Archive for February 10th, 2012

Lawyer for Cuban agents vows last-ditch appeal

February 10, 2012

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By PAUL HAVEN | Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) — A lawyer for five Cuban agents sentenced to long jail terms for spying in the United States said Wednesday he is preparing a last-ditch appeal, arguing that one of the men received bad counsel and that the jury for all five was prejudiced because the U.S. paid several journalists who covered the trial.

Thomas Goldstein said he would submit the appeal on Feb. 15 before U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard, who can either rule on the matter, ask to hear arguments or order a full evidentiary hearing. Four of the men have been jailed since 1998. The fifth, Rene Gonzalez, was released last year after 13 years in jail, but has been ordered to remain in the United States while he serves out his probation.

Gonzalez’s lawyer, Phil Horowitz, said he would also appeal that probation decision shortly. He said the 55-year-old dual Cuban-American citizen is working as a caretaker at a private home, but would not reveal the location out of concern for his client’s security.

The lawyers were interviewed by The Associated Press in a restricted area of Havana limited to government activities and hosting visiting foreign dignitaries.

While the agents’ case is largely forgotten in the United States, it remains a cause celebre in Cuba, where the government hails the “Cuban Five” as heroes who were only trying to detect and prevent violent attacks against their country by exile groups. Cuban state-run media publish near daily accounts of solidarity from around the world, and images of the men stare down from billboards along rutted country roads.

Goldstein said he will argue that inadequate counsel from his lawyer resulted in a murder conviction and life sentence for one of the agents, Gerardo Hernandez, and he said all of their cases were prejudiced by a U.S. government program that was paying thousands of dollars to key journalists while the high-profile trial was going on, a fact that only came out later.

The journalists were paid for appearances on U.S. government radio and TV broadcasts beamed to Cuba, and they also continued to produce stories for independent media outlets.

Advocates for the five also say the trial court was wrong to reject their request for a change of venue from South Florida, which is home to a large Cuban exile community.

“I don’t think anyone can deny that it is a serious issue when you try supposed Cuban agents in a Miami court … and that it obviously is going to be a very political, very fraught trial,” Goldstein said. “On top of that, to learn that the media is being paid by the U.S. government, we think raises a serious issue.”

Goldstein, a Washington-based Supreme Court litigator, said he would take the case all the way to America’s highest court if necessary, and that if the appeal fails, it will mean “the end of the road” for the legal process in the case. After that, he said, the only hope would be a political solution.
That is the same situation facing Maryland native Alan Gross, who was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in jail after being caught bringing satellite phones and other equipment into Cuba illegally while on a USAID-funded democracy program. His appeal to Cuba’s top court was denied last year, so Gross’s only chance at release rests on a humanitarian pardon by Cuban President Raul Castro or some form of prisoner exchange.

Cuba has stopped short of linking the cases, but senior officials have said no one should expect the island to free the 62-year-old American in a “unilateral gesture.”

Goldstein rejected any attempt to compare the cases legally, but that the symmetry of the two cases presented a political opportunity. He stressed, however, that he was a private lawyer and not privy to the thinking of the Cuban government on Gross.

“Alan Gross is entitled absolutely to individual justice,” he said. “I would never encourage anyone to link what happens to him to what happens to my clients. You can’t hold someone literally hostage,” he said. “But it strikes me that to the extent that there are political solutions to both sets of cases, then there could end up being linkage … on the political front.”

Goldstein said the politically charged atmosphere in the lead-up to the U.S. election in November complicated any efforts to find common ground, particularly given the importance of Florida in presidential politics and strong feelings about the agents’ case among many Cuban-Americans.

But he said he hoped President Barack Obama would ultimately see that freeing the men was good politics, and something that would likely lead to reciprocal gestures from Havana.

“If the president of the United States were to release the Five and nothing else happens, then it kind of falls like a dud,” he said. “If, on the other hand, Cuba releases Alan Gross, the president releases the Five, the Cuban government, whatever … it would allow the Cuban government to do a number of things.”

The ‘incompatible’ island

February 10, 2012

The ‘incompatible’ island

Gabriel Molina Franchossi

ON January 31, 1962 – 50 years ago – an event which had been brewing for nine months was finally consummated. It would later be known as “the only moment in history when the world was on the brink of nuclear war.” (1)

The prologue to this conflict was the 8th Consultation Meeting of Foreign Relations Ministers of the region, created by the United States diplomatic corps to strangle Cuba’s new government. The Berlin Wall, and everything else, was overshadowed by Kennedy’s desire to avenge the family’s honor, lost in the Bay of Pigs. Overthrowing Castro was the U.S. government’s first priority, according to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, when he spoke with CIA Director John McCone, January 19, 1962. (2)

In December 1961, the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Permanent Committee convoked this 8th Conference of Foreign Ministers, requested by the Colombian government invoking the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty. Colombian Minister Julio César Turbay Ayala had been truly disturbed to find himself among the 81 passengers aboard a DC-8 which, after taking off from Mexico City, was hijacked to Havana. Ironically, for several days prior to the incident, he had been traveling around the region gathering support for the anti-Cuban Conference. Apparently, turning back an invasion organized by the United States had made the island country a threat. Ayala could breathe easier when Fidel Castro and Raúl Roa appeared at Havana airport and treated him with all due respect given his position.

“My interview with Castro in Havana has given me the impression that, in a somewhat curious way, Cuba’s international relations have improved,” he declared to UPI in Miami. Nevertheless, four months later, Turbay alleged as a reason to expel Cuba, an “intervention by extra-continental powers in the region.”

Thus, from January 22 through 31, 1962, the meeting in Punto del Este, Uruguay, constituted a continuation of U.S. machinations to nip the Cuban Revolution in the bud. The intrigue had begun as early as December, 1958, when the Eisenhower administration realized that the Rebel Army was about to defeat the Batista dictatorship. “Washington was making confidential contacts with OAS ambassadors, urging them to pressure the rebels and the Batista regime, so that a moderate government could assume power.” (3). The maneuvers continued into 1959 itself during the 5th OAS meeting in Santiago de Chile, followed in 1960 by the 6th and 7th in San José, Costa Rica.

The gaudy, exclusive beach resort in Punta del Este turned out to be an ideal venue for the U.S. objectives to be met. It was at a distance from the capital, visited by rich Argentine tourists and well-off Uruguayans, thus ensuring that the combatitive Uruguayan people would not interfere. However, it was only a partial victory for the organizers. Uruguayan workers made use of resources available to make their presence known, despite the restrictions. They marched on foot from Montevideo to Punta del Este, attracting a lot of attention days prior to the event. A giant banner of solidarity from the people expressed, all along the route to Punto del Este, that the people were on Cuba’s side.

In the 8th OAS meeting, Cuba was excluded from future participation with nine resolutions, including one condemning the country, given “the presence of a Marxist-Leninist government in Cuba which publicly identifies with the doctrines and foreign policy of Communist powers.” The group deemed this “doctrine” as incompatible with the inter-American system, thus expelling Cuba from the OAS and the inter-American defense command. There were 14 votes in favor, one against (Cuba), with the majority of the most important Latin American countries abstaining: Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador.

The Argentine delegation asserted that the proposed application of coercive measures against Cuba was illegal, without prior authorization by the United Nations Security Council.

But President Kennedy was intent upon putting an end to the Cuban Revolution, although he wasn’t willing to send in U.S. troops to prevent the triumph of communism in Cuba, as his military advisors and extremists in both parties recommended. He had resisted their pressure to intervene directly during the Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) debacle, but he had ordered the Defense Department to prepare a plan against Cuba to mitigate the torrent of Republican criticism, especially that of Senator Barry Goldwater, who was looking to succeed him as President. In a memorandum to McNamara he directed the open utilization of U.S. military forces, as Nixon had proposed. (4)

Nevertheless, and for two important reasons, the support of the Soviet Union and its leader Nikita Khrushchev, and the fear of unleashing protest in Latin America, the U.S. had to proceed cautiously. Thus, Kennedy commissioned Presidential advisor Richard Goodwin to work on the ‘Cuba issue’ and seek support for the U.S. position among Latin American governments, while at the same time preparing to launch the multi-faceted Operation Mongoose which included terrorist plots and economic sanctions. Trapped in this duality, Kennedy admitted to journalist Tad Szulc that he was being pressured to approve the assassination of Fidel and asked him his opinion. The CIA had already been in touch with the Italian-American mafia about carrying out such a criminal attack.

Peru’s proposal for a meeting to discuss anti-Cuba measures had been rejected since it was discussed in the OAS Council, by six countries plus Cuba. Another proposal by Colombia was approved in December, 1961, two days after Fidel had declared the Revolution’s socialist nature.

Kennedy met in Palm Beach on December 24 with Argentine President Frondizi who was attempting to play a mediating role, recommending negotiations. Frondizi thought that discussing sanctions against Cuba in a meeting would have repercussions within Argentina and affect the elections scheduled for March 1962. The Cuban question was becoming an internal problem for him, with pressure coming from both supporters and detractors of Cuba. Kennedy urged him to support the expulsion of Cuba from the OAS.

During the 8th Consultation Meeting of Foreign Relations Ministers, Frondizi did not align Argentina with the United States, but rather abstained along with Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico. The Argentine military command demanded that Frondizi break off diplomatic relations with Cuba, as its members had been insisting since 1960, and the President complied on February 8, 1962. This did not, however, prevent him from being ousted. Washington did not allow any exceptions. The presidents of Brazil and Bolivia and Ecuador were all subsequently removed, as well.

Resolution No. 6, adopted in Punto del Este, has served for years as the primary justification for maintaining sanctions against Cuba, euphemistically called an embargo, as a result of its alliance with the Soviet Union, despite the fact that that country has long ceased to exist and the OAS itself has rejected Cuba’s alleged “incompatibility.”

(1) Miami Herald. 05/29/11

(2 ) Tim Weiner, Legado de Cenizas. La historia de la CIA. Random House Mondadori. Tercera Edición. P.189

(3) John Dorschner & Roberto Fabricio. The Winds of December. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan New York 1980. P.190

(4) Jim Rasenberger. Brilliant Disaster. Simon and Schuster. New York 2011. P317 . 

Cuban woman’s letter to her husband unjustly imprisoned in U.S.

February 10, 2012


Adriana Pérez O'Connor. Photo: Along the Malecon 

Adriana Pérez O’Connor. Photo: Along the Malecon

A gift

My love, Valentine’s Day is coming and, once more, we remain apart; every year we say the same thing, this year will be the last!

I wish to wake up by your side and hug you as most couples will do; of them, I am envious today. A right we have been deprived of for a long time; more than fourteen years without kissing you, touching you, settling for only listening to your voice on a phone call whenever possible, a postcard or some detail thanks to your characteristic creativity and to the solidary support of those who manage to get a smile of happiness out of us.

As I was going over some papers and photographs, I took time to observe the last pictures we took on my birthday, in January 1998, and I couldn’t stop thinking of how happy we were at the time, our eyes said it all.

Where is my spring? Where has the sun hidden that forgot my garden, that my soul withered? Like the song goes.

I surprised myself dreaming you were free already, back home with me, and in a big hug I asked you not to let me alone again. Be on time!, as you usually say.

That’s why on this day of happiness, romance and gifts, I do not find a better present for you than to offer you my future, since you are already the owner of my past and my present.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Please, come back soon, I need you, I love you.

Your bonsai,

February 7th, 2012

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