Tonight I was looking at the blog, www.translatingcuba.com and noticed a posting by Fernando Dámaso from Cuba. In it, he contrasts the Cuban judicial system to that of the United States. I was taken by his description of the arrest, trial and execution of three Cuban hijackers of a ferry boat last October. It took 72 hours for them to be arrested, tried, have their appeals heard, and be executed.
What struck me is how little has changed from early 1959 when the same style of justice was meted out to Batista regime members, after Fidel’s revolution toppled that government. My novel, The Death of the White Rose, describes these events to explain the motivation of some of the characters who inhabit the novel in deciding to emigrate.
Below, please read Fernando Dámaso’s posting that I have inserted below. It is a poignant contrast of the U.S. justice system to that of the Castro government. Recognize the bravery of this blogger, who risks everything to make his views known.
Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated
Until now I had decided not to write about the five Cuban spies, who are serving sentences in the United States, mainly out of consideration and respect for the feelings of their families. However, in the face of the frenzied media campaign unleashed by the Cuban authorities, with the obvious complicity of them, I consider it necessary to clarify some issues, overly manipulated to convince nationals and foreigners of their supposed innocence, and that the whole thing is simply the aggression of the Empire against some poor little Cubans.
These five citizens were caught red-handed – after an intense and thorough investigation to gather evidence — conducting espionage as Cuban intelligence agents planted in the U.S. as part of the Wasp Network with seven others, who agreed to testify. Of those, although Cubans like the others, also with families, not a word has been said, they have ceased to exist, they have entered the limbo of non-persons.
They all confessed their guilt and were tried by a jury, the composition of which both the prosecution and defense agreed upon, in the State where they committed their crimes, and sentenced to various penalties, depending on their degree of responsibility and cooperation with the justice, to clarify the facts.
Although they had been detained for nearly three years in the process of accumulating evidence, we Cubans learned of them only when they were tried, since the usual secrecy took care to hide it. Despite the infantile argument that they were spying to protect Cuba from the United States and from terrorists (like finding an unauthorized alien in our home who, when discovered, argues he had come to protect us), which no one with a modicum of intelligence can accept, this has become the banner of struggle for so-called “Cause of the Five” and they are even put forward as international personalities, whether from political opportunism, mental inertia, or true lack of basic reasoning, I don’t know.
During these years, besides having at their disposal a team of U.S. and Cuban lawyers, paid for with money from the Cuban people, their families have practiced and are practicing international tourism, also at the Cuban peoples’ expense. They have become national celebrities, with a presence in any public ceremony that takes place.
They talk about terrible and inhumane prison conditions and violation of rights, when in fact they serve their sentences in appropriate detention facilities, with medical attention, are well fed and clothed, neat, with phones and internet access and can receive visitors, study, write patriotic letters, send messages of solidarity and gratitude, play chess games with Cuban children and write poems, paint and put on art exhibitions, conditions very different from those of the prisoners in Cuba.
If that was not enough, they also have at their disposal the President of the National Assembly, whose main job description seems to be, in the opinion on the street, to serve them and their family members, and to call and open and close, with blows of hammer, the two annual sessions of that body. It has come to the absurd point where in the press the case of the five is one of the unrenounceable causes of the Cuban nation. We have always had problems with the just measure of things: either we miss or we fall short. We regularly miss.
It is human and understandable to appeal and fight for the freedom of loved ones, even if they committed a crime. I can understand that there are even people who, by conviction or bigotry, spend years of their lives, or more, in prison unfairly. What is unacceptable is to manipulate the truth to raise awareness among citizens and to seek, through this, what could not be achieved through the courts for justice. A government paranoia does not have to become a national paranoia. These five people have had more chances to appeal than did the three* young Cubans were shot in less than seventy-two hours after being arrested, prosecuted, tried, sentenced, filed appeals, upheld the convictions, etc., in a demonstration of efficiency of justice in Cuba.
*Translator’s note: Fernando is speaking of the young men who hijacked the 13 de Marzo tugboat hoping to go to Florida, but never made it out of Cuban waters October 7 2011.