The Railroading of the Cuban Five

[This article is an edited version of a talk given on May 8, 2003 at the Brecht Forum in New York City. New York constitutional law attorney Leonard Weinglass has handled significant political cases since the sixties. A graduate of Yale Law School, he represented SDS founder Tom Hayden in connection with the Newark riots. He next came into the spotlight working with Attorney William Kunstler on the Chicago Seven case and with Attorney Leonard Boudin in the Pentagon Papers case. Weinglass recently represented condemned Black reporter Mumia Abu Jamal. His brief and the mass movement are credited with saving Mumia’s life. Leonard Weinglass is currently appellate counsel for Antonio Guerrero, a former professor of mathematics, one of the Cuban Five, who is imprisoned in Florence, Colorado (the worst prison in the country) for life, after being convicted by a Miami jury of conspiracy to commit murder and espionage. For further information contact the website of the Free the Five Committee at: www.freethefive.org-by Michael Steven Smith (Mr. Smith practices law in New York City, where he serves on the Executive Committee of the National Lawyers Guild chapter and on the Board of Directors of the New York Marxist School.)]

This has been an important week in the case of the Cuban 5. Two days ago we filed our appeals brief with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia-not a particularly distinguished court. There are twelve Circuits in the United States; the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia, is probably the worst, followed closely by the Eleventh, where we find ourselves. But the case is very strong and very powerful, and it’s one of those not-unusual situations where the combination of conservative ideology and poor climate might outweigh the strength and merits of a case. I have circulated the briefs to law professors in various parts of the country; and, upon reading the facts and the law, they have assured me that there’s no way we can lose on appeal. But I want to just discuss with you generally the parameters of the case, its genesis, and essentially what it is about.

As all of you know, Cuba has been the recipient of cross-border warfare for over 40 years. The exile community in Florida, which now numbers 650,000, has its sons-and some daughters-training at mercenary camps for military activity against Cuba. The Cubans claim that in these 40 years they’ve lost approximately 3400 people to this and related activities, and they have been endeavoring over the 40 years to gain cooperation from U.S. authorities to put an end to it. After all, these mercenary actions are violations of the Neutrality Laws of the United States-laws which have not been enforced-because it is illegal for any American citizen to train and engage in military activity against a foreign country from these shores, and nothing short of that has been happening for four decades while the federal government has looked the other way. So the Cubans have been trying to gain the assistance of the United States in putting a halt to this. And the activity has actually increased. There were periods of time when there was more activity and then it would slow down and then it would pick up again.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist states in Eastern Europe, Cuba was pretty much cast adrift economically. In the early 1990s it suffered terribly from the loss of foreign assistance and the loss of its markets. The country went into an economic decline. Of course, this was too tempting a target for the exile community in Miami to overlook, and so the mercenary activity picked up, going into 1991-92, and began to get very heavy in ’95. The reason for this was that the Cubans decided that their only way out of the crisis-and it was a crisis-was to develop the tourist industry. They made that decision-I’m sure not everyone would agree with it-in desperate times. They began to reach out for foreign investment. European communities, particularly in Spain and Italy, responded. Hotels were built, new buses were imported, a new airline terminal was constructed, and Cuba began to get hard currency through the tourist industry.

The response to that from the terror network in southern Florida was to attack the tourist points as a way of driving tourists out. As you know from experience here since 9/11, one easy way of destroying the tourist industry is by making it clear to prospective tourists that they will not enjoy safety, and that the place they’re going to for a little peace and tranquility is a place that could be subject to armed attack. And so, in going into 1995 and ’96, the new airport terminal was bombed. I don’t mean that it was destroyed, but a bomb was planted in it that exploded. One of the new tourist buses in downtown Havana was bombed. Several hotels in Havana were bombed. The mercenaries even brought a boat offshore and fired cannon into some of the hotels. As you probably know, an Italian tourist was killed by a bomb.

So the Cubans again attempted to convince the United States that there had to be a stop to this and finally, in 1998, the FBI sent a high-level delegation down to Havana to meet with their Cuban counterparts. At this historic meeting between top U.S. and Cuban law-enforcement officials, the FBI was provided with four volumes- very thick loose-leaf volumes, each containing over 300 pages-as well as video tapes and audio tapes exposing the terror network, naming names, describing actions, describing weaponry, giving them the forensics that they would need for full-scale investigation. The FBI personnel that were present thanked their Cuban counterparts and indicated that they would get back to them within 30 days. Well, the FBI did not get back to the Cubans. They in fact never heard from them again, but within 90 days, the FBI, making use of the docu- ments they had received, rounded up the Cuban network (known as the Red Wasp Network), which was a group of Cubans sent to the United States to monitor the terrorist exile groups and to warn Cuba of any pending attacks. These were become the Cuban Five who came to the United States unarmed. The government never claimed they had a weapon, nor that they used explosives, nor that they were a threat to anyone in the United States. These were five unarmed men whose work was to infiltrate the terror network- which they did successfully-and to report back to Cuba on any intended threat to Cuba that they came across.

I want to read to you from one of the documents, just one. The case had 800 documents. The trial went on for seven months. The defense presented 31 witnesses; the government presented 41. It was a major, major trial. I was not a participant in the trial; I was brought into the case on the appeal. But what the government had done when they arrested the five is that they succeeded in downloading their computers which had all their files. And so the government had 20,000 pages of reports sent back to Cuba and of instructions that were given to these five agents-what they should do, what their role was, what their mission was. So the government had it all. And they went to trial with the U.S. attorney telling the jury at the beginning, “we will present to you the dramatic documents which will give you insight into what these five were about.” And indeed that was true. I want to read to you from one of the documents, which will give you an example. This is one of the communiqués that the government seized that went back to Havana:

On March 16, Andres Savorino, who works in the prisons and is a member of the National Guard in Miami, told this source about having a project with the CANF [Cuban-American National Foundation] to form a group of 40 men, with professional military experience, persons on active duty in the military branches or ex-military personnel for the execution of a paramilitary mission against Cuba. It would be a force of mercenaries without ties to any other counter-revolutionary Cuban groups in Florida, which they consider to have been vulnerable and penetrated. They would be paid commissions and they would have life insurance policies of $100,000 for their families. Roberto Martín Pérez will be in charge of the project for the CANF; one of the financial promoters will be Enrique Casas, Cuban millionaire and ex-U.S. army officer, who has a boat company and arms deposits in Honduras, which used to belong to the Nicaraguan Contras.

This is the kind of intelligence that was provided to the Cuban government by the Five. And throughout these 800 documents, there are similar reports coming back. One of the five-my client, Antonio Guerrero-was working on a training base at Key West, Florida. It was an open base, with no guards and virtually no fencing. He was reporting back on the comings and goings of aircraft, because it was the Cubans’ belief that if a major mercenary attack was launched against them, it would have support from the U.S. Navy. So they asked Antonio to get a job on the base-it was a low-level job; he was a metal worker assistant-and to observe the aircraft and, if there was an imminent buildup of aircraft, to notify Cuba.

The government charged the group with twenty-six counts of violations of U.S. law. Twenty-three of the twenty-six were technical violations, involving the failure of the five to register with the Attorney General of the United States as foreign agents, as if they could do that and succeed in their mission. This is a rather technical statute. We looked up to see how often it has been used; it has practically never been used. But it was dusted off and used in this case. And indeed, all five were sentenced to maximum terms under that statute, which would almost make them all parole-eligible right now-they’ve all been in five years.

What’s keeping them in are really two charges.* One is a conspiracy to commit espionage and the other is a conspiracy to commit murder. Now I know that all of you know what conspiracy means in the political context, and in most of the political cases we have worked on, the charges have been conspiracy. Why conspiracy? They charge conspiracy mainly when they can’t prove the criminal act. If you can’t prove that espionage occurred-and they conceded that right at the outset; they had no proof that espionage actually occurred-then you charge a conspiracy to commit espionage, where all the government has to prove is that there was an agreement to commit the crime, not that the crime occurred. So in this instance, they go before a Miami jury and they say to them, “Folks, we have five Cuban agents here (and they all conceded they were agents of the government of Cuba). We have five Cuban agents who are here in your community and they were reporting back to Cuba.” And that evidence-and practically that evidence alone-was sufficient proof of a conspiracy. Because, they argued, at some undefined time in the future, they probably would commit espionage, even though they had not as yet.

And the government said to the jury in their opening statement: “We have 20,000 pages. We don’t have one document that’s classified-not one.” No secrets of the United States were sent, no military secrets, even no national defense information, which is what the statute calls for. The government’s chief witness was a three-star general, General Clapper, who was the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. On cross-examination, he was asked: “Did you look at all 20,000 pages?” “Yes I did.” “Did you find any document that contained national defense information?” And his answer was: “Not that I can recall.” But because they were charged with conspiracy and this Miami jury convicted them, they were sentenced under the Espionage Law. And the three who were charged with espionage-only three were-got life sentences, the same life sentence that Aldrich Ames got, who gave hundreds, if not thousands, of top-secret documents to the Soviet Union. The same life sentence that Robert Hansen got, who was in the FBI and betrayed the FBI which led to the death of a number of people who were doing work for the CIA. These three are doing the same life sentence as those two notorious spies, with the government conceding on the record: “Nope, not one classified document was passed.” And so the case is remarkable just in that particular aspect and that was the issue I briefed and filed yesterday.

Secondly, one of the five, Gerardo Hernández, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Wow, you say, I thought none of them did an act of violence in the United States. They didn’t have guns or explosives. How come he’s charged with conspiracy to commit murder? Again, they don’t say murder happened; they say there was an agreement to commit a murder. And this is a most extraordinary charge, because this has never happened before in the history of the United States. The murder was the shootdown of two aircraft as they entered Cuban waters by the Cuban Air Force. Wow, you say, so he was involved in that? He tipped them off that the planes were coming and they shot the planes down? No, he had nothing to do with telling them that the planes were coming. Who told the Cubans the planes were coming? The FAA of Miami, realizing that the planes were veering off their assigned courses, called the FAA in Havana. And what did the FAA in Havana do? We have the tapes; they were played to the jury. The FAA in Havana said to the planes: “Turn back, you’re entering a military area. It would be dangerous for you to proceed.” That was recorded. Also recorded was the response from the lead aircraft, which was laughter, mocking laughter. And the planes proceeded.

There were three planes. The lead plane was piloted by the leader of the group that sent the planes, a group called Brothers to the Rescue, which has its own history. Brothers to the Rescue was a group of pilots, Cuban-Americans, who were to fly out over the waters between Cuba and the United States and rescue the rafters, the people who were coming to the United States on makeshift rafts, vessels, tires and inner tubes, etc. They were designated a humanitarian group and had the backing of the Catholic Church and of a number of charitable groups, and they did in fact rescue a lot of people. But in ’95, Cuba entered into a treaty-actually an executive agreement with the United States which provided that anyone picked up at sea would be returned to Cuba. And so that ended the work of Brothers to the Rescue. Their funding was cut back, and they changed into a different kind of organization. It was an organization that would over-fly Cuba and harass the Cuban government. And they began over-flying Cuba.

No one is allowed to fly over Havana. Those of you who’ve been to Havana may have noticed that you never see a plane in the sky there. But they over-flew Cuba. They over-flew Havana. And the Cubans received word from the group that infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue. Rene González infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue-he’s a pilot-and he wrote back, “We are now practicing with pipe bombs. We are exploding pipe bombs in an open field and we’re going to start dropping the pipe bombs.” There was another plan-a remarkable plan given what happened here on 9/11: they were developing a plane that they would load up with explosives and would guide by radio from another plane. They would guide it into the Plaza of the Revolution on the occasion of a speech by Fidel Castro. And that information was also given to the Cubans.

So, these planes were over-flying Cuba and Cuba was of course upset. Cuba registered protests-all the protests were introduced into evidence-asking the United States to bar these planes. The U.S. knew they were coming; the U.S. tracked them on radar-this was also introduced-and the U.S. did nothing and they still kept coming. The day of the shootdown was February 24, 1996. For the twenty months prior to February 24, 1996, there were 25 over-flights of Cuba, and the Cubans merely protested. The defense put on Richard Nuccio, who was the adviser to President Clinton on Cuba. Nuccio tells the jury-introduced as a document-that his office advised Clinton that the Cubans cannot be expected to be patient forever and at some point, and it’s coming very soon-this stuff was written thirty days before the shootdown-the Cubans are going to react and they’re going to shoot down these aircraft. And he ends the memo by saying-this is typically bureaucratic-“we better have all of our ducks lined up for when that happens.”

Another defense witness was Admiral Eugene Carroll. Admiral Carroll took the stand and testified that the month before the shoot- down he went to a conference in Havana where generals and ad- mirals of both the U.S. and Cuba got together for a conference-he actually was an ex-admiral-and he was taken aside by the head of the Cuban Air Force, who said to him, “We are training our pilots to deal with these over-flights and you better warn the State Depart- ment and the Pentagon that if these flights continue, we are going to defend our borders.” Admiral Carroll testified that he came back to Washington and convened an emergency meeting at the Pentagon with the State Department and told them, “The Cubans now mean business. You better stop these flights.” So you have Richard Nuccio, from the White House, and you have Admiral Carroll telling the jury that the Cubans were doing everything they could to warn the highest officials they could reach about the danger posed by these over-flights. Still they kept coming. There was one on January 11 in ’96, one on January 13, and then this one on February 24.

So Basulto* takes off from Opa Locka Airport-just outside of Miami-and two planes are trailing. He’s the one who laughs on the tape. Basulto is a veteran of the Bay of Pigs. He’s an old Cold Warrior and has spent most of his life in anti- and counter-revolutionary activity. He takes his plane and, by all accounts, he pierces the air space over Cuba. And then he turns. His aircraft is followed by two other aircraft-single-engine Cessnas-which are piloted by young Cuban- Americans. As he pierces Cuban air space, the Cubans scramble two MIGs. And he then turns and heads back to Miami and the two Cuban MIGs encounter the two planes that are following just as they are about to pierce Cuban air space. This became a major point of contention. The United States said: “No, they were twenty seconds short of Cuban air space.” The Cubans said: “No, they were several minutes into our airspace.” But you’re talking about fractions of minutes and whether they were shot down over international water or Cuban airspace. But what’s clear is that what triggered the scrambling was that one plane was in over Cuban air space and if the Cubans made an error, it was a twenty-second error, which under the circumstances is understandable.

So the two planes were encountered and they were shot down and four young men died in that incident. And that became the basis of the murder charge against Gerardo. But it was an act of state. It was the Cuban Air Force defending territory. How can you take an individual who was not there and not involved in it and charge that individual with a conspiracy with the Cuban Air Force to commit a murder? That never has happened before. What evidence did they have of a conspiracy? He didn’t notify the Cubans that the planes were coming. He didn’t even know. He didn’t meet or plan anything with the Cubans around this, but they intercepted a message that he received and the message said to him, “Be sure you or your comrades don’t fly [in this period of time].” And he didn’t fly in that period of time.

There was another Cuban, who was also an infiltrator to the Brothers of the Rescue, who didn’t fly, and the government argued because he received a message not to fly, he was then a member of the conspiracy. There is absolutely no basis for that in the law. You have to be a participant, not someone with knowledge. All they proved is that maybe he had knowledge, and even that’s questionable. Being told not to fly could mean a lot of things. But that was all their evidence and that issue is being appealed. Because Gerardo was charged with both conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder, he’s doing a double life sentence.

I had the privilege of meeting with Gerardo about a month ago, where he’s in prison in Lompoc, California. At the time I met with him, quite by accident because our meeting was planned, long before the government had imposed a special measure called Special Administrative Measures and ordered him into a punishment cell the likes of which I had never encountered in my work, even with Mumia on death row. He was put in a concrete cell with no windows. It had a bed and a sink, and the front, where ordinarily there are bars, was a metal screen, which you couldn’t look out of, and the door was solid metal. The food was passed in through a slot in the door. He was kept there without any reading material and he couldn’t tell day from night; a light was kept on 24 hours a day. And it’s so dangerous they took all his clothes away. He was in his underpants and a T-shirt. They took his shoes away because of the possibility of suicide. And they had kept him in that condition- when I saw him-for about twenty days. There were signs in the front of the cell that no one was to speak to him. So he would have no communication, no reading, 24-hour lights. When I went to see him, it was the first time he was out of “the box.” He came into the visiting room, where there was a window, and was startled by the sunlight. He didn’t know me, I mean he knew that I was working on the case but we had never met, and we sat and we talked for a couple of hours. I was incredibly impressed with his strength and his discipline. I was with him and at one point I got up to get a cup of tea out of a vending machine and I asked him if he would want anything from any of the vending machines. He replied, “I don’t want to break my discipline,” and he refused to have anything. People all around him were eating; it was a typical visiting room. And he sat there and we talked and we discussed the situation but he explained to me how he is surviving and he just runs things over and over in his head and he was relatively clear. But obviously, you can’t exist like this without suffering some form of torment. And they kept him that way for another fifteen days and then, without explanation, released him. Amnesty International, a number of European countries, members of Congress, were so incensed by this that they arranged a Congressional hearing. They wanted the head of the Bureau of Prisons to come and testify about what justified this, because he- like the other four-was a model prisoner.

All five of them were put into punishment cells; Gerardo was put into the worst. My client, Antonio Guerrero, was a professor of mathematics. He’s in Florence, Colorado-if you know anything about the prison system, the worst prison in the country. He was a teacher there, called out from the classroom, handcuffed, thrown into a punishment cell. When I got to see him they brought him to this booth that they had for him, chained hand and foot. All five of them were put into that kind of condition without any explanation. The local wardens apologetically said to me, “These fellows have done nothing wrong. They’ve been model prisoners. It’s coming from Washington. We don’t know why. We can’t answer any questions. We’re just told national security.” And it did come from Washington, and as it came it passed, after they were subjected to that for over a month.

On the conspiracy-to-murder charge, at the end of the case a very unusual thing happened. I’ve never heard of this happening before. The government went to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals with a written document called a writ of prohibition just before the case was submitted to the jury. And they said, if the judge gives the instruction that she intends to give on this charge of conspiracy to commit murder, we cannot win the case. It’s an “insurmountable burden” because we have none of the proof that she’s saying is required. So you have a written concession by the U.S. attorney that after a seven-month trial “we don’t have the proof to gain a conviction. You’re going to have to tell this judge not to give that instruction. We cannot meet that burden.” And the Eleventh Circuit rejected the petition. The judge then gave the instruction that the government conceded could not lead to a conviction, and the jury convicted anyway, after deliberating just one day on that charge. And so, that’s being appealed-a remark- able circumstance.

Well, how did this happen? How did these convictions happen? And of course, I’m sure all of you know the situation the Five face in being put on trial essentially before the exile community in Miami. Not an immigrant community. It’s a big difference. Immigrants come to the United States intending to live the American dream and settle in. Exiles don’t. Exiles come to the United States intending to go home once the government changes. Miami has an exile community. They’re all waiting for the hated Fidel Castro to be overthrown. Then they’ll go home. And it’s been that way for forty years. And because of that, it’s the only venue in the United States where if you dare to exhibit a painting by a Cuban artist from Cuba, the gallery will be burned down. If you dare to exhibit a film made in Cuba by a Cuban, even if it is critical of Fidel, the legislature will threaten the university that held the international film festival with de-funding. In order to do business with Dade County in Florida, you have to file an affidavit saying “I’ve had nothing to do with Cuba, the Cuban government. I’ve never visited. I’ve never been there. This was struck down as being unconstitutional; only the State Department regulates foreign affairs, not a city council.

There was a Cuban director-choreographer who spoke at a dance recital. He kind of slipped in and there was a riot because he came to speak. The police came, bottles and rocks were thrown, and there were injuries. And an indignant mayor of Miami-rather than calling for peace or the restoration of order, or criticizing the people who rioted-wrote a letter to the White House saying that from now on you shouldn’t grant visas to people like this director. So this is the nature of Miami. And on the shootdown, Miami is the only venue which erected a monument in the County Office building commemorating the four who died. A main thoroughfare was named after one of them and a plaza was named after another one. All of this was presented to the court, including the community survey which showed that 70% of the people had already made up their minds, and that, of that 70%, 90% said that evidence would not change their minds.

And what kind of a jury did they have? Well, the foreman of the jury, in his testimony when he was questioned, said, “I believe that Fidel Castro is a communist tyrant and I will be happy on the day that he is thrown out.” This was the foreman. The number two juror was a retired banker. He said he agreed with that statement and added, “I can’t reconcile that government with anything that’s good.” The number three juror worked in the Attorney General’s office for the state on the criminal side. The number four juror was married to a fellow who came over in the Peter Pan group, children flown out of Cuba after the Revolution succeeded, that was sent over after the revolution. Another juror was married to an INS guard. Such was the nature of the jury. That is really our major argument in the appeal, which is that this was an inappropriate venue. As you know in our history, there are cases that say you cannot try a person in a venue where they cannot receive a fair trial, because of the Sixth Amendment which entitles everyone to trial by an impartial jury and the Fifth Amendment’s due process rights. So we are arguing that on appeal as well.

Where did the defense want to send this trial? Did they want to send it to New York City? After all, the McVeigh trial was sent a thousand miles from Oklahoma City. No, they asked for the trial to be sent thirty miles up the Interstate, forty minutes away, to Fort Lauderdale. They said, “We’ll accept Fort Lauderdale over Miami as a place of trial.” That’s even within the district, and intra-district transfers are ordinarily granted as a matter of course. Many cases are sent from Miami to be tried in Fort Lauderdale. It’s not a big problem. But the husband of trial judge Leonard is a city attorney for North Miami Beach, and if she sent that case out of Miami he would be looking for honest work. So, the judge was kind of locked in. She dismissed the community survey and she dismissed the pre-trial publicity, which was extensive, and she applied a rule that has not been previously applied to the transfer of venue. She said that “the defense has to prove to me that it would be virtually impossible to have a fair trial in Miami”; and then she looked at the survey and she said, “Well, only 70% have made up their mind. That means we can pick a jury from the other thirty percent,” as if they wouldn’t be influenced by the prevailing attitude.

When I speak of prevailing attitude, there’s only one city in the United States that was studied by Americas Watch for human rights violations. It’s Miami. And they found forty years of arson, assault and bombing that have totally intimidated the community. No one can really publicly take a position in opposition to that of the exile community, which is the largest single national ethnic minority in Miami. There are more Cuban-Americans living in Miami than any other group, including African-Americans, Haitian-Americans, and Caucasians. So they’re the largest group by far. And they have the mayor, the head of the county, the publisher of the newspaper, the chief of police, and the dean of the largest university. There is nothing wrong with this except that, as pointed out in Cuba Con- fidential (a book which I don’t recommend, but this part is interesting), none of these folks would have been elected to any of these offices if they had anything but a hard line on Cuba. This reflects the fact that the hard line is the only position that can be publicly taken that is acceptable to most people in Miami, be they Cuban-Americans or not.

At the trial, the victims’ families sat in the front row, with FBI agents on both sides. The victims’ families, on the opening day, held a press conference from the steps of the courthouse attended by prospective jurors. And when the defense lawyers said to the judge, “Our jurors are out there listening to the families,” the judge scratched her head and she said, “I thought I told her they shouldn’t do that”; but the case went on. The first day of trial, in the jury assembly room, they don’t know why, someone had opened a newspaper to an article about the case, which was very prejudicial to the defense. They didn’t know who put it there but it was there on the table. And then the second day of the trial, the regional director of the Cuban-American National Foundation was in the jury pool. And he came up. He was rocking back and forth in his seat and they called him up and he was asked, “Is there something troubling you?” No one knew exactly who he was; they didn’t recognize him. His reply was so upsetting that the judge said, “Maybe he’s poisoned the whole panel; he’s been with them for two days.” But nothing was done about that.

When the defense questioned José Basulto (the pilot of the plane that turned around), he pointed a finger at the defense lawyer, Paul McKenna, and said to him, “Mr. McKenna, are you doing the work of Cuban Intelligence in this courtroom?” Everyone was aghast. When the trial was over and the foreman was interviewed, he said, “That Paul McKenna, he tried to pull the wool over our eyes but we saw right through him.” That was a devastating attack on a lawyer in the middle of the trial. But nothing was done.

So, that’s the nature of the case. The jury goes out to deliberate; the judge does not sequester the jury, put them in a hotel. They were free to go home at night. But three jurors came in the next day asking for protection because the TV cameras followed them to their cars and filmed their license plates for showing on the evening news. The jurors knew, because they’re Miami residents, what that meant. And so they sought protection. While they’re in the most sensitive part of the trial, which is deliberations, the jurors are terrified. There’s so much more you can say about a seven-month trial.

I’d like to end with some observations. I think it really tells a story of Cuba, Miami, and what happened here. There is a fellow named Orlando Bosch. He’s kind of notorious. It’s pretty much accepted that he planted a bomb on a Cuban airliner in 1976. The bomb exploded killing all 73 people on board. Bosch was arrested and he was convicted, but he was arrested and convicted in Panama. He was freed on a technicality; people say his friends got him out. He returned to Miami to live, having been convicted by a court of involvement in blowing up a commercial airliner. Well, when he applied for residence status, the INS, which is part of the Justice Department, did an investigation of his background, and I have the report here. I don’t ordinarily cite Justice Department documents, but this is the decision of the acting associate Attorney General, on the application of Orlando Bosch for residency. And she concludes, based on all the information available, both confidential and non-confidential, that “for more than thirty years Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence. He has formed and led organizations whose purposes include precisely the actions declared to be grounds for exclusion for residence in the United States. Over the years he has personally advocated, and has been involved in, terrorist attacks both abroad and here in the U.S.” He fired a bazooka in Miami City which struck a Polish freighter, which had just returned from dropping off cargo in Cuba. Firing a bazooka in an urban area at a ship; he was prosecuted for that and was released after only two and a half years.

On the basis of this study, which is fairly substantial, the INS recommended that he not be given residential status in the United States. Thirty years of terrorist activity, including downing a commercial airplane. But Orlando Bosch had a friend, a young man who wanted to enter politics and become governor. And that friend was Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush intervened with his father, who was President of the United States. And George Bush Sr. overruled the Justice Department and granted residential status to Orlando Bosch, who still lives in Miami. He walks his dog on the causeway every morning while the Cuban 5, who undertook a mission to end terrorist violence, are doing life in prison. It’s a pretty incredible contrast but I think it tells the story. But it doesn’t end there, because Orlando Bosch had a lawyer who was representing him in all of these proceedings. And that lawyer was just appointed to the Florida Supreme Court where he now sits. That lawyer is the grandson of Batista. I think I’ll just close with that.

For background to this case, including closing statements of two of the defendants, see S&D #32.

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