Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
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.

May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
Jeff Warner – Victor Rothman
Why the Emerging Apartheid State in Israel-Palestine is Not Sustainable
Kenn Orphan
Life, the Sea and Big Oil
James Luchte
Europe Stares Into the Abyss, Confronting the American Occupant in the Room
Richard Hardigan
Palestinians’ Great March of Return: What You Need to Know
Howard Lisnoff
So Far: Fascism Lite
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Norman Finkelstein on Bernie Sanders, Gaza, and the Mainstream Treatment
Daniel Warner
J’accuse All Baby Boomers
Alfred W. McCoy
Beyond Golden Shower Diplomacy
Jonah Raskin
Rachel Kushner, Foe of Prisons, and Her New Novel, “The Mars Room”
George Wuerthner
Myths About Wildfires, Logging and Forests
Binoy Kampmark
Tom Wolfe the Parajournalist
Dean Baker
The Marx Ratio: Not Clear Karl Would be Happy
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail