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.

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail