Sydney welcomes new Cuban ambassador

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(Left to right) Cuban Consul General Reinaldo Garcia Perera, Greens Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon, Cuban ambassador to Australia Pe

The Cyprus Club was packed out at a special “Viva Cuba” solidarity dinner on October 31. About 180 people welcomed the new Cuban ambassador to Australia Pedro Monzon Barata, the new Cuban consul general Reinaldo Garcia Perera and new Cuban consul Maribel Espinosa Begueri.

Tim Anderson, senior lecturer in political economy at the University of Sydney, gave a sneak preview of his new documentary about Cuban medical and education projects in East Timor. Cuba is training more than 900 doctors as part of the programs.

Anderson highlighted Cuba's outstanding commitment to education for self-determination and preventative health care, and the powerful example it sets for international solidarity.

The Australia-Cuba Friendship Society’s Marce Cameron spoke about Cuba’s long history of international solidarity, the gains of the socialist revolution and challenges Cuba faces as a result of the United States’ 50-year blockade.

In his first speech to the Cuba solidarity community in Australia, Monzon Barata said that despite hope from many that US policy towards Cuba would change with the election of Barack Obama, the situation had not improved.

He insisted it was more necessary than ever to step up the international campaign to end the blockade.

The ambassador welcomed the strength and diversity of the Cuba solidarity movement, particularly the broad support from Latin American communities, and said he hoped to strengthen relations with Australia.

Chela Weitzel, Sydney coordinator of the Southern Cross Work and Study Brigade to Cuba, which organises Australians and New Zealanders to visit Cuba, encouraged the audience to join the January brigade to witness the revolution first hand.

World-renowned Cuban salsa band JJ Son wowed the crowd with classic songs of great Cuban artists.

The event was organised by the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, the Committee in Solidarity with Cuba (Western Suburbs), Amigos de Cuba, Sydney Free the Five Committee, the Maritime Union of Australia (Sydney) and the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (NSW construction division).