From June 4-11th, delegations from Latin America, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean have gathered in Washington DC for the 3rd annual “5 days for the Cuban 5.” Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, also known as the Cuban 5, are five men who were wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and have been serving long unjust prison sentences in the US for the last sixteen years. The “5 days for the Cuban 5” hopes to highlight the injustice of the case as well as the half century of failed US foreign policy and embargo against Cuba.
“We have to demand that this embargo end,” said actor and activist Danny Glover at the first day of the international conference. “Our Cuban heroes (the Five) represent the highest standard of love and commitment to their country,” explained Glover – who is a long-time supporter of the Cuban Five. “When I see the courage of these men, the courage of the Cuban people and the courage of their families and loved ones, it furthers my commitment to their freedom and their eventual return to their homeland.”
Wayne Smith worked for the State Department for 25 years including as Chief of Mission at the US Interests Section in Havana and he is currently the Director of The Cuba Project at the Centre for International Policy. Citing the lack of evidence in the case against the Five and the need for increased awareness of the US-backed terrorist activity against Cuba that the Five where trying to prevent, Smith said at the conference: “Their trial was a farce and it brings shame on the US, and we should take action to correct that and free the three who are still behind bars.”
The Cuban Five had come to Miami to investigate CIA-trained and -backed terrorist groups that were responsible for the deaths of almost 3,500 Cubans, including the 73 people killed on board the Cubana de Aviación Flight 455 which was bombed on October 6, 1976. Speaking at the conference, lawyer José Pertierra explained how the terrorist organization that carried out the bombing confessed the political structure of their organization: which reported directly to both the FBI and the CIA. “The seat under which one of the two bombs was placed was occupied by a nine year old girl named Selena,” said Petierra. “When the bomb hit, she was destroyed, there was no brain left in her skull and her body was torn in half.”
Francisco Letelier is the son of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier who was assassinated on September 26, 1976 on Washington DC’s embassy row. The assassination was linked to the Pinochet regime which was engaged at the time in a US-backed campaign against Chilean activists. Letelier was 17 at the time of his father’s murder. Speaking to the conference audience made up of representatives from over 27 countries, he recalled with emotion how the car he had taken to his high school prom was bombed – severing his father’s legs and causing him to bleed to death. “Two and a half weeks after my father’s murder, the Cuban plane was bombed,” explained Letelier, pointing out that “the Cuban Five are enduring heroes who have spent more time in jail than the career assassins who murdered my father.”
The speakers featured on day one of the conference highlighted the history of US-backed terrorism against Cuba and why resistance like the efforts to free the Cuban Five is needed. Robert Chile’s film on the London International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five was also shown. It featured footage of author Alice Walker speaking about the Cuban Five “whose only crime was trying to protect the ones they love, their families,” she explained while condemning the US. “I know exactly what my country is capable of doing, I’ve seen it.” Former US attorney General Ramsey Clark was also featured in the film where he spoke about the need to right the wrong that has been done to the Cuban Five, “You don’t put people in prison for that if you care about justice; we need to end the injustice by freeing the five and apologizing for what has been done and then sending them home.”
The “5 days for the Cuban 5” runs until June 11th and features a concert “Battle Cry for Cuba and Zimbabwe” by the Hip Hop group Dead Prez on Friday night and a rally in front of the White house on Saturday June 7th at 1pm.