LUIS HERNÁNDEZ SERRANO
THE resounding failure of the terrorist escalation against Cuba in the 1990’s, carried out by the Miami mafia, organized, armed, financed and directed by the U.S. government and its right wing, was another reason the imperial power resorted to a brutal reprisal against five Cuban patriots, whose names are no longer a secret.
Of course, they were much younger. Precisely this September 12, 15 years have gone by since they were arrested and ruthlessly tried.
The trial which produced their unjust prison terms did not take into account the fact that they had infiltrated anti-Cuban groups in the United States to stop criminal attacks on Cubans and sabotage in their homeland, or in other countries; on U.S. citizens of Cuban origin who supported the Revolution in that country; and on Americans themselves. The trial became a political monstrosity and the judge called for sentences which were totally disproportionate and in violation of the most elemental international legal norms.
The list of terrorist acts committed against Cuba is too long to mention; however, their authors, the means used, fuel, armaments and explosives all came from U.S. territory.
Some of these paramilitary operations required superior logistical and operational planning, such as that of a terrorist group from Miami infiltrated via the northern coast of Las Tunas, where they buried a container filled with more than 50 pounds of plastic explosive.
These mercenaries illegally left the country that same dawn and a few days later arrived in Cuba as tourists with false documentation, but were subsequently detained.
Yet the relevant U.S. authorities failed to detect this major operation, one which could only have been organized by the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), with CIA support.
In 1997, explosives were detonated in two Cuban tourism companies in Mexico and Nassau; and that same year, bombs exploded in various hotels in Havana and Varadero, while the plot to assassinate Fidel during the Ibero-American Summit on the Isle of Margarita, Venezuela, hatched by the CIA and placed in the hands of the CANF, failed.
Through 1998 high-power plastic explosives were introduced into Cuba. Their authors were Central American mercenaries working for the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, acting from those countries, but funded from Miami.
One of these acts ended the life of young Italian businessman Fabio Di Celmo on September 4, 1997, in Havana’s Copacabana Hotel, thus mutilating a happy family. And the man responsible for his death, Luis Posada Carriles, subsequently confided to a U.S. journalist with The New York Times his relation to those horrific events. Nevertheless he is currently at large in Miami and is alleged to be involved in a plot to assassinate Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Posada Carriles’ command unit was neutralized at the end of the 90’s and his acts and those of the CANF received public condemnation. The work of the Five had a lot to do with that.
In the early hours of September 12, 1998, FBI agents arrested René González Sehwerert, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, Ramón Labañino Salazar, Fernando González Llort and Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, without any legal evidence and in a hostile environment in which the Miami press and journalists paid by U.S. agencies plotted and waged a virulent media campaign designed to demonize these fighters.
Initially, they tried to force them to admit they were spying on the United States, but the Five did not betray their principles.
They were transferred to the Miami Federal Detention Center and placed in solitary confinement for 17 months of total isolation, in what is known as the hole, in an attempt to break their will.
During the brief period from 1997 until then, extremist organizations of Cuban origin, based and protected in the United States, introduced or detonated 32 bombs in Cuba and other Latin American countries. Cuban authorities informed the FBI, but the comprehensive evidence was ignored, later cynically described an insufficient.
THE TRIAL HEARING
In November 2000, the rigged trial began in the South Florida District Court, in an environment which was totally hostile to the accused. It ended seven months later, June 8, 2001, when the Miami court handed down guilty verdicts.
On December 10 of that year, sentencing began and in the following days, through the 27th, individual hearings took place, in which the anti-terrorists made uncompromising defense pleas.
In each case the judge imposed the maximum sentences allowed, with no consideration of extenuating circumstances in relation to criminal responsibility.
It was the longest trial in the United States when it took place, only exceeded by the legal parody which, over seven years, processed the lengthy terrorist history of the international criminal Luis Posada Carriles, and which ended with a fraudulent declaration of innocence on April 8, 2011, in a U.S. court in El Paso, Texas.
Judge Joan Lenard of the Florida court imposed long sentences on the Five. Three of them received life imprisonment: Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio and the other two: René, 15 years and Fernando, 19 years.
The principal charges brought against the Five can be summed up as: conspiracy to obtain and transfer information on U.S. national security; being non-registered agents of a foreign government; falsification of identity and personal documents; and, in the case of Gerardo, conspiracy to commit murder.
Since then, the five heroes have moved through a thorny, torturous, and highly manipulated legal process, given its essentially political nature, during which the defense team has lodged a number of appeals, based on lack of evidence in relation to the principal charges; the misapplication of sentencing guidelines, and inappropriate implementation of the Classified Information Procedures Act, among other arguments.
For 15 years these fighters have been forced to endure inhuman treatment and cruelty, which has been extended to their family members, given the simple fact that they have refused to surrender their principles.
On March 10, 2004, the appeals hearing took place at the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, which delivered its verdict on August 9, 2005. A panel of three judges rejected the sentences imposed in 2001 in Miami, taking into account community prejudice against Fidel Castro and the Cuban government, and other elements which combined to prevent the anti-terrorist from receiving a fair trial.
The judges’ comments confirmed the conclusion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which recognized the sentences as arbitrary and in violation of international law.
Other efforts have been made to secure the release of the Five and/or reduce their sentences. Later the full Atlanta court rejected the appeals, but did initiate the process of re-sentencing three of the anti-terrorists and, in 2009, upheld the sentences served on Gerardo and René.
The alleged conspiracy to commit murder of which Gerardo was accused was not part of the initial trial, being added months later in a conspiracy between Miami terrorists and U.S. authorities, and a charge which has no legal or ethical basis. Decisive evidence has been withheld by the U.S. government.
René completed his prison term in October of 2011 and, as it is known, was forced to remain in the United States on supervised release before returning to Cuba. This is not even to mention the injustices meted out to the wives, mothers and sons and daughters of these heroes!
René’s father died, as did his brother Roberto, and he was unable to be with them in their final moments.
Millions of people throughout the world have called for the liberation of our heroes, a call which will continue to resound without respite until the final victory.
At the time, Fidel affirmed, "The Five Cuban Heroes, prisoners of the empire are exemplary role models for new generations."
"Fortunately, exemplary conduct is always multiplied in the conscience of the peoples (…) I am certain that many young Cubans, in their fight against the Seven League Giant, will do the same. Everything can be bought with money, except the soul of a people who never went down on their knees." (Juventud Rebelde)