(APN) ATLANTA Activists demanded "Hands off Cuba " at a press conference on the steps of Atlanta City Hall today.
Members of Atlanta Cuba Solidarity, Every Church a Peace Church, and International Action Center demanded the immediate release of the Cuban Five.
Activists also raised concerns about various statements made by members of the Bush Administration suggesting possible U.S. intentions to influence Cuban politics during Castro's illness and in a post-Castro era.
Sobukwe Shukura, the Coordinator of Atlanta Cuba Solidarity, thanked Cuba "for showing there is another way without the strong feeding on the weak, a world without burdensome IMF [International Monetary Fund] loans, where humanity can triumph over profit. We say to ourselves if Cuba, a country with little money, can protect its people against hurricanes, and educate and medicate its people, there is no reason it can't happen here in the richest country in the world."
One Atlanta-based activist, Dianne Mathiowetz, of the International Action Center, who traveled to Cuba, shared her story.
Attorney Don Edwards, host of the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters program entitled Every Church a Peace Church, said, "The greatness of a country is not determined by the number of countries it can occupy and control nor by the numbers or types of weapons it can use, but by how many of its people it can feed and teach to read. How does it care for the health of its citizens?" He added, "Even more a measure of greatness is how it treats and cares for people, particularly the poor around the world."
Five Cuban nationals-Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, and Ramon Labanino, collectively known as the "Cuban Five"--have been incarcerated since 1998 by the U.S.
The five were allegedly Cuban agents sent in the mid-1990s to spy on Cuban exile groups located in the U.S. with the intention of gathering intelligence about possible terrorist attacks against Cuba and seeking information about a U.S. Naval installation, according to the World Press Review.
They were convicted in 2001 in one of South Florida's most politically heated criminal trials. Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino received life sentences. Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez received 19 and 15-year sentences, respectively.
The group's alleged ringleader, Gerardo Hernandez, was also convicted of participating in the 1997 downing of two aircraft by the Cuban Air Force.
Members of a Cuban exile group known as Brothers to the Rescue were flying these aircraft at the time. The Cuban government insisted the planes were shot down after repeatedly violating Cuban airspace.
Hernandez admitted to informing Cuban authorities of the flight plans of these planes, but denied he had any foreknowledge of Cuban Air Force plans to shoot them down. He received two concurrent life sentences.
In a public statement issued August 10, 2006, by the attorneys of the Cuban Five following the 11th Circuit Court's August 9, 2006, decision to deny them a new trial, Attorney Leonard Weinglass characterized the initial trial of the defendants in Miami, Florida, as "a perfect storm of prejudice" due to the politically intense feelings regarding the Cuban government of Fidel Castro held by members of the Cuban community located in Miami. A change of venue was sought by the defendants' attorneys and denied by the trial Court.
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