Historian Jane Franklin has written two books about Cuba: "Cuban Foreign Relations 1959-1982" (Center for Cuban Studies, New York, 1984) and "Cuba and the United States: A Chronological History" (Ocean Press, Melbourne, Australia, second edition 1997). She is co-author of "Vietnam and America: A Documented History" (Grove Press: New York, 1985, enlarged edition 1995). Her chronology of the history of Panama is in "The U.S. Invasion of Panama" (South End Press: Boston, 1991). She has published numerous articles, poems and film reviews and has lectured extensively about Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama. She is a frequent speaker and radio commentator about U.S.-Cuba relations. Some of her work can be accessed at http://www.janefranklin.info
August 5, 2013
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
You were born in 1961 so you were not old enough to experience in person the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, and the Anti-War Movement, all flowing together in a beautiful wave of change. You were only six years old (coming up on seven) when came the shocks of the assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy, changing the politics of a crucial presidential election that had held the possibility of real change.
If you had been a decade older, I think you, as an African-American, might now be in a position to better understand the Cuban Revolution and why its destruction has been a persistent goal of U.S. foreign policy ever since 1959 when Cuban revolutionaries won their battle for independence and sovereignty.
The State of Siege began under President Eisenhower with the trade embargo explicitly designed to starve the Cuban people into submission and has continued to this day. When invasion failed to overthrow the Cuban Government in 1961, the year of your birth, the CIA and the FBI trained thousands of Cuban operatives for the covert war against Cuba -- more armed attacks including the buildup to a planned second invasion timed for October 1962 (Operation Mongoose), infiltration, propaganda, arson, and murders. A network of terrorists continues to thrive in Florida and New Jersey.
I wonder if you know much about Operation Mongoose. It led directly to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was pregnant with my third child when that happened, and you cannot imagine how it felt to be a mother of two young daughters and an unborn son when the whole world was threatened with annihilation. My five-year-old woke me up one morning to ask, "Mommy, is the world going to end?" You can read all about that invasion plan in my book, Cuba and the United States: A Chronological History, in case you need a reminder.
In order to combat the terrorism, Cuba has spent precious resources on developing an amazingly effective State Security Department and assigning agents like the Cuban Five to investigate terrorist groups. But Cuban intelligence agents were not able to stop terrorists from blowing up a Cubana passenger plane in 1976, the first time in the Western Hemisphere that a passenger plane was used as a terrorist weapon. That didn't happen again until 9/11. Both the CIA and the FBI knew at that time that Luis Posada and the late Orlando Bosch masterminded the bombing. Yet I'm sure you must be aware that Bosch walked free in Miami until his death and of course you know that Posada continues to live as a hero in Miami despite Venezuela's request for his extradition for trial on 73 murder charges after killing 73 people aboard that plane. As Venezuelan President Maduro has recently pointed out, it's hypocritical to demand that nobody give asylum to Edward Snowden while at the same time refusing to respond to Venezuela's request for extradition of Luis Posada.
Just two months before the arrests of the Cuban Five in 1998, Posada told New York Times reporters that "the CIA taught us everything - everything....They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage." He prided himself on his long years of support from the CIA, the FBI, and the Cuban American National Foundation. He bragged about masterminding the bombing campaign that struck Havana hotels and restaurants in 1997 and 1998, killing one Italian businessman and injuring other people.
Cuba charged that those responsible for the Havana bombings were based in the United States. The U.S. State Department responded that it would investigate if Cuba would provide "substantive information" to support its contention. That was in September 1997.
Nine months later, in June 1998, Cuba gave the FBI reams of "substantive information" gathered by Cuban agents. Then in July, a month later, came those confessions of Posada himself on the front pages of The New York Times for two days! Yet nevertheless, with all that information and the confessions in hand, instead of investigating the terrorists, as the State Department had said it would, the FBI arrested the investigators.
Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero, and René González were put in solitary confinement for 17 months even before trial. Thus began the long story of their unjust trial and incarceration. You hold in your hands the power to release them to Cuba as lawmakers from around the world have urged you to do.
Think of the carnage if all the Cuban agents had been imprisoned by the U.S. Justice Department. For example, in the year 2000, even as the Cuban Five were going to trial, Cuban intelligence agents foiled a major assassination plot in Panama where Posada and his co-assassins planned to use plastique to blow up the auditorium in which President Castro was to speak. Those Cuban agents not only saved the life of Fidel Castro but saved from danger about 2,000 people who filled the auditorium to hear him speak.
Cuban agents have even saved the life of a U.S. president. In 1984 Cuba informed U.S. United Nations Mission Security Chief Robert Muller that an extreme right-wing group was planning to assassinate President Ronald Reagan during a planned trip to North Carolina. The FBI consequently arrested several people and Robert Muller thanked the Cuban official who had given him information that included the names of the would-be assassins; the date, time and hour of their plan; the location of their weapons; etc.
The Cuban Five are counterterrorists whose investigations were to expose terrorist plots against Cuba and perhaps even against the United States. Please use your power to release the Cuban Five.
Born and raised in North Carolina and now a resident of New Jersey
International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5