The global movement to free the Cuban 5 is feeling great joy. On May 3, Miami federal trial judge, Joan Lenard, signed an order allowing René González to remain in Cuba. The movement is now redoubling its demands on President Barack Obama to repatriate the other four members of the Cuban 5: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González.
The facts surrounding the case of the Cuban 5 and U.S.-Cuban relations are particularly important at this time, when Washington claims to be waging a worldwide “war on terror.”
The five Cubans came to Florida during the 1990s to monitor CIA-trained terrorists based there, who were bombing hotels and restaurants in Cuba. Armed only with courage, they gathered and reported information on activities that endangered not only the Cuban people but Miami residents as well.
Now, because they tried to prevent terrorism, they have been held in U.S. prisons for nearly 15 years. The only law violated was their failure to register as foreign agents. Instead of being sent home, the usual punishment, they were tried and sentenced to long prison terms.
The five were tried in Miami, where Cuban agents could never get a fair trial. Jurors were intimidated. Screaming headlines and inflammatory reporting were later proven to have been written by propagandists on the U.S. government payroll. A motion to move the trial to Fort Lauderdale, 30 miles away, was denied.
A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals characterized the trial as a “perfect storm of prejudice.”
What happened to the Cuban 5 cannot be separated from U.S.-Cuban relations. For more than 50 years, both Democratic and Republican administrations have relentlessly tried to break the sovereignty won by the 1959 Cuban revolution. A still-continuing blockade is meant to starve Cubans into submission to U.S. domination. In 1961, thousands of counterrevolutionary Cubans armed and trained by the CIA invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Terrorist attacks on young literacy teachers, department stores, hotels and restaurants; the bombing of civilian aircraft in midair; and biological warfare took the lives of 3,500 Cubans.
Despite all this, Cuba has risen from being a poor colonial country into one of the very few in the world meeting the United Nations Millennium goals for development. Life expectancy, infant mortality and educational standards meet or exceed those of the U.S.
Instead of exporting bombs, drones and weapons of every sort, Cuba shares doctors, teachers and ideas of social solidarity on every continent.
The U.S. government harbors known and wanted anti-Cuba terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles, who was convicted in 2001 of a massive but failed attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro in Panama. Posada is wanted in Venezuela for masterminding the very first midair bombing of a passenger plane, Cubana 455. The U.S. still refuses to abide by the International Montreal Treaty requiring that persons accused of terrorism against aircraft be extradited or tried in their host country. Posada openly walks free in Florida while Venezuela’s extradition request is not answered.
Cuban 5 member René González was finally released from prison on Oct. 7, 2011, after fully serving his unjust prison sentence, during which he, like Gerardo Hernández, was denied any visits from his spouse. But his sentence included serving three additional years of supervised release in Florida because he was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen.
In 2012, he was allowed to visit his dying brother in Cuba. He returned to Florida as ordered by Judge Joan Lenard. This April, after the death of his father, he was again permitted to return to Cuba. On May 3, Judge Lenard accepted González’s offer to renounce his U.S. citizenship in order to be repatriated to his family in Cuba and set out a timeline for accomplishing that while he remains in Cuba, after which he “can serve the remainder of his term on a nonreporting basis.”
The full court document can be read at www.theCuban5.org. May 30 through June 5 have been designated “Five Days for the Cuban 5” in Washington, with a rally at the White House to free all five on June 1. Bus tickets round trip from New York City are available for $5.