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      Speech By Cuban 5 Hero Gerardo Hernández in Vancouver!

      "Solidarity was very important not only to free the 5, your solidarity was also important to let the 5 resist"

      I feel so honoured today becuase among the many things you could be doing tonight, you chose to be here with us. Thank you very much and thank you to those people that have been standing there for so long.

      I was sitting there looking at this photo [points at photo of all the Cuban 5 together at concert in Havana], it was taken on December 20th, 2014. We had arrived to Cuba on the 17th, and Silvio Rodriguez had already planned a concert… big hand to Silvio [crowd applauses for Silvio]... Silvio already had planned a concert outside a Havana stadium, as part of a tour he was doing through the country, he didn’t know, of course, that the 5 would be coming. When we found out about the concert, we said: “Let’s go there!” so we were sitting there, and I can tell you, it was a very important and emotional moment for the Cuban people. You could feel the emotions there. We were sitting and then Silvio, called us up to be with him for a couple of songs. And if you see, I’m not looking down there, I’m looking way up because it was more than 50,000 people that day and many things crossed my mind in that moment. And you have to believe me if I tell you that in that moment you guys were in my mind as well [applause]. I knew that if I was living that beautiful moment, that happy moment it was thanks to the many efforts of friends like you that made it possible.

      Remember, I was sitting in a maximum secu- ...YOUR SOLIDARITY WAS ALSO IMPORTANT TO LET THE 5 RESIST" rity prison with 2 life sentences plus 15 years. And I only said that according to the word of the US government, I had to die twice and still have 15 years to go, but you changed those plans [crowd cheers]. You changed those plans. So thank you for being here tonight, It is a huge honor those wonderful words that I hear by the people who stood here before me, thank you all.

      I know that being here tonight its not being with Gerardo Hernandez. I know that being here tonight is being with the Cuban people, being with the Cuban revolution and being with all the progressive forces in this world, they are the vanguards of this world and demonstrate, everyday, that a better world is possible. Thank you very much [cheers and applause].

      I bring the message of gratitude and appreciation for my 4 brothers; Ramón, Antonio, René, Fernando. And I bring the gratitude of families. Many members of our families, or some of them came to Canada through the years. And all time they were here, they came back to Cuba very inspired and very hopeful because of the support that they received from you.

      Now when you’re sitting in a prison cell, serving 2 life sentences and you witness so many awful things as we saw in prison. I was telling a friend not long ago, that when the prisoners found out that I had been in the Angola war, some of them came amazed and asked me:
      - “hey, excuse me... I heard that you were in the war in Angola.”
      I said: “yeah.”
      - “It must have been difficult”
      - I said “well, you know what, I have never seen people getting killed in Angola. I’ve seen so many people getting killed here in prison that it’s unbelievable.”

      Of course we didn’t talk about that with our families to not worry them. We didn’t talk about that with anybody but people think because we were political prisoners, they put us in different places, not together with criminals. But, that’s wrong. We had to share rooms with killers, and drug dealers and drug users, and we saw many people loose their lives. I remember one of the latest was when my young friend 32 years old. There are some comrades here from El Salvador, I remember Walter Hernandez, Salvadorian young guy, killed himself. I mention those names not only to remember them but also for you to know that I’m not creating stories when I tell you this. There was 16 years, and each year, 365 days by 24 hours that we had to resist inside there. And “how you did it?” People ask. Well, we did it because we were inspired and we drew strength from the example of the Cuban people, for the example of resistance and resilience of the Cuban people. But we also did it because of the example of friends and comrades like you that we knew were fighting out there for our freedom. And for that we thank you as well [applause].

      The solidarity was very important not only to free the 5, your solidarity was also important to let the Five resist every single day and every single hour in prison. Thank you once again brothers and sisters.

      Some people have said to me “well, we did what we could but at the end you’re free, thanks to the negotiations.” Don’t make that mistake! There would have been no negotiation if we were 5 unknown people that nobody cared about. If there was a negotiation, it was because the US knew about Cuban 5, and we were getting uncomfortable for them. And it was because Cuba cares about the Cuban 5. And the Cuban people care about Cuban 5. And you, brothers and sisters, care about the Cuban 5. The empire knew that. Ask the people of the U.S. Consulate here if they knew about the Cuban 5. I guess when they heard we were released they we’re like “yay!” [crowd laughs] But guess what… the struggle goes on. And there’s gonna be people there, because the same way I’m here tonight celebrating the freedom of Cuban 5 with you all, Iwant to be one day here with you celebrating the end of the blockade against Cuba [cheers and applause]. I’m inviting myself! I’ll be here on that day!

      Remember what I told you, remember! And guess what… if one day, the blockade is lifted, we’re going to have to continue the fight, so they won’t put in place, any time, for no body, no more blockades! We cannot rest.

      They’ve been talking about normalization now of the relation between Cuba and the US. But it’s a long way to go. We cannot talk about normalization while the blockade is still in place [applause]. We cannot talk of normalization if Guantanamo is still illegally occupied by the US [applause]. We cannot talk about normalization if the US continues to spend millions of dollars in regime change plans or whatever they call it to subvert the Cuban government and the Cuban order [applause]. We cannot talk about normalization when the US doesn’t compensate Cuba for the loss of lives and for all the economic damage of more than 50 years of blockade [applause].

      So, there’s a long way to go. But we are, of course, on the right path, because remember, some people have dared to say, our enemies of course, that Cuba is giving up because we are talking with the US. But you guys have good memories and I’m sure you remember the time when the US presidents, and Vice Presidents and Senators and congress people and candidates and many others, everybody used to say we have nothing to negotiate with Cuba if the Castro’s are in power. We have nothing to talk to Cuba if the revolution is still in place. We have nothing to talk to Cuba if they don’t renounce this and that, if they have only one party, if they don’t make free elections with out our receipts and so on and so on. But guess what… none of that has happened! And they negotiated with Cuba! Whose victory is that!? [cheers and applause]. Last time I checked, the president of Cuba is Raul Castro, and the leader of the Cuban revolution is still alive, Fidel Castro, so the Castro’s are in power! [crowd shouts “Viva Fidel!”, Viva Raul!].

      And on the other hand, Cuba has been saying the same for more than 50 years; “we’re willing to talk to anybody, we’re willing to negotiate with anybody, but on the basis of mutual respect, from equal to equal. We’re not second to anybody. We’re a small country, but we are as sovereign and as independent as any country in the world. And you have to respect that [applause]. And that’s exactly what happened; we have not renounced one single of our principles. Of course we know there are dangers involved in all these processes and you can be sure that we Cubans are not naive. We know of all those dangers. There are risks involved. We believed that we are prepared to take those risks and you can be sure that we, Cubans, know very well who our real friends are! [cheers and applause]

      We know very well how we like the Cuba of the future to be and not to be! We know where we want to get at. So you don’t have to worry about that. You can keep counting on the solidarity of the Cubans. You can keep counting on the revolutionaries in Cuba. We will never let our friends down. You can be sure of that, because of course, I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you how the Cuba of the future will look, but I can assure you the 5 are not 5 people created in a laboratory, the 5 are not an experiment. There are many people in Cuba like the 5. And there are millions of people in Cuba willing to do whatever it takes so the Cuba of the future won’t be like what many people in the US want. Maybe I shouldn’t say many. They’re not that many but they are the powerful ones because I know that the minority of their own people are aware that most Americans would like to have a normal relations with our country. And that applies to the minority of the Cubans living in that country. But there’s a saying that the people who got the power, got the resources, that had all plans in mind. And they might see an opportunity to achieve through this new relationship what they haven’t been able to achieve through 50 years of aggression and terrorism and blockade and so on. We know that. We are taken those risks because we trust in the Cuban people. And we ask you to trust in the Cuban people and the Cuban revolution. We know what we are doing. You don’t have to worry. And that’s right, maybe Havana will be a little more packed if the Americans go there, but there’s room for everybody, so don’t worry about it [crowd laughs].

      We will never forget that when bombs were exploding in hotels, Canadians were there. They were not scared. When they were threatening people, with this and with that and wanted to depreciate the Cuban economy, Canadian people were there. When the US back in 1962 basically blackmailed the whole region and forced the whole region to break relations with Cuba, only Mexico and Canada where there. And Cubans never forget that. So, I thank you for this extraordinary opportunity you gave me tonight. I remember when I was sitting in prison that I received many, many letters from Canada, from Vancouver. I was telling some of you last night that I knew many of your faces that’s why many friends sent me photos in the letters because I knew how encouraging it was for the 5 to see people picketing outside, to see people struggling outside for our freedom. So I hung those letters, right there on the wall of my cell. The guards painted a square like this [Gerardo opens his hands 1 meter afar moving them to form a square] with different columns, just to teach us that there was the only place that we could post cards. And prisoners put the photos of their families, half naked women, all that you could imagine, but what I did was to fill that place with photos of friends around the world doing something for the 5. I got photos from London, from California, Seattle, Washington, and I certainly had photos from Vancouver there [crowd cheers and applause]. And I saw your faces everyday, that’s why I remembered. And I tell you, every morning, when I woke up, some times I use to dream that I was in Cuba, and it was very hard to wake up and open my eyes, I was like: “shit, I’m in prison.” But when I looked to my left, to those photos, and I said to myself, come on, get up, you cannot let those people down. They won’t let you down, but you Gerardo, you can’t let them down. Wake up and face the next 24 hours with the same spirit of the Cuban revolution and with the spirit of those friends out there, who strongly are fighting for you! [crowd cheers and applause]

      That’s how much you helped the Cuban 5! I know you have an idea of how much you helped the Cuban 5, but believe me, you still much you helped us. Not only our freedom but our resistance.

      In one of the worst moments I had in those 16 years, was when it was back in 2003, they took me once again to the hole (solitary confinement). We were use to the hole already after having spent almost 20 months there. But this time the orders from who knows who, were that we had to be in complete isolation, no contact with any human being except the guard that took the food to me. So, the hole was not enough because there were people cleaning our prison and they could talk to you and say things. So they took me to a section that prisoners in there used to call it ‘the cage’. It was in the basement below the hole, just 10 cells with double doors. The first door bars with a plastic screen so you couldn’t speak to anybody and a space like this [again, he opens his hands almost a meter apart and forms a tall but very small space] and a metal door. Oh man, when they closed that you were completely isolated. You wouldn’t know if it was day or night. They got me there wearing just underwear, no shoes, light on 24 hours, no reading material, no writing material. I remember there was a Colombian guy, another prisoner that was the one that cleaned the floors. And the people in the other 9 cells had the middle door open, so they could at least chat with one another, and this guy comes cleaning everyday and goes there and says: “hey buddy, how you doing? You need something? Keep up” whatever… I used to listen to his voice. He’d get as close as possible to my cell, and be like: “hey you, the one in the last cell. I’m sorry man, I can’t get closer to you. The guards are watching me. They told me I could not be closer to you.” And one day when I was in the yard after all that finished I listened to the same voice and I called him saying:
      -“are you Colombian?”
      - “Yes”
      - “You were the person who cleaned the cage?”
      - “Yes”
      - “Oh, I was the one in the last cell”

      And I tell you to have an idea of how they behaved with the 5, without having committed a single disciplinary record. In that cell, in a very old facility, when the guy in the cell on top flushed the toilet, dirty water used to run through my wall [crowd gasps]. And the plan was to have me there for one year, under something called S.A.M., Special Administrative Measure. One day, they gave me a bunch of paper to sign; no contact with other prisoners, no visitation, no this and this and this… and you’re gonna be here like that and you’re gonna be here for a year and after a year we can check and sign for another whole year. That was the plan. But I received the visit of one lawyer. He told me: “Keep up, keep your strength, there are many people out there fighting for you. There are people in front of the State Department, there are people in front of Justice Department, in front of the Bureau of Prison, there are people in front of many embassies and consulates around the world fighting for you.” Those words were with me during the 30 days that lasted. The only thing that I could do was pace from one wall to the other but I kept thinking about that. I kept thinking about many people like you who were out there and thanks to that I didn’t lose my mind. And thanks to that, what was suppose to last for a year, lasted only for 30 days. And I knew every time you resisted something like that it makes you stronger. Because you said if I resisted that, there’s nothing that I couldn’t resist. And this is one example of how much you helped to the Cuban 5.

      So, don’t be tired, I’m sorry if I made you tired by listening to this. Thank you very much! thank you all! [crowd cheers] on behalf of my four brothers, on behalf of our families, on behalf of the Cuban people, thank you very much! Long live solidarity! [standing ovation]

      Click here for the report from the Gerardo Hernández event in Vancouver

      Click here for the reports from Gerardo Hernández events across Canada

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