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Vol. 73/No. 47      December 7, 2009

Cuba: Conference advances
fight to free Cuban Five
(feature article)
HOLGUíN, Cuba—The U.S. government’s request to a federal judge that Antonio Guerrero’s prison sentence be reduced to 20 years, said Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba’s National Assembly, registered the accomplishments of the international campaign to win the release of Guerrero and four other Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the United States for their actions to defend the Cuban Revolution. Alarcón was speaking at an international conference here November 21.

The Cuban leader was referring to the resentencing hearing for Guerrero held in Miami October 13. When the judge asked the government attorney to explain why the U.S. Justice Department was now proposing to reduce the sentence, Alarcón said, the attorney replied they wanted to quell the “noise” around the case. That was an acknowledgment, he said, that the U.S. government is feeling heat from the worldwide campaign demanding freedom for the Cuban Five, as they are widely known.

Alarcón was speaking at the Fifth International Colloquium for the Release of the Cuban Five and Against Terrorism, sponsored by the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), held here November 19-22. Nearly 200 people from 45 countries gathered to discuss how to broaden the fight, the largest of these annual gatherings to date.

Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and René González have been locked up for more than 11 years on false charges of “conspiracy to commit espionage” and other counts. They had been monitoring counterrevolutionary Cuban groups in Florida that have carried out deadly attacks against the people of Cuba.

Participants in the Holguín conference came from countries throughout Latin America, North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. These included Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti, Spain, Germany, South Korea, Vietnam, and Kenya. The country with the largest attendance was the United States, with more than 20 participants. Many countries were represented largely by long-time members of Cuba and Cuban Five solidarity committees.  
Youth participation
The conference was marked by the participation of young people not previously involved in activity in defense of the Cuban Revolution or to free the Cuban Five. Among them were youth from several countries—from Equatorial Guinea to the United States—who are studying in Cuba. U.S. participants included five students from the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, as well as a half dozen recent college graduates who are interns at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, D.C. Also present, on their first visit to Cuba, were some 20 youth from Moscow who are part of a Russian musical group, Grenada, which performed at the conference (see

Many participants, especially young people, were drawn to literature tables at the conference. They picked up books, buttons, posters, and other material from the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five. They also bought some 70 books and pamphlets on revolutionary working-class politics and dozens of copies of the Militant from members of the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists in the United States participating in the event.

The conference opened with an exhibit of paintings by Cuban children dedicated to the five imprisoned men. Over two days, participants held plenary sessions and workshops to share experiences and discuss how to advance the defense campaign. Conference delegates also joined some 3,000 Holguín residents for a rally calling on the U.S. government to release “our five heroes,” as they are popularly known here. Among the speakers were Alarcón; Ailí Labañino, daughter of Ramón; and Alicia Jrapko from the U.S. office of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five. Jrapko spoke on the importance of the support for the campaign already won in the United States.  
Discussions with Holguín residents
On the final day delegates divided up into groups that traveled to towns across Holguín Province to exchange experiences with local residents on the fight to release the Cuban Five and learn more about working people’s 50-year history of resistance here to Washington’s war against the Cuban Revolution. In the coastal village of Boca de Samá, participants learned about an armed attack in 1971 by CIA-organized counterrevolutionaries in which two people were killed and others severely injured.

Further exchanges took place that evening in the working-class district of Alcides Pino in the city of Holguín, hosted by the local Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. Residents told of the enormous progress, thanks to their collective efforts, in rebuilding homes and other facilities since last year’s devastating Hurricane Ike.

The plenary sessions featured remarks by several relatives of the imprisoned Cubans who have been at the forefront of the campaign for their release. They included Irma Sehwerert, mother of René González; Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo Hernández; Mirtha Rodríguez, mother of Antonio Guerrero; and Olga Salanueva, wife of René González.  
December 8 resentencing hearings
A focal point of the conference was the recent federal court hearing in Miami at which Guerrero’s sentence was reduced. Last year a federal appeals court in Atlanta threw out the life sentences given Guerrero and Labañino, as well as Fernando González’s 19-year prison term, ruling that the sentences exceeded federal guidelines for the crimes the three had been convicted of. At the hearing for Guerrero, the U.S. government asked that his sentence be reduced to 20 years. The judge rejected that recommendation and gave Guerrero 21 years and 10 months. Resentencing hearings for the other two men are scheduled for December 8.

During one session a delegate from the Basque region in France asked why Guerrero’s attorneys had struck a deal with federal prosecutors on a 20-year sentence. Adriana Pérez and Mirtha Rodríguez each explained that the only agreement was to recommend to the judge something less than federal sentencing guidelines called for, and that there was no admission of guilt and no contrition on Guerrero’s part. Rodríguez noted that the Atlanta court order opened a breach through which the campaign to free the five can be further advanced. In his remarks at the conference, Alarcón said there was no justice in the reduced sentence given to Guerrero but the government’s request registered a new stage in the international campaign to free the five.

The closing session, chaired by ICAP president Kenia Serrano, adopted a final declaration and plan of action. It called for intensifying and expanding the campaign on all fronts, and noted several important upcoming dates including December 8, to demand immediate release of the Cuban Five and the granting of U.S. visas to Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva, who have repeatedly been denied the right to visit their husbands.  
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