Posts Tagged ‘stephen kimber’

Washington DC: Cause of Five Receives New Push Today

June 5, 2014

5 days for the 5

The advocacy of Five today received a boost when two authoritative voices on the subject spoke with reporters in Washington, exposing little-known intricacies of the legal process and shed light on an issue about which the attitude of the media has here been marked by a deliberate distancing.

On Wednesday morning, convened by the International Committee to Free the Five, at the National Press Club, were Stephen Kimber, Canadian professor and author, and lawyer Martin Garbus, who heads the legal team in the case .

Was this the prelude to what will be the Third “5 Days for the 5” in the U.S. capital, where for the third consecutive year, starting tomorrow, people from all over the U.S., along with delegations from Europe, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, will meet to discuss the case of the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters and demand changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

During the press conference today, attorney Martin Garbus referred to the use of federal money to pay reporters in Miami, describing it as an action that violates U.S. law and about which, he said, the legal team of Five has asked the government to release documents held nsvk, because “we do not know what is in it, but it’s huge,” he said.

Garbus said the subversive activities of the U.S. government over the print and broadcast media in Miami to get a conviction against the Five “verges on the unthinkable and unprecedented.”

Canadian academic and journalist Stephen Kimber, author of “What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five,” was critical of the legal process under which the five were prosecuted, while U.S. claimed “Some kind of humanitarian exchange” for these.

The Third “5 days for the 5” runs through June 10 and includes lectures and panel discussions on the future of US-Cuba relations.

The formal opening session of the conference on Thursday will feature the actor Danny Glover, a well-known supporter of efforts for the release of the Five.

(This came from Juan Jacomino at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC. Spanish below. Google translation revised by Walter Lippmann.)
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Washington DC: Causa de los Cinco recibe nuevo impulso

La defensa de la causa de los Cinco recibió hoy un nuevo impulso cuando dos voces autorizadas en el tema dialogaron con la prensa en Washington, exponiendo interioridades poco conocidas del proceso legal y arrojando luz sobre un asunto acerca del cual la actitud de los medios aquí ha estado marcada por un deliberado distanciamiento.

En la mañana de hoy miércoles, convocados por el Comité Internacional por la Liberación de los Cinco, comparecían en el National Press Club de esta ciudad Stephen Kimber, profesor y autor canadiense, y el abogado Martin Garbus, quien encabeza el equipo legal en el caso.

Era este el preludio de lo que será la Tercera Jornada “5 días por los 5” en la capital norteamericana, donde por tercer año consecutivo, a partir de mañana, personas de todas partes de los EE.UU, junto con delegaciones de Europa, Canadá, América Latina y el Caribe, se reunirán para examinar el caso de los Cinco luchadores cubanos contra el terrorismo y demandar modificaciones en la política de EE.UU. hacia Cuba.

Durante la conferencia de prensa hoy, el abogado Martin Garbus se refirió a la utilización de dinero federal para el pago a periodistas en Miami, acción que describió como violatoria de la ley norteamericana y acerca de la cual dijo que el equipo legal de los Cinco ha pedido al gobierno que libere los documentos que posee, pues “lo que aún no sabemos es enorme”, aseguró.

Garbus expresó que el accionar subversivo del gobierno estadounidense sobre los medios impresos, radiales y televisivos de Miami para obtener una condena contra los Cinco “raya en lo inconcebible, y no tiene precedentes”.

El académico y periodista canadiense Stephen Kimber, autor del libro “What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five”, fue crítico del proceso legal bajo el cual fueron procesados los Cinco, al tiempo que reclamó de EE.UU. “algún tipo de intercambio humanitario” para estos.

La Tercera Jornada “5 días por los 5” se extenderá hasta el 10 de junio y contempla conferencias y paneles de discusión sobre el futuro de las relaciones Estados Unidos-Cuba.

La sesión de apertura formal de la Jornada este jueves contará con la presencia del actor Danny Glover, conocido partidario de los esfuerzos por la liberación de los Cinco.

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What Lies Across the Water: the real story of the Cuban Five by Stephen Kimber

February 15, 2014

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I (Helen Yaffe) wrote this book review of Stephen Kimber’s ‘real story of the Cuban Five’ for Science & Society. It is not due to be published until October 2014 (Vol. 78, No.4), but they have kindly given me permission to post it on my blog prior to publication. I wanted to post the review early to draw attention to an important event which takes place in London next month: the International Commission of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five, on 7 and 8 March. The Commission website can be found here: http://www.voicesforthefive.com/,
The following day, Sunday 9 March, there will be a rally to demand justice for the Five in Trafalgar Square from 2pm. Details here:

http://www.ratb.org.uk/news/campaign-news/380-ra100214,

Stephen Kimber, What Lies Across the Water: the real story of the Cuban Five, Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2014. 296 pages. $29.95 CAD. ISBN: 9781552665428

Review by Helen Yaffe*

According to the author, this book owes its existence to serendipity. In 2009 Stephen Kimber was in Havana researching for a love story he planned to write when, he explains, he ‘got sideswiped by the truth-is-stranger-but-way-more-interesting story of the Cuban Five.’ (1) Thanks to serendipity, Kimber has produced the first full-length book in English about the case of the Cuban Five. During his research, the Canadian writer, broadcaster and professor of journalism read 20,000-pages of court transcripts, and a mass of books, media reports and documents. He conducted interviews and established correspondence with the Five in prison. The book is organized chronologically into sections which are sub-divided by diary-like entries providing updates on the entire ‘cast of characters’. This work is meticulously researched, factual without being dull and written with sensitivity and honesty – warts and all. It is as gripping as an action-packed movie and deeply moving.

Most important, it contextualizes the story of the Cuban Five within the shocking history of Miami-based Cuban exile attacks against the Cuban Revolution and the turning-a-blind-eye, or often complicity, of US authorities. Since 1959, 3,478 Cubans have died and 2,099 been injured as a result of terrorist attacks or aggression against Cuba. Kimber’s account covers the 1990s, when the collapse of the Soviet bloc heralded the end of the Cold War and Cuba took an economic battering following the loss of 80% of its trade and investment, resulting in a GDP collapse of 34%. The US government (intensifying the blockade) and right-wing exiles (increasing terrorist attacks) hoped to exploit Cuba’s vulnerability and undermine its efforts to end political isolation and economic crisis, partly by developing its tourist industry.

At the centre of this exile opposition is the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), ‘ostensibly the single most powerful American lobby group working for peaceful, democratic regime change in Cuba. CANF has helped elect – and influenced the Cuba policy of – every American president since Ronald Reagan.’ (7) However, Kimber explains, members of CANF, ‘were also organizing and financing their own secret paramilitary wing whose purpose was to overthrow the Cuban government by force, and, if possible, murder Fidel Castro.’ (7) At least 638 assassination attempts have been documented by Cuban authorities.

The US government created the monster, Kimber explains. Shortly after the Cuban Revolution of January 1959: ‘the CIA set up shop on the south campus of the University of Miami, doling out $50 million to hire a permanent staff of 300 to oversee the insurrectionist work of more than 6,000 Cuban exile agents.’ (15) The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 catalyzed the campaign of sabotage and terrorism. Among the young exile recruits who received training in bomb-making and sabotage from the CIA were Felix Rodriguez, the CIA’s operative behind the execution of Che Guevara, Jorge Mas Canosa, founder of CANF, and, ‘the founding fathers of anti-Castro terrorism’(7): Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch Avila. Most infamous among their joint criminal enterprises is the blowing up of a civilian Cubana Airlines flight in 1976, killing all 73 people on board.

This book demonstrates that terrorist attacks against Cuba have never ceased and were actually escalated in the 1990s. A hotel bombing campaign in Havana left an Italian tourist dead in 1997. Posada’s plan to bomb the popular tourist night club, Tropicana, was thwarted by a Cuban intelligence agent whom he entrusted with the task. The agent had been promised $10,000 per bomb. Another plan uncovered by Cuban agents involved bombing civilian airlines carrying tourists to and from Cuba. This was three years before the terrible airborne terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the so-called ‘war on terrorism’.

The need to keep abreast of these plots, and the abject failure of the US authorities to prevent or punish the perpetrators, led Cuban intelligence to create the Wasp Network (La Red Avispa) to infiltrate Miami exile-groups and gather information. The agents who stepped into this murky labyrinth of conspiracy and intrigue were Gerardo Hernández, Rene González, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. In fact, Kimber explains, ten Cuban agents were arrested in 1998, but five of them struck deals with the US authorities; lesser sentences in exchange for testifying against their compatriots. That’s not all. According to Kimber: ‘Adding up all those names and code names, I arrived at a total of 22 members of La Red Avispa.’ (9)

The agent’s preparations involved affecting growing disillusionment with the Revolution before ‘abandoning’ the country. In December 1990, Rene González ‘escaped’ to the US on a hijacked Cuban aircraft. That night, Rene was wined and dined by the Cuban-American president of Key West’s Latin American Chamber of Commerce. He joined exile-group Brothers to the Rescue, led by CIA-trained José Basulto, which ran hostile flights over Cuban airspace.

Kimber describes the personal anguish and sacrifice involved for the Cuban agents. With trepidation we read that the FBI began surveillance of the agents in 1996. In June 1998, an unprecedented meeting took place in Havana between Cuba’s Interior Ministry, the FBI and other US agencies. This followed Fidel’s warnings, delivered via Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez directly to President Bill Clinton, about CANF plans to ‘set up bombs in planes from Cuba or any other country’s airline carrying tourists to, or from, Cuba to Latin American countries.’ (185) Kimber explains: ‘the Cubans presented the Americans with a blizzard of material: photos, audio and video tapes, confessions, wiretap transcripts, bomb-making paraphernalia…’ (199) and three documents: a 65-page Report on Terrorist Activities Against Cuba, a 61-page who’s-who of 40 exiles the Cubans had identified as terrorists, and a 52-page Operational Appendices with intricate details of operations. Unaware that Wasp Network was under FBI surveillance, the Cubans were determined to hide the identities of their agents. The FBI took the information away to ‘evaluate’. Then they arrested the Wasp Network.

The court case took place in Miami; a fair trial was impossible. The Cuban 5 were convicted of false identification, conspiracy to commit espionage and, in Gerardo Hernández’s case, conspiracy to commit murder. He was blamed for the shoot-down of Brothers to the Rescue aircraft in 1996. They received sentences ranging from 15 years to life. In 2005, a US court conceded that the Cuban Five did not receive a fair trial and ordered a retrial in a new location. The US Attorney General overturned this decision and the convictions were upheld. Evidence since obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveals that the US government paid millions of dollars to Miami-area journalists to prejudice the public against the Cuban Five before and during their trial.

The Five have received ‘cruel and unusual’ treatment, including long stretches in isolation and being denied access to lawyers or family-visits. In late 2011, Rene González (15 years) was granted ‘supervised release’ on a three-year term, initially under life-threatening conditions; to remain in Miami alongside the terrorists he monitored. In spring 2013 he returned permanently to Cuba. In late February 2014, Fernando González (18 years) will be released into detention by US immigration authorities, prior to his return to Cuba. Antonio Guerrero (22 years) and Ramón Labañino (30 years) face many more years of incarceration. Gerardo Hernandez (two consecutive life sentences) will never leave prison, except through political intervention.

All of this has been tracked and opposed by an international campaign to demand the freedom of the Cuban Five. Campaign committees are active in many countries and especially active in the US. Some progress has been made in engaging international ‘dignitaries’, from actors to politicians, in raising the campaign’s profile. However, as mainstream media censorship has prevailed public knowledge of the case is limited. Kimber makes a vital contribution to addressing that by revealing the real story of the Cuban Five.

*Dr Helen Yaffe, completed her doctorate in Cuban economic history at the London School of Economics. She is the author of Che Guevara: the economics of Revolution, first published by Palgrave MacMillan in English in 2009. (http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?PID=307678,)

Review of What lies across the water.

January 17, 2014

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What lies across the water. The real story of the Cuban Five.
Stephen Kimber.
Fernwood Publishing, 2013

by Paul Evrard
Oddly enough, the author did not intend to write this book. He was contemplating a novel that would occur in Cuba. Therefore he visited the island several times ten years ago to get inspired. But during his stay he continually faced the ubiquitous Five Young Heroes. Until one day he had a guide, Alejandro, who also happened to be an interpreter, a former bodyguard and security guard of Fidel Castro, also active in counterespionage. When they touched on the subject of the difficult relations with the U.S., Alejandro said: “Whoever may be president of the US and whoever is in charge in Cuba, those relationships will never improve until the case of the Five is resolved!”
This was the trigger for Kimber. As a journalist, he became so intrigued by this thing that he began a thorough investigation. This book came to be without intending to write it.
The subtitle suggests a completed story, but that will be for the next book. He was forced to rely on the media because even though he received much information from the Cuban side and also corresponded and spoke with the Five himself, the archives in the U.S. remain closed.
The book reads like a real spy novel, even though this is not fiction.
The first chapter describes the background, the reasons why Cuba let some of his best people ‘defect’ to the U.S. to try and stop terrorism from Florida.
The rest of the story is structured chronologically like a journal would be. None of the chapters cover more than a few pages which makes the reading very enjoyable.
We get an exclusive look behind the scenes with stories that can be very personal and even intimate. And although I am now tempted to lift the veil on some delightful passages, I will leave you in suspense. There are so many details involved that the reader will regularly jump back and forth while reading, to refresh his memory.
The final chapters provide us with a summary, some conclusions and some explanatory notes as Kimber submitted his manuscript to the Five and he subsequently reveals their comments.
Although several books have been published about the Five, this is probably the most insightful mainly because it deals with such a complicated matter of which we do not yet know the gist.

PS: Kimber has also managed to write a long opinion piece for the Washington Post. This article is the perfect summary of his book and an ideal eye-opener for the public opinion in the U.S. where this case is largely ignored. ( https://realcuba.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/the-cuban-five-were-fighting-terrorism-why-did-we-put-them-in-jail/, )

(transl. Kurt B.)

Review of WHAT LIES ACROSS THE WATER

November 1, 2013

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WHAT LIES ACROSS THE WATER
The Real Story of the Cuban Five

By Stephen Kimber
Halifax & Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2013, 284 pp.

Review by Jane Franklin

[Originally published in a shorter version in the November 2013 issue of Z Magazine]

Stephen Kimber was planning to write a novel, a love story set partly in Cuba. What he ended up writing is indeed set partly in Cuba but takes place mostly in Florida, where, as we all know from novels and movies and real life, anything can happen. And here it does. Who would believe this story if it were not real?

What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five is an historical narrative, an expose, a political thriller, a romance, entwined in a maze of endless twists and turns involving terrorists and foreign agents, with the FBI’s surveillance and perfidy leading inexorably to tragedy.

By weaving the story of the Cuban Five into the history of U.S.-Cuban relations, Kimber highlights the grotesque patterns of both the history and the story. Take, for example, what he does with the figure of Orlando Bosch.

Those who have studied the war of terror that the United States has been waging on Cuba ever since 1959 are of course aware of Bosch’s central role. Partially educated in the United States, Bosch led a failed rebellion against the Cuban revolutionary government and then fled back to Miami with his wife and children in 1960. No sooner had Bosch settled in Florida than he launched his career of terrorism, joining the CIA’s Operation 40, running the Insurrectional Movement of Revolutionary Recovery (MIRR), firing a bazooka at a Polish freighter in the Port of Miami, violating parole, fleeing to Venezuela.

In June 1976 Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, an equally notorious terrorist, were leaders in the formation of the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU), an umbrella group for attacks not only against Cuba itself but against countries and individuals considered friendly to Cuba.

CORU immediately went on a rampage of terrorist attacks in several countries. In October Bosch and Posada masterminded the bombing of a Cubana Airlines passenger jet, blowing it out of the sky as it was leaving Barbados, killing all 73 people aboard — the first time a passenger jet was used as a terrorist weapon (that didn’t happen again until 9/11).

After years under Venezuelan arrest for that crime, Bosch returned to Florida in 1988 and was released from detention (for parole violation) in 1990 even though the Department of Justice had earlier ordered that he be deported as a terrorist. Thus a mass killer was released to walk free in Miami, where he was celebrated as a heroic freedom fighter.

The Cuban government, of course, wasn’t amused. “We cannot calmly take the news of the release of Orlando Bosch, who is a terrorist,” explained a spokesperson for the Cuban Interest Section in Washington. Havana had no intention of waiting quietly for [Bosch’s] next trick. (19)

What Kimber adds to this familiar history is a startling revelation: the connection between the release of this terrorist and Cuba’s quick decision to establish a new network of intelligence agents in Florida to foil the plots of Bosch and his fellow terrorists. This marked the birth of what Havana code-named La Red Avispa, the Wasp Network:

Although the group that would become known as the Cuban Five consists of the five men – Gerardo Hernández, René González, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino, and Antonio Guerrero – who stood in the prisoners’ dock in Miami when their trial finally began in 2000, there were, initially, many more than five of them. . . .When FBI agents initially swooped in on September 12, 1998, they arrested 10 people. Five of them quickly struck deals, pleading guilty in exchange for lesser sentences and a promise to testify against their compatriots. (8)

Kimber points out that, in the end, of the five who copped a deal, only one, Joseph Santos, testified in the trial and his testimony was mostly about how Cuba recruited, trained and deployed their agents.

At the time of the arrests, the FBI publicly identified four other Avispa agents it claimed had left the country before they could be arrested. That makes 14. Kimber concludes that there were at least 22 agents in La Red Avispa. (Therein lies, across the water, one of the mysteries that remain – the stories of the other eight.)

The first agent who became part of the Cuban Five arrived in December 1990, only five months after Orlando Bosch was released in July. René González flew away from Cuba in a stolen crop duster, landed in Key West, and became an instant celebrity. Here the political thriller begins, for he, like all the other Cuban intelligence agents, was risking his life to protect a country under siege by the United States.

René immediately became two different heroes. In Florida the anti-Cubans mistakenly thought he was their hero. In Cuba he was actually a hero but only a very few Cubans could know that. Other Cubans considered him a defector (a traitor and a thief who stole a plane) until after the arrests eight years later.

Stephen Kimber succeeds in making the difficulties of this painful double identity palpable for all the agents he describes. Right away we are shown how much this agent, his wife, and their daughter sacrificed in exchange for the agent’s job of trying to stop terrorist attacks against Cuba.

Of course when René left home, his wife Irma Salanueva soon found out he had defected. She could not believe it. Suddenly she was a single mom. In his first letter to her he told her he had come to “a wonderful country” with opportunities for all of them. He was even investigating a school for their daughter, Irmita. In response, she wrote that she wanted nothing to do with him. “`I wish you luck in your new future but it will not be with me.’” (23) Through all the years since 1990, Kimber unfolds this love story that transcended more than two decades of heartache and separation until René, having completed his sentence, was released from prison in 2011 under “supervised release” and allowed to stay in Cuba in 2013.

The lives of the Cuban Five are heartrending stories of families living through years of uncertainty and separation. In 1994 Gerardo Hernandez left his wife Adriana Pérez to arrive in Miami as a Puerto Rican named Manuel Viramóntez. “Adriana didn’t – but did – know what her husband did.” (89) His Cuban friends and relatives thought he was a diplomat posted at the embassy in Buenos Aires, but his assignment was to supervise the agents of La Red Avispa.

At the time of the arrests, Gerardo was continuing to try to bring Adriana to Miami. They wanted to have children. After the arrests, with Gerardo sentenced to two lifetimes plus 15 years, the U.S. Justice Department’s refusal to grant a visa to Adriana prevents them from having children.
Kimber intricately weaves the individual stories of the agents into the intrigue and dangers of their political work. Notice how he introduces Juan Pablo Roque into the murderous world of José Basulto, another major terrorist who had organized Brothers to the Rescue:

Perhaps it was because they’d both fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba by swimming to freedom across Guantanamo Bay: José Basulto in 1961 in the wake of the Bay of Pigs debacle; Juan Pablo Roque more than 30 years later after he’d become so disillusioned with his life under communism he “pulled on some scuba gear and flippered his way to the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo,” where he demanded asylum. Or perhaps, Basulto thought, he liked the young defector so much simply because his story seemed so compelling, and he told it so well.” (44)

Roque had studied in the Soviet Union and returned to Cuba as an Air Force MiG pilot, just the sort to fly for Brothers to the Rescue, or so thought Basulto, who took a special liking to the dashing MiG pilot. Basulto did not know that two of his pilots were Cuban agents. René González and Juan Pablo Roque did not know either, because members of La Red Avispa did not generally know each other; only their supervisor knew who was who.
Thanks to Roque, Cuban State Security knew all about José Basulto’s “interest in acquiring long-range weapons for attempts on the Commander-in-Chief’s life [and] his money-gathering for attempts on some people’s lives in Cuba.” Roque had also told his bosses about instructions he’d received from Brothers on ways to “interfere” with the air traffic control towers at Cuban airports. (87)

What would have happened if Basulto had found out who these agents really were? He obviously had no qualms about killing people.
Nor did the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), the wealthiest and therefore the most influential of all the anti-Cuban groups in the United States. Until a former board member angrily exposed their covert military arm in 2006, CANF insisted that it was a nonviolent organization. Because of its intelligence agents, Cuba told the truth that Washington pretended not to believe even though of course the FBI also knew the truth.
Even Roque’s autobiography had produced positive, if unexpected intelligence: the Cuban American National Foundation, which had underwritten its publication, asked Roque to provide a “technical assessment of using arrow-rockets to [make an] attempt on the Commander-in-Chief’s life.” (87)

Meanwhile, CANF peacefully lobbied Congress and financed Cuban émigrés who became members of Congress, contributing money to both Democrats and Republicans, creating and orchestrating the passage of the Torricelli Act of 1992 and the Helms-Burton Law of 1996 – legal terrorism aimed, from the beginning, at starving the whole Cuban people into submission. The Real Story of the Cuban Five is a continuing part of that constant U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Kimber knew next to nothing about the Cuban Five as he started investigating the story, but his prodigious research, including his study of the entire trial transcript, and his interviews, along with his correspondence with the Cuban Five in their prisons around the United States, revealed to him the tremendous dimensions of what he, as a Canadian, was exposing:

So the story of the Cuban Five isn’t really the story of the Five at all. Or, at least, it’s not just their story. And it isn’t a simple linear narrative. It’s a cascading accumulation of incident and irritant, of connivance and consequence, a parallel, converging, diverging narrative featuring an ensemble cast of eclectic characters on both sides of the Straits of Florida – spies, terrorists, revolutionaries, counter-revolutionaries, cops, mercenaries, politicians, heroes, villains, journalists, innocents – whose personal ambitions, actions, loyalties, vanities, secrets, strengths and foibles collectively weave larger narratives about Cuban-American relations, about the war on terror, about hypocrisy, about truth and fiction, about right and wrong. (9)

Kimber describes the build-up in 1997 and 1998 to the arrests of the Cuban Five, rife with mysteries and surprises found in fiction. More than once Kimber remarks that nothing is as it seems.

One surprise to lots of us at the time, in November 1997, was the fact that the U.S. Coast Guard in Puerto Rican waters actually arrested multimillionaire members of CANF who had been on their way to assassinate President Fidel Castro on Venezuela’s Margarita Island where he was to attend an Ibero-American Summit meeting. Their trial was pending when the Cuban Five were arrested a year later. Some analysts have speculated that one factor in the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to arrest the Cuban Five in September 1998 was to deflect attention from CANF’s would-be assassins. The media predictably focused on the “Cuban terrorists” rather than CANF’s terrorists who were acquitted of all charges while the Cuban Five were awaiting trial in December 1999. Héctor Pesquera, the FBI director in Puerto Rico at the time of the arrests of the CANF members, was transferred to Miami and became the FBI director in charge of the arrests of the Cuban Five.

Kimber’s coverage of the inexorable path to the arrests of the Cuban Five zig-zags through the bombing campaign that Luis Posada orchestrated in Havana in 1997 and 1998; Gabriel García Márquez’s effort to persuade the Clinton Administration to stop U.S.-based terrorism, followed by the FBI’s delegation to Havana in June 1998 to receive information from Cuban authorities about the terrorist network in Miami; the front-page exposure of Luis Posada boasting of terrorism in the July 1998 New York Times; and the role of FBI agent George Kisynzski, the “very good friend” of Luis Posada, in the handling of a tip about a boat loaded with explosives in Miami.

FBI agents are always colluding with anti-Cuban elements because the FBI’s job is to enforce the law of our land – the U.S. policy, codified in the Helms-Burton Law, aimed at overthrowing the Cuban Government. Kimber includes an explanation of “the yellow light” (208) used by the FBI to warn terrorism suspects to “lay low” for a while.

My own favorite example of such a “yellow light” occurred during the so-called “FBI investigation” of the 1997 plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. Aboard the boat searched by the Coast Guard were two .50-caliber ultra-long-range super powerful sniper rifles. One belonged to CANF President Francisco (Pepe) Hernandez. When I learned that FBI agents “interviewed” Pepe, I could hear the message: “lay low until this blows over.” Pepe was never charged and remains the president of CANF as of this writing.

The FBI knows who is who in the anti-Cuban groups and, as the evidence presented in the trial of the Cuban Five reveals, they also knew who was who in La Red Avispa. They had been watching the Cuban Five for years, implanting listening devices in their homes, following them to meetings, watching and waiting. The story of how Juan Pablo Roque serendipitously escaped is one of the most exciting in the book.

What Lies Across the Water shows that the most egregious charge, verdict, and sentence in the trial of the Cuban Five were based on a blatantly egregious lie: that Gerardo Hernández had something to do with the famous 1996 “shootdown” of two Brothers to the Rescue planes. The charge against him of conspiracy to commit murder led to his receiving a life sentence and to his other life sentence not being reduced so that he has two life sentences plus 15 years. First, that charge was added seven months after the initial indictment. Then, at the conclusion of the trial, the prosecutors themselves filed a last-minute emergency petition to prevent the jurors from voting on the murder count against Gerardo. They had decided that there was not sufficient evidence and that this would “`likely result in the failure of the prosecution.’” (232-33) The Appeals Court rejected their petition.

Kimber connects the story of the Cuban Five not just to the preceding history but also to events during and after the trial. Each question he explores adds more significance to the story. How did such seemingly extraneous issues as the attempt to keep Elián González in Miami impact opinion in Miami, the venue of the trial? How was Posada’s plot to kill President Fidel Castro in the year 2000 thwarted? (I see startled expressions whenever I point out that if that plan had succeeded, plastic explosive would have blown up an auditorium with about 2,000 people inside. Imagine the carnage if Cuban agents had not been doing their job.)

How did the trial of the Cuban Five relate to the trial of Luis Posada in El Paso, Texas, in 2011? And what about the case of Alan Gross? Cuba has its own stories of watching and waiting. Kimber follows Alan Gross from his first visit to Cuba in 2004 until his arrest in 2009. Cuban officials were aware of exactly what he was doing during all those five years. Gross, working for the State Department, was, like the FBI agents, doing his job. Does the U.S. Government care enough about its agent to exchange him for the four members of the Cuban Five who remain in prison?

Jane Franklin is one of the world’s leading experts on Cuba-U.S. relations. She is the author of Cuban Foreign Relations: A Chronology, 1959-1982 (New York: Center for Cuban Studies, 1984) and Cuba and the United States: A Chronological History (New York and Melbourne: Ocean Press, 1997). She is co-author of Vietnam and America (New York: Grove Press, 1995). Her chronology of the history of Panama is in The U.S. Invasion of Panama (Boston: South End Press, 1991). Some of her work may be accessed at janefranklin.info.

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The Cuban Five Case Inside-Out

July 31, 2013

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by Dawn Gable

HAVANA TIMES — The endnotes of What Lies Across the Water* opens with: “The truth is — everybody lies.” But I believe author Stephen Kimber when he says that as part of his research for this book he read the more than 20,000-pages of United States of America vs. Gerardo Hernández ” from opening gavel to final sentencing.”

His detailed presentation of the case of the Cuban Five– five counter-terrorism agents, who operated in Miami and who refused to plea bargain when the larger network of Cuban agents they belonged to was arrested, is evidence of the painstaking digging Kimber has done to bring readers this full-blown account.

Although the subtitle is The Real Story of the Cuban Five, this book is much more than that. It peers into all the nooks and crannies of the last couple of decades of the ongoing saga of Miami-originated violence against the Cuban people, its leaders, and anyone perceived as friendly to its government or economy. It shines a light on famous villains such as Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch and introduces lesser known perpetrators like Francisco Chavez Abarca and Santiago Alvarez.

Relying on news articles, interviews, court evidence and government documents, in both English and Spanish, Kimber reports on the failed attempts by the U.S. and Cuban governments, in the late 1990′s, to cooperate on mutual national security concerns, employing a cast of characters ranging from U.S. diplomat Michael Kozak and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez as well as the FBI and Cuban State Security.

He draws from documents obtained through FIOA requests, filed by the National Security Archives and investigative journalists, to give shape to the newest piece of the puzzle– Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor hired to carry out aspects of the State Department’s regime change program inside Cuba, who is currently serving a 15 year sentence in a Cuban prison.

Far from being a boring account of deeds and misdeeds, Kimber employs eloquent prose and an enjoyable style to draw the reader into the tangled layers of terrorism and murder, espionage and deception, propaganda and myths, life sentences and impunity, meanness and hatred, love and sacrifice, romance and solitude, patriotism and delusion, good intentions and bad, and lies, lies, and more lies.

It reads like a page-turner novel, but it’s not. It is the unbelievably tragic history of modern U.S.-Cuba relations. Kimber, a professor of journalism at Halifax University and author of several other books, uses his brilliant turn of phrase to help his readers navigate through the tall tales and “official truths” guiding them to a more realistic view of the landscape and the prospects for diplomatic relations between the two feuding countries, for freedom for Alan Gross and the four Cuban agents still under lock and key, and for a life without fear of violence and intervention for the Cuban people.

I have only one criticism of the writing: the constant use of the term “America” when referring to the United States.

The only shortcomings I can mention in terms of content is, in reality, just my desire to keep the conversation going. Kimber begins his book listing its main characters, and ends it with a “where are they now” section. I would like to have seen more names on this lists.

For example, Michael Kozak, who was head U.S. diplomat in Cuba during the hotel bombing campaign and whose role in the FBI-Cuban State Security cooperative efforts are outlined in the book, is currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, which receives large sums of Cuba regime change money, which it funnels into the National Endowment for Democracy.

Hector Pesquera is another. As the book explains, he was the FBI agent in charge who ordered the arrest of the Cuban agents and later ordered the FBI’s files on Posada Carriles to be destroyed. While focusing his attention on the Cubans, he completely missed the 9-11 attackers who were preparing, within his jurisdiction, to murder thousands of U.S. citizens. Pesquera is currently the Superintendent of the Puerto Rico Police and recently there has been speculation that he is in the running to replace Janet Napolitano for Secretary of Homeland Security.

Lastly, whatever happened to the agents who turned state’s evidence against their brothers? Their sentences were up long ago. Surely they were not welcomed back to Cuba, but would they be safe in Miami. The big unsolved mystery in the case of the Cuban Five is how the FBI was originally tipped off to the agent network. Is there any reason to believe that one of those agents was a snitch all along?

I have been following the case of the Cuban Five for over a decade and have translated dozens of articles about their case. I have also translated entire books on exile violence against Cuba, but this book offered tidbits that I was unaware of, drew connections that I had not noticed before, and most importantly to me, confirmed some suspicions and dispelled a few rumors that I was unsure about. I am confident that even expert Cubanologists will find What Lies Across the Water useful, informative, at times infuriating, but always entertaining.

*Fernwood Publishing, 296 pages. Available for pre-order at Amazon.com

The Real Story of the Cuban Five

July 19, 2013

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Stephen Kimber’s “What Lies Across the Water”

by W. T. WHITNEY
Publication of What Lies Across the Water, Stephen Kimber’s book about Cuban anti-terrorists serving wildly extravagant terms in U.S. jails, is a remarkable event. Previously appearing as an e-book, this is the first full – length book published in English on the so-called Cuban Five. They were arrested in Miami on September 12, 1998, and a worldwide movement on their behalf is demanding their freedom. Many view them as political prisoners.

In comprehensive and convincing fashion the book explains how Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González came to be arrested, tried, and imprisoned. Its coverage of bias and legal failings that marred their prosecution and trial is adequate, but less detailed. Kimber devotes more attention to events and personalities directly affecting the Five than to early anti-Cuban terror attacks and the Cuban revolution.

Journalism professor Kimber (at Canada’s University of King’s College, in Halifax, Nova Scotia) drew upon news stories in the Florida, Central American, and Cuban media and read 20,000 pages of court transcripts. He interviewed officials and contacts in Florida, Cuba, and elsewhere, also family members of the Five and the prisoners themselves, via correspondence. The author’s clear, flowing, and often seat-gripping, even entertaining, narrative is an added plus. The book is highly recommended.

Kimber starts out by confessing he was no expert on the case initially. He was about to write a novel that touched upon Cuba. Then a Cuban friend with political and intelligence experience told him that, “nothing can really be resolved between Washington and Havana until they (the Five) are returned to Cuba.” So instead of writing a novel, Kimber began work on a story he realized was important and that “needed to be told by someone who didn’t already know which versions of which stories were true.”

The way Kimber’s report unfolds serves to highlight convoluted linkages of the prisoners’ experiences and their case to the many-faceted U.S. apparatus set up to undo the Cuban revolution. Implacable, non-stop U.S. enmity sets the stage for obfuscations, contradictions, intrigue, ambiguities, and strange twists. For Kimber, the resulting atmosphere was one where “Nothing, it seems, is ever as it seems.”

For example, Cuba’s “Wasp Network” included at least 22 agents, not just the Cuban Five, as is often assumed. Agents were posted throughout the United States, away from Florida. Some of those arrested in 1998 pled guilty and served only short sentences. Cuban agents served as FBI informants. Far from exclusively monitoring private paramilitary groups, as many assume, one Cuban Five agent did gather non – classified intelligence from a U.S. military installation. For years, the FBI monitored movements, contacts, and communications of the Five and other agents. The Cuban American Nation Foundation (CANF), darling of U.S. presidents, professed non-violence, yet operated a paramilitary wing. Even the Miami Herald, reviled by Cuba solidarity activists, gains points through its reporter Juan Tamayo, who linked Havana hotel bombings to the Cuban exile terrorist Luis Posada.

The book attests to difficulties attending intelligence gathering in the midst of all but open U.S. war against Cuba. Cuban agents were well prepared, and superior officers in Havana supervised them closely. “Compartmentalized,” they were unable usually to identify fellow agents in the United States. They relied on advanced technical skills, support from loved ones, fearlessness, their own resourcefulness, their sensitive understanding of hazardous situations, and very hard work.

Kimber’s “What Lies across the Water” has the potential for stimulating new thinking on the case of the Five. Information it provides and the book’s fact-based style of presentation ought to persuade readers, it seems, to move beyond viewing the prisoners’ fate as a sort of morality tale, one with U.S. over-reaction, prisoners’ revolutionary virtue, and suffering. The book would encourage them instead to develop a response built on considering the larger context of generalized U.S. bullying of Cuba. The book may or may not succeed in this, but in all respects it is essential reading for those either new or old to the case of the Five.

The book exerts an appeal through effective portrayals of characters so far out of the ordinary, with such bizarre purposes, as almost to defy belief. They include: Cuban agent Percy Alvarado Godoy, CANF infiltrator for years; terrorist honchos Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada; the opportunistic Brothers to the Rescue leader Jose Basulto; and even Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, message carrier to the Clinton White House. There is the flamboyant Wasp agent, pilot, unfaithful husband, and FBI informant Juan Pablo Roque, who returned to Cuba; CANF founder and Miami titan Jorge Mas Canosa; and not least, Francisco Avila Azcuy. That FBI informant, Cuban spy for 13 years, and chief of Miami’s Alpha 66 private military formation was unusual, even in a setting where double agents were, and undoubtedly are, routine.

This book tells the tragic story of the Cuban Five. But here’s hoping it also helps re-orient energies of justice-seeking activists toward joining or rejoining a necessary fight. Their task is to take on the century – long U.S. campaign to impose domination over a Caribbean island. The agenda presently is to end the U.S. economic blockade, end campaigns of internal subversion and international isolation, and, surely, free the Cuban Five.

W. T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

source: CounterPunch

Family man in prison finds the words to bring his wife and daughter to his new country.

May 14, 2013

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by Stephen Kimber ( Book excerpt: The Cuban Five )

Editor’s Note: One of the things we tend to forget about clandestine intelligence agents is that their world really is clandestine. They can’t even tell their families or closest friends what they’re doing. When René González “stole” a plane and “defected” to the US in 1990, Cuban authorities told his wife Olga he was a traitor. It took four years of pleading and cajoling — still without telling her the complete truth — before René was able to win her back.

In honour of René Gonzalez’s final return to Cuba last month and of Mother’s Day, here’s a short excerpt from my upcoming book What Lies Across the Water, about the Cuban Five, five intelligence agents Cuba sent to Miami to infiltrate the anti-Castro groups trying to bring down the Cuban government.

Miami, May 24, 1994
René González looked again at the words he’d just written. It had been three years, five months and 16 days since his “defection” — three years, five months and 16 days since he had last seen Olga and their daughter Irma. Despite the time that had passed, René could still feel the righteous sting from that first letter Olga had written him. It had arrived about a month after he’d landed in the United States.

He’d gone to Miami for a weekend visit. His grandmother telephoned from Sarasota. “You have a letter,” she said. “From Olga.” René had rushed back, excited, eager, torn open the letter and… found himself “torn apart.” “I wish you luck in your new future,” Olga had written, “but it will not be with me.”

For the next week, he had wandered aimlessly, “like a zombie,” trying to come to terms with what those words meant. On the one hand — the hand that had willingly come to the United States to perform a patriotic mission for his homeland — René was proud of her “most dignified, moving and strong response to my defection.” He had expected nothing less. But on the other hand — that hand that desperately missed his wife, the hand that wanted to watch his little girl grow up in front of him — he was devastated.

Eventually, events and René’s persistence — and, of course, the reality that she still loved and missed the man she had married — wore her down. Olga finally relented. René applied to US Immigration for a visa to bring her and Irma to Florida.
But he refused to give up. It wasn’t in his nature. Even as he had gone about the tasks at hand — finding a job, a car, a place to live, befriending fellow exiles, joining anti-Castro groups, working as a roofer for a year in post-Hurricane Andrew Florida to earn money for his flight instructor licence, volunteering as a pilot with José Basulto’s Brothers to the Rescue group, trying to set up his own flight training school — he continued to write, to call Olga through friends, to plead for forgiveness, for the chance to reunite their family once again.

His cause had been aided — inadvertently and unfortunately — by events unfolding at home. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s economy collapsed. There were shortages of everything from electricity to food. People literally starved. Olga herself reported their house had been robbed, and everything of value stolen.

To make matters worse, the neighbours gossiped, sometimes loudly and pointedly, about René’s “treason.” Irma was old enough to ask questions, so Olga decided to move them to a smaller apartment in another Havana neighbourhood, closer to her parents. But then that building’s stairs collapsed, and they’d been forced to move into a temporary shelter.

Eventually, events and René’s persistence — and, of course, the reality that she still loved and missed the man she had married — wore her down. Olga finally relented. René applied to US Immigration for a visa to bring her and Irma to Florida.

“Speaking of that,” he wrote cheerfully, “I don’t know if I already told you that I received the notice of receipt from Immigration… They tell me that the process should take between 90 and 120 days. I imagine that, within that time, they will have already made an appointment with you at the [US] Interest Section in Havana to see if you are the same in the photograph I turned in… It was difficult for me to let go of that photograph, but it was the only one that more or less fit the requirements they were asking for. Besides, I imagine that it is more pleasant to grant a visa to a woman as pretty as you are than to any other woman. Anyway, I decided to sacrifice such a pretty photograph as long as I could have with me the original who is prettier still. Finally when you are here, I will be able to take hundreds of photos of you.

“As for me,” he continued in the same upbeat, chatty tone, “I am fine. As you must already know, I returned from Mexico… I am processing all the information I got there to start a [flying school] business I think will be successful… If it goes the way I hope, I think I can get a slice of what I have put up my sleeve to make money… With about 10 students, I could be assured of a good salary that would prepare me for when you all arrive.”

He skipped from subject to subject. His grandmother had had to postpone her planned trip back to Cuba because of her husband’s illness, he wrote.

“Speaking of trips to Cuba, I have been thinking about what could be a new alternative for you. Those who leave legally may travel [back to Cuba] a year after their departure. That means once you are here a year, you are free to travel there to visit whenever you want to. Unfortunately,” he added, “I can’t go with you because they would tear me to pieces if I show up there.

“Well, Tuti, I take leave in order to write a letter to your mother-in-law and another one to your daughter… Don’t fail to tell me when they call you at the Interest Section so I know the process is going smoothly.”

Of course René González still couldn’t tell his wife the truth about what he was really doing in the United States. If only.

– In December 1996, Olga and Irma joined René in Florida where Ivette would be born. In September 1998, René was arrested and Olga deported back to Cuba. She was not granted a visa to visit him during his 15 years in prison in the US.

‘I want to be with you at the beach in September’

May 9, 2013

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by Stephen Kimber

An excerpt from What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, to be published in August 2013 by Fernwood Publishing.
Editor’s Note: One of the things we tend to forget about clandestine intelligence agents is that their world really is clandestine. They can’t even tell their families or closest friends what they’re doing. When René González “stole” a plane and “defected” to the U.S. in 1990, Cuban authorities told his wife Olga he was a traitor. It took four years of pleading and cajoling — still without telling her the complete truth — before René was able to win her back.

In honour of René Gonzalez’s final return to Cuba last month and of Mother’s Day, here’s a short excerpt from my book focusing on that period when René was still trying to convince Olga to join him in Miami.

Miami, May 24, 1994

“Remember I want to be with you at the beach in September and I am not losing hope. I am sending you a very big kiss and a lot of love. From your dear husband waiting impatiently with open arms to close around you in the most tender and loving hug.”

René González looked again at the words he’d just written. It had been three years, five months and 16 days since his “defection” — three years, five months and 16 days since he had last seen Olga and their daughter Irma. Despite the time that had passed, René could still feel the righteous sting from that first letter Olga had written him. It had arrived about a month after he’d landed in the United States. He’d gone to Miami for a weekend visit. His grandmother telephoned from Sarasota. “You have a letter,” she said. “From Olga.” René had rushed back, excited, eager, tore open the letter and… found himself “torn apart.”“I wish you luck in your new future,” Olga had written, “but it will not be with me.”

For the next week, he had wandered aimlessly, “like a zombie,” trying to come to terms with what those words meant. On the one hand — the hand that had willingly come to the United States to perform a patriotic mission for his homeland — René was proud of her “most dignified, moving and strong response to my defection.” He had expected nothing less. But on the other hand — that hand that desperately missed his wife, the hand that wanted to watch his little girl grow up in front of him — he was devastated.

But he refused to give up. It wasn’t in his nature. Even as he had gone about the tasks at hand — finding a job, a car, a place to live, befriending fellow exiles, joining anti-Castro groups, working as a roofer for a year in post-Hurricane Andrew Florida to earn money for his flight instructor licence, volunteering as a pilot with José Basulto’s Brothers to the Rescue group, trying to set up his own flight training school — he continued to write, to call Olga through friends, to plead for forgiveness, for the chance to reunite their family once again.

His cause had been aided — inadvertently and unfortunately — by events unfolding at home. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s economy collapsed. There were shortages of everything from electricity to food. People — literally — starved. Olga herself reported their house had been robbed, and everything of value stolen. To make matters worse, the neighbours gossiped, sometimes loudly and pointedly, about René’s “treason.” Irma was old enough to ask questions, so Olga decided to move them to a smaller apartment in another Havana neighbourhood, closer to her parents. But then that building’s stairs collapsed, and they’d been forced to move into a temporary shelter.

Eventually, events and René’s persistence — and, of course, the reality that she still loved and missed the man she had married — wore her down. Olga finally relented. René applied to U.S. Immigration for a visa to bring her and Irma to Florida.

“Speaking of that,” he wrote cheerfully, “I don’t know if I already told you that I received the notice of receipt from Immigration… They tell me that the process should take between 90 and 120 days. I imagine that, within that time, they will have already made an appointment with you at the [U.S.] Interest Section in Havana to see if you are the same in the photograph I turned in… It was difficult for me to let go of that photograph, but it was the only one that more or less fit the requirements they were asking for. Besides, I imagine that it is more pleasant to grant a visa to a woman as pretty as you are than to any other woman. Anyway, I decided to sacrifice such a pretty photograph as long as I could have with me the original who is prettier still. Finally when you are here, I will be able to take hundreds of photos of you.

“As for me,” he continued in the same upbeat, chatty tone, “I am fine. As you must already know, I returned from Mexico… I am processing all the information I got there to start a [flying school] business I think will be successful… If it goes the way I hope, I think I can get a slice of what I have put up my sleeve to make money… With about 10 students, I could be assured of a good salary that would prepare me for when you all arrive.”
He skipped from subject to subject. His grandmother had had to postpone her planned trip back to Cuba because of her husband’s illness, he wrote.

“Speaking of trips to Cuba, I have been thinking about what could be a new alternative for you. Those who leave legally may travel [back to Cuba] a year after their departure. That means once you are here a year, you are free to travel there to visit whenever you want to. Unfortunately,” he added, “I can’t go with you because they would tear me to pieces if I show up there.

“Well, Tuti, I take leave in order to write a letter to your mother-in-law and another one to your daughter… Don’t fail to tell me when they call you at the Interest Section so I know the process is going smoothly.”

Of course René González still couldn’t tell his wife the truth about what he was really doing in the United States. If only.

In December 1996, Olga and Irma joined René in Florida where Ivette would be born. In September 1998, René was arrested and Olga deported back to Cuba. She was not granted a visa to visit him during his 15 years in prisonin the U.S.

http://cubanfive.ca/


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