Here’s a true story. It’s about a Chicago born US citizen who has dedicated his life to fighting terrorist attacks against his country. It’s about a man that left his wife and 1 year old daughter to infiltrate renowned terrorist groups who have planned and executed many bombings and killed innocent victims, including tourists. This man worked assiduously and brilliantly in this anti-terrorist endeavour and put his life at risk to save others on many occasions. As well as providing evidence to the US state forces that helped catch and jail drug dealers and crooks he was a major part of a unit which presented a very thick file to the FBI about embedded terrorists on US territory. His reward?
He, along with four fellow members of his intelligence unit, were turned upon by a highly politicised US judicial system in South Florida and jailed by the USA, in his case for 15 years. He spent the early part of his incarceration in a solitary confinement unit usually reserved for the most violent prisoners and yet the man has never been accused of, let alone found guilty of, any violent act. Confused? Well the story is true, current and, if you are the man’s colleague Gerardo Hernandez – sentenced to two life terms and 15 years – an outcome that involves freedom in his lifetime is not planned. When I tell you that Rene Gonzalez and his four colleagues were working for Cuban intelligence to protect Cuba from terrorists based in Miami perhaps you will be less surprised. But you should be no less appalled.
There is something about sitting in the English Law Society in London’s Chancery Lane listening to this case that makes it’s facts all the more remarkable. That the facts were last week put to an International Commission of three esteemed Justices from France, South Africa and India is a good thing, for international justice has miserably failed these men to date. That the evidence includes contributions not only from the participants and their families, but from people of unquestionable international diplomatic and legal renown must surely mean that the USA will soon see sense and free the Cuban 5. We will return to the evidence later but for now, what is the case, and the International Commission about?
First let us imagine a small island of 14 million citizens just 90 miles from the Florida Keys and the southernmost coast of the world’s only remaining superpower, at least in the traditional sense. This island, Cuba, went from being a Spanish colony to an American plaything and, eventually the playground of the mob and America’s leading gangsters. Cuba was the mobs Las Vegas before Las Vegas was developed. All that changed in 1959 when Fidel Castro led a peasant revolution that, to the surprise of the watching world, drove the mob, their prostitutes and their drugs back across the Florida Straits to South Florida and Miami. Castro then declared the revolution to be a socialist revolution, some would say communist, and began to forge alliances with China and the Soviet Union, right on America’s doorstep. Those that stayed and backed Castro have remained remarkably loyal in very trying circumstances. These circumstances include a US blockade that has stymied the Cuban economy, is denounced every year in the United Nations but which America’s UN veto allows it to maintain without UN sanction. Those that left, especially those who left in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, remain hate filled and bitter towards Castro, socialist Cuba and the revolution which they are determined to overthrow using whatever means is necessary. Despite their efforts Castro’s revolution has outlasted eleven US Presidents.
It is in this context that terrorism against Cuba has been a fact of life almost since the very start in 1959. While Castro’s victory at the Bay of Pigs and the infamous missile crisis of 1963, when Khruschev and Kennedy brought the world to the nuclear brink in a game of bluff, have been written and reported on voluminously the small island’s fight against ongoing terrorism is a lonely and often silent one. And while it would be wrong to blame the US as a nation for this terrorism, the fact remains that the terrorists live, fund raise and plan their acts from South Florida and have done so for over fifty years. It is probably the case that most readers have not heard about this terrorism against Cuba, about the long list of hotel bombings, crop poisonings including precious tobacco plants, infrastructure sabotage efforts and the never ending and bizarre attempts on Fidel Castro’s life that range from exploding cigars to beard poisoning agents.