[Ppnews] Cuban Five - The Dangers and Degradations of Daily Prison Life

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 15 11:41:14 EST 2013


January 14, 2013

Gerardo's New Writ

  The Dangers and Degradations of Daily Prison Life


We wait with a Latina woman and two of her kids until the prison guard 
at the entrance desk calls our number. We pass through the X-ray machine 
and get our wrists stamped. Then we sit and stare at a religious display 
in the show case -- church-state separation?--- where visitors wait 
before electronic door #1 gets opened from an indoor control system nearby.

When we enter the prison's visiting room, a red headed prison guard 
stares at Saul's trousers, then at his face and says "You can't come in 
here, dressed like that."

Huh? Saul sagely replies.

"Tan trousers and gray sweat shirts, forbidden. Inmates dress like that."

A guard accompanies Saul back to the entrance building  and gives him 
directions to the nearest Target, the only store within miles, and just 
off the highway, he says, where he can buy a new pair of trousers.

Saul accomplishes his costume change, returns to the US Maximum Security 
Penitentiary in Victorville, California and joins a new waiting crowd of 
women and children, all black or Latino, waiting for an hour while the 
prisoners get counted.

Back through X-ray, the invisible stamp placed on Saul's wrist gets read 
by a hand-held stamp reader and he re-entered the visitor's room, 
embraces Gerardo and sits with him and Danny to discuss the legal case 
of the Five Cubans (Gerardo, Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando 
Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino and Rene Gonzalez (on parole and restricted to 
south Florida), who infiltrated violent exile groups in Miami to stop 
the campaign of bombing Cuban hotels.  The FBI arrested the Five in 1998 
and charged them with serious offenses, Gerardo with conspiracy to 
commit espionage and aiding and abetting murder.

An intimidated jury -- the media photographed their license plates, 
thereby making them identifiable --- convicted them and Judge Joan 
Lenard imposed very harsh sentences, later diminished by an appeals 
court, except for Gerardo's two life sentences.

Gerardo describes the dangers of daily life in prison, like the routine 
fights between inmates, some resulting in death, where one inmate shanks 
the other; or an inmate stabbed a prison guard in the eye with a pen.

We scan the room, seeing prisoners benignly meeting and talking with 
family members, or playing cards with girl friends. Four guards watch 
diligently from an elevated perch.

We discuss with Gerardo the motion filed by Martin Garbus, his attorney, 
for his latest appeal. Garbus found documents about how "the government 
attempted to influence the trial by paying journalists  to write for the 
/Miami Herald/, and /El Nuevo Herald/, and put on local radio and TV 
materials that the government intended for use to influence the 
community and the jury to return a judgment of conviction against the 

The courts did not know about these efforts, nor did the defense 
counsel. The judge tried to insulate the jury from outside influences, 
but according to Garbus "neither she nor anyone else other than the 
government had any idea of the massive amounts of energy, money and time 
that was being used to influence this jury.

In the United States government is not allowed to pay money for what is 
called domestic propaganda. If the government wants to take a political 
position it's absolutely entitled to do it. What they can't do is hire 
somebody, not tell the American listening audience who that person is 
being paid by, and not tell the American listening audience that the 
person who is articulating a position is articulating a government 
position. That violates the law." And, Garbus concluded, the propaganda 
paid for by the US government polluted public opinion. Ricardo Alarcon, 
Cuba's Parliamentary President called this funding of propagandists 
during a trial a "conspiracy of the Government with the local Miami 
media to convict the accused beforehand and make a fair trial 
impossible. The substance of this conspiracy was using that media to 
unleash a propaganda campaign of unprecedented hatred and hostility. For 
that they employed a considerable number of "journalists" --- in 
reality, undercover Government agents --- who published articles and 
commentaries that were repeated day and night, producing a real storm of 

Gerardo nibbles on chips we bought from the prison vending machines and 
reminds us that we won't see middle class people "in here, those who can 
afford high paid lawyers."

He hopes Garbus' latest habeas corpus writ convinces an appeals court to 
declare the trial unjust and demand a new trial or acquittal.  But he 
cannot plan his life around it, or around getting early release from two 
life sentences. His wife, Adriana, cannot visit him because the US 
government denies her visa requests. She has recently been proposed as a 
delegate for Cuba's Parliament.

Gerardo bears his deprivations with stoic discipline. He maintains his 
regime inside this unhealthy place, doing exercise, reading, answering 
letters and drawing cartoons. He watches the news and reads the NY 
Times, which, like all his mail, get opened and read by special prison 

Maybe President Obama might agree to Cuba's proposal to exchange -- 
independent humanitarian gestures -- the Cuban 5 for Alan Gross, the 
contract agent who worked for AID and tried to set up non-trackable 
satellite systems inside Cuba as part of an effort to subvert its 
government. Gross was convicted and sentenced to 15 years by a Cuban court.

For a You tube video with Danny Glover and Peter Coyote taken from the 
trial transcript go to 

/*Danny Glover* is an activist and actor. /

available on dvd from cinemalibrestudio.com./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/ppnews_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20130115/8f99609c/attachment.html>

More information about the PPnews mailing list