RMT union host reception to welcome Miami Five heroes

Campaign News | Friday, 15 July 2016

Gerardo Hernandez with RMT President Sean Hoyle at Maritime House

Gerardo Hernandez with RMT President Sean Hoyle at Maritime House

Trade unionists welcomed the Miami Five heroes René González and Gerardo Hernández and their families at a trade union reception hosted by the RMT at Maritime House, south London, on Monday.

The RMT provided a warm welcome on a pleasant summer evening for the Cuban guests with live Cuban music, mojitos, cigars, beers and a BBQ in the gardens of Maritime House. Rene, Gerardo and their families were greeted with a huge round of applause and cheering by almost 100 specially invited guests on their arrival.

The support and solidarity from the British trade union movement played a key part in raising the profile of the campaign of the Miami Five and ultimately winning their freedom in December 2014.

The campaign to free the Five was followed by a two year legal battle with Theresa May, then Home Secretary, to secure UK visas for the Cuban heroes. The Freedom Tour was their first visit to Britain, with their visas being secured 24 hours before departing Cuba for Britain.

Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary welcomed the Cuban heroes. “Over many years we’ve hosted the RMT Garden Party for Cuba in these gardens and will continue to do so. We must remember that it’s not over yet for Cuba. We continue to stand in solidarity with Cuba – Cuba is an inspiration to us all – and the struggle to end the blockade continues”.

The RMT General Secretary also helped raise crucial campaigning funds for CSC by auctioning Cuban cigars to the trade unionists at the reception, raising over £320.

Speaking at the reception, Gerardo Hernández said: “Thank you all for your role in our release. The plan of the Empire was to have us in jail forever. I didn’t even have a release date in prison. This makes a big difference in prison – everyone feels sorry for you if you don’t have a release date. They didn’t want us to be here today, to be called heroes all around the world.

“But they couldn’t break us. They couldn’t buy us. For the Five to resist in prison, we needed to draw our strength from somewhere. And we got our inspiration not only from the example of the Cuban people and the Cuban revolution, but because of the fact that we knew we could count on people like you”.

René González said “The importance of the solidarity we received was crucial for us to win our freedom. The more hatred the US showed towards us, the stronger we became. Our resistance was inspired by your solidarity, and your solidarity helped win us victory after victory, including winning the visas for our British visit last week”.

Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary said: “Today it is an honour to stand by René and Gerardo. There are very few times in your life that you get to stand alongside real heroes, real anti-terrorists. They fought for real freedom and for a better future. The Miami Five inspired us as socialists around the globe to fight for a better world”.

Her Excellency Teresita Vicente, Cuban Ambassador said “Thank you to the British trade union movement for your solidarity. I have a very short message - Cuba needs you. Cuba needs you now more than ever. The US blockade is still in full force and Guantanamo Bay is still illegally occupied by the US – we want our territory back.”

Rob Miller, CSC Director said, “It is down to everyone here tonight, it’s down to the British trade union movement, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, MPs and the thousands of supporters why these Cuban heroes are with us tonight. The British trade unions should be very proud for their role in this struggle”.

The event was attended by many General Secretaries, Assistant General Secretaries and representatives from across the trade union movement including the RMT, TUC, UNISON, ASLEF, Thompsons, OH Parsons, PCS, NUT, Unite, UCU and Napo.

Photos from the event can be seen on the CSC Flickr here

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