By Cheryl LaBash
Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and Rene González, known as the Cuban Five, have been unjustly held in U.S. prisons since 1998.
Their freedom became an issue for anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan at the 2006 Caracas World Social Forum. On March 4, she carried her commitment to campaign to free them to Ireland and Sweden.
The fifth of each month has been designated as an international Day of Action to free the Cuban Five. On March 5, Sheehan read a letter to President Barack Obama in front of the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. She concluded, “You have the power, Mr. President, to grant permission for the Cuban Five to return home to Cuba where they belong. You have the power, Mr. President, to make sure that Olga gets a visa to enter the U.S. to see her beloved husband, Rene. You have the power, Mr. President, to make sure that René Gonzalez goes to Havana for two weeks to see his dying brother. For the sake of humanity, Mr. President, exercise that power.”
The Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union Cuba Solidarity Forum hosted Sheehan on International Working Women’s Day, March 8. On that day, she also finished the Ireland leg of her tour with a public meeting of students and activists organized by Amnesty International Society at Trinity College after meeting with Irish legislators earlier in the day.
In a packed two-day visit to Belfast and Derry, Sheehan met with Irish Nobel Peace Laureates Mairead Maguire and John Hume. She launched the Cuban Five mural at the International Wall in West Belfast, accompanied by Jimmy Kelly, president of the trade union Unite and Danny Devanny, the mural artist. The Cuba Support group in Belfast commissioned the mural.
On March 10, Sheehan continued on to Sweden.
The pledge by Irish and British unions to reach U.S. workers with the story of the injustice being carried out against the Cuban Five resulted in a California meeting organized by the Service Employees Union last August that featured the retired UNITE the UNION leader Tony Woodley, and another meeting on March 10 in Chicago.
During the VII International Colloquium for the Freedom of the Five Cuban Heroes and against Terrorism, held in Holguin, Cuba, last November, Sheehan presented a necklace to the mothers of the Cuban Five to hold until their sons come home. The necklace has special significance to Sheehan, as her son, Casey, who was killed in Iraq during the horrific U.S. occupation of that sovereign country, gave it to her. Casey’s death propelled Sheehan to use every method within her reach to expose and oppose injustice and the U.S. war drive.
In April, Sheehan will be part of the Five Days for the Freedom of the Cuban Five in Washington, D.C. She has agreed to serve as a judge at a tribunal on the Cuban Five in Toronto in September. n
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