On April 17, 5 days for the Cuban 5 kicked off with a large coordinated lobbying effort to bring the case of the Cuban 5 to as many congressional representatives as possible.
Cuban 5 supporters representing countries from Europe, Canada, Latin America and the United States visited a total of 45 offices on Capitol Hill, including visits to 20% of the US senate.
On the second day, more visits to Capitol Hill took place, at the same time that massive distribution of materials and postering announcing the upcoming activities was happening.
At 2pm, a panel discussion featuring Stephen Kimber, a Canadian journalist and author of a soon-to-be-released book about the Cuban 5 took place. Kimber discussed the material in the book What Lies Across the Water followed by comments by Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban American professor at Denver University. The event was hosted by Wayne Smith, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Kimber surprised the audience with a number of new facts about the case. The audience left with a better understanding of the injustice committed against the Cuban 5.
At 7:00PM, in the Nyumburu Cultural Center of the University of Maryland, the documentary Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up was shown followed by a lively discussion.
In a well attended meeting at a community center in Takoma Park, Maryland, sympathizers and activists, predominately Latinos, launched a new committee in support of the Cuban 5.
The convening of the new committee coincided with the 5 Days for the Cuban 5. The Chief of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, Jorge Bolaños, and José Pertierra, the lawyer who represents the Venezuela government in the case of Luis Posada Carriles’ extradition attended the meeting.
Meanwhile another event at Howard University, attracting close to 100 students, was taking place. The great majority of the attendees were African American students who watched the film, Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up followed by a discussion led by professor of US foreign policy Piero Gleijeses. The well respected academic spoke about the role of Cuba in the liberation of South Africa from Apartheid.
“To struggle for the Five is to struggle for humanity”, said US actor/activist Danny Glover in a very emotional event that defined the 5 days for the Cuban 5 which was organized by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5.
Dolores Huerta was the keynote speaker of the gathering entitled, Obama give me Five! Other panelists included José Pertierra, James Early, Saul Landau, Wayne Smith, Mavis Anderson, Salim Lamrani, Norman Paech, and others. The event was chaired by Alicia Jrapko, U.S. Coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. The audience also enjoyed live music performed by Patricio Zamorano, a Chilean singer, songs by young singer Miyeah Cook and poetry by Abayomi Huria.
In the morning a group of people representing different religious denominations held a meeting to brainstorm about future Cuban 5 work. Present was Joan Brown Campbell, former General Secretary of the U.S. Council of Churches, a representative of the Association of Christian Students, and Rev. Dora Arce from the Cuban Pastoral Platform.
Starting at 1pm people gathered in front of the White House for a historic rally to demand President Obama free the Cuban 5. More than 300 people carrying signs, placards and banners, loudly chanted “Free the Cuban 5 Now!” Four buses came from New York City to participate. Hispan, Telesur and other local media covered the rally. Many tourists who passed by were able to see all the colorful signs and the very diverse crowd that brought the messages to the front door of the White House. For 2 hours representatives of different organizations in solidarity with Cuba and the Five made strong statement demanding their freedom. Many of those attending from the DC area were associated with the Occupy movement. Nancy Kohn, an organizer with the International Committee, read a letter sent by Gerardo Hernandez thanking every one for their efforts that made the week of activities on their behalf a tremendous success. Gerardo reiterated that it is the united world wide solidarity that is the key to their inevitable freedom.
The closing event for the 5 days for the Cuban 5 took place in the Bolivarian Salon of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Cindy Sheehan explained the reasons why she has joined the struggle for the freedom of the Cuban 5 and expressed her admiration for their families, particularly their mothers. The audience enjoyed two theater plays, The greatest weapon of Cuba, a tribute to Cuban Doctors by Obi Egbuna Jr. and Hemingway Hot Havana, by Brian Gordon Sinclair.
Actions in solidarity with the Five in 45 countries
While the 5 days for the Cuban 5 were taking place in Washington DC, organizations in solidarity with Cuba and the Cuban 5 from all over the world joined the effort with actions in their own countries. In 45 countries supporters of the Cuban 5 organized rallies in front of U.S. embassies, distributed information, held cultural events, etc. That way, all of those who were demanding the freedom of the Five in Washington DC were accompanied by thousands of people from all over the world demanding Obama to free the Cuban 5.
With every action the world-wide movement for the release of the Five gains strength. A new momentum is emerging in this movement and it will not stop until the return of Gerardo, Ramon, Antonio Fernando and Rene to their family and their homeland.
TOGETHER WE CAN DO IT!
International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5
For more information visit: www.thecuban5.org