Statement Presented by Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez at his Sentencing Hearing held in Miami on Wednesday, December 27, 2001
Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul.
(From Song of Myself)
Allow me to say that I share everything that has been said in this courtroom by my four brothers in arms: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labaniño, René González and Fernando González. They spoke with dignity and courage to the Court. Our speeches are based on the strictest truth, on the soundness of the principles we embrace and in the honor of the heroic Cuban people. It is only fair to say that the lawyers and their assistants acted in a highly professional, honest and courageous manner and that the translators, Liza, Richard and the marshals worked in a very ethical and professional way.
At the beginning I wrote in my diary of my long days, “… a real man does not look to see on which side one lives best, but on which side lies duty”. Those are José Martí’s words, which a century after they were written still encourage, live and are the essence of what is most pure and altruistic
It is often difficult
To find the exact words,
But these have been in me
Incubated by the truth,
Waiting to break the shell and see the light.
And the day has come.
Allow me to explain my reasons, your Honor, in the clearest and most concise way:
My little country, has been
Decade after decade
By a cruel
Inhuman and absurd
A real terrorist war,
Fierce and open,
The harbinger of horror
A ruin, murder maker
A grief carrier,
Of the most profound grief,
This aggression has been exposed not only by documents and information from the Cuban government but also by secret documents that the very government of the United States has declassified.
This aggression has included the CIA’s recruiting, financing and training counterrevolutionary agents; the Bay of Pigs Invasion; Operation Mongoose; pretexts for military intervention; plans to assassinate heads of State and Government; infiltrations by armed groups; sabotage; violations of our airspace; spy flights, spraying with bacteriological and chemical agents; machine gun fire on our coasts and buildings; bombs in hotels and other social, cultural, historic and tourist centers, all kinds of cruel and vicious acts of provocation.
And the outcome of these acts:
More than three thousand four hundred dead; more than two thousand people left totally or partially handicapped; substantial damage to the economy, the source of our livelihood; hundreds of thousands of Cubans who are born and grow up under a harsh blockade and in a hostile cold war climate. Terror, hardships and pain have been brought over the entire population.
Where have such unceasing ruthless acts been hatched and financed?
For the most part, in the United States of America.
What has the government of this country done to avoid them?
Practically nothing…. And the aggression has not ceased…
Today, people who are responsible for some of these actions still walk freely the streets of Miami. And radio stations and other media give coverage to and instigate new acts of aggression against the Cuban people.
Why so much hatred for the Cuban people?
Is it because Cuba chose a different road?
Because its people want socialism?
Because it did away with the large estates
and wiped out illiteracy?
Because it gave free education
and medical care to its people?
Because it lets
the dawn break freely over its children?
Cuba has never placed the security of the United States in jeopardy nor committed any act of aggression or terrorism against it. It deeply loves peace and quiet and wants the best relations between our two countries. It has shown that it admires and respects the American people.
“Cuba is not a military threat to the United States,” Admiral Carroll said in this courtroom.
General Atkinson testified that Cuba presents “zero” military threat to the United States.
It is my country’s unquestionable right like that of any other– to defend itself against those who try to harm its people.
The job of putting a stop to these terrorist acts has been complex and difficult because the terrorists have enjoyed the complicity or lax tolerance of the authorities.
My country has done everything possible to warn the US government of the danger of these acts and to do so it has used official, unofficial and public channels. However, such cooperation has never been reciprocated.
In the nineties, fired up by the demise of the socialist camp, terrorist groups intensified their activities against Cuba. It was, they felt, the long dreamed hour for stirring up the final chaos, for terrorizing the people, destabilizing the economy, damaging the tourist industry, building up a crisis and dealing the death blow to the Cuban Revolution.
What could Cuba do to defend itself and be forewarned of the terrorist plans against it? What could it do to avoid a greater conflict? What options did it have to safeguard its sovereignty and the safety of its children?
One way to prevent these brutal and bloody acts, to prevent the suffering becoming worse because of more deaths was to move quietly.
There was no alternative but to rely on men who out of love for a just cause, out of love for their country and their people, out of love for peace and life were prepared to voluntarily agree to carry out this honorable duty against terrorism, that is, to give advanced warning of the danger of attack.
The reason behind my acts and the motive for doing my duty, the same as my comrades’, has been to prevent a conflict that would bring sorrow to our peoples.
We were not moved to do what we did by money or resentment. It did not occur to any of us to harm the noble and hard-working American people. We did nothing detrimental to the national security of the United States. The court records show it. Those who doubt my words may examine them and find the truth.
The barbaric attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last September 11 filled with indignation everyone who loves a peaceful world. The unexpected and unwonted deaths of thousand of this country’s innocent citizens pierced our hearts with deep sorrow.
Nobody can deny that terrorism is an inhuman, ruthless and repugnant phenomenon that must be eliminated with the utmost urgency.
“And in order to make sure that we’re able to conduct a winning victory, we’ve got to have the best intelligence we can possibly have.” “Unity is needed to strengthen the intelligence agencies, so that we can learn what the plans are before they are implemented and to discover the terrorists before they attack.”
These two statements were not made by the president of the Republic of Cuba, our Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, but by the president of the United States, after these horrendous attacks. I have wondered over and over again. Are these statements not valid for Cuba, which is a victim of terrorism?
This is exactly what Cuba has done to try to put an end to this scourge, which has also buffeted her territory for so many years and made martyrs of her people.
A “trial” took place
This courtroom knows as much,
We lived together and we lived through days full of statements
I didn’t come here today to justify anything,
I came to tell
“That is the only thing I am committed to.”
Accord; there was none except the commitment to be useful to the world, to serve a valid cause called humanity and also motherland.
Intent, there was none except to prevent senselessness and crime and to save the living flower from chance, sudden, pointless and premature death.
There was no transgression and no offense. Nobody was insulted.
Nothing was stolen. No one was deceived. No one was cheated.
No one tried to or practiced espionage.
Nobody ever asked me to get any classified information. Here in this courtroom the witnesses’ statements confirmed that, not only defense witnesses but also those of the prosecution itself.
Read General Clapper’s, Joseph Santos’ and General Atkinson’s testimony, to name but a few, and they will confirm what I say in all honesty.
And many other people could have come to this court to explain things about my life, to say what I did every day just as Dalila Borrego, Edward Donohue, and Tim Carey came. On the other hand, nobody came here to speak against me, nor would it be possible to find anyone who, in all sincerity, could point to any failing in my conduct in this society.
I love the island where I grew up, where I was educated and where my mother, one of my beloved children, many of the people I love and many of my other friends live. I also love this country where I was born, where, over the last ten years, I have given and received real proof of love and solidarity.
I am certain that a bridge of friendship will definitely be laid not only between these two peoples but also among all the peoples in the world.
It falls to you, your Honor, to hand down sentence in this long and tortuous trial.
Bring proof and evidence together!
Voices will say that they don’t exist.
Take into account facts and arguments!
Voices will say they carry no weight:
Read cases and testimony!
Voices will say it is not possible
To blame these men.
Voices that arise from the heart itself.
Voices inspired by the strength of justice.
Voices which did not want to be, or which were not
Listened to by a jury
Which could not serve justice.
They were wrong! Their verdict was sacrilege. But we were aware, from the beginning, that when it comes to Cuba, Miami is an impossible place for justice.
This has been, above all else, a political trial.
Personally, I ask for nothing else but justice; for the good of our countries, for the sake of truth. A fair, full sentence, free from political strings, would have sent an important message in this crucial moment in the fight against terrorism.
Allow me to repeat that I have never caused personal harm to anyone not have caused any property damage. I have never tried to take any action, which would endanger the national security of the United States.
If I were asked to do the same thing again, I would do it with honor. An excerpt from a letter that Cuban general Antonio Maceo, who fought for Cuban independence in the 19th century, wrote to a Spanish general comes to mind at this time with force and passion:
“I shall not find any reasons for having cut myself off from humanity. I pursue not a policy of hatred but of love; this is not an exclusionist policy but one founded in human morality”.
Because of your rulings, my beloved brothers and I must be unjustly kept in prison, but there we shall not cease from defending the cause and the principles we have embraced.
The day will come when we will not have to live under the shadow of fear and death, and on that historic day, the true justice of our cause will be seen.
Many days and months of an unjust, cruel and horrible imprisonment have gone by!
I have sometimes wondered, what is time? And like Saint Agustin I have answered myself, “If they ask me I don’t know, but if they don’t ask me, I do know.” Hours of solitude and hopes, of reflection about injustice and small mindedness; eternal minutes in which memories burn bright: There are memories that burn the memory!
I take these verses by Martí for this last page that I write in the diary of my long days:
“I have lived:
It was to duty that I pledged my arms
And not once did the sun drop down behind the hills
That did not see my struggle and my victory…”
And here in this courtroom I quote from the Uruguayan and world poet, Mario Benedetti:
“…victory will be there, just like me,
Because, in the end, we shall rest free and victorious beneath that sun which we are denied today
Defense statement presented by Gerardo Hernández Nordelo at his sentencing hearing in Miami held on December 12, 2001
I would like first of all to express a few words of thanks to a number of federal government officials who worked throughout our long and complex trial, both inside and outside this courtroom. I am referring to the translators, stenographers, marshals and other assistants, who showed a high professional ethic at all times.
I would also like to publicly express our deepest gratitude to the attorneys who so masterfully represented us, and to all of the people who assisted them in this very difficult task.
So as not to waste your valuable time, I will try to be as brief as possible. There are five defendants in this case, and we share many opinions and views, so I will refrain from referring to important aspects that I know they will want to address in their turn.
Moreover, it would take too much time to point out every one of the inconsistencies of the prosecution and its witnesses, every one of its efforts to use and sometimes manipulate small portions of the evidence while disregarding its larger and more essential significance.
The few minutes I have would not be enough to highlight all of the attempts made by the gentlemen of the prosecution to ensure that the jury was guided more by emotions and prejudices than by the facts and the law; nor would there be enough time to point out every one of the reasons that made this an eminently political trial. Moreover, it might not even be necessary, because no one knows better than you what really happened in this courtroom between December 2000 and June 2001. Nevertheless, there are a number of elements that must not be overlooked. Those who are not aware of the way the most radical sector of the Cuban community in Miami traditionally operates, those who do not watch Spanish-language television or listen to so-called “Cuban radio” might have sincerely thought that it would be possible for us to be given a fair and impartial trial in this city. Unfortunately, there are many realities of which the U.S. public is still unaware. As for us, from the very moment that we were denied the possibility of having the trial moved out of Miami, we did not have the slightest doubt of what the final outcome would be.
It would be dishonest to deny that as the trial progressed, and in view of the overwhelming arguments and evidence put forward by the defense, combined with the frequently desperate behavior of the prosecution and the reaction of the press, there were moments when we even considered that what seemed to be impossible in this community could perhaps really happen. Yet the jury, with its quick and unequivocal verdict, proved our initial prediction to be accurate. After six months of a complex and exhausting trial, with dozens of testimonies and extensive evidence, the members of the jury needed only a few hours, without even asking a question or voicing a doubt, to reach a unanimous verdict. It is sufficient to read the statements made to the press by the foreman of this jury to understand that we never had the slightest chance, and that they were influenced more by prejudices or by the final, deceptive words of the gentlemen of the prosecution than by the arguments they heard here over the course of half a year.
And when I refer to the deceptive behavior of prosecution, I am not making a disrespectful or unfounded accusation. As I said before, there is not enough time to point out every single example. It is enough to recall that the person responsible for translating the majority of the evidence used by the prosecution, an individual who claimed to be an expert in the field, stated before this court that the Spanish word “plastilina” is used to refer to plastic explosives, when in fact, any Hispanic child knows, without being an expert, that the only “plastilina” in our language is what is known in English as “modeling clay.” Incidentally, the prosecution used the document referring to this “plastilina” over and over again for its alarmist effect, despite knowing, because they do know, that it has nothing to do with any one of the five accused.
It is equally ridiculous that during the trial of people accused of being dangerous spies and a menace to national security, the accusing party has repeatedly stressed an incident that purportedly took place in Cuba, involving a taxi driver from the country’s main airport, at a time when the island had just suffered a wave of terrorist attacks. I wonder how many taxi drivers are being watched by the FBI at this very moment in airports across the United States, not only for expressing their discontent with the government, but probably simply for wearing turbans. In order to understand the attitudes of a country or its citizens, it is necessary to live, or suffer, its daily realities. The above-mentioned incident, as inconceivable as it may seem, was even included in the PSI report, although no one could explain what relation it might possibly have to the crimes I have been accused of.
Now that I have mentioned the PSI report, I would like to briefly refer to some of the statements I wrote for the same, and I quote: “Cuba has the right to defend itself from the terrorist acts that are prepared in Florida with total impunity, despite the fact that they have been consistently denounced by the Cuban authorities. This is the same right that the United States has to try to neutralize the plans of terrorist Osama bin Laden’s organization, which has caused so much damage to this country and threatens to continue doing so. I am certain that the sons and daughters of this country who are carrying out this mission are considered patriots, and their objective is not that of threatening the national security of any of the countries where these people are being sheltered.”
This statement was written for the PSI report and sent to my attorney to be translated many days before the tragic and condemnable events of September 11. Today they are more relevant than ever. Just as the president of the United States stated recently before the United Nations, it is necessary for all of the world’s countries to unite in the struggle against terrorists, and not against some terrorists, but rather against all terrorists. And I would add that as long as the acts of some of these criminals are condemned, while others are sheltered and allowed to act with impunity against the security and sovereignty of other countries, and considered “freedom fighters,” this scourge will never be eradicated. And as long as this is the case, there will always be nations that need to send some of their own people to carry out dangerous missions for their defense, whether it be in Afghanistan or South Florida.
Your Honor, we have been accused of conspiring to commit espionage and harm the national security of the United States. We have been placed on the same level as the worst spies ever known, without a single piece of sound evidence and without having caused any harm whatsoever, solely on the basis of suppositions. Ours may be one of the most ridiculous accusations of espionage in the history of this country. Everything that we intended to do and have done was clearly set out in the evidence put forward. The person who was closest to anything military, after six years of working in his insignificant post, was merely asked to try to find a position that allowed him to be closer to the runways, in order to observe the number of planes. This is not espionage. The evidence and testimony offered by individuals highly qualified in this area have demonstrated that.
On the other hand, it is true that for years, some of the accused had false identity documents in our possession, but their only purpose was to guarantee our safety. As a judge, you are aware of how many crimes can be committed with false documents, and yet it was acknowledged in this courtroom that the only use made of these documents, when they were used in any way at all, was exclusively aimed at protecting our own personal integrity and that of our families. Please permit me to briefly refer to what I believe is the reason for which all of us find ourselves here at this moment: the third in the list of charges against us, “conspiracy to commit murder.”
The prosecutors and FBI authorities know and knew from the very beginning what truly did take place before, on and after February 24, 1996. They themselves had to acknowledge that the high frequency messages they chose to reveal as evidence are only a minute portion of all the messages they intercepted. They know the true story. They know that there was never any conspiracy to shoot down those planes, much less to do it over international waters. They know perfectly well that not only Gerardo Hern ndez, but not even Juan Pablo Roque ever had anything to do with a plot to shoot down the planes. They know that Roque’s return had been planned long before for strictly personal reasons, and that in February of 1996, instructions were given for him to choose for himself his date of departure, with the recommendation that it be either February 23 or 27, depending upon the availability of airline tickets. If there had been a plot in which Roque was involved, how could he have stayed here until the 27th? This is just one of the many details that make this the most absurd and outrageous of all the charges against us.
After two years of close surveillance, and having taped most of our telephone and personal conversations and confiscated a large quantity of materials from that time period, the prosecutors could not present a single piece of evidence at this trial to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that Gerardo Hern ndez had conspired to shoot down those planes or contributed in a way to that act. They based their entire case on pure speculation, on small excerpts of documents, manipulated and taken out of context, and above all on the emotional and sensitive nature of this accusation, due to the loss of human lives. It would only be natural to ask what motivated the prosecution to stage its whole propaganda show around this charge, and to seek at any cost to convict someone who they know had nothing to do with the death of those people. The answer is not all that difficult to find. One need only recall the enormous pressure exerted by some sectors of the Cuban community who were not satisfied with the economic sanctions adopted against Cuba following the events of February 24. The repeated accusations made by these individuals and organizations against the government of the United States for its alleged complicity in these events, according to them, and for not doing anything to punish those responsible, became ever more bothersome, just as it was bothersome and unforgivable to these Miami Cubans that the FBI regional office would have infiltrated informers into a number of so-called “exile” organizations, including Brothers to the Rescue. It had become necessary to restore images and improve relations, and nothing would work better than finding, or fabricating, a guilty party.
The authorities knew this was a win-win situation. If I was found guilty of the charge, all the better. If I was found innocent, as unlikely as that may have seemed, they would still win, because they could silence those who were accusing them of not having charged anyone.
Perhaps there are people so naive or unaware as to believe that I am exaggerating the importance that some U.S. authorities accord to the opinions and reactions of the most extremist sector of the Cuban community. I would like to remind those people of the fact that the citizens of this nation cannot travel freely to Cuba, or smoke Cuban cigars, or trade in Cuban products without restrictions, or simply immunize their children against diseases for which the only vaccines are patented in Cuba, and further remind them that this fact does not exactly respond to the demands or interests of the American people.
Your Honor, I have always said, and will repeat now, that I deeply regret the loss of those four lives, and I understand the suffering of their families. I also regret the thousands of lives that have been lost as a result of the constant aggression suffered by my people throughout more than 40 years, and the eternal mourning of many, many Cuban families. These dead also have names and faces, although their pictures cannot be shown in this courtroom.
Cuba did not provoke this incident. On the contrary, it foresaw it, and tried to prevent it through every means within its reach. The prosecution’s main argument during the trial was that this incident was a crime, because it involved unarmed civilian aircraft. This nation recently found out, in an unfortunate and brutal manner, just how much damage can be done to its people by an unarmed civilian plane. Perhaps that is why its top leaders have warned that any plane that strays threateningly from its scheduled route should be shot down, even if there are hundreds of passengers on board. Perhaps the gentlemen of the prosecution believe this would be a crime. Your Honor said today that this country changed its “perception of danger” after September 11; unfortunately, Cuba had to change its perception of danger on January 1, 1959, and this is what some people fail to understand.
The people primarily responsible for what happened on February 24, 1996, are the same people who do not relent in their efforts to provoke an armed conflict between the United States and Cuba, so that this country’s army can do for them what they themselves have not managed to do in 40 years. Be it flotillas, airspace violations, false accusations or any other abomination, the goal is always the same: for the United States to wipe the Cuban government and those who support it off the face of the earth, no matter what the cost in human lives on one side or the other. It can be stated with all certainty that if anyone has repeatedly placed the national security of this country in danger, it has been those extremist Cuban groups.
The prosecution stated in this courtroom, during the final arguments, that Gerardo Hern ndez has blood on his hands. I wonder whose hands are really stained with blood, if it is me or the individual who fired on a hotel full of people in Havana, the same individual who appears in the evidence of this case planning to smuggle antipersonnel weapons into Cuba; the same person who openly and recklessly defied the Cuban authorities, over and over and over again, violating the laws of that country, the laws of this country, and the most elemental rules of international aviation; the same person who not only did not hesitate to lead these young men to their deaths, but who also, in the moments of greatest tension, when there was still time to go back on his plans, did not do so, and instead left his laughter on tape for all of history, while his comrades were dying.
This person’s hands truly are stained with blood, yet this did not seem to matter to the gentlemen of the prosecution when they shook those bloodied hands on numerous occasions, even in this very courtroom. Nor did it matter to the prosecutors or the top FBI authorities in Miami when they shared the stage and the celebrations with this same person during the press conference on the day the verdict was announced. This is rather contradictory behavior for those who claim to represent the law.
I want the gentlemen of the prosecution to know that the only blood there may be on these hands is the blood of my brothers and sisters who have fallen or been murdered in a cowardly fashion, during the countless acts of aggression and terrorism perpetrated against my country by individuals who freely walk the streets of this city today. And it is for this blood that I made the pledge to sacrifice even my own life, if doing so could protect my people from such crimes.
Your Honor, the prosecution considers, and has requested, that I should spend the rest of my life in prison. I trust that if not at this level, then at some other level of the system, reason and justice will prevail over political prejudices and the desire for revenge, and it will be understood that we have done no harm to this country that deserves such a punishment. But if this were not the case, I would then take the liberty of quoting one of this nation’s greatest patriots, Nathan Hale, when he said: “My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country.”
Thank you very much.
Gerardo Hernández Nordelo
Defense statement presented by Ramón Labañino Salazar at his sentencing hearing, Thursday, December 13, 2001
Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen:
First of all, I join in all of the arguments put forward by my four brothers in this case and in my recognition of the professional behavior of the officials in this court: Richard, the translators, the marshals, and Lisa.
The criminal attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington took the lives of thousands of innocent people in the United States, and we share in the anger and sorrow of the American people. It is our fervent hope that such events are never repeated.
We who have devoted our lives to fighting terrorism, to preventing atrocious acts like these from taking place; we who have tried to save the lives of innocent human beings not only in Cuba but in the United States as well, stand in this courtroom today to be sentenced precisely for preventing similar acts. Thus, this punishment could not be more ironic and unfair!
The words of George W. Bush, president of this country, in the name of which I am to be sentenced, clearly express the reasons why we came to the United States and why we find ourselves in this courtroom today.
From this very city of Miami, terrorist acts against my country, Cuba, have been planned, organized and directed. From here, the terrorists and their activities are sponsored, encouraged and financed. They are given shelter here as well. To mention just one well-known case, a terrorist and murderer not only of Cubans but of people from the United States as well, Orlando Bosch, freely walks the streets of Miami. And what is most regrettable of all is that all of this takes place with the knowledge and consent of this country’s authorities. One need only thoroughly read all of the evidence in our case, which gives a full account of all these kinds of terrorist activities.
Cuba, my country, has suffered more than 42 years of terrorist acts, aggression, invasions and provocations, which have resulted in the deaths of over 3,478 innocent human beings and physical injuries to over 2,099. Cuba, like the United States, has the right to defend itself.
To offer just a few examples:
On March 4, 1960, the French ship La Coubre was blown up in the port of Havana by agents of the CIA; 101 people were killed as a result of this terrorist sabotage, including six French sailors.
On October 6, 1976, in a treacherous terrorist attack perpetrated by Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, through Venezuelan mercenaries, two bombs were detonated on a Cubana Airlines civilian aircraft that had taken off from Barbados, cruelly killing 73 people (57 Cubans, including 24 youths from the Cuban National Fencing Team, 11 young people from Guyana, and five Koreans). Some of these terrorist murderers are in prison today in Panama, and enormous efforts are being made here in Miami to have them set free. Here they are called “patriots” and regarded as symbols; radio stations are raising funds for their defense and possible escape from jail.
There have been 637 attempts on the life of the president of Cuba, Fidel Castro.
Bacteriological terrorism aimed at humans, plants and animals has also been used against my country, with a total of 344,203 people affected and 158 dead, of whom 101 were children.
This is not paranoia, these are lives of innocent human beings!
These terrorist groups we were acting against not only carried out these kinds of activities in Cuba, but also here in the United States. This news report, which is totally public and available to everyone, provides a summary of the terrorist acts committed here in Miami, a total of over 68 acts of violence. This article written by journalist Jim Mullin of the Miami New Times on April 20-26, 2000, among many other incidents, reports the following:
1968: Orlando Bosch fires a bazooka from the MacArthur Causeway against a Polish ship (Miami politicians would later declare an “Orlando Bosch Day” to honor this terrorist).
1974: Exile leader José Elías de la Torriente is murdered in Coral Gables for the failure of an invasion he was to lead to Cuba.
1975 Luciano Nieves is murdered after defending peaceful coexistence with Cuba.
1976: Emilio Milán, the news director at WQBA-AM, has his legs blown off by a car bomb after publicly condemning the violence perpetrated by the exile community.
1981: A bomb explodes in the Mexican consulate on Brickell Ave., in protest over Mexico’s relations with Cuba.
1996: A bomb explodes in the Little Havana restaurant Centro Vasco, to protest a scheduled concert by Cuban singer Rosita Fornés.
2000: On April 11, outside the home of Elián González’ relatives in Miami, radio journalist Scott Piasant de Obregón holds up a T-shirt reading “Send the boy home, it’s a father’s right,” and is physically attacked before the police arrive.
These things did not happen in Cuba. They happened here in the United States, in Miami, in the cities and streets of this country where we all live, where you and your children and families walk every day.
In the 1990s, terrorism, raids and provocations against my country were stepped up, until in 1997 there was a wave of terrorist acts against hotels and other tourism establishments that resulted in the murder of an innocent Italian tourist, Favio Di Celmo.
How many more deaths of innocent human beings must we witness before this insane and absurd policy towards Cuba is ended?
How many more human lives must be lost before the FBI truly fulfills its duty and arrests the real criminals and terrorists who act against the very people of the United States?
Could it be that this “fight against terrorism” is pure rhetoric?
No, common sense would say that it is not. And that is precisely why we are here today, because we do not want any of these things to happen, in Cuba, in the United States, in Miami, or in any other part of the world. All that we have done is this: to try to save the lives of innocent human beings, by preventing terrorism and preventing a stupid war.
The same pattern can be observed in all of the Cuban-American terrorists we know. José Basulto was recruited and trained by the CIA and used in its war against my country, and he has kept up the practice of terrorism and provocation until today, just like the members of such organizations as the Cuban American National Foundation, Alpha 66, Comandos F-4, the Democratic National Unity Party (PUND), Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), and the many others referred to in our evidence. These terrorists represent to Cuba what the perpetrators of the horrific acts committed against the United States represent to this country.
Cuba has never trusted these characters, and it never will. Nor should the United States trust them, much less protect them. This is a serious mistake, which could explain in part why events like those of September 11 happen.
My country has suffered from terrorism for more than 42 years. Today the United States is suffering, and if this problem is not eradicated at the root, it could continue to suffer tomorrow. Here in the United States there are more than 800 organizations of a violent nature; this country is the one most vulnerable to these kinds of criminal acts. Terrorism is the true enemy of the national security of the United States. Maintaining a stance of inactivity or indifference, or worse yet, of complicity and concealment of terrorists and terrorism, is the worst crime that can be committed against the national security of this nation; and that is precisely what is happening in this case. Those who protect these groups and individuals are the ones really endangering the United States’ national security.
And that is why, from this forum, I denounce the law enforcement agencies of the United States that have concealed and failed to take action against terrorism and terrorists!
For many years, Cuba has passed information on to various government agencies in the United States, up to the highest level; detailed, documented information, complete with names and conclusive evidence of criminal acts and murders. Our own evidence in this case is a full array of that information. And even with all this information in their hands, they have done nothing. There has not been a single arrest, or even a single investigation carried out or underway.
With our arrest, all they have attempted to do is to silence the source of information, to keep serious acts of terrorism like these from disclosure and to hide the truth that so brutally hits us today. Moreover, the FBI has conspired with the terrorists themselves and the extreme right wing in Miami to damage and obstruct any kind of rapprochement and cooperation between our two peoples and governments. Meanwhile, the criminals are happily walking the streets outside here today, laughing at this courtroom. There cannot be a greater offense or stain on these authorities, on the flag presiding this courtroom, and on that seal representing the ideal of true justice.
All that Cuba wants is to live in peace and tranquillity. It does not want a war, just as the people of the United States do not want a war. The military leaders of the United States do not want it either, because they know very well that Cuba poses no danger whatsoever to this country. That is why our work has also been aimed at preventing a criminal war, which would only lead to the deaths of innocent people, not only from Cuba, but also from the United States.
At no time have we sought out information that could place the national security of this country in danger. This is pure manipulation, which we will never accept, and a reason for which we decided to come to this trial, in addition to clearly exposing the truth about all of the criminal acts perpetrated from U.S. territory against Cuba and the United States itself.
It is not Cuba that has come to the United States for the purpose of an invasion, aggression, or terrorist acts of all kinds. The reality is the complete opposite, and quite simply, Cuba has the basic right to defend itself. That is all that we have done, without causing harm to anyone or anything.
As long as this criminal policy against my people persists, there will continue to be men like us, as a basic measure of self-defense, just as the United States urgently needs to learn about the inner workings of the terrorist organizations attacking it today. This is a reality that no one can bring to an end.
What the members of the Miami extreme right are really seeking is to create a conflict through some sort of provocation that will result in a U.S. military attack against Cuba. And as I have said, this is not what my people, or my government, or the people of the United States want. General Sheehan’s testimony regarding the infiltrations into Cuba by Ramón Saúl Sánchez and his “Democracy” group, revealed that he did not want these elements to provoke a war with Cuba, which could cost the lives of many young men in the U.S. armed forces. Numerous similar points of view were expressed in this courtroom.
As for the prosecution, we have seen a truly shameful and reprehensible behavior that has nothing to do with justice and the search for truth. They first tried to suppress all of our evidence on the terrorist acts perpetrated both in Cuba and here in the United States. They used every means possible to try to suppress 90% of our evidence in this case, that is, the truth about our mission here.
The prosecutors have manipulated and distorted the facts. They have tried to control this courtroom at all times. They have used both subtle and blatant threats. They have resorted to blackmailing witnesses under the threat of legally incriminating them if they did not plead the Fifth Amendment. They even went so far as to try to blackmail four-star General Charles Whilhem, former chief of the Southern Command, to stop him from testifying for the defense.
There have been attempts to conceal evidence (an 8mm video, when FBI agent Al Alonso prevented the original from being turned over to the defense; this was a key piece of evidence for the most serious charge in this case).
For us, the prosecutors do not represent the government of the United States, and that is why for us, this is not a case of the Government of the United States vs. Gerardo Hernández. Actually, the prosecution has very skillfully represented the small extremist right-wing sector of the Cuban community, terrorists like José Basulto and organizations like Alpha 66, the Cuban American National Foundation and Comandos F-4. They even went so far as to embrace and kiss these individuals right in this courtroom, in full view of everyone here. If something about this trial astonished me, it was the tremendous zeal, the unlimited efforts made by the prosecution and all their advisors to faithfully represent this criminal sector, at any cost.
However, the defense has shown the truth, dignity and the real stance of the American people towards Cuba. It was the defense that brought in generals and other military personnel and civilians who have contributed to carrying out this policy towards my country, such as: General Charles Whilhem; Admiral Atkinson; Colonel Eugene Carroll; Colonel Buckner; Richard Nuccio, former advisor to U.S. President William Clinton on Cuban affairs. Many of them appeared on a fully voluntary basis, and in this small detail lies a very big message for those willing to understand it.
Ladies and gentlemen: this is a time of major changes; we are in the 21st century. Today the United States has relations with China. It has relations with Viet Nam, where 56,000 citizens of this country died. It is taking part in talks with North Korea, and many other countries with which it seemed impossible to have relations.
Why not with Cuba?
It is true that to carry out our tasks, we needed to resort to unconventional methods. We have done so for obvious reasons of personal security, and never with the intent of harming anyone, or cheating or deceiving anyone, much less the government or institutions of this country.
The evidence is overwhelmingly clear in all respects, judge us based on it! From the very first day of this trial, we acknowledged our true identities and our responsibilities, but I never accepted, and never will accept, any implication of espionage, or of trying to deceive this country.
I want to express special thanks for the work of our attorneys, for their courage and professionalism. For us, and for everyone, we have won this trial. History will rectify this verdict, and perhaps this sentence as well.
Gentlemen of the prosecution, whether you like it or not, Cuba is an independent and sovereign country. It has its own legitimate government, its own president, its own martyrs and heroes, and its own convictions. Cuba is not different from the United States. And, gentlemen, Cuba must be respected!
We know that efforts were made to ensure an impartial trial. But the city of Miami is not a place where goals like these can be achieved when it comes to Cuba. Perhaps that was the most critical error in our case: holding the trial in this city.
If preventing the deaths of innocent human beings, defending our two countries from terrorism, and preventing a senseless invasion of Cuba are the reasons I am being sentenced today, then I welcome that sentence!
I will wear the prison uniform with the same honor and pride with which a soldier wears his most prized insignias!
This has been a political trial and therefore we are political prisoners!
All of the evidence is here; this is where history is written. And it is history that will do us true justice!
Ramón Labañino Salazar
Statement by Fernando González Llort at his sentencing in Miami, Tuesday, December 18, 2001
I share with my comrades who have preceded me here in their recognition and gratitude for the professional behavior of Richard, the translators who have worked so efficiently, and the U.S. Marshals.
I also share in what has been expressed here by every one of my brothers at their sentencing hearings. I feel honored by the friendship of these comrades and brothers, who received their unjust sentences with such courage and dignity.
I also want to express my gratitude for the professional work of the attorneys representing the five of us, particularly Joaquín Méndez and the South Florida district public defenders office.
If it were not very clear to me that the fanaticism, hatred and irrationality felt towards Cuba are generated and stimulated by only a minority segment of the Cuban-American community living here, I would not have agreed to be represented by a member of that community. His professional approach to this case shows that, contrary to what those who control the Hispanic media would like to make everyone believe, with their stridently anti-Cuban stance, the majority of the Cuban-American community in Florida has a rational attitude towards their country of origin, even when they hold opinions that differ with the government of Cuba.
This is also demonstrated by the fact that hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans travel to Cuba every year, and send money to their relatives there.
Those who believe that Cuban radio stations in Miami and the extremist Cuban organizations based here represent the point of view of the majority of Cuban-Americans living in this city have fallen into the trap set by this extremist and minority-based yet economically powerful sector. They try to sell an image of unity and pretend they represent the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of Cubans who live here, when this is not the case.
I initially thought the prosecution would come to this courtroom today to request that I be sentenced to one year of probation. After all, that was what this same District Attorney’s Office offered Mr. Frómeta when he bought a Stinger missile, C-4 explosive, grenades and other weapons from an undercover government agent. It did not even matter that Mr. Frómeta confessed to the undercover agent himself his terrorist intentions and the murderous, unscrupulous use that would be made of these materials.
But then I thought it over again, and I realized that I would have to be dreaming to expect the same kind of treatment from the District Attorney’s Office. After all, I am a Cuban from over there, from the island, and so when it comes to sentencing me, all kinds of considerations come into play. These include the total ignorance as to what Cuba really is, and the hatred and irrationality towards my country stimulated by an extremist sector that controls what is said here about Cuba while silencing any other, more rational opinions expressed.
While our trial was underway in this courtroom, Esteban Ventura Novo passed away in Miami, and I am bringing this up because I believe it is symbolic of something.
Esteban Ventura Novo was one of the chiefs of police under the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in Cuba, before the triumph of the Revolution. He was responsible for the torture, murder and disappearance of dozens of young people in the Cuban capital. And all of this happened with the consent and support of the U.S. government, led at the time by Eisenhower.
When the revolutionary government took power in Cuba, Ventura Novo and others like him, perpetrators of crimes against the Cuban people, were received and sheltered by this country’s government. Many of them were advised, directed and financed by U.S. intelligence agencies, in their dirty war against a government that obviously enjoyed and continues to enjoy the support of its people.
This marked the beginning of a long history of aggression against Cuba in every field of the country’s economic and social life. A history in which economic warfare, biological warfare, and psychological warfare through propaganda and the threat of military attack, have combined with terrorism, sabotage, paramilitary actions and attempts on the lives of the political leaders of the Revolution, almost all of them originating in South Florida.
The prosecution will say that this is just Cuba’s propaganda and paranoia. I wonder if they would have the nerve to go to Cuba and say that to the mothers, spouses and children of those who have lost their lives as victims of these acts of aggression. Such statements on the part of the prosecution demonstrate their lack of human sensitivity and their inability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
The activities of the Cuban-American terrorist and paramilitary groups based in South Florida have been used as instruments of this country’s foreign policy towards Cuba through their direct organization by U.S. government agencies, the support given by these agencies to the extremist groups that perpetrate the acts, or by simply allowing them to operate without real persecution or with benevolent treatment when someone has actually been arrested.
The terrorist groups of the Miami Cuban ultra-right wing were created, trained and financed by the CIA. This has always been abundantly clear to the Cuban people. If there are still any doubts among those present in this courtroom, they need merely to take a look at the documents declassified by the United States government itself in 1997 and 1998, which clearly expose the decisions adopted by this country’s top leaders.
One of these documents refers to a meeting attended by high-level officials, headed up by the vice president at the time, Richard Nixon. This was the meeting at which the so-called “Program of Covert Action Against the Castro Regime” was approved. In a memorandum on the meeting, one of the participants, General Goodpaster, noted, “The President said that he knows of no better plan for dealing with this situation. The great problem is leakage and breach of security. Everyone must be prepared to swear that he (Eisenhower) has not heard of it. (…) He said our hand should not show in anything that is done.”
I ask myself: what can we expect 30 or 40 years from now, when they decide to declassify documents on what is happening today?
The majority of Cuban-Americans who remain active in terrorist actions against Cuba today, 40 years later, are well known to the United States security agencies, because they belong to those agencies, and have learned everything they know about technical means and working methods from them.
Their ties with the far right fundamentalists of U.S. politics have led to their apparent involvement in the darkest episodes of this country’s recent history: the assassination of President Kennedy, the Watergate scandal, the murders of Orlando Letelier and Ronnie Moffitt, and the clandestine supply of arms to the Nicaraguan Contras, in violation of the laws passed by Congress. Their activities have always run counter to the interests of the American people.
Perhaps it is their complicity with and loyalty to that political sector of this society that guarantees them impunity for their actions against Cuba, and provides them with the certitude that their activities will be overlooked by the authorities, and that political pressure will exerted in their favor in the event that they are caught. The facts prove this to be so.
Such is the case of Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, both with long histories of ties with the CIA. Together, they were the masterminds behind the blowing up in mid-flight of a Cuban commercial airplane on October 6, 1976, an act that caused the deaths of 73 innocent people.
Orlando Bosch lives as a free man in this community thanks to the parole granted by former president George Herbert Bush, despite the fact that officials from this country’s own Department of Justice consider him a dangerous and notorious terrorist.
The recommendations and pressures of Florida Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen played a major role in the granting of this presidential parole to Orlando Bosch. She is, therefore, a defender and protector of terrorists.
The evidence submitted here by the defense –documents known to the FBI and introduced during the trial– prove that Orlando Bosch has not ceased to conspire to commit terrorist acts against Cuba from Miami. But, he has not been arrested.
This past August 22, a full-page ad was published in The Miami Herald, in which a so-called “Cuban Patriotic Forum” established among its principles that it recognizes and supports the use of any methods in the struggle against Cuba. One of the signatories of this declaration was Orlando Bosch. Such is the impunity of his acts.
The case of Posada Carriles is even more shameful. Having escaped from a Venezuelan jail, where he was being held for his participation in the blowing up of a Cuban commercial plane that killed 73 innocent civilians, he surfaced in Central America with a new false name, working under the orders of none other than Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. North, of course, was the official from the Reagan administration’s Security Council involved in the so-called Iran-Contra scandal, subsequently investigated by a special prosecutor.
All of this is documented and known to the U.S. security services. They also know that it was the Cuban-American National Foundation that financed and organized Posada Carriles’ escape from a Venezuelan jail.
Today, Luis Posada Carriles and three other Cuban-Americans resident in Miami, all with long histories of involvement in terrorist acts against Cuba and also in the U.S. territory, are currently held in detention in Panama. They were arrested for their participation in a plot to blow up the university auditorium in Panama City with C-4 explosive while President Fidel Castro was meeting there with thousands of Panamanian students.
These terrorists imprisoned in Panama are receiving support from Miami. Money is being collected through public fundraising campaigns for their defense, with the use of Cuban-American radio stations. Pressure is being exerted on the Panamanian authorities and the legal defense of these terrorists is being arranged, while conditions are created for an eventual escape. There is no need to add that here, on the radio and in the press controlled by the Cubans of the far right, they are considered patriots, and not lowly terrorists, which is what they really are.
All of this is taking place in full view of this country’s authorities.
A lengthy account could be given of the entire terrorist and paramilitary activities and the attempts on the lives of Cuba’s political leaders organized from South Florida. With regard to the latter, in 1975 the Church Commission of the U.S. Senate compiled a partial list of those inwhich the CIA was directly involved, and for which it even resorted to members of organized crime. Such is their lack of ethics.
What choice do the Cuban people have for defending their sovereignty and their security?
All of us here in this courtroom are familiar with the concept of “probable cause”, used, among other things, for authorizing the use of certain means and methods in criminal investigations, for carrying out searches, making arrests, and so on. Who in the U.S. government can state here in this courtroom that over these last 42 years, there has not been “probable cause” to justify and legally support the investigation of actions initiated or financed from South Florida against Cuba?
In the course of our trial, the prosecution, in a blatant show of hypocrisy, threatened to use the R.I.C.O. Act against witnesses for the defense if they testified in this courtroom. Their goal was to keep the terrorist activities in which these gentlemen had participated from coming to light.
The R.I.C.O. Act, passed by Congress fundamentally to fight organized crime, has been in force for over 20 years. However, it has never been applied to a single one of the terrorist groups based here in Miami, although the government has all the information required to do so.
Here you have an example that there are in fact laws that would allow for these individuals and groups to be criminally prosecuted.
The problem is that, at the very least, there has been no political will to do so. If that political will did exist, many of the terrorist organizations that publicly operate offices in Miami would have been forced to shut down and their members would have been sent to prison.
This is just a brief summary of the reality that the Cuban people have had to face and with which they have had to live throughout more than 40 years. The Cuban people have the right to defend themselves, because up until now the U.S. government, which is responsible for enforcing the laws of this country and passing new laws if they are needed to combat criminal acts, has done very little or nothing to stop these activities against Cuba.
It was within this context that we reached the decade of the 90s. Cuba was facing the most critical economic situation of the last 40 years, fundamentally as a result of external factors.
The terrorist groups based in Miami and allied with the far-right of U.S. politics believed that the time had come to deal the definitive coup de grâce to Cuba’s revolutionary government. Thus, political actions and terrorist acts were simultaneously stepped up.
The Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF) became the Cuban community’s most influential organization, due to its economic resources and the influence it exerted over key politicians in the United States’ government structure.
Its strategy was to work towards the adoption in Congress of measures aimed at economically strangling the Cuban people, with the false hope that this would lead them to rise up against the revolutionary government, while at the same time, a wave of terrorist attacks against Cuba would be organized and financed from Miami, with the goal of damaging the already recovering economy.
This wave of terrorist acts against tourism facilities in Cuba was financed and organized by the CANF. The head terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, acknowledged to The New York Times his responsibility for the planning of these attacks and the financing of them with money from that organization. In articles published by the newspaper on July 12 and 13, 1998, Posada Carriles tacitly admitted that he functioned as the armed wing of the CANF.
In that same interview, he explained that the U.S. authorities had made no effort to question him about the terrorist attacks on hotels in Cuba, and that he attributed this lack of action to his longstanding relationship with them. He literally said:
“As you can see (…) the FBI and the CIA don’t bother me, and I’m neutral with them. Whenever I can help them, I do.”
During the following days, the eminently anti-Cuban press in Miami would work to erase from the minds of the Cuban community the statements and serious claims published by The New York Times , pushing them out of the local media with something that constitutes an obsession within this community: a purported illness afflicting President Fidel Castro. It did not matter that the story was a hoax, and was dispelled within a matter of days. It had accomplished its objective of making the general public forget what had been published in The New York Times and the potential repercussions of the statements made to that paper by Posada Carriles.
But the FBI and other U.S. authorities should not have forgotten, as the above-mentioned articles were published on July 12 and 13 and, exactly 26 days before the publication of those articles, an official U.S. delegation, which included FBI officers, visited Havana where it was provided with extensive information, filmed footage and tape recordings containing evidence of the participation of the CANF and its top leaders in the organization and financing of terrorist acts against Cuba. Many of these materials were introduced by the defense as evidence in this case.
More than three years later, Cuba is still waiting for any FBI action to arrest any of the individuals involved.
On October 26, 1990, Mr. Angel Berlingueri, a FBI special agent from the Miami office at the time, was a guest on the “Round Table” radio show broadcast by WAQI, or “Radio Mambí”. Coincidentally, this same agent participated in my arrest eight years later, and would subsequently testify in this courtroom.
He was a guest on the same radio station, with the same host and on the same show normally used to raise funds for actions against Cuba, for the defense of terrorists, and as a forum for anti-Cuban propaganda and political activity characterized by fanaticism.
That is where this FBI special agent appeared.
It is striking that in his comments and explanations to the public about the supposed activities of agents working for the Cuban government in South Florida, there is no mention of anything related to the national security of the United States. There is, however, acknowledgment of thefact that there are groups here in Miami plotting to overthrow the Cuban government. This violates the Neutrality Act, although it is clear that this issue was not brought up during the show.
On that very same radio show, this FBI agent acknowledged that actions and attacks against the Cuban government are perpetrated from Miami, and that the goal of the Cuban government is to remain informed of these plans. To top it all, the FBI agent bid farewell to his listeners by informing them that “we are fighting and we have the same objectives: for Cuba to be free as soon as possible.”
As far as I know, the FBI was not created to fight for the freedom of any other country, nor is this one of its functions. However, these statements clearly highlight the political agenda of the FBI office in South Florida.
Coincidentally, these statements were made in October of 1990, precisely at the beginning of a decade in which terrorist acts against Cuba from South Florida would be stepped up considerably.
Statements like these, coming from an FBI agent and made on a radio station show with the above-mentioned characteristics, could only serve to encourage the organizers of terrorist acts against Cuba and offer them the security that they will not be persecuted for their actions.
Mr. Héctor Pesquera, the agent in charge of the South Florida FBI office, appeared as a guest of the same station, on the same show, and with the same host, just days after the verdict was announced in our trial.
In the face of these realities, what can Cuba do to defend itself and be forewarned of terrorist plans?
Can the authorities of the South Florida FBI be trusted when it comes to matters related to Cuba’s national security?
Can someone who is here to look into the activities of terrorist groups and to prevent their actions in order to deter the death of innocent people be officially registered with the U.S. government?
What can Cuba do to defend its people, when boats leaving Florida loaded with weapons to attack Cuba are seized by the U.S. authorities, and those authorities are satisfied with explanations like, “We’re lobster fishing”? We heard this in this very courtroom from an ATF agent who intercepted a boat loaded with weapons and maps of Cuba just 40 miles off its coasts.
On July 23, 1998, The Miami Herald reported comments made by terrorist Tony Bryant, who laughed over how he was questioned by FBI officials after his boat was found near Havana with explosives on board. According to what Bryant told the newspaper, he promised he would not do it again, and they let him go.
What can Cuba do when terrorists like Virgilio Paz and José Dionisio Suárez, who blew Orlando Letelier and Ronnie Moffit to bits in this country’s capital and were then fugitives from the law, serve only seven years of their sentences and are then back on the streets thanks to the assistance of the CANF, which paid for their legal defense? I know of cases of reentry that have been given longer sentences than that.
The first words spoken to the press by one of these two individuals were to thank the CANF, Armando Pérez Roura and WAQI for the efforts they had made to get both of them released. This is the same radio station and the same radio show host for whom FBI agents Berlingueri and Pesquera appeared as guests.
The truth is that Cuba has no choice but to have people here, acting out of love for their country, and not for money, to keep the country informed of terrorist plans and to keep those plans from execution whenever possible. That is the reason for my presence here.
As long as the situation remains as I have described it, Cuba has a moral right to defend itself in the way that my comrades and I have done.
On September 11, we were all witnesses to a horrific and criminal act. An ephemeral act which dismayed the majority of the world’s inhabitants, who learned of these events through the television networks. The terrorist acts committed against Cuba for years have not been broadcast by any of those networks.
Allow me to recall that also on September 11, but in 1980, Félix García, a Cuban diplomat accredited to the United Nations, was murdered in New York City by one of the terrorists currently imprisoned alongside Posada Carriles in Panama.
In the outcome of the terrorist acts that took place in New York and Washington, the world’s awareness of the need to eradicate terrorism has increased.
Barely hours, or even minutes, after these events, all of the analysts and high-level officials of this country’s government were offering statements, information and viewpoints through the media. They all emphasized the need to speed up intelligence work and to infiltrate the groups that perpetrate such acts, as well as those who give them support and shelter.
I am convinced that the United States would feel proud of any one of its sons who had the opportunity and the privilege to prevent acts like the ones that took place this past September. Anyone who achieved this would have done a great service to his country and to humankind.
President Bush, in his speech to the joint session of the Congress on September 20, 2001, declared:
“Tonight, we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.”
More than 40 years ago, my country and my people were obliged to wake up to the danger and called upon to defend their freedom. I feel proud to have been one of those who forewarned my people of such dangers.
Later that night, in that same speech, President Bush stated:
“We will come together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities, to know the plans of terrorists before they act and to find them before they strike.”
Cuba, which has suffered terrorist attacks for 42 years, also has the right to defend itself in this way. Today, the American nation has joined in the fight against terrorism, something that has been a necessity and a reality for my country for many years.
There can be no double standards. Terrorism must be combated and eliminated whether it is committed against a big and powerful country or against small countries. There is no such thing as bad terrorism and good terrorism.
In the report on Orlando Bosch submitted in 1989 by Undersecretary of Justice Joe D. Whitley, whose administrative position made him less subject to political pressures or foreign policy considerations, this U.S. government official stated:
“The United States cannot tolerate the inherent inhumanity of terrorism as a way of settling disputes. Appeasement of those who would use force will only breed more terrorists. We must look on terrorism as a universal evil, even if it is directed toward those with whom we have no political sympathy.”
Today, you will conclude this stage of our trial and pronounce the sentence that you deem appropriate.
Finally, I simply want to reiterate that at no time did I endanger the national security of the United States, nor was this ever my intent, or that of my comrades.
What I did was inspired by love for my country, and by the conviction that history will register that this is the only choice left to the Cuban people to prevent the death of innocent people and the destruction wrought by the terrorist acts committed against my country.
It is up to the U.S. government to bring an end to these acts. Cuba has shown its willingness to cooperate with the U.S. authorities in this and other areas, like drug trafficking. This would serve the best interests of both nations, since it does affect the national security of the United States.
It is the authorities of this country that must decide to act on the basis of principles, and to shake off the destructive influence of a small but economically powerful group of mobsters and ultra-right fanatics from the Cuban community in Miami.
I sincerely trust that one day Cuba will have no need for people like me to come to this country, voluntarily and out of love for their country and their people, to fight against terrorism.
The first duty of any self-respecting person is to his or her country. Throughout the years of my imprisonment, I will always carry with me the dignity I have learned from my people and their history.
Thank you very much.
Fernando González Llort
I HAVE NO REASON TO REPENT
Defense Statement presented by René González Sehwerert at his Sentencing Hearing in Miami, Friday, December 14, 2001
Before I begin, I would like to propose an experiment to those present in the courtroom today: close your eyes, and imagine that you are in downtown New York. Now, when the first firefighter comes along, look him straight in the eye, very seriously, and tell him to his face that nothing happened on September 11. That it is all a lie. Nothing but camera tricks. It is all pure paranoia and propaganda. At this point, if your own shame or the poor firefighter has not made you swallow your tongue, then you are eminently qualified to have been a prosecutor in this case.
And now, with the permission of this Court, I will begin.
Months ago, in one of her efforts to sweep the subject of terrorism against Cuba under the carpet, using the twisted logic of her confused argument on intent and motivation, Mrs. Heck Miller told the court that we could leave the political speeches until this point in the trial. Even back then, when all of the prosecutors’ political hatred had been unleashed on us through the conditions of our confinement, the manipulation of the evidence, and, even worse, the use and abuse of my own family to blackmail, hurt and humiliate me, I was far from imagining just how important it would be for the prosecution in this case to pour out all of its political rancor on us.
Nevertheless, after six months of listening to these same prosecutors shoving their prejudices down the jury’s throats over and over again, I can still tell Mrs. Heck Miller that she was wrong. I do not need to speak of my political beliefs, which I do not in any way renounce, to say that I condemn terrorism, that I condemn war, and that I feel profound contempt for those people, so completely obsessed with their hatred and petty interests, who have devoted so much time to harming their country by promoting terrorism and fostering a war on which they squander all the courage that they do not have and that others, also their victims, will need on the battlefield.
I do not need to talk politics, because I believe that innocent people should not have to die for those reasons, in Cuba, here in the United States, or anywhere else in the world. And I would do what I did and take the risks that I took for any country in the world, including the United States, regardless of political considerations.
I firmly believe that you can be a Catholic and be a good person, that you can be a Jew and be a good person, that you can be a capitalist, a Muslim or a Communist and be a good person; but there is no such thing as a good person who is also a terrorist. You must be sick to be a terrorist, just as you must be sick to believe that there is such a thing as a good terrorist.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. When it comes to Cuba, the rules apparently change, and some people think that terrorism and war are good things to do. And so we have a prosecutor like Mr. Kastrenakes who defends José Basulto’s right to break the law as long as it is announced on television. We have an expert on terrorism like Mr. Hoyt, who believes that ten explosions in a one-year period would constitute a wave of terrorism in Miami, but not in Havana. We have an air safety expert for whom the acts of provocation perpetrated by Brothers to the Rescue against Havana, widely publicized on television, would be a different thing if they were perpetrated against Washington, because they would be, according to him, more urgent and verifiable. We have people who for 40 years have publicly advertised themselves as terrorists, yet the prosecutors to my left only seem to have noticed it when they testified in this case for the defense. Agents Angel Berlinguerí and Héctor Pesquera, the latter no less than the head of the local FBI office, proudly appear as guests on the same radio stations, with the same people and on the same programs that violate federal laws by openly raising funds to organize terrorist activities or defend terrorists around the world.
Meanwhile, Caroline Heck Miller calls for these nice terrorists to be judged in heaven, while Mr. Frómeta, after trying to buy nothing more than a couple of surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank weapons and a bit of highly potent explosive, is considered a good father, a good citizen and a good person, who might deserve something like a year of house arrest from the South Florida District Attorney’s Office. This, your Honor, as far as I know, is called hypocrisy, and it is also criminal.
And when this same office fights to keep me in the Special Housing Unit for as long as possible, when my family is used as an instrument to break my will, when my daughters are only allowed to see their father twice during the 17 months of this isolation and the only way I can watch the first steps taken by my little girl is through a 12th-floor window, then I can only feel proud of being here, and I can only thank the prosecutors for giving me this opportunity to confirm that I am on the right track, that the world still needs a lot of improving, and that the best thing for the people of Cuba is to keep the island clean of the element that has taken over so many souls here in Miami. I want to thank them for allowing me to prove myself against their hatred and resentment, and for this pride I feel after having lived through the most intense, useful, important and glorious days of my life, when this courtroom seemed too small to hold all of the truths spoken, and we watched them squirming with impotence as they fought to hide each and every one of those truths.
And if an apology will make them happy, then I will offer them one: I am very sorry that I was unable to tell their agents that I was cooperating with the Cuban government. If they had an honest stance towards terrorism, I could have done so, and together we could have found a solution to the problem. When I think of those endless discussions about the specific intent to break the law, I realize that this situation goes far beyond the question of whether failing to register oneself is illegal or not. And that is because, unfortunately, even if foreign agents could advertise in the yellow pages here without being registered beforehand, we, being Cubans, would have to remain incognito for such basic tasks as neutralizing terrorists or drug traffickers, something we should be doing together, if a logical approach could prevail. I am also sorry if the anti-Castro affiliation of the criminals I fought brought them closer to certain officials or members of the Attorney General’s Office. I feel very badly about this, honestly.
Actually, this whole issue of Cuban agents has a very simple solution: Leave Cuba alone. Do your job. Respect the sovereignty of the Cuban people. I would gladly say good-bye to every last spy who returns to the island. We have better things to do there, all of them a lot more constructive than watching the criminals who freely walk the streets of Miami.
I do not want to pass up this opportunity to address the many good people we have had the chance to meet during this trial.
First of all, I want to thank the U.S. marshals for their professional behavior, their decency, their courtesy and their anonymous sacrifice. There were times when we good-naturedly consoled each other for being the only people in the courtroom whose needs were not taken into account in the time schedules, and we all laughed together about it. But they were always disciplined and did their duty well.
I also want to thank the translators, Larry, Richard and Lisa. They did a first-class job and were always available whenever our families or we needed their services. I offer them my sincerest gratitude for their hard work and decency towards everyone. It must be a privilege for this court to have a team like that. My best wishes to Mr. Londergan as well.
I also wish to extend my deepest respect to the members of the U.S. military who testified, whether for the prosecution or the defense, and who spoke sincerely, as well as to the officials, experts and agents who were honest. I would have liked to see more honesty among the latter group, and I would have gladly acknowledged it here.
To all of them, who could very well represent the best of the American people, I extend my highest regards and my assurances that there is an entire nation of people just a step south of here who do not harbor the slightest animosity towards their big northern neighbor. The Cuban people and the country of Cuba have been systematically slandered throughout this trial by individuals who either do not know, or do not want to know, or are not interested in knowing what Cuba really is. I am going to take the liberty of reading an excerpt from a letter written by my wife on July 30:
“René, there are constant shows of support here for us, the families, and for all of you. Yesterday, when I took bus 58 home from Mom’s house, a number of people recognized me, and Ivette was talking to everyone. Because it’s carnival time, the bus filled right up when we went through Centro Habana, and Ivette decided to act up when it was time for us to get off; she sat herself down on the steps of the bus and refused to get up. You can imagine what it was like, the bus full of people, me trying to pick her up and not being able to, Ivette glued to her spot and everyone pushing. Then a woman came up to me; she squeezed my hand and gave me a prayer card she had suddenly pulled out of her purse, entitled, ‘A Happy Home.’ And she said, ‘At my church we pray for the five every day, and we pray for their children to have a happy home, like Jesus did, because they were over there so that all children would have a happy home as well.’
“She kind of caught me by surprise, I almost didn’t have time to thank her because I had to get off the bus quickly, but I realized that this is the way we Cubans are. And today we are more united than ever, regardless of beliefs or religions, everyone with their own faith, but all united in the same cause. I am going to keep the prayer card as a memento.”
I feel obliged to stop reading here to clarify that I am not a religious person. I do not want the prosecution to distort my words later and claim that I have brought God into this courtroom out of hypocrisy.
As you can see, I do not need to air my political beliefs here to talk about Cuba. Others have done it in the framework of this trial throughout three years, oozing irrational hatred. And this hatred is even more absurd when you realize that it has been bred at a gut level, that it is a visceral hatred aimed at something that they simply do not know. It is truly sad to be taught to hate something that you do not even know.
And so there have been people here speaking with impunity against Cuba, offending a nation of people whose only crime is having chosen their own path, and having defended that choice successfully, at the cost of enormous sacrifices. I am not going to give anyone the benefit of distracting myself with all the lies told here about Cuba, but I will refer to one that was so monstrous as to amount to disrespect for this courtroom and the jury:
When Mr. Kastrenakes stood up and said, in front of this symbol of American justice, that we had come here to destroy the United States, he showed how little that symbol and that justice matter to him, and he also showed how little respect he had for the jury. Unfortunately, he was right with regard to the latter.
The evidence in this case, history, our beliefs, the education we received, none of this supports the absurd idea that Cuba wants to destroy the United States. The problems of the human race cannot be resolved by destroying any country; for too many centuries, empires have been destroyed only for similar or worse empires to be built on their ruins. Any threat to this nation is not going to come from a people like the people of Cuba, where it is considered immoral to burn a flag, whether it is from the United States or any other country.
If you allow me, as a descendant of industrious and hard-working Americans, with the privilege of having been born in this country and the privilege of having grown up in Cuba, I would tell the noble American people not to look so far to the south to see the threat to the United States.
Cling to the real and genuine values that inspired the founding fathers of this nation. The lack of these values, pushed aside by other less idealistic interests, is the real threat to this society. Power and technology can become a weakness if they are not in the hands of cultured people, and the hatred and ignorance we have seen here towards a small country, which nobody here knows, can be dangerous when combined with a blinding sense of power and false superiority. Go back to Mark Twain and forget about Rambo if you really want to leave your children a better country. Every alleged Christian who was brought up here to lie after swearing on the Bible is a threat to this country, in view of the way their conduct served to undermine these values.
Having written these words in preparation for my sentencing, scheduled for September 26, the tragic and horrendous crimes of September 11 have obliged me to add a few reflections that I cannot fail to share with this court. I must be very tactful, to ensure that nobody can accuse me of capitalizing on these abominable acts in my own favor. But there are times when we must speak certain truths, no matter how painful they may be. It is very much like telling a son or daughter, a brother or sister, when they have made a mistake, and we want, out of love, to help them avoid making that same mistake in the future. It is in that spirit that I want to speak through you with this message to the American people.
The seeds of the tragedy that has plunged this nation into mourning today were sown many years ago. We were led to believe that by shooting down civilian planes and bombing schools, in a place as distant as it was unknown, certain individuals were fighting for freedom, simply because they were fighting communism. I would never blame the American people for that lack of vision; but those who provided the missiles and created an image of those people that did not match their criminal acts were also committing the crime of hypocrisy.
And I am not looking back into the past to rub it in anyone’s face. I merely want to invite you to look at the present and reflect on the future, by sharing the following reflection with this court: “Yesterday’s hypocrisy is to today’s tragedy what today’s hypocrisy will be to tomorrow’s tragedy.” We all have a responsibility towards our children, which goes beyond political prejudices or the petty need to earn a salary, hold on to an ephemeral political post or ingratiate ourselves with a handful of tycoons. That responsibility obliges us to put aside today’s hypocrisy, so that we can give them a tomorrow free of tragedies.
There has been an attempt to judge the five of us in the name of this hypocrisy, and now that it is my turn to face my sentence, I realize that, unlike my comrades, I do not even have the right to consider myself a victim. The way in which I conducted myself perfectly coincides with the description offered in the charges brought against me. If I had come to this trial, it was out of solidarity with my brothers, and in order to speak certain truths and refute the lies with which the prosecution tried to exaggerate my activities and present me as a danger to American society.
Therefore, I do not even have the right to ask for clemency at a moment like this, a moment at which this court will have seen who-knows-how-many converts, some genuine, others false, some finding God after signing a pact with the Devil, all of them using this podium to show their repentance. I cannot judge them, and each will know what to do with his dignity. I also know what to do with mine, and I would like to believe that you would understand that I have no reason to repent.
Yet, I will always feel obliged to ask for justice for my comrades, accused of crimes they did not commit and sentenced on the basis of prejudices by a jury that passed up a unique opportunity to make a difference. They never attempted to obtain any secrets from this country, and as for the most monstrous accusation, it was merely a matter of a patriot defending the sovereignty of his nation. Quoting the words of a good Cuban and friend, who despite having come to this country for disagreeing with the Cuban government is still an honorable person, I want to take advantage of this moment to pay tribute to the worthy Cubans who live here as well, and to refute, along the way, another of the lies spread by the prosecution regarding our feelings towards the Cuban community: “Those boys were convicted for the crime of being honorable.”
Over two years ago I received a letter from my father, in which he said, among other things, that he hoped a jury would be found in which the values of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln prevailed. It is shameful that he turned out to be wrong.
But I have not lost hope in the human race and its capacity to pursue those values. After all, I do not think that Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln themselves represented the majority during the era in which they left their mark on the history of this nation.
And as these three sordid years go down in history, and a mountain of arguments, motions and technicalities come to bury a story of blackmail, power abuse and the most absolute contempt for such a highly praised justice system, polished to a shine it never had, we will continue to appeal to those values, and to the American people’s vocation for truth. And we will do so with all the patience, faith and courage that we draw from the crime of being honorable.
Thank you very much.
René González Sehwerert