FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

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?
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
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
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail