Memory, injustice, and the Cuban Five

Question: with legal remedies exhausted, will the Cuban Five be forgotten? Answer: Never, as long as Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René are not free.

Had Sacco and Vanzetti gone free, they might have been forgotten. The state executed them, and because of injustice, they are remembered 82 years later. Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon used the title “Please, Read the Transcripts” for his most recent condemnation of the injustice done the Cuban Five. Those were the words of a jurist advocating for Sacco and Vanzetti. 

Alarcon says the Cuban Five, innocent of the major charges against them, were arrested and prosecuted because they knew about Miami terrorists’ plots and deeds against Cuba. These groups also were “accustomed to kill and to threaten people also in Miami.” Alarcon sees as the root cause of the injustice collusion between the U.S. government and the terrorists. Washington, intent upon protecting the status quo, had an interest in railroading the Cuban Five.

Alarcon knows this by perusal of court documents. One shows the US District Attorney offering a pretrial motion that requests the court to exclude certain defense evidence, specifically: “The fight against terrorism is the motivation of the accused and motivation should not be aired in front of the jury.”

Later during the trial, prosecutors made another motion before the Judge Joan Lenard: “The court is strongly advised that witnesses exercise their right to base [testimony] on the Fifth Amendment so that terrorist activities against Cuba are not made public.” And Judge Lenard agreed, according to the record; “The terrorist acts by others cannot excuse the wrongful and illegal conduct of this defendant or any other.” 

One court document cited by Alarcon explicitly confirmed a federal judge’s concern that local terrorists not be meddled with. Sentencing one of the Five, Lenard ordered that on release from prison “the defendant is prohibited from associating with or visiting specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists are known to be or frequent.”

Ongoing media frenzy at the time of the trial over the Elian Gonzalez case contributed to injustice by burying facts relating to terrorism and a skewed judicial process. Media silence, of course, continues, Alarcon as has repeatedly pointed out.

So the injustice lives on, and the Cuban Five are remembered. And the worldwide solidarity movement on their behalf remains strong. This month, for example, a multifaceted cultural exhibit unfolded in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, at a gathering of European and North American lawyers and jurists to discuss the Five. Displayed at a large hotel were signed reproductions of paintings by Cuban supporters of the Five and posters, cartoons, and caricatures about the prisoners. Cuban films were shown, and Cuban singer Marta Campos gave a concert.  The art came “from the length and breadth of the planet, from Madrid to Kiev and Stockholm, from the United States itself to Mexico and Argentina,” according to

The assembled lawyers heard from colleague Inés Miranda, who represents Aminettou Haidar, emblematic advocate for Western Saharan independence from Morocco. Speaking of the trial of the Five, Miranda declared, “There was no just and impartial jury, nor was there due process in this case, in which principles, norms, and international agreements essential for the administration of justice were violated.”

In January, from the top of Mt Aconcagua in Argentina, the so-called “roof of America,” three mountaineers unfurled a banner saying: “Obama, Liberate the five Cuban heroes now!” Multi-national Latin American gatherings, notably the recent founding congress of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, have echoed that call. .

However, Cuban Five Prisoner Rene Gonzalez, interviewed recently by the BBC, set one big condition for undoing the injustice visited upon him and the others. “My generation grew up witnessing years of aggression coming from the US,” he explained. “We’re talking about terrorism, bombings, shootings – so my generation understands very well that we have the right to defend Cuba.” He believes, “Nobody in Cuba would agree to any re-establishing of normal relations with a country that has five of their sons in jail for defending the country.”

Illustration: Political Affairs file photo


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. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.