Press conference by Foreign Minister of the Repúblic of Cuba, Felipe Pérez Roque on the mercenaries at the service of the empire who stood trial on April 3,4,5 and 7, 2003. Havana City, April 9, 2003 (2nd Part) 

Now that I have spoken of the immigration issue I want to add a piece of information that I think is important for what I am about to say. I want to say that we believe that the increase in hijackings —I already said there were seven hijackings in seven months using firearms, knives, violence against passengers, grenades-- our opinion is that these hijackings, these numerous plans for hijackings, for illegal emigration to the United States are actually part of a deliberate plan to encourage illegal departures from Cuba, to encourage people to commit acts of terrorism on boats, and on planes that fly to and from Cuba, to encourage the hijacking of Cuban boats and of Cuban planes, to create the conditions which will allow them to tear up the immigration agreement.


We believe there is a deliberate plan whose final goal is to tear up the immigration agreements which have been working between the two countries for almost a decade and to realize the dream of the groups of Cuban-born extremists, of the Cuban-born terrorist mob living in Florida that have always opposed these agreements and put continual pressure on the U.S. government to break up these agreements.


It is worth now casting a brief look at the text and commitments in this agreement. This is the joint communiqué of September 9, 1994, signed by both governments and it reads, "migrants rescued at sea attempting to enter the United States will not be permitted to enter the United States." It goes on to say that "both countries pledged their cooperation to take prompt and effective action to prevent the transport of persons to the U.S. illegally," this is signed; it also says that "the two governments will take effective measures in every way they possibly can to oppose and prevent the use of violence by any persons seeking to reach, or who arrive in, the United States from Cuba by forcible diversions of aircraft and vessels." This is the commitment entered by the United States Government. It also says that "the United States ensure that total legal migration to the United States from Cuba will be a minimum of 20, 000 Cubans each year."


I will dwell here on this table I am showing: the U.S. government’s commitment is to give visas to a minimum of 20,000 Cubans a year so they can emigrate. This does not include immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, therefore, not including that, a minimum of 20,000 should emigrate.



This table shows the true situation five months into the ninth year of the agreement. Each year of the agreement begins on October 1.


Between October 1 and February 28, in these first five months of the agreement in the year we are now in during which the United States should grant no less than 20,000 visas, with five months gone, they have issued 505 visas. Last year there were 7,237, in 2001 there were more than 8,300, in 2000, 10,860 and in 1999 back then, five months into the year, almost 11,600 Cubans had received their visas and were emigrating to the United States.


What does this abrupt reduction in issued visas mean in overt violation of the Immigration Agreement? Why is the U.S. government not meeting its commitment? Why, after five months have gone by are we not even close to 10,000 Cubans with visas and they have issued hardly 2.5% of the visas agreed to?


Last year there was already a violation; in 2002 they did not issue 20,000 visas. They were short by 2,000 visas since they granted just over 18,000 visas. That was a breach of the agreement last year, which ended on September 30.


Then, from October 1 until now, look at the curve (he points to the graph). What are we dealing with? We are dealing with a deliberate plan to make those who want to emigrate lose hope, so that they have no alternative but illegal emigration. Why don’t they meet their obligations? Why has the Interests Section, with the extensive consular apparatus they have working in Havana, with all their facilities, given out barely 505 visas? It’s the same in March, six months into the year.


So, at the present pace there will be a flagrant violation of the Immigration Agreement that commits the U.S. government to hand out at least 20,000 visas. We are witnessing the implementation of a premeditated plan to encourage illegal emigration, to leave those who want to emigrate from Cuba no other option than to hijack boats, planes. What we want is that migration takes place in a legal and orderly fashion.


There are people who want to tear up the immigration agreements. There is a list of people we know quite well who don’t want any immigration agreements, who want to create an incident between Cuba and the United States, who are asking the United States to use aggression against Cuba.


Therefore, I think that this is the right opportunity to warn about this new provocation and confrontation scenario.


On May 2, 1995 both governments issued a joint declaration, which was annexed to the previous communiqué, and reads:


"From this moment on Cuban migrants who are intercepted at sea by the United States will be returned to Cuba.


"Both parties reaffirm their joint commitment to take measures to prevent dangerous exits from Cuba which could mean a risk of loss of human life and both commit themselves to opposing those acts of violence associated with illegal migration".


This is the agreement in force between our countries and we see how they dangerously breach the Immigration Agreement and issue a really minimum amount of visas to migrate legally from Cuba.


Now, I will offer you some information about the criminal trials, having looked at the background and explained their causes and the conditions that have brought us to this point.


Twenty-nine trials have been held in Cuba, in just about every province in the country. Charges were pressed against 75 people, 74 of them men, and the courts have handed down appropriate sentences of between 6 and 28 years in jail. Therefore, it is not true that there have been death sentences. It is not true that in these cases life sentences have been handed down, which the law allows for and the behavior of some of the defendants merit. Actually, even longer sentences than they were given are provided for their crimes in most legal systems around the world.


The criminal trials were arraigned on an expedite basis as per Law No. 5 of 1977, the Law of Criminal Procedure. And here I want to make a side comment.


A summary trial is an institution that is not new and is far from being a Cuban invention and something only used in Cuba, far from it. It is in the body of law of more than 100 countries, including the United States and was, in fact, brought to Cuba by the Spanish colonial government. Summary trials did not arise in Cuba in the Revolution; they date back to the 1888 Law of Criminal Prosecution so that it was the Spanish colonizers who brought this to Cuba, the Spanish colonial government. The Law of Criminal Prosecution of 1888 was in effect in Cuba as the Law of Criminal Procedure until 1973 when new regulations were adopted, but they took a lot from that law. Just as the present Cuban Commercial Code is still the Spanish Code from colonial times. And the interventionist U.S. military government from 1900 to 1902 used summary trials. So, we have inherited this institution, which is also used universally.


A summary trial means that the President of the Supreme Court is empowered to shorten the time for holding a trial, but under no circumstances does it mean a limitation of guarantees. Therefore, I strongly reject the idea that a summary trial is a trial without guarantees or that a summary trial is an institution invented by Cuba.


Summary trials also existed in the pseudo-republic, under Machado and Batista’s bloody dictatorships, which U.S. governments supported and financed giving them military and political support, although they were not often used or they were used but they were not the only measures because they resorted to more expeditious solutions such as murder, disappearance and crime against their opponents.


In Latin America the United States backed military dictatorship that disappeared and murdered hundreds of thousands of people. They too used more expeditious procedures such as murder and disappearance, which the Revolution cannot be accused of. No one can come up with, nor will ever be able to come up with the name of a missing person in Cuba, the name of a murdered person, or of someone arrested in the early hours of morning with a hood placed on his or her head who was never seen again. However, there are hundreds of thousands of cases on those lists of missing people in Latin America that have yet to be resolved. No one can accuse Cuba of any such thing! Just as it cannot be accused of having the new institutions created by U.S. legislation such as the Secret Military Courts.


Therefore, I maintain that there has been absolute respect for due process and that all defendants have had their full guarantees respected in accordance with Cuban law and with the principles generally recognized and accepted throughout the world.


I will be quoting them in the six arguments I will put forward.


First, all of the defendants knew of the charges brought against them and had the opportunity to contest them before the trial began. They could also set forth anything they considered relevant. It is not true that they only learned of the charges during the trial. They were informed in advance and just like any other defendant in Cuba they had the opportunity to give their views on the charges.


Secondly, all of the defendants exercised their right to have legal counsel, a defence lawyer who, according to Cuban law, can be either retained by the defendant or, if he or she fails to do so, appointed by the court as assigned counsel.


I will make clear that 54 defence lawyers took part in the 29 trials; some lawyers represented more than one defendant.


Fifty-four took part, of which the defendants and their families appointed 44. I reject the notion that some of the defendants were not properly defended in their trial; that is untrue. Those who say this are lying. Of the 54 lawyers, the defendants retained 44, that is, 80% and the courts appointed 10.


Thirdly, all of the defendants exercised their right to be heard by previously established courts. No special ad hoc tribunal was set up to try them. They did not go before a military court set up in an expeditious way; that is not true. They were brought before previously established provincial courts, as our law provides for, and judges appointed who were already there and working in those courts. No judges were appointed on any especial basis nor courts specifically set up; that is untrue.


Therefore, all of them, each and every one of them, exercised their right to be heard in public hearings by courts and judges that already existed. Oral proceedings were held with the defendants where they exercised their right to speak, where they answered questions from the defence and the prosecution, where witnesses were called, experts were called, where the defence lawyers examined the witnesses, including the experts. There were oral hearings because our law does not allow a court to make a decision without a hearing, as it is the case with the U.S. and other legal systems where the defendants can plead guilty or cut a deal, and sentence can be passed without a trial.


Here in Cuba a hearing is required and hearings were held. In other words, nobody was judged on paper or without being given the chance to express his opinion and make his statements and those of his lawyers.


The oral hearings were open to the public. I reject the notion of secret trials. On average, about 100 people per trial attended the hearings. Almost 3,000 people attended all of the hearings, mostly family members, witnesses and expert witnesses —hundreds of witnesses and expert witnesses— and on average about 100 people almost 3,000 at the 29 trials. Therefore, I reject the notion of the defendants brought to trial in a place with no guarantees and with nobody in attendance; that information is false.


I must now here make clear the following: it has been said, "Foreign diplomats in Havana were not present at the trials." Some foreign diplomats, I should say from a small number of countries, were especially interested in these matters, I don’t know why. And this has been used as an example of the lack of guarantees.


Who can say that a foreign diplomat has any right to attend a trial if someone from his country is not being tried? If there had been a citizen from his country, the trial would have been held without the presence of a diplomatic representative. That is how things works in Cuba in those cases where foreigners must stand trial because they have committed a crime in our country, drug trafficking, crimes of terrorism and other crimes. There is always diplomatic and consular access and representation from the defendants’ country of origin.


Why should a foreign diplomat attend a trial where Cubans are being tried by a Cuban court, with Cuban accusers, Cuban defence attorneys and Cuban relatives? What monitoring job does he or she have to do there? If they want any information they can address the Foreign Ministry and we shall decide what information we offer. We do not have to grant a special right that we are not granted. The courts are empowered to decide who can and who cannot attend.


I want to make it clear that we have not ignored any prerogative of some foreign diplomats in Havana. There is simply no reason for foreign diplomats to attend a trial unless one of their nationals is on trial.


The courts decided that they would not be open to the press, that is their prerogative and we respect it. They decided for security and organizational reasons and to avoid any incidents to limit access of hundreds of thousands and millions of revolutionaries who, angry at the unpatriotic and mercenary attitude of those individuals would have liked to attend those trials but couldn’t go either. But those trials were held with all guarantees for the physical and moral integrity of the accused and with due order and respect for their relatives and for all involved.


I stress that these were oral, public and adversary proceedings, that is a principle of law, which allows for the defence to present opposing views. Therefore, I strongly reject the idea of a trial in which these rights were not guaranteed.


Fourth, all of the defendants and their defence lawyers exercised their right to introduce evidence in their favor, which was examined the same as that produced by the police investigation, which was introduced by the prosecution. They exercised their right to call their witnesses. The defence lawyers called 28 witnesses who had not been previously called by the prosecution, of whom 22, the overwhelming majority were authorized on the spot by the courts to act as witnesses.


All of the defence lawyers had prior access to the list of charges. What happened to the defence lawyers of the five Cubans unjustly sentenced in Miami did not happen here, that still today, all this time after the trial, they have not been given access to 80% of the documents submitted by the prosecution because the U.S. government has declared them to be secret. That did not happen here.


What happened to the five Cubans in Miami who were not able to read the charges against them in order to prepare their defence did not happen here. That did not happen nor did the defence lawyers have to argue their cases without having seen 80% of the prosecution’s charges. That was not the case here.


Neither have any of those defendants in Cuba been put into solitary confinement to prevent them from preparing for the trial.


Fifth; all have the right, and they were notified of this during the trial, to appeal their sentences in a court higher than the one, which handed down their sentences, in this case to the Supreme Court. This is a right they have which the Cuban law respects scrupulously.


And sixth; I said I was going to cite six arguments. There has been the most transparent and scrupulous respect for the physical safety, for the physical and moral integrity of each of the defendants at every stage of the trial. There is not here the slightest evidence or the slightest suspicion of coercion, pressure, threats or blackmail. We cannot be accused of any of that because we have morale, because we believe in moral values and that is what has allowed us to get this far, and our people know that.


Now on this subject I’m going to show you the opinion offered, on this matter of guarantees, by one of the defendants in a trial yesterday.


(A video is shown)

Presiding Judge: ... to make a statement or refrain from doing so, Do you want to make a statement?

Defendant: Yes, I want to make a statement.

Presiding Judge: Freely?

Defendant: Freely.

Presiding Judge: You can proceed now.

Defendant: I suggest you ask me questions, like you did to Miguel, that the court asks me questions.

Presiding Judge: You said you wanted to do it freely, that is, without questions. Well, then I will say the same thing that if there is any question that you do not wish to answer you should tell the members of the court that is your right.

Defendant.- I want to attest to here, before this court, the proper treatment that we have been given by the State Security authorities in the investigation department. We have been treated fairly, we have not been harassed, and we have not been mistreated at any time.

We must say that the officials, the high command of Villamarista and all of the staff there, including the guards and the service staff, have treated us very well, or at least me personally. I want to say this because, well, I have not been in contact with the other defendants. But, I want to express my gratitude for this proper treatment, and for the fact that we have been offered very good medical care three times a day, and in the case of any kind of pain, any kind of health problem, the doctors have come to our cells, they have been there right with us, if someone had high blood pressure, or needed to take medication at a certain time, or for any kind of pain, a toothache, anything. The investigation department has taken care of us at all times.

They have allowed visits from our families, we have been given 15, 20, 25 minutes to see our families, and we appreciate this, or at least I appreciate this. I wanted to say that. The visits with our families have been open, in front of an investigator, but still, they have been open, we have been allowed to talk freely. And we have also had ample contact with our defense lawyers, they have given us all the time in the world to speak with them.

Well, I want to make it clear here that any false rumors there may be about the conduct of the investigative authorities at Villamarista are false rumors, it cannot be said that they mistreat anyone there, or harass anyone, or repress anyone.

Felipe Pérez Roque.- I should add a few clarifications to what you have seen here. I will say this: There are 37 defendants who allegedly worked as "independent journalists". I have seen publications where it has been said that we have arrested the leading Cuban journalists, that we have arrested the Cuban intelligentsia. This is a particularly absurd, superficial claim, which truly amazes me.


Of the 37 defendants who have claimed for years to be "independent journalists", while doing their work as agents of the United States government in Cuba, only four actually studied journalism and were journalists at some time in their lives. Is that clear? Four out of 37. And in Cuba there is no such thing as a technical degree in journalism, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Is that clear?


Four of them studied journalism at a university and worked at some point as journalists, four of the 37. Out of the 37, a total of 14 have had some type of university studies, including those four, is that clear? So now you can help me, please, to clarify things to those who have obviously had misleading information, though certainly not bad faith.


Please, help us inform them that in Cuba, in addition to the 157 correspondents who work for the foreign media –some are citizens of other countries, others are Cuban, 157 in all, and many are here now– there are currently, working in Cuba as journalists, with university degrees in journalism extended by our universities after five years of study, and often with post-graduate studies in other institutions, universities around the world, 2175 journalists. Please, clarify that all of you here are the journalists, and them, the 2175 Cuban journalists who are working today for 548 Cuban media organizations –five hundred and forty-eight!– radio, television, printed publications, of which 237 have digital versions. That is the Cuban press and not the mercenaries who publish in the Miami Herald what their bosses instruct them to, as we will see later. Because we have more news for you, all right?


So, please, let’s see if the fact gets across that there were four who had been journalists at some point in their lives, out of the 37, and that 14 set foot in a university at one time or another. And that here there are more than 2000 Cuban journalists and 157 foreign journalists who have degrees, who have worked as journalists, who have recognized careers. So, we hope they will no longer insult our professionals and all of you, whose work we appreciate and respect, all of you who work as professionals and inform the public and play an important social role that we recognize and support. But really, using the title of journalists for these mercenaries who participate in conspiracies to subvert Cuba is something that offends our sensitivity.


I should say, on the other hand, that there are more than 60,000 economists and accountants in Cuba. The idea that the leading Cuban economists have been accused is something that insults our intelligence. There are more than 60,000, and not a single one was there, is that clear? More than 60,000.


There are more than 700,000 university graduates in Cuba. When I see certain personalities claiming that the finest Cuban intellectuals have been accused, it makes me think about our comrades, our living legends of classic ballet, music, literature, poetry, painting, acting, our prestigious journalists, our authors. It seems to me that this disregard, this limiting of Cuban intellectuals to that group of people, among whom there are few university graduates, few intellectuals, few people who have worked in journalism at some point, it seems to me that this is really an insult to the efforts we have made in pursuit of the education and culture of our people.


So, please help us to clarify this, that all of the university graduates in Cuba were not put on trial, that there are more than 700,000 of them in Cuba. And although I am saying this, we are not really bothered by it. You see, we do not allow our patience to be exhausted, we do not allow ourselves to be provoked by these statements. But, we believe that the truth should be said with honesty, regardless of the positions or views one may have towards Cuba.


Lastly, with regard to this matter, I want to say that the prosecutors have used the following articles of Cuban legislation, of laws previously existing in Cuba. No one is being judged on the basis of a law passed after he was charged. This is a state of law; this is a country with respectable institutions that carry out their work.


They have applied Article 91 of the Cuban Penal Code, Law 62 of 1987, which came, in turn, from the Spanish Penal Code. This article has been a part of the Cuban penal law since Cuba was a colony of Spain, and it is almost exactly repeated in the U.S. Penal Code. It provides that: "Actions against the independence or territorial integrity of the State. He who executes an action in the interest of a foreign state with the purpose of harming the independence of the Cuban state or the integrity of its territory shall incur a sentence of 10 to 20 years of deprivation of liberty or death."


It was taken from the Cuban Social Defense Code of 1936, which in turn came from the Spanish legislation. Is that clear?


We consider, and the prosecutors consider, and the people of Cuba consider that someone who receives money from a foreign power, supports the blockade, helps to spread biased information to justify the blockade; commits actions in service of a foreign power; anyone who provides information to facilitate the application of the Helms-Burton Act is committing actions in the service of a foreign power, and therefore, our laws should serve us to defend ourselves from such conduct.


That we had not done so before? It is true. We have been patient, as I said already, we have been tolerant. But we have been compelled to defend ourselves.


Additionally, they have applied several articles of Law No. 88 on the Protection of National Independence and the Economy of Cuba, the Cuban antidote to the Helms-Burton Act. And Cuba was not the only state that proclaimed that it was a crime in its territory to collaborate with the Helms-Burton Act, or to obey it. Canada made it a law. In Canada it is a crime to collaborate or comply with the Helms-Burton Act. The European Union adopted a regulation, and in other countries, in Mexico, in Argentina, laws were passed that make collaboration or compliance with the Helms-Burton Act a punishable crime. It is a crime in these countries to comply with the Helms-Burton Act, as a result of these antidote laws, which are measures of legitimate defense from the extraterritorial nature of the Act. How could we possibly not have a law to protect ourselves from it? And this law has been invoked.


It has been said that these are prisoners of conscience that they have been charged for thinking or for speaking and I categorically reject this notion. What have been judged here are actions and conducts typified as crimes by the law, we have not judged ideas. We win battles of ideas with ideas, as José Martí said, and we are very strong in the field of ideas. We punish actions and conducts.


I have here the articles of Law No. 88 on the Protection of National Independence and the Economy:


Article 5.1. "He who seeks out information to be used in the application of the Helms-Burton Act, the blockade and the economic war against our people, aimed at disrupting internal order, destabilizing the country and liquidating the socialist state and the independence of Cuba, shall incur a sanction of deprivation of liberty.


Article 6.1. "He who gathers, reproduces, disseminates subversive material from the government of the United States of America, its agencies, representative bodies, officials or any foreign entity to support the objectives of the Helms-Burton Act, the blockade and the war, shall incur..." It has been said that they are in jail because they had Mark Twain books in their homes, because they had The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, or the Bible. These accusations offend us and insult the truth.


Why would it not be a crime in Cuba to spread propaganda from the government of the United States, manuals for internal subversion, texts that speak in favor of maintaining the blockade against Cuba? Why should we not be able to defend ourselves from the longest blockade in history? Why? Our country has the right, by virtue of the Charter of the United Nations, to defend its right to self-determination, to choose its own system, and it has the authority for its laws to contemplate as crimes any conduct or actions conducive to an aggression against our country, that are financed from abroad, and are therefore a crime.


No one is killed for this, no one is tortured for this, but we do punish them, and our people demand that we strongly defend the Revolution, and we have a public opinion that sees how airplanes are seized and boats arrive there; that sees how the groups that train with heavy weaponry to attack our country can act with impunity in Florida; who have suffered the deaths of their loved ones in decades of terrorist actions. Why should we not defend ourselves?


I am invoking here our right to legitimate defense established in the Charter of the United Nations, and we are the victims of an economic, political and propaganda war. Anyone who collaborates here in Cuba with those objectives has to know they are committing a crime.


Article 7. "He who, with the goal of achieving the objectives of the Helms-Burton Act" –which, as we have seen, provides money for financing subversion– "supports the blockade and the economic war, collaborates by any means with foreign radio or television stations, newspapers, magazines or any other media..." And we are not referring here to foreign correspondents, the law is very clear about this, but we know that these are supposed journalists who are financed and who are told what they have to write, who demand of the European Union that Cuba not be accepted in the Cotonou Agreement, as if this were that important for Cuba –and I will be referring to this later– as if they could pressure Cuba, which has withstood more than 40 years of blockade without bending down before this or that measure.


These are the ones who have declared it, and written it; those who have asked for a condemnation of Cuba in the Commission on Human Rights, which is what is used to justify the blockade. These who have asked for the blockade to be maintained, because they say that "conditions are not yet ripe." The same who, in addition, receive money to do this, and live well off of it, something we’ll see later.


So. they have applied these articles of the Law on the Protection of National Independence and the Economy of Cuba, Law No. 88, and the Cuban Penal Code.


At the same time, there has been more than ample proof presented, material evidence, the testimony of expert witnesses and other witnesses. For example, expert witnesses from the Banco Central de Cuba demonstrated to one of the courts the way in which money flows from the U.S. government and agencies to their agents in Cuba. The dirty money trail is clear, we know how it gets here through the government of the United States’ front agencies, NGOs and groups and institutes in the United States, and from there to Cuba, smuggled in, under the cover of family remittances, it is all known in detail. This is public money from USAID, we are not talking here about the special services money, the money turned over directly here by the Interests Section.


After having provided this information, I will now move on to inform you of some other very interesting things.


The government of the United States plays the main role in the inception of these groups, the direction of these groups, the financing of these groups, the stimulation and protection of these mercenary groups in Cuba. It is the United States Interests Section in Havana --and this has been amply proven in the trials-- that creates, directs, finances, stimulates and protects the creation and subversive work of its agents in Cuba. By virtue of what? By virtue of the fulfillment of the Helms-Burton Act.


Section 109: "Authorization of support" –it says– "for democratic and human rights groups."


"The President is authorized to furnish assistance" –in other words, money; money from the American taxpayers– "and provide other support for individuals and organizations in Cuba..."


Section 115 of the Helms-Burton Act: "Effect of this Act on lawful" –isn’t it odd?– "United States Government activities."


"Nothing in this Act" –in other words, none of what is said here, that the government and the president must provide support through USAID– "prohibits any lawfully authorized investigation" --look at these interesting adjectives– "protection, or intelligence activity of a law enforcement agency, or of an intelligence agency of the United States."


This is to avoid any possible confusion, so nobody thinks that now the only way to provide money and organize dissidents in Cuba is through the legal route. The legislators, Senator Helms and Congressman Burton, ensured that the text made it clear that one thing has nothing to do with the other, that is, the intelligence agencies can continue to provide money, funding and so forth through secret channels.


This is what they are doing in Cuba. They try to present this as a movement that has originated in Cuba, the "civil society" –as they call it– in Cuba, ignoring the more than 2000 Cuban non-governmental organizations and associations, that range from associations of chefs de cuisine to women’s organizations, environmental groups, think tanks, youth organizations, students’ organizations, representing the most varied sectors of social and economic activity in the country, truly insulting all of these organizations and their tens and hundreds of thousands, in some cases even millions of members.


What are they doing here? They are presenting this as the emergence of an opposition movement in Cuba, while it is actually an attempt to fabricate an opposition financed from abroad, in compliance with the Helms-Burton Act.


[1st Part - 2nd Part - 3rd part - 4th part]


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     Revisado: lunes, 14 de abril de 2003