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Part 3 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-30-09 08:23 AM
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Part 3 of Saul Landau's Interview of Cuban Fiver Gerardo Hernandez

Edited on Thu Apr-30-09 09:21 AM by magbana
("Cuba is in the U.S. backyard. That little island suffers the misfortune of being 90 miles from the most powerful country in the world. Cuba refused to be the U.S. spa and brothel like in the good old days when marines urinated on the Jose Marti statue. Those times remain present in the minds of Cubans. Cubas worst crime is to be free and sovereign -- without the U.S. Ambassador dictating as he did for about half a century. Thats why Cuba cannot be forgiven; for wanting to have its own system. Remember they owned the casinos, industries, best land; they practically owned the country. That ended in 1959; something for which they cant forgive us.")
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Telephone conversation with Gerardo Hernandez
from the U.S. prison (Part III)

By Saul Landau (from his notes)

Saul Landau: Later you went to prison at Lompoc ?

Gerardo Hernandez: Yes, we had a legal battle to get us out of the hole and into the general population. Then came the trial, and after the trial, another month back in the hole. Then, after the sentencing, they sent us to different penitentiaries. I was sent to Lompoc in 2003, and into the box. That happened in all 5 prisons on the same day. It still isnt clear why, or who gave the order. Lompoc is a very old prison, apart from the hole, which is where they send people who attack guards or set fire to mattresses; for the incorrigible, the box, a basement below the hole -- 10 double-doored cells. They put me down there, in my underwear, barefoot for a month. I didnt know if it was day or night, because youre inside for 24 hours. Theres no hour of recreation or anything. A leak dripped from the cell above. Whenever that person flushed the toilet, dirty water would run down my cells walls.

I complained about health dangers. But they had planned to keep us there for one year for special administrative measures. They had warned me I wouldnt have any contacts, no visits, no nothing. To communicate with my lawyer, I had to submit a letter. I had to make an envelope out of a piece of paper, and seal it with toothpaste. Nothing to read, nothing to write with, nothing! That was quite a difficult month. They told us wed be there for a year, and at the end of that year theyd review our cases; we could be there indefinitely. When the guards planned to take me for a bath 3 or 4 guards would handcuff me. The other cells had their exterior doors open. The interior door was like a closed fence, but the iron exterior door that isolated you completely, was left open, so people wouldnt go crazy. But mine was always closed. When theyd take me to shower, theyd close the other doors so no one would even see me -- because one of the rules was that I could have contact with no one. I was there for a month, not knowing if it was day or night, dirty water running down my walls, barefoot, with the light on 24 hours a day; hearing screams of people around me, some of whom gone crazy. One day, a Thursday, they brought me papers to sign, saying I would be there for one year. The following Tuesday, without explanation, just as theyd brought me there without knowing anything, they took me out. We found out that lots of people had protested outside the prison. Members of Congress had inquired about us.

Landau: Under what pretext were you thrown in the box? How did you keep sane?

Hernandez: Pretext? None. The lieutenant who took me to the hole asked me: Why are you going to the hole? I said, Youre asking me? You should be telling me. When I asked theyd tell me, Orders from above. Coincidentally, this took place a month before we were to present our appeals, when we most needed contact with our lawyers on finalizing the appeal documents. We went to the hole, a mysterious coincidence, right before our appeal.

How could I stand it? We were acutely aware of the wide support from people trying to get us justice. That really affected us. We knew Cuba would protest, but also that friends throughout the world, including in this country, would do everything possible to free us. We did get out of the hole, finally. Indeed, protests took place in many countries, and in front of the Bureau of Prisons. Such actions really give you hope, strength. And you know you cant turn on your comrades people who wouldnt fail you and hope you wont fail them. So, you spend all day thinking: Nothing can happen to me in here, I cant have a panic attack, a nervous breakdown, I cannot yield, not even a little bit because too many people out there will hold that against me. That gives you strength.

Landau: Did you think about your family?

Hernandez: The U.S. government wont give her a visa to visit me -- for 10 years. Denying me the chance to see my wife is part of this process; the interrogation, incentives to betray, months of solitary confinement, The FBIs or Administrations plans didnt materialize. Initially, they thought: Arrest these Castro agents, threaten them and theyll grovel, because this is the richest and best country in the world. Cuba is a poor country, a dictatorship For the past 50 years, theyve told Americans, Cuba is hell -- but you cant go there to see for yourself.

Americans are free to do many things, but not travel 90 miles to visit that country to check the governments claims. They planned for the 5 to switch sides, create this fantastic propaganda show: wed denounce whatever they thought we should denounce, condemn the revolution; like they do with defecting athletes or musician. All you have to say is: I come here seeking freedom. The government squeezes the maximum from them; then theyre forgotten. That was more or less the plan for us, but it didnt work. In retaliation they were going to make our lives as difficult as possible. For 10 years. Prisoners e-mail their families. They dont let me use e-mail, not even with my wife.

Landau: What did Cuba do to the United States to deserve punishment for 50 years?

Hernandez: Cubas biggest crime: its desire to be a sovereign and independent nation. History goes back beyond 50 years. Cuba was winning the independence war against Spain <1895-98>, when the United States said: This is no good for us! Suddenly and mysteriously, the USS Maine explodes , the pretext for U.S. intervention to defeat Spain. Then they put the Platt Amendment in Cubas constitution .

Go back much further: Cuba, the ripe fruit, would fall into U.S. hands; Cuba is in the U.S. backyard. That little island suffers the misfortune of being 90 miles from the most powerful country in the world. Cuba refused to be the U.S. spa and brothel like in the good old days when marines urinated on the Jose Marti statue. Those times remain present in the minds of Cubans. Cubas worst crime is to be free and sovereign -- without the U.S. Ambassador dictating as he did for about half a century. Thats why Cuba cannot be forgiven; for wanting to have its own system. Remember they owned the casinos, industries, best land; they practically owned the country. That ended in 1959; something for which they cant forgive us.

Landau: Youre being punished as a symbol of disrespect?

Hernandez: Yes, but theres another fundamental element, in my opinion. The FBI was in an uncomfortable position, because it became known that the FBI had penetrated the Brothers to Rescue using Juan Pablo Roque . He was their agent; they paid him to give them information. When this came out, the FBI looked bad to the extreme right wingers in Miami. The FBI looked for a scapegoat, so they could say: We nabbed these five guilty ones.

Landau: What did Brothers to the Rescue hope to achieve with your trial?

Hernandez: Mainly, an economic goal. Some of them have legitimate political views and are patriots in their own way, but many are in it for economic reasons. The anti-Castro industry is a multi-million dollar industry. For 50 years, people have lived off it: radio commentators to heads of the 3,500 organizations sucking up federal money to achieve freedom in Cuba; or taking donations from the elderly to buy arms for the liberation of Cuba. It never occurred to Basulto to fly into Cuban airspace while people were giving him money to patrol the waters off Florida. Hed bought a few small planes with that donated money. When people stopped giving -- why would they do so if the Coast Guard would send rafters back to Cuba -- he thought, I better invent something else. Thats when he started flying into Cuban airspace to keep money coming in.

Also, in my opinion, Basulto, who is intelligent, may have wanted to provoke a serious conflict. They dream of the day the U.S. Army would wipe those revolutionaries off the planet. Upon those ashes theyd rebuild their own Cuba; the Cuba they had before the revolution. What they havent been able to do, the U.S. Army would do for them. Thats why they call the Bay of Pigs a betrayal. They thought the U.S. Army would support them at the Bay of Pigs. That was Kennedys betrayal. So, I dont doubt Basulto intended to create an international conflict. It didnt matter how many Cubans or Americans would die. All that mattered was getting their country back, what they consider to be their country.

Landau: In Miami, there was a rumor: Basulto was a Cuban agent. All his missions ended in failure or disaster.

Hernandez: That second part is true, but the first part I doubt it. Its a shame that lives were lost but I assure you Cuba did everything possible to prevent it. They sent 16 diplomatic notes through official channels, asking the U.S. not to allow The Brothers to fly into Cuban airspace.

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]

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WALTER LIPPMANN
Los Angeles, California
Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews /
"Cuba - Un Paraso bajo el bloqueo"
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"The Cuban combatants are ready to sacrifice their lives to free our countries, and in exchange for that aid to our freedom and the progress of our peoples, the only thing they will take away with them are the combatants that fell in the fight for freedom". . . Amilcar Cabral, Guinea-Bissau
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