Why Cubans say the Five are their heroes


It was during the 7th colloquium in Holguin for the liberation of the 5 Cuban

patriots unjustly imprisoned in the US for their counter terrorist activities

that a friend, comrade, veteran campaigner and documentary film-maker, Bernie

Dwyer, explored concepts of what heroism in the 21st century might mean.

We were in Bayamo on a fringe meeting about media and tactical economic shock

warfare and we were in the company of Cuban and international men and women of

considerable courage and experience. As our meeting began news was filtering

through about the first incidents of US backed imperial aggression against Syria

in the present ongoing regime change intervention.

One member of the Lebanese resistance with our group, inspired by el Che and his

older brother had, at the tender age of seventeen survived a gun battle with the

invading Israeli armed forces in which three of his comrades had fallen dead.

Alone he took out 4 of the Israeli troops including their battalion officer but

was later captured when his escape was hampered by a bullet wound he had

received. He subsequently spent 17 years in prison, often without medical

treatment and without even one visit from family or friends. Were it not for

being “fostered” by the mother of a Palestinian prisoner he would have been even

more desperately alone and isolated. The tale and circumstances that lead to his

eventual release are equally enthralling, as is his present serene and almost

spiritual disposition, but those tales are for another day.

My interest in and knowledge of the Case of the Cuban 5 increased and developed

in tandem with my knowledge of and interest in the country itself and by the

time I had become active in a campaign for their liberation, albeit in a

somewhat isolated and limited way, I was for all intents and purposes living

here in Cuba. There are many Irishmen and women who identify with prison

struggles and savage miscarriages of justice.

I have been in communication with the 5 since 2007 and as my activity and

comprehension increases with time so does my regard for each of these

individually and collectively remarkable and magnificent men (amazingly despite

their absolute isolation from each other consistent with Guantanamo torture

manual guidelines). I am at ease with my understanding of true heroism in this


It will be hard be hard to communicate so in words, perhaps even harder to

conceptualise it without some direct experience, but the following might give

some idea as to what I mean.

It is heroic to volunteer for national service in times of conflict and need and

to willingly and comprehensively prepare yourself for whatever you might be

called upon to do.

Fully briefed and aware of the risks, it is heroic to undertake dangerous

missions behind enemy lines and to infiltrate hostile terrorist cells selflessly

in the service of your homeland to protect her citizenship from attack.

It is heroic to respond with dignity, clarity, patriotism and unflinching

courage to unjust and horrendously excessive political sentences, despite

understanding what they will mean to family and personal life.

The dock speeches of each of these five patriots are moving and profoundly

insightful and important. Gerardo Hernandez’s words, that his only regret was

that he had only one life to offer in the service of his homeland, ring as true

today as they did then.

Throughout the years and at regular intervals all the sentiments expressed at

those first sentencing hearings have been heroically reiterated and reinforced

without the slightest hint of dilution or disillusionment.

It is heroic to not be even slightly bitter or pessimistic despite being victims

of unspeakable injustice, abuse, torture and imprisonment for in excess of 13


It is heroic and patriotic to emerge from a prolonged spell of solitary

confinement in the “hole” in Victorville high security penitentiary and say

that, despite being physically ill at the time this arbitrary punishment was

imposed without reason, it was worth it simply to have heard your Commander in

Chief speak on your behalf.

It is heroic to not have cried when faced with the deportation of your beloved

wife, unable to embrace or console her despite her being almost within your

grasp but to have shed tears openly and unashamedly when in the presence of the

children’s theatre group who performed about and for you.

It is heroic to have expressed for Valentines Day 2012, in a surprise TV

programme for your respective wives or mother true, profound, tender, romantic

and enduring love of a type it would be easy to be cynical about had it not been

so undeniably moving and authentic to the many fortunate enough to have

witnessed its beautiful expression.

It is heroic to unceasingly resist the most powerful, evil and harmful empire

humanity has ever confronted with smiles, poetry, paintings, learning, political

cartoons, self-development, love, insight, teaching, graduation and potent

writings through which the truth does indeed set yourself, spiritually, if not

physically free.

It is heroic to dedicate a life to the right of nations to be sovereign,

independent and free to exercise their chosen systems of governance and rule.

It is heroic to stand up, cost what it may, for what you know and believe to be

good and true and it is heroic also to never speak of or advocate vengeance or

armed reprisal despite suffering cruel oppression and incarceration.

It is heroic to face daily sacrifice, struggle and hardship with manly and

patriotic stoicism and strength.

Heroism is not a word that, outside of Holywood movies or Marvel Comic books,

ought be used lightly or thoughtlessly. But it is a word that ought be uttered

when it is what only and best describes remarkable acts of courage, decency and

dignity in the face of unimaginably dangerous and hostile odds and

circumstances. It is a word that rightly belongs with the names of Ramon, Rene,

Gerardo, Antonio and Fernando. It is an honour and a privilege to have been

present to know of and act for such men, whose greatness and heroism is often

manifest in humility, normality and dignified silent fortitude.


May 10, 2012 Sean Joseph Clancy

One Response to “Why Cubans say the Five are their heroes”

  1. John Carlin Says:

    Brilliant piece of writing Séan and you do know what matters they have a great man supporting them!

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