The following are remarks by Gerardo Hernández at the conclusion of the International Solidarity Conference with Cuba held May 2 in Havana (see accompanying news article on front page). The translation from Spanish is by the Militant.
Brothers and sisters from all over the world, thanks to all of you! And when we say thank you, it’s not a formality. In our hearts we know that we are here in Cuba to a large extent because of the efforts of many compañeras and compañeros all around the world. It was you who did not rest for a day since our arrest and who made this joyful day possible.
You are representatives of a much broader number of sisters and brothers from different countries who couldn’t be here. We ask that when you return home, please convey our sincere thanks to all those who in one way or another contributed, be it with a letter or the smallest act of solidarity and support to our cause. Every single one was important.
It was the combination of all these actions and efforts that brought us here with our families and with our people. So we will never tire of thanking you.
What a historic day yesterday, after having dreamed so much about a May Day in our own country!
For many years on May Day, our routine in the different prisons was more or less the same: we’d try to get close to a TV and see if they broadcast some scene, however small, of our people marching. Sometimes they did.
Can’t hide Cuba revolutionary spiritAs much as they want to hide the reality of Cuba, how can you hide millions of revolutionaries in the street? You can’t. There are some who try to hide the achievements of the Cuban Revolution and smear it. But however much they try, they cannot hide the revolutionary spirit of millions of Cubans who every day, and especially every May Day, come out and defend our revolution. That is why in prison we would sit in front of a TV near our cells, and the images of our people, our workers, gave us a tremendous injection of encouragement.
Yesterday, that dream of joining together with our people on May Day came true. And the joy was even greater because all of you were here, representing the compañeros from so many countries who worked for so long in the battle for our freedom.
We saw many familiar faces there, as well as others we are getting to know. Many of you we knew only by name and in the past few days some have come up to us and said, “I am so-and-so” and we joined in a hug. It may be hard to believe, but many of the names we know still don’t have faces associated with them, a result of the isolation we were subjected to for so long. Now we’ve met. Today we’re a big family, which must unite more and more to go forward to the battles ahead.
Over there I see the picture of Oscar López. We still face the battle to free him too, so that he can enjoy freedom as we do today. We still have Mumia Abu-Jamal. We still have Leonard Peltier. We still have other compañeros who are political prisoners. The committees in solidarity with the Five that supported us so much must see what we can do to end these injustices too.
We want Oscar and the other compañeros to know that the Five, now that we are free, will continue remembering you and supporting you.
Likewise, we are ready to join with you to back any just cause wherever our efforts may be needed. Have no doubt that here in our country we will always support you whenever we are asked and we will be ready to do what we can for any cause that summons our modest efforts.
And now, what’s next? What do we do? You will tell us. The blockade remains in place, and we cannot rest as long as it exists. We have to keep on fighting. And if some day the blockade is lifted, we must keep fighting to ensure that no one will ever attempt to reimpose it.
We cannot rest. Revolutionaries cannot rest. We have to remain firm. As our compañeros were chanting yesterday, “¡Que no, que no, que no nos da la gana de ser una colonia norteamericana! ¡Que sí, que sí, que sí nos da la gana de ser una nación latinoamericana!” (“No, no, no, we don’t want to be an American colony! Yes, yes, yes, we want to be a Latin American nation!”)
‘Era of colonialism is over’We’ll have to continue to remind them that the era of colonialism is over. That we are free and sovereign countries — no more interference in our internal affairs. We have the right to choose our own destiny and our own path.
We count on you to keep reminding the empire every day of its existence. We count on you to continue moving forward. The Cuban people count on you to keep joining with us in support, as you have done for more than 50 years, during these times of challenges — challenges that we will take on. The efforts of all of us together will continue to be decisive.
On behalf of the family members of the Five, whom you received in your countries with great hospitality and looked after with so much warmth and affection, we want to express our special thanks. In prison we always received reports from them about how much love, affection, and solidarity they received from you on every tour in your countries.
Dec. 17 was a big victory for all of us — for Cuba and for people around the world. I once heard a compañero, who was involved in solidarity with us, say, “We did what we could, but in the end it wasn’t us who got them released, the negotiations got them released.” Do not make that mistake. We were freed thanks to you.
It would have been very difficult to successfully negotiate the release of three unknown individuals who didn’t interest anyone — the three who remained in prison. That is something you must always bear in mind. It was the combined effort of each one of you, every grain of sand you contributed, that made it possible for us to be here today enjoying the affection of our people.
Not only that, keep in mind that those 16 or 15 years of prison were made up of months, days and hours. Our resistance in those prisons had to be waged hour by hour. Hour by hour we had to think about something with which to keep up our spirits, from which to draw the strength to resist. In prison we saw people who took their own lives, unable to endure the conditions. I could give you first and last names.
We had to draw strength from somewhere. And you should know that one of our sources of inspiration, along with the example of our heroes and martyrs, of our leaders, along with the example of the Cuban people’s sacrifice, selflessness, and struggle, another of our sources of inspiration that strengthened us was thinking about all of you, it was precisely your solidarity and your support.
Today, the strength of the Five is praised and recognized. But the strength of the Five is nothing more than the strength of the Cuban people. For more than 50 years we have been standing up to the biggest empire known to humanity, and it has not been able to break us.
A little while ago we heard our compañera from the Foreign Ministry [Deputy Minister Ana Teresita González Fraga] give a magnificent report. And I thought: Wow, after more than half a century, spending billions of dollars with the aim of isolating Cuba and its revolution in the world, what have they accomplished? That we don’t have diplomatic relations with Micronesia. And I have no doubt that at some point we will have that too.
Who became isolated? Cuba? No, the empire became isolated. Now the empire is starting to acknowledge that, and it’s important to point that out as well. Yes, we are having talks. Yes, we want to improve relations. But Cuba has not moved away even a tiny bit from its principles. Today we are affirming the same things we were affirming in 1959.
They were the ones who said, “We have nothing to negotiate with Cuba as long as the Castros — as they put it — are in power. As long as they have that revolution, as long as Cuba remains socialist, we will have nothing to negotiate with them.”
Well, here we have Raúl Castro in power, and here we have our socialist revolution.
And just as we have absolute confidence in the capacity of our people, in our people’s spirit of struggle and sacrifice, to keep moving forward in the battles we have ahead of us, we have confidence in the support, solidarity, and fighting spirit of all of you to continue fighting alongside us.
Many thanks, brothers and sisters.
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