TWO wives of Cubans imprisoned by the United States 13 years ago, are stepping up the campaign for their release and want US President Barack Obama to intervene.
The two have no access to their husbands, who were part of a larger group of five Cuban men who were accused of conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to murder and given various sentences, following their arrest in September 1988.
The five Cuban men serving time in a Florida prison are: Rene Gonzales Sehwerert - 15 years, plus three of supervised release; Geraldo Hernandez Nordelo - two life sentences plus 15 years; Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez - 30 years; Fernando Gonzalez Llort - 15 years and Ramon Labanino Salazar - 22 years.
On a recent visit to Jamaica, Olga Salanueva Arango, an industrial engineer and accountant, and Adriana Perez O'Connor, a chemical engineer spoke glowingly of their husbands, who at the time of their arrests were also American citizens, and expressed the wish for them to be reunited with their families.
Olga's husband Rene Gonzales Sehwerert was born in the United States of Cuban immigrants.
Perez O'Connor's husband is Geraldo Hernandez Nordelo.
The Cuban five were called spies and arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder in Florida on September 12, 1998.
They were kept for 17 months in solitary confinement.
The harshest sentence was that given to Hernandez Nordelo, who received two life sentences, plus 15 years
"President Obama should intervene. Obama can add another honour to his Nobel Peace Prize by signing for the release of these men," Perez O'Connor said in a recent interview with the Observer.
The mother of Hernandez Nordelo died recently and it was sad that he did not get a chance to attend the funeral, due to his incarceration, Perez O'Connor said.
"We keep dreaming with the hope of them coming back home," said Salanueva Arango, who has two children by Gonzales Sehwerert.
"We feel profound pain. We have seen our youth pass by. We want the five comrades to get justice. They are innocent... We have reason to believe that justice will not be found. Obama is aware that these people are in jail and are innocent of the charges.
"Amnesty International in October last year said that these comrades were not guilty, and was convinced that they should be released, because almost 13 years have elapsed already.
"The World Council of Churches has urged the US not to deny visas to the families of the five. It's unbelievable that the men who are serving life sentences has an additional punishment of not being able to see their relatives. That is not written in any book or manuscript. It is a cruel decision of the United States Government.
"We have not been able to obtain visas. We don't have the right to have weekly visits. Relatives of the other three have been able to see the others," Salanueva Arango said.
Perez O'Connor insisted that the US President was the only hope for the five.
"We as relatives, as family, see the resolution in the hands of President Obama. This is a case that has remained silent in all media in the United States, with all intentions for it to be silenced.
"These men were fighting against terrorism against Cuba, organised, directed, led and financed by the counter-revolutionary groups and different governments. This case represents the links that the Government has had with the counter-revolutionary groups in the States.
"Obama has the Constitutional liberties to sign for the release of these persons. He would make an honour to his Nobel Prize if he were to do that," Perez O'Connor said.
For Salanueva Arango, the entire episode had taken a major toll on her family.
"It is something inconceivable for our family. It's been 13 years. There is the agony of children growing without the presence of their fathers, mothers who have grown old without seeing their sons back. In the case of my husband, his mother died recently and she never saw him again.
Our lives have changed dramatically. We keep on dreaming with the hope that they will come back home," she said.
The story is different for Perez O'Connor, as she has not started her family.
"For me it is really hard, because we don't have any children... Fernando and his wife do not have any children too, because they have been separated for a long time, but Olga has experienced it because she has shared two children with him.
"The pain has been profound. We have seen our youth pass by. We have seen our children grow up without their fathers beside them. We have seen two of the mothers die, but we are hopeful that they are alive and that justice will be served and they will return home," said Salanueva Arango.
Among the world figures that have called for the release of the men is former US President Jimmy Carter.
"I believe that there is no reason to keep the Cuban five imprisoned, there were doubts in the US courts and also among human rights organisations in the world. Now, they have been in prison 12 years and I hope that in the near future they will be released to return home," Carter said last year.
The men have since written several poems, which have been published worldwide.
Cuba's Ambassador to Kingston Yuri Gala Lopez told the Observer that his government would continue to fight for the cause of the Cuban five, until justice is served. He also appealed to Obama to have the men released.