[Editor’s Note: Mr. Bascaro’s long saga needs to end. Hopefully, this will be the year he gets released. ]
As we put to rest 2018, Antonio Bascaro—the longest-serving non-violent federal cannabis prisoner—endured his last Christmas behind bars. After nearly 39 years in prison, he is finally scheduled to be released in June of 2019. Bascaro, an 84-year-old Cuban war hero, has suffered in prison since 1980 for conspiracy to import and distribute cannabis.
Prior to being incarcerated, he attended two years of medical school, but left to pursue his passion for flying. He joined the Cuban Naval Air Force and became one of their best pilots. Bascaro excelled to the point that he even had a brief stint with the CIA in an effort to overthrow Fidel Castro.
But his precision as a pilot attracted heavy hitters in the Miami drug scene. After leaving the Air Force, Bascaro began importing cannabis into the United States.
“He could fly close to the water, he could not be detected,” said Eugene Fischer, a friend Bascaro made in prison for a (you guessed it!) cannabis conviction. Fischer has since passed away due to complications from the poor conditions he endured in prison.
Alas, Bascaro’s passion for flying (and cannabis) got him in trouble. 38 years ago, Bascaro was arrested and charged for importing 600,000 pounds of cannabis into the United States. Federal agents expected him to turn over the evidence, but he refused to cooperate due to his deep sense of loyalty and honor. Bascaro’s case played out during the harshest years of the War on Drugs. Jury nullification wasn’t an option. A jury would never exercise their right to nullify unjust drug laws due to the overwhelming propaganda and fear instilled in the American psyche.
Ironically, the actual kingpin who hired Bascaro was already released from prison. Bascaro is the only one who remains locked up for this non-violent crime. Despite the severity of his sentence, Bascaro and his family remained hopeful that someday he’d be free and finally, the day is nearly here. Instead of counting down the years, they’re counting down the months and weeks.
“Even though we have a date and nothing can stop it, it just doesn’t seem real,” says daughter Aicha Bascaro, her dad’s greatest supporter. “It is hard to believe because for so many years we have been hoping that he will come out, but he never did. It’s like I am scared to believe it. My siblings and I are planning a huge welcome home party with lots of his friends in Miami. He will be staying in Florida with his sister. He is doing okay. As you can imagine, he already has a huge plan. He is going to get a driver’s license to start driving right away. He even knows what computer he wants to get. He is ready to start living again.”
Although Bascaro’s release date is near, his health remains a concern. His family feared he would die behind bars, and that fear intensified as he aged. The following link is Bascaro’s online petition asking for President Trump to grant him clemency. Presently, the petition has nearly 110,000 signatures. As we witnessed in the well-publicized case of Alice Johnson, the president has the power to release anyone at any time.
Voices Of the Cannabis War (VOW), an advocacy group dedicated to being the voice of pot prisoners, urges you to sign the petition as a message to the federal government indicating support for Bascaro’s release. No one should be caged, not even for a day, especially because of a plant.
If you wish to reach Bascaro directly, you can send him mail:
Antonio Bascaro #03846-021
PO Box 779800
Miami, FL 33177
Kristin Flor and Mindi Hall are founders of VOW, a non-profit comprised of dedicated cannabis activists who strive to be the voice of prisoners incarcerated for cannabis. VOW writes articles, hosts radio shows and speaking engagements, works on special projects, and makes images in honor of those locked up due to cannabis crimes. VOW has ‘vowed’ to help free these people through education, prisoner support, courtroom support, and helping to end prohibition.