Over the years, the government and people of Cuba have assisted thousands of Barbadians through the “Operation Milagro” eye care programme, the granting of scholarships to Barbadian students, and the provision of Cuban coaches in a wide variety of sporting disciplines. Now, the people of Cuba need our solidarity and support in the tragic case of the “Cuban Five” – five Cuban fighters against terrorism who have been unjustly imprisoned in the United States of America for the past fourteen years.
It was on the 12th of September 1998 that a team of FBI officers swooped down on five Cuban men who were resident in the US city of Miami, arrested them, and charged them with “espionage” and other related criminal charges. The men – who subsequently came to be known as the “Cuban Five” – were in Miami for the sole purpose of investigating the several anti-Cuba terrorist organisations based in that city, and forestalling any future terrorist attacks on their nearby Cuban homeland.
And what was so ironic about the actions of the FBI is that, just a few months earlier, Cuba’s Ministry of Home Affairs had provided the FBI with dossiers of information collected by the Cuban Five on acts of violence that were being planned in Miami by such Cuban-American terrorist organisations as Alpha 66, the Cuban-American National Foundation, and the Cuban Freedom Council. Ironically, it was this honest and constructive overture that the American authorities pounced upon and used as a springboard to launch arrests – not against the Miami-based terrorists – but against the five Cuban patriots who had helped to ferret out the information.
And so, the ‘Cuban Five’ were put on trial in Miami – the most rabidly anti-Cuba city imaginable – were subjected to a biased and deeply flawed political trial, and were unjustly convicted and sentenced to ridiculously long sentences ranging from fifteen years to life in prison.
But who exactly are these five heroes? Well, their names are Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, Ramon Labanino Salazar, Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez, Fernando Gonzalez Llort and Rene Gonzalez Sherweret. And although we refer to them as the Cuban Five, two of them are actually US citizens, have been born in the US to Cuban parents. They are all dedicated family men – husbands, and in three cases, fathers – and pursue occupations ranging from economist to cartoonist, pilot, engineer and poet.
Needless to say, the presence and activities of the Cuban Five in Miami posed absolutely no threat to the government and peoples of the USA. Their sole purpose was to discover and foil the type of terrorist attacks that had been inflicted on Cuba over the years, such as the 1976 blowing up of a Cubana airline over Barbados, the 1980 assassination of a Cuban diplomat, the 1981 introduction of the haemorrhagic dengue virus into Cuba, the many attempts to assassinate Fiedel Castro, and the 1997 bombings of six major hotels in Cuba.
The Peoples Empowerment Party is urging all Barbadians and other Caribbean people to join in the international campaign to free the Cuban Five! We Barbadians witnessed the horrors of terrorism first hand back in 1976, and we therefore know what the heroic Cuban Five were fighting so desperately hard to prevent.
To date, such Barbadian organisations as the Clement Payne Movement and the Barbados – Cuba Friendship Society have made major efforts to help the cause, and our leading artiste, Anthony Gabby Carter, has contributed a stirring musical anthem entitled “Free Them”!
Please get involved every-body!
*David Comissiong is the President of the Peoples’ Empowerment Party.