During the recent 'Five Days for the Five' in Washington, Latin American parliamentarians advocating for the imprisoned Cuban anti-terrorists met with two respected members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Bobby Rush and Yvette Clarke. Rush has represented a South Side Chicago district in the House for 20 years and Clarke, first elected in 2007, represents a district in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
The delegation of Latin Americans who made the trip to Washington to encourage their U.S. counterparts to become involved in finding a solution to the unjust imprisonment of the Five included congressional representatives Glauber Braga from Brazil; Hugo Gutierrez, Chile; Armando Aguilar, Ecuador; Damián Alegría, El Salvador; Alba Palacios, Nicaragua; and Chilean Senator Alejandro Navarro. Italian Gianni Vattimo, a member of the European Union Parliament, also participated.
Rush, who traveled to Cuba in 2009 and pledged to visit the Five upon his return, reiterated his commitment to do so, with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, to support the prisoners and draw attention to the case. Representative Clarke, who recalled that her parents were Jamaican immigrants and whose district includes many residents with Caribbean roots, expressed her interest in improving relations between Cuba and the United States, acknowledging that resolving the case of the Five is important to that process. She commented that an ad hoc working group of Congress members interested in supporting better relations should be reactivated and become involved in discussion of the case.
The Latin American legislators emphasized that judicial options to secure the prisoners' freedom were practically exhausted and that a political, humanitarian solution was needed, such as a pardon or commutation of sentences, which President Obama has the authority to grant.
Following the meeting, Ecuadoran Congressman Armando Aguilar commented that several members of Congress and their staff, "expressed their interest in becoming involved in finding a solution to the case of the Five."
The Latin American parliamentarians met with seven members of the U.S. Congress, over a three-day period June 3-5, while other supporters of the Five from 22 countries visited an additional 36 House and Senate offices to meet with staff.
Describing the experience, Salvadoran Frente Farabundo Martí legislator Damian Alegría said, “It was important to share the case of the Five with U.S. Representatives and Senators, to make them aware of the judicial irregularities that must be corrected, but also to hear that some of them do know about the case and share our opinion that it reflects a backward point of view, which must be overcome in the process of normalization of economic, political and diplomatic relations with Cuba.”
Chilean Senator Alejandro Navarro commented, “We have been able to strongly convey our countries’ sentiment about this injustice… and the failure to respect due process. There is no argument whatsoever to defend this political persecution. I am optimistic, confident that we took a step forward with the U.S. Congress.”
Armando Aguilar concluded that he was impressed, “To meet so many men and women from the United States, Europe and Latin America who are working for the freedom of the Five.”