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Report from International Meeting for the Freedom of the Five

15 YEARS, ENOUGH!

Havana, Cuba September 11-13, 2013

By Nalda Vigezzi

An international meeting was held in Havana, Cuba marking 15 years since the arrest in Miami of the Five on September 12, 1998. The events were sponsored by organizations including the Cuban Institute for Friendship among the Peoples and the International Committee for the Freedom of the Five.  Delegates from 33 countries participated in the conference, with some coming from as far away as Australia and India to express solidarity with Cuba, to share in the demands to free the four Cubans remaining in US prisons, and to acknowledge Cuba’s contributions to humanity.

Nalda Vigezzi participated in all events representing the National Network on Cuba and the International Committee for the Freedom of the Five.  The unofficial opening occurred on Tuesday afternoon, September 10 at the Hotel Nacional of Cuba with the wrapping of yellow ribbons around the palm trees leading to the hotel entrance and a cultural presentation of music and dance on the hotel’s lawn. René González participated in this and all of the week’s other activities, taking time to speak with everyone who brought him good wishes and a welcome home.

On Wednesday, September 11, there was an opening exhibit of Antonio Guerrero’s most recent watercolors:  “I die as I lived”, at the art gallery of the Jose Marti Memorial in Plaza of the Revolution.  .  Words of welcome and thanks for the international solidarity were extended by the vice president of ICAP, Elio Gámez Neyra and by Tony’s sister, Maria.  The exhibit featured not only Tony’s latest works, but a series of photos and images of the campaign to Free the Five including many from actions in the United States. The date, September 11 was also marked by events remembering the Chilean Coup of September 11, 1973.  That evening an unforgettable concert honoring the 5 took place at the Carl Marx theatre and included a range of cultural performances; dance, spoken work, music etc. The theme: Te doy una canción… como doy el amor” (I give you a song … as I give you love) was dedicated to the Cuban Five. The evening opened with a tribute to Ramón Labañino read by his daughter in which she openly worried about his need for medical attention and mobility difficulties due to his confinement in U.S. prisons.

On Thursday, September 12, we woke to a city draped in yellow: trees, homes, offices, taxis, the Alma Mater, symbol of the University of Havana. The working sessions were facilitated by Kenia Serrano, president of the ICAP, and participants, many wearing yellow ribbons, sat in chairs adorned with yellow bows. A moment of silence and words of appreciation and condolence written by Fernando González were offered to Saul Landau.  A letter from Danny Glover was read in which he mentioned his 10 year association with the case and pledged to continue working for the release and return home for the brothers still in U.S. prisons. The families of the 5 were present along with members of the Cuban Political Bureau and diplomatic corps. Analysis and updates of the legal aspect were offered by Ricardo Alarcón and Martin Garbus and the President of the Brazilian Association of Lawyers. Delegates from the US included Cindy Sheehan, Andrés Gomez, and Nalda Vigezzi. Gomez spoke about the atmosphere in Miami where terrorists freely walk the streets while Gerardo and the others are imprisoned.  Vigezzi reported on the recent “5 Days for the 5” in DC, announced next year’s 5 Days for the 5 and also stressed the critical need for intense international pressure on Obama to  free the five. She repeated this theme during the “Mesa Redonda” round table that evening where video of the Washington DC vigil at the White House was also broadcast.

In an emotional presentation, and in the name of all the families of the antiterrorist heroes, Mirta, mother of Antonio, declared that “all are my children.”  Throughout the plenaries, the overwhelming message was the commitment to intensify the struggle and increase the pressure on Obama to release and return all the Five to Cuba.    René González  explained the idea for the yellow ribbon campaign as a demonstration of love and solidarity with the 4 Cubans remaining in jail.  Moreover, he emphasized the need to pressure the White House, Congress, and U.S. policy makers and to expand the work and interact with new audiences.  Analysis and use of social media to reach and influence U. S. public opinion to pressure government officials was made by Raul Garcés of the University of Havana communication faculty.  An exhibition of posters: “15 Years of Struggle against Injustice and Silence” was presented and will remain on public view at the Hotel Nacional.

On Thursday night, it seemed that all Havana turned out for a concert at the José Martí Anti-Imperialist Tribune across from the U.S. Interest Section.  The 4 hour concert was dedicated to the 5 heroes and “15 years enough” conference theme.  René told the huge audience to keep up the struggle while Antonio, Gerardo, Fernando and Ramón all sent audio messages to the concert.  Everyone including the families danced until well after midnight.

On Friday morning, a meeting with Cuban jurists took place where they reviewed and analyzed both the history of the case and terrorism against Cuba and also the history of solidarity beginning with the petition campaign. The final formal meeting included members of UNEAC who as all others emphasized the critical and immediate need to take action to free the five.

The final document and agreements included intensification of efforts directed to Obama to release the remaining four prisoners and allow them to return to Cuba immediately and without conditions; assist the legal campaign both in the U.S. and in other countries; support the International Commission meeting in London in March, 2014; organize for and support the 3rd Five Days for the Five in 2014; increase the work with parliamentarians and U.S. Congressional representatives; continue the actions on the 5th of every  month directed to the White House; involve the trade union movement in the work; continue using social networks; work with young people attending the World Festival of Youth and Students in Quito, Ecuador; work with intellectuals, artists, and the cultural field in the U.S.; promote the yellow ribbon campaign; support the Colloquium in Holguin and the 3rd World Solidarity Meeting in October, 2014; and send messages to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons concerning the urgent need of Ramón Labañino for medical attention.  Finally: “We will work without rest to demand Unconditional Liberty Now! 15 years is a disgrace! 15 years, enough!”

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