to $4.6-million over five years to a CARE Canada project in Cuba’s Matanzas province. The project, titled She Produces Too, seeks to improve gender-equitable and sustainable food systems.

But more can be done. Canada, the groups argue, should “use its significant capacity to scale up its efforts to provide immediate food, medicines, and medical supplies to Cuba, and to do so directly through bilateral government to government relations ... [and] Canadian and Cuban civil society initiatives.” The groups note there is particularly urgent need for antibiotics, basic grains, powdered milk, and other dairy products.

The inter-agency letter also calls on Canada to work through multilateral spaces like the United Nations to increase support. Again, there is a recent example of Canada doing just that: between 2017-2024, Canada is providing $7.5-million to the United Nations Development Program to strengthen fruit production.

The impact of those projects could be magnified with a strong push to ease the American sanctions, at least to the level they were at the end of the second Obama administration.
The groups asked that Canada press the Biden administration “to remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, as the Obama administration had done in 2015.”
“The Trump administration’s decision to return Cuba to the list in 2021 has only produced harm to the people of Cuba,” they add, “limiting even financial support from individuals to family members and transfers among non- governmental organizations.”

There are bi-partisan initiatives in the U.S. Congress now to ease the embargo that are worthy of support.

Some of the signatories provide long-term financial support to partner organizations in Cuba. Others are solidarity groups with strong community connections in both countries.
In the face of the current crisis, most groups have stepped up their own efforts through activities such as shipping hypodermic needles, medicines (sometimes acquired in third countries), canned meat, and hygiene items. They also responded to emergencies last year in the wake of fires in Matanzas and a hurricane in Pinar del Rio.

“Given our close bilateral ties on the one hand, and the huge difficulties faced by the Cuban population on the other, any humanitarian and diplomatic support for the Cuban people would be enormously helpful and would benefit Canadian relations in the region,” the inter-agency letter concludes.

From 2000 to 2020, Jim Hodgson served as The United Church of Canada’s program coordinator for partnerships in Latin America and the Caribbean. He remains engaged in solidarity work and blogs at

Reg's Wish: Canadians Helping the Blind in Cuba Print E-mail


We Must Defend Our Country Print E-mail
We have an exciting webinar that will be happening this Friday evening, April 21st at 8pm EST, about The Bay of Pigs invasion, and within this theme, the lessons for today, and contextualizing its significance with regards to the United States' continual economic and disinformation assaults on Cuba in the present.

ARNOLD AUGUST has said that the sky is the limit, and is ready to discuss and answer questions on all things Cuba! He has shared links (below) to two relevant articles to our theme that he has written, and suggests that the audience might like to read them before the webinar:

SERGIO de JESúS JORGE PASTRANA was orn July 27, 1950, in Havana, married, with two daughters and three grandchildren, Sergio Pastrana is currently the Cuban Ambassador, Chargé d´Affairs in Antigua and Barbuda. He was the former Cuban Ambassador in Barbados 2019 - 2023.

Having been the Foreign Secretary of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba and Executive Director of the institution for many years, he was elected Member of Honor of both, the Academies of Sciences of Cuba, Guatemala and the Caribbean. He was President of the Caribbean Scientific Union from 2005 to 2007. A historian and philologist graduated at the University of Havana, he took further studies at the Institute of International Relations of Cuba.

From 2003 to 2018, Pastrana was the Cuban representative to the Executive Committee of IAP, the Global Network of Academies of Sciences, where he chaired the Membership Committee. He was a member of the Executive Board of the International Council for Science (ICSU) (2005-2014) and Vice President (2012-2014). He has widely represented Cuban and Caribbean scientists at international meetings on science. A consultant to various UN agencies, he has been appointed special envoy of the Republic of Cuba for the signing of intergovernmental agreements, and has been official representative of Cuba, on behalf of Cuban scientists on many occasions. He has published numerous articles and book chapters in Cuba and abroad on the subject of the history of international relations of science, as well as on the advisory role of Academies of Sciences.

Register for the Zoom Webinar:

LETTER TO EDITOR IN CHIEF OF CBC RE: “As holidaying Canadians return to Cuba, Cubans themselves are fleeing in record numbers” by Evan Dyer Print E-mail
Tuesday, March 7th, 2023

What a superficial, dishonest, and biased article published by the CBC, penned by Evan Dyer. After reading, it looks like information gathered from Facebook, where, as you know, anything goes. The CBC’s mandate is to inform and enlighten, and this article does a grave disservice to that endeavor, and to the Cuban people.

Mr. Dyer, either out of sheer ignorance of the geopolitical context in which Cuba lives, or on purpose, fails to mention, even once, the system of punitive sanctions and ridiculous prohibitions which compose the Blockade (euphemistically called the “embargo”) that the US imposes on Cuba for 63 years now. It is the longest siege in history. It is an economic war on Cuban families, a campaign of persecution and intimidation aimed, besides Cuba, at third parties, who in exercise of their sovereignty, choose or intend to establish any kind of ties with the island. It is the main obstacle for the development of the country.

Just imagine the damage that this undeclared war on Cuba has had throughout the decades. Now add the economic crisis that the whole world faces because of the pandemic, which has hit Cuba severely, a blockaded underdeveloped country. And just when one thinks that it could not get worse, then President Trump, advised by the most rancid ultra-right elements of his party, maliciously imposes 243 additional sanctions on Cuba (Biden has only just allowed Western Union to reinitiate remittances to Cuba, although only from the US, and some travel to the island with restrictions).

Only very recently, the US restored visa services in their embassy in Havana, so those Cubans who in the middle of the current economic situation wanted to emigrate previously had to go to a third country, resulting in added costs and insecurity. The average Cuban faces incredible hardships while the government does its best to prioritize the essentials. The situation is bad. However, no hospital or school has been closed, and no one has been abandoned to their fate. There are no children sleeping in the streets in Cuba.

If he were really concerned about Cuba, Mr. Dyer should be asking Canadians to continue visiting Cuba to help its people and economy. Canadians who travel to Cuba regularly know better, and that’s why they keep going to enjoy the warmth and the culture of Cuba. And, most importantly, Mr. Dyer should recognize the real problem that Cuba faces – the inhumane Blockade.

Samantha Hislop
Julio Fonseca
Co-Chairs, Canadian Network on Cuba

Open Letter to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Print E-mail

CNC February 27th BLACK HISTORY MONTH WEBINAR, Isaac Saney's Virtual Book Launch Print E-mail

The CNC will be hosting a webinar on Monday, February 27th at 8PM EST in honour of Black History Month and it will also be the virtual launch of Isaac Saney's new book Cuba, Africa, and Apartheid's End: Africa's Children Return!

Join us Monday February 27th for a Black History Month virtual book launch!

We will be discussing the new book by Isaac Saney, Cuba, Africa and Apartheid’s End: Africa's Children Return!

Isaac Saney is a Cuba and Black studies specialist and historian at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is also the author of Cuba: A Revolution in Motion, and is the former Co-Chair of the Canadian Network on Cuba.

"Cuba, Africa, and Apartheid’s End: Africa's Children Return! examines the history and impressive dimensions of the Cuban Revolution’s solidarity with Africa. Cuba’s role in the southern African national liberation and anti-colonial struggle was the largest and most consequential manifestation of the island’s commitment to Africa. A key moment was the 1987–1988 battle of Cuito Cuanavale, which involved Cuba and Angola on one side, and South Africa and its allies on the other. Cuito Cuanavale contributed the end of apartheid and has assumed legendary status within the Cuban Revolution and the southern African liberation movement."

More guests will be announced soon!

Register today!


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