The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 72/No. 51      December 29, 2008

Defense of Cuban Five featured
at int’l labor conference in Tijuana
TIJUANA, Mexico—About 125 people heard Magali Llort speak here on the fight to free five Cuban revolutionaries, including her son Fernando González, who have been unjustly imprisoned in the United States for a decade.

The December 5 program opened the Cuba/Venezuela/Mexico/North America 2008 Labor Conference. The three-day conference was sponsored by the U.S.-Cuba Labor Exchange along with other union and political organizations.

Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, René González, and Fernando González—known internationally as the Cuban Five—were arrested by FBI agents in south Florida in 1998 and sentenced to long prison terms on false charges ranging from “conspiracy to commit espionage” to, in the case of Hernández, “conspiracy to commit murder.” They had been in the United States keeping tabs on counterrevolutionary groups that have carried out violent attacks against Cuba.

“The five face an additional sentence, which is not written anywhere—the denial of family visits,” said Llort.

While all five have been allowed some family visits, Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, whose husbands are René González and Gerardo Hernández, respectively, have been repeatedly denied visas to visit their husbands, she said.

Silvia García, a staff person for Cuba’s National Assembly, noted that defense attorneys for the framed-up Cubans are preparing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. She stressed the importance of the international defense campaign so the judges will “know the world is watching,” García said, adding that the court agrees to hear only a small percentage of the cases that come before it.

Supporters of the fight are working to get “friend of the court” briefs worldwide backing the appeal. “A lot of parliaments, human rights commissions, and other bodies around the world have supported the case of the five,” García said, including the Mexican Senate.

Alicia Jrapko, representing the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, noted that Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, sent a letter to President George Bush calling for relatives of the imprisoned Cubans to receive visas to visit.

A short video, The Miami Five Ten Years On, highlighted support for the defense campaign by trade unions in the United Kingdom.

Among those attending the program were about a dozen teachers and others from Mexicali, 120 miles east of Tijuana, who have been active in fighting cuts in social services. They said they plan to organize a local committee in defense of the five.  
International panel
The following day’s program featured a panel of unionists from Cuba, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, the Philippines, Haiti, and the United States. Their presentations highlighted the impact of the world economic contraction on working people in the Americas, as well as resistance to these conditions.

The speakers included Edgar Paez of the SINALTRAINAL food workers union in Colombia; Luis Humberto García of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union; Paul Loulou Chery, secretary general of the Confederation of Haitian Workers; Cristina Vasquez of the Western States Regional Joint Board of UNITE HERE; and Ernesto Freire Cazanas, head of foreign relations for the Central Organization of Cuban Workers.

Freire pointed to the example of revolutionary Cuba’s internationalist solidarity with working people worldwide. For example, he said, “Union members from Cuba are helping in Haiti as health-care workers, teachers, and in the merchant marine.”

Among those at the conference were members of Friends of Cuba in Tijuana. One of them brought a stack of materials publicizing the International Conference on Martí, Juárez, and Lincoln in the Soul of Our America, which will take place May 18-19 in Monterrey, Mexico. The literature says the event will discuss “how to confront the world crisis today and how to defend the interests of the vast majority of toiling humanity.”
Related articles:
Cuba marks centennial of Independent Party of Color
Two presentations on little-known history of party that championed black rights in Cuba in early 1900s
Cuba: 50 years of workers’ power  
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