Yesterday saw an impressive show of
solidarity for the Miami Five in front of the US embassy at London’s
Grosvenor Square. About five hundred people turned up to the annual
candlelit vigil organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in Britain.
Hands Off Venezuela joined the protest, which marked the 10th
anniversary of the arrest of these five courageous men.
10 years ago these five Cubans were
arrested in the United States not because of terrorism, but because
of opposing terrorism. Since the existence of the Cuban Revolution
the campaign of terror on the part of the Miami based
counter-revolutionary Cuban-American mafia has not stopped. The mafia
planned and performed acts of sabotage, assassinations, bomb attacks
and terrorist activities, which had its unfortunate highlight in an
attack on a Cuban airliner in Barbados, in which 73 people lost their
lives. In total more than 3,000 Cubans have died over the last 50
years as a consequence of US-backed terrorism, aimed at the
restoration of capitalism and imperialist rule on the island. The
five Cubans Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón
Labañino, Fernando González, and René González,
infiltrated the extreme right wing of the Cuban-American mafia in
Miami in order to prevent other terrorist attacks from happening. On
September 12th, 1998, they were arrested by the US government under
Since then they have been imprisoned in
a cruel and unjust manner. René González and Gerardo
Hernández have not been allowed to receive visits from their
wives for 8 and 10 years respectively, because they have been denied
visas to visit their husbands. Although there had been solid
arguments in favour of their innocence, the 11th Circuit Court of
Appeals in Atlanta has just recently ended their appeal to review the
case and it upheld the convictions against all five Cuban fighters.
As the sun set yesterday more and more
people gathered in front of the US embassy listening to fourteen
speakers, including Tony Woodley (joint general secretary of Unite,
UK’s largest union), Norma Stephenson (UNISON president), Rob Miller
(director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign), and many other trade
unionists and social activists. In total 25 trade unions are
affiliated to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in Britain, which
represent 95% of workers organised in unions. Many of the speakers
said they had the honour to speak directly to the Miami Five, and
since then have never stopped in campaigning for their release.
Earlier in the day a high level delegation handed in a petition with
over 14,000 signatures to the US Embassy calling for visiting rights
for the wives of five Cuban nationals and asking for justice for the
A very moving moment was when Olga
Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, the two wives who have been
denied visas to visit their husbands since the frame-up trial, came
on the stage. A message they had prepared was read out to the crowd:
"In the name of the
families of the Miami 5 we want to express our thanks one more time
for all the activities that you are carrying out to help us obtain
visas to visit our husbands. This vigil is just one example of the
value, persistence and unity of members of the Cuba Solidarity
Campaign and British trade union movement on our behalf. The day that
we are united with our husbands in Cuba and regain our happiness we
will remember with gratitude all the efforts that you made to help us
achieve that joy. We need the support you give us and one day,
together with you and with the Five, we will celebrate our victory.
"Freedom for the
The two women had already addressed a
fringe meeting at this year’s Labour Party conference in September
to mark the 10th year of their husbands’ arrests. With almost 350
people attending, including trade union leaders, MPs and members of
the Labour Party national executive committee, it was one of the
largest fringe meetings of the entire conference.
Gerry Fernandez, international director
of the United Steel Workers, came over from the US especially for the
Miami Five solidarity events in Britain. He pointed out that the "US
government said the Miami Five are a threat to the security of the
US, but it is Wall Street which is a threat to our security".
Referring to the anthem he closed his speech with "we are the land
of the free" – but you couldn’t miss hearing the sarcastic tone.
The moderator thanked Gerry and said that his visit is also a good
indication of the improving relations of British unions with the
unions across the Atlantic.
Afterwards a letter of one of the
imprisoned, Gerardo Hernández, was read out. He thanked
everybody who was involved in tireless campaigning for their release
and that he can count on our solidarity in the future:
recently mentioned that now the Supreme Court has the last word. I
would say, the second-to-last word. The final word in the case of the
Cuban Five rests with you, our sisters and brothers of Cuba, the
United States and the whole world, who throughout all these years
have been our principal source of encouragement. Our hopes are not
placed in any court. Ten years are more than enough to have cured us
of any such naïve notion.
"You are our
hope, who through sacrifice and swimming against the current, have
succeeded in making people on all continents aware of the injustice
committed against the Five. You are the ones who are not taking time
out or resting in your homes but instead are honouring us with your
presence in different activities, commemorating the 10th anniversary
of our imprisonment.
"We know that
right is on our side, but to win true justice we need a jury of
millions of people throughout the world, and we need you, defenders
of just causes, to make our truth known."
The letter continues:
"Ten years after
that September 12, 1998, we thank you once again for walking this
long and rough road together with us. We know, that to continue this
march, we can keep counting on you, and you can also always count on
our firm determination to resist, with our heads held high, for as
long as it takes. ¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!" (Read the
Then the crowd started to shout for a
few minutes: "Justice now! Free the five!" We will definitely not
tire of fighting for justice and to broaden the support for the
release of the Miami Five.
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