Who's a terrorist?

On June 8, 2001, a Miami jury found the Cuban Five guilty on all 26 counts of against them, including espionage and conspiracy to commit murder.

Two months later, on September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists hijacked aircraft and slammed them into New York’s World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington, killing more than 3,000 people.

Many in Florida tried to connect the Five to terrorism. Prosecutors had argued the Five were out to "destroy" America, while exile politicians—like Florida Republican Ileane Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban American—described the Five as "agents of a terrorist regime that represents a threat to for the hemisphere’s stability and for the national security interests of the United States."

Perhaps not surprisingly, three months after 9/11, a Miami judge sentenced the five Cubans to surprisingly harsh sentences. Gerardo Hernandez was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino got life terms; Fernando González got 19 years; and René Gonzáles was sentenced to 15 years.

During his sentencing, Gerardo Hernandez tried to put the role of the Five in the context of terrorism… of, in fact, fighting terrorism. "Cuba," he told the judge, "has the right to defend itself from the terrorist acts that are prepared in Florida with total immunity… This is the same right that the United States has to try to neutralize the plans of terrorist Osama Bin Laden’s organization… I am certain the sons and daughters of this country who are carrying out this mission are considered patriots, and their objective is not that of threatening the national security of any of the countries where these people are being sheltered."

In response to U.S. President George W. Bush’s stark challenge to the world—"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists… Any government that supports, protects or harbours terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent and equally guilty of terrorist crimes"—Ricardo Alarcon, the president of Cuba’s National Assembly of the People’s Power, was quick to point out the stunning contradiction in the American position. "Bush’s words are very categorical," he said."A government that harbors a terrorist in its territory, that permits him to act, to live, to raise money, to organize himself, is as guilty as the terrorist… Orlando Bosch has been defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as a terrorist," Alarcon noted. "Notorious, even. Where does he live? In Afghanistan? Or does he live in Miami? Is he keeping quiet? No."