Pablo Alfonso went far beyond news reporting to create fear and trepidation in the Miami community about Cuba. He received one of the largest amounts of U.S. government pay during the Five’s prosecution, $58,600, and $252,325.00 between November 1999 and January 2009.
He wrote extensively for El Nuevo Herald on the Brothers to the Rescue plane shootUdown, keeping a steady drumbeat of antiUCuba hysteria, which intensified after the Cuban Five were arrested on Sept. 12, 1998. He exploited the shootUdown throughout the time of the Five’s detention, conveying the message that Fidel Castro and Cuba were guilty of murder and therefore, everyone else associated with him, too.
On Sept. 20, 1998, only eight days after the Cuban Five were arrested, Alfonso published an article in El Nuevo Herald, “Spies: Old advice from Khrushchev,” in which he wrote that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had suggested for Cuban leader Fidel Castro to send agents to infiltrate the United States.
In a tailorUmade accusation that would later bolster the trumpedUup charge against Gerardo Hernández, as well as portraying all five defendants as a danger to the CubanUAmerican exile community in Miami, Alfonso refers to alleged advice from Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev:
Amongst much of the advice Castro received from Khrushchev, it included having spies infiltrate exiled organizations in the south of Florida and the military apparatus of the United States.
The charge made this week by the FBI before a Miami Federal Court against 10 of Castro’s alleged spies, clearly shows that his Caribbean disciple didn’t dismiss Khrushchev’s old advice. ... Khrushchev told Castro that Havana “should make every effort to penetrate exiled groups to crush their plans before they progress sufficiently”.
“There are times when security services should physically eliminate counterrevolutionary leaders in exile.”1
Alfonso was prolific, along with other Miami reporters, in characterizing Fidel Castro as a danger and threat to the security of the United State, and by association, the Cuban Five.
In the September 16, 1998 article entitled “Possible Alliance with Terrorism,” only four days after the Five’s arrest, Alfonso interviews “military expert” Cuban exiles, who claim that the U.S. government’s arrest of the Cuban Five defendants may be prompted by its need to stop Cuba’s alliance with states that the U.S. has declared terrorist:
The surprising offensive against an alleged network of Cuban spies in Miami, may be an action aimed at preventing a possible collaboration between the Cuban government and countries involved in terrorist actions against the United States, according to military and intelligence experts who expressed this to El Nuevo Herald.
[Cuban defector] Orestes Lorenzo said that he isn’t surprised Fidel Castro’s regime is “lending or selling its intelligence services” to Islamic terrorist groups or powerful nations that are interested in carrying out terrorist acts on US territory.
According to Erneido Oliva the director of the Cuban American Military Council, which is based in Washington, it’s no surprise that Castro maintains links with groups and nations that practice terrorism.
“For me, there is no doubt that Fidel and Raul Castro represent a threat to the national security of the United States, which could include any type of action of this nature,” affirmed Oliva, a retired General of the United States army.
The decision to break into the network was taken by “the administration because they believed that an action was near or for the prevention of their expansion,” added Oliva.2
This type of speculative unsubstantiated and false reporting by Alfonso went beyond the norms of journalism to create a highly charged atmosphere against men associated with defending Cuba.
Alfonso and other Miami U.S.Upaid reporters continually accused Fidel Castro of nefarious crimes or motives and linked him with the Cuban Five defendants.
The message was: “If you exonerate the Five, you exonerate the dictator Fidel Castro.”
This was the drumbeat accusation used by EVERY one of the reporters working for the government.
Without any substantiation whatsoever, the Cuban Five were continuously accused by the government reporters of terrorism, threats to national security, despite the fact that the Five were actually monitoring the movements of the Cuban terrorist organizations in Miami, to thwart their attacks, something the Government was fully aware of.
The records of Pablo Alfonso’s payments only begin with November 1999, because the U.S. State Department, which has possession of the United States Information Agency (USIA) records before 1999, will not release payment records of the reporters before then.3 It is not yet possible to ascertain whether Alfonso received pay before that date. His coverage extended well into the trial period. Our investigations continue.
The trial judge issued a gag order in October 1998, barring the parties from making statements to the media that would prejudice the trial.
On November 27, 2000, the day jury selection began, Judge Joan Lenard issued instructions to extend the October 1998 gag order issued after the Cuban Five’s arrest:
I am going to extend the sequestration order that not only must witnesses not talk to each other, they must not talk to the media and I suspect all of the attorneys will instruct their witnesses they are not to talk to each other or the media.4
José Basulto, head of the Brothers to the Rescue organization, was one trial witness whom the media was barred from quoting or speaking with. He and the media secretly employed by the government violated the order time after time.
In a January 14, 2001 article titled “The case of the Brothers to be taken to the Bush administration”, Alfonso quotes José Basulto, head of Brothers to the Rescue and a trial witness, about the shootUdown and a petition that Basulto was circulating calling for Fidel Castro’s prosecution by the U.S. government for the shootUdown.
“The Brothers to the Rescue have hard evidence that was gathered in the last five years, which clearly identifies those responsible for the downing, and those who had prior knowledge of the attack, as well as those involved in the politically motivated coverUup of this atrocity,” said Basulto.
... Next February 24th marks the fifth anniversary of the downing of the planes, and the death of the four crewmembers. Apparently there are still some chapters yet to be known about that murder, executed in cold blood by Cuban fighter pilots.5
On September 8, 2006, five years after the Cuban Five were wrongly convicted, The Miami Herald published an Oscar Corral article exposing Alfonso and nine other Miami reporters as employed by the Government via Radio and TV Martí. Alfonso was immediately fired.
However, a rightUwing boycott of The Miami Herald and cancellation of more than 2,000 subscriptions resulted in Pablo Alfonso and Wilfredo Cancio Isla being reUhired.
- The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department. In September 2013 a federal court ordered the State Department to expeditiously produce Radio/TV Martí documents requested by Liberation newspaper, for dates 1998 to 2002. The government has not produced them to date.
- Trial transcript, page 119. During the Five’s prosecution, trial witness and BTTR head José Basulto would continue to insist and defy the gag order imposed on witnesses. See page 33 of this document.
- http://www.freethefive.org/legalFront/FOIA/Pablo_Alfonso/AlfonsoENH011401EN.pdf and in Articles section of this document.