By Frank Forrestal, Twin Cities (MN) Daily Planet — Community Voices
The Minnesota Cuba Committee and Obsidian Arts are sponsoring a month-long exhibit of the paintings of Antonio Guerrero, one of five Cuban revolutionaries locked up in U.S. prisons on trumped-up charges. The opening reception will take place on September 12, from 6-8 PM, at the Pillsbury House in South Minneapolis.
The art show, “I will die the way I lived,” features 15 watercolor paintings by Guerrero, who learned to paint and draw from fellow inmates. “After finishing the painting number 15, I made the decision to stop in this number, because it coincides with the number of years that soon will mark our captivity,” writes Guerrero in his introductory note to the exhibit. Most of their time has been in maximum-security prisons, including many months in solitary confinement.
Also at the Pillsbury House, “The Cuban Wives,” an award-winning documentary about the families of the Cuban Five will be shown on September 19 at 7 PM.
Guerrero, along with four other Cubans — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González — were convicted on frame-up charges, including “conspiracy to commit espionage” and, in the case of Hernández, “conspiracy to commit murder,” and received long prison sentences. René Gonzalez was released in 2011 after serving more than 13 years in prison.
Known internationally as the Cuban Five, these revolutionaries were arrested in September 1998 in Miami by the FBI. The five had been gathering information on right-wing Cuban exile groups in Florida that have a long history of carrying out violent acts against the Cuban Revolution, with the complicity of the U.S. government. Their assignment was to keep the Cuban government informed of these deadly operations in order to prevent as many as possible from coming to fruition. Over five decades, more than 3,500 Cubans have been killed and 2,100 injured in attacks, most originating from U.S. soil.
Guerrero was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years. On October 13, 2009, his sentence was reduced to 21 years and 10 months, after an appeals court ruled that the sentences of three of the five — Guerrero, Labañino, and Fernando González — were excessive. The reduction in the draconian sentences was an acknowledgement of the pressure put on the U.S. government from the worldwide campaign demanding freedom for the Cuban Five.
More than 350 committees in 114 countries, hundreds of political organizations, and thousands of individuals around the world are working to win the freedom of the Cuban Five. Support ranges from the National Conference of Black Lawyers to the National Council of Churches, actors like Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, 12 Nobel Prize laureates, to several trade unions, and many others.
The painting exhibit will continue through the month of September.