Former chief of Colin Powell ask Obama freedom of the Cuban Five

lawrence_wilkersonLawrence B. Larry  Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War, where he flew 1100 hours of combat in a helicopter. After serving Colin Powell during his final years in the military, Wilkerson followed him to the civilian life. He is affiliated to the Republican Party.

Since learning about the case of the Cuban Five and having familiarized with its particulars, Larry Wilkerson has been an advocate for their release. The following letter, written to president Obama, exposes his reservations about the fairness of the trial and his reasons for supporting the Cuban Five.

Read the letter here:

 November 5, 2014President Barack ObamaThe White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

It is time to correct an injustice that is in your power to amend. This injustice mars majorly the American system of justice, the U.S. record on
human rights and, as importantly, the lives of five men whose dedication to the security of their own country against terrorist attack should be admired and respected, not punished. No doubt you have heard of these men: Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labaniño Salazar, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, Fernando González Llort, and Rene González Sehwerert. The world knows them as The Cuban Five.

Two of these men are today out of prison, two more might be out in the far future, and one might never see the dawn of a free day. This latter
individual, Gerardo Hernández, I tried to visit-unsuccessfully-in the maximum security prison in Victorville, California. Though I was unable to visit him, a true and trusted colleague who accompanied me, the late Saul Landau, was able to do so and reported to me that Gerardo remains as courageous and undaunted as ever yet still puzzled over the failure to act of what is supposed to be the world’s greatest democracy.

The Cuban Five suffered a gross injustice when they were arrested in 1998. After their arrests they spent 17 months in solitary confinement. Their trial took place in Miami, Florida and in 2001 they were sentenced to long prison terms. At a legal minimum, the trial through which they suffered in Miami should have been moved to another location, as change-of-venue arguments alone were not only persuasive they were overwhelming, testified to amply when the appeals court in Atlanta, voting in a three-judge panel, supported a change of venue. Later, however, this decision was reversed when the political power of George W. Bush’s administration-an administration in which I served-compelled the court, voting in its entirety to reconsider the three- judge panel’s decision and vote differently; they ratified the sentences of two of them, and the case of the other three were sent back to the court in Miami for re-sentencing. The court recognized that the guide of sentencing were wrongly applied and as a result reduced their prison terms.

But there is more, much more. In fact, there is the now-indisputable fact that the five were not guilty of the substantive charges brought against them in the first place. The politics surrounding the trial were in the hands of hard-line Cuban-Americans in Florida, as well as in the US Congress. Without their blatant interference with the course of justice, the trial never would have taken place. Moreover, these people spent taxpayer dollars to enlist journalists in Miami to write condemnatory articles, to influence the jury pool for the trial, and to predispose public opinion to a guilty verdict. This trial was a political payoff to hard-line Cuban-Americans and every person in the United States and across the world who pays attention to these matters, knows it. Indeed, you know it, Mr. President. This kangaroo-court trial is a blemish on the very fabric of America’s democracy. It sends a clear signal to all the world-who judge us not as we judge ourselves, by how we feel about issues, but by our deeds.

You, Mr. President, cannot erase this blemish; it has lingered too long and too many years have been stolen from these men’s lives by it. But you can mitigate it, you can make it less formidable. And, vitally, you can clean the reputation of our justice system, and, in the case of Gerardo and the other two men still in prison, you can free them.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, in May of 2005, declared the imprisonment of the Cuban Five to be a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, placing the United States alongside some of the most heinous countries on earth.

The Working Group requested that the U.S. take action to remedy the situation. You, Mr.President, can do just that. Mr. President, you said that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” But in certain instances, that is wrong and you know it. Would you have us not look back to our Civil War? To the depredations of Black slavery that led to it? To the century-long economic slavery that followed that war? To the racism of our past-a racism that still plagues us today? I think not. And you should not deny the need to look back, review and reverse this mockery of a trial.

Cuba, the full moon and the werewolf

As part of their editorials relative to the relationship with Cuba, The New York Times just published the one that follows, where they dissect the policies which have only served to isolate the American government. Such policies remind us of the definition by Wayne Smith: “Cuba has on the US governments the same effect of the full moon on the werewolf”.

The trial of the five was a blow by that frenetic being. How many more will he throw before coming back to reason and establish a respectful relation with Cuba? It would seem that such ways of “bringing democracy” reveal certain insecurity on the American government regarding the superiority of their system or their capacity to convince us of it.

Putting aside the wide differences which separate us from the editorial board of the newspaper, and aware of the risks hidden behind many of the epiphanies which have recently operated on the political debate of our neighbor; we ask ourselves if it is not about time for us to try, in peace, to elucidate on the field of respectful relations the race as to which system is better for the future of Cuba.

I hope one day we will be able to contemplate the full moon on both sides of the Florida Strait without fearing that its effect will not be other than the high tide of the ocean.

Continue reading Cuba, the full moon and the werewolf

Amnesty International: The Case of the Cuban Five

In the year of 2004, under the advice of our friends of Cuba Solidarity Campaign in England, my wife Olga visited the headquarters of Amnesty International in Great Britain to present to them the case of the Cuban Five.

As a result of a year’s long work, the organization delivered in 2010 the following report, until now the most complete and concise presented about the case. A must read for anyone who wish to approach the case in search for the truth.

Continue reading Amnesty International: The Case of the Cuban Five

Why do I entangle on the web

Rene Gonzalez computadora

(Leer versión en Español)

This post constitutes my presentation to the world of the blogosphere. To write it I’ve counted on the politeness of people who have preceded me on this field. Not all of them share the same views, but they all wish for a better Cuba and share an intellectual honesty which I respect. They are also together on the support for the Five. In this regard they represent millions of people both in Cuba and around the world.

I’ve wanted this questionnaire to answer to some of the questions from those millions of people. It is my aspiration that with the development of the blog some other answers are found, even for so many that don’t know about the case or that knowing it, for diverse reasons, are not today with the cause of the Five.

I sincerely believe in truth as a value. I believe that accessing it benefits everybody, even those who refuse to hear it. I trust that truth will find its way through this blog.

  1. By Acerca de Cuba and Blogs Cubanos: Josephcalvet

When a blog is opened there is a sense of why, what is it that one wants to share. In your case, Rene: Which are your expectations with the blog? I wish you much luck and I’m sure it will be well received. 

Obviously, everything that motivates me is related to the cause of my brothers still in prison. I hope for the blog to be a contribution to the rupture of the wall of silence which has been imposed on the case. We are dealing with a long and complex trial, vitiated by vengeance and fragmentarily recounted. In my contacts with people I realize that such fragmentation is reflected on the knowledge about its particulars.

The blog offers an opportunity for the story to be dealt with directly by us, the Five, using a format which allows for a personal, fluent and permanent dialog with those who wish to hear about it. I aspire to a respectful opposition of the diverse approaches to the case and throughout it to clarify the blurry points of it. I hope that such format will serve to extend the knowledge of the subject to audiences which, while not from the left, because of an elemental sense of justice could reject the vulgar revenge which motivated the prosecutors. That rejection from out of the left has already happened, and if it hasn’t been replicated enough it is precisely because of the poor exposition of the people to the process.

In that regard, the blog will also be a repository of original documentation about the process and its aftermath, so that whoever wishes can use it as a reference and –in the words of a friend- “draw his own conclusions”. Continue reading Why do I entangle on the web