NEW YORK ( – The highest level Cuban delegation since former President Fidel Castro was here in 2000 came to the United States to attend the 63rd United Nations General Assembly session.

Led by First Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, the delegation attended a forum in Washington Heights at the Church of the Intercession.

Rev. Lucius Walker, of Pastors for Peace, asked questions on the minds of many during his introductory remarks Sept. 22. How will Cuba fare with Fidel Castro stepping aside and his brother in power? Will the country fall apart? Will there be revolution or dancing in the streets? he asked.


“We have absolute dedication to the Cuban Revolution,” Mr. Ventura said in Spanish, an interpreter at his side. His assurance brought a roar of approval from the standing room only audience. Fidel Castro turned over the reins of government to his brother in 2006 after undergoing surgery and officially stepped down as president in February. Raul Castro was then elected president.

“Fidel has always been talking about this moment and has prepared us,” Mr. Ventura said. “As we say the worst is behind us, so we are working in our speeches to show the reality of our solidarity.”

During a Sept. 24 speech before the 192-member General Assembly the vice president said: “Cuba reaffirms its unyielding decision to defend its sovereignty and independence. Cuba reaffirms its will to carry on, together with members of the non-aligned countries, in the battle for a better world, where the rights of all peoples for justice and development are respected.”

Mr. Ventura is a medical doctor who served in the armed revolution as an army medic. According to his biography, he has spent years at the side of President Raul Castro on the battlefield and in politics.

In his remarks at the church, Mr. Ventura discussed the U.S. blockade against Cuba, the “Cuban 5,” the intelligence agents jailed in U.S. prisons and the situation in Cuban after recent hurricanes.

Concerning the 50-year blockade, he said: “This irrational policy has a clear aim, to destroy the process of profound revolutionary transformations undertaken by the Cuban people from 1959 and plunging it backwards to its former neocolonial status. They want to remove the example of Cuba from the face of the earth.”

On the Cuban 5: “What kind of justice can be promoted by an administration that illegally keeps imprisoned five Cuban patriots who were only seeking information to prevent the actions of the terrorist groups operating against Cuba from the United States?” he asked. The 10th anniversary of the incarceration of the men was marked Sept. 13.

Mr. Ventura then turned his attention to Cuba’s recovery from recent hurricanes that devastated its agriculture, seriously affected part of its infrastructure and damaged or destroyed more than 400,000 homes. The Cuban government was able to evacuate people safety away from the storms, he said. “It is our sacred duty, our moral duty, to save the lives of our people,” Mr. Ventura said.

“The Americans said they wanted to help, and we asked in what way, and they said they wanted to send in an assessment team–and we said, because they only want to spy,” Mr. Ventura declared as the audience reacted with loud applause.

If the United States is really concerned about the Cuban people, the only moral and ethical behavior is to lift the blockade, he said. “I would like to recall the words of the commander-in-chief of the Cuban Revolution, comrade Fidel Castro: ‘A world without hunger is possible. A just world is possible. A new world, which our species eminently deserves, is possible and will become reality.’ ”

Attorney Lynne Stewart was one of many activists in the audience at the Church of the Intercession. “The people of Cuba are grounded in the principles of the revolution, that is why there was such an orderly succession there,” she told The Final Call. “And we continue to see the great compassion for the struggles of the world’s people by the Cuban people and their anti-imperialist posture is the reason why this administration wants the Cuban revolution to fold,” Ms. Stewart said.