For Family of Cuban 5, ‘A Mix of Honour and Pain’

The sister of Antonio Guerrero, one of the 5 Cuban heroes detained in the United States, spoke to teleSUR English about her brother, the case, and her family’s struggle for justice.

For the family of one of the so-called Cuban 5, his illegal detention in the United States has brought mixed feelings, in an exclusive interview with teleSUR English at the Cuban Embassy in Quito.

Maria Eugenia Guerrero, the sister of Antonio Guerrero one of the Cuban imprisoned in the United States for fighting against terrorism said that, “When we found out, it was difficult. As my mother says, it has been a mixture of honor and pain. A mixture of honor, because it is an honor to have a brother that one day decided to defend his family, to defend his people, and to defend peace and humanity against terrorism. He risked his life and abandoned everything.”

Antonio Guerrero is one of the 5 Cubans arrested in the U.S. by the FBI on September 12, 1998. Known as the Cuban 5, these men infiltrated violent, right wing exile groups in Miami that were committing terrorist attacks against Cuba.

Maria Eugenia, is in Quito to present her brother’s paintings at an exhibition and share her family’s story.

The Cuban 5 were held in isolation cells for 17 months before their case was brought to court, and the men were convicted on conspiracy charges. The trial has been considered unfair by many, as it was held in Miami with a local jury.

Many in the international community doubt that there was due process. Despite the conviction of the Cuban 5, the perpetrators of terrorist attacks against the island, such as Luis Posada Carriles, the mastermind behind the 1976 bombing of Cuban Flight 455 which killed 73 people, remain free.

On the conviction of her brother and the other 4 Cubans, Guerrero said, “Their only objective was to try to obtain information about the terrorist groups operating out of Florida in order to inform the U.S. and Cuban governments so as to prevent these attacks from occurring.”

“In 1996, one of the many bombs planted in Cuba was at the Copacabana Hotel. It killed the young Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo. In Cuba, more than 3,000 people have been victims of terrorist attacks which have been perpetrated by people who to this day live freely in the United States, principally Florida,” she went on to say.

Guerrero said that from behind bars, Antonio has developed relationships with renowned artists and intellectuals, such as musician Silvio Rodriguez. He has also received over 16,000 letters of support from around the world.

The political prisoner has published books of poetry and taught himself how to paint. He now gives painting classes to his fellow prisoners at Marianna Prison, and teaches math, English and Spanish.

“He said that he has never felt like a prisoner, because he has found a way to be in contact with the outside world. He is in contact of course with his family, with his children. In our family, my brother is never absent. When my daughter turned 15, he was present, dedicating her a poem, sending her a letter,” said Guerrero.

On her brother, Guerrero said, “He is a person surrounded by friends, surrounded by love, by happiness. When we go visit him, he always comes into the visiting room with a smile on his face. And you have to take a deep breath and think how this is possible. And the whole time we are visiting – the visits are from 9 to 3 in the afternoon – the entire time we are there we are never mournful. We never speak of hatred. We tell stories and we remember songs from our youth.”

While Rene and Fernando, 2 of the Cuban 5, have already completed their sentences, Antonio is set to leave prison on September 18, 2017 and Ramon in 2024. Gerardo is sentenced to two life terms.

Through their participation in international solidarity events and direct lobbying, Maria Eugenia and the families of the 5 are working for their freedom.

She said, “My hope, is that Obama, before he finishes his term, decides to sign a presidential pardon and free the 3 Cubans. This is what we are constantly thinking about. We think that this is the moment, and that he can do this.”

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