Update on the struggle to free the five Cubans who are unjustly held in U.S. prison: May 23, 2002

As of today, a date on the court calendar has not been set yet for the appeals of the five compañeros to be heard. The appeals will take place in Atlanta's U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The attorneys are currently preparing the appeals, and discussions are also taking place among the trial/appeals attorneys with other lawyers experienced in various issues to be argued in the appeals.  As was explained in an earlier communiqué, so far the main points of appeals are as follows:

a.On the court's failure to order a change of venue: In such a politically-charged and hostile environment as Miami, the anti-Cuba terrorist capital, it was not possible for the court to meet one of the most basic criteria for a "fair" trial, that of an impartial and unbiased jury, free of pressure from right-wing forces.

b.On Gerardo Hernandez's murder conspiracy conviction, the jury agreed with the U.S. prosecutor's outrageous claim that Gerardo had conspired with Cuba to have the pilots (who invaded Cuban airspace Feb. 24, 1996) shot down in international waters. That was the U.S. contention, that they were deliberately shot down in international waters, thus the U.S. argued against Cuba's rightful claim that it was defending its territorial space when the "Brothers to the Rescue" planes invaded. The jury ignored defense witnesses from the U.S. military, who actually showed that the planes had indeed been in Cuban airspace.

c.On the espionage conspiracy, in which three of the brothers were convicted. The defense will argue in appeals that they never engaged in espionage on the U.S. whatsoever, and that the U.S. government never proved in the 14,000 pages of transcript and 7 months of trial, that the compañeros had engaged in espionage on the United States.

In the meantime, we believe it is of tremendous importance to continue the community support, organizing meetings to spread awareness of their struggle and build more support, continuing the ongoing solidarity work with the 5 compañeros, letter-writing, etc. and media publicity.

May Day in Cuba saw more than 1.2 million people gathered in Plaza of the Revolution to show solidarity with the Five Cuban Heroes, Prisoners of the Empire. The next day in Havana, May 2nd, a special meeting of over 300 international labor and solidarity activists was held. The purpose was to discuss broadening and deepening the support work and campaign to liberate the five. It is understand by all that it is a monumental task to raise national awareness in the U.S. but it is critical to make an all-out effort to do so. We believe that once the U.S. people learn about the case, and the sacrifice the compañeros were involved in to defend their people, they will be supported. The issue is the fundamental right of self-defense against proven and documented terrorism on innocent civilians.

 At the May 2nd meeting, Ricardo Alarcon, President of the National Assembly of Cuba, gave a very important address, describing the outrages involved in the original trial in Miami – from jury selection to verdict and sentencing. He also detailed the continued maneuvers by the U.S. government in trying to prevent justice. The transcript is now being prepared in Cuba.

We expect to have the transcript by June 7. Until we get the transcript of Alarcon's talk, please refer to his address of February 11, 2002, in which some of the same points were made. They are important talking points to raise when explaining the case to the public.

At the end of this communiqué is a detailed list of the five's addresses. You will note that there is a slight change in one or two of their addresses. In each prison there are two post office boxes, one is for employees, the other is for prisoners. Some of the addresses had the post office box of the employees at the prisons, as that is the address provided publicly. The ones below are the correct ones. Be aware, however, that even with correct addresses, some mail is still being returned to sender. That is the nature of prison mail, sometimes arbitrary decisions mean that a prisoner is denied some mail. Please let us know if you have chronic problems with the mail to the brothers. In Beaumont, for example, the prison authorities have said that newspapers are not permitted by mail to prisoners. That is where Ramon Labañino is.

There have been a lot of activities in recent months for the five heroes, across the U.S. and in other countries as well. This is just a brief summary, and by no means all-encompassing. If you have activities you'd like publicized or reported please write to let us know.

National tour of U.S. was organized in March and April to publicize the case of the Cuban Five and help in formation of committees. There were also a series of meetings held earlier in large cities. Cities have included San Francisco, New York, Miami, Seattle, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, San Diego, Binghamton, etc. The tour was very helpful in activating interest, and some very good contacts were made. Tours were also done in Belgium and Argentina, sponsored by the local committees there. Some of the speakers in these meetings included Andrés Gómez, Ignacio Meneses, Alicia Jrapko, Bill Hackwell, Tony Murphy, Rev. Lucius Walker, Jennifer Wager, Teresa Gutiérrez, Ernie Mailhot, Jon Hillson, Rolando Perez and Gloria La Riva. On May Day in Havana, La Riva was invited to speak on behalf of the campaign to free the five Cuban political prisoners held in the U.S. More than 1.2 million people rallied in the capital and 7 million throughout Cuba.

Support committees have been formed in a number of countries, including Argentina, Canada, England, Belgium, Mexico, Australia, etc. Many more are needed across the U.S. and other countries. To that end the National Committee in the U.S. has produced basic written materials, flyers, brochures, a petition, that you can download from the webpage: www.actionsf.org (look at the right and left-columns of the page for various pieces.). Soon we will develop a webpage dedicated to the Five for more direct access. To prepare for the webpage, we ask the existing Support groups to please send us your complete address, phone, e-mail, webpage if relevant, and other pertinent information. That way we can help get your information out.

PETITIONS, PETITIONS, PETITIONS!

We particularly urge supporters to consciously make the petition a part of your regular work, taking it to other events, circulate in public, etc. We need to collect thousands and thousands to show the Bush government that there are many, many supporters of the five brothers. This requires making sure to take clipboards and petitions to events, making announcement and asking people present to sign the petition. It helps to have the new two-sided flyer which briefly explains their case, and gives the phone number of some of the committees. If you need your committee listed, or the flyer adapted to your needs, please contact us, we'll be glad to help. As you may know, for the present time, the case is virtually unknown in the U.S. due to lack of media coverage, and the desire of the U.S. government to maintain it almost secret, and to deny their status as political prisoners. Therefore, as part of the political pressure signatures showing support are needed to augment the legal work of the attorneys. Can your group set a goal for a certain number of petitions you will collect? Then please mail the originals (be sure and make copies for your own use) to our San Francisco office.

It is a reality of the nature of political-prisoner work, particularly in the U.S., that it takes extra effort to make such cases known to wider audiences. Even in the political progressive movement, there is not enough awareness of the struggle of the Five Cubans. To overcome that problem in the movement, in the U.S., the Free the Five Committee is making a presence in other progressive activities, in solidarity with those struggles, and to make the links with the Five. See if you can get a speaker on other programs and events. We have some good success on this front. For example, at the historic April 20 protests against Bush and for the Palestinian people in Washington and San Francisco, petitioning for the Cuban Five was done and thousands of flyers were handed out to marchers, thus helping spread the word to the political movement. In San Francisco, Ana Duarte of the Los Angeles Committee to Free the Five was a featured speaker at the rally. She described their struggle to the 35,000 people present. The crowd cheered when solidarity was expressed between the Palestinian and Cuban people, and there was a lot of interest in the Five Heroes' cause.

FUNDRAISING.

Please organize a fundraiser if you can. We want to continue sending on a regular basis, donations to the compañeros, so they can purchase phone cards to call home to Cuba, to their attorneys, etc. The only way they can call out is through phone calls, purchased within the prison. In addition, they use stamps to write their many supporters, and for other needs inside prison. Of course fundraising is also needed for your own local work. The National Committee here in SF also accepts donations to send the continued contributions we send to the brothers and for our coordinating/organizing efforts.

BANNERS.

A beautiful banner on the Five Cuban Heroes was hand-made in San Francisco, with their images, and lettering calling for their freedom. It was unveiled in the S.F. April 20 march. We are looking into mass-producing a banner with images of the Five compañeros, with their faces silkscreened on the banner. It would be about 12 feet long by 45 inches deep, in light-weight taffeta material. If your committee is interested, you could then put your own lettering on the banner. Or perhaps we can put in a general slogan on the five in addition to the photos. As soon as we have the details we will send out how you can order them from us. Just as the picture of Che Guevara is visible in protests around the world, it will be important to have the five compañeros present in those actions.

VIDEO.

A brief, 10-minute video featuring interviews of the wives and mothers of the Five is available, and a more extensive video is being made. Again, we will send out the ordering-information as soon as it nears completion.

PRESENTATIONS IN UNIVERSITIES.

Call university professors and other teachers to see if you can speak at their classes about the Five. A perfect theme is Cuba's fight against terrorism, and the Bush administration's hypocrisy in railroading those men whose task was precisely stopping terrorism in Miami that has caused the deaths of hundreds of Cubans and other people.  ARTICLES. Get articles printed in your local, regional and national press if possible. A well-known activist or personality making a public statement on the five can also help.

SOLIDARITY WITH THE FIVE.

If you live in a city near one of the compañeros, contact us if you are interested in organizing support for them by setting up a committee. They are currently imprisoned in Beaumont, Texas (Ramon Labanino) about 50 miles from Houston, in Lompoc, near Santa Barbara (Gerardo Hernandez), in Oxford Wisconsin, closest to Milwaukee, Chicago, etc. (Fernando Gonzalez), in Florence Colorado, near Colorado Springs and other CO towns (Antonio Guerrero), and Bradford PA, 90 miles south of Buffalo (Rene Gonzalez).

Here are the five heroes' addresses:

René González
Reg. #58738-004
F.C.I. McKean
P.O. Box 8000
Bradford, PA 16701

Gerardo Hernandez
#58739-004
U.S. Penitentiary-Lompoc
3901 Klein Blvd.
Lompoc, CA 93436

(For RAMÓN LABAÑINO)
Write to: Luís Medina
#58734-004
U.S.P. Beaumont
P.O. Box 26030
Beaumont TX 77720-6035

(For FERNANDO GONZÁLEZ)
Write to: Rubén Campa
#58733-004
F.C.I. Oxford
P.O. Box 1000
Oxford WI 53952-0505

Antonio Guerrero
#58741-004
U.S.P. Florence
P.O. Box 7500
Florence CO 81226

 

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