by Ali Erkaslan
12 September 2011 will mark 13 years since the arrest in Miami, Florida of five Cuban intelligence agents who had infiltrated right-wing terrorist organisations in the United States to help foil terrorist attacks against the Cuban people. They remain incarcerated in US prisons. The campaign for their release is an essential part of the struggle to defend Cuban socialism. In September, Rock around the Blockade will join activists from around the world demanding the release of the Cuban Five.
‘No revolution is worth anything unless it can defend itself’ – Lenin
Since 1959, Cubans have learned the hard way the importance of defending their revolution from sabotage and terrorism in every sphere and sector. In 1961 there was the invasion at Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) by Cuban exiles and mercenaries, organised and funded by the CIA. In 1962, there was the threat of nuclear attack during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Revolution has defended itself for more than 50 years against the brutal and criminal US blockade, which has cost the country $236 billion since 1960. It survived the collapse of the socialist bloc and subsequent loss of around 80% of its trade. Cuba has also defended itself against diplomatic isolation, severe natural disasters, the global capitalist crisis, against propaganda and slander from the right-wing and sectarianism and lies from ‘left-wing’ opportunists.
Cuba has been the victim of sustained terrorism for longer than any other country in the world, costing the lives of 3,478 Cubans and permanently maiming another 2,099. Miami, Florida, hosts a terrorist network which has frequently launched attacks against Cuba: bombing and arson attacks on factories, offices, recreation centres, and Cuban agencies abroad; killings of Cuban diplomats in foreign countries; burning sugar cane fields and other economic targets; smuggling pests, viruses and diseases into Cuba; bombings and shootings of tourist hotels; assassination attempts against Fidel Castro and other leaders. Examples include: 4 March 1960, the French cargo ship La Coubre exploded in the Havana docks, killing 101 people; 6 October 1976 two bombs exploded on a civilian Cubana Airlines flight killing all 73 people on board (57 Cubans, 11 Guyanese and five Koreans); dengue fever was introduced into Cuba in 1981, infecting over 344,000 people and killing 158, including 101 children.
In the 1990s as the bourgeoisie celebrated the collapse of the socialist bloc, terrorist attacks against Cuba intensified. More than 200 attacks were launched from Miami, mostly targeting Cuba’s expanding tourist industry, which became the principal means of securing the hard currency necessary to pay upfront in cash for goods imports – a precondition imposed uniquely on Cuba. Cuban exile groups shot at coastal tourist resorts from the sea and bombed five hotels in Havana in 1997. They sent mercenaries to bomb the famous Tropicana entertainment venue in Havana, but the attack was foiled.
On 11 September 2011, a flood of rhetoric about the ‘US war on terror’ will accompany the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. That day will also mark 31 years since Felix Garcia Rodriguez, a Cuban diplomat accredited by the UN, was murdered in broad daylight on a crowded street in New York by terrorists from the Miami-based group Omega 7. It is, of course, also the 38th anniversary of the US-backed coup d’état against democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, which led to the brutal dictatorship of General Pinochet, friend of Reagan, Thatcher and the Chicago Boys.
The Cuban Five revolutionary heroes
‘In the view of these aggressions and the shameless avoidance of punishment of the aggressors’, writes Randy Alonso Falcon, Director of the Office of Communication of Cuba’s Council of State, ‘Cuba has the right to employ every method and instrument at its disposal in order to save the lives of its own people and of the citizens of other countries who visit Cuba’ (With Honour, Courage and Pride, Cuban Council of State, Havana, 2002).
The US authorities refuse to stop Cuban exile terrorists operating domestically and often act with complicity. It is the need for the Cuban Revolution to mount its own defence that sent Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez, the Cuban Five, to infiltrate terrorist groups in Miami in the early 1990s and monitor the threat against Cuba. The Cuban Five had no guns and no explosives. They were not after classified information or threatening US national security. They were gathering information and evidence from terrorist networks about actions planned and launched from US soil. They did their job with utmost professionalism and rigorous care.
In June 1998, Nobel prize winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez brokered an unprecedented meeting between top officials at the FBI and Cuban State Security. Over three days, the Cubans handed the FBI a mountain of evidence – four volumes of more than 300 pages each, two hours and 40 minutes of video tapes, eight audiocassette tapes – compiled by the Cuban agents from the terrorist networks in Miami. They demonstrated the links between the Cuban American National Foundation and the hotel bombings in Havana the previous year and revealed their intention to ratchet up the campaign of terror. The information gathered by the Cuban Five made it possible to successfully prevent 170 attacks against Cuba, including a plan to blow up aeroplanes filled with Cuba-bound tourists from Europe and Canada.
Instead of acting on the information to break the terror networks, the FBI arrested the Cuban agents. 26 charges were made against them by the US government, 24 of which were technical offences relating to the use of false names and failure to register as foreign agents. All five were charged with conspiracy to commit espionage and Gerardo Hernandez was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. This relates to the shooting down by Cuban authorities of two aeroplanes from the Brothers to the Rescue exile group in 1996. After repeated incursions into Cuban territory throughout the 1990s, the planes were given a final warning before being shot down by the Cuban Air Force killing four men. Gerardo Hernandez was accused of supplying information to the Cuban government which led to the shooting. No evidence was provided.
US imperialism and human rights
The case of the Cuban Five shows how imperialism will trample its own ‘bourgeois-democratic’ laws to fight against socialism. The Cuban Five were put in solitary confinement after their arrest and effectively denied the right to collaborate on their defence for the first five months. It took 17 months to bring the case to court. The trial took place in Miami, a hotbed of the counter-revolutionary exile community and home of the terrorist organisations they had infiltrated. Documents recently published by the Partnership for Civil Justice, the Committee to Free the Cuban Five and the US newspaper Liberation show that during the trial the US government paid Miami-based journalists who saturated the Miami media with inflammatory and prejudicial reports about the five Cubans. This is illegal under US law. The trial judge refused the request to move venues because, in his words, a trial in Miami would be more interesting than any television show.
After a six month trial, in July 2001 the Five were convicted of all charges and sentenced to a total of four life sentences plus 77 years. Dispersed across the US in maximum security prisons they were denied the opportunity to communicate with each other and obstructed from seeing families and lawyers. The US government has repeatedly denied visas to Adriana Perez, wife of Gerardo Hernandez, and Olga Salanueva, wife of Rene Gonzalez, to travel from Cuba to visit their husbands.
In August 2005 the US Federal Appeals Court in Atlanta unanimously overturned the Cuban Five’s convictions and ordered a retrial. They ruled that the original trial was unfair due to the hostile publicity before and during the trial and intimidating presence of the Miami exile community. However, the Cuban Five were kept in prison and one year later the ruling was appealed and reversed. In June 2009, an appeal to the US Supreme Court to review the case was turned down despite being supported by an unprecedented 12 Amicus Curiae (friends of the court) briefs from ten Nobel Laureates, 75 members of the European Parliament, 85 Mexican Deputies and 87 British parliamentarians, among others. The Supreme Court’s decision marked the end of the legal battle. The political battle, however, continues.
Solidarity with the Cuban Five
‘The worst thing that can happen to anyone in the American system of justice is to be alone. Solidarity is necessary, not to intimidate the Court, but to indicate that the world is watching and the law should be followed’ – Leonard Weinglass, US civil rights lawyer and lead appellate of the Cuban Five (died on 23 March 2011).
The solidarity movement which has developed worldwide shows that the world is watching the case of the Cuban Five. They are not alone in their struggle against terrorism, imperialism and the repressive ‘justice’ system. Activists have taken to the streets and outside US embassies during and after every court hearing and for international days of action. In Britain Rock around the Blockade (RATB) began campaigning for the Cuban Five shortly after they were sentenced. We see this as part of the struggle to defend the socialist Revolution. In September we will be participating in the international days of action marking the 13th year of their incarceration. (See below for details of events around the country.)
US imperialism, harbouring the real terrorists
While the Five are punished for their commitment to socialism, the terrorists responsible for deadly attacks on Cuban civilians have lived freely in Miami. Among them Orlando Bosch (died peacefully in Miami 27 April 2011) and Posada Carriles, who both admitted to planning the bombing of the Cubana Airlines flight in 1976. Both have been on the CIA’s payroll and are protected by their associates in the tops ranks of the US establishment. After a three-month trial in Texas earlier this year, Carriles was acquitted of 11 charges of perjury, immigration fraud and obstruction of procedure. Evidence of his involvement in international terrorism, from Iran to Honduras and, of course, Cuba, was brushed aside. There is also evidence that the White House had advance information about Carriles’s plans for the Cuban Airlines’ bombing in 1976, the 1997 Havana hotel bombs and plans to assassinate Fidel Castro in Panama in November 2000.
This is not just ‘hypocrisy’ – it is the very nature of the imperialist system which tramples all rights and laws to maintain its hegemony over the people of the world. US imperialism shamelessly uses the guise of fighting terrorism while it bombs, kills, tortures and incarcerates those who rise up against its interests. The movement to oppose this system of oppression must be an anti-imperialist one, militant and uncompromising. Socialist Cuba and the Cuban Five are showing the way.
Send your solidarity to the Cuban Five:
PO Box 5300
Adelanto, CA 92301
PO Box 6000
Florence, CO 81226
2680 301 South
Jesup, GA 31599
(NOTE: address the envelope to ‘Luis Medina’, but the letter inside to Ramon)
Rubén Campa (Fernando González)
FCI Terre Haute
PO Box 33
Terre Haute, IN 47808
(NOTE: address the envelope to ‘Rubén Campa’, but the letter inside to Fernando)
PO Box 7007
Marianna, FL 32447-7007