Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Free the Cuban Five

More than seven years have elapased since the conviction of the five Cuban men who have been languishing in U.S. prison. The empire is turning a deaf ear to the international calls to free Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González. On this occassion i would like to introduce those who dont know the great Five

Who are the Cuban Five?

The Cuban Five are five Cuban men who are in U.S. prison, serving four life sentences and 75 years collectively, after being wrongly convicted in U.S. federal court in Miami, on June 8, 2001.

They are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.

The Five were falsely accused by the U.S. government of committing espionage conspiracy against the United States, and other related charges.

But the Five pointed out vigorously in their defense that they were involved in monitoring the actions of Miami-based terrorist groups, in order to prevent terrorist attacks on their country of Cuba.

The Five’s actions were never directed at the U.S. government. They never harmed anyone nor ever possessed nor used any weapons while in the United States.

The Cuban Five’s mission was to stop terrorism

For more than 40 years, anti-Cuba terrorist organizations based in Miami have engaged in countless terrorist activities against Cuba, and against anyone who advocates a normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. More than 3,000 Cubans have died as a result of these terrorists’ attacks.

Terrorist Miami groups like Comandos F4 and Brothers to the Rescue operate with complete impunity from within the United States to attack Cuba—with the knowledge and support of the FBI and CIA.

Therefore, Cuba made the careful and necessary decision to send the Five Cubans to Miami to monitor the terrorists. The Cuban Five infiltrated the terrorist organizations in Miami to inform Cuba of imminent attacks.

The aim of such a clandestine operation by the Cuban Five—at great personal risk—was to prevent criminal acts, and thus protect the lives of Cubans and other people.

But instead of arresting the terrorists, the FBI arrested the Cuban Five ANTI-terrorists on September 12, 1998. The Five were illegally held in solidarity confinement for 17 months in Miami jail.

The trial began in November 2000. With the seven-month trial based in Miami, a virtual witchhunt atmosphere existed. Defense attorneys’ motions for a change of venue were denied five times by the judge, although it was obvious that a fair trial was impossible in that city.

In a blow to justice, the Cuban Five were convicted June 8, 2001 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years in December, 2001.

A victory in appeals, then a surprise reversal

On August 9, 2005, after seven years of unjust imprisonment, the Cuban Five won an unprecedented victory on appeal. A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of the Cuban Five and ordered a new trial outside of Miami.

However, in an unexpected reversal on Oct. 31, the 11th Circuit Court vacated the three-judge panel’s ruling and granted an “en banc” hearing before the full panel of 12 judges. Exactly one year after the victory that granted the Five a new trial, the panel voted 10 to 2 to deny the Five heroes a new trial, and instead affirmed the trial court.

Nine remaining issues of appeal are before the three-judge panel (it is actually two judges now, one has retired), and as of December 2006, final supplemental documents were submitted by defense and prosecution.
Your support is more important than ever

This case is a political case and the Cuban Five are political prisoners.

Their freedom will depend not only on the arduous work of the defense team but just as importantly on the public support that can be organized. Over 250 committees have been established in the United States and around the world, demanding immediate freedom for Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René.

Important declarations have been made by hundreds of parliamentarians in Britain, Italy, and the European and Latin American Parliaments. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, with five judges, ruled that there were irregularities in the Five’s trial and arrest, effectively denying them a fair trial and calls on the U.S. government to remedy this injustice.

In the United States, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is working very hard to build broad support for these anti-terrorist heroes, with forums and video showings, media and publicity work, and a march that was held on Sept. 23, 2006 in front of the White House

For more details click

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Release of Dr.Binayak Sen sought

A convention held in kochi the other day under the aegis of Dr.Binayak Sen Defense Committe demanded the immediate release of Dr.Binayak Sen. The Committe, an alliance of various organisations including Janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam (people's Human Rights Organisation)also sought the release of all other human rights activists languishing in various jails across the country.
The convention was inagurated by Ilina Sen, Dr.Sen's wife over phone. Adv.Madhusudanan, eminent journalist K.P.Sethunath, Adv.Chandrasekharan (PUCL), Geo Jose (PUCL) and Adv.Tushar Nirmal Sarathy, convener of the Committe spoke on the occassion.
A painting exhibition and documentary screening were also held as part of the programme.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Free Dr.Binayak Sen campaign

Demanding the immediate release of Dr.Binayak Sen and other political prisoners in India, Dr. Binayak Sen Defense Committee (Kerala) , a co-ordination committee of various organisations including Janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam (People’s Human Rights Organisation ), PUCL and CHRO has launched a state level campaign in Kerala. As part of this a signature campaign is going on in all districts. This will continue till July 20th. On 19th July an exhibition of paintings, photographs and posters of prominent artists will commence at KSEB Hall, Ernakulam (near Public Library). The works displayed at the exhibition, which is held in solidarity with the campaign will be taken to various college campuses. On 20th July a one day protest meet will be held at the same venue where the exhibition is held.

For further details of the campaign contact Ad.Tushar Nirmal Sarathy(convener, Dr.Binayak Sen Defense Committee). Ph: 9495218579

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Homage to Manuel Marulanda

Manuel Marulanda, one of the greatest revolutionary leaders of Latin America is no more. Few days back his death was confirmed by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia-Peoples Army (FARC-EP). Paying rich homages to the legendary leader,james Petras wrote this article

Homage to Manuel Marulanda

Pedro Antonio Marin, better know as Manuel Marulanda and 'Tiro Fijo (Sure Shot)', was the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army (FARC-EP). He was without a doubt the greatest revolutionary peasant leader in the history of the Americas.

Over a period of 60 years he organized peasant movements, rural communities and, when all legal democratic channels were effectively (and brutally) closed, he built the most powerful sustained guerrilla army and supporting underground militias in Latin America. The FARC at its peak between 1999-2005 numbered nearly 20,000 fighters, several hundred thousand peasant-activists, hundreds of village and urban militia units. Even today despite the regime's forced displacement of 3 million peasants resulting from scorched earth policies and scores of massacres, the FARC has between 10,000-15,000 guerrillas in its numerous 'fronts distributed throughout the country.

What make Marulanda's achievements so significant are his organizational abilities, strategic acuity and his intransigent and principled programmatic positions consisting of support of popular demands. Marulanda, more than any other guerrilla leader, had unmatched rapport with the rural poor, the landless, the subsistence cultivators and the rural refugees over three generations.

Beginning in 1964 with two-dozen peasants fleeing villages devastated by a US directed military offensive Marulanda methodically built a revolutionary guerrilla army without either foreign financial or material contributions. Marulanda, more than any other guerrilla leader, was a great rural political teacher. Marulanda's superb organizing skills were honed on the basis of his intimate ties with peasants – he grew up in a poor peasant family, lived among them cultivating and organizing, and spoke their language addressing their most basic daily needs and future hopes. Conceptually and through daily trial and error, Marulanda worked out a series of strategic political –military operations based on his brilliant understanding of the geographic and human terrain. Between 1964 to his recent death, Marulanda defeated or evaded at least seven major military offensives financed by over $7 billion dollars in US military aid, involving thousands of US 'Green Berets', Special Forces, mercenaries, over 250,000 Colombians Armed Forces and 35,000 member paramilitary death squads.

Unlike Cuba or Nicarangua, Marulanda built an organized mass base and trained a largely rural leadership; he openly declared his socialist program and never received political or material support from so-called 'progressive capitalists'. Colombia's armed forces were a formidable, highly trained and disciplined repressive apparatus, bolstered by murderous death squads, unlike Batista's and Somoza's corrupt and rapacious gangsters, who plundered and retreated under pressure. Marulanda, unlike many better-known 'poster-boy' guerrillas, was a virtual unknown among the elegant leftist editors in London, the nostalgic Parisian sixty-eighters and the New York Socialist scholars. Marulanda spent his time exclusively in 'Colombia profunda', the deep Colombia, preferring to converse and teach peasants and learn their grievances, rather than giving interviews to adventure-seeking Western journalists. Instead of writing grandiloquent 'manifestos' and striking photogenic poses, he preferred the steady, unromantic but eminently effective grass roots pedagogy of the disinherited. Marulanda traveled from virtually inaccessible valleys to mountain ranges, from jungles to plains, organizing, fighting…recruiting and training new leaders. He eschewed tripping off to 'World Forums' or following the route of international leftist tourists. He never visited a foreign capital and, it is said, never set foot in the nation's capital, Bogota. But he had a vast and profound knowledge of the demands of the Afro-Colombians of the Coast, the Indio-Colombians of the mountains and jungles, the land claims of millions of displaced peasants, the names and addresses of abusive landlords who brutalized and raped peasants and their kin.

Throughout the 1960's, 70's and 80's numerous guerrilla movements raised arms, fought with greater or lesser capacity and disappeared – killed, surrended (some even turned collaborator) or became immersed in electoral wheeling and dealing. Few in number, they fought in the name of non-existent 'peoples armies'; most were intellectuals who were more familiar with European narratives than the micro-history and popular culture and legends of the people they tried to organize. They were isolated, encircled and obliterated, perhaps leaving a well-publicized legacy of exemplary sacrifice, but changing nothing on the ground.

In contrast, Marulanda took the best punches thrown by the counter-insurgency Presidents in Bogota and Washington and returned them in spades. For every village that was razed, Marulanda recruited dozens of angry and destitute peasant fighters and patiently trained them to be cadres and commanders. More than any guerrilla army, the FARC became an army of the whole people: one-third of the commanders were women, over seventy percent were peasants although intellectuals and professionals joined and were trained by movement-led cadres. Marulanda was revered for his singularly simple life style: he shared the drenching rain under plastic canopies. He was deeply respected by millions of peasants, but he never in any way cultivated a personality cult-figure: He was too irreverent and modest, preferring to delegate important tasks to a collective leadership, with a good deal of regional autonomy and tactical flexibility. He accepted a diversity of views on tactics, even when he profoundly disagreed. In the early 1980's, many cadre and leaders decided to try the electoral route, signed a 'peace agreement' with the Colombian President, formed an electoral party – the Patriotic Union – and successfully elected numerous mayors and representatives. They even gained a substantial vote in Presidential elections. Marulanda did not publicly oppose the accord but he did not lay down his arms and 'go down from the mountains to the city'. Much better than the professionals and trade unionists who ran for office, Marulanda understood the profoundly authoritarian and brutal character of the oligarchy and its politicians. He clearly knew that Colombia's rulers would never accept any land reform just because a 'few illiterate peasants voted them out of office.' By 1987 over 5,000 members of the Patriotic Union had been slaughtered by the oligarchy's death squads, including three presidential candidates, a dozen elected congressmen and women and scores of mayors and city councilors. Those who survived fled to the jungles and rejoined the armed struggle or fled into exile.

Marulanda was a master in evading many encirclement and annihilation campaigns, especially those designed by the best and the brightest from the US Fort Bragg Special Forces counter-insurgency center and the School of the Americas. By the end of the 1990's the FARC had extended its control to over half the country and was blocking highways and attacking military bases only 40 miles from the capital. Severely weakened, the then President Pastrana finally agreed to serious peace negotiations in which the FARC demanded a de-militarized zone and an agenda that included basic structural changes in the state, economy and society.

Unlike the Central American guerrillas who traded arms for elected office, Marulanda insisted on land redistribution, dismantling of the death squads and dismissal of Colombian generals involved in massacres, a mixed economy largely based on public ownership of strategic economic sectors and large-scale funding for peasants to develop alternative crops to coca, prior to laying down arms.

In Washington President Clinton was hysterical and at first opposed the peace negotiations – especially the reform agenda as well as the open public debates and forums widely attended by Colombian civil society and organized by the FARC in the de-militarized zone. Marulanda's embrace of democratic debate, demilitarization and structural changes puts the lie to the charge by Western and Latin American social democrats and center-left academics that he was a 'militarist'. Washington probed to see if they could repeat the Central American peace process – co-opt the FARC leaders with the promise of electoral office and privilege in exchange for selling out the peasants and poor Colombians. At the same time Clinton, with bi-partisan support, pushed through a massive $2 billion dollar appropriation bill to fund the biggest and bloodiest counter-insurgency program since the war in Indochina, dubbed 'Plan Colombia'. Abruptly ending the peace process, President Pastrana rushed troops into the demilitarized zone to capture the FARC secretariat, but Marulanda and his comrades were long gone.

Between 2002 to the present the FARC alternated from offensive attacks and defensive retreats – mostly the latter since 2006. With an unprecedented degree of US financing and advanced technological support, the newly elected narco-partner and death squad organizer, President Alvaro Uribe took charge of a scorched earth policy to savage the Colombian countryside. Between his election in 2002 and re-election in 2006, over 15,000 peasants, trade unionists, human rights workers, journalists and other critics were murdered. Entire regions of the countryside were emptied – like the US Operation Phoenix in Viet Nam, farmland was poisoned by toxic herbicides. Over 250,000 armed forces and their partners in the paramilitary death squads decimated vast stretches of the Colombian countryside where the FARC exercised hegemony. Scores of US-supplied helicopter gun-ships blasted the jungles in vast search and destroy missions – (which had nothing to do with coca production or the shipment of cocaine to the United States). By destroying all popular opposition and organizations throughout the countryside and displacing millions Uribe was able to push the FARC back toward more defensible remote regions. Marulanda, as in the past, adopted a strategy of defensive tactical retreat, giving up territory in order to safeguard the guerrillas' capacity to fight another day.

Unlike other guerrilla movements, the FARC did not receive any material support form the outside: Fidel Castro publicly repudiated armed struggle and looked to diplomatic and trade ties with center-left administrations and even better relations with the brutal Uribe. After 2001, the Bush White House labeled the FARC a 'terrorist organization' putting pressure on Ecuador and Venezuela to tighten cross-border movements of the FARC in search of supply chains. The 'center-left' in Colombia was totally divided between those who gave 'critical support' to Uribe's total war against the FARC and those who ineffectively protested the repression.

It is hard to imagine any guerrilla movement surviving under conditions of massive US financed counter-insurgency, quarter million US-armed soldiers, millions displaced from its mass base and a psychopathic President allied directly to a 35,000 member chain-saw death squads. However Marulanda, cool and determined, directed the tactical retreat; the idea of negotiating a capitulation never entered his mind nor that of the FARC secretariat.

The FARC does not have contiguous frontiers with a supporting country like Vietnam had with China; nor the arms supply from a USSR, nor the international mass support of Western solidarity groups like the Sandinistas. We live in times where supporting peasant-led national liberation movements is not 'fashionable', where recognizing the genius of peasant revolutionary leaders who build and sustain authentic mass peoples armies is taboo in the pretentious, loquacious and impotent World Social Formus – which 'world' routinely excludes peasant militants and for whom 'social' means the perpetual exchange of e-mails between foundations funded by NGO.

It is in this hardly auspicious environment facing US and Colombian Presidents intent on pyrrhic victories, that we can appreciate the political genius and personal integrity of Latin America's greatest peasant revolutionary, Manuel Marulanda. His death will not generate posters or tee shirts for middle class college students, but he will live forever in the hearts and minds of millions of peasants in Colombia. He will be remembered forever as 'Tiro Fijo': the legend who was killed a dozen times and yet returned to the villages to share their simple lives. The only leader who was truly 'one of them', the one who confronted the Yankee military and mercenary machine for a half-century and was never captured or defeated.

He defied them all - those in their mansions, presidential palaces, military bases, torture chambers, and bourgeois editorial offices: He died at after 60 years of struggle of natural causes in the arms of his beloved peasant comrades.

Tiro Fijo presente!