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      250+ People Join in to Hear
      Cuban 5 Hero Gerardo Hernandez in Vancouver!

      By Noah Fine

      When the decorations were set and doors opened to the conference hall of the Vancouver Public Library, more than two hundred and fifty people made their way in to hear from Cuban revolutionary hero and former Cuban 5 political prisoner Gerardo Hernandez.

      The packed room was filled with energy and anticipation as participants walked through an exhibit of artwork made by Cuban 5 hero Gerardo Hernandez while he spent more than 16 years unjustly held in U.S. prison. So many people wanted signed copies of his artwork that the beginning of the event program had to be delayed to ensure people could get their opportunity and even at that some had to wait till after the event.

      Tamara Hansen, coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) opened the evening as the MC, welcoming everyone and explaining what an honour it is for Vancouver to receive a visit from Javier Domokos, Cuban Consul General in Toronto and one of our 5 Cuban heroes, Gerardo Hernandez. She then got the program started by inviting to the stage Coast Salish indigenous elder, Kelly White who sang the Women’s Warrior Song before performing an aboriginal blanketing ceremony to welcome Gerardo to the unceeded Coast Salish Territory.

      Bob Chamberlin, elected Chief Councillor of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation & Vice President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) spoke next bringing warm greetings to the event and explained many of the struggles facing Indigenous people in BC and Canada today.

      Following Chief Chamberlin there was a cultural interlude in the program as 3 Poets from Proyecto Cultural Sur, Lucy Ortiz, Alejandro Mujica-Olea and Frida Marzolina read poems dedicated to the Cuban 5 and other social justice struggles.

      Many organizations were involved in helping to organize and support Gerardo’s talk in Vancouver. These groups were given the opportunity to give greetings ahead of the main event. Greetings were brought from: ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) – Seattle, Charles Boylan on behalf of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist- Leninist), Katy LeRougetel on behalf of the Communist League in Vancouver, Thomas Davies on behalf of Fire This Time Newspaper, Cindy Domingo on behalf U.S. Women & Cuba Collaboration in Seattle, Garry Owens on behalf of LELO - Legacy of Equality, Leadership & Organizing in Seattle, Colleen Glynn on behalf of Richmond-Centre Federal New Democratic Party (NDP), Azza Rojbi & Noah Fine on behalf of Friends of Cuba Against the U.S. Blockade – Vancouver.

      A very special and warm greeting was given by long-time supporter of Cuba and the Cuban 5, lawyer and former Vancouver City Counsellor, Tim Louis. Tim spoke about the inspiration he felt from the 5 Cuban Heroes to fight on in the struggle for a better world. Wilfredo Perez Bianco, Venezuelan Consul General in Vancouver spoke about the importance of the Cuban 5 heroes for the people of Venezuela, Cuba’s sister nation which since the beginning of its’ revolution has defended Cuba against U.S. hostility especially in the case of the 5 Cuban Heroes. Consul General Bianco also took the opportunity to thank the 5 Cuban Heroes and the people of Cuba for their ongoing and unwavering support of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution.

      Gerardo’s speech, which is printed in its entirety in this issue of Fire This Time, brought all of the more than 250 participants to their feet with huge emotion, applause and chants of “Viva los 5!” and “Viva Cuba!” Gerardo told stories of his time in prison and told how he was encouraged daily to continue the struggle for his freedom as he surrounded himself with photos of the international campaign, especially in Vancouver, demanding his freedom. The ovation continued as Tamara invited to the stage Nino Pagliccia, editor of the book “Cuba Solidarity in Canada: 5 decades of people to people foreign relations” to give a gift to Gerardo, a sweatshirt of a photo of Gerardo and his baby daughter Gema. Tamara closed the event inviting everyone to get involved in Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and the campaign to end the U.S. blockade against Cuba and return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, two of the main highlights from Gerardo’s talk to Vancouver participants.

      Gerardo made his difficult passage through the crowd at the event as supporters surrounded him trying to take photos and have their artwork signed. It was an emotional evening for all those who participated, especially after the great effort and campaign of many Vancouverites who joined some or all of the Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver’s 110 monthly protests until the 5 Cuban Heroes were freed.

      Organizers with Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba & Friends of Cuba Against the U.S. Blockade – Vancouver (FCAB-Vancouver), thanked Gerardo for his amazing visit to BC with the gift of a one of a kind aboriginal wood carved eagle, which represents Honour, Friendship and Peace.

      Click here for Gerardo's Speech at the event in Vancouver

      Click here for the reports from Gerardo Hernandez events across Canada

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