Make a pledge for 2006: Free the Cuban 5

Commentary

The Cuban Five have been in prison for seven years. The U.S. government prevents wives from visiting husbands in prison. It’s time for action.

Here’s the background: In 1998, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, René González and Fernando González were arrested in Florida while trying to defend Cuba from terrorist attacks. They were convicted in a biased trial in Miami and are serving very long sentences. A three-judge appeals court panel threw out the convictions last August, but U.S. prosecutors have appealed that decision. A full 12-judge panel will now review the case.

In the meantime, the five remain in prison and the U.S. government interferes with family visits. Wives are allowed to visit their husbands in jail only once or twice a year. Worse, Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez have been kept from seeing Rene and Gerardo for six and eight years, respectively.

The San Francisco-based National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, in coordination with Latin American and European solidarity leaders, has launched a “Five Heroes Freedom Fund” to raise $250,000 over the next six months. The campaign takes shape as the repeat appeals process moves to a conclusion on Feb. 13 with oral arguments in Atlanta.

Contributions will go towards a political struggle aimed at bolstering the legal battle. Those involved anticipate a full-page advertisement in The New York Times, new publicity material, the services of a media agency, and events staged throughout the nation, especially at law schools and universities. The fund will be used to bring prominent jurists to court proceedings as observers, some of them from abroad. To find out how to contribute, visit www.freethefive.org.

That’s one set of tasks: mobilizing local committees, organizing local fundraising events, sending out letters, imploring people one by one.

There’s another campaign in the works. Supporters of the five prisoners are asked to write letters to the UN Human Rights Commission (HRC) in behalf of the prisoners’ families. Letters must arrive in Geneva, Switzerland, by Jan. 15, 2006. The letters should call for an investigation of U.S. obstacles to family visits, especially in the cases of Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, and for remedial action.

The letters are going to the HRC Working Group on Communications, which meets annually to examine complaints of human rights violations. According to the National Committee, letters should state that U.S. authorities have denied entry visas for Olga and Adriana six times. They should point out that the two women are without legal means to appeal the denials and that their only recourse is a plea to the UN Human Rights Commission.

Letter-writers are asked to adhere to rules outlined under the UN’s so-called “1503 Procedure”: invoke the UN Charter’s basic principles, avoid sharp polemics and abusive language, note that specific human rights have been violated, and point out that other remedies in the U.S. have been exhausted.

The National Committee also suggests that letters be written to the HRC in behalf of the prisoners themselves, using the guidelines above. The letters should refer to the declaration issued on May 27, 2005, by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions that describes their imprisonment as “arbitrary.” The U.S. government was supposed to have taken steps to rectify their situation.

The address is: Treaties and Commission Branch, OHCHR-UNOG, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. The fax number is (41 22) 917 90 11; e-mail at 1503@ohchr.org.

With pen in hand, don’t stop now. During the holiday season, please write to Cuban Five to express your solidarity, your hopes for their freedom and your admiration for their constancy and dedication to revolutionary principles: Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, No. 58739-004, USP Victorville, PO Box 5500, 3777 Air Expressway Road, Adelanto CA 92301; Ramón Labañino Salazar, No. 58734-004, USP Beaumont, PO Box 26035, Beaumont TX 77720 (address your letter to “Luis Medina”); Fernando González Llort, No. 58733-004, FCI Oxford, PO Box 500 Oxford WI 53952-0500 (address to “Rubén Campa”); René González Sehwerert, No. 58738-004, FCI Marianna, PO Box 7007, Marianna FL 32447-7007; Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, No. 58741-004, USP Florence, 5880 State Hwy 67, South Florence CO 81226.