Posts Tagged ‘cuban american national foundation’

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….

Cubans’ Rejection of Rubio Demonstrates Their Independent Thinking

July 21, 2015

A recent New York Times profile of Marco Rubio accurately describes the junior Senator from Florida, and member of the three-ring circus that is the Republican Presidential primary field, as Cuba’s “least favorite son.” The piece quoted a Havana resident as saying Rubio is “against Cuba in every possible way… Rubio and these Republicans, they are still stuck in 1959.” Presumably this view was representative of others that Times writer Jason Horowitz encountered while conducting his research in Cuba. This should not come as a surprise. Rubio is a reactionary fanatic who demagogues incessantly about the evils of the Cuban government. He supports illegal and immoral policies that cause vast damage to the Cuban economy and needless suffering by the Cuban people.

But Rubio cannot accept that Cubans’ nearly unanimous rejection of his right-wing politics might mean he is badly mistaken in his Manichean view of the Cuban socioeconomic system. Rubio wears Cubans’ disapproval of him as a badge of honor. For Rubio, Cubans are incapable of independent judgement. If the Cuban people are against him, it means they must be brainwashed by the evil Castro regime.

“If that’s the line the Cuban government has taken against me and is trying to indoctrinate their people in that way, it shows that we’re on to something,” the Times quotes Rubio as saying. But instead of acknowledging Rubio’s refusal to accept Cuban popular opinion as evidence of his megalomania, the Times accepts his delusional dismissal of his critics.

The Times notes that Rubio “has been identified in the state-controlled newspaper here as a ‘representative in the Senate of the Cuban-American terrorist mafia’.” This claim is not analyzed; it is supposed to be self-evident, hyperbolic slander. In reality, Rubio has always marched in lock-step with the Cuban-American community in Miami that portrays Castro as diabolical and advocates for regime change and the overthrow of socialism. That much is beyond dispute. Is calling the Cuban-American community a “terrorist mafia” an exaggeration?

Terrorists operate freely in and around Miami. The Omega 7, Comandos F4, Brigade 2506, Alpha 66 and other groups have openly declared their intention to use violence to topple the Cuban government while training on U.S. soil. Many have carried out machine gun raids on coastal villages and attacks on Cuban fishing boats. Among many in the reactionary Cuban-American population, terrorist leaders are revered as “freedom fighters.”

In its obituary of Orlando Bosch, described by George H.W. Bush’s attorney general as “an unreformed terrorist,” the New York Times noted that “his supporters called him a hero, holding rallies for him and lobbying to name a Miami expressway after him.” The Miami city commissioners even declared an Orlando Bosch Day. Luis Posada Carriles, Bosch’s partner in planning the bombing of Cubana de Aviación Flight 455, which killed 73 people including the medal-winning Cuban fencing team, lives freely in Miami to this day. He has marched with the Cuban opposition group Ladies in White and Gloria Estefan, and taught courses at local colleges.

If it is not exactly precise to say Rubio is a “representative in the Senate of the Cuban-American terrorist mafia,” he does represent the hard-line of refusing to normalize relations with the Cuban government and maintaining punitive policies that harm the Cuban people – positions shared by both terrorists within the Miami Cuban-American community and a broader segment of that community that don’t actively participate in terrorism but support those who do.

The Times‘ piece notes that a sign on the road in Cuba read “Blockade: The Worst Genocide in History.” A man sitting next to a sign with revolutionary slogans said of Rubio: “He wants to kill us! He’s our enemy!”

Rubio defended himself by saying it was “sad” the government tried to say he intended “to starve the Cuban people.” Rubio says such views of him are evidence of the “information blockade that the people in Cuba are facing,” thereby exonerating his opposition to President Obama’s moves to normalize relations.

In reality, the claims by the Cuban government, and people such as the man interviewed, have merit. The Cuban government says the “US genocidal blockade” is responsible for “severe adverse effects on the health and wellbeing of the Cuban people.” They justify their language by stating: “the blockade qualifies as an act of genocide by virtue of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 and as an act of economic warfare according to the declaration regarding the laws of naval war adopted by the Naval Conference of London of 1909.”

While genocide is a legal term that should be examined by the proper legal authorities such as the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court, the Cuban government clearly has a legitimate case it could make. Serious study of the consequences of the embargo lend credence to the “severe adverse effects” that the Cuban government describes.

In 1997, a nonprofit charitable organization undertook a year-long research effort to assess the impact of the American policy of embargo on the health of the Cuban population. Their findings conclusively verified the arguments the Cuban government has been making since the embargo was implemented in 1960.

“The American Association for World Health has determined that the U.S. embargo of Cuba has dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens… It is our expert medical opinion that the U.S. embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering – and even deaths – in Cuba,” states their reportDenial of Food and Medicine: The Impact of the U.S. Embargo on Health & Nutrition in Cuba.The study also found that “a humanitarian catastrophe has been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high level budgetary support for a health care system designed to deliver primary and preventive health care to all its citizens.”

So it is hardly an exaggeration for a Cuban to say Rubio wants to kill him, or to believe that the policy Rubio ardently advocates qualifies as genocide. But the Times doesn’t bother to examine whether the policies Rubio supports are inhumane and potentially criminal. Rubio defends himself by saying that people are “scared” to oppose the Cuban government line, and that they don’t know any better because they country is “dominated by government-controlled media.”

The Times acknowledges that Cuban have a “uniformity of opinion” about Rubio, but attribute this to the popularity of Granma, the official paper of the Communist Party. One man interviewed by the Times tells the reporter he is informed, and points to a story “linking the C.I.A. to a notorious Cuban-American extremist suspected of blowing up a Cuban airline filled with passengers.” This is implicitly another example of the embellishment and exaggeration of the Cuban government, spreading fantasies and conspiracy theories to turn its people against the United States.

The article most likely mentioned was “United States Considers Posada Carriles Probable Author of Terrorist Act,” published in Granma on June 4, 2015 (about a month before the Times profile of Rubio.) The article, by a Cuban news service, reprints an article that appeared in the Miami Herald the same day.

In fact, there is extensive documentation of the article’s claims on the National Security Archive’s Web site that states unequivocally that “the CIA had concrete advance intelligence… on plans by Cuban exile terrorist groups to bomb a Cubana airliner.” A section of the site titled “The CIA Connection” includes multipledocuments implicating Posada.

It was previously mentioned that Posada – who nearly 20 years ago acknowledged responsibility in the pages of the Times for hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian tourist – enjoys sanctuary in Miami and is active among reactionary Cuban-American political groups.

So, rather than allowing Rubio to speculate on how the Cuban government allegedly manipulates Cubans into hating him, the Times might ask if it may have something to do with Rubio ignoring the fact that one of his own constituents is implicated in the murder at least 75 innocent Cuban civilians?

It seems the Cuban public is much more informed about the terrorist activities by the CIA and extremists it was affiliated with than the American public, who will not find out from the Times that the allegations printed by Granma are substantiated by official declassified U.S. government documents. Neither will the Times hold to account a Presidential candidate who allows an unrepentant terrorist to enjoy safe harbor within the state he represents in Congress.

Cubans despise Rubio because he is a belligerent, war-mongering fanatic who panders to a reactionary base that demands the continuation of the most punitive policies of economic warfare in modern history. Instead of allowing Rubio to state unchallenged that he considers this a point of pride, the New York Times – the most prestigious paper in the vaunted American Free Press – should ask what is wrong with the United States itself that someone so contemptuous of humanitarianism, international law and world opinion can be a considered a serious candidate for President? And what might that say about which people are really indoctrinated by their government and media?

Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy and Latin America on his blog. You can follow him on twitter.

Next Steps in the Normalization of US-Cuban Relations: Thoughts From the Cuban Five

July 7, 2015

_1-cohnmarjorie2015_0702co_1(Marjorie Cohn with René González and his wife, Olga. (Photo courtesy of Marjorie Cohn)

By Marjorie Cohn, Truthout | News Analysis

Now that United States and Cuba are preparing to open embassies in each other’s countries, what else needs to happen to support the process of détente between the two countries?

During a recent visit to Cuba I posed this question to René González and Antonio Guerrero, two of the “Cuban Five” – five Cuban men who traveled to the United States in the 1990s to gather information about terrorist plots against Cuba and then became celebrated Cuban heroes during their subsequent incarceration by the United States.

Their reply? End the embargo and return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba.

“We have to remember that relations between the countries have never been normal,” González said, arguing that the normalization of relations won’t happen overnight. He added:

We were occupied by US troops in 1898. From then on, we were a subject of the US government and especially the US corporations. Then came the Revolution, which tried to correct that imbalance. Then came a different stage – of aggressions, blockade and policies against Cuba, which has lasted for more than 56 years. You cannot expect that establishing normal relations … [for] the first time in history is going to be an easy process.

Guerrero noted that the US had taken one major step toward normalization already by removing Cuba from its list of countries alleged to support terrorism but noted that the next step toward normalization will require a much larger step – ending the US embargo, which in Cuba is more commonly referred to as the “blockade.” Normalization, González said, will require “the dismantling of the whole system of aggression against Cuba, especially the blockade. Everybody knows how damaging it has been for the Cuban people. It’s a small island. For 50 years, it has been asphyxiated by the biggest power in the world. It had a cost on the Cuban people, on their economy.”

The Illegal Occupation of Guantánamo Bay

González also listed the return of Guantánamo to Cuba as necessary for normalization. After the blockade is lifted and Guantánamo is returned to Cuba, he told me, “I believe the process will take speed.”

González rightly pointed out that the US occupation of Guantánamo is illegal. The United States gained control of Guantánamo Bay in 1903, when Cuba was occupied by the US Army after its intervention in Cuba’s war of independence against Spain. Cuba was forced to accept the Platt Amendment to its Constitution as a prerequisite for the withdrawal of US troops from Cuba. That amendment provided the basis for a treaty granting the United States jurisdiction over Guantánamo Bay.

The 1903 Agreement on Coaling and Naval Stations gave the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay “exclusively as coaling or naval stations, and for no other purpose.” A 1934 treaty maintained US control over Guantánamo Bay in perpetuity until the United States abandons it or until both Cuba and the United States agree to modify it. That treaty also limits its uses to “coaling and naval stations.”

None of these treaties or agreements gives the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay as a prison, or to subject detainees to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment – which has been documented at the prison. The United States thus stands in violation of the 1934 treaty.

Moreover, the doctrine of rebus sic stantibus, enshrined in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and a norm of customary international law, allows one party to a treaty to abrogate its obligations when there is a fundamental change in circumstances. Using Guantánamo Bay as a prison and torturing detainees is a fundamental change in circumstance, which constitutes grounds for Cuba to terminate the treaty.

The Diplomatic Importance of Freeing the Cuban Five

The United States and Cuba would not likely have announced this week their plans to reopen embassies in each other’s countries if President Barack Obama had not successfully negotiated the full release of the Cuban Five in the agreement he reached with Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17, 2014. That deal, to work toward normalization of relations between the two countries, had eluded Obama’s 10 predecessors over a 55-year period. It will likely be Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement.

A part of the deal that had enormous symbolic significance to the people of Cuba was the freeing of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino – the three members of the Cuban Five who were still imprisoned at the time of the agreement. On December 17, 2014, the three men were granted clemency and returned to Cuba. The other two members of the Cuban Five – René González and Fernando González – had previously been released in 2011 and 2014, respectively, after serving their full sentences.

The case of the Cuban Five garnered international condemnation in particular because the five men had traveled to the United States to gather intelligence on Cuban exile groups for a very legitimate reason. Since Cuba’s 1959 Revolution, terrorist organizations based in Miami, including Alpha 66, Commandos F4, the Cuban American National Foundation and Brothers to the Rescue, have carried out terrorist acts against Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the Castro government. The most notorious was the in-air bombing of a Cubana airliner in 1976, which killed all 73 persons aboard, including the entire Cuban fencing team. These groups have acted with impunity in the United States.

The Cuban Five peacefully infiltrated these organizations. They then turned over the results of their investigation to the FBI. But instead of working to combat terrorist plots in the United States against Cuba, the US government arrested them and charged them with crimes including conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. Although none of the Five had any classified information or engaged in any acts to injure the United States, they were convicted in a Miami court in 2000 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years collectively.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals unanimously overturned their convictions in 2005, ruling that the Five could not get a fair trial in Miami due to the pervasive anti-Cuba sentiment there. Nevertheless, the 11thCircuit, sitting en banc, upheld the convictions, and Hernandez’s life term was affirmed on appeal.

Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

The Cuban Five endured years of harsh conditions and wrongful imprisonment before their release. After being arrested, they were immediately put into solitary confinement and held in “The Hole” for 17 months. Solitary confinement amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, according to United Nations special rapporteur Juan E. Méndez.

“I believe they expected to break us down,” González added. The US government “used the CIPA [Classified Information Procedures Act] and randomly classified everything,” which “allowed them to prevent us from looking at the evidence,” González said. “So they put us in “The Hole” and then put the evidence in another hole.”

Yet, González noted, “Sometimes you have to react as a human with your dignity. And they went after our dignity. And we had to defend it. We were more committed. We were more encouraged to go to trial, and that’s what we did.”

“For us,” González said, “going to trial was great. We wanted to go to trial every day because we wanted to face them and expose the truth of terrorism against Cuba and how the government of the United States supported those terrorists.”

“They decided to behave like thugs.” he told me. “And then you have to resort to your moral values, again to your human dignity and defend that.” González said, “We always knew what we were doing there. We knew that we never intended to make any harm to the United States at all, to the US people. We were very clear on that. As a matter of fact, there was nothing in the whole evidence that would show hatred toward the United States or the US people or an intent to damage anybody. We knew that we were defending human life. And going to prison for defending the most precious thing which is the human life – it makes you strong.”

Surviving Prison Through Poetry and Art

I asked González and Guerrero how they survived prison for all those years. “Our humor never went down,” González said. “We played chess from one cell to another by yelling. We did poetry. Sometimes we had fun just reading the poetry through the doors.”

Guerrero also began writing poetry in prison.

“I started writing poems without even having paper,” he said. “A poem came to my head after they arrested me … And I cannot explain how because I wasn’t a poet. And then I started writing poems.” Guerrero never imagined that his poems would be published, but he shared them with the other prisoners and shared them with people in court. He couldn’t believe it when his first book of poems, Desde Mi Altura (“From My Altitude”), was published.

Guerrero also became a painter in prison. “The penitentiary is very tough,” he said. “So one day I went to the art room … that was another way to free my mind.”

I was thrilled when Guerrero gave me a copy of his newly published book, Absolved by Solidarity, a collection of his paintings depicting the different stages of the trial.

The Five Return to Cuba

When I asked what it was like when all the members of the Cuban Five were back in Cuba together, Guerrero said: “It’s a sense of joy. It’s a sense of victory. It’s a sense of returning to the place where you belong to. And it feels great.”

González added: “My little daughter was four months when I was arrested. I came to Cuba two days before her 15th birthday. I have a grandson now which is a beautiful boy.”

Both González and Guerrero said they had thought they would never see Hernandez in Cuba again because he was serving a term of life imprisonment. “My biggest fear was he would die there,” González said. “And let’s not fool ourselves. The US wanted him to die in prison. And the prosecutor wanted him to die in prison.”

“We know how hard it is to take him from those appetites,” he added, “and we managed to do that. It speaks a lot about Cuba, a lot about the Cuban people, because the Cuban people together as one did everything possible for the Five and it’s just pure joy.”

The Way Ahead

In the days ahead, the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States will rely most of all on the United States’ willingness to act out of respect for Cuban self-determination. “The only thing we want is respect,” Guerrero said. “Let’s try to build something now – good for you, good for us – with respect in the middle. … The point is, we don’t know if the interest of the American government is really to be respectful and friendly to the Cuban government.”

Guerrero said that even if millions of American tourists come flooding in to visit Cuba, he cannot conceive of Cuba becoming a capitalist country and forgetting about the Revolution. “Somebody may bring drugs, or somebody may bring a lot of money and try to buy things,” Guerrero said. “We are not accustomed to that. But we are ready to deal with that and create our security and our understanding. They will be received with peace, with love.”

González added that the Cuban people don’t have hatred or resentment toward the American people specifically. “We don’t blame the American people for the faults of the their government,” he said. “We know they are people like people anywhere. I believe that all of us have more in common than things that divide us. … And I hope sincerely that this new relationship with the US will allow Americans to come here and share with us this beautiful island.”

In June, the Cuban Five visited Robben Island in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years by the apartheid regime. Hernandez wrote in the guest book, “It has been a great honor to visit this place together with some of the brave compañeros of Nelson Mandela,” who were “a source of inspiration and strength for the Five Cubans to withstand the more than 16 years in US jails.” Hernandez added that Mandela’s legacy is one “the Five will honor for the rest of our lives.”

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

And what about Washington’s terrorists in Miami ?

May 22, 2015


Andrés Gómez talks with Ricardo Alarcón

by Andrés Gómez, director of Areítodigital

Miami —Everything seems to indicate that once Cuba is removed from the U.S. List of States Sponsors of Terrorism at the end of May — given the prohibitions imposed on the countries on that List— a major stumbling block to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana will be overcome.

Another major obstacle that impedes the reestablishment of those relations is the reluctance of the U.S. government — once relations are reestablished — for its diplomats in Cuba to adhere to the functions permitted to any diplomat accredited in a given country, according to the regulations established in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, the international treaty regulating such functions to which both countries are signatories.

With the renewal of diplomatic relations will then begin a long, controversial and harsh negotiating process between both governments, towards achieving the long-awaited normalization of relations between both nations, between both peoples.

Long, controversial and harsh, to put it mildly, it will be if the United States government maintains the announced objectives of its new policy towards Cuba. According to Roberta Jacobson, Assistant United States Secretary of State, presently the highest-level official in charge of these issues: “My country is changing its tactics or the form of implementing its policy, but it has not abandoned its goals.”

What process of normalization of relations is possible between both countries if this is the supposed new U.S. policy towards Cuba?

In a negotiating process of “give and take” between the United States and Cuba, what can Cuba give to the United States in exchange for the U.S. government to eliminate the Helms-Burton law and all the regulations that make up the genocidal policy of Embargo? What can Cuba give the United States government so that it eliminates the equally genocidal Cuban Adjustment Act? What can Cuba give the United States for that government to return the illegally and forcibly occupied territory in Guantánamo bay where for more than a century the U.S. has had a naval and military base, and in recent years, it also maintains an infamous concentration camp? What can Cuba give the United States for Washington to end and condemn its policy of State Terrorism maintained against the Cuban people since 1959?

What can Cuba give the United States, for it to bring to trial the Cuban extreme right wing terrorists living in the United States who are responsible for countless and odious crimes, who are the executioners of this policy of State Terrorism?

What can the Cuban people give to the United States government so that it ends the policy of permanent aggression against Cuba that Washington has maintained since the revolutionary triumph in 1959?

What can the Cuban people give the United States government in such a negotiating process, if not its sovereignty, its right to self-determination, its independence, its socialist revolution, all its rights and freedoms, its exceptional gains, its enormous sacrifices, its spilled blood and its dead of more than 56 years of aggression?

Is this the negotiating process that the government of the United States is offering the Cuban people to achieve a normalization of relations between both countries?

The only thing that the U.S. government can sensibly do to really normalize relations between both peoples is to unilaterally and unconditionally dismantle all the framework of war that it has had in place for the last 56 years against the Cuban people; all the structure that has constituted its policy of permanent aggression against the freedoms and rights of the Cuban people, against the inalienable right of Cubans to live and develop in peace.

But now, how is the U.S. government — in this process of normalization of relations between both countries — not just terminate and condemn its policy of State Terrorism against the Cuban people, but rather, how will it bring to justice those terrorists of Cuban extreme right wing organizations before the courts and try them for their crimes? These are indispensable decisions that have to be achieved for the normalization of relations between both countries be attained. It will not be easy for Washington to achieve justice as the victims, their relatives and the rest of the Cuban people demand.

How many victims of that policy of terrorism have there been in Cuba? According to official figures there have been 3,478 people killed and 2,099 maimed. Given the horror that has resulted from the imperial policies of aggression and war against other peoples around the world in the last decades, perhaps the number of Cubans killed and maimed as a result of those years of a sustained terrorist campaign doesn’t seem to be so terrible…

Fidel knew how to place it in the proper context in a memorable speech on October 6, 2001, on remembering the 73 victims of the infamous attack, perpetrated by those same beasts, against a civilian airliner of Cubana de Aviación, on October 6, 1976.

Fidel explained: Comparing the population of Cuba [on October 6, 1976) with that of the United States last September 11, it is as if 7 U.S. planes, each one with 300 passengers onboard, had been downed the same day, at the same time,… And if we estimate the same proportion of the populations, the 3,478 Cuban lives lost due to those terrorist actions that originated in the United States, it would be as if 88,434 people had been assassinated in the United States from terrorist activities, the equivalent of the number of U.S. soldiers who died in the wars of Korea and Vietnam.”

Endless has been the experience and terrible the result of the U.S. State Terrorist policy against the Cuban people. And, obvious differences aside, it has also been hard for us Cubans who for decades have defended the rights of Cuba in the same places where those monsters live and thrive.

Last April 28 marked 36 years since the assassination of our comrade, member of the National Committee of the Antonio Maceo Brigade (Brigada Antonio Maceo), Carlos Muñiz Varela, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His assassins, all Cuban extreme rightwingers residing in Miami and Puerto Rico, have still not been brought to justice before the courts. The federal authorities in charge, mainly the FBI, are to blame for the fact that justice has not been achieved. They refuse to reveal the proofs in their possession that prove the guilt of the murderers.

But in Puerto Rico the family members and comrades of Carlos, Cubans and Puerto Ricans alike, led by his son, Carlos Muñiz Pérez — today older than his father was in 1979 when he was assassinated at 26 years of age — and our comrade Raúl Álzaga, have not ceased in their efforts to achieve justice for him and for Santiago Mari Pesquera, a young Puerto Rican independence fighter.

So then, what of Washington’s terrorists in Miami, Puerto Rico and other places, the ones who’ve carried out the U.S. policy of State Terrorism that has cost the Cuban people so much blood and suffering all these long decades?

They are here in Miami, still alive. Some of them are: Félix Rodríguez, Luis Posada Carriles, Pedro Remón, Frank Castro Paz, Santiago Álvarez Magriñat, Osvaldo Bencomo Robaina, Sergio Ramos Suárez, Secundino Carrera, Ramón Saúl Sánchez, Guillermo Novo Sampol, Antonio de la Cova, Virgilio Paz Romero, Héctor Fabián, José Dionisio Suárez Esquivel and Luis Crespo. Not many of them are named here, this is only a sample, but many are their hateful crimes.

In these times of change those terrorists ought to feel very vulnerable. The bosses who have protected them, if still alive, are very old and without the power they once enjoyed. The assassins know that many, many, things are changing. As Roberta Jacobson maintains, her government has not abandoned the objectives of its policy with respect to Cuba, but has changed its tactics, the form of implementing its policy… Now anything is possible.

Those terrorists, lackeys of the worst of imperialism, know that imperial powers throughout history, the United States in particular, have shown that they don´t have friends; what they have always shown is that they only have interests. Self interests.

Do these terrorists realize that maybe their days are truly numbered?


The historical context of the Cuban Five

June 17, 2014


By Jane Franklin • Published on ProgresoWeekly

(What follows is a presentation given by Jane Franklin during the 5 Days for the Cuban 5 event held in Washington, D.C.)

Thank you all for being here in Washington to combat terrorism. I want to thank the other panelists and all the other internationalists who join us in the battle against this outrageous injustice. We need all the help we can get as we work here in the planet’s main base of terrorism to free these heroic anti-terrorists – Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, and Tony. I’ve been asked to put their heroism in context.

The basic problem is that this injustice is part of a system of imperial injustice. Simón Bolívar saw it coming in 1829 when he warned that the United States “appears destined by Providence to plague America with miseries in the name of Freedom.” The ideology that drives this plague is American exceptionalism.

The doctrine of American exceptionalism emerged dramatically alongside U.S. policy toward Cuba. The United States itself had hardly become an independent nation when Thomas Jefferson declared that with Cuba and Canada “we should have such an empire for liberty as she has never surveyed since the creation.”

As Cuban revolutionaries were on the verge of victory against Spain in 1898, the U.S. Congress declared that Cuba had the right to be free and independent, and then Congress declared a war against Spain in which Washington portrayed itself as the provider of that freedom and independence. Washington presented the Platt Amendment, which gave it virtual control of Cuba, as if it would shield Cuba against colonization, while using it to turn Cuba from a colony of Spain into a neo-colony of the United States.

When the Cuban Revolution turned Cuba from a neo-colony into an independent nation, the Eisenhower administration immediately launched the counterrevolution – the State of Siege that continues today. A State Department memorandum in 1959, the first year of the Revolution, speculated that depriving Cuba of its sugar quota privilege would cause “widespread…unemployment” and “large numbers of people thus forced out of work would begin to go hungry.” Eisenhower canceled the sugar quota and a full trade embargo followed.

Alongside the overt terrorism of the embargo, covert terrorist operations have continued for all these decades. Just a few weeks ago, Cuba arrested four infiltrators who planned to attack military installations. Perhaps agents such as the Cuban Five helped uncover this plot just as they uncovered a plot by Luis Posada Carriles and his gang in the year 2000 to blow up an auditorium filled with people listening to a speech by Fidel Castro in Panama City.

I think all of us here know about the record of Luis Posada, the most notorious terrorist in the Western Hemisphere. For nine years the U.S. Government has refused to abide by its extradition treaty with Venezuela, which requires that the U.S. either extradite Posada to face trial for the murders of 73 people aboard a Cubana passenger plane or prosecute him here in the United States for those murders. The U.S. Government in its White House right down the street is thus complicit in that mass murder.

Just two months before the arrests of the Cuban Five, Posada told the New York Times that “the CIA taught us everything – everything….They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage.” He boasted of his exploits and bragged about his support from the FBI, the CIA and the Cuban American National Foundation.

Because U.S. intelligence agencies collaborate with the terrorists, Cuba has been forced to train agents like the Cuban Five to investigate terrorist groups. The first member of the Cuban Five to arrive in Florida was René González in 1990, just in time to help deal with the increase of terrorism that followed the disbanding of the Soviet Union and Cuba’s disastrous loss of more than 85 percent of its trade.

Cuba was perceived as vulnerable and the predators thought it was the time to bring it down. Overt terrorism escalated alongside covert activities. Congress worked closely with the Cuban American National Foundation to pass the 1992 Torricelli Act that intensified the trade embargo.

In that same year the Cuban American National Foundation created its secret military arm. Four years later, disappointed that Cuba was continuing to survive as an independent nation, the Foundation engineered the Helms-Burton Law, which became the law of the land. Helms-Burton aspires to be the Platt Amendment of the 21st century. But there is a key difference between Platt at the beginning of the 20th century and Helms-Burton a century later. Platt was U.S. law and then became Cuban law. Helms-Burton is U.S. law but Cuba is determined to keep it from becoming Cuban law. That is a major component of current relations between Cuba and the United States.

In 1999, Cuba, recognizing that Helms-Burton makes financing subversive activities part of U.S. economic warfare against Cuba, passed its own law that makes it a violation of Cuban law to introduce into Cuba, accept, or distribute materials from the U.S. Government that would aid in implementing Helms-Burton. Therefore, when a U.S. agent, such as Alan Gross, distributes such materials in Cuba, the agent is violating Cuban law.

By making Helms-Burton U.S. law, President Bill Clinton and Congress provided a legal front for the legitimization and normalization of terror. But a turning point came in 1998, the same year that the Cuban Five were arrested, when Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela. From the time he took office in 1999, he championed Latin American and Caribbean unity, especially with regard to Cuba. Thanks to his leadership, by the time of his death last year, there was a paradigm shift of historic importance, dramatically represented by the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). When the 21st century opened, the Organization of American States (OAS) included all 35 nations of the Western Hemisphere, but with Cuba suspended. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, CELAC members included all 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations of the Western Hemisphere, with the United States and Canada excluded.

At West Point last week President Obama once again called the United States “the one indispensable nation.” But CELAC has definitively decided that the United States is not indispensable. Earlier this year Cuba hosted the second CELAC Summit where every member opposes the trade embargo. (Canada also opposes the embargo so the United States is alone in its support of its own embargo.)

Yet, as if oblivious to the consensus of Latin America and the Caribbean regarding the status of Cuba, President Obama declared in September 2011, “It’s clearly time for regime change in Cuba.” At a fundraiser last November in the home of Jorge Mas Santos, chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, President Obama said the United States can help bring “freedom to Cuba.” He said, “we have to be creative” and “we have to be thoughtful.” Those words, “creative” and “thoughtful”, gave some analysts the idea that Obama might be ready for a positive step toward Cuba. But we need to pay attention to what he said next and I quote: “the aims are always going to be the same.” He spoke of the need to relate to the “age of the internet”, perhaps thinking that social media programs like ZunZuneo might do the trick by creating another color revolution of “smart mobs” in the streets of Havana.

Obama seems just as oblivious to the opinions of U.S. citizens. A recent Atlantic Council poll shows a majority of Americans want normal relations with Cuba and 61 percent believe Cuba should not be on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Yet all the Cuban Americans in the House and Senate down the street oppose any sign of rapprochement, including the idea that the President agree to negotiations without preconditions with Cuba. Such negotiations are the key to unlocking the prison doors for the three heroes who remain in U.S. prisons. So here we are again in the belly of the beast with a huge job to do because we have to find a way around the barriers of imperial injustice.

June-letter for Mr Obama

May 30, 2014


Mr President Obama June first, 2014
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington DC 20500

Mr President,

On April 18th, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Columbian writer, passed away.
“The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers, and one of my favorites when I was young, you declared, when you learned of his death.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez played an important role in the history of the Cuban agents of the Avispa network, to which belonged Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino, and René González, “The Cuban Five”, as they’re called.
In April of 1998, this writer left for Havana looking for more information concerning the recent visit of Pope Jean-Paul II to Cuba, for which he was writing an article. Garcia Marquez, who was a friend of the Cuban president, met with him and told him of the trip he was soon taking to the United States in order to conduct a writer’s workshop at Princeton University, starting on April 25th. He told President Castro that he would maybe be meeting President Clinton.
It was in this context that President Fidel Castro confided to Garcia a mission “non-official” but of capital importance, to let the president of the United States know that the terrorist organization CANF (Cuban American National Foundation) had put into place a diabolic plan to put bombs in Cuban Airways planes, and in other passenger planes going to and from Cuba from other Latin American countries. Of course, Mister President, the Cuban agents were aware of this information.
In the end, Garcia Marquez wasn’t able to meet with President Clinton, but he was received at the White House in McLarty’s office by three National Security Agency officials, for who this information sent shivers down their spine. I won’t go into the details of this meeting and of the diplomatic ups and downs that it caused, but what came out of it was the visit of a delegation of FBI officials to Havana on June 15th. Cuban experts conversed at length with this delegation on June 16th and 17th, and handed over an extremely detailed report on the terrorist attacks in preparation so the FBI could arrest the plotters.
The head of the terrorism section of the Miami Mafia, which had gotten wind of the contacts between Cuba and the United States, did not lose time in changing the chief of the South Florida FBI. Hector Pesquera arrived in Miami from Porto Rico in May 1998, and on September 1st was named chief of the South Florida FBI, and had the Cuban agents arrested on September 12th.
Pesquera put all his energy into hunting down the members of the Avispa network, during which time, in the territory he controlled, at least 14 members of Al Qaeda were in training, in complete peace, to prepare for the dreadful terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001.
The Cuban Five’s sentence in Miami was a travesty of justice. In this city, a fair judgment was impossible. As doctor Pastor, an ex-counselor for President Jimmy Carter for Latin America wrote, “Holding a trial for five Cuban intelligence agents in Miami is about as fair as a trial for an Israeli intelligence agent in Tehran”.  
The Cuban Five were heavily sentenced, Gerardo Hernández winning hands down, serving two life sentences plus fifteen years. They accused him of “conspiring with a view to committing murder” without the least proof. This charge against him had been added on to his judicial document eight months after it was constituted.
On January 22nd 2003, in a radio emission “Radio Martí” in Miami, Pesquera declared, concerning the Avispa network, “I came here in May 1998. I was made aware of the situation. We then started to place emphasis on the fact that this investigation should not be only on questions of intelligence. The nature of this case must be transformed into a criminal investigation.” What he said clears up for us the accusation afterwards attributed to Gerardo Hernandez. It would be very easy to prove this man innocent, but your country refuses his lawyers access to essential documents that would prove his innocence.
This willingness of your country to harm Cuba, alas! has not finished. Recently, on April 26th, Cuban authorities arrested four terrorists – José Ortega Amador, Obdulio Rodríguez González, Raibel Pacheco Santos and Félix Monzón Álvarez, who had arrived from Miami to prepare terrorist attacks against military installations.
Mr President, such policies must be done with! Do listen to the voice of the delegation of members of Congress from your country who visited Cuba at the beginning of May. Led by Barbara lee, this delegation, composed of four elected councilors, met with your fellow countryman Alan Gross at the prison hospital in Havana, and demanded you to open negotiations with a view to liberate him. She wishes that these negotiations be broadened so as to include the three Cuban secret agents Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino, who are imprisoned in the United States.
Listen also to the numerous voices that are rising up in this beginning of June at Washington to demand you to liberate Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino
Please receive, Mr President, the expression of my most sincere humanitarian sentiments.
Jacqueline Roussie
64360 Monein (France)

translated by William Peterson
Copies sent to: Mrs. Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Kathryn Ruemmler, Janet Napolitano, to Mr. Joe Biden, John F. Kerry, Harry Reid, Eric Holder, Pete Rouse, Rick Scott and to Charles Rivkin, ambassador for the United States in France.

Surprisingly sensible decision

May 18, 2013


– by Keith Bolender –

The recent ruling allowing René González to finish out his probation in Cuba is the first sign of sensible and decent behavior on the part of the United States criminal justice system in this controversial case of five Cuban intelligence officers unjustly sentenced to long jail terms for trying to protect their homeland against terrorist attacks and sabotage.

González, along with four others known as the Cuban Five, was arrested in the late 1990s for his efforts to infiltrate anti-revolutionary Cuban-American terrorist organizations in Florida. The 56-year-old González is now a free man thanks to an unexpected court ruling by a federal district judge notorious for her rabid anti-Havana rulings, permitting him to remain in Cuba to serve out the rest of his parole. He was given authorization in a surprise move by United States District Judge Joan Lenard, allowing the dual US-Cuban citizen to stay in Cuba where he was attending a memorial service for his father, Cándido González. Judge Lenard, who had previously allowed González to attend the service, ruled he did not have to return to the United States provided he give up his United States citizenship – something González had agreed to prior to his release from prison in 2011 after serving 13 years. The key to the ruling came when federal prosecutors reversed their position demanding that González serve out his parole in Florida, where he had been living in virtual seclusion due to fears for his safety from violent anti-Castro groups.[1]

The Cuban agents were sent to Florida to penetrate anti-Castro organizations including Alpha 66, Comandos 4F, the Cuban American National Foundation and Brothers to the Rescue. Many of these exile groups were known to have a history of terrorist activities against their former homeland.[2] Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, more than 600 incidents of terrorism have been documented, costing the lives of 3,400 civilians with thousands more injured. The vast majority of the attacks have come from anti-revolutionary Cuban-Americans based in Florida, often with the direct knowledge or support from the United States authorities. Incidents included the bombing of Cubana Airlines flight 455 in October 1976, killing all 73 on board. The two recognized masterminds of the bombing, Cuban-American Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, have never been held accountable for their actions by the US government. Bosch passed away a few years ago in his home in Florida. Posada, a former FBI agent, continues to live unmolested in Miami.[3] Posada acknowledged his role in a series of bombings in 1997 against tourist facilities in Havana and Varadero, resulting in the death of Italian-Canadian businessman Fabio Di Celmo. On one occasion Posada bragged to the New York Times that his intent was to dissuade tourists from visiting Cuba following the Castro government’s decision to open up the tourist industry after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989.[4] The Cuban Five were in Florida to try to prevent additional terrorist attacks on the homeland.

Trial condemned by United Nations Human Rights commission

González, along with Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, and Fernando González were part of La Red Avispa (Wasp Network). They were uncovered in 1998 and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage, being unregistered foreign agents, and in the case of Hernández, conspiracy to commit murder. Throughout the ensuing trials and appeals the case has developed into one of the most egregious abuses of the United States criminal justice system, widely denounced both stateside and internationally, and in the process becoming the only judicial proceeding in United States history condemned by the United Nations Human Rights commission.[5] The Five have consistently maintained they were in Florida simply to help prevent further acts of terrorism. Evidence suggests their work produced chilling results; in one incident they were able to tip off the FBI to a boat in a marina along the Miami River, apparently laden with bombs and guns. The vessel was suspected to be part of a plan to conduct terrorist activities against Cuba. Another tip helped prevent the attempted assassination against Fidel Castro in the Dominican Republic.[6]

In an endeavour to establish the agents were in fact spies in the more traditional sense, and not just patriots trying to prevent acts of terrorism, federal prosecutors pointed to Antonio Guerrero’s work as a laborer at the Key West Naval Air station, accusing him of attempting to obtain military secrets. Despite the trials and appeals, marred by a politically-driven agenda aimed at ensuring a conviction, no evidence was presented to verify that any of the Five had in their possession classified documents that would compromise US security. The strongest assertion government attorneys were able to come up with only showed the agents counting planes on Florida military bases – from the vantage point of public highways. The lack of hard evidence led to the government side settling on the charge of conspiracy to commit espionage, a charge that requires a much lower threshold of evidence to support. The situation of the Cuban Five eventually made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the appeal.

Of the Five, González is the only one with a United States birthright. Born in Chicago in 1956, he moved to Cuba with his parents and two brothers five years later. From 1977 to 1979, González served in Angola, after studying aviation and graduating as a pilot and flight instructor. Working for Cuban intelligence, it was arranged for González to defect back to the United States in 1990 where he soon after integrated himself within the counter-revolutionary community, including flying for the Brothers to the Rescue.[7] Last year he was given permission to return to Cuba for two weeks to visit his ill brother Roberto, who died shortly after the visit. González is married to Olga Salanueva Arango, with two daughters, 29-year-old Irma, and 15-year-old Ivette. Olga was expelled from the United States at the time of the arrests and had been refused visas to visit her husband while in prison. The wives of the Five have travelled extensively to garner support for their husbands, speaking on how difficult it has been for the families to endure. Adriana Perez, wife of Hernández, has not seen her husband in 10 years, her visa requests also denied by US authorities. The couple had hoped for children, but Perez realizes the chance of that happening now is extremely thin.[8]

Shortly after his return, González defended his actions. “Nobody made me do it. They told me the risks, and I said `Yes.’ I did it as a Cuban patriot and I don’t have any regrets … I’ve never doubted myself for a second.” He asserted the only intent of the Cuban Five was to protect Cuba from acts of terrorism.[9]

Ruling brings new energy to free the others

The González ruling has brought new energy to the fight to free the others, according to Gloria LaRiva, co-ordinator of the San Francisco based National Committee to Free the Cuba Five. LaRiva, who has been actively involved in the case since its beginning, said the González decision came “as a surprise”, and that “it’s hard to say why the judge [Joan Lenard] ruled that way. Up to now she has taken a real hard line. She’s been the judge since the start, and has shown little compassion for the Five.”[10]

LaRiva, along with a variety of Nobel Prize winners, current and former heads of states, and international personalities have criticized the long sentences and harsh conditions the Five have faced, including extensive stays in solidarity confinement. Numerous irregularities have marked the case, starting with the denial of a request to move the initial trial from the hotbed of anti-revolutionary sentiment in Miami. “There was no chance the Five would get a fair trial, the result was a foregone conclusion. Keeping it in Miami ensured that,” LaRiva stated.

What came as a shock was the length of sentencing, unheard of in cases similar to this, when unregistered foreign agents usually receive no more than five years, if they aren’t simply expelled as soon as uncovered. Instead, René González received 15 years, Fernando González (no relation) 19 years, life for Guerrero and Labañino, and most outrageous the two life sentences plus 15 years for Gerardo Hernández. The harshest sentence came down on Hernández after he was found guilty for conspiring to commit homicide, allegedly for his role in the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue’s planes by Cuban combat aircraft in 1996, in which four people were killed. The provocative aerial operations, led by rabid anti-revolutionary Jose Basulto, had repeatedly conducted illegal incursions into Havana airspace. After receiving no assistance in stopping the planes from the Federal Aviation Authority, Fidel Castro warned the next intrusion would result in action. Despite the threat, the four planes again entered over Havana and two were shot down; to this day there is still a dispute over whether the planes were downed in Cuban airspace or over international waters. Basulto, long suspected for a variety of violent actions against Cuba was able to escape by flying under the Cuban radar. It was purported that Hernández had advance knowledge of the shootdown and relayed that information about this particular Brothers to the Rescue operation to the Cuban side. Defense lawyers stated at the trial that there was no evidence presented in the thousands of pages of material to indicate Hernández had pre-knowledge of the event or any role in deciding to go ahead with the attack.[11] They also argued that the lower requirements needed to establish the charge of conspiracy to commit murder underlined the specious nature of the allegation. Hernández faces the toughest road to freedom. The others can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel — next in line is Fernando González expected to be released February 2014, Guerrero in 2017 and Labañino in 2024. Once released they are expected to be deported back to Cuba.

Cuban Five case continues to evoke controversy

The case continues to evoke considerable controversy years after the actual trials ended. One enduring dispute revolves around the revelation that a variety of Miami based journalists were paid by the US government to write inflammatory articles on the Five before the trial began,[12] ensuring their convictions and prejudicing public opinion.

“There is proof these journalists were paid thousands, which is against American law, to write and influence the local community. We are continuing to pursue this matter and filed a motion, in the hope it will show how unfair and illegal the trial was and to have the convictions overturned,” LaRiva said. There is, however, no indication when Judge Lenard will rule on the matter. “It could be next month, it could be years from now.” Not that much was needed to convince most members of the Cuban-American community of the Five’s guilt. “Miami is the center of anti-revolutionary sentiment, so there was no way the Five would get a fair trial,” LaRiva commented.

Political influence exerted by anti-Castro groups may have led to the initial arrests, recently revealed information suggests. All of the Five’s activities were apparently well known to the FBI more than two years prior to being exposed. The agency was keeping tabs on their movements, in part to gain information on the exile organizations. There was no indication that the FBI considered the Cuban intelligence officers a threat to national security.[13] In 1997 FBI officials were invited to Havana to examine documents outlining future plans for terrorist attacks by the counter-revolutionary groups infiltrated by the Cuban agents. What happened next is the accepted storyline – that the FBI took the documents from the Cuban government, returned to the United States, then promptly uncovered and arrested the Cuban Five, while doing nothing against the anti-revolutionary groups. There may have been, however, another impetus for the timing of the arrests, this coming from the newly appointed head of the FBI field office in Miami, Hector Pesquera. The Puerto Rican Pesquera was the first Hispanic in that position, and was soon to become closely associated with the exile leadership, including a few suspected of being involved in acts of terrorism against Cuba. Pesquera, now retired from the FBI, apparently bragged that he was responsible for forcing the arrests of the Five, over the objections of many of his own agents who wanted to continue gaining information from monitoring the Cuban agents. Arresting them would end that opportunity. Pesquera told a Miami radio station he changed the FBI focus on the Cuban Five from their surveillance to their arrests.[14] He also claimed the case came to trial in part because of his entreaties to FBI Director Louis Freeh to move ahead with the prosecution of the Five.[15]

The ruling allowing González to stay in Cuba is an encouraging sign in the continuing struggle to free the others, LaRiva enthused. “It is giving us a lot of energy to worker harder for the four still in jail. It has been too many years these men have been punished unjustly. Some have never been able to see their wives, others have had to stay in jail when family members have died. I don’t know what impact René’s ruling will have on the others, but it helps bring attention and it is great to have him free.”

The Cuban Five and Alan Gross

Since the ruling was announced, speculation has risen regarding the possibility of trading the other members of the Cuban Five with jailed American subcontractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced to 15 years for bringing illegal communication equipment into Cuba with the intent of setting up internet connections that would be undetected by the government. While the Cuban government continues to indicate its willingness to discuss a swap with Gross and the other Cuban Five, Phil Horowitz, the lawyer for González, commented that the ruling has nothing to do with Gross and that he does not expect any movement towards the possibility of an exchange.[16] Gross was working for United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a government institution that has publicly acknowledged its support for regime change in Cuba. USAID has run into difficulties with other countries in Latin America, with Bolivian president Evo Morales expelling the organization in early May on charges of allegedly interfering and conspiring against the government.[17]

Not surprisingly, disapproval of the González ruling came from the staunch anti-Castro collection of Cuban-American congressmen. Leading the objection was Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who is consistent in her opposition to anything the Cuban government supports. “I respect our judicial system and I respect the judge’s decision. However, I disagree with it because the case of this convicted spy proves that you can inflict harm on your country of birth, spy in favor of an enemy state, serve only part of your sentence and, be released, even under restricted sentence … and then later retire to a quiet and prosperous life under the total protection of the Cuban regime.”[18] Ros-Lehtinen also felt the ruling was unfair while Gross remained jailed in Cuba.

The case of the Five has remained a source of post-Cold War antagonism between the two countries, where the agents are hailed as heroes in Havana and vilified as spies in Miami. As far as LaRiva is concerned, the decision to allow González to stay in Cuba couldn’t have come at a better time, as she and others will be out in full force in Washington May 30 to June 4 for a series of events to bring attention to the continuing plight of the Cuban Five. “This will energize everyone there; it shows the importance of continuing the struggle. We have one free and four more to go.”

Keith Bolender, Research Fellow at the Council of Hemispheric Affairs and author of Cuba Under Siege (Palgrave 2012)

[2] ‘Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba’ Keith Bolender (Pluto Press 2010).
[3] ibid.
[4]‘Key Cuban Foe Claims Exile’s Backing,’ Ann Louise Bardach and Larry Rohter, NY Times, July 12, 1998
[6] Both incidents can be found in ‘What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five,’ Stephen Kimber (Fernwood 2013) pending publication later this year.
[8] ‘US gives cold shoulder over prisoners and their suffering families’, Oakland Ross, Toronto Star, April 28, 2013
[9] ‘Cuban spy unrepentant, but hopes for better ties’ Andrea Rodriguez, Associated Press, May 6

[10] Interview with author, May 5, 2013
[11] Stephen Kimber in his book (see note 6) read all 20,000 pages of trial transcripts, and could not come up with any evidence.
[13]‘What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five,’ Stephen Kimber (Fernwood 2013)
[14] This information is covered extensively in Stephen Kimber’s upcoming book
[17] ‘Bolivian President Evo Morales orders expulsion of USAID’, Mariano Castillo, CNN, May 1
[18] Cite this

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