A victory for Cuban people
MILLIONS around the world will join the families of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino in celebration at news that the last of the Miami Five have been freed.
The three will join their previously released comrades Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez after 16 years behind bars for the “crime” of trying to defend their country from terrorist attack.
For decades US-based Cuban exile groups such as Alpha 66 and Brothers to the Rescue have waged murderous terror campaigns against Cuba in an effort to derail the socialist country’s revolution and punish its people.
Victims include the 78 passengers on Cubana Flight 455, blown out of the sky on October 6 1976, as well as those killed and injured in the bombing spree against Cuban hotels, designed to discourage tourism on the island, in the 1990s.
An estimated 3,500 Cubans have died since the revolution in attacks perpetrated by right-wing exiles hell-bent on revenge.
Yet when the Miami Five, sent to the US to monitor the activities of these criminals, provided information on them to the FBI — at the US’s request — their reward was to be seized, held illegally in solitary confinement for 17 months and then subjected to a parody of a trial, since condemned by the UN human rights commission for its lack of impartiality.
The Cuban people, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and all those groups, trade unions and individuals worldwide who have campaigned over the years for the freedom of the five can be rightly proud of the pressure they have brought to bear on the US government.
Honourable mention here should be made of the late RMT general secretary Bob Crow, whose determination to see the five freed was legendary and who stands vindicated today.
While the release of the three takes the form of a prisoner swap, with Cuba freeing US spy Alan Gross in return, the international opprobrium faced by Washington for keeping these brave men behind bars will have played its part in the White House’s calculations.
Just as welcome to all who stand in solidarity with the Cuban people is news that US President Barack Obama is taking steps to normalise diplomatic relations and ease the draconian blockade that has done such damage to Cuba’s economy.
The nation that trumpets “free trade” sees no inconsistency in enforcing the world’s longest and strictest embargo on the island, despite repeated votes for it to be lifted in the United Nations.
Under the Obama presidency this vindictive approach has been extended to companies outside the United States being harassed and penalised for daring to deal with what Washington views as the most insubordinate nation on Earth.
President Obama cannot, on his own, end the embargo. A raft of regressive legislation keeps the blockade in place, from the Cuba Assets Control Regulations 1963 to the Helms-Burton Act 1996 and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act 2000.
Only Congress can repeal it all. But easing travel bans and export restrictions are a positive start.
Progressives across the globe cannot let up the pressure for a full end to the persecution of Cuba. The world’s most aggressive imperialist power is hardly going to change its spots overnight.
Any shift in Washington’s policy will be spun as a new means to undermine Cuban socialism and bring it to heel.
The barrages of propaganda against Havana are not going to stop. Sadly, nor are the right-wing exiles who plot murder and mayhem from Miami going to disappear. But the freedom of the five and the first cracks in the embargo that emerged yesterday are a victory for the revolution and all of its supporters.