Normalizing Relations With Cuba With Equivalent Humanitarian Acts

December 5, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear President Barack Obama,

As a naturalized citizen of the United States I want to ask you, my President,  to commute the sentences of four persons, often known as the Cuban Five. Their names are: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González. [The fifth, René González,was recently released from prison after serving his sentence].

I am particularly interested in their case because I think their imprisonment, the result of a flawed trial, is a roadblock to normal relations between the United States and Cuba. Let me explain.

I was born in Cuba. When the Cuban revolution began I was 13 years old. By April 1961 I left Cuba, alone. It was part of a US government sponsored program later known as Operation Peter Pan. I was one of over 14,000 children that came to the US alone. In the United States I spent my teen age years in foster homes, then married, had a son and a daughter and eventually a grandson. From a janitor – my first job – I ended up with a doctorate in History and Sociology.

I am thankful to the United States and its institutions  for the fact that I was able to make something of myself even though I never had my parents with me.  I am 68 years old.

I have dedicated a significant part of my life to studying the country in which I was born as well as the country I made my own, and their relations. Because of the absence of normal diplomatic and commercial relations I have never been able – like many other Cubans – to interact in a fluid and normal manner between my two homelands. This needs to end.

I think that there is a need to have normal full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.  A first step should be the full pardon of the persons who have been called “the Cuba Five”. I am well acquainted with their case. I was one of seven Cuban American scholars who submitted an amicus curiae to the Supreme Court on behalf of the imprisoned. All of us are respected scholars and specialists on Cuba and Cuban American reality. Moreover, there are many others – like us – in the United States who were born in Cuba or are of Cuban ancestry who support better relations and the release of these prisoners.

Any unbiased assessment of the case and the highly politicized circumstances under which the trial happened will have to conclude that our Justice system did not work properly, in this particular case. Political and partisan  considerations worked against fairness; and at the time the Clinton administration was literally under siege. But you as my President can do something about it. Commute their sentences. In doing so you will be earning the appreciation of the Cubans who are now US citizens as well as of our relatives on the island.

It is the right thing to do. But it will also mark a profound departure from past policies. You will find that most of Cuban Americans in the United States will welcome and support your daring initiative. Moreover, such a pardon will lead to a reciprocal action from the Cuban government. They have gone on record to that effect. That means that both sides will pardon one or more citizens of the other side. Thus, your action – at the same time – will trigger the release of  American citizen  Alan Phillip Gross.  It is not a matter of equivalent violations of the law in one or another country; rather, it will be equivalent humanitarian acts by two governments who want to initiate constructive engagement.

It is clear that the families of the Cuban Five as well as the family of Mr Gross want their respective loved ones to be freed. But neither family wishes to say anything that could affect their own relatives or the other side. Yet, both the people of the United States and Cuba would benefit.

I am also certain that if you were to announce the forthcoming Presidential pardon, Cuba will reciprocate. They have gone on record that they would do so. Then, other long-standing bilateral differences could be discussed, negotiated and hopefully resolved further in the future.

The time for better relations between both countries is now.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,

Nelson P Valdes

Emeritus Professor of Sociology

More articles by:

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South