[Ppnews] The Untold Story of the Cuban Five

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Aug 11 11:41:57 EDT 2009


http://www.counterpunch.org/

August 11, 2009


The Untold Story of the Cuban Five

Forbidden Heroes

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

Remember Elian?

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 that’s 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 Elian’s 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 
prisoner”. 
(<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.




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