The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 77/No. 21      June 3, 2013

Havana int’l youth conference
discusses fight to free Cuban 5
HAVANA — Delegates from 20 countries across the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East gathered here April 29-May 1 for the Fourth International Youth Meeting in Solidarity with the Five Cuban Heroes. They came to discuss how to advance the international campaign to free the Cuban Five, as they are known around the world.

In his remarks to the conference Cuban Communist Party Political Bureau member Ricardo Alarcón emphasized “the worldwide struggle and solidarity with this noble cause — what Gerardo [Hernández] has called the ‘jury of millions.’” We must create the conditions, Alarcón said, that will oblige the U.S. government to release the Five. He noted that “there is more receptivity to the case today among young people in the United States.”

Alarcón opened his talk by paying homage to Carlos Muñiz Varela, “a fighter in defense of Puerto Rican independence and the sovereignty of his Cuban homeland,” pointing out that the conference coincided with the 34th anniversary of Muñiz’s murder on April 28, 1979.

Muñiz was a leader of the Antonio Maceo Brigade, which organized young Cubans in the U.S. and Puerto Rico to demand the U.S. normalize relations with Cuba. No one has ever been arrested or charged with his murder. A year and a half ago, in November 2011, the FBI released heavily redacted documents that point to a U.S. government cover-up of Muñiz’s murder and relations between U.S. intelligence agencies and CORU, an umbrella organization of counterrevolutionary Cuban exile groups that is widely believed to have been responsible for Muñiz’s killing. A fight is now being waged to get further documents released.

The Cuban Five were gathering information on such armed groups functioning today on U.S. soil in order to prevent the same kind of murderous acts from being repeated.

In both the case of the Five and the assassination of Carlos Muñiz, Alarcón said, “the so-called news media and press have hidden the truth.”

Laura Labañino Palmeiro, daughter of Ramón Labañino, was among the featured panelists. She described the long delays and other obstacles U.S. government officials create to try to break down the prisoners and family members who come to visit them.

“We must appeal to international solidarity, get to the heart of the United States, and reach the news media so the international strength of solidarity is able to free these five men,” Labañino said. “The Five continue to stay strong and live with great dignity.”

“Taking this fight to the working class is key,” commented Hugo Wils, from the Young Socialists in the United Kingdom, during the discussion period following the opening presentations. “Millions of working people can identify with what the Five and their families have been through,” he noted.

“Fighting to free the Cuban Five will be a central theme of the coming World Festival of Youth and Students,” reported Dimitris Palmyris, president of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, at the closing event.

The youth festival, set to take place Dec. 7-13 this year in Quito, Ecuador, will draw thousands of youth from around the world under the banner of the struggle against imperialism. A statement adopted by delegates at an international preparatory meeting for the festival held recently in Pretoria, South Africa, noted that “the frame-up trial, draconian sentences, and other extraordinary punishments imposed on the Five are aimed at punishing the people of Cuba for making and defending their socialist revolution in face of decades of aggression from Washington and its allies.”

One of the panels featured former Cuban State Security agents Frank Vargas and Raúl Capote, who penetrated and exposed CIA operations intended to buy off artists and professors and recruit them to imperialist-orchestrated counterrevolutionary activity in Cuba.

“I was asked by the CIA to convince young artists that if Cuba was a so-called free country they could be famous and make a lot of money,” explained Vargas. “The CIA told me they would make me a famous writer and give me $10,000 if I helped them to recruit people against the revolution.”

Anyone who does this kind of work in defense of Cuba’s sovereignty could have ended up in the same position as the Cuban Five today, said Vargas.

Various workshops over the course of the conference discussed different aspects of the campaign to free the Five. Dozens of Cuban delegates, many of them teachers from provinces across the island, talked about activities they are organizing in their communities.

‘5 Days for Cuban 5’

At a workshop titled “Breaking the Wall of Silence” delegates discussed the importance of building participation in the “5 Days for the Cuban 5” activities in Washington, D.C., May 30-June 5 — in particular the June 1 demonstration in front of the White House. (See ad on page 11.)

Coinciding with the “5 Days for the 5” activities in Washington, protests in front of U.S. embassies and other actions are being organized in cities around the world.

During another workshop on art, Carlos Lara, a coordinator of youth activities for the municipality of Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico, proposed a series of expositions of the artwork by the Five be organized around Latin America. Delegates agreed to get started on the project upon returning to their countries.

Dozens of copies of the Spanish version of The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should Be Free — articles from the Militant collected and published by Pathfinder Press — were sold during the conference. (See ad on page 3.)

“I really appreciate the book,” Yasmany Zurita Siam told the Militant. “It is a useful tool to explain who the Five are.” Zurita first got a copy of The Cuban Five last year in Holguín, Cuba, from U.S. delegates attending the Eighth International Colloquium for the Freedom of the Cuban Five and Against Terrorism. This time he picked up stacks of the book to distribute at a coming conference on the Five that he is helping organize in Camagüey province.

On May 1, International Workers Day and the last day of the conference, delegates joined a demonstration of some quarter million people in Havana in support of the Cuban Revolution.

The following day, more than 1,000 trade unionists and other participants from 73 countries — including 20 delegates from the youth conference — came together for an International Union Solidarity Conference sponsored by the Central Organization of Cuban Workers (CTC) and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

The conference was organized around two workshops dedicated to the fight to free the Cuban Five.

More than 80 delegates from Canada and the United States joined Kenia Serrano, president of ICAP, and Graciela Ramírez, coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Five, in a workshop to plan building participation in “5 days for the 5.”

The day after the two conferences, on May 3, one of the first major victories in the fight was registered. René González won the battle to return to Cuba. Since he was paroled in October 2011, González had been forced to remain in the U.S. to serve a three-year term of court-supervised release. The other four remain in U.S. prisons with sentences ranging from 17 years and nine months for Fernándo González to double life plus 15 years for Gerardo Hernández.
Related articles:
‘Free the Cuban Five’ Rally at the White House Saturday, June 1, 1 p.m.
Who are the Cuban Five?
Gerardo Hernández cartoon exhibit opens in New Zealand
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