Family members visit British Columbia
Nov. 3, 2006
by Noah Fine
On Thursday November 2, two heroes came to British Columbia.
They were Irma Gonzalez, the 22 year old daughter of Rene Gonzalez and Elizabeth Palmiero, wife of Ramon Labanino. Irma’s father and Elizabeth’s husband are two Cuban men in a group known as the Cuban 5. The Cuban 5 were sent by the Cuban government to Miami to investigate right-wing groups who were carrying out acts of terrorism against Cuba. These men collected evidence against the terrorist groups and presented it to the U.S. FBI. Instead of the U.S. imprisoning the terrorists in Miami they imprisoned the five who had done the investigation. Today the Cuban 5 political prisoners continue to be held unjustly in U.S. jails on wrongful convictions.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Irma are speaking out in their families’ defence. They spent the end of October and begining of November 2006 touring across Canada demanding justice, both for their imprisoned family members and the Cuban people who have faced this Miami-based terrorism. The same US-backed terrorism against Cuba which the Cuban 5 were trying to stop.
Vancouver City-wide Event:
On Nov 2nd, in an event organized by the Canadian Network on Cuba, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC), the Free the Cuban Five Committee Vancouver (FC5C), and the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association – Vancouver (CCFA) at the SFU Harbour Center, over 120 people came and heard the story of these women and their imprisoned family members.
The event was co-MCd by Ray Viaud (President of the CCFA) and Tamara Hansen (coordinator of VCSC and an executive of the Canadian Network on Cuba - the national network that organized the cross-Canada tour). The two MCs gave a warm welcoming to the two honoured guests and invited up former Vancouver city councilor Tim Louis, and then Noah Fine, coordinator of the FC5C to welcome the guests on behalf of people in Vancouver and the committee to free the five heroes.
Irma spoke first, explaining the events that lead Cuba to send the her father and four other men (known today as the Cuban 5) to investigate terrorism against Cuba in Miami, and the huge list of injustices that followed their arrest, trial and incarceration.
Elizabeth spoke next, connecting the audience with the struggle the families had gone through, knowing that their loved ones have been locked away unjustly. She also explained the importance of organizing around this case, not just to free the five, but also about the attacks Cuba faces and the constant threat from the U.S.
After questions and discussion, Elizabeth compared Vancouver with Venezuela for campaigning for the Five so far, a great complement, and a great task to live up to!
Capilano College Event:
On November 2nd 2006 Capilano College was host to a Cuba solidarity event with relatives of the Cuban 5: Irma Gonzalez and Elizabeth Palmiero.
The event at Capilano College was organized by: the Free the Cuban 5 Committee, the Capilano Students Union and sponsored by the Capilano College History Department, Political Studies Department, Global Stewardship Program and the Latin American Studies Program.
The Cross-Canada tour was organized by the Canadian Network on Cuba, Canadian Cuban Friendship Association, Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver and Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba.
Prior to the event there was a press conference with family members of the Cuban 5 Irma and Elizabeth that brought out four reporters from lower mainland College and university press as well as the 24 hours daily newspaper.
The event was opened by host Jane Ivanova(Free the Cuban 5 committee coordinator at the Capilano Students’ Union), who was followed by Gordon Bailey (sociology professor at Capilano College), who gave a welcoming on behalf of the faculty of Capilano College to Irma and Elizabeth.
With over 120 students in attendance, Irma Gonzalez, daughter of Rene Gonzalez spoke outlining the case and clearly describing the attacks on Cuba that the five were trying to prevent. Elizabeth Palmiero, wife of Ramon Labanino, continued the story of love and hope from a very personal perspective sharing the feelings of a wife who has not seen her loving husband for over 8 years.
The event resulted in 82 signatures on the petitions demanding freedom for the Cuban 5, as well as over 10 students sign up to get involved with the Free the Cuban 5 committee under the Capilano Students’ Union.
This event was am important and successful way to bring the case of the 5 to the attention of students.
After having traveled thousands of kilometers across Canada, the two Cuban revolutionaries made their final tour stop in Victoria BC.
Over 60 people packed into the BCGEU hall on Nov 3 to hear Irma Gonzalez and Elizabeth Palmiero speak about their fight to free the "Cuban 5".
The Cuban 5 are five political prisoners being held in US jails on wrongful convictions. Among these five prisoners is Irma's father, Rene Gonzalez, and Elizabeth's husband, Ramon Labanino.
Their speaking event in Victoria was the opening night of a weekend long progressive film festival. The opening film for Friday night was the moving documentary "Mission Against Terror" about the case of the Cuban 5.
The film was introduced by Irma, and a energetic question period followed the film. Both Elizabeth and Irma answered questions on the case with passion and clarity. What were the Cuban 5 doing in Miami? How has the legal fight been progressing? Why does the US government refuse to allow some of the family members to visit the prisoners?
The event was attended by a diverse crowd of students, people from the Latin American community, experienced activists and those new to Cuba solidarity work. It was clear by the active interest during the question period, that a wide diversity of people had been positively impacted by the event and the case of the Cuban 5.
The event was wrapped up Irma and Elizabeth urged people to get active and use their creativity to spread awareness about the case and to encourage more and more people to join the struggle.
Event MC, Randy Carravagio of Goods for Cuba closed the evening and thanked the speakers. All in all, the night was a success for broadening awareness about the unjust imprisonment of the five Cubans and inspiring more people to get involved.