SACRAMENTO, Calif. – “Defeating George Bush in the November election is the highest priority in building solidarity with Cuba,” Juan Lopez told a standing-room-only crowd of 50 people at a community center here July 26. Lopez, the chair of the Northern California District of the Communist Party USA, was speaking about his recent trip to the socialist island as part of a three-person CPUSA delegation.

Cubans are worried that the Bush administration will engineer a military provocation before the November elections, Lopez said.

Besides new restrictive laws on travel and remittances to Cuba, the White House has published plans to institute a “transitional government” in Cuba to privatize the economy and all the public services that have been developed since the Revolution. Lopez called for putting pressure on Congress to demand that the new regulations be overturned, and that no provocations be conducted.

Lopez told the audience that Cuba is overcoming the worst aspects of the “special period” brought on by the overthrow of the socialist countries of Europe and the tightening of the U.S. trade embargo. As an example, he cited free school lunches that have been instituted for 200,000 Cuban students, providing 25 percent of their protein and 50 percent of the their daily caloric intake, thereby ensuring that no child will be malnourished.

In 2000, the year of the struggle to return young Elian González from Miami to his Cuban father, the Cubans initiated a “battle of ideas” to elevate everyone’s political and cultural level. The aim is to fully involve the people – and especially the youth, who never experienced the harsh capitalist reality of pre-revolutionary Cuba – to expand the gains of the Revolution.

Young people who are not in school or working are being paid to go back to school, finish their education, and begin a career, Lopez said. The government has educated thousands of social workers to work with these youth and their families to address their needs.

Sixty thousand laid-off sugar workers are also being paid to continue their education and find new careers, now that the cost of producing sugar is more than what it can bring on the world market. “Not only is no child being left behind, but no human being is being left behind,” Lopez said.

Tourism, the largest source of foreign exchange, brings 2 million visitors to the island each year, but if the U.S. blockade ended, Cuban economists estimate there would be twice as many visitors. “The blockade has cost Cuba $70 billion in lost income,” said Lopez.

The delegation was also hosted by one of the numerous Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs). “The CDRs are a cross between a neighborhood watch and a neighborhood improvement association,” said Lopez. Of the 2.2 million people in Havana, 1.2 million are active in the CDRs, he said.

Lopez will speak again on Cuba at 7 p.m., on Saturday, July 31, at the Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. For more information, call (510) 251-1050.

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