Category: Cuban Five
Cause of Cuban 5 Is a Priority in Russia
| November 16, 2014 | 7:37 pm | Analysis, Cuban Five | No comments
Moscow, Nov 16 (Prensa Latina) Fernando Gonzalez, vice president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), stated on Sunday that the struggle for the release of three Cuban compatriots still held in U.S. prisons is a priority for the Russians.

About to conclude his visit to Russia, Gonzalez, who is also a Hero of the Republic of Cuba, told Prensa Latina that he felt a deep sentiment of solidarity for Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labañino.

They, as well as Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms that included several life sentences, for trying to prevent violent actions against their homeland, planned on U.S. territory.

While Hernandez, Labañino and Guerrero remain in prison in the United States, Fernando and Rene returned home after completing their prison sentences of more than 15 years.

The ICAP vice president thanked the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for expressing solidarity with the Cuban 5, to whom he referred as “my brothers.”

From the official viewpoint, the two resolutions approved unanimously on two occasions by the State Duma (lower house of parliament) are actions for which we feel the need to thank during the visit, he added.

That was the main objective of the meeting at the Duma, where we were received by Chairman Sergei Narishkin and First Deputy Chairman Ivan Melnikov. Both officials devoted more time than expected to us, despite their many occupations, Gonzalez said

He stated that all meetings held by the delegation received the commitment by legislators and activists to continuing struggling with new initiatives until Gerardo, Ramon and Antonio can return to their homeland.

Gonzalez is leading a delegation that attended the festivities on the 50th anniversary of the Russia-Cuba Friendship Society.

Cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo, president of the Russia-Cuba Friendship Society, Doctor Aleida Guevara, founder of that solidarity association along with Yuri Gagarin on the Russian side, and Gladys Ayllon, director of ICAP’s Europe Department, accompanied Gonzalez.


Modificado el ( domingo, 16 de noviembre de 2014 )
The New York Times Admits US Interference in Cuba
Washington, Nov 10 (Prensa Latina) For the fifth time in less than a month, The New York Times published a long editorial on Cuba, in which it listed the countless destabilizing efforts by the United States to overthrow the Cuban government.

In an article entitled “In Cuba, Misadventures in Regime Change”, the Editorial Committee of the influential New York-based newspaper on Sunday reviewed Washington’s countless plans against national stability in Cuba since the approval of the Helms-Burton Act in 1996 to date.

The New York Times notes that these subversive plans only served as the foundation for the US government to spend 264 million dollars over the past 18 years, in an effort to instigate alleged democratic reforms on the island.

The newspaper admits that far from having achieved their goals, the initiatives were counterproductive, as those funds “have been a magnet for charlatans, swindlers and good intentions gone awry”.

“The stealthy programs have increased hostility between the two nations, provided Cuba with a trove of propaganda fodder and stymied opportunities to cooperate in areas of mutual interest,” adds the newspaper.

It accuses the US Agency for International Development (USAID) of carrying out cloak-and-dagger missions to implement illegal projects in Cuba.

The editorial notes how “spending on initiatives to oust the government surged from a few million a year to more than $20 million in 2004″, during the first years of the George W. Bush administration (2001-2009), when “most contracts were awarded, without much oversight, to newly formed Cuban-American groups”.

The New York Times explains how one of those groups invested the money “on a legally questionable global lobbying effort to persuade foreign governments to support Americaâ�Ös unpopular embargo” (blockade), which the United State has imposed on Cuba since 1962.

Another group sent loads of comic books to the American diplomatic mission in Havana, bewildering officials there, says the newspaper, adding that “the money was also used to buy food and clothes, but there was no way to track how much reached relatives of political prisoners, the intended recipients”.

According to a report published in November 2006 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “one contractor used the pro-democracy money to buy ‘a gas chain saw, computer gaming equipment and software (including Nintendo Game Boys and Sony PlayStations), a mountain bike, leather coats, cashmere sweaters, crab meat and Godiva chocolates,’ purchases he was unable to justify to auditors.”

The New York Times adds that despite the results of the GAO probe in 2006, Congress appropriated $45 million for the programs, a record amount, in 2008.

“In December 2009, Cuban authorities arrested an American subcontractor who traveled to the island five times on USAID business, posing as a tourist to smuggle communication equipment,” notes the newspaper.

After that, “senior officials at USAID and the State Department were startled by the risks being taken, and some argued that the covert programs were counterproductive and should be stopped. But Cuban-American lawmakers fought vigorously to keep them alive”, says the editorial.

“After Mr. Gross’s arrest, the aid agency stopped sending American contractors into Cuba, but it allowed its contractors to recruit Latin Americans for secret missions that were sometimes detected by the Cuban intelligence services.”

The newspaper recalls that “an investigation by The Associated Press published in April revealed a controversial program carried out during the Obama administration. Between 2009 and 2012, Creative Associates International, a Washington firm, built a rudimentary text messaging system similar to Twitter, known as ZunZuneo, Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s tweet.”

“A second AP report revealed in August that USAID had been sending young Latin Americans to Cuba to identify ‘potential social change actors,’ under the pretext of organizing gatherings like an HIV prevention workshop,” points out The New York Times.

The editorial notes that instead of stealth efforts to overthrow the government, American policy makers should find ways through coordination with the Cuban government.

“Washington should recognize that the most it can hope to accomplish is to positively influence Cuba’s evolution toward a more open society. That is more likely to come about through stronger diplomatic relations than subterfuge,” concludes The New York Times.


Modificado el ( lunes, 10 de noviembre de 2014 )
Could a U.S.-Cuba prisoner swap break the ice?
| November 8, 2014 | 11:47 pm | Analysis, Cuban Five, International, National | No comments

By Ray Sanchez, Elise Labott and Patrick Oppmann, CNN

updated 6:43 PM EST, Fri November 7, 2014
Source: CNN
  • Alan Gross’ imprisonment in Cuba is major impediment to better relations with Havana
  • Cuba says Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor, tried to destabilize its government
  • Reforms in Cuba and changing attitudes in the United States could portend a new beginning
  • Some say it’s time for Gross to be swapped with Cubans held in the U.S.

(CNN) — Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba for smuggling satellite equipment onto the island, is being held at Havana’s Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital.

With peeling canary-yellow walls and hordes of people coming and going, the aging building doesn’t look like a place where Cuba would hold its most valuable prisoner.

But police officers and soldiers surround the hospital. Inside, Cuban special forces guard the 65-year-old U.S. citizen, emotionally and physically frail and approaching his fifth year in confinement.

North of the Florida Straits, Gross’ imprisonment is seen as the major impediment to better relations with Havana.

Now, however, midway through the second term of President Barack Obama, several signs of possible change have emerged. Senior administration officials and Cuba observers say reforms on the island and changing attitudes in the United States have created an opening for improved relations.

The signs include the admission this week by senior administration officials that talks about a swap between Gross and three imprisoned Cuban agents — part of group originally known as the Cuban Five — have taken place. In addition, recent editorials in The New York Times have recommended an end to the longstanding U.S. embargo against Cuba and even a prisoner swap for Gross.

Who is Alan Gross?

Gross is serving a 15-year sentence for bringing satellite communications equipment to Cuba as part of his work as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

U.S. officials said Gross, who is Jewish, was trying to help Cuba’s small Jewish community bypass stringent restrictions on Internet access.

Cuban authorities, however, countered that he was part of a plot to create a “Cuban Spring” and destabilize the island’s single-party Communist system in a clandestine effort to expand Internet access. Gross had traveled to Cuba multiple times as a tourist.

Gross had worked for Development Alternatives Inc., a Maryland-based subcontractor that received a multimillion-dollar U.S. contract for so-called democracy building on the island.

Fulton Armstrong was a senior adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under then-Sen. John Kerry when Gross was arrested. The subcontractor’s mission, under what Armstrong characterized as USAID “regime-change” programs, was “dangerous and counterproductive,” he said.

Alan Gross ‘withdrawn,’ saying goodbye

A 2012 lawsuit filed by Gross’ wife, Judy, accused USAID and Development Alternatives Inc. of negligence. It said the agencies had a contract “to establish operations supporting the creation of a USAID Mission” in Cuba.

The operation involved the smuggling of parabolic satellite dishes hidden in Styrofoam boogie boards, Armstrong said. Cash was transported to Cuba to finance demonstrations against the Castro regime.

“They were sending this poor guy into one of the most sophisticated counterintelligence operating environments in the world,” said Armstrong, who spent 25 years as a CIA officer. “It was not credible his story about the Jews. It didn’t make sense.”

In March 2011, Gross was tried behind closed doors for two days and convicted of attempting to set up an Internet network for Cuban dissidents “to promote destabilizing activities and subvert constitutional order.”

Wife of Alan Gross says he feels ‘hopeless’

Gross’ lawyer, Scott Gilbert, said years of confinement have taken a toll. His client has lost more than 100 pounds. He is losing his teeth. Gross’ hips are so weak that he can barely walk.

Gross, who has lost vision in one eye, has threatened to take his life, Gilbert said. Frustrated with the lack of progress in his case, the American has refused to see U.S. diplomats who once visited him at least monthly.

“Emotionally, Alan is done,” Gilbert said. “He said goodbye to his family in July. … He has prepared himself, as he has said, to come back to the United States, dead or alive. Time is very short.”

Who are the Cuban Five?

The name may conjure images of the tropical equivalent of the Jackson 5, but the Cuban Five are agents convicted in 2001 for intelligence gathering in Miami. They were part of what was called the Wasp Network, which collected intelligence on prominent Cuban-American exile leaders and U.S. military bases.

The five — Ruben Campa, also known as Fernando Gonzalez; Rene Gonzalez; Gerardo Hernandez; Luis Medina, also known as Ramon Labanino; and Antonio Guerrero — were arrested in September 1998.

Hernandez, the group leader, also was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for engineering the downing of two planes flown by the exile group Brothers to the Rescue in 1996. He’s serving two life sentences.

Cuban fighter jets shot down the unarmed Cessnas as they flew toward the island, where they had previously dropped anti-government leaflets. Four men died.

At trial, the defendants said their mission was to gather intelligence in Miami to defend Cuba from anti-Castro groups they feared would attack the island. Seven members of the network cooperated with U.S. authorities and are believed to be in witness protection.

In February, Fernando Gonzalez was released from a U.S. federal prison after serving 15 years for failing to register as a foreign agent and possessing forged documents.

In 2011, Rene Gonzalez was released after serving most of his 15-year sentence.

In Cuba, the two spies were welcomed as heroes. They were considered “political prisoners” unjustly punished in American courts. Their faces appeared on billboards throughout the island. State-controlled media labeled them “terrorism fighters.”

A federal appeals court originally threw out their convictions but later reinstated them.

Defense lawyers accused lower courts of unfairly refusing to move the trial to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from politically charged Miami, where anti-Castro hostility was more prevalent. They also raised serious questions about the jury selection process.

The trial for the Cuban Five was the only judicial proceeding in U.S. history condemned by the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Amnesty International also raised serious doubts about the fairness and impartiality of their trial.

Why do some people believe the time is right for a swap?

Rene Gonzalez, one of the “Cuban Five” group, In 2011, was released after serving most of his 15-year sentence.

With the U.S. midterm elections over, some Cuba observers believe the time is ripe for a breakthrough in relations. As a second-term president, Obama doesn’t have to worry about re-election.

“The political stars are well aligned because both Obama and (Cuban leader) Raul Castro have repeatedly said that they’d like to see an improvement in relations,” said William LeoGrande, an American University professor and co-author of a new book, “Back Channel to Cuba,” which chronicles decades of negotiations between the two countries.

In April 2015, at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the two leaders may have an opportunity to meet face to face.

Before then, the White House can lay the groundwork for agreements aimed at “burying the historical hatchet between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Peter Kornbluh, co-author of “Back Channel to Cuba” and senior analyst at the National Security Archive.

“Richard Nixon went all the way to China, and Barack Obama only has to go to Panama,” he said.

In Washington, senior administration officials predict more cooperation, with an important caveat.

“There is stuff we can do, but it has to start with Gross,” one of the officials said.

Administration officials say talks about a possible swap have taken place, but they’re hesitant to speak about whether those discussions are progressing. The White House came under fire after the recent swap of five Taliban detainees for the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Bergdahl was freed last spring after nearly five years in captivity at the hands of militants in Afghanistan. His controversial release came in exchange for five mid- to high-level Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

“They’ve been in jail for 16 years,” LeoGrande said of the Cuban agents, “and on humanitarian grounds alone it’s reasonable to release them when we stand to gain the release of an American citizen.

“It’s a better deal than trading five Taliban commanders for one U.S. soldier.”

No one knows how the incoming Republican-controlled Senate will handle Cuba policy. Most Republicans don’t feel strongly about the Cuba issue, and some lawmakers in agricultural states have supported a lifting of the trade and financial embargo in force for more than 50 years.

With Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, soon to be replaced as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one of the most powerful opponents to greater engagement with Cuba will have a decreased platform from which to criticize the administration on Cuba issues. But Menendez will remain on the committee, as will Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, another strong Cuba critic.

Why do others say the swap won’t happen?

A senior Senate aide familiar with the Cuba issue said the drumbeat for improved relations with the island always comes in the waning years of every Democratic administration. The aide said it was “politically hard to believe” that the Cuba issue will take precedence over critical foreign policy challenges Obama faces around the world.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that while the President has said Cuba policy is worth reconsidering, the administration has “significant concerns … about (the Cuban government’s) human rights record, their failure to observe basic human rights, as it relates to not just the illegitimate detention of Mr. Gross, but as it relates to the basic rights to free speech and political expression of the people of Cuba.”

Some longtime Cuba observers are skeptical of the prisoner-swap idea.

“It’s conceivable that it could happen now,” said Armstrong, the former senior adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Who knows? (Attorney General) Eric Holder is leaving the and Obama is now pretty much a lame duck, and Bob Menendez will no longer be chairman of foreign relations, and Alan Gross should be home by Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hanukkah. Enough is enough. But we’ve been at this point before.”

In “Back Channel to Cuba,” LeoGrande and Kornbluh describe backdoor negotiations in 1963 that led to the release of more than two dozen Americans jailed in Cuba, including members of a CIA team caught planting listening devices in Havana.

The U.S. gave up four Cuban prisoners, including an attaché at the U.N. mission and two indicted for planning acts of sabotage. The fourth was a Cuban convicted of murder for killing a 9-year-old girl who was struck by a stray bullet during a fight with anti-Castro Cubans when Fidel Castro visited New York in 1960.

Castro granted clemency to the American prisoners. And the United States released the Cubans in what the Justice Department described as an act of clemency “in the national interest.”

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter granted clemency and released three Puerto Rican nationalists, including Lolita Lebron, who had been convicted for opening fire in the U.S. House of Representatives and wounding five congressmen. The deal was part of a backdoor “humanitarian exchange” in which Fidel Castro released four CIA agents 11 days later.

Said Kornbluh, “It is time to bring U.S.-Cuba relations into the 21st century.”

CNN’s Ray Sanchez reported and wrote in New York, Elise Labott reported from Washington and Patrick Oppmann reported from Havan

NYT letters to the editor on the Cuban 5 prisoner swap
| November 7, 2014 | 9:18 pm | Cuban Five, International | No comments
NY Times: Letters to the Editor
Published on November 7, in the web and in the printing version
To the Editor:
Your Nov. 3 editorial “A Prisoner Swap With Cuba” presented a reasonable resolution to a major obstacle in normalizing United States relations with Cuba, but did not mention some key facts.
Despite references to the “convicted Cuban spies” Cuba wants returned after already serving over 16 years in American prisons, the seven-month trial of these admitted Cuban agents did not include evidence that they had obtained any classified information.
Rather, the Cuban version, that their primary mission was to monitor and prevent terrorism planned by exiles in Miami against Cuba, is supported by the evidence, including the book-length study by a Canadian journalist, Stephen Kimber, “What Lies Across the Water.” None of the five men were charged with actual espionage (as they had no classified information), although the Miami jury convicted them of a “conspiracy,” or a plan to commit espionage.
They monitored figures such as Orlando Bosch, who was given safe harbor in the United States for more than 20 years until his death in 2011, despite being “resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence,” according to Joe Whitley, an acting associate attorney general who argued against granting asylum and later became general counsel to the Department of Homeland Security. And today, a career terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, is still being harbored by the United States in Miami.
ART HEITZER Milwaukee, Nov. 3, 2014
The writer is chairman of the Cuba subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild.
To the Editor:
Your persuasive argument for exchanging a U.S.A.I.D. subcontractor, Alan Gross, for three Cuban spies who have served over 16 years in United States prisons is missing one crucial component: the historical precedence for such a swap.
Two examples of prisoner exchanges between the United States and Cuba are particularly relevant. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy freed a Cuban convicted of accidentally shooting and killing a 9-year-old girl and released three other Cubans who had been arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit acts of sabotage in New York.
In return, Cuba immediately freed more than two dozen American citizens imprisoned in Cuban jails on charges of counterrevolutionary activities, among them a three-member C.I.A. team caught as they were planting listening devices in a building in Havana.
In September 1979, President Jimmy Carter accepted a Justice Department recommendation for clemency and released three Puerto Rican nationalists, including Lolita Lebron, who had been convicted of opening fire from the gallery of Congress, wounding five lawmakers. As part of an undeclared “humanitarian exchange” negotiated behind the scenes, 11 days later Fidel Castro released four C.I.A. agents.
At the time, both of these swaps were politically controversial, requiring presidential grit and determination. But, as President Obama should note, they advanced United States national interests and returned imprisoned Americans to their families.
The writers are co-authors of “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana.”


CNN on Alan gross and prisoner swap
| November 7, 2014 | 9:10 pm | Cuban Five, International | No comments

Ricardo Alarcon on NYT & the Cuban 5
| November 6, 2014 | 8:43 pm | Analysis, Cuban Five, International, Latin America | No comments

Ricardo Alarcón on NYT & the Cuban 5.
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The New York Times Breaks the Media Blockade

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

November 6, 2014

In my article currently circulating in Nueva Réplica I regretted that the New York Times had not raised the case of Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio in its editorial last October in which the paper called for ending the US blockade against Cuba.

When I wrote it, I did not imagine that with that document, the New York paper would start an important debate, which has lasted a month and includes several editorials advocating a substantial change in the relations between the two countries. The latest one, published Sunday, November 2, proposed that the three be released and that in exchange, Cuba for humanitarian reasons would free Alan Gross who was sentenced here for participating in illegal activities to overthrow the revolutionary government.

This is a fair and reasonable position. The paper is right when it defines the release of three Cuban heroes as a vital step towards civilized coexistence between two countries that are and will always be neighbors.

It should be added to the arguments of the Times that none of the Five were accused of espionage and therefore were not “spies”. As was demonstrated at the trial in Miami, none of them had access to secret information related to the national security of the United States. Neither had been given directions to look for that kind of information. This was acknowledged under oath by Gen. James R. Clapper who was a government witness whose testimony appears on pages 13089-13235 of the trial transcript. It’s the same Clapper who today is the Director of National Intelligence in the Obama Administration.

It is also necessary to remember that the mission of the Five was to try to thwart terrorist plans against Cuba which more than once have caused death and damage also to people living in United States.

But, in any case, this editorial from the New York Times should be hailed as an event of transcendental importance. The wall of silence surrounding the case of the Five has received a devastating blow which hopefully is final.

A CubaNews translation by Walter Lippmann.


The New York Times rompe el bloqueo mediático

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

6 noviembre 2014

En mí artículo que aparece en la Nueva Réplica actualmente circulando reproché al New York Times que no hubiese planteado el caso de Gerardo, Ramón y Antonio en su Editorial del pasado octubre en el que se pronunció por la eliminación del bloqueo norteamericano contra Cuba.

Cuando lo escribí no imaginaba que con ese documento el diario neoyorquino iniciaba un importante debate, que dura ya un mes, e incluye varios editoriales abogando por un cambio sustancial en las relaciones entre ambos países. El más reciente del domingo 2 de noviembre, propone que los tres sean liberados a cambio de que Cuba por razones humanitarias ponga en libertad a Allan Gross sancionado aquí por participar en actividades ilegales destinadas a derrocar al Gobierno revolucionario.

Se trata de una posición justa y razonable. Tiene razón el periódico cuando define la liberación de los tres Héroes cubanos como un paso indispensable para avanzar hacia la convivencia civilizada entre dos países que son y serán siempre vecinos.

Debería agregarse a los argumentos del Times que ninguno de los Cinco fue acusado de realizar espionaje y por tanto no eran “espías”. Como se demostró en el juicio de Miami ninguno de ellos accedió o buscó informaciones secretas relacionadas con la seguridad nacional de Estados Unidos. Tampoco recibieron orientaciones para buscar ese tipo de informaciones. Así lo reconoció, bajo juramento, el General James R. Clapper quien fue testigo del Gobierno y cuyo testimonio aparece entre las páginas 13089 a 13235 de las Actas Oficiales del Tribunal. Es el mismo Clapper que hoy es el Director Nacional de Inteligencia de la Administración Obama.

También es necesario recordar que la misión de los Cinco era tratar de frustrar los planes terroristas contra Cuba que más de una vez han causado muerte y daños también a personas residentes en Estados Unidos.

Pero, en todo caso, este Editorial del New York Times debe ser saludado como un hecho de importancia trascendental. El muro de silencio que rodeaba el caso de los Cinco ha recibido un golpe demoledor que ojalá sea definitivo.


Le New York Times brise le blocus médiatique

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Dans mon article qui paraît actuellement dans la Nueva Réplica, je déplorais que le New York Times n’ait pas évoqué le cas de Gerardo, Ramón et Antonio dans son éditorial d’octobre dernier dans lequel le journal appelait à rompre le blocus des États-Unis contre Cuba.

Quand je l’ai rédigé, je ne soupçonnais pas qu’à partir de cet article, le journal new-yorkais lancerait un important débat, lequel a duré un mois et inclus plusieurs éditoriaux préconisant un changement majeur dans les relations entre les deux pays. Le dernier, publié le dimanche 2 novembre, suggérait que les trois hommes soient libérés et qu’en échange, Cuba, pour des raisons humanitaires, libère Alan Gross condamné ici pour avoir participé à des activités illégales visant à renverser le gouvernement révolutionnaire.

C’est un point de vue honnête et équitable. Le journal a raison de considérer la libération des trois héros cubains comme une étape essentielle vers une coexistence harmonieuse entre les deux pays qui sont et seront toujours voisins.

Il faut ajouter aux arguments du NYT qu’aucun des Cinq n’a été accusé d’espionnage et qu’ils ne sont pas, de ce fait, des « espions ». Comme il l’a été prouvé au procès à Miami, aucun d’entre eux n’a eu accès à des informations secrètes liées à la sécurité nationale des États-Unis ni non plus reçu de mandat pour chercher ce type d’information. Ceci a été reconnu sous serment par le général James R. Clapper, témoin officiel du gouvernement étasunien, dont le témoignage apparaît aux pages 13089-13235 du compte rendu du procès. Clapper est aujourd’hui directeur des Services de renseignements nationaux (National Intelligence) de l’administration Obama.

Il convient également de rappeler que la mission des Cinq était de déjouer des plans terroristes contre Cuba, lesquels ont plus d’une fois entraîné des décès et des destructions, y compris aux États-Unis.

En tout état de cause, cet éditorial du New York Times devrait être salué comme un évènement d’importance capitale. Le mur de silence qui a entouré le cas des Cinq a reçu une onde de choc dévastatrice qui, espérons-le, aura été décisive.

Traduit par Anne-Marie Deraspe, assisté par Arnold August, Montréal

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson Sends Letter to Obama in Support of the Five

Readers: Please use this as a model for sending your own letters to President Obama!

From the: International Committee for the   Freedom of the Cuban 5

Lawrence Wilkerson is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

His last position in government was chief of staff to Colin Powell at the U.S. Department of State (2002-2005).  He served 31 years in the US Army (1966-1998).

Here is his letter to President Obama:

November 5, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White HouseFree the Cuban 5
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC  20500

Dear Mr. President,


It is time to correct an injustice that is in your power to amend. This injustice mars majorly the American system of justice, the U.S. record on human rights and, as importantly, the lives of five men whose dedication to the security of their own country against terrorist attack should be admired and respected, not punished. No doubt you have heard of these men: Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labaniño Salazar, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, Fernando González Llort, and Rene González Sehwerert. The world knows them as The Cuban Five.


Two of these men are today out of prison, two more might be out in the far future, and one might never see the dawn of a free day.  This latter individual, Gerardo Hernández, I tried to visit-unsuccessfully-in the maximum security prison in Victorville, California.  Though I was unable to visit him, a true and trusted colleague who accompanied me, the late Saul Landau, was able to do so and reported to me that Gerardo remains as courageous and undaunted as ever yet still puzzled over the failure to act of what is supposed to be the world’s greatest democracy.


The Cuban Five suffered a gross injustice when they were arrested in 1998. After their arrests they spent 17 months in solitary confinement. Their trial took place in Miami, Florida and in 2001 they were sentenced to long prison terms. At a legal minimum, the trial through which they suffered in Miami should have been moved to another location, as change-of-venue arguments alone were not only persuasive they were overwhelming, testified to amply when the appeals court in Atlanta, voting in a three-judge panel, supported a change of venue. Later, however, this decision was reversed when the political power of George W. Bush’s administration-an administration in which I served-compelled the court, voting in its entirety to reconsider the three-judge panel’s decision and vote differently; they ratified the sentences of two of them, and the case of the other three were sent back to the court in Miami for re-sentencing. The court recognized that the guide of sentencing were wrongly applied and as a result reduced their prison terms.


But there is more, much more. In fact, there is the now-indisputable fact that the five were not guilty of the substantive charges brought against them in the first place. The politics surrounding the trial were in the hands of hard-line Cuban-Americans in Florida, as well as in the US Congress. Without their blatant interference with the course of justice, the trial never would have taken place. Moreover, these people spent taxpayer dollars to enlist journalists in Miami to write condemnatory articles, to influence the jury pool for the trial, and to predispose public opinion to a guilty verdict. This trial was a political payoff to hard-line Cuban-Americans and every person in the United States and across the world who pays attention to these matters, knows it. Indeed, you know it, Mr. President. This kangaroo-court trial is a blemish on the very fabric of America’s democracy. It sends a clear signal to all the world-who judge us not as we judge ourselves, by how we feel about issues, but by our deeds.


You, Mr. President, cannot erase this blemish; it has lingered too long and too many years have been stolen from these men’s lives by it.  But you can mitigate it, you can make it less formidable. And, vitally, you can clean the reputation of our justice system, and, in the case of Gerardo and the other two men still in prison, you can free them.


The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, in May of 2005, declared the imprisonment of the Cuban Five to be a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, placing the United States alongside some of the most heinous countries on earth. The Working Group requested that the U.S. take action to remedy the situation. You, Mr. President, can do just that.


Mr. President, you said that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” But in certain instances, that is wrong and you know it. Would you have us not look back to our Civil War? To the depredations of Black slavery that led to it? To the century-long economic slavery that followed that war? To the racism of our past-a racism that still plagues us today? I think not. And you should not deny the need to look back, review and reverse this mockery of a trial.


Take action, Mr. President. Release immediately the three remaining imprisoned members of the Cuban Five. Admit publicly the gross injustice done to all of them and elaborate the reasons. Apologize to the Cuban people and to our citizens and, most of all, to the Cuban Five and their families. Listen to “the better angels of our nature” and put the United States back on the side of justice.zzz-cuban5



Very Respectfully,


     Lawrence B. Wilkerson

Colonel, US Army (Retired)