Claudia Fonseca Sosa & Pedro de la Hoz
UNDER the maxim 15 Years is Enough!, the International Encounter of Solidarity for the Freedom of the Five concluded September 12 in Havana with a commitment to intensify actions to secure the liberation of the Cuban anti-terrorist fighters.
Activists from 33 countries meeting in the Hotel Nacional on the 15th anniversary of the arrest of the Cuban heroes agreed to instigate new and more effective efforts to demand that President Barack Obama immediately release Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González.
The group further decided to promote throughout the world, and particularly in the United States, publicity around the habeas corpus filed by lawyer Martin Garbus, to have the rigged trial which led to the sentencing of the Five declared invalid.
Essential to this is the extension of solidarity networks in the heart of the United States, involving large and diverse social sectors, religious and community leaders, artists and intellectuals and any forum which would be receptive to comprehending the need to end such a long-term injustice.
This last aspect was addressed by René González, the only one of the Five who has been able to return home after fully completing his arbitrary sentence, speaking to participants in the meeting.
"We must focus more on the actors of greatest weight in any decision making in Washington; in other words, the White House, Congress and pressure groups or lobbies and academics in institutions linked to power.
He stated that the case of the Five must be promoted in a way that it can be understood by the greatest number of people, independent of creed or party affiliations, because it is about reaching hearts with an unquestionable truth. René shared with those present one of the most moving moments of the day: a brief telephone call with his brother in struggle Ramón Labañino, who conveyed a message of optimism.
In the name of family members of the anti-terrorists fighters, Mirtha Rodríguez, Antonio’s mother, spoke of the moral strength of the Five – "all of them are my sons," she emphasized – emphasizing the importance of the international solidarity movement in the battle for justice.
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ana Teresita González thanked participants for their support and expressed her confidence in the capacity of activists meeting in Havana to develop multiple actions and ideas.
During the first part of the event, Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada updated the audience of intellectuals, artists, outstanding athletes and diplomats on the legal aspect of the case of the Five.
"The legal battle for the liberation of the Five is at the same point that it was a year ago," he said. "We continue awaiting the decision of Judge Joan Lenard on the demand to disclose the evidence which has been kept hidden and which demonstrates the media show organized around the trial in Miami."
Alarcón condemned "the monumental violation of legality and ethics" on the part of U.S. authorities in charge of the case of Ramón, Fernando, Antonio, Gerardo and René.
The Five have the exceptional merit of having fought against terrorism without resorting to violence; however, they were sentenced like criminals, he added.
He recalled the case of U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, accused of espionage for leaking secret information to the WikiLeaks website.
"Manning has made history, exposing the politics of an empire which is trampling the rights and sovereignty of states, but he was not charged with conspiracy to commit espionage (like the Five); his charges were far more serious and he was given a sentence of 35 years in prison.
"The contrast of this sentence with the one decided by the Court in relation to the Five us highly revealing; our brothers were judged with even more hatred hatred.
Alarcón continued, "The Five were not members of the U.S. Army, they did not seize any official document, nor reveal any state secrets. They were simply fighting to defend the rights of the Cuban people."
French academic and journalist Salim Lamrani affirmed that the case of the Cuban anti-terrorists is "a judicial scandal, but also a political and media one.
"The Western informative media, supposedly champions of freedom of expression, present the Cubans as spies, when the court in Atlanta itself and U.S. military officials stated that this was not as case of espionage."
According to Lamrani, in relation to the case of the Five and the Cuba issue, "The major Western media consortiums are not fulfilling their role of providing citizens with truthful and balanced information, but in exchange, have accepted the U.S. doctrine of the good and bad terrorist, in which everything is dependent on who the victim happens to be."
"When it’s about a Cuban, the media discourse converts the perpetuator into a human rights activist, instead of someone accused of terrorism, as in the case of Luis Posada Carriles."
Raúl Carcés, dean of the Communication Faculty at the University of Havana, said that in order to gain larger audiences in the United States, communication actions must be coordinated which directly impact on how U.S. citizens think and feel, so that they will bring more pressure to bear on the government. "We have to be capable of making the U.S. people also say ‘Enough!’ of so much injustice," he added.
In a similar vein, Nalda Vigezzi, coordinator of the National Network on Cuba in the United States, affirmed that more and better actions have to be undertaken to increase international pressure on the Obama administration, resulting in the release of the four Cuban anti-terrorists still in prison.
Her point was supported by the U.S. human rights fighter Cindy Sheehan, who called on her compatriots to join the fight against the injustice being committed. "Obama can do something for the Five tomorrow," she emphasized.
Other delegates who spoke at the event included Clarissa López, daughter of Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar López, who is completing a 73-year sentence and has already spent 32 years in prison. López Rivera and Fernando shared a cell in the Terre Haute, Indiana penitentiary.
"We have appealed to President Obama, who could grant him a pardon. All that remains for my father is to die in prison or complete his sentence, which will happen within a decade. This is a similar sentence to the one imposed on Gerardo, who was sentenced to two life sentences plus 15 years, a totally vicious one," she affirmed.
The international event began with the reading of a message from Fernando in relation to the recent death of the outstanding U.S. intellectual Saul Landau, a friend and a man who, "with his talent and sensibility, made a great contribution to the cause of the Five."
The documentary 15 años, ¡Basta Ya!, by Liudmila Talancón and Alexei Parra was also launched during the opening event. Additionally, there was a global tweet for the Five on social networks, in which 25,000 messages of solidarity with the Cuban anti-terrorists and their families were sent from all parts of the world.
Messages sent by some of those attending the solidarity with the Five event in Washington were also read during the event, including one from the U.S. actor Danny Glover.
The day was also used to inaugurate the exhibition 15 Years of Struggle against Injustice and Silence, comprising 73 posters by artist members of the Cuban Association of Social Communicators, which is to remain open to the public in the Hotel Nacional’s Salón Vedado.
Present during the day were Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla; José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party Secretariat and head of its International Relations Department; and Kenia Serrano, president of the Cuban Friendship Institute, among other guests.