Archive for January, 2011

Cuban Youth Call International Solidarity Meeting on Cuban Five

January 31, 2011

Photo: Mirtha, Irma and Magaly, 3 mothers of Cuban Five !

The Union of Young Communists called on youth and student organizations worldwide to take part in the 3rd International Solidarity Conference for the Cuban 5, with antiterrorists unfairly held in U.S. prisons since 1998.
The goal of the meeting, scheduled for June 12-13 in Havana, is to break the wall of silence built by the US government to prevent the public from knowing about the case of the five men, whose legal proceedings are plagued with irregularities.
In a press release, the UJC called on young people of good will worldwide to unite, as they have done many times, and join in the defense of truth and justice, because “the struggle for the release of The Cuban Five is a battle against terrorism.”
Fernando Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez were given harsh sentences for informing on the plans of violent actions against Cuba conceived by terrorist groups based in U.S. territory.
The text says that Washington continues disregarding human dignity with total irrationality, ignoring arbitrarily the statements of international bodies and creating legal and political obstacles of all kinds that prevent a solution to release The Cuban Five.
Only real mobilization of public opinion will achieve the needed influence to attain the justice the Cuban people are fighting for, says the UJC statement, published by Juventud Rebelde newspaper.
Humanity is in a time of transcendental historical importance, and it is young people who are responsible for this victory for a better future, the organization said. / PL

Bureaucratism in Cuba, from rule to exception

January 31, 2011

By Felix Lopez – Granma, Translation: Marce Cameron

Sixto Martinez fulfilled his military service in a barracks in
Seville. In the middle of the courtyard of this barracks there was a
stool. Next to the stool, a soldier stood guard. Nobody knew why…the
guard did it because he did it, night and day, every night, every day,
and generation after generation the officials transmitted the order
and the soldiers obeyed it. Nobody ever doubted it, nobody questioned
it…And so it went on until someone, I don’t know whether a general
or a colonel, wanted to know the original order. He had to dig deep in
the archives, and after much poking around, he found out: thirty-one
years, two months and four days ago, an official had ordered somebody
to stand guard next to the stool, that had been recently painted, so
that nobody would think of sitting on the fresh paint.

Thus the Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, describes the long reach
of the ghost of bureaucratism in the Book of Hugs.

Luckily for those who live in Cuba, our Revolutionary Armed Forces
(FAR) know how to find their own antidote against this evil that we
have not been able to eradicate from the social environment.

The FAR have been pioneers in organisation, planning, in the
[socialist state] Enterprise Improvement program and in establishing
payment according to work results, economic practices that fly
light-years away from the bureaucratic habits encrusted in many areas
of the economy, and that some always viewed with animosity in order to
avoid being demanding, taking responsibility and the obligation to
comply [with what is required].

The “stool duty”, converted into an image of bureaucratism, is a
history of the absurd that reminds us of the recent publication in
this daily of the letter of a reader*, as important and opportune as
the most thorough journalistic investigation, that related the
surrealism of his “vicissitudes to obtain a self-employment licence in
Moa [a town in Holguin province]”. The letter of Holguin resident G.
Gomez Fuentes exposes how a functionary asked her for documents that
were not required according to the current legislation regarding
self-employment. And her reaction to Gomez Fuentez’s application:
“(…) I asked the compañera if she knew what [Minister for Economy
and Planning] compañero [Marino] Murillo had said about this, and her
response was that I could forget about Murillo.”

This unfortunate response is a kind of X-ray of a mindset, very
common, of ignorance regarding legality; it also reflects the damage
being done by certain Creole [i.e. Cuban] bureaucrats by obstructing,
diluting and complicating a series of measures and solutions that are
being implemented as part of the updating of the Cuban economic model.

Some do not want to realise that in this country nobody will be
allowed to act in violation of the laws, norms and resolutions which
everyone is obliged to comply with.

And despite everything that has been said, there are still many who do
not understand that this process [of updating Cuba’s socialist
economic model] must be accompanied by a change of mentality, of work
practices and of vision at all levels, from those who lead an activity
through to the functionary who staffs a bureau or a window, and who
becomes the face (pleasant or harmful) of an idea, a measure, a
solution or an important project.

Gomez’s letter triggered a chain of reflections on this matter. Carlos
Rodriguez said that “as well as not complying with the regulations and
laws appearing in the Official Gazette, the example of what happened
in Moa highlights how there are functionaries that far from helping,
they hinder the work of reorganising the economy and society”. Basilio
Garcia warned that “there are many bureaucrats and technocrats that
have still not realised that we are in times of changes. They continue
to be stuck in their routine, lagging behind, putting the brakes on
development and undermining the morale of those who want to fight,
advance and triumph.”

There are still those who turn a blind eye to the new scenario that’s
being constructed for the economy and Cuban society. Some because they
have bureaucracy in the blood, inoculated as if it were a deadly
virus. Others because it doesn’t suit them to change the system of red
tape, delay, impunity, and the “fine” or “bite” [i.e. the charging of
illegal fees] required for any procedure so as to ensure a happy
ending.

And there are those who enjoy their eight hours a day of being
executioners [a metaphor], making life miserable and embittering
everyone who tries to climb the Golgotha [Biblical reference to the
hill where Jesus was crucified] of licences, permits, authorisations
and every kind of procedure and paperwork that sustains the existence
of a parasitic plague in the heart of the public administration. The
rest — those who work well, who deliver happiness and sustain our
optimism — should become the rule rather than the exception.

In his speech to the National Assembly on December 18, compañero Raul
[Castro] insisted that “it is necessary to change the mentality of the
cadres and of all the compatriots to face the new scenario that is
beginning to take shape. It’s simply a matter of changing erroneous
and unsustainable concepts of socialism …” Would the bureaucrats
understand the message they’ve been sent by the Second Secretary of
the [Communist] Party when he referred to the necessity for a change
of mentality?

For Basilio Garcia, behind every irresponsible bureaucrat or
functionary there is a leading cadre that allows this type of conduct:
“We have to continue unearthing these pessimists and opportunists, for
whom the only thing that matters is that they have a more comfortable
life; and go about substituting them with people who are trained and
have the desire to do things well. Any human collective is teeming
with such people, we just have to find them and give them the
opportunity. Clearly, for this to happen we also have to banish from
our minds the practice of canonising cadres; that is, whatever you do,
you are always a cadre [i.e. someone who is supposed to act
responsibly] .”

In its pursuit of improvement, Cuban society in turn clamours for the
shaking off of the ballast of bureaucracy, this ancient invention
through which one shies away from personal responsibility in the
moment of making decisions; this “pedestal” upon which some choose to
live their minutes of glory and show off their quotas of power, tiny
as they may be. Let’s recall that poetic definition of Roque Dalton
and we’ll understand him better, because we have no other choice but
to convert the exception into the rule:

The bureaucrats swim in a sea of tempestuous boredom
From horror at their yawns, which are the first assassins of tenderness
They end up with poisoned livers
And are found dead clinging to their telephones
With yellow eyes fixed on the clock.

*Vicissitudes to obtain a self-employment license in Moa, Friday January 21, p.11.

At Trial of Cuban Exile, a Rebuffed Venezuela Sits Quietly on the Sidelines

January 31, 2011

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. – New York Times
EL PASO — Perhaps the most frustrated person in the courtroom the last two weeks at the perjury trial of Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban militant and former C.I.A. operative, was the sad-eyed lawyer who represents Venezuela.
For five years, the lawyer, José Pertierra, has been seeking the extradition of Mr. Posada to stand trial in Venezuela in the bombing of a Cuban passenger jet in 1976, which killed everyone on board. But the State Department and the Justice Department have never presented the request to a federal judge.
Instead, the Justice Department is prosecuting Mr. Posada for having lied during two immigration hearings more than five years ago.
“It’s odd to be sitting in a federal court building and listening to testimony not about the extradition of Posada to face murder charges, but instead to listen to testimony about him lying on immigration forms,” Mr. Pertierra said.
To prove that Mr. Posada committed perjury, prosecutors plan to bring up evidence about bombings at Havana tourist spots in 1997. They say Mr. Posada took credit for those attacks in 1998, then later, under oath, denied that he had organized them.
But the trial is unlikely to shed light on his alleged role in the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 on Oct. 6, 1976. The midair explosion killed 73 people, including teenagers from Cuba’s national fencing team.
A government informer, Carlos Abascal, testifying over five days last week, said he had traveled with Mr. Posada on a shrimp boat from the Yucatán Peninsula to Miami in 2005, where it landed at a waterfront restaurant, letting the old Cuban exile sneak into the United States. One part of the indictment charges Mr. Posada with lying under oath when he said he crossed through Mexico and entered the country in Brownsville, Tex.
A defense lawyer, Arturo V. Hernandez, attacked Mr. Abascal’s credibility, interrogating him about his history of mental problems and showing records that documented schizophrenic episodes and hallucinations.
Venezuela has been demanding the extradition of Mr. Posada since he popped up in Miami, but the United States has so far rebuffed the request. Last June, the United States said in a diplomatic note that Venezuela had not presented enough evidence to show that the police had “probable cause” to arrest Mr. Posada for the bombing, Mr. Pertierra said.
Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on why the United States had not acted on the extradition request. A spokesman for the State Department, Charles Luoma-Overstreet, declined to comment on the diplomatic note.
The United States’ position on Mr. Posada’s extradition was complicated in 2006, when an immigration judge in El Paso ruled that Mr. Posada should be deported but could not be sent back to Venezuela because he would probably face torture there.
American officials say that the immigration judge’s ruling and the perjury trial have tied their hands, but Venezuela has argued that neither should keep a federal judge from hearing the extradition case.
No other country has offered to take Mr. Posada, who is 82, and he has lived in legal limbo in Miami for years. His movements are tracked by federal immigration agents; he wears an ankle monitor.
Mr. Posada was never convicted in the airplane bombing. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 just a few months before a judge reached a verdict for the other three men accused in the plot. He has long insisted that he had nothing to do with it.
But the police in Trinidad and Venezuela said they found evidence tying Mr. Posada to the plot. That evidence is buttressed by declassified documents from the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. showing that American agents received information that Mr. Posada was involved in the bombing, along with a known anti-Castro terrorist, Orlando Bosch Ávila.
“U.S. intelligence consistently pointed to Bosch and Posada as the masterminds,” said Peter Kornbluh, an analyst with the National Security Archive who has assembled most of the declassified documents regarding Mr. Posada’s career.
Both Mr. Bosch and Mr. Posada were arrested in Venezuela after the airplane went down. Mr. Posada escaped disguised as a priest. Mr. Bosch was acquitted in 1987 and, though he had no visa, migrated to the United States. Like Mr. Posada, he was held by immigration authorities until President George Bush gave him an administrative pardon in 1990.
The case against Mr. Posada in Venezuela rests largely on the statements of the two men arrested in Trinidad a day after the bombing, Hernán Ricardo Lozano and Freddy Lugo. Both were employed by Mr. Posada at his private security company in Caracas, an office through which many anti-Castro Cubans passed, according to F.B.I. records.
After nearly two weeks of questioning, Mr. Ricardo confessed to the police in Trinidad that he and Mr. Lugo had planted the bomb, disguising it as a tube of toothpaste. The two men had boarded the plane in Port of Spain, checked their luggage and then got off on a stop in Barbados. After the plane went down, 16 minutes after takeoff, they took another flight back to Trinidad, where they were arrested the next day on a tip from the Venezuelan police.
Both implicated Mr. Posada in the plot in their statements to the police, though they did not plainly say he had planned it. Mr. Ricardo admitted that he worked for Mr. Posada. Mr. Lugo said that after the bombing, Mr. Ricardo tried to call Mr. Posada at his office and left a message with a secretary, giving the number of the hotel where they were staying.
In his confession, Mr. Ricardo said he had actually spoken to Orlando Bosch. He said Mr. Bosch was upset and told him: “Friend, we have problems here in Caracas. You never blow up a plane while it is in the air.”
The Venezuelan police also raided Mr. Posada’s offices and discovered, among other things, a scouting list of sites for terrorist attacks in his desk. The list was in Mr. Ricardo’s handwriting and included targets that had been hit by anti-Castro terrorists that summer.
None of this surprised American intelligence agents, according to declassified C.I.A. and F.B.I. documents. Mr. Posada was well known to both agencies. In the 1960s, he had been trained in explosives by the C.I.A. and had worked for the agency from 1965 until 1974, with a single year’s hiatus, the documents show. He continued to peddle unsolicited information to American agents in return for help with visas until his arrest in Venezuela two years later.
The most damning report the American intelligence services had about Mr. Posada came from a Miami-Dade County police officer, Raul Diaz, who had traveled to Venezuela in late October, according to a declassified November 1976 F.B.I. report.
Seeking information about bombings in Miami, Mr. Diaz had met with a Venezuelan counterintelligence agent, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, and asked him to testify.
Mr. Morales said no, but he told Mr. Diaz that he had information about the bombing of the Cuban airliner. He said he had been present at two meetings in Caracas during which the bombing had been planned, one in the Hotel Anauco and another in his own apartment. Mr. Posada had attended both meetings.
There were other less concrete but still tantalizing connections drawn between Mr. Posada and the airplane bombing in American intelligence cables.
In mid-September, when Mr. Bosch arrived in Caracas, Mr. Posada met him at the airport, according to a declassified C.I.A. report from October 1976. Shortly after Mr. Bosch’s arrival, a $1,100-a-plate fund-raiser for him was held in the home of an exiled Cuban physician. Mr. Posada attended. The C.I.A. source said Mr. Bosch had mentioned boastfully that his organization was planning a new attack.
The report continued: “A few days following the fund-raising dinner, Posada was overheard to say that, ‘We are going to hit a Cuban airplane’ and that ‘Orlando has the details.’ ”

Cuba: The agroecology movement: sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty

January 31, 2011

Cuba: The Campesino-to-Campesino agroecology movement: sustainable peasant agriculture and food sovereignty

The following article was recommended by Raj Patel. Patel writes:
Want to know what a sustainable climate-change-proof agricultural system might look like? Here’s an example from Cuba, in an academic paper written by my friend, comrade and former boss, Peter Rosset, together with folk from Cuba’s peasant agriculture movement. The article’s free to download (for now), but the key parts from the abstract are:
Our key findings are (i) the spread of agroecology was rapid and successful largely due to the social process methodology and social movement dynamics, (ii) farming practices evolved over time and contributed to significantly increased relative and absolute production by the peasant sector, and (iii) those practices resulted in additional benefits including resilience to climate change.
Admittedly, there’s a bit more jargon here than I’d like, but the short of it is that there wasn’t a governmental grand plan to make sustainable agriculture flourish so much as a network of peasants communicating, sharing, and innovating. Most important, agroecology is successful in Cuba because peasants know how to organise.
This is a finding that’s important outside Cuba but, here’s the surprise, also important within – the Cuban government is still a refuge for Green Revolutionaries, for civil servants wedded to the same ideas of top-down, technocratic twentieth century agriculture celebrated by Big Agriculture outside Cuba. The punchline to Peter’s article is this: if the Cuban ministry of agriculture loves Cuba so much – especially in a time of greater climate uncertainty – it ought to support, not hinder, the demands of its most productive, sustainable and resilient peasants.
http://links.org.au/node/2116,

CLINTON IN HAITI: HEY, WHERE IS EVERYBODY?

January 31, 2011

lchirino – thesouthjournal
No government official welcomed Hillary Clinton at the airport. Political activists raised banners rejecting US interference in Haiti.
South Journal—Upon her arrival at the international airport in Haiti, on Sunday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was met only by her ambassador to Port-au-Prince Kenneth Merten, since not a single Haitian government official was there to welcome her.
A group of political activists gathered across from the air terminal to reject US interference in Haitian internal affairs by bearing banners reading: “Down with the Interference,” “No US solutions,” EFE news agency reported.
The group of people tried to raise barricades, but they were immediately controlled by the police.
Clinton, who wound up her visit on Sunday, met with Haitian President Rene Preval and with the three presidential candidates to address the crisis facing the country following last November 28 elections.
She also met with representatives of the civil society and visited a health care center that is assisting cholera patients in order to learn about the struggle being waged against that disease, which has thus far killed 4 000 people and has affected over 200 000.
A spokesperson at the US embassy in Haiti said that the Secretary of State told local reporters that the democratic process has to advance and that her government believes that the report issued by a commission with the Organization of American States (OAS) offers a route to some electoral results that reflect the will of the Haitian people.
The official results of the first round of elections, denounced as fraudulent by the opposition, gave ex-first lady and presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat some 31, 37 percent of the votes, ruling party candidate Jude Celestin 22, 48 and singer Michel Martelly 21,48 of the votes.
However, a report issued by the OAS reduced the votes garnered by the three candidates in the face of irregularities and estimated that Manigat had obtained 31,6 percent of the votes, Martelly got 22,2 and Celestin 21,9. Then the OAS suggested the exclusion of Celestin from a second round of elections to allow the unstable country to get out of the crisis that followed the electoral results.
The Inite party announced the withdrawal of candidate Celestin last week, which would give green light to Manigat and Martelly in their fight for the presidency, though electoral authorities have not confirmed that the ruling party candidate has officially withdrawn his campaign.
Clinton said that she would like to see that OAS suggestion made a reality, in direct reference to the OAS report. She said that it was an international message to solve the Haitian crisis.
In her statements to local radio stations, Clinton reiterated her government´s long-term commitment to Haiti and to its reconstruction process following the earthquake that devastated several Haitian cities a year ago.
The US Secretary of State visited Haiti few days after the United States revoked entry visas to an group of Haitian officials. The measure was announced January 21 and at the same time the State Department reiterated its call for the advancement of Haiti towards a “free, fair and credible” electoral process.
The second round of elections in Haiti are scheduled to take place March 20 as announced by the Provisional Electoral Council, which said that the definitive results of the first round will be released on February 2.

Message by Antonio Guerrero Circulates in Pedagogy 2011

January 29, 2011

 (acn) A message paying homage to Jose Marti, written by Antonio Guerrero,
one of the five Cuban heroes unfairly incarcerated in the United States, circulated on Friday
among delegates to the Pedagogy 2011 International Congress.
  Tony explains that, after knowing about preparations by Cuban youngsters to pay tribute to
the National Hero, he remembered the moments of happiness he lived with his children, whom he
maintains close to him thanks to poems like Sobre mi hombro (On my shoulder), from the book
that the Apostle dedicated to his son in 1882.
  In his note, he describes the joy he felt when he contacted his eldest son, after several
days of being in solitary confinement as a consequence of a punishment imposed on him in his
prison of Florence, Colorado.
  My poems come from Marti’s poetry, confesses the Cuban fighter who -along with Gerardo
Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez and Reneé Gonzalez- has been unjustly imprisoned
since 1998 for monitoring the activities of terrorist networks operating against the island
from the US state of Florida.
  In his message, Tony points out that Marti’s ideas are constantly present in the
revolutionary work of the Cuban people, which has found in them a source of light and strength
to overcome many obstacles all these years.
  The text was read by Graciela Ramirez, president of the International Committee for the
Freedom of the Cuban Five, who talked about their case in the working sessions of the 12th
International Congress on Pedagogy.
  In her statements to ACN, Ramirez said that the event –that wound up on Friday- made it
possible to increase contacts with people from various parts of the world, who expressed their
interest in cooperating with the struggle for the release of Rene, Ramon, Fernando, Gerardo
and Antonio.

Witness got $80,000, help with US citizenship to testify against anti-Castro militant

January 29, 2011

By Will Weissert (AP)
EL PASO, Texas — A key prosecution witness admitted Friday to receiving nearly $80,000 from the U.S. government for agreeing to testify against an elderly ex-CIA operative accused of perjury, and also said federal authorities helped him obtain U.S. citizenship.
Gilberto Abascal has spent five days testifying that he was on a shrimp boat-turned-yacht that carried anti-communist militant Luis Posada Carriles from Mexico to Miami in 2005. Posada later sought U.S. citizenship and told federal authorities he had paid a people smuggler to drive him from Honduras to the Texas border, and on to Houston.
Posada, 82, faces 11 counts of perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud for lying under oath about how he made it to the U.S., and denying responsibility for planning a series of Havana hotel bombings in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist.
Posada spent a lifetime using violence to destabilize communist political systems and is considered former Cuba President Fidel Castro’s nemesis, but he is not on trial for his Cold War past.
Defence attorneys on Friday showed Abascal a list of government payments he had received since becoming a witness in the case in August 2005. It included three payments from the FBI for “services” totalling $8,800, and more than $70,700 in expenses that included housing for about 14 months and food for nearly a year.
Abascal admitted receiving the money and also said he needed the government’s help to obtain citizenship. Born in Cuba, Abascal came to the U.S. in 1999 but had been on federal disability after a construction accident. He would have lost those benefits had he not gone through naturalization after having been in the country over seven years.
Abascal testified that he became a U.S. citizen last year, but ducked questions about a government document indicating that a Department of Homeland Security agent called immigration officials and helped ensure he was naturalized.
The defence wants to discredit Abascal because he told the jury he was the mechanic aboard “The Santrina,” the yacht that travelled to the Mexican resort of Isla Mujeres, allegedly picked up Posada and helped him slip ashore in Miami. Posada originally told immigration officials he wasn’t in Isla Mujeres. He now says he made contact with the yacht only to pick up $10,000 from his friends in order to pay the people smuggler.
After participating indirectly in the doomed Bay of Pigs invasion, Posada worked for the CIA and later served as head of intelligence for the Venezuelan government. In the 1980s, he helped support U.S.-backed Nicaraguan “contra” rebels.
Posada was imprisoned in Panama for a 2000 plot to kill Castro during a visit there, but eventually was pardoned and arrived in the U.S., prompting the current charges against him. He was jailed in El Paso but released in 2007 and has been living in Miami.
Cuban and Venezuelan officials accuse Posada not only of the 1997 hotel bombings, but also of organizing an explosion aboard a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people. A U.S. immigration judge previously ruled that he couldn’t be deported to either country because of fears of torture.
Also testifying Friday was former Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who said he was having lunch at Big Fish Restaurant on the Miami River, on March 18, 2005, when he saw two men on a speedboat disembark at a nearby dock.
“They were a couple of guys who looked like they had come in from fishing,” Timoney said.
He said he did not recognize the men. Asked if he recognized Posada seated in court, Timoney said no.
But his testimony about the small boat corroborated earlier testimony by Abascal, who said Posada used a speedboat to leave The Santrina once it reached the Miami River and before it made contact with the U.S. Coast Guard or immigration officials.
Abascal said in court that — after a journey of hundreds of miles (kilometres) through the Caribbean — Posada came ashore at a restaurant where the city police chief happened to be lunching. He recalled a Posada associate who drove the speedboat to the dock telling him later, “Oh my God! The chief of the police was at the restaurant!”

Life as a diplomat’s daughter: All roads lead to Posada

January 29, 2011

By Margarita Alarcón
The thing that made my life growing up in the U.S. quite different from that of others in my same situation was not so much that I was the daughter of an ambassador but rather that my life was subjected to slightly different constraints than those of my peers.
http://theragblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/margarita-alarcon-all-roads-lead-to.html,

El Paso Diary: The Man in the Gray Woolen Suit

January 28, 2011

By José Pertierra
A new stage in the trial of Luis Posada Carriles in El Paso began today. Thus far, the prosecution has put into evidence only the lies that the Defendant made during hearings regarding his application for asylum in 2005 and interviews about his application for citizenship in 2006. But starting this morning, the prosecution began the process of establishing the truth to the jury.
Outside Judge Kathleen Cardone´s courtroom earlier today, sat a stocky man on a solitary wooden chair. He is one of the main witnesses against Luis Posada Carriles in his perjury trial at El Paso, Texas: Gilberto Abascal.
Dressed in a gray woolen suit and tie, the witness waited, uncomfortably, to be called to testify. He is a relatively young man in comparison with his traveling companions. When at last he was invited into the courtroom to testify, everyone could see that Abascal was very nervous. The first thing he did was ask for a glass of water. Sweating heavily with his buttoned coat bunched up around his chest, he began by answering some preliminary questions about his family. He testified that he is 45 years old. He said that he never testified in court before, and it looked as if this was one of the few times he had ever worn a suit.
He told the jury that he is separated from his wife and has two children. Big drops of sweat slid down his wide forehead, toward his eyebrows, Abascal felt them and, several times, awkwardly jerked his left thumb up toward his forehead to wipe the drops away, as he respectfully answered the many questions put to him by U.S. attorney Jerome Teresinsky.
-Posada Carriles Arrived in Miami on the Santrina
But Abascal did not come to court to tell us about his family. He came to testify about the manner in which Luis Posada Carriles in fact entered the United States in March of 2005. The Defendant is on record as saying under oath on several occasions that he crossed over to the United States, near the Mexican border town of Matamoros, with the help of a coyote in a blue pickup truck. Today Abascal revealed what really happened. He told the twelve people on the jury, who were listening in rapt attention, that Posada Carriles illegally entered the United States on that date, but not in a pickup truck and not by land. According to Abascal, the Defendant reached shore in the city of Miami, on a converted shrimp boat called the Santrina. “When we arrived in Miami,” testified Abascal, “Posada was on the boat with us.”
Responding to Teresinski’s questions, Abascal told how the Santrina picked up Posada Carriles in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, in March of 2005. Although he couldn’t remember the exact day, he was sure that it was in March of that year. The prosecutor asked if he could identify Posada Carriles and Abascal did not hesitate. With the index finger of his right hand, he pointed directly at Luis Posada Carriles. “It’s him,” he said. “The man in the red tie.” Today Posada wore a tie of that color.
“Let the record show that the witness has correctly identified Luis Posada Carriles,” said Teresinski. At that moment I saw all the members of the jury look toward Posada, who kept his eyes fixed on Abascal, as though there was no one else in the room.
Abascal told the jury how in March of 2005 he traveled from Miami to Isla Mujeres aboard the Santrina, with a brief stop in the Bahamas. Aboard the 90-foot vessel, he said, were Santiago Álvarez, Osvaldo Mitat, José Pujol and Raúl López Castro. Abascal explained that the Santrina ran aground on a sandbar, off shore from Isla Mujeres, at 5:00 AM.
“Immigration and customs officers arrived. When they saw the Santrina’s situation, they sent a small tugboat to help us. It took 3 or 4 hours to pull us out of there. I was worried because dogs, divers and journalists arrived and registered the ship’s presence,” stated Abascal. “I saw Santiago Álvarez and Pepin Pujol leave the boat. Four hours later, they returned with Luis Posada Carriles, Ernesto Abreu and another person whose name I don’t know.”
-“Mr. Posada was there and I was afraid.”
The first time that Abascal made Posada Carriles’ acquaintance was not in 2005 at Isla Mujeres, but a year earlier, in Panama. “Santiago Álvarez asked me to go to Panama and it was there that I met Posada,” he admitted. “Posada was very grateful because I had done some work in his wife’s house in Miami. I fixed the toilet. When I met him in Panamá, Posada gave me one of his paintings. He also asked me to deliver some money to his wife.”
The prosecutor then showed Abascal a series of photographs, so he could identify them before introducing them as evidence in the case. “Yes, I recognize them. They were taken in March of 2005 at Isla Mujeres,” said Abascal, and he proceed to identify each of the persons in the pictures: Santiago Álvarez, Osvaldo Mitat, Rubén López Castro and Pepín (José Hilario) Pujol. He said that they were the crew aboard the Santrina, during its voyage to Isla Mujeres. “The photos were taken after we ran aground there.”
Midway through his testimony, Abascal´s confidence grew and his nervousness dissipated. With a firm voice, he told the jury that when he realized that Posada Carriles would be traveling with them on the Santrina, he began to fret: “Mr. Posada was there and I was afraid.”
The prosecutor then placed other photos in his hands. “This is Ernesto Abreu, who showed up in Isla Mujeres with Posada Carriles,” he said. “This other one is a photo of the Santrina, and the little boat behind it is the one that was helping get us out of where we beached,” he continued.
-Posada Carriles in a Barbershop on Isla Mujeres
With apparent calm, Abascal then described Posada’s appearance in Isla Mujeres. “He was hairy. He was wearing shorts, flat shoes, a gray cloth hat and he carried a suitcase.” Teresinski then showed him a photo of a gray-haired man, seated in a red chair in a barbershop wearing a blue barber’s apron, over his shorts, speckled with white hair. “That is a photograph of Luis Posada Carriles,” said Abascal. “Rubén López Castro took it at Isla Mujeres in March of 2005 with a disposable camera that he gave me to deliver to Santiago Álvarez.”
Abascal told the jury how Santiago Álvarez himself had given him the photo. ‘I wrote on the back of the photo in my own handwriting: “Posada getting a haircut in Isla Mujeres, Cancún.”
-What the Jury Doesn’t Realize
Abascal said that he met Santiago Álvarez through Ihosvani Surís de la Torre, with whom he’d worked on maintenance projects. “In April of 2001, Santiago Álvarez, Surís de la Torre and another person planned to go to Cuba to do something against the Cuban government,” said Abascal who testified that he told the FBI about the attempt that Álvarez and Surís had planned.
The prosecutor didn’t ask and Abascal didn’t say that Surís de la Torre sneaked into Cuba, from Miami to carry out terrorist attacks. They came ashore at Villa Clara on April 25, 2001. Along with Surís were Máximo Pradera Valdés and Santiago Padrón Quintero. The Cuban coast guard immediately arrested the three terrorists, after a short skirmish. Cuban authorities confiscated four AK-47s, an M-3 rifle, three Makarov pistols, ammunition and grenades.
Two months later, the Cuban television program Mesa Redonda [Round Table] showed a video of the captured terrorists. It showed Surís, under arrest, speaking by telephone with his boss in Miami, Santiago Álvaarez, who recommended that he carefully continue with the plans to place explosives in the famous Tropicana cabaret located in the Havana neighborhood of Marianao.
Of course, the El Paso jury didn’t hear any of this, because this case is not about terrorism or murder. The prosecutor only wants to know from Abascal how and where Posada Carriles entered the United States illegally. Álvarez is Luis Posada Carriles main fiscal benefactor and the owner of the Santrina. He is a wealthy man and “owns five or six condominiums and 700 apartments,” said Abascal.
-Abascal´s dirty laundry
While listening to Abascal´s testimony, Posada’s attorney took notes and prepared to impeach him. Arturo Hernández already warned the jury on the first day of trial that Abascal “is a person with a serious mental illness.” During opening statements two weeks ago, Hernández said that Abascal “suffers from psychosis, paranoia and depression. He has been hospitalized for that. He is a criminal. A fraud, and furthermore, a Cuban spy.”
Tomorrow Teresinski will finish his direct examination, and it will be Hernández’s turn to cross-examine him. Anticipating what Hernández will bring out on cross and trying to preempt it, the prosecutor today tried to air his dirty laundry. Teresinski hopes that the jury will realize that, despite Abascal´s previous bad acts, he is a man who came to El Paso tell the truth.
The prosecutor asked his own witness about the 1999 arrest on the high seas, as he embarked to return to Cuba in 1999: only three months after having arrived in the United States. “I didn’t have any work, I didn’t have any money, I was depressed and I missed Cuba,” said Abascal. “The FBI interrogated me because I had a number of photographs of members of Alpha 66 when they grabbed me.” Alpha 66 is a Miami-based group that the Cuban government considers to be terrorist.
Abascal also admitted not having paid federal taxes on the income that he earned during several years as a handyman in Miami, although he couched his answer by saying that he had not earned much money. He explained that he fell while working in Miami some years ago. He broke his back and neck. “I now have an electric battery in my spine and I suffer from depression, anxiety and insomnia.”
Anticipating Hernández’s questions tomorrow, Teresinski also wanted Abascal to tell the jury that in 2001 he received four phone calls from someone named “Daniel” in Cuba. “He called me from Cuba to ask me if I knew who Surís was,” said Abascal. “I guessed that Daniel was from Cuban security and so I told the FBI.”
-Difficulty Chewing
The government will finish with its direct examination of Abascal tomorrow. The case is set to begin at 8:30 a.m., with a lunch recess at noon. Judge Cardone usually gives everyone an hour for lunch, but starting Tuesday, we’ll have an hour and a half. One of Posada’s attorneys, Felipe Millán, asked the judge for an extra half hour because his client “has difficulty chewing.” Granted. Just then we ended for today.

José Pertierra practices law in Washington, DC. He represents the government of Venezuela in the case to extradite Luis Posada Carriles.
Translated by Machetera and Manuel Talens, members of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity.
See the Spanish language version at: http://www.cubadebate.cu/especiales/2011/01/25/diario-de-el-paso-el-testigo-del-traje-gris/,

Havana appeals to Obama’s “decency” in Cuban Five case

January 28, 2011


 EFE – The speaker of Cuba’s parliament appealed Thursday to the “decency” of President Barack Obama’s administration as he made yet another request for the release of five Cuban spies serving long sentences in U.S. prisons.
“I think that, independent of his errors and limitations, President Obama and the team that accompanies him in his administration are much more decent people than their predecessors,” Ricardo Alarcon said.
Asking George W. Bush to exercise his presidential powers to pardon or commute the sentences of the “Cuban Five,” held since 1998, would have been a waste of time, the parliament speaker said.
He suggested that “international influence,” combined with the “decency I would like to believe exists in some of the principal leaders” of the Obama administration could produce “justice” for the five Cubans.
Alarcon addressed the matter in a speech to the 2011 International Pedagogy Conference in Havana, where some foreign delegates also spoke out in solidarity with the Cuban Five.
Havana acknowledges that Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez are intelligence agents, but says they were spying on Miami’s Cuban exile community, not the U.S. government.
Hernandez, 45, is serving two life sentences, one for espionage and the other for his ostensible role in the 1996 downing by Cuban MiGs of two civilian airplanes belonging to the Miami-based exile group Brothers to the Rescue, four of whose members were killed in the incident over international waters.
Cuba says the men were sent to Florida in the wake of several terror bombings in Havana allegedly masterminded by anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative.
The five Cubans were arrested in 1998 and convicted three years later by a federal jury in Miami.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the spies’ convictions in 2005, citing the “prejudices” of Miami’s anti-Castro Cubans.
But the full court later nixed the spies’ bid for a new trial and reinstated the original convictions.
In 2008, another three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit again refused to overturn the convictions and confirmed the sentences of Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez, while ordering the trial court to reconsider the penalties imposed on the other three in light of a subsequent finding that they did not gather Top Secret information.
The trial court later reduced Labañino’s sentence from life in prison to 30 years, while cutting Fernando Gonzalez’s term from 19 years to 17 years, and Guerrero’s from life to 21 years and eight months.


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