Seeking fair play for the Miami Five
Below, OLGA SALANUEVO and daughter IVETTE, who would like to see her dad, RENE GONZALEZ, again.
NEXT year it will be half a century since we saw the pictures of a bearded man in fatigues riding into Havana and wondered what sort of revolution this was. I don't think Fidel Castro and his compadres knew themselves, until US hostility pushed them into the path they took.
For those concerned with Marxist theory, the Cuban example is still hard to categorise. Attempts to follow it by pitting small guerrilla bands against imperialism's goons proved disastrous, the best-known turning the martyred Che Guevera into a harmless icon for the manufacturers of tee shirts.
But Cuba's revolution has survived the Bay of Pigs and the Missile Crisis, and outlasted the Soviet Union. Whatever the problems of Cuban society and whether or not its workers, writers and artists enjoy freedom, or our idea of socialism, they have achieved standards of health care, literacy and education that shine like a light for impoverished Latin America and the Caribbean. All this in the face of a US-imposed embargo. Indeed, when it comes to providing services for all, Cuba does arguably better than its rich, big bullying neighbour to the north.
Fidel Castro himself survived several CIA-backed assassination plots, which is more than Bay of Pigs patron John F.Kennedy did. But since 1959, some 3,500 Cubans have been killed as a result of violent actions organised by counter-revolutionaries, right-wing Cuban emigres based in the United States.
Perhaps the most notorious attack was the bombing of a Cuban airliner on October 6, 1976, in which 73 people were killed.
I thought about this when I read today that the US government is concerned that the Yemeni authorities are not hard enough on "terrorists". "American officials were also alarmed when Yemeni courts commuted a death sentence for Jamal al Badawi, convicted of masterminding the USS Cole attack, giving him instead 15 years in prison".
(Ian Black, Guardian, September 18)
The USS Cole was a naval vessel, a missile carrier, that had put into Aden. Seventeen sailors were killed in the attack. That is regrettable, but they were not in the Middle east for a holiday cruise. The US authorities are holding a Saudi national in Guantanamo whom they also accuse of planning the USS Cole attack, and US courts even blamed the Sudanese government. Whoever did it, it was an act of war. British heroes (played by John Mills et al), did the same thing to German battleships, and with much better equipment.
The men who planted a bomb that blew a Cuban civilian airliner up off the coast of Barbados were not suicide bombers. They lived to carry on further actions in the employ of the American CIA which looked after them. Theirs was what Washington regards as a legitimate act of war, even as it proclaims itself leader of the "war on terror".
In the late 1990s there were a spate of bombings against Cuba, and evidence that emigres in the United States, including one of the men responsible for the 1976 airliner attack were behind them.
Five Cubans went to Miami to try and infiltrate the right-wing emigre circles and gain information about their plans, and what backing they had from US forces. As well as communicating back warnings to the Cuban authorities so that attacks could be thwarted, they passed what evidence they had gathered over to the US government.
The FBI acted promptly. In 1998 it arrested the five Cubans. They were held until brought to trial in 2001, when they were accused of spying, passing secrets to a foreign power, even plotting killings. They have been jailed for long sentences, and the US authorities refused visas to wives and family members to visit the men. Amnesty International has expressed concern over the case, and over the way the men have been treated.
Ten years after the 'Cubans were seized, for trying to defend their people against terrorism, and one day after the anniversary of the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455, there is to be a vigil outside the US embassy in London for the Miami Five and their families. It has been called by the Cuban Solidarity Campaign, with support from some trade unions, including my own, Unite.
That's on Tuesday, October 7, from 6.-7.30pm, outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, W1, (nearest tube Bond Street), if one can get near the embassy with all the concrete fortifications outside these days. I see that Olga Salanueva and Adriana Perez, whose husbands are among the five, are expected to join us for this protest, so I hope there's a decent turn-out..