A talk delivered at the Cuban University of Information Sciences (UCI), Havana, July 20, 2011.
Translation by Mara Ochoa
“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed,
or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:2)
To start out, from a juridical standpoint the case of the Cuban Five has run its course. We’re now turning to an extraordinary proceeding called Habeas Corpus, which is an opportunity that is available only once to convicted persons after they have exhausted all appeals. Here we have to take into account that historically the chances of our compañeros being freed this way are extremely remote.
However, we’re taking this step for two basic reasons. First of all, it’s a matter of principles: We have to wage this battle on every front that we can, because these are five innocent men who are suffering cruel and unfair imprisonment. Second, because only in the case of judicial decisions has it become possible, even partially and in a limited manner, to break through the iron-clad censorship that the mass media have imposed on this case.
I could have also begun this talk by saying that the present situation of the Five is identical to that which they faced thirteen years ago. There’s no news about them. They are suffering a double imprisonment: That imposed by their jailers, and that imposed by journalists.
The first thing we have to ask is why the media silence? Is it that Cuba, its Revolution, its problems, have been of little or no media interest? As you well know, it is very much to the contrary. Our country has received and keeps receiving attention incomparably greater than that given to other countries of this continent. They analyze us day and night under powerful spotlights and magnifying glass, almost always distorting the most diverse aspects of our reality. So, why do they hardly ever say anything about this case? If the Five had committed a crime, if any one of them had done, or tried to do, something against the American people, does anyone have the slightest doubt that they would have been a constant topic in the anti-Cuban propaganda?
The truth is that the Five are completely innocent and are literally, without exaggeration, heroes who have sacrificed their lives to save ours, showing an unsurpassed altruism. This is not an exercise in rhetoric.
This truth is proven in official U.S. government documents and in its courts. Their mission to try and discover terrorist plans against Cuba is plainly stated in numerous official documents ranging from the initial indictment brought against them and the prosecution’s various motions at the commencement of the trial and throughout its development, to the sentences that were imposed on them upon conclusion. That the U.S. government’s aim was to protect the terrorists was also acknowledged in those documents and in the prosecution’s repeated statements, all of which is recorded in the court transcripts.
The big problem that we face is that the Empire has managed to keep this information from reaching the people. Its success has been remarkable. They have been able to hijack the truth with impunity. I’m not talking about secret texts or confidential documents. I’m talking about documents which have been and are available to anyone who goes to the official website of the Federal District Court for south Florida and looks up the case of “United States vs. Gerardo Hernandez et al.” But this is only done by some specialists or particularly interested individuals.
The general public finds out about what happens in the court system through whatever versions the so-called “news media” want to give. And about this trial, the longest Federal trial in the history of a nation that has, among other things, several TV channels dedicated exclusively to the courts, nothing was said outside the city of Miami. …
As I said, right now we’re engaged in the Habeas Corpus petition. The most difficult case is that of Gerardo, to which I’ll refer later.
But there is a common element in all their appeals, regarding the conduct of the press. While in the rest of the world it was completely ignored, in Miami the trial received overwhelming and strident coverage from the local media that promoted a climate of hatred against the defendants. There were even threats and provocations against jurors, attorneys and witnesses. The judge herself repeatedly complained and asked the government to put an end to a situation that clearly violated due process norms. This was one of the factors behind the unanimous decision in 2005 by the Appeals Court panel to toss out the whole farce and order a new trial, a just decision that was later reversed under pressure from the Bush Administration.
The following year, in 2006, it came out that these Miami “journalists” were in fact being paid by the government to carry out this sleazy job. For five years now, American private groups have been demanding that the authorities reveal everything that they are still concealing about the scale of this million-dollar operation—how much was paid, to whom, and for that—in a cover-up that would be more than sufficient to declare the whole legal process against our comrades null and void.
Against Gerardo there was an additional charge, an infamous slander for which he was sentenced to die twice in prison: They accused him of “conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.”
However, here I have a document dated May 30, 2001 from the U.S. Attorney’s office. Here they state that the charge could not be proven, and therefore they requested to withdraw it at the last minute. In spite of this, Gerardo was found guilty of a non-existent crime that was impossible to prove, and moreover, for which he was no longer accused.
But, what does it matter that this document exists if nobody talks about it?
Gerardo was falsely accused of having participated in something that he had absolutely nothing to do with: The Feb. 1996 downing of 2 aircraft over Cuban waters, belonging to a terrorist group which systematically dedicated itself to violating Cuban territory, announcing each violation and shamelessly bragging about it in the Miami media. Independent of the fact that this document is irrefutable proof the accusations were unsustainable, there is another very important fact that illustrates the transgression of the American authorities.
In order to claim legal jurisdiction over the incident, the United States had to prove that it had occurred outside of Cuban airspace. Cuban radars recorded the incident inside our territorial waters very close to the city of Havana. The U.S. radars offered confusing and contradictory data. An International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) investigative mission requested images taken by U.S. satellites, but Washington refused to release them. During the Miami trial the defense reiterated this request and the government once again refused. Now, Gerardo is again requesting this information for his Habeas Corpus, and Washington is again refusing to allow anyone to see these images. It’s now more than 15 years of cover-up, which clearly proves the fraudulent nature of the U.S. government charges. But Washington has succeeded in not being denounced by anyone, allowing it to continue deceiving many.
Information is key to freeing Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino Salazar, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, Fernando González Llort and René González Sehweret. In order to win this battle we need to mobilize many people, millions of people, and deploy a truly broad-based and effective solidarity movement
Yet any even minimally objective approach to this problem must recognize that we are still very far from this goal.
It is a proven fact that the giant media corporations have imposed an absolute silence around this case, that is especially rigorous within the United States itself, where the vast majority of the population knows absolutely nothing about the case. The complete lack of reporting on this theme does not reflect any professional incompetence on the part of journalists, but rather obeys precise instructions, a political decision to silence it, made at the highest levels in Washington.
To hope that these censors will change their attitude is senseless illusion and would be an exercise in self-deception. To denounce them over and over is right but it is not enough, because our repeated denunciations have barely had any effect at all.
But there is much, much more that we can and must do.
First of all, we have to objectively take into account the reach that it has today – what we should call by its proper name: the global media tyranny.
We’re not only talking about what leading newspapers say or cover up, the big TV networks or the news agencies that decide what news will be broadcast around the world. All of them, united in enormous monopolies, control and manipulate information and their influence even extends to would-be alternatives to this global dictatorship, including media that defines itself as revolutionary.
There are many people in this world who strive to speak out and to be heard with very limited resources, and who have occasionally penetrated the wall of disinformation and deception. Our resources are much greater, those of the Cuban universities, the professors and students.
Let’s do as the children of “La Colmenita” (“The Little Beehive,” a Cuban fairy-tale) and ask “What more can we do?”