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How Much Longer?

Obama and the Cuban Five

by RICARDO ALARCON de QUESADA

Havana.

The arrest in Cuba of four Miami residents who came with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts here that were planned there — where they received training, resources and where their bosses are — brings to light once again the absolute injustice committed against our Five compatriots. They were conducting a difficult and risky mission precisely to try to prevent similar crimes.

The heroic task of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René was perfectly legitimate. It was based on what is known as “state of necessity” or otherwise known as “necessity defense.” In certain circumstances, to save lives that are in danger a person can commit lesser violations (forcing entry into a home without asking permission and causing material damage in order to rescue someone from a fire, is an easy example to understand).

In this case, to save other lives, they put their own lives in danger, and not just in one heroic act — as in the example of the house on fire — but rather in many heroic acts in the years that they worked inside the worst terrorist groups, in order to discover their plans. They never used arms nor used force or violence. In their daily lives they obeyed the law and their social duties. They were models of civility as their neighbors and co-workers testified in their trial.

Our compatriots technically committed only one fault: they didn’t reveal to authorities the nature of their mission in Miami. That violation of not having registered as a foreign agent is quite common in the United States and it is normally resolved with payment of a fine.

In the case of the Cuban Five that omission is also completely justified. In fact, it was essential. Why would someone struggle against Miami terrorism and at the same time notify the very same authorities who have helped and supported the terrorists for 50 years?

The very trial they were subjected to proves that point to the hilt. From the initial indictments to the sessions where their excessive sentences were imposed and throughout the trial, the prosecutors never hid the fact that they were on the side of the terrorists, that they were their protectors, and to support them they placed our heroes in the docket of the accused in a bizarre subversion of justice.

The judge, for her part, had her own unforgettable moments, which exposed the true essence of what was occurring. This was especially true when she imposed their sentences, which included, at the request of the Government, the so-called “incapacitation clause”, subjecting the defendants to a special regimen — after they were to complete their exaggerated prison terms — that the Prosecution considered “perhaps more important” than the unjust imprisonment.

It had to do with preventing that never again any of the Cuban Five could attempt anything against the terrorists.

Since René and Antonio were U.S. citizens by birth and could not be expelled immediately from the country, as Fernando was recently, they added several years of “probation” with strict conditions that included this very telling one: “As a further special condition of supervised release the defendant is prohibited from associating with or visiting specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists, members of organizations advocating violence, and organized crime figures are known to be or frequent.”

This outrageous order was issued in December 2001. In those days W. Bush proclaimed that “any government that supports, protects or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent and equally guilty of terrorist crimes” and motivated by that idea he unleashed everywhere his “war against terrorism.” Wherever it may be, although for Bush obviously Miami is on another planet.

The judge’s clause to protect the terrorists is the very essence of the whole saga of the Five. It is enough to read the order issued by the same judge, 10 years later, when René left the prison. She wanted to force him to remain there, alone, isolated, unarmed, without the possibility of defending himself against any aggression. As if that weren’t enough the judge repeated, word for word, the prohibition given 10 years before. The warning was very clear: They were not going protect René from the terrorists, but rather protect them from René.

Today, like yesterday, the United States government clearly recognizes that they know who the terrorists are in Miami. They also know where they are and what places they frequent. But it also shows, shamefully, that the “Bush doctrine” doesn’t apply to them, and instead of capturing and sending them to jail, it dedicates its efforts to protect them.

That’s why it surprised no one when in 2005 Luis Posada Carriles — wanted for 20 years by Interpol, fugitive from Venezuelan justice who was being tried for the destruction of a civilian airliner in mid-flight in 1976 —decided to install himself in Miami and continue promoting terrorism against Cuba, and no longer while underground, but out in the open.

It was also no surprise that four members of Posada’s terrorist network have come to Cuba several times to prepare new attacks and are now in prison here. They are individuals with a criminal record in Miami, and have even boasted publicly about their criminal intentions.

The impunity with which these criminal groups continue to operate is a direct consequence of the process pursued against our Five comrades. What happened more than 15 years ago was a clear message still in effect: in Miami not only is terrorism against Cuba permitted, but also benefits with the complicity and protection of the authorities.

The conversion of southern Florida to a sanctuary for terrorism can also be a dangerous game for the people of the United States. While the Cuban Five were imprisoned and the infamous trial was conducted against them, the majority of the terrorists who carried out the atrocity on Sept. 11, 2001 were training right there in Miami. None of them raised suspicions; none of them drew the interest of the FBI. Because in Miami, the FBI has no time for those things since they dedicate their all to protect the anti-Cuban terrorism and to punish those who try to prevent their crimes.

Barack Obama is approaching the mid-term of his second and last period as President. When he entered the White House in 2009 he received an immoral and hypocritical conduct he is not responsible for. But he will be if he does nothing to change it.

In his hands is the power to do something so he is remembered as someone different from his predecessor. The first thing would be to grant immediate and unconditional freedom to Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. He can do it and he knows it. He also knows that if he doesn’t do it, history will not forgive him.

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada has served as Cuba’s UN ambassador, Foreign Minister and president of the National Assembly.