Over 500 trade unionists, youth and supporters rallied outside the US Embassy in central London on Wednesday evening to demand the release of the ‘Miami Five’.
The ‘Miami Five’ are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, five Cubans falsely accused and jailed by the US government of committing espionage against the United States.
Before the rally a delegation handed in a petition to the US Embassy calling for visitation rights for wives of the five Cuban nationals, imprisoned for ten years in the US for defending their country against terrorist attacks.
The delegation handing in the petition included Tony Woodley, joint general secretary, Unite; Gerry Fernandez, international director, United Steel Workers, USA; Father Geoff Bottoms, Catholic priest and campaigner on this case; Steve Cottingham, lawyer, OH Parsons; and Rob Miller, director, Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
The petition, with over 10,000 names, including MPs, nine Nobel Laureates, and personalities from the worlds of media, law and arts is also asking for justice for the men.
Two of the wives of the Five, Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez have been denied visas to visit their husbands since their trial.
The women’s husbands, René González and Gerardo Hernández, are two of five men, who following an unfair trial were found guilty of ‘acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government’ and related charges.
They were monitoring extreme right wing paramilitary groups operating out of Florida who are responsible for launching terrorist attacks against Cuba.
Wednesday’s protest to mark the tenth anniversary of their trial, followed an announcement last week by Amnesty International that the human rights group will launch a world-wide campaign for visiting rights for the wives describing their treatment ‘unnecessarily punitive and contrary to standards for humane treatment of prisoners and states’ obligations to protect family life.’
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber told the rally: ‘We passed a resolution at the TUC Congress to call on our government to make representations to the US government to free the Miami 5.
‘It was passed unanimously and was one of the major events at the TUC.’
UNISON deputy general secretary Keith Sonnett said: ‘Yesterday was the anniversary of when a Cuban airliner was blown up by terrorists
‘Their leader Padilla is free.
‘It’s disgraceful the way the Cuban five have been treated for speaking up against the US government.
‘Cuba is a lovely country, with a wonderful health and education system. It’s wonderful the way it assists other south American countries.
‘It’s not right that the people of Cuba who want to prevent further terrorist attacks against Cuba are jailed.
‘The way the wives have been denied visitation rights is disgraceful.
‘I’m pleased that the trade union movement has been highlighting the way the Cuba five have been treated.
‘In celebrating 50 years of the Cuban revolution, we cannot forget those members of Cuban society who are languishing in Cuban jails, Sonnet concluded to chants of ‘Free the Miami Five’.
Rob Miller, director, Cuba Solidarity Campaign read out a message from Miami Five wives Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, who were present at the rally.
It said: ‘Dear friends,
‘In the name of the families of the Miami Five, please assist us to get visas to enable us to visit our husbands.
‘The day we are reunited with our husbands will be a great delight.’
Before beginning his speech, Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley called the two women to join him on the temporary podium.
He told the rally: ‘These are two of the real victims of this discrimination by the American government.
‘These are real people who are affected deeply by the inability to see their husbands who have been 8 or 9 years in prison.
‘We’re here to show solidarity and to bring to the attention of Americans the injustice done to of the five, and the injustice that has been committed to their families.
‘When you see ordinary families, ordinary people denied basic human rights, it shows the hypocrisy of these people behind me in the US embassy.
‘Jerry Fernandez from America’s United Steel Workers union is here, make him welcome.
‘His union and the powerful US union SEIU, we welcome their support, along with all the British Trade Unions.
‘We have pressured our own government at Foreign Office and prime ministerial level.’
He said he appreciated the emotional reception that Brown’s wife had given the two Cuban wives.
Woodley continued: ‘We know the foreign secretary has written to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and we’ve seen the rejecting reply.
‘We knew we would get the same answer from Rice.
‘We have to work out how we are going to put pressure on the new US president which we hope will be Obama.
‘With the US unions and with the British unions we’ll get justice for the five.
‘Visitation rights and most important we’ll get freedom for the five.
‘Free the Miami Five, Free the Miami Five!’
UNISON NEC and Labour Party NEC member Norma Stevenson said: ‘It’s time to say enough is enough.
‘The CIA went to Cuba and went back with the evidence to charge them.
‘This is a case of human rights. They are in prison with paedophiles and murderers.
‘All these women want is to be part of a family, please make it happen.’
GMB president Mary Turner told the rally: ‘These ladies are never going to be able to celebrate their wedding anniversaries unless we do something about it.
‘The American people are not like Bush.
‘These families should have the right to be with their families, whatever their political beliefs are.
‘Americans sing “the land of the free”.
‘The GMB believes that along with these five, every family has the right to be free.
‘These women deserve to be with their husbands, they have the right to be free too.’
United Steel Workers international vice president Jerry Fernandez said: ‘The case of the Miami Five was a pretty low key in the US unions until Tony Woodley brought it to our attention.’
Referring to the US Embassy, Fernandez continued: ‘When I was in that building trying to get visitation rights for these women, the people there said they were a threat to US security.
‘I tell you the biggest threat to US security is Wall Street!
‘The biggest threat to the security of the world is Wall Street!
‘How can they put these two women on the same pedestal as Wall Street?
‘We will win, we will free the five, and we will get them visitation rights.’
South East Region TUC international officer Adrian Weir told the rally: ‘When the five were put on trial ten years ago the FBI could find nothing against the five.
‘What did the FBI do? They levelled conspiracy charges.
‘It only reminds me of the conspiracy charges against the Shrewsbury pickets.
‘Keep up the campaign.’
Other speakers were Ed Blissett, GMB; Jenny Brenner, Unite; Gary Jones, CWU; and Steve Cottingham, lawyer, OH Parsons.