Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Struggle to free the Cuban Five

What Lies Across the Water - By Stephen Kimber

The Cuban Five, Who they are?  Why they were framed?  Why they should be free? – From the pages of the “Militant” newspaper.

“I will die the way I lived – 15 watercolors by Antonio Guerrero for the 15th anniversary of the imprisonment of the Cuban Five

A review

Over the years I’ve written several letters to five political prisoners held in the dungeons of this country.  They are known as The Cuban Five and have been kind enough to reply to my notes.  Theses five prisoners include: Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerero, Ramón Labañino, and René González.  René and Fenando have been released from prison and now live at home in Cuba. 

Recently, Gerardo Hernández, one of the Cuban Five, replied to my note and recommended that I read the book, What Lies Across the Water by Stephen Kimber.  This book gives a documentary history of who the Cuban Five are, and why the U.S. government worked tirelessly to frame them up.  Before reading Kimber’s book I read the Pathfinder book about the Five that is also worth reading.

Since the Cuban Revolution that erupted in 1959 nearly 3,500 Cuban men, women, and children have been murdered in terrorist attacks.  These bombings or outright assassinations were organized by the U.S. government, or by people trained and supported by the U.S. government.  Any government interested in representing the interests of its people would carry out an investigation to make sure these murders did not continue. 

The Cuban government discovered that individuals travelling from Central America were the ones responsible for these bombings.  They also discovered that Cubans living in the United States were the ones who funded the bombings.  The specific organizations the Cubans linked to these bombings were, The Brothers to the Rescue and the Cuban American National Foundation.

The only way for Cuba to attain this information was to send agents to the United States for the purpose of infiltrating organizations that were hostile to Cuba.  This meant that these agents needed to leave their families in Cuba, move to the United States, and live in a hostile environment.    

The Cuban agents sent to the United States needed to live on an extremely limited budget.  They were only allowed to visit their families once per year.  They were well aware that their activities might lead to death or imprisonment.  Yet these patriots were willing to carry out this work for the sake of defending their country.

Mythology promoted by Hollywood

Hollywood has spent a considerable amount of money to portray the fictionalized stories of international secret agents.  The most famous of these films is about the so-called British agent James Bond or agent number 007.  Typically James Bond attempts to block the efforts of sinister villains who attempt to bring about worldwide destruction.

In his escapades agent Bond typically has access to unlimited funding as well as the latest weaponry to aid in his effort of saving the world.  The writers of these films make agent 007 even more alluring by portraying him as simply irresistible to women.

Ever since the bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the United States government has claimed that it is on an international campaign against terrorism.  The justification used for the wars against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq was directly, or indirectly, about this so-called war against terrorism.

In order to place this absurd claim of a “war against terrorism” in context we need to look at a bit of history.  First, we might look at the over one-hundred years of genocidal warfare by the U.S. government against Native Americans.  Then, we might look at the chattel slavery sanctioned by the U.S. government.  Then, we might look at the fact that there were thousands of lynchings in this country, where the government made no effort to prosecute the murderers. 

In the world, the U.S. government has ordered the military to murder literally millions of people in their wars against the people of Korea and Vietnam.  They have also threatened to use atomic bombs against Cuba, as well as other nations.  So, when the United States government claims that it is in a war against terrorism, we might question their sincerity.     

The Cuban government felt that the U.S. Government would be interested in prosecuting those who carried out the hotel bombings in Cuba.  The Cubans had meetings with high level U.S. representatives where they discussed the evidence the Cubans collected.  This evidence clearly connected the hotel bombings to Cuban groups in the U.S. that are hostile to the present Cuban government.  The U.S. government responded by arresting five of the Cuban agents who collected this evidence.

The Art of Antonio Guerrero

Recently, I attended an exhibition of a collection of watercolors by Antonio Guerrero who is one of the Cuban 5 prisoners.  Several years ago Antonio responded to one of my notes by sending me his wonderful drawing of Martin Luther King Jr.  He is an excellent artist and this makes his story even more compelling.

From what I understand, Guerrero learned to become an artist while serving time in prison.  Several prisoners served as his instructors as he advanced from black and white drawings to watercolors.

The exhibition I viewed is contained in the Pathfinder book titled “I will die the way I lived.”  This book also contains poems and some of the writings of Guerrero.

This exhibition gives the viewer a stark look at what prison life is in the nation that claims to represent “liberty and justice for all.”  Today over two-million inmates in the United States live under these conditions.  These are some of the titles of those watercolors:

The Welcome, is of a towel and a role of toilet paper.  These were the only items given to Guerrero when he entered prison under solitary confinement.

Number, represents the numbers and not names that prisoners need to learn in order to be identified. 

The Shakedown, is of a jail cell where the iron bed is turned upside down.  Prison guards can raid a room at any time and literally turn everything upside down.

The Chains, represents chains shackled to prisoners when they are transported.  Guerrero said that this was an unforgettable experience. 

Slavery and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution

Here we might look at the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that supposedly outlaws slavery in the United States.  The Amendment states that:  “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

This Amendment simply states that there is a legal president for treating inmates in a similar way as slaves under the system of chattel slavery.  We might consider that the U.S. government continues to conduct itself in this manner in the year 2014, 149 years after the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War.

There are two sides in this confrontation.  On one side, are the Cuban people.  Although Cuba has limited resources, the Cuban government has done everything in its power to advance the interests of its people.  Today Cuba has more doctors and teachers per capita than any other nation in the world.  While Cuba has about twice as many doctors per capita as the United States, the infant mortality rate in Cuba is about half of what it is in Philadelphia.

On the other side of this controversy is the United States government.  Today this government is closing down schools, cutting back on health care for working people, and going to war against people all over the world.

Back in the days when Nelson Mandela was in prison, I argued that while he lives in prison, none of us can claim to be free.  We can say the same today about the three out of five Cuban prisoners who continue to live in the dungeons of the United States.     

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