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The Cuban Five: I spoke with Gerardo and René
by Mariela Castro
Immediately after the closing session of the 30th International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) in San Francisco (California), I attended a very moving meeting organized by the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, coordinated by Gloria La Riva, with the participation of many intellectuals from Cuba and the United States. Present at the meeting were Alice Walker, Danny Glover, Saul Landau, and Miguel Barnet, among many others.
To our surprise, René made a phone call and, when my turn to speak to him came, he reminded me, laughing, when some years back, in an interview I gave to CNN I was talking about Sexual Education in Cuba and the set was full of images demanding the freedom of the Cuban Five. He said that when he saw the images in his prison cell it was very funny to see how the cameras were trying unsuccessfully to make a close-up to hide the images. The faces of the Cuban Five accompanied me during the whole interview.
René has a way of communicating that seems he hasn’t suffered, and I don’t even want to imagine how he has been able to survive during these 14 years. I wanted to meet him when he came to say goodbye to his seriously ill brother, in those 15 days full of restrictions and a mixture of very strong feelings; but I preferred to respect his long-awaited family privacy. If I were Olguita, I wouldn’t forgive anyone interrupting the few hours of their intense love reunion after so many years.
A few minutes later, Gerardo called and I could barely speak to him. I listened to him with a lump in my throat. It’s hard to think about two life sentences and a 15-year sentence, with no proof for such judgment. But his strength of spirit is contagious and I heard his message of hope, his appreciation to all those persons who are fighting for them, his greetings to professionals and activists who, together with CENESEX, have dedicated the last two yearly Cuban Activity Against Homophobia to asking president Obama to free the Cuban Five.
Both Rene and Gerardo asked me to convey to Fidel and Raul their unremitting willingness to defend the Revolution wherever they may be, and that our people can always count on them.
The issue of the five Cubans unfairly imprisoned in US jails for more than 13 years has been silenced and manipulated by the US media. During my trip to that country, I mentioned the issue as part of the interviews requested by CNN and Democracy Now! to talk about the topics I deal with in my work. But, inevitably, the media is always asking me political questions about the reality of the island, as if being the daughter of the President meant holding a public office. Though I always say what I think, I refuse to accept an additional responsibility beyond that of being the Director of CENESEX, a Cuban citizen and a civil society activist. That is why I make it clear that I’m very fond of my father, but I speak from my standpoint as a person and appreciate the chance I am given to express myself.
In the conversations I had with these two media, I reiterated that the Cuban Five are innocent and should return to Cuba without further delay. They were in that land to protect the Cuban and American populations from terrorist acts that notorious groups in South Florida have planned and perpetrated against my country, not only in Cuban soil but in American soil and in other nations as well. I also said that state terrorism has cost the Cuban people more than five thousand victims in terms of dead and permanently injured. The work done by the Cuban Five prevented a higher figure.
I recently read in Cubadebate that new evidence, unknown at the time of the trial against the Cuban Five, has surfaced and that Gerardo Hernandez’s lawyers (Tom Goldstein and Martin Garbus) have submitted a request to the South District Court in Florida for an oral hearing and for the Court to order the Government to hand in the documents and other materials in its power.
If this request succeeds, world public opinion would have the chance to learn about payments made by the US government in Miami to 84 persons linked to the media, 7 TV channels, and 13 radio stations, who during the trial against the Cuban Five unleashed a strong media campaign to influence public opinion against them.
It is known that these journalists have received thousands of dollars and they are still using a biased and manipulative language, with an outrageous lack of ethical and professional behavior in the field of Social Communication, having a negative impact on the process to establish the truth during the legal process that has deprived five innocent persons of their freedom for almost 14 years.
I was surprised to learn that the Miami Court disregarded the statements made by witnesses from the Pentagon and the FBI who assured there were no evidence that René, Ramón, Gerardo, Fernando, and Tony committed espionage against the US government nor that their actions endangered the national security of that powerful country.
I remember with great pain, the 17 months these young men, with no reason at all for such punishment, remained in “the hole”, as well as the long list of violations of their human rights as prisoners. I cannot imagine the ordeal Gerardo Hernández went through when learning about his mother’s illness and passing away. According to American laws, as a prisoner, he cannot be granted the possibility of saying farewell to his loved ones.
I’ll never get tired of demanding an end to this too far long injustice. The Cuban people does not abandon its brothers, much less its heroes. They have given up their freedom in exchange for ours.
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