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Issue #1454      12 May 2010

Swedish women appeal to Michelle Obama on behalf of Adriana and Olga

Dear Mrs Michelle Obama,

We, women in Sweden, appeal to you to take up the cause of two women who, for over ten years, have been denied the opportunity to visit their husbands imprisoned in the United States. Two Cuban women, Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva, time and time again have been denied visas to visit their husbands, Gerardo Hernández and René González.

These men were unjustly sentenced to double life sentence and 15 years imprisonment, respectively, for gathering information in the US about terrorist operations in Florida directed against their country. They belong to the group known around the world as The Cuban Five, political prisoners in the United States. Their efforts contributed to the saving of many lives in both Cuba and the United States.

US authorities have claimed their denial of these two women’s repeated visa applications with the assertion that they would constitute a threat to the national security of the United States. But neither of them has ever been accused of anything. The hollowness of the reasoning for the visa denials is made clear by the shifting reasons given each time.

Most recently, in December of 2009, the Department of Homeland Security turned down Olga Salanuevas application for the eighth time. Without any explanation, she was prevented from visiting her husband, René González. When he was arrested in September 1998, they were living with their two daughters, entirely legally, in Miami, where their youngest daughter, who, like her father, is a US citizen, was born. When her husband was arrested, Olga was, as well. The purpose was to pressure René into confessing to crimes he had never committed.

After three months she was deported to Cuba without her two-year-old daughter. She was granted a visa in March 2002, but it was revoked before she had a chance to use it. For more than ten years US authorities have cruelly punished her in spite of the fact that she has committed no crime.

Adriana Pérez was also granted a visa in 2002, in July, and travelled to the US to visit her husband, Gerardo Hernández. But when she arrived in Houston she was taken into custody at the airport and was photographed, fingerprinted, interrogated for 11 hours, denied access to an attorney and Cuban diplomats and was then sent back to Cuba. With premeditated ruthlessness she was given hope, only to be humiliated and denied her long awaited meeting with her husband. Adriana last had her application denied in July of 2009, on her twenty-first wedding anniversary.

Denying family members the possibility of visiting prisoners is an unworthy extra penalty for all involved and contradicts international standards for humane treatment. Those standards include the right of prisoners to have contact with their families and receive visitors. We are amazed by this cruelty toward two honorable women who have committed no crime and want only to visit their husbands.

Olga Salanueva’s and Adriana Pérez’ visa applications are supported by a significant number of religious, judicial and human rights organizations – from the world-wide Council of Churches to the United States’ own Council of Christian Churches, Cuba’s Council of Churches, the Association of American Jurists, Amnesty International, a long list of Nobel Prize winners (for Literature or the Peace Prize), members of parliaments, bishops, priests, jurists, authors, human rights activists and intellectuals around the world. They have also been received by parliaments and governments in many countries that support their struggle; most recently, in February of this year, by the EU Parliament.

Dear Mrs Michelle Obama, we appeal to you to do what you can to get visas for Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez so they can visit their husbands, and thereby lessen the shadow that has fallen over the United States because of the cruel treatment of The Five and their families.

  • Member of the EU Parliament Eva-Britt Svensson (v)
  • Former EU Commissioner Anita Gradin
  • Members of the Swedish Parliament: Anne Ludvigssen, Bodil Ceballos, Siv Holma, Helena Bargholtz, Liselotte Olsson, Amineh Kakabaveh, Marianne Berg
  • Bishop Eva Brunne, Stockholm
  • Opposition leader Ann-Margarethe Livh, Stockholm municipality
  • Women for Peace, Bibbi Steinertz,
  • Swedish Women’s Leftwing Union, Majlis Fridén 

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