The international campaign to free five Cubans wrongfully imprisoned in the US has intensified, with 115 participating in a coordinated month of solidarity between September 12 and October 8.
According to wire service Prensa Latina, demonstrations have already occurred in Vietnam, South Africa, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Bolivia and Venezuela. Messages of solidarity have been sent to Cuba from Turkey, Pakistan and the Central American Common Union Platform.
Protesters demanded the immediate release of five Cubans who infiltrated anti-Cuban terrorist organisations operating from the United States, and defended Cuba's right to collect information on terrorist groups that have carried out terrorist activities against their country. Protesters also condemned the refusal of visas to the wives of two of the prisoners, which would allow them to visit their husbands, and demanded the extradition to Venezuela of Luis Posada Carriles. Carriles, a Cuban-born Venezuelan and a former CIA operative involved in the bombing of a Cuban airline in 1976 that killed 73 people. Despite his direct involvement in terrorist activities, the US continues to harbour him. Common sentiments expressed by protesters also included the recognition of Cuban sovereignty and self-determination and the condemnation of the economic blockade imposed by the US.
Cuban National People's Power Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon stressed that solidarity and ongoing mobilisation are crucial to achieving justice for the Cuban 5, reported Prensa Latina on September 12. "This battle is to be won by demonstrations and protests in streets, regardless of the legal process that is being carried out." In the September 6 Round Table Cuban television program, Alarcon also appealed to people in the US to demand justice from their government and condemned the media blackout about the situation. "What we need is for the American people to organise themselves in the streets, unions, factories to demand the end of this outrage. And the first step is to allow those people to know the truth."
Prensa Latina reported that this sentiment was echoed by actor Danny Glover, who sent a message to Howard University, Washington DC, defending the Cuban 5 on the grounds of Cuba's right to self-defence against ongoing US-initiated aggression and terrorism against the Cuban people, and imploring the US people to "intervene" to halt the "inaction and irresponsibility of our government". "The US government failed to prevent murderous terrorist attacks being repeatedly launched from within the US for many decades against the sovereign nation of Cuba. These five Cuban citizens have been unjustly imprisoned and condemned to unusually harsh and cruel punishments for exercising their moral obligation to self defense, a right agreed upon by all nations."
Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez have been imprisoned since September 1998. They were initially convicted of more than 26 crimes, including espionage, use of false identification and conspiracy to commit murder. But the Miami trial at which they were convicted and sentenced has been under intense scrutiny. It was followed by numerous appeals, the most recent in August this year. The first appeal, in August 2005, concluded that the men did not receive a fair trial, and conclusive evidence for the crimes was never found. Despite this, and the anti-terrorist nature of their activities, the Cuban 5 have received exceptionally harsh sentences, ranging from two consecutive life sentences to 15 years in jail, all in maximum security. While the original convictions have been reinstated, a rehearing is currently pending in the 11th United States circuit court of appeals.
[Visit http://www.antiterroristas.cu for more information on the case.]