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The Cuban 5 Present at Labor Conference in Tijuana

Dec 12, 2010

On December 3rd, a few miles away from the US – Mexico Border, a large audience gathered to welcome a delegation from Cuba who had traveled to Tijuana to participate in the VII U.S. /Cuba/Venezuela/Latin America Labor Conference.

The youngest of the delegation of 5 women was Ailí Labañino, daughter of Ramon Labañino Salazar, one of the Cuban 5 political prisoners held in US prisons. He is serving 30 years in a federal penitentiary in Jesup, Georgia.

Ailí was a young girl when her father was arrested in Miami in 1998. Today, along with other family members of the Cuban 5, she travels around the world to speak at public events such as the one in Tijuana. Her personal story and the truth about the case of the Cuban 5 is one that is not featured in the corporate media.

The opening evening of the conference was an event in solidarity with the Cuban 5. A highlight of the evening was the opening of an exhibit of political cartoons drawn by Gerardo Hernandez in a maximum security prison. He is currently serving 2 life sentences in Victorville, California, just one hundred and sixty one miles north of the border.

A panel at the opening event began with greetings from Martín López Ortiz, representative of the Ample Front of the Social Left of Michoacán, followed by an introduction by Cheryl Labash from the US/Cuba Labor Exchange. She introduced Silvia Garcia, from the National Assembly of Peoples Power of the Republic of Cuba, who gave an explanation of the legal recourses for the Cuban 5 which are almost exhausted.  She mentioned the recent favorable report issued by Amnesty International about the case and the importance of the solidarity toward the Cuban 5.

Her presentation was followed by Ailí who shared with the audience some of her personal stories as a young woman who grew up without her father nearby. She also spoke about the obstacles to get to visit her her father, including coming all the way to the prison only to be turned away because the prison was in lockdown. “On one occasion I came all the way from Cuba and for an entire month I waited in vain to get to see my father” she explained.   

But Ailí did not speak just about her own experience. She also mentioned all the difficulties that the rest of the families of the 5 have to endure every time they come to see their love ones.  Currently, along with other family members of the Cuban 5, she is participating in the International Youth Festival taking place in Pretoria, South Africa as part of the 256 strong Cuban delegation.

Alicia Jrapko, the US coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, followed with a talk about the sixth international colloquium recently celebrated in Holguin and the growing world-wide movement behind the Cuban 5. Among other things Jrapko announced an international campaign to make calls, send faxes, telegrams or e-mails to Obama on December 10, the International Day of Human Rights asking him to free the Cuban 5. The evening event concluded with the showing of a brief video of Dolores Huerta, co-founder along Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers Union, where she explains who the Cuban 5 are.

The next two days were taken up with the Labor Conference that focused on issues that affect workers in all parts of the world. The intent of the conference for the last 7 years has been to bring progressive trade unionists from all over the Americas to have an open exchange of ideas.

The Saturday morning session was opened by Ignacio Meneses, co-coordinator of the U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange. 
During the 2 days conference, a number of delegates spoke at different panels, including delegates from the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC) Ermela García Santiago, Hilda Chacón and Magaly Batista Enríquez. Also, the audience heard the intervention of José Humberto Montes de Oca Luna, representantive of the Mexican Electrical Workers union (SME); Larry Holmes from Bail Out the People Movement; Cristina Vásquez, president of Workers United in Los Angeles; Fredy José Franco, general secretary of the Nicaraguan Federation of Teachers of Higher Education; Lucy Pagoada, representing the National Popular Front of Resistence of  Popular of Honduras; Sabrina Green from MOVE and Adolfo Cardona from Sinaltrainal Union of  Colombia. 

Other panelists included Clarence Thomas from the ILWU Local 10 of San Francisco; Ben Prado from Unión del Barrio; Rosie Martínez, leader of the Latino Caucus of SEIU Local 721; John Parker, from the International Action Center; Oliverio Esquivel Reyes, coordinator of the Mexican chapter of the World Labor Federation; Enrique Torres Ponce general secretary of the Independent Union of High School Students of Michoacán, and Teresa Gutierrez from May 1st Coalition of New York.

The weekend-long labor conference was a collective effort of several organizations including US/Cuba Labor Exchange, the International Action Center, the World Labor Federation, Union del Barrio and the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5.

To learn about the latest developments on the case of the Cuban 5

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