Follow the Soapbox
SPN--by CINDY SHEEHAN --01/04/2015

When I was barely two years old, an earth-shattering event occurred that would certainly alter the course of history, but also become intimately linked with my own story.

To make a very long story short, a band of revolutionaries in Cuba overthrew the brutal dictatorship of US puppet Fulgencio Batista and installed a Communist system led by Fidel Castro and other revolutionary heroes. Cuba became linked to the Soviet Union and I am pretty sure that I am not telling you (the reader) many things that you don’t already know (probably better than I).

However, how does the Cuban Revolution of 1959 connect to my history, my life, and my story?

I had one memento that Casey had given me soon after he joined the Army. It was a gold charm with hearts around the edge, a small diamond in the middle and the inscription reads: “To Mom, With Love.” After he died, especially, it became my most prized possession. Once when I was in Washington DC in 2005 for a major march, I thought I had lost it, but it was retrieved to my relief. The necklace has great sentimental value to me.

So, how does the story of the necklace fit with Cuba? Aw, you shall soon see!

After Casey was killed, I went on a very dedicated campaign to end the wars and see the Bush regime imprisoned for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. I am unfortunately still on that campaign, but in 2005, I camped out near George Bush’s fake ranch in Crawford, Texas demanding accountability and for him to answer my simple question: “What noble cause?” That effort brought me a lot of international attention and I was invited to Venezuela in early 2006 to be a guest at the World Social Forum in Caracas. Besides meeting with then president Hugo Chavéz and many others I also met Cuban officials and the families of the Cuban 5.

Until that very day, I had never heard one word about the case of the Cuban 5. I had heard my entire life, though, about how evil Cuba and Fidel Castro were. After all, I was born at the height of the Cold War. Didn’t Cuba want to help the “evil” Soviet Union nuke the USA into oblivion? Wasn’t Cuba the closest and direst threat to my way of life and me? Turns out, not so much.

The wives, sisters, brothers, and mothers, of the Cuban 5 laid out their story. How their loved ones: Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González, were being held in US prisons on false charges and convictions. I sympathized with the families, but I was truly so busy at the Social Forum (interviews, meetings, speeches, protests, Alo Presidente, etc.) that I really didn’t have time to absorb what they were telling me. It was an extremely detailed case that I will try and briefly summarize here:

Basically, since the Revolution, Cuba has been the victim of terrible terrorist acts killing about 4000 Cubans and others over the years. The Bay of Pigs and Operation Mongoose are two noted US/CIA attacks on the Revolution, but perhaps the worst act of terrorism was the downing of the Cubana Airlines Flight 455 killing all 73 passengers and crew aboard.

That act of terror was planned and executed by two Cuban CIA-trained operatives: Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles. The ironic thing about these two terrorists is that Bosch was protected by the US until his death and Posada Carriles is still being protected. This fact is more evidence that the US Empire is the biggest provider of terrorism around the world.

So, to combat these heinous acts of terror, Cuba sent five intelligence agents to the Cuban community in Miami to infiltrate some of the worst counter- revolutionary groups that plan and execute these acts of terror, for example: Alpha 66 and Brothers to the Rescue. The 5 were battling terrorism in their homeland and sent valuable information to Cuba to prevent more harm. Also ironically, the Cuban government felt it should share some intelligence with the US government, and instead of steps being taken against the Miami-based terrorists, the Cuban 5 were arrested in September of 1998 and were subjected to some of the worst miscarriages of justice to date. It was even revealed recently that the USG paid news outlets to lie about the case and prejudice an already prejudiced community even further. To make matters worse, a change of venue was denied.

All 5 were convicted and before the remaining members of the 5 were released on the joyous day of December 17, 2014, Rene and Fernando had served their sentences and returned back to Cuba.

The morning of the 17th, I did what I usually do when I am home: I made coffee and opened my computer to check my email. Bleary-eyed, I must have passed the email that read: “The Cuban 5 are Free” about 10 times before my eyes finally focused on it. I opened it and started crying tears of joy! Reading what I just wrote also makes me tear up. This was the best Xmas present I have ever received since the birth of my youngest daughter on the 22nd of December: 29 years ago!

Of course, the entire propaganda that day was that a true spy, Alan Gross, a US “contractor” convicted in Cuba was returned home by Cuba for “humanitarian” reasons. It took literally hours before the US mainstream, sorry-excuse for a press, even mentioned anything about the Cuban 5.

(I am getting to my necklace).

Once when I was actually in Cuba in 2011, I think, Obama made a statement that the US couldn’t even negotiate for a normalization of relations with Cuba until Cuba “changed its society.” Recently, he also said that Cuba was a “hermetically sealed society.” The US has only “hermetically sealed” its citizens from Cuba; Cuba actually has full diplomatic relations with every other country on earth besides Israel.

I was there in Cuba. I have been to Cuba many times by now, and I am convinced that one of the reasons for the travel restrictions is that the Empire doesn’t want us to see what Cuba is really like after we have been lied to about it for decades.

I have always felt safe in Cuba.This past year the US itself is going up in flames over police violence and crackdowns on our freedom of speech. The US incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation in the world. Cuba has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and is near the top for literacy rate. Cuba sent doctors to West Africa during the Ebola crisis and the US sent troops. Typical, huh?

I want US society to be transformed into a peaceful place where healthcare, housing, food, and education are human rights, not privileges for the wealthy.

Now, here is the story of my necklace and its relevance to the cause of the Cuban 5.

When I had heard that Obama said Cuban society needed to be transformed, I was in Holguin attending the annual colloquium for the Cuban 5 with many other international activists.

On the last day there was a march and rally where I spoke. As I spoke, I saw Rene’s mother and Antonio’s mother standing in the crowd looking up at me. I grabbed my necklace as I often did—for comfort and inspiration. This time, I slipped it from my neck and called the mothers up to the podium with me.

I presented them with my most prized-possession telling them that it was a loan to them until the 5 Heroes were back on Cuban soil. It was my pledge to those mothers of my commitment to see their sons return home safely. I was sobbing and, Cubans being the warm-hearted people that they are, there was not a dry eye in the place.

Now, I can go back to my “home away from home” Cuba and get my necklace because their sons are home! When I let it go, I never dreamed I would be receiving it back so soon.

I just want to thank all the people all over the world who have worked so hard on this cause over the years and send them my sincere congratulations and love. I would also like to thank the Cuban 5 and the families of the 5 for their profound dignity and unwavering dedication to truth, justice and the Revolution and for also welcoming me as a member of their extended family.

Most of all, I would like to thank the people of Cuba for maintaining their strength and dignity in the face of a most brutal embargo and an evil regime up in the states.

I hope travel restrictions will be lifted so my fellow USAians can go to the beautiful island and meet the wonderful people and see what they have been able to do to survive and thrive.

Viva la revolución!

Viva Cuba!

Viva el Cinco!



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