Miami Five are free, now end the Blockade – statement from Cuba Solidarity Campaign

“Whilst we celebrate the return of all of the Miami Five to Cuba, and the changes foreshadowed in President Obama’s speech are to be welcomed, we have to emphasise that the blockade has not ended.”

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) welcomes the return of Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo Hernández to Cuba to join Fernando González and René González.

We celebrate along with their families, the people of Cuba, and the international “Jury of Millions” who have fought successfully for the release of these unjustly imprisoned men. CSC is proud to have played a role in publicising the case and winning widespread support here in Britain for the campaign for freedom and justice.

We want to thank all those who gave their support and worked tirelessly for this victory, including our members and affiliates, the international coalition Voices for the Five, and the Trade Union movement whose contribution to this struggle has been exemplary.

Unjustly imprisoned for acting to prevent terrorist attacks launched from Florida against the people of Cuba, the Five were given draconian sentences by the US courts and were locked up for 16 years, with Gerardo facing a double life sentence and the prospect of dying inside prison.

On Wednesday 17 December President Obama said that, “Today America chooses to cut lose the shackles of the past” and that a “new chapter” was being opened that would see changes in US-Cuba relations. “We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests.”

Whilst this will lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations, a general increase in visitors, increased remittance limits and a variety of exchanges it does NOT mean the end of the blockade.

Some US politicians have already declared their opposition to Obama’s modest amendments. Some are threatening to block the appointment of an Ambassador to Cuba. The Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will still be empowered to fine third country companies that trade with Cuba. And the pillars of the blockade – the Helms-Burton Law and the Torricelli Act can only be repealed by Congress, where Obama has no majority.

A White House press statement issued on the same day revealed some of the thinking behind the shift in US policies. Fundamentally the statement conceded that the blockade had failed to bring about any of the US desired changes inside Cuba. On the contrary this “Long standing US policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners.”

It makes clear that the policy changes are ones of tactics rather than goals – the objective remains the same, to turn Cuba into an economic satellite of United States big business and a pawn of Washington.

Indeed it is clear from the press statement that the intention of some of the changes is precisely to seek the erosion of the social gains that have been made in Cuba, looking to restore the means of exploitation that existed under Fulgencio Batista, the dictator overthrown by the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

At the core of the question of the Cuba-United States relationship must be mutual respect for the sovereignty of the other. As President Raul Castro said on Wednesday, “we must learn the art of coexisting with our differences in a civilised manner.”

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign commits to redoubling our efforts to ensure that the British Government moves forward to develop strong diplomatic, trade, scientific and cultural relations between our two countries based on mutual respect and understanding.

We urge anyone who is not already a member, to help us fight to end the blockade once and for all, by joining the Cuba Solidarity Campaign today.

We celebrate the return of all the Five heroes to their families. We remain vigilant and continue to demand; “Hands off Cuba, End the Blockade Now!”