Jimmy Van Bramer

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Jimmy Van Bramer

New York City Council resolution to end blockade of Cuba

A resolution of the New York City Council calling for an end to the blockade of Cuba, Resolution 1092, has been officially introduced and is moving through the legislative process. After the resolution’s initial introduction, it was referred to the council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations. On Thursday, Oct. 31 2019, it was formally brought before the committee which is chaired by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens, who is also one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

At the committee session, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, a co-sponsor of the resolution, spoke of the context for the new resolution, particularly the recent re-introduction of harsh restrictions against Cuba by the Trump administration.

The resolution was formally introduced by its main sponsor, Council Member Inez Barron. In her remarks, Barron also said that the blockade was a Cold War leftover that has achieved nothing positive over the last nearly 60 years.

Chairmen Van Bramer then opened the hearing for public comment, first speaking in favor of the measure, saying, “the embargo only hurts people.” He said “the President is wrong on virtually everything,” and the blockade against Cuba “is one of those things.”

Gilberto Villa, who was born and lived in Havana but who is now living in New York, spoke not only of the economic losses caused by the blockade but also the immense but personal costs.

Some of the speakers who participated during the public comments section of the hearing included Dr. Damian Suarez, Pat Fry, Emily Thomas of Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, and Tom Gogan of U.S. Labor Against the War. |

Of note also were the remarks of Dr. Damian Suarez. Suarez related how he received his medical training in Cuba at no cost and pointed out that such training could be affordable, and thus accessible, for students of low or modest means like himself if the blockade was lifted. Suarez said he worked in a public hospital in the Bronx and that other doctors trained in Cuba were working in underserved neighborhoods across the U.S. There could be many more, he said, but the blockade limits this, thus preventing communities in the U.S. from getting this service.

Stephen Millies, an Amtrak retiree, spoke in a related vein about how two of his co-workers had died from meningitis even though an anti-meningitis vaccine has been developed in Cuba but which they could not access.[1]

Caban supporters and endorsers

The La Boom Nightclub in Woodside, Queens, was packed wall to wall with hundreds of supporters. People were chanting “Sí se Puede” and “Black and brown lives matter.” That was the scene at approximately 11:15 pm June 25 2019 when Tiffany Caban declared herself the winner in the Democratic primary for district attorney.

Tiffany Caban was a virtually unknown public defender until February 2019. Cabán built a grassroots campaign that brought in community organizations, such as Make The Road, and political groups, including the Working Families Party, Citizen Action, and the Democratic Socialists of America.

Cabán was endorsed by Larry Krasner, the District Attorney from Philadelphia who led the way in the movement for transformative justice. Her national endorsers included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as well as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Local endorsers included: NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer; NYS Senators Jessica Ramos, James Sanders, Julia Salazar, and Michael Gianaris; NYS Assemblymember Ron Kim; and NYC council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Antonio Reynoso.

Actress Susan Sarandon tweeted this morning; “@CabánForQueens victory over the ‘machine’ in Queens makes me proud to be from Jackson Heights and shows once again that a people’s movement can bring real change, real justice.”[2]