Halifax Media Co-Op Review of What Lies Across the Water

What Lies Across the Water
The Real Story of the Cuban Five

By Stephen Kimber  

At first one might be forgiven to think of Stephen Kimber as an unlikely author of a sympathetic account of the story of the Cuban Five. After all he has a comfortable job as director of the mainstream King’s School of Journalism in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and writes columns which have appeared in most of the leading publications in Canada, as well as regularly appear in such mainstream publications as The Coast and the Metro and spots on CBC. Yet with this Important new book Kimber does a masterful job of showcasing his abundant talents as an investigative journalist and popular writer.

For those who don’t know, the Cuba Five were Cuban security agents (Garardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez, and Antonio Guerrero) who were sent to southern Florida to infiltrate anti-Castro exile groups who were plotting terrorist attacks on their homeland. Despite the fact that they were not after U.S. state secrets, and that their targets were terrorists and drug smugglers in the Cuban exile community, they were given extremely harsh sentences after a trial in Miami which was extremely baised against them. Their only real crime was being unregistered foreign agents, and registering would have jeperdized their mission.

This story is important to know for a wide range of reasons. One can start by stomping ones feet and pounding ones fists at such a gross miscarriage of justice from a country which prides itself on leading a global war on terror. Readings this book can provide the reader with a far sharper view of the Cuban reality, it’s society, its politics, its issues, its relations with other countries such as the United States and the Cuban exile community. It can help the reader understand what Cuban agents are doing in southern Florida, and why the work of these five agents was so important.

It is interesting to note that Kimber didn’t start out to write the story of the Cuban Five, but by his own admission, he had gone to the island on a typical tourist vacation to escape the cold weather and relax a bit. Perhaps in the process he had got the idea of writing a romance novel which took place partly in Cuba and partly in Nova Scotia. Then he discovered the story of the Five. That is hard to miss because the Five are unquestionably national heroes who are right up there with the Castro brothers and Che Guevara, and there has been an international campaign to secure their release which can be observed anywhere in Cuba. I went to Cuba a few years ago with the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade, a kind of solidarity tour, and one of the last events we attended before leaving the Havana area was an open air concert by and for thousands school children in honour of the Five. Throughout the country one sees signs calling for the freedom of the Five, and so on. So that Kimber found their their story in Cuba comes as no surprise.

What is remarkable is how he picked up this story, and began to collect all available information about it and to study it prodigiously. What is surprising is that he ended up putting so much meticulous work into uncovering the details of this expeptional story. What Lies Across the Water is easy to read, written almost like a novel. It is packed with information and entertains as well as informs.

–Aug. 29, 2013

–Charles Spurr

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