Category Archives: The Cuban Five

The Cuban Five were fighting terrorism. Why did we put them in jail?

Washington Post Opinion

By Stephen Kimber, Friday, October 4, 11:12 AM

Stephen Kimber teaches journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Canada, and is the author of What Lies Across the Wather: The Real Story of the Cuban Five

READ NEWS ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST HERE

Consider for a moment what would happen if American intelligence agents on the ground in a foreign country uncovered a major terrorist plot, with enough time to prevent it. And then consider how Americans would react if authorities in that country, rather than cooperate with us, arrest and imprison the U.S. agents for operating on their soil.
Those agents would be American heroes today. The U.S. government would move heaven and Earth to get them back.

This sort of scenario has occurred, except that, in the real-life version, which unfolded 15 years ago last month, the Americans play the role of the foreign government, and Cuba – yes, Fidel Castro’s Cuba – plays the role of the aggrieved United States.

In the early 1990s, after the demise of the Soviet Union made the collapse of Cuba’s communist government seem inevitable, Miami’s militant Cuban exile groups ratcheted up their efforts to overthrow Castro by any means possible, including terrorist attacks. In 1994, for example, Rodolfo Frometa, the leader of an exile group, was nabbed in an FBI sting trying to buy a Stinger missile, a grenade launcher and anti-tank rockets that he said he planned to use to attack Cuba. In 1995, Cuban police arrested two Cuban Americans after they tried to plant a bomb at a resort in Varadero.

Those actions clearly violated U.S. neutrality laws, but America’s justice system mostly looked the other way. Although Frometa was charged, convicted and sentenced to almost four years in jail, law enforcement agencies rarely investigated allegations involving exile militants, and if they did, prosecutors rarely pursued charges. Too often, Florida’s politicians served as apologists for the exile community’s hard-line elements.

But the Cubans had their own agents on the ground in Florida. An intelligence network known as La Red Avispa was dispatched in the early 1990s to infiltrate militant exile groups. It had some successes. Agents thwarted a 1994 plan to set off bombs at the iconic Tropicana nightclub, a tourist hot spot in Havana. And they short-circuited a 1998 scheme to send a boat filled with explosives from the Miami River to the Dominican Republic to be used in an assassination attempt against Castro.

In the spring of 1998, Cuban agents uncovered a plot to blow up an airplane filled with beach-bound tourists from Europe or Latin America. (The plot resonated: Before 2001, the most deadly act of air terrorism in the Americas had been the 1976 midair bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455, which killed all 73 passengers and crew members.)
Castro enlisted his friend, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to carry a secret message about the plot to President Bill Clinton. The White House took the threat seriously enough that the Federal Aviation Administration warned airlines.

In June of that year, FBI agents flew to Havana to meet with their Cuban counterparts. During three days in a safe house, the Cubans provided the FBI with evidence their agents had gathered on various plots, including the planned airplane attack and an ongoing campaign of bombings at Havana hotels that had taken the life of an Italian Canadian businessman.
But the FBI never arrested anyone in connection with the airplane plot or the hotel attacks – even after exile militant Luis Posada Carriles bragged about his role in the Havana bombings to the New York Times in July 1998. Instead, on Sept. 12, 1998, a heavily armed FBI SWAT team arrested the members of the Cuban intelligence network in Miami.

The five agents were tried in that hostile-to-anything-Cuban city, convicted on low-bar charges of “conspiracy to commit” everything from espionage to murder and sentenced to impossibly long prison terms, including one double life sentence plus 15 years.

Fifteen years later, four of the Cubans still languish in American prisons.
Now you begin to understand why the Cuban Five – as they have become known – are national heroes in their homeland, why pictures of their younger selves loom on highway billboards all over the island, why every Cuban school child knows them by their first names: Gerardo, René, Ramon, Fernando and Antonio.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has stated that the Cuban Five “were all convicted in U.S. courts of committing crimes against the United States, including spying, treason.”
It is true that three of the five men – Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino and Fernando Gonzalez – did have, in part, military missions beyond simply infiltrating and reporting back on the activities of Miami’s exile groups. But their purpose was not to steal America’s military secrets or compromise U.S. security.

During the 1990s, Cuban authorities believed theirs might be the next Caribbean country to face an American military invasion. It wasn’t a stretch when you consider Grenada (1983), Panama (1989) and Haiti (1994). Then, too, there was the growing influence of militantly anti-Castro lobbying groups such as the Cuban American National Foundation, which were pushing Washington to overthrow Castro and his brother.

Based on its assessments of those earlier invasions, Cuban intelligence had developed a checklist of signals that an invasion might be imminent: a sudden influx of combat and reconnaissance aircraft to a southern military base, for example, or unexpected, unexplained visits by military brass to Southern Command headquarters in Miami.
Agents such as Antonio Guerrero – who worked as a janitor at the Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West from 1993 until his arrest in 1998 and is serving 22 years in prison – were Cuba’s low-tech equivalents of U.S. spy satellites, counting planes on runways and reporting back to Havana.

Of course, Cuban authorities were eager to vacuum up every tidbit of gossip their agents could find, and Havana occasionally pressured Guerrero to up his game; he responded mostly by sending clippings from base newspapers. No wonder. Guerrero spoke little English and had no security clearance; military secrets were well above his pay grade. And U.S. military secrets were never Cuba’s real priority – it just wanted to know if the Yankees were about to invade.

Seven months after the FBI charged the five with relatively insignificant counts – failing to register as foreign agents, using false identities and, more seriously but less specifically, conspiracy to commit espionage – prosecutors tacked on the charge that would galvanize Cuba’s exile community.
They charged Gerardo Hernandez, the leader of the network, with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the shootdown three years earlier of two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft.
Brothers to the Rescue, an anti-Castro group that had been rescuing rafters in the Straits of Florida but had lost its raison d’etre after a 1994 immigration deal between Washington and Havana, had been illegally violating Cuban airspace for more than a year, occasionally raining down anti-government leaflets on Havana. The Cubans protested the flights. The U.S. government did its best to prevent further incursions, but the wheels of the FAA bureaucracy ground slowly.

In early 1996, the Cubans sent messages to Washington through various intermediaries, warning that if the United States didn’t stop further Brothers flights, the Cubans would.
Washington didn’t.

So the Cubans did. On the afternoon of Feb. 24, 1996, Cuban fighter jets blew two small, unarmed Brothers to the Rescue aircraft out of the sky, killing all four men aboard.
The Cubans claim that the planes were inside their territory. The U.S. government claims – and the International Civil Aviation Organization agreed – that the planes were in international airspace when they were attacked.

But did Hernandez really know in advance that the Cuban government planned to shoot down those planes? Was he involved in the planning?
My answer is no. During my research for a book on the Cuban Five, I reviewed all 20,000-plus pages of the trial transcript and sifted through thousands of pages of decrypted communications between Havana and its agents. I found no evidence that Hernandez had any knowledge of, or influence on, the events that day.

The evidence instead paints a picture of a Cuban intelligence bureaucracy obsessed with compartmentalizing and controlling information. Hernandez, a field-level illegal intelligence officer, had no need to know what Cuba’s military planned. The messages and instructions from Havana were ambiguous, hardly slam-dunk evidence, particularly for a charge of conspiracy to commit murder.
In one message, for example, Hernandez’s bosses refer to a plan to “perfect the confrontation” with Brothers to the Rescue, which prosecutors insisted meant shooting down the planes.
But as Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch pointed out – in her 2008 dissent from a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuitupholding the murder charge against Hernandez – “There are many ways a country could ‘confront’ foreign aircraft. Forced landings, warning shots, and forced escorted journeys out of a country’s territorial airspace are among them – as are shoot downs.” She said that prosecutors “presented no evidence” to link Hernandez to the shootdown. “I cannot say that a reasonable jury – given all the evidence – could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernandez agreed to a shoot down,” Kravitch wrote.

A “reasonable jury.” There’s the rub.
By the late 1990s, Miami juries had become so notorious in cases involving Cuban exiles that federal prosecutors in a different case opposed a defense motion for a change of venue from Puerto Rico to Miami for some Cuban exiles accused of plotting to assassinate Castro.
Miami “is a very difficult venue for securing a conviction for so-called freedom fighters,” former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey explained to the Miami Herald at the time. “I had some convictions, but some acquittals that defied all reason.”

Anti-Cuban militants, in fact, were considered heroes. In 2008, more than 500 Miami exile movers and shakers gathered to honor Posada’s contributions to la causa – as the effort to overthrow Castro is known in the community – at a gala dinner.

His contributions? Besides the Havana hotel attacks (“I sleep like a baby,” he told the New York Times, commenting on the tourist who was killed), Posada is the alleged mastermind of the bombing of Cubana Flight 455. Cuba and Venezuela have asked for his extradition. The United States has refused.
In 2000, Posada was arrested in Panama in connection with a plot to assassinate Castro; he was convicted and served four yearsbefore receiving a still-controversial pardon. That pardon was revoked in 2008.

The closest the U.S. government has come to prosecuting Posada was in 2009, when the Obama administration charged him – not for his role in the Havana bombings but for lying about his role on an immigration form. He was acquitted.

Today, Posada, 85, walks the streets of Miami, a living contradiction in America’s war on terrorism. How to square his freedom with President George W. Bush’s post-Sept. 11 declaration that “any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime?” How to square Posada’s freedom with the continued imprisonment of the Cuban Five, whose primary goal was to prevent terrorist attacks?
It is a contradiction Americans should consider.

It is just a journey SAUL, The other is not true

originally posted by International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5

Gerardo Hernandez Sends a Heartfelt Letter to his Friend Saul Landau: “It is just a Journey Saul, the other is not true”

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(For Saúl Landau, with admiration and affection)

It is not true Saul, do not repeat it. I know, others are also saying it, but it is not true. There is a pain in the voice of Carmen when she answers my call, but it cannot be true.
You may say that Yes, old friends have called you and others have come from afar to see you, and the tributes have already begun. Even your own body loudly says it is true. But that does not matter, I know that it is not true. How could it be true, with so many people who admire you and love you? Adriana, whenever we talk, asks me to call you again. (And if that does not mean much to you it’s because you don’t know how she defends and fights for each and every minute of my phone time). Everyone asks for you Saul from all around the world, and like me they all know that it is just a journey, that the other is not true.

A trip where? I do not know with certainty. It is like a close play in a baseball game where no one can agree on the outcome. It is a journey that many do not return, but you’re one of the privileged ones. You’ll be here whenever Danny visits me, and in Cuba when the Five are reunited. You will return whenever someone reads one of your books, or see one of your documentaries. How could you not be there when someone asks who filmed those images of Fidel pushing the jeep stuck in the mud on that road? Or so many other images you captured while traveling half of Cuba with him in 1968? Do you think that you will not be there when someone sees “Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up” and will get to understand the case of the Five? Don’t even mention that my friend! You will always be there when people see the interview with Salvador Allende, perhaps the only or at least the most important written in English, as well as when someone discovers those still unpublished images of Fidel talking at home with Harry Belafonte.

It is just a journey Saul, the other is not true. You’ll come when someone wants to know everything about the bomb that killed Letelier and Moffit in the heart of Washington DC. When someone wants to understand Chiapas or the maquiladoras. When they read your poems, or your always accurate articles. When people mention your Medal of Friendship of Cuba, your Bernardo O’Higgins of Chile, your Emmy, and so many other awards and decorations. You will come whenever I tell someone that I had the privilege to meet you, learn from you, enjoy your sense of humor, and when they ask me to whom do I owe my brotherhood with Danny Glover. You’ll always be with your family, with your friends, with your students.

Of course it is not true Saul, I know that it is only a journey. What I don’t know is if we will be able to communicate, so I don’t want to wait for your departure to tell you; thank you for everything, my brother, it was an honor to share with you. On behalf of the Five, our families, and so many good Cubans, thank you!

I will not deny that we are sad, but at the same time we are happy to know that in your case, when it happens, it will only be a trip, because you knew how to earn that privilege.
Very soon I’ll be calling you again, but you know, do not repeat it, because it is not true Saul. It is not true that you are going to die.

Gerardo Hernández Nordelo
United States Penitentiary, Victorville, California.
August10, 2013.

Saul Landau is courageously fighting a life threatening illness.
Gerardo’s letter was read to Saul Landau by one of his children.

15th Anniversary of the arrest of the Cuban 5

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For 15 years, the Cuban 5 have endured physical and psychological torture in U.S. prisons! Their only “crime” was protecting their homeland Cuba and the United States from acts of terrorism

Thousands of people around the world will be protesting, picketing, engaging in a myraid of actions in support of the International movement to Free the Cuban 5! Join us as we raise our united voices on the International Day to Free the Cuban 5!

Thursday September 12, 2013 @5pm
Picket at 26 Federal Plaza,
New York, N.Y.
Take the 4,5, or 6 to
Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall

Bring your flags, noisemakers, signs and be ready to chant!

The Popular Education Project to Free the Cuban 5
Fore more information of the Project contact: FreetheCuban5@gmail.com or call the Free the Cuban 5 Hotline at: 718-601-4751. Visit our website: www.freethecuban5.org

Endorsers:The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign, Frente Socialista-Comite de Nueva York, Free Mumia Coalition, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, Radical Women, Freedom Socialist Party, December 12th Movement, New York City Jericho Movement, Fuerza de la Revolucion, Da Urban Butterflies, International Action Center, Justice for Trayvon Martin Peoples Assembly, May 1st Coalition for Worker & Immigrant Rights, Latin America & Caribbean Committee of the IAC, Workers World Party, and The Venceremos Brigade…

René González converses with Cuban university students

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Dalia González Delgado

“AS the Marxist I am, I accept the historical fact that I will not see what I want to see. I think it’s only natural that a revolutionary never sees all that he desires, because if he did, at some point he would cease to be a revolutionary.”

Thus began decorated Hero of the Republic René González’ comments to delegates attending the 8th Congress of Cuba’s Federation of University Students (FEU).

“You will see some of the things I would like to see, but you must construct them,” he continued, “Although you honor me with your applause and appreciation, the honor is mine. In any case, the admiration, the respect, the affection are mutual.”

The anti-terrorist fighter answered questions posed by students and insisted on the need to study history profoundly, to be able to confront the current, complex world situation.

“Isolating ourselves from the world is not how we are going to do it. With current technologies, it is impossible to isolate oneself,” he said, “We know what happened in the socialist camp. To consolidate our victory, to make it sure, we must go deeper, seek the truth, the errors, look history in the face, because the construction of socialism is the work of imperfect people, the result of many disagreements amongst ourselves, of struggles between points of view, in a context in which capital holds sway.”

“We must understand why it is necessary that capitalism disappear as a system,” he added, “When you see abundance in a country, you need to understand where it comes from and why we are resisting.”

René called on the young people in attendance to read Karl Marx and Martí, who he described as, “Thinkers who profoundly understood the essence of these phenomena.”

He emphasized the importance of listening to all youth, without exception, saying, “You are the vanguard of youth, but there are many who must be approached. Go beyond the classroom and walk along G Street.”

“Some will never reach the university, but they are part of society. We cannot forget that many young people are not in school, but they produce wealth with their hands.”

“If you rise to the occasion and meet the challenges of the times in which you live, you will be doing the best you can for my imprisoned compañeros,” he concluded.

The gathering, which relatives of the Five also attended, additionally featured a tribute to Dr. Armando Hart Dávalos, director of the Martí Program Office and president of the José Martí Cultural Society, on the occasion of his birthday.

 

 

René González converses with Cuban university students

René González has been given permission to remain in Cuba!

Originally posted by National Committee to Free the Cuban Five

René with his family in Cuba on a previous visit.
René with his family in Cuba on a previous visit.

In a huge development in the case of the Cuban Five, the court has finally granted a motion, first made last June, to allow René González to serve the remaining portion of his three-year parole in Cuba, after which he will of course be able to remain in Cuba, outside the jurisdiction of the court. Until this time, the court has required him to spend that parole at an undisclosed location in Florida, requiring him to remain in virtual seclusion because of the danger to his life from the very terrorists whose plots he and the other members of the Five came to the U.S. to expose.

René has been in Cuba for two weeks to attend a memorial service for his father Cándido, who died recently.

Phil Horowitz, Rene’s attorney, said: “Rene and I are happy that he will be able to be permanently reunited with his family. Rene’s exemplary conduct shows that these are not individuals that the government has made them out to be. We are just so happy and will take all the steps pursuant to the court order.”

The 7-page court order by Judge Joan Lenard (click to download), describes the requirements for his right to remain in Cuba. The principal requirement is that he renounce his citizenship, which he willingly offered to do previously (René held dual U.S.-Cuban citizenship). To renounce a U.S. citizenship, it must be done outside of the United States, as per U.S. federal code, Section 1481 a(5).

We are extremely happy for René, who has, along with his Cuban Five brothers, been unduly punished for being a proud defender of his people, his homeland and the Cuban Revolution.

This development must give all the Cuban Five supporters great inspiration to continue the fight so that Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio and Fernando can return home immediately!

Freedom Ride For THECUBAN FOUR 2013

FREEDOMRIDE_june2013_2Be a Freedom Rider for The Cuban Four and Get on the Bus to Washington, DC!

$5.00 Round trip

For more information call
347-201-3728 (9am-5pm)
Freedom Ride Hotline
718-676-0106 (24/7)

Organizers of the Freedom Ride for the Cuban 4 include: Local 372-DC 37 ASFCME, 1199 SEIU, the July 26 Coalition, Casa de las Americas, Venceremos Brigade and Popular Education Project to Free the Cuban 5, IFCO-Pastors for Peace, Workers World, and International Action Center (IAC).

The Rally on June 1st at 1:oopm in front of the White House is part of the “5 Days for the Cuban 4 in Washington DC” initiated by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5.

Freedom Ride For THECUBAN FOUR 2013
FREEDOMRIDE_JUNE2013_04

Danny Glover Prevented from Visiting Gerardo Hernandez

Originally posted by International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5

Actor Danny Glover Prevented from Visiting Gerardo Hernandez, One of the Cuban 5 Imprisoned in the U.S.

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Oakland, CA April 8th(IC)

Yesterday another incident of injustice against one of the Cuban 5 took place at the Victorville Penitentiary in the high Mojave desert of California.

In a planned visit well known actor and social activist Danny Glover was prohibited from visiting Gerardo Hernandez. Glover, who has visited Gerardo on 9 different occasions since 2010, was told that he would not be admitted because they did not know he was coming. This is an arbitrary decision; any person who is on a prisoner’s list has a right to visitation. Glover had flown yesterday morning from Northern California and then rented a car to reach the remote location of the prison 10 miles outside of Victorville only to have to turn around and go back without having seeing his friend. Undaunted Danny Glover has made it clear that he will return to Victorville soon.

Isolating Gerardo from his friends and family has been a pattern of the US government for almost 15 years. Over that period of time his wife Adriana Perez has been consistently denied visa to visit her husband on a regular basis.

The International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 thanks Danny Glover for his continued effort to support Gerardo and his four brothers in the struggle for their freedom.

FREE THE CUBAN FIVE Columbia University 2013

Dear Friends of Cuba and Supporters of the Cuban Five

Sisters and Brothers,

The July 26 coalition want to apologize to all that were not let into the Cuban Five event on Friday March 29th. We don’t blame each and everyone one of you for being disappointed and it is impossible that anyone would be more disappointed than the entire July 26 coalition group. We were originally informed that, based on Columbia’s very restrictive and rigid bureaucratic rules and procedures, which are especially enforced for “controversial” “political” (read left-wing) events organized by student groups like the one’s that initiated this event, that we would be allowed 200-250 non-Columbia-Barnard students to attend and that a formal list of attendees would have to be provided 72 hours before the event. This was after the original flyer and card had been printed without indicating that a formal RSVP was required. We immediately sent out to all the groups and individuals and listserves of friends and supporters of the Cuban Five invitations formally asking for an RSVP, because this was required by University rules. RSVPs started coming in and were confirmed and put on a master list. Three days before the event the Columbia cops, called “Public Safety,” which would not do so acting on their own, argued at an “Events Review Board’ meeting with the students that the students were “in breach” of Columbia rules because of outside “advertising” for the event, citing ridiculous “safety” considerations and threats of “disruption.” They threatened that they could shut it down altogether, but were, nice guys that they are, instead restricting the non-student participation to “15 or 20.”

The students immediately went on a big campaign, enlisting faculty and other student support, and succeeded on Thursday to get the original numbers restored. We were given a 7:00 PM Thursday deadline to submit a “final” list. We worked frantically to supplement the existing list and get people to submit their names. The process had been on hold while the meeting was under direct attack and we were discussing other options with the students. Unfortunately, a good number of names were submitted after 7:00 PM. There were also at least 40 names that were submitted right before 7 which the Administration claimed they didn’t get, even though we showed them the timeline on one of our comrade’s Iphone documenting the fact. But they were very rigid at the door. Many more people RSVPs on Thursday night and Friday all day past the “deadline.” Our phone and emails were ringing and pinging off the wall; we emailed and spoke on the phone to as many people as humanly possible giving the objective facts, which were that it was very unlikely that they would get in and that the students and we would fight to get everyone in that we could and the choice of whether to risk it by coming was a decision individuals would have to make. We did manage to get in quite a few but, many were turned away despite our and the students efforts. In addition to the 100 or so turned away, many of whom had been confirmed at the last minute before the arbitrary deadline (the injustice of which was further underlined by the last-minute attempt to minimize the event) there were many, many more who wanted to come and had submitted their names, until they heard of the bureaucratic labyrinth they faced and stayed home.

Nevertheless, 200 people or more were finally in attendance, and by all accounts it was an excellent program and event. But we are very certain it would have been perhaps the largest event ever in the US for the Cuban Five. The entire event was videoed and we will post it on our website july26coalition.org; we will send an email once the video has been posted on the site.

Again we are very upset and aggravated by the inconvenience and really insulting treatment given to people honestly and sincerely attempting to attend a free-speech forum. We hope with this minor problem that occurred on Friday, March 29th will not affect our movement to continue to DEMAND the release of the CUBAN FIVE.

Sincerely and in solidarity,
July 26 Coalition