Howard Zinn speaks
‘Case of Cuban Five Is Unforgivable Act of Cruelty’
On the afternoon of April 9th, 150 people filled a lecture hall at Northeastern University Law School in Boston, eager to hear Professor Howard Zinn discuss the roots of U.S. policy towards Cuba. Salim Lamrani, the editor of 'Superpower Principles', traveled from Paris where he teaches at the Diderot, to speak specifically about the case of the Cuban Five. Following the lecture in Boston, he flew to California to participate in a series of lectures throughout that state at law schools and universities
Nancy Kohn, from the July 26 Coalition of Boston, chaired the meeting. Setting the tone for the afternoon, Nancy said "Today, we want to explore the double standard used by the Bush administration in its so called war against terror." In her introduction, she thanked Professor Zinn for being there. "He is an acclaimed historian, playwright and social activist, and the author of more than two dozen books, including ‘A People's History of the United States’. He is truly a national treasure who brings total integrity to the study of history."
It was Professor Zinn who started the afternoon with a little bit of sarcasm: "Nobody knows about the Cuban Five. You are lucky that by the end of the day, you will be among the smartest people in this country because you will know something that most people do not know. This is the horror of our media that such an important event in our history has been kept away from us."
He presented an historical overview of U.S. relations with Latin America, particularly toward Cuba. He explained that because the "Soviet threat is no longer present, the United States government now justifies its policies saying that we are against Cuba because Castro is a dictator." In joking about this reason, he said "But we like dictators; in fact we like them so much that we put them in power all over the world." In closing, Howard Zinn said that the case of the Cuban Five is an embarrassing example of injustice in our country. The justice system in the U.S. is supposed to be democratic but instead we know that politics determines who goes to jail." He concluded saying that "the case of the Cuban Five is an unforgivable act of cruelty."
Following Professor Zinn, Salim Lamrani detailed the history of U.S. terrorism against Cuba, denouncing the hypocrisy of the Bush administration. Lamrani accused Bush of currently protecting the worst terrorist in the Western Hemisphere, Luis Posada Carriles. Posada is responsible for the death of 73 people in the downing of a Cubana airliner 40 years ago, and many other deaths since then due to his terrorist actions. Professor Lamrani explained the case of the Cuban Five and all the irregularities since they were arrested. He ended his remarks by denouncing the complicity of the media for hiding this important information from the people of the United States.
Alicia Jrapko from the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, talked about the international campaign on behalf of Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva who have been denied visas and so cannot visit their husbands in prison. She also mentioned all the difficulties that other family members go through to visit their loved ones in prison. "The Five and their families are not alone. In this struggle for Justice they are accompanied by the entire Cuban people, their government, and people and organizations from all over the world including many of us here in the United States" Jrapko said.
One of the highlights of the program was when Nalda Vigezzi from the July 26 Coalition of Boston and one of the co-chairs of the National Network on Cuba, read a message sent by Antonio Guerrero for the event. In his letter Antonio wrote that he could speak about many facts in this history of the Cuban Five, but "I do not need to explain anything when I know that at this meeting, will be speaking two admired, beloved and respected professors -- Howard Zinn and Salim Lamrani, recognized specialists in the relations between the United States and Cuba."
At the end of the lecture, Nancy Kohn asked participants to get involved in the case and to keep the pressure on their elected officials. She explained that one easy way to do something was to send the postcards that were left in each seat at the beginning of the meeting. More that 65 people filled out the postcards and left them with the organizers to be mailed to Congress. They call attention to the injustice of the detainment of the Five Heroes and demand visas for Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva. Many in the young audience also signed up to get further involved in work to free the Five.
The participation of Howard Zinn at a lecture addressing the case of the Cuban Five provides proof that the media silence surrounding the injustice of this case can be broken in a different way. For the most part, the case has yet to make it to the U.S. mainstream media but without doubt, talks like the one at Northeastern University Law School touched the heart and the conscience of many new people. In learning about an historical event, people can take action and become participants. As Professor Zinn wrote at the end of his masterpiece A People's History of the United States, referring to other events in U.S. history where people are challenging the present, demanding a new future, "It is a race in which we can all choose to be participants or just watch."
The Northeastern student chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Lawyers Guild helped publicize the event, as did Professor James Rowan, the clinical director of the Northeastern Poverty Law Clinic.