CUBAN 5 PROTEST IN TAMPA BY MITCH E. PERRY09/25/06
The FBI arrested a group of Cubans in Miami in the fall of 1998 on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage, but five of those men refused plea bargains at the time. . TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re since become known simply as the Cuban Five.
Although they won a new trial in August of 2005, the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta reversed their court victory. Their attorneys are continuing the appeals process. On Saturday, there were demonstrations held in Washington and 30 other cities across the country to raise awareness about their situation. A small protest about the men was held in Tampa. WMNFÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Mitch Perry reports: Mauricio Vasquez is with the group Cuba Vive. (roll tape#1 o.q.Ã¢â‚¬?Cuban mafiaÃ¢â‚¬?)
The 5 men were convicted in 2001 and sentenced to at least 15 years of being accused of spying on U.S. military installations and exiles. Then men did admit to being spies, but said they were trying to prevent attacks on Cuban President Fidel CastroÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s government. They said they had not been targeting the U.S.
Again, Cuba ViveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Mauricio Vasquez (roll tape#2 o.q.Ã¢â‚¬?a threat to national securityÃ¢â‚¬?)
Recently a US appeals court ordered a retrial for the 5 Cubans. They said that their original trial in Miami was unfair, because the large prescence of Cuban exiles there had created a biased atmosphere. Their 2001 trial began just 8 months after federal agents removed Elian Gonzalez from his Miami relatives.
According to the head of the Cuban Parliament, Ricardo AlarcÃƒÂ³n, the FBI arrests were in response to a memorandum that his government had presented to the U.S. providing documentation about terrorist activities by right-wingers operating out of southern Florida . Bu tInstead of stopping the terrorists, the FBI arrested the Cubans. The latino edition of the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, has reported that Jose Antonio Llama, a former members of the CubanAmerican National Foundation, has admitted to investing more than a million dollars of his own money in purchasing weapons. That included plans to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Jesse Kern is Secretary of the Central Florida Jobs Committee. He admits to not knowing all the details of the Cuban 5, but does feel strongly that their prosecution was meant to appease the Cuban exile community in South Florida (roll tape#3 o.q.Ã¢â‚¬?. or whateverÃ¢â‚¬?)
The handful of protestors stood at the familiar Tampa site of protests involving Cuba- that being the corner of Dale Mabry and Columbus, a/k/a Brothers to the Rescue. As always, discussion of Cuban policy is volatileÃ¢â‚¬Â¦This was one passerbyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s commentary, in Spanish, shouted from a car (roll tape#4 o.q. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Ã¢â‚¬Å“)
Also a focus of the protest was the legal situation with Luis Posada Carilles. He is the former CIA operative and foe of Fidel Castro wanted in Venezuela in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jet airliner that killed 73 people. Again, Cuba ViveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Maurcio Vasquez (roll tape#1 o.q.Ã¢â‚¬?I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rightÃ¢â‚¬?)
Earlier this month, a Federal Magistrate in Texas said that Posada Carilles Should be released while he waits to be deported anywhere but Cuba or Venezuela, where the U.S. fears he could be tortured.