The U. S. government continues its pattern of abusing the Cuban Five political prisoners. Authorities have been silent on René González’ request that he be allowed to visit his sick brother in Cuba for two weeks. González, who finished a 13-year jail term on October 7, 2011, is serving parole in Florida. Brother Roberto, a lawyer involved in René’s case, is terminally ill with not long to live.
The FBI arrested René González in September, 1998 along with Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández, Fernando González, and Ramón Labañino. Cuba’s government had sent the so-called Cuban Five to southern Florida to monitor and report on preparations by violent extremists for attacks against Cuba. Labañino and Guerrero, each with life sentences, ended up on appeal with terms of 30 and 22 years respectively. Gerardo Hernández is serving two life sentences; Fernando González, 19 years.
René González’ lawyer Phil Horowitz petitioned the Miami Federal District Court in February to allow his client to bid farewell to his brother. The petition stated that, “Over the past nearly five months since his release from incarceration, the defendant has faithfully complied with each and every condition of his supervised release.” Horowitz later assured solidarity activists that “The motion that is being filed is not unusual; it is common for a defendant to seek court permission on an emergency basis, to travel internationally for health concerns of a family member.” Gonzalez, a citizen of both Cuba and the United States, is subject to U.S parole rules.
González has had other humanitarian requests denied. U.S. officials never budged over 12 years from preventing Olga Salanueva, his wife, from traveling to the United States to visit him in prison. That’s the situation faced also by Adriana Pérez who for 13 years has been unable to visit husband Gerardo Hernández. International observers, human rights groups included, have roundly condemned the U. S. ban on spousal visits.
And despite widespread condemnation, U.S. judicial authorities denied González’ request to return to Cuba directly after serving his jail term. His lawyer, joined by solidarity activists, argued on humanitarian grounds that Gonzalez be allowed to reconnect with family and homeland. Fear has emerged too for his safety in Florida where on parole González lives amongst the practitioners of anti-Cuban violence he had been monitoring, and thereby inviting potential retribution.
For his protection, González’ location in Florida has not been disclosed. In remarks taken as provocative, influential Miami area Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, commenting on Gonzalez’ release from prison, called him a “villain,” someone “who has American blood on his hands.” Lawyer Horowitz will soon be submitting a request that Gonzalez’ parole period be shortened.
As February closed, U. S. solidarity groups asked Cuban Five supporters to call the offices of President Obama (telephone number 202-456-1111) and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (telephone number 202-353-1555), to urge that René González’ petition be granted and that he be allowed to see his brother.
René González’ letter of February 24 to his brother Roberto has circulated. It reads in part:
“Under ordinary circumstances, these things ought to be said personally…. It’s not enough that you have to struggle against a terrible sickness, but they’ve added more: You have to deal with a much more deadly kind of human grief, which is hate…hate that keeps me away as our nephews and nieces grow up… hate that doesn’t allow me even to embrace my brother. What do we do with so much hate? I suppose we do what we’ve always done: love life and fight for it…. Although you can’t see me, you know I am there, together with your people, who are mine too. You know that this brother, from his strange exile and in pain from forced separation, [and who shares with you] the worthy condition of being a Cuban patriot, is and always will be with you.”
The worldwide battle against U.S. intransigence in refusing to free the remaining four Cuban Five prisoners goes on. A ringing call for their release came recently from the Buenos Aires Federation of University Students, representing 330,000 students. Addressing “Fellow university and college students from the US,” its statement referred to “prisoners being held in both moral unfairness and illegality.” And, “It’s about time the U.S. government takes responsibility…regarding political relations with Cuba [in particular] establish ordinary relations with Cuban authorities, on grounds of mutual, unbiased respect, and send the Cuban Five back home.“
By W. T. Whitney Jr.
Photo: René with daughters Irma and Ivette (www.freethefive.org)