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Berkeley City Council supports Cuban Five

By Alicia Jrapko
Berkeley, Calif.

On June 10, the City Council of Berkeley unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Cuban Five. Nine members of the council, including Mayor Tom Bates, were present for the vote.

The resolution directed the Berkeley City Council to send letters to President George W. Bush, members of the Bay Area congressional delegation, Attorney General John Aschcroft, the Congressional Working Group on Cuba, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The letters call for a "new and fair trail in a neutral venue outside of Miami-Dade County; and for the same family visitation rights, humanitarian concerns and equal treatment under the law for the Cuban Five as any other prisoner in the United States."

Berkeley is the first city in the United States to have passed a resolution on behalf of the Cuban Five, who are in U.S. prisons for having monitored the activities of terrorist groups in the Miami area. The U.S. government called this “espionage.” Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, René González and Fernando González were convicted on June 8, 2001, and sentenced by a federal court in Miami to sentences ranging from 17 years to double life.

The resolution was first introduced in March of this year, but one member of the City Council recommended that it be brought up to the Peace and Justice Committee. This is a common procedure when there is some disagreement about an issue or it needs further clarification.

The Peace and Justice Committee gave strong support to the resolution. Before the vote, Roya Arasthe from the Peace and Justice Committee told the council: "The issue of the five is about political prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the United States." She briefly explained to the council that, without evidence, the five were convicted and sentenced to long terms in prison, reflecting the bias of the court in Miami.

Rebecca Davis from the U.S.-Cuba Sister City Association that links Berkeley with Palma Soriano, Cuba, read a message from Livio Di Celmo in support of the Cuban Five and against U.S.-sponsored terrorism. His brother, Fabio Di Celmo, was an Italian tourist who was killed in 1997 by a bomb planted in Havana's Hotel Copacabana. The terrorist who planted the bomb was paid by the Miami-based right-wing Cuban American National Foundation.

Two members of the National Committee to Free the Five--Gloria la Riva and the writer of this article--attended the meeting. The committee was actively involved in supporting the adoption of the resolution. Other individual and group supporters were present with signs that read, "Free the Cuban Five."

The Berkeley City Council resolution is a step forward in this struggle and hopefully will encourage other city councils around the country to do the same.

For more information about the Cuban Five, visit www.freethefive.org or www.antiterroristas.cu.

Reprinted from the June 26, 2003, issue of Workers World newspaper

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