Category: Cuban Five
Father Geoffrey Bottoms sends a letter to President Obama
| July 4, 2014 | 4:09 pm | Cuban Five, International, Latin America | No comments

Father Geoffrey Bottoms is a British Catholic priest. He is an executive member of the British Cuba Solidarity Campaign and has visited Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, and Fernando González in their various US prisons and met regularly with their families. He also leads Group Study Tours of Cuba each year on behalf of the British campaign. Father Bottoms is a follower of liberation theology and is actively involved in the labour and trade movement. He is a member of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union in the UK.

July 5, 2014

Dear President Obama,

As a Catholic priest in Britain I have followed the case of five Cuban prisoners in the United States known as the Cuban Five since 2002. They were convicted in Miami of charges ranging from failure to disclose themselves as foreign agents to conspiracy to commit espionage and even murder and were given sentences stretching from fifteen years to double life. In reality they were defending their people against acts of terrorism by certain Cuban-American groups in Miami hostile to Havana that have killed almost three thousand five hundred people and injured over two thousand others.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the recommendation of its Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and Amnesty International have both raised concerns as to the fairness and impartiality of a trial that took place in such a hostile environment as Miami where there were irregularities in the due process of law. An International Commission of Inquiry held in London in March of 2014 led by three internationally renowned judges reached a similar conclusion.

I have attended three appeals on behalf of the Five in Miami and Atlanta and heard the arguments for myself. I have also visited three of the prisoners and met with their families and am convinced that there has been a gross miscarriage of justice.

Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez have both returned to Cuba having served their sentences but I am appealing for the release of Gerardo Hernandez serving double life in USP Victorville, California, Antonio Guerrero serving 22 years in FCI Marianna, and Ramon Labanino (known as Luis Medina) serving thirty years in FCI Ashland. The appeal process has now reached the stage of Habeas Corpus with fresh evidence having come to light of journalists in the pay of the US government writing biased reports both before and during the trial itself.

Mr. President, I know that you are a man of peace having won the Nobel Peace Prize and that you are also a man of faith who attempts to put his Christian principles into practice in public life. I therefore appeal for the release of the remaining three Cuban prisoners in the interests of furthering relations between the US and Cuba and world peace. Surely a humanitarian resolution to this case can be found?

The world has moved on since 1959 and it is obvious that US policy towards Cuba since then has failed to achieve its objectives. Meanwhile much suffering has been caused not least to these men and their families and especially Adriana, the wife of Gerardo Hernandez, who has been consistently denied a visa to visit her husband since 1998. I believe that they are victims of this failed strategy.

Both your country and Cuba stand to benefit from a relationship of mutual respect and co-operation and your presidency could be defined by ending decades of this sterile policy towards a noble and heroic developing country on your doorstep that only wishes to pursue its humanitarian future free from outside interference.

Can you do it? Yes you can!

With the greatest respect,

Fr. Geoffrey Bottoms
Sheffield UK.

Parliamentarians from Costa Rica ask Obama for a Humanitarian Solution to the Case of the Cuban 5

On June 2, 23 Parliamentarians from Costa Rica sent a letter to President Obama asking him to free Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, 3 of the Five Cuban antiterrorists imprisoned in the United States for more than 15 years. In the letter they mentioned the request made by Uruguayan President José Mujica and advocate for a humanitarian solution to the case of the Cuban 5. They also urge the U.S. Government to “seriously consider a humanitarian exchange of Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino, by the American contractor Allan Gross”.

June 2, 2014

San José Costa Rica, Central América

President Barack Obama

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500 USA.

Your Excellency Mr. President Obama,

This year, September 12 will mark 16 years since Five Cuban citizens were imprisoned in the United States and sentenced without any proof to long terms in prison ranging from 15 years to two life sentences. The trial in Miami lacked all guarantees to due process.

Since, September 12, 1998, these men have become recognized internationally as the “Cuban Five”. They are considered Cuban anti-terrorist patriots by the Cuban people and the peoples of our America, since their actions were to prevent terrorist acts against the people of Cuba and the United States.

The Presidential administrations of former Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and your own time in office, have witnessed that since that time of their incarceration people from all over the world have rallied on their behalf. There has been a nonstop chorus of voices demanding that your government release immediately Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, three of the five Cubans who still remain in prison.

Mr. President, it is time that you put an end to this terrible injustice that during three administrations has shadowed the ideal of democracy and justice of your country. It reveals that double-speak and double standards prevails in this case and that concerns us.

You have in your hands the power to grant the executive pardon that they deserve so that they can return to their Cuban homeland to be with their families and their people.

Mr. President Obama, we members of the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica, today join the cry of the solidarity and social movements from all over the world, to support the proposal submitted to you by one of the most worthy Presidents of Latin America, his Excellency Mr. President of Uruguay José Mujica. He has expressed to you his deep concern in the case of the Five and the Guantánamo prisoners, cases which constitute two major embarrassments to humanity. On the other hand, we urge you to seriously consider the humanitarian exchange of Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino, for the American agent Alan Gross.

Mr. President, we hope that you pay attention to our request and put an end to this shameful injustice committed against the Cuban Five anti-terrorist patriots.

Sincerely yours,

Costa Rican Deputies to the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica

Ligia Elena Fallas Rodríguez

Jorge Arguedas Mora

José Corrales L

José Antonio Ramírez Aguilar

Ronald Vargas Araya

Carlos Hernández Alvarez

Gerardo Vargas Varela

Edgardo Vinicio Araya Sibaja

Humberto Varas Corrales

Patricia Mora Castellanos

Javier Francisco Cambronero Arguedas

Marvin Antonio Delgado

Nidia M Jiménez Vásquez

Laura Garro S.

Marlene Madrigal Flores

Marta Arauz Mora

Jorge Rodríguez

Franklin Corella U

Rosibel Ramos Madrigal

Rafael Ortiz

Emilia Molina Cruz

Víctor Hugo Morales

Natalio Guerrero Campos

International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5

info@thecuban5.org
http://www.thecuban5.org

Interview with Ramon Labañino

“I did what’s right and have never endangered anyone.”

That’s the assertion of Hero of the Cuban Republic Ramón Labañino Salazar who was unjustly
sentenced to 30 years in prison that he is serving in a federal prison in Kentucky, in the United
States. Now 51 years of age, he was 35 years old when they arrested them that early morning on
September 12, 1998.

Author: Deisy Francis Mexidor, June 9, 2014.
http://www.granma.cu/cuba/2014-06-09/hice-lo-justo-y-jamas-he-danado-a-nadie !

That day in September, 2009 when they proceeded to resentence him in Miami, in the United
States, Ramón Labañino Salazar, who was still carrying a life sentence plus 18 years in prison,
entered the judicial chamber with his hands held high, as a victory symbol.

Glancing around, he looked at all those present in the audience until he found his beloved
Elizabeth. He smiled at her as if he were the happiest of mortals and with his look covered her
with kisses. It was a fleeting moment but at the same time almost eternal.

There were so many things being said at that moment! It was just like the one that happened
later when he learned that his new sentence, no less unjust, would remove 30 years of physical
liberty from his life. Then too his captors couldn’t lock up his soul and spirit.

“I am by nature an optimistic man,” confessed Labañino, one of five Cuban anti-terrorists
sentenced to long terms in U. S. prisons.

In response to a questionnaire, the Hero of the Republic of Cuba pointed out that, “I have
always found reasons for taking a positive point of view of everything happening around me,
including the fights, the injustices, and the hard things one lives with and sees in prison. He
shares that title with his comrades Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González,
and René González. (The last two are now in Cuba but not before they satisfied all sanctions
against them.)

The Five are brothers in the same struggle, although they are confined in prisons far apart from
each other. They took to using “us” instead of “I” and what was important for one took on a
collective nature.

They did this from the beginning and every time a message arrives from them, the farewell
invariably finishes with “five hugs.” That’s how Ramón ended these replies sent from the
penitentiary in Ashland, Kentucky.

The son of Nereyda Salazar Verduy (deceased) and Holmes Labañino Cantillo, Ramón was born
June 9, 1963, in the Havana district of Marianao. He graduated with top academic recognition,
qualifying in economics at the University of Havana.

His greatest treasures are the daughters he adores, Aili (from his first marriage) Laura, and
Lizbeth, as he tirelessly repeats.

When he left home to work abroad, precisely in February, 1992, Elizabeth Palmeiro, his wife,
was barely eight weeks pregnant with Laura. He could not enjoy that period or the arrival into
the world of Lizbeth whom he only came to know in February, 1997, just after she was born.

His comings and goings in and out of the country and then prison made it so that despite being
married for 23 years, Ramón and Elizabeth have only lived together, without being apart, for
barely two years. They’ve been separated the rest of the time.

Nevertheless, they built a family together, and she, behind the lines, waits for him dealing with
the family project that came about despite obstacles. There they are, “his beautiful women,”
as he proudly says.

Question – How does a man succeed in overcoming great adversities? Where does one find
such strength?
Answer – Above all, when one is convinced that what he is doing is always correct, just, and
legal, that one defends a humane cause, that one has never put anybody or any thing in
danger, and that, on the contrary, he has sacrificed everything for the common good, for
people’s lives – innocent people – then those ideas themselves lend enormous force of will and
persistence against all adversities and “adversaries.” The fight is just. Victory will indeed have
to be sweet.

Q. – What do you recall about Ramón as a boy and young university student?
A. – I think I am an eternal child. That’s what my wife Elizabeth, my daughters, and whoever
knows me say. I don’t know if that will always be true, or if they say it through the love they
show me, but I do believe I’ve never lost (nor ever will) that youthful, smiling, cheerful, and
optimistic spirit that helps one so much to live and struggle. I was that way as a child: smiley
and very timid, very much so, I would say. And I always was enthralled by studying and doing
sports.

I remember from childhood that my little sister Laide began calling me “Papi.” I think that was
because I took care of her a lot, and my mother instilled in us the idea that the family’s oldest
brother is like a second father. And I think I accepted that role quite seriously, so much so that
even today, many call me “Papi.” And that’s something my daughters resent, because they
want to be the only ones saying that to me, but they know very well that I am the unique, the
one and only “Papi,” from the soul to infinity, and that’s important.

I really enjoyed my university years. As I said, studying and doing sports captivated me, and I
could do both there fully. Also I was a student assistant in statistical mathematics beginning
with the second year of the course. Sometimes I gave review courses and classes to comrades
in the lower years or in our own year. It’s something I always liked a lot, teaching. I could
practice judo and karate in the university, which was my dream in sports. It was a period of
learning, but above all of growth. It helped me a lot in my formation and in my convictions in
every sense, something for which I am infinitely grateful to Cuba, to our Revolution, to our
socialist system.

Q. – Do they see you as the big one of the group?
A. – That’s one point of view of those who see me. I don’t see myself as strong, rather I work to
be “considered” thin. Of course, that continually costs me much effort to believe it myself. I
do sports for pleasure, also because I need to get rid of so much stress, and because I feel
much better and useful after each workout. I try to keep myself healthy in spite of the
heartaches, since it’s our way of fighting and overcoming, of not letting ourselves fall apart or
be destroyed. Now I myself am doing weights and long walks inside the prison, some handball,
a lot of chess. That makes me feel healthy, vital, and ready for everyday struggles and ones in
the future that surely will come.

Q. – Who did you want to resemble?
A. – I myself sought guidance through example from the great ones, not to be them, since it’s
impossible to attain icon status. But I have greatly admired and would try to be like Che, like
our immortal Antonio Maceo, like José Martí, like Fidel, like Raúl, like Bolívar, like Sucre, and
now a lot like our Hugo Chávez. They are in essence my everyday examples. I would be very
pleased, simply, to be like every man who has decency and honor, but that would make this list
too extensive.

A. – Could you let us know what you like by way of reading – historical personalities, fiction,
[even television] series…?
A. – I am going to reduce the list to five for each category. I don’t want to bore you or be too
exhaustive, but, look, among my favorite readings are: “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and
“Love in the Time of Cholera,” by Gabriel García Márquez; “The Kingdom of this World,” by
Alejo Carpentier: “Simple Verses,” by José Martí; and “The House of the Spirits, by Isabel
Allende.

From television series I can name “In Silence It Had to Be” and “Julito the Fisherman,” two
excellent Cuban productions; and from another area – adventures – where I saw “The
Commandos of Silence.” And I take the occasion to ask why they don’t make new versions of all
these series on Cuban television. As to films, I point to “Strawberry and Chocolate” and
‘Undercover” (“Clandestinos”), where our much-admired Isabel Santos took the lead role.
In regard to fictitious characters, there are these: Don Quijote and Sancho Panza, David in “In
Silence It Had to Be,” interpreted by the late actor Sergio Corrieri; “Julito the Fisherman,”
immortalized by René de la Cruz; and Bruce Lee in some of his films on martial arts, to mention
a few.

Historical figures that I feel are examples for imitation are: Simón Bolívar, Ernesto Che
Guevara, Antonio Maceo, José Martí, and Fidel Castro.

P. – They arrested you when you were 35 years old. What is your concept of time?
A. – Time is a relative concept. If I think about myself, I think time does not pass. When I think
of my daughters becoming women, when I look into the eyes of my beloved Eli, time becomes
infinite for me, cruel, implacable. On that score, I go back to another time, one of laughter
and joys, of return and happiness, to the precious time of our future, free in Cuba – and with
that (my optimism), I stop. You already know I am a huge optimist, that I am going to remain
that way, and so I am happy.

P. – Imagine you are a poet improviser and they give you a “forced foot” that says, “…I am
this kind of guy.” (1)

A. – I am this kind of guy
exactly how you see him
not right not wrong
simple, no frenzy.
With Cuba free I learned
That the way is to love struggle
And this threatening fight today
Is for the truth I knew
And I will continue being like this,
A simple guy with decency
That is worth much more than gold,
One who is honored to die as I lived.

Q. – If you close your eyes now, what do you see?
A. – I see Cuba, a beach blue, clean, and dazzling. I see Eli, my daughters, all my family, my
people. I see laughter, joy, eternity. That way I make my freedom tangible and real. And I know
it’s certain.

(1) A “forced foot” (pie forzada) is a usually ten-line bit of improvised poetry that must end
with a proposed verse, or as with Ramon, begin with it.

Translated by W. T. Whitney Jr. for www.letcubalive.org

Terrorism as a weapon of hegemony – The Cuban 5

Counterpunch

June 17, 2014

Terrorism As A Weapon Of Hegemony

The Cuban Five

by CHANDRA MUZAFFAR

Once again, the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) joins hands with the people of Cuba and justice-loving people in every nook and cranny of the planet, in demanding the immediate release of the three remaining prisoners from the Cuban Five who are still languishing in US jails, after 13 years.

Two were released after completing their prison terms — Rene Gonzales on the 7th of October 2011, and Fernando Gonzales on the 27th of February 2014. It is important to emphasize that they walked to freedom with their dignity intact. The three who are still in jail — Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino — deserve our fullest support and solidarity. We should continue to campaign for them with all our heart and soul.

To reiterate, the imprisonment of all five is a travesty of justice. The Cuban Five were monitoring Cuban exile groups in the US in the nineties who had a proven record of committing terrorist acts against the Cuban people. They were gathering information about the terrorist missions that these groups were planning and had informed the US authorities about what they (the Cuban Five) were doing. And yet they were arrested and jailed after an unfair and unjust trial.

If the Cuban Five working under the direction of the Cuban government was determined to expose terrorist activities being carried out against their motherland from US soil, it was mainly because Cuba and its leadership had been victims of US sponsored terror and violence for decades. In 1976, a Cuban commercial plane with 73 passengers on board, a number of them school children, was bombed, killing everyone. The alleged mastermind of this terrorist act, Luis Posada Carriles, is still alive, protected by the US government. There was also an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba by groups in the US in 1961, the infamous ‘Bay of Pigs’ fiasco. A series of terrorist attacks targeting hotels and tourists in the nineties sought to cripple the Cuban economy. And there have been innumerable attempts to assassinate the Leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, right through the 47 years that he was in power. Add to all this the crippling economic sanctions imposed upon Cuba by every US Administration since 1961 and we will get a complete picture of how a small nation of 11 million people has had to endure the terror unleashed against it by its superpower neighbor.

Why has Cuba been the target of terrorism in all its manifestations for so long? The reason is simple. The US elite will not accept in its neighborhood, a nation which is determined to choose its own path to the future without being dictated to, or dominated by, the US. It will not tolerate a people who are committed to defending their independence and sovereignty. To put it in another way, the US drive for hegemony does not permit another nation— especially a nation with a different worldview — to preserve and enhance its dignity.

This hegemonic attitude is borne out by the US’s treatment of other countries in Latin America. Whenever a nation steps out of line, the US line, it is clobbered. Sometimes through terror and violence. Look at Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, at different times and in different circumstances. Even in West Asia, terror has been employed to both undermine governments which want to maintain a degree of independence from the US and the West and to create instability and chaos in society. This is the story of Somalia and Sudan, of Libya and Lebanon, of Iraq and Syria. In Southeast Asia too, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians and Laotians have all experienced US terror, just as the people of the Philippines had in the past. Weren’t the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also exposed to a US “rain of terror” in 1945?

Let’s be clear about this. Terrorism is a tool for dominance and control. Terrorism is a weapon of hegemony. The US — like some other states too—uses this weapon in both ways. It employs terror when it suits its interests. It also fights against terrorism when it serves its agenda. This is why for the US there are “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists.” It is quite happy to collude with the former and crush the latter.

This was obvious in Iraq following the Anglo-American occupation of the land in 2003. In the initial phase the occupier encouraged the Shia militias to fight the Sunni remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime. Once the Shias got into power through the democratic process and moved closer to Iran, the US became worried and backed Sunni militias fighting the Shia dominated government. Now of course, Sunni-Shia clashes, compounded by various other forces, have assumed a life of their own.

In Syria, it is an open secret that the US and other Western and regional actors have been actively involved in supporting the armed rebels against the Bashar al-Assad government in Damascus. Some of the rebels are favored more than others by the US just as other rebels are linked to some of the other external players. The good terrorists from the US perspective receive a lot of assistance including weapons and funds through channels connected to US allies in the region. Are there bad terrorists in the Syrian conflict? While the US may not approve of the tactics used by some of the rebels, it has refrained from strong denunciation of them since it shares their overriding objective of eliminating Assad. So it is Assad who is the bad terrorist in the eyes of the US. Assad is bad because he has been consistent in his opposition to US-Israeli hegemony over West Asia.

There is parallel of sorts to the Cuban situation. All those individuals and groups opposed to the Cuban government, however violent they may be, are good terrorists and have been bestowed with all kinds of aid by US agencies through various conduits. Fidel Castro, and his successor, Raul Castro, are the bad ones. Fidel in particular was demonized in the mainstream Western media as few other leaders had been. Needless to say, it was because of his principled position against US helmed hegemony, articulated with such depth and clarity, that a grossly negative image of the man was disseminated through the media.

But Fidel Castro and the Cuban Five have demonstrated that in the ultimate analysis truth will triumph. Today, Fidel commands a lot of respect and affection among ordinary men and women everywhere for what he has accomplished for his people and indeed for the people of Latin America and the Global South. Similarly, the cause of the Cuban Five has become one of the major rallying-points in the worldwide struggle for human freedom and human dignity because it symbolizes the struggle of the powerless against the powerful.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), an NGO based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/06/17/the-cuban-five-2/

​USAID & the Cuban Five: Criminalizing counterterrorism, legalizing regime change
| June 16, 2014 | 8:50 pm | Action, Analysis, Cuban Five, International | No comments

http://rt.com/op-edge/166192-usaid-cuban-five-terrorism/

USAID & the Cuban Five: Criminalizing counterterrorism, legalizing regime changezzz-cuban5

Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached on Twitter or at nilebowie@gmail.com

June 16, 2014 09:37

The plight of five imprisoned Cuban counterterrorism officers, known collectively as the Cuban Five, has been the subject of a growing campaign to lobby Congress in favor of releasing the men.

The five officers were monitoring Cuban exile groups based in Miami with an established track record of orchestrating terrorist acts inside Cuba. The group had informed US authorities of their actions, and were not in possession of any weapons, nor did they engage in any act of espionage against the US or cause harm to any person.

In September 1998, the five officers were arrested by FBI agents and were accused of conspiracy to commit espionage. Their trial, which lasted over six months, became the longest in US history. Though the group was never directly accused of espionage, nor were any acts of espionage committed, the five Cuban men were sentenced to a total of four life sentences plus 77 years.

No fair trial

The men were initially kept in solitary confinement for 17 months, and were later imprisoned in five separate maximum-security prisons spread across the US without the possibility of communication with each other. Their case represents the first time in US history that life sentences were meted out on espionage charges.

The consensus among various legal experts and advocacy groups is that political and partisan considerations worked against justice and the five Cuban men were not given a fair trial. The trial was held in Miami, a region that is synonymous with maintaining open hostility toward the Cuban government, making it incredibly difficult to seat an impartial jury in such a politically charged atmosphere.

According to reports, the US government commissioned several Miami-based journalists to write negative stories to discredit the five defendants, which were widely publicized to influence public opinion. Moreover, the US government even recognized in writing that it was unable to substantiate the conspiracy to commit murder charges against Gerardo Hernandez, one of the five defendants.

During the lengthy appeals process, a three-judge panel in 2005 overturned all of the convictions on the grounds that the defendants had not received a fair trial in Miami, but Washington pressured the Court of Appeals in 2006 to reverse the decision.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also concluded that the imprisonment of the group was arbitrary, and urged the US government to correct the situation. Despite dissenting opinions from judges in the Court of Appeals, the US Supreme Court intervened in 2009 to announce its decision not to review the case of the five Cuban nationals, despite strong arguments made by their defense attorneys.

Who’s fighting terrorismCuban five

The predicament facing the Cuban Five is relevant not just on the basis that these men were denied justice, but that their detention is a result of the group’s efforts to thwart terrorist activities carried out by Cuban exile groups with the support and collusion of US intelligence agencies.

Cuba has faced terrorist activities for decades, in addition to attempted US military invasions and numerous assassination attempts upon its former President, Fidel Castro. The vast majority of bomb attacks and other terrorism that has historically afflicted Cuba originate from southern Florida, carried out by Cuban-exile groups that are tolerated and partly financed by the US government.

A series of bombings swept through Havana in 1997 targeting hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs. Cuba dispatched the five officers who would later be arrested and given life sentences precisely because they intended to monitor the suspected culprits of the bombings who were based in Miami. The men were arrested and charged despite their attempts to share information with the FBI in the hope that they would assist in clamping down on violent right-wing exile groups.

The string of bombings was later confirmed to be orchestrated by Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile and former CIA asset. Carriles moved to the United States after the Cuban revolution and helped to organize the failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs; he was later trained by the CIA in sabotage and explosives, becoming a key figure among the exile community for orchestrating anti-Castro activities.

Carriles admitted his involvement in the 1997 bombings in Havana, and was convicted in absentia in Panama for bombing a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 78 civilians. Despite warnings from the US Justice Department, Carriles was allowed to remain in the United States and was acquitted of all charges in 2011, allowing him to continue living comfortably in Miami.

Foreign affairs logic

The Cuban government has consistently campaigned for the release of the five men over the last fifteen years. Two of the men, René González and Fernando Gonzalez, were allowed to end their sentences early, in October 2011 and February 2014 respectively. The three other men received much harsher sentences; Antonio Guerrero will be released in September 2017, while Ramón Labañino’s release is scheduled for October 2024. Gerardo Hernandez faces to two life terms plus 15 years of imprisonment.

In an effort to release the three remaining men, Havana has repeatedly offered to begin negotiations with the Obama administration on a possible exchange of their three remaining agents for Alan Gross, an American contractor currently serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba for smuggling illegal satellite communication equipment into the country as part of a US Agency for International Development (USAID) democracy promotion program initiated under the Bush Administration.

Gross smuggled laptops, smartphones, hard drives, networking equipment, and satellite communications equipment into the country, which he claimed was only designed to facilitate internet access for the small Jewish community in Cuba. Upon his detention, Gross was found to be carrying a specialized SIM card not available on the open market and is distributed only to governments that experts say is often used by the Pentagon and the CIA to mask satellite signals to avoid being tracked.

Havana sentenced Gross to 15 years in prison for smuggling and encouraging “acts against the integrity”of the state in December 2009. The Cuban authorities view the operations of USAID as attempts to foment regime change and consider such programs to be an affront to its sovereignty. Washington has refused even to provide operational details of its USAID projects in Cuba to various congressional committees charged with overseeing the program, which operates with a massive $20 million budget

The Obama administration recently set a precedent by swapping five members of the Taliban who were detained in Guantánamo Bay for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American solider imprisoned in Afghanistan. When asked at a recent press conference, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psakidismissed the possibility of a prisoner swap that would free the three remaining Cuban officers in exchange for Gross.Cuban five UN

The rationale for the Obama administration’s decision to swap members of the Taliban for Bergdahl was allegedly an expression of the principle that soldiers are not left behind on the battlefield. Dozens of American senators have called on President Obama to take whatever steps are in the national interest to free Gross, while members of the Gross family have criticized Washington for all-but abandoning the detained American contractor and lacking the political will to compromise with Havana to secure his release.

In the midst of the Obama administration’s lax efforts to get Alan Gross released from detention, USAID found itself muddled in a scandal that exposed the agency’s failed attempt to engineer a Twitter-like text messaging network in Cuba with the aim of spreading information tarnishing the reputation of the Cuban government, ostensibly with the aim of igniting anti-government sentiments.

The unjust imprisonment of Cuban officers is the biggest impediment to an improvement in relations between Washington and Havana, and the precedent is now set to for a common sense prisoner swap that would be mutually beneficial for both sides. If the Obama administration is comfortable with releasing five former Taliban fighters to free an American, there should be no question about freeing the three remaining Cuban counterterrorism officers.

Despite calling for better relations with Cuba during his 2008 campaign, the Obama administration has not deviated from the harassment and regime change policies undertaken by consecutive US administrations. The injustice meted out to the Cuban Five is a testament to Washington’s infinite capacity for embracing double standards, as counterterrorism operations are criminalized while anti-Castro terrorists walk free.Free the Cuban 5

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

We will continue the fight for their return
| June 15, 2014 | 8:34 pm | Action, Cuban Five, International | No comments

GRANMA INTERNATIONAL

Havana. June 10, 2014

Nuria Barbosa León
Orlando Méndez Perera (Photos)

René González is one of the Cuban Five who were convicted and imprisoned in the U.S. for fighting terrorism against Cuba, organized and financed in Florida. After completing his unjust sentence, he returned to Cuba in May, 2013, as did Fernando González who arrived home in February, 2014. Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino remain incarcerated in U.S. prisons, and millions of voices around the world continue to demand their freedom. Granma International spoke with René at the Cuban Friendship Institute.

What message would you send to your three imprisoned brothers?

First I would congratulate Gerardo and Ramón on their birthdays (June 4 and 9, respectively). Remind them that this is a happy occasion, even though they will complete 16 years in prison in September. They have been able to remain happy in adverse circumstances, in the prisons where they are confined, precisely because they defend Cuban children’s happiness, so they don’t grow up without parents, and so they can live without an act of terrorism or crime interrupting their lives.

We will continue the fight for their return home and we won’t rest until we bring this brutal and undeserved punishment to an end. A punishment which I have known, and remember every morning, when I wake up. I think about how they are waking up in a cell like the one I lived in, for more than 13 years, and I am overwhelmed by the urgent need to put an end to this punishment.

In your opinion, why is the 3rd Five Days for the Cuban Five in Washington so important?

Our fight has been to bring the truth about The Five to the U.S. – a truth which has been silenced, above all kept from the U.S. public. This event is important because this is an opportune moment to be heard by the White House. Millions of people are calling for resolution of the case and, to put it in astrological terms: the stars are aligned more than ever, due to political and historic reasons which are occurring right now.

We hope that the event will surpass the others and we will succeed, because we have organized ourselves well, have generated much support, and are well prepared. We want the city of Washington to feel the call for freedom for Gerardo, Antonio and Ramón, and that the U.S. government finally listens, and acts accordingly, to free our three compañeros.

After the events in Washington, what other activities are planned?

The most important thing is to organize to get the message to U.S. society. Other solidarity events in Cuba and other countries are planned, but the most important one is in Washington, this month of June. The most important thing is to unite a bit more, focus all the energy which has been generated towards other cities in the U.S., because only the solidarity of millions of people will open our compañeros’ cells.

We will continue to organize these types of activities to call attention to the issue, but once this event is over, we will be preparing for next year’s event because our interest is in systemizing the work.

The political discourse among the tenants of the White House is changing, we understand the reasons behind these efforts, but the important thing is that it changes. This is an opportune moment for the government to receive our message, which is why we must systemize the work.

Could you please se5 days for the Cuban 5nd a message to the solidarity movements and committees calling for the freedom of The Five around the world.

First gratitude, secondly admiration, because these movements work in difficult conditions. In Cuba there exists a Revolution which has sown in the people, and in society, a feeling of solidarity, but in other countries this is unthinkable, with the predominance of individualism and selfishness. In this context, amidst these limitations, compañeros have remained in solidarity with Cuba, with The Five and this is worthy of admiration. I think they are extraordinary people and therefore deserve our respect and gratitude.

“5 Days for the Cuban 5″ To End June 10
| June 9, 2014 | 9:26 pm | Action, Cuban Five, International | No comments

NEWS RELEASE5 days for the Cuban 5
CONTACT: Paul Teitelbaum
520-762-6629
pault@iactucson.org
(English only) Alicia Jrapko
Phone: 510-219-0092
info@thecuban5.org
(Spanish and English)

“5 Days for the Cuban 5″ To End June 10

Organizers cite progress in promoting case of Cuban 5/
normalizing U.S.-Cuba Relations
WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 8, 2014 – A five day series of events focused on changing the U.S. policy towards Cuba and freeing The Cuban 5 comes to a close this Tuesday, June 10th, with an evening of speakers and cultural activities. The evening will feature speakers from Cuba’s religious community, ambassadors from several Latin American countries, and participants in the 5 Days for the Cuban 5 events.

This past Sunday, people gathered at Sheridan Circle to remember the 1976 car-bombing that killed Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his assistant Ronni Moffit. Letelier’s son Francisco recounted how the murder of his father and Moffit were carried out by Miami-based Cuban exile groups, who went on to bomb a Cubana civilian airliner two weeks later, killing all 73 passengers on board.

These Cuban-exile groups were discussed as part of a two-day Conference on U.S.-Cuba Relations which also highlighted the case of the Cuban 5. The Cuban 5 are five Cubans arrested in the U.S. in 1998 for thwarting attacks against Cuba which were planned and orchestrated by these exile groups. The five Cubans received long prison sentences in the trial following their arrest. Two of the Cuban 5 have completed their entire sentences and returned to Cuba, while three remain in U.S. prisons, one serving a double-life sentence plus 15 years.

Last Saturday, over 500 people gathered in front of the White House to ask President Obama to free the remaining Cuban 5 and to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba. The protesters then continued through the streets of Washington to the Justice Department where the same demands were raised.

Tuesday evening’s event takes place at Bolivarian Hall, 2443 Massachusetts Ave NW in Washington and is sponsored by the International Committee for the Freedom for the Cuban 5.

For additional information on the 5 Days for the Cuban 5, please visit http://www.5daysforthecuban5.com