The mercenary work carried out by journalists paid by Washington led to a guilty verdict against the Cuban Five long before their trial had concluded
By: Nyliam Vázquez García
Thousands of hours of broadcasting on radio and television, with lots of items, all paid by the U.S. government, became a powerful weapon.Thousands of hours of broadcasting on radio and television, with lots of items, all paid by the U.S. government, became a powerful weapon. Photo: Adán IglesiasZoom
First came the contracts from the US government. You can see the signatures. Then the thousands of dollars filling pockets, finally came the rivers of ink to do the dirty work. The objective was to create a climate of hysteria to bring about a guilty verdict before the trial even began of Gerardo, René, Antonio, Fernando and Ramón. To accomplish this goal they hired a group of “journalists” from Miami. This group carried out a vigorous propaganda campaign against the five men after their arrest and before and after their trial.
Thousands of hours of radio and television broadcast and a great volume of newspaper articles represented a powerful weapon.
In a city were the subject of Cuba awakens passionate emotions —especially when a half century after the revolution, people still dream and work towards destroying the Cuban Revolution— and after the work done by the soldiers of disinformation in Miami, a trial against the five Cubans wasn’t even necessary; the guilty verdict came in before the trial had barely begun.
The Cuban Five — Gerardo Hernández, Ramon Labañino, Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero and René González— were given harsh sentences ranging from 15 years to double consecutive life terms plus 15 years in a trial plagued with irregularities and held in a highly biased Miami court.
The five Cubans were working to uncover information about terrorist activities being planned and carried out against Cuba by ultra-rightwing organizations based in southern Florida with a long record of terrorist actions against Cuba and the Cuban people. When they turned their information over to authorities they were arrested and have been in jail ever since.
In May 2005, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion on the case in which it concluded that US government had failed to guarantee the Cuban five a fair trial under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty the USA has ratified. While noting that the case was still pending before the US appeal courts, The Working Group stated that its findings were made on the basis of the facts and circumstances described, the responses received from the US government and further comments by the complaint’s source.
Amnesty International released a special report on the case of the Cuban Five in 2008. The report states that “having reviewed the case extensively over a number of years, [Amnesty International] believes that there are serious doubts about the fairness and impartiality of their trial which have not been resolved on appeal.
The Cuban Five have also received wide-reaching international support of other organizations and individuals. The petition for a Writ of Certiorari (leave to appeal) to the US Supreme Court was supported by amicus curiae briefs submitted on behalf of numerous organizations and individuals, including 10 Nobel prize winners, the bar associations of various countries and other legal bodies, including the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen, the International Federation of Human Rights and the National Jury Project offices of California, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York.
Several of the briefs made specific mention of the operation of anti-Cuba groups in Miami in the decade before the trial and the numerous hostile actions and attacks on individuals and organizations seen as pro-Cuban, and to pressures experienced by members of the jury at certain points during the proceedings.
In Miami, a rampant and extravagant cover-up by the local media paid off by the government promoted a climate of hatred against the Cuban Five, while threats were made against jury members, lawyers and witnesses. More than a decade after their arrest, trial and a long series of injustices, a large body of evidence came to light revealing that the US government hired a group of “independent” journalists to lie and influence public opinion on the trial against the Cuban Five.
The National Committee to Free the Five, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and Liberation newspaper worked together to uncover and publish more than 2,200 pages of these contracts with journalists that is a harsh indictment against the proclaimed independence of US reporters. The more than 2,200 pages of contracts between Miami journalists and Radio and TV Martí —released thus far to Liberation newspaper through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) petition— expose the fallacy of an independent press in Miami.
The documents show that US government employees received thousands of dollars to turn public opinion against the Five. Their work can be seen in black and white in their propaganda campaign that begun just after the Five were arrested for their attempts to defend their people against US-based terrorism.
The propaganda reported by several journalists, some with a long history of supporting armed attacks against Cuba, ensured that the trial take place in a impartial setting. Their stories were carried by El Nuevo Herald, La Voz de América, and several other media outlets.
The Lies that Went Unpunished
On September 16, 1998, four days after the five Cubans were arrested, journalist Pablo Alfonso published an article in the Miami newspaper El Nuevo Herald entitled Posible alianza con el terrorismo (Possible alliance with terrorism) were he links Cuba with international terrorism.
Alfonso writes: “The surprising offensive against an alleged network of Cuban spies in Miami, may be an action aimed at preventing a possible collaboration between the Cuban government and countries involved in terrorist actions against the United States, according to military and intelligence experts who expressed this to El Nuevo Herald.”
In his article, Alfonso quotes Orestes Lorenzo, an ex-major of the Cuban Air Force who deserted to the United States in 1991:
“It’s ridiculous to assume that the Cuban army can do something serious to the powerful US military”, Lorenzo indicated. “However, if we think in terms of services provided to terrorist groups or nations like Libya, Iran or the like, things change.”
Lorenzo said that he isn’t surprised Fidel Castro’s regime is “lending or selling its intelligence services” to Islamic terrorist groups or powerful nations that are interested in carrying out terrorist acts on U.S. territory.
Alfonso’s unsubstantiated story ends by turning the speculation of Cuba’s link to “Islamic” terrorists into a fact.
This type of reporting contributed the political context and climate facing the Cuban Five following their arrest and all the way through their trial, jury deliberations and ultimate conviction. Cuba was painted as a terrorist entity by the Miami media, including by the inflammatory reports of anti-Castro journalists who wrote during the same period that the US government was prosecuting the Cuban Five in Miami and who have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the US government.
An article written by the president of the National Committee to Free the Five, Gloria La Riva, states that Pablo Alfonso was a longtime reporter for El Nuevo Herald. The contracts released by the Liberation newspaper show that Alfonso received payments from the US government —through its official propaganda agency the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)— of $58,600 during the Cuban Five’s trial during the period between Nov. 1, 1999 and Dec. 31, 2001. His total payments were $252,325 through Aug. 22, 2007.
On June 4, 2001, the day the jury was to begin its deliberations, an article appeared in El Nuevo Herald with the headline Cuba usó alucinógenos al adiestrar a sus espías (Cuba used hallucinogens to train its spies).”
This inflammatory article —supposedly based on information from an anonymous “Cuban spy defector”— claimed that Cuba gave LSD and other hallucinogens for “behavior modification” for the purposes of “intelligence and counter-intelligence.” The supposed “anonymous” ex-spy defector given two pseudonyms —Alex and José—conveniently links the drug accusation with the Cuban Five.
The article states: “Cuba experimented with hypnosis techniques and hallucinogens to “modify the behavior” of numerous agents who were sent abroad ... “Among these hallucinogens were psilocybin and LSD.”
Several days after the Cuban Five’s arrest, an article published on September 21, 1998, in the El Nuevo Herald, Enrique Encinosa, who was cited as an intelligence expert, stated that the arrests occurred because US intelligence “has detected or has indications that the information [supposedly gathered by the Five] is passing through terrorist organizations outside the United States.”
Enrique Encinosa, who advocates the bombing of Cuban hotels, was employed by the U.S. government while he was working as an “independent” news director on the powerful right-wing Spanish-language radio station in Miami.
During the Cuban Five prosecution, Encinosa broadcast news regularly on Miami’s 50,000-watt WAQI Radio (“Radio Mambí”), and was a frequent commentator on their arrest and prosecution. He received $5,200 to host a weekly Radio Martí show from Oct.1, 2000, to Sept. 30, 2001, for a total of $10,400. The Cuban Five’s trial was within that time span, running from Nov. 27, 2000, to June 8, 2001.
Encinosa boasted in an Internet radio interview: “I arrived in the United States in 1961. I became involved in the anti-Castro paramilitary organizations when I was 16. I participated in a number of military and covert operations into Cuba as a very young man. I worked cloak and dagger in covert operations ...” The interview was in 2010. Earlier, in 2005, in an interview for a documentary, “Encinosa openly supported the bombings that shook Havana hotels in 1997, one of which killed Italian tourist Fabio Di Celmo.
This anti-Cuban fanaticism can also be seen in an article by Julio Estorino published in the Diario Las Américas on May 14, 1999, entitled Premeditación y alevosía (With malice aforethought).
“The United States government has formally indicted a number of agents from Castro’s dictatorship who were operating in South Florida, with conspiracy to commit murder, in relation to the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue airplanes and their tragic toll of four deaths on February 24, 1996. All this should be proven and it shouldn’t be very hard to do it,” writes Estorino, when he knew well that the US government had declared that it had no evidence to back this charge.
Furthermore, 13 years later the US government refuses to handover satellite images that supposedly support this charge. If this is the case, Why keep this evidence hidden? Something smells fishy.
Julio Estorino’s history includes membership in Junta Patriótica Cubana, which was formed in the early 1980s. It advocated the violent overthrow of the Cuban government. Estorino’s resumé — from the BBG documents obtained by Liberation newspaper — shows his U.S. government employment by the BBG goes back to at least March 1998, several months before the Cuban Five’s arrest. His résumé states clearly: “Employer: U.S. Government, Office of Cuba Broadcasting ... Miami Florida.”
Another example that clearly reveals the gross manipulation of the process against the Cuban Five is an article by Alberto Muller published in the Diario Las Américas, on February 20, 2001, entitled Asesinos (Murderers). What could be clearer?
When René González finally was released from prison after serving 13 years of his unjust sentence he was forced to endure more punishment by way of an additional sentence of 3 years of “supervised release” in Miami. Clearly Miami is not a safe city for our Cuban hero.
As Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon wrote, this three-year period of “supervised release” constitutes “a real risk for our brother and an unjust additional punishment for him and his family.”
The case of the Cuban Five is irrefutable proof of Washington’s complicity with the terrorists. “This is demonstrated by the record and other documents from the Miami trial. The prosecution urged that the harshest and most excessive sentences be imposed, but in addition, it insisted that for Washington there was something just as important as a maximum prison sentence. This something, what they called “incapacitation,” consists of taking measures so that after finishing their prison terms, none of the defendants would be able to try do to anything against the terrorists or their plans.
“In the sentence imposed on René, the restriction was expressed in these words: “As a further special condition of supervised release, the defendant is prohibited from associating with or visiting specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists, members of organizations advocating violence, and organized crime figures are known to be or frequent,” writes Alarcon.
He continues “the Bush regime admitted that in South Florida there are individuals and terrorist groups, and the US government knows where they are and where they go. But instead of capturing them and putting them on trial, which is its duty, it shamelessly protects them and demands that neither René nor anyone else bother them.”
Nevertheless, these “independent” Miami journalists are not interested in reporting anything on the activities of these terrorists, these same groups that René, by court order, cannot bother. As Galeano wrote, “The world is outside down.”