[News] Honor and Injustice: The Case of the Cuban Five

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Thu Apr 27 12:18:18 EDT 2006


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April 27, 2006

The Case of the Cuban Five


Honor and Injustice

By JOSÉ PERTIERRA

Last Valentine’s Day, the Federal Court of 
Appeals heard oral arguments concerning one of 
the greatest injustices in the history of U.S. 
jurisprudence. The lives of five innocent men 
hang in the balance, awaiting the decision of the 
11th Circuit. Although the United Nations Working 
Group on Arbitrary Detentions already declared 
their trial in Miami unfair and in violation of 
international law, most Americans are not 
familiar with the story of the Cuban Five.

They are five men of peace who came to this 
country from Cuba to combat violence and terror. 
The men were wrongfully arrested eight years ago, 
tried and eventually convicted in Miami for 
conspiracy to commit espionage and murder. A 
Miami Court meted out the maximum prison terms 
that the law allows: 1. Gerardo Hernandez 
received a double life sentence, 2. Antonio 
Guerrero was given a single life sentence, 3. 
Ramon Labañino a life sentence, 4. Fernando 
Gonzalez a 19 year sentence, and 5. René Gonzalez 15 years.

To understand their story and their trial, we 
must reflect on the last forty-seven years of 
terrorism that have been launched against the 
people of Cuba from the shores of South Florida 
with the knowledge and consent of the United States government.

The extremists in Miami have fought a dirty war 
against Cuba for over almost fifty years. With 
the aid and comfort of the United States, 
Cuban-immigrant terrorists specifically target 
innocent men, women and children of Cuba in a 
type of Miami-Jihad against Cuban Communism. They 
target Cuban airliners, ships, restaurants, 
hotels, places of business­all in an effort to 
take over the island and shape it in their own bloody image.

Cuba puts the number of its victims of terrorism 
at 3,478 killed and 2,099 wounded. The terrorists 
also caused significant property damage which, 
when added to the damage done to the Cuban 
economy by the United States blockade against the 
island, amount to losses in excess of $67 billion.

In the early 1990s Cuba was struggling to 
jump-start an ailing economy, after the dramatic 
disappearance of its principal trading partners: 
the Soviet Union and its allies. Desperate for 
dollars, Cuba broadened its tourist industry. 
Looking to cause a chilling effect on the 
bourgeoning tourist trade in Cuba, the 
Miami-based terrorists targeted Havana’s finest 
hotels and restaurants. An internationally known 
Cuban-émigré terrorist named Luis Posada Carriles 
used tens of thousands of dollars obtained from 
Cuban extremist groups in Miami to hire Central 
Americans to take and set bombs in Cuba. The 
bombs killed an Italian tourist, Fabio di Celmo, and wounded several others.

Frustrated with the FBI´s apparent unwillingness 
to stop this campaign of terror, Cuba asked the 
Five to penetrate the Miami based extremist 
organizations and gather information about 
upcoming terrorist acts in order to try and 
derail them before the terrorists could carry 
them out. They were able to establish clear, 
convincing and unequivocal evidence that 
implicated leading organizations and individuals 
living in Miami as being behind the campaign of terror.

President Fidel Castro decided to send a personal 
emissary to Washington to deliver a hand-written 
note to President Bill Clinton, asking that the 
United States indict and prosecute the 
terrorists. Castro’s letter to Clinton said in 
part, “if you really want to do so, you can put a 
stop to this new form of terrorism. It is 
impossible to stop this terrorism without United 
States involvement. . . . Unless it is stopped 
now, in the future any country could be victimized by this new terrorism.”

President Castro’s personal emissary was none 
other than Nobel Prize for Literature Gabriel 
García Márquez who arrived in Washington, D.C. on 
May 1, 1998. President Clinton was out of town 
for several days in California, and after waiting 
him out at the Hotel Washington for several days, 
García Márquez finally met with White House Chief 
of Staff Mac McLarty on May 6, 1998 and gave him 
the letter. García Márquez recalls McLarty´s 
reaction to the letter: “The terrrorist plot the 
letter outlined elicited from McLarty a grunt, 
from which he uttered ´this is terrible´. García 
Márquez tells that McLarty then repressed a 
mischievous smile and exclaimed without 
interrupting his reading of the letter, ´we have a common enemy´.”

After McLarty finished reading, García Márquez 
asked the question he had been saving since 
arriving in Washington, “would it be possible for 
the FBI to establish contact with its Cuban 
counterparts and begin a war in common against 
terrorism?” The meeting in the White House, says 
García Márquez, lasted fifty minutes and ended 
with McLarty looking into his eyes saying “Your 
mission was of the highest importance, and you 
have done your job very well.” García Márquez 
committed the phrase to paper in a letter to 
Fidel Castro and said: “neither the personal 
decency that I possess abundantly, nor the 
modesty that I lack permits me to abandon this 
phrase to the ephemeral glory of the microphones hidden in the flowerpots.”

In the wake of the Garcia Marquez visit, the U.S. 
sent an FBI team to Cuba a month later to discuss 
collaboration with Cuba on a “War On Terror”. 
Cuba handed over 64 files containing the results 
of its investigation into 31 different 
terrorists’ acts and plans against the island in 
the decade of the 90s. Cuba enclosed details of 
the terrorist operations, including photographs 
of the explosives used. Having learned the lesson 
taught Woodward and Bernstein by their famous 
source “Deep Throat”, Cuba advised the FBI to 
“follow the money” if it was to discover the 
organizations in Miami who were behind the 
campaign of terror, and Cuba handed the FBI 51 
files with information relating to the money trail.

The mastermind behind the terror campaign of the 
90s was Luis Posada Carriles, who was then living 
in hiding in Central America and receiving money 
from Miami extremist groups. Posada Carriles was 
wanted in Venezuela for the cold blooded murder 
of 73 innocent passengers aboard a Cuban civilian 
airliner he downed in 1976 using C-4 explosives. 
With the help of influential friends in Miami and 
Washington, he escaped from jail in Venezuela while awaiting trial.

The money trail led directly to the lap of Posada 
Carriles and passed through the offices of the 
terrorist organizations in Miami that financed 
him. In 1998, Posada Carriles admitted to the New 
York Times of being the mastermind behind the 
bombing campaign in Cuba and that the money used 
to carry out the campaign of terror came from 
well known Cuban-immigrant organizations in Miami.

Cuba handed over to the FBI tapes of 14 telephone 
conversations of Luis Posada Carriles with 
details on the series of bombs that had exploded 
in Cuba in the 90s. Cuba also gave the FBI Luis 
Posada Carriles´ addresses in El Salvador, 
Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panamá. Also 
tapes of conversations with Central American 
detainees in Cuba who admitted Posada Carriles is 
their boss and had sent them to Cuba to place 
explosives in the hotels and restaurants. 
Finally, Cuba turned over 60 sets of documents 
with information about 40 terrorists based in 
Miami, including their addresses, and evidence of their ties to terror.

Cuba then waited . . . and waited . . . and 
waited. Cuba waited for the FBI to start 
arresting terrorists. But instead the FBI 
arrested on September 12, 1998, the men now known 
as the Cuban Five: the men who had come to Miami 
to penetrate the Miami exile terrorist organizations.

According to El Nuevo Herald, the first persons 
that were notified of the arrests of the Cuban 
Five were Cong. Lincoln Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.

The Five were charged with 26 counts of violating 
federal laws. They were placed in solitary 
confinement (in a place called “the hole”) for 
the next 17 months, until the start of their trial.

The Elian González case had stirred up anti-Cuba 
passions in Miami during the first several months 
of the year 2000, and a defense team concerned 
about prejudices in the city against their 
clients made motions to have the venue changed 
from Miami-Dade which the defense called “a basic 
nucleus of anti-Castro Cuban exiles where the 
conditions for a fair trial do not exist.” The 
motions to change venue were denied, and the 
trial took place in Miami in the fall of 2000. It lasted seven months.

The Five were not tried for espionage, but for 
conspiracy to commit espionage. It is not 
disputed that the Five didn’t have, didn’t take 
and didn’t see a single page of classified 
government information. The first thing the 
prosecutor said to the jury at the beginning of 
trial was: “We arrested these five men and 
confiscated 20,000 documents from their 
computers, but ladies and gentleman of the jury 
none of these 20,000 documents contain a single 
page of classified information.” The lynchpin of 
the government’s case on conspiracy to commit 
espionage was that Antonio Guerrero worked in a 
metal shop in the Boca Chica Navy Training Base, 
a base that was completely open to the public and 
that even had a visitor’s viewing area to allow 
folks to photograph planes on the runway. No one 
even alleged that Antonio Guerrero or any of the 
Five had access to any classified information 
from the base or from anywhere else.

The government argued that the Five had agreed to 
have Tony Guerrero work in the navy base and that 
the alleged agreement constituted a conspiracy to commit espionage.

The second conspiracy charge was as ridiculous as 
the first: conspiracy to commit homicide. The 
Government alleged that Gerardo Hernández 
conspired with Cuban officials to shoot down two 
aircraft from a Miami organization called 
Hermanos al Rescate as they entered Cuban 
airspace. The two aircraft had been intercepted 
by the Cuban Air Force and all four aboard were 
killed. No evidence of any agreement between 
Gerardo and anyone else regarding the shoot-down 
was ever presented. Only a jury in Miami could 
ever find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt 
regarding a conspiracy about which not a single 
piece of evidence was presented. The absence of 
evidence on this charge was so glaring that the 
Prosecutor tried to modify the charge but the 
Court of Appeals refused to allow it.

The jury, whose foreman openly admitted during 
voir dire his dislike of Fidel Castro, returned 
guilty verdicts on all 26 counts of a seven month 
trial against five defendants in a single day. 
After listening to more than 70 witnesses over 
the course of the trial, reviewing 119 volumes of 
transcript plus 15 volumes of pre-trial testimony 
and more than 800 exhibits some as long as 40 
pages, the jury took all of one day of deliberation to convict.

After their convictions, the Five were sent to 
maximum security prisons across this country, and 
two of them have been denied visits from their 
wives for the past seven years in violation of U.S. and international law.

On August 9, 2005, a Three-Judge Panel of the 
very conservative Court of Appeals for the 11th 
Circuit in Atlanta published a 93 page decision 
that reversed the convictions and sentences, 
ruling that the Five did not receive a fair trial 
in Miami and acknowledging evidence produced by 
the defense at trial that revealed terrorist 
actions by Miami exile groups against Cuba. The 
three judges even cited in a footnote the role of 
Luis Posada Carriles and correctly referred to 
him as a terrorist. They found that “a perfect 
storm” of prejudice prevented the Cuban Five from having a fair trial in Miami.

The Bush Administration, however, didn’t give up. 
Through its Solicitor General, the government 
made a formal appeal to all 12 judges of the 
Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta, and out of apparent 
deference to the unusual request from the 
Department of Justice the Court of Appeals 
nullified the three-judge panel decision and 
agreed to hear the case en banc. Oral Agreements 
were heard on February 14, 2006. and we continue 
to await a verdict from the Court of Appeals, as 
the Five continue to languish in prisons 
throughout the country far away from their loved 
ones. They will have spent eight years in prison 
unjustly this coming September 12.

Attorney Leonard Weinglass who represents Antonio 
Guerrero said recently: “The Five were not 
prosecuted because they violated American law, 
but because their work exposed those who were. By 
infiltrating the terror network that is allowed 
to exist in Florida they demonstrated the 
hypocrisy of America's claimed opposition to terrorism.”

As the Five were being prosecuted in Miami, the 
campaign of terror against Cuba continued. In 
November 2000, Posada Carriles was arrested in 
Panama along with three accomplices before they 
could carry out the plan to blow up an auditorium 
filled with students at the University of Panamá 
where Cuban President Fidel Castro was to speak. 
The four were convicted by a Panamanian Court, 
but on August 26, 2004, in one of her last acts 
as President, Mireya Moscoso pardoned them in 
violation of Panamanian law. The three 
accomplices, all Cuban-Americans, immediately 
went to Miami to be given a heroes welcome. 
Unable to immediately join them in Miami, because 
he is neither a US citizen nor a legal resident, 
Posada Carriles went to Honduras to scheme for a 
way to go where many terrorists love to live: Miami.

In March 2005 he finally got his wish. His 
Cuban-immigrant friends smuggled him into Miami 
from the Yucatán peninsula aboard a yacht called 
the Santrina in March of last year.

Venezuela immediately presented a request for his 
extradition for 73 counts of first degree murder 
in relation to the downing of the civilian 
aircraft in 1976. Rather than acting on the 
extradition request, the United States government 
is now sheltering him in El Paso, Texas in 
violation of important international treaties and 
conventions, including one that protects us from 
terrorism aboard civil aviation and another one 
that prosecutes terrorists who use explosives in commission of their crimes.

The United States Government is conducting a 
schizophrenic war on terror, as it prosecutes 
those who combat terrorism and save lives, while 
it shelters those who commit terrorism and 
murder, such as Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch 
and so many other terrorists who currently reside in Miami.

Washington’s schizophrenia on terror is 
undetected by the majority of the American 
people, because the mainstream media in this 
country does not care enough to tell the story.

Should the American people learn the truth about 
the Cuban Five, they will hold the United States 
government accountable for its responsibility 
concerning forty-seven years of terrorism against 
Cuba, including the unjust prosecution of the 
Cuban Five and the equally unjust sheltering of 
international terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles.

Some in Miami think Cuban immigrant terrorists 
are patriots. They ignore that civilized people 
must abide by rules, even in politics and war. To 
target innocent civilians because some would 
disagree with their country’s policies is not 
patriotism. It is murder. There is no honor in murder.

There is no honor in prosecuting those who 
peacefully combat terrorism, and there is no 
honor in sheltering terrorists. As long as the 
Cuban Five remain behind bars and impunity reigns 
in Miami, President Bush’s War on Terror will lack credibility.

There is no honor in silence. Journalists have a 
duty to tell the American people the truth: about 
the absence of weapons of mass destruction in 
Iraq, about the torture of prisoners in 
Guantanámo and Abu Ghraib, about the existence of 
CIA controlled clandestine prisons, about the 
government’s illegal domestic surveillance 
program, about the bloody history of Miami’s 
terrorists, and about the true story of the Cuban 
Five. It takes a while, but eventually the truth comes out.

History will honor the Cuban Five, and justice will soon set them free.

José Pertierra is an attorney in Washington, D.C. 
He represents the government of Venezuela in the 
extradition case of Luis Posada Carriles.


The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
www.freedomarchives.org 
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