Congress House was packed on Monday evening for the memorial service called by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) to pay their last respects to the memory of Fidel Castro. It was standing room only for some of the thousand or so who came to the TUC’s headquarters in London to hear tributes from diplomats, writers and artists to the outstanding Cuban revolutionary leader who passed away on 25th November.
Cuban Ambassador Teresita Vicente led the tributes, saying: “Today we know that over 200 million children sleep on the streets in the world. Not one of them is Cuban. Millions of people all over the world lack healthcare, lack education and lack social security. None of them are Cuban.”
All of this had been achieved, she said, despite the fact that “Cuba has been under permanent attack and blockade for almost 60 years.
“We will continue with Cuban internationalism. Wherever a child will be without a school, there will be a Cuban educator. Wherever there is a child without medical attention, there will be a Cuban doctor. Internationalism, as defined by Fidel, is to pay off our debt with humanity.
“We will struggle until the end of the immoral, illegal and criminal US blockade against our country. We will fight for the return of the illegally occupied territory at Guantanamo.
“Those who die fighting for life cannot be called dead. Fidel will live on!”
She ended with the rousing call of “Viva la revolución! Viva Cuba! Viva Fidel!” and received a huge standing ovation.
Other tributes were given by artists and writers including Tariq Ali, Cuban violinist Omar Puente, Asabi Hawah, Victoria Brittain and Richard Gott; and diplomats spoke about the consistent support that Cuba gave to the Third World during the Castro era.
Venezuelan ambassador Rocío Maneiro said: "Fidel is the son of Bolívar, the son of Jose Marti. He fought for social justice and independence for our lands.
"The dream of friendship, solidarity and integration is being made reality by Latin American countries who believe a better world is possible."
But probably the best speech at the memorial meeting apart, from that of the Cuban Ambassador herself, was from the Angolan ambassador who is also a senior officer in the Angolan armed forces.
Lieut-Colonel Rui Goncalves said: “If it was not for Cuba, Angola would have fallen under the South African apartheid army – and I can honestly said that I wouldn't be standing here today.”
Cuba’s support went beyond the military support, the ambassador said. “All my teachers when I was growing up were Cuban. Many doctors in Angola were Cuban. Fidel and Cuba helped our country in so many ways that we will forever be grateful for.”
He detailed Cuba's assistance to the MPLA [The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola] and spoke highly of the Cuban military help, as well the help given to education and health by Cuba. Cuba's decision to send military assistance to Angola was done independently of the Soviet Union and one year before the USSR acted.
New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks joined other comrades in signing the book of condolences at the Cuban embassy in London last week and over 7,600 people have now signed the on-line condolence book for Fidel Castro organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.