A standing ovation greeted the wives of the Miami Five at Unite Policy Conference last Tuesday as Britain’s largest union reasserted their support for the Miami Five’s ongoing struggle for justice.
Visiting the UK together for the first time, the four wives thanked Unite and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign for their solidarity and political lobbying.
Elizabeth Palmiero – wife of imprisoned Cuban anti-terrorist Ramón Labañino – spoke to 800 conference delegates on behalf of the wives and called on President Obama to intervene personally.
“The only thing our husbands are guilty of is protecting the Cuban people against terrorist attacks,” declared Elizabeth.
“The case is political and there is no other way to resolve the injustice than building the pressure of international public opinion against the policies of the U.S. government”.
Conference adopted a motion to intensify support for the Miami Five, oppose the U.S blockade of Cuba and further increase the number of branches affiliated to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
As General Secretary Len McCluskey declared, “Unite will continue to give all the support needed until justice prevails”.
The debate came the day after a fringe meeting attended by nearly 100 delegates to show solidarity with the Cuban people, oppose the illegal U.S. blockade of the island and welcome the wives of the Miami Five.
Newly elected Cuba Solidarity Campaign Chair and current Unite Assistant General Secretary Diana Holland condemned the ongoing blockade which forbids US-owned and part-owned companies from trading with Cuba. Diana reflected on the extraterritorial nature of the blockade which penalises foreign companies that trade or process finance from Cuba and re-emphasised Unite’s commitment to campaign against this economic injustice.
Diana referenced a report by the American Association for World Health which observed:
“that the U.S. embargo of Cuba has dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens. ... it is our expert medical opinion that the U.S. embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering - and even deaths - in Cuba. ... A humanitarian catastrophe has been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high level of budgetary support for a health care system designed to deliver primary and preventive health care to all of its citizens.”
“The blockade is still very much alive and kicking,” declared Diana. “Only last month the ING bank was fined millions of dollars for processing Cuban financial transactions because the US farcically keeps Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism”.
The economic blockade is just one facet of a dirty war against Cuba. “For over 50 years, Cuba has been subjected to continuous terrorist attacks organised, sponsored or tolerated by the US government and its agencies,” said Diana. This has included a range of chemical and biological attacks and the bombings to airliners and hotels.
To defend itself against terrorist attacks, Cuba sent five agents to infiltrate Miami-based terrorist organisations. After the FBI asked for Cuba’s help to deal with the terrorists, it used the evidence to arrest the Five. Despite condemnation by the UN and Amnesty International, the Miami Five remain unjustly held in America and their families are denied regular visitation rights.
“For the American authorities, it is not enough to keep our husbands in prison,” said Elizabeth. “But they must use us – by denying us visitation rights – to further attack our husbands”.
“We have suffered but we know that tears won’t bring freedom to the Miami Five, so we must continue to fight”.
The following evening, after a long day of intense discussion, over 800 delegates and visitors enjoyed the joint Unite/Cuba Solidarity Campaign social in support of the Miami Five entertained by the irrepressible sounds of Omar Puente y Las Raices Cubanas.