The Grace Episcopal, a modern Christian church located in downtown Chicago, became a venue Saturday night for city dwellers to express their solidarity with Cuba and demand freedom for three Cuban anti-terrorist fighters, members of the group Cuban Five, who for almost 16 years now have endured harsh prison conditions in the United States.
The gathering, attended by around 100 people, was held on the last day of the 32nd Latin American Studies Association Congress and was hosted by several organizations in the U.S., among them the Chicago Cuba Coalition, the Chicago Committee to Free the Five, the Wisconsin Committee to Normalize Relations with Cuba, the Minnesota Cuba Committee, the National Network on Cuba, the National Committee to Free the Five, the ANSWER coalition and the Socialist Workers Party.
After introductions by Steve Eckardt, co-coordinator of the Chicago Cuba Coalition and DePaul University Professor Felix Massud, Cuban scholar Antonio Romero briefed the audience on the process of updating of Cuba’s economic model, which seeks to strengthen Socialism in Cuban by making it more economically prosperous, efficient, and sustainable.
Renowned Cuban poet Nancy Morejon later captivated the public with her readings of three poems, two of her own, dedicated to the Five and their wives, who she explained have been fundamental in the struggle for the cause of the Five. Dr Alberto Roque, one of the Founders of “Hombres por la Diversidad” and long time advocate and researcher on LGBT issues, noted that restrictions on Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero, the three members of the Five still in prison, to be visited by their wives and other relatives were violations of their human rights.
After explaining the complexities of the legal case, Gloria La Riva, founder and coordinator of the U.S. National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, referred to the numerous attempts by the U.S. prison system to break the will of Gerardo, Ramon and Antonio, and their determination to resist. Ramon and Antonio sent written messages to the event, in which they expressed appreciation for the support of the international community to their cause. They urged the U.S. public opinion to become more actively involved in the struggle for their freedom.
John Beacham, of ANSWER Coalition, and Mary Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press, raised their voices to condemn the continued incarceration of the Five, and exhorted the U.S. government to cooperate with Cuba in the fight against terrorism by apprehending the real terrorists, like Luis Posada Carriles, responsible for the explosion of a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing all 73 people on board, who currently walks a free man in Miami. Beachman and Waters pointed to the political nature of the case of the Five and demanded that they be immediate released. Members of the vibrant Chicago Puerto Rican community also addressed the audience to demand the release of the Five.