Archive for June 14th, 2013

What else can we do?

June 14, 2013

by Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

090129-CubaRicardoAlarcon

“The Last Soldiers of the Cold War” by Fernando Morais allows you to peer into a history that the Empire is determined to bury in darkness.
It’s a true chronicle that brings us closer to the great deeds of five young people who sacrificed their lives to save their people. The author dedicated countless hours to researching, studying thousands of pages, interviewing many people, and worked hard for many months to write it.

Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René appear as they are: heroes in flesh and bones, with their full human dimension always close to the reader.

In the next few days the first English edition will be released, and this will be a very important contribution for the struggle to liberate our comrades.

I will not elaborate on the content of the book. I invite you to read it. When you start you will not be able to stop until the end, being trapped in the magic of an exceptional artist. However, always remember that nothing is fiction here.
Fernando did not need this book. He is one of the most successful writers, published worldwide, translated into all languages, his writings, also transferred to films, reach millions of people.
He did not require it to establish his fame. It’s the opposite. The Five essentially needed this book to advance the truth, to increase solidarity, for the day of freedom to be nearer.
Fernando embarked on the monumental task to write it because above all he is a great comrade, who has never failed our peoples, and has always placed his immense talent on the side of justice.
This book is a challenge to readers. After reading this story of altruism, love and giving to others, no one decent can be left with crossed arms. Its pages are a call to action that young people have to respond to.

According to José Martí “students are the pillars of freedom and their firmer army”. So it has been throughout Cuba’s history. That glorious tradition, uninterrupted, poses a clear challenge to today’s university students in regards to the case of our comrades, forged in our classrooms, who will soon reach fifteen years of unjust imprisonment for defending all Cubans from terrorism promoted by Washington against this island and its people.
How can you truly be a bastion and army in the battle to free Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio and Fernando? First you have to objectively appreciate the situation, accurately evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the contenders, design an appropriate strategy, and above all struggle consistently until the victory.
Our main strength is the complete innocence of our comrades, and the complicity with terrorism that those who accused and convicted them, in a judicial farce, which only purpose was to justify terrorist actions against Cuba and to openly defend terrorists. Everything is perfectly registered in official documents that you can read in the file titled “United States v. Gerardo Hernandez et al.” of the Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Our main weakness, and the most obvious, is that only a few in the United States know of what I just talked about. And it is not by accident. The government of that country has covered up the case of the five through heavy censorship. It does so because if the U.S. people were to know the truth they would discover that those who govern them are accomplices of terrorism, and if they had access to that truth a really broad and powerful solidarity movement would emerge that would obligate them to free our comrades.

So, what to do? How do we pierce the wall of silence surrounding this case?

There isn’t enough time to refer to the countless violations and numerous concealments that have accompanied this endless judicial process, which includes the longest trial in the history of the United States. I will focus on some key aspects.
Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio and Fernando are waiting for Judge Lenard, the same one who initially sentenced them, to rule on extraordinary appeals or habeas corpus, the last legal recourse available to them. It is a complex, difficult, and impossible battle to win if it is not accompanied by solidarity, if it is not fight also outside the courtrooms, if we, those of us who are not prisoners, do not participate.
The common element of the four appeals is the government conspiracy with the local media and “journalists” from Miami, who they funded and directed to spark an intense hate campaign against the defendants, pressing and threatening jurors to render a fair trial impossible. This environment was characterized in 2005 by a panel of the Court of Appeals in Atlanta as “a perfect storm of prejudice and hostility” that led them to call a mistrial.

In 2006 it was discovered that the action of those “journalists” was the work of the government. Since then, seven years ago, civil society organizations are calling on the U.S. Government to reveal the extent of the conspiracy. The same requirement underlying the habeas corpus. The government stubbornly insists on its cover-up. And the press, in silencing this bid, becomes an accomplice of the conspirators.
Gerardo’s Habeas corpus also includes other issues of particular importance. On one hand the issue of the concealment is reiterated, as is the manipulation of the evidence presented against him to falsely accuse him of “conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree”, the infamous slander for which he was sentenced to die in prison. It is not the first time that the defense requests access to the alleged “evidence”. It has done so for 15 years, since the trial commenced in Miami. Now it is also requesting that Gerardo be granted a hearing so he can directly refute the lie leveled against him.
His petition also includes a demand for the government to provide images taken by its space satellites of the 24th February, 1996 incident, an event that was maliciously used to fabricate the “conspiracy to murder”.
Whether the government itself was forced to acknowledge that it had no evidence to link Gerardo to that incident, Washington’s refusal to show the images is very enlightening. Since 1996 no one has been able to see them. It has refused the International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN Security Council, and the Court of Miami. It has rejected the various gestures made by prestigious North American institutions. How do you explain such stubbornness? The only possible explanation at this point, 17 years after the fact, is that the incident occurred in Cuban territory, and therefore the U.S. court never had jurisdiction regarding this.

Washington can behave like this because it always had the complicity of the media.
Now, instead of showing the evidence that they are hiding, the prosecution has called for the elimination of the matter from the appeal presented by Gerardo. But this unusual action has not been either newsworthy.

So, what to do?

To wait for the big media corporations to divulge the truth would be, to say the least, naïve. Either we, the ones who are committed with this cause, do it, or nobody else will do.

How?

Using all the tools at our disposal, the traditional ones and the ones offered by new technologies, to spread the truth and explain it beyond the rhetoric, with clear and direct language, and with arguments understandable to anyone.
The most convincing ones, ones that no one can refute, those that prove the terrible injustice done to our colleagues, are contained in official documents of the U.S. authorities themselves. Let’s use them.
These documents show that the Five did not commit any crime and that the process used against them had a single purpose, which was to support the terrorists whose criminal actions our brothers had tried to deter. Prosecutors, witnesses, experts and judges said it over and over again in their own words.

Where and how did they say it?

Let’s recall some especially enlightening moments:

1) The indictments presented by the prosecution. In the first one the incident with the planes on the 24th of February 1996 is not mentioned. In the second one, seven months later, they add the infamous and blatant slander against Gerardo. Both indictments state that the FBI knew of Gerardo’s activities several years before that incident and, therefore, they knew that he had nothing to do with that matter. That vulgar hoax was incorporated arbitrarily at the specific request of the terrorists, who unleashed an intense smear campaign with the government-paid “journalists”.

2) The declarations and motions from the prosecution. Since its initial presentation at the opening of the trial until their requests on sentencing, and throughout the court sessions, the prosecution expressed many times their determination to protect the terrorists and harshly punish the defendants for their peaceful unarmed struggle against these groups.

3) Statements by the judge. On several occasions the judge acknowledged the existence of terrorist groups in Miami and that the “crime” of the accused was their action against these groups, and acceded to the government request, not only imposing the most severe penalties, but also imposing other special conditions so that, after serving their prison terms, the defendants could never attempt anything against the terrorists. Such an unusual condition was reiterated by the Judge to René González as he left prison in October 2011.

4) Statements by witnesses and experts. There were several witnesses and experts, some offered by the Government, who testified under oath that the defendants had done nothing against the national security of the United States, and that in this case there had been no attempted espionage. They were generals, admirals and other retired senior officers of the U.S. armed forces. One of them, Colonel Bruckner, proposed that the satellite images of the incident on the 24th of February 1996 be presented, which was vigorously rejected by the prosecution with the support of the judge. Another was General Clapper who is now, nothing more and nothing less than the Director of National Intelligence, the highest government authority in this regard.

5) Emergency Motion to amend Count Three. The Prosecution filed this in late May 2001 when the trial was coming to a conclusion, recognizing it was taking an unprecedented step in the U.S. jurisprudence. In essence they asked to substantially modify Count Three (“conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree”) because “in light of the evidence presented at the trial it is an insurmountable obstacle for the prosecution that may lead to its failure.” Despite that, Gerardo was convicted and given the maximum penalty possible for an alleged crime he did not commit, and for which he was not charged. This result is an irrefutable proof that he was already condemned and that it was impossible for him and his comrades to have a fair trial in Miami.

6) Decision by the panel of the Court of Appeal in 2005. It was a unanimous decision of the three judges. It contains extensive information on the terrorist activities against Cuba, and has a solid analysis of the atmosphere created by the local media in Miami that they described as “a perfect storm of prejudice and hostility” that led them to call a mistrial. Although, with pressure exerted by the W. Bush regime, this decision was cast aside in a split vote by the full court, it is an exceptionally important document that is being studied in several law schools of U.S. universities.

7) Decision of the Court of Appeals in 2008 annulling the sentencing with respect to Count Two (“Conspiracy to commit espionage”) and ordering the resentencing of Ramon, Antonio and Fernando. Although Gerardo was arbitrarily excluded, while recognizing that it was also applicable to him, this paper is important because it reiterates, on several occasions, that in this case there was nothing threatening the national security of the United States, that there was no attempt of espionage and that the original sentences were excessive and issued contrary to the law.

8) The prosecution’s requests of sentences. In addition to ask, in all cases, for disproportionate and illegal terms of imprisonment, as it was later determined by the Court of Appeals, the prosecution insisted on something they said was as important to them as the terms of imprisonment. This refers to the “incapacitation clause”, the measures to be imposed on defendants to ensure that on completion of their prison sentence, upon being free they cannot attempt anything to damage the terrorists. Such a clause was included in all sentences, including those who were sentenced to life imprisonment. In the case of Antonio and René, who were U.S. citizens by birth, the judge expressed it in these terms: “As a further special condition of supervised release the defendant is prohibited from associating with or visiting specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists, members of organizations advocating violence, and organized crime figures are known to be or frequent.” As noted above, this amazing restriction was reiterated to Rene on his release from jail in October 2011.

9) The dissenting vote of Phyllis Kravitch irrefutably argued against Count Three, insisting that the government presented no evidence to prove Gerardo had any connection with the incident of the 24th February, or anything like that.

10) The recent government motion to remove a substantial part of Gerardo’s habeas corpus. The prosecution intends to remove the declaration by its attorney, Martin Garbus, and the annexes with substantial information on government paid journalists. In its brief the Prosecution recognizes that its request is very unusual, but preferred to avoid a discussion on the merits of the defence approach.

These ten aspects are conspicuous by their absence in the media. It is rare to find them in the so-called alternative media, even in areas that are supposedly dedicated to the Five.
We must honestly ask ourselves if we have done everything in our power to allow the American people to access to these truths that are jealously guarded by Washington. Let us try to answer the question asked by the children of the Colmenita “Now what else can we do?”.

Havana, 4th June, 2013
Words in the ceremony “Jose Antonio Echeverria” in the Campaign Five days for the Five held at the Polytechnic Institute

Cuba and the US terror lists by Helen Yaffe

June 14, 2013

! cuba-terrorismo

Since 1959, nearly 3,500 Cubans have been killed and 2,100 permanently maimed as a result of terrorism launched from the United States by groups with links to the US government. Not a single US citizen has been injured or killed by terrorism linked to revolutionary Cuba. The only Cuban terrorists are counter-revolutionaries recruited by the CIA. Most infamous among them is Luis Posada Carriles, who lives freely in Miami. President Obama has excelled in the US practice of state terror: through its occupying armies, support for dictators, rendition flights, torture of prisoners, forced feeding of hunger strikers in Guantanamo prison camp, drone-strike assassinations around the world and repression of internal dissent. Yet in the topsy turvy world of imperialism, the US labels socialist Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and points to black revolutionary Assata Shakur to prove it. HELEN YAFFE reports.

The US began its list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ in 1979, adding Cuba in 1982, because, it said: ‘Havana openly advocates armed revolution as the only means for leftist forces to gain power in Latin America, and the Cubans have played an important role in facilitating the movement of men and weapons into the region.’ More recently, the US conceded that ‘the government of Cuba maintained a public stance against terrorism and terrorist financing’, but complained that revolutionaries from other armed struggles, in Colombia (FARC), the Basque Country (ETA) and the US (Assata Shakur), reside in Cuba. Basque ETA members are in Cuba through an agreement with the Spanish and Panamanian governments and Cuba is currently hosting peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government. An increasing vociferous international campaign demands that Cuba be removed from the US list. However, on 1 May 2013, the US announced that Cuba would remain on the list of terror states. On 2 May, the FBI added Assata Shakur to another US list – ‘most wanted terrorists’. Since ‘Cuba refuses to support real terrorists, the FBI … has taken it upon itself to invent one!’ (Dawn Gable, http://www.havanatimes.org, 4 May 2013).

Assata Shakur – freedom fighter*

Assata Shakur is a black woman from the US; a fugitive from US injustice. She was a political activist in the 1960s and 1970s in community organisations, student and anti-war movements and then joined the Black Panther Party, helping to run free breakfast programmes for poor black children. In 1969, the then director of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover, stated: ‘The Black Panther Party, without question, represents the greatest threat to the internal security of the country’. He set out to destroy it, under a relentless FBI ‘counter-intelligence’ programme, COINTELPRO, to neutralise organisations challenging US racism and imperialism; using infiltration, misinformation, division, criminalisation and assassination. Following persecution, Assata went underground as a member of the Black Liberation Army. Assata was engaged in a liberation struggle against a racist, oppressive state which had declared war on radical activists. In one of her rare interviews, in Havana 1996, Assata told FRFI (http://tinyurl.com/bs455es): ‘In 1973 I was captured. I was shot, once with my hands in the air and once in the back. I was left to die. They kept coming back and saying ‘Is she dead yet? Is she dead yet?’ I was finally taken to hospital and kept for four days incommunicado, questioned, interrogated and tortured, even though I was paralysed.’ She was framed for the murder of the New Jersey State Trooper who was shot in the incident. The forensic evidence shows Assata was innocent.

Initially cleared in court of numerous false charges designed to criminalise her, Assata was finally sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the state trooper. She escaped from prison in 1979 and arrived in Cuba in 1984. She explained: ‘I have admired Cuba since I was at college. I read everything about Cuba that I could get my hands on. So, when I escaped from prison, my first idea was Cuba…and, luckily, people here knew who I was and they gave me the status of a political refugee’ (FRFI 131). In 2005, with no new evidence or a retrial, the FBI recategorised Assata from criminal to domestic terrorist. It did so under the guise of the 2001 Patriot Act, which saw an unprecedented and sweeping expansion of state powers to spy, search, restrict free speech, arrest, incarcerate, interrogate, punish, deport, and withhold information. A $1 million reward was offered for her capture.

On 2 May 2013, the 40th anniversary of her capture, Assata was added to the top ten ‘most wanted terrorists’, a list created after 11 September 2001. She is the first woman and the only person of African descent on this list. The FBI’s website warns: ‘She may wear her hair in a variety of styles and dress in African tribal clothing.’ The bounty on her head has been doubled to $2 million; an invitation to any vigilante to capture her, dead or alive. It is from this list that the US picks targets for its extra-judicial assassinations overseas via drones and raids.

Although it is well known that Assata resides in Cuba, billboards have been erected in New Jersey State with Assata’s face and the words ‘WANTED: TERRORIST’. Less than three weeks after the Boston marathon bombings, ‘the FBI felt compelled to frame the domestic terrorism conversation around a black revolutionary living in Cuba, instead of two white men from Boston’ (Kirsten West Savali, Newsone.com). At a news conference on 2 May an FBI agent claimed Assata ‘is a supreme terror [sic] against the government who continues to give speeches espousing revolution and terrorism’. No evidence was or could be provided. Assata does not advocate terrorism. Fellow black activist Angela Davis said ‘certainly, Assata continues to advocate radical transformation of this country, as many of us do…That is why it seems to me that the attack on her reflects the logic of [the war on] terrorism, because it is precisely designed to frighten young people who are involved in the kind of activism that might lead to change.’ As examples she cites today’s struggles around ‘police violence, health care, education [and] people in prison’.

Cubans combating terrorism

The utter hypocrisy of the US’s ‘war on terrorism’ is exemplified in the case of the Cuban Five. In the 1990s more than 200 attacks of terrorism and sabotage against Cuba were launched from Miami. To defend Cuba from further attacks, five Cuban men risked their lives to infiltrate right-wing extremist exile groups in Miami, groups with well documented links to the US government. The Cuban Five had no guns or explosives. They were not after classified information or threatening US national security. In fact, in 1998, Cuba handed the FBI a mountain of evidence compiled by the Cuban agents from the terrorist networks. That information made it possible to prevent 170 attacks against Cuba, including a plan to blow up aeroplanes filled with Cuba-bound tourists from Europe and Canada. Instead of acting on the information to destroy the terrorist networks, the US authorities arrested, framed and incarcerated the Cuban agents. Their subsequent treatment, including many months of isolation and denial of family and legal visits, has constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

In October 2011, after 13 years of incarceration, one of the Five, Rene Gonzalez, was granted a three year ‘supervised release’ under life-threatening conditions: forced to remain in Miami in close proximity to the terrorists he had exposed. The conditions also prohibited Rene ‘from associating with or visiting specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists, members of organizations advocating violence, organized crime figures are known to be or frequent.’ In other words, the court could identify where terrorists and criminals hang out in Miami, but rather than arrest and try them, it warned Rene not to disturb them. So much for the war on terrorism!

Among Miami’s terrorist population is Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, a self-confessed terrorist and ex-CIA operative, involved over decades in terrorist activities throughout the Americas. Posada’s bloody record includes the mid-air bombing of a Cuban civilian aeroplane in 1976, killing all 73 people aboard, bombing hotels and restaurants in Havana in 1997 and attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro at the University of Panama in 2000. Carriles does not appear on the list of ‘most wanted terrorists’ and has merely been charged, and then acquitted, of lying during an immigration hearing.

Finally, on 3 May 2013, a US judge granted Rene Gonzalez the right to serve the remainder of his supervised release in Cuba. This is a victory for the international campaign to free the Cuban Five anti-terrorists, the other four of whom remain incarcerated.

* See Assata: an Autobiography, Assata Shakur, Lawrence Hill Books, 2001.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

http://www.revolutionarycommunist.org/index.php/cuba/3044-ca130613,


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