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Friday, December 11, 2009

Free the Cuban Five

Friday night, December 11, I went to a soul-enriching experience at the Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco. It was a rainy night, I took BART (and survived ... no testosterone-poisoned BART police in sight), and read a wonderful essay by Wendell Berry in The Best American Essays 2009. That’s one of the great things about taking BART -- you can read.

Former San Francisco Poet Laureate, Jack Hirschman read a couple of his poems, followed by Puerto Rican singer/guitarist Ronald Rosario. Then the part I was waiting for .... wearing a black baseball cap with CHICANO NATION in large letters on the front -- Jimmy Santiago Baca -- one of my favorite writers -- read a couple of poems and a couple of passages from his new novel, A Glass of Water. He has a wonderful voice and he’s so natural, so confident when he’s speaking. Joy!

What was all this about? It was a fund-raiser for the Cuban Five. Who are they? I hadn’t heard about them until I got the invitation to go from my friend, Pat. So, here’s what I found out about them. They are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González. They are five Cuban men that were sent to the U.S. to infiltrate some anti-Castro organizations in Miami. (I guess they were sent by Cuba's equivalent Department of Homeland Security.) They were not targeting the U.S. government in any way -- that must be clear. The Cuban Five were falsely accused by the U.S. government of committing espionage conspiracy against the United States, and other related charges. They were arrested in 1998 and have been in prison since.

Why were they infiltrating Cuban immigrant organizations in Miami? Well, the Cuban goverment (and many other people) believe that these organizations are terrorist organizations ... these organizations allegedly plan attacks on Cuban citizens, Cuban airlines, and other Cuban targets. Here’s what the web site for NATIONAL COMMITTEE TO FREE THE CUBAN FIVE says:
For more than 40 years, anti-Cuba terrorist organizations based in Miami have engaged in countless terrorist activities against Cuba, and against anyone who advocates a normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. More than 3,000 Cubans have died as a result of these terrorists’ attacks.

Terrorist Miami groups like Comandos F4 and Brothers to the Rescue operate with complete impunity from within the United States to attack Cuba—with the knowledge and support of the FBI and CIA.

Therefore, Cuba made the careful and necessary decision to send the Five Cubans to Miami to monitor the terrorists. The Cuban Five infiltrated the terrorist organizations in Miami to inform Cuba of imminent attacks.

The aim of such a clandestine operation by the Cuban Five—at great personal risk—was to prevent criminal acts, and thus protect the lives of Cubans and other people.
To read more, visit their web site.

Can you tell me what law they violated? They committed no violence. They just went to meetings to listen about plots against their own people -- then reported back to their government. Is that a crime?

I’m old enough not to be shocked that innocent people have been in prison since 1998, but I am outraged.

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