(Originally published at the Daily Censored for Project Censored.)
On June 14, 2011 Carlos Hernandez, the mayor of Hialeah, a city in Miami-Dade County, “honored” the FBI and CIA funded terrorist Luis Posada Carriles by giving him the key to the city. As many know, there is overwhelming evidence linking Luis Posada Carriles to the mid-flight bombing of a Cuban airliner, which killed 73 people, on October 6, 1976. In addition, there is ample evidence Posada was involved in the Hotel Copacabana bombing in Havana that killed Italian tourist, Fabio Di Celmo, in 1997.
While Miami officials shamelessly “honor” the anti-Cuban terrorist Posada, the Cuban Five anti-terrorists have remained imprisoned for over 13 years. In 2001, the five men were convicted for spying on the US military and Cuban exiles in southern Florida. However, the men say they weren’t spying on the U.S. government. Rather, the five claim they were monitoring violent right-wing Cuban exile groups that have organized attacks on Cuba. In a 2009 interview with Cuban Five attorney Thomas Goldstein, Amy Goodman on DemocracyNow! asks about the conspiracy to commit murder charges on one of the five men and the flawed prosecution. Thomas Goldstein, quote:
“Sure. Well, this is the most serious charge that was brought against any of the five, and the United States contends that Gerardo Hernandez, when he gathered information on flights by Brothers to the Rescue — so what happened is that Brothers to the Rescue, which is a very anti-Castro organization, really, really opposed to the regime, really tried to bring about regime change, in part by doing overflights of Cuban territory — and Gerardo Hernandez passed on information to Cuba about when the planes would be going. Now, the planes showed up on radar anyway; it wasn’t a particularly huge deal. But then Cuba shot two of the planes down, and he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for that, even though he had nothing to do with any plan to shoot the planes down, much less a plan to shoot the planes down in US jurisdiction. You know, it’s not true, and there’s literally no evidence of it.
And we think this is kind of the best example of how this jury, and in this environment, wasn’t able to look fairly at the case and say, look, maybe these people were unregistered agents, and you’re not supposed to do that, and we have a way of dealing with those sorts of issues, but the charges here were much more serious. And this is usually resolved diplomatically, not through criminal convictions.”
Goldstein’s comments reveal the two important elements to this story. The first is the fact that the Cuban Five was found guilty of spying on ultra-Right anti-Cuban extremists groups in the U.S., including the organization Brothers to the Rescue. Second, the government went to extraordinary lengths, including the planting of stories in the media, to paint an unflattering and false portrait of the Cuban Five, thus denying the men of a fair-trial.
In order to provide some context, it is important to understand a little history. As mentioned above, ever since 1959, Cuba has been the target of U.S. sanctions, invasions, sabotage, and violent attacks. This U.S. orchestrated campaign of violence has led to the deaths of 3,478 and wounded another 2,099 Cubans.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, militant anti-Cuban extremists groups, operating out of Miami, began a violent bombing campaign that targeted Cuba’s tourist industry. 1998, President Fidel Castro sent Nobel Prize laureate Gabriel Garcia Marques as his personal emissary to deliver a handwritten letter to President Bill Clinton. In the letter, Castro reportedly states, “If you really want to do so, you can put a stop to this new form of terrorism. It is impossible to stop this terrorism without United States involvement . . . Unless it is stopped now, in the future any country could be victimized by this new terrorism.”
According the official website for the National Committee to Free the Cuban 5, “In the wake of the Garcia Marquez visit, the United States sent an FBI team to Havana a month later to discuss collaboration with Cuba on stopping acts of aggression emanating from Miami. At the meeting Cuba handed over 64 files containing the results of its investigation into 31 different terrorist acts and plans against the island in the decade of the 90s. The Cuban government enclosed details of operations against Cuba, including photographs of the explosives used.
Cuba then waited for the FBI to start arresting the architects of these operations, but instead, on September 12, 1998, it arrested the Cuban Five; the very men who had come to Miami to monitor the activities of the violent Miami exile groups.”
The Cuban Five were reportedly monitoring extremists organizations included Alpha 66, the F4 Commandos, the Cuban American National Foundation (said to have funded Posada), and Brothers to the Rescue. So who are the Cuban Five? The Cuban Five are Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino Salazar, Rene González Sehwerert, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez and Fernando González Llort.. Three of the Cuban Five were born in Cuba and two were born in the United States. After a long dragged out trial, Fernando Gonzalez and René Gonzalez, received 19 and 15 years respectively. Gerardo Hernandez received a double life sentence plus 15 year. Antonio Guerrero received life sentences plus 10 years and Ramon Labañino received life sentences plus 18 years.
As Thomas Goldman noted, Hernandez’s especially stiff sentence has to do him passing of information about the Brothers to the Rescue organization. Many readers might remember in February, 1996 two of the groups plans were shot down by Cuban Air-Force MiG’s. Brothers to the Rescue had been doing flyovers into Cuban airspace and dropping leaflets. Two days before the shootdown incident, one of the pilots from Brothers to the Rescue, Juan Pablo Roque, unexpectedly showed up in Cuba. He had defected back to Cuba and claimed the Brothers to the Rescue were planned to do more than drop leaflets. While Roque was in Miami piloting planes for the Brothers to the Rescue he was also talking with and was paid by the FBI.
Two days after Roque’s return to Cuba. In spite of being warned several times by the U.S. government and Cuban officials, three Brothers to the Rescue planes headed once again to Cuban airspace. Cuban radar picked up the plans, along with the U.S. and a couple ships in the area. Cuba scrambled two MiG’s as one of the planes swept into Cuban airspace. Within minutes, the two Cuban Air-Force jets fighters shot down two planes just outside of Cuban airspace, killing all four people on board. The third Bothers to the Rescue plane escaped back to the U.S.
Understandably there was a national outcry in the U.S. and the international community stepped in and condemned Cuba for shooting down two civilian planes. Cuba claimed it had a right to defend is boarder from attacks and they had good information which lead them to believe these planes had violent intentions. And, with the return of Roque, they may very well have had proof to back up their claims. Nonetheless, the victim’s wives and mothers along with the support of the international community called for a U.N investigation.
The Inter-America Commission on Human Rights investigated the downing of the two planes and cites a study done by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and concluded, “The fact that weapons of war and combat-trained pilots were used against unarmed civilians shows not only how disproportionate the use of force was, but also the intent to end the lives of those individuals. Moreover, the extracts from the radio communications between the MiG-29 pilots and the military control tower indicate that they acted from a superior position and showed malice and scorn toward the human dignity of the victims.”
The report declared Cuba was responsible for violating the right to life and the right to a fair trial of the four Brothers to the Rescue victims. Ironically, when it comes to the Freedom Flotilla campaigns to Gaza, the U.S. and much of the international community has no such concerns for unarmed civilian’s right to life, fair trial, or Israel’s use of disproportionate force. But I digress.
After the Cuban government handed over evidence of extremist Right-wing organizations in Miami plotting violence in Cuba, the FBI responded by arresting the Cuban Five. Remember, the Cuban Five attorney pointed out that his clients were unable to get a fair trial.
Last year, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, and recently Liberation newspaper released information uncovered from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) petition that exposed the U.S. government had orchestrated an illegal operation to influence Americans. Coordinator for Free the Cuban Five, Gloria La Riva, said of the journalist for hire operation, “Many of the articles and commentaries by the government-paid journalists were highly prejudicial and biased, with the obvious aim of negatively influencing the Miami public and the jury pool, convicting the Cuban Five, and depriving them of the fundamental right to a fair trial.”
The FOIA petition uncovered more than 2,200 pages of contracts between the U.S. and members of the Miami media. Here is a bit of an extended excerpt from the FOIA disclosures:
“The BBG and its Office of Cuba Broadcasting have operated Radio Martí since 1985 and TV Martí since 1990. They broadcast into Cuba with the intent to destabilize the government. They also broadcast directly into Miami.
The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 regulating U.S. “public diplomacy” abroad—Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio and TV Martí, etc.—prohibits the U.S. government from funding activities to influence and propagandize domestic public opinion, see 22 U.S.C. § 1461.
The U.S. government has funneled nearly half a billion dollars into the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami. With an annual budget nearing $35 million, the OCB and BBG put on their payroll domestic journalists to broadcast the same message inside and outside the United States on Cuba-related issues, effectively violating the law against domestic dissemination of U.S. propaganda.
These contracts evidence the U.S. government’s payments to journalists in Miami whose reports constituted a sustained effort to create an atmosphere of hysteria and bias against Cuba and the Cuban Five. Three of the Cuban Five—Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino—have filed habeas corpus appeals arguing that their constitutional rights to due process were grossly undermined by the government’s media operation in Miami and payments to the Miami reporters.”
In 2005, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the Cuban Five conviction ruling that the Miami venue violated the men’s right to a fair trial. A year later, the 11th Circuit en banc panel reinstated the convictions. In 2009, the Cuban Five petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court which refused to hear the case with no explanation. Later that year the U.S. District Court in Southern Florida imposed new sentences of 21 years and 10 months in prison to Antonio Guerrero, who was serving a life sentence plus 10 years. A new sentence of 17 years and nine month was passed down to Fernando Gonzalez, who was serving a 19 years sentence and of 30 years to Ramón Labañino, who was serving a life sentence plus 18 years.
In May 2005, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted a report by its Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stating “The Working Group notes that it arises from the facts and circumstances in which the trial took place and from the nature of the charges and the harsh sentences handed down to the accused that the trial did not take place in the climate of objectivity and impartiality that is required in order to conform to the standards of a fair trial defined in article 14 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, which the United States of America is a party.”
Last year, when Antonio Guerrero was resentenced, receiving life plus ten years, in a maximum security prison, Guerrero explained to the judge why Cuba had sent him to the U.S.:
“Allow me to explain my reasons, your Honor, in the clearest and most concise way: Cuba, my little country, has been attacked, assaulted, and slandered, decade after decade by a cruel ,inhuman and absurd policy. A real terrorist war. . . . . Where have such unceasing ruthless acts been hatched and financed? For the most part, in the United States of America.”
While the Cuban Five languish in prison, Luis Posada Carriles, a terrorists and mass murderer, is honored with the key to the city. In the war on terrorism, this is one story rarely reported on in the main stream media.