Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Visiting Gerardo in Prison

On our third visit, the neo-fascist architecture of the US Federal Penitentiary in Victorville California (built in 2006 under W. Bush) has become a familiar sight. The American Barbed Wire Industry, we think, must have lobbied hard to get prison construction commissars to allocate money for several football fields of pointed projections sticking out of the woven metal barrier; very anti-neighborly. What’s missing from the picture of miles of curled wire mounted on both sides of the walls on this monstrous concrete structure set in the Mojave Desert? A sign: “Only in America.” Where else would such a “monument” get built for a mission to “rehabilitate?”

Gerardo jumps from his plastic chair and we hug. Full of energy, smiling and in good physical shape, he tells us he had to wait for 25 minutes at the cell-block gate before a considerate guard finally allowed him to enter the visitors’ room even though other guards came and went – and ignored his request to see his visitors. A typical incident in the daily grind of a political prisoner in a maximum security federal pen!

We ask him how he responded to the December 26, 2010 Miami Herald story by Jay Weaver. The headline, “Cuban Spymaster Now Claims Brothers to the Rescue Shooting was Outside Cuban Airspace,” and the story, suggested Gerardo disagreed with Cuba’s version of its MIGs shooting down two Brothers to the Rescue planes over Cuban airspace on February 24, 1996.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Gerardo. His legal appeal questions the competence of his public defender to properly defend him, but he never expressed or implied differences with Cuba’s position. The appeal focuses on errors made by his trial lawyer and the prosecutor, which denied him due process.

The government also improperly concealed evidence (cables) that showed Gerardo had no information about Cuba’s intention to shoot down the Brothers’ planes.

The prosecutor never proved Cuba planned to shoot down the planes in international airspace, much less that Gerardo knew about it.  But the climate in which the trial took place bore the stains of media contamination. Gerardo’s appeal shows that during the trial “journalists” on the US payroll presented newspaper and TV stories that painted the defendants – and Cuba — in a bad light. All five Cubans agents got tried and sentenced in a prosecution-polluted climate.

“It’s a joke,” he laughed, referring to the Herald article, and his trial. “I’m sure every Cuban knows I have no disagreement with my government on shooting down the airplanes. I knew nothing about the flights that day, so I couldn’t know they would be shot down. I believe it happened over Cuban airspace, which is not a crime under international law.”

Neither The Herald nor the trial jury heard testimony or saw evidence that Gerardo possessed advance knowledge of Cuba’s alleged plan to shoot down Brothers to the Rescue planes. In the early 1990s, the Brothers claimed their mission was to help rescue Cuban rafters adrift in the Florida straits, but after a 1995 US-Cuba Migration accord dictated the return of Cubans to the island, Brothers began a new mission: flying over Havana and dropping leaflets.

On February 24, 1996, after repeated warnings not to fly over the island, Basulto, the President of the BTTR, announced his forthcoming flight, and the FAA also informed Cuba of flight details. The pilots and co-pilots of two planes died. Basulto returned safely to Miami.

Even if Gerardo had advised his government of the impending flights – which he did not – how would a Cuban intelligence agent know his government would shoot them down even though Cuba had every right to do so over its airspace?

The Miami jury convicted Gerardo of conspiracy to commit murder by aiding and abetting a plan to shoot down civilian aircraft in international airspace — not proven. The judge sentenced him to two consecutive life terms.

When we suggested the reporter who said Gerardo disagreed with his government, but did not interview him, should qualify for the Mussolini Journalism Award, Gerardo agreed. “Yes, Mussolini was a journalist before he got into politics.”

The story should have said that Gerardo did not receive due process. Cuban agents tried in Miami in 2001 — the equivalent of Jews tried in Berlin in 1938!

Gerardo, upbeat and eager to share, told us he grew up in Mantilla, a Havana neighborhood, where Leonardo Padura (El Conde mysteries) lived. He learned the possibilities and depths of friendship under socialism, where men talk honestly from the soul and don’t have to compete for money, “like the guys in Abel Prieto’s novel, ‘The Flight of the Cat’.”

“Bitterness doesn’t help the spirit,” he said. “Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s Tres Tristes Tigres, is brilliant and insightful. Compare it to his shrill diatribes against the revolution from which one learns nothing.”

The prison photographer – another inmate – took our pictures. Then we ate junk food from vending machines – all that’s available – and discussed reforms in Cuba.

“I thought Raul’s speech (President Raul Castro, December 18, 2010) was needed. We must change to survive. We must become productive and efficient.”

“Visiting is over,” a guard announces. Gerardo lines up against the wall with other prisoners. We huddle near the door with other visitors. He raises his fist. “Keep the faith.” He smiles confidently.

“He has Mandela-like qualities,” Danny says.

Saul agrees.

Saul Landau’s new film on the Cuban Five case and its history — WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP — will soon be available. Counterpunch published his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD.

Danny Glover is an activist and an actor. He produced THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE, which premiered at Sundance.

 

More articles by:

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail