Amid constantly drizzling rain, more than 40 protesters in front of the American Consulate Friday sought justice for Cuban patriots imprisoned and convicted by the U.S. government of committing espionage and conspiracy that has allegedly endangered the internal security of the U.S.
Protesters waved signs reading “Bush, Carilles au poteau; liberez les 5 heros” and “Justicia – ya” (Justice – finally), chanted “10 ans prisonniers! 10 ans, c’est assez!,” and sung a Cuban revolutionary song.
Protesters decried that five Cuban patriots – known as the Cuban Five – have spent the last ten years in jail.
Roy Fernandez, Director of the Cuban Foreign Council, was outraged by their imprisonment.
“They weren’t holding any military secrets or information, but only monitoring those right-wing activists to protect U.S. and Cuban citizens,” he said.
The five prisoners were allegedly held in solidarity confinement for 17 months. The wives of two of the five – who have been denied American visas nine times in a row – haven’t seen their husbands for the past 10 years.
Colette Lavergne, spokesperson of Comité Fabio Di Celmo pour les 5, that organized the protest, was optimistic about the message of Friday’s protest.
“We are hoping for a snowball effect,” said Lavergne. “It is the youth that will change the world, so we need to inform them”.
In 1998, the Cuban Five infiltrated a Miami-based terrorist group whose actions had already cost the lives of 3,200 civilians, including Montrealer Fabio Di Celmo, over 20 years. The U.S. government arrested the Cuban Five after they contacted American security agencies to report the terrorist activity. The terrorists involved in the attack suffered no penal consequences.
The conviction has been denounced by Amnesty International, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, and politicians all over the world, including 92 Quebec personalities in the political, union, and judicial spheres.
The Montreal protest was among many actions organized worldwide on Friday, that marked the ten-year anniversary of the Cuban Five’s imprisonment. From Washington to Canberra, and Costa Rica to Sweden, angry citizens urged the U.S. to free the prisoners and grant visas to their families.
But the Montreal protest was especially relevant based on Canada’s political relationship to the U.S., according to Lavergne.
“As a neighbour country, we are obliged to make the case as public as possible,” said Lavergne.
Protesters also urged the U.S. to convict the American head of the terrorist attacks, former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles. Despite his confessions to terrorist activity, Carriles lives free in Miami after a court hearing dismissed his case. Claiming he would be suseptible to torture, a second court hearing ruled against his deportation to Venezuela.
Apart from organizing monthly protests, the Comité Fabio Di Celmo pour les 5 advertises in American newspapers, helps sponsor billboards in Cuba and America, and is currently organizing to send Quebec delegates to Washington, to pressure the U.S. government.
Lavergne remained loyally committed to freeing the Cuban Five.
“If we would ever stop, we would become accomplices and traitors of our cause – we couldn’t look at ourselves in a mirror.”