- Created: Thursday, 17 April 2014 15:23
- Written by London FRFI
Video credit: See Li Photo Capital http://seeliphotocapital.com/
On Sunday 9 March activists from the US, Canada, Latin America, Cuba and Europe joined a rally hosted by Rock around the Blockade (RATB) in Trafalgar Square to demand justice and freedom for the Cuban Five: five Cuban men arrested in Miami in 1998, convicted on trumped up charges and condemned to long prison sentences. They were in fact trying to prevent acts of terrorism against Cuba by infiltrating violent exile groups in Miami. None of the charges against them involved violence, weapons or damage to property. Since 1959, nearly 3,500 Cubans have died and over 2,000 have been injured as a result of terrorist attacks and aggression – mainly launched from Miami.
The rally was held in support of the International Commission of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five, which had taken place over the previous two days at the Law Society in Central London. During the Commission, legal professionals, expert witnesses, victims of US-based terrorism against Cuba and the family members of the Cuban Five, gave powerful testimony to an audience of 250 people. Evidence detailed the multiple legal failings and irregularities, and human rights violations in the case, and contextualised the Five’s original anti-terrorism mission against a backdrop of complicity and indifference by the US government. Cuba has suffered from US-based terrorist attacks for 55 years. The Commission’s preliminary conclusions called on US President Obama ‘to pardon completely all these five persons and to release immediately and unconditionally the three persons who continue to languish in prison in the United States.’ Their final report will be sent to the US president.
While the Commission focused on the legal aspects of the case, the RATB rally had a clear political message of solidarity with Cuban socialism. The rally was opened by Kenia Serano, President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People, who thanked RATB for hosting the rally and welcomed activists from around the world. Other important speakers included Gloria La Riva (US National Committee to Free the Cuban Five), Janine Solanki (Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver), and Bill O’Brien (Cuba Support Group – Ireland). There were also speeches from Latin American activists who live in London. David Yaffe, from the Revolutionary Communist Group, explained how demanding justice for the Cuban Five meant defending socialist Cuba, a country which offers an alternative to imperialist plunder, austerity and cuts. ‘Every day that we’re out on the streets campaigning for the Cuban Five, we’re campaigning for every one of us, for a better life, for a more just system, for education and health for our people.’ He urged the activists to tell the public ‘what social system the Cuban Five stand for: a system of humanity, a system of justice, a system that looks after its people’.
All the speakers condemned the British government’s decision to prevent Rene Gonzalez from entering Britain to give his testimony. The British government can deny visas to anyone who has been sentenced to more than four years in prison. Dispensation can be granted, but they chose to obstruct Rene Gonzalez’s participation. In late 2011, Rene Gonzalez (15 years) was granted ‘supervised release’ on a three-year term, initially under life-threatening conditions: to remain in Miami alongside the terrorists he monitored. In spring 2013 he returned permanently to Cuba. In late February 2014, Fernando Gonzalez (18 years) was released into detention by US immigration authorities who immediately deported him to Cuba. Antonio Guerrero (22 years) and Ramon Labañino (30 years) face many more years of incarceration. Gerardo Hernandez (two consecutive life sentences) will never leave prison, except through political intervention. The Five’s legal representatives have pointed out that, given the political nature of the case, a political movement is needed to demand justice.
During the weekend of activity in London, RATB activists in Newcastle and Glasgow also held protests in support of the Cuban Five. RATB will continue to contribute to the international movement demanding justice for the Cuban Five and redouble its commitment to support and defend Cuban socialism.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014
RATB hosts international rally in London - See our facebbook page for more photos