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San Francisco

Posted on February 27, 2010

California Mayor Advocates Freeing Cuban 5 TIs and National Solidarity

Human Rights Examiner
Deborah Dupre'

A key for justice and the release of allegedly falsely imprisoned persons (FIPs), the Cuban 5 targeted individuals (TIs) due to their anti-terrorist work, is awareness raising about their combined case. Deisy Francis Mexidor of the International Committee to Free the Cuban 5 has, therefore, released the following explanation about the persecuted Cubans and her interview with California Mayor 60 miles from Los Angeles who is subsequently advocating for their release.

In response to an interview with Prensa Latina, the Mayor of the City of Richmond, California, Gayle McLaughlin, affirmed that “known political causes in my country were resolved only when there was massive support of public opinion, as it happened with Angela Davis. That is why”, she added “the lesson of working among broad sectors of the US public is extremely valuable in a critical time when the solidarity with Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez y René Gonzalez needs to be increased”.

The first time that the Mayor heard about the case was through the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five. She then decided to reach to other California mayors. She told them about the humanitarian issue of family visits, particularly the violations against two of the wives Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva. It was from that initiative that she joined with 12 other mayors in writing a letter to then US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urging him to intervene and allow visas for family members.

In support of what McLaughlin considers a “critical case,” McLaughlin recalls that last year she presented a resolution that “was unanimously approved by the City Council of Richmond”.

In the text, the resolution called for freedom of the Cuban Five, as they are internationally known.

These men imprisoned since 1998 in the United States are serving long and outrageous sentences. As a local elected official concerned about social justice within her own community and globally, the case of the Five immediately “garnered my sympathy and concern,” McLaughlin said.

“In particular,” she explained, “the 10 years of Sister City relations between Regla in Havana and Richmond provides an additional reason to show our solidarity with our Cuban brothers and sisters.”

In response to a question about the White House’s current discourse, McLaughlin pointed out, “unfortunately President Obama continues to uphold George W. Bush's stance on terrorism but it is not entirely surprising because for over 50 years US/Cuba relations, America's Democratic and Republican presidents alike have maintained a hostile and aggressive position towards our neighboring island. The is the case with the war on terror, Democrats and Republicans have much in common, mainly furthering the U.S. economic and military interests throughout certain regions - like Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.”

McLaughlin went on to say, “It is extremely hypocritical that U.S. leaders keep people like the Cuban Five in jail while allowing real terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles to roam free in this country. This hypocrisy proves that the war on terror is really not about protecting people from harm but is actually about maintaining US hegemonic power and control. The sad irony is that in order to do so the US perpetrates and supports a whole host of terrorist acts such as those committed by Cuban exile groups in Miami against the Cuban population.”

Asked about her challenges as a Mayor of a city with more than 100 thousand people, she stated that, “They are large because we have a long history of social, economic and environmental injustices to reverse. During the 100 years of domination, the Richmond Chevron refinery has profoundly impacted the health of our residents and our planet. On the other hand we are fortunate to have a wonderful diverse community comprised in its majority of Afro-Americans and also Latinos, many of whom are newly arrived immigrants”.

When asked about where her strength lies as mayor McLaughlin replied, “In my belief, confidence, and respect I have for the people of Richmond.”

The interest of Gayle McLaughlin for the Antillean Island started when she was 21-years old. Since then, she understood that, “Cuba's history has been very much focused on overcoming oppression and domination. Knowing this has made me question the unfair representation of Cuba by various US institutions such as our education system, the media, and the political status quo.”

When she first visited the Caribbean nation in 1986 with the Venceremos Brigade, she said that, “it was a transforming experience because the people of Cuba touched my heart, soul and mind. I took home with me from that trip a visceral understanding that went beyond my intellectual understanding, of what it means to be part of a changing world that puts people first.”


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