US, Castro and the ‘Cuban Five’

Revolutionary leader Fidel Castro waves to a cheering crowd upon his arrival after dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the island on January 1, 1959, in Havana, Cuba. Net Photo

What you need to know:

Unfair trial. Cuban Ambassador to Uganda says the trial of the Cuban Five was unfair because it took place in Miami, in the US, where there was and still is a very reactionary and hostile environment against Cuba, writes Faustin Mugabe

There is a saying in the military intelligence that goes: “Never sleep before your enemy, and when you go to bed, sleep with one eye wide open”.

No country understands this saying more than Cuba. Today is the 56 anniversary of the Cuban revolution. But, since the birth of the revolution on January 1, 1959, led by the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, the country has lived under the thunders and clouds of reactionary forces that are against Cuba, who are based in Miami, Florida, in the US.

They have made numerous terrorist attacks against Cuba; killing and maiming thousands of lives and destroying properties such as pubs, restaurants and hotels in Cuba as well as those owned by Cubans living in Florida perceived to be friendly to the Cuban government.

The most prominent are the infamous American CIA’s instigated military attacks on the Bay of Pigs on April 16, 1961, and later the Operation Mongoose. However, attacks were annihilated by the Cuban forces. Therefore, Cuba has lived on a terror alert and continues to do so every day.

No wonder, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has survived 637 assassination attempts according to the Guinness World Records book 2011 edition; making him the living human being ever to have survived hundreds of recorded assassination attempts – all hatched in cities in America.

Cuban Five
For Castro to survive 637 recorded attempts on his life and also keep the Cuban revolution spirit burning among Cubans, testifies that the Cuban intelligence sleeps after their enemies have gone to bed.

In Cuba today, there are five men popularly known as the “Cuban Five”. They are Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez.

The five men are famous for infiltrating the anti-Cuba revolution terrorist groups living in America. Unfortunately, on September 12, 1998, the five were arrested by FBI agents and subsequently charged and convicted by the American federal courts. Three of them: Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero were charged and convicted of espionage and sentenced to life, in addition to long term imprisonment each.

The other two, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez, were each sentenced to 19 years and 15 years imprisonment respectively. Upon completing their sentences, the two were set free and returned to Cuba in 2013.

In February 2002, a book titled With Honor, Courage and Pride was published in Cuba to celebrate the heroic stance of the Cuban Five against terrorism in their country. On page 91, while elaborating on the fight against terrorism, the author wrote: “…the Cuban revolution has been obliged to implement a variety of measures.

These include seeking information from within the terrorist groups themselves; this strategy of course is very much a part of the new anti-terrorist plans adopted by US intelligence agencies after the events of September 11.”

He further wrote: “In June of 1998, our country provided a high level FBI delegation with thick files and audio and video cassette recordings documenting the terrorist plans and action of the Miami mafia.

These officials promised to take action based on the evidence handed over by Cuba.” Three months later, on September 12, 1998, five Cubans were arrested, charged and convicted of espionage.

After a very long court trial, on December 6, 2000, the court started the hearing of the case. On June 8, 2001, the court declared the five guilty; although they pleaded not guilty of all charges levelled against them. And on December 11, 2001, federal judge Joan Leonard sentenced Gerardo Hernandez to two life sentences and 15 years.

Ramon Labanino was given a life sentence and 10 years, Antonio Guerrero was also given a life sentence and 10 years, while Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez were sentenced to 19 and 15 years imprisonment. Leonard Weinglass was the defence lawyer.

When this reporter interviewed the Cuban Ambassador to Uganda, Javier Viamontes Correa, about the fate of the now Cuban Three, he said: “The trial of the Cuban Five was very unfair because it took place in Miami, where there was and still is a very reactionary and hostile environment against Cuba.

Secondly, the Cuban Five were not spying, but informing and preventing terrorist activities from USA against Cuba by radical and reactionary forces based in Florida.”

He further stated: “Two of the five are already free and back in Cuba after completing their sentences. But we continue demanding the release of the remaining three. Our government has stated our readiness to sit down and discuss all pertaining issues with the United States government and to establish normal relations.”

The detention and denial of civil liberties of the Cuban Five was from the beginning contested by their defence lawyer, human rights and civil rights activists, parliamentarians across the world. Noble Prize Laureates Wole Soyinka, Desmond Tutu, Harold Pinter, Rigoberta Menchu and Gunter Grass, among others, have voiced their contestation of the detention of the three Cubans.

The parliaments and parliamentary commissions of Great Britain, Brazil, Russia, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa, Bolivia, Belgium, Venezuela panama, Mali and Paraguay have also made their petition for the release of the remaining three Cubans.

On May 27, 2005, the working group on arbitrary detentions of the UN Human Right Commission signed and forwarded a document to the American government about the deprivation of the liberty of the Cuban Five to be visited by their family members or anybody else which is in contravention of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Since 1998, now the Cuban Three have never been allowed any visitations from their family members (wives and children) or anyone else. Legal associations like the International Union of Jurist, Amnesty International, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and American Association of Jurists, among others, have all voiced their support for the release of the now Cuban Three.


The Cuban Revolution (1953–1959) was an armed revolt conducted by Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement and its allies against the government of Cuban president Fulgencio Batista.

The revolution began in July 1953, and finally ousted Batista on January 1, 1959, replacing his government with a revolutionary socialist state.
The Movement organisation later reformed along communist lines, becoming the Communist Party in October 1965. The Communist Party, now headed by Castro’s brother Raúl, continues to govern Cuba today.

The Cuban Revolution had great domestic and international repercussions; in particular, it reshaped Cuba’s relations with the United States of America, which continues an embargo against Cuba as of 2014.

In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Castro’s government began a programme of nationalisation and political consolidation that transformed Cuba’s economy and civil society.

The revolution also heralded an era of Cuban intervention into foreign military conflicts, including the Angolan Civil War and Nicaraguan Revolution.