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Monday, September 12, 2011


Why is the U.S. government punishing the Cuban Five?

The Cuban Five - Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, René González, and Ramon Labañino - are today starting their 13th year in U.S. prisons. Leaving aside the case of Gerardo (who was accused of complicity in the shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes and the death of the pilots, a charge which the prosecution actually admitted in a motion it could not prove (!) but on which the jury convicted him anyway), the other four were charged merely with typical "foreign agent" charges - false passports, unregistered agent of a foreign government, and conspiracy to commit espionage (not "espionage" as is commonly reported, because not a shred of evidence was presented that any of the Five ever possessed or even attempted to possess a single item of classified information). And as a USA Today columnist pointed out just a few days ago, similar cases (e.g., involving Russian agents) involve a quick deportation, not 13 years (and counting) in prison.

Two of the five have been denied visits from their wives for the entire 12 years. One of them, Gerardo, is serving a double life sentence, so this means that the government intends to prevent him from seeing his wife (and vice-versa) for the rest of their lives. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment!

And in the latest example, the one of the Five with the shortest sentence, René González, is due to be released from prison on Oct. 7, having served his time. René, it turns out, has dual U.S. and Cuban citizenship, and the U.S. intends to force him to serve his three years' probation in the U.S., where he has not a single relative (his wife, children, and aging parents are all in Cuba). His attorney filed a motion asking for him to be allowed to serve his probation in Cuba, and the government has actually now opposed that motion.

So what is this all about? It certainly isn't about justice, taking five men whose mission was the prevention of terrorism and putting them in jail for years and years. No, it's about war, specifically, the ongoing U.S. war on Cuba and its attempt to destabilize and overthrow the Cuban government. War has two parts. One is offense, and the U.S. conducts vigorous economic warfare against Cuba, and through its terrorist proxies in Miami, terrorist warfare as well. The other is defense, and that's where the Cuban Five come in, because they were part of Cuba's defenses against U.S.-based (and U.S.-tolerated and U.S.-backed) terrorism. Obviously these five men have been "neutralized" as defenders of Cuba. But they are far from the only Cuban agents, or potential Cuban agents.

The punishment and persecution (no other word suffices) of the Cuban Five is designed for one purpose and one purpose only - to send a message to any Cuban thinking of volunteering for a similar mission that they will pay a severe price if they are caught, and thereby to discourage them from doing so. It's a message that is unlikely to succeed, given the passionate defense of the Cuban revolution by so many of its citizens, but it's one the U.S. insists on sending. And it's sending it through its cruel and unusual (and completely unjust) punishment of five men - the Cuban Five.

Today attorneys for the Five had a press conference organized by the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five to discuss their current legal status. You can listen to the conference here.

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