Harvard Magazine Publishes Letter From
Free the Five Webmaster
Aug. 24, 2009
Reprinted from Harvard Magazine
Jorge Domínguez [Harvard Magazine, July-August 2009] is incorrect when he writes that Raúl Castro “made a specific proposal to exchange such political prisoners…for five Cuban spies in U.S. prisons.” In a legal context, spies obtain classified national security information, but the Cuban Five never even saw, much less possessed, a single classified document. They came to the U.S. not to spy on the government, but to infiltrate gangs of anti-Cuban terrorists in Miami who have been responsible for acts of terrorism spanning decades, including a series of Havana hotel bombings in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist, the notorious 1976 mid-air bombing of a Cubana Airliner which killed 73 people, and many, many more. Two Salvadorans sentenced to death for those hotel bombings are, ironically, on the list of so-called “political prisoners.”
The Cuban Five are heroes. Information they uncovered foiled terrorist plots, including two plane bombings. They were convicted by a biased Miami jury in the only trial in U.S. history condemned by the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Their imprisonment for nearly 11 years represents a gross miscarriage of justice. The president of Cuba’s parliament, Ricardo Alarcón, said recently that “As long as this injustice continues, it will be a formidable obstacle, insurmountable, for having normal relations between the two countries.”
Raúl Castro spoke not of “exchange” but “gesture for gesture.” The distinction is critical, because precisely that formula was used in 1979, when four Puerto Rican prisoners were released by the U.S., followed 10 days later by Cuba’s release of four Americans imprisoned in Cuba. If President Obama wants to see normal relations with Cuba, releasing the Cuban Five as the first “gesture” would be a huge step towards that goal.
Steven Patt, Ph.D. ’75
The writer maintains the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five’s website, www.freethefive.org.