Cuban trade unionists Yamil Eduardo Martinez and Yudith Camps Alejo took time off during their month-long tour of Britain to speak to Peter Lazenby
Yamil Eduardo Martinez and Yudith Camps Alejo have lived all their lives suffering the effects of an illegal blockade of their country by the US. Martinez, 40, and Camps Alejo, 27, are Cuban trades unionists.
Cuba Solidarity Campaign is hosting their visit to Britain, where they are on a speaking tour aimed at building solidarity links between young union activists in the two countries, raise support for an international campaign against the blockade - which was imposed by the US after the 1959 Cuban revolution - and gather support for demands for the release of the Miami Five.
The tour - supported by the Ken Gill Memorial Fund, established in memory of one of Britain's most respected trades unionists - includes meetings in Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow.
Martinez and Camps Alejo addressed a well-attended fringe meeting at the Trades Union Congress in Bournemouth, also addressed by TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady.
The tour follows visits to Cuba by 200 young British trade unionists who formed May Day brigades and took part in Cuba's May Day celebrations.
They have been telling meetings of young trade unionists how the blockade prevents firms trading with Cuba - not only those in the US but around the world.
The US imposes fines on companies who trade with Cuba, blocking importation of medical supplies and equipment, educational materials, computers and much more.
They say increased international pressure is vital to bring the blockade to an end.
The UN voted by 188 votes to three to condemn the blockade when the issue was debated in November last year. The three odd ones out were the US, Israel and the tiny state of Palau, which is in economic hock to the US.
Another key aim of the visit is to raise support for the international campaign to free all of the Miami Five. These are Cubans who investigated terrorism against Cuba planned and executed by right-wing Cuban exiles in the US which has led to the deaths of more than 3,000 Cubans over the years.
When the five presented their evidence to the US authorities they were arrested, accused of espionage and after a mockery of a trial in 2000 were given prison sentences ranging from 15 years to double life.
One of the five Rene Gonzalez was released this year and is back in Cuba.
Martinez said: "We need more support for the release of the Miami Five and the lifting of the blockade."
During their visit they attended a candle-lit vigil outside the US embassy in London to mark the 15th anniversary of the imprisonment of the five.
Martinez said one obstacle to both aims - the ending of the blockade and the freeing of the five - was the manipulation of the media in Britain and worldwide.
"We are struggling against the misinformation campaigns run by the big media against Cuba," he said. "This happens with all the big media, particularly in the US. The trial of the Miami Five was not covered in the US.
"Our aim is to show the world what the revolution is about, and what is actually happening in Cuba."
Despite the effects of the blockade, Cuba has built a health service of international repute, and sends tens of thousands of doctors to African and southern and central American countries.
It has created a comprehensive education system and is implementing an ambitious house-building programme.
Both live in Havana where they work for a Cuban institution devoted to building links of international friendship and solidarity with countries around the world.
Martinez is usually responsible for Latin America and the Caribbean, Camps Alejo for Africa and the Middle East.
"We are talking about 2,000 friendship associations across 152 countries around the world," said Martinez.
During the visit they have been warmly welcomed by hundreds of young trade unionists.
"It has been a great experience," said Martinez. "Everywhere we have been we have seen solidarity with Cuba. We felt at home. People have been very kind.
"We have been suggesting that young trade unionists join the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to be informed regularly about Cuba, and get involved in the May Day solidarity brigade. It is an excellent experience of being in Cuba and actually seeing the May Day rally."
Up to a million Cuban workers attend it every year.
"The programme has been very well organised. There has been a lot of dialogue between the trade union movement and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign," Camps Alejo said.
"We hope young trade unionists will come on board and join the campaign and visit Cuba.
"We want to thank everyone for the solidarity we have received and for the interest that has been shown about what is happening in Cuba. We want to continue building the links between our two nations."
Contact the Cuba Solidarity Campaign for information about the tour and about the Young Trade Unionists brigade to Cuba May 2014 at email@example.com