We speak with Ricardo Alarcon about the case of the Cuban 5 — five Cuban nationals arrested in 1998 and accused of being spies and a threat to US national security. [includes rush transcript]
A story that has been major news in Cuba, but has gotten little attention in this country is the case of the Cuban 5—five Cuban nationals arrested in 1998 and accused of being spies and a threat to the national security of the United States. Last month, a federal appeals court overturned their convictions and ordered a new trial for the men.
- Ricardo Alarco, President of the Cuban National Assembly
AMY GOODMAN: I asked Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban National Assembly, what Cuba is now demanding in their case.
RICARDO ALARCON: Well, freedom, immediately. They are, technically speaking, they’re now kidnapped. They have been detained since September, 1998. Seven years have passed. In May, this year, an independent panel of experts of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, three ladies and two gentlemen, none of them from Cuba, a lady from Spain, another from Paraguay, Algeria, Hungary .
They determined — they formed a group, a special group on arbitrary detention. After two years of receiving denunciations by the families of the five and meeting with them, consulting with the U.S. government, receiving back and forth answers, replies and so on, this group determined on May 27th, that their detention was arbitrary, and contrary to the International Civil and Political Rights Covenant and asked the U.S. administration to resolve that situation. If you are arbitrarily and illegally deprived from your freedom, you are kidnapped! The only solution is to free you. What was the U.S. answer? Well, these guys had been convicted by a court of law in Florida. But in August, a superior, a higher court, the 11th circuit of Atlanta, nullified that verdict, reversed those verdicts. Those are their words. And they remanded for a retrial.
When you are not convicted of anything, you’re technically an innocent person. If you are accused eventually, in the future, you are still innocent until a court of law declares you guilty. In this case, they have been declared not guilty, or a court of law, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, has declared that their conviction, their previous conviction, was invalid, but they have spent seven years in prisons, a large part of it in solitary confinement.
Now we are in a peculiar situation. The U.S. had the possibility to fill an application for — to try asking Atlanta to reverse their decision or to reconsider it. Normally it is a 21 days period. When that period was going to its end, the U.S. asked for an additional month, 30 more days, which is also a possibility, it was granted. That makes 51 days, to consider whether or not to ask for a reconsideration of that decision you referred to regarding the attempted decision to nullify what has happened before. I don’t know if they would really ask for reconsideration of this decision in that case. Probably it wouldn’t be easy because it was a unanimous decision by the three judges in Atlanta. Very categorical decision and a very sound one. It’s a large document, 93 pages, in which, by the way, they recognized and they include a long list — a long list of terrorist acts against Cuba, being committed, organized by people in the Miami area, justifying the mission of these five Cubans.
I don’t know what will happen. But let me tell you this, if there is a new trial, it cannot be a repetition of what was declared null and void by Atlanta. It has to be a different trial. First of all, it has to be elsewhere, out of Florida. In a place where a fair and just handling of the case could take place. But it will be different for other reasons, more important, than the venue. Imagine a new trial after 9/11. Imagine the American people being able to know what was discussed in Miami in that fake judicial process, but even in those circumstances, the five, and their lawyers were able to denounce the terrorist activities taking place from Miami against Cuba. In that process, the government took, very clearly, side with the terrorists. They said that in the indictments against the five during the process.
The problem is that it was not covered by the big media. Only in Miami, people knew that there the government recognized that they were not really spies. In the first day of the actual process, the first hearing in front of the court, the attorney from the District Court of Florida, the attorney — the U.S. Attorney said, "Don’t expect any secret — any documents being stolen. We’re not going to present anything because nothing these people didn’t take any official documents, any secrets, don’t expect anything" — that’s there in the transcript. But in the media, they are still identified as spies. Imagine again, having the Generals, the Admirals, the Colonels, retired, very distinguished officials of this government’s armed forces that were witnesses in that trial in Miami, and one by one, under oath all of them said that there is nothing — nothing of espionage involved in this case.
AMY GOODMAN: Why were they in the United States, these men?
RICARDO ALARCON: Well, in some cases, they were called as witnesses by the defense, for example, the former Chief of the Southern Command. Why? Because allegedly, there was espionage in Florida, it affected the Southern Command. Well, let’s have the Chief of the Southern Command. He was there. He expressed his opinion after reviewing the materials. That’s one case. In other cases —
AMY GOODMAN: But I mean, why were the men, the five, what are called the Cuban five, why were they in the United States?
RICARDO ALARCON: Well, they were here for the mission to infiltrate those terrorist groups based in Miami. One of them was apparently a member of the Orlando Bosch group.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain, for people who don’t know who Orlando Bosch is, why you call him a terrorist.
RICARDO ALARCON: Because I am quoting from the U.S. Justice Department report, 1989, June 23, 1989. The U.S. Justice Department, in a written document when Mr. Bosch arrived here in Miami, the Justice Department described his long career as a terrorist in order to determine that that man should be excluded and should be expelled from the U.S. That man is down there in Miami, enjoying life, sunshine, and making speeches.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is his worst crime, Orlando Bosch?
RICARDO ALARCON: Well, masterminding the destruction in mid-air of a civilian airplane, killing everybody onboard, together with Mr. Luis Posada Carriles, who is now here in El Paso, Texas. But he has also many other crimes. I think that it is very sad that he has not yet been, as far as I know at least, he has not yet been visited by the F.B.I. to talk about the assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffit in Washington D.C.
AMY GOODMAN: The Chilean diplomat.
RICARDO ALARCON: The Chilean diplomat and his American secretary, a young woman that deserves to be alive now, and not to be — not to have his body destroyed by a bomb. Orlando Bosch has never been indicted or interrogated about that. But remember that a few months ago some official documents of the U.S. government that had been classified as secret for many years were declassified. That happened in May and June, approximately, this year. In those — among those documents, there are specific — specific allegations regarding the role of Orlando Bosch in the assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt.
One report, the U.S. government declassified now — it is not my version — this is not Cuba talking, this one of the U.S. papers, referred to a meeting in Santiago, Chile organized by Orlando Bosch, between one individual, one Cuban from Miami, who was later accused of being one of the material authors of the killing — a meeting in Santiago, Chile organized by Orlando Bosch, with this man and the DINA, the secret police of Pinochet in which — I don’t have the paper with me, but I am almost quoting the text, in which the assassination of Letelier was decided, or agreed upon.
A few months later, a few days after Orlando was actually assassinated in Washington, according to another report, now declassified, in Caracas at a public gathering, a kind of a fund raising dinner, Mr. Orlando Bosch is quoted by a U.S. official in that report — is quoted as saying, "We did a very good job," more or less, "with Letelier. Now we are going to do something else." Mr. Posada, who was there in attendance, also, according to the same report, elaborated a little bit further regarding this new event. He said, "Now we’re going to attack a Cuban airplane, and Bosch knows the details."
It is very — a new trial of the five out of Florida, after the legitimate outrage and concern that the American people has now, the new awareness regarding terrorists, I really — I am eager to see how the U.S. Attorney now repeats what they said in Miami. How will they explain to the American people their insistence at the Miami trial of not only imposing the harshest sentences to each of the five, but also developing a very peculiar concept of what they call "incapacitation". Meaning by that, to make sure that the accused person, after serving his sentence, whatever it may have been, and recovering freedom — After you serve your sentence, you are a normal person. You are supposed to have all of the same rights of any other citizen. No, these people will have a specific limitation requested by the U.S. Government and it’s in written form in December, 2001, Amy, three months after 9/11, in December, 2001, five members of the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of Florida requesting the incapacitation of these people in order that they could not try again to do what brought them here on trial. Those are their words.
How was that reflected in the sentence? Well, Rene Gonzales, a U.S. citizen by birth got 15 years, a 15 year prison term plus certain conditions after serving the 15 years. One of them, the following — and I would tell you exactly word by word. I know them by heart. As a special condition for his supervised release, the accused is forbidden to get closer to visit specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists are known to be or frequent.
That means that in December, 2001, three months after 9/11, the authorities of this country knew where individuals or groups that they themselves identify as terrorists, were or move around. Instead of going after the terrorists, they prohibited a U.S. citizen to get around them in order to fight terrorists or to protect the terrorists. Remember that in 9/11, in the attacks against the — here in New York in particular, most of the individuals who took part in that action were trained in Florida, were trained there. They were living in the same area practicing how to use an airplane as a weapon, as a terrible weapon, as they did in 9/11, 2001. But the F.B.I. was not after them. The F.B.I. was very busy after the five, after people who did that anti-terrorist mission in Florida.
Imagine new trial now — I am really eager to see that, how the U.S. will explain itself now, and it will be also very interesting from the point of view of the media if I were a defense lawyer, I would call as a witness Mr. Orlando Bosch, I would call Luis Posada Carriles. My God, he’s mentioned in the other judgment, but in that the previous process, Mr. Posada was hiding in Central America. You know his story, but now he’s under U.S. custody. It’s very easy. Just bring him to wherever that new trial will take place. He may have some interesting comments about the Atlanta decision who refers to his long history of — and he’s here under the U.S. custody. If the U.S. doesn’t send him to Venezuela to be tried for the bombing, then it’s an excellent occasion to air that question here.
Also, I would call as witnesses, those officials that are referred to in those papers, now declassified. They knew — they said officially in these documents that has not been evaluated in front of a court of law, that would be a magnificent opportunity. I mentioned Letellier, and Ronni Moffitt because that crime happened here. Many other acts of terror had taken place here, many of them in Miami. As a matter of fact, more than in any other place.
AMY GOODMAN: Ricardo Alarcon, the number two man in Cuba under Fidel Castro.