British trade unionists come out for Cuba and the Cuban Five

From the vantage point of Cuban solidarity activists in the United States, U.K trade unionists deserve special credit. They’ve taken the lead in Britain in speaking out for Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and René González – Cuban men imprisoned in the United States.

Amnesty International last year raised multiple concerns about the fate of the Cuban Five including a biased trial in Miami, flawed appeals court judgments, and terribly unfair sentencing. As of September 12, they’ve been in jail for 13 years, convicted on charges relating to attempts during the 1990’s to defend Cubans against U.S. – based terror attacks.

That was the day this year in London that Britain’s Trade Union Congress (TUC) staged a well attended meeting at its annual conference, which focused on the prisoners.  Unite labor union General Secretary Len McCluskey commended British unionist Tony Woodley for his role as featured speaker at the first U. S. labor union gathering on behalf of the Five since their incarceration. The Service Employees International Union staged that meeting on August 13, 2011 in Los Angeles to inform members about the Five and advocate for their release. 

A day later, Woodley, a former Unite general secretary, visited Gerardo Hernandez at the prison where he is held near Los Angeles. Woodley’s comprehensive article reviewing the history and current situation of the Five appeared in the Morning Star newspaper on September 12. 

He writes that Gerardo “is well aware of the work of the British trade union movement and solidarity campaigns for his cause, and sends his gratitude to everyone who fights for justice for the five.”

At the TUC Cuba meeting, Cuban Ambassador Esther Armenteros complained that the   corporate media on both sides of the Atlantic offers woefully inadequate reporting on the Five. She mentioned that the Cuban Five “remain unjustly imprisoned for combating terrorism against our country and have been subjected to all sorts of humiliations”.

The Ambassador also commended a recent Save the Children report, which gave Cuba top rankings in Latin America and eighth place in the world for effective child health care – ahead of the U.K. and the United States.

Len McCluskey lauded Cuban medical work in Nicaragua, particularly that of the Che Guevara Medical Brigade working there under the auspices of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America. That’s the ALBA solidarity union promoted by Cuba and Venezuela, which includes Ecuador, Bolivia and other Latin American and Caribbean countries. He noted that “whilst the prospect for trade unionists in non-ALBA countries is bleak” Cuba provides “real and material benefits” to the Latin American poor.

In September, the U.K. wide Cuban Solidarity Campaign published the first issue of its newsletter for trade unionists on Cuba issues, especially those calling for labor union solidarity with Cuba. Scheduled to appear electronically every three months, the newsletter will cover collaboration between U. K. and Cuban unions, British trade union outreach to Cuba, and more general Cuba news. The first issue is accessible here.

Photo: Students wave Cuban flags at a protest to demand the release of the Cuban Five imprisoned in the U.S. outside the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, June, 2008. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)



W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.