16 October 2008 Edition
International : US Justice and the Miami Five, Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch
BY DARA MacNEILL
Nobody in Ireland needs instruction on how a country’s judicial system will, when required, deliver the verdict that is demanded by the political system.
But even armed with that knowledge, there are occasions when it can be hard to fathom the sheer depths to which ‘justice’ will sink in order to satisfy the needs of the state.
The case of the Miami Five – Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzales and Rene Gonzales – Cuban nationals guilty of no more than defending their country from attack, is one such occasion. But when laid alongside the tale of two other Cuban nationals – Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch – the truly corrupted nature of the US judicial system becomes frighteningly clear.
The Miami Five have been held as de facto political prisoners in the US for the last decade. Their crime? Alerting US authorities to a terrorist network operating out of Miami and its role in terror attacks abroad, in which civilians had been killed and injured.
This terror network was originally created by the US government, almost 40 years ago. Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch – both exiles from the Cuban Revolution – were its most active members and, consequently, are perhaps two of the most infamous individuals in the sordid annals of global terrorism.
SINGLE WORST ATROCITY
Indeed, Carriles and Bosch personify that most sinister innovation of the post war world – the employment of terrorism by states against progressive movements at home or abroad, or against progressive governments overseas.
Since 1959, terrorist attacks against Cuba and its citizens have left in excess of 3,500 people dead. But Carriles and Bosch are responsible for perhaps the single worst terrorist atrocity ever committed in the western hemisphere.
In August 1976, following a car bomb attack on the Cuban embassy in Colombia, a warning appeared in a Miami newspaper which read: “Very soon we will attack planes in mid-flight.”
And almost 32 years ago to the day – on October 6, 1976 – that is precisely what happened: Cubana Flight 455 was blown out of the sky just after it left Barbados, en route to Havana. All 73 passengers on board Flight 455 were killed – 57 Cubans, 11 Guyanese and five North Koreans. The dead included 24 members of the Cuban fencing team, who had just won medals in the Central American Championships. Many of them were teenagers on their first trip abroad.
Within days, both the FBI and CIA had listed Posada Carriles and Bosch as the chief suspects. The latter is reported to have spoken of how their campaign of terror demanded that they kill a load of little black girls and how there were no innocents on that plane. Bosch was imprisoned on minor charges in the US, in 1987. He was soon after released by then president, George Bush Snr.
Carriles was arrested by Venezeulan authorities in 1977, but escaped from custody twice with the help of Miami’s Cuban mafia.
NO WARNING BOMB CAMPAIGN
Fast forward to the early 1990s and the Cuban mafia in Miami is growing increasingly despondent at the prospects for the collapse of the Revolution, which they had believed was imminent with the fall of the Soviet Union. In fact Cuba had begun to thrive, primarily because of income generated from a tourism boom.
Over the course of 1997, a no warning bomb campaign targeted civilian, tourist outlets in Cuba – bars, nightclubs, restaurants. Eleven people were injured and an Italian national was killed. That same year, Posada Carriles admitted to the New York Times that he was behind the campaign. He was never charged for his terrorist activities, but did incur the displeasure of immigration officials.
However in May 2007, a US court dismissed the immigration charges against Carriles and today he lives freely and openly in Miami. This despite his characterisation as an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks by no less a body than the US Justice Department.
Yet, not only did US authorities have Carriles own admission to terror activities, in 1998 they were also presented with a comprehensive dossier on the Miami terror network and its activities – all in breach of US law. The dossier had been passed to the FBI by the Cuban authorities.
The information had, in turn, been collected by five Cuban nationals who were dispatched by their own government in order to infiltrate the network and pass on information that could prevent attacks on the island.
At the receiving end of these attacks for 40 years, the Cuban authorities had repeatedly called for action to be taken against the Miami mafia, to no avail. Thus, they decided to act themselves. Their reasoning was based on US law, which makes it illegal for a US citizen to take up arms against another country.
However, despite being presented with the evidence, the FBI failed to act. And so the information was then made available to the self-styled paper of record the New York Times. Not a single word ever made it into print.
Instead, the Miami Five – as the case has become known – were themselves arrested and charged. They were held in solitary confinement for 17 months, before being convicted of an array of offences, including the infamous charge of ‘conspiracy’ which is almost impossible to defend against.
Gerardo Hernandez received a double life sentence, while Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero received life sentences, without parole. Fernando Gonzales and Rene Gonzales got 19 and 15 years respectively. Today they are scattered in prisons across the US and family visits are made impossible by the authorities.
They were sentenced three months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York, just as President Bush was embarking on his global War on Terror