[Ppnews] The Untold Story of the Cuban Five
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Aug 11 11:41:57 EDT 2009
August 11, 2009
The Untold Story of the Cuban Five
By RICARDO ALARCÓN de QUESADA
It takes all the running you can do,
to keep in the same place
Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
The case of Elian González, a six year-old boy
forcefully retained by his unknown great-uncles
against the will of his father and in clear
defiance of US law and decency was widely
reported by media around the world. Miami, the
place of the kidnapping, became a kind of
secessionist city in North America when the
Mayor, the chief of police, the politicians,
every newspaper and local radio and TV
broadcasters, together with religious and
business institutions, joined with some of the
most notorious terrorist and violent groups in
opposing the courts' and government's orders to free the boy.
It was necessary for a Special Forces team sent
from Washington DC to launch a surreptitious and
swift operation to occupy several houses, disarm
the heavily armed individuals hidden there and in
the neighborhood to save the child and restore law.
Everybody followed that story. Day in and day out.
But practically nobody knew that, at the very
same time, in exactly the same place--Miami--five
other young Cubans were arbitrarily deprived of
their freedom and subjected to a gross miscarriage of justice.
Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio
Guerrero, Fernando González and René González
were detained in the early hours of Saturday
September 12th, 1998, and locked for the next 17
months in punishment cells, in solitary
confinement. The main accusation against them--as
recognized by the prosecutors and the judge from
their indictment to the last day of the
trial--was that they had peacefully, with no
weapons, penetrated anti-Cuban terrorist groups
with a view of reporting back to Cuba about their criminal plans.
Was it conceivable to have a fair trial in Miami
for any Cuban revolutionary facing such an
accusation? Could that happen while the
kidnapping of Elian was going on with its
surrounding atmosphere of violence, hatred and fear?
According to the prosecution it was perfectly
possible. In their words Miami was a very large,
diverse, heterogeneous community capable of
handling any sensitive issue, even those
involving the Cuban Revolution. The prosecutors
repeated that line when rejecting the more than
ten motions presented by the defense lawyers
requesting a change of venue before the start of the trial.
The same government that was obligated to deal
with Miami as a sort of rebel city and to
secretly send there its forces to restore
legality, lied repeatedly about the venue issue,
denying the defendants a right so cherished by
Americans, and refused to move the proceedings to
the neighboring city of Fort Lauderdale, half an hour away from Miami.
Ironically, a few years later, in 2002, when the
government was the object of a civilian complaint
of an administrative nature, of far lesser
significance--later resolved by an out of Court
settlement--and only indirectly related to the
Elian case, they asked for a change of venue to
Fort Lauderdale, affirming that anything related
to Cuba was impossible to get a fair trial in
Miami. (Ramírez vs. Ashcroft, 01-4835 Civ-Huck, June 25, 2002)
Such a flagrant contradiction, a clear proof of
prosecutorial misconduct, of real prevarication,
was one of the main factors leading to the
unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals panel,
in 2005, to vacate the convictions of the Five
and order a new trial. (Court of Appeals for the
Eleventh Circuit, No. 01-17176, 03-11087). That
historic decision was later reversed by the
majority of the entire Court under pressure from
Attorney General Alberto González in an action
that went contrary to the normal US legal
practice. Mr. González's successful move, a
manifestation of his peculiar legal philosophy,
foreclosed the possibility of a just resolution
of this case in a manner that would have honored the United States.
The panel decision, an exceptionally sound and
solid 93 pages document, including irrefutable
facts about the half century old terrorist war
against Cuba, remains an outstanding moment in
the best American tradition and will continue to
be a text to be analyzed with respect by scholars and law school students.
But thats another chapter in the long saga of the Cuban Five.
Elian González now is about to finish High School
and continues to attract the attention of foreign
media and visitors who keep going to Cardenas,
the beautiful town where he lives. When
travelling towards Elians home they will be
surprised by billboards demanding freedom for
five youngsters they never heard off before.
In Leonard Weinglass words:
The trial was kept secret by the American media.
It is inconceivable that the longest trial in the
United States at the time it was taking place was
only covered by the local Miami press,
particularly where generals and an admiral as
well as a White House advisor were all called to
testify for the defense. Where was the American
media for six months? Not only was this the
longest trial, but it was the one case involving
mayor issues of foreign policy and international
terrorism. The question should be directed to the
American media, with continues to refuse to cover
a case with such gross violations of fundamental
rights, and even violations of human rights of
(<http://www.antiterroristas.cu/>www.antiterroristas.cu September 12, 2003).
Elian was saved because Americans knew about his
case and got involved and made justice prevail.
The Five are still incarcerated--it will be 11
years next September--victims of a terrible
injustice, because Americans are not permitted to know.
The Five are cruelly punished because they fought
against terrorism. They are heroes. But forbidden heroes.
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada is president of the Cuban National Assembly.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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