December 2011        

7th International Colloquium for the Release of the Cuban Five and Against Terrorism


A four-day conference is hard work; but somehow, when that work is done in a spirit of love and joy, it is energising, not tiring; hopeful, not pessimistic.
     The 7th International Colloquium for the Release of the Cuban Five and Against Terrorism, held on 16–20 November in the eastern city of Holguín, Cuba, more than merits that description. The three hundred participants attending the colloquium, representing forty countries, met for four days to analyse mechanisms for involving more people in the worldwide struggle against the injustice committed in the case of the Five.
     Ramón Labañino, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González were apprehended in 1998 while they were working in the United States to prevent terrorist acts against the Cuban and American peoples.
     Although René, the first of the Five to complete his prison sentence, was released on 7 October this year, he is forced to stay in the United States for three years under supervised release, while his four comrades continue to face lengthy prison sentences of up to two life sentences and fifteen years.
     During the colloquium, relatives of the Five, victims of the sabotage of a Cubana de Aviación plane in 1976 (as a result of which all seventy-three people on board were killed) and activists from around the world got together to denounce the irregularities in the trials of the Five and to condemn Luis Posada Carriles, a terrorist who is walking free in Miami.
     The American pacifist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in the US war against Iraq, and Giustino di Celmo, an Italian citizen who lost his son in a terrorist act in a hotel in Havana, gave their testimonies and opinions too.
     In a poignant moment, Cindy Sheehan gave Mirtha Rodríguez and Magali Llort, the mothers of Antonio and Fernando, respectively, a heart-shaped locket that her son had given her. She told them that she wanted them to have her most prized possession until their sons are back in Cuba.
     In the final declaration of the colloquium, delegates agreed to intensify actions in favour of the cause of the Cuban Five, especially in the United States. Among the fifteen points made in the declaration, delegates committed themselves to working hard to counter the silence from television and radio stations and newspapers about the case.
     It was also strongly recommended that the report on the Five recently issued by Amnesty International be used as a reference at every opportunity. In particular, copies of this report must be circulated to members of the US government. The same applies to the decision made by the UN Group on Arbitrary Detentions.
     An international conference must be organised in Washington, attended by American personalities as well as representatives of other countries, to require President Obama to
• exercise his executive prerogative and release the Five,
• end the genocidal blockade against Cuba, and
• respect the will of the peoples around the world.
     Though there were many serious and sad moments during the colloquium in Holguín, we came away feeling inspired and reinvigorated to continue with the struggle for their freedom.
     Volverán! They will return.
[BD]

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