Statement of Gerardo Hernández

[extract] (December 12, 2001)

[...] Your Honor, I have always said, and will repeat now, that I deeply regret the loss of those four lives [in the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue clash], and I understand the suffering of their families. I also regret the thousands of lives that have been lost as a result of the constant aggression suffered by my people throughout more than 40 years, and the eternal mourning of many, many Cuban families. These dead also have names and faces, although their pictures cannot be shown in this courtroom.

Cuba did not provoke this incident. On the contrary, it foresaw it, and tried to prevent it through every means within its reach. The prosecution’s main argument during the trial was that this incident was a crime, because it involved unarmed civilian aircraft. This nation recently found out, in an unfortunate and brutal manner, just how much damage can be done to its people by an unarmed civilian plane. Perhaps that is why its top leaders have warned that any plane that strays threateningly from its scheduled route should be shot down, even if there are hundreds of passengers on board. Perhaps the gentlemen of the prosecution believe this would be a crime. Your Honor said today that this country changed its “perception of danger” after September 11; unfortunately, Cuba had to change its perception of danger on January 1, 1959, and this is what some people fail to understand.

The people primarily responsible for what happened on February 24, 1996, are the same people who do not relent in their efforts to provoke an armed conflict between the United States and Cuba, so that this country’s army can do for them what they themselves have not managed to do in 40 years. Be it flotillas, airspace violations, false accusations or any other abomination, the goal is always the same: for the United States to wipe the Cuban government and those who support it off the face of the earth, no matter what the cost in human lives on one side or the other. It can be stated with all certainty that if anyone has repeatedly placed the national security of this country in danger, it has been those extremist Cuban groups.

The prosecution stated in this courtroom, during the final arguments, that Gerardo Hernández has blood on his hands. I wonder whose hands are really stained with blood, if it is me or the individual [José Basulto] who fired on a hotel full of people in Havana [in 1962], the same individual who appears in the evidence of this case planning to smuggle antipersonnel weapons into Cuba; the same person who openly and recklessly defied the Cuban authorities, over and over and over again, violating the laws of that country, the laws of this country, and the most elemental rules of international aviation; the same person who not only did not hesitate to lead these young men to their deaths, but who also, in the moments of greatest tension, when there was still time to go back on his plans, did not do so, and instead left his laughter on tape for all of history, while his comrades were dying.

This person’s hands truly are stained with blood, yet this did not seem to matter to the gentlemen of the prosecution when they shook those bloodied hands on numerous occasions, even in this very courtroom. Nor did it matter to the prosecutors or the top FBI authorities in Miami when they shared the stage and the celebrations with this same person during the press conference on the day the verdict was announced. This is rather contradictory behavior for those who claim to represent the law. […]

Ed. note: See photo in Granma Internacional, May 3, 2002.