Below we reprint a major portion of the statement of Ramon Labaniño Salazar given in federal court in Miami on Dec. 13, 2001, before he was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges including “conspiracy to commit espionage” for Cuba.
Labaniño is one of five Cuban citizens who were given sentences of from 10 years to life after being convicted in a frame-up show trial last June. The FBI had charged them with being members of a “Cuban Spy Network.”
Attorneys for the defense maintained that the five defendants had been searching for information (which is readily available to the public) about right-wing Cuban American terrorist groups in Miami, in order to prevent attacks against Cuba.
Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen:
First of all, I join in all of the arguments put forward by my four brothers in this case and in my recognition of the professional behavior of the officials in this court: Richard, the translators, the marshals, and Lisa.
The criminal attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington took the lives of thousands of innocent people in the United States, and we share in the anger and sorrow of the American people. It is our fervent hope that such events are never repeated.
We who have devoted our lives to fighting terrorism, to preventing atrocious acts like these from taking place; we who have tried to save the lives of innocent human beings not only in Cuba but in the United States as well, stand in this courtroom today to be sentenced precisely for preventing similar acts. Thus, this punishment could not be more ironic and unfair!
The words of George W. Bush, president of this country, in the name of which I am to be sentenced, clearly express the reasons why we came to the United States and why we find ourselves in this courtroom today.
From this very city of Miami, terrorist acts against my country, Cuba, have been planned, organized, and directed. From here, the terrorists and their activities are sponsored, encouraged, and financed. They are given shelter here as well.
To mention just one well-known case, a terrorist and murderer not only of Cubans but of people from the United States as well, Orlando Bosch, freely walks the streets of Miami. And what is most regrettable of all is that all of this takes place with the knowledge and consent of this country’s authorities. One need only thoroughly read all of the evidence in our case, which gives a full account of all these kinds of terrorist activities.
Cuba, my country, has suffered more than 42 years of terrorist acts, aggression, invasions, and provocations, which have resulted in the deaths of over 3478 innocent human beings and physical injuries to over 2099. Cuba, like the United States, has the right to defend itself.
To offer just a few examples: On March 4, 1960, the French ship La Coubre was blown up in the port of Havana by agents of the CIA; 101 people were killed as a result of this terrorist sabotage, including six French sailors.
On Oct. 6, 1976, in a treacherous terrorist attack perpetrated by Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, through Venezuelan mercenaries, two bombs were detonated on a Cubana Airlines civilian aircraft that had taken off from Barbados, cruelly killing 73 people (57 Cubans, including 24 youths from the Cuban National Fencing Team, 11 young people from Guyana, and five Koreans).
Some of these terrorist murderers are in prison today in Panama, and enormous efforts are being made here in Miami to have them set free. Here they are called “patriots” and regarded as symbols; radio stations are raising funds for their defense and possible escape from jail.
There have been 637 attempts on the life of the president of Cuba, Fidel Castro. Bacteriological terrorism aimed at humans, plants, and animals has also been used against my country, with a total of 344,203 people affected and 158 dead, of whom 101 were children.
This is not paranoia, these are lives of innocent human beings! These terrorist groups we were acting against not only carried out these kinds of activities in Cuba, but also here in the United States.
This news report, which is totally public and available to everyone, provides a summary of the terrorist acts committed here in Miami, a total of over 68 acts of violence. This article written by journalist Jim Mullin of the Miami New Times on April 20-26, 2000, among many other incidents, reports the following:
- 1968: Orlando Bosch fires a bazooka from the MacArthur Causeway against a Polish ship (Miami politicians would later declare an “Orlando Bosch Day” to honor this terrorist).
- 1974: Exile leader Jose ElÌas de la Torriente is murdered in Coral Gables for the failure of an invasion he was to lead to Cuba.
- 1975: Luciano Nieves is murdered after defending peaceful coexistence with Cuba.
- 1976: Emilio Milan, the news director at WQBA-AM, has his legs blown off by a car bomb after publicly condemning the violence perpetrated by the exile community.
- 1981: A bomb explodes in the Mexican consulate on Brickell Ave., in protest over Mexico’s relations with Cuba.
- 1996: A bomb explodes in the Little Havana restaurant Centro Vasco, to protest a scheduled concert by Cuban singer Rosita Fornes.
- 2000: On April 11, outside the home of Elian Gonzalez’ relatives in Miami, radio journalist Scott Piasant de Obregon holds up a T-shirt reading, “Send the boy home, it’s a father’s right,” and is physically attacked before the police arrive.
These things did not happen in Cuba. They happened here in the United States, in Miami, in the cities and streets of this country where we all live, where you and your children and families walk every day.
In the 1990s, terrorism, raids and provocations against my country were stepped up, until in 1997 there was a wave of terrorist acts against hotels and other tourism establishments that resulted in the murder of an innocent Italian tourist, Favio Di Celmo.
How many more deaths of innocent human beings must we witness before this insane and absurd policy towards Cuba is ended? How many more human lives must be lost before the FBI truly fulfills its duty and arrests the real criminals and terrorists who act against the very people of the United States?
Could it be that this “fight against terrorism” is pure rhetoric? No, common sense would say that it is not. And that is precisely why we are here today, because we do not want any of these things to happen, in Cuba, in the United States, in Miami, or in any other part of the world. All that we have done is this: to try to save the lives of innocent human beings, by preventing terrorism and preventing a stupid war.
The same pattern can be observed in all of the Cuban-American terrorists we know. Jose Basulto was recruited and trained by the CIA and used in its war against my country, and he has kept up the practice of terrorism and provocation until today, just like the members of such organizations as the Cuban American National Foundation, Alpha 66, Comandos F-4, the Democratic National Unity Party (PUND), Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), and the many others referred to in our evidence.
These terrorists represent to Cuba what the perpetrators of the horrific acts committed against the United States represent to this country.
Cuba has never trusted these characters, and it never will. Nor should the United States trust them-much less protect them. This is a serious mistake, which could explain in part why events like those of Sept. 11 happen.
My country has suffered from terrorism for more than 42 years. Today the United States is suffering, and if this problem is not eradicated at the root, it could continue to suffer tomorrow. Here in the United States there are more than 800 organizations of a violent nature; this country is the one most vulnerable to these kinds of criminal acts.
Terrorism is the true enemy of the national security of the United States. Maintaining a stance of inactivity or indifference, or worse yet, complicity and concealment of terrorists and terrorism, is the worst crime that can be committed against the national security of this nation; and that is precisely what is happening in this case. Those who protect these groups and individuals are the ones really endangering the United States’s national security.
And that is why, from this forum, I denounce the law enforcement agencies of the United States that have concealed and failed to take action against terrorism and terrorists!
For many years, Cuba has passed information on to various government agencies in the United States, up to the highest level; detailed, documented information, complete with names and conclusive evidence of criminal acts and murders. Our own evidence in this case is a full array of that information. And even with all this information in their hands, they have done nothing. There has not been a single arrest, or even a single investigation carried out or underway.
With our arrest, all they have attempted to do is to silence the source of information, to keep serious acts of terrorism like these from disclosure and to hide the truth that so brutally hits us today. Moreover, the FBI has conspired with the terrorists themselves and the extreme right wing in Miami to damage and obstruct any kind of rapprochement and cooperation between our two peoples and governments….
If preventing the deaths of innocent human beings, defending our two countries from terrorism, and preventing a senseless invasion of Cuba are the reasons I am being sentenced today, then I welcome that sentence! I will wear the prison uniform with the same honor and pride with which a soldier wears his most prized insignias!
This has been a political trial and therefore we are political prisoners! All of the evidence is here; this is where history is written. And it is history that will do us true justice! Thank you.