Comité Nacional por la Libertad de los Cinco Cubanos

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ILWU convention says:

"Free the Cuban 5, end U.S. blockade"

by Clarence Thomas
July 6, 2009
Reprinted from Workers World

The ILWU international president was instructed to write to President Barack Obama asking him to look into the case of the Cuban 5 and immediately free them [see resolution and letter below]

Clarence Thomas (right) hands a card to Magali Llort, mother of Fernando González.
Photos: Delores Lemon-Thomas

The ILWU tradition of solidarity has been guided by the principle that “ILWU policies and actions on foreign affairs have always been built on the belief that international labor solidarity and world peace are the cornerstones of social and economic justice for all workers including the membership of the ILWU.”

In late April an ILWU delegation spent 12 days in Havana. While there they met with spouses and mothers of the Cuban 5 and made a commitment to them to take the issue of their loved ones’ imprisonment to the ILWU Convention.

The Cuban 5 have been imprisoned for more than 10 years for monitoring the activities of right-wing paramilitary groups in south Florida that plot attacks against Cuba. On June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review their appeal.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union members from Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia, gathered in Seattle for the 34th ILWU Convention from June 8 to 12. The delegates adopted resolutions introduced by Local 10 calling for freedom for the Cuban 5 and by Local 34 to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba. These resolutions are evidence that ILWU international solidarity is alive and well.

Right to left: Mirta Rodriguez, Maria Eugenia Rodriguez, mother and sister of Antonio Guerrero imprisoned in Florence, Colo.;
Adriana Pérez, spouse of Gerardo Hernández imprisoned in Victorville, Calif., denied any visitation; Rosa Aurora Freijanes, spouse of Fernando González, imprisoned in Terra Haute, Ind.

Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly, told “Democracy Now” on June 17 that even the June 2008 negative decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals shed some important light on the case. Five times that U.S. court stated the Cuban 5 didn’t gather or transmit secret information affecting U.S. national security, resulting in its decision to order resentencing for three of the Cuban 5. Even during their trial in 2001, three U.S. generals and a rear admiral acknowledged that the accused had not committed espionage against the U.S.

As a result of the recent Supreme Court decision not to review the Cuban 5 case, it becomes more critical for union leaders and others to demand their freedom.

The convention also reaffirmed the union’s decades-long opposition to the U.S. trade embargo. The resolution adopted by the convention calls on the Obama administration to seize the moment and finally bring an end to the embargo and travel ban against Cuba.

One of the things this writer learned from the recent visit to Cuba was that the U.S. government wants to make the Cuban people lose affection for Fidel Castro and their commitment to the revolution by way of economic hardship. The U.S. plan has tried to create an atmosphere of desperation brought on by lack of resources, food, medicine and medical equipment that would lead to the overthrow of the Cuban government. The plan has failed.

During my visit to Havana I learned first hand of the impact of the embargo on the Cuban people. Construction supplies are scarce. Certain fruits like bananas are not available all year round. People who were part of the delegation that visited Cuba during the “special period” after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 described tremendous food shortages on the island. Now there is new “eco-socialism” where organic gardens thrive throughout the city, even on top of buildings.

A growing wave of voices beyond the progressive community in the U.S. is calling for an end to the embargo. These voices represent shipping companies, port commissioners, farmers and the business sector.

In an interview on CNN on May 13 with correspondent Jim Acosta, a port commissioner from Tampa, Fla., a shipping company tycoon and a U.S. cigar maker agreed that it’s time to end the embargo. With the collapse of the capitalist economy, various sectors view an end of the blockade as an opportunity for business to create jobs.

Acosta reported that ports along the Gulf Coast are drawing up business plans hoping for an end to the 47-year-old trade embargo against the island. “Port officials with the Port of Mobile, Ala., are planning their own trade mission to Cuba this July,” he said.

Arthur Savage, a Tampa shipping owner, said, “If we increase the ships, that ties right to jobs.”

Cuba was once a playground for the rich, powerful and famous, with casinos, prostitution and swank hotels. U.S. corporations and organized crime worked hand in hand with the colonial Cuban government. There was racism and a color and caste system, high rates of illiteracy and exploitation. All that changed with the revolution that triumphed on Jan. 1, 1959.

Workers in the U.S. have much to learn from a socialist society like Cuba which, despite the U.S. blockade, provides free education from kindergarten through graduate school and has eradicated illiteracy. Despite the U.S. blockade, the Latin American School of Medicine annually provides 4,500 medical students from around the world with entirely free tuition and produces doctors, including U.S. graduates, who agree to practice medicine for five years in poor communities and/or communities of color.

Once the blockade is lifted, workers from the U.S. can learn firsthand the benefits of living in a socialist country. Even with the U.S. travel ban, tens of thousands of U.S. residents travel to Cuba every year. It is time for the blockade and travel restrictions to end.

Clarence Thomas is a member of ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco, a convention observer and co-chair of the Million Worker March Movement.


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