SPECIAL TO THE WORLD-One of Cuban Five, Fernando Gonzalez, was recently visited at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana where he was transferred last year. Fernando is one of the Miami Five who is presently serving 19 years for conspiracy, false identity, and failure to disclose himself as a foreign agent following a flawed trial in Miami where the prejudicial climate militated against a fair hearing. Together with Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez he was defending his people against terrorist acts originating in Miami by infiltrating terrorist groups there and feeding intelligence back to Havana which was shared with the FBI. The case recently lost an appeal.

Fernando looks much younger than his 44 years and is slim, fit, alert and in excellent spirits. Despite having spent 10 years of his sentence, with at least 6 ½ years ahead of him, he is positive, optimistic and self-confident. He is serious, deep-thinking, and widely read with a warm and relaxed attitude that comes from his profound love of humanity and total commitment to his people and the Cuban Revolution of which he is justly proud. While enjoying debate and discussion on issues ranging from consumerism and the role of the media to global capitalism and the nature of 21st century socialism, Fernando is humbled by the solidarity he has received from his own people and the international movement. In particular he wishes to thank all those in Britain who give so sacrificially of their time while struggling with their own problems yet have managed to achieve so much in the campaign to win the freedom of the Five. He is so sorry that he can’t answer every letter he receives but that comes as no surprise when you consider the size of his post-bag with most of the mail originating in Britain.

FCI Terre Haute is a medium-security prison. It was built in 1934 and is cramped and noisy with 1200 inmates yet the regime is more relaxed than Fernando’s previous prison enabling him to read, write and work out with a daily running schedule that obviously contributes to his fitness. Although he could earn more by working an eight-hour day in the dining room he chooses to clean and tidy the TV and hobby-crafts room for an hour a day that only pays $5.25 per month. He gets up at 5.30 am and retires at 9.15 pm yet his cell-mate sees little of him as he fills his time creatively while keeping to himself as a way to survive in an otherwise volatile climate. The one thing he really appreciates is his weekly delivery of the Morning Star which he finds highly informative and stimulating.

As part of the cost-cutting measures in the present economic climate the quality of the food in prison has declined while only three sets of t-shirts, underwear and socks are issued instead of the previous five. Whereas pens, pencils, writing pads and envelopes used to be free the prisoners now have to buy them from the prison shop at inflated prices. There is even talk in the Congress of increasing the use of parole and deporting foreign prisoners early as part of the exercise. As Fernando points out, most of the inmates are serving time for drug-related offences where prison is not the answer, so costs could be cut by providing more effective remedial treatment.

Meanwhile Fernando wonders what it will be like adapting to civilian life following his release. With only 300 minutes a month to phone home at 99 cents per minute he misses his family and especially his wife Rosa Aurora whom he only sees once or maybe twice a year as US visas take their time coming. Apart from his mother and wife, lawyers and diplomats he has few visits yet he enjoys good relations with the other prisoners and the prison guards that makes life more bearable. Of course visits can be cut short at a moment’s notice because of an incident on the unit and all inmates are strip-searched before and after every visit.

When it comes to the latest stage of the appeal Fernando is hoping for a new trial on the counts of conspiracy to commit espionage and murder although the latter count could be thrown out. While this would mainly benefit Gerardo, Ramon and Antonio who are serving life it would hopefully lead to the re-sentencing or release of all Five who stand together in the fight for justice. Because of the political nature of the case Fernando does not expect a decision until after the US presidential elections. What ever the outcome Fernando Gonzalez knows that victory is ultimately assured thanks to the international solidarity that is continually growing.

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