Alicia Jrapko: ‘Whoever defends it, loves it still more’



Cuba:
The Revolution reaches its 50th anniversary (Part IV)

Alicia
Jrapko: ‘Whoever defends it, loves it still more’

By
Orestes Martí y Manuel Alberto Ramy                            
Read Spanish Version  

We
had already interviewed Alicia Jrapko — outstanding
Argentine-American activist, coordinator of the International
Committee for the Release of the Five — but it was specifically
about the situation of the young anti-terrorist fighters who were
unjustly thrown into the empire’s prisons ("Noise and
informational gaps about The Five.")

We
again approached Alicia and, after a fruitful exchange of ideas and
precisions, she has given us her impressions and visions — under a
headline that has great significance for Cubans — about the Cuban
Revolution, which range from the influence the Revolution has had in
her life to the way in which she gradually became committed to the
ideas contained in the transcendental event, obviously without
forgetting others who, because they defended those ideas, today find
themselves arbitrarily deprived of freedom.

WHOEVER
DEFENDS IT, LOVES IT STILL MORE

The
Cuban Revolution had a great influence on my life. At the time the
Revolution triumphed, I was barely a child, living in Alta Gracia,
the same city where Che Guevara spent his childhood several years
earlier.

My
adolescence was marked and influenced by leaders and teachers at a
cultural center in the city of Córdoba who supported and admired the
Cuban Revolution. Along with them, my brother and I spent three weeks
every year in a camp with young people from all parts of the country.
That’s where I truly began to learn about the Cuban Revolution and
its leaders, listening to stories, reading poems and, during long
nights of campfires and deep friendship, singing songs about the
triumph of the Revolution.

After
1959, many revolutionary movements in Latin America were inspired by
the example of the Cuban Revolution. Argentina was no exception. I
was part of the generation that thought it was possible to achieve in
our countries what the Cuban revolutionaries had achieved with so
much sacrifice. But the empire was not going to allow another Cuba
and, after the hope, imposed a criminal repression, forcible
disappearances, death and — for the lucky ones — grim exile.

In
the early 1990s, while I lived in the United States, I heard on the
radio that a solidarity group called Pastors for Peace would travel
to the island, defying the U.S. blockade. The following year, I
joined the project.

Although
short, that first trip to Cuba had a great impact on me and changed
my life forever. During that trip, I not only fulfilled my dream of
visiting revolutionary Cuba and see the achievements of the
Revolution but also witnessed the lies of the big media networks in
the U.S., whenever they publish news that deal with Cuba. I learned
about the Cubans’ love and respect for Che, and felt great shame (for
myself and others) when I saw that the Cubans treated people from the
United States with affection and respect, even though we came from a
country that blockaded them unjustly.

There,
I finally learned why the example of Cuba, a small island 90 miles
from the most powerful country in the world, represented so much
danger for the U.S. The dangerous example of a Cuba without child
beggars on the street, without social differences, where health care
and education are rights, not privileges, where the resources are
placed in the service of the people and where solidarity is not to
offer one’s surplus but to share one’s possessions.

After
that first trip, I joined the movement of solidarity with Cuba in the
United States, so I could fight side by side with many honest people
against the unjust and failed policies of the United States against
Cuba, beginning with the blockade and the travel bans. Later came the
struggle for Elián González’s return and, finally, the case of The
Five Cubans, which I embraced when it started, in 2001.

What
began as an exchange of mail with The Five Heroes transformed into
admiration for them. It didn’t take long for me to realize that these
men were not only five extraordinary people but also the product of a
society based on human values. I learned about the sacrifice of The
Five out of love for their country, in an effort to defend it and
protect it against terrorism, and I understood that there was no
better way to show my gratefulness and solidarity to Cuba than to
fight for the return of The Five Cubans.

After
all these years of failed policies, lost revolutions, and disappeared
generations, the Cuban project remains as viable as ever. Without
Cuba, there would be no Venezuela or Bolivia. Without Cuba, all the
changes in Latin America would not be stirring, in ways different
from the 1960s and ’70s but with the same objective: a fairer society
for all.

For
years, those of us who live in the United States have heard that
before a rapprochement can develop between the U.S. and Cuba, Cuba
has to change. But nothing is farther from the truth. It is the
government of the United States that has to acknowledge, once and for
all, that Cuba changed profoundly 50 years ago, and that it is the
administration of the United States that has to change its policy,
respecting the sovereignty and self-determination of Cuba and its
right to choose its own destiny, just like any other independent
nation.

Barack
Obama will be the next U.S. president with that historic opportunity,
but it will not be up to him or his administration. It will depend on
the ability of those of us in the U.S. to struggle with greater
strength than ever and to demand that change, which today represents
the desire of a huge majority of the American people.

As
part of the movement of solidarity with Cuba and for The Five Cubans
in the United States, I join the thousands of people everywhere in
the world on this first day of January to thank the Cuban Revolution
for its generosity and sacrifice and to wish Cuba a Happy 50 Young
Years of Revolution and Resistance.

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