Archive for October 31st, 2010

Another visit with Gerardo Hernandez

October 31, 2010

– By Danny Glover and Saul Landau ( progresoweekly )
We sat in the waiting room with eight other people, all black or Latino, while prison authorities “counted” — presumably — the prisoners. An hour and a half later we went through the “screening” machine while our shoes got x rayed — the airport has moved to the prison; or was it vice versa?
A guard put an invisible stamp on our wrist; a heavy metal door opened electronically and we entered another room where a guard with a hand-held machine read the invisible stamp with some sci-fi machine. Another massive portal opened as if by dint of fairy magic and a guard barked orders to wait in the open-air passageway between the entrance building and the prison visiting room.
Inside, the well lit — no passing secrets or contraband — visiting room we went and a guard pointed to one of many small, cheap plastic tables with three plastic chairs — amidst the other plastic accommodations in the room. Inmates and families conversed. We waited. After 10 minutes, Gerardo Hernandez appeared, hugged Danny and thanked him for making the You Tube video (look it up) explaining the case of the Cuban five.
Then he hugged Saul who said he’d just returned from Cuba and brought greetings from people who knew him
“How are people responding to the new reforms?” he wanted to know, referring to the economic changes – re-opening some of the private sector shut down by the 1968 “revolutionary offensive” and partially reopened in the mid-1990s, and to the massive layoff (500,000) of “superfluous” state workers as Raul Castro called them.
Saul reported people seemed anxious, but also dealing with the new reality. Gerardo nodded. “It was necessary,” he opined.
He had read newspapers and watched TV news related to next week’s election. “Will the Democrats lose one House or both?” he asked.
We didn’t know. Danny and Saul had watched CNN in the airport waiting room before we boarded the plane to go to Southern California and heard Wolf Blitzer and the other CNN “anchors” vie for fast-talk-say-nothing medals. We remarked on how cable news needs to create conflict (news?) 24/7 as its life’s blood. If no issue exists, create one. But crises arise. Sometimes even Lindsay Lohan and Wynona Rider don’t get caught taking drugs or shop lifting and CNN has to create conflict between gay former army officers and members of Obama’s staff over “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” This was part of CNN’s “election coverage.”
The prison authorities deny Gerardo access to email or computers, although convicted murderers and rapists don’t have those restrictions. He is able to talk to his wife on the phone. “Imagine, I can’t even send her an email,” he laughed sardonically.
Gerardo also can’t email his lawyers who recently filed a new appeal focusing on government documents showing payments made to Miami-area journalists who wrote articles designed to make the already “pervasive community prejudice” worse so that a Miami trial would become an impossible venue for Gerardo and his four mates to get a fair trial.
One Miami-based journalist, Pablo Alfonso, received $58,600 during the Five’s detention and trial period, but he only wrote 16 damaging articles [while he worked for El Nuevo Herald, Miami’s most important newspaper in Spanish].  Other government-paid journalists did negative TV and radio shows about the five men who had admitted their mission involved spying – but not on the U.S. government. Gerardo explained that Cuban Intelligence sent the men to Miami to penetrate violent exile groups who had planted more than a dozen bombs in one year (1997) in Cuban tourist sites.
The FBI did not arrest the bomb plotters, but rather grabbed the very people who had furnished the Bureau with evidence of terrorist activities based in South Florida.
A May 2005 United Nation’s Human Rights Commission concluded the original trial “did not take place in the climate of objectivity and impartiality” required for fair trials. The Commission’s report called for a new trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a previous appeal from the Five. But now, in addition to the bribing of journalists, appeal lawyer Leonard Weinglass has found the prosecutors had “withheld evidence that would have demonstrated [Gerardo’s] innocence.” Indeed, the government, Weinglass says, withheld  “satellite imagery which would have shown that the shoot down on Feb. 24, 1996, occurred in Cuban airspace and not in international airspace. The key agency of the United States government which maintains satellite data has, up to now, refused to admit or deny that they are holding such data.”
On that day, three Brothers to the Rescue airplanes flew into Cuban air space after receiving multiple warnings not to do so. Cuban MIGs shot down 2 of the planes, killing pilots and co-pilots. This fact, reasoned Weinglass, would have given the Five and the MIG pilots a clear-cut defense to the charge of conspiracy to commit murder. (Radio interview with Bernie Dwyer
Ironically, the government never established Gerardo’s connection to the shoot down.  They showed a communication commending him for his role in “the operation.” But Gerardo explained, “the operation” related to his helping another agent leave the country, not the shoot down. “They had other documents they didn’t show to the defense that would have shown I knew nothing about the events that day.” Weinglass included this in his new appeal.
Gerardo asked Danny about meeting his wife, Adriana, in Paris. Danny told him about the emotional encounter and Gerardo’s face lit up.
An inmate took photos of us. We said good-bye. Gerardo gave us the “keep the faith” fist in the air. We waved, left and began our drive south toward the Ontario airport passing the rows of unsold and empty houses in Victorville and the seemingly endless signs advertising chain stores and restaurants.
“Wow,” Danny said as he drove. “What an inspiring guy!”
Saul agreed. It was so worth the round trip, airport hassle, rent-a-car drive and wait in the prison – all the ugliness – to see how many inner resources one man could employ to keep his spirit high, and use them to inspire others.

Dominican Senators Reiterate Support of the Cuban Five

October 31, 2010

 (acn) A delegation from the Senate of the Dominican
Republic gave on Friday to the Cuban Parliament a copy of a resolution
demanding the immediate release of five Cuban antiterrorists who remain
unjustly imprisoned in the United States since 1998.
   The document was recently approved by an overwhelming majority of the
Dominican Senate and it urges US President Barack Obama to order the
release of Ramon Labañino, Rene Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio
Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez —internationally known as the Cuban Five—
who were arrested and given harsh sentences for monitoring anti-Cuba right
wing groups in South Florida that were planning and carrying out terrorist
actions against the island.
   The leader of the National Liberation Party (PLN) in the Dominican
Senate, Felix Maria Nova Paulino, expressed his gratitude for the respect
they have found in Cuba and praised Cuba’s contribution to his country and
the rest of Latin America.
   During the ceremony, the president of the Cuban Parliament, Ricardo
Alarcon, highlighted the importance of this gesture and noted that they
should multiply in order to make the US government do what it should do:
release the Cuban Five.
   Also present were the Dominican State Minister, Miguel Mejias; the
president o fthe Cuba-Dominican Republic Friendship Group in the Cuban
Parliament, Fernando Vecino Alegret; and the first vice president of the
Cuban Friendship Institute (ICAP), Enrique Roman.

Cuba-Norway Agreement Signed in Havana to Help Haiti

October 31, 2010

 (acn) Cuba and Norway signed in this capital a second cooperation
agreement to contribute to alleviate the situation faced by the Haitian people, worsened by
the cholera epidemic.
 With the purpose of giving continuity to the humanitarian aid offered following the January
12 earthquake, the Nordic country signed a donation equivalent to 850,000 dollars for the
purchasing and transport of medical resources and other consumables to Haiti, through the
Cuban Public Health Ministry.
  This is the second agreement of this kind, for the same amount. The first one was signed in
January, a few days after the devastating earthquake, which resulted in 50,000 deaths and
250,000 people being injured, according to data provided by Haitian Health Minister Alex
  The agreement was signed in the Cuban capital at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and
Investment by deputy minister Ramon Ripoll and Norwegian ambassador to Havana Jan Tore Holvik.
  Haitian health authorities confirmed on Friday that the figure of people who have died as a
consequence of cholera has risen to 330, a disease present in part of the country, while it’s
already affecting some 4,714 people, the Spanish EFE news agency reported.
  Lorenzo Somarriba, head of the Cuban Medical Mission in Haiti, asserted in Tuesday, by way
of a telephone contact with the Telesur television network, that there are some 855 Cuban
physicians, nurses and health experts working in 125 units of the Haitian Health Ministry.
   Cuba has offered all the necessary medical assistance, declared Haitian President Rene
Preval, cited by Radio Havana Cuba.
  During a visit to the Community Reference Hospital of Mirebaleis on Tuesday, the Haitian
head of state expressed his appreciation for the attitude of Cuban physicians.

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