The event was sponsored by dozens of organizations that oppose U.S. policy toward Cuba. Among the participants were activists from Cuba solidarity coalitions in Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Connecticut.
Noted entertainer Harry Belafonte and Cuba solidarity activist and author Jane Franklin chaired the event. New York state assemblyman José Rivera brought greetings. Greetings also came from members of three youth contingents from New York that traveled to Cuba this past summer. These included Monifa Akinwole Bandele of Black August, Bonnie Massey of the Venceremos Brigade, and Graciano Matos of the Cuba-U.S. Youth Exchange.
A few of those present had originally come to New York to hear Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez speak the day before. Chávez canceled his U.S. visit citing security concerns, however, and a meeting was organized to protest Washingtons hostility to the Venezuelan government.
Messages were read from three of the five Cuban revolutionaries currently locked up in U.S. prisons on frame-up charges of conspiracy and espionage. The five are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labańino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and René González.
Campaign to free the Cuban Five
Pérez Roque thanked those present for being part of the international campaign to win the release of the Cuban Five. The accusations that they were spying on the U.S. government are false, he said. Before their arrests in 1998, they had infiltrated right-wing Cuban-American groups operating in Florida in order to obtain information on their plans to carry out attacks on Cuba. The Cuban leader noted that this was at a time when nine Havana hotels had been bombed, resulting in the death of an Italian tourist. The Cuban government reported the information they had on the plans of terrorist groups in Miami, including plans to blow up civilian aircraft, he said. Instead of going after these groups, U.S. officials acted against those people they determined had uncovered the plans.
The five Cuban revolutionaries were sentenced to long prison termsthree of them were given life sentences. They face harsh treatment. Two have been denied the right to see their wives and children, an elementary human right, he said. The case is under review by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Lawyers for the five Cubans have submitted arguments for a new trial outside of Miami.
Pérez Roque called on supporters of the fight for their freedom to get the facts out to more people in this country, where most are simply not aware of the case.
More-than four decades of U.S. economic war on Cuba has had a brutal impact on the Cuban economy, Pérez Roque explained, causing $72 billion in losses as a result of severe trade restrictions, including a tightening of the embargo in the 1990s with the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts. Not only Cubans but U.S. residents are victims of Washingtons aggressive policies toward Cuba, he said, pointing to Washingtons ban on travel to Cuba.
Why do they prevent U.S. citizens from learning about the Cuban reality firsthand? asked the foreign minister. Could it be that it is because they would see the truth about our island?
Pérez Roque pointed to the resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly year after year that ask Washington to lift the embargo. Last year, only the governments of the United States, Israel, and the Marshall Islands voted against that resolution.
We know that in the end the blockade will be lifted and relations between our two governments will be normalized, he said. That would advance cooperation between the U.S. and Cuban governments, he stressed, pointing to proposals by Cuba for joint efforts to halt drug trafficking, alien smuggling, and the fight against terrorism, all of which have been rejected by Washington.
Addressing the situation in the world today, the foreign minister contrasted the gains won by the Cuban people since the 1959 revolution with the intolerable economic and social conditions that exist for most of the worlds inhabitants, particularly in Third World nations. What is needed, he said, is a new system of economic and political relations. He called for multilateralism as opposed to Washingtons unilateral use of force in the Mideast.
Pérez Roque called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. We are for the United Nations assuming control of the situation in Iraq, he said.
Declaring that Cuba will remain true to its record of international solidarity, Pérez Roque ended by reminding participants of the hundreds of thousands of Cuban internationalist volunteers who over the years joined with African combatants in the independence struggles in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, and other countries, and who fought together with Angolans to defeat invasions by the South African apartheid regime.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home