President of the Cuban National Assembly. He joins us on the telephone from Havana.
The Supreme Court declined Monday to review the case of the five jailed Cuban nationals known as the Cuban Five. The men were convicted by a Miami jury in 2001 for being unregistered foreign agents spying on the US military and Cuban exiles in southern Florida. All five are serving time in federal prisons across the country. Attorneys for the men say they weren’t spying on the US, but trying to monitor violent right-wing Cuban exile groups that have organized attacks on Cuba. The Miami judge in the case refused to move the trial to an area less dominated by Cuban exiles. Lawyers for the five say the jury pool in Miami was biased. The Cuban Five trial was the only judicial proceeding in US history condemned by the UN Human Rights Commission. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, another court, the Supreme Court, declined Monday to review the case of the five jailed Cuban nationals known as the Cuban Five. The men were convicted by a Miami jury in 2001 for being unregistered foreign agents spying on the US military and Cuban exiles in southern Florida. All five are serving time in federal prisons across the country. Attorneys for the men say they weren’t spying on the US, but trying to monitor violent right-wing Cuban exile groups that have organized attacks on Cuba.
The Miami judge in the case refused to move the trial to an area less dominated by Cuban exiles. Lawyers for the five say the jury pool in Miami was biased. The Cuban Five trial was the only judicial proceeding in US history condemned by the UN Human Rights Commission.
AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Havana, where we’re joined on the telephone by Ricardo Alarcon, the president of the Cuban National Assembly.
We welcome you to Democracy Now! Please start off by responding to the US Supreme Court’s decision.
RICARDO ALARCON: Well, good morning, Amy and Juan and everybody listening there.
I would say that it is a very sad decision that was taken, if you remember that, at the request of the US administration, that in May, well after the new administration had assumed office, it urged the Supreme Court to deny review.
I would like to also to clarify one point. It is said that they were accused or found guilty of spying, seeking information on military installations and all that. But let’s remember that what we were appealing or trying to review at the Supreme Court was the decision that had been affirmed by the Court of Appeals of the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, September 2008. That was a negative decision, unfair, because it didn’t end the whole process.
But it also had some positive facts. In that determination, the Court of Appeals said five times that nothing involving the national security of the US was involved in this case, that they didn’t gather or transmit secret information affecting US national security. That is why the Court of Appeals decided to vacate the sentences of three of them and order a resentencing process, which is now probably the next step in this slow, long case. But that means that after ten years of discussions and appealings and so on, that unanimously a lower court, the Atlanta court, determined, recognized what we had been saying all along, that they were not doing anything against the US, that their only role was to penetrate terrorist groups that had been operating for many years from Miami against Cuba.
And there are many, many, many evidences to that. I don’t need to go through all the facts that you know very well. Mr. Luis Posada Carriles is still moving freely, at large, in the US territory. He has not been extradited to Venezuela, where he was — had been tried for the destruction —- the first case in history of the destruction of a civil airplane in mid-air. And he has not been prosecuted for that, for that crime in the US. Just here’s an example. The persons who tried to learn about Mr. Posada Carriles and others like him, their plans against Cuba, they are in prison. And Mr. Posada, Mr. Bosch and many others are enjoying the good life in America.
That was a very sad conclusion in the legal sphere that sent a very negative message to the Cuban people and to many peoples around the world. The US continues -—
AMY GOODMAN: Ricardo Alarcon, we have to break, but we’re going to come back to this discussion, president of the Cuban National Assembly, on the line with us from Havana. We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is the president of the Cuban National Assembly. We’re joined by Ricardo Alarcon. I wanted to ask you more broadly about US-Cuba relations under President Obama. Speaking at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago April, Obama called for a, quote, “new beginning with Cuba” and raised hopes for a thaw in US-Cuba relations.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There’s been several remarks directed at the issue of the relationship between the United States and Cuba, so let me address this. The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know that there is a longer — I know there’s a longer journey that must be traveled to overcome decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day. I’ve already changed a Cuba policy that I believe has failed to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. We will now allow Cuban Americans to visit the islands whenever they choose and provide resources to their families, the same way that so many people in my country send money back to their families in your countries to pay for everyday needs.
Over the past two years, I’ve indicated, and I repeat today, that I’m prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues, from drugs, migration and economic issues, to human rights, free speech and democratic reform. Now, let me be clear, I’m not interested in talking just for the sake of talking. But I do believe that we can move US-Cuban relations in a new direction.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama at the Summit of the Americas. Ricardo Alarcon, you’re president of the Cuban National Assembly. Your response?
RICARDO ALARCON: Well, it’s very important not to speak just for the sake of speaking. The proof of the pudding is indeed in.
He didn’t mention, by the way, among the list of issues that may be addressed in this process, terrorism. And more or less at the same time he was saying that in Trinidad and Tobago, he was urging the US Supreme Court to not to consider, not to review, the case of the five. He can prove that he doesn’t have only words, but deeds, by exercising his authority. He can and should drop immediately the charges brought against the five. Atlanta already recognized that they were not entertaining any espionage activities.
And the other important charge, the one referring to an alleged murder attempt by Gerardo Hernandez, was also recognized by the US administration in a written — in a document, unprecedented in American history, according to them, that they didn’t have any evidence, that they couldn’t demonstrate that charge, and asked the court that said this years ago, in 2001, even to drop that charge. And what is it? The President could use those legal arguments, let’s say, to exercise justice. He can put in jail Posada Carriles and the terrorists and free those who opposed their actions. That would be a very concrete, simple step to demonstrate that what is coming from the White House are not just words.
By the way, the only concrete thing that he promised was to eliminate the restrictions for traveling by Cuban Americans. But if you go now, Amy, to the US official sources, you can visit in their website, you will see that the regulations are still as they were before. Then they haven’t yet taken the necessary step. They talk about that, but still, the regulations, if you read them as they are now, today are exactly as they were before.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Ricardo Alarcon —-
RICARDO ALARCON: It is -—
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, Ricardo Alarcon, I’d like to ask you about the summit itself. Many people consider it a major shift, in that the countries of Latin America for the first time rebuffed the United States and said that Cuba should join the OAS. But then, apparently, the Cuban government has rejected that offer. Can you talk about that?
RICARDO ALARCON: Well, they knew very well what was and is our position, that we will not join the OAS for many reasons, as we have explained time and again. What they did was to eliminate an absurd resolution that the OAS passed in 1962, by which Cuba was excluded from participating in that organization because of our links with the — what they used to call in those days the China-Soviet bloc. And then that doesn’t exist anymore. That’s good, because it is a way to correct history. But I think it’s too late to — even to think about joining an organization that is really rejected by the peoples in the continent and that has not served any useful purpose, has been an instrument of the worst part of US policy in the area.
We are in agreement with those in Latin America that are proposing the creation of a Latin American and Caribbean organization, and we are cooperating with them in many instances. We have a number of mechanism of cooperation and integration in the area. Like the Africans have their organization, the African Unity, in which the former colonial masters do not belong, the Latin American, Caribbean people should have their own, only for them, only for Latin American and Caribbean-area countries. And they understand that position.
We appreciate, of course, the fact that everybody — with the exception of the US and Canada, everybody in that conference repeated the same line of thinking, that Cuba should not be excluded. As a matter of fact, Cuba has relations with everybody else except the United States. Those are facts that would be useful for the administration to discover, and in order to learn that the world has changed. The US must also change.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Ricardo Alarcon, I’d like to ask you about something else. You were mentioning the former colonial masters. Guantanamo, the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba, many consider it a residue of the old colonial period. The original lease for Guantanamo, the United States imposed on Cuba, ninety-nine-year lease at the beginning of the twentieth century. What is the legal basis for the United States being in Cuba and having that naval base on your national territory?
RICARDO ALARCON: The only basis for that is imperial arrogance. It was a treaty that was imposed upon the Cuban people before Cuba attained its formal independence. Americans were occupying the island at that time, and they imposed, as a condition to withdraw their troops, two things: one, that Cuba has to recognize and even include in their constitution the right of the US to intervene in Cuban affairs, and Cuba had to lease some pieces of land for military bases. That was the origin of Guantanamo.
That was modified during FDR. The right to intervention was dropped, but the bases, was Guantanamo and others at that time, were to remain until both parties agreed to something else. And the party, as you know, has refused to abandon that piece of Cuban land due to arrogance. It doesn’t make any sense to — and that was the origin of the scandal of transforming it into a prison and all the stories that they are very well known around the world. But it’s an issue that remains to be solved, that remains to be addressed. It was [inaudible], by the way, in the list the President presented to the others attending Trinidad conference.
AMY GOODMAN: Ricardo Alarcon, the question of this couple, the — Walter Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, the former State Department analyst and his wife, being charged with spying for the Cuban government. They’ve pled not guilty to conspiracy and being agents of a foreign government and wire fraud. Your response?
RICARDO ALARCON: Well, I know only what has been published in the press, and I read the indictment. It’s interesting. In the indictment, they only mention one thing: what an FBI agent said that they told him. Apart from that, that this couple had a shortwave radio — I imagine that they are not the only Americans that have such a thing — and that they came to Cuba on one occasion. And also, in the media, it is mentioned, a private diary of the lady, in which she expressed certain sentiments about Cuba that are not only her sentiment. Many people also love Cuba and respect us.
Apart from that, the real question, to me, is why, if they had known about those alleged activities for a number of years, they chose to publicize that precisely on the eve of the moment that the Supreme Court was going to deny the review of the Cuban Five case, as it was requested by the same administration that now is accusing this couple in New York [inaudible] —
AMY GOODMAN: Ricardo Alarcon, we’re going to have to leave it there, but we thank you very much for being with us. Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly, joining us on the telephone from Havana.