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Issue #1535      15 February 2012

Humour From My Pen

Last week, Melbourne’s Australia Cuba Friendship Society members turned out in force to welcome Cuban Ambassador Pedro Monzon and his wife Celia for their first visit to Melbourne, primarily for Pedro to open an exhibition of cartoons by Gerardo Hernandez. (see “What’s On”)


Gerardo Hernandez.

Naturally, we managed to fit in some interesting extras. A quick trip on a Melbourne tram (the tourist freebie) and walk across the Yarra to the Arts Centre, with a pub meal before the public meeting on the Monday night which attracted a large audience and plenty of questions about Cuba.

Tuesday, a rather formal meeting with unionists at the Victorian Trades Hall organised by VTHC secretary Brian Boyd and dinner hosted by Maritime Union’s Kevin Bracken. On Wednesday, Pedro and Celia had a tour of the Footscray Community Arts Centre on the Maribyrnong River, an ideal place to show Cuban films and display Cuban art, which is definitely in the pipeline. In the afternoon, Pedro opened the cartoon exhibition at Mario’s Café, not your normal gallery but better in that it’s a popular eating place and attracts heaps of people, the sort who still ask questions!

Gerardo Hernandez is a Cuban who entered the United States in 1988 with four other Cubans to monitor the actions of extremist groups in Miami in an attempt to protect Cuba from invasion and acts of terrorism. They became known around the world as the Cuban Five.

For more than 50 years, Miami-based groups have engaged in violent acts against Cuba and anyone calling for a normalisation of relations between Cuba and the United States.

Between 1990-2000 there were 108 such attacks both inside Cuba and against its diplomats abroad. In 1997 there were ten bombings in Havana alone. In June 1988, Cuba sent the FBI specific information about the activities of the Miami mobsters, but instead of clamping down on the criminals the FBI arrested the five Cubans, claiming it had uncovered a “Cuban Spy Network”.

The five were isolated and kept in appalling conditions before being subjected to a political trial in Miami which lasted for six months. The jury found the five guilty on all 26 counts after only a few hours deliberation despite the complexity of the case and did not ask one question or request a review of the testimony.

The prosecution was unable to prove that any of the five had carried out a single illegal act, whereas defence lawyers presented extensive evidence about the violent criminal activities of the US-based anti-Cubans.

The presiding judge handed down horrific sentences. Gerardo Hernandez was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years. US authorities have denied his wife entry to the US seven times and yet he’s still had the courage to use his jail cell as a studio and produce the 30 drawings that are being exhibited in Melbourne this month.

Guardian readers are urged to write to him. If you attend the exhibition, then let him know about it. The address is:

Gerardo Hernandez,
#58739-004
U.S.P. Victorville
PO Box 5300
Adelanto CA 92301
USA

*Joan Coxsedge is president of the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, Melbourne.  

Next article – Behind Rinehart’s swoop on Fairfax

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