Fernando Gonzalez from the Cuban Five meets the brigadistas

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Fernando Gonzalez from the Cuban Five meets the brigadistas

During our visit to ICAP we were joined by Fernando Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five. Rock around the Blockade campaigned for the freedom of the Five throughout their imprisonment, so when Fernando entered the room he was greeted with spontaneous applause; an emotional standing ovation in recognition of the Five’s principled stand throughout a long, harsh, unjust incarceration. Fernando, who is now Vice President at ICAP, said:

‘It’s good to see you, it’s good to have a group of very young people here. There are few things that you miss when you get out of prison; you leave that experience behind and you basically don’t miss anything. If I miss one thing it is receiving your newspaper (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!), every issue. It’s true! It was very interesting reading every time. Let me tell you something – it is a newspaper that is circulated around the whole prison; many people were interested in what the newspaper had to say because it is a view that is not common in the United States. So much for the freedom of press! Views like the ones expressed in your newspaper you never find in what you call the mainstream media.

I really appreciate what you did over all the years, for us Five, and I’m talking on behalf of myself, my four brothers and our families. You were there for us, through the 16 years in prison. On the 17 December a new victory was achieved; it is a victory that also belongs to you, because without your effort, it would not have been possible. It was a result of many efforts throughout the world, and we knew that it would be solved by political means. There is no doubt that the pressure the United States government felt from all over the world had an important role in the decision of the President of the United States to negotiate the release of the (remaining) three brothers. So thank you very much. And since the newspaper is still coming out, I would very much like you to send a copy here to ICAP.

When the victory of the 17 December was achieved, we all celebrated. We still feel joy about the freedom of our three brothers, but we will keep fighting. The blockade is still there. Now for the first time the United States has to accept Cuba as a country that they need to respect. We are aware too that the intention of the United States is still to destroy our country, to destroy socialism in Cuba, we are very clear about this challenge…We are not naïve…we also need your support in explaining to the world what the subversive measures of the United States government are against Cuba. Even though they might have an embassy here, and we might have an embassy there… the goal of the United States will always be to dismantle what we have done here in Cuba, and we are not going to allow that. Thank you and I know that we can count on you, in the same way that we, the Five, counted on you for all those years.’

What follows is the full transcript of RATB’s interview with Fernando Gonzalez

What motivated you to sacrifice your life to defend the Cuban Revolution from US-based terrorist attack?

‘What motivated me was the fact that I believe in this society that we live in here in Cuba, the project that we are building. I believe in the justice that it brings the Cuban people. I believe in the sense of justice. I believe in the right of our country to decide what kind of life we Cubans want. And I believe in the right of our people, the Cuban people, to organise our society the way we decide to organise our society, and that nobody from another country, it doesn’t matter how powerful it is, should say what we Cubans want to do with our own country. Nobody has the right, in order to change that, to attack the Cuban people, to harm the Cuban people, to cause death to more than 3,000 Cubans who have lost their lives through the years as a result of attacks, and more than 2,000 who have been hurt and are living with the scars of terrorism coming from the United States. I don’t believe in the right, either, of a country to harbour those kinds of individuals and protect them. That’s my motivation.’

As a political prisoner in the US how did the treatment you received compare with that of other prisoners? And what is your view of the US prison-industrial complex?

‘The treatment we received from the prison authorities was the same treatment that any other inmate receives. In the United States the government does not recognise the figure of political prisoners, so we had to serve our sentences in regular prisons in the United States with people who are imprisoned for many reasons. We didn’t receive any special treatment; we received the same treatment as the rest of the inmates.

However, there were times in which we were harshly treated, and we were placed in isolation with no reason, no justification, just a pretext to apply harsh measures against us. It was not the prison authorities that decided to do that, it was always through an order coming from Washington. It was for political reasons, because we never violated any rules in the prison that would mean that we would be taken to punishment cells. It was always as a result of a decision taken in Washington, politicians making a point, and of course the prison authorities would follow those orders. In those moments we were treated very harshly. At the beginning when we were arrested we were placed into isolation and we were only taken out of isolation because we fought it in court. Then back in 2003 when we were in different prisons across the United States we were taken back into isolation, each of us in the prison we were at in that moment. It was the result of an order coming from Washington. It was the solidarity that forced the US government to rescind that measure. We were supposed to be isolated for a year, with the possibility that the Attorney General would renew it for another year, but the measure had to be rescinded after 30 days in isolation because of the letters that came in from all over the world; to the Justice Department, the White House, requesting that we were freed from those conditions. So we are very appreciative of the movement on our behalf.’

Finally, what message would you like us to take back to the British people?

‘The most important lesson out of the struggle to free the Five is that you fight and you struggle, and you struggle until you win. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, how much effort it needs, you resist, you fight and you don’t give up until you win the battle; that’s the main lesson. It applies, in my opinion, to everything and anything, even personal situations that you go through. In life we all go through difficult situations and that’s the spirit, the lesson, which comes out of this struggle. You can apply it to social issues, to all kinds of fights. You fight for what you believe in, even though sometimes you know you’re fighting for something that you know you’re not even going to see yourself but you’re so convinced of what you’re fighting for that you keep fighting; even if it is for your grandsons or your granddaughters, for them to receive the fruits of that struggle.’

Sam Mcgill

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 245 June/July 2015