Tuesday, 3 August 2010

What about the Cuban Five political prisoners?

by Murray Andrews, RATB.
29 July 2010.

With the recent release of a number of so-called ‘political prisoners’ in Cuba, reactionaries the world over have seized the opportunity to pounce for the attack. 

Cuba agreed to free 52 so-called ‘dissidents’ under a deal with Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church and Spain. The 52 are part of a group of 75 US-backed mercenaries who were arrested in 2003 and jailed. So far, 20 of these gusanos* have been freed and flown with their families to Spain, including former boxer Ariel Sigler, who arrived in Miami on 29 July. Freedom for the other gusanos may take months.

From the Miami gutter press to the supposedly ‘left’ Guardian, hack journalists everywhere have been eager to write articles praising these criminals as ‘human rights activists’, and to denounce Cuba as the enemy of all ‘free people’. Meanwhile, there has been a conspicuous silence in covering up for the hypocritical abuses of the imperialists, particularly the US, ignoring the plentiful and very real political prisoners in their midst – five of whom were seized for defending their own country against terrorist attacks.

September 2010 marks the twelfth anniversary of the arrest of the Cuban Five. For 12 years  Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino and Rene Gonzalez -  have been locked up in the US. They were arrested while monitoring the activities of a number of anti-Cuban terrorist groups, such as Brothers to the Rescue and Alpha 66, in an attempt to prevent further acts of terror against Cuba. Anti-Cuban terrorist gangs have received support from the CIA and FBI, via the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), and more than 3,400 Cubans have been killed since 1959 as a result of terrorist attacks against the island. The Cuban Five were held without bail between arrest and trial for 33 months, and kept in solitary confinement for 17 months. In June 2001, in a hysterical courtroom in Miami, they were accused of a number of serious crimes, and eventually convicted of espionage (spying against a state), conspiracy and a host of associated charges, receiving a total of four life sentences and 75 years in prison.

Over the last 12 years, a bitter struggle has been fought across the world, in the courts, in the UN and on the streets by activists to get justice for the Cuban Five. In some cases there have been notable advances: following a number of appeal proceedings, by 2008 three of the Five had had their sentences reduced, including the life sentences on Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero, whilst upholding the convictions on all the Five. In June 2010, Labanino, for ‘exemplary behaviour’ over his 11 long years of imprisonment, was moved from a maximum security to a medium security jail in Georgia. Despite these gains for the Five, the fact remains that they are being held by the US for crimes it knows they did not commit – they are clear political prisoners of the US.

On 10 March 2010, in the context of numerous vile media attacks, Cuba requested that the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) reactivate the case of the Five, which was labelled by a UN Working Group in 2005 as ‘arbitrary’. This was followed two days later by two wives of the Cuban Five meeting with top officials of the HRC to discuss the imprisonment, and the continued refusal of the US to grant visas to allow them to visit their husbands.

In June 2010, fresh evidence came to light which is allowing the defence team for the Five to make a direct challenge: a ‘collateral appeal’. In June members of the US campaign group, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, uncovered information via the Freedom of Information Act that the US government had paid nearly $74,400 to Miami journalists, who wrote a number of articles inflaming public opinion against the Five. The Coordinator Gloria La Riva, said that ‘[t]his is a most blatant and outrageous example of government influence destroying the right to a fair trial and the right to appeal’, and that the payments made to the journalists constitute a violation of federal law, which is meant to ban domestic government propaganda. With this new evidence, the collateral appeal for Gerardo Hernandez was filed on 14 June in a Miami federal district court, the last possible legal recourse for Hernandez in the US legal system. Amongst this new evidence, it also deals with government falsification, handling and concealment of evidence to obstruct justice.

The Cuban Five are heroes both in Cuba and around the world. There can be nothing more hypocritical than the attacks on Cuba by the imperialist countries and their running dogs in the media. We are expected to shed a tear for convicted violent criminals like Orlando Zapata Tamayo, while the Five are hushed away from the public eye? While the Five sit in isolation cells, counting away the 12 years since their ordeal began, terrorists like Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles and Guillermo Novo Sampoll walk and brag freely in the US.

In this period of attacks on Cuba and its socialist example, and in this pivotal point in the case of the Five, we around the world, who tremble with indignation at every injustice, owe it to the Cuban people and their Five heroes to fight tooth and nail against the convictions and the savagery of the imperialists and their hired propagandists.

*A gusano is a worm.