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    January 5th - Another Step Forward!
    Vancouver Participates in International Day of Action to Free the Cuban 5 Heroes

    By Noah Fine

    On Saturday January 5th, people around the world took action calling for the freedom of the Cuban 5 political prisoners imprisoned in the U.S. In Vancouver, Canada, supporters of the Cuban 5 gathered in the heart of downtown for the 86th consecutive monthly protest demanding, "Free the Cuban 5 Now!" This also marked the 7-year anniversary of the monthly protest campaign in Vancouver.

    The International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 had also called for a day of social media outreach titled, "Simultaneous Tweets for the Cuban 5". Thousands of people around the world used the social media site Twitter to send and receive messages demanding freedom for Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, the Cuban 5. Many were addressed directly to U.S. President Barack Obama.

    In Vancouver, the Free the Cuban 5 Committee set up a computer at the information table where passers-by and supporters could take part in the "Simultaneous Tweets for the Cuban 5" directly from the streets of Vancouver and the protest itself.

    Participants held signs and energetically chanted slogans in support of the Cuban 5 Heroes. For more than three hours they distributed information about the case of Cuban 5 Heroes and asking those passing by to sign postcards addressed to Obama demanding, "Free the Cuban 5 Now!"

    People also gathered to listen to speakers such as David Whittlesey, a veteran U.S. civil rights activist and now an organizer with the Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver. Sarah Alwell, also an organizer with the Committee, read New Year's greetings written by René González, one of the Cuban 5.

    Alicia Jrapko, Coordinator of the International Committee to Free the Cuban 5, spoke via telephone from San Francisco. She gave an update on the huge international response to the "Simultaneous Tweets for the Cuban 5" campaign and thanked the Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver for organizing the first protest around the world for the Cuban 5 of 2013.

    Next up, Vancouver hip hop artist and Cuban 5 supporter, Joose Justis, performed and worked the chant, "Free the 5!" into every one of his songs.

    Thomas Davies, Executive Committee member of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba, and recent delegate to the 8th Annual International Colloquium to Free the Cuban 5 in Holguín, Cuba, spoke next. Thomas emphasized, "Support for the Cuban 5 has grown in Vancouver as it has in all corners of the world. Let's work together to make 2013 a year to re-double our efforts to Free the Cuban 5!"

    Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver Coordinator, Noah Fine, wrapped up the protest program by reaffirming that the Committee will continue protesting every month until all 5 Cuban Heroes are free and at home with their loved ones in Cuba.

    January 5th was another step forward in the growing international campaign to Free the Cuban 5. The Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver invites everyone to join to be part of this great struggle for the human rights of the 5 Cuban Heroes!

    Who are the 5 Cuban Heroes?

    Cuba has been the target of terrorist attacks organized by groups operating out of Miami, Florida for over 50 years. Those organizations are responsible for criminal acts against the Cuban people such as the bombing of Cuban tourist hotels and the mid-air bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976, which killed all 73 innocent passengers. Over 3,400 people including one resident of Canada, Fabio di Celmo, have been killed in terrorist attacks against Cuba.

    Five Cuban men were sent to Miami to collect evidence on those committing the terrorist attacks. In 1998, after giving the information they had gathered to the FBI, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González were arrested and kept illegally in solitary confinement for 17 months. In 2001, they were falsely accused and convicted in a U.S. Federal Court of "conspiracy to commit espionage" and other fabricated charges. They are currently serving outrageously long sentences including, in the case of Gerardo, a double-life sentence plus fifteen years. Four of the Five unjustifiably remain behind U.S. bars today, while René González, 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.

    The Cuban people and millions around the world are demanding the U.S. government immediately free the 5 Cuban Heroes and allow them to return to their loved ones in Cuba.

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