A representative of the Cuban government welcomed the support of the LGBT
movement. "The Cuban Five represent the altruism and courage of the Cuban
people," Jorge Luis Dustet, second secretary to the Cuban Mission of the United
Nations, told the crowd. "Thank you for the work of the Rainbow Solidarity. Our
message to you will always be: ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!"
The Cuban Five-Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando
González and René González-were prosecuted in the US because they infiltrated
CIA-backed right-wing terrorist organizations operating in the US in order to
monitor and stop their plans to attack Cuba. Imprisoned for nearly nine years,
the five were given sentences ranging from 15 years to two consecutive life
Dustet said the US government's recent release of terrorist Luis Posada
Carriles shows the innocence of the Cuban Five and how necessary it was for the
Cuban government to send them to the US to collect information on people like
Carriles. Carriles organized the mid-air bombing of a civilian passenger plane
in 1976, which killed 73 passengers, and directed the bombing of tourist hotels
in 1997. He escaped from prison in Venezuela in 1985 and secretly entered the
United States in 2005. The US government arrested him on an immigration
violation but freed him in April, ignoring calls by the Venezuelan and Cuban
governments for his extradition.
Teresa Gutierrez, founder of the New York Committee to Free the Cuban Five,
said their case is thoroughly political and has everything to do with US/Cuba
relations. The US government imprisoned the five as a way of attacking Cuba.
She emphasized that the main way to free them is to change public opinion and
organize pressure on the US government.
"We've almost run out of legal options," Gutierrez said. "That's why these
meetings are so important. We have to reach new sectors."
Rainbow Solidarity for the Cuban Five was initiated in January 2007 to build
support among the LGBT communities. The group issued a call that demands a new
trial and freedom for the Cuban Five, declares the right of the Cuban people to
sovereignty and self-determination, and demands a halt to US acts of war
against Cuba, including the economic blockade and CIA-trained and -funded
attacks by mercenary "contra" armies operating on US soil.
In four months the call has received endorsements from more than 1,000 unions,
organizations and individuals in 40 countries, as well as every state in the
Leslie Feinberg, one of the initiators of the Rainbow Solidarity call and
author of the soon to be released book "Rainbow Solidarity: In Defense of
Cuba," presented a framed copy of the call with the first 1,000 signatures to
Dustet. The crowd responded by cheering Dustet and giving him a standing
Feinberg told the crowd that the call has been translated into Chinese,
Tagalog, Farsi, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Portuguese, Italian, Danish,
Japanese, French and German, and additional translations are planned in
Swahili, Urdu, Indonesian, Arabic, Korean and Bengali. A streaming video in
American Sign Language is also in the works.
"On what basis does this initiative call for solidarity from communities
struggling against oppression based on sexuality, gender expression and sex?"
Feinberg asked. "In essence, what defined the left wing of the early gay
liberation movement in the United States, and what fueled its vitality, was its
solidarity on the basis of a common enemy, not a common oppression." The
community at that time stood with immigrant workers organizing the United Farm
Workers and with the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords.
"Today, our communities have a particular responsibility in the United States
to defend the Cuban Five because this country is the aircraft carrier from
which Wall Street and the Pentagon are launching a covert war against Cuba,"
she said. "And those who are battling oppression based on same-sex love are
called upon to play a leadership role in this struggle because it is our love
and our lives that have been used as a political cover for this dirty war
against a people who have fought enslavement for 500 years."
Ben Ramos, a coordinator of the Popular Education Project to Free the Cuban
Five and co-chair of the meeting, noted that it was natural for the LGBT
community to take up the case of the Cuban Five. "We have been integral in the
anti-war movement, we are instrumental in the development of unions and
workers' rights campaigns" and in fighting to free political prisoners, Ramos
said. Ramos was also a leading organizer of the event.
Other speakers proclaimed their support for the five as well.
"We have a responsibility to the Cuban Five because their story is our story,"
said Helena Wong, director of the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence. She
said immigrants come to this country because of what the US government is doing
to their homelands and then are locked up in detention centers for trying to
start a new life here. Likewise, she said, "The government puts resources into
Israel and Iraq and to militarizing the borders," while refusing to meet the
needs of the Black and Brown communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Yancy Mark Gandionco, on the LGBT Desk of the US Chapter of BAYAN Philippines,
compared the US government's imprisonment of the five to the Philippine
government's attempt to quash resistance by arresting progressive leaders.
Charged with sedition and rebellion, they were held in prison for two years and
freed because the Filipino people stood up. "The most powerful weapon is the
weapon of resistance," Gandionco said.
Joan Gibbs, an attorney and activist who is focused on freeing political
prisoners, pointed to the success of the Puerto Rican movement in freeing five
Nationalists who were imprisoned for more than 25 years. She said the victories
of the civil rights movement were also won in the streets. Gibbs also paid
tribute to Cuba for fighting apartheid in Africa and giving asylum to great
fighters like Assata Shakur. "When the African people called, only one country
went without imperialist designs and that was Cuba," she said.
LeiLani Dowell, a leader of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) and
co-chair of the meeting, spoke about the International Youth Conference on the
Cuban Five that was held in Cuba in April. She said the participants stressed
over and over that it is primarily the responsibility of the people of the US
to build awareness of the Cuban Five to win their freedom. She repeated the
words of Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón: "The US people will
find the keys to unlock the gate for the Cuban Five."