FIFTEEN years ago today, September 12, 1998, the brutality of five simultaneous arrests burst into our homes to initiate one of the most shameful chapters of U.S. legal history: the trial of those of us today known as The Five.
The arrest and trial of The Five will remain in history as one of the most ignominious and vile episodes of relations between the United States and Cuba.
A few months earlier, after the mediation of the Nobel Literature Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, the doors had been opened to significant cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism. In June of that year, an FBI delegation visited Cuba and after receiving copious information on anti-Cuban terrorist activities organized with impunity in Miami, promised their Cuban counterparts that they would take action.
In a low blow, instead of arresting the terrorists, the William Clinton administration arrested and brought before its courts those of us who were gathering information to avert the damage which these terrorists were inflicting on the Cuba population. The U.S. legal system was openly utilized as a means of protecting the terrorists and, in an atmosphere of lynching, we were subjected to a rigged trial. Cruel conditions of confinement were utilized to break us and to prevent us from preparing an adequate defense. Lies took over the courtroom.
Evidence was adulterated, damaged and suppressed. The judge’s orders were openly disregarded. Terrorists called as witnesses by the defense were threatened in public with imprisonment if they did not take the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. U.S. experts and government officials justified or openly scorned the damage the terrorists were doing to Cuba. All this while the press opted to keep the American public in total ignorance, and the trial venue mercilessly bombarded with a barrage of propaganda against the accused.
On June 8, 2001, a jury which went so far as to register a complaint about their fear of harassment by the local press – later revealed to have been paid handsomely by the U.S. government – found us guilty on all charges, including one for which the prosecution – in an emergency motion to the Appeals Court in Atlanta, had recognized in the light of evidence brought before the court – it would not be possible to obtain a guilty verdict.
The deplorable conduct of the prosecution attorneys, judges and the U.S. government in this case is no accident. It is impossible to conduct oneself ethically when, for an objective in which political hatred is mixed with personal arrogance and revenge, charges are made which can only be justified by making a mockery of the law, by prevarication and by abuse of power. The vicious circle which would begin with the political decision to overwhelm us with charges – the most serious ones totally fabricated – to force us to surrender, could not but rebound in a constantly more deplorable conduct on the part of the prosecution.
But we did not surrender, because a display of brute force does not imply possession of morals on the part of those who exercise it. We did not surrender, because the price of lying in order to satisfy the prosecution’s expectations seemed to us to be far too degrading. We did not surrender, because by implicating Cuba – the nation we were protecting – in false accusations in order to swell a U.S. government file against the island would have been an unpardonable act of betrayal of the people we love. We did not surrender, because human values are still, for us, something precious on which the transformation of human beings into better people rests. We did not surrender because that implied renouncing our dignity, a source of self-esteem and love of self for any human being.
Instead of surrendering we opted to go to trial. A trial which, if it had been reported, would have called into question not only this case, but the federal system of justice in the United States. If the knowledge of what took place in that courtroom had not been concealed from the American people, whom we never caused, or attempted to cause, the most minimal harm, it would have been impossible to stage the Roman circus into which this parody of a trial was transformed.
Fifteen years have gone by in which the U.S. government and that country’s justice system have turned a deaf ear to the demand of United Nations organizations, Amnesty International, various Nobel prizewinners, parliamentarians and full parliaments, legal and religious figures and institutions. Only the lifting of this other blockade, the one imposed on the people of the United States to ensure that they do not know about it, would make possible the hope that this injustice could be brought to an end.
Today, Cuba will awake covered in yellow ribbons. The Cuban people will be the protagonists of this message, which appeals to a symbol that has become a tradition for the people of the United States. It will be an enormous challenge to those who have so successfully undertaken to silence this case, to now refuse to inform the world of this possibly unheard of event: that an entire people has adorned its country to ask another to demand of its government the liberation of their unjustly incarcerated sons.
Meanwhile we, The Five, will continue to be deserving of this massive display of affection; we will continue being the worthy sons of the generous people in solidarity who are leading it, and of the support of those who, around the world, have joined our cause; we will continue denouncing this injustice which has already lasted 15 years, and we will never give in, not one inch, from the moral advantage which has allowed us to resist and grow while we support the entire weight of a revengeful hatred on the part of the most powerful government on the planet.
Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René