Meet some of the ‘selfless friends’ of the Five

White House DemonstratinNot all of those who’ve been part of the struggle to free the Cuban Five have been prominent activists, or even members of organized groups. Meet a few of them.

  • Jacqueline Roussie, a French woman who discovered the case of the Five during a vacation to Cuba with her husband in 2003, began corresponding with them in prison in December 2004. In 2006, she and 63 of her neighbours in Monein, a village in the southwest of France, wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, calling on him to free the Five. Their letter, she admits, did not “weigh heavily on the U.S. government!”  But after Barak Obama was elected president in 2008, she began writing him monthly letters — 73 in all — often with copies to 20 other “personalities” in the U.S. “I never received a response from these figures, but I have never been discouraged,” she says today. “I knew that justice would ultimately prevail.” The last of the 170 letters she received from Gerardo Hernandez was dated Dec. 1. “Your letters to Obama and other US authorities have been like a water droplet on the stone,” he told her. “Today we have many signs that indicate that the stone has been worn …
  • Alina Lopez Marin, a Cuban American whose family left Cuba in 1960, says writing to Gerardo Hernandez “helped me regain faith in my fellow Cubans.” She began corresponding with him in 2008 “after flying over Guanajacabibes in Pinar del Rio, while returning from Belize. Belize had reminded me of Cuba quite a bit, or the Cuba that I had left as a child in 1960. The island felt like a magnet. Something called out to me. I began reading all I could about current Cuba and found out about the Five. I wrote a letter to Gerardo in his prison in California… I tell [Gerardo] that it was his mom who was ailing at the time who called to me to ask me to become his adopted mom.
  • Bill Ryan, of Gillies Corner, Ontario, had been making maple baseball bats in his home workshop to hand out to Cuban youngsters during vacation trips to the island for about a decade. In 2009, he decided to create five special bats, one for each family of the Cuban Five, whom he’d come to realize were “national heroes” there. That led to an ongoing correspondence between Ryan and Gerardo. In 2010, Gerardo asked him to make a special bat to commemorate the victory of Havana Industriales, his favourite team, in the Cuban National Baseball League championship. After that, he made wooden plaques to thank those who’d supported the cause. There followed more personal orders, including a Gerardo-designed jewelry box featuring black coral and deer antlers to commemorate his first date with his wife Adriana 25 years earlier. Ryan presented the gift to Adriana while they were both sitting in a restaurant and Adriana was on the phone talking with Gerardo. “It was almost as if he was there.”

Are you one of those who added your own individual voice to the struggle? Or do you know someone else whose role should be celebrated. Share their story with us and we’ll add it to this honour roll.

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More on the role activists played in winning the release of the Five here.

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  1. And no tribute would be complete without the recognition of some absent friends, including the late Leonard Weinglass, Saul Landau and Bernie Dwyer.

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  2. I, Josie, will never forget, when my husband Dirk came home from work on Monday, September 14, [1998] (we had no internet access at home then) and told me about the arrest of “10 Cuban Spies”, according the report in “Miami Herald”. …
    Well, we surveyed the following coverage anxiously while well informed about exile Cuban terrorist acts in Cuba then.
    But in 1999 the kidnapped child Elián González took our breath.
    Only in June 2001 at a Cuba friendship meeting in Berlin we were informed officially by our Cuban guests about the unjust conviction of the Cuban Five.
    Then the first signatures among the Cuba Solidarity in Germany were gathered on behalf of their release.
    Well, we had sympathized with the Cuban Revolution at least since we were students, and we had joined the Cuba Solidarity movement in Germany after having been twice in Cuba in 1995 and 1996 for the first time, but we were no real activists on behalf of Cuba, so far.
    After having been informed about the unjust convictions of the Cuban Five, we tried to find out more about the case by reading articles by Gloria La Riva, for instance in “Worker’s World” and others in “NY-Transfer”.
    In May-June 2002, we wrote for the first time to all the Five in their separate prisons.
    It lasted until December 14, 2002, when a German Committee to free the Cuban Five was founded under the umbrella of the German Cuba Network by help of Belgian friends and Gloria La Riva, who had been invited to Brussels in October 2002.
    Then the Five became the priority of our lives. We cannot count all demonstrations we participated at in favour of them not only in German cities until last September 12 (another last event had been in Berlin on December 10), but also in Geneva in front of the United Nations, when accompanying the visits of Adriana Pérez, Olga Salanueva, as well as Magaly Llort mother of Fernando.
    We participated at the lobbying to convince those persons being allowed to ask the Norwegian Committee to nominate the Cuban Five for the Nobel Prize of Peace. In 2005 Five, we learned that the Five had been among those nominated 200 persons.
    We cannot count the letters we wrote to the United Nations, to the respective pope from John-Paul II. to Benedict XIII to pope Francisco.
    (The Vatican responded each time in a friendly manner.)
    To German prominent persons, as for Günter Grass, winner of the Nobel Prize of literature, some other authors, as for Roger Willemsen and some caberttists too, who supported the case since 2005 by their signatures.
    But we scarcely could win our mainstream media…
    We invited the wives and mothers of the Five to Germany. All of them gave very convincing and impressing performances on behalf of their loved ones, each time, in different years and encouraged all of us in going on.

    We invited the famous attorney Leonard Weinglass to Berlin in April 2004, and he informed the audience about the case.
    Only one newspaper reported then about the 4 events with Weinglass: “Die Berliner Zeitung”.
    Well, we participated at the financing of the full-page ad in “New York Times” in 2004 and at another half-page one in Washington Post later on, as well as at some cultural events in the USA in favour of the Cuban Five.
    We cannot count nor mention all of those, who participated at those efforts in convincing our members of Parliament our attorneys etc.

    As for Dirk and me, we were mainly responsible for the updating and translation of the News about the case from English to German at the German speaking website http://www.miami5.de until now.
    We participated at a brochure about the case “Die USA und der Terror – der Fall der Cuban Five” and at many flyers and leaflets.
    We were responsible for the translation of Jean-Guy Allard’s “FBI Miami Terrorist Connection” and by now, we have translated “What Lies Across the Water…”
    Yet, we are not sure, if it will be printed.
    Thanks for your book, dear Stephen Kimber.
    Well, the European campaign coordinated by Katrien Demuynck, Belgium, was aware that the main battle happened to be in the United States, which we wanted to support.
    For us, here in Europe, however, are the following names of “unsung heroes” important too. Only some of them I want to add, besides Katrien Demunck, she and her husband Marc Vandepitte visited Gerardo three times in prison, and of course she participated at the “5 days in Washington D.C.” each time with other delegates from Europe,they are:
    Brigitte Oftner from Austria,
    Samuel Wanitsch, Switzerland, his wife Magdalena having organized the demonstrations in Geneva in front of the building of the United Nations, at which the French, Italian, Spanish and German solidarity groups participated.
    Tomas Vidén, Sweden and his hungerstrikes in four successive summers,
    and of course we felt encouraged by the activities in the Ukraine, despite of there current civil war, we get repsective news from them until now, see: five@five.in.ua, info@editorialetraviva.com
    From our German point of view, we are especially grateful for the activities in favour of the Cuban Five throughout all these years by Klaus Czyborra (DKP, German Communist Party), and Heinz W. Hammer (Cuba Friendship Association Essen/Ruhr), to Elisabeth Dietze, to Klaus Eichner, Heinz Langer and Günter Belchaus (SPD, German Socialist Democrats), Petra Grübl, Petra Wegener, Brigitte Schiffler and of course to all members of the Cuba Network board, supporting our activities.
    All of us, I thin, throughout Europe, inclusive, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia, Lebanon, Pakistan, not to mention the Latin Americans and the Cuban people themselves have been inspired by the example of the Cuban Five Heroes to fight for a better world.

    — Con saludos solidarios
    Josie Michel-Brüning und Dirk Brüning

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  3. I participated in Cuba solidarity work beginning in 1960, continuing until now. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee had a branch in Saskatoon, Sask, when I went to the University of Sask. We did fundraising, carried banners in marches, occasionally helped people travel to Cuba. One of our members, Lloyd Mattson, was author of the early solidarity book Cuba Libre.

    I went to Cuba on an 11 day political tour with the New York Guardian (previously the National Guardian) in 1981 – terrific experience, met wonderful, dedicated people there.

    Sending an email to Obama the 5th of every month to Free the Cuban Five has been my habit since that campaign began, whenever that was. Rarely, I would get a reply from the White House, assuring me that the President appreciates me taking the time to express my opinions, and referring me to some website where official policy on Cuba lives.

    — Ken Collier

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  4. Walter Lippmann was a constant correspondent of Gerardo’s and also helped Alicia by posting her notices early on. He also translated any entries which were originally written in Spanish to English. When my printer was not working either he or Bill would print and send publucations to Gerardo.

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