Brownstone visits Gerardo in prison, says he exudes
Hernández, one of the five Cubans imprisoned in the
U.S. for 13 years, is a strong-willed man, according
to renowned American art critic Gilbert Brownstone.
President of the Foundation which
bears his name and an important figure within the
art world, Brownstone visited Gerardo in the
Victorville maximum security prison in California,
to offer his support and solidarity.
He said that meeting Gerardo was a
striking moment, coming face to face with such a
brave, yet sensitive man. "That’s how he can
overcome such a nightmare and detach himself by
talking about beautiful things," Brownstone stated
to Prensa Latina.
Brownstone had been informed that
the visit could last up to six hours. He said,
however, "To my surprise, our time together seemed
more like five minutes."
Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labańino,
Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René
González, identified as the Cuban Five, were
arrested on September 12, 1998 in Miami, where they
were gathering information to warn their country of
criminal plans launched by anti-Cuban groups based
in South Florida.
During the trial, the defense
substantiated many irregularities but the Cuban Five
were sentenced to long terms in prison. Gerardo
Hernández is serving a double life sentence plus 15
Brownstone is also a museologist,
art specialist, and curator. He graduated from the
Sorbonne in Paris and studied art history with the
Pierre Francastel (1900-1970), one of the founders
of sociology of the arts.
"We talked a lot. We shared views on
the world in which I work, as well as my deep love
for Cuba and its people, and to my amazement, he
knew everything about me," Brownstone said of his
conversation with Gerardo.
"The prison is located in the middle
of a desert. There is nothing there. When you arrive,
you only see a pile of cement, control towers, and
wire. It's startling, the coldest and most inhumane
place I've ever seen."
Located in Victorville, California,
with the Mojave Desert to the south, it is about 130
kilometers northeast of Los Angeles.
"When I got there, I noticed that
people respected Gerardo, but the rules are rigid.
While we were talking he couldn't stand up and had
to keep his hands on the table. Discipline is strict."
Brownstone confirmed that Gerardo
lives in very poor conditions. "He is not allowed to
see his wife and is punished for no reason, sent to
the hole and not permitted regular communication
with his lawyers – not to mention that he was
condemned to life sentences for crimes he did not
Nevertheless, "His mood is very good.
He avoids talking about these things and talks about
life without sadness. I did not find him sad.
"Gerardo radiates strength, he is
someone who loves. He deeply loves his wife Adriana,
his family, his country," Brownstone reiterated.
He emphasized that during the
meeting the two did not discuss the case very much,
although Gerardo did ask about Cuba, for details
about what's been happening. "It's impressive, that
someone living a nightmare could talk with such life."
On August 16, Gerardo's defense
presented a reply to the government's opposition to
his habeas corpus petition submitted to Judge Joan
Lenard, who within an undetermined period of time
will decide if his request to submit new evidence
will be granted.
Gerardo was sentenced to life in
prison for conspiracy to commit murder. "He is
innocent. It's not enough just to say it, the
evidence is there," Brownstone said.
He reiterated that Gerardo had
nothing to do with the 1996 downing of two light
aircraft belonging to the anti-Cuban organization
Brothers to the Rescue. "That was a sovereign
decision made by the Cuban state. I understand that
the planes violated Cuban airspace and it was not
the first time they had done so," Brownstone
The humanist, art critic and
collector donated works of renowned 20th century
artists to the people of Cuba last year. His
foundation, established in 1999, is devoted to
supporting and taking action on behalf of cultural
development and education.
"The time to act is now," he said,
when he donated the more than 100 pieces, including
works by Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso,
Camille Pissarro, Georges Rouault, Donald Judd and
Joan Miró, among others.
The works were given to the Museum
of Fine Art in Havana and constitute the most
important gift made to the institution since its
reopening in 2001. Brownstone said that, with this
gesture, he hopes to repay a debt to the Cuban
people and the Five, to whom he dedicated the
"I have a Cuban heart," he said, "I've
been involved with the country for 10 years now and
after visiting Gerardo, there's nothing I wouldn't
do for the Five." (PL) •