WASHINGTON — The National Network on Cuba (NNOC), a coalition of 55 groups that oppose the U.S. government’s anti-Cuban policies, met here Oct. 2-3 for its second meeting of the year. About 70 persons from all over the country discussed the situation in Cuba today, ending U.S.-imposed restrictions on travel and trade with the island, and finding additional ways to highlight the case of the “Cuban Five.”

Representatives from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington and the Havana-based Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples also participated in the sessions, as did Marvin Glass, co-chair of the Canadian Network on Cuba, and representatives of the Venezuelan UN Mission in New York.

The theme of the NNOC meeting was stopping the “U.S. war against Cuba” — the escalating hostility toward the island from the Bush administration. Speakers emphasized the dire implications of the report issued May 7 by the so-called U.S. Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba. That 450-page document details measures for returning Cuba to capitalism and U.S. dependency. Several speakers said that to carry out such measures, the U.S. government would have to use military force.

At a pre-meeting reception at the Cuban Interests Section on Oct. 1, Cuban Minister of Health Jose Ramon Balaguer said that the Cuban people are unified, that they will fight to preserve their values, and that “to prevent a war is to win the war.” Cuba seeks normalized relations with the U.S. Balaguer was in Washington for a meeting of the Pan American Health Organization.

In a series of resolutions, the NNOC urged its member organizations to step up Cuba solidarity activities in mass demonstrations, to bring the issue of Cuba into the larger antiwar movement, and to heighten the visibility of the case of the Cuban Five — five Cuban prisoners in U.S. jails for having committed the “crime” of trying to stop Miami-based terrorism toward Cuba.

In a discussion led by representatives of the Free the Five Committee, activists were urged to lobby members of Congress regarding the denial of visiting rights to family members of the five prisoners. The five are awaiting a decision on the appeal of their convictions from the 11th Appeals Court, expected soon.

The NNOC also heard proposals for stepped up challenges to the U.S.-imposed travel ban, with calls for hundreds of U.S. citizens to go to Cuba this summer. The Venceremos Brigade, preparing for its 36th consecutive challenge to U.S. travel restrictions, also met in Washington on Oct. 3.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.