In an unusual amount of media coverage about the case of the Cuban 5, journalists from print media, radio and TV came to the courtyard of the Hotel Palacio Azteca in Tijuana Mexico to hear from Rosa Aurora Freijanes, wife of Fernando Gonzalez, one of the Cuban 5 unjustly incarcerated in the U.S.
Covering the August 16, press conference included the mass media outlets of Border Agency News (AFN), the Universal, Reuters, Channel 12 and Cable Channel 21, Televisa, Telemundo and Uniradio.
On that same day Cable Channel 21 did a long segment with Rosa Aurora Freijanes for the popular program Sintesis. And in the evening Freijanes and the Coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 from the United States, Alicia Jrapko, were interviewed live for an hour by a local TV channel and radio 10.30 AM La Tremenda on their program Politicos y Politica. In addition, a Mexicali radio station XAA 1340 AM, covered the presence of Rosa Aurora Freijanes and the case of the Cuban 5 in the program “En la voz de Indira”.
It is important to note that Tijuana television and radio programs are heard not only in Baja California but also on the American side of the border.
The next day articles with titles such as “Wife of one of the Cuban Five travels to solidarity event in Mexico”, “A call is made in Tijuana for the release of Cuban prisoners in the U.S.”, “Request is made in Tijuana for the release of Cuban prisoners in the U.S.” could be seen in newspapers along the busiest U.S./ Mexican border.
While the presence of Rosa Aurora Freijanes managed to attract a good number of local media, and the coverage was in general positive, media corporations showed that no matter which side of the border they are on the media silence applies in both cases. For example Freijanes was interviewed for almost an hour by the Telemundo television channel, but the good intentions of the interviewer was not enough to broadcast the interview that would be seen in South Florida, where the headquarters of Telemundo is located. As has been the case many times before with CNN in Spanish, Telemundo has also chosen to continue the silence of the case of the Cuban 5.
On August 17, as part of the Ninth U.S./Cuba/Mexico/Latin America Labor Conference, a public event in support of the Cubans 5 took place. The night was full of determination and emotion; besides Rosa Aurora Freijanes, U.S. pacifist Cindy Sheehan and Cristina Vazquez of Workers United and the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) also intervened by giving strong talks calling for the freedom of the Cuban 5, who are heroes in their homeland.
To start the event, Gloria Verdieu, an activist from San Diego, California, who is involved in the struggle for political prisoners, spoke about the unjust justice system of the United States, and referred specifically to a number of recognized political prisoners such as Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal among others. Peltier has remained in prison for 35 years while Abu-Jamal has already been 30 years in prision.
Cristina Vázquez mentioned the various actions that have been carried out for the Five within the U.S. labor movement, giving a special emphasis on the distribution of materials on the case to more than 2000 delegates at the National Conference of SEIU in Denver, Colorado, last May.
Cindy Sheehan for her part explained how over the years she became closer to the relatives of the Five and shared with the audience her experience last year in Holguin during the VII International Colloquium in support the Cuban 5 Heroes. It was there where Sheehan presented to the mothers of the Five a necklace that her son Casey, who was killed in the U.S. war against Iraq, gave to her before he left. Visibly emotional, Sheehan said that she gave the mothers of the Five her most precious treasure, not as a gift, but as a loan until the Five return to Cuba.
Then the audience viewed Esencias; the documentary of La Colmenita’s tour of the U.S. last October. Participants were particularly moved when they saw Rene Gonzalez hugging the young Cuban actors during a surprise visit before they were to return home. Gonzalez was released in October of last year after serving his unjust sentence, but has not been allowed to return to his country and is now serving 3 additional years of supervised probation.
Alicia Jrapko spoke about the international solidarity with the Five and the activities that the committee was planning for September marking the 14th year of the imprisonment of the Five. The final speaker of the evening was Rosa Aurora who touched all those present when she explained the difficulties faced by the family after so many years away from these men who left their personal aspirations to defend an entire people against terrorism. Freijanes asked the public what would have happened if a group of men had found out about the planning of the attacks against the Twin Towers in New York and warned the government of the United States, preventing so much pain and death. “Surely these people would have received a medal of honor for doing precisely what the Five did.” At the end of her talk, she called the audience to join in this just cause for the return to Cuba of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René.
Coincidentally on Saturday August 18, Rosa Aurora’s husband Fernando was celebrating his 49th birthday far away from everything he loves. That night, participants of the event sang the popular “Mañanitas” to him with the hope that Fernando will be celebrating his next birthday with Rosa Aurora and the rest of his family in Cuba.
The next 2 days the Labor Conference U.S./ Cuba/ Mexico / Latin America took place with the participation of an important delegation from the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), the World Federation of Trade Unions and trade union delegates from the United States and Mexico.