Chavez Calls on U.S. to Free the Cuban Five

CARACAS, August 5.— President Hugo Chavez demanded Sunday that the United States release the Cuban Five, imprisoned for fighting against terrorism, and admonished Washington for protecting international criminal Luis Posada Carriles, wanted in Venezuela for the midair bombing of a passenger plane.

Speaking on his Alo Presidente radio and TV program, Chavez said the Cuban Five are "heroes imprisoned by the empire" and called for an international effort to obtain their freedom.

Chavez said the cases of the Cuban Five and Luis Posada Carriles constitute two sides of the same problem. He added that the United States uses its so-called war against terrorism as a pretext.

He recalled that Posada was once the operations chief of the Venezuelan secret police (DISIP) and was responsible for the murder of political and community leaders, tortures, persecutions and disappearances.

Chavez statement followed comments on Alo Presidente from Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban parliament, who said the Posada Carriles case legitimizes the actions of the Cuban Five, who were in Florida gathering information to help Cuba defend itself from terrorist attacks. (PL)

Who are the Cuban Five?
They are Fernando Gonzalez Llort, Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, Ramon Labanino Salazar, Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert, and Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez

These men are poets, artists, scholars, fathers, husbands, and sons; they were arrested in September 1998, spent 17 months in solidarity confinement, and were convicted in June 2001 in a U.S. federal court for defending their country of Cuba from terrorists based in Miami. They were sentenced to prison terms which range from 15 years to double life sentences. Some of the Cuban 5 have been denied visitation from family members in several years.

The Cuban 5 were convicted after a politically charged trial in Miami, in which the U.S. government charged them with threatening national security and engaging in espionage against U.S. military bases.

Nothing could be further from the truth, the Cuban 5 infiltrated Cuban-American right-wing terrorist organizations based in Miami to monitor their actions; these proven CIA-sponsored organizations have been responsible for the deaths and injury of hundreds of people in Cuba and other countries.

The Cuban 5 infiltrated these organizations to protect the national sovereignty of their homeland Cuba and to safeguard the American populous from terrorist actions within the United States. The Cuban 5 shared the information with U.S. officials when dangerous actions were planned by these terrorist organizations.

Cuba has repeatedly offered information and cooperation to the U.S. government to combat these terrorist organizations, but the U.S. government has always declined to cooperate with Cuba.

With a trial based in Miami, it was impossible for the Cuban 5 to receive a fair trial. Under the threat of Cuban American right-wing terrorist organizations, defense attorneys made motions for a change of venue, which were denied. The judge, prosecution and U.S. government officials suppressed defense evidence and made sure that key witnesses for the defense would not testify.

Also, in 14,000 pages of transcript, no espionage evidence was ever introduced. It was also found that the information that the Cuban 5 had amassed was not government classified, but public information that did not threaten national security. It was clear that the charges brought up against the Cuban 5 were politically motivated fabricated, yet on June 8, 2001 they were found guilty of espionage and threatening national security.

On March 10, 2004, oral arguments were heard at the 11 Circuit Court of Appeals for a change in venue, on the espionage conspiracy, and on Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo's murder conspiracy conviction. As of yet, the court has not made a decision. The most important issue in the appeal is the change of venue; if the court finds that the trial should not have occurred in Miami then all the charges will be thrown out and the Cuban 5 could get a new trial in a different city.

The U.S. government has waged war on Iraq and invaded Afghanistan all in the name of fighting terrorism, yet Orlando Bosch, anti-Castro Cuban terrorist responsible for the murder of 73 passengers on a Cubana jetliner, and Luis Posada, a known CIA-sponsored international terrorist that has murdered countless people throughout Latin America, are allowed to walk free in Miami. It is this contradiction that proves that the Cuban 5 are a target of U.S. repression and a continuation of the U.S. hostile policies against Cuba.