By ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
MANILA — Groups promoting Philippine-Cuban solidarity and the Cuban embassy in Manila paid tribute to the Cuban Five – Cuban anti-terrorist fighters who have been languishing in US jails for a decade – in an activity marking the 56th anniversary of what is now known as the Moncada Attack. The activity was held July 29 at the Trinity University of Asia.
A number of members of the diplomatic community were also present.
July 26, 1953, is commonly viewed as the “official” start of the Cuban Revolution. This was the date when some 160 armed anti-dictatorship fighters led by brothers Fidel and Raul Castro attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, as well as the barracks in Bayamo, Granma. They were fighting the dictatorship of Gen. Fulgencio Batista, who had staged a coup on March 10, 1952, amid a hotly contested presidential election in which he appeared to be on the losing end.
The US government, with Harry Truman as president, recognized the Batista regime on March 27 that same year. Shortly after, Batista suspended all constitutional rights, including the right to strike.
The attack on the Moncada Garrison and the barracks in Bayamo ended in defeat, with the Castro brothers being captured. After a trial, Fidel and Raul were sentenced to 15 and 13 years in prison, respectively.
Public pressure led to the Batista government’s decision to release political prisoners, including the Moncada attackers, in 1955. The Castro brothers joined exiled revolutionaries in Mexico, where they organized a revolution to overthrow the Batista regime.
On Dec. 2, 1956, exiles under the elder Castro – who would later become known as the 26th of July Movement – arrived in Cuba aboard the Granma and went into the Sierra Maestra mountains. Three days into their trek, they were attacked by Batista’s forces, with only a few of them surviving the initial firefight. In the next few years, Castro’s group did organizing work among peasants and coalesced with other revolutionary groups. The 26th of July Movement gained a significant victory against Batista’s forces in mid-1958 and thereafter began its offensive. The revolutionary forces captured major cities one after the other in the succeeding months, and Batista fled Cuba on Jan. 1, 1959.
“Throughout these 56 years that we celebrate today, since the attack on the Moncada Garrison on July 26, 1953, and in the 50 years (since the) revolution…Cuba has demonstrated its capacity (for) resistance, solidarity and organization,” said Cuban Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Rey Jimenez in his speech during the activity at Trinity.
“During the last 50 years, immersed in the longest economic, financial and commercial blockade in the history of humankind, imposed by the United States…Cubans took part in legendary internationalist missions, providing and sharing their moral and material support and solidarity to other countries in need,” Jimenez continued. “Those glorious missions are today symbolized by the exemplary behavior of five heroes imprisoned by the United States who, with remarkable dignity, have resisted the unjust, vengeful and cruel actions of the enemies of their homeland and their people. They are the Cuban Five.”
The Cuban Five are Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino, Fernando Gonzales, and Rene Gonzales – Cuban nationals currently serving prison terms in the US for alleged espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, and other illegal activities.
Gerardo Hernandez was born in Havana in 1965, and has a degree in international political relations. He has been a cartoonist and humorist from his youth, and while at school he was also part of a theater group. In 1989 he was part of the Cuban forces supporting Angola against the invading South African apartheid regime. Several of his cartoons and jokes were published in 2002 in the book You Can Achieve Everything with Love and Humor.
Antonio Guerrero was born in 1958 in Miami. Their family returned to their native Cuba the following year, after the victory of the Cuban Revolution. He trained as an airfield construction engineer in Kiev, Ukraine and graduated in 1983. As an engineer he was responsible for, among other things, the expansion of the Santiago de Cuba International Airport. Also a poet, he has published several poems in both Spanish and English in the book Desde Mi Altura (From My Altitude).