Por Elio Delgado Legón
HAVANA TIMES — In the course of over 14 years, I have often asked myself why so much secrecy has surrounded the case of the five Cubans who were detained in Miami in 1998. These men endured 17 months of solitary confinement in “the hole”, in violation of U.S. law, as well as a 3-year trial replete with similar violations of the country’s laws, and no newspaper made any effort to bring to light what was taking place.
I am referring to Miami’s newspapers, radio and television, yes, for these, to my knowledge, did not go on vacation in the three years the trial lasted. A number of journalists did work, but only to create an atmosphere charged with anti-Cuban sentiments and feelings of antipathy towards those they referred to as spies.
We later found out that those journalists had been paid by the US government, to create precisely that kind of atmosphere and steer public opinion and the juries entrusted with the verdict towards those feelings of antipathy.
The judge turned down the petition to hold the trial in a more impartial venue, as the laws of the country demand. The juries were intimidated by Miami’s terrorists, terrorists whose identity everyone knows.
In my opinion, the judge was also intimidated and threatened, for the ridiculously harsh sentences she imposed on the Cuban Five cannot be explained any other way.
Rene Gonzalez’ sentence was the least severe: 15 years in prison, a term he has already served. The most severe and irrational sentence was imposed on Gerardo Hernandez: two life sentences plus 15 years.
Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez had their initial sentences overturned and a subsequent re-sentencing took place as a result of an appeal process. However their second sentences were also irrational and unjust, for they were again accused of crimes they did not commit.
They tried to blackmail Rene, using his wife’s detention to pressure him into pleading guilty of espionage, in order to be able to accuse Cuba of spying on the United States. But a true revolutionary like Rene does not yield to blackmail. He would have had to lie, to his country’s detriment, to save himself from a sure conviction. They had no evidence against him, but they sentenced him to 15 years in prison nonetheless.
Conspiracy to commit murder was one of the unfounded charges brought against Gerardo, in connection with the downing, over Cuban waters, of two small planes belonging to the terrorist organization Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Rescate), an organization that had been systematically encroaching on Cuba’s airspace and dropping leaflets that called for an armed uprising against the government.
The organization had announced another fly-over for February 24 and the Cuban government had forewarned US air traffic authorities that, if they encroached on the country’s airspace again, they would be shot down in self-defense, because a terrorist organization could, at any moment, decide to drop bombs instead of leaflets.
Despite this, the planes took off from U.S. soil and penetrated Cuban airspace. The head of the organization didn’t take any chances; he stayed behind to watch his planes be shot down. If anyone is to be held responsible and pay for those deaths, it is Mr. Basulto, the person who sent them to a sure death, without even having had the courage to face the same fate. He used them as cannon fodder to later be able to accuse Cuba of murder.
The government of the United States has repeatedly refused to publish the satellite images which show the exact location where the planes were shot down, for these images show that the incident took place within Cuba’s airspace and, therefore, Gerardo cannot be held liable for the pilots’ deaths in any way.
Of all the charges brought against Gerardo and the other four anti-terrorist activists convicted, the only truthful one is that these men were acting as agents for the Cuban government without declaring this fact at the Attorney General’s Office. But acting as an agent does not mean conducting espionage. These men infiltrated terrorist organizations, not official institutions of the US government.
The Cuban Five have been the victims of innumerable irregularities and violations, violations I have enumerated in a previous post. This is the reason the US government doesn’t want the press to give the case any coverage, for, if the people of the United States knew what was happening, they would demand that this situation, which puts a stain on their country’s judicial system, be brought to an end. All of this ought to be considered by the Obama administration, which must set the Cuban Five free.