Archive for the ‘cuba-usa’ Category

Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes

February 9, 2016

Ana Belén Montes

Posted By W. T. Whitney On February 8, 2016,

The U.S. government has imprisoned Ana Belen Montes for almost 15 years. Now an international campaign on her behalf is gaining steam with committees active in Latin America, Europe, Canada, and the United States. Arrested by the FBI two weeks after September 11, 2001, and charged with conspiring to commit espionage for Cuba, this high – level analyst for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Service avoided a death sentence for treason by pleading guilty and telling all to the U. S. Justice Department.

Ana Belen Montes received no money. The former specialist in Cuban and Latin American affairs is serving a 25-year jail term.

Three petitions, accessible here, here and here, are circulating; one asks for her release, two for humane treatment. Defenders charge that in prison in Texas, Montes is isolated from the general prison population and prevented from receiving visitors, telephone calls and emails.

Advocates face an uphill battle. Documents relating to her trial and press reports then and since portray her as a U. S. citizen who took the wrong side in a U. S. war. Government officials probably despised one of their own who betrayed them. Maybe her family’s Puerto Rican origins gave rise to suspicions she sympathized with Cuba and Puerto Rico’s shared anti-colonial struggle. True or not, her fate stands as a warning for Puerto Ricans.

With U. S. war against Cuba continuing, the U.S. government likely will resist both easing up on her prison conditions and releasing her. For the new solidarity movement she is a hero, but really she’s a special kind of hero: a prisoner of war true to her cause.

There was a war. While the U. S. government shied away from military invasion after the failed Bay of Pigs venture in 1961, warlike aggression was the norm until the 1990s. At one time or another, U. S. government agents or proxy warriors carried out sabotage, armed thuggery in the Cuban hinterlands, microbiological warfare, bombings of tourist facilities, and miscellaneous terror attacks throughout the island. Few would deny that the bombing of a fully loaded Cuban passenger plane in 1976 was an act of war.

The U. S. economic blockade, engineered to deprive Cubans of goods and services essential for their survival, caused yet more distress. U. S. government leaders believed misery would induce Cubans to overthrow their government. Aggressors within the George W. Bush administration had a replacement government waiting in the wings.

And despite the restoration of diplomatic relations recently, there is still war. The U. S. economic blockade remains; counterrevolutionaries inside Cuba still enjoy U. S. support and money; Cuban land in Guantanamo is still occupied; survival of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 testifies to undying cold war; and Ana Belen Montes, who took sides, is a prisoner in that war.

Official rhetoric on war with Cuba informed Montes’ prosecution and trial. Having surveyed Cuban espionage activities, a New York Times reporter in 2003, for example, communicated the opinion of some U. S. officials that, “Mr. Castro’s Communist government remains a threat to American national security.” State Department official Otto Reich charged that, “These activities and others prove that they are a hostile country.” A Wall StreetJournal writer in 2002 cited State Department reports asserting that, “Cuba has at least some bio-weapons technology and has expressed concern that Cuba could share the science with rogue states.”

Ana Montes was recently labeled as “one of the most damaging spies in US history. Her involvement in shaping US foreign policy on Cuba caused grave damage to the US national security.” This was a reference to a Defense Department report she authored in 1998 rejecting the idea of Cuba as a military threat to the United States. Montes is alleged to have covered up Cuba’s supposed chemical and biological warfare capabilities.

In communicating secrets to the Cuban Government, Ana Montes, already in a theater of war, already a combatant, became a soldier on Cuba’s side. In prison now under such circumstance, she is one for whom solidarity is of a different order than the same for other political prisoners.

What may be required is, in effect, to sign up for the same war she joined, and take the same side. That approach worked in securing the release of the Cuban Five anti-terrorist prisoners. For Montes, however, there is no Cuban government on the battle lines as there was for the Cuban Five.

Combatants in an uneven fight can take encouragement from Montes herself. She told her sentencing judge that, “I engaged in the activity that brought me before you because I obeyed my conscience rather than the law. … I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it.”

In 2015, in an interview, she sounded like an unwavering captured soldier: “If I repent, I deny myself … It’s not within the framework of my logic. I always knew the possible consequences of what I did.”

“What matters to me,” she insisted, “is that the Cuban Revolution exists … What’s necessary is that there always be a Cuban Revolution … They, [the Cubans], have to take care of the Revolution. I tried to do that.”

Clearly, to be in solidarity with Ana Belen Montes and be effective is asking a lot, especially in a time of war. Montes herself voluntarily went to war in much the same way that compatriots did who joined the Republic’s side in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. That sort of internationalist commitment is what Montes needs now. Maybe it’s on the way.

‘In Cuba, a prisoner is another human being’

February 7, 2016

37373-poca justicia-caricaturas-g

The Militant
Vol. 80/No. 6 February 15, 2016
(feature article)

‘In Cuba, a prisoner is another human being’

Cuban Five: It’s different in US prisons, where the system
is organized to dehumanize you

“It’s the Poor Who Face the Savagery of the US
‘Justice’ System”: The Cuban Five Talk About
Their Lives Within the US Working Class, is a new book from Pathfinder. It
centers on a 2015 interview by Mary-Alice Waters and Róger
Calero with the Cuban Five in Havana. Each was incarcerated in
the U.S. from 14 to 16 years after the FBI framed them up for
activity in defense of the Cuban Revolution. The excerpt below
follows a discussion on how the capitalist rulers foster the
prevalence of drugs and gangs in U.S. prisons. Copyright ©
2016 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

MARY-ALICE WATERS: We’ve had some experiences here in Cuba
that are the opposite of what you’ve been describing. We
have a friend in Matanzas, for example, a university professor
who also gives classes in prison and takes pride in it. She told
us about using some books Pathfinder has published in her classes
and the interest they generate. We’ve read about Silvio
Rodríguez and other musicians giving concerts inside the
prisons. …

We know things in Cuba are far from perfect. But social relations
— the way people relate to each other — are the
opposite of what you experienced in the US. And that’s
true in the prison system too. In Cuba the revolution carried out
by the workers and farmers eliminated the economic and social
system built on class exploitation, on retribution and
punishment, social isolation, punitive deprivation of medical
care, denial of culture and education. That’s why the US
government is so determined to punish the Cuban people and
destroy your example.

GERARDO HERNÁNDEZ: We were with many Cuban prisoners in the
United States who had been inmates in Cuba as well. …
They’d often say, “Yes, material conditions in
prison” — especially in the newer ones —
“are a lot better than where I was in Cuba.”

Obviously you can’t compare living conditions in the
richest country in the world with the economic resources in Cuba.
But most of them recognized that prison personnel here in Cuba
make a real effort to rehabilitate inmates, to help them. In the
United States, a prison counselor is someone who puts in his
hours at work and does his best not to ever have to see you.

The human part is essential. I often give the example of a young
neighbor of mine. When he was in high school, he was involved in
something that rarely happens in Cuba — what’s
known in the US as “bullying.” He was studying in
the countryside on a scholarship program and he was being
pestered and harassed. One day he took a knife, scuffled with the
other boy, and stabbed him in the wrong place, killing him.

That boy was sentenced to seven years. During that time he
completed high school and went on to university. … He took
classes all day, and the bus brought him back to prison. …

I recently had a conversation with a very prestigious young
artist here in Cuba, Mabel Poblet. She showed me some samples of
her work. One stood out to me — an installation with
hundreds of red plastic flowers. “Look at these
flowers,” she said. “They were made by a woman who
is a prisoner in Holguín.”

“We visited the women’s prison there and met an
inmate, Betsy Torres, who was making flowers,” Mabel said.
“I had in mind doing an installation using flowers, so I
asked her to make some for me — the ones you see here.
After she was let out for good behavior, I invited her to the
opening of my exhibition.”

This type of exchange is the opposite of the dehumanization that
takes place in the US prison system. …

FERNANDO GONZÁLEZ: Look at what the Bureau of Prisons calls
its Program Statement. It says the Bureau of Prisons encourages
social contact with the outside. But in practice it’s the
opposite. They put up obstacles to everything, including visits.

It’s not enough that the prisoner is 1,500 miles or more
from his family. It’s not enough that many families
can’t afford a plane ticket and a weekend in a motel to
come see you. On top of all that, the searches and other
alienating procedures family members and friends have to go
through to get into the prison, not to mention the tense,
uncomfortable layout of the visiting room. …

GERARDO HERNÁNDEZ: “The most important difference,
what I miss most,” some Cuban inmates in the US would tell
us, “is that in Cuba I had the right to conjugal visits,
or to get a pass to see my family.” But not in the United

In federal prisons and in all but four of the fifty states,
something so elementary as conjugal visits are not permitted. If
they were, it would greatly reduce tensions. It would humanize
people. It would be an incentive for good behavior. …

RAMÓN LABAÑINO: They don’t care whether
there’s money in the budget for another handball court.
That’s a big issue I had, since — in addition to
reading, studying, and playing chess — sports was one of
the ways I handled all those years in prison. I exercised, lifted
weights, and played lots of handball. But prison officials
didn’t want to paint the floor of the handball court with
the kind of rubber compound that makes it easier on your knees.

That’s how I injured my knee, in fact. But medical care in
prison in the US is terrible; they don’t want to spend
money on that either. I went to the doctor and he told me,
“Take two aspirin. Put ice on it, keep your feet up, and
tomorrow you’ll be better.” They only really take
care of you when you’re on the verge of dying. …

There’s money in the budget to buy better food for the
cafeteria too, but it’s never fully used. I know. I worked
in the cafeteria several times.

Actually, I didn’t like working in the cafeteria, because
a lot of people take those jobs in order to steal food. But we
don’t steal. It’s not our philosophy, not the
social values we learned in Cuba. With what I ate I had enough.
Frankly, I’m no good at stealing.

Here in Cuba it’s different. Our officers may not have
resources, but they are trained to really help you. I’d
venture to say that ethic goes far beyond the framework of the
prison system to the broader society here.

In Cuba a prisoner is another human being. He’s someone
who made a mistake and is in prison for that reason. It’s
not like the US, where the prison population is the enemy
— just as uniformed officers there see the people as the
enemy. Why? Because on some level they understand there could be
a social revolution in the United States some day. And their job
is to contain that revolution, in order to protect the social
layer that’s in power.

That’s pretty elementary. You don’t even need
Marxism-Leninism to see that. But if you don’t understand
this, you’ll never see why things happen the way they do
in the United States. Why the police act the way they did in
Ferguson, Missouri, last year. Why there’s no solution
within that system. …

FERNANDO GONZÁLEZ: In Miami we saw women who were pregnant
when they were arrested. When the time came to give birth, they
were taken to the hospital …

RAMÓN LABAÑINO: …in chains.

FERNANDO GONZÁLEZ: Yes, in chains. They gave birth in the
hospital, and two days later they were brought back to their
cells without their baby.

Recently I visited a women’s prison here in Cuba. …
In the United States, you know from miles away you’re near
a prison. You see the walls, fences, razor wire, towers, lights,
surveillance vehicles. But in Guantánamo, as we got closer, I
asked, “Where’s the prison?” There was a
wall you could easily jump over. Even as fat as I am, I could
have jumped over it!

Inside, some rooms are like small apartments. If a woman is
pregnant — or becomes pregnant, because they have conjugal
visits — she can stay in one of those rooms until the baby
is a year old. It’s a small room with a kitchen, where she
can cook. The prison provides food for the baby and other
necessities. There’s also a sewing shop.

New Coalition for the Release of Ana Belen Montes and Oscar Lopez Rivera

February 5, 2016


Born in West German on the 28th of February 1957, a Puerto Rican U.S
citizen who worked as official GS-14 for the Defense Intelligence
Agency  (DIA), Ana Belen Montes was charged with spying for alerting
Cuba to planned aggressions against her people, something which had no
National Security implications for the U.S. nor posed any threat to
it’s citizens.

At 22 years of age, Ana graduated from the University of Virginia in
1979 with a degree in International Relations, a subject in which she
later attained a Masters.

She was selected on the basis of her abilities by the DIA in 1985 and
posted to the Bolling Air Base in Washington, where she worked as an
intelligentce investigation specialist. In 1992  she was transfered to
the Pentagon where she worked as an analyst.

She spent a time in a “fake” post with the U.S. diplomatic mission in
Havana to study the Cuban military. She was sent by the DIA to the
island again in 1998 to “monitor Pope John Paul II’s visit”.

In addition to her pleasant appearance, sweet smile and charming
manner, Ana, who lived alone in a modest apartment to the north of the
U.S. capital, was considered to be exceptionally discreet.

At the Pentagon, she was promoted to the position of Senior Analyst,
where she had access to almost all data on Cuba collected by the
intelligence community.
She was aware of everything the Defense Department knew about the
activities of Cuban military personell.

Her rank ensured her membership of the ultra-secret “Inter-agency Task
Force on Cuba” which brought together the principal analysts from
federal agencies such as the C.I.A., The White House and the State

Whilst working as usual in her office in the DIA compound within the
Bolling Air Base in Washington D.C. on September 20th 2001, Ana was
arrested by F.B.I. agents.

She was charged with espionage on behalf of Cuba some days later.  She
was tried and transferred at some point to a Federal Prison for
criminals with mental or physical health problems, despite not
suffering from any such issues at the time of her imprisonment.

In keeping with the nobility that underpinned her actions, she openly
declared during her trial that “there is an Italian proverb that
perhaps best describes what I believe: “The whole world is just one
country. In this world country, the principle of loving others as
one-self is an essential guide  to harmonious relations between
neighboring states.”

“This principle implies understanding and tolerance of the different
ways that others act. It establishes that we treat other nations the
way we would like to be treated – with consideration and respect. In
my opionion, we have unfortunately never applied this to Cuba”.

“In doing what has brought me before the court, I put my conscience
above obeying the law. I believe our governmemts policy on Cuba to be
cruel and unjust and profoundly hostile. I felt morally obliged to
help the island defend itself against our efforts to impose upon them
our values and our political system”.

“We have  overtly displayed intolerance and disrepect towards Cuba for
four decades. We have never respected Cuba’s right to
self-determination or to define it’s own concepts of justice and

“I do not know how we can continue to dictate how Cuba must select
it’s leaders, who should not lead the country and what laws are most
appropriate for their nation”.

“Why do we not let them decide how to mamage their internal affairs,
just as the U.S. has done for more than 200 years?”

“My greatest wish is to see Cuba and the U.S. enjoy friendly
relations. I hope that, in some way, my case encourages our government
to abandon it’s hostility towards Cuba and – inspired by a spirit of
tolerance, mutual respect and understanding —  to work together with

“We can see today more than ever that intolerance and hate – be it on
the part of individuals or Governments – results only in suffering and
grief. I hope the U.S. develops a policy on Cuba on the basis of
neighborly love, a policy that recognizes that Cuba, as any other
nation would, wants to be treated with dignity rather than disrepect”.

Ana Belen Montes is presently detained in the Carswell Federal Medical
Center, inside the militiary installations of the U.S. Marines Air
Station at Fort Worth, Texas in the United States.

Despite not suffering any illness, she is being held in a psychiatric
ward, where she is at risk from inmates who are in fact mentally ill.

Prolonged exposure to such an environment could of itself also affect
her own mental health.

She is locked up with some of the most dangerous women in the U.S.
prison system, such as a former housewife who strangled her pregnant
neighbor because she wanted the child, a nurse who murdered four
patients by administering massive adreniline overdoses by injection
and the notorious “Shrill” Lynette Fromme, a follower of Charles
Manson whom tried to asassinate president Gerald Ford.

Ana Belén Montes is not due for release until the year 2017, 11 long
years from now. She has already served 14 years in jail and is
subjected to harsh and cruel conditions of detention that include,

*A Federal Prison Bureau decree (due to her espionage conviction)
restricting contact to only her closest relatives

*A prohibition on inquiries about her health or the reasons for her
detention in a center for  the mentally ill, when she suffers no such

*A prohibition on the receipt of packages.

*Letters sent to her are returned by registered post to the sender.

*She is not allowed associate with other inmates.

*She is not allowed make or receive phone calls.

*She is not allowed read newspapers, magazines nor watch TV.

*Since her father died her only visitor is her sister, who is an
anti-Castro U.S government official.

*Other family members have, because of her commitment to the cause of
Cuba, rejected or refused to maintain contact with her, meaning that
Ana has been totally isolated from the world for more than a decade.

The U.S press has reported that “serving a sentence in the Carswell
treatment unit has become a death sentence for many female prisoners”.

Detainess there have suffered gross violations of their human and
constitutional rights, including documented cases of police abuse,
suspicious deaths — investigations into which have been blatantly
obstructed, deaths due to the denial of basic medical attention, rape
of prisoners by guards and exposure to toxic substances, all of which
place her life at risk.

Ana Belen Montes was not paid by Cuba for what she did and there was
nothing sordid or coercive about her recruitment.

She was not motivated by any desire for revenge or attraction to
power.  Despite full awareness of the personal risk arising, she acted
out of love, her sense of justice and a noble solidarity with Cuba.

She was accused of having helped convince both George Bush and Bill
Clinton that Cuba did not represent a miltary threat to the U.S., thus
preventing a war that would have resulted in a significant loss of
Cuban and North American lives.

For such a contribution to peace, she desreves the support of all who
identify with the Homeland of Jose Marti.

World Learning para Cuba, ¿nuevo programa de la CIA?

February 4, 2016


No resulta una sorpresa para nadie que en el nuevo contexto de las relaciones entre Cuba y EEUU comiencen a aparecer sospechosos programas encaminados a rebuscar entre los jóvenes cubanos para crear una cantera de potenciales nuevos líderes “para el cambio” según los estándares de la guerra subversiva. En apariencia estos proyectos resultan atractivos e inocentes, pero en su trasfondo existe la malsana intencionalidad de adiestrar a dichos jóvenes en torno a los valores del discurso político capitalista y contrarrevolucionario. De esta forma acaba de aparecer una convocatoria de la organización no gubernamental World Learning, con sede en Washington, la cual ha abierto la matrícula de su “Programa de verano para jóvenes cubanos”, el cual se llevará a cabo durante treinta días, entre julio y agosto de 2016, en los EEUU.

El sitio World Learning ( da a conocer esta convocatoria que se iniciará el 1 de marzo del presente año y está dirigida, específicamente, a jóvenes cubanos entre los 16 y los 18 años de edad, los cuales deben estar estudiando en el nivel secundario o preuniversitario. Las bases para la captación aparecen en este sitio mencionado y, particularmente, la intencionalidad del mismo: “el desarrollo de habilidades en áreas que incluyan hablar en público, trabajar en equipo, negociar, fomentar consenso, resolución de conflictos, defender los derechos propios, y solución de problemas.”

El citado sitio refiere lo siguiente: “Nuestros programas ayudan a la próxima generación de líderes mundiales para obtener un mayor sentido de responsabilidad ciudadana, establecer relaciones a través de líneas étnicas, religiosas y nacionales, y desarrollar las habilidades y conocimientos para transformar sus comunidades y países.” Y puntualiza, además: “Los programas se centran en temas específicos, que van desde la participación ciudadana y el voluntariado para el desarrollo de liderazgo a través del deporte y el activismo.”

Obviamente, según puede verse en la dirección web de la mencionada ONG en cuestión:, la directiva de esta ONG se reserva el derecho de selección luego de un meticuloso análisis de los solicitantes. A saber, aparentemente, el rendimiento académico, la habilidad para desarrollar proyectos que beneficien a la escuela y/o comunidad del solicitante y la de trabajar en cooperación en diferentes grupos, y entender -pero no necesariamente aceptar- las opiniones de otros. Sin embargo, se piden dos cartas de recomendación escritas por dos adultos en Cuba, sin especificar quiénes sean los mismos o su orientación política, lo que presupone una explícita trampa.

La ONG World Learning tiene su sede en el 1015 15th St NW, Suite 700, 20005, en Washington, Distrito de Columbia, EEUU. El campus principal de World Learning está situado en el norte de Brattleboro, según se destaca en la página


Sin embargo, detrás de las “inocentes intenciones” existen las sospechas muy serias sobre el carácter subversivo del mismo y cómo resulta parte de la acción a largo plazo de una tapadera de la CIA.  Esta ONG está conectada en sus orígenes con los Cuerpos de Paz y es una nueva versión del Grupo Internacional de Delphi, involucrado en planes desestabilizadores por parte de la CIA y de sus tapaderas como la USAID y la NED. Se sabe que más de 40 programas de World Learning son financiados por la USAID.

El sitio denuncia que esta ONG, antecesora del grupo Internacional Delphi, “no es nada más que una fábrica de propaganda de la CIA que se utiliza para que el gobierno federal puede lograr sus objetivos políticos generales en suelo extranjero.” Un ejemplo de esta implicación política, acentúa este sitio, fue durante la década de 1980, cuando el gobierno de Estados Unidos utilizó a Delphi International Group para “promover la democracia” en Nicaragua.

El 11 de junio de 2003 Philip Agee, ex agente de la CIA ya fallecido, desnudó cómo las tutoras de World Learning –entiéndase USAID, NED y la propia CIA– participaron en planes subversivos contra la Venezuela Bolivariana, en un artículo aparecido en  Red Voltaire (


Sea como fuere, se ha de andar con ojo avizor ante esta propuesta para Cuba, no solo por los antecedentes de esta ONG y por el hecho de sus vínculos directos con la USAID y la NED, máscaras de la operaciones subversivas de la CIA.


Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy

Gerardo : We were subjected a grossly unfair trial

September 30, 2015


An Interview with Gerardo Hernández one of the three Cuban agents
released following the Havana-Washington agreement.

We were subjected a grossly unfair trial

Eduardo Febbro
translated by Sean Joseph Clancy

*If there is a story within the story that might serve as a synopsis
of the bitter history between the U.S. and Cuba, it is that of Cuban
agents condemned to serve sentences in North American jails,
disproportionate to what they had actually done.

A few stops beyond the stairs to a station in North Brussels, where an
elderly orhestra are making an unholy mess of the “Besame Mucho” song,
one of three Cuban intelligence agents released as part of a
settlement partially mediated by the Vatican on the reestablishment of
diplomatic ties.

If there is a story within the story that might serve as a synopsis of
the bitter history between the U.S. and Cuba, it is that of Cuban
agents condemned to serve sentences in North American jails,
disproportionate to what they had actually done.

Gerardo Hernández is one of 5 Cuban intelligence agents who along with
Ramon Lanañino, Fernando Gonzalez Llort, Rene Gonzalez Sehewerert and
Antinio Guerrero Rodriguez who during the mid 1990’s  undertook
special missions within the U.S. in order to discover and prevent
terrorist actions, including attacks on hotel and tourist resorts and
sabotage by counter-revolutionary groups planned in Miami and later
carried out in Cuba.

The Five were uncovered and arrested in 1998. Later in what was one of
the longest trials in North American judicial history, the Cubans were
issued sentences which essentially were political punishments
orchestrated by the U.S. administrations obsession with Cuba.
Gerardo Hernandez, accused of “conspiracy to commit murder” was given
two life sentences.

Generally speaking, cases involving unregistered foreign agents
discovered operating in a foreign territory are dealt with behind
closed doors and resolved by negotiation. The case of the Cuban Five
was the polar opposite. Amid espionage and other outrageous
accusations, they were tried by a court in Miami and used as
implements of political manipulation.

Free today, the refreshing intelligence of Gerardo Hernandez reveals
no trace of the 16 years spent in North American penitentiaries, the
abuses suffered nor the long months of detention in rigorously imposed
solitary confinement.

Thanks to interventions by U.S. senator Patrick Leahy, one of those
who has most fervently  advocated for the lifting of the U.S. blockade
of Cuba, Hernandez had a son while still in prison.

The senator helped organize for Gerardos wife, Adriana Perez, br
artificially inseminated.
Following 18 months of secret negotiations with Pope Francis as
guarantor, the seemingly impossible dreams of freedom of the three
agents still behind bars in U.S. jails – Antonio, Gerardo and Ramon –
became a reality on the day of the historical declarations, December
17th 2014.

–The theme of the Cuban agents was what had been blocking, but that
also eventually unlocked the key to, negotiations with the U.S.

–Yes, exactly, our case remained very much in the air because of more
than 50 years of adversarial or non-existent relations with the U.S.
which are what led to the politicized nature of the trial of the Cuban
Five and what underpinned the cruel nature of our treatment.

Remember, there was a case a few years ago regarding the arrest of
Russian spies.  That was speedily dealt with  by negotiation and they
were repatriated without ever having to stand trial.

Our case was complicated by the history of conflict between the U.S.
and Cuba, which is paradoxically what eventually facilitated a

For certain, the resolution of our case cannot only be attributed to
the negotiations, because the solidarity we experienced over so many
years was also relevant.

The Five of us had become very well known, there were presidents, and
religious, cultural  and political personalities, all calling for our

Ours had become a most embarrassing case for the north Americans. It
had taken a lot of work for us to develop any awareness of our case.

It had been one of the longest in U.S. legal history; lasting 7 months
during which more than 100 witnesses testified. The press however
maintained an amost blanket silence.

Little by little the solidarity work of comrades who took to the
streets  protesting became necessary.

–Today we know that the Pope played a leading role in the agreement.
The Vatican was the  guarantor of the liberation process. Were you
aware of the Vaticans intervention?

–No, I did not know about it. It came as a surprise because we were
removed from that entire negotiation process. I did not know about the
role played by the Vatican.  It was afterwards that I learned about
the parts played by various cardinals, amongst them the Archbishop of
Havana and Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who I hold in high esteem. We are
truly grateful.

We have always accepted the help of all persons of goodwill. It must
be remembered that in addition to the political connotations
surrounding our case that there was a profound human tragedy also
unfolding. I am glad that  Pope Francis, being a Latin American was

I can honestly express great admiration for him. He has demonstrated a
very courageous attitudes, worthy of respect. On behalf of the Five
and our families, beneficiaries of this attitude, I send him our

–If one examines the terms of negotiation, Cuba did not really concede
anything at all. Washington always maintained that they would never
deal with Cuba in the present political context, but did so

–My personal opinion is that for a very long time the U.S. held that
line, that as long as there was a Castro in power in Cuba –which is
how they refer to the Revolution with the Cuban people in power – and
that they would also  never negotiate with Cuba while the Communist
Party remained in power and the Revolution remained.

All of these conditions still exist and we nevertheless have talked
under the only condition always imposed by Cuba, that the talks are
between equals and absolutely respectful  of our independence and

–Did you at any point feel the weight of history on your shoulders?
The Five were, to a very great extent , the key to the knot

–I never saw the case as being of that magnitude. More towards the
end, when there were rumors of a solution, and especially when our
release was announced I began to feel it somewhat. I did then —
without knowing the extent of the progress — imagine that this might
be the route to further progress. When Raul Castro spoke with our
family members by his side is when I fully realized.

The three released Cubans knew nothing about the talks. We were
informed one day prior to our releases and we learned about the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations through Raul’s speech.

–Your case in an example for the world about the use of the justice
system as a weapon in a conflict with another state.

–Yes, the case of the Five was a revenge attack against the Cuban
Revolution and Cuban Revolutionaries. The U.S. saw an opportunity to
score a point and did so by taking Five men hostage. We accepted that
we had, by possessing false passports and operating as foreign agents
unregistered with the State Department, violated U.S law.

Ok, but we had a legal right to enter a “necessity” defense and to
outline why, but that was not permitted. The trial was held in Miami
where we, in reality, had no rights whatsoever. This was a totally
biased trial.

We were found guilty and given the maximum possible sentences on every
count. They thought that by punishing the Five meant punishing the
Cuban Revolution.

Their initial plan was to have all of us betray Cuba and mount a media
show against the Revolution.

That did not happen and so came 17 months initially — and later many
more —  in punishment cells without ever hacing committed and
indiscipline. This is why our wives were denied visits.

–Paradoxically, while you were being condemned , there were people
distributing a very thick manual in Miami.

–Incredible! The US claims to wage war against terrorism.  Young North
Americans serve in the Army and die in other countries in the name of
this war on terror. But the terrorists are here!

Luis Posada Carriles remains at liberty to stroll around the Miami
streets despite being responsible for the attack on  the Cubana
Airlines plane in 1976 in which 73 people lost their lives and the
bombing of hotels in Havana in which a young Italian man was killed.

He has an long record of terrorism but freely walks the streets.
Carriles and others were trained by the CIA to bring down the Cuban
Revolution. There have been points in history when the CIA had nothing
to do with them, but during these they turned a blind eye to them as
they continued uninhibited to do as they wished.

–Was this the mission you were dispatched to Miami on, to investigate
such groups?

–Yes, to investigate terrorist groups such as Alpha 66, The F4
Commandos, Brothers to the Rescue… and these groups still exist,
still have their training camps there

Cuba had certainly complained many times to the US Government about
the activities of such groups, but they continued to carry on with
impunity, creating the necessity for Cuba to send agents to monitor
and infiltrate them and to send information back to Cuba to prevent
acts of terrorism.

–Have your views on the US or the Revolution changed?

–They have changed in that today my character and my revoltionary
convictions are more solid now, as is my love for the Cuban people.

I lived for 16 years in those jails and that society and during that
time encountered within the prisons a great number of experiences,
human dramas,  young people – barely twenty years of age — who might
have been doctors or engineers condemned to life sentences. This is
because there is a system that, from the moment of their birth,
instills in them that they must aquire more, that they should walk
over anyone to get ahead in life and get what they want.

This is absolute brutalization, it is truly a human tragedy. Those
years spent in the US, both on the streets and behind bars have
reaffirmed my conviction that, no matter what problems we may have in
Cuba, we must continue to work to improve our system and our

I do not anything like I witnessed in the U.S. for Cuba. But I do not
feel any resentment or bitterness to the U.S. No, I feel compassion
and no hatred for anybody.

–You were also confronted by the great change that the one time great
enemy of Cuba might be transforming, even into a potential ally.
The Cuba of your time in prison is not the Cuba to which you been freed.

–For sure! It would be strange if it were the same Cuba because that
would require a denial of our own we would be denying our own dialect.
I am happy that Cuba has changed and that most of the changes are for
the better.

No revolution can remain static. We are confident that the Cuban
people can confront the challenges posed by this process. They are
significant challenges. There are thise who suggest that they (the
U.S.) will attain by the embrace of a bear what they could not during
more than 50 years of Blockade, aggression and threats….

Soldiers of the Bridge: Cuba’s New Fortress

September 23, 2015

For 54 years the United States has waged war against Cuba, in a futile effort to strangle and starve the Cuban population into mutiny against the Revolution.  Ten different presidents tried to asphyxiate Cuba, by blockading the island, causing suffering, as well as human and financial loss in the billions of dollars.  Now things appear to be changing.  President Barack Obama, the 11th US President since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, seems intent on changing Washington’s strategy for dealing with Cuba.

On December 17 of last year, President Obama began building a bridge between the two countries.  The first stone he laid at the base of the bridge was to free Gerardo, Ramón and Tony from US jails, where they had been unjustly held for over sixteen years. He also used his presidential authority to issue licenses to poke holes into the blockade.

Yet the bridge is still under construction. Each of us is helping to build it: stone by stone.  Many of us want a friendship bridge that would bring the two nations together.  Some want simply to flood the island with consumer goods that will yield enormous profits for American corporations.  Others see it as a way to hasten the demise of socialism in Cuba.

But have no doubts. Just as Cuba learned to defend itself from foreign military incursions, terrorism, biological warfare and a brutal blockade for over five decades, the Revolution will learn to defend itself from those who would now want to cross a newly built bridge across the Florida straights with foul schemes against Cuba.

There is a lot of work to be done here—on this side of the bridge. The blockade is still in place, and only the United States Congress can overturn it.  We need to reach out to Americans of good faith to help us convince the Congress to do just that.

However, there is also a lot that the President can do.  He has already done some very important things. He knows that to build steel bridges, we must first build people bridges.  When Americans travel to Cuba and meet Cubans on the island, they make friends.  Some of those friendships become lasting friendships, and some collaborate to create projects that benefit both countries.  So President Obama changed the regulations and granted a general license for people to people travel to the island.

Some of the changes announced by the Obama Administration include an increase in the amount of remittances allowed, licenses to trade with the private sector in Cuba, allowing travel agents and airlines to provide authorized travel to Cuba, permitting US insurance companies to provide coverage for health, life and travel to the island, an OFAC general license will facilitate the establishment of commercial telecommunications facilities, authorizing the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices and related software, permitting the use of certain American credit cards in Cuba, heck we can now bring back $100 worth of the finest cigars in the world.  All of this, President Obama announced last December 17th.

The 20th of July saw diplomatic relations restored between the United States and Cuba, but the bridge between the two nations will not be finished until there are truly normal relations.  Relations cannot be normal as long as the economic, financial and commercial blockade against Cuba remains in place.

But the blockade has not deterred each side from building a bridge across the troubled waters of US-Cuba relations.  The work continues. In the coming weeks and months, there will be bilateral talks on issues such as the environment, the natural disasters, health, civil aviation, drug trafficking, copyrights, patents, and one of the thorniest of all issues: compensation.  The US claims that Cuba ought compensate US companies that were nationalized after the triumph of the Revolution, and Cuba claims to be entitled to compensation for the damages caused by the US blockade against the island: fifteen years ago, Cuba calculated those amounts to be $121 billion in economic damages and $181 billion in human damages.

Things are moving in a positive direction.  We welcome President Obama’s call that Congress lifts the blockade and his discretionary use of presidential authority to try and turn the blockade into Swiss cheese. But we need to hold President Obama´s feet to the fire to make sure that he continues to move forward towards full normalization.  We also need to make sure that the bully tactics of Cuban-American politicians who oppose the lifting of the blockade do not continue to intimidate today’s Congressmen and Senators.

Learn from history.  Past attempts to improve relations failed because of the many traps purposely laid along the way.  Those who oppose normalization, whether in Langley, Foggy Bottom, the Pentagon or Miami, have historically conjured up ways to impede normalization.  The downing of a Cuban passenger plane in 1976 by Luis Posada Carriles was an effort by Cuban-American terrorists and others in Washington to scuttle the secret negotiations that were ongoing between the Ford Administration and Cuba.  Another weapon of choice that some in Washington have used historically to stymie normalization is mendacity: the lies that US State Department officials fed newspapers about the alleged Cuban role in the Shaba II military incursion in Angola, the myth of the Soviet “Combat” Brigade in Cuba, and the boldfaced lies of Under Secretary of State, John Bolton, who claimed in 2002 that Cuba was making weapons of mass destruction (i.e., biological weapons) on the island. A pathology of power permeates this country.

We have to be on guard. We need to learn to defend this bridge, as it will inevitably come under attack.  There’s an election coming up in this country, and we don’t know who will become President.  Some of the Presidential candidates and some congressmen would love to see the movement toward normalization with Cuba blow up like the bridge over the river Kwai.  We cannot let this happen.  This bridge is Cuba’s new fortress.  We need to be its soldiers.

As José Martí wrote, bridges are the fortresses of the modern world. Better to bring cities together than to cleave human chests. Today, all men are called upon to be soldiers of the bridge.”

José Pertierra delivered these remarks on December 18, 2015 at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. at a conference entitled “The Impact of the US Blockade Against Cuba”


September 22, 2015


By:  Dr. Néstor García Iturbe

A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann

Historical coincidences are always interesting and especially in connection with September 11 there are quite a few. 

Today, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner signed a Presidential Determination” exercising his authority to keep Cuba, until September 14, 2016, under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

In doing so, he makes a mockery of his Secretary of State, John Kerry, who recently said here in Havana that the United States and Cuba were not enemies or rivals, but neighbors. He also provided a sample of poor political acumen by signing this determination on September 11th, when he could have signed it on the10th, or the 12th, to avoid coinciding with other events which occurred on September 11th, in which the United States has been involved.

On one September 11, another US President, from the same oval office where the Nobel Peace Prize Winner works, made the Presidential Determination to launch a coup d’etat against the constitutional government of Chile. This resulted in the death of thousands of Chileans, including President Salvador Allende, and humiliation and torture suffered by thousands of others. The United States never described all those atrocities as human rights violations by the perpetrators of the coup; because, of course, it participated in their commission.

On another September 11, the events that resulted in the destruction of the World Trade Center, known as the Twin Towers, occurred.

The then-president was at that moment visiting an elementary school and when he heard the news, made the Presidential Determination to spend more time talking to the children and going over their notebooks, as if he had been prepared for what was taking place. We all know the story that has been spun around these events, including the plane which struck the Pentagon, the remains of which were never seen, and the one that was going to attack the White House which disappeared without further explanation.

Also on a September 11, in New York City, terrorists who were residents in the US shot dead the Cuban diplomat Felix Garcia. The terrorist who was accused and convicted of the crime is already free; perhaps as a result of another Presidential Determination. 

Mr. Obama, history judges men by the determinations they make at any given moment. If they act rightly and courageously, according to justice, or if they act wrongly and capriciously, as if justice and the world were meaningless to them.

In the context we are describing, it is impossible not to remember Comandante Juan Almeida Bosque, who died on a September 11 and who –in the middle of a fierce struggle against the forces of the Batista dictatorship, indeed supported by US determination uttered his famous: “Nobody here surrenders… cojones!“.

Mr. Obama, our national poet Nicolas Guillen, in one of his famous and well-known poems, repeated something very consistent with the Cuban Revolution, when he wrote that I now have what I should have always had.”

In your case, by making this Presidential Determination to keep Cuba under the Trading with the Enemy Act until September 14, 2016, you have shown that you do not have what it takes.




Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 11, 2015

 September 11, 2015

 Presidential Determination

No. 2015-11  




SUBJECT: Continuation of the Exercise of Certain Authorities Under the Trading With the Enemy Act

Under section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223 (91 Stat. 1625; 50 U.S.C. App. 5(b) note), and a previous determination on September 5, 2014 (79 FR 54183, September 10, 2014), the exercise of certain authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act is scheduled to terminate on September 14, 2015.

I hereby determine that the continuation for 1 year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States.

Therefore, consistent with the authority vested in me by section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223, I continue for 1 year, until September 14, 2016, the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba, as implemented by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515.

The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.  


Subversion Against Cuba Continues Uninterrupted Amidst Normalization

September 15, 2015


U.S. and Cuban delegations met in Havana Friday to “focus on setting priorities for the next steps in the normalization process,” according to the Miami Herald. They set up a “steering committee in the rapprochement process” expected to hold regular meetings. The process was laid out last month after the American flag was raised at the newly-opened U.S. embassy in Havana. Secretary of State John Kerry noted on the occasion that “the road of mutual isolation that the United States and Cuba have been travelling is not the right one, and that the time has come for us to move in a more promising direction.” The Obama administration has since announced loosening of restrictions that would permit American citizens to travel to Cuba on both commercial flights and cruise ships.

Superficially, it would seem that U.S. policy has moved away from a half-century of economic warfareterrorismsubversion, and interference in the internal affairs of the nation American politicians have long considered a “natural appendage” of the United States, which would fall into the U.S. orbit like an apple from a tree, as John Quincy Adams once said.

If U.S. policy makers had indeed abandoned this attitude and actually moved in a more promising direction, it would mean they finally decided to engage their counterpart as Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez stated his government was willing to with the United States itself: “through a dialogue based on mutual respect and sovereign equality, to a civilized coexistence, even despite the differences that exist between both governments, which makes it possible to solve bilateral problems and promote cooperation and development of mutually beneficial relations, just as both peoples desire and deserve.”

But despite extending formal diplomatic courtesies and speaking in a more conciliatory tone, the Obama administration has demonstrated behind the scenes that it does not intend to demonstrate mutual respect or recognize sovereign equality.

As the delegations met on Friday, Obama quietly renewed Cuba’s status as an “enemy” under the Trading With the Enemy Act (TWEA) of 1917. Under this Act, utilized against Cuba by every President since John F. Kennedy in 1962, the government issues the Cuban Assets Control Regulations to set the terms of the embargo (more accurately described by Cuba and the United Nations as a blockade).

By extending this enemy designation, the Obama administration is reserving the right to dictate the terms of the embargo, rather than allowing Congress to do so under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act. While Obama has shown himself more willing than Congress to relax some punitive and illegal aspects of the embargo than the current Congress, by continuing to define Cuba as an enemy he is both sending an hostile signal to Cuba and employing a transparent legal fiction.

An “enemy” in the TWEA is specified as a government with which the U.S. is at war, as declared by Congress. Congress has never declared war on Cuba. They have not declared war on any country since Japan in 1941.

While it may be true that renewing the TWEA against Cuba may be more beneficial to Cuba by granting the executive branch greater flexibility, the fraudulent nature of the continued imposition of legal sanctions against Cuba should be emphasized. Though Obama has said U.S. policy against Cuba “has been rooted in the best of intentions,” it has in reality been rooted in vindictiveness and shrouded in legal distortions that continue to this day.

At the same time, the flood of U.S. taxpayer dollars earmarked with the express purpose of regime change in Havana continues unabated. The fiscal year 2016 budget contains $30 million for this purpose.

One use of these funds is for a US propaganda agency to hire mercenaries to denigrate Cuban civil and political personalities. As Tracey Eaton notes in his blog Along the Malecón: “The U.S. government wants to hire entertainers who would produce ‘uniquely funny, ironic, satirical and entertaining’ comedy shows targeting Cuban officials, politicians and others on the island. The Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which runs Radio & TV Martí, is looking for a team that would produce 10 30-minute comedy sketch shows.”

The infamous Radio Martí has been broadcasting John Birch Society type propaganda from Miami into Cuba since the 1980s. The U.S. has continued to fund the station, despite its being declared illegal by the Cuban government. One wonders how the U.S. government itself would react if the Russian or Chinese government financed a program lambasting Obama, Kerry, and other Americans for political gain while disguising it as organically developed entertainment? It is not likely they would view a strategic attack created and financed abroad, rather than being a homegrown political expression of dissent, as protected free speech.

USAID, after being exposed for its subversive Cuban Twitter program “ZunZuneo“, which sought to sow discontent and stir unrest among the Cuban population, and its effort to co-opt Cuban hip hop artists, announced last week that it is seeking three program managers to be awarded six-figure salaries.

Eaton writes that the job description calls for “experience in the areas of democracy promotion, human rights, civil society development” and that candidates must obtain a “secret” security clearance. It is not hard to imagine that these highly compensated program managers would likely be implementing similar covert programs to destabilize Cuban society and attempt to turn its citizens away from the Revolution.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – an arm of US foreign policy that overtly carries out programs that previously were undertaken covertly by the CIA – is also hiring a Program Officer to work on NED’s “Cuba grants program” and “developing the Endowment’s strategy for Cuba.” Unlike the USAID positions, which are indicated to be in Washington, this position would require “regular field visits.”

Cuban blogger and former State Security Agent Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy writes that the position is for “someone in charge of mounting all types of subversion against the Cuban government on behalf of the NED… completely illegal, meddlesome, and violative of our sovereignty and, therefore, will not admit any of his activity in our territory.”

It is clear that the U.S. continues to act towards Cuba with utter disregard for mutual respect and sovereign equality despite the formalities uncritically accepted by mainstream media as true normalization. By looking beyond the face value of the words of American officials, one can’t help but recognize that relations are anything but normal. Until the U.S. government recognizes that normal cannot include sanctioning, illegally occupying, and spending tens of millions of dollars on subversion and interference in another country’s internal affairs, “normalization” remains nothing more than a vacuous abstraction.

Book Review: The incredible case of the CUBAN FIVE

September 9, 2015


Review by: Leo Juvier

On December 17, 2014 presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced the beginning of a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations. Also, on this day President Obama released the last three of the five Cuban men imprisoned unjustly by the American government with charges of conspiracy to commit espionage, and conspiracy to commit murder. Those three prisoners were Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, and Antonio Guerrero.
The case of the Cuban Five is truly like no other legal case in the history of the United States and Cuba. Their case was particularly plagued by misinformation and concealment of evidence which made their saga a nightmare. During their trial the U.S. government paid millions of dollars to journalists to write stories with lies and incendiary commentary against the Cuban Five, resulting in a biased jury.
The injustices of the case caused international indignation and it mobilized thousands of people across the globe in a show of solidarity. Since their arrest in 1998, the Cuban Five and their families have endured innumerable injustices by the U.S. government, from the denial of visas to family members who wished to visit them in prison, to keeping them in solitary confinement without a reason for long periods of time.
The Book “The incredible case of the Cuban Five” chronicles the nightmare these five cuban men endured for over 16 years in prison. The book is a compilation of testimonies and opinions gathered at the International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five held in London on March 7th and 8th, 2014. The commission counted with over 300 people from 27 different countries, among them distinguished members of the international legal community.
While reading the book it is difficult to ignore the cry for justice.
The relationship between U.S. and Cuba has been characterized by aggressive foreign policies, blockade, and acts of terrorism to destabilize the Cuban nation. Since 1959 Cuba has been the victim of 703 acts of terrorism against its civilian population by the U.S. government and Cuban-American organizations operating from Miami. These attacks have resulted in the death of more than 3478 people, and 3000 people being disabled. One of the attacks that will always remain a scar in the memory of the country was the explosion of a Cuban airplane in mid-air in 1976. During this terrorist attack masterminded by Luis Posada Carriles, (a terrorist who enjoys freedom in Miami) 73 people died, 53 of them were Cubans including the youth fencing team who were returning home from Barbados after winning all the medals in their last competition.
During the 1990’s while Cuba was trying to develop the tourism sector in the wake of the Special Period, organizations like the Cuban American National Foundation was financing terrorists to plant bombs in hotels and resort areas. Those activities resulted in the death of a young Italian tourist named Fabio and many others injured.
In response to the terrorist attacks the Cuban government sent the Five with the mission to infiltrate the organizations who were plotting the attacks and to end the terrorist campaign that was punishing Cuban civilians. Their mission was to protect the Cuban people from the wrath and hatred of the extremist exiles which continues to cause damage and prevent full normalization between both nations.
Today it is still very difficult to hear the other side, and the true story of the Cuban Five from American soil. Unfortunately the biggest enemies for the normalization of relations with Cuba is no longer the American people, but the Cuban-American right wing exiles in Miami. They control (or at least try) the public opinion with lies and intimidation.
This book offers an unbiased inquiry into the case the Cuban Five. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to gain a deeper understanding for the case as well as for Cuban-American relations.
For more on the Cuban Five visit:

Official Film report on the Commission of Inquiry:

The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess

August 28, 2015

Not so long ago the fictional Cuba of the US myth-making machine was a Caribbean gulag, a dictatorship that sponsored terrorism and trafficked in human beings – that is when it wasn’t torturing them. Today we are left wondering what that was all about now that Sec. of State John Kerry has gone to Cuba for a flag-raising speech in front of the newly christened US Embassy and a brief walkabout in Old Havana.

The gist of Kerry’s remarks is that Cuba should improve its behavior according to Kerry’s prescriptions. Apparently, he hasn’t been listening to the Cubans, who want the United States to get rid of the thick accumulation of obnoxious and warlike behaviors, starting with the blockade (embargo) and not forgetting to abandon the US gulag at Guantánamo.

So far the United States has offered no rational justifications for these behaviors as it seeks “normalization,” but we should at least look at how they originated. As terrifying as history is to leaders in Washington, we will take one of the key bright ideas — the (ongoing) manipulation of Cuban immigration as an example of how far it is from here to “normal.”

Creating the exile pool

Normalization has so far not included an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act, which encourages Cubans to become undocumented aliens. Mexicans are told to stay home or “get in line” for a green card, but Cubans who reach US shores can be fast-tracked to citizenship.

The approach to Cuban immigration after 1959 oscillated between a desire to encourage it for propaganda advantage and a concern that Fidel Castro might oblige by releasing an unmanageable torrent. A manageable number could give propagandists the chance to picture every Cuban who left by whatever means, including rafts, as a political refugee from communist tyranny. Too many could strain public services wherever the Cubans landed, create social friction and cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Jesús Arboleya Cervera has written that

…immigration was intimately related to the policies conducted by the United States against the island, conceived to drain Cuba of its human capital, dismantle the social structure, and create abroad the social bases for a counter-revolutionary movement that had no cohesion inside the island. [1]

The just-right balance of regulations could achieve all this. To make it work, Cubans immigrating illegally were placed in a newly invented category exempt from the normal rules. They were initially welcomed under a special resettlement program and helped through the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962. However, President John F. Kennedy ruined the just-right balance by suspending regular flights between Cuba and the United States later that year increasing internal pressures in Cuba. This situation created an incentive for illegal emigration, which reached its highest levels when upwards of 30,000 people emigrated that way between 1962 and 1965. In February 1963, the US government announced that any Cubans who managed to get to the United States would be granted refugee status.

Kennedy’s action was an early example of how one immigration policy decision forced the invention of another to deal with the consequences of the first. By blocking safe exit from Cuba, Kennedy provoked the first of the great immigration crises.

1965: Camarioca

Reacting to the immigration pressure built up by suspending the flights, Castro opened the port of Camarioca in September 1965, inviting Cubans in Miami to go there and pick up their relatives.

President Lyndon Johnson at first welcomed the immigrants and framed the Camarioca exodus as a public relations gain for the United States. But as the numbers threatened to overwhelm Florida’s ability to absorb them, Johnson sought an accommodation with Cuba through a Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed on December 6, 1965. This new fix allowed a specific number of Cubans to emigrate on renewed flights to the United States. The Johnson administration called them Freedom Flights and presented them as a victory for the United States. It could just as well be considered a victory for Castro as Johnson was forced to reverse Kennedy’s actions in stopping the flights and to re-think how the immigration weapon was to be used. Castro reset the balance for Johnson. The flights continued until 1973.

But what to do with the Cuban immigrants? Before 1966, they were admitted on a temporary humanitarian basis because it was assumed in Washington, DC that the revolutionaries would soon be overthrown obviating the need for a permanent solution. There was no special legislation to regularize Cubans illegally arriving under the ad hoc systems then in place. Congress attempted to rectify that with passage of the Cuban Adjustment Act on November 2, 1966.

The legislation was supposed to bring order to the process. It applied only to Cubans who had lived in the United States for a least one year and who met the requirements for legal residency. New arrivals would be admitted if they could show they were in danger of persecution if they were repatriated — the standard UN criterion for granting political asylum. Cubans so admitted were granted resident status after one year in the United States regardless of how they got here; all that was necessary was to touch US soil. Most politicized Cubans in the United States were not pleased by the change, for it implied that there would be no roll back of the revolution and that the US government wanted the Cuban immigrants to become Americanized. In fact, the intention was to resettle them away from south Florida.

Thus, the Cuban Adjustment act encouraged limitless immigration, which the immigration system was ill equipped to handle. The process of determining who qualified as a refugee quickly collapsed into a policy of wholesale admission, the issuance of work permits, financial assistance and other benefits plus a fast track to permanent residency. To avoid the time-consuming process of case-by-case determination of refugee status, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (since 2003, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, USCIS) issued paroles, by which new arrivals were released (paroled) to friends or relatives.

The parole, which figured in the infamous Elian Gonzalez case some years later, short-circuited the process of administratively determining eligibility, serving a policy function for which it was not intended. Parole was not supposed to be used for groups of individuals. It was designed to insure that an alien experiencing an emergency could tend to that emergency while remaining free from detention. Eventually, parole was used to facilitate the processing of an entire population of otherwise excludable aliens who were considered by the government to be desirable immigrants.

In short, the special legal protections given indiscriminately to Cuban immigrants is not based solely on the Cuban Adjustment Act but also on the blanket designation of “political refugee” granted to any person who came from Cuba.

1980: Mariel

On March 17, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Refugee Act, which was supposed to rationalize the immigration process eliminating the parole shortcut and requiring a specific determination of eligibility for political asylum by applying the criterion of a “well-founded fear of persecution” if repatriated. The act was not specifically intended for Cubans, but a new mass exodus erupted that again demonstrated the inadequacy of legislative tinkering to solve problems created by the counterrevolutionary policies against Cuba.

The 1980 mass exodus from Cuba took place after the Carter administration and Cuba had agreed to allow Cubans in the United States to visit the island and take gifts with them for friends and relatives. Massive amounts of consumer goods entered the island for the first time since the early years of the revolution. Since these visitors were mostly urban white Cubans, the gifts went to their urban white friends and relatives in Cuba. Non-white Cubans did not benefit because at that time very few exiles were non-white. Poor urban Cubans, consequently, will become economic immigrants, using the 1966 US policy of easy entry into the United States to gain access to the consumer market.

The Mariel crisis of 1980 was precipitated when a busload of Cubans wishing to emigrate crashed through the gate of the Peruvian Embassy in Havana on April 1. They, and later thousands of others, sought political asylum at the embassy. On April 20, Castro announced that anyone wishing to leave could depart Cuba from the port of Mariel. His decision would later be interpreted in the United States as “unleashing” a mass exodus. But Castro later said he allowed the exodus to deprive Carter’s right-wing opposition with an election-year issue. [2]

Trapped by a system that could encourage but not control Cuban immigration, Carter announced that he welcomed the immigrants — a decision that ran counter to the attempt just days earlier to put some order into processing them through the Refugee Act. However, this was election time and, like Johnson before him, Carter saw an opportunity to portray the new immigrant wave as proof of Castro’s failures; he welcomed the marielitos “with open arms.”

By announcing that private vessels from Florida could go to Mariel and pick up the self-defined refugees, Carter insured that he would lose control. A massive, disorderly boatlift followed, overloading the cumbersome interview system necessary to determine well-founded fear of persecution. Consequently, once landed in Florida, the Mariel Cubans were shunted past the Refugee Act and placed in a newly invented status of “entrant.”

By early September, Castro moved to rescue Carter and help his re-election by controlling the boatlift crisis and detaining airplane hijackers landing in Cuba from the United States. He also announced that from September 25 to November 4 — Election Day in the United States — all Mariel traffic would be suspended. [3]

In October, with south Florida’s social services overwhelmed, Carter reversed his refugee policy a second time by ordering a halt to the boatlift that recently had seemed like such a good idea. He now threatened with fines anyone setting out from Florida for Mariel — the same people he had encouraged to go there. He experimented with various methods to gain control of the inflow and the problem of holding thousands of Cubans in detention centers.

The mess took years to clean up. Indefinite detention of large numbers of marielitos settled in as an addendum to the old policy. Undesirables were kept locked up indefinitely without criminal charges. Riots in detention centers and federal prisons became a regular occurrence. Twenty-five years later there were still 750 Mariel-era Cubans living in detentions centers with entrant status. The Supreme Court finally ruled against open-ended detention in 2005.

1984: Reagan avoids a crisis

In December 1984, the Reagan administration reached an agreement with Cuba that allowed the United States to send back 2,700 marielitos deemed ineligible for residency due to mental health problems, previous criminal records in Cuba or crimes committed while in the United States. As late as 2009, Cubans on a 1984 secret list of undesirables considered excludable were being deported to Cuba after spending decades in the United States. Cuba was the final destination for many “refugees” and “entrants” once welcomed “with open arms.”

Under a 1984 pact, the United States agreed to resume issuing up to 20,000 visas per year, which it had suspended because of Cuba’s earlier refusal to take back any marielitos – the people welcomed “with open arms.” Castro always maintained that the United States never consistently complied with the agreement.

Until the current Obama opening, the United States has always refused to negotiate a return to normal relations unless Cuba first makes concessions. Helping Reagan get off the hook for Jimmy Carter’s Mariel folly is never counted as a concession from Castro.

1994: The Clinton Immigration Crisis

For Clinton, the lesson of Mariel was not to review a flawed policy but to avoid falling into an immigration trap as Carter had and ending up with thousands of unwanted Cubans stuffed away in detention centers with the bogus migratory status of “entrant.” While Clinton was governor of Arkansas, he struggled with Carter over troubles at the Ft. Chaffee detention center in 1980. On two occasions, Cubans stormed out of the army base unhindered. The base commander told Clinton that because of the posse comitatus law, the military could not perform police functions. Clinton later complained in his memoirs that Carter told the commander he couldn’t keep them at the fort against their will. [4]

In the second breakout, a thousand Cubans left the base on June 1 and headed to a nearby town where locals were in a panic and ready with their shotguns to repel them. Unable to get help from the White House or the Pentagon, Clinton ordered state police to block the advancing Cubans by firing shots in the air. Sixty-two people were injured and three buildings at Ft. Chaffee were destroyed. This might be considered the only known hostile incursion by Cubans on American soil. In his memoires, Clinton blamed Castro for his re-election defeat. [5]

Clinton’s turn came in the summer of 1994 during a rash of hijackings to the United States — some of them violent. US officials were unwilling to acknowledge the link between incentives to immigrate and Cuban hijacking, but the practice became institutionalized as part of the undergrowth of an unofficial policy apparatus.

For a considerable period, at least in the state of Florida, air piracy ceased to be an actionable offense. In 1992, for example, Cuban airline pilot Carlos Cancio Porcel and several other people with their families diverted his Aero Caribbean plane to Miami, chloroforming a security guard and tying up the co-pilot. “No crime has been committed here,” his lawyer said. Cancio was detained but released when the Justice Department ruled that his actions did not constitute a hijacking. Cancio was issued an immigration parole and released into the community.

On August 5, a Radio Martí broadcast from the United States announced the imminent arrival of a ship from Miami that supposedly would take on people who wished to leave Cuba. When the vessel did not arrive, a crowd began rioting in Old Havana. Castro portrayed the riot as the result of a US policy to prevent legal immigration by issuing too few visas and simultaneously encouraging illegal immigration with such tactics as the Radio Martí broadcast. Castro warned that Cuba would not act as an auxiliary to the US Coast Guard. “We can no longer carry this burden or assume this responsibility, while they do nothing.”[6]

In a television address August 24 Castro said, “If the United States does not take rapid and efficient measures to stop the incitement of illegal exits from the country, we will feel obliged to tell the Border Guard not to stop any vessel that wishes to leave Cuba.”[7] Clinton’s answer was that there would be no change in US immigration policy. His chief of staff Leon Panetta said Cuba could not tell the United States what to do — implying that it would continue to encourage illegal immigration — and that the United States would not tolerate a repeat of the Mariel mass exodus. Panetta said Clinton might declare a naval blockade of Cuba if Castro did not control illegal emigration from the island.” [7]

While the White House was rededicating itself to the continued encouragement of immigration with the implied promise of immunity from prosecution for hijackers, Castro issued orders on August 12 that the Border Guard should be flexible with those wishing to leave except in cases of hijacking. Clinton was now sliding toward another migration crisis and another Carteresque disaster. But the White House had a plan. Operation Distant Shore involved actually arresting rafters trying to enter the country, detaining them on military bases outside of Florida and possibly declaring a naval blockade of Cuba.

When Clinton saw that the plan included the incarceration of rafters on military bases, he “went ballistic.” “Are you nuts? Do you think I am going to do [that] again?” he yelled. [9] He opted instead for scrapping enforcement of some elements of the Cuban Adjustment Act, the most important change in Cuban immigration policy in 28 years.

On August 19, Clinton ordered the Navy and Coast Guard to pick up rafters heading north and transfer them to camps at the Guantánamo Naval Base where thousands of Haitians similarly intercepted were being kept. (There never was a Haitian Adjustment Act.) Speaking at a White House news conference that day, Clinton said Castro caused the problem by encouraging Cubans “to take to the sea in unsafe vessels to escape their nation’s internal problems.” He called this an “attempt to dictate American immigration policy.” [10]

Clinton’s welcome was not with open arms.

“Today, I have ordered that illegal refugees from Cuba will not be allowed to enter the United States. Refugees rescued at sea will be taken to our naval base at Guantánamo, while we explore the possibility of other safe havens within the region….The United States will detain, investigate, and, if necessary, prosecute Americans who take to the sea to pick up Cubans. Vessels used in such activities will be seized.” [11]

Castro thought the order as insufficient to stop the continuing flow of rafters and asked again for negotiations on all outstanding issues. Clinton refused to do it openly but instead decided to coax Castro into secret negotiations by asking Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari what he could do to move Castro to negotiate — to “check around.” [10]

In the subsequent agreement brokered by Salinas, Cuba was expected to limit illegal emigration — another example of depending on Cuba’s good offices to slow the immigration that the Cuban Adjustment Act was designed to encourage. For its part, the United States agreed to issue up to 20,000 visas per year and to send any Cubans picked up at sea to the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.

While this was supposed to be a disincentive to rafters, it was also a solution leading to a new problem. As the Guantánamo camps filled up with disgruntled would-be immigrants, something had to be done about rioting and overtaxed facilities. Furthermore, the camps represented a potential public relations disaster: the internees, who formerly were portrayed as refugees from Castro’s oppression, might now be seen as victims of US oppression.

A second set of migratory talks had to be called in May 1995 to mend some holes. The resulting agreement required the United States to take in 21,000 Cubans held at Guantánamo and to send future rafters back to Cuba, not to Guantánamo. The United States also agreed to prosecute or extradite hijackers.

This second migratory accord had its own problems. The United States now had to tone down its traditional claims that anyone sent back to Cuba would face prison, torture or death. After all, it was the United States sending them back, so the “well-founded fear of persecution” route to asylum was closed for mass migrations although it remained open in special cases.

Wet foot dry foot

Some way had to be found simultaneously to accept a manageable number of immigrants to satisfy the needs of domestic politics while turning away the unwanted surplus. The solution was another immigration policy shift known as the wet-foot/dry-foot policy.

Not a part of the agreements, the formula enabled immigration officials to placate Miami exiles by continuing to admit Cubans who arrived onshore while living up to the agreement with Cuba to repatriate those picked up at sea. The accords marked an abrupt change in US immigration policy, ending the open immigration practices under the Cuban Adjustment Act, while leaving it battered but still in force.

Even after the Clinton administration formally ended open immigration, the new formula for admitting Cubans contributed to ambiguous and even capricious interpretations of how to receive Cubans arriving by hijack. Were hijackers who landed in Florida to be admitted as dry-foot immigrants or as air pirates?

One of the more bizarre examples of the tortuous interpretations of what constituted a safe, dry-foot arrival occurred in February 2003, when the armed crew of a Cuban Border Guard patrol boat went ashore in Key West after tying up at the Marriott resort marina. After some drinks and a phone call to local police, the crew was taken into custody and swiftly given asylum.

Two facts stand out about the incident: it happened while the Department of Homeland Security had put the United States on a heightened terror alert; and the armed men arrived on a boat — technically a war vessel — belonging to a government on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In the end, the Clinton administration managed to mollify the exile community for the sin of repatriating wet-foots by applying more sanctions against Cuba, stepping up propaganda broadcasts and occasionally threatening a naval blockade against any future mass exodus. He had avoided the dreaded Carter syndrome, but by inventing the wet foot/dry foot rule, the administration kept intact the incitement to illegal and life-threatening immigration.

Clinton had solved the wrong problem. The Mariel catastrophe was a foretold outcome of bad policy from another era. Encouraging illegal immigration was always a risky way to undermine a foreign government.

Like Dracula, bad policies can live almost forever. This one was tethered to Eisenhower’s original belief that welcoming Cubans would undermine the revolutionary government. Conceptually weak, the policy was subject to every kind of current from Miami, Havana and Washington. No one in the Eisenhower administration apparently considered the distorting effect that a rapid buildup of Cuban exiles in Florida would have on domestic politics or that the original bright idea could take on a life of its own that none of Ike’s successors could kill.

Today, if normal relation means that the war against Cuba is over, then the United States will have to decide if it wants to jeopardize future negotiations by defending its Draculan policies.


1. Jesús Arboleya Cervera, Havana Miami. The US-Cuba Migration Conflict, Melbourne: Ocean Press, 1996.

2. Ignacio Ramonet, Fidel Castro, biografía a dos voces, Editorial Debate: México, DF, 2006, p. 302.

3. Ibid., p. 303.

4. Bill Clinton, My Life, New York, New York: Knopf, 2004, p. 276.

5. Ramonet, p. 614.615.

6. Speeches, LANIC. /la/cb/cuba/castro.html

7. The Los Angeles Times, 08/22/94.

8. Kelly M. Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010   p.112.

9. News Conference, 08/19/94,

10. Ibid.

11. Carlos Salinas de Gortari, México: un paso difícil a la modernidad, Barcelona: Plaza & James Editores, 2000, p. 247-265.

Robert Sandels writes on Cuba and Mexico. Nelson P. Valdés is Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico.

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