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Part 2 of Saul Landau's Interview of Cuban Fiver Gerardo Hernandez

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magbana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-23-09 11:17 AM
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Part 2 of Saul Landau's Interview of Cuban Fiver Gerardo Hernandez
No matter how many things you've read about the Cuban Five, you haven't
read anything which humanizes the men like this, or which describes in
such vivid language some of what their experiences were like. It helps
to explain why these men are viewed as heroes in their home country.)

April 23- 29, 2009

I guess theyd seen a lot of James Bond movies

Telephone conversation with Gerardo Hernandez from the U.S. prison (Part II)

By Saul Landau (from notes)

Saul Landau: Did you personally meet any of the terrorists, as you call

Gerardo Hernandez: No, I saw some of them. But I had no contact with them.
Some of us were accused of being illegal agents. I had a false
identity -- Manuel Viramonte. I compiled information the other agents
delivered to me, those who had maintained their own identities, like Rene
Gonzalez. He kept his own name. He stole an airplane from Cuba. Someone like
that can count on gaining the trust of, and can approach an organization.
Not so in my case, since I didnt even have a real story. So my mission was
to compile information the others gave me, and send it to Cuba.

Landau: During the day you worked as a graphic artist?

Hernandez: I was more of an independent contractor. At least that was the
story. I did a few illustrations for a newspaper, but it was just to
maintain the image.

Landau: So you supervised those who had infiltrated violent groups? Explain
how you did this.

Hernandez: Its not appropriate to give too many details, right? But in the
trial documents it shows we had agents with access to these
organizations. Their function was to protect Cuba by learning countless
pieces of information regarding terrorist plans of these organizations.

For example, Rene joins the Brothers to the Rescue and he hears a comment
from Basulto that they have a weapon ready to test on targets in the
Everglades. They fire it and it works. Now they try to find a place in Cuba
to fire it. Well, Im alerted through previously arranged methods of
communication, like a beeper. Id call him and with coded language wed
arrange to meet. Wed take precautions and meet and hed tell me about them
testing this weapon.

Or, Alpha 66 is planning an expedition to fire weapons at the Cuban coast or
they want to put a bomb on a plane full of tourists going from Central
America to Cuba. Im not making this up. Id try to encourage them to find
out more while not taking unnecessary risks. I then sent this information to
Cuba and Cuba would respond telling me to do this or that, to seek
information through this means or that. Basically, that was my job.

Landau: Describe what happened the day the FBI arrested you.

Hernandez: It was a Saturday . I was sleeping. It was
about 6 a.m. I lived in a small, one-room apartment. My bed was close to the
door. I remember hearing in my sleep someone trying to force open the lock.
I heard a loud sound as they knocked the door down. It was a swat team. By
the time I sat up in bed, I was surrounded by people with machine guns and
helmets and all you would see in the movies. They arrested me, handcuffed
me, and looked in my mouth. I guess they had seen a lot of James Bond movies
and they thought I would have cyanide in my mouth. So, they checked to make
sure that I wouldnt poison myself. I asked them why they arrested me. They
said, You know why. They put me in a car and took me to the office of the
head of the Southern Florida FBI Bureau on 163rd Ave. here in Miami. There,
the interrogation began.

We were put in separate offices, each one of us. They sat me in an office,
handcuffed me to the wall. There, they interrogated me. I had the honor
that Hector Pesquera came to see me. He was the director of the South
Florida branch of the FBI, and he was Puerto Rican. And my assumed identity,
Manuel Viramonte, was Puerto Rican, too. I told him I was from Puerto Rico
and so he started to ask me questions about Puerto Rico. All kinds of
questions. Who was the governor in such-and-such a year? Where did you live?
What bus did you take to get to school? What route did you take? And when he
saw that I was able to answer these questions he got really upset. He
slammed his fist into the table and said, I know you are Cuban and you are
going to rot in prison because Cuba isnt going to do anything for you.

Then, not him specifically, but the others who took part in the
interrogation, started to try all sorts of techniques. They would say to me,
You know how this business works. You know that you are an illegal
official. You know what it says in the books, that Cuba will never recognize
that they sent you here with a fake passport. Theyll never recognize you,
so you will rot in prison. The best thing you can do is cooperate with us
and well offer you whatever you want. We will change your identity, give
you a new bank account. They said whatever, so that I would rat on the
others. They would say, Here is the phone. Call your Consulate. Strategies
designed to get me to turn. This is what happened to all 5 of us separately.
Later, they took us to the prison, the Center of Federal Detention in Miami,
and put us in the hole.

Landau: For how long?

Hernandez: 17 months. The first five were hard for the 5 of us, of course.
Those with false identities didnt have anyone to write to; nor did anyone
write to us; no one to telephone. Sometimes, we were allowed phone calls.
The guards would open the little window in the door, and put the phone
there. Arent you going to call anyone? Your family in Puerto Rico?

No, I would say, Im not going to call.

But why? theyd say, to be cruel, because they knew I wasnt Puerto Rican
and wouldnt use the phone. Those were difficult months.

Landau: Describe the hole?

Hernandez: Its an area that every prison has, where they put prisoners for
disciplinary, or for protective purposes if they cant be with the rest of
the population. The Miami cell was on the 12th floor. The cells are for 2
people, but we were alone in ours, individually for the first 6 months
with no contact. Later, our lawyers took legal measures so that we could
meet in pairs. In those first 6 months in solitary confinement, we had a
shower inside the cell so you can bathe whenever you want. But you get
everything in the cell wet when you take a shower. Youre in the cell 23
hours a day, and one hour a day of recreation where they take you to another
place. In Miami, it was practically just another cell, but a bit bigger and
with this grid through which you could see a little piece of the sky. You
could tell if it was day or night, and a bit of fresh air would come
through. That was what they called recreation. But often we didnt go
because theyd take too long handcuffing you, checking your body, your cell,
to get you there and back. Sometimes, theyd put us all together in the
cell; so during that hour we could talk. The regimen was strict. They used
to punish prisoners who commit a serious indiscipline. There we were 23,
some times 24 hours a day, inside those 4 small walls, with nothing to do.
Its very difficult from a humane point of view. And many people couldnt
take it. You could see them start to lose their minds, start screaming.

Landau: Did you do something bad?

Hernandez: No, we were sent there from the beginning. They told us it was to
protect us from the general population. But in my opinion, it had more to do
with their attempt to get us to turn. After fear and intimidation didnt
work they thought, Well lets put them in solitary for a few months and see
if they change their minds.

The only thing to read was the Bible, and even for that, you had to submit a
written request to the chaplain. I made the request, to have something to
read, and got a bible. When they brought it to me -- I dont know if it was
a coincidence or what -- it had some cards inside, including the telephone
numbers of the FBI. Just in case I had forgotten, right? As if, Well, this
communist guy is asking for the Biblehe must be about to turn.

Thats how I imagine they were thinking, or scheming.

Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies Fellow making a film (with
Jack Willis) on the Cuban Five. His other films are available at
[email protected] e-mail address is being protected from
spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Los Angeles, California
Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews /
"Cuba - Un Paraso bajo el bloqueo"
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