The fight to free the Cuban Five

By Julie Fry, NYC FIST

When the U.S. government declared its “war on terror” against the peoples of the Middle East and Central Asia in 2001, it neglected to include the government’s own home-grown group of terrorists on the target list.  Groups like Brothers to the Rescue and Comandos F4 are based in Miami and supported by the CIA and other U.S. agencies.  These types of groups are responsible for terror campaigns against Cuba and other Latin American countries that have spanned the last fifty years.  More than 3,000 Cuban people, among others, have died as a result of attacks from U.S.-sponsored terror groups.

Cuba Acts to Defend its Citizens from Terror

In response to the long campaign of terror waged against the small island nation of socialist Cuba by U.S.-sponsored paramilitary style groups, the Cuban government sent some of its citizens to Miami to gather information about these terrorist organizations in the hope of preventing further violence.  Among those Cubans were Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez.  Today they are known throughout the world as the Cuban Five.

The information gathered by the Cuban Five about these U.S.-based terror groups was turned over to the U.S. government by the Cubans with the hope that the organizations would be shut down and the terrorists arrested.  Instead, the U.S. government arrested the Cuban Five in 1998 and they have remained in prison ever since.

A Sham Trial in Miami

The Five were charged with conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States and other related charges.   They were convicted in 2001 and sentenced to 75 years and four life sentences collectively.

No evidence has ever been produced indicating that any of the Five harmed anyone in the U.S. or possessed any weapons while they worked here.  There is no evidence that the Five ever targeted their actions at any agency of the U.S. government.

Although defense attorneys for the Five made several motions before and during the trial for a change of venue, the Five were tried in Miami: the epicenter of anti-Cuba terrorism and propaganda in the U.S.  The local media vilified the Five, and the prosecutors committed egregious acts of misconduct, sensationalizing the acts of the Five and trying to scare the jurors.   For example, the prosecutor stated in his closing argument that the Five were “bent on destroying the United States” and that they were trying to execute what the prosecutor called “the final solution” against the anti-Cuba forces in Miami.

Legal experts and leaders around the world denounced the trial as unfair.  The Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild, Heidi Boghosian, has said, “anti-Cuba sentiment has tainted all possibility of a fair trial for the Five since their original arrest and confinement, which the UN Rapporteur on Torture described as violating the Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”  Boghosian noted that “during the original trial, the Bush administration paid journalists to write unfavorable stories about Cuba. Anti-Cuban extremists tried to intimidate the jurors, and even prospective jurors admitted that they would be afraid to return not-guilty verdicts against the Five.”

The Five had their first substantial legal victory in 2005 when a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their convictions because of a lack of a fair venue.  The judges found that there was no way that the Five could have received a fair trial in counter-revolutionary Miami.  However, a later decision by the entire 11th Circuit Appellate Court overturned that ruling, so the Five did not receive their new trial.  A later three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overturned the sentences of three of the Five.  In October of this year, Antonio Guerrero’s sentence was reduced from life in prison to twenty-one years and 10 months.  On December 8, 2009, Ramon Labanino’s sentence was also reduced from a life term to thirty years.  And Fernando’s sentence was reduced from nineteen years to seventeen years and nine months.

International Solidarity to Free the Five

Even these small victories for the Cuban Five would not have been possible without the massive campaign of international solidarity.  The Five are regarded as national heroes in Cuba.  Their images are present everywhere in that country.  Millions of Cubans have demonstrated in support of the Five because they recognize that the Five were trying to prevent violence against the Cuban people.

There are solidarity committees for the Cuban Five in dozens of countries around the world.  Hundreds of demonstrations, petitions and other actions have been carried out by supporters.

Many believe that the U.S. government’s actions with respect to the Five highlight the hypocrisy of the so-called “war on terror.”  For example, admitted terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, remains at liberty in the United States.  Posada Carriles, by his own admission, is responsible for the bombing of a Cuban passenger jet which killed seventy-three people.  Posada Carriles escaped from prison in Venezuela in 1985 where he was being charged with this crime, and has lived under the protection of the U.S. and CIA ever since.  Today he lives freely in Miami.  He is wanted for crimes in several other countries, including Cuba and Venezuela.

The difference in the treatment of the Five versus an admitted terrorist and murderer like Posada Carriles demonstrates that the U.S. is not interested in stopping terror at all.  The real goal of the U.S. is to overthrow the Cuban Revolution.  That is why they protect people like Posada Carriles and jail the Cuban Five.

The sustained and growing support that the Five have received from every corner of the world proves that the Cuban Revolution is stronger than any terror campaign.  The Cuban people and those involved in the international struggle to free the Five are confident that, no matter what the decision of reactionary and arbitrary U.S. courts, the Five will eventually win their freedom through struggle.


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