20 januari 2009 staat nu al genoteerd als een historische datum. Het is de dag waarop de ogen van heel de wereld gericht waren op Barack Obama, die in Washington de eed aflegde als 44ste president van de Verenigde Staten. Het is tevens de dag waarop een definitief einde kwam aan acht jaar George W. Bush. Het lijkt alsof de Verenigde Staten, samen met de hele wereld, opgelucht ademhalen. Het besef hoe desastreus die voorbije acht jaar geweest zijn en welke zware erfenis Bush jr. heeft nagelaten, is groot. De verontwaardiging over die voorbije periode wordt nu ook vrij en openlijk geventileerd. Zo zegt rockmonument Bruce Springsteen: ‘Ons land ondergaat vandaag de gevolgen van acht jaar heerschappij van een erg radicale groep. De regering Bush heeft de democratische waarden van de VS ondergraven en het land met een nachtmerrie opgezadeld. Onze regering was van een historische blindheid. Ze hield geen rekening met de geschiedenis. Duizenden en duizenden mensen zijn gestorven, levens zijn vernield en vreselijke, vreselijke dingen zijn gebeurd omdat er in Washington geen gevoel voor geschiedenis was, geen bewustzijn dat het verleden echt is en leeft.’ We moeten ons ernstig afvragen of de euforie rond Obama’s overwinning niet meer te maken heeft met het ontwaken uit de nachtmerrie dan wel met de reële perspectieven die de nieuwe president kan bieden. Ongetwijfeld worden op de eerste gekleurde leider van de VS al teveel wensen en dromen geprojecteerd.

Maar 20 januari 2009 was hoedanook een dag waarop de wereld welwillend ruimte gaf aan de hoop, de eenvoudige hoop dat een rechtvaardige wereld misschien toch mogelijk is. En zo was het ook een dag van nieuwe hoop voor ‘The Cuban Five’, vijf Cubaanse mannen die in 1998 na een politiek proces onrechtmatig veroordeeld werden tot onmenselijke gevangenisstraffen, gaande van vijftien jaar tot meer dan twee keer levenslang. Op het moment dat Obama in Washington de eed aflegde, gaven zo’n vijftig sympathisanten van de Vijf bij de VS-ambassade in Brussel uiting aan die nieuwe hoop. Samen met collega’s actrices en acteurs Chris Lomme, Joke Devynck en Jonas Geirnaert, overhandigde ik aan de ambassade een brief aan Barack Obama, waarin we onze visie op de zaak van de Vijf toelichten en hem vragen persoonlijk tussen te komen om in deze zaak een snelle doorbraak te forceren. Hieronder vindt u de tekst van onze brief.

Brussels, January 20, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

We are a group of five actors, living and working in Belgium, who have joined together to ask your attention for a matter we believe to be of the utmost importance and urgency.

But before doing so, we would like to take this opportunity to offer you our sincere congratulations on your election as president of the United States of America. Together with millions of people all over the world, we believe the United States are in need of a significant political change. In order to be able to face the most important and difficult challenges in today’s world constructively, a new kind of leadership is required. We sincerely hope that under your presidency the United States will manage to make that necessary change. However great and insuperable some of today’s challenges may seem, we still want to believe that it is possible to create a better world for everyone. We believe that ‘yes, indeed we can’.

As artists and citizens who believe in true democracy, freedom and justice, we are deeply concerned about the faith of five Cuban men, who have been sentenced to serve extremely severe terms of imprisonment – ranging from 15 years to more than twice a lifetime in prison – and who have already spent the last ten years in different prisons in the United States.

Gerardo Hernández (#58739-004), René González (#58738-004), Fernando González (Rubén Campa #58733-004), Ramon Labañino (Luis Medina #58734-004), and Antonio Guerrero (#58741-004) were sent to Miami by their government to infiltrate into a number of anti-Castro organizations that are known to be responsible for different terrorist attacks on Cuban targets. Throughout the years these terrorist attacks have killed more than 3000 Cuban citizens and left over 2000 others disabled for life. The five Cuban men succeeded in gathering a significant amount of proof for the criminal activities of these Miami-based organizations, which was handed over to the United States authorities. But surprisingly, instead of taking action against terrorist organizations on United States territory, the authorities chose to arrest the five Cuban agents. They were charged with ‘conspiracy to commit espionage’ and ‘conspiracy to commit murder’ and sent to prison.

We believe these five men are victims of the ongoing political differences between the United States and Cuba. We strongly feel they have not been given a fair trial. Furthermore, we believe that these men are not being treated justly while doing their time in prison. They are held in the most severe prisons, often kept in isolation, and denied the right to see their families. Two of them have not once been allowed to see their wives in ten years time.

Today we live in a world that is threatened by violent fundamentalism and terrorism. It is of the utmost importance to find the right way to deal with this threat. Frankly, we don’t think that in the past eight years, the United States have chosen the most sensible way to react. If we are to find an answer to fundamentalism and terrorism, we should try to understand the true nature of it. We should try to find out and acknowledge the true causes of it and, in doing so, not deny our own responsibilities. Nor should we allow ourselves to work by double standards. Each country should be allowed the same right to defend itself against terrorist attacks. We should not declare war on terrorists in one part of the world, while closing our eyes for those at home.

After ten years of imprisonment for ‘The Cuban Five’, ten years of agony and distress for their families, ten years of legal struggle, ten years of ongoing support from countless sympathizers all over the world, we believe a breakthrough in this painful case is extremely necessary. Therefore, Mr. President, we take the liberty to call upon you to take urgent action in this case, according to your sense of reason and righteousness. We think these men deserve a fair new trial, which in our opinion can only lead to their immediate release.

Today, on the day of your inauguration, we have gathered in front of the United States Embassy in Brussels, together with other Belgian citizens who share our concern. We are here to raise a glass of Cuban rum to the health of five Cuban men who have wrongfully been sent to jail. We also drink to the health of their families, who have wrongfully been forced to suffer the absence of their loved ones. But today we also drink to the health of a new President of the United States and wish him the best of luck for at least the following four years. Today we would like to say to you: ‘Free the five, yes you can.’ Not in a cynical way, not to mock you, but because we truly believe that change is indeed possible.

Most sincerely,

Dirk Tuypens

Chris Lomme

Daan Hugaert

Joke Devynck

Jonas Geirnaert

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