JOHN CAVANAGH SENDS A LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
John Cavanagh is the Director of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington DC. He has a BA from Dartmouth College and a Masters in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University. He worked as an international economist for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (1978-1981) and the World Health Organization (1981-1982). He directed IPS's Global Economy Project from 1983-1997. He is the co-author of 10 books and numerous articles on the global economy, including Development Redefined: How the Market Met Its Match (2008, Paradigm Publishers), written with Robin Broad. Cavanagh helped establish the International Forum on Globalisation in 1995, and has been active in the anti-North American Free Trade Agreement networks. He works closely with the Progressive Caucus of the US Congress and the International department of the US trade union federation, the AFL-CIO, on corporate accountability and international labor rights. John Cavanagh currently sits on the board of directors of the International Forum on Globalization, the International Labor Rights Forum, and ProgressiveCongress.org.
January 5, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
Dear President Obama,
On December 19 you made a bold decision that was both morally right for the people involved, and it made a larger point about justice that was extremely important. You commuted the sentences of 8 people who had been imprisoned for at least 15 years on drug offenses. In this act, you both did them justice and you made a larger statement about inequality in the justice system
You have a similar opportunity now to commute the sentences of four persons referred to as the Cuban Five. Their names are: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González. (The fifth, Rene Gonzalez, was recently released from prison after serving his sentence.)
In so doing, you would again both be addressing a case of unjust sentencing, and you would open the door to a new chapter in U.S. relations with Latin America by taking a major step toward reestablishing relations with a key neighbor. My IPS colleague, Saul Landau, who knew Cuba better than any other U.S. expert, died in September after years of working to both free the Cuban Five and reestablish U.S.-Cuba relations. Saul's work on the Cuban Five case pointed to a terrible double standard in U.S. policy. On the one hand, we base much of our foreign policy on the fight against terrorism, and on the other, we imprisoned five Cubans who exposed the real threat of terrorism on U.S. soil to the U.S. government. This is wrong, and you can end this wrong by releasing the remaining four who are still in U.S. prisons.
Such an action will almost certainly engender a positive response in Cuba. Recently, the Cuban government has made it clear to us that they are interested in finding a solution to the case of Mr. Gross. President Obama, I believe it is time for a constructive dialogue between the United States and Cuba, based on mutual respect to find a humanitarian solution to the case of Alan Gross and the case of the Cuban 5; you can do it!
I visited Cuba in 1979 as a student at Princeton University in one of the first official exchanges between our two countries. I learned a great deal on that trip. Cuba, like our own country, is not without flaws, but we have a great deal to learn from one another, and we have everything to gain by taking steps toward reestablishing relations.
Just as you acted to correct a wrong on December 19, I ask you to do so again and release the Cuban Five.
Thank you for your consideration. Best regards
Director, Institute for Policy Studies