If he were making his presentation in Miami, Tim Craine said, he’d need a security detail. In New Haven he just relied on some tasty sandwiches and lemonade, the Greater New Haven Peace Commission, and a politically active local librarian.
Those supports made possible “Humor from My Pen,” an exhibition of 32 political cartoons about the screwed-up relationship between Cuba and the U.S. The exhibit is at at the downtown “Free Public Library” branch on Elm Street through Thursday.
Craine (pictured) is organizing the northeastern leg of the tour of cartoons created by Gerardo Hernandez. Hernandez is one of five Cubans arrested in Miami in 1998, convicted of espionage in 2001, and now serving long sentences. In the case of Hernandez, the cartoon creator, that means two life terms in maximum security prison in Victorville, California.
Craine’s group is part of an international coalition to free or at least ameliorate the sentences.
Craine and the coalition’s position is that the five were indeed Cuban intelligence agents, but their focus was completely focused on anti-Cuban groups, such as Brothers to the Rescue, who, he asserted, are given free reign in Miami and elsewhere to wreak havoc and to undermine the Castro government.
Craine conceded they were legitimately convicted of not registering as foreign agents, but said that charge gets you months in jail, not life. Click here for a review of the trial.
Hernandez drew the cartoons in his cell in a smaller format, then sent them out to his wide range contacts. They enlarged and copied the cartoons, then put the show on tour.
Among Hernandez’s supporters are former President Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and New Haven Free Public Librarian Seth Godfrey (pictured), who has been corresponding with the cartoonist since 2003.
At a Saturday reception that featured a film and discussion on the “Cuban 5,” Godfrey also displayed a letter from Hernandez.
“We’re about the same age. I’ve been to Cuba. We discuss personal things, send him books,” Godfrey said. When Hernandez’s mother died, Godfrey said, he wrote that he wished his mother and Hernandez’s mother could have met.
Asked what organizers hoped the cartoon’s tour would accomplish, Craine said, “One of the purposes is to put pressure on to treat them better. To a certain extent it’s been successful. Three of the five have had life sentences reduced.” Hernandez is still serving two life sentences, 14 years of which have passed.
There is ongoing legal action, Craine added, with the shorter-term aim for more humane treatment—for example allowing visits from the men’s wives.
Rarely has the word “free” in our library’s name echoed louder than when you check out the lower-level community gallery space, where the cartoons are on view until April 25, when the show moves on to Portland, Maine
Local choreographer Elaine Peters asked why the case is not better known. Craine said it is well known in Europe, where one of Hernandez’s cartoons was recently selected for inclusion a French journalism textbook; the editors had no idea he was a political prisoner.
The tours culminate on June 1, when people are being asked to come to lobby their congressional representatives on behalf of the Cuban 5.