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Issue #1654      September 3, 2014

The Cuban Five

“But I have only one life to give for my country”. These were the words spoken by Gerardo Hernández when he heard his conviction of two life sentences plus 15 years handed down by a biased and influenced jury in a Miami court on June 8, 2001.

After being arrested on false charges, and enduring imprisonment in isolation for 17 months (while the maximum legal time allowed in isolation is three months), Gerardo and four other Cuban nationals were convicted that day over charges of conspiracy to commit espionage and Gerardo of conspiracy to commit murder. Their sentences ranged from 15 years to two life sentences plus 15 years by a Miami Court. Since then it has been revealed the jury was heavily influenced by covert government funding of anti-Cuba propaganda.

Background

For more than 50 years, anti-Cuba terrorist organisations based in Miami have engaged in hundreds of terrorist activities against Cuba, and against anyone who advocates a normalisation of relations between the US and Cuba. A total of 3,478 Cubans have died as a result of terrorist violence, and 2,099 have been injured.

Violent organisations like Alpha 66, Brothers to the Rescue, Cuban American National Foundation’s armed wing, and individuals like Luis Posada Carriles, have operated with complete impunity from within the United States to attack Cuba – with the knowledge and support of the FBI and CIA.

The US government refused to act to arrest or prosecute well-known, notorious terrorists in Miami, despite overwhelming evidence of their crimes.

The Cuban Five infiltrated the terrorist organisations in Miami to inform Cuba of imminent attack and to thwart the terrorists’ plots. Cuba handed over the information of these groups to the FBI. But instead of arresting the terrorists, the FBI arrested the Cuban Five anti-terrorists on September 12, 1998. 1

These five men of integrity and bravery have become well known as the Cuban Five. Within days of their unjust conviction, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five was formed in the United States. Now over 350 committees exist worldwide that demand the freedom of the Cuban Five.

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing Aili Labañino speak about the Cuban Five and the ordeal of their families in the Trades Hall building of Perth. Aili is the daughter of Ramón Labañino, one of the Cuban Five. She was 11 when her father was arrested. Aili continued her speaking tour of Australia, which was arranged by two large workers’ unions of Australia (CFMEU and MUA) and supported by the Australia Cuba Friendship Society (ACFS).

Aili spoke of the injustice towards her father, her family, the rest of the Cuban Five and their families, and of injustice towards her country. She told us how her younger sister couldn’t imagine their father in any other way except in prison clothes. She told us how the wife of one of the Cuban Five has never been granted a visa by the US, and thus has not seen her husband in 16 years.

She told us how the man, Posada Carriles, who actually planned many terrorist attacks on Cuba walks free in the US And yet, she spoke with warmth, with calmness and with love. She informed the roughly 70 people in her audience of the background of the Cuban Five and the events surrounding their trial. She shared heart-warming anecdotes of her visits to her father in prison. We learnt that it was the brave smiles and optimism of the Cuban Five that gave strength to their families when they felt weak. She said that the white hair of one of the Cuban Five’s mother, who waits to see her son, adds urgency to their campaigning efforts.

She pointed to a remarkable art piece hanging on the wall in a room of the Trades Hall building. She told us it was one of the many pieces made by the Antonio Guerrero during his incarceration, the son of the white haired mother she referred to. Antonio’s family gifted it to CFMEU WA on May Day 2009.

Closing the evening, Jorge Trujillo, who acted as the interpreter for Aili, read a letter by Ramon on behalf of the Cuban Five that was written on July 31, 2014. The letter expressed deep gratitude and love for the people of Australia who support their cause. It also expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people and called for an independent and peaceful Palestinian state.
Representatives of the CFMEU, MUA and ACFS expressed their solidarity with the Cuban Five, and were greeted with cheers and clapping for their work in international solidarity.

An independent two day-inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five was held in March 2014, at the Law Society in London. It had a panel of distinguished judges from various countries, including India, France and South Africa. After reviewing the entire trial, reading related documents, and hearing testimonies, they found the entire case unjust: starting from the unwarranted arrest, the absence of convicting evidence, unusually harsh convictions, to the selection of jury and revelations of large sums of monies paid to journalists in Miami to influence the jury. They concluded it was a political case, motivated by the policy of the U.S. towards Cuba. 2

It is a political case and one, as Aili pointed out, which will not receive a fair coverage in the mainstream media. Hence, it becomes even more important to spread the word, especially amongst US citizens, to make them aware of this injustice. Barack Obama, as president of the US, holds the power to pardon the Cuban Five. This has given birth to the slogan, “Hey Obama, give me five!”, And this is the focal point of all demonstrations and petitions for their cause. If enough pressure can be generated, this travesty of justice can come to an end, albeit late.

For more information on the case visit: www.freethecuban5.org

References:

1 http://www.freethefive.org/whoarethefive.htm

2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgi3VdWKZjs

Next article – On the other side of Ferguson, a different kind of protest

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