Amy Goodman is joined in Havana by Puerto Rican guerrilla fighter William Morales. If Morales returns to the United States, he faces a 99-year jail sentence. Morales was the subject of one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history. In May 1979, William Morales escaped from a guarded third floor room in New York’s Bellevue Hospital prison by climbing down an elastic bandage he dangled outside a window. His escape made him a folk hero to many Latinos. It also infuriated law enforcement officials who couldn’t figure out how Morales, who lost his fingers when a bomb he was making blew up, managed to climb down from the window.
Morales is believed to be the leader of the FALN, the Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of National Liberation of Puerto Rico, which launched armed attacks in New York in the 1970s and 1980s in its war for independence. The bombings included a 1982 New Year’s Eve blast at New York City police headquarters and a January 1975 blast at Fraunces Tavern in Lower Manhattan. Those bombings killed six people and injured hundreds.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Welcome to Democracy Now! I’m Juan González, joined by Amy Goodman, who is in Havana, Cuba. Amy is joined in Havana by Puerto Rican guerrilla fighter William Morales, who, if he returns to the United States, faces a 99-year sentence. Morales was the subject of one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history. In May of 1979, William Morales escaped from a guarded third floor room in New York’s Bellevue Hospital Prison by climbing down an elastic bandage he dangled outside a window. His escape made him a folk hero to many Latinos. It also infuriated law enforcement officials, who couldn’t figure out how Morales, who lost his fingers when a bomb he was making blew up, managed to climb down from that window. Morales, who was convicted of weapons possession charges, is believed to be the leader of the FALN, the Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of National Liberation, of Puerto Rico, which launched armed attacks in the U.S. in the 1970s and the 1980s for Puerto Rican independence.
So I’d like to welcome to the program here, for the first time in many years, because he’s been a fugitive for almost 20 years in the United States, William Morales from Havana, Cuba. Good day to you, William.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, I’m going to put him on right now. Juan is just welcoming you to Democracy Now!
WILLIAM MORALES: OK. Hello.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Welcome to the program. And first, I’d like to talk a little bit about, with Amy, about the situation in Havana. She’s been there for several days. Amy?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, Juan. Well, the situation, let me start with yesterday at 5:00 on New Year’s Day, which is also what Cubans call the Triumph of the Revolution Day, because that’s when Che Guevara marched into Santa Clara, which is a city—another city in Cuba with a number of troops. And it’s also the day that the dictator, Batista, fled in the early morning hours under the cover of a New Year’s Eve party. He was able to get exile in the Dominican Republic.
But yesterday, on January 1st, as is the tradition in Cuba, there was a large mass held at the Cathedral of Havana in Havana, and thousands of people came. It was led by the bishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega. Thousands of people, and they weren’t just Catholic. In fact, I talked to a number of people inside the church during the mass and outside the church, and they said that the pope’s coming in just a few weeks is not just for the Catholics of Havana, is not just for the Catholics of Cuba, but is for everyone in Cuba. And they talked repeatedly about decreasing the isolation between Cuba and the rest of the world. And that’s what they see the pope’s visit as. For those who are religious, of course, they are also excited about the pope coming, because of what he represents. They are preparing all over the country.
It may surprise some to know that members of Committees in Defense of the Revolution—those are the neighborhood groups all over the country—are very involved. I actually went to one woman’s home who was a member of CDR, and she was there—she’s also a religious Catholic—talking to people about the pope, letting them know he’s coming. They have calendars they’re putting out. They have posters. And she talked to one little girl and said, “Do you know who the pope is?” La Papa, as they say here in Cuba. And the little girl said, “Isn’t he the oldest priest in the world?”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what other—what other impact has this had? Because I know even in terms of this kind of telephone conversation, communications have apparently been facilitated recently in terms of phone calls to the island and between the island and the United States. What other impact has this had on the—how many, for instance, Americans, journalists, have already arrived there?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Juan, as our listeners can hear, this is a very clear line. This is often better than we get just calling someone down the street.
In terms of journalists, there are some arriving now. They’ll be coming in the next few weeks. In fact, we’ll be trading places, because you’re heading down here in a few weeks. In fact, expected from the United States, I believe, are 4,000 journalists, as well as crews, and that’s just from the United States. So we’re talking about thousands and thousands of people. And the kind of impact that has on Cuba is manyfold—for example, specifically the dollars that will be brought into Cuba. And that can’t be underestimated, the impact of that.
But that goes to also a real problem or an issue that the Cuban government and the Cuban people are working on right now, and that is the issue of the dollar economy. There is a two-tiered system right now. You’ve got a tremendous amount of financial resources that are now going into the tourist industry. And the way they’ve dealt with this is, a few years ago, legalizing Cubans being able to have dollars. But the dollar economy mainly is focused in the tourist industry. And so what you have is waiters, is taxi drivers, often making 10, 20, 50 times more than, say, doctors or teachers or engineers. And this is an issue that has to be dealt with in the long run, I mean, certainly beyond the pope’s visit. You have a lot of foreign investment that’s coming in now. You’ve got Israeli-Cuban joint ventures. You’ve got Spanish-Cuban joint ventures—something that I’m sure is very irritating to U.S. corporations that want to get down here. And that goes to a whole other issue of who is for the embargo and who isn’t, because, I would say, largely, the U.S. business community is for lifting this stranglehold on the Cuban economy. I mean, you can’t call it anything less than that. It’s certainly sapping the lifeblood. It’s very difficult for the Cuban people, the—specifically the latest incarnation of the embargo, which is the Helms-Burton Act, which makes it—which also penalizes foreign companies for doing business in Cuba, not allowing them into the United States.
But what happens here is you’ve got people who participate in the peso economy, which is most of the country, and then those that have access to dollars. And so this is not only an economic issue, it’s also a political and social issue, as well, because you start to have that skewed society that the revolution fought hard against. You start to have those problems that the revolution came in to remedy—for example, like prostitution. The other night, I was out at one of the discotheques interviewing prostitutes. And there are an increasing number of both female and male prostitutes. And it’s not discouraged when tour agencies, for example, in the United States and other places around the world advertise Cuba, this whole idea of sex tours. And people—you know, you have the prostitutes, what are known as the jineteras and the jineteros, who are the hustlers, you know, making a lot of money, and we’re talking about sometimes 20 to 50 times what an everyday Cuban will make at work. And it’s something that is creating a great deal of tension, people who feel that they were educated through the system, they got healthcare through the system, they were devoted to the system, they were patriots, and now seeing those that sort of skirted the system or who are hustlers actually being the ones to benefit from this new two-tiered economy that the Cuban government is actually supporting so that they can get foreign dollars, because they’re so crushed by the Helms-Burton Act and, you know, other financial issues.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Also, of course, the role of the church is going to be critical, as many—as there will be as many as 50 American bishops—that’s 5-0—50 bishops and five cardinals from the United States going on—going to Cuba to meet the pope there. They’re obviously going to bring, each of them, delegations from their various cities. So this is going to have a huge impact in terms of the church’s role. There are some, obviously, who wish that the pope’s visit will be one that will be more akin to what happened in Poland after his visits there for—in terms of the fall of a socialist country, but there are others who see that the Catholic Church may actually be pressing very hard on the Clinton administration to end the embargo.
And I know that, for instance, that has been a concern of Cardinal O’Connor. And Cardinal O’Connor, by the way, in New York City, has also called on the president to release the Puerto Rican political prisoners held in U.S. jails, to grant them a humanitarian pardon. It would be interesting to see, even in William Morales’s case, and we’ll be speaking both with him and with his attorney, who is with us here in the studios, Ron Kuby, in just a couple of minutes, but it would be interesting to see what Cardinal O’Connor’s position is on the situation of William Morales in particular, since he’s already called for those pardons for the other—for the other Puerto Rican political prisoners already in U.S. jails. But—
AMY GOODMAN: Yeah—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, go ahead. I’m sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I was just going to say, Juan, on the point of the pope calling for an end to the embargo, he has talked about that, and it is believed and hoped that he will specifically say that again when he’s here. He is opposed to all of these embargoes. He’s imposed also to the embargo against food and medicine and everything else to the people of Iraq. And certainly here in Cuba, this is a major issue. And that is why more than Catholics are waiting for the pope to come. His saying that the embargo is not humanitarian, that it hurts women and children and men, is very important for the world to hear.
There was a report that came out recently on the denial. It’s called “The Denial of Food and Medicine: The Impact of the U.S. Embargo on the Health and Nutrition in Cuba,” put out by the American Association for World Health. And, you know, it documents specifically the ways in which people are being crushed by this embargo. And when you look, for example, at the issue of drugs, not to mention food, but the issue of drugs and how difficult it is even to get an aspirin, because so many of the drugs that are made are made in the United States, specifically also AIDS drugs, like AZT, like protease inhibitors. Think of how expensive they are. Then think of how expensive they would be if you have to work out through a third country to have them brought there and then have them go from that third country into Cuba. Well, basically, they don’t get them. And this means that a number of people die and die needlessly.
And these are the kinds of issues, I believe, that the pope will raise, is just that this goes against people, it is not humanitarian, and that it would be a humanitarian act of President Clinton to lift—and the Congress, to lift this embargo. It may also be used by President Clinton as a way to open—to start the negotiations or the discussions with the Cuban government, under cover of the pope coming, because I find it hard to believe, given the way the Democrats and the Republicans are beholden to the almighty dollar, that they’re not getting a lot of pressure from U.S. corporations to want to come into Cuba. And this would give them the cover that they need.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, why don’t we bring in William Morales now, who’s there with you in Havana, and if you’ll welcome him to the show, and we can begin questioning him?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, William, or, in Spanish, Guillermo, Morales is sitting next to me right now. You introduced him earlier, Juan. I wanted to start off in terms of his history, for people to understand where he comes from and how he ended up being—getting political exile in Cuba—to start off going back in time, before he was sentenced to those 99 years on state and federal charges of weapons and explosives possessions in the United States, as part of being—as a member of the FALN, how you came to be a member of the FALN, what the FALN stands for.
WILLIAM MORALES: Well, I guess, when it was organized, it was just to—all roads were closed off to independence, and then, I guess, people decided that something else had to be done, and then I was just asked to join. I think it was that simple. But I think it’s not an easy issue to—or an easy decision, you know. People have to decide what road they’re going to take in their lives. And this wasn’t—this wasn’t any type of adventure. It was very risky, because of everything that it involved, especially the personal sacrifice. Yes?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: William, when you say once you made the decision, could you tell us a little bit about what shaped your belief that independence for Puerto Rico was what you would dedicate your life to?
WILLIAM MORALES: Say the question again. Repeat it again.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you—could you tell us a little bit about what went into your thinking when you made your decision that independence for Puerto Rico was something that you were going to dedicate your life to? Why did you decide that?
WILLIAM MORALES: Because of the—because of the situation that the Puerto Rican people live and the social conditions. I mean, we all know that the political reality that is Puerto Rico—that exists in Puerto Rico, it’s a response to the Cuban revolution. We have to understand that Puerto Rico was shaped as a showcase of democracy, to show the world that the Cuban revolution wasn’t the answer to the problems in Latin America, but the Puerto Rican method. In other words, if you’re aligned with the United States, then you won’t need a revolution like in Cuba.
But now, if you look back and you look at what’s going on now in Puerto Rico, you will see that everything that Americans said, it wasn’t true. And it just backfired on them, because now the social conditions are so bad in Puerto Rico that we have one of the highest drug addiction rates in the world per capita, also alcoholism and mental problems and people that are—that are infected with AIDS and lots of other problems—unemployment, contamination. Everything that’s in—that people are discussing nowadays, in Puerto Rico it’s increased. And per capita, we have one of the worst records in the world. Now, the reason we want independence is because we want to eradicate those problems. And we can eradicate those problems, because we have people with the talent to eradicate those problems. That’s why many of—many Puerto Ricans decided to struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico in different ways.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what do you say to those Americans, obviously, the law enforcement—
WILLIAM MORALES: Yes?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Obviously, the people in law enforcement in this country and many other Americans who don’t—either are ignorant of the Puerto Rican situation or don’t support Puerto Rican independence, would call you a terrorist, not a freedom fighter. How do you respond to those people who call you a terrorist, who say that you injured innocent—or that the activities of the FALN injured innocent people?
WILLIAM MORALES: Well, I didn’t—you know, I didn’t injure anybody. The only person here that was injured was myself. Now, you have to understand that the American way of life is—ignorance is part of the American policy, you know, directed toward their own people domestically, because never the truth is told entirely. Now, when we talk about terrorism, why—why is Puerto Rico occupied by so many military bases, which have been used to invade, let’s say, the Dominican Republic in 1965 and, you know, bring mercenaries here to Cuba in the 1960s and the '70s and the ’80s with these invasions that they used to organize, the invasion to Panama, Grenada, when they were—when they were financing the dirty war against Nicaragua also? Now, that's terrorism. Why don’t you speak about that? I mean, why should we—why should Puerto Rico be used to do damage to other people who are not our enemies? Now, they also—now, talking about terrorism, Agent Orange was experimented in Puerto Rico, which then was used in Vietnam against innocent people and against their own troops.
No, I don’t think terrorism is what—exactly what they say. I mean, if you’re fighting for freedom, I mean, you’re not a terrorist. You’re just fighting for freedom. I mean, we don’t use the tactics—the tactics that they use. I mean, there’s terrorism now in New York City, directed—I mean, which is being directed by Giuliani—all these policemen that are shooting people in the street, and recently this Haitian citizen that was tortured by the police. Where are those policemen now? None of them are in jail.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you, Guillermo, how, ultimately, the police captured you and about your trial and what ultimately led you to escape, go to Mexico, where then you were captured, you served time in prison, but, through negotiations between Mexico and the United States, they decided not to extradite you back to the United States, saying that they felt that you would be held there for political reasons, but instead a delegation of high-level Puerto Ricans and Mexicans accompanied you to the airport and on a plane in exile to Cuba. But tell us about your capture in New York.
WILLIAM MORALES: Well, the capture is what we all know now. It’s that, you know, an artifact went off, and I was injured, and then I was taken to jail. And I was taken to federal trial and convicted. And then I was taken to state trial again and convicted on the same charges twice, which was totally illegal, with some illegal sentence that fluctuates between 29 to 89 years on the state charges.
Why I escaped? Because, I mean, that’s my right. I mean, you know, as a political—as a prisoner of war, that’s my right to escape. And we had to have a victory. I had to get—really, when that decision was made, I didn’t care if, you know, escaping, something would happen to me. Something had to be done. I mean, people have to understand, when you struggle for something, you just can’t give up because you’re in jail. I mean, the struggle goes on until the day you die.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Guillermo, can—
WILLIAM MORALES: And—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Guillermo, we have to take a break for 60 seconds, and we’ll be right back. We’re joined by William Morales, a Puerto Rican independence fighter now living in Cuba, where he is—where he is with Amy Goodman in Havana. I’m Juan González. You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in 60 seconds.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Welcome back to Democracy Now! I’m Juan González, and I’m joined by Amy Goodman in Havana with Guillermo Morales, a Puerto Rican independence fighter who has been living there for many years now. And we’re joined here in the studio by Ron Kuby, Guillermo Morales’s attorney in the United States and the longtime law partner of attorney William Kunstler. Welcome, Ron, to the show.
RON KUBY: Thank you, Juan. Good morning, Guillermo. Good morning, Amy.
WILLIAM MORALES: Good morning.
AMY GOODMAN: Good morning.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Guillermo, if you can, you can continue with what you were telling us—
WILLIAM MORALES: OK.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —about the—your situation.
WILLIAM MORALES: OK. Then, when I was in Mexico, I was captured with some Mexicans that were assassinated by the police. This was an operation led by the Interpol, whose chief is now in jail in Mexico for—on charges of drug trafficking and in some implication in the Camarena assassination. That was a DEA agent that was killed in Mexico.
Now, when I was over there, there was a lot of public pressure and international pressure for my release. There was no negotiations between the Mexican government and the United States. The negotiation was between Puerto Ricans and the Mexican government around my case. Now, there were a lot of people asking for my release, especially human rights groups and religious groups, on an international level, especially in the Caribbean and Latin America. And, you know, we presented the—we presented my case, and they decided that I was a political—I was in jail in the United States for political reasons, and I was a political prisoner. And then, based on their constitution, the decision was made that I should not be extradited to the United States.
And then I was let go one morning and taken to the airport. Now, I was not accompanied by Mexican or Puerto Rican independence leaders, OK? And I was not accompanied by Cuban delegates or anyone. I was just taken to the airport. You know, I walked up the stairs, and I went—got on the plane, and, well, a couple hours later, I was here in Cuba.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And that was in what year?
WILLIAM MORALES: Huh?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In what year was that?
WILLIAM MORALES: 1988, in May—no, June, June 24th, 1988.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, I think it’s interesting that after you were released and went right to the airport to go to Cuba, it was President Reagan at the time, and he recalled the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, because he was so outraged that you had been released. Why did you head so quickly to Cuba? I mean, you didn’t—you didn’t stop in Mexico for a minute.
WILLIAM MORALES: Well, Cuba was the only country that was going to give me asylum, you know? And also, the Cuban—the Mexican government was worried about a kidnapping attempt, because that was being—that was also planned in 1983 by Oliver North. In a book that’s being—that was written or being written by Neil Livingstone, that was in charge of terrorist investigations for the State Department, he said that there was a plan by North to kidnap me from the Mexican jail, take me to the border and to change me for two convicted Mexican drug dealers. And if that didn’t go well, I was to be shot on the—in the border, and then the explication—they will explain to the public saying that I escaped from jail, and I was trying to infiltrate myself back into the United States. Now, this is in a book called Shadow Warriors by Neil Livingstone. This article—this story was carried by Fortune magazine—Soldier of Fortune magazine and the weekly from Puerto Rico, Claridad.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to bring into the conversation now Ron Kuby, Guillermo Morales’s lawyer, who’s here with us in the studio. Welcome, Ron.
RON KUBY: Thank you, Juan.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And can you tell us a little bit about the status of Guillermo’s legal situation right now, as we speak?
RON KUBY: The status is completely precarious. He’s been given political asylum in Cuba. He can’t be returned to the United States without the permission of the Cuban government. But if he were to enter the United States, in the absence of some sort of an agreement, he would immediately go to prison. And certainly, the state and federal authorities want him in prison for the rest of his life.
I mean, it’s our hope that—1998 has dawned, and we will be celebrating or mourning, depending on your viewpoint, the hundredth anniversary of U.S. imperialism in Puerto Rico. July 25th, 1898, General Nelson Miles went on shore with thousands of troops and took Puerto Rico in the name of the United States. It’s our hope that when July 25th dawns in 1998, it will dawn in a country that holds no Puerto Rican political prisoners, that holds no Puerto Rican prisoners of war and that allows the Puerto Rican and other exiles to come home, as a way of saying that this part of the war is over.
I mean, I suppose the thing that distinguishes terrorists from statesmen is that terrorists become statesmen when they win, or at least when they’re able to fight the government to a stalemate. So, Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress was a terrorist organization throughout the '60s, ’70s and ’80s, and now, of course, became—has taken power, and it's become a responsible organization in the eyes of the American people, in the eyes of the American government. And the Puerto Rican independence movement—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Menachem Begin also had some problems, didn’t he?
RON KUBY: Indeed. Menachem Begin planted a bomb in the King David Hotel, killed 96 people—men, women and children, Muslim, Christian and Jew—and later, you know, went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and everybody conveniently forgot that, that earlier bombing.
But the independence movement was never able to fight the government of the United States either to victory or to a stalemate. And I think now it’s a question of the government of the United States saying it’s time to heal some of these wounds and try—and time to move ahead through the political process. But the only way that can happen—the only way that can happen is if the prisoners are freed and the exiles are permitted to come home. I mean, if we can have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, certainly we can have our own little truth and reconciliation commission here in the United States.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And have you made overtures to federal authorities in William’s case?
RON KUBY: It’s an issue that has been discussed. But at this point the government has taken a very hard line with respect to a number of different people. And it’s our hope that if the government doesn’t yield first on the question of Guillermo Morales, it might choose to yield on some of the other political prisoners or prisoners of war. We need to see some movement by the government to address the question of political prisoners and prisoners of war.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you know, you wrote an interesting piece a—oh, it was a while ago—comparing the sentences of Puerto Rican political prisoners to prisoners in the United States who have committed crimes. And it was really—it’s something that I won’t forget, when you talked about the disparity in the sentences.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Oh, yes. There has been amazing disparities. And also, I’m sure Ron can speak to that in terms of those who are committed of terrorist, supposedly, acts who are opposed to government policy.
RON KUBY: Sure. You know, the analogy that’s often used is to look at the abortion clinic bombers in the 1980s, you know, people who blow up abortion clinics, endanger the lives of women and children, doctors, everybody else. These folks regularly get two years, three years, four years, five years in prison and are released, whereas the political—the leftist political fighters, those who blew up the Sergeant Muller Army Navy Center, those that blew up the Capitol building, those that fought against U.S. imperialism, those that fought against colonialism, they get the maximum possible sentence, ruinous sentences under terrible, terrible conditions.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Guillermo, could you talk to us a little bit about what it’s been like for you all these years separated from your family and your loved ones and how you feel about possibly coming back to the United States?
WILLIAM MORALES: Well, I haven’t seen them for a while. Listen—listen, there’s somebody—well, I haven’t seen them for a while, OK? But I think that this goes beyond a personal thing. This is—you know, this has to do with politics, you know? And the United States has to understand that they’re wrong on a lot of issues, on a majority of issues. And they’re wrong on this political prisoner thing and exile and all these things they’ve done to people, because they go around the world yelling about democracy, human rights. I mean, I was tortured, OK? I was tortured, and this torture was led by U.S. officials from the embassy, OK? And two Puerto Rican cops that went down there, one from the FBI, one from the New York City task force, and in Mexico City—I mean, and that’s an inhuman—you know, and that’s a human rights violation. OK?
Now, I think the problem here is that they just don’t like for Third World people or people that have been—that were conquered militarily, you know, to defy them and to talk back. I mean, this is the real issue. I mean, and they’re just really upset that I’m down here talking to you guys now. OK? And they’re upset about a lot of things. Now, they have to understand that just because I’m down here, and I haven’t seen my family years ago, or other people who are around in maybe other parts of the world haven’t seen their family for the last I don’t know how many years, that we’re just—that we’re just going to give up, you know, and take this just sitting down. And it’s not going to be like that. You know, they have to understand that, you know, they’ve made some wrong decisions, you know?
Now, the reason I escaped, really, was, is when they took me to state—to state court, and this dumb, you know, district DA, Santucci, sits there telling his people, you know, that he wants a piece of me, OK, and all this judicial abuse that went on, I said, “Well, I have to do something to get back at these people, because this just can’t go on.” And I’ll tell you the truth. Had I been just tried in federal court, with those 10 years, I’ll tell you the truth, I would have sat out those seven years in jail, you know? But I just—I just did not like that judicial abuse. So this is not about—just give me 10 seconds.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Sure.
WILLIAM MORALES: This is—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, let me ask you—
WILLIAM MORALES: This is not a—this is not just about that, you know, I just miss my family, you know? I miss them all. You know, that’s the price I have to pay. I knew what I was getting into. I’m not—I’m not talking about that, you know, that, “Well, you know, here I am, after so many years, I have, you know, second thoughts.” I don’t have any second thoughts about anything, you know. What I really can—what I can say really here is that I didn’t hurt anyone, you know? That’s what I can say. The only one here hurting is myself, physically. Outside of that, it’s not about, you know, my family. This is political. This is not a personal thing.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What about the—
AMY GOODMAN: How did you—let me just ask, Juan, since I’m sitting here with Guillermo Morales—he really suffered very serious wounds. He’s got nine fingers blown off and has other injuries. How did that happen?
WILLIAM MORALES: Well, I explained before, you know, when the artifact went off. But also, what the police did, instead of taking the remains of my hands to the hospital, they took it to a lab, and they put it in formaldehyde. Then, with the lawyers, the lawyers I had at that time, Michael Deutsch and Dennis Cunningham, they found out that—you know, they saw that the pieces were big, that some kind of surgery could have been done. But purposely, you know, they kidnapped the remains of my hands to put in formaldehyde and, you know, do permanent damage. Also, we also found out that they interfered in the emergency operations, where the doctors could have cleaned some of the powder burns I had on my face, and they decided to leave it on, just to have like a permanent tattoo on my face, you know? So, all of these things went on and on and on. And, you know, that’s not fair. I mean, they’re in violation of their own Geneva—you know, the Geneva code for prisoners. They didn’t—I mean, what more can I say?
I mean, they’re on the wrong side, and I’m on the right side. We’re the minority. We’re the victims of this—of this situation here. We’re the ones who suffer all this onslaught of American—American imperialism, you know, against my people—not only my people, all Third World people, including the white working class in the United States. You have—you know, you have white North Americans now living in the streets of New York and in mixed cities. This is not just a war against the Third World; this is against—a war against all oppressed people and all those who are being exploited. They don’t need those—they don’t need those white working class anymore, so they just throw them out in the street just like they did with us, I mean, years ago. So, this—you know, this is a long-range struggle and which has a lot of political impact in the United States. Why you think these politicians in the United States are so hated, like Jesse Helms and the Dan Burtons and all these scandals go on? I mean, who loves Giuliani, you know? Only the rich love Giuliani, and the racists, you know?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, let me—
WILLIAM MORALES: And then you have—then you have—wait up. Then you have these—then you have these really dumb, poor white North Americans that become cops so they can beat up on minorities, and then they can feel a bit better, because they think that, you know, they’re defending America like that, beating on some poor black man or shooting some poor Dominican in the back, you know.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: William, I’d like to ask—I’d like to ask both you and Ron Kuby—Cuba has always played an important role in terms of Puerto Rican independence. I’d like to—
WILLIAM MORALES: Uh-huh.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —ask Ron about—a little bit about that role, and then ask you about how you have been treated in Cuba over these last—this last decade. But, Ron, could you talk a little bit about Cuba’s role in terms of Puerto Rican independence?
RON KUBY: Well, you know, Cuba has done a number of things. Most notably, Cuba has been sort of a shining example of what freedom and independence can do for the people of the Caribbean, you know, having created the highest standard of living in Latin America and the Caribbean, free medical care, tremendous educational system, and has sort of stood in stark contrast to the conditions in Puerto Rico that have existed under U.S. imperialism. And, of course, Cuba has played a traditional role in helping to shelter political prisoners and refugees. Guillermo Morales is one. Assata Shakur, of course, from the Black Liberation Army, is another.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Guillermo, can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve been received in Cuba over these years?
WILLIAM MORALES: Listen, I’m going to give a little bit of—I’m going to try to be as brief as possible. Listen, I’ve received all the medical treatment that I needed, which I never received in the United States, and therapy, OK? But I think what’s most important is not what I received here, is that I’m an eyewitness, OK? I don’t have to lie. I saw how thousands of people from all parts of the world were brought here, paid by the Cuban government, including—you know, besides this blockade and everything that they’re suffering. I saw planeloads of people, how they would arrive here to Cuba. And they were taken to the hospitals all throughout the Cuban nation and given free medical treatment. I saw how they saved children’s lives. They came from Nicaragua. They were wounded, OK? I saw these kids that came from Russia after that—after that nuclear reactor explosion. And then, it’s not just me. It’s how this country has shared everything that they have with humanity. And I’m talking about also North Americans that came down here for free medical treatment, OK? And the air—you know, the airline tickets were paid by the government.
So I think that this is more than just whatever you see. I think this is what humanity has received on a worldwide scale, all this free medical treatment that they’ve received, surgery, physical treatment, education, etc. I mean, and personally, I’ve been—you know, I’ve been treated well, just like anybody else. And I just live just like anybody else normally, you know? So I think this has—this is just part of the revolutionary morality that lives here, you know, and I also saw how people, everyday people, would help people that they didn’t even know, that came from other countries, and they would go to the hospitals and visit them, and somebody will bake something and take it to the hospital. And then, on the weekends, they will take some of those people to visit their homes. I mean, we’re just talking about something so big you just can’t describe it sometimes. One word cannot describe it. I think this is—the word that I’m looking for is “solidarity,” but it’s a word that’s bigger than “solidarity,” OK? And I think that word doesn’t exist.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I’d like to also ask Ron Kuby about a planned march that will be occurring on March 27th here around political prisoners.
RON KUBY: On March 27th, 1998, the Jericho March on Washington. This was a call that was put out by prisoners, political prisoners and prisoners of war, here in the United States, to try to build a movement to march on Washington, March 27th, to demand amnesty for America’s political prisoners. It’s time the government be told that we need a truth and reconciliation commission right here in the United States. We need amnesty for these political prisoners. And there’s tremendous organizing efforts going out to send as many people bound to Washington as possible. So, stay tuned to BAI for more details in the weeks and months to come.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we’re going to have to wrap up this session. I would like to thank Guillermo Morales—
WILLIAM MORALES: Thank you.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —a freedom fighter and a former member of the FALN in Cuba, fugitive from American—from the American legal authorities; Ron Kuby, his lawyer here; and Amy in Havana, Amy Goodman. I’ll see you next week, when you return.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, I’ll see you next week, and then we’ll trade places.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And coming up, we’ll be talking about the growing military ties between the U.S. and Mexico. You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in 60 seconds.