Two proud daughters of Cuba addressed large responsive crowds from Victoria to Halifax during a major cross-Canada tour this fall. They spoke about the successes and problems of their country and they appealed to Canadians as friends of Cuba and partners of the USA to join the Campaign to FREE THE CUBAN 5 .
Eighteen year Irma, the daughter of Rene Gonzales, one of five men jailed in the USA, spoke in clear composed English, learned when she and her family lived in Miami, Florida for three years. She talked about the plight of her father, one of the five men who lived and worked in the USA now in USA prisons after receiving15 years to two life sentences. Irma has dedicated her young life to seeking justice for her father and his associates.
The supposed crime of these men was monitoring violent right-wing groups in the USA that plan and commit acts of terrorism against Cuba and Cubans elsewhere. These groups are clearly breaking USA law that prohibits its territory and citizens from using the USA to attack another country. These groups include the Cuba American National Foundation (CANF) that receives million from private and government donors. It supported the Helms-Burton Bill that penalizes any company from any country that does business in Cuba. This group also contributes millions to political campaigns of the last three USA Presidents; it is openly supported by Governor Bush and President Bush. CANF is connected to terrorist groups that bomb and kill people in USA and Cuba, blow up airplanes and bomb Cuba embassies abroad.
Irma’s father and Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, and Fernando Gonzales were monitoring the illegal activities of these USA-based groups. In fact, they passed on information to the FBI, so their presence was not a secret. They were not spies on the USA, but on criminal groups. Their gleaned information helped prevent bomb and murder attempts as well as revealing the terrorists’ connection to drug trafficking.
The men were arrested in 1998 and charged with espionage and murder. They were held for 17 months in solitary confinement – itself a violation of USA law- and finally went to trial in hostile Miami instead of a neutral venue as requested by lawyers. During that time lawyers access to their clients was illegally restricted, few family visits were allowed. Irma’s then pregnant mother was arrested, jailed and deported back to Cuba; she can not get a visa to visit her jailed husband or take his new daughter to visit him. Irma has seen him recently and is his voice to the world. Meanwhile the men are in a California prison serving long and life sentences without parole for convictions of espionage and conspiracy, although even the prosecution admitted, the evidence was flimsy. The Cuban 5 have maintained that they only monitored illegal groups and reported their activities.
In February, 2004, there will be an appeal trial and international support is needed to help that process and ensure a fair trial this time.
Dr. Aleida Guevara March, a paediatrician in Havana, said that she was proud to be the daughter of a famous revolutionary, but she is also proud to be a daughter of Cuba, the homeland of her mother. Dr. March spoke of the great progress in healthcare in Cuba, where the infant mortality rate has deceased by a factor of ten from 1958 today. This, she said, despite Cuba being a poor country and subject to 40 years of economic blockade. Her own clinic has 50 year old refrigerator held together, she says, by wire, screws and Cuban ingenuity.
She said Cuba is far from perfect, but when she compares the lives of Cubans with free universal medical care, education and social security to that of people in neighbouring countries, she is proud of Cuba’s accomplishments and Cuba is almost perfect. Cuba’s crime is the commitment to live a socialist revolution, to live a different way where the people own the resources. Just imagine, she says, if Africans owned their own resources and could sell them for a decent price so Africans could live in dignity – then the capitalist world would suffer and that will not be allowed. That is why Cuba is under constant attack – it is a model for the rest of the world and that is dangerous for capitalism.
Note: Canada is the only other country in this hemisphere with anything close to universal healthcare and a record close to Cuba’s infant mortality rate. As our health service is being undermined, under funded and privatized we should look to Cuba for a model that even this rich country of ours could afford. TW
Dr. March can take time from her practice to go on tour because Cuba has many doctors; one doctor for 140 citizens. She also worked in Nicaragua during the Sandinista era when that country was under attack by USA-backed Contras while Cuba, a poor country of ten million, has had to continually defend itself, and maintain its progress against many attacks of terrorism and the effects of an economic blockade, extended around the world.
She spoke of poisoned pigs, the introduction of dengue fever and the water of a kindergarten also poisoned by USA terrorists. Many Cuban embassies have been bombed abroad, bombs in Cuba have killed innocent people, including a Canadian tourist; planes have also been blown up by terrorists. She proclaims the right of Cubans to defend the lives of its people from such actions. The Cuba 5 were working in the USA to protect Cubans from these illegal acts. They have sacrificed their lives and their family life to service of their fellow Cubans. Every Cuban thanks them for their sacrifice – for their love.
She urged Canadians to defend the Cuban right to justice. Both speakers call on Canadians to help FREE THE CUBAN FIVE. Here are ways we can help.
Sign the petition at www.freethefive.org/pdf/petition.pdf
Call or Fax President George W. Bush.
Demand that he Free the Cuban 5.
ph. 202 456-1414
fax 202 456-2461
For more information and action contact: The National Committee to Free the Five .