Events Cuba-Canada

8th International Che Guevara Conference 
Vancouver, Kamloops & Calgary, Canada

Socialism Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: Continuity of The Cuban Socialist Project”

OCTOBER 26-27, 2019 

This event will take place on the traditional and unceded territories of the Tsleil-Waututh (səl̓ilwətaɁɬ), the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm), and the Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh) Coast Salish Nations.

Two days of Speakers, Workshops, Film, Art Displays, Discussion & Revolutionary politics!

A Free conference, donations welcome!

Featuring Guest Speakers:

GUIVEL OROZCO ORTEGA * Havana, Cuba / Ottawa, Canada
The Deputy Head of Mission & Counsellor at the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. A Graduate of the University of Havana & the "Raúl Roa García" Higher Institute of International Relations (ISRI). Guivel Orozco has served as a Foreign Service official and participated in official missions on behalf of Cuba in Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador, Jamaica, Venezuela, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Republic of Guinea, Togo, Niger, Ethiopia and the Republic of the Congo.

DR. LUIS ACUÑA CEDEÑO * Sucre, Venezuela / Ottawa, Canada
Chargé d'Affaires in the Venezuelan Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. Former Minister of Higher Education in Venezuela under then-President Comandante Hugo Chavez. From 2012-2017 Luis Acuña was the elected governor of the state of Sucre in Venezuela. He was also elected deputy of his state to the National Assembly of Venezuela on three separate occasions.

DAVID ALDAMA PANDO * Havana, Cuba / Ottawa, Canada
The Third Secretary of the Embassy of Cuba in Canada in charge of academic affairs and relations with Cuba solidarity groups in Canada. David Aldama has a bachelor’s degree in international Relations from the "Raúl Roa García" Higher Institute of International Relations (ISRI).

DR. HELEN YAFFE * London, England
Visiting Fellow at the Latin America and Caribbean Centre and a Lecturer in Economic and Social History in the University of Glasgow. Helen Yaffe is author of "Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). She is an economic historian specialising in Cuba and Latin America, the history of economics, and the political economy of late development. 

KEITH BOLENDER * Toronto, Canada
Author of the newly published book, "Manufacturing the Enemy: The Media War Against Cuba" (Pluto,2019).  He is also the author of "Cuba Under Siege: American Policy, the Revolution and Its People" (Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2012) and "Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba" (Pluto, 2010). Keith Bolender is a freelance journalist who worked for more than 10 years with the Toronto Star. He is a member of the Institute for Public Accuracy on their Roster of Experts for Cuban Affairs, and lectures at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.

ARNOLD AUGUST * Montreal, Canada
Author of many articles and books including: "Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections" (Editorial José Martí, 1999), "Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion" (Fernwood Publishing/Zed Books, 2013), "Cuba-U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond" (Fernwood, 2017). An accomplished journalist, he contributes articles in English, Spanish and French to news and research sites in the United States, Canada, Cuba, Latin America and Europe. Since 1997, he has spent extended periods in Cuba pursuing his intensive investigations.

WENDY HOLM * Bowen Island, Canada
Wendy Holm is a retired Agrologist, columnist, author and speaker. She has been named a Distinguished Alumni of UBC, and has received two Queen's Medals for contribution to community. She has published multiple articles and papers on Cuba’s commitment to sustainable farming practices and organizes the Canada-Cuba Farmer to Farmer Project. She has won ten national journalism awards since 2002. She recently edited the book, "Damming the Peace: The hidden costs of the Site C Dam" (Lorimer Press, 2018). 

** To join the 2019 Che Guevara Conference on Facebook:


** View the conference poster:

Follow the conference on Twitter: #CheConf and #VanCuba

Since the triumph of Cuba’s 1959 revolution to today, the vision and political ideas that shape the Cuban revolution remain a source of inspiration, discussion and debate around the world. Through the ideas of Fidel, Che, the Cuban socialist project, and the dynamics of the mass revolutionary movement, and especially the concept of Revolutionary Internationalism, Cuba has become a country renowned for its achievements in health, education, culture, science and many other aspects of social and human progress. The Cuban socialist revolution and socialist project and the Cuban revolutionary leadership, despite 50 years of an inhuman and criminal blockade by consecutive US administrations, have never wavered to imperialist pressure.

The International Che Guevara Conference is an opportunity to discuss and debate the ideas of the Cuban revolution, its dynamism and how it has impacted Latin America and the world.
The First International Che Conference in 2008 was on the theme “Che Guevara, Thinker and Fighter: Are His Ideas Relevant for the 21st Century?” Every Vancouver international Che Guevara Conference since has discussed and debated a wide variety of topics including: “50 Years of Dynamism of the Cuban Revolution,” “Cuba & Revolutionary Internationalism,” “Cuba Today - The Gains & Challenges,” “Cuba’s Reforms: Capitalism or Socialism,” and “Cuba: a Socialist Project in Progress.” Each conference has featured amazing guest speakers from Cuba, Venezuela, the U.S., Europe and Canada.

In October 2017 over 350 people attended the 7th International Che Guevara Conference over three days, as well as over 600 watched online through Youtube and live stream. This October 2019 the 8th International Che Guevara Conference, “Socialism Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: Continuity of The Cuban Socialist Project” will once again bring these ideas and politics to life!

We look forward to having you join us for this special event!
- - - -
(Member of the Canadian Network on Cuba-CNC)
*Conference Website*:
Phone: 778-882-5223
Twitter: @VanCuba_VCSC
VANCOUVER COMMUNITIES IN SOLIDARITY WITH CUBA (VCSC, Comunidades de Vancouver en solidaridad con Cuba)
(Miembro de la Canadian Network on Cuba-CNC [Red Canadiense sobre Cuba])
*Sitio web de la Conferencia*:
Correo electrónico:
Teléfono: 778-882-5223
Twitter: @VanCuba_VCSC


The Cuban Revolution @60Stephen Kimber, Cuba Business Report

All sessions open to the public and free

David Montgomery
The Washington Post
Forty internationally renowned Cuba scholars, policy-makers and policy analysts will gather at Dalhousie University in Halifax this fall to take the measure of The Cuban Revolution at 60.
All sessions will be open to the public, and free. 
The three-day symposium (October 31November 2) will be highlighted by addresses by two of the key players in the historic 2014 re-opening of relations between Cuba and the United States. Josefina Vidal, now Cubas ambassador to Canada and then Cubas chief negotiator with the Americans, and Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the first US ambassador to Cuba following the renewal of relations, will each offer personal reflections on what happened then, and what isnt happening now.
Attendees will also learn the results of the very latest research into a controversial and mysterious ailment reported by some US and Canadian diplomats in Cuba. Dr. Alon Friedman, a ground-breaking neuroscientist at the Dalhousie University Brain Repair Centre who recently led a multidisciplinary study into the so-called “Havana Syndrome” for Global Affairs Canada, will present his findings at the conference.
Leading Cuba specialists from Cuba, the UK, Latin America, Europe, the United States and Canada will also participate in a series of panels to assess the successes and challenges of the Cuban economy, Cuba-US relations and Cubas international relations. Other panels will focus on climate change and ecological challenges facing the island, as well as social change, including issues of race, gender (in)equity, health and sexual diversity.
“This year not only marks the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution,” notes John Kirk, an internationally renowned Cuba scholar and one of the organizers of the event, “but it is also a time of historic transformation on the island: leadership change, constitutional reform, and a complex process of economic developments. We believe this is a good opportunity to discuss the progress Cuba has made over the past 60 years and perhaps more importantly, to analyze current developments.”
Support for The Cuban Revolution at 60” is generously provided by the Ford Foundation, the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, WOLA, Dalhousie University, CUPW, Saint Marys University, the Office of the Mayor (Halifax), the Canadian Network on Cuba and NSCuba, among others.
   John Kirk (
   Media: (

Call to 9th Biennial Convention Canadian Network on Cuba 
To all CNC Member Organizations:

The 9th Convention of the Canadian Network on Cuba will take place on June 8-9, 2019 at Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

A special invitation has been issued to ICAP’s Canada Desk to send a representative and also requesting a special guest from Cuba.  We will welcome guests from the Cuban Embassy, and from sister organizations, Table de concertation et de solidarité Québec - Cuba and the U.S. National Network on Cuba (NNOC)

We will review of the work since our convention in 2017. Campaigns against the immoral US blockade, the 26 and 27th annual Ché Guevara Brigades, Hurricane Irma fundraising campaign, our work with Members of Parliament, the CNC website, and table a report on CNC finances. We will hear reports from member organizations, update the CNC’s organizational by-laws and develop campaigns and plans for future work.  The convention will build on the momentum to move forward to new challenges, particularly those posed by the Trump administration.  We will examine new economic developments inside Cuba and the proposals regarding the new Constitution.

Each member organization in good standing with no dues in arrears is entitled to send two delegates. To be in good standing membership dues must be received by the CNC by February 1, 2019.  Membership dues are $150 per year, half that for Associate Members.  Cheques to be made to the Canadian Network on Cuba and mailed to Sharon Skup, 56 Riverwood Terrace, Bolton, Ontario L7E 1S4.  Members must be in good standing to participate in the pre-convention debates.

Member organizations should select their organization’s two delegates and submit their names to the CNC by April 30th, 2019 to the local logistics committee c/o Elizabeth Hill at  As in past conventions, to facilitate attendance the CNC will fund travel for one delegate for each member organization whose fees are paid up to date, based on the most economical fare available (early booking).  Groups are asked to take advantage of discount airfares etc.  We will endeavour to find billets in homes of local supporters, wherever possible, for those requesting them in advance

Registration of delegates will open on Saturday morning at City Hall at 8:30 am and the convention will start at 9 a.m. Saturday and at 10 a.m. on Sunday.  A public event with our special guest Speakers will take place on Saturday evening.

CNC Executive Committee

January 2019


CUBA 2018 & Beyond: New Challenges, Revolutionary Continuity 

Thursday, March 29, 7pm
Room 1108, Mona Campbell Building, 
Dalhousie University

Juan Carlos Rodriguez Diaz, elected member of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, professor of history, and historian of the City of Pinar del Rio, will talk about elections and democracy in Cuba, and the passing of the revolutionary torch from the historic generation that made the Cuban Revolution to the new generations born during and within the revolution.

Organized by the Canadian Network on Cuba and Nova Scotia Cuba Cuba Association.
Free Admission
Cuba - U.S. Relations from Obama to Trump: Change and Continuity

  • Date: March 15, 2018
  • Starts: 7:00pm – Ends: 8:30pm
  • Location: Halifax North Memorial Library
  • Address: 2295 Gottingen Street, Halifax, NS
This event will feature a talk by Arnold August, author of Cuba - U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond, followed by a panel discussion. The panel members include Don Foreman, Executive Member of Canadian Network on Cuba and 35-year activist with CUPW (Canadian Union of Postal Workers), and Errol Sharpe, Publisher, Fernwood Publishing (Halifax).
Author royalties from books sales will be donated to the Canadian Network for the Cuba Hurricane Irma Recovery Fund.
Co-sponsored by Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC) and the Nova Scotia Cuba Association.
All welcome!


Prof. Karen Dubinsky is visiting Halifax. Prof. Dubinski will be presenting her new book (Cuba Beyond the Beach). Karen lives half the year in Havana so she has very good knowledge and understanding of Cuba. It will be a great opportunity to learn about Cuba and meet NSCUBA members. 

Join us at the BMO room, Halifax Library Downtown.
Thursday, November 23 rd. at 7 pm.   

All are welcome.



Thursday October 5th 2017

7 pm to 8:30 pm

at Halifax Central Library
5440 Spring Garden Road
BMO Room (second floor)

Dr. Kirk will  give a synopsis of the book 

followed by Questions and Answers 

and refreshments. 

In Cuba Health Care is a Human Right. Why not in the U.S.?  

Join Us in Washington DC for the 3rd Days of Action Against the Blockade 
September 11-16, 2017

Photo Bill Hackwell
A six-year-old Cuban girl named Naomi was battling brain cancer and desperately needed a U.S.-patented drug called Temozolomide. She couldn't get it, Sacha Llorenti, Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations, told a recent meeting of the General Assembly because American authorities refused to allow the medicine to be exported to Cuba. Why? Because the United States government has maintained an economic blockade - including of vital medicines - against the Cuban people for more than 50 years.
Meanwhile, Judy Ingels, a 74-year-old California woman with stage four lung cancer had to sneak into Cuba last spring in violation of American travel restrictions in order to recieve her first injections of Cimavax, a promising and widely prescribed Cuban-developed drug that could help prolong her life for months, even years. Why? Again, a number of pioneering life-saving and life-altering medications aren't available to Americans because the Trump administration seems more interested in playing exile politics than in improving health care for citizens in both countries.
Cubans and Americans - particularly Cuban and American health care professionals - need to talk about the impact of the blockade on health and how to end a policy that helps no one.
That's the purpose of this September's "Days of Action Against the Blockade" in Washington (Sept. 11-15, 2017). Organized by the International Committee as part of the International Campaign for a Just U.S. Policy on Cuba, the week will include a series of events and meetings involving Cuban health professionals and their American counterparts, as well as a number of American graduates of the Latin American School of Medicine.
ELAM, as it is known, is a unique international medical school created by the Cuban government in 1999 to train sudents from poor communities in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the United States to be doctors. Students get free tuition, accommodation and a small stipend. The only requirement is that graduates return to practice medicine in under-served communities in their own countries. The school has so far graduated more than 20,000 students, including close to 150 Americans. More are currently enrolled.
The ELAM students, along with three Cuban health professionals - a pediatric oncologist, a registered nurse and professor of medicine, two of whom served with volunteer medical brigades fighting Ebola in West Africa - will participate in special events during the week of Sept. 11, 2017, at the University of Maryland, Howard University, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Georgetown University. During these unique cross-border conversations, the Cuban health care specialists will not only discuss the impact of the blockade with their American counterparts but they will also discuss the lessons Americans can learn from Cuba's successful long-running universal health care program and its world class health outcomes.
For more information write to:
It costs money to stage an important event like this one - including covering the travel costs of the Cuban and ELAM graduate participants, the International Committee is a volunteer organization. Please DONATE to support this year's Days of Action.

Cuba’s ambassador to Canada makes his farewell visit

March 2017

If this, as he suspects, is his last official visit, Julio Garmendia Peña, Cuba’s ambassador to Canada, will forever have fond memories of Halifax.

 by: John DeMont

He heard Jeff Goodspeed — the creator of the Los Primos project, an initiative to connect Cuba and Nova Scotia through music — blow Cuban-tinged jazz at Stayner’s Wharf Pub and Grill.

He dined with the members of the local Cuban mafia, including Stephen Kimber, a Havana hero for his book What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, and John Kirk, the Dalhousie University professor of Spanish and Latin American studies and recipient of the Cuban government’s Friendship medal — akin to our Order of Canada — for his role in forging relations between Canada and Cuba.

Tuesday, after chatting with the leader of the provincial NDP and the president of Saint Mary’s University, Peña spoke about foreign investment in Cuba at NSCC’s Waterfront campus, with its stirring view of Halifax's harbour.

“For Cubans the sea is vital,” the ambassador, who lives in Ottawa, said in an interview Monday. “When you can smell it or feel it, it is like receiving something that you need badly.”

Peña said those words while sitting in Kirk’s Halifax living room, sipping a Café con leche, as if to repel the Canadian winter outside. He was born in the picturesque Cuban town of Trinidad, where the temperature Monday was 31 degrees higher than it was in Halifax.

The diplomat, previously Cuba’s ambassador to Ukraine, picked his words carefully when asked what President Donald Trump means to the frigid relationship between the United States and Cuba that had thawed recently under Barack Obama: “The only thing the new administration has said is that it will revise what President Obama did. Which could mean anything.”

Taking the long-term view, he pointed out that the United States embargo of Cuba must someday end.

However, now is the time for Canada and Cuba to explore increased economic relations beyond the 1.2 million Canadian tourists that visit his country every year.

“If I were going to be sincere,” Peña concedes, “I would like to see more involvement by Canadian investors and enterprises in our economy.”

That day, he hopes, is coming. Canada has had diplomatic relations with Cuba since 1945. Historians cite Pierre Trudeau’s personal friendship with Fidel Castro as one reason why Canada resisted the urge to fall behind the U.S. embargo following the Cuban Revolution.

His son Justin Trudeau’s praise of Castro, following the Cuban strongman’s death, was widely criticized, and even sparked the bizarre theory that he was the love child of Castro and Trudeau’s mother, Margaret.

Since taking power, Canada’s Liberal government has enhanced links to the island south of Florida. If history is any indication, Nova Scotia is certain to be part of the increased association between the two counties.

The first Cuban Consulate in Canada was opened in Yarmouth in 1903. Companies from Havana and other Cuban ports did frequent business here, back in the days when ships left Nova Scotia with potatoes and lumber and then returned from Cuba with sugar and rum. In the late 19th century, the founder of Sievert’s Tobacco, now located on Barrington Street, used to own a factory a few blocks away, where Cuban women would roll cigars.

Trade between Nova Scotia and Cuba blossomed while John Savage, father of Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, was premier. Those links continue to grow, said Peña, who has met with Premier Stephen McNeil and a long list of political and business leaders during his three previous visits here, since taking up his ambassadorial post in 2013.

It’s about more than commerce, he said. More than 700 students from Nova Scotia universities have studied in Cuba under academic exchange programs. Then there are the hundreds of musical instruments Los Primos has delivered to the Cuban school system.

“It’s people to people,” said Peña, in the fourth year of his four-year tour of duty in Canada. “It shows what our two countries are capable of when we work together.”

Outside, the wind howled despairingly as the ambassador finished his coffee. But there were people to meet and things to hear and see. It was time for the man from Cuba's Halifax farewell tour to resume.


Africa’s Children Return!   Fidel, Cuba and Africa

7pmTuesday, February 28
   BMO Community Room, Halifax Central Library
   5440 Spring Garden Road

 -Cuba specialist Dr. Isaac Saney will explore the history and impressive dimensions of the Cuban Revolution's solidarity with Africa.  Film footage will be part of the presentation.- 

“The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the peoples of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice, unparalleled for its principled and selfless character...Cubans came to our region as doctors, teachers, soldiers, agricultural experts, but never as colonizers.” Nelson Mandela, July 26, 1991. 

“Humanity has a debt to the African people. We cannot let them down.”  Abelardo Moreno, Cuban UN Representative, September 16, 2014

Cuba’s crucial decisive role in African national and anti-colonial liberation struggles  (from Algeria to South Africa) is marginalized in the dominant western discourse and narratives. Cuba’s critical contribution treated almost as if it had never occurred. Cuba’s ongoing medical missions in Africa are also frequently ignored. In 2014, Havana responded without hesitation to the Ebola epidemic in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia & Sierra Leone. The Cuban medical mission was the largest sent by any country, consisting of 461 Cuban doctors and nurses chosen from more than 15,000 volunteers.

Sponsored by the Nova Scotia Cuba Association and the Canadian Network on Cuba.  


December 13th, 2016
Homage to Fidel
From the professors, students and workers of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO Cuba) of the University of Havana.

Fidel Castro has died. The whole world has been shaken by this news; representatives of all five continents have honoured him as they mourn; intellectuals of international stature and individual persons from the most isolated areas have sent messages and placed flowers in his honour at Cuban embassies.  Fidel evoked respect even from those who viewed themselves as his adversaries. Why has Fidel Castro been able to have such an impact on others?
“The  human being must be the beginning and end of all efforts in development,” declared Fidel Castro,  October 12, 1979, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, as President of the Non-aligned Countries, expressing thereby the deep relationship that exists between  ethics and politics, which has characterized his thoughts and his actions. Fidel thus further developed Cuban revolutionary thought of those who came before him since the nineteenth century such as the anti-slavery activist, Jose de la Luz Caballero, “justice is the sun of the moral world” and  Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, cultured and wealthy, who started the war of independence against Spain by first freeing his slaves, asking them to follow him as free men. For Jose Marti, independence was necessary in order to set up a republic “of all and for the well-being of all.”  The Revolution led by Fidel is inscribed into our national memory as a dream that first started with Jose Marti, its intellectual author.
Since 1959, the revolution promoted a profound transformation in people, social relations, institutions and the country as a whole, taking into account Cuba’s history prior to that date.  The projection and changes resulting from the revolution did not simply happen , but came about from broad, popular participation, a decisive factor in its success. One of the revolution’s premises was the literacy campaign, conceived and executed by our young people and another was the defense of our fatherland through the military organization of the people. Fidel, being the master teacher that he was, led the people into an ideological radicalization which became the socialist conscience of the people. His political discourse, deeply participatory, influenced the whole of society with changes in ways of being, of living, bringing about a society that was respectful of science. Cuba has become a moral force; the first conquest of the Revolution was dignity. To achieve it, Fidel confronted a most powerful enemy, the government of the United States of America, which could not accept an independent socialist revolution so near to its shores.
Fidel undoubtedly was a brilliant statesman, a victorious guerilla, an invincible David facing a most powerful Goliath. But the true essence of his historical imprint, which makes him immortal, is that his ideal of justice was for all of humanity, from the most humiliated of the poor and the most defenseless of the oppressed to all those who believe in liberty, love, dignity and a  truly humane life.
His projections included support for national liberation movements in the developing world, the anti-imperialist fight in Viet Nam and the epic audacity of Cuba in Angola which resulted in the independence of Namibia and struck a definitive blow against South Africa’s apartheid policies, a fact emphatically recognized by Nelson Mandela. In Latin America, the revolution contributed to the fight for national sovereignty of nations from the struggles of guerillas to those of Salvador Allende.  Fidel’s reflections, his example and guidance are an inspiration and support for leaders such as Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and others heading emancipation projects in the region. The coherence of Fidel’s ethical ideals was realized in a fundamental way, international in scope and on a permanent basis, in 1963, when the first medical brigade was sent to Algeria. This solidarity continued, as is known, in projects such as the training, free of charge, undertaken by Cuba, in 1998, of students from foreign countries to become doctors or in the Harry Reeve Brigade and its heroic fight against Ebola in Africa. There is a symbolic similarity between other programs such as Operation Milagro, in collaboration with Venezuela, which has provided or improved the eyesight of 2.2 million people in 34 countries and access to knowledge – another and deeper form of seeing:  Cuba has contributed to teaching 6.9 million people to read and write.
Thus emerges Fidel’s image as a leader of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and his name stands among others such as Bolivar, Marti and Ernesto CheGuevara, as a beacon for the peoples of the Americas and of the world.
Fidel Castro has died. His physical disappearance is the beginning of a new era: a multiplication of his significance for Cuba, a rediscovery of his greatness, the consolidation of his values, and the ratification of his dreams. Once more, the leader integrates with his people but now his symbolic passing on the anniversary date of his departure on the “Granma” to liberate Cuba beckons toward the future, toward eternity. As his ashes moved through the length of the island toward their final destination in Santiago de Cuba, one could hear the same popular chant, expressed by young people, the elderly, the children and people, in general:    I am Fidel!


DECEMBER 7, 2016

Interview with Professor John Kirk, broadcast on CBC Radio One Vancouver’s afternoon program, ‘On the Coast’, Nov 28, 2016. Transcribed for CounterPunch from the original audio podcast.
Stephen Quinn, host of CBC ‘On The Coast’: Schools and government offices were closed today in Cuba and many Cubans were given the day off work as part of the week-long plans to pay tribute to the former dictator [sic] Fidel Castro. Ever since he came to power in the 1959 Revolution, Castro embodied the Cold War and his influence stretched well beyond his island’s borders. For a look at how the country and its place in the world may change now that Castro has gone, we’ve reached John Kirk. He is a professor of Latin American studies at Dalhousie University. He also worked as a translator in meetings with Fidel Castro in the 1990s. Good afternoon to you.
John Kirk: Good afternoon, Stephen.
CBC: What is your assessment of what the death of Fidel Castro means for the future of Cuba?
John Kirk: I think for the short term it is devastating for the psychology of the nation. He is a person who has been the father and the grandfather of the country for 50 years. But I think in terms of the real decisions that are taking place in Cuba and have been taking place since he left power in 2006, I don’t think it is going to make that much difference. Most of the decisions have been made by his brother Raul Castro. The economy has changed radically since he was in power. And while I’m sure he’s been consulted, all decisions have been taken by Raul Castro, not by Fidel.
CBC: Tell me about those changes since 2008. What has changed?
John Kirk: Several things. In 2013, Cubans were allowed to leave the country without getting permission from their workplace. So any Cuban now can leave to go wherever they want to as long as they can get an entry visa from the country to which they want to go. Beforehand, you had to go through a very laborious process–go and see your boss and get a piece of paper in which he or she would say that you could leave. That’s gone.
More significantly, the economy has changed dramatically. Foreign investment has come in, tourism has continued apace. The economic base now for Cuba is the exportation of medical services. To put this in context, Cuba, with a population of 11 million, a third of the size of Canada, has 10,000 more doctors than we have. So the main source of hard currency coming into Cuba now is the exportation of Cuban doctors. Twenty-five per cent of Cuban doctors are working abroad and that is bringing in about eight billion dollars to the national treasury.
Also, in terms of the local economy, there has been a liberalization – 2,000 private restaurants in Cuba, 500,000 Cubans who used to work for the state are now self-employed, 14,000 private bed and breakfast operations. So there has been a significant downsizing of the government and an increase in small enterprises.
CBC: Depending on where you stand, of course, will determine your reaction to the death of Castro. Human Rights Watch, for instance, issued a statement calling Castro’s record on human rights “a dark legacy”. How does the future of human rights in Cuba look to you?
John Kirk: It is difficult to look at human rights in Cuba without looking at the context. When Castro took power, it was after 40,000 people had been killed by the Batista dictatorship, when Castro came into power. Civil and political human rights were limited and are limited in Cuba. Social, cultural and economic rights are very good. In Latin American terms, or developing world terms, Cuba has basically got a good record.
If you look at Mexico, for instance, it is far worse. In Mexico, according to Amnesty International, there are 27,000 people who are missing, 103 journalists have been killed, murdered, in the last 15 years and 25 disappeared. Cuba, according to Amnesty, has got 60 political prisoners. So, it is bad, but it is far less than many countries where we are not shining the spotlight.
And of course, 90 miles away from Cuba is the self-declared enemy. Despite Obama’s wonderful initiative, it is important to bear in mind that 10 American presidents vowed to bring about regime change in Cuba. One fact, which isn’t widely known, is that 3,400 Cubans were killed by acts of terrorism in the country, terrorism stemming from southern Florida. To this day, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being funneled by various branches of the U.S. government to opposition groups to again bring about regime change. So it is difficult to have wide open liberal democracy precisely when you have this track record.
It is not good but in the circumstances, given the fact that the world’s only superpower is only 90 miles away and given the fact that Donald Trump is about to take over, at least it’s comprehensible if not defensible.
CBC: And what impact do we suspect that would have [on Cuba-U.S. relations]? I mean, when I heard about the death of Fidel Castro, I thought that is going to have an impact on Cuba but is it more of an impact than the Trump presidency will have?
John Kirk: Yeah. The elephant in the room is exactly what Donald Trump is going to do. There have been three distinctive positions that he’s taken on the Cuba file. As we all know, Donald Trump has changed his mind on several things, on several occasions. Today, he said that if he doesn’t get a good deal for the Cuban population and for the United States – no one knows what a good deal is – then he’ll start playing rough with Cuba. But when he first started talking about Cuba, he said that Obama was right to try to negotiate with Cuba because 50 years of trying to isolate Cuba had only isolated the United States, which is true.
So what he foresaid was that we have to get a better deal. Then when he was campaigning in southern Florida with Cuban Americans, he talked about the need to undo all the executive actions, all the initiatives of Obama. We also know that he sent representatives down to look at negotiating the buying of property, illegally, in Cuba. So, the idea of a Trump hotel, or a Trump golf course, is not perhaps out of the realms of possibility at some point. It is difficult to know, but the bottom line is that Trump is going to be very, very important in what happens in Cuba.
CBC: And we have Raul Castro, now who is 85 years old. He is not going to be around forever. Do we know about who could possibly succeed him?
John Kirk: Raul Castro has made it very clear that no one should have more than two five-year terms in charge of the Cuban government. Quite a break from his brother’s time in office. When he took over definitively as president in 2008, he said that in 10 years’ time, ‘I’m outta here’. So in February 2018 he will leave the reins of government. The smart money is on a first-vice president. There are several vice presidents in Cuba. The most likely candidate is a guy called Miguel Diaz Canal, who is a 55 year old professor of electrical engineering, a member of the Communist Party, of course. He has been groomed to take this position, in my opinion. He met with Justin Trudeau, when Justin Trudeau was there just over a week ago. He meets all the visiting dignitaries. Also, he is a Beatles fan and a devotee of social media. So we are going to have a very different form of government taking over if he gets the nod, if he is elected by the Cuban people in 2018. But again, we will also have to wait and see what Trump decides.
CBC: John Kirk. Great to talk to you about this today. I greatly appreciate it. Thank you.
John Kirk: Thank you, Stephen.
Dr. John Kirk is a professor in the Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has traveled extensively to Cuba over his many years of research and writing on that country. He is the author of ‘Health Care without Borders: Understanding Cuban Medical Internationalism’, published in 2015 by the University Press of Florida. See also his 2012 essay in CounterPunch, ‘Medical internationalism in Cuba: An extraordinary success‘.


Fidel Castro   13 Aug 1926 to 25 Nov 2016

I wish to express my greatest sorrow on the passing of Fidel, the greatest leader of the beloved people of Cuba.  Fidel was a great dreamer of a better day for Cuba and carried his goals a long way in spite of enormous opposition from some very powerful world forces.  Only a great man like Fidel would be able to accomplish programs like universal free education and free medical services for all his people when more powerful and richer nations were not.  That’s the power of Fidel.  Viva Fidel and his dream.  May the world never forget.
With the death of Fidel and the presidential election in the US, let’s talk about democracy. Not the kind in the US where the candidate with the most votes loses and half the population are lacking various basic services because they cannot afford the cost, but the kind of democracy that means freedom of life.  The freedom of universal medical services and universal education for all regardless of economic status, Freedom of gender equality and community safety and security,  freedom of employment and affordable housing,  just to name some of the more essential human rights towards freedom of life and living.  And where would you find all these building blocks of an ideal society?  In Fidel’s Cuba and the dream he had for his people.
Imagine, the quality of all these freedoms and rights would have been if it were not for the imposed economic and political isolation on Cuba for over 55 years by one of the most powerful nations on earth, especially after most of Cuba’s wealth was stolen away 55 years ago, setting Cuba that much further behind right from the start of the revolution. It was like Cuba was ripped away from the earth and placed on the moon.  Yet, under Fidel’s leadership and dream with the following of the Cuban people, the seemingly impossible was accomplished with very limited resources other than the power of an ideal and the Cuban people.  No other nation could have done so much with so little under so much pressure.  But, Fidel and the Cuban people did the impossible for over 55 years.  Viva Fidel and his dream.  Dreams can come true and may his memory continue to inspire.
Nelson Larson,
Chairperson,   Nova Scotia Cuba Association
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


To all CNC Member groups

Re: Responding to the unprincipled and scurrilous attacks on  Fidel and the Cuban revolution

At this time of deep sorrow at the passing of the historic giant, Fidel Castro, Leader of the Cuban Revolution, we call on everyone in the Canada-Cuba solidarity and friendship movement to ensure that as many friends of Cuba sign the online condolence book that has been set up by the Embassy of Cuba in Canada (

We also encourage everyone to share and disseminate as widely as possible information on the many organized and spontaneous acts of homage to Fidel though social media, email lists, the CNC website etc. 

At this time, this is the best tribute the Canada-Cuba solidarity and friendship movement can pay to Fidel: a powerful counter to the unprincipled and scurrilous attacks by reactionary forces against Fidel and the Cuban revolution.

"¡Hasta La Victoria Siempre!

On behalf of the Canadian Network On Cuba
Isaac Saney,

CNC Co-Chair & National Spokesperson


Homage to Fidel

6:30pm, Thursday, December 1

BMO Community Room 
Halifax Central Library

5440 Spring Garden Road, Halifax, NS

Join with us to commemorate and celebrate the life of Fidel Castro Ruz.

Speakers include: Dr. Afua Cooper (Dalhousie's JRJ Chair of Black Canadian Studies & author, The Hanging of Angelique:  The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal); Stephen Kimber (Professor of JournalismUniversity of King's College & author,  

What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five); 

 Dr. John Kirk (Cuba specialist, Dalhousie University & author, 

Healthcare without Borders:Understanding Cuban Medical Internationalism

 ); Nels Larson (Chair, Nova Scotia Cuba Association); Dr. Isaac Saney (Cuba specialist, Dalhousie University & National Spokesperson, Canadian Network & author, Cuba: A Revolution In Motion)

The passing of Fidel Castro has been a time of deep sorrow and profound loss for progressive, anti-war and social justice forces across the world have feltWhile the heart of Fidel may have ceased beating on the night of Friday, November 25, his legacy and work continue in the Cuban Revolution, a living example that a better world is possible.

Organized by: Nova Scotia Cuba Association (NSCUBA) and the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC). 


Let Obama know that you want the Blockade against Cuba to end!
Call to Action: from October 17 to October 27, 2016

On October 27, Cuba will present for 25th time, a  report at the 

United Nations entitled; “Necessity of Ending the Economic, 

Commercial and  Financial Blockade of the United States 

of  America against Cuba”  (report on the blockade). 

Last year, 191 of the 193 countries members of  the United 

Nations General Assembly endorsed  the resolution to put 

an end to the blockade. 

The only exceptions were Israel and the United States 

that almost two years ago announced a beginning of a new

era relations with Cuba. 

Virtually the whole world is demanding an end to the 

genocidal policy of Washington.

We call on solidarity friends from around the world starting 

on October 17 until the  day of the vote on October 27 

to express their rejection of the blockade through 

social networks, sending an email message to Obama, 

or calling the White House to  demand that the United States



The use of social network is important, use the following hashtags: 

If you have not done so, please take a minute and go to the website:
Cuba vs Bloqueo to vote against the blockade. 
Send a message to President Obama through social network
Send an email message to President Obama

Call the White House and leave a message for Presidente Obama 
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard:: 202-456-1414
It is important to emphasize that it has been almost two years since the process of restoration of relations between the U.S. and Cuba began but yet the genocidal blockade of Cuba remains as intact as ever. It is a policy that causes enormous suffering and unquantifiable damage to the Cuban people and is the biggest obstacle in the economic development of Cuba.

Together we can do it!
End Now the Criminal Blockade against Cuba!!!

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