Hope for the Cuban 5

After more than a decade there is finally some hope for the Cuban 5 - Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González who have been imprisoned since 1998. They were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. Four were sentenced to life and one to 75 years. The 5 were agents of the Cuban government, but were not committing espionage against the United States. Instead, they were monitoring Cuban exiles in South Florida who were plotting terrorism against Cuba. The trial, held in the rabidly anti-Castro Miami, was a kangaroo court and the outcome was entirely predictable.

I first wrote about the Cuban 5 in 2004: “Six-year-old Ivette, a U.S. citizen, hasn’t seen her imprisoned father René Gonzalez in four years. She misses her dad terribly, but she can’t see him because the US State Department refuses to grant her mother Olga (René’s wife) a visa to travel with Ivette from their home in Cuba to visit him. Adriana Perez has not seen her imprisoned husband Gerard Hernández in six years! The State Department has denied Adriana a visa four times. Denying prisoners the right to see their families is a form of torture under international standards.”

Although the movement to support the Cuban 5 has, until now, concentrated its efforts almost exclusively on legal redress and demands for their release, I was more focused on the issue of family visits. I wrote in 2006 when Ivette still had not seen her father: “I know from personal experience how important it is for children to visit their incarcerated parents. My only memories of my parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, are of my prison visits to them when I was a small child. It is vital to Ivette’s development that she see her father. The Board of Directors of the Rosenberg Fund for Children has already indicated its willingness to fund travel expenses within the United States for visits by Ivette and other children of the Cuban 5 through its Attica Fund Prison Visit Program, but no visits will happen until the United States Department of Immigration and Naturalization is pressured into permitting them.”

I also felt then, and still do, that agitation around this latter issue makes strategic sense. Regrettably, all but a few will close their minds to the legal injustices associated with the imprisonment of Cuban agents. But a broader segment of the population will be sympathetic to the plight of those who are not allowed to visit with family members. This is a way to reach beyond a marginalized Left and involve people who, as they learn more about the legal particulars, may come to see the travesty of the Cuban 5’s imprisonment. It is a way to bring more attention to this case, both nationally and internationally, and thereby, increase the chances for the release of the Cuban 5.

Unfortunately, several more years have passed since 2006 before a glimmer of light appeared in this case.

Recently, Amnesty International issued a report which noted serious concerns about the fairness of the Cuban 5’s trial, questioned the validity of the evidence against The 5, and criticized the defense lawyers’ lack of access to all the evidence. Finally, the report concluded that the entire process was flawed and the punishment disproportionate (the report is available here).

This encouraging development was followed by The Popular Education Project to Free the Cuban 5 (www.freethecuban5.com) announcing a new visa campaign:

“Due to the U.S. government's refusal to approve visas, Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez have not seen their wives since their incarceration!! Others in the Cuban 5 have not seen their parents, wives and children with regularity. The U.S. government has taken prolonged periods of time to issue them visas.

The U.S. government's denial of visitation rights is a cruel and horrible form of psychological torture. Their rationale for denial is ridiculous and baseless; none of these family members are a threat to national security.

We are asking people to fax or mail out this letter to Ms. Navanetham Pillay, The NEW High Commissioner of Human Rights of the Office for Human Rights-United Nations Office at Geneva. We are asking her to intercede on behalf of the Cuban 5's mothers/wives to pressure the U.S. government to grant them visas to visit their husbands/sons!!”

Download the letter at the following link:


Sign it and mail/fax to:

Ms. Navanetham Pillay, High Commissioner of Human Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights-United Nations Office at Geneva
8-14 Avenue de la Paix 1211
Geneva 10, Switzerland

Fax: + 41 22 917 9011

I urge RFC supporters to take this action.

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