BY MARTÍN KOPPEL AND RÓGER CALERO
HAVANA—The new Spanish-language edition of The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should Be Free, published by Pathfinder Press, was presented here Feb. 18. It was one of the numerous book launchings and other events that were part of the Havana International Book Fair, a popular festival drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors between Feb. 9 and 19. After Havana, the fair has traveled to cities across the island.
The title, also recently published in a new English edition, is a collection of articles from the Militant on the fight to free five Cubans—Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and René González—framed up by the U.S. government on charges ranging from conspiracy to commit espionage to conspiracy to commit murder. Four of the Cuban Five, as they are known around the world, have been imprisoned for going on 14 years; René González, released after 13 years in prison, is now being forced to serve three years of “supervised release” in Florida and has been denied his request to return to Cuba and his family.
Before their arrests in 1998, the five revolutionaries had been gathering intelligence for the Cuban government about the activities of Cuban-American counterrevolutionary groups in South Florida. These groups have a long record of carrying out deadly attacks against Cuba and supporters of the Cuban Revolution on U.S. and Puerto Rican soil with the knowledge, if not complicity, of U.S. authorities.
Speaking at the book launch were Kenia Serrano, president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), and Mary-Alice Waters, Pathfinder president and one of the book’s authors.
The program also included readings by two well-known Cuban poets, Pablo Armando Fernández and Edel Morales, vice president of the Cuban Book Institute. In addition, the meeting room featured an exhibition of paintings by Antonio Guerrero, who learned to paint from fellow inmates in the Florence, Colo., maximum-security U.S. penitentiary. The collection, entitled “Cubanía en mariposas” (Cubanness in butterflies), depicts butterflies native to Cuba. The paintings were created by Guerrero for Havana’s Natural History Museum.
In the front rows of the audience were several members of the families of the five revolutionaries. These tireless combatants in the worldwide campaign included Adriana Pérez, Olga Salanueva, and Rosa Aurora Freijanes, the wives of Hernández, René González, and Fernando González, as well as María Eugenia Guerrero, Antonio’s sister. Serrano paid tribute to them as “Marianas all,” a reference to one of the most revered figures in Cuba’s struggle against Spanish colonial rule, Mariana Grajales, who encouraged all eight of her sons to join the independence struggle.
The purpose of the book, Waters said, is to arm readers with the facts and “enable them to understand what otherwise seems inexplicable—why, despite all evidence to the contrary, our five comrades were framed and convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. government, and even conspiracy to commit murder, and locked up in U.S. prisons with sentences up to double life plus 15 years.”
Waters noted that “frame-ups are part of the system of class rule in the United States. What was done to the Cuban Five is something all too familiar to the vast majority of working people. It is one of the reasons they identify with them and respect them as they learn the facts.”
Pointing to examples of the unfolding resistance among workers and farmers to the brutal effects of the capitalist economic crisis, she said, “From the longshore workers to the sugar beet workers and beyond, these are the men and women who in growing numbers will belong to what Gerardo has accurately referred to as the ‘jury of millions’ that will free them. It is along this class-struggle road, where the battles are intensifying because of the workings of the capitalist system, that their freedom will be won.” (For the text of remarks by Waters and Serrano, see page 9.)
Serrano thanked Pathfinder Press for publishing The Cuban Five, which she said “gives voice” to the five and to their defenders. Reading the book, Serrano said, reminded her of what she had learned during “an unforgettable speaking tour of nearly 50 U.S. universities” she made in 1995 as a leader of Cuba’s Federation of University Students. “We visited striking workers on picket lines, talked to workers at a Ford auto plant,” and had other exchanges with working people engaged in struggles.
Serrano cited facts from the book on the records of each of the Cuban Five as revolutionists. She was particularly struck by a 2005 interview with the Cuban newspaper Trabajadores, reprinted under the headline “Angola Made Me Grow,” in which René González talks about the deep political impact his experiences in that country had on him. In 1977-79 González was among the hundreds of thousands of Cuban internationalist volunteers between 1975 and 1991 who joined with Angolan combatants to beat back the invading armed forces of South Africa’s apartheid regime.
The Cuban Five was one of the most sought-after Pathfinder titles at the book fair, selling out at most events before the demand was satisfied. At the book launch, throughout the fair, and at other meetings, a total of 550 copies were sold.
The book was featured at several presentations in Havana after the book fair along with another new Pathfinder title, Women in Cuba: The Making of a Revolution Within the Revolution by Vilma Espín, Asela de los Santos, and Yolanda Ferrer. One meeting was held at the national center of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution. The Union of Young Communists, the Federation of Secondary School Students, and the Federation of University Students organized two meetings with students and teachers, one at the Salvador Allende teacher training high school and another at the University of Havana’s Enrique José Varona Teacher Training Institute. Workers at a hotel where Waters and reporters for this newspaper often stay in Havana also organized a book presentation.
Cubans are very familiar with the case of the five imprisoned revolutionaries through extensive coverage in the press, radio and television here. Nonetheless, many purchasing the book said it was the first time they found a book presenting in depth the story of these combatants—the key facts, including a number they were unaware of, and the political context of the case in the United States. They were particularly drawn to the photos and articles illustrating how the fight for the freedom of their five compañeros is being waged in the United States and other countries.