Adriana PÃ©rez: "We are keeping alive the hope that they will return"
The life of her husband, Gerardo HernÃ¡ndez, has all the elements of a movie. Leaving behind his family and work, using a false identity, he infiltrated terrorist groups to help stop planned attacks on the Cuban people. The Nobel Prize winner Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez delivered a letter to President Clinton from Fidel Castro outlining criminal activities underway in Florida. Informed of the situation, the FBI decided to arrest five Cubans gathering information on groups like Brothers to the Rescue.
One of these men was Gerardo, who was convicted by a jury in Miami and sentenced to two life terms in prison. But his story is as a real life one. Adriana is firm in her explanation of the issues, but her voice cannot belie emotion when she recalls the man behind the hero. As we say goodbye, she asks, with a smile, if I think the media in the United States will publish the interview.
Do you think that the sentences your husbands received were a reward granted to anti-Castro forces in Florida?
We are totally convinced of that, since in the U.S. even self-confessed spies have been traded or deported or have been given much lighter sentences that the ones they [the Five] were given.
Their sentences were meant to satisfy the demands of Cuban-American representatives in Congress who have always been supporters of these organizations which asked for blood and wanted the U.S. government to take reprisals against them.
And why were they treated differently?
Because this is clearly a political trial, given their being Cuban, given that the trial was held in the city of Miami, a change of venue was requested and denied, which all gives the impression that this arrest was due to pressure from the community in Miami.
If you describe this as a political trial, do you believe that a political solution is possible?
At some earlier point, we trusted, to some degree, that justice was possible within the U.S. legal system, but over 13 years we have witnessed charges made with no evidence, juries under pressure, press coverage bought to make false reports, among other things and after 13 years we have exhausted all of the legal options. Gerardo HernÃ¡ndez’ defense has submitted a habeas corpus.
What exactly is being requested?
We consider as new evidence the payments made by the U.S. government to journalists who were following the case, in order to ensure negative coverage of the Five, poisoning even more the environment and prejudicing the jury, which was denounced by The New York Times in 2006. Additionally, Gerardo’s defense did not have access to all the technical evidence, such as the U.S. radar reports which show that he had nothing to do with the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue planes, which occurred in Cuban national waters in 1996 after Cuba had submitted 26 diplomatic notes to the U.S. government stating that this organization’s aircraft were violating Cuban air space.
How have different U.S. administrations approached the case?
We’ve been through three administrations. It was Clinton’s which arrested them when they could have deported them. Then came Bush, when everything worsened legally and politically, there was no change whatsoever in their positions, and then the Obama administration which has not offered any solution to the problem.
Over these 13 years, have you been able to see your husband?
Throughout all of this time, the U.S. government has repeatedly denied Olga, the wife of RenÃ© GonzÃ¡lez and myself visas to visit them, something which we are entitled to do once a month, as are relatives of any other prisoner. We have demanded this right which we have. The U.S. accuses the Cuban government of using the case of the Five to fuel conflict between the two countries and hide internal problems. The conflict between the U.S. and Cuba is more than 50 years old, that’s why we made the Revolution since we already had a conflict with them, but it should be clear that we Cubans were not the ones who have politicized the case, but rather the U.S. press and courts.
We have not attacked the United States, we do not have a blockade, we do not take measures against the people, so who then is promoting a political campaign? We Cubans? All we want is to live in peace.
Your husband is considered a hero by the Cuban people. How do you feel being the wife of a hero?
The personal side is the hardest for us, from our private point of view they are the heroes of our lives. Gerardo is for me a man of many virtues and values, who I fell in love with and am still in love with, a man I deeply respect for what he did, but in our day to day lives, the wound is open. Being in a situation like this is very hard, with moments of hopelessness when you feel weak, but you don’t lose heart.
How do you draw strength?
I cannot tell you that the strength emerges like natural spring water, but you think about them, they have withstood difficult conditions in prison, not being able to see each other for years; if they have withstood the pressure, lost a portion of their youth… how are you not going to do so? But also, there is a balance between love and commitment, not the banal or superficial kind but the reality that we share in what they did, because they are no different from other Cubans. Here we can criticize what we don’t like, but in the final hour this people stands firm.
Do you think about your life when you are together again?
Saying no would be a lie, since this is the hope I live with, why we keep the hope alive. We have many, many plans. First to try and forget all that we have lived, to heal and close the wounds. We have learned to value other things and remember that we are not alone.
What we have done has taken a toll on our lives, but it has been worth it. For them we have kept the hope alive that they will return since they cannot deny us the right to dream of a better future, they cannot take away our desire for happiness and we struggle for that everyday.
From La RepÃºblica.Â Guillermo NovaÂ is a Spanish journalist