Wilfredo Cancio’s sleepless nights over the Cuban Five

Wilfredo Cancio’s Desperate Effort to Keep Gerardo Hernández Down español

Machetera

Really, the desperation is the saddest part.

The recent news about Gerardo Hernández being sent to the “hole” in the federal prison at Victorville, abruptly pre-empting the lab tests that had been ordered for him by the prison’s doctor after a 3 month wait, has raised alarm in certain circles in Miami.  Not out of any particular concern for humane treatment of prisoners, however.  To the contrary, the fear seems to be that Hernández, Miami’s trophy captive from the absurd trial of the Cuban Five staged there nearly 10 years ago, may be slipping away as part of a U.S.-Cuba prisoner exchange.

Wilfredo Cancio Isla, a Miami Cuban who, after a 10 year peregrination through Miami’s anti-Castro obsessed media has finally landed at a blog called CafeFuerte [strong coffee], is participating in the campaign to destroy Hernández by incarcerating him until death, and then incarcerating him again.

On Monday, August 2, Cancio published a note about the families of the Brothers to the Rescue pilots (who were shot down over Cuban waters in 1996) trying to get a face-to-face with Obama in order to pressure him not to include Hernández in any prisoner exchange with Cuba.  Obama was too busy, and Maggie Alejandre Khuly, the sister of one of the downed pilots, fretted about the fact that after 12 years of virtual media blackout, the other side of the story – how Hernández was made to pay for a shootdown he had nothing to do with – is finally leaking out.  “That the White House would turn its back on us at a time when Cuba has intensified its campaign to make the United States the scapegoat for its ills and emphasize the case of Gerardo Hernández is worrisome,” she told CafeFuerte.

I don’t mean to be unkind, but it is certainly true that Alejandre knows something about scapegoating.  Since Fidel was unavailable for trial in Miami after the planes were shot down after endless warnings in 1996, when the Cuban Five came up for trial in 2000/2001, Alejandre and others saw an opportunity and seized it.  They selected Hernández as Fidel’s proxy.  Hernández had nothing whatsoever to do with the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue planes and the U.S. government knew it, but pressured by Miami’s anti-Castro industry and the grief-stricken relatives of the pilots, who’d been baying for blood ever since the shootdown in 1996, U.S. government prosecutors grafted the conspiracy to commit murder charge onto the equally absurd conspiracy to commit espionage charge against the rest of the Five.  Combined with an impressionable jury that had plenty of reason to fear being stalked and threatened by the loony Miami community if it didn’t vote “the right way,” the conviction stuck (despite the government’s last minute attempt to withdraw the charge for lack of evidence – fearing it would sink the whole case).

Alejandre has already constructed a pretty good publicity podium.  Not everyone is successful at seizing multimillion dollar judgments (loony Miami court system again) to be paid out of a foreign country’s frozen assets in order to play the role of tragic philanthropist with a cause.  Alejandre’s niece, Cristina Khuly, produced a slick, evidently well-funded documentary about the downing of the planes.  José Basulto, the leader of Brothers to the Rescue, is featured in the film and while Alejandre doesn’t entirely let him off the hook for what happened on February 24, 1996, she’s evidently decided to direct her attention away from the man who, as group leader, flew her brother into mortal danger and swiftly abandoned him.  Part of this may have been editing.  Basulto threatened to sue if the film was not edited to his satisfaction and evidently his wishes were granted.  In any case, Alejandre’s anguish is understandable.  Her selection of target, Gerardo Hernández, is not.

Khuly’s documentary appears from time to time on cable television.  A couple of weekends ago when I was visiting friends, it was playing on their television screen, and they asked me if I knew about those pilots who flew missions looking for rafters and got shot down by Cuba.  I said, “You mean the group the FBI was investigating?”  Because the FBI was paying at least one informant, possibly more, within the group for information on Brothers to the Rescue activities – it’s an inconvenient truth.  Why would the FBI be watching a group whose sole mission was to search for and rescue rafters?

Well, back to Cancio.  I don’t know what’s driving him, or his partner in [media] crime, Ivette Leyva Martínez (who’s been spending her time this week on the phone with press representatives at Victorville and the State Department to collect quotes about a) the generously sized cells at USP Victorville, and b) U.S. assurances that it will not lift a finger to retrieve Agent Alan Gross by any method but the usual: media harassment of Cuba). José Varela, a cartoonist who lives in Miami has some thoughts on Cancio, at least.  We can take up Leyva’s case another time.

Cancio & the Cuban Five español

José Varela

I remember when I did a cartoon about the Cuban Five.  It was when José Basulto spoke at the trial and I published a piece that showed the judge at the end of the proceedings telling the officer in the court: “Remember, it’s not Basulto that goes to jail, it’s the Five.”  Okay, well I’ve said before here that the cartoon was mentioned on Cuban television and my mom called me and there was a citywide celebration in Sancti Spiritus and they brought her a bunch of plantains and a couple of hens.

Anyway.  In all that time I only dedicated one piece to that famous drawn-out case, because it was such a pathetic and ridiculous display.  But the person who spent months on it, with malicious articles meant to negatively influence the trial, was Wilfred Cancio.  This hick, who arrived in the ‘90’s by way of Europe where he deserted a masters program in journalism, came to see me at the advertising agency where I worked, presenting himself to me as someone from my hometown – which actually he wasn’t, but from a kind of nearby farm.

I received him in the lobby, without even bothering to go to my office (I was the Associate Creative Director, but the thing is that in advertising agencies, every kind of model shows up hoping you’ll choose them for spots, whether for their asses or good looks, either way).  And Cancio told me that he was working for a certain radio station, doing news reports for whatever the hell station it was in whatever state he mentioned, and he was interested in getting on at the [Miami] Herald.  I – and this was true – told him that I couldn’t do anything for him.  Not even talk to [Ramon] Mestre, who was my buddy on the inside.  The Herald was hermetically sealed at the time against recent [Cuban] arrivals (because it was flirting with Cuba, trying to get its own bureau in Havana accepted, like CNN).

Afterwards, Cancio hung out at the Herald and started scurrying from cubicle to cubicle looking for assignments and offices that they never gave him.  Then suddenly he became the expert on the Five at the paper.  And so the little bumpkin made himself at home.  Apparently he grabbed at that case as his great opportunity.

When they got rid of him this year, because already they wanted to do away with even Andrés Reynaldo’s post as Entertainment Editor, which at the Herald they call “News,” he went to América TeVé as an assistant on Oscar Aza’s show.  There, at Channel 41, Cancio took on the role of accomplice to Miguelito Cossio, who’s another one who plays the game.  And now, since he senses that the Five might get out and that Cuba is talking about the health of one of them, he’s panic-stricken and starting his nonsense all over against the Five.

I ask myself just what is his problem with the Five?  Five thousand Cancios wouldn’t reach as high as the ankles of even one of them.  Once I even thought that maybe his fixation was due to the fact that he was the Sixth.  But no, he’s too much of an idiot to be one.  A social climbing vagrant like Cancio could never bear solitary confinement, separated from his pals, in another state, in prisons filled with people foreign to his culture, so many years in a cell.  But Cancio ought to ask himself why he wants to see them inside and not out.

I’m afraid of Wilfredo Cancio.  People like him are super dangerous.  When you’re a prisoner, he sinks you in deeper with an article.  He did the same to me.  Someone on the editing staff even told me that Cancio was my real enemy at the Herald.  That’s why today I say, like Fantomas, the erstwhile troll at my blog: keep an eye on that prick.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

2 responses to “Wilfredo Cancio’s sleepless nights over the Cuban Five

  1. Cancio is an obnoxious prick. i dealt with this guy once, and i will never forgive him for not letting me speak to his wife, who was once my friend. he is married to ivette leyva martinez, who is now like him… firmly ensconced “en el negocio del exilio”.
    they are both opportunists.

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