By the Comité Fabio Di Celmo pour les 5 of the Table de concertation de solidarité Québec-Cuba, January 26, 2013
The exhibition/meeting was jointly organized on January 24 by the local Montreal branch of the CSN (one of the largest Quebec unions) and the Comité Fabio Di Celmo. The goal was to build support for the freedom of the Cuban Five as part of the worldwide effort. The attendees examined and reflected upon the exhibit. Dominique Daigneault, General Secretary of the Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain (CCMM-CSN), the sponsor of the event, said in her introductory remarks that she was moved to see so many people despite the record-breaking close to minus 40 degrees centigrade temperature. (The organizers were hoping for 50 people, but the result was the standing-room only attendance.) She explained how the CSN has been supporting Cuba for a long time, and lately specifically the Cuban Five in their struggle against their unjust imprisonment. The case represents a major injustice and so we cannot forget the Cuban Five. Justice must be rendered by allowing the truth to be known and to not forget who we are dealing with – the United States – where liberty (liberté) equals capitalism.
After the meeting, Daigneault signed the letter containing the signatures of close to 150 Quebec personalities who are in favour of the Cuban Five’s liberation.
Her introduction was followed by a musical interlude and a screening of the video “The Bird and the Prisoner.” American actor Danny Glover outlined Gerardo’s incredible outreach from his prison to save a newborn orphaned bird that had wandered into the prison. This ongoing action, we saw, won the support of the prison population.
The next to speak was the Consul General of the Republic of Cuba in Montreal, Alain González. Through his personal story, he vividly brought to light the terror carried out by the U.S. against the Cuban people. The Cuban people are accustomed to peace and security, which has on many occasions been fractured by U.S.-led terrorist actions against Cuba. As a young student, he learned through the experience of these actions, such as the Havana hotel bombings in the late 1990s in which, as the Consul General said, Fabio Di Celmo, an Italian citizen residing in Montreal, was killed. It is precisely this type of activity that the Cuban Five were intent on stopping by infiltrating terrorist groups in Miami. The student went on to serve his country and is now a young diplomat in Montreal. He specifically pointed out the double punishment carried out by U.S. authorities against Gerardo, who, in addition to serving two concurrent life terms plus 15 years, has been forbidden to receive a single visit from his wife, Adriana Pérez.
Montreal writer and journalist Arnold August, representing the Comité Fabio Di Celmo, read a message sent to the gathering by Gerardo Hernández. In his own name and in the names of Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, Gerardo wrote:
“Brothers and sisters,
Words cannot express how deeply I appreciate the effort of the Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain de la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN-Québec), the Comité Fabio Di Celmo pour les 5 de la Table de concertation de solidarité Quebec-Cuba and all the others who worked to make this exhibition a reality in the important city of Montreal. It is my understanding that all the promotion, explanations of my work and even this letter have been translated into French for the very first time.
It has been humbling to me how many countries these cartoons have been shown in, because they were not made with the idea that someday they would be displayed all together in an art exhibit. As some of you know, I spend a great deal of my time responding to hundreds of solidarity letters and I do this work lacking the material and appropriate conditions of a real artist. I am an art aficionado who draws cartoons out of a necessity to express myself in a certain way. This necessity comes from a desire to send out a message to our people or to express my perspective before different events, such as the birthday of someone we admire or the death of a friend.
Someone once said that “humor liberates” (and if nobody did say that, I will say it now) and for me it is something that “gets us out” for at least a few moments from behind the walls where we have been unjustly imprisoned for almost 15 years. The Cuban Five have been expressing themselves through humor – in this case – or by painting and poetry in the case of Tony, and – although less known – in the paintings of Fernando and the poetry of Ramón and René.
On behalf of all of us, I want to thank you for being here today and for the solidarity that it represents in our struggle for justice. We know that the key to our inevitable freedom lives in that solidarity that continues to grow worldwide.
¡Hasta La Victoria Siempre!
Victorville Penitentiary California
January 20, 2013”
This was greeted by loud applause by the audience, visibly moved by his words. In order to show appreciation to the organizers of the event, August presented plasticized copies of the message to the Cuban Consul General and the representatives of the CSN and Comité Fabio Di Celmo. He then asked, “What more can we do to further the struggle to free the Cuban Five?” In addition to the monthly picket lines in front of the U.S. consulate in Montreal, held on the second Thursday of each month since May 2007, an important activity is being organized in Washington D.C. by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five. These “Days of Action for the Cuban 5” will take place in the U.S. capital from May 30 to June 5, 2013. The highlight will be a demonstration in front of the White House on Saturday, June 1 to demand that President Obama use his constitutional right to pardon the Cuban Five and allow them to return home to Cuba and their families. August, in the name of the Comité, called on all those present to participate in building a delegation from Quebec to go to Washington. After the meeting, many people approached him and the Comité de Fabio Di Celmo literature table to indicate their interest. The success of a delegation to Washington will be, in part, a direct result of Gerardo’s message that touched the soul of the participants. From their cells, the Cuban Five inspire people all over the world, demonstrating their combination of immense courage and sincere humanism.