By Leni Reeves
I did not think I would see this day. The United States has a record of imprisoning prisoners for many years. Examples are Mumia Abu- Jamal, imprisoned after more than 30 years; Leonard Peltier, almost 40; Sundiata Acoli still not released after 40 years; and Oscar Lopez Rivera, about 33 years.
The Cuban 5 are five Cuban men who were in U.S. prisons serving long sentences after being wrongly accused by the U.S. government of conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States, and convicted in Miami on June 8, 2001. They are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González. In their defense, they were involved in monitoring the actions of Miami-based terrorist groups, in order to prevent terrorist attacks on their country of Cuba.
For more than 40 years, anti-Cuba terrorist organizations based in Miami have engaged in terrorist activities against Cuba and those who advocate a normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba. The Cuban 5 infiltrated the terrorist organizations to inform Cuba of imminent attacks. The Cuban government informed the FBI. But instead of arresting the terrorists, the FBI arrested the Cuban 5 in 1998.
The release of the Cuban 5 was a first priority goal for the Cuban people. Many people internationally, including the United States, have been involved in the campaign to free the Cuban 5. A news blackout in the United States meant that few people knew about this case.
Rene and Fernando González were recently released after serving their full sentences. Gerardo, who was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years, Ramon, sentenced to 30 years, and Antonio, sentenced to 21 years and 10 months, were released on Dec. 17, 2014, as part of the deal involving a U.S. intelligence agent imprisoned in Cuba.
I was in Cuba when the news of the release of the remaining three of the five heroes was announced. People were in the streets cheering, crying, hugging and kissing strangers, delirious with joy. Cubans are very family-oriented, and these men who had sacrificed their freedom, their youth, their family life and their own lives to protect their fellow citizens were like family members who had suddenly and unexpectedly been freed. Some religious people said that San Lázaro had made this miracle because it was his saint’s day, a major religious holiday in Cuba. Everyone knew that it was a victory for the Cuban people.
The five heroes never gave in despite solitary confinement, deprival of family visits and possibly dying in a U.S. prison. They never surrendered or denounced the revolution for the sake of their own freedom, but won that freedom as a result of their own courage and that of the Cuban people and their supporters worldwide.
What did Obama actually do?
• He “traded” the remaining three prisoners of the Cuban 5 for a U.S. intelligence agent, probably Rolando Sarraff Trujillo. Alan Gross, another U.S. agent, was freed on humanitarian grounds, part of the deal although not technically part of the trade.
• He announced the establishment of diplomatic relations.
• He announced a policy of cooperation on specific mutual interests such as disaster response, drug trafficking and health.
• He stated that Secretary of State John Kerry would “review” Cuba’s being on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
• He suggested that licenses for travel, commerce, telecommunications and financial dealings with Cuba will be easier to obtain.
What he did not do:
• The blockade of Cuba continues in force.
• U.S. citizens still need to have a license or “permission” to travel to Cuba.
• Guantanamo remains in the hands of the United States.
• He did not end the overt and covert attempts to destabilize Cuba.
Like with Cuba, the United States is still seeking to destabilize other Latin American countries like Venezuela and we must remain vigilant. More on this in upcoming issues.
Leni Reeves is a physician, activist, guitarist and volunteer firefighter. Read about some of her Cuba experiences at www. usmdincuba.blogspot.com, and contact her at lenivreeves@gmail. com.