The Friendship Medal of the Republic of Cuba has been awarded to two hard- working solidarity activists from the United States, according to the newspaper Granma of Oct. 3.
Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Five, and photographer Bill Hackwell were honored for their unwavering efforts to gain the release of five Cubans who were jailed in Florida in 1998 after they penetrated Cuban exile organizations with a history of terrorist acts against Cuba.
It was after some of their findings on these dangerous groups were presented to the U.S. government that the authorities here turned around and arrested the five heroes.
Kenia Serrano, president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, said during the award ceremony that “16 years of imprisonment have passed during which our friends have expressed their maximum commitment to Cuba, and put their professional and family life second to this constant struggle. Alicia and Bill form part of this selfless friendship.”
Three of the five anti-terrorists are still incarcerated in U.S. prisons. Calling the two solidarity activists their “brother and sister,” relatives of Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Gerardo Hernández read messages sent from their jail cells to mark the occasion.
“Hernández wrote that it was not easy in such a brief note to summarize the work of two lives completely dedicated to this most noble cause, or to express with mere words what being able to count on brothers and sisters such as these has meant to the Five,” reported Granma.
It continued: “Alicia Jrapko stated that this long struggle has only been able to maintain itself for so long because it is supported by a government and a people who are respected and admired by people of goodwill across the world.”
Jrapko explained, “Cuba is solidarity instead of selfishness, love in place of hate. That’s why wherever we are we defend the cause of the Five, the result of this wonderful work. We will continue to host all the conferences and to knock on all the necessary doors.”
Bill Hackwell declared that the medal, more than an honor, demonstrates that the wave of solidarity, which has marked his way of life, will be victorious.
René González and Fernando González, two of the Cuban Five who have returned home after serving out their sentences and are now Decorated Heroes of the Republic of Cuba, attended the ceremony. Also present were Ana Teresita González Fraga, vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Josefina Vidal, director of the United States department at the foreign ministry; Graciela Ramírez, coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five; and relatives of the five heroes.