The Miami Five - an injustice too far

Summer 2003

By Michael Connarty, Labour MP

An injustice too far

MP speaks out on the Miami 5

CSC’s campaigns worker Mark Donne met Michael Connarty, Labour MP for Falkirk East this spring and we publish the interview below.

The interview was arranged following the tabling of an Early Day Motion to the House of Commons by Michael, on the subject of the “Miami Five” case. The motion has to date been signed by 89 MPs and has the support of Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

The campaign to free the “Miami Five” is central to the work of the CSC this year.

MD: What are your general feelings on the US foreign policy in relation to Cuba?

MC: Anyone of any form of liberal persuasion realises that the Americans are somehow afraid of this little country existing beside them, living with a different set of values. Many people share the general feeling I have that is that the US is aggressive towards Cuba.

MD: With respect to the “Miami Five Case”, why do you think the case is significant, indeed why did you choose to voice your concerns by sponsoring an EDM?

MC: The treatment of the Miami Five is an example of a complete overreaction by the US Government, in this case against a group of people monitoring elements within Miami who were threatening Cuba by planning terror and acts of violence against an autonomous country. By monitoring these activities, they were doing something legitimate. We now have a situation where the US legal system has been brought into disrepute by the vicious use of state apparatus against a group of people who were not in anyway threatening the US. The reason we are in this job (MP’s) most of us I hope, is because we are fired by the idea that there are basic rights and basic justices to uphold and when you see something as offensive as this case, you have to move, you have to react.

The EDM was an attempt to expose this to public scrutiny in the hope that our government may show a little commonsense and international solidarity by merely raising the question with the US. I believe that we should be telling our friends, the US, that they are now looking foolish, petty and in the eyes of the International community, they are looking bankrupt in the sense of what they stand for and in terms of justice.

MD: To what extent do you feel that, rather than just being a negative reflection of the safety of the US judicial system, it is symptomatic of something far more serious; a political interest case?

MC: I consider myself to be a friend of America and I believe that it is a country we should be close to and in dialogue with. On the morning of 11th September, I was in the US Congress with a delegation of the British American Parliamentary Group, when the Pentagon was attacked so I am aware of terrorism and it’s effects. There is however, a general feeling in US politics that you deal with things you don’t understand by smashing them. The reality in Cuba is that there is no way for capitalist power to buy into the internal system. It is carefully fed into to the US political psyche that if you can’t influence or pull strings within that system, then you have to wipe it out, and I think that they see present day Cuba as something they would like to wipe out of the political equation. I have no doubt that this is a factor in the Miami Five case, a way of the US showing that they will be vicious to anyone representing that system.

MD: To what extent do you feel that the case illustrates a “selective” war on terror on the part of the US?

MC: The US has never been able to grasp where the real threat of terrorism actually comes from, because I don’t think they have any real perspective. From my dealings with the US State Department I have the impression that they have a single agenda. They have no interest in the situations in the Middle East or Northern Ireland. I feel that the tragic events of 9/11 presented the hawks with an opportunity to widen their remit.

The US has a moral dilemma. They would claim that they are in no way supportive of the groups who carry out the attacks against Cuba, but they could clearly shut them down if they wanted to. As they demonstrated with the Contras in Nicaragua, they are to an extent, willing to sponsor terrorism and I don’t know how they justify that, I don’t think they can justify it. It is part of the U.S/Cuba equation and is very well known what the US is doing in interfering with a State’s trade with a third country, and what they are doing by allowing the activities of these groups in Miami to foment death and destruction in another country. What they are doing is against International Law.

MD: How far are we in the UK from this kind of injustice, with reference to the growing power of the right leaning print and broadcast media to set the political agenda, as is clearly the case in Miami?

MC: We have a situation in the UK where a certain Australian media magnate is on the verge of being given permission by our government to purchase other large areas of the media which will clearly pump out pro-US propaganda. It would appear that the Labour Prime Minister, my Prime Minister believes he needs the support of this individual, which is extremely worrying.

The Trade Union and Labour movement has pushed the treatment of Cuba into the central consciousness. I believe that we have to be much more vociferous as a government about the case of the Miami Five. This is rapidly becoming a serious human rights question that we should raise with the US.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the Trade Unions are clearly aware of the case and I hope that this pressure will mount on the UK and US governments.

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