“We have lived truly difficult moments, lockups in cells of hellish punishment for prolonged periods (something that, in spite of being against every human right, is becoming more common in this country), violation of our legal and constitutional rights, lies, distortions, infamies. But always the unity of everyone, human solidarity, the affection of the peoples, the love of humanity, have been our light and strength to overcome every obstacle and continue forward” wrote Ramon Labanino, one of the Cuban 5 heroes, from the confines of his jail cell on September 12th 2012: the 14 year anniversary of their unjust imprisonment. Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and René Gonzalez, known to the world as the Cuban 5 heroes, were wrongly accused, convicted and unjustly imprisoned in the U.S. for peacefully defending their people against Miami-based terrorist groups responsible for the deaths of over 3,400 civilians in Cuba. Four of the 5 unjustifiably remain behind U.S. bars today, while Rene Gonzales who was released from prison last year for having completed his sentence, is being forced against his will to remain on parole in Florida for three years without being allowed to return to his homeland and visit his family in Cuba. After these 14 years of being unjustly kept behind U.S. prison bars, the Cuban 5 have not given up hope in the fight for their freedom and the struggle for a better world. Neither will we!
14 years too long! We don’t stop ‘cos we can’t stop!
Inspired by the 5's never ceasing heart and spirit, the Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver and their supporters joined people all over the world, from New York to London to Vienna & Prague, for an international period of action in September to demand the immediate freedom of the Cuban 5 Heroes. Two events were organized in Vancouver By Free the Cuban 5 Commitee, to mark this important occasion.
Picket Action in Front of US Consulate
First, as part of the international “5th of the month for the Cuban 5” campaign, on September 5th peace loving people gathered in front of the US Consulate for the 82nd monthly picket action to free the Cuban 5. Chants of “Hey Obama, Free the Cuban 5 Now!” rang through the city streets of Downtown Vancouver, brightly colored banners and picket signs lined the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Consulate, and information about the case of the 5 was handed out to people passing by. Participants at this month’s picket vowed to continue to return to the U.S. Consulate every month until the 5 are free and reunited with their families in Cuba!
Political and Cultural Forum
Then on September 12th, Joe’s Café on Commercial Drive was transformed to a place of struggle and resistance as peace loving people from across Vancouver gathered together for a special cultural and information night dedicated to the Cuban 5 heroes. International greetings, via telephone and video conferencing, were given from Alicia Jrapko, coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, Heide Trampus, coordinator of the “Breaking the Silence: People's Tribunal and Assembly to Free the Cuban 5” and Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban 5 in the US. Guest speakers included Merli Venegas, Consul General of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Vancouver, Bonnie Hammond, co-chair of the Vancouver and District Labour Council Young Workers Committee, and executive member of CAW local 114 and Tamara Hansen, coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC). Wonderful local musicians Joaquin Ernesto and MX Catracho had the audience singing and clapping as they shared their beautiful songs of love and resistance. The evening came to an end with the Vancouver premier of the film “Esencias”, by renowned Cuban documentary film maker Roberto Chile. Esencias is a heartwarming film that documents a tour of La Colmentia, a Cuban children’s theater company, in the Unites States performing a play that they wrote about the case of the Cuban 5 and the struggle for their freedom.
“The truth must not only be the truth it must be told” – Fidel Castro
The late Leonard Wineglass, a famous social justice lawyer, and lawyer for the Cuban 5 once said that if the people of North America knew about the case of the Cuban 5 they would be outraged by such a blatant injustice and the 5 would not remain in prison for a second longer. These two events for the Cuban 5 in Vancouver inspired participants to redouble our efforts in the education and protest campaign to free the Cuban 5 and participants left with a new confidence that if we are determined, creative and most importantly, if we continue to work together in unity, together we will Free the Cuban 5 Heroes!
For more information about the Cuban 5 or to get involved please visit: www.freethe5vancouver.ca
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