PERSONALITIES AROUND THE WORLD WHO EXPRESSED SUPPORT FOR THE CUBAN FIVE
WAYNE SMITH Former Chief of the US Interest Section in Havana during Jimmy Carter administration, 2006
“Another common misconception is that whatever the Five were doing here, it must have been intended to do harm to the U.S. But again, no, the intent was not to do any harm to the United States; rather, it was to gather information on the illegal activities of these exile organizations and then, since Cuba could not act on it, to provide that information to U.S. authorities. And this was done. The Five — Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino Salazar, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez — were put on trial in November 2000, convicted on June 8, 2001, and given sentences ranging from 15 years to two consecutive life terms. Were the Five altogether guiltless? No. They were, admittedly, the unregistered agents of a foreign government, a transgression that might at most have resulted in a few years jail time — or less, given that they had provided to the U.S. information that could have been crucial, had the U.S. chosen to use it.
By all rights, they should have long since been released. Rather than that, they have now been in prison under difficult conditions for over eight years, and facing a lifetime more.
Bishop Gumbleton spoke with Fernando for several hours and they connected immediately. According to Gumbleton “Fernando and I have more things in common than I thought,” and he added “Fernando is in the prime of his life, is a sincere and receptive person, and is very current about international affairs, including news about the Catholic Church.” What the Bishop was most impressed with was that Fernando did not speak about his case in particular, or the case of the Five, but about the cause of the Cuban people to fight for its independence and sovereignty. Gumbleton saw through Fernando an immense determination and commitment, to the point of sacrificing everything necessary, including his own freedom, for the goodness of his country.
Messages of Alice Walker on the Cuban Five
To the Children (especially) and Families of The Cuban Five:
I am relieved to learn that the media in my country, the United States, and Britain, are showing interest, after almost a decade, in the wrongful incarceration of your loved ones. I imagine you, the children, as so much bigger now than you were when your parents left. I pray you are still able to feel connected to them: through letters, phone-calls; perhaps, by now, visits? It is painful to realize what joys of connection between you and your fathers have been stolen from you. And yet, how great their love for you remains. For they wanted you to grow up in a safer country, a place where you could play and grow, go to school and to work, without fearing for your life. I admire your fathers very much.
In my own experience everything to do with attaining justice has been very hard, very difficult, a very long struggle. Apparently endless, in fact. That is unfortunately the experience of much of the world. Still, we persist in our hope of justice, our belief in it, our dedication to it as a noble ideal, worthy of the best humans, those who seek it at the expense of themselves. As your fathers have done.
When I was growing up in the North American South in the middle of the last century, if a black person was attacked by a white one it was considered a death sentence for the person of color to defend himself. This led to a community of people who suffered from the many illnesses associated with humiliation and stifled rage: hypertension, eating disorders, diabetes, heart disease, depression, stroke and so forth. It also led, ironically, to the creation of a lot of amazing art. Especially music, which we then showered generously on the world. I offer this memory ( we changed the scenario about not fighting back!) not to sadden you, but to remind you of the fact that suffering is not without its gifts. And to warn you, I suppose, to be sure to share the pain and sadness you are feeling about what has happened to your parents. Share it with others. Don’t neglect to talk about it. You are not alone in this world. Though some of your friends, like me, are far away in miles, we are near in consciousness. We recognize that we are caught in the tangles of the same bizarre nightmare. That Earth itself is captive these days to a mad vision of what a few out of balance people insist that it is. Our vision is different, and worth holding to: that people have a right to defend themselves. That people have a right to justice and peace. That torture, whether it is being placed in isolation for 17 months or having our children kept from us, is something evolved human beings have long outgrown.
We insist on a better world! We know a better world is possible. We have seen it.
This is the world your fathers know, kept from the sunlight of freedom as they are. Holding this place of knowing, enduring such sacrifice- especially not seeing and being with you – is their gift to us. And, even more so, to you.
Yours in peace and compassion,
Your Tia, Alice (Walker)
Danny Glover (1946) is an American actor, film director, and political activist. He is presently chair of the TransAfrica Forum, “a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the general public — particularly African-Americans — on the economic, political and moral ramifications of U.S. foreign policy as it affects Africa and the Diaspora in the Caribbean and Latin America“. He narrated documental film “The Trial: The Untold Story of the Cuban Five”.
Hello, I’m Danny Glover, chairman of the board of TransAfrica Forum. I regret I cannot be with you today tonight at Howard University, the pinnacle African American and African diaspora education.
Howard has been an historic board working against injustice and the legal soul of African Americans. I can not think of a better venue to present a film on the case of the Cuban Five.
These five Cuban citizens acted in the self defense of their nation and their families. They had to act because the United States government in violation of its own laws and in contravention of its own calls to prevent and step out terrorists activities failed to act.
The US government failed to prevent murderous terrorist attacks being repeatedly launched from within the US for many decades against the sovereign nation of Cuba.
These five Cuban citizens have been unjustly imprisoned and condemned to unusually harsh and cruel punishments for exercising their moral obligation to self defense, a right agreed upon by all nations.
Rogue acts of violence against the Cuban people by cold blood US-based terrorists and supported by the inaction and the irresponsibility of our government, demands critical intervention by the American people. Across the ideological and political spectrum, people who honestly stand against terrorism must speak out against these terrorist acts that operate outside US and international law. They speak out in defense of the Cuban Five.
I invite you to join in and organize fellow students, faculties, administrators, families and friends to bring to life the spirit of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. who said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, and call on our government to implement our nation’s moral and legal obligations to justice and international law.
“It is necessary to let the world know the truth about the case of Rene Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez and Antonio Guerrero – internationally known as the Cuban Five – as they are also victims of the silence of the mainstream media.
“What is happening to them is a tremendous injustice, made even greater by the fact that two of them are not allowed visits by their wives…unfortunately, very few people in the United States know about the case of the Five and Cuban realities, due to the total silence of the government. If people in the United States knew more about this situation, they would be more sensitive to it. I would do everything in his power to try to knock on some doors. Now I can talk about the case of the Five not just from having read about it, but also because I had the opportunity of visiting one of them and meeting their relatives in Cuba”
In the responsibility for human justice, which, I believe, must be upheld and expressed by all citizens of our world, I condemn the continued prosecution and incarceration of the Cuban Five by the United States of America. This travesty of justice, perpetrated by what claims to be the world’s example of democratic standards, has now been pursued for almost a decade.
The five Cubans have been and continue to be subject to harsh physical and mental suffering while a succession of arraignments for conspiracy to commit espionage and murder have not been proved against them, despite initial conviction in Miami by a jury of more than doubtful objective competence, the overturning of the convictions by the Court of Appeals in Atlanta and the ordering of a new trial, a decision subsequently revoked.
The five remain incarcerated and severely isolated by restrictions against communication with family, legal representatives and human rights organizations.
Eight international Nobel Prize winners have written and sent a document to the U.S. Attorney General calling for freedom for the Cuban Five, signed by Zhores Alferov(Nobel Prize for Physics, 2000), Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize, 1984), Nadine Gordimer (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1991), Rigoberta Menchú (Nobel Peace Prize, 1992), Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Nobel Peace Prize, 1980), Wole Soyinka (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1986), José Saramago (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1996), Günter Grass(Nobel Prize in Literature, 1999). The letter was signed also by 6000 intellectuals and artists of all the world, among them, Oscar Niemeyer, Mario Benedetti, Harry Belafonte, Pablo González Casanova, Ernesto Cardenal, Thiago de Mello, Walter Salles, Eduardo Galeano, Manu Chao, Atilio Borón, Francois Houtart, Luis Sepúlveda, Tariq Ali, Ramsey Clark, Gianni Miná, Frei Betto, Miguel Bonasso, Jorge Sanjinés, Rusell Banks and Alfonso Sastre.
That’s an amazing case! Cuba approached the United States with an offer to cooperate in combating terrorism and, in fact, the FBI sent people to Cuba to get information from the Cubans about it. The next thing was that Cubans who had infiltrated the terrorist groups in the United States were arrested. That is utterly shocking! Do you think it’s reported? Nobody knows about it. I mean, here are Cubans who are infiltrating illegal, terrorist organisations in the United States, which are violating US law and the infiltrators are arrested, not the terrorists. It’s astonishing. The US has refused intelligence cooperation with Cuba on terrorism because it would lead directly back to terrorist groups based in the United States.”
The Cuban Five and their loving families are victims of our propaganda against the Cuban people. We have created an atmosphere where their guilt is assumed and goes unchallenged by far too many Americans. The fact that their wives are not given access to them has been expressed in my letter to Condoleezza Rice which I represent here. You need to know that, to date, I have received no answer to my letter sent directly to the State Dept. and publicized in the US press.
My hope for the Cuban Five and their families is rooted in the good people in Cuba, in the US, and across the world, who are invariably themselves in this urgent battle for justice. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of history is long but it points toward justice.”
We must join hands across our tightening borders. We must refuse to be intimidated by those in power and we must continue to speak out for the Cuban Five.
To the families gathered at this conference, my heart goes out to you. The years pass by and love that is rightly yours is barred. These actions have no reason to exist. Your courage and patience move us to “break the silence.” We can only match it with our voices and our continuing commitment to their cause.
To all in the struggle – Salud!
The five Cubans who have been imprisoned in the United States is something that is a secret from the people of the United States. So we have a very important job to do in the United States for people in the progressive movement. And that is to make the situation known to people because I believe the American people have a basic sense of decency. When they learn that something inhuman has happened, they react against it
Chilean judge Juan Guzman said that the American judges should exonerate and release the five Cubans imprisoned in the United States for preventing terrorist attacks.
“If they really seek justice,” he said, “they should make a ruling recognizing the innocence of Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez y Rene Gonzalez.”
In a press conference, Guzman –Dean of the Law School of the Central University— highlighted that there is no evidence to justify the main charges that led to the irrational and unjustifiable sentences.
Guzman has just returned from Atlanta, United States, where he attended as an observer together with many other legal experts, the Monday hearing at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of Atlanta. He said that these experts agreed that the charges of espionage, conspiracy, etc were totally groundless.
Guzman, who became worldwide renowned for acting as judge in the legal process against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, also denounced the pressure put by the George W. Bush administration on members of the jury and the US judicial powers, and he added that this is evidently a political trial.
Dr. Graciela Alvarez, an official in Chile of the Latin American Association of Jurists, pointed out the number and prestige of all the observers attending the hearing in Atlanta. She also highlighted the importance of keeping an eye on this case, of a growing international interest
I feel compelled by human concern and values, and by my awareness of how justice was travestied in my own country, South Africa, in like ways during the apartheid era, to raise my voice in protest at the persecution of these five Cuban men.