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Location: Ciudad Habana, Cuba

"The cuban people reclaim those men,and we will not remain calmed untill there're back"

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The road could be long...

Having Leonard Weinglass at the Round Table -- a prestigious U.S. jurist and the defender of difficult causes, usually more political than criminal -- was extremely interesting for the Cuban audience, especially since Weinglass is one of the lawyers who represents The Five antiterrorist fighters sentenced by a Miami-Dade court to long prison terms.
Weinglass does not appear to be a man who turns wishes into realities. His experience has taught him to be objective. For that reason, throughout his appearance at the Round Table of Friday, Aug. 18, he pointed out that "the road could be long" in the process of freeing The Five.
Among other issues, he stated: "The more than 200 pages of contradictory rulings on the case of The Five demonstrate that it is impossible to see the case from a legal point of view, in terms of U.S. law, because this is an essentially political trial and, in particular, a trial of U.S. policy against Cuba."
When analyzing the ruling issued Aug. 9 by part of the plenum of the 11th Circuit Court of the Court of Appeals of Atlanta, Weinglass said that in reality there had been two rulings. Two of the judges held on to their opinions, issued one year earlier, declaring the Miami trial as null and void because the city's environment did not permit an impartial trial. However, ten judges ruled the opposite.
The lawyer described that position as "a tragedy and a monument to the use of the law in a superficial manner to achieve purposes that are not those of justice." Let us remember that it was Judge Charles Wilson, a former Miami prosecutor, who wrote the majority opinion.
Those ten judges were blind to reality, Weinglass said. "They did not see the case in a substantial manner. It was a mechanical analysis that did not take into account the atmosphere or the reality of what happened in Miami; only what happened in the courtroom. In 68 pages, they don't talk about Miami. They focus on the atmosphere in the Court, not in the city, as if the trial were being held in New York."
The lawyer also described as extraordinary -- because of the impact and because of its rarity -- the 52 pages of the document written by the two dissenting judges who, "abiding by the best tradition of the U.S. judicial system," invited the defense lawyers to take the case to a higher court and insisted that any analysis must take into account the circumstances surrounding the trial of The Five.
In another appearance at the Round Table, Weinglass said the document issued by the ten judges in the Court of Appeals in Atlanta represents a violation of "the sacred right every defendant has to a fair trial."
He also said he trusts that, in the long run, The Five will be freed. "The United States cannot be an accomplice to a crime and at the same time try the people who oppose it. You cannot support a war against Cuba and at the same time try those who attempt to oppose it," he said.
However, and with all due respect to the opinions and convictions of this prestigious lawyer, that's exactly what the successive governments of the United States have been doing since 1959. And it doesn't seem that the administration will change its stance, if we judge its behavior in other legal processes that involve true, self-confessed terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles and other persons, such as Santiago Álvarez, Osvaldo Mitat and Robert Ferro, who at this point are in prison, awaiting trial.
Or the way in which justice has dealt with the confessions of José Antonio (Toñín) Llama about the plans by members of the Cuban American National Foundation to commit terrorist acts in Cuba in the 1990s.
Or, more recently, the interview granted by Orlando Bosch to a Spanish newspaper, in which he says his fondest wish was to kill Fidel Castro and that a Cuban airliner, a civilian aircraft, is a military objective. Bosch referred to the Cubana de Aviación airplane blown apart by a bomb over Barbados on Oct. 6, 1976, with the deaths of 72 passengers and crew. Luis Posada Carriles is sought by Venezuela for that crime.
It is the same double standard that has characterized the famous war on terrorism, in the wake of the abominable terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, whose fifth anniversary will be commemorated in a few days.
But the double standard has been present before, in previous U.S. administrations. Who created Osama bin Laden or the death squads in Central America? Who spawned the Operation Condor in South America in the 1970s and '80s? Who backed military dictatorships in Latin America throughout most of the 20th Century? Where did Latin American and other military officers learn the techniques of torture? It was at the notorious School of the Americas, once based in Panama but now located on U.S. soil, with another name.
To the Bush administration, there is a "good" terrorism -- the one promoted by it and other administrations -- and a "bad" terrorism -- the one engendered by its own worldwide political hegemony. The terrorism that arises as a result of oppression, humiliation, exploitation and despair, along with factors of a religious or ideological nature, as in the case of Islamic terrorist groups that in many cases were organized by the Central Intelligence Agency. The Talibans in Afghanistan are a good example, though not the only one.
Returning to our topic, it is evident that Leonard Weinglass is not counting on miracles. He knows that the White House's policies obstruct justice and that The Five antiterrorist fighters cannot be released so long as the U.S. has a government that promotes state-driven terrorism in all its manifestations and supports other governments that also practice it, such as Israel.
The victim of this double standard is, of course, the prestige of the United States and of its people, who have seen their freedoms diminished by the so-called Patriot Act and has been the target of surveillance and espionage, in violation of the country's own laws on individual privacy.
If anything characterizes the current state of U.S. relations with the rest of the world is the almost total lack of credibility of U.S. politicians and institutions, the need to impose their interests by force, coercion or blackmail. And among the great powers, that method has never been a sign of strength but of weakness. U.S. allies in the European Union are experiencing more or less the same.
Despite all that, so far seven governments allied to the U.S. have refused to receive Posada Carriles as a political refugee, regardless of the pressures exerted on them. Even the government of El Salvador, a country that was Posada Carriles' base of operations, has refused to accept him.
What's happening? The refusals from Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Peru and El Salvador have many likely readings. Are the pressures exerted to find a refuge for Posada Carriles real, or does the White House prefer to hold him in a "golden cage" before it sends him to another country?
Some analysts say that Posada Carriles will die in prison, not because he's a notorious and self-admitted terrorist but because releasing him does not suit the interests of Doublya Bush. Posada knows too many secrets about Bush Senior's participation in delicate operations during his tenure as CIA director, Vice President and President of the United States.
Will the government deal similarly with Orlando Bosch, whom Bush Sr. granted a pardon and permanent residence in the U.S., practically free from surveillance and on occasion talking more than he should?
A few days ago, Posada Carriles' lawyer, Eduardo Soto, announced on TV that his client would be free in a few days, walking the streets of Miami, in what might become a new test of strength between the terrorist groups in Miami and U.S. justice on one side, and the Doublya Bush administration on the other. Anything can happen, because this is a visibly dirty game.
The same thing is happening in the cases of Santiago Álvarez and Osvaldo Mitat, for illegal possession of firearms and for bringing Posada Carriles into the U.S. illegally, aboard the yacht Santrina. And what can we say about Robert Ferro, the owner of the largest private arsenal in the U.S., who said the weapons were furnished to him by the government and belonged to Alpha 66. If the U.S. government decides to release these men, it would be admitting that they are protectors and promoters of terrorism against Cuba.
Meanwhile, the lawyers for The Five antiterrorist Cuban fighters weigh the next steps to take. There are still nine charges to be appealed to the Atlanta court and the bid for a change of venue must be raised to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is also dominated by conservatives. It is evident, as Weinglass said, that "the road could be long," but there is a conviction among The Five, the Cuban people and the defense attorneys (all of then U.S. citizens) that justice will eventually triumph. Let us hope so.


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