People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 37

September 21 , 2008


Release the Cuban Five

Suneet Chopra

IT is now ten years since September 12, 1998 when five fighters against terrorism, three Cubans and two US citizens of Cuban descent were arrested on the remarkable charge of being “illegal officers” of Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence, about whose real status the US authorities were vague. They were young, talented and well-educated human beings whose lives are being destroyed by a savage regime. Rene Gonzalez, born in Chicago in 1956 and a US citizen, is a pilot and flight instructor. Antonio Guerrero, born in Miami in 1958 and a US citizen, is a graduate in Aerodrome Construction Engineering and a poet, Fernando Gonzales, born in Havana in 1962 and a Cuban citizen, is a graduate in International Political Relations. Gerrardo Hernandez born in Havana in 1965 and a Cuban citizen is a graduate in International Political Relations, a writer and cartoonist. Ramon Labanino born in 1963 and a Cuban citizen, is a graduate in economics.

What was their quest? To unearth the terrorist gangs in Miami which had caused much damage to innocent citizens and tourists in Cuba, killing many. This includes the mid-air explosion in a Cuban civilian aircraft, in October 1976, killing 73 passengers. The deed was owned up by terrorists Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Cariles, who boasted about it. In fact, it was the vigilance of people like the Cuban Five that prevented many more plots against not only the Cuban people but also Fidel Castro from succeeding.

Was the USA, now posing as the global leader of the “war against terror”, unaware of these attempts? No, it was given all the facts concerned by the Cuban authorities, but it chose to ignore them. Not only did it not take action, but these terrorists have been rescued by US intervention from Panama and Venezuela where they ought to be facing serious charges and be punished.

The case of Bosch is significant. He applied for residence in the USA and the Justice Department and INS deemed him an undesirable immigrant on account of 30 years of terrorist activities, including those that took place on US soil. So they asked that he be barred entry. But then, a man no less than George Bush senior overruled the Justice Department and INS and granted him residence in the USA. Cariles’ case was even more appalling. He just walked out of prison in Venezuela, but its then President, Andres Perez, called it an “escape”. From there he went on to collaborate with the notorious US Presidential advisor, Oliver North, in gun-running for the Nicaraguan Contras under the guise of “humanitarian aid” as the US Congress had banned military aid to them. The trial involving Bosch, Cariles and other terrorists came to an end after 11 years, with the acquittal of all but Cariles, who, was still “ a fugitive from justice”. Now this fugitive from justice is free to roam the USA while those who tried their best to expose the likes of these men are in US jails. The US war on terror obviously excludes its own terrorists of the CIA like Cariles and his cronies.

What is worse is the manner in which the due processes of law are perverted to serve the interests of the world’s most dangerous terrorist state, the USA. The imprisonment of the five and their being held in solitary confinement over excessive periods of time was condemned by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions on May 27, 2005. So, on August 5, 2005, a court of Appeal heard their case at Atlanta and reversed the convictions while ordering a fresh trial. The US Attorney General’s office quickly submitted a request for an exceptional hearing before a plenum of the Atlanta Appeals Court to review the judgment. It took them exactly a year of illegal confinement to render the first judgment null and void on August 9, 2006. On August 20, 2007 an oral hearing was held with each side being given 30 minutes to present their case. On June 4, 2008, the Federal Appeals Court upheld the convictions of the five anti-terrorist activists, sending the cases of Ramon Labanino(life plus 18 year), Fernando Gonzalez(19 years) and Antonio Guerrero(life plus 10 years) back to Miami where they are not likely to get a fair trial.

Already a world-wide campaign has been launched to defend the five fighters against US sponsored terror. In India too, poets have come together to defend them. In fact, on September 12, 2008 the poems of Antonio Guerrero translated into Hindi by Vishnu Nagar, Manglesh Dabral, Azghar Wajahat, Pankaj Singh, Savita Singh, Kailash Vajpeyi and Suneet Chopra were read out. The translations of Professor Chandra Bali Singh, Dr Mukta, Asad Zaidi, Kusum Chaturvedi and Chanchal Chauhan are to be added to these and twenty one Hindi translations are to be released on October 3, 2008 by the National Committee for Solidarity with Cuba. Also, the wife of Fernando Gonzalez and a Lawyer of the Five will visit India from September 23 to October 3. They will attend programmes in Delhi, Kolkota, Hyderabad and Kerala to carry the message of the five to the people at large in India.

This is all the more necessary as we in India have for long been plagued by cross-border terrorism financed with US aid. Also, the e-mail sent at time of the Ahmedabad blasts came from a US connection, then, the person whose e-mail connection was reportedly used, was allowed to flee the country while investigations were going on. Then he suddenly came back without warning a couple of days before the Delhi blasts. Once again, a Mumbai e-mail connection was used, not far from that of the US resident, who ostensibly runs a business. The government of India must check out why and how he left and then suddenly returned. The record of the USA is far from clean where cross-border terrorism is concerned and we must not be complacent about the Haywood episode.

At the same time we must stand firmly in solidarity with all those fighting US sponsored terrorism involving not only agencies like the CIA but even Presidents like Bush senior who were part of such agencies. Only a powerful solidarity movement against terrorism can counter it. No amount of kow-towing to the USA or eroding the civil liberties of people through draconian “anti-terrorist” legislation will help. Anti-imperialist commitment is the best weapon against terrorism and the hundreds of failed plots aiming to assassinate Fidel Castro over the last four decades are proof of it. As part of this process, we therefore raise our voice demanding the release of the five anti terrorist fighters illegally held in US jails and call on the Indian people to be vigilant against imperialist designs on our country now, after having destroyed peace and security in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.