A man like Santiago Alvarez, who can be heard on a telephone, calling on one of his underlings to throw C-4 explosives into Havana’s Tropicana nightclub and “do away with all that”–all that being hundreds of people–a man like Santiago Alvarez who had machine guns, bazookas and grenades in a massive Miami arsenal, is sentenced to only a four-year prison sentence this week in a southern Florida federal court.
Yet, the Cuban Five, five men who were in Miami working to prevent a terrorist like Alvarez from killing innocent people, who never possessed a weapon, who never engaged nor intended to engage in the “espionage conspiracy” they were falsely convicted of, received 15 years to double life after their 2001 trial, and the added punishment of being denied family visits.
Alvarez and his accomplice Osvaldo Mitat were allowed to plead guilty to only one charge of weapons possession. Before their sentencing, federal judge James Cohn said, “This court recognizes the ultimate objective and goal of Mr. Alvarez and Mr. Mitat has always been a free and democratic Cuba. This court does not question the altruistic motive here. However we are a nation of laws.”
The government’s and courts’ impunity towards the Miami terrorists is becoming more and more blatant.
Almost every day it seems, more news is coming to light in Miami of the vast and deep network of rightwing Cuban-American terrorists and their murderous plots: Antonio Llama, Roberto Ferro, Alvarez, Mitat, and of course, the most dangerous of them all, Luis Posada Carriles. Posada’s cohort, Orlando Bosch, gets to appear regularly on Miami TV, itching to admit his atrocious crime of the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455 that killed 73 people. Bosch and Posada worked hand-in-hand in the plane bombing.
Where is the justice?
Last Aug. 9, 2005, an historic and unprecedented ruling was made by a panel of three judges in the case of the Cuban Five. With a powerfully-worded 93-page decision granting the Five a new trial, the 11th Circuit Court judges ruled that the situation in Miami was a “perfect storm” effectively denying Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González the constitutional right to due process.
Part of that “perfect storm” described by the judges was the evidence of terrorist plots the Five had gathered while infiltrating the extremist Miami organizations. The trial judge Joan Lenard denied much of that evidence as irrelevant..
A new trial outside of Miami for the Cuban Five would have undoubtedly exonerated them. However, the hand of the Bush administration intervened last year, when U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appealed the Five’s victory, to try to overturn the panel’s ruling for a new trial.
Unfortunately, the en banc panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals set aside the Cuban Five’s victory. It ruled ignominiously on Aug. 9, 2005, that the Five received a fair trial in Miami, and that Judge Lenard properly denied them a change of venue out of Miami.
While George W. Bush unleashes bombs and destruction causing the deaths of Iraqis, Afghanis and U.S. soldiers–all in the name of a supposed war on terror–he has remained completely silent about the rightwing Cuban-American terrorists who reside in the United States.
His actions are those of coddling the Cuban-American terrorists. U.S. Homeland Security waited two full months before arresting Luis Posada Carriles after he entered the United States illegally last year. When DHS was finally forced to detain Posada on May 17 because of a public press conference he held that morning, Homeland Security prosecutors avoided charging him with more serious crimes, like the Cubana plane bombing.
Instead, Posada’s only formal charge to date is illegal immigration entry. To the extent that federal authorities may currently be investigating him for his role into several 1997 Cuban hotel bombings, it is probably to avoid prosecuting him for the plane bombing. That is because Bush Sr. was CIA director at the time of the Cubana bombing; Posada was a longtime CIA operative.
It is more than an oversight by Bush or previous presidents that Miami terrorists have existed, organized plots, and carried out attacks with total impunity.
The Miami terrorist phenomenon is financed, armed, and given a green light by the CIA, FBI and other arms of the government.
There is mounting evidence that proves without a doubt, terrorism against Cuba is part of U.S. government policy.
If the government won’t listen to justice and reason in the case of the Cuban Five, if it instead chooses to vengefully prosecute them to keep them locked up for years for daring to defend their homeland of Cuba, then it is up to the people to fight ever more for their freedom. The Cuban Five’s mission was not only saving Cuban lives, but protecting all potential victims of the Miami mafia, including U.S. people.
The American people would embrace the Five if they were only aware of their cause and mission. September 11 and Oklahoma are permanent reminders of the horror of terrorism. Terrorism against the Cuban people is no less criminal. More than 3,400 Cuban people have died from U.S.-originated terrorist attacks.
Justice demands that the Cuban Five anti-terrorist activists be freed immediately. In addition, Posada should be extradited to Venezuela or prosecuted fully in the United States for bombing of Cubana Flight 455.
GLORIA La RIVA is coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five in San Francisco. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org