The following article was written by Gloria La Riva, Coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five
René González with his wife Olga Salanueva at the conference in Holguin
Photo: Gloria La Riva
Holguin, Cuba—Nov. 16, 2013
It was a long road to freedom for Cuban Five hero René González, who suffered 13 years in U.S. prison and almost two years of forced probation in the United States, for the “crime” of protecting the people of Cuba from U.S.-sponsored terrorism.
Yet, he retains that exceptional spirit and optimism that was never dampened while imprisoned.
That was evident to the 278 activists from 51 countries who heard him speak today at the 9th “International Colloquium for the Cuban Five” here in the eastern Cuban city of Holguin. Everywhere he has appeared in the panels, cultural performances and the streets of Holguin, González received standing ovations and enthusiastic crowds of Cubans and conference delegates.
González recalled his time in prison to urge all to fight the injustice of his four brothers’ imprisonment.
“I was 13 years in prison. I believe that one uses certain mechanisms to confront that situation, mechanisms to grow with, even in the worst circumstances—as I have always said— to leave prison better than when I entered. And one mechanism that I always used was not to count the time.
“That is what is happening to my four brothers. They are strong men, with a high morale that has been tested time and again. They will always rise above their accusers, all those corrupt judges. They persevere in a way that their accusers can never understand.
“But they don’t deserve to be in prison counting time, and we need to get them out.”
Families of the Five speak out
Other family members of the Five—mothers, daughters, sisters and nieces—gave moving testimony of their lives without Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González. They gave heartfelt thanks to colloquium delegates for their years of solidarity with the Five. Of special concern for all of Cuba and the Five’s supporters worldwide is the double-life sentence of Gerardo Hernández, who was falsely framed for Cuba’s Feb. 24, 1996, self-defense shoot-down of Brothers to the Rescue planes.
For details on their current Habeas Corpus appeals, visit www.FreeTheFive.org.
The week of activities has included delegates’ discussions of solidarity actions to pressure the U.S. government to free the Five and talks by relatives of Cubans who died in U.S.-backed terrorist attacks. Rounding out the itinerary were a Cuban Five solidarity marathon and cycling race, visits to Holguin universities and surrounding municipalities, and cultural performances by Holguin school-age children.
The highlight of the week’s events was a mass march for the Five by the people of Holguin and delegates, capped by a memorable presentation of Cuba’s “Order of Solidarity” to former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, granted by the Council of State and signed by Cuban President Raúl Castro.
With thousands of Holguin citizens present, ICAP president Kenia Serrano pinned the medal on Clark’s shirt. Then he spoke, expressing gratitude to Cuba for its revolution.
During the week, some of the proposed actions include university and law school forums in Washington, D.C., and other regions by the U.S.-based National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. Already the National Committee has organized successful university events in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas in the past 12 months, reaching hundreds of students and professors who had no previous knowledge of the anti-terrorist mission of the Cuban Five.
Other events include Five Days for the Five to be held in Washington, D.C., June 4-11, 2014, called by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, and in London March 7-8, 2014, an International Commission of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five, initiated by the London-based Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
Next year, the third International Conference in Solidarity with Cuba will take place in Havana in October. The gathering will bring together thousands of people from around the world. If the Cuban Five are not all home in Cuba by then, they will of course be a major focus of that major event, sponsored by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).