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News ::
06 Jun 2003

By Teresa Gutierrez
U.S. Federal Prison
Beaumont, Texas
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the June 23, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Teresa Gutierrez
U.S. Federal Prison
Beaumont, Texas

Anyone who travels to Cuba meets many women and men there who defend
their country and their way of life. It is a wonderful and rich

They have a tremendous zest for life, a unique view of world events, and
an intense passion for the world, especially their beloved country.

Ramon Labaņino is such a Cuban.

But he is not in Cuba. He is serving a life sentence in a federal prison
in Beaumont, Texas.

He and four other political prisoners--Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo
Hernández, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez--are in federal prisons
scattered around the U.S. They have become known as the Cuban 5.

This writer visited Labaņino on May 30 in Beaumont, along with anti-
death penalty activist Gloria Rubac.

As he excitedly walked out to visit with us, dressed in the brown khaki
issued to inmates, it was hard to imagine that this man, tall and
robust, flashing a wide smile, was going through the horrors of what is
known as the U.S. justice system.

Ramon and the other four had come to the U.S. to monitor the actions of
U.S.-backed right-wing terrorists, who regularly carry out provocative
and dangerous actions against Cuba. These terrorists are based in
Florida but get their direction from Washington. They have brought
untold suffering to the Cuban people.

The five were arrested in 1998 and charged with espionage against the
U.S. government, which they emphatically deny. They had come to fight
terrorism, but the U.S. government launched a deceptive, unjust and
cruel campaign against them that resulted in the harshest sentences

All five were tried in Miami, Fla., where it is impossible for those
defending Cuba to get a fair or just hearing.

Ramon had made a tremendous sacrifice when he accepted the assignment
and left behind his beloved country, as well as his wife, Elisabeth, and
three daughters.

But he came to Florida because of his deep devotion to his nation and
his unflinching support of the Cuban Revolution.

As we visited with Labanino on May 30, his love for Cuba was evident,
but he also expressed a commitment to the people of the world. He
explained that his actions to defend the Cuban people against those who
would like to see the revolution overturned were also meant to defend an
idea--the progress of humanity.

Ramon was indignant about recent criticisms of Cuba for having arrested
paid agents of the U.S. who were trying to bring about "regime change"
and for executing three hijackers.

"One cannot judge Cuba out of context," he said. The Cuban government
had to take these actions at a very critical moment to defend the
country, which has been the subject of attack from the U.S. for over 40
years, he explained. The progressive movement needs to unite against
imperialism, which is the most important problem in the world.

Intellectuals, he pointed out, should contribute to the progress of
humanity, act responsibly about important matters and look at Cuba
historically, which means in the context of its history.

Ramon stressed the importance of the people of the United States and
said he even felt at times that he'd like to stay and do political work
here if he were free.

He believes the people here must be more organized and the movement
should be the strongest and biggest because of the role that the U.S.
government plays around the world.

It is here, he said, "where the people must be most conscious."

Ramon described his life in a Texas prison. Divisions abound, he told
us. Gangs, drugs and violence run amok. Prisoners somehow get access to
guns and drugs, which contributes to the repressive and violent
atmosphere. This climate is fostered by the system and benefits the
prison officials. U.S. prisons serve only to repress, not to

Labanino told us more than once to express his profound gratitude to all
the people who have worked so hard to defend him and the other four
political prisoners.

He receives 10 to 15 letters a day and cannot respond to them all. So he
wants to make sure that everyone who writes to him and works on his case
knows how deeply grateful he is.

Indeed, the solidarity movement has been decisive in the case of the
five. When John Ashcroft's Justice Department decided, with absolutely
no justification whatsoever, to put all five in solitary confinement a
few months ago, it was international pressure that helped get them out
of the hole.

Attorneys for the five have stressed that the next few months are
extremely important. Oral arguments are expected to take place soon.
Forums, letters and campaigns of all kinds are needed to get the word
out on the case.

Tens of thousands of people in the U.S. have traveled to Cuba and know
first-hand that it has achieved a society worth fighting for.

Ramon Labanino, Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Fernando Gonzalez and
Antonio Guerrero are innocent and deserve to be freed.

The web site has more information on their case and
how to help.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
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