Monday, January 28, 2008


NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison’s listing as a “foreign terrorist” in 2002 brought about the suspension of his benefits and pension, and restrictions on his right to travel. “But I turn a bad thing into a good thing,” he said.

Vol. VII, No. 50, January 27-February 2, 2008

For Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), coping with the day-to-day-demands of life and work has in the last five years remained possible largely by getting personal loans from friends.

“My living conditions are extremely difficult,” Sison shared in an e-mail interview with Bulatlat.

The e-mail interview between Sison and Bulatlat was conducted following a Jan. 21 global press conference held by the NDFP International Office. Philippine media were able to attend the press conference through Internet audio-video patch facilitated by the NDFP-nominated section of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC).

As an asylum seeker, Sison is entitled to social benefits and old-age pension in the Netherlands but is not allowed to seek employment there. But even these -– his only source of “livelihood” –- have been withheld since 2002, when he was listed by the U.S. Department of State and the Council of the European Union as a “foreign terrorist.”

Aside from these, his listing as a “foreign terrorist” also brought about restrictions on his right to travel.

“But I turn a bad thing into a good thing,” Sison said. “Because I have no money to go places and to go on holidays and because I am also explicitly restricted from traveling, I have more time to read and write and I have ample opportunity to think and exercise my freedom of thought and expression in the interest of the Filipino people and other peoples.”

A poet and revolutionary

Sison –- a poet, essayist, and political analyst -– taught English and Social Science courses at his alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP), and the Lyceum of the Philippines in the 1960s, after graduating with honors in 1959.

He founded the progressive organizations Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP) and Kabataang Makabayan (KM). He was later also involved in the workers’ and peasant movements through the Lapiang Manggagawa (Workers Party) and the Malayang Samahan ng Magsasaka (MASAKA or Free Association of Peasants). He became secretary-general of the Socialist Party of the Philippines (SPP) and, later, the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN).

But he is best known as the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

In 1968 he led a group that broke away from the leadership of the Lava brothers in the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) due to ideological differences, and re-established the party as the CPP.

Under Sison’s leadership, the CPP rapidly gained strength and together with the NPA, its armed component, which was founded in 1969, it developed into one of the strongest organized forces opposed to the U.S.-Marcos regime during the martial law years.

He was the CPP’s highest-ranking leader from its reestablishment until he was arrested by the Marcos dictatorship in 1977.

Released in 1986 by virtue of then President Corazon Aquino’s general amnesty proclamation for political prisoners, Sison got involved in a number of legal political activities and even delivered a series of lectures at his alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP).

In 1988, he found himself having to apply for political asylum after the Aquino government cancelled his passport while he was in Europe on a speaking tour. He has since lived in the Netherlands as an asylum seeker.

“Terror” listing

In 2002, the CPP-NPA was included by the U.S. Department of State in its list of “foreign terrorist organizations.” Sison was also listed as a “foreign terrorist.” The Dutch government listed the CPP-NPA and Sison in its own terror list a day after the U.S. listing.

According to Jan Fermon, one of Sison’s lawyers, the Dutch Foreign Ministry admitted in its website that the inclusion of the CPP-NPA and Sison in its list of terrorists was done to comply with the request of the U.S. government. It likewise stated that 150 Dutch companies have investments in the Philippines and that Holland is one of the major investors now in the country. It added that the only burden in the relationship between Holland and the Philippines is the presence of what they called the communist leadership in Utrecht.

The Netherlands is at present one of the leading U.S. allies in Europe – next only to the United Kingdom.

The Council of the European Union followed suit in listing Sison as a “terrorist” later that year.

On May 29, 2007 the Council of the European Union decided to retain Sison in its “terrorist” list. This decision was annulled by the July 11 verdict of the European Court of First Instance (ECFI).

On Aug. 28 that same year, Sison was arrested by Dutch police in Utrecht for allegedly ordering the murders of former CPP-NPA leaders Kintanar and Tabara in 2003 and 2004, respectively – an accusation he has denied. His apartment, the homes of a few other NDFP negotiators, and the NDFP International Office were raided and several important items like computers, hard disks, and files related to the NDFP’s peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) were taken.

The CPP-NPA leadership in the Philippines has owned up to the killings of both Kintanar and Tabara, citing them for “crimes against the Revolution.”

On Sept. 13, the District Court of The Hague ordered Sison’s release due to lack of direct and sufficient evidence against him. Part of the decision reads thus:

“The police files submitted to the court include many indications for the point of view that the accused has been involved in the CC (Central Committee) of the CPP and her military branch, the (NPA). There are also indications that the accused is still playing a leading role in the (underground) activities of the CC, the CPP and the NPA.

“Without prejudice to the justified suspicion that the accused during the period described in the charges played a leading role in the aforementioned organizations, the files nevertheless do not provide a sufficient basis for the suspicion that the accused, while staying in the Netherlands, committed the offenses he is charged with in deliberate and close cooperation with the perpetrators in the Philippines.”

Last Jan. 18, however, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service announced that it would continue its investigation of Sison’s alleged involvement in the killings of Kintanar and Tabara up to the middle of this year. This development was the subject of the Jan. 21 global press conference.


Despite all these, Sison remains in a fighting stance and throwing in the towel is the farthest thing from his mind.

“After consultations with my lawyer, I let him do the work in my legal defense,” he said.

“I am not at all mentally and physically weighed down by the further investigation announced by the prosecutor. I am confident about winning my case completely because the charge is patently false and politically motivated and because so far I have won several court decisions pertaining to it.”

He admits, however, that the “ceaseless persecution” and prolonged suspension of his benefits and pension “adversely affect” his living conditions.

“They expose the brutal character of imperialist states like the U.S. and the Netherlands,” he said. Bulatlat

Sunday, January 20, 2008


The seventh anniversary of what is now known as the EDSA II or People Power II uprising was marked by a coming together of political blocs that were not and could not have been seen talking to each other seven years ago: the EDSA II forces, on the one hand; and the pro-Estrada forces, on the other.

Vol. VII, No. 49, January 20-26, 2008

The seventh anniversary of what is now known as the EDSA II or People Power II uprising was marked by a coming together of political blocs that were not and could not have been seen talking to each other seven years ago: the EDSA II forces, on the one hand; and the pro-Estrada forces, on the other.

Seeing them together was unimaginable seven years ago, because EDSA II had for its aim the ouster of then President Joseph Estrada. But on the seventh anniversary of EDSA II, which was marked Jan. 18 with an indoor activity at the La Salle Greenhills School (LSGH) and a march to the EDSA Shrine, the two political blocs that had clashed in 2001 were gathered for the common purpose of delivering the statement that: “Seven years is enough! Gloria must go!”

Estrada has always taken pride in the fact that he won in the 1998 presidential elections by a plurality of 10 million –- which is said to be the largest plurality ever to propel a candidate to Malacañang. He assumed the presidency on the basis of a populist “platform” and a professed love for the “Filipino masses.”

But early on in his term he had been criticized for his closeness to the Marcoses and their political allies –- remnants of a dictatorship that was toppled in 1986, in what is now known as the EDSA I uprising. He would later on be under more fire for graft and corruption –- which would constitute one of the grounds for impeachment charges lodged against him in 2000 together with bribery, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution.

The refusal of his Senate allies to allow the opening of the second of two envelopes containing evidence relevant to the impeachment proceedings triggered a walkout by the prosecution panel and the audience, as well as an evening noise barrage, on Jan. 16, 2001 – signaling the start of a four-day popular uprising that would bring down the Estrada regime.

All through these, Estrada insisted he was the “real president of the Philippines,” pointing out that he had not resigned but merely stepped down.

His arrest in late April, 2001 provoked what his supporters called the “EDSA III uprising.”

Estrada was tried for plunder in a trial that would drag on for more than six years. He would be convicted, but pardoned, in the end.

In a statement after his release following the grant of executive clemency, Estrada said:

“I believe I can best continue to repay our people the blessings that God has so graciously given me by supporting from hereon the programs of Mrs. Arroyo that are intended to attack generational poverty and hunger. We must now as a nation attend to our people’s continuing clamor for food on their tables, roofs above their heads, and better education and health care for their children.”

Seven years of “deceit”

On the seventh anniversary of the EDSA II uprising, Estrada’s supporters and the groups that ousted him in 2001 were together in sending the message that seven years of the Arroyo administration are enough.

“This government has been deceiving us for seven years,” said Bro. Armin Luistro, president of the De La Salle University (DLSU) System, during the indoor activity at LSGH.

“A government that bases its false claims to victory on an election that has legitimacy problems of its own has no right to govern us,” he also said.

Erning Ofracio, an urban poor leader from the Kilusan para sa Makatarungang Lipunan at Gobyerno (KMLG or Movement for a Just Society and Government), told about a text joke he had earlier received, in which a man told his daughter that liars do not grow tall, and get protruding teeth and moles on their faces.

“Anak daw po ‘yon ni Presidente Diosdado Macapagal” (That girl is said to be the daughter of President Diosdado Macapagal), Ofracio said. “Pero ang batang ‘yon ay Presidente na ng Pilipinas” (But that girl is now President of the Philippines.)

Danilo Ramos, chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), talked about the peasantry’s worsening poverty and hunger under the Arroyo administration, and reminded the audience about the Fertilizer Funds scam of 2004. “Y’ong pondo para sa abono, iniabono sa kampanya” (Funds meant for fertilizers to fatten the soil were used for fattening campaign funds), he said.

Josie Lichauco, convener of the Concerned Citizens Group and former Transportation and Communication Secretary, discussed the various corruption scandals under the Arroyo regime.

Vergel Santos, editor of Business World and a board member of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), talked about the Arroyo regime’s repressive measures: the “Strong Republic” policy, Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, and the Human Security Act.

When Arroyo was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2001 she promised, among other things, “government by example.”

But early on in her continuation of Estrada’s term (2001-2004), Arroyo had come under fire from people’s organizations for her government’s refusal to address long-standing economic demands such as a P125 legislated wage increase for private-sector workers; and for inaction amid relentless increases in the prices of basic commodities like water, power, and petroleum products due to the policies of privatization and liberalization imposed by the Bretton Woods Twins. Human rights violations especially extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances also started to escalate early on.

By 2003, Arroyo’s name had been enmeshed in no less than ten large-scale corruption scandals.

Having spent only three years continuing her predecessor’s term, Arroyo was constitutionally allowed to run for the 2004 presidential elections –- where she won amid allegations of massive fraud.

Discrepant figures in the election returns and certificates of canvass cast doubts on the credibility of the 2004 presidential elections. In the end, however, she was proclaimed winner by more than 1 million votes against her closest rival, the actor Fernando Poe, Jr. who died without seeing the conclusion of his electoral protest.

In mid-2005, Arroyo faced a major challenge to her government following the surfacing of the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes.

The “Hello Garci” tapes were a series of wiretapped and recorded conversations in which a voice similar to Arroyo’s is heard instructing an election official –- widely believed to be former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano -– to rig the presidential polls. There is a specific instruction that a victory of “more than 1 M” be ensured for the woman.

Both Arroyo and Garcillano were forced to admit that they talked to each other during the counting period following the 2004 polls. They have however denied rigging the said elections.

The surfacing of the “Hello Garci” tapes triggered widespread demands for Arroyo’s resignation or removal from office. Here the EDSA II forces and the pro-Estrada groups found a common cause.

Human rights violations would become rampant from 2004 –- underscored by present figures from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) pointing to more than 880 extrajudicial killings and more than 180 enforced disappearances since 2001. Likewise corruption would also worsen –- with the latest cases being the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal between the Philippine government and China’s ZTE Corp., and the distribution of “cash gifts” to congressmen and governors in a Malacañang meeting last October.

Arroyo has been the subject of three impeachment complaints citing her for bribery, graft and corrupt practices, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution –- the same charges against Estrada. All impeachment complaints were thrown out through the sheer tyranny of numbers at the House of Representatives.

Jan. 20, 2008 marks Arroyo’s seventh year in office –- making her the longest-serving Philippine President since the late Ferdinand Marcos.

March to EDSA Shrine

The participants in the Jan. 18 commemoration –- Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), Black & White Movement, KMLG, Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice (UMDJ), Concerned Citizens Group, Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (Filipino Masses’ Forces), and Kubol ng Pag-asa -– marched to the EDSA Shrine after the indoor activity at LSGH.

They intended to light candles at the EDSA Shrine -– the site of the People Power II uprising where seven years ago, policemen trooped after then Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Panfilo Lacson was forced by his officers to withdraw support from Estrada. This time, however, the ralliers were stopped by the police from going near the shrine.

“We were the ones who put Arroyo in Malacañang, but now we are prohibited from setting foot (at the EDSA Shrine),” said Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo.

The ralliers settled for lighting candles along the sidewalk. Bulatlat

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Labor federations and unions under the banner of the KMU are entering 2008 by upping the ante in the continuing campaign for an old, still-unheeded demand -– a legislated P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase.

Vol. VII, No. 48, January 13-19, 2008

Labor federations and unions under the banner of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) are entering 2008 by upping the ante in the continuing campaign for an old, still-unheeded demand –- a legislated P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase.

The demand for a P125 wage increase was first put forward by the KMU in 1999, nearly a year into the presidency of Joseph Estrada who won the 1998 presidential elections on an avowed populist “platform.”

Back then, the average family living wage for a family of six –- the average Filipino family –- was P379.51 ($9.71 at the year’s average exchange rate of $1:P39.09) a day on a national average, based on data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC). In contrast, the daily minimum wage stood at a national average of P193.67 ($4.95).

A P125 wage increase at that time would have brought the national average minimum wage to P318.67 ($8.15), or P60.84 short of the national average family living wage that year.

The Estrada administration, which ascended to power on the basis of a proclaimed love for the “Filipino masses,” never paid heed to this demand of the KMU.

Estrada was ousted in 2001 through a popular uprising that was largely anti-corruption. He was succeeded by his vice president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

After Estrada

The demand for a P125 wage increase was among the items in the “People’s Agenda” that cause-oriented groups presented to Arroyo during her first days in office.

The required living wage for an average Filipino family was in 2001 a far cry from what it is now. That year, it stood at a national average of P445.53 ($10.89 at that year’s average exchange rate of $1:P40.89), based on data from the NWPC. The highest regional minimum wage then was in the National Capital Region (NCR), which was pegged at P250. At a national average, however, the daily minimum wage that year stood at P222.42, based on data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

Even then, a P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase would have been insufficient to bridge the gap between the minimum wage and the required family living wage. An additional P125 would have brought up the 2001 daily minimum wage to P347.42 –- which is P98.11 short of what an average Filipino family needed to survive daily that year.

Nearly seven years after first assuming power, the Arroyo administration has yet to heed this demand of the KMU.

The national average family living wage has risen by more than P125 since 2001. But it hardly made a dent in the gap between the minimum wage and the required family living wage, as the increases that came in trickles were fast eaten up by runaway inflation. Based on December 2007 data from the NWPC, the national average family living wage for a family of six stands at P670 ($14.52 at last year’s average exchange rate of $1:P46.15) a day.

The highest regional minimum wage at present is P362 ($8.92 at the Jan. 10 exchange rate of $1:P40.60) for the National Capital Region (NCR), which has a regional daily family living wage of P806 ($19.85).

The region with the lowest minimum wage rate is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), with only P200 ($4.92). It has a regional daily family living wage of P1096 ($27).

But the KMU holds on to the demand for a P125 wage increase. “This is to stress that our demand for a legislated wage increase is a long-standing but long-unheeded one,” said Wilson Baldonaza, KMU secretary-general, in an interview with Bulatlat.

Baldonaza said the KMU and its affiliated federations and unions will be actively campaigning for Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran’s House Bill No. 1722, which provides for a P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase for private-sector workers.

Beltran is a former KMU chairman, and he has been in the forefront of the campaign for a legislated P125 wage increase since way back in 1999. During his three terms as representative, Beltran was able to file three bills for a legislated minimum wage hike. He first filed a wage-hike bill in 2001, as a representative of Bayan Muna (People First). It never did go beyond first reading.

The second, HB 345 –- which Beltran filed as Anakpawis representative -– was approved at the plenary of the House of Representatives by a vote of 151-0 on Dec. 20, 2006. Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada -– son of Arroyo’s predecessor -– was sponsoring a counterpart bill at that time.

The next month, however, HB 345 was recalled upon a motion filed by Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla, purportedly to allow further debate and deliberation. Malacañang supported this move of the House of Representatives, and the younger Estrada deferred sponsorship of the counterpart Senate bill.

If HB 345 had not been recalled and its counterpart Senate bill was also passed, the national average minimum wage would have gone up to P408.67 ($7.96 at that year’s average exchange rate of $1:P51.31). But that would have still been short of what the family of six would need on a national average to survive daily, based on 2006 data from the NWPC.

HB 1722

The KMU enters this year by stepping up the campaign for the passage of Beltran’s HB 1722.

Baldonaza said KMU members in the country’s various regions would be lobbying before their respective district representatives for the passage of HB 1722 –- a tactic which the KMU is trying for the first time.

“We recognize, however, that lobbying work becomes effective as a means of applying pressure only when the mass movement is strong,” Baldonaza said.

Baldonaza added that the KMU would be forming an alliance specifically for the campaign for a wage increase. The alliance, he said, would go by the name Unions for 125. “All unions are welcome to join that alliance so long as they support the demand for a P125 wage increase,” he said.

The KMU leader said the P125 wage hike campaign should be expected to reach its peak by May 1 this year. Bulatlat

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Alexander Martin Remollino

Ang naganap kahapon na Pista ng Itim na Nazareno sa Quiapo, Maynila ay isang naghuhumiyaw na tanda ng ating panahon. At marami itong inihihiyaw.

Batay sa isang ulat ng Philippine Daily Inquirer, umabot sa 2.6 milyong Katolikong deboto ang lumahok sa pagdiriwang ng pistang nasabi. Ayon sa pamunuan ng Simbahang Katoliko sa Pilipinas, ito ang pinakamalaking paglahok sa Pista ng Itim na Nazareno sa loob ng nakaraang ilang taon. Ang marawal na kalagayan ng bansa sa kasalukuyan ang itinuturo ng Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) na dahilan ng pagbulwak ng bilang ng mga kalahok sa Pista ng Itim na Nazareno.

Sa isang artikulo sa website ng Arsobispadong Romano Katoliko ng Maynila, sinasabing ang imahe ng Nazareno na ngayo’y nasa Simbahan ng Quiapo ay dinala sa Maynila ng isang paring Kastila noong 1607. Nasunog daw ang barkong pinaglululanan ng imahe at nadamay ito. Bagama’t nasunog, ang nasabing imahe’y inaruga pa rin ng mga mamamayan. Mula noon, ayon sa mga kuwento, naghihimala na ang imahe para sa sinumang sumaling dito.

Ito na rin marahil ang pinagsimulan ng mahabang tradisyon na ng pamamanata ng mga debotong Katoliko sa nasabing imahe ni Kristo, na isang mamamayan ng Nazaret.

Sa isang panahon kung kailan malimit na pahirapan ang makapagpalahok ng kahit 2,000 sa mga kilos-protesta gayong kadalasa’y 5,000 o mahigit pa ang hinahangad na pakilusin ng mga organisador — kahit na walang kapantay sa kasaysayan ang kawalang-pakundangan ng katiwalian habang pinapasan ng mga mamamayan ang matinding bigat ng buwis, at patuloy ang pangangayupapa ng panahalaan sa mga dayuhang patakarang pang-ekonomiyang tuluy-tuloy na nagpapahirap sa kalakhan ng populasyon at maging sa papalaking bahagi ng gitnang uri) — ang isang kapistahang kagaya ng sa Poong Nazareno ng Quiapo ay nakapagpapalahok ng may 2.6 milyong tao.

Sa mga panahong sunud-sunod ang kagipitang kanilang hinaharap at madali nilang akalaing wala sa kanilang mga kamay ang kaligtasan, ang mga tao’y madadaling kumapit sa ipinalalagay na posibilidad ng mga himala kagaya ng diumano’y nagmumula sa Itim na Nazareno.

Ang Pista ng Itim na Nazareno’y itinuturing na siyang pinakamalaking pagtitipon ng mga Katoliko sa Pilipinas taun-taon, at ang laki ng pagtitipon kahapo’y walang kapantay sa nagdaang ilang taon.

Idiniriin ng ganitong panahon ang hamon sa mga progresibong nasa hanay ng taong-simbahan na palawakin nang husto ang pag-oorganisa sa Simbahang Katoliko — na mula sa panahon ng mga Kastila magpahanggang ngayo’y nananatiling siyang pinakamaimpluwensiyang simbahan sa Pilipinas, at ngayo’y may impluwensiya sa tinatayang 85 porsiyento ng ating populasyong nasa 89 milyon na.

Sa lalong malawak na saklaw, ipinakikita ng naganap na pagtitipon ng mga deboto kahapon sa Quiapo ang isang hamon sa mga nasa kilusan sa pagbabago na papag-ibayuhin ang pagsisikap na makapagbigay ng pag-asa sa nakararaming mamamayan — sa panahong tila kaydaling maubusan ng pag-asa.
Alexander Martin Remollino

We have by and large been reduced to choosing
between hell and the deep blue sea.
The path to the heavens is now "the road less traveled."

Is it simply because it is infinitely easier
to make a downhill run to the Devil's den,
or to take a plunge into the mystery-filled depths
than it is to scale the heights?
Or is it because there are now so many among us
with cotton spines and jelly knees
that the uphill path has become the most-feared option?

But of what consequence are the pains
of even the most laborious climb
if at the end of the road lie the heavens?
Let us not let the weak of will and mind pull us down,
for ours
is a journey worth all the pains that come with it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


“I am certain that many young Cubans, in their struggle against the Giant in the Seven-League Boots, would do as they did. Money can buy everything save the soul of a people who has never gone down on its knees.” –- Fidel Castro on the Cuban Five, 27 December 2007

Vol. VII, No. 47, January 6-12, 2008

“(Jose) Marti taught us that ‘all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn.’ Many times have I said and repeated this phrase, which carries in eleven words a veritable school of ethics.

“Cuba's Five Heroes, imprisoned by the empire, are to be held up as examples for new generations. Fortunately, exemplary conduct will continue to flourish with the consciousness of our peoples as long as our species exists.”

“I am certain that many young Cubans, in their struggle against the Giant in the Seven-League Boots, would do as they did. Money can buy everything save the soul of a people who has never gone down on its knees.”

This is what Cuban President Fidel Castro said about the five men now known as the Cuban Five in a message to Cuba’s National Assembly a few days before the New Year.

The Cuban Five are Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino, Fernando Gonzales, and Rene Gonzales – Cuban nationals currently serving prison terms in the U.S. for alleged espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, and other illegal activities.

The five Cubans had been sent to Miami, Florida in the 1990s on a mission to infiltrate organizations conducting terrorist activities against Cuba, particularly Brothers to the Rescue, and relay information about their activities to the Cuban government.

On June 17, 1998 the Cuban government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) met in Havana.

The Cuban government presented to the FBI the results of its investigations into the activities of Miami-based anti-Cuba groups like Comandos F4, Coalition of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU), Alpha 66, Omega 7, and Brothers to the Rescue –- all based in Miami. These included documents, photographs and surveillance reports showing that these groups were planning to stage a number of new “terrorist” attacks.

Attacks against Cuba

Based on an item in the website Miami 5 (, the attacks against Cuba included the following cases:

Oct. 7, 1992: An armed attack against the Varadero Melia Hotel perpetrated from a vessel manned by four Miami terrorists who were later arrested and questioned by the FBI, then released.

April 2, 1993: The tanker ship Mikonos sailing under the Cypriot flag was fired upon 7 miles north of Matanzas from a vessel crewed by Cuban born, U.S. based terrorists.

November 1994: Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles and five of his accomplices smuggled weapons into Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, during the IV Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government in order to make an attempt on the life of President Fidel Castro. However, the security belt kept him at a distance thus thwarting his aim. Posada Carriles later told the New York Times: “I was standing behind some journalists and I saw Castro's friend, (Gabriel) García Márquez, but I could only see Castro from a long way away.”

March 11, 1994: A terrorist group from Miami fired on the Guitart Cayo Coco Hotel.

Sept. 4, 1994: Two U.S.-based terrorists infiltrated into the area around Caibarien, Villa Clara, with the aim of carrying out sabotage in that province. A number of weapons and large amounts of military equipment were seized.

Oct. 6, 1994: Another armed group fired automatic weapons at the Guitart Cayo Coco Hotel from a boat that set out from Florida.

Oct. 15, 1994: A group of armed terrorists coming from the United States landed on the causeway to Cayo Santa María near Caibarién, Villa Clara, and murdered comrade Arcelio Rodríguez García.

May 20, 1995: The Guitart Cayo Coco Hotel was attacked the second time by terrorists manning a fast launch coming from the United States.

Feb. 11, 1996: After firing on our coastline, a vessel coming from the United States carrying three terrorists was captured by the Cuban cost guard patrol.

April 12, 1997: An explosive device was detonated in the Melia Cohiba Hotel in the City of Havana.

July 12, 1997: Bombs blasted in the Capri and National hotels.

Aug. 4, 1997: Another bomb exploded in the Melia Cohiba Hotel.

Arrest and trial of the Cuban Five

The FBI promised to take action on the results of Cuba’s investigations –- including the surveillance reports, which had been prepared by Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino, Fernando Gonzales, and Rene Gonzales.

The five, however, were arrested on Sept. 12, 1998 and charged with espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, and other crimes. For 17 months they were kept in solitary confinement.

Their trial began in November 2000. The U.S. government insisted on their being tried in Miami, in spite of several requests for a transfer of venue citing the “impossibility of a fair trial” in the said city.

After a six-month trial involving 24,000 pages of documents and 119 pages of testimonies, the five were convicted and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years in prison.

On Aug. 9, 2005, the Cuban Five won a victory on appeal and a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial outside of Miami. However, on Oct. 31 that same year, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals conducted an en banc hearing and voted 10-2 denying them a new trial.

The wives and children of the Cuban Five have repeatedly been denied U.S. visas preventing them from visiting the five in jail.

International support

The campaign for the freedom of the Cuban Five has gained broad international support.

On May 27, 2005 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) adopted a report by its Working Group on Arbitrary Detention criticizing the trial and conviction of the Cuban Five. The report stated, among other things, that:

“The Working Group notes that it arises from the facts and circumstances in which the trial took place and from the nature of the charges and the harsh sentences handed down to the accused that the trial did not take place in the climate of objectivity and impartiality that is required in order to conform to the standards of a fair trial as defined in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States of America is a party.”

In 2006, eight Nobel Prize winners have wrote and sent a petition letter to the U.S. Attorney-General calling for freedom for the Cuban Five. The signatories are Zhores Alferov (Physics, 2000), Desmond Tutu (Peace, 1984), Nadine Gordimer (Literature, 1991), Rigoberta Menchú (Peace, 1992), Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Peace, 1980), Wole Soyinka (Literature, 1986), José Saramago (Literature, 1996), and Gunter Grass (Literature, 1999).

In the United Kingdom that same year, six MPs wrote to then Prime Minister Tony Blair urging him to call on the U.S. to act against terrorists in Miami and release the Cuban Five. Blair declined to take any action.

Among the most prominent supporters of the campaign to free the Cuban Five in the U.S. are writer Alice Walker and actor Danny Glover.

At present there are support groups for the Cuban Five in 27 countries.

The Five

Gerardo Hernandez was born in Havana in 1965, and has a degree in International Political Relations. He has been a cartoonist and humorist from his youth, and while at school he was also part of a theater group. In 1989 he was part of the Cuban forces supporting Angola against the invading South African apartheid regime. Several of his cartoons and jokes were published in 2002 in the book You Can Achieve Everything with Love and Humor.

Antonio Guerrero was born in 1958 in Miami. Their family returned to their native Cuba the following year, after the victory of the Cuban Revolution. He trained as an airfield construction engineer in Kiev, Ukraine and graduated in 1983. As an engineer he was responsible for, among other things, the expansion of the Santiago de Cuba International Airport. Also a poet, he has published several poems in both Spanish and English in the book Desde Mi Altura (From My Altitude).

Ramon Labañino was born in Havana in 1963 and was schooled in Economics at the University of Havana, where he graduated with honors.

Fernando Gonzalez, who was born in 1963 in Havana, earned a degree in International Political Relations with high honors. He was active in theater and participated in international cultural festivals. From 1987 to 1989 he was part of the Cuban forces supporting Angola against the South African apartheid regime.

Rene Gonzalez was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1963. Their family returned to Cuba in 1963. He served in Angola from 1977 to 1979. He studied aviation after that and graduated as a pilot and flight instructor in 1982. Bulatlat