Gerardo Hernandez, Stronger than ever
All the concepts and contents of this page are copyright reserved by The Cuban Nation Newspaper, Inc. and can not be reproduced by any means without written permission.
Todo el contenido de esta pagina esta protegida por los derechos reservados bajo la ley por el Periodico La Nacion Cubana, Inc. y no puedo ser reproducidas de ninguna forma sin permiso especial por escrito.
Inside Lompoc prison
As we drove the 300 miles from San Francisco to Lompoc we were not sure if we would be allowed by prison authorities in to see Gerardo Hernández, one of the five Cuban Political Prisoners being held unjustly in the United States. The last time we tried to see Gerardo, it was shortly after he and the others were thrown into the "hole" on orders from Attorney General John Ashcroft citing "National Security" measures.  On March 7th, at the entrance to Lompoc, a legal representative of the prison told us that we would probably never see Gerardo again.
Since his release from the "hole" on March 28th, Gerardo has had no visitors other than a single legal visit, so our doubts remained if we were going to be allowed in or not.   Early in the morning we completed all the necessary paper work and as we walked inside the bars we were still anxious, anticipating that someone would deny us entry.  We were only sure when the door to the visiting area opened and Gerardo, a hero to the Cuban people, walked in, smiling, with
his head held high.
During the next six hours, amongst talk of our families and world events, he explained how he endured 30 days in solitary confinement behind double doors, in a cell 5 feet wide by 6 feet long with a single light bulb constantly on. He was stripped of every personal thing, except his dignity.  Sewer water from a toilet above leaked into his cell and communications with other human beings were suspended.
The Cuban Five were thrown into the "hole" at the same time that the day for their appeals was approaching. This came as a surprise to people who follow their case around the world, and also came as a surprise for some of the guards and other prisoners who know Gerardo as a model prisoner, known for being helpful to others.
There is a joke in Cuba that Cubans can always find a way to resolve every problem they encounter. This is humor that comes from the scarcity created by over 40 years of the unilateral U.S. blockade against Cuba. When Gerardo was allowed paper and stamps but no envelopes to send a letter to his attorney Paul McKenna, he constructed an envelope made of legal paper glued together
with toothpaste; and it made it.
The question that was on our minds was how did he cope with such deprivation and cruelty and when we asked him about that he told us: "This was not just about me and the other four compañeros, because we represent the struggle of the Cuban People. I never forgot that. I knew that our people were behind us and would do everything to make our conditions known and to call out to the world for our release from the hole.   I also knew that all the people working in solidarity to Free the Five and many others who are for justice and who are learning about our case, would be mobilized in our behalf." He continued by
saying that "I was also proud knowing that many of you in the U.S. who support the struggle for our freedom were also in the streets protesting the U.S. war of aggression against the people of Iraq."
Gerardo has just started to respond to the hundreds of letters that backlogged during his time in the "hole" and he asked us on behalf of the five to thank everyone for their solidarity and efforts to get them released from the hole.
Perhaps the government of the U.S. underestimated how many friends the Cuban Five have. One thing that we were certain of as we left the prison is that we had seen Gerardo stronger and more determined than ever. It is also certain that the role of the solidarity movement is to continue to make more people aware of the injustice of their case. The release of the Cuban Five from the hole was a step forward but the real victory will be when Gerardo, Antonio, Fernando, Ramón and Rene walk free and return to their homeland in Cuba.
By Alicia Jrapko and Bill Hackwell (members of the National Committee to Free the Five)