Labour Party Conference report

Campaign News | Saturday, 3 October 2009

Labour Party Conference 2009

‘The Cuba Solidarity Campaign has worked tirelessly’ proclaimed Derek Simpson, Joint General Secretary of Unite to a packed CSC fringe meeting during Labour Party Conference in September. With family members of the Miami Five on the platform Derek told the meeting ‘this is all our campaigns to get justice for these women and their husbands’.

‘This issue is a campaign for the whole trade union movement’ was Brendan Barber’s call. The General Secretary of the TUC, who visited the island for May Day this year, declared that ‘the most moving part of my visit around May Day was the chance we had to meet again Olga and Adriana and other family members of the Five’. The packed room of over 300 delegates and visitors heard Brendan speak about ‘the fantastic advances in the health service, the education service that would shame many, many richer nations’. Early Day Motion 1171 which calls for better relations with Cuba has received the support of 216 MPs so far and Brendan paid tribute to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign for their work on this issue; ‘let’s step up our relationship and friendship with Cuba. Let’s have full Ministerial relations’ he declared to the delight of the audience.

‘I am here on behalf of the Five but also here on behalf of the children of the Five’ Irma González, daughter of René González told the meeting. In a heart felt contribution she explained how ‘one morning, early, early morning the FBI agents went into my house with guns and arrested my dad and took my dad to prison’. Irma explained to the standing room only audience ‘eleven years in prison for being innocent, there’s no fairness in that’. This was Irma’s first time in the UK and she told the delegates that ‘I just saw my father a month ago. His spirit is always high, he knows what is going on here, he knows what is going on in Britain, in the whole world for the freedom of the Five, the solidarity. But he needs to speak to my mom. For many years now I have been the bridge between my mom and my father and it is very hard for me to separate their feelings towards one another. What he’s feeling and what he’s trying to transmit to her. That I can’t say.’ The room stood as one as Irma finished by declaring that ‘I hope that next year the Five are here’.

‘We are very happy to know that we are not alone in a struggle that is taking us through the political path because the legal path is already closed for two of our comrades’ Adriana, the wife of Gerardo Hernández told the meeting. Adriana spoke about the forthcoming resentencing of Ramon, Antonio and Fernando but reminded the delegates that ‘whichever sentence they are given it will still be an injustice precisely because none of the charges have been proved’. Adriana explained that her husband ‘Gerardo has been condemned to stay forever in prison and this is something we cannot allow to happen’. Adriana finished with the words ‘We carry with us the hopes that we will continue to be together and you will continue to fight side by side with us’.

‘The campaign which has been carried out in solidarity in the United Kingdom has been fundamental. We will never have enough time to express our appreciation for the many things you have done in support of Cuba and specifically the Five’ Olga, wife of René told the Labour Party delegates. ‘Throughout these eleven years we have managed to advance a lot in the work of solidarity with the Miami Five and it is thanks precisely to the work of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the trade union movement’. In an emotionally charged speech Olga told the 300 delegates that ‘we shouldn’t let this injustice go on any longer. The pain and loss to the Five and their families has been too much. They will never be able to deprive us of the truth, the dignity of the Five. We have to continue to fight so that they return home with the same dignity they have had for the last eleven years’.

Thanking Olga, Adriana and Irma, the chair of the meeting, Tony Lloyd MP made clear that ‘our solidarity is with you. Your struggle is our struggle’.

‘The events after the arrests and the so called justice and trials were a shame upon any so called democracy in this world’ declared Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB. ‘Injustice lives in silence, it thrives on silence and it grows on silence’ he said before going to tell the delegates ‘from this platform I absolutely pledge from our Executive and from our members that we will be 100% supportive until we get to the day when we get justice and freedom for people who have been persecuted.’ Addressing Irma, Paul said ‘when you see your dad, you give him a message from us, you tell him, you tell them all, we are proud to be involved in this struggle. And we will not cease, we will not tire until the shame and injustice of this situation is put right. They are not alone, the British trade union movement stands absolutely firm, shoulder to shoulder, hand to hand, thank you for bringing us into the fight’.

‘You’re heroes, you’re great people. You’re ordinary mothers and ordinary daughters as we are in this hall. You’re very, very welcome here this evening’ the Joint General Secretary of Unite, Tony Woodley told Adriana, Olga and Irma. Posing the question he asked the meeting ‘what’s the crime? We have a tiny little Caribbean island and the only crime is that they’re socialists’. In a passionate speech Tony made clear ‘the battle for the freedom of the Five must continue and it can only be solved now because the legal process is complete, it can only be solved now by a political decision taken at Obama’s level’. Turning to the family members Tony pledged that ‘we promise you with all the breath in our body, until we have justice we will never, ever, ever give up this fight’.

The case of the five was again raised on the main conference floor on Thursday 1 October as Tony Burke from Unite speaking on the Britain in the World Report said:

"I want to remind conference about the disgraceful attack on human rights that America is continuing against Cuba through the economic blockade and through the unjust imprisonment of the Miami 5.

This wrong is compounded by the outrageous treatment that the wives and families of these 5 Cubans have suffered through the denial of basic human right to visit their husbands and fathers.

Our Foreign Office ministers should make clear to Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama that the refusal of visitation rights for the wives and children of the Miami 5 for the past 11 years is a fundamental breach of human rights, contrary both to the standards for the humane treatment of prisoners and to a states’ obligation to protect family life."

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