Cuba gets the spotlight as TRU welcomes international conference

The values of the Cuban revolution were a hot discussion topic last week as Aleida Guevara, Cuban physician and daughter of Cuban revolutionary, Ernesto Che Guevara, spoke at the sixth international Che Guevara conference. The event was held Jan. 23 to 26, beginning in Vancouver and ending in Kamloops.

Roughly 200 people came out to the free event hosted by the TRUSU Socialist Club. Event organiser Aaron Mercredi said the event was to engage the community on current social issues.

“No matter what your political belief is, it’s a chance to come and discuss,” he said.

The audience in the Irving K. Barber Centre gets a taste of Cuba with Aledia Guevara, the guest of honour at this year’s Che Guevara conference. (Anton Dixon/The Omega)

The audience in the Irving K. Barber Centre gets a taste of Cuba with Aledia Guevara, the guest of honour at this year’s Che Guevara conference. (Anton Dixon/The Omega)

The conference opened with an indigenous welcoming ceremony followed by the former Cuban Minster of Economy, Jose Rodriguez Garcia. Garcia spoke on the negative economic impacts in Cuba in the early 1990s due to socialism’s fall in Europe and the USSR, which he links to a decline in the GDP, consumption, agriculture and a rise of huge inflationary prices.

Garcia also spoke about the recovery period and how the cumulative growth of GDP in recent years is now higher than the Latin American average rate of growth.

Aleida Guevara, who has become an advocate for human rights and debt relief for developing nations, tackled the Cuban healthcare system for her speech. Ever since the U.S. blockade, which left the country with very few doctors, Guevara said, Cuba has invested a substantial infrastructure and funding to support quality healthcare professionals.

Cuba today has more than 500,000 medical workers in the profession, mostly women, all of whom are required to help other countries during times of need. At 256, Cuba has sent the most doctors of any country to fight the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa.

“Health is a human right and we don’t have the right to negotiate that,” Guevara said.

Guevara was joined at TRU by Alberto Prieto, co-ordinator of North and Central America for the Central Committee of the Communist party of Cuba. Prieto touched on the Dec. 17 announcement by Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama on the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

For Paula Diaz, a Columbian student studying sciences at TRU, the conference was a chance to share what her country has to offer.

“The influence of Che Guevara in my country has been seen in a very wrong way,” she said. “People have interpreted things in the wrong way just because he was a guerrilla fighter, even though his ideologies were inspiring and about helping people.”

  1. The day after the conference, famous Cuban musician Gerardo Alfonso played a free concert at the Smorgasbord Deli in downtown Kamloops. Alfonso is well known for his songs about Che and the Cuban reality.