After court ruling
New plans made to free Cuban Five
By Alex Majumder
Jun. 26, 2008
Reprinted from Workers World
Hard on the heels of an adverse decision by the 11th Circuit Court in the case of the Cuban Five, solidarity activists came together here on June 14 to find ways to redouble their efforts to free the five men held in prisons across the U.S.
The tri-state working conference on the Cuban Five had been called by a number of organizations before the court decision came down. The Five are political prisoners approaching the 10th anniversary of their incarceration for their efforts to end U.S.-based terrorism directed at their Cuban homeland. The conference drew over 100 participants, mostly from the region, but also from places as far away as Florida, Texas, California and Quebec.
New York media activists Sally O’Brien and Jennifer Wager showed an excerpt from their upcoming documentary, “Against Silence in Our Own Voices: Families of the Five Speak Out.” The wives and a mother of the five discuss living without the five men and being repeatedly denied visitation rights—a violation of U.S. laws and international norms of prisoners’ rights. The film highlighted the need to step up the visa campaign to demand the U.S. allow them their visitation rights.
Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuban ambassador to the U.N., welcomed the participants and discussed the decades-long history of terrorism by right-wing Cuban-exile groups. With the funding and approval of various U.S. agencies, it has been aimed at Cuba’s socialist infrastructure and economy and has taken more than 3,400 Cuban lives.
It was this history, and a rise in terrorist attacks in the 1990s, that prompted Cuba to send the five men to monitor the right-wing exiles.
Cuba had presented the material evidence gathered by the five to the FBI and demanded that appropriate action be taken. Instead, the FBI studied the evidence to determine who collected it. Using this information, on Sept. 12, 1998, they arrested the five—Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González. The conferees discussed ways of broadening knowledge about the Five in the progressive movement.
Attorney Leonard Weinglass from the legal team gave a summary of a June 4 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court that upheld guilty verdicts obtained after a trial in Miami marked by massive anti-Cuba propaganda. Although a setback, Weinglass said the 99-page ruling, which includes a 16-page dissenting opinion, did provide opportunities for continued legal appeals at the Circuit Court level and, if necessary, to the Supreme Court. For example, while the convictions were upheld, three of the five men will be resentenced, which means their sentences could be reduced.
Gloria La Riva of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five highlighted the history of campaigns by the movement to raise public consciousness about the five Cuban heroes and to contrast it to the U.S.’s hypocritical handling of the known terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. Posada, a long-time CIA operative living freely in Miami, is wanted in Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
Charged with the responsibility of raising public awareness about the Cuban Five and exposing the U.S. government’s hypocrisy in this case, the conference spent the rest of the day in workshops, brainstorming ideas and making concrete proposals for the summer. These activities will lead up to a Sept. 13 national demonstration that will launch a month of activities for the Cuban Five.
The workshops discussed outreach to youth and students, forums on campuses and outreach to labor activists, communities of faith, the legal profession, academic conferences, and conducting visibility campaigns at LGBT Pride Month events and Caribbean Day parades. There were also proposals to organize cultural activists to produce a song and a mural about the Five, and outreach to local elected officials.
The conference exceeded the organizers’ expectations. The goal is that the packed auditorium will translate to a more active campaign during this critical stage. As the legal defense teams press ahead with their challenges to the court rulings, activists will put pressure on the streets through these varied educational campaigns.