Wednesday, July 2, 2008

19th Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba Demands Freedom for the Cuban Five

19th Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba Demands Freedom for the Cuban Five


In McAllen, Texas: Ellen Bernstein 646/319-5902
In New York City: Lucia Bruno 212/926-5757

On July 3rd, more than 100 Pastors for Peace volunteers will cross the US-Mexico border with nearly 100 tons of humanitarian aid destined for Cuba. Participants in the 19th US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan are demanding an end to the 47-year-old US blockade against Cuba. The 19th Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba is also demanding the immediate release of the ‘Cuban Five’ – five Cubans who are being held in US jails for protecting their people against US-government-sponsored terrorism.

In the mid 1990s, the Cuban Five were sent unarmed to Miami to investigate terrorist organizations that have carried out attacks against Cuba that have included hotel bombings, poisoning of livestock and water, and the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455 which killed 73 people. These attacks have killed more than 3,500 Cubans to date.

In 1998, the Cuban Five – Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, René González, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González – uncovered a deadly plot masterminded by the infamous Luis Posada Carriles. [See below for more information about Posada.] Concerned about saving lives, they took the information to the FBI. Instead of pursuing the case against Posada, the Five were arrested and falsely charged with “conspiracy to commit espionage” and “conspiracy to commit murder.” They have remained in US super-max prisons for nearly 10 years, sometimes being held in solitary confinement for up to 17 months. (For more information on the case, please visit: or

Over the past two weeks, the Pastors for Peace Caravan has stopped in over 120 cities across the US and Canada, gathering humanitarian aid and raising awareness about the US blockade on Cuba, as well as the case of the Cuban Five. Aid being donated to Cuba includes medical equipment, musical instruments and school supplies, as well as five brightly-painted buses, each painted in honor of one of the Cuban Five.

The work of Pastors for Peace to raise awareness about the case of the Cuban Five is even more important in light of a recent decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to uphold the charges against the Five. The cases of three of the Five will be remanded for re-sentencing to the same Miami court that first convicted them.

“The imprisonment of the Cuban Five is a clear violation of the rule of law,” said Rev. Lucius Walker, Executive Director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “In light of the US Supreme Court’s recent decision concerning habeas corpus - that it cannot hold persons indefinitely in prison without hard evidence – we should be encouraged to redouble our efforts to win freedom for the Cuban Five, who have been held contrary to US principles of jurisprudence for nearly ten years.”

Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), an ecumenical agency with a 40-year history of work for social justice. More information and photo images of the caravan and the buses named for the Cuban Five are available at

Luis Posada Carriles:

· Was responsible, along with Orlando Bosch, for the explosion in mid-air of a Cubana passenger airliner in 1976. 73 people were killed, including the entire Cuban Olympic fencing team. This was the worst act of air terrorism in the Western Hemisphere until September 11, 2001. Both Posada and Bosch are currently walking free in Miami.

· Worked in Honduras in the 1980s training the US-backed contras who waged a brutal “low-intensity war” against the people of Nicaragua. [At this time, the US ambassador to Honduras, also involved in training the contras, was John Negroponte – the current Deputy Secretary of State.]

· Bragged to the New York Times about hiring Central American mercenaries to plant bombs in hotel lobbies in Havana in the 1990s, in order to discourage the tourism that was needed to help improve the Cuban economy. This resulted in the death of an Italian citizen.

· Was convicted of a plot to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro in Panama in 2001. He and his henchmen were convicted and jailed in Panama. On the next to last day of Panamanian President Moscoso’s term as president, she pardoned them all. Posada eventually turned up in Miami, was jailed on immigration charges for entering the US illegally, and then was let free. On June 30, 2008, the Supreme Court of Panama reversed his criminal pardon. Whether he will be extradited remains to be seen.