On one afternoon every month, for the last 80 months, the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Consulate in downtown Vancouver has been filled with more then the usual hustle of people going and coming from work. It is here that peace-loving people in Vancouver gather to demand freedom for the Cuban 5, political prisoners held in the U.S. since their arrest in 1998, bringing with them picket signs, banners, and strong voices.
Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, are being held in the U.S. after being convicted in a Miami courtroom on trumped-up charges of “conspiracy to commit espionage” and “conspiracy to commit murder” in 2001. Known as the Cuban 5, these 5 courageous men were in the United States investigating the anti-Cuban terrorist organizations that operate freely in the U.S. These groups, and the U.S.'s covert war against Cuba, have been responsible for the deaths of almost 3,500 people, and wounded over 2,000; using biological weaponry, livestock poisoning and bombings to try destabilize Cuba and overthrow the Cuban government. The work of these 5 anti-terrorist fighters stopped these attacks, and saved the lives of people in Cuba and the U.S., but when they turned over information that they had collected to the U.S. government, the Cuban 5, not the terrorists, were arrested.
It is in the face of this gross injustice that the Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver organized the first picket in front of the U.S. Consulate on Dec. 12, 2005 and and with this same determination came to returned for the 80th picket on July 5th, 2012. Energetic chanting of “Free the Cuban Five Now!” and “The 5 Are Heroes, You Will See – Hey Obama Let Them Free!” filled the air around the Consulate. Rounds of picketing were joined by speeches of solidarity and protest from social justice activists in Vancouver. There was also special greeting from Alicia Jrapko, Coordinator of the International Committee to Free the Cuban 5, who joined the picket over the telephone from Oakland, California.
The 80th monthly picket action marked an important milestone in the campaign to free the Cuban 5 in Vancouver, and one of renewed commitment to the struggle to win their freedom. With each passing month the necessity of international solidarity with the Cuban 5 becomes clearer as the injustices against the 5 continue to pile up. As an example, on July 7th, Gerardo Hernández, who is serving 2 life-sentences plus 15 years in a prison in California, was recently denied a Consular-visit with Cuban officials, and has faced tremendous difficulty in being able to meet with his lawyer to discuss important legal proceedings. Furthermore, Rene Gonzalez, who was released from prison after completing his full sentence last year, is being forced to serve out a 3-year parole in Florida, where his life in under constant threat.
The late Leonard Weinglass, a famous social justice lawyer in the U.S. who worked on the case of the Cuban 5, once explained “Solidarity is a necessity, not to intimidate the court, but to indicate that the world in watching and the law should be followed.” 80 picket actions in front of the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver have shown that the world is watching.
The Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver will continue to return to the sidewalk in front of the U.S. consulate every month until the Cuban 5 are free. The nearly 14 year imprisonment of our 5 heroes has given us all an example of humanity, dignity and strength, and together we know that we will win!
To get involved in the Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver:
For more information about the Cuban 5:
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