Hero's welcome for 'Cuban Five'

04 Jul 2015 14:00pm
WINDHOEK, 04 JUL (NAMPA) – The ‘Cuban Five’ who were arrested in 1998 and imprisoned in the United States of America on charges of conspiracy, arrived in Namibia Friday night.
The five men accompanied by their family members arrived at the Hosea Kutako International Airport at around 19h00 from South Africa, where they had been for the past two weeks.
After a hard battle that rallied international solidarity in support of their release, the men - Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and René Gonzalez - emerged victorious when the US released them from prison in December 2014.
They are in Namibia for four days to express their gratitude for the country's role in raising international solidarity for their plight.
While in Namibia, they are expected to pay courtesy calls on President Hage Geingob, former President Sam Nujoma and Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
The men received a hero’s welcome from hundreds of Namibians, including ministers, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, and Namibians who studied in Cuba; amongst others.
Deputy Minister of International Relations Peya Mushelenga and Khomas Regional Governor Laure McLeod received the guests.
Upon their arrival at the airport, the Cuban Five were treated to various traditional dances.
Slogans such as 'Viva Cuba’, ‘Viva los Cincos’ and ‘Justice at last’ could be heard from afar.
The group was also expected to attend a public solidarity meeting at the UN Plaza in Katutura which would be attended by Namibians who studied in Cuba and members of the Cuban community in Namibia.
On Saturday morning, they paid homage to Namibian heroes at the Heroes’ Acre, while they are also expected to attend a session of the National Council in Windhoek.
“We shouted for the release of the Cuban Five. It took time, but our voices built up the reasons for their release,” Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Mbeuta Ua-ndjarakana said last week when announcing the group’s visit.
The Cuban Five were also amongst the Cuban soldiers who served in Angola during the Namibian liberation struggle against apartheid.
They participated in the decisive Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola on 07 October 1987‚ which brought on the dawn of independence in Namibia marked by the withdrawal of the South African Defence Force from Angola and ultimately freedom.
Namibian leaders used international platforms to call for the release of the Cuban Five after they were arrested in Miami in the US in 1998 on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage.
One of the ‘Cuban Five’ was released in October 2011 and another in February 2014, while at the end of 2014‚ the US swapped the remaining three for an American intelligence officer held by Cuba.
Deployment of Cuban doctors‚ engineers and technical experts throughout southern Africa served as a demonstration of Cuba’s commitment to working with the region to address the infrastructural backlogs inherited from the periods of oppression.
Since Namibia’s independence in 1990, Namibia and Cuba have held joint meetings every two years for economic, scientific-technical and commercial cooperation.
So far, more than 2 000 Cuban professionals have worked in Namibia.
After the downfall of apartheid‚ many Namibian youths received training in medicine in Cuba.
The country continues to support the Namibian Government in priority areas such as health, social development, housing and infrastructure.