In the face of multiple proposals about development paths—ways out of poverty and oppression—the people of Cuba chose a way forward in 1959 that still inspires the lonely wrath of the U.S. government.
The five Cuban men who have languished in U.S. prisons for 14 years got a boost of solidarity this weekend from a “peoples’ tribunal” held in Toronto.
The five were arrested on Sept. 12, 1998 and eventually convicted of various charges that basically amount to conspiracy to commit espionage. But tribunal witnesses said the men were sent to monitor and report on violent groups in Miami that were fomenting terrorist attacks in Cuba, and that the Cuban government had shared what its findings with the U.S. government.
In the past few days, I immersed myself defenders of the five Cuban men who are in prison in the United States. A coalition of Cuba solidarity groups, trade unions and peace activists came together to hold a “people’s tribunal” to examine their case.
Hearing the succession of witnesses provoked me to a long-overdue examination of conscience. I’ve been in Cuba countless times over the past 20 years, but rarely written about it. In my defense, I can only say that Cuba cries out for context—long journalism that defeats a U.S. media filter that still presents Cuba in Cold War clichés.
In the next few weeks, I will try to write more
about Cuba and about the wonderful people and groups with which I have the privilege of working. (I look forward to another visit beginning Oct. 7.)
The tribunal breaks silence
The magistrates included U.S. activists Saul Landau and Cindy Sheehan; trade union leaders from Canada and Britain; Toronto lawyer Juan Carranza and United Church minister Rev. Chris Levan.
With us in the Toronto city hall council chamber were two of the spouses: Elizabeth Palmeiro (married to Ramón Labañino) and Adriana Pérez (married to Gerardo Hernández).
Some of the most powerful testimony came from Richard Klugh, a Miami lawyer who is part of the group’s defense team. He described 14 years of legal battles: from a trial carried out in a venomous media climate in Miami, through to the most recent appeal that is based on evidence showing that Florida journalists were paid by the U.S. government to turn public opinion against the five.
- Additional background from rabble.ca
- Actions to support of the Cuban Five in Canada and the United States
- World Council of Churches statements: 2011, 2006 and 2003.
- Faith communities rallied to help bring a young Cuban boy home to his father. May we now stand in solidarity with the Five so they can return home to their families in Cuba? In this video clip, Elián González and his father Juan Miguel speak with Pastors for Peace about the Cuban Five.