Aleida Guevara, the daughter of the legendary revolutionary Che Guevara, was in London yesterday to speak about the growing threat of US military aggression against Cuba.
Bumper stickers across Florida proclaim "Iraq today, Cuba tomorrow". In the lead-up to the elections President George Bush cannot afford to ignore the vocal anti-Castro American Cuban vote in Florida. Jeb Bush, his brother and state Governor, has said: "After its success in Iraq, Washington should finish with the regime of Castro.''
This, Dr Guevara insisted at the third European Social Forum held in London's Alexandra Palace yesterday, was more than rhetoric. In May the Bush administration issued a dossier by the Commission For Assistance to a Free Cuba, dedicated $59m (£33m) to regime change and sanctioned the use of planes broadcasting propaganda just outside Cuban airspace.
Cuban Americans have now been restricted to returning to their home once every three years. The dossier, the Cuban Solidarity Campaign said yesterday, does not speak of peaceful regime change but of military action. The Cubans have responded by placing their armed forces on high alert. Dr Guevara said: "If it was not such a serious threat, I would find it funny. The things he [Mr Bush] is saying are so silly and unbelievable. In that dossier it says that when they take power in Cuba they are going to vaccinate every child under five when in reality we are the ones who could give the US vaccinations. If it was not for the fact that the threat is so real and the evidence is there in Iraq, we would find it funny."
The fact the blockade which has blighted Cuba for 44 years has been tightened, angers Dr Guevara. Only recently she battled to get medicine from the US for a four-year-old boy with meningitis. He died before they smuggled it into Cuba.
Dr Guevara asked Britons to prevent her country becoming another Iraq. "[Iraq] is one of the greatest crimes being committed at the moment. It is quite embarrassing for humanity that this sort of thing is going on. I would say to British society they cannot be complicit in this war. They have got to call a stop to it.
"The situation in Cuba will be very difficult if Castro dies because the majority of people respect him and he is a special man to the people. But they have a trajectory of struggle ... and it is now easier to find men and women in Cuba with that capacity, so the future is guaranteed. It is never going to be the same but we will continue this path," said Dr Guevara.
A spokesman for the US government pointed out that 10 years ago the US had "very publicly" told Cuba there were no plans for military intervention. When your own country is in a "dire state", he added, it was convenient to suggest a threat from outside. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but frankly I would take this with a pinch of salt."
Delegates for the forum at Alexandra Palace were paying £10 for a three-night stay in the Millennium Dome in east London. "Last year in Paris we stayed for free," said Anais Llexia, who was with a group from Catalonia. "But we come to London and we are forced to pay. We thought the money was going to the forum. But now we find out it's going to the capitalists to make a casino
John Prescott's plan to turn a part of the unloved £800m monument to new Labour into a Las Vegas-style casino was never going to chime with the 10,000 politically engaged young Europeans who had come to London. Especially as Sol Kerzner, the tycoon behind the Sun City resort in South Africa one of the most hated symbols of apartheid is behind the scheme.
Even the event's media sponsor, The Guardian, claimed registration was marred by "chaos". It said frustration had "seethed over" as 1,500 people were left to queue in the rain on Thursday.
© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd