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Cuban Five prisoner’s cartoons
are shown in Portland, Maine

By W. T. Whitney Jr.
May 22, 2013

One of Gerardo's many cartoons

Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Cuban Five political prisoners, has been confined to high security U.S. federal prisons for almost 15 years. He is serving two life sentences. And he is a gifted cartoonist. Thirty of his creations are on display during May at the Meg Perry Center in Portland, Maine. Gerardo Hernandez calls the exhibition “Humor from my Pen.”

Hernandez’ art has been on tour throughout the United States and in other countries with the object of raising awareness of injustices inflicted on the Cuban Five. They were arrested in 1998, subjected to a biased trial in Miami, and given extra long sentences. Their offense was to have come to Florida to monitor private individuals and groups preparing terror attacks against Cuba. The object of their voluntary mission was to enable Cuban defenders to take preventative measures and make preparations

An inaugural reception for the exhibition of Hernandez’ cartoons took place at the Meg Perry Center on May 1, International Workers’ Day. The groups Let Cuba Live of Maine and Occupy Portland organized the event. The reception coincided with a march in Portland carried out in solidarity with the labor movement and cross border workers. Both before and after the event, Occupy Portland held sessions at the Meg Perry Center for people to write letters to political prisoners.

At least 65 activists attended the reception. Food typical of Cuba was available along with literature on the Five and on Cuba. Nancy Kohn of Boston, representing the International Committee to Free the Cuban 5, provided an overview of their case. Noting that their release now rests upon the U.S. President pardoning the four men still in prison, Kohn called for increased pressure being put on President Obama. (Prisoner Rene Gonzalez, released in 2011 to parole in Florida, recently gained permission to return to Cuba.) As an example of official cruelty, she observed that Gerardo Hernandez’ wife has not been allowed to visit him in prison.

Rob Shetterly was on hand to discuss political prisoners whose portraits, painted by him, were on display at the Center, together with Hernandez’ cartoons. The entire collection of Shetterly’s portraits of “Americans who tell the truth,” as he calls them, may be viewed on line at www.americanswhotellthetruth.org.

Boston – based poet Richard Cambridge read poems by Cuban Five prisoners Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labinino, also several of his own Cuba poems. Cambridge read Ramon Labinino’s greetings to those in attendance; it appears below. Many of those present were pleased once more to hear Cambridge’s poem “Embargo” which he had read to Maine audiences a decade ago as poets and musicians toured the state presenting Cambridge’s “Trading with the Enemy” show.

Electrician Chris Teret, former president of the Southern Maine Labor Council and traveler to Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade, succeeded in making the connection between International Workers’ Day and the Cuban Five. He recalled that when in Cuba he was thinking, “This is what it would be like if labor unions ran the state of Maine.”

The speakers’ presentations, edited for brevity and focus upon Cuba, may be seen and heard at http://youtu.be/pcQwLkHd1_U. Moderator Barbara West of Let Cuba Live appealed for people to be in Washington May 30 – June 3 for rallies, lobbying on behalf of the Five, and informational updates. The national gathering on behalf of the Five is organized by the International Committee to Free the Cuban 5.

Several of Gerardo Hernandez’ cartoons may be viewed at www.thecuban5.org. They reflect the artist’s perverse view of realities associated with U.S. hostility against Cuba. Themes include: U.S. hypocrisy on anti-terrorism, U.S. frustrations in trying to subdue Cuba, how the blockade works, and the nefarious role of terrorist Luis Posada, welcomed in the United States.

Here is Ramon’s eloquent salute to those assembled in Portland on May 1:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

May 1st is a special day, a day of remembrances, a day of struggle, and also a day to honor those who gave their lives and sacrificed everything to improve the living conditions of all workers around the world. It is another day of combat for those who want a just and better world for all.

That’s why we feel so proud and privileged to reach out to you all today, to say thanks so much for all you are doing for our cause and for the Cuban people. Remember that we are always by your side. We stand by your side in your daily struggle that is also our struggle. Never forget that the just causes you are defending are also our causes. This is the best way to honor the heroes of Chicago. And we will keep on fighting until the final victory – when all our dreams come true.

On behalf of the Cuban Five and the Cuban people, we wish you the best, and success in your daily work! Onward to Victory! We shall overcome! Five big hugs!

Gerardo, Rene, Fernando, Antonio, Ramon.

FCI, Ashland Kentucky

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