Press conference reveals U.S. misconduct during the trial; demands justice for the Cuban Five
June 2, 2010
At a press conference held today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., speakers revealed information about U.S. covert propaganda and secret payments made during the detention and trial of the Cuban Five to Miami journalists who covered the trial. Based on this information, a growing coalition of organizations is demanding immediate action from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for justice for the Five.
Speaking at the conference were, Gloria La Riva, the coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five whose FOIA request brought this information to light, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney and co-founder, Partnership for Civil Justice, who filed the FOIA requests and subsequent legal action on behalf of the National Committee, Heidi Boghosian, the Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild, and Brian Becker, the National Coordinator of the A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition.
Transcripts of the remarks follow:
Gloria La Riva, coordinator, National Committee to Free the Cuban Five
My name is Gloria La Riva, I am coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. We are here today at the National Press Club in Washington, along with Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice, Heidi Boghosian of the National Lawyers Guild, and Brian Becker of the ANSWER Coalition, to present evidence of the U.S. government’s misconduct in relation to the Cuban Five’s case, and violation of the law banning domestic propaganda.
After our presentations, we will have a Question-and-Answer period.
I will present first.
For the first time, we are revealing today the payments made to the Miami journalists by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, through Radio and TV Marti, during the time of the Cuban Five’s detention and trial. The dates of these payments are from November 1999 to December 31, 2001. We are also presenting today, the articles written during that time period, while the Cuban Five were in Miami detention or on trial, as well as commentary by these government-paid journalists. Although we have requested information as far back as 1996, the BBG has only given us data from November 1999.
What makes the secret payments so egregious is that they were made by the same government that was prosecuting the five Cubans.
It is widely known that Radio and TV Martí are U.S. government propaganda. Their purpose is to try to influence the Cuban population against the Cuban government. It is also a thoroughly-documented fact that hardly anyone in Cuba sees TV Martí or hears Radio TV.
The largest audience by far of the U.S. State Department’s propaganda, is right inside the United States, in Miami, Florida, through means of the government-paid journalists.
For U.S. journalists to pose as independent, but receive payment from the government agency that transmits U.S. propaganda, in effect assures that this highly-inflammatory U.S. propaganda is illegally communicated to the very audience from which the jury for the Cuban Five trial was picked.
Thus, the Cuban Five were denied the most elemental right to due process in court.
What we are disseminating today is a segment of the extremely prejudicial coverage that the Miami population was subjected to, including months before the trial began.
There remains much more to be uncovered, and which we will divulge as we obtain the information. Mara Verheyden-Hilliard will detail more about our ongoing lawsuit and second FOIA to obtain more information, but first I would like to review just a sample of this highly prejudicial and false coverage, bought and paid for by Washington:
Wilfredo Cancio Isla was a reporter for El Nuevo Herald, the newspaper with the highest Spanish language distribution in Miami. He received $4,725 from Sept. 30, 2000 to December 3, 2001. One article in that period was published the day the Jury began its deliberations at the conclusion of the trial.
Keep in mind that this jury was unsequestered. The jurors went home every day of the seven-month trial. And BEFORE the jury was selected, the future members of the jury, as part of the larger Miami community, were subjected to 26 months of inflammatory coverage about the Cuban Five.
On June 4, 2001, the very day that the jury began its deliberations on the question of guilt or innocence, Wilfredo Cancio’s article appeared in El Nuevo Herald, with the headline, “Cuba used hallucinogens to train its spies.”
The article claims, from an unnamed source – a supposed Cuban spy defector -- that Cuba gives its spies LSD and other hallucinogens, in order to train them for missions abroad. This claim is completely unsubstantiated. But that is not the real point of the story. The objective of the article is to taint the Five’s case. In a very clever distortion, Wilfredo Cancio manages to link the Five to this outrageous charge, by quoting the anonymous man named Alex, as saying, “I can assure you that the Wasp Network is just a part of the espionage work that was conceived to infiltrate the United States on a long-term basis.” As if to imply by mentioning them in an article about hallucinogens, that the Five were given drugs to control their minds.
This supposed “news’ article had no evidence, just outrageous lies. Yet Wilfredo Cancio received government money. He also wrote an article that appeared in the same paper on April 19, 2001, in which a discussion between the judge, prosecution and defense took place with the jury removed. The defense team had requested permission from the judge to return for a second trip to Cuba to take testimony from additional witnesses. The prosecution complained about the defense request, and in a statement that would not have been allowed in a courtroom with the jury present, said, “Cuba is constructing a fabricated version of the facts.”
The jury may not have been present, but this article and the headline, “The prosecution fears Cuban control in spy trial” was available for all to see, including the jury, in El Nuevo Herald. Written by government-paid Wilfredo Cancio.
Ariel Remos, who writes for Diario de las Américas, covertly received $11,700 during the period of November 1, 1999 to December 12, 2001, the period of the Cuban Five’s prosecution. He wrote extensively calling for Cuban President Fidel Castro’s arrest for the plane shootdown. But the part we will concern ourselves with today, is in the documented period of his payments, where Ariel Remos wrote biased and hostile articles, interviewing only members of the exile Cuban community who have a longstanding enmity with the Cuban leadership. On the U.S. payroll he published in the U.S. press the demand for prosecuting Fidel Castro. In one article he also condemned Gerardo Hernández, whom the U.S. government was prosecuting. He refers to the charge against Hernández and then says that the chain of command begins with Fidel Castro. This theme was a steady drumbeat of hysteria from 1996 all the way through the conviction of the Five. He never disclosed that he was being paid by the U.S. It was a theme repeated continuously by the next writer, Pablo Alfonso.
Pablo Alfonso received $58,600.00 from November 1, 1999 to December 31, 2001, during the prosecution of the Cuban Five. He wrote quite a few prejudicial articles immediately after the Five’s arrest in1998 through 2001 – which you can see from the documents here at the Press Club and on our website. Focusing on the documented period of payments, he gives voice to the rightwing Miami congress members, who lead a campaign to demand Fidel Castro’s arrest and indictment, during the Five’s prosecution, without disclosing covert payments from the United States government.
Enrique Encinosa is news director of Radio Mambí, one of the most biased and vitriolic radio stations, whose commentators have been known to openly welcome violence against people in Miami who advocate normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Encinosa secretly received at least $5,200 during the period of the Five’s prosecution, at the same time that he was a public commentator on the station. Encinosa has a long terrorist past, and he has used the Miami and international airwaves to call for terrorist acts against the people of Cuba. Thus, the U.S. government was not only directly influencing the outcome of the Cuban Five’s case by paying Encinosa, Washington knowingly financed a terrorist.
Helen Ferre received $1,125 from February 21, 2001 to December 13, 2001, the period of the prosecution of the Five. She is editor of the opinion page of Diario Las Américas, which published Ariel Remos, and other biased articles against the Five, including an article by the notorious terrorist Orlando Bosch, who carries a veiled threat against at least one of the defense lawyers.
The Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and René González were irreparably harmed by the sea of prejudice generated by the Miami media. The government’s role in financing much of the vitriolic media coverage means that the government has the obligation to immediately remedy this wrong. The Cuban Five must be freed.
[Note: The background facts about our research is the following: The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in January 2009 for information on payments made to Miami journalists by the OCB and BBG, from the date of Jan. 1, 1996 to December 31, 2001. We requested information from the date 1996, because in February 1996, the Brothers to the Rescue planes invaded Cuban airspace, and were shot down by Cuba as an act of state to protect its territory. Several months after the Cuban Five were arrested in 1998, one of the Five, Gerardo Hernández, was unjustifiably charged with murder conspiracy for the shootdown. Several months after our FOIA request, the OCB released some preliminary information, including the payments received by the journalists we are naming today. But since then, the agency has denied our request for the contracts and other information. However, while we continue to conduct our research, the National Committee already has substantial information that shows a systematic policy of government manipulation of the media in Miami.]
Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild
U.S. Covert Propaganda and Secret Payments to Miami Journalists Covering the Cuban Five
The National Lawyers Guild has defended cases of political significance involving government misconduct since 1937. We have often been the first organization in the legal profession to advocate for fair treatment of government-targeted clients during periods when fundamental guarantees provided by our Constitution have not been respected. The trial of the Cuban Five is one of the most wrenching of these cases. It displays blatant violations of the US Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, or the Smith-Mundt Act. For decades, this law has served as a much-needed firewall between government propaganda and the US public.
The timing of the paid-for journalism suggests that a concerted plan existed to taint the judicial proceedings and tilt the outcome of the trial toward guilty verdicts, depriving the defendants of the cherished Sixth Amendment right to a fair trail by an impartial jury. There can be no doubt that misleading and disparaging articles written by reporters paid by the government had a direct impact on public opinion, the trial court, and the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of the Five.
In paying reporters to deviate from well-established journalistic principles of fairness and accuracy, the government became an accomplice in jury tampering. In the case of the Five, before the trial started, an aggressive propaganda campaign was launched accusing them of espionage. The campaign worked. The 11th Circuit three-judge panel cited the legal standard of “inflammatory, prejudicial pretrial publicity that so pervades or saturates the community as to render virtually impossible a fair trial.”
In its 2005 reversal of the trial court’s decision the panel noted that this publicity combined with other factors to create a “perfect storm” that precluded the possibility of a fair trial. This publicity included a campaign to control the mass media by buying – literally paying for – media coverage. Beyond the moral travesty of this campaign is its patent illegality. The government is prohibited by law from running covert propaganda operations designed to support the administration’s anti-Cuba policies, without identifying them as such. Government subsidized stories hasten incalculable damage to the democratic process.
The National Lawyers Guild, Inc. is a non-profit corporation formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated voluntary bar association, with a mandate to advocate for the protection of rights granted by the United States Constitution and fundamental principles of human and civil rights. The Guild has long fought to ensure defendants a fair forum, with our members filing the first post-Reconstruction actions using the removal process in prosecutions that threatened the civil rights of minority activists. (Baines v. City of Danville, 321 F.2d 643 (4th Cir. 1963)).
Revelan pago de EE.UU. para campaña contra los Cinco Héroes
2 de junio de 2010
Comentarios de Heidi Boghosian, directora ejecutiva, Gremio Nacional de Abogados
Propaganda encubierta y Pagos secretos de los EEUU a periodistas de Miami
Traducción por Juanita Rodríguez Lopez (Cuba)
El Gremio Nacional de Abogados ha defendido casos de connotación política que involucran malas conductas del gobierno desde 1937. Nosotros hemos sido frecuentemente la primera organización en la profesión legal en abogar por un tratamiento justo de los clientes marcados por el gobierno, durante periodos en los cuales las garantías fundamentales previstas en nuestra Constitución no han sido respetadas. El juicio de los Cinco Cubanos es uno de los más sonados de estos casos, pues muestra descaradas violaciones de la Ley de Intercambio Educacional y de Información de 1948, o de la Ley Smith-Mundt. Durante décadas esta ley ha servido como cortafuegos para muchas necesidades entre la propaganda gubernamental y el público de los EEUU.
La utilización de los periodistas pagados sugiere que existía un plan concertado para arruinar los procedimientos judiciales e inclinar la decisión del jurado hacia veredictos de culpabilidad, privando a los acusados del derecho de la apreciada Sexta Enmienda a tener un juicio justo con un jurado imparcial. No puede haber duda acerca de que los artículos disparatados y despreciativos, escritos por los reporteros pagados por el gobierno, tuvieron un impacto sobre la opinión pública, el tribunal, y todo el 11no. Circuito de Apelaciones en el caso de los Cinco.
Al pagarles a los reporteros para que se desviaran de los bien establecidos principios de justicia y verdad del periodismo, el gobierno se convirtió en cómplice de manipulación del jurado. En el caso de los Cinco, antes de que comenzara el juicio, fue lanzada una agresiva campaña propagandística acusándolos de espionaje. La campaña alcanzó sus objetivos. El panel de tres jueces del 11no. Circuito citó la norma legal de "una publicidad sediciosa y perjudicial previa al juicio que satura la comunidad de tal manera que resulta prácticamente imposible tener un juicio justo."
En su decisión de revertir la decisión del tribunal en el año 2005, el panel destacó que esta publicidad se combinó con otros factores para crear una "tormenta perfecta", que no permitió la posibilidad de tener un juicio justo. Esta publicidad incluyó una campaña de control de los medios masivos de comunicación mediante la compra – pagando literalmente por ello – de los medios de cobertura de la información. Detrás del travestismo moral de esta campaña está su patente ilegalidad. Al gobierno le está legalmente prohibido llevar a cabo operaciones de propaganda diseñadas para apoyar las políticas anti-cubanas de la administración, sin identificarlas como tales. Artículos subsidiados por el gobierno precipitan la ocurrencia de un daño incalculable al proceso democrático.
El Gremio Nacional de Abogados, Inc., es una corporación no lucrativa constituida en 1937 como la primera asociación del país voluntariamente integrada racialmente, cuyo mandato es abogar por la protección de los derechos que garantiza la Constitución de los Estados Unidos y los principios fundamentales de los derechos humanos y civiles. La Asociación ha luchado durante largo tiempo para garantizar un foro justo a las personas que son llevadas a los tribunales, con nuestros miembros presentando las primeras acciones de la época post – Reconstrucción, aplicando el proceso de exclusión en los juicios que amenazaban los derechos civiles de los activistas de las minorías. (Baines v. City of Danville, 321 F.2d 643 (4th Cir. 1963)).