Published on Monday, October 6, 2008 by The Guardian/UK
Treatment of Cuban Five: 'It's A Form of Torture'
In 1998, five Cuban men were arrested for infiltrating groups in the
by Duncan Campbell
It is nearly 10 years since Olga Salanueva and Adriana Perez last saw their husbands. René González and Gerardo Hernández are in jail in Marianna, Florida, and Victorville, California, members of the so-called Miami Five, all serving sentences stretching to double life for "conspiracy to act as a non-registered foreign agent".
Olga Salanueva Arango (L) and Adriana Perez O'Connor, wives of two Cuban nationals arrested and jailed on charges of intent to commit espionage and threatening US national security. (Photograph: Frank Baron)
Salanueva and Perez are in
Ever since the Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959 there have been attempts by exiled Cubans, often with the assistance of the US government, to remove him. Famously, the CIA was involved in a number of bungled assassination attempts, although they have pulled back from this tactic in recent years. The Cuban government claims that more than 3,000 people have died as a result of various plots, from the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to the more recent attacks, such as the bomb placed on a Cuban plane in 1976, in which 73 people were killed, and the explosions in Havana hotels and clubs in 1997 that attempted to derail the booming Cuban holiday industry. Such plots have usually been hatched in
In 1998, the five were arrested and effectively accused of espionage. The
With the help of a legal team headed by the veteran American civil rights lawyer Leonard Weinglass, they appealed and, remarkably, in 2005 won the right to a retrial outside Florida. But the prosecution appealed, the retrial was stalled and the case is now due to go to the supreme court in December. In the meantime, the two women have never been allowed into the
"They give us different arguments every time as to why they will not give us a visa," says Perez, 38. "They have alleged that we may be a threat to the security of the
Perez says that, after the initial arrests of the five, attempts were made to persuade them to plead guilty or inform on their co-defendants and on
"We keep in touch by letters and telephone calls but they are limited to a number of minutes," says Salanueva, 48. At the time of the arrests, their two daughters, Irma and Ivette, were aged 14 and four months. Now the older daughter is a qualified psychologist. "I have applied to see René nine times and been refused nine times. A number of members of the family have died since he was in prison and we have not been able to let him know directly." She said that the five, who are all held in different prisons scattered around the country, have adjusted to life in jail and do not have problems with the other inmates. "They have good relations with the other prisoners, I think they have a lot of respect and they are able to help the others with their documents and appeals and things like that."
While it would be impossible to be unaware of the case in Cuba, where massive roadside billboards of the men are part of the landscape, the case has received remarkably little coverage in the US, although there are support groups there, the most active of which are in San Francisco. "We have come up against a wall of silence in
They do, however, enjoy support from a variety of writers, artists and public figures in the
Few American politicians would risk espousing such a cause and certainly not on the eve of a presidential election in which
"We do not have great hopes in a change of power," says Perez. "There have been many changes of administration in the
What makes the
So tomorrow, Perez and Salanueva will be protesting outside the
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs