The Jan. 24 event, entitled “Humour From My Pen,” was organized by International Solidarity Committee of the Montreal Labour Council of the CSN and the Fabio Di Celmo Committee for the Five.
It featured several dozen cartoons created by Hernández since his incarceration, a buffet, music by saxophonist Janet Lumb, a video by filmmaker Saul Landau with actor Danny Glover, and a panel of speakers.
Dominique Daigneault, Labour Council general secretary, welcomed the crowd, which included garment, postal, food manufacturing, and other workers; college and university students; campus radio station journalists; musicians; and Cuba solidarity activists.
Daigneault urged others to use the “traveling exhibit” to get out the truth about the five. Students and teachers at Montreal’s Marianopolis College are planning such an event in February.
Arnold August, representative of the Fabio Di Celmo Committee, read a letter from Hernández thanking the event organizers.
“All the promotion, explanations of my work and even this letter have been translated into French for the very first time,” Hernández said. “I spend a great deal of my time responding to hundreds of solidarity letters and I do [these cartoons] lacking the material and appropriate conditions of a real artist.
“We [the five] know that the key to our inevitable freedom lives in that solidarity that continues to grow worldwide.”
August urged those attending the event to build and join a demonstration called for June 1 in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., to demand freedom for the five.
Washington “did to the five what they could not do to the Cuban people,” said keynote speaker Alain González, Cuba’s consul general in Montreal.
“The American authorities are those preventing their liberation. It’s a political question. Victory lies in the resistance.”
Answering a question on this year’s 25th anniversary of the victory by Cuban and Angolan forces against South Africa’s apartheid army in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, Angola, González said that “more than 375,000 Cubans had combat experience in Africa.”
Three of the five Cuban prisoners were among the Cuban volunteers in Angola, including Hernández.
“Cuban forces dealt the death blow to apartheid. I’m not the one saying this. Look at Nelson Mandela’s speeches at the time,” he said.
In March 1988, invading forces of the white supremacist regime of South Africa were dealt a decisive defeat in the small town of Cuito Cuanavale, southern Angola, which opened the door to the independence of Namibia from South African domination and the overthrow of apartheid a few years later.
“Today, we go abroad to heal people,” González added. “There are 1,000 Cuban doctors in Haiti. Cuban doctors were there before the [January 2010] earthquake.
The Cuban consul described how the five have won respect from fellow prisoners, initiating among other things literacy efforts among detainees.
“We’re used to aid from the international community with a hidden agenda,” Orland Angat, a food worker of Congolese origin, told the Militant.
“But the example of Cuba sending aid to Haiti without expecting anything in return—1,000 doctors—that’s huge!”
At work the next day, he added, “The meeting changed something in me.”
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