|Prensa Latina/Vladimir Molina|
|Meeting of some 100 people Feb. 21 during Havana International Book Fair discussed how to use The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should Be Free as part of worldwide fight to win release of Cuban revolutionaries held for nearly 15 years in U.S. prisons.
Panelists from left: Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo Hernández, one of the Cuban Five; moderator Kenia Serrano, president of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP); Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press; Ricardo Alarcón, member of the Cuban Communist Party’s Political Bureau and outgoing president of Cuba’s National Assembly; and Raúl Suárez, director of the Martin Luther King Center in Havana.
Alarcón was speaking at the Feb. 21 presentation of a new edition of The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should Be Free. The book is a selection from the 200 some articles published in the Militant since the fight for the freedom of the five framed-up Cuban revolutionaries began more than 14 years ago.
The event, attended by nearly 100 people, was part of the February 14-24 Havana International Book Fair. It was sponsored by the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) and held at ICAP’s Friendship House in the heart of Havana.
The speakers platform also included Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo Hernández, one of the five imprisoned Cubans; Rev. Raúl Suárez, director of the Martin Luther King Center in Havana; and Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press. Waters, along with Martín Koppel, is co-editor of the book, published by Pathfinder Press in English and Spanish. Excerpts from the speakers’ remarks appear on the following two pages.
ICAP President Kenia Serrano, who chaired the meeting, welcomed the participation of Mirta Rodríguez and Magali Llort, mothers of Antonio Guerrero and of Fernando González.
Among the special invited guests was José Luis Palacio, who served in Angola under Gerardo Hernández. Three of the Cuban Five—Hernández, René González, and Fernando González—volunteered for Cuba’s 1975-91 internationalist mission in Angola. Palacio, whose account of the Angola experience appears in the book, traveled to the event from his hometown in Pinar del Río, western Cuba. Reticent to join the speakers platform, Palacio was eager to recount his experiences to Militant reporters after the meeting (see below).
Dánim Pérez, director of the Museum of the Battle of Ideas in Cárdenas, a city east of Havana, mounted an exhibit at the event of photos and other items related to the Angola missions of Hernández and Fernando González. The display included the diary Hernández kept in Angola and González’s military uniform.
Serrano noted several other books on or by the Cuban Five presented at this year’s Havana book fair. They included Enigmas y otras conversaciones (Enigmas and other conversations), a collection of poetry and letters exchanged between Antonio Guerrero and numerous Cuban artists and writers; La verdad me nombra (The truth names me), a bilingual compilation of poems by Guerrero with an introduction by René González and illustrations by Hernández; and Los últimos soldados de la Guerra Fría (The last soldiers of the Cold War), a Spanish translation of a book by Brazilian writer Fernando Morais.
The ICAP president thanked Pathfinder for its “unceasing efforts to punch holes in the wall of silence” surrounding the case, including publication of The Cuban Five. Together with another Pathfinder title presented at the book fair, Cuba and Angola: Fighting for Africa’s Freedom and Our Own , it “brings together their rich experiences in our sister lands of Africa, especially Angola,” she said. Angola was the book fair’s country of honor this year.
“It’s only through worldwide solidarity that we will bring our compañeros home,” Serrano emphasized.
To know them as human beingsAlarcón noted the importance of the work by the Militant and by Pathfinder not only “to let the people of the United States know the truth about the case” but to let them get to know the Five as human beings, including “their participation in the struggle of the Angolan people against the South African racists.”
The Cuban leader underscored the importance of that mission as part of the revolution’s historic battle against racism. “What greater way to fight racism,” he said, “than to face the South African troops themselves in the trenches, on the battlefield, as they did!”
Alarcón challenged the U.S. government to release its satellite images of the 1996 downing over Cuban airspace of two planes flown by members of the counterrevolutionary group Brothers to the Rescue. Those images, he said, would give the lie to Washington’s claim that the planes were shot down over international waters. That false assertion is part of their frame-up of Hernández, who was convicted on charges of espionage and murder conspiracy and given two life sentences plus 15 years for his alleged role in the shootdown.
Alarcón also demanded the U.S. government allow the introduction of new evidence that has come to light on its payments to Miami journalists whose articles stoked the atmosphere of bias against the Five during the 2001 trial. The satellite images and the payments are issues in current legal appeals by the Five.
Adriana Pérez highlighted the importance of Cuba’s 16-year internationalist mission to help defend Angola against invasions by South Africa’s white-supremacist regime, and what it meant for Cubans who took part in it. Through Gerardo’s letters, she too had a chance to share the Angola experience, which helped prepare Gerardo, Fernando, and René “to withstand the rigors of prison” in the U.S. for the past 15 years, Pérez said.
Rev. Suárez spoke of efforts by “the diverse religious institutions of our people that have come together” to press for the release of the Cuban Five. In introducing the Baptist pastor, Serrano applauded the Martin Luther King Center, Cuban Council of Churches, and other religious groups here for an initiative called the Cuban Pastoral Platform for the Reunification of the Families of the Five and the Unity of the Cuban Family. Through it they reach out to church congregations in the United States especially, seeking to win them to the campaign to free the Five.
Case strikes chord with workersMary-Alice Waters, a member of the Socialist Workers Party’s National Committee, told participants that the frame-up and imprisonment of the Five has its roots in Washington’s decades-long course of seeking to punish the Cuban people “for your audacity and unbroken determination to prevent the most powerful empire in history from reestablishing its dominion here.”
The fight for freedom of the Five is part of the class struggle in the U.S. today, she said. It finds a ready audience among millions of working people who have firsthand experience with the class “justice” meted out by the U.S. cops, courts and prisons.
Waters explained that 97 percent of men and women serving time in U.S. federal prisons today have never been tried and convicted of any crime. “They were railroaded to jail without trial after being blackmailed into pleading guilty to some crime, often different from the one they were arrested for,” she said. This is the process cynically misnamed “plea bargaining.”
Because of these experiences, the “courage, dignity, integrity, and unbroken resistance of our five brothers” strike a chord among working people who learn about the case, Waters noted.
As a result, she reported, hundreds of copies of The Cuban Five have been sold in recent months as supporters of the Militant go door to door in working-class neighborhoods, talking with fellow workers about the ongoing capitalist economic crisis and what working people can do to respond.
The Havana presentation of The Cuban Five was featured on national TV news that evening and widely covered in the Cuban press.
During the book festival and related events, more than 1,000 copies of the book were sold, or donated to libraries, schools and organizations working for the freedom of the Five.
Among the participants
‘I’m proud of what our lieutenant did and of what he continues to do today’
‘Fight for their freedom is inextricable part of sharpening class struggle in United States’
‘Letting the people of the US know the truth about the Five’
‘Thank you, Angola, for allowing us to know our comrades better’
‘Diverse religious institutions are united behind Cuban Five’
Who are the Cuban Five?
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