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New Worldwide Campaign on the Cuban Five
Tom Whitney September 13, 2007
The international network of committees in support of five Cuban prisoners in the United States — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzáles, Antonio Guerrero and René Gonzáles — has launched a worldwide campaign for their release.
The Five, as they are known throughout the world, were arrested in 1998 while trying to defend Cuba from right-wing terrorist attacks emanating from Miami. They are kept in widely separated U.S. maximum security prisons. Two of them, Gerardo Hernández and René Gonzáles, are also denied visits from their wives.
According to Cuban news agencies, the campaign, called “International Days of Solidarity with the Cuban Five,” extends from Sept. 12, the day when the Five were arrested, through Oct. 6-8, the respective anniversaries of the midair bombing by Luis Posada, among others, of a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people and the day 40 years ago when Che Guevara was murdered in Bolivia on CIA orders.
The campaign will build on worldwide support for the Five evident prior to the appeals court hearing for the prisoners in Atlanta on Aug. 20. Its purpose is to broaden the global movement for the Cuban Five through education and publicity.
National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón noted that, until recently, media coverage of the case, especially in the U.S., has been sparse. What prevails, he said Sept. 4 on Cuban television, is “silence, a silence from the tomb.”
The campaign is directed particularly at the U.S. public, who bear, he said, a special responsibility to speak out. He cited “what many supportive lawyers have said, that no political legal case has ever been settled in the United States solely through the courts. The solution has to be through popular struggles.”
He called upon “the American people to organize themselves in the streets, unions, factories to demand the end of this outrage. And the first step is to allow those people to know the truth. This is what we need to keep on demanding.”
Alarcón took U.S. government officials and the mass media to task for bias, referring to their frequent use of the word “spy” in describing five men who were defending their nation against terrorism and who were convicted, three of them, for conspiracy to commit espionage, not for spying.
He also sharply criticized Washington’s refusal to let the prisoners be visited by family members, a virtually unheard of act of punishment.
Campaign spokespersons draw encouragement from recent unprecedented media coverage. The BBC, CNN, National Public Radio, Democracy Now and Reuters have broadcast or printed interviews with the prisoners or their attorneys. The New York Times and the Washington Post broke new ground by printing articles on the case.
In his remarks, Alarcón highlighted the concurrence in 2000 of the trial of the Five and the return of the child Elian González to his father in Cuba. He speculated that the U.S. government inserted a murder conspiracy charge against Gerardo Hernández midway during the trial to placate Miami supporters of Elian’s U.S. family.
As part of their educational mission, Alarcón called upon campaigners to pester the press by asking, “Where is Luis Posada?” He may be “in Miami, but who is he meeting with? What’s he doing? U.S. reporters apparently aren’t interested.”
The U.S. government has neither put the terrorist on trial nor honored Venezuela’s extradition request so he can be tried there.
Alarcón told supporters of the Five that much is asked of them, adding, however, that no one “will be doing a fraction of what the Five are doing for themselves, with their constancy, resistance and central role in the battle for justice and their own freedom.”
For more information on the Five and the campaign for their freedom, visit freethefive.org or antiterroristas.cu.
W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician active in the Cuba solidarity movement in Maine.