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This Wednesday, August 11, the Latin American and Caribbean Continental Organization of Students (Oclae), the highest representation of students at the continental level and a unique platform to articulate student struggles, celebrated its 55th anniversary.
At the organization's anniversary ceremony -which took place at the José Martí Memorial- its president since 2020, Leonel Pérez Freeman, stated that the Oclae "was born at a special juncture in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a significant effervescence of the armed struggle and with the latent example of the Cuban Revolution."
With the emergence of Oclae, an "organization of organizations," "one of the greatest aspirations of the Latin American student movement became a reality: the foundation of a platform for the joint work and action of students in the region," commented Pérez Freeman.
The organization was founded as part of the resolutions adopted at the IV Latin American and Caribbean Students Congress, which met from July 20 to August 11, 1966, in Havana.
Oclae's anniversary ceremony was also a tribute to Fidel Castro. Perez Freeman described the Commander in Chief as a "precursor of continental student unity, without whose drive and support we would not have achieved the integration and subsequent development of many of our activities."
"The firmness of the Commander in Chief is in these moments more necessary. We are living an 'American hour,' as the Liminar de Córdoba Manifiesto would say more than 100 years ago, with a fierce offensive of imperialism and the right-wing in the region, a context that imposes new challenges to the student movement and, consequently, to the Oclae," asserted Pérez Freeman.
Oclae is made up of almost 40 student organizations from some twenty countries and more than 100 million university, high school and postgraduate students in the region.
Some of its objectives are to promote and develop the solidarity of Latin American and Caribbean students in their struggle against fascism, imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism and social injustice; the defense of university autonomy, the freedom and plurality of academia and free quality public education; and to fight for the elimination of illiteracy, the democratization of education and student welfare, and the defense of the public university.
"This morning at the José Martí Memorial the ceremony for the 55th anniversary of @Oclae_official took place. An organization that arrives to this new anniversary with thousands of motivations to keep the struggle alive."
The organization has held consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council since 1997 and operational status with UNESCO.
Leonel Pérez Freeman stated that: "Its history of resistance and vanguard grew during the dark periods of the military dictatorships that shook the continent, with a cost of thousands of wounded, dead and disappeared, among them numerous young people who today are student martyrs. That forge has helped it to confront today the excesses of neoliberalism that is brutally felt in the rights to education, denounced again and again in the streets, where thousands of students are violently repressed.
"Together with them, the Oclae will continue to uphold the principle that education is not a commodity as well as demand public, free and quality education. An objective that is only fulfilled by Cuba in our region in spite of deficiencies and limitations derived from the most genocidal and longest blockade in modern history."
During the event, the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, the Cuban Association of the United Nations, the Cuban Movement for Peace, the Young Communist League, the Federation of University Students (FEU) and the Federation of High School Students (FEEM) presented awards to the Oclae for its 55th anniversary.
"In the current situation -explained the president of the Oclae- there is an increasing need for unity of the Latin American and Caribbean student movement in the idea of building proposals that help consolidate and promote joint strategies for the defense of our peoples and the education we want."
The leader of the organization also highlighted that it is essential "to continue with the construction of an integrationist project of our peoples, which gives continuity and validity to the work and thought of Martí, Bolívar, Chávez and Fidel. We have the deep conviction that the new generations can and must contribute much more to the consolidation of our regional integration project and, from Oclae, there is the will and commitment to work towards the development of those values."