wear the prison uniform with the same honor and pride with which a soldier wears his most
DEFENSE STATEMENT PRESENTED BY COMRADE
RAMÓN LABAÑINO SALAZAR AT THE SENTENCING HEARING HELD, DECEMBER 13, 2001
Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen:
First of all, I join in all of the arguments put
forward by my four brothers in this case and in my recognition of the professional
behavior of the officials in this court: Richard, the translators, the marshals, and Lisa.
The criminal attacks on the Twin Towers in
New York and the Pentagon in Washington took the lives of thousands of innocent people in
the United States, and we share in the anger and sorrow of the American people. It is our
fervent hope that such events are never repeated.
We who have devoted our lives to fighting
terrorism, to preventing atrocious acts like these from taking place; we who have tried to
save the lives of innocent human beings not only in Cuba but in the United States as well,
stand in this courtroom today to be sentenced precisely for preventing similar acts. Thus,
this punishment could not be more ironic and unfair!
The words of George W. Bush, president of
this country, in the name of which I am to be sentenced, clearly express the reasons why
we came to the United States and why we find ourselves in this courtroom today.
From this very city of Miami, terrorist acts
against my country, Cuba, have been planned, organized and directed. From here, the
terrorists and their activities are sponsored, encouraged and financed. They are given
shelter here as well. To mention just one well-known case, a terrorist and murderer not
only of Cubans but of people from the United States as well, Orlando Bosch, freely walks
the streets of Miami. And what is most regrettable of all is that all of this takes place
with the knowledge and consent of this countrys authorities. One need only
thoroughly read all of the evidence in our case, which gives a full account of all these
kinds of terrorist activities.
Cuba, my country, has suffered more than 42
years of terrorist acts, aggression, invasions and provocations, which have resulted in
the deaths of over 3,478 innocent human beings and physical injuries to over 2,099. Cuba,
like the United States, has the right to defend itself.
To offer just a few examples:
On March 4, 1960, the French ship La
Coubre was blown up in the port of Havana by agents of the CIA; 101 people were
killed as a result of this terrorist sabotage, including six French sailors.
On October 6, 1976, in a treacherous
terrorist attack perpetrated by Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, through Venezuelan
mercenaries, two bombs were detonated on a Cubana Airlines civilian aircraft that had
taken off from Barbados, cruelly killing 73 people (57 Cubans, including 24 youths from
the Cuban National Fencing Team, 11 young people from Guyana, and five Koreans). Some of
these terrorist murderers are in prison today in Panama, and enormous efforts are being
made here in Miami to have them set free. Here they are called "patriots" and
regarded as symbols; radio stations are raising funds for their defense and possible
escape from jail.
There have been 637 attempts on the life of
the president of Cuba, Fidel Castro.
Bacteriological terrorism aimed at humans,
plants and animals has also been used against my country, with a total of 344,203 people
affected and 158 dead, of whom 101 were children.
This is not paranoia, these are lives of
innocent human beings!
These terrorist groups we were acting
against not only carried out these kinds of activities in Cuba, but also here in the
United States. This news report, which is totally public and available to everyone,
provides a summary of the terrorist acts committed here in Miami, a total of over 68 acts
of violence. This article written by journalist Jim Mullin of the Miami New Times
on April 20-26, 2000, among many other incidents, reports the following:
1968: Orlando Bosch fires a bazooka from the
MacArthur Causeway against a Polish ship (Miami politicians would later declare an
"Orlando Bosch Day" to honor this terrorist).
1974: Exile leader José Elías de la
Torriente is murdered in Coral Gables for the failure of an invasion he was to lead to
1975 Luciano Nieves is murdered after
defending peaceful coexistence with Cuba.
1976: Emilio Milán, the news director at
WQBA-AM, has his legs blown off by a car bomb after publicly condemning the violence
perpetrated by the exile community.
1981: A bomb explodes in the Mexican
consulate on Brickell Ave., in protest over Mexicos relations with Cuba.
1996: A bomb explodes in the Little Havana
restaurant Centro Vasco, to protest a scheduled concert by Cuban singer Rosita Fornés.
2000: On April 11, outside the home of
Elián González relatives in Miami, radio journalist Scott Piasant de Obregón
holds up a T-shirt reading "Send the boy home, its a fathers right,"
and is physically attacked before the police arrive.
These things did not happen in Cuba. They
happened here in the United States, in Miami, in the cities and streets of this country
where we all live, where you and your children and families walk every day.
In the 1990s, terrorism, raids and
provocations against my country were stepped up, until in 1997 there was a wave of
terrorist acts against hotels and other tourism establishments that resulted in the murder
of an innocent Italian tourist, Favio Di Celmo.
How many more deaths of innocent human
beings must we witness before this insane and absurd policy towards Cuba is ended?
How many more human lives must be lost
before the FBI truly fulfills its duty and arrests the real criminals and terrorists who
act against the very people of the United States?
Could it be that this "fight against
terrorism" is pure rhetoric?
No, common sense would say that it is not.
And that is precisely why we are here today, because we do not want any of these things to
happen, in Cuba, in the United States, in Miami, or in any other part of the world. All
that we have done is this: to try to save the lives of innocent human beings, by
preventing terrorism and preventing a stupid war.
The same pattern can be observed in all of
the Cuban-American terrorists we know. José Basulto was recruited and trained by the CIA
and used in its war against my country, and he has kept up the practice of terrorism and
provocation until today, just like the members of such organizations as the Cuban American
National Foundation, Alpha 66, Comandos F-4, the Democratic National Unity Party (PUND),
Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), and the many others referred to in our evidence.
These terrorists represent to Cuba what the perpetrators of the horrific acts committed
against the United States represent to this country.
Cuba has never trusted these characters, and
it never will. Nor should the United States trust them, much less protect them. This is a
serious mistake, which could explain in part why events like those of September 11 happen.
My country has suffered from terrorism for
more than 42 years. Today the United States is suffering, and if this problem is not
eradicated at the root, it could continue to suffer tomorrow. Here in the United States
there are more than 800 organizations of a violent nature; this country is the one most
vulnerable to these kinds of criminal acts. Terrorism is the true enemy of the national
security of the United States. Maintaining a stance of inactivity or indifference, or
worse yet, of complicity and concealment of terrorists and terrorism, is the worst crime
that can be committed against the national security of this nation; and that is precisely
what is happening in this case. Those who protect these groups and individuals are the
ones really endangering the United States national security.
And that is why, from this forum, I denounce
the law enforcement agencies of the United States that have concealed and failed to take
action against terrorism and terrorists!
For many years, Cuba has passed information
on to various government agencies in the United States, up to the highest level; detailed,
documented information, complete with names and conclusive evidence of criminal acts and
murders. Our own evidence in this case is a full array of that information. And even with
all this information in their hands, they have done nothing. There has not been a single
arrest, or even a single investigation carried out or underway.
With our arrest, all they have attempted to
do is to silence the source of information, to keep serious acts of terrorism like these
from disclosure and to hide the truth that so brutally hits us today. Moreover, the FBI
has conspired with the terrorists themselves and the extreme right wing in Miami to damage
and obstruct any kind of rapprochement and cooperation between our two peoples and
governments. Meanwhile, the criminals are happily walking the streets outside here today,
laughing at this courtroom. There cannot be a greater offense or stain on these
authorities, on the flag presiding this courtroom, and on that seal representing the ideal
of true justice.
All that Cuba wants is to live in peace and
tranquility. It does not want a war, just as the people of the United States do not want a
war. The military leaders of the United States do not want it either, because they know
very well that Cuba poses no danger whatsoever to this country. That is why our work has
also been aimed at preventing a criminal war, which would only lead to the deaths of
innocent people, not only from Cuba, but also from the United States.
At no time have we sought out information
that could place the national security of this country in danger. This is pure
manipulation, which we will never accept, and a reason for which we decided to come to
this trial, in addition to clearly exposing the truth about all of the criminal acts
perpetrated from U.S. territory against Cuba and the United States itself.
It is not Cuba that has come to the United
States for the purpose of an invasion, aggression, or terrorist acts of all kinds. The
reality is the complete opposite, and quite simply, Cuba has the basic right to defend
itself. That is all that we have done, without causing harm to anyone or anything.
As long as this criminal policy against my
people persists, there will continue to be men like us, as a basic measure of
self-defense, just as the United States urgently needs to learn about the inner workings
of the terrorist organizations attacking it today. This is a reality that no one can bring
to an end.
What the members of the Miami extreme right
are really seeking is to create a conflict through some sort of provocation that will
result in a U.S. military attack against Cuba. And as I have said, this is not what my
people, or my government, or the people of the United States want. General Sheehans
testimony regarding the infiltrations into Cuba by Ramón Saúl Sánchez and his
"Democracy" group, revealed that he did not want these elements to provoke a war
with Cuba, which could cost the lives of many young men in the U.S. armed forces. Numerous
similar points of view were expressed in this courtroom.
As for the prosecution, we have seen a truly
shameful and reprehensible behavior that has nothing to do with justice and the search for
truth. They first tried to suppress all of our evidence on the terrorist acts perpetrated
both in Cuba and here in the United States. They used every means possible to try to
suppress 90% of our evidence in this case, that is, the truth about our mission here.
The prosecutors have manipulated and
distorted the facts. They have tried to control this courtroom at all times. They have
used both subtle and blatant threats. They have resorted to blackmailing witnesses under
the threat of legally incriminating them if they did not plead the Fifth Amendment. They
even went so far as to try to blackmail four-star General Charles Whilhem, former chief of
the Southern Command, to stop him from testifying for the defense.
There have been attempts to conceal evidence
(an 8mm video, when FBI agent Al Alonso prevented the original from being turned over to
the defense; this was a key piece of evidence for the most serious charge in this case).
For us, the prosecutors do not represent the
government of the United States, and that is why for us, this is not a case of the
Government of the United States vs. Gerardo Hernández. Actually, the prosecution has very
skillfully represented the small extremist right-wing sector of the Cuban community,
terrorists like José Basulto and organizations like Alpha 66, the Cuban American National
Foundation and Comandos F-4. They even went so far as to embrace and kiss these
individuals right in this courtroom, in full view of everyone here. If something about
this trial astonished me, it was the tremendous zeal, the unlimited efforts made by the
prosecution and all their advisors to faithfully represent this criminal sector, at any
However, the defense has shown the truth,
dignity and the real stance of the American people towards Cuba. It was the defense that
brought in generals and other military personnel and civilians who have contributed to
carrying out this policy towards my country, such as: General Charles Whilhem; Admiral
Atkinson; Colonel Eugene Carol; Colonel Buckner; Richard Nuccio, former advisor to U.S.
President William Clinton on Cuban affairs. Many of them appeared on a fully voluntary
basis, and in this small detail lies a very big message for those willing to understand
Ladies and gentlemen: this is a time of
major changes; we are in the 21st century. Today the United States has relations with
China. It has relations with Viet Nam, where 56,000 citizens of this country died. It is
taking part in talks with North Korea, and many other countries with which it seemed
impossible to have relations. Why not with Cuba?
It is true that to carry out our tasks, we
needed to resort to unconventional methods. We have done so for obvious reasons of
personal security, and never with the intent of harming anyone, or cheating or deceiving
anyone, much less the government or institutions of this country.
The evidence is overwhelmingly clear in all
respects, judge ufs based on it! From the very first day of this trial, we acknowledged
our true identities and our responsibilities, but I never accepted, and never will accept,
any implication of espionage, or of trying to deceive this country.
I want to express special thanks for the
work of our attorneys, for their courage and professionalism. For us, and for everyone, we
have won this trial. History will rectify this verdict, and perhaps this sentence as well.
Gentlemen of the prosecution, whether you
like it or not, Cuba is an independent and sovereign country. It has its own legitimate
government, its own president, its own martyrs and heroes, and its own convictions. Cuba
is not different from the United States. And, gentlemen, Cuba must be respected!
We know that efforts were made to ensure an
impartial trial. But the city of Miami is not a place where goals like these can be
achieved when it comes to Cuba. Perhaps that was the most critical error in our case:
holding the trial in this city.
If preventing the deaths of innocent human
beings, defending our two countries from terrorism, and preventing a senseless invasion of
Cuba are the reasons I am being sentenced today, then I welcome that sentence!
I will wear the prison uniform with the same
honor and pride with which a soldier wearhis most prized insignias!
This has been a political trial and
therefore we are political prisoners!
All of the evidence is here; this is where
history is written. And it is history that will do us true justice!
Ramón Labañino Salazar
This has been a political trial and
therefore we are political prisoners!
For us, and for everyone, we have
won this trial. History will rectify this verdict, and perhaps this sentence as well