“Perhaps the enemies of liberty are such only because they judge it by its loud voice.“
- Jose Marti
Those trying to book a flight into the city of Holguin, Cuba at the end of November often find themselves completely out of luck. Holguin, “City of the Parks”, becomes booked up beyond belief once a year as the International Colloquium for the Freedom the Cuban 5 Against Terrorism turns Cuba's 4th largest city into busy hive of activity. This year more than 344 delegates from 47 countries participated in 4 full days of workshops, strategy sessions, cultural presentations, and solidarity. One could often hear group conversations excitingly taking place in 3 or 4 languages at once, all focused on how to free the 5 Cuban political prisoners unjustly held in the United States. Most importantly, the Colloquium has become a central meeting place to plan and coordinate growing international actions for the Cuban 5 Heroes.
Colloquium for the Freedom of Cuban 5
The 8th Annual Colloquium for the Freedom of Cuban 5 Against Terrorism took place in Holguin despite the fact that the city and several surrounding municipalities had been in the path of Hurricane Sandy as it ripped through the Eastern part of Cuba only one month before. International participants were able to see the incredible Cuban resolve and spirit as they rebuilt their city and their lives, and also how they have applied this to the entire country's fight to have the anti-terrorist heroes returned to Cuba once and for all.
The packed Colloquium program had enthusiastic participation from the residents of Holguin. Nearly a thousand people participated in the opening bicycle ride for the the Cuban 5, while hundreds of Holguin's mothers joined a special session dedicated to the struggle of the mothers and families of the Cuban 5. Participating from the families of the Cuban 5 were Elizabeth Palmiero (wife of Ramon Labaniño), Adriana Perez (wife of Gerardo Hernandez) Irma Sehwerert, (mother of Rene Gonzalez) and Mirta Rodriguez (mother of Antonio Guerrero).
Hundreds of 'Holquineros' participated in the Colloquium's plenary sessions as well, while international delegates were witness to incredible cultural displays of every medium dedicated to the Cuban Five – from opera to quilt making to painting and dance. Taxis would drive by with Cuban Five signs placed neatly in their windows and school classrooms were full of students full of focus as they painted new pieces dedicated to the Cuban 5.
Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People (ICAP)
The Colloquium is organized by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People (ICAP), which is the organization responsible for maintaining relationships with Cuba solidarity organizations on every part of the globe. Many ICAP organizers were present, especially from ICAP Holguin which hosted the event. ICAP President Kenia Serrano Puig was also very active throughout the four days. From the microphone she reminded participants that the fight for the Cuban 5 is connected to every single struggle for justice in every single country around the world, and that Cuba would continue to support these struggles with every ounce of its being, as it always has.
While organizers came from across the globe, the biggest delegations were from Russia, Bulgaria, Italy, Venezuela, Canada, Spain and the United States. Countries like Vietnam, Haiti, Lebanon, and Peru were all represented as well. Besides getting a change to connect and coordinate with other groups around the world, delegates also spent a day touring Hurricane Sandy struck areas and volunteering with the ongoing reconstruction.
Canada had one of the largest number of Colloquium participants, with over 25 people from across the country making the trip. A great step forward was also that the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) had organized to send a delegation of 6 of their union members coordinated by CUPW Union Representative Don Foreman. Quebec was represented by members of La Table de Concertation de Solidarité Québec-Cuba and their Comité Fabio di Celmo Pour les 5.
Representing the Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver and Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) were Nestor Otero and Fire This Time Editorial Board member Thomas Davies. Cuban 5 organizing in Vancouver is becoming well known around the world because of the monthly picket action which the Free the Cuban 5 Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver has organized in front of the U.S. Consulate for 85 consecutive months. The Committee has made a point of organizing a consistent campaign to Free the Cuban 5 and to try and take the case to as many new places as possible.
There was a steady stream of people at the Vancouver table, and over the course of two days they distributed over 750 postcards and 600 buttons demanding, “Free the Cuban 5 Now!” which are part of the Vancouver Committee's ongoing campaign materials. 300 Fire This Time Newspapers were quickly snapped up as well.
Thomas was also one of the final speakers during the closing plenary session, bringing greetings and suggesting that Cuban 5 committees around the world learn from Cuba once again with its campaign to become more productive and efficient, “The more coordinated the campaign to Free the Cuban 5 Heroes becomes, the more productive and efficient it will also become. We are up against the biggest enemies in the world, but we can Free the Cuban 5 Heroes if we all work together!”
Other organizations from around the world are clearly thinking the same way. The Final Declaration of the Colloquium, which was passed unanimously and enthusiastically by all those present laid out a plan of actions for the New Year. This included a point to repeat the very successful “5 Days for the Cuban 5 “ actions in Washington, DC which last year saw organizers from around the world come to Washington, DC for 5 straight days of activities which culminated with a large rally in front of the White House. The International Committee to Free the Cuban 5 has already announced the dates for the second, “5 Days to Free the Cuban 5” which will be May 31st to June 5th.
A Great Success
The 8th Annual International Colloquium to Freedom of the Cuban Five Against Terrorism came to a close on December 1st, and those wishing to fly in and out of Holguin were once against able to do just that. Perhaps one day someone wishing to book a flight to Washington, DC will have difficulty because of the massive numbers of people converging on the U.S. Capital to demand the immediate release of the 5 Cuban Heroes. As the great fighter for social justice Che Guevara once said, “We are realists, we dream the impossible.”
The campaign to Free the Cuban 5 has not grown to that point yet, but the U.S. Government cannot deny that in every corner of the world there are actions demanding freedom for the Cuban 5 Heroes, and the Colloquium in Holguin is playing an increasingly important role in coordinating and focusing them to become more loud and more effective. The Cuban 5 have become the most well known political prisoners on the planet, and we all demand together, “Free the Cuban 5 Heroes NOW!”
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