Photos: Bill Hackwell
From May 30th through June 5th, representatives from 22 countries gathered in Washington DC to demand that the Obama administration change its hostile policies towards Cuba and free the Cuban 5, unjustly imprisoned in the U.S. since 1998.
During these days, a number of public events were organized with renowned personalities, including a press conference, a panel about Cuba in Africa and the Cuban 5 in Angola, a meeting of attorneys, a panel of intellectuals, presentations by known authors of newly released books about Cuba and the Five. On June 1st a rally took place in front of the White House followed by an ecumenical-cultural event. There was also a community event, a concert, an event with labor rank and file from the U.S. and abroad, and lobby activities on Capitol Hill. The series of actions ended with a video-conference with participants in Cuba and in the United States and an evening meeting at the Bolivarian Hall.
The second “5 Days for the Cuban 5 in Washington DC started with a press conference that included the participation from Havana via Skype of René González, who is back in Cuba after completing his entire sentence and the additional year and a half he had to spend under supervised probation. Participants in the press conference from the National Press Club in Washington were Wayne Smith, ex-Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana during the Carter administration, Dolores Huerta, renowned leader for the rights of immigrants and farm workers, and Ignacio Ramonet, ex-editor in chief of Le Monde Diplomatique, and author of the book “One Hundred Hours with Fidel”.
On May 30th an event covering the role of Cuba in Africa, and the Cuban 5 in Angola took place at Howard University. Panelists included the Cuban Ambassador in Washington José Ramón Cabañas, the Angolan Ambassador in Washington Alberto do Carmo Bento Riveiro, Eugene Puryear from the ANSWER Coalition, Mary-Alice Waters President of Pathfinder Editorial and Glen Ford, co-founder and Executive Director of the Black Agenda Report.
On June 1st, hundreds of people gathered in front of the White House to demand that President Obama free the Cuban 5. Buses arrived from New York, and an important delegation traveled from Quebec as well as Cubans residing in Miami and many supporters from different cities across the United States.
Also on June 1st, in the evening at Saint Stephens Church, close to 500 people heard the interventions from political activist, author and scholar Angela Davis, Nacyra Gómez Cruz from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Cuba, Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director of the Church World Services, Rev. Edgar Palacios, from the Baptist Alliance, the Cuban Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas and Sofia Clark D’Escoto, ex-First Secretary of the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington DC. The audience was also treated to the music of the DC Labor Chorus and Mighty Gabby, Cultural Ambassador from the island of Barbados, along with poetry by English actor Andy de la Tour.
On Sunday June 2nd, a group of supporters of the Five were welcomed by the Mayor of Takoma Park, Maryland and from there marched through the streets of the city led by the Salvadorian activist Sonia Umanzor demanding freedom for the Five. The march ended at Casa Rutilio for a community event organized by the Takoma Park Committee to Free the Cuban Five.
That same day in the afternoon at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ a cultural event in solidarity with U.S. political prisoner Eddie Conway and the Cuban 5 took place. Welcoming remarks were given by Rev. Graylan Hagler. The audience enjoyed Hip Hop music by Head Roc and the music of Mighty Gabby.
On Monday June 3rd the lobby activities began. A total of seven parliamentarians, six from Latin America and one from Italy participated in this legislative effort; Hugo Gutierrez congressman from Chile, Alejandro Navarro, senator from Chile, Armando Aguilar, congressman from Ecuador, Damián Alegría, congressman from El Salvador, Alba Palacios, congresswoman from Nicaragua, Glauber Braga, congressman from Brazil and the Italian europarlamentarian Gianni Vattimo. A total of 43 Congressional and Senate offices were visited during 3 days. Seven were between parliamentarians and members of Congress, 18 with Congress people’s staff and 18 with Senators’ staff.
Also on the morning of June 3rd an important discussion among attorneys from the U.S. and abroad was convened by Martin Garbus
, a leading attorney for the Five. Other attorneys participating were former Attorney General Ramsey Clark
, Peter Schey
of the Center for Human Rights, Mara Verheydan-Hilliard
of the Partnership for Civil Justice, former Judge Claudia Morcom
, Beinusz Szmukler
from Argentina, Rafael Anglada
from Puerto Rico, Fabio Marcelli
and Tecla Faranda
from Italy, and Patricio Florvilus
from Haiti, among others. Also present at the event were Graciela Rosenblum
, President of the Argentinean Human Rights League and two representatives of Amnesty International
Photo: Sharon Black
At 6pm at the Postal Workers Union Hall, a gathering of U.S. and Canadian labor rank and file took place. The welcoming remarks were by Dena Briscoe, President of the American Postal Workers Union, Local 140. Among the speakers were Denis Lemelin, National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Santos Crespo, Local 372 NYC Board of Education Employees president and others.
One hour later, renowned intellectuals gathered at Busboys and Poets to speak about the Cuban Five. The panel was composed of Ignacio Ramonet, Miguel Barnet, Gianni Vattimo and Cuba historian Jane Franklin. Curator and friend of Cuba, Gilbert Brownstone, opened an art exhibit of paintings by Antonio Guerrero entitled “Yo me muero como viví”, with 15 paintings representing different times in the 17 months that the Cuban Five spent in solitary confinement known as “the hole.”
On June 4th, coinciding with the birthday of Gerardo Hernández
, one of the 5 Heroes of the Republic of Cuba, a panel of authors of recently released books talked about the case of the Cuban 5. Included were Stephen Kimber
, Arnold August
(his book “Cuba and its Neighbours, Democracy in Motion”
, purchase at http://www.democracycuba.com/
) and Fernando Morais
, journalist, writer and ex parliamentarian whose book “The Last Soldiers of the Cold War”
has sold 250 thousand copies in Brazil. Morais announced that the book is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese at www.blitzbookstore.com
. The panel was moderated by Miguel Barnet
, President of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC)
The last day in the morning, a Video-conference took place between participants in Havana and in Washington DC. From Havana, the Hero of the Republic of Cuba René González talked to a live audience participating in Cuba and in Washington DC. Next to René was Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo and Kenia Serrano, President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples. In Havana, Irma Shelton moderated the panel, while in Washington DC, attorney José Pertierra was the moderator. The Washington panel featured Ignacio Ramonet and Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5
The second “5 Days for the Five 5” ended with a broad plenary session where parliamentarians and Cuban 5 supporters share with the audience their plans for future actions in support of the Five. On display was an exhibit of photographs by three young doctors who graduated from ELAM (Latin America School of Medicine in Cuba) depicting their ride through 7 Latin American countries during a 6 month period to raise awareness about the case of the Cuban 5.
A video tribute to the always present Commander Hugo Chavez and the families of the five moved everyone. During the closing event messages of the mothers and wives, Alicia Alonso and recognized Cuban personalities were shown.
The songs of Mighty Gabby closed the evening. More than one hundred postcards “Returning” made by the artist Kcho, Rancaño and René González were signed with messages to be sent to Gerardo and Ramón for their respective birthdays. Ángelo Rivero, Business Attache of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Dr. Rubén Zamora, Ambassador of the Republic of El Salvador and José Ramón Cabañas, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba were all present for the event.
The 5 Days for the 5 brought together personalities and friends of Argentina, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Canada and Quebec, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, United States, France, Greece, Haiti, England, Italy, Ireland, Nicaragua, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Sweden and Venezuela.