Comité Nacional por la Libertad de los Cinco Cubanos

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Breaking the Silence conference opens in Toronto

by Steve Patt
Nov. 9-10, 2007
Special to

TORONTO, Nov. 9-10 - Nearly 150 supporters of the Cuban Five gathered on the morning of Nov. 9 in Toronto City Hall for the opening press conference of the Breaking the Silence conference, The conference is a joint project of the Canadian Network on Cuba, the Table de Concertation de Solidarité Québec-Canada, and the National Network on Cuba (U.S.). Keynote speakers at the press conference were Elizabeth Palmeiro, wife of Ramon Labañino, one of the Cuban Five, and Livio Di Celmo, brother of Fabio Di Celmo, an Italian tourist victim of a terrorist bomb placed in a Cuban hotel by U.S.-backed anti-Cuban terrorists in 1997.

Activists from across Canada, from Vancouver to Halifax and most major cities in between, including Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa, and from cities in the United States from Atlanta to San Francisco, and including delegations from Boston, Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, and others, gathered at the meeting to exchange experiences and plan for future activities designed to secure the freedom of the Five Cuban Heroes.

Joining the activists at the conference were the Cuban Ambassador to Canada, Ernesto Senti Darias, Basilio Gutiérrez and Javier Dominguez from the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), member of the Cuban National Assembly Silvia Garcia, and other distinguished guests who will be speaking later in the program of the conference, which lasts two days.

• Speeches by Livio Di Celmo and Elizabeth Palmeiro (also including a message from Ramon Labañino read by Elizabeth): mp3
• Remarks by Cuban Ambassador to Canada Ernesto Senti Darias: mp3
• Remarks by Nalda Vigezzi (NNOC) and Sean O'Donoghue (Table de Concertation): mp3

"The solidarity movement for Cuba, for the Cuban Revolution, is the most precious treasure we have. Because they are with us despite governments, they are with us anytime. And you know, to have friends like that also fuels us to keep fighting for the faith and for the good of humankind."

Cuban Ambassador to Canada Ernesto Senti

Toronto City Council chambers packed in the evening

In the evening, an even larger crowd of 400 people packed the Toronto City Council chambers for a public program featuring a series of informative, moving, and inspirational talks. Attorney Leonard Weinglass keynoted the evening with a thorough and insightful history of the case. Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, spoke about the need to capitalize on the upcoming Appeals Court decision as an exceptional opportunity to achieve freedom or a new trial for the Five, and urged activists to be prepared for a worldwide "day after" series of press conferences, pickets, and other activities on the day after the Appeals Court decision is handed down. Also speaking and motivating the crowd to redouble their efforts to Free the Five were Basilio Gutierrez from ICAP, Cuban Ambassador to Canada Ernesto Santi, featured guest Elizabeth Palmeiro, Livio Di Celmo, Judge Claudia Morecom speaking on behalf of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School and activist on behalf of political prisoners including the San Francisco 8 Soffiyah Elijah, and Alicia Jrapko from the International Committee to Free the Cuban Five.

Audio of the evening speeches: (all mp3 files, in the order they were given in the program)

• Basilio Gutierrez
• Ernesto Santi
• Gloria La Riva
• Leonard Weinglass
• Elizabeth Palmeiro
• Livio Di Celmo
• Claudia Morecom
• Soffiyah Elijah
• Alicia Jrapko

QuickTime video of the program (long, 1 hour 27 minutes)

Conference continues Saturday

On Saturday, 300 activists met at the Steelworkers' Hall in Toronto to continue the conference with sessions on the legal case, human rights, and planning for future actions. Speakers from the previous day, along with others including lawyers Bill Sloan, Paul Copeland and Juan Carranza, author Isaac Saney, former Vancouver City Councilperson Tim Louis, and author James Cockcroft, were among the additional participants in the panels, which also provided for extensive participation from those in attendance. The conference adopted an action plan which can be read here, and ended with an evening of food and music courtesy of the Cuban Consulate.

Ramón's message to the conference

The conference action plan

Photos from the event (photos courtesy of the Free the Cuban 5 Committee - Vancouver)

Livio Di Celmo and Elizabeth Palmeiro at the opening Press Conference

The opening session of the conference

Livio Di Celmo addresses the packed Toronto City Council chamber

Leonard Weinglass, Claudia Morecom and Paul Copeland in front of the beautiful mural (temporarily) gracing the wall of the Steelworkers Hall during the legal session of Day 2 of the conference

Leonard Weinglass in front of the Steelworkers logo

Activists fill the Steelworkers Hall on Day 2



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