Free the Cuban Five!

By Barbara Rojas

On June 4, a US appeals court upheld the convictions of Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Cabanino and Fernando Gonzalez, five Cuban men who are imprisoned in the US for the “crime” of defending Cuba from terrorist attacks planned and organised in the US. Known internationally as the Cuban Five, these men have spent the past decade languishing in US high security prisons ever since their arrest in Miami in September 1998.

Since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro that overthrew the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, anti-Castro terrorist organisations based in the US have engaged in terrorist attacks against Cuba. According to the Cuban government, more than 3400 Cubans have died as a result of these attacks. Anti-Castro terrorist organisations based in Miami — just 150km from the Cuban coastline — have been able to plan and execute terrorist attacks with impunity, with the US authorities either turning a blind eye to their illegal activities or, in some cases, actively supporting the terrorists.

In the early 1990s, with the US authorities refusing to crack down on the anti-Castro terrorist organisations, Cuban state security sent the Cuban Five to Miami to infiltrate the terrorist groups. The five men prevented numerous planned terrorist attacks and were able to give advance warning to the Cuban authorities — saving both Cuban and US lives. Seeking the cooperation of the US authorities in the fight against terrorism, the Cuban government presented the US authorities with information that should have led to the arrest of anti-Castro terrorists. Instead of arresting the terrorists, however, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested the five Cuban anti-terrorists.

The five men were held illegally in solitary confinement for 17 months in Miami’s federal
detention centre, unable to prepare a proper legal defence. The trial was held in Miami, a city with a large Cuban-American emigre community and home to many of the multi-millionaire former owners of Cuba’s farms and factories. This ultra-conservative oligarchy dominates the media and politics in Miami, ensuring that the trial of the Cuban Five would be anything but fair. In fact, it was a show-trial, a politically motivated frame-up.

During the seven-month trial of the Cuban Five a witch-hunt atmosphere prevailed. Despite five defence motions for a change of venue, the judge denied the Five their right to be tried free from the anti-Cuba hysteria in Miami. In September 2001, the five men were convicted on charges including espionage and conspiracy to commit murder, and were sentenced to prison terms from fifteen years to two lifetimes. Yet these and other serious charges were never proven in court. In May 2005 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that the US had failed to grant the Cuban Five a fair trial.

The US government claims to be waging a war on terrorism, yet within the US anti-Cuba terrorist organisations are allowed to operate with impunity. The hypocrisy of this double standard, and the unjust trial and imprisonment of the Cuban Five has inspired an international solidarity movement calling for their release. In the US, Europe and Latin America this solidarity movement is growing, with more than 250 local, regional and national “Free the Five” committees now established. In Cuba, every sector of society has taken to the streets repeatedly to demand the release of their heroic compatriots.

Australia is a close ally of US imperialism, so Australian opponents of imperialism have a special responsibility to help strengthen the international movement to free the Cuban Five. Actively campaigning for their release will add to the growing international pressure on the US government to free them. We must also demand that the Australian government condemn this injustice and demand their release. The plight of the Cuban Five is a wake-up call to the conscience of the world.

In February 2009 the Cuban Five’s US attorney, Leonard Weinglass, will address public meetings in Sydney and Melbourne in a speaking tour organised by the Sydney Free the Five Committee. To find out more or to help support this tour, phone Mara Ochoa on 0424 652 802 or email .

[Barbara Rojas is a member of the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society (Sydney) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party].