[Marxism] Leonard Weinglass interview on Cuban Five case

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 22 04:38:01 MDT 2005

Inspired and inspiring interview with Leonard Weinglass. Even if you
feel you are informed about the case, it's important to review this to
remind yourself of the importance of the many issues which are refracted
through this case, including the Posada link which Weinglass elaborates
and the importance of the family visitation angle. Today as Sgt. Carlos
Lazo gets to be with his children in the United States, for a visit that
was NEGOTIATED between the Bush Administration and the Cuban government
led by the devil himself, FIDEL CASTRO, it's worth reflecting on visits
between family members and their importance. Under the current rules of
US policy, Cubans in the US can only visit their very closest - that is,
first degree - family members once every THREE YEARS and then only for
TWO WEEKS. The Cuban and US governments agreed through negotiations to
a three MONTH visit for Lazo's children. While the Bush regime must be
hoping Lazo's kids defect, the Cuban government also took a risk since
the kids, who are of military age, might not want to fulfill military
obligations, and could avoid doing so were they to stay in the United

Meanwhile, imprisoned members of the Cuban Five, who furthermore really
can and should be described as jurically innocent, are denied visits by
members of their families, including their children, by Washington, in
a policy of extreme cruelty and vindictiveness. All of this could easily
be resolved were relations between our two countries normalized 100% and
whatever issues were and are in dispute between the states resolved via
negotiations. Cuba has resolved is issues with every other nation on the
planet - as far as I know - so it is only Washington which refuses to
agree to a general policy of normlizing relations and thus negotiating
differences, as all countries who recognize one another do. And this is
NOT the first time when Washington, and even the Bush administration,
have negotiated with the Cuban government. It's worth thinking about.

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

From: freethefive at yahoogroups.com [mailto:freethefive at yahoogroups.com] 
On Behalf Of freethe5
Sent: Saturday, October 22, 2005 1:43 AM
To: freethefive at yahoogroups.com
Subject: [freethefive] Weinglass interview/English only

Dear friends of the Cuban Five:

The following is an interview conducted by Catherine Murphy in August 2005. 
It is an excellent exchange with Leonard Weinglass that informs the Cuban 
Five's supporters and readers in general about the political context of
struggle for freedom and against terrorism.

Interview with Leonard Weinglass
By Catherine Murphy
Caracas. August 2005

CM: Good morning, Leonard Weinglass. Please talk about how you first got 
involved in this case of the Cuban Five.

LW:  I had heard about the case, of course, and was following the trial. The

trial was defended in Miami by public defenders. I kept abreast of what was 
happening, and was shocked and appalled at the convictions. One of the 
attorneys for the Five became ill, and really wasn't able to continue in the

case. It was at that point, that the family of Antonio Guerrero, my client, 
contacted me through a law firm in Havana. There are law firms in Havana - 
much to the shock of many Americans - and there is an independent bar, 
which represents people in criminal cases. One of the large Havana firms 
reached out to me and asked me if I would consider taking the case. I went
Cuba and met with family and with the law firm, and I agreed to take the

CM: The Five just won an enormous legal victory in the 11th Circuit Court of

Appeals. What is the significance of this victory in the current political

LW: Well to begin with, in the current political context it's great to have
victory at all! It's been quite a dry season the last several years, and to
have a victory in the case of the Five really has heartened people and
spirits.  Its very good in terms of the Cuban reaction has been remarkable.
strengthens the Cuban people. It's a follow-up to the Elian Gonzalez case. 
They brought Elian home, and now there's hope that they will bring the Five 
home as well. So it has a major impact on Cuban and on the Cuban people.

In terms of its narrower context - the legal profession and the judicial
the case represents a landmark decision. There has never been a case 
before this one where an appeals court on the federal level reversed a
trial judge who refused to change venue. So this became a first. It's a 
landmark decision. It's also historic because it's the longest written
opinion on
the issue of venue. And it goes much deeper than all the other opinions.
opinions look at the question of whether twelve people in a jury box said
could be fair. In this case, the three-judge panel said that that wasn't
You must look at the social and political matrix of a community, and that
tell you better than the answers from jurors whether or not to the community

can be fair in a particular case. This will help many cases, many pending
called terrorism cases in United States where people are being tried in the 
midst of communities that cannot be fair. So, the case politically in the
sense, in Cuba, legally, judicially, has a major impact on our current

CM: Were you surprised at the verdicts? Was it a surprise for you and the 

LW: I have to be honest with you. I was very hopeful of the verdict. Anybody

who read the briefs that were filed with this court from both sides – and we

circulated the briefs to various law schools - got back unanimous decisions 
from the various Deans and professors of constitutional law, who told me
it would be inconceivable to lose this case. Yet, of course the reality is
many cases that should be won are lost because of the climate that exists.
I was legally and professionally very hopeful, because I knew our case was 
very strong, but I was also aware of the climate, and I was surprised.

CM: I'm also curious about the timeline of the case. The Five were arrested
1998, but not actually convicted until 2001, soon after the September 11 
attacks. What is the relevance of that time line?

LW:  Yes, they were arrested 1998, but they went to trial in 2000. The trial

ended in June of 2001, but they were not sentenced until after September 11,

in December of 2001. So 9/11 impacted their sentencing, which was very 
crucial, and they all received maximum sentences. They received maximum 
sentences from a judge who had indicated throughout the trial that she was 
aware that these men entered the United States without weapons or 
explosives, that during their stay in the United States they did no property

damage. They injured no one. They threatened no one. Therefore, they were 
information-gatherers. And they were information-gathers of particular
namely the mercenary groups that had formed in Southern Florida.

The judge was very aware of all of this, and had become educated in the 
process of the trial. The judge was also educated, as the appellate court
on the 40-year long history of terrorist actions against Cuba. So there were

indications, and hope, that the judge, given that education and that 
background and her opinions on who they men were and what they were 
about, would give lenient sentences. Instead she gave maximum sentences 
to everyone, including my client who was one of the three who got life, and 
who the government conceded in their opening statement that they didn't 
have a single document of classified material on. This is the first
conspiracy to
commit espionage case in our history, without the single classified
The Five are serving the same sentences as Robert Hansen, and some of the 
most to notorious spies in our history, who gave hundreds if not thousands
top-secret classified documents to the Soviet Union. The judge gave the same

life sentence to my client who didn't give over a single document.

CM: What is the relation of this case to this Posada Carriles case, which is

getting mainstream US press now?

LW:  The case is certainly related, even in the appeals decision that we got

this week. In footnote 170 of that opinion they referred to Posada Carriles,

and refer to him correctly as a terrorist. I think the Posada Carriles case 
has surfaced, even before this decision, the hypocrisy of admitting Posada 
Carriles while at the same time putting the Five away for up-to-life
The Posada deportation case really brings it all to the surface in a way
the Five case standing alone was not able to. So it's been a big benefit to 
have the two cases now paralleled in the media, with commentary about the 
hypocrisy of admitting a terrorist and locking up the anti-terrorists.

CM: Do you think there is a case for his extradition to Venezuela?

LW: From what I know, there clearly is a basis to extradite him. However, I 
think, having done deportation cases, and the LA Eight case in particular, 
where we're in our eighth year of fighting a deportation, I think what the
of the US government is, given that Carriles' health is poor, to draw out
deportation proceedings as long as possible and hope that he'll pass away 
before they actually have to make a decision as to his deportation.

CM: Many groups who have mobilized around the world to support the Five. 
What relevance have national and international support organizations had to 
the case?

LW: The judges of the 11th Circuit followed the law, and reported honestly
the facts. That's what an international support network can do for you. The 
worst thing that can happen to anyone in the American criminal justice
is to be ignored and to be alone. The best thing that can happen is to have
support base and people watching, because it's only when people are 
watching and are aware that the system functions the way it ought to
That happened in the case of the Five. I believe it happened because of the 
large domestic and international support. I always refer to the Angela Davis

case, which I was involved in also, in which the major international support

played a key role. Angela Davis was tried in the early 70s, an African-
American woman, a member of the Communist Party, accused of a 
conspiracy to killing a judge, tried before an all-white jury, and acquitted
the first vote. I think that was a testament to the organizing in that case
I  think the same can be said for the case of the Cuban Five.

CM: How is the issue of the families and the families' rights to visitation
received by the US public? Is the US populace sensitive to this issue?

LW: I think there is sensitivity to this issue, and it's a growing
I think we'll see more of it as the case generates more and more attention.
I was told 
that the decision of the 11th Circuit has been written about in 317
which is more than the case has generated in seven years. So I think there
going to be more attention on the case, which will bring more attention to
families.  But just looking at it from the legal side. Amnesty International
now the UN Subgroup on Arbitrary Detentions have both issued rulings on 
the violations of International Human Rights law by precluding the visits of
wives to see their husbands.

It is a clear violation on Intl Human Rights Law.  I also point out that it
is a
violation of the Bureau of Prison regulations.  Federal Prison regulations 
require that the families be able to visit, and the answer is very clear.
administrators have learned over the years that as the family is able to
the morale of the prisoners and therefore the morale of the prison itself,
elevated. So it's in the interest of the prisons to encourage family visits.
it's even been codified into law. So to preclude the two wives from visiting
a violation not only of the constitutional rights of the inmates, but of the
of Prisons regulations. So I think there will be more and more attention
paid to
it. Which is good because now that the cases have been reversed, I think 
there will be a major push to let the wives visit their husbands.

CM: What do you see as a lasting significance of the issues that are being 
debated here in terms of the War against Terrorism in the US? What lasting 
relevance to us this case have for people in the United States?

LW: The case really does surfaced the history of the 40-year relations 
between the US and Cuba. It reminds me so much of the Pentagon papers 
trial, which I was involved with and which surfaced the whole 40-year
of the US and Vietnam - 46 volumes of materials laid out that history. And
case is the same. It brings to light the whole buildup of the Paramilitary
in Southern Florida, the support they receive from the 650,000 exiles who
there, the camps that are present.  On US TV we see over and over again 
replays of the camps in Afghanistan where the Bin Laden forces were 
allegedly trained. Well, the Miami people have the same on their
They have on TV the camps that exist in Southern Florida. They are men in 
uniforms wearing camouflage suits and carrying automatic weapons, and it's 
shown on Florida TV. Which incidentally is picked up in Cuba. So the Cubans 
for years have picked up television with images of the people who have been 
trained to come at them. And over 3,000 people have been killed in forty 
years. Many thousands more have been injured. So, this case surfaces that in

a way that was hidden from the American public. Most Americans don't know 
that the United States is host to mercenary forces that operate out of our 
territory and attack another country with which we are not at war. This is
clear violation of the neutrality act legally, and it's something that would
totally offensive, I believe, to most Americans if it surfaced as of fact.
And this
case is doing that.

CM: Is there are working definition in the US of the word terrorism? Has 
anyone demanded a definition?

LW: There are definitions out there, and the law attempts to codify
but it's difficult to do so. I know in the case of the LA Eight, for
instance, we
argue that the law is being selectively administered. We brought in one of
leaders of the Contra network in the war against the Sandinista government
Nicaragua. He testified that with government support and backing, he
the United States to raise money for the Contra. And then we put into 
evidence the Contra working book which called for attacks and the killing of

lawyers, teachers, leading clerics, which clearly would satisfy any
definition of
terrorism - attacks on a civilian population designed to spread terror. And
court did make a ruling in our favor. The case was dismissed on the grounds 
of selective prosecution, and yet this was another episode where the 
government came back with a different charge and the case went on. We 
have tried, in many different ways and in different cases, lawyers have
tried to
do what your question suggests, and that is to un-mask the manipulative use 
of the word terrorism to achieve a political goal. 

CM: What are the next steps for the defense in the case of the Cuban Five?

LW: There are a number of possible steps. I don't know which path will be 
followed.  Right now the government is seeking a delay of 30 days in which
decide whether or not to appeal the judgment of the three-judge panel. [The 
government prosecutors appealed the 11th Circuit Court 3-judge decision for 
a full-panel hearing, en banc. A decision is expected soon.]

That moves it up to September 30 before we'll know what the government 
intends to do. If they ask the entire 11th Circuit court to review the
we will oppose it.  The court will make a decision as to whether or not to 
accept.  If the court takes it, then we will make a full new appeal in the
Circuit.  If the court refuses to take it, the government can then go to the

Supreme Court. And once again, the Supreme Court will decide whether or 
not they will take it. My feeling at this point is that neither the 11th
nor the Supreme Court will take the case, and the case will be remanded, or
back to Miami for trial.

CM: What will this mean if it is remanded to Miami?

LW: It means that the 11th Circuit three judge panel that issued the
will write an order which is a remand saying the case is back in Miami, and 
that all the convictions are set aside and it will be up to a court in Miami
assign a new venue for a second trial.

CM: What do you think the request for a 30-day extension reflects? 

LW: I think it reflects the fact that the US Attorney in Miami must consult
and get the decision from the Justice Department in Washington as well as 
the office of the solicitor general in Washington before they can decide 
whether or not to appeal. The final decision as to whether or not the 
government can appeal will come out of Washington. 

CM: Lastly, what you most like the US public to know about this case?

LW: The most important thing to know is that there are five Cuban men who 
provided assistance in defense of their country, which was under attack by a

group of mercenaries who were terrorizing that country. The men were 
apprehended in Florida, and they were charged wrongly and wrongly 
convicted in a wrong venue, as now found by an appellate court. To force 
these men, who have now served seven years in maximum-security prisons, 
to undergo a second trial would be an injustice.  I would like people to
that these men should not have to face a second prosecution. They were 
wrongfully charged in the beginning, they were wrongfully convicted, and
should be sent home with an apology for what happened.

CM: Thank you for speaking with us today, Leonard Weinglass.

LW: Thank you.


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