5 DAYS FOR THE CUBAN 5
International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5
Photos: Bill Hackwell
The concept behind the 3rd Five Days for the Cuban 5 was not just to do it out of habit because we had done it for the past 2 years. Rather, it was organized with the intention of broadening awareness at a time when more people are adding their voices to the call for a change in U.S. policy — from one of endless hostility to one of engagement without preconditions. We have listed here a few of the achievements of the activities that took place during the 5 days that reflected a qualitative change in the work to end the injustice that has gone on for way too long.
The remarkable aspect of the press conference organized by the National Press Club was that it was the first time a mainstream media organization had held a press conference with the central theme being the case of the Cuban 5. The two keynote participants were the leading attorney of the case, Martin Garbus and Stephen Kimber, the Canadian journalist and author of “What Lies Across the Water: the Real Story of the Cuban 5.
This newsmaker’s event set the tone for media coverage during the 5 days that surpassed anything like it in the past. For over 15 years media coverage of the Cuban 5 had been relatively obscure. Organizers of the 5 days were told that for days the events for the Five become the top story of the Senate’s internal news service that highlights the topical news of the week.
The links below represent a sampling of articles that were generated from the interest shown for 5 days for the Cuban 5. Telesur and HispanTV also covered a good number of events. In addition, news about the week of activities traveled around the world through social media networks like never before. The blog 5daysforthecuban5.com became an organizing tool that was visited by thousands and thousands more endorsed the 5 days on the site.
New Era in U.S./Cuba Relations
The 2-day conference was different than others in the past in that it included speakers who represented a broader spectrum of perspectives on U.S.-Cuba relations. Some of these voices have recently written articles calling for the Obama administration to change course in respect to Cuba and also urged that a humanitarian solution in the case of the Cuban 5 be found. The panels and speakers came from various parts of society including, legal, religious, academic, journalistic, military, cultural, humanitarian, as well as political prisoners, and activists in the struggle to free the Cuban 5.
The significance of the Dead Prez concert is that it marked the first time that an entertainment group of national and international popularity performed a concert that had a theme specifically calling for the freedom of the Cuban 5. The intention of this concert was to take the case of the Five to a younger audience who previously had not been exposed to the injustice committed against the Five.
Since 2012 the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 has organized 4 rallies in front of the White House. The difference in the one held on June 7, was that the large gathering of more than 500 people enabled the organizers to take the rally and turn it into a formidable march to the Justice Department. Earlier the same day an important and creative activity took place when close to 30 delegates took to the streets of Washington DC on bicycles to call attention to the case of the Cuban 5. Participants included members of the Vancouver delegation, ELAM students and other supporters. After stopping at historical sites around the city they joined the rally in front of the White House.Homage to Orlando Letelier
The only reason that the Cuban 5 came to the U.S. was to expose terrorist activities being organized in South Florida intent on harming innocent people in Cuba and in the United States. To highlight and justify the work of the Five, a moving ceremony took place at the exact spot in Sheridan Circle where former Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Orlando Letelier and his assistant Ronni Moffitt had been assassinated in 1976 by a terrorist bomb planted in their car. That despicable act was planned and carried out by the same terrorist organizations that continue to exist in Miami under the complicity of previous and current US administrations. At the plaque honoring his father, Francisco Letelier, son of Orlando, described how that event forever changed the lives of his family.
On Sunday June 8, a lobby orientation took place outside of Washington at Casa de Maryland in Hyattsville. Once a slave plantation, this community center now provides services to the large Latino community that lives nearby. Close to 100 people gathered to prepare and get an orientation for the lobby activities they would be engaging in the next 2 days. After the orientation, parliamentarians from other countries and the Mayor of Richmond California had the opportunity to share with the audiences their own experiences and their connection to the case of the Cuban 5. The event resulted in a great display of solidarity from all corners of the world that expressed the reasons why the case of the Cuban 5 is important to them and why they had traveled long distances to be in Washington for the events.
Visits to Capitol Hill
On June 9th and 10th participants took our message to the U.S. Congress in well-orchestrated lobby activities. A total of eight parliamentarians, six from Latin America and two from Europe participated in this legislative effort. Elected officials included Armando Aguilar, National Assembly of Ecuador, Damián Alegría and Manuel Flores, legislators from El Salvador, Hugo Gutierrez congressman from Chile, Renato Simoes, Brazilian legislator, Araceli Ferreyra, National Deputy of Argentina, Azize Tank of the German Bundestag and British MP George Howarth.
More than 60 people, representing 19 countries were broken into teams and collectively visited 65 Congressional and Senate offices during the 2 days. Eight meetings were conducted between parliamentarians and members of Congress; 32 were held with Congressional staff and 25 with Senators’ staff. In addition, informational packets on the Cuban 5 were delivered to another 40 Congressional offices.
In our meetings, we found a much higher level of consciousness about the Cuban 5 than last year, as well as a deeper willingness and commitment in some key offices to get involved in working towards a humanitarian solution for their release.
One of the last events of the 5 Days for the Cuban 5 was a Teleconference between Havana and Washington that featured Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez, the two members of the Cuban 5 now back in Cuba, after having served their entire sentences. Their counterparts in Washington were a small number of guests including Ignacio Ramonet, the Mayor of Richmond California Gayle McLaughlin, Attorney Jose Pertierra, and Alicia Jrapko U.S. Coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5.
The 5 days for the Cuban 5 ended with a cultural event at the Venezuelan Embassy’s Bolivarian Hall. The event provided the perfect opportunity to reaffirm our solidarity with Cuba and the Five. Many delegates were able to reflect on their experiences in Washington and to express their determination on how they would continue the struggle when they returned home.