London Evening Standard prints letter on Miami Five

Campaign News | Thursday, 11 January 2007

Evening paper wrongly labelled Cuban heroes as 'terrorists'

Following protests from Cuba Solidarity supporters in London and elsewhere, the London Evening Standard newspaper published this letter from CSC director Rob Miller on 9th January.

Support the Miami Five

I want to congratulate the Evening Standard and Ken Livingstone on bringing the plight of the Miami Five to the public's attention (4 January). These five men were doing nothing more than infiltrating US-based terrorist groups to try and stop terrorist actions against Cuba. This threat is real and has led to the death of an estimated 3000 Cubans including all 73 passengers on a Cubana airways plane blown up over Barbados in 1976.

We in London have suffered terrorist attacks. I applaud those such as the Miami Five who work often in danger to avert further attrocities.

A year ago, we hosted a visit to London by Olga Salanueva, wife of Rene Gonzalez, one of the Miami Five, and their daughter. More than 100 MPs, 15 Trade Union General Secretaries and 10,000 others including Nobel prize winner Harold Pinter and Ken Livingstone,signed an open letter to the US authorities calling for the immediate release of the men.

Like Nelson Mandela these men will eventually be recognised as heroes. Those who call them 'terrorist' now should read the facts on the case.

Rob Miller, director, Cuba Solidarity Campaign

London Evening Standard starts debate on the case of the Miami Five

In its campaign against London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone, the local evening paper, The Evening Standard has wrongly labelled the Miami Five as 'terrorists.'

But the story has brought attention to the case of the Cuban men being held unjustly in US prisons because numerous readers have written in to correct the error.

Here is the Standard's treatment of the story in full. The weblink below is to the Standard's webpage where readers' comments can be posted.

Two samples of these are also below.

London Mayor in secret visit to terrorists' families on Cuban trip


Ken Livingstone secretly met the families of five convicted terrorists during his visit to Cuba, it can be revealed today.

The Mayor met the wives of the so-called “Miami Five”, who have been found guilty by a US court of conspiracy to spy on American military bases.

Details only emerged after he was forced to publish his full itinerary under freedom of information laws, having previously said the publicly funded trip was to build Olympics links and visit health facilities.

The five men were convicted in 2001 of spying in Miami for Fidel Castro's Cuban government. Three were sentenced to life, the others to 15 and 19 years.

The men are regarded as heroes in Cuba, whose government claims they were trying to protect attacks on the Caribbean island by US-based Cuban exiles.

Their case is expected to eventually reach the US Supreme Court after their failure last year to win an appeal.

The United Nations has raised concerns about the impartiality of the trial jury and the severity of the sentences.

The men - Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González - admit being spies but say they never harmed anyone or possessed weapons in the US.

They were arrested by the FBI in 1998 and were said at their trial to have been part of a spy ring known as The Wasp Network that sought to gather sensitive military information. Hernández was also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.

Mr Livingstone's spokesman today refused to give any details of the meeting with the men's families, except to confirm it took place on 4 November.

The Cuba trip was part of the Mayor's illfated visit to Latin America that included a botched attempt to visit Venezuela and cost London council taxpayers at least £30,000.

The revelation comes as Tory MPs attempt to limit the Mayor's powers with a law preventing him spending public money in areas considered the reserve of the Foreign Office.

Mike Tuffrey, Liberal Democrat group leader on the London Assembly, said: “This is the latest example of Ken Livingstone failing to come clean when questioned on his secretive trip to Cuba, a visit he made in London's name and paid for by Londoners' money. It is becoming clear as the facts emerge that this was a politically motivated visit, which should never have been funded by the London taxpayer.”

Angie Bray, Tory group leader on the Assembly, said: “This goes from bad to worse. The time he should have been spending running London was spent visiting the families of people convicted of conspiracy to murder and spy on Americans.”

But Father Geoff Bottoms of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, who has visited two of the five men in US prisons, said: “If they were not Cuban they would not be in this situation. It's all part and parcel of the US policy towards Cuba.

“These men should be hailed as heroes rather than demonised as spies.”

Dr Ian Gibson, Labour chairman of the all-party Parliamentary group on Cuba, said: “I would support Mr Livingstone in terms of his going over there.

“It's a bona fide campaign. The men were accused of being terrorists without any evidence being put forward in court.”

Reader views

Here's a sample of the latest views published. You can click view all to read all views that readers have sent in:

The claim that Ken Livingstone met the families of terrorists on his recent visit to Cuba turns reality on its head.

The five Cuban men, unfairly jailed in the US, were in Miami to provide information that could help to stop terrorist activities being planned against Cuba by hositle Miami based organisations.

More than 3,000 Cubans have died as a result of these terrorists? attacks in recent decades.

Many have spoken out against the imprisonment of the ?Miami 5?. It is positive that the Mayor was also able to take up this miscarriage of justice during his recent trip to Cuba.

- Lee, London

Ken Livingstone's efforts to enter into dialogue with representatives of different countries, cultures and religions should be welcomed. With regard the arrest and imprisonment of the Miami Five, it is worth highlighting the United Nation's concern with the impartiality of the jury and severity of the sentences at the original trial. The five Cubans were in Miami monitoring anti-Cuban terrorist organisations and were not terrorists themselves. Ken Livingstone has stood up for those suffering miscarriages of justice before and I support him doing it again here.

- Ben Folley, Islington, London

In focus: 'Miami Five' are heroes in Havana but enemies in U.S.

But the men, known as los muchachos (the young men) or los cinco (the five) are convicted criminals in the US for their involvement in a spy ring run by the Cuban government.

The five - Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González - were convicted in 2001. Three were given four life sentences and 75 years in total.

Their case has attracted the concern of Amnesty International, the United Nations and a host of famous Left-wing Americans, including Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, actor Danny Glover and author Noam Chomsky.

The men claim to be political prisoners caught up in a long battle between the US and Cuba, sparked by the Cuban revolution in 1959 that brought communist dictator Fidel Castro to power.

They say their aim was to counter rather than cause terrorist activity against their country, claiming anti-Castro forces have operated with impunity in Miami for decades.

According to the US, the men were part of a Cuban spy operation based in Florida known as The Wasp Network.

Their supporters claim they were double-crossed by the FBI after attempting to pass information about terrorists to the US authorities.

Instead, they found themselves standing trial on charges ranging from operating as illegal Cuban agents to possessing fake passports.

Prior to their trial, they were held for 17 months in solitary confinement. They are now inside some of America’s fiercest prisons.

Any politician of note visiting Cuba can expect to meet their families, especially Ken Livingstone, who has supported their case.

Father Geoff Bottoms of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign said: “Anyone who meets these families can only come away with a positive attitude towards the case.

“These are enormously courageous mothers and wives. Two of the wives have been denied visas.

“One hasn’t seen her husband since he was arrested, the other hasn’t seen her husband for six years.”

To read the articles and comment go to:'+families+on+Cuban+trip/

London Mayor under attack for supporting Cuba

Evening paper turns on Ken for wishing to celebrate Cuban achievements

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who visited Cuba last year, has become the target of a vitriolic attack over his support for Cuba from the local evening paper, The Evening Standard.

The Standard has started a campaign against Ken's decision to organise a Cuba festival in London in 2009 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the revolution.

Renowned for its rightwing politics and opposition to Ken Livingstone, The Standard has resorted to using spurious arguments about Cuba's human rights record to justify its attack on the Mayor's plans.

The Mayor has tried to answer The Standard's misinformation but has been misquoted by the paper.

Below is a Press statement from the Mayor's office that attempts to put the record straight.

Standard's fabrications over Cuba

The Evening Standard has today (28th December) reported that the Mayor of London intends to hold a festival celebrating Cuban culture in 2009. Its report claims that such an event could cost "up to £2million" and carries an editorial claiming "this is £2 million that could be better spent elsewhere." The Evening Standard has in fact entirely made up this figure of £2million.

In response to this invention the Greater London Authority has given the following comment to the Standard:

The Evening Standard today claims that a possible future event of Cuban culture the run up to the Olympic games would cost "up to £2 million". This figure is entirely invented by the Evening Standard. It is typical of a pattern of fabrication by the Evening Standard such as a recent claim that bus ridership had fallen when it had risen by nearly two million a day. Any Cuban festival will be part of an invitation to countries participating in the Olympics to stage events in London prior to the Games primarily through sponsorship and their own expense.’

Below is a shortened version of a statement given to the Standard yesterday on the subject of the Mayor's recent visit to Cuba and their queries about a possible festival of Cuban culture in London.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said:

'Cuba has been subject to a blockade by the US which has been condemned by almost every country in the world for more than 40 years. It also has a US military base, Guantanamo, on its territory which is held clearly contrary to the rights of the Cuban people and on which the US practices detention without trial and torture - this contains not seventy political prisoners as is claimed are held in Cuba, but several hundred. There have been numerous US-sponsored attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and Cuban leaders. In short the US has been waging de facto war against Cuba for more than 40 years.

'Despite the illegal and almost universally condemned blockade Cuba has achievements which are recognised by virtually the entire world.

'Life expectancy and infant mortality are at levels comparable to far more economically advanced countries. Cuban bio-science is among the most advanced in the world. All this contrasts to a situation where prior to the revolution of 1959, under political figures supported by the US government, up to 1 in 3 Cuban women was forced into prostitution and Cuba was largely run in the interests of the Mafia.

'The Cuban revolution of 1959 was therefore an extraordinary event not just for Cuba but for the region as a whole and I have never concealed my support for this fact. This contrasts with the situation in the Soviet Union which I refused to visit until Gorbachev became President.

'It is notable that because of the health, welfare and social benefits of what has happened in Cuba since 1959 Fidel Castro is one of the most popular leaders around the world whilst George W Bush is one of the most widely despised.

'I was invited to visit Cuba by Lord Moynihan, a former Conservative sports minister, the Chair of the British Olympic Association, during the World Sport for All Congress. As the host city for the 2012 Games, London is developing close relations with other key Olympic players. Cuba is a significant sporting nation both globally and particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. Although they only have one-fifth of the population of Britain they win as many medals as we do. We have a lot to learn from this.

'While in Cuba I took the opportunity to meet other figures. The President of the Havana City Provincial Assembly - Juan Contino Aslan, the mayor of Havana - ensured that we had a number of extremely useful discussions. I was struck by the desire of Cuban representatives to get a full picture of how Cuba is currently seen in Europe and also by the Cubans’ criticisms of the current policy of some European governments which is deeply counterproductive.

'There were a lot of attacks from some London Assembly members and the press about visiting Cuba, but frankly this is just double standards. There is no reason why Cuba should be singled out for controversy except for people coming at international issues from a very right wing perspective.

'I have been to Cuba twice in 1995 and 1999, and what stood out for me compared to these two previous visits was the general improvement in the economic situation.

'I also think that in the initial stages of the development of tourism in Cuba there was an increase in some of the negatives associated with tourism but the Cubans have done a great deal to address this.

'I was struck by the comments of the Minister of Investments and International Co-operation, Marta Lomas, who spoke very favourably about tourists from Britain. Depending on which figures you take, the second or third largest number of tourists to Cuba are from Britain. Their direct experience of Cuba obviously goes some way to countering the rubbish that we read in the papers, such as the Evening Standard, about the situation there.

'What really stood out for me was hearing first hand from people working in the medical services just how appalling the US blockade is. When you meet people who are treating eye disorders and blindness on a huge scale and they describe how difficult it is to get the equipment they need except through indirect routes because of the blockade you get a feel for the scale of the injustice that is being imposed on Cuba.

'Similarly the description of how the blockade works in terms of the embargo on Cuban nickel, where the American authorities go to extraordinary lengths to prevent steel containing Cuban nickel from getting into the USA, it is bizarre and petty.

'With regard to environmental issues one thing that is very striking is that everywhere you go the Cubans have installed energy saving light bulbs. They have got their energy bills down and they are contributing to reducing the causes of climate change at the same time. There is a lesson here about how we make the case for measures to tackle climate change - we need to show that saving the planet can save people money too. The work they Cubans are doing to get their energy bills down is very notable. This is also in total contrast to the US government of George W Bush which refuses to tackle the problem of climate change or even admit it exists.

'In the run up to Olympic games in 2012 it is planned to invite countries participating in the games to stage events in London - some will doubtless be very large as with the US or France and some will be small. Cuba, as a leading Olympic country, will naturally be one of the countries asked to participate.'

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