In a packed hall in NUT headquarters in London, more than a few people dabbed their eyes when Olga Salanueva addressed the Cuba Solidarity Campaign AGM. Thanking, on behalf of all the families CSC and everyone in the UK who has supported the fight for justice for the Five, she laid bare the emotions a woman feels when re-united for a fleeting brief period, with a husband unjustly imprisoned for so long.
Rene Gonzalez, her husband and one of the five imprisoned whilst working against terrorist attacks waged against Cuba, was recently released on parole after 13 years in prison. His parole conditions mean he has to stay in the US for three years but Rene was recently granted a two week visit to Cuba to visit his terminally ill brother.
Olga talked of the joy even in those difficult circumstances, after having been denied for the whole of his sentence, of any visiting rights in the US, of waking up in bed next to her husband. The joy of family re-unions, the happiness of simple family pleasures that should be taken for granted, and the fact that Rene was shown so much love and affection by everyone whilst just out walking about in Cuba. Two wonderful weeks that passed by in the blink of an eye, but have neither diminished her commitment or those of the families. This is a case of unbelievable injustice that is now internationally known, condemned by everyone and needs even more concerted pressure to seek a political solution.
As the other wives - Adriana Perez, Rosa Aurora Freijanes and Elizabeth Palmeiro all said, CSC has paved the way for the campaign with the EU, with Amnesty International and with trade unions all around the world. But they need everyone to step up their help to put pressure on President Obama “to use his left hand” and sign the papers for a pardon. They stressed they would leave behind all their love and take us away in their hearts. It was an emotional, moving and inspirational contribution to the AGM.
Bernard Regan CSC Secretary, in moving the Annual Plan said if the Five were all now one big family, then we were part of their extended family and would continue to prioritise the fight for justice for them in the next year. This would be alongside our continued fight against the illegal blockade of the island by the US and defending the Cuban peoples right to determine their own sovereignty.
Rob Miller CSC Director in looking back on the last year reminded delegates of the incredible breadth and extent of CSC’s work, all with limited resources. Paying tribute to all the activists and staff of CSC he spoke of parliamentary work, a visit by MP’s to Cuba, lobbying at the EU, extensive work with 26 nationally affiliated UK trade unions, international work with US unions such as SEIU, the Miami five vigil outside the US Embassy, the solidarity tours including the one with UK actors who performed Harold Pinter works in Havana, the Beyond the Frame Art exhibition in the UK, speaking tours, visits from prominent Cubans like Olympian medalist Albertino Juanterena and LGBT rights campaigner, Mariela Castro, Brigades to Cuba, Latin America 2011 and the meeting with Noam Chomsky and vitally, the hard work of all the local groups. In a time of austerity Rob thanked everyone for their effort and the fact that last year both individual members and affiliations have increased. Trade union branch affiliations increased by 80 and Rob paid tribute to all the support the unions have given to the campaign, in so many different ways over the last year.
As well as watching the Unite sponsored DVD on the Miami Five campaign, delegates also saw a premiere of a new film about the opening of the restored Miramar Theatre in Havana. After seven years of dreaming and fundraising through the charity ‘Music Fund For Cuba’ the opening night was a stunning success. Jean MacColl, Kirsty’s mother spoke movingly of her fight for the truth about her daughters death but also the joy of attending the opening night knowing just how much she loved Cuba and it’s people.
Whilst praising that unique achievement, the AGM also passed motions on Beyond the Frame, CSC Local Groups and the EU Common Position.
In electing a new Executive the AGM also said farewell to Keith Sonnet UNISON Deputy General Secretary and elected Dianne Holland, Assistant General Secretary of Unite to the position. The AGM thanked Keith for his tremendous work and support for the Campaign for many years and wished him well in the future.
Whilst that signalled the end of the formal AGM after lunch delegates heard a round table discussion on ‘Cuba and the Economic Changes’.
With presentations from academic experts, Steve Ludlam, Emily Morris, and Carlos Alfaro (Cuban Embassy) delegates were treated to an in depth discussion on the recent history of the economy, the new guidelines adopted by the Parliament and their implications and effects to date.
An informative, educational, inspirational and moving AGM which was a credit to everyone who was and is involved in the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.