Archive for September 12th, 2013

The Cuban Five Wrongly accused. Unjustly convicted. 15 Years in U.S. prisons.

September 12, 2013


Statement from the
National Committee to Free the Cuban Five
on the 15th Anniversary of the Unjust Imprisonment of the Five

Fifteen years ago, on Sept. 12, 1998, the FBI raided the homes of five Cuban men living in Miami, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, and indicted them on trumped-up charges of espionage conspiracy and related charges. The U.S. government knew that the Five were in the United States monitoring the actions of Miami-based, U.S.-backed terrorist Cuban exile organizations that operate with impunity against the people of Cuba. It was fully aware that the men had no weapons and had never harmed any individual.

Terrorist attacks against Cuba have killed 3,478 people and injured 2,099 due to the plots carried out by these paramilitary Miami groups. But instead of arresting the perpetrators of that violence, the U.S. government arrested and prosecuted the Cuban Five, trying them in a Miami court where it was impossible for the Five to properly defend themselves against the virulent anti-Cuba atmosphere of that city.

The FBI threatened the Five with lifetime imprisonment if they did not “cooperate” and turn against each other. René González’s wife Olga Salanueva was deported before the trial because René refused to give in to U.S. pressure.

To this day, Gerardo Hernández has been denied his wife Adriana Pérez’s companionship, as Washington has refused her the right to visit Gerardo for these 15 long years.

Despite the incredible cruelty by the prison and U.S. officials, the Five have stayed strong and maintained their principled stance of the right to defend their people from terrorist violence.

They were held in complete isolation for 17 months in Miami detention before trial. The inflammatory and highly prejudicial reporting by the Miami media helped condemn the Five even before the trial’s conclusion.

After their conviction on June 8, 2001 on all counts, the Five issued a valiant statement “To the American people.” Dated June 17, 2001, it reads in part:

“We have never done anything for money. We have always lived modestly and acted humbly, living up to the sacrifices of our own people.

“We have always been moved by a strong sentiment of human solidarity, love for our homeland and contempt for that which goes against the dignity of the human being.

“The defendants in this trial are in no way repentant of what we have done to defend our country. We declare ourselves innocent and simply take comfort in the fact that we have honored our duty to our people and our homeland.

“Our loved ones understand the depth of the ideas that guide us and they will take pride in our sacrifices for Humanity in this struggle against terrorism and for the independence of Cuba.”

From Clinton to Bush to Obama, U.S. administrations have kept the Cuban Five imprisoned. But a spirited movement of supporters has arisen in the United States and worldwide, demanding the freedom of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René.

On Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, throughout the island of Cuba yellow ribbons will festoon every public space, as a show of love and commitment to their Five Heroes, until they return. We invite you to also don a yellow ribbon on their behalf.

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five in the United States was the first organization to form in support of the Five, in late June 2001. We have dedicated ourselves to fighting for the Five’s freedom until each brother is home with his beloved family and people. For more than 12 years, we have organized hundreds of forums, protests and held numerous media events to break through the U.S. media blockade of the Five’s case. For almost five years we have led an extensive research effort to uncover and document the coverage during the Five’s trial by Miami reporters who received U.S. government monies. Their media reports were highly prejudicial to the Five. Our work has become a major focus of the Five’s Habeas Corpus appeals.

Ultimately, it is the people’s movement and mobilizing efforts that will free the Cuban heroes. Each day of their imprisonment is an intolerable abuse and those of us who are free to organize must think of more actions on their behalf.

Our theme in the National Committee has always been, “when the people of the U.S. learn of the Cuban Five’s anti-terrorist mission and their sacrifice, they will demand their freedom.” We have been witness in countless actions of that premise. Almost universally, the response of the average person who hears of the Cuban Five has been, first, shock at the unjust punishment they have endured, and then support for their freedom.

On Sept. 12, 2013, we invite you to become part of the movement for the Cuban Five’s freedom. We will provide support and ideas for how you can get involved!

Contact the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five at or call us at 415-821-6545.
* web:,

Saul Landau, Maker of Films With Leftist Edge, Dies at 77

September 12, 2013



Saul Landau, a determinedly leftist documentary filmmaker and writer whose passion for asking what he called “the most intrusive questions” yielded penetrating cinematic profiles of leaders like Fidel Castro and Salvador Allende, died on Monday at his home in Alameda, Calif. He was 77.

The cause was bladder cancer, his daughter Julia Landau said.

Mr. Landau aspired to marshal art and literature to illuminate social and political problems, and his point of view was almost always apparent. In the 1980s, he wrote essays berating the administration of Ronald Reagan for trying to depose the leftist government in Nicaragua, and recently he urged the United States not to become involved in Syria.

He said he saw no difference between documentary and fictional films. In both, he said, a director manipulates light and sound to put across a vision. “One has to simulate reality,” he said in 2005 in an interview with The Capital Times in Madison, Wis. “The other one says, ‘Here’s reality,’ whether it is or isn’t.”

Mr. Landau emerged from the roiling New Left politics of the 1960s to make more than 40 documentaries, including six about Mr. Castro. One of them, “Fidel,” released in 1969, was a rare intimate look at the Cuban leader. It shows him arguing with a finger-wagging peasant woman, visiting his nursery school and playing baseball and striking out.

“I found Fidel a sympathetic figure and a hell of a good actor,” Mr. Landau told The Washington Post in 1982.

His most acclaimed film was “Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang,” which he directed with Jack Willis in 1980. With cinematography by Haskell Wexler, the documentary, broadcast on PBS, told of the cover-up of health hazards from a 1957 nuclear-bomb test in Utah. The film won an Emmy Award and a George Polk Award.

The title referred to Mr. Landau’s friend Paul Jacobs, a journalist who died of cancer — believed to have been caused by radiation exposure — before the film was completed.

Other films by Mr. Landau portray poverty in big-city slums, the destruction of indigenous Mexican culture, the inner workings of the C.I.A., torture in Brazil and life inside a San Francisco jail. Most have a leftist political edge that some saw as propagandistic, but Mr. Landau characterized the films as educational.

“All my films try to teach people without preaching too hard,” he said. “I try not to be too tendentious.”

Mr. Landau released two films relating to Mr. Allende, the Chilean who had become Latin America’s first democratically elected socialist president the year before. One was an interview with Mr. Allende.

The other film, “Que Hacer!” (1970) — the title is a translation of the title of Lenin’s book “What Is to Be Done?” — is a fictional movie, a playful spy story with music concerning a C.I.A. case officer in Chile. There are two casts: a Chilean one directed by Raul Ruiz and an American one directed by Mr. Landau and Nina Serrano, his wife at the time. Country Joe McDonald performed and produced the music. The film won awards at film festivals in Cannes, Venice and Mannheim, Germany.

Orlando Letelier, Chile’s ambassador to the United States, invited Mr. Landau to screen it at the Chilean Embassy in Washington, and they became friends. A few years later, Gen. Augusto Pinochet overthrew the Allende government and imprisoned Mr. Letelier.

Mr. Landau worked with other international supporters to win Mr. Letelier’s release and to arrange a job for him at the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-wing research organization in Washington Mr. Landau had joined in 1972. In 1976, Pinochet agents used a car bomb to kill Mr. Letelier and another institute worker. In 1980, Mr. Landau and John Dinges published a book about the case, “Assassination on Embassy Row,” documenting the Pinochet government’s ties to the killings.

Mr. Landau was at least as prolific a writer as he was a filmmaker. He wrote 14 books and thousands of newspaper and magazine articles and reviews.

Saul Irwin Landau was born on Jan. 15, 1936, a few blocks from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and grew up playing stickball in the streets. His father was a pharmacist who had fled pogroms in Ukraine to come to New York in 1920. His mother was a teacher.

As a youth, Mr. Landau once abandoned school to hitchhike across America. When he returned, his mother urged him to take the test for the academically elite Stuyvesant High School. He passed, and went on to perform brilliantly there.

The summer after he graduated, he met Ms. Serrano at a camp in the Catskills, where he was the fry cook and she the drama teacher. Ms. Serrano, who became a published poet, encouraged his interest in leftist politics and a bohemian lifestyle, according to their daughter Valerie Landau.

Ms. Serrano also accompanied Mr. Landau when he went to the University of Wisconsin. When a dean found out that they were living together, he threatened to expel Mr. Landau (Ms. Serrano was not a student then) if they did not marry. They did.

At Wisconsin, Mr. Landau got involved in a so-called Joe Must Go club, which advocated the recall of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin over his demagogic attacks on people he accused of being Communists.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history at Wisconsin, Mr. Landau became a researcher for C. Wright Mills, the sociologist, traveling with him to Western Europe, the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Moving to Northern California with Ms. Serrano, he worked toward a doctorate at Stanford but did not complete the studies. In San Francisco, they gravitated to the Beat poets and the emerging New Left movement. Mr. Landau joined Students for a Democratic Society and helped organize the leftist magazines Ramparts and Mother Jones.

He also joined the San Francisco Mime Troupe, for which he wrote a parody of a minstrel show, “A Minstrel Show, or Civil Rights in a Cracker Barrel.” Performers in the show, which satirized racial perceptions, appeared in blackface. The show traveled to New York and elsewhere.

“Through the entire evening there is really nothing to laugh at, no matter how funny it is,” Richard F. Shepard wrote in The New York Times. “There is the ominous theme of what hypocrisy and oppression breed.”

In 1966 Mr. Landau got a job as a reporter at KQED-TV, San Francisco’s public television station, and a year later went to Cuba to make a news documentary. Mr. Castro liked it, and invited Mr. Landau to return to do an in-depth documentary about him. Mr. Landau’s marriage to Ms. Serrano ended in divorce. Besides his daughters Valerie and Julia, he is survived by a son, Greg, and two other daughters, Carmen and Marie; his second wife, Rebecca Switzer; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

“You want to do what you can while you’re on this earth,” Mr. Landau said in 2006. “Otherwise the alternative is to go shopping.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES – September 11, 2013


September 12, 2013

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