Cuban Exiles Wage War of Terror
Anti-Castro terrorists based in Florida
have carried out thousands of attacks against civilians, often with
the full knowledge and support of the U.S. government.
By Frank Joyce
08/16/06 "AlterNet" -- -
It wasn't Libya, Afghanistan, or any other Arab-based group that
first blew up a commercial airplane. Al Qaida had nothing to do with
it. That first attack, on Oct. 6, 1976, came when Cuban-American
terrorists and mercenaries blew up a Cuban civilian airliner. All 73
on board went down to a fiery and gruesome death, including the
teenage members of the Cuban fencing team returning from a
competition in Venezuela.
This tacitly U.S.-supported terrorist crime never appears on the
"history" list of incidents involving civilian airliners, at least
not in the U.S. media. Why? Cognitive dissonance is one explanation.
The syllogism goes like this: The United States is a good country.
Terrorism is bad. The United States funds and protects terrorists.
Uh-oh -- we certainly can't talk about that.
In Barbados, where the bomb was placed on the Cuban airliner, the
mercenaries were tried and convicted for the crime and served time.
But the planners and instigators of the plot, Luis Posada Carriles
and Orlando Bosch, got away clean. Posada is today being protected
by the U.S. government from an extradition demand by Venezuela,
where the crime was planned. (In a delicious irony, the U.S.
government's position is that he can't be extradited to Venezuela
because he would be tortured there.) Over the objections of his own
justice department, George H. W. Bush in effect pardoned Orlando
Bosch. He is today a free man living in Miami where he gives
gloating TV interviews about his role in blowing up the plane.
The Cuban airline bombing was anything but an isolated incident. On
Sept. 4, 1997, as on other occasions, U.S.-sponsored terrorists set
off bombs in Havana hotels and restaurants. This time, one killed a
tourist from Italy, Fabio de Celmo. Over the years death and injury
to civilians has come from thousands of other attacks carried out in
Cuba and elsewhere by land, air and sea against villagers,
fisherman, children, tourists and diplomats by terrorists based in
The Al Qaida-like network -- which includes Alpha 66, Omega 7,
Brothers To The Rescue, and Commandos L and others -- is as active
today as ever. Just last month, Commandos F-4 held a press
conference in Miami to announce they had successfully carried out
sabotage raids in Cuba in four different provinces. A few weeks
earlier police raided the California home of Robert Ferro, a
self-proclaimed member of Alpha 66. Police and federal agents seized
35 machine guns, 13 silencers, two short-barreled rifles, a live
hand grenade, a rocket launcher tube and 89,000 rounds of
ammunition. Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat were busted about a
year ago with a similar stash in Fort Lauderdale. The defense
claimed by all three is that they were acting as members of
organizations working with the full knowledge and support of the
These arrests, by the way, do not mean that the U.S. government is
aggressively trying to contain these terrorists. The raids are about
window-dressing and deniability. They are not about a genuine effort
to stop the Cuban exile terrorists. On July 10 of this year the
"Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba," headed by Condoleezza
Rice, issued a long-promised report. It sets out U.S. plans to
increase and intensify support for those trying to overthrow the
government of Cuba. The version posted on the website is 93 pages
long; the entire report is 450 pages. Most of it is "classified."
The secrecy is not about protecting aid to dissidents in Cuba --
it's about protecting terrorists in Florida.
Enter the Cuban Five
Someone should make a movie about the Cuban Five -- Rene Gonzalez,
Antonio Guerro, Fernando Gonzalez, Gerrardo Hernandez and Ramon
Labinino. They are poets, pilots, engineers, artists, college
graduates, husbands, sons, brothers, fathers, Cubans, Americans. But
that's not why the movie.
The movie is about why they are in five different maximum security
prisons in the United States. Two of them are American citizens by
virtue of having been born in the United States. Their parents were
refugees from a Cuban dictator: Fulgencio Batista. When Batista was
deposed by the Castro-led Cuban revolution, they returned to Cuba to
live and raise their children.
The Cuban Five volunteered to come to Florida in the mid-'90s for
the purpose of becoming "eyes and ears" into the plans and
activities of the Florida-based terrorist groups. The escalation of
efforts by groups like Alpha 66 and Commandos L drove the timing of
their mission. The terrorists were openly targeting Cuba's growing
tourism industry, which was being expanded to offset the loss of aid
to the Cuban economy from the former Soviet Union.
The Five succeeded in infiltrating some of the most dangerous
groups, but in September of 1998 they were arrested by the FBI. In a
harbinger of post-9/11 civil liberties erosions to come, they were
denied bail. They were placed in solitary confinement, separated
from each other and their families. Their attorneys were prevented
from gaining access to the evidence to be used against them at their
trial. They were charged with a raft of crimes, including
allegations of "conspiracy."
None of the accusations alleged any violent acts on their part. The
Five's monitoring activities had nothing to do with threatening the
United States in any way. Their mission was to protect Cuba. The
only way you could argue otherwise would be to concede that the
terrorists were carrying out the official foreign policy of the
In 2001, 33 months after their arrest, their trial began in Miami,
Florida. Before and several times during the trial, their
court-appointed attorneys requested a change of venue on the grounds
that the pro-Cuban defendants could not get a fair trial in Miami.
The attorneys proposed Fort Lauderdale, just 25 miles away. Their
change of venue motions were repeatedly denied.
The trial lasted six months. It included testimony from Cuban exile
terrorists, a high-ranking assistant to the president of the United
States, and generals and admirals from the U.S. and Cuba. On
numerous occasions there were rowdy demonstrations outside the court
room by anti-Castro Cuban exiles. Some of the demonstrations
specifically targeted members of the jury. The trial got zero media
coverage outside of Miami.
Despite incredible holes and contradictions in the government's
case, the Cuban Five were found guilty on every count that had been
brought against them. The jury even convicted the Five on charges
the judge instructed them did not meet the burden of proof. Rene
Gonzalez was sentenced to 15 years. Antonio Guerro to life
imprisonment plus 10 years, Fernando Gonzalez was sentenced to 19
years, Gerrardo Hernandez was given two life sentences plus 80
months, and Ramon Labinino was sentenced to life imprisonment plus
The conditions of their incarceration have been cruel, unusual and
in violation of many rights and privileges accorded to other
prisoners. Of the eight years total each has already been
incarcerated, much of their jail time has been in solitary
confinement -- even though they are model prisoners without a single
blemish on their record. Two of the five have never been permitted
visits from their wives.
In 2005 the convictions were overturned because a three-judge panel
ordered a new trial because Miami was such a demonstrably unfair
place to try them. But on Aug. 9, the full Appeals bench overturned
that decision. Nine other grounds for reversing the convictions now
await decisions by the three-judge panel. It is also possible that
lawyers for the Five will appeal the 11th Circuit Court decision on
the venue issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Why the Cuban Five matter
Ignore what you think about Cuba, pro, con or indifferent. Consider
instead what kind of country you think the United States should be
in the 21st century.
As a nation, are we truly against terrorism, or is it just a term we
use to demonize those whose goals we oppose? Does not the
mistreatment of the Five reveal that the underpinnings of the
mindset that has brought us to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo runs deeper
than the presidency of George Bush?
And as long as the U.S. government supports the terrorists in
Florida, by what moral authority does the United States tell Iran
and Syria they have no right to support Hezbollah? If Israel has the
right to defend itself from terrorist attack, why doesn't Cuba? Why
doesn't the media ever raise these questions?
Doesn't the disproportionate influence of the Cuban exile community
have an enormous impact on our political destiny? For all the ruckus
about whether the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC has too much
influence on U.S. foreign policy -- viewed in proportion to the size
of the Cuban exile population, AIPAC's clout would be tiny.
Could Florida play the "super-state" role it does in U.S. politics
without the part played by the Cuban exiles whose first loyalty is
not to the United States? All of the Bushes -- George I, George II,
Jeb -- are up to their eyeballs in these activities. In addition to
his terrorist activities against Cuba, Cuban-American Luis Posada
Carriles was also a major player in the Iran-Contra affair. As some
may recall, that whole operation was run out of George Herbert
Walker Bush's office when he was Ronald Reagan's vice president. Jeb
Bush recently appointed the son of former Cuban dictator Fulgencio
Batista to the Florida Supreme Court. Janet Reno, then U.S. attorney
general, was already contemplating her run for the U.S. Senate from
Florida when she sanctioned the trial of the Cuban Five in the first
Aren't we all at risk if the right to a trial away from a lynch mob
atmosphere is diluted, if the most basic rule of evidence can be
ignored because "the end justifies the means"? What does that kind
of reasoning do to the rule of law?
The Cuban Five have already been in jail for eight years. Even if
one were to grant that they committed technical violations of U.S.
law, such as failure to register as foreign agents -- something the
defense does not concede -- the time they have already served would
constitute excessive punishment. Doesn't our own sense of justice
argue that they should be released, or at the very least be given a
Author's note: Up-to-date information on the Five is available at
Frank Joyce is a journalist and labor communications consultant
© 2006 Independent Media Institute