Fifteen years of cruel separation - Justice for the Miami Five

Campaign News | Sunday, 20 January 2013

by Dan Smith, CSC Campaigns Officer

This year, 2013, will see the 15th anniversary of the arrest of the Miami Five. It will also mark 15 years of cruel separation for the men and their loved ones in Cuba.

Two of the wives, Olga Salanueva and Adriana Perez, have been denied visas on 11 separate occasions to even visit their husbands Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez incarcerated in the US.

At the packed parliamentary meeting organised to launch an EDM calling for visitation rights for the five, British MP Michael Connarty lamented the inhumane denial of human contact imposed on them.

"Murderers and people who have committed the most heinous crimes get these rights," Connarty said.

"What was the crime of the Miami Five? Protecting their country. We give people medals for that. They weren't fomenting revolution or planting bombs - they were trying to collect information on terrorists." The United States' treatment of the Miami Five therefore represents "a breach of human rights."

Five families have been ripped apart by the 15-year imprisonment of the Miami Five.

As if that were not enough, the US government continues to arbitrarily punish Olga and Adriana by denying them access to their husbands.

"I always thought I'd have children," remarks Adriana tragically. "Now I know I will never have a family."

Early Day Motion 497 calls on the US administration to make a humanitarian gesture and grant visitation rights to Olga and Adriana.

It cites an Amnesty International report which concluded that "denying the men visits from their wives is unnecessarily punitive and contrary to standards for humane treatment of prisoners and states' obligations to protect family life."

Now in an extraordinary show of solidarity, 116 MPs have signed EDM 497 in what is already the most successful parliamentary action ever in support of the Five.

Ten years ago 112 MPs signed a similar EDM which expressed concern at the arrest, trial and incarceration of the Five.

But to exceed that number with fewer Labour MPs now in Parliament - and a convention prohibiting members of the shadow cabinet from signing EDMs - is truly remarkable and testament to the tremendous wave of public opinion in support of the Miami Five and their families.

Every political party - even including a couple of Tories - sitting in the House of Commons is represented on the list of signatures, and out of nearly a thousand EDMs active this parliamentary session EDM 497 is the eighth-most supported and the highest motion on an international issue.

The overwhelming level of parliamentary support is a direct result of activists lobbying their MPs to support the motion.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny and CWU general secretary Billy Hayes wrote to MPs on behalf of the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation urging MPs to sign the EDM to put pressure on the US administration to show compassion.

"With the re-election of President Obama there is a real opportunity now to show that the international community has not forgotten about the Five and their families," they said.

Cathy Jamieson MP, vice-chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group for Cuba, highlighted the importance of the EDM in raising awareness and its necessity in the ongoing struggle for justice.

"Of course we want to see the Miami Five free," Jamieson says. "But this is something that we can achieve now."

Cuba Solidarity Campaign director Rob Miller says it's a complete travesty that after so many years Olga and Adriana are being denied visas to visit their husbands.

"This motion shows that MPs representing nearly eight million British citizens, from all the political parties, are clear that the US should stop this 'torture' and allow these women to see their husbands," Miller says.

"We will ensure that this simple message reaches President Obama as well as the US people."

With legal avenues virtually exhausted within the US it is only through international political action that the Miami Five will receive justice.

That is why it is crucial to build the pressure of international condemnation by channelling public action to increase the number of MPs that support EDM 497.

As Connarty urged at the parliamentary meeting, "write to your MP, write to the Prime Minister, write to William Hague, write to President Obama, write to the European Commission on Human Rights, write to anyone supposedly interested in human rights. Never give up. Keep fighting."

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