United States: The Cuban Five case shows Supreme Court not independent


Talking about the Supreme Court, how about a little history.

On June 15, 2009 the United States Supreme Court announced its decision to reject the request for a revision of the Cuban Five case.

The Cuban Five are Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez, and Rene Gonzalez The five Cuban men jailed in the US for their role in collecting information on behalf of the Cuban government on potential terrorist acts by violent anti-Cuban groups in Miami.

They were arrested in 1998. They were tried in Miami, despite defence arguments it was impossible to receive a fair trial in the city, and received sentences ranging from 15 years to a double life term.

The demand for a review of their case by the Supreme Court came from millions of people from all walks of life around the world.

There was a record number of “Friends of the Court” petitions and thousands of personalities and elected officials from every continent called for a review.

Many of these pleas also came from within the US itself.

The US brags its political system is based on the separation of powers between the executive (president and vice-president), the legislature (Congress) and the judiciary. This is said to provide built-in checks and balances the system.

This is supposedly a superior form of democracy to avoid abuse of power by one or the other of the three branches forming the US government.

In the US Constitution, Article II Section 2 states that the US president has the power to grant reprieves and pardons.

Every indication is that President Barack Obama, rejecting calls to his constitutional powers to free the Cuban Five, made it clear to the Supreme Court judges that they should rule against revision.

This has obviously been a political case right from day one. This fact is further revealed by the Supreme Court’s decision and the shameless refusal of the judges to publicly explain to the world the basis of their ruling.

Of course, the judges are not obliged to divulge the reasons under the US legal system. However, in a case such as this in which the whole world was watching, a public explanation was necessary.

With the ongoing jailing of the Cuban Five, we are perhaps witnessing one of the greatest ironies in international politics. The Cuban Five are cruelly and politically persecuted for their peaceful anti-terrorist motivations and activities by a government that claims to be fighting a war on terror.

The reason? Their anti-terrorist activities were on behalf of and supporting the Cuban government.

One of the main charges that Washington levies against Cuba is lack of democracy that it is does not, among other characteristics, feature a political system similar to the US with checks and balances.

The Cuban system is, in fact, one unified revolutionary peoples’ political power, from the top down and from the bottom up, including the judiciary. Each branch enjoys its own respective fields of competence.

The relationship and interaction of all the different levels of the Cuban state levels with Cuban citizens is a feature of the Cuban type of democracy.

There is no need to get into a debate as to whether the Cuban system is more democratic than the US model.

However, taking into account the Supreme Court's rejection of a review of the Cuban Five case as an episode of US democracy in action on the one hand and my direct experience and study of the Cuban political system on the other hand, it appears to me that Cuba has no “democracy” lessons to take from the US.