“Free the Cuban Five” is heard in Maine

Members of the 23-year old organization Let Cuba Live recently established what they call the Maine Campaign to Free the Cuban Five. Working in concert with the U.S. Cuban Five solidarity network, they want to intensify local efforts aimed at freeing the Cuban men from U.S. federal prisons.

The Cubans were in Florida originally tracking terrorists operating out of the U.S. who had blown up an international flight from Venezuela to Cuba.When they secured information about the terrorists and turned it in to the FBI, the bureau, rather than pursue the terrorists, arrested them instead.

For the “crime” of defending Cuba against terror attacks emanating from the United States, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labinino, and Rene Gonzalez paid the price of a terribly biased trial and cruel sentences.

The Maine activists see their job as informing the public about the case of the Five and recruiting activists on their behalf in Maine. The campaign’s introductory brochure announced that, “We are Maine people, and others, who demand that the four men still imprisoned be released. We are part of a worldwide movement calling for their freedom. The campaign joins in putting pressure on the U.S. President to pardon the prisoners.” The prisoners’ judicial appeals were reviewed in the document also.

The inaugural venture of the Campaign will be a presence at Maine’s Common Ground Country Fair that runs for three days beginning on September 20. This will be the 37th annual version of the fair which, attended last year by 60,000 people, has become a major cultural, even political, event in Maine. Fairgoers will find the campaign’s Cuban Five informational table in one of the fair’s three large “social and political action” tents. The fair is a project of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

The campaign looks forward to “education of elected officials and the public on the history of the case, important issues, and news updates.” Members will be making public presentations and providing news reports, analyses, and opinion pieces to the media. They will take part in vigils and demonstrations and join with other groups working to end U.S. hostility against Cuba.

The campaign’s introductory statement made these additional points:

  • The prosecution, trial, and cruel sentencing of the prisoners violated judicial norms, at least according to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, 10 Nobel Prize winners, and hundreds of parliamentarians worldwide.

  • Three of the Five, charged with conspiracy to commit espionage, each received a life sentence. One of the three, Gerardo Hernandez, received another life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder. By contrast, for foreign defendants who are not Cuban and who were convicted of actual spying, U.S. courts characteristically hand out ten years or less of jail time, or none.

  • U.S. prosecutors have refused to release evidence that legal experts say would undermine the murder conspiracy charge against Gerardo Hernandez. That allegation relates to the downing by the Cuban Air Force of two private airplanes and deaths of pilots belonging to a Miami anti-Cuban group.

  • The Cuban Five targeted private paramilitary groups. U.S. defense and intelligence officials testified at their trial that they posed no threat to U.S. national security.

  • U.S. authorities have inflicted grief upon the Five in prison. They’ve endured long, unexplained periods of solitary confinement. Two of the prisoners’ wives were prevented from visiting their husbands in prison. On his release in 2011, Rene Gonzalez had to serve probation in Florida rather than being allowed to return to Cuba.

  • Long after their trial it emerged that the U.S. government paid Miami-area journalists to manufacture stories prior to and during the trial aimed at biasing the community against the defendants and influencing the jury.

  • “We of the Maine Campaign work on behalf of the Cuban Five for the sake of equal justice under the law, here in the United States.”

Those behind the table at the Maine Common Ground Fair will offer visitors the opportunity to sign a petition to President Obama insisting that he pardon and free the Five. Also, the new Maine Campaign to Free the Cuban Five wants to promote solidarity and contact with men regarded as heroes in their homeland. Organizer Judy Robbins promised an effort to encourage any and all to correspond with these men forced to endure incarceration in the United States.

Photo: Activists call for freeing the Cuban Five. AP


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.