Interview with Ed Asner


Radio Havana Cuba interview with Ed Asner, 7 times Grammy award winner with five
Golden Globe Awards and member of the US TV Academy Hall of Fame, presently
starring in the solo performance drama, FDR based on the life of former US
President Roosevelt. Asner is one of the signatories to the letter from US
celebrities, (an initiative of the International Committee for the Freedom of
the Cuban Five), to US President Barack Obama asking for Rene Gonzalez’s freedom
to return to his wife and family in Cuba.

Bernie Dwyer spoke to Ed Asner by telephone from Havana on Tuesday 11th October
2011.

“As always, be it with Cuba, El Salvador, be it Nicaragua, my purpose has been
to practice humanism and never politics. And that is exactly what I am
practicing now in terms of pleading for mercy for these ill-convicted
prisoners”.

Bernie Dwyer (BD): Ed Asner, you have put your name to a letter to your
president, Barack Obama asking him to send home Rene Gonzalez who has served his
full 15 year sentence and now has to do a further 3 year probation in the United
States. What inspired you to sign such a letter?

Ed Asner (EA): I’ve been following the case during all the years it’s been
hanging on from the time I was made aware of it. I felt the innate injustice of
it because it was reported in the United States press that there was a great
concern that these charges were grossly built out of proportion, that the
gentlemen in question were not performing spying duties per se but were merely
trying to inform Cuba back home of any on-going activities that might result in
the deaths of Cuban citizens. So I felt that it was a lynch proceeding against
these five unfortunate individuals. So I signed on to this letter to our
president in hopes that greater leniency might be forthcoming as well as
leniency for the other four unfortunates who are still in prison. I have no
great hopes that it will work but there is no harm in trying, is there?

BD: How did you become aware of the case of the Cuban Five?

EA: I think initially I became aware of it through the New York Times and
subsequently the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five
contacted me at about the same time and I agreed to sign on to any efforts they
were making.

BD: What’s interesting for us here in Cuba is that there exists such a group of
well-known actors and celebrities who will take the time to look at a case like
this and it’s wonderful that you will go to the trouble of finding out more and
then actually make it public. Do you think this is going to make any difference
to your life there?

EA: Difference in my career was made a long time ago. So this is only after the
fact. They can’t do that much to me anymore. That’s not a dare by any means. If
they are listening in on this conversation they might well try to say “well, we
can do this to you” but I’ll take those chances. As always, be it with Cuba, El
Salvador, be it Nicaragua, my purpose has been to practice humanism and never
politics. And that is exactly what I am practicing now in terms of pleading for
mercy for these ill-convicted prisoners.

BD: Do you feel the ordinary people of the United States would have sympathy
with this cause?

EA: It would take a concerted effort, my dear. If you notice it took an
enormous, considered effort for the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators to
finally begin to make the newspapers in this country. Such a thing on five
hapless victims from Cuba would take vastly much more publicity to alert people,
to change people and I don’t think it would be possible.

BD: You have just recently completed a tour with a one-man show “FDR”?

EA: I have not completed it. I start again in a week.

BD It’s about one of your greatest presidents?

EA: If not the greatest: Franklin Delano Roosevelt

BD: During your tour, Ed, would it cross your mind to talk about the case of the
Cuban Five or even about US policy and Cuba?

EA: If it were easy to get into, yes. I would not force the subject.

BD: And what would the general attitude be?

EA: It has never come up in the two plus years that I have been doing my show.
It is the internal problems of the United States that concern most people and
our inability to affect a cure as was done by Roosevelt in 1932. But I promise
you that if the occasion arises that I can engage in conversation on the Cuban
Five, I certainly will.

This interview with Edward Asner was broadcast by Radio Havana Cuba on the 13th
October 2011

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