Hijacked Cuban Planes Still Caught in Limbo 2

FILE - In this Tuesday Nov. 12, 2002 file photo, old single engine airplane are seen at a Cuban airport in Los Palacios, near Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Cuban pilot Nemencio Carlos Alonso Guerra stole a small plane, similar to these shown, and flew to Florida with seven relatives. At face value, they are three old planes not worth much more their parts and scrap metal. Stolen from the Cuban government during a six-month period ending in April 2003 - two by hijackers, one by its pilot - all three landed at Key West International Airport, a 116-mile flight from struggling Havana to the gleaming shores of the U.S. (AP Photo/Jose Goitia, File)

FILE – In this Tuesday Nov. 12, 2002 file photo, old single engine airplane are seen at a Cuban airport in Los Palacios, near Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Cuban pilot Nemencio Carlos Alonso Guerra stole a small plane, similar to these shown, and flew to Florida with seven relatives. At face value, they are three old planes not worth much more their parts and scrap metal. Stolen from the Cuban government during a six-month period ending in April 2003 – two by hijackers, one by its pilot – all three landed at Key West International Airport, a 116-mile flight from struggling Havana to the gleaming shores of the U.S. (AP Photo/Jose Goitia, File)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Christine Armario  (AP) KEY WEST, Fla. — At face value, they are three old planes not worth much more than their parts and scrap metal. Stolen from the Cuban government during a six-month period ending in April 2003 — two by hijackers, one by its pilot — all three landed at Key West International Airport, a 116-mile flight from struggling Havana to the gleaming shores of the U.S.

Fidel Castro repeatedly demanded the planes be returned. Instead, they were seized by U.S. courts to satisfy part of a $27 million judgment won by a Cuban-American woman who had unwittingly married a Cuban spy in Miami.

The story of what happened to the planes in the ensuing years reads like another chapter in the history of stymied, contentious U.S.-Cuba relations, with the new owners unable to get the planes anywhere.

The first of the three planes to land in Key West was a yellow, Soviet-built crop-duster that pilot Nemencio Carlos Alonso Guerra used to fly seven passengers, many of them relatives, to the U.S. in November 2002.

Cuba wanted the biplane back, but a Florida judge agreed with Ana Margarita Martinez that it should be seized and sold to partially pay the judgment she was awarded under an anti-terrorism law. In 1996, her husband, Juan Pablo Roque, had fled back to Cuba after infiltrating the Miami-based anti-Castro group Brothers to the Rescue. The next day, Cuban fighter jets shot down two of the group’s Cessnas over international waters, killing four pilots.

The aging Antonov AN-2 Colt was auctioned at the Key West airport in 2003 and Martinez placed the highest bid, $7,000.

“We had a victory — we got to keep this property of the Cuban government,” Martinez said after the auction.

She hoped to sell it for a profit later but instead gave it to Cuban-American artist Xavier Cortada, who painted half of it with a colorful mural as part of an exhibit commemorating Cuba’s independence.

After the exhibit, Cortada eventually donated the plane to Florida International University, which planned to display it but couldn’t find a building to house it. Today, it deteriorates under tarps on a far corner of FIU’s campus.

Article continues here:  Hijacked Cuban planes still caught in limbo

Cuban Spies “Testify” in Show For Castro Supporters in London Reply

From March 7-8th, an “International Commission” was held in London as part of the “Free the Five” campaign. In a grossly bigoted piece of political theater, alleged expert witnesses, pro-Castro attorneys, and family members of the five spies provided “testimony” before an audience said to number roughly 250 persons. Only claims supporting the immediate release of the failed spies were permitted.

The absurd proceedings included Lawyers for the Cuban 5 parroting their long-running denial that their spy-clients had no connection to the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. Even more hypocritical was the “testimony” of expelled spies Olga Salanueva, wife of René González, and Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo Hernández. Completing this 3-ring circus was the appearance of senior Cuban Intelligence officer, Roberto Hernández Caballero.

I will give them credit — what regime supporters lack in credibility, they certainly make up for in chutzpah!

The highly entertaining Press Release from “Free the 5” can be read here: International Commission in London calls on Obama to free the Five

Britain Denies Visa For Cuban Spy Freed By US 1

(AFP) Havana — One of the so-called “Cuban Five” intelligence agents convicted by the US of spying has been denied a British visa to attend a London symposium, Cuban media said Wednesday.

Rene Gonzalez, who served 13 years in US prison before his release in 2011, had been invited to a two-day conference put on by “Voice for the Five,” an organization that fights “for freedom and justice for the Cuban Five.”

The men were convicted in a 2001 US spy case that made them heroes in Havana. Three of the men are still in prison in the United States.

Cuba has acknowledged that they were its agents but says they were spying on exiles to prevent terror attacks in Cuba.

The Cuban state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde said Gonzales (sic), 55, received notice that he had been denied a visa a few hours before he was to depart from Havana for the March 7-8 event.

It added that British law prohibits entry of a person sentenced to more than four years in prison and that the British government “doesn’t consider Gonzalez‘s attendance at the international commission sufficient to justify his visa.”

Gonzalez is the principal witness for the event,” Juventud Rebelde said.

The Cuban Five were arrested in 1998 and tried as part of a ring linked to the shoot-down of two private aircraft belonging to an exile group called Brothers to the Rescue. Four people were killed in the incident.

Gonzalez, who was to serve three years of parole in the United States after being released in October 2011, returned to Cuba in April 2013 to visit his family.

From there, he renounced his US citizenship, effectively ending his sentence in a move accepted by Washington.

A second member of the Five, Fernando Gonzalez, was released last Thursday from a maximum-security prison in the US state of Arizona and then deported to Cuba, after spending more than 15 years behind bars.

The other three agents are serving life sentences in the United States.

Castro Apologists Nominate Spy-Terrorists for Human Rights Award 1

Cuban Anti-terrorists Nominated For Human Rights Award

WASHINGTON (USA), March 5 (BERNAMA- NNN-Prensa Latina) — The International Committee for the Freedom of the Five has nominated the Cuban anti-terrorists for the Human Rights People’s Choice Award 2014, which acknowledges the work of people or institutions in defense of human rights.

The organization said that it had nominated Gerardo Hernandez, Fernando Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez, known internationally as the Cuban Five, because they fought to protect the Cuban people as well as citizens from the U.S. and other countries from terrorist violence.

They risked their lives to protect the lives of thousands. Instead of honoring them, the United States has sentenced them to long and unjust penalties.

In spite of that, the Cuban Five stand tall and face their sentences with dignity. This nomination is yet another way to make U.S citizens aware of the case, the organization added.

The Cuban Five were arrested while they were monitoring anti-Cuban groups based in Miami, whose actions have left more than 400 victims over the last 53 years in Cuba.

Gerardo, Antonio and Ramon remain in jail despite the international campaign for their immediate release.

Rene Gonzalez was released on Oct 7, 2011 after 13 years in prison, a period of supervised release and the renunciation of his US citizenship, while Fernando returned to the island on Feb 28, 2014 after serving the final day of his sentence in an Arizona penitentiary in the United States.

The Committee has called on the international community to submit supporting votes for the nomination until March 21.

The Human Rights People’s Choice Award Contest is part of the annual award ceremony organized by the California-based social activists group Global Exchange since 2002.

– BERNAMA-NNN-PRENSA LATINA

Editor’s Note: The Cuban Five and the remainder of the Wasp Network spied against the US government, its military forces, and Cuban exile groups. The spy ring also provided invaluable support to Cuba’s murder of four Americans during the February 1996 shoot-down of two Search And Rescue (SAR) aircraft flown by “Brothers to the Rescue.”

Another “Cuban 5” Spy Released From US Prison After More Than 15 years; Will Be Deported 1

By Curt Anderson, Associated Press

MIAMI — A second member of the “Cuban Five” — the spy ring whose arrests and convictions have caused repeated tensions between Washington and Havana — was released Thursday from a U.S. prison after spending more than 15 years behind bars.

Fifty-year-old Fernando Gonzalez, known to U.S. authorities by the alias Ruben Campa, completed his sentence at 4 a.m. local time a prison in Safford, Ariz., Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said.

Now the Five, as they are sometimes called, are down to three.

Gonzalez was turned over immediately to the custody of immigration officials, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez. For security reasons, she said she could not disclose exactly where he was being held or when he would be returned to Cuba, but a deportation order has already been issued.

The five men, who are hailed as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S. They were known as part of the “Wasp Network” sent by Cuba’s then-President Fidel Castro to spy in South Florida.

Trial testimony showed they sought to infiltrate military bases, including the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command and installations in the Florida Keys. They also kept tabs on Cuban exiles opposed to the communist government in Havana and sought to place operatives inside campaigns of U.S. politicians opposed to that government, prosecutors said.

Havana maintains that the agents posed no threat to U.S. sovereignty and were only monitoring militant exiles to prevent terrorist attacks in Cuba, the best known of which was a series of bombings of Havana hotels that killed an Italian tourist in 1997. Cuban leaders regularly call for the men to be released.

Cuba announced a concert Saturday night at the University of Havana in honor of the five men, though it was not immediately clear whether Gonzalez would be in Cuba by then.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma published interviews Thursday with two of Gonzalez’s friends back home. Rafael Hojas said the two knew each other as young students and crossed paths on international missions in Africa.

“I hope he spends as little time as possible in an immigration jail and can enjoy as soon as possible his mother, his wife, his family, and we’ll see when we might be able to meet,” Hojas was quoted as saying.

Gonzalez‘s mother, Magali Llort, told The Associated Press that she sometimes thinks her son’s release is a dream “but luckily it’s a great reality. But we can’t feel satisfied with Fernando arriving and Rene having come. We have to keep up the fight so that the rest, their brothers, are here,” she said.

The Cuban Five have sometimes been linked to the case of American Alan Gross, who has spent four years in a Cuban prison after he was arrested while working covertly to set up Internet access for the island’s Jewish community. He was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which Cuba considers bent on undermining its government.

Cuba has suggested it might swap Gross for the Cuban Five, but Washington has rejected any such deal.

Gonzalez was originally sentenced to 19 years but had his prison term reduced after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said he was wrongly labeled a supervisor of other spies for certain activities. Two others also had their prison sentences reduced by that same court order, including 55-year-old Antonio Guerrero, who is set for release in September 2017.

Rene Gonzalez, who is not related to Fernando Gonzalez, finished his prison sentence in 2011 but spent more than a year on probation in the U.S. until a judge allowed him to return to Cuba. Rene Gonzalez, a Chicago native, had dual U.S.-Cuban citizenship, and he renounced his U.S. citizenship after returning to Havana.

One of the five, Gerardo Hernandez, is serving a life prison sentence for murder conspiracy for his role in the 1996 killings of four “Brothers to the Rescue” pilots whose planes were shot down by Cuban fighter jets. The organization dropped pro-democracy leaflets over Cuba and assisted Cuban migrants trying to reach the U.S.

Hilda Cardenas, a 47-year-old Cuban civil engineer, said people on the island follow the case closely and Fernando Gonzalez‘s release marks another step forward.

“What we the people of Cuba want is for all of them to be here. They deserve it,” she said.

Judge Rejects Lawsuit Over Cuba’s 1996 Shoot-Down Reply

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

The brother of one of the South Florida pilots shot down and killed by Cuban MiGs 18 years ago says he will pursue his lawsuit demanding that U.S. prosecutors submit evidence of murder against Fidel and Raúl Castro to a grand jury.

“I don’t understand what these prosecutors have been doing all this time,” said Nelson Morales, 66, whose brother Pablo was killed in the Feb. 24, 1996 shootdown along with Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre and Mario de la Peña.

Morales filed suit last year to force U.S. prosecutors in Miami to present to a grand jury any evidence of the Castro brothers’ guilt in the deaths, including recordings and interviews in which they accept responsibility for downing the planes.

The federal prosecutors filed murder charges against Gen. Ruben Martinez Puente, who commanded Cuba’s air defense in 1996, and brothers Lorenzo Alberto and Francisco Pérez Pérez, who piloted the MiGs. But they did not indict the Castro brothers.

U.S. Judge Donald H. Graham rejected Morales’ suit last month, ruling that the petitioner sought to encroach on prosecutorial discretions and that Morales had not met one of the technical requirements of the law.

Attorney Juan Carlos Zorrilla, who represents Morales, has filed a notice of appeal to the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta. He argues that the lawsuit seeks only to force the prosecutors to present the evidence to a grand jury. The grand jury and prosecutors can then decline to pursue the case, the attorney added.
Zorrilla said Morales will separately attempt to resolve the technical issue by seeking a meeting with the federal prosecutors in Miami to personally turn over the evidence against the Castro brothers and ask that it be presented to the grand jury.

Former U.S. Attorney Kendall B. Coffey and Brothers to the Rescue leader Jose Basulto presented much of the evidence to the prosecutors in 2008, but Graham ruled the law required that Morales himself present the evidence.

“We will go to Atlanta, we will do anything and everything necessary for this case,” Morales said. “I don’t understand why a federal judge and federal prosecutors are protecting these murderers.”

Zorrilla filed the “writ of mandamus” — a request for a court order requiring the government to take action — in July to force prosecutors to submit any evidence implicating Fidel and Raúl Castro in the deaths. Prosecutors also should inform the grand jury that it can vote to pursue an inquiry on its own, the lawsuit added.

Editor’s Note: Fidel Castro personally approved Directorate of Intelligence (DI) activities supporting the shoot-down of “Brothers to the Rescue” aircraft. The spy service’s codename for the mission was “Operation Scorpion.”

Cuba: Rene Gonzalez Eyes Fellow Agent’s US Release 2

HAVANA (AP) — When Fernando Gonzalez walks out of an Arizona prison next week, the “Cuban Five” will be down to three.

Intelligence agents in the employ of Fidel Castro’s Cuba, they were arrested in the United States in 1998 and given terms ranging from 15 years to consecutive life sentences on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents. A federal appeals court upheld their convictions but voided three of their sentences, including Gonzalez’s, after finding they had gathered no “top secret” information.

Rene Gonzalez, no relation, was the first of the Cuban Five to go free in 2011. He was ordered to remain in the United States for more than a year after release. But U.S. officials say Fernando Gonzalez will be immediately handed to immigration authorities upon his release for the start of deportation proceedings.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rene Gonzalez said he hopes his comrade will soon join him in his new role as the public face of Cuba’s campaign to demand the other agents’ release. “I don’t know how he will feel when he comes. Probably he’ll need some rest, but I hope to see him at my side in this battle,” Gonzalez said on a recent morning in Havana, clad in a smart striped shirt and black pants. “I think he will be a good reinforcement.”

Rene Gonzalez was an unknown young pilot in 1990 when he pretended to steal a crop duster and flew to Florida, using cover as a Cuban defector to spy on targets in the United States. Rene and Fernando Gonzalez, along with the others, were convicted in 2001 of being part of a ring known as the “Wasp Network,” given the job by Cuba’s government of spying on U.S. military installations in South Florida, Cuban exile groups and politicians opposed to Castro’s government.

Havana maintains the agents posed no threat to U.S. sovereignty and were only monitoring militant exiles to prevent terror attacks in Cuba, the best known of which was a series of bombings of Havana hotels that killed an Italian tourist in 1997.

In 2013, Rene Gonzalez finally returned to his country of allegiance, if not birth, when a U.S. judge allowed him to renounce his American citizenship and cut short three years’ supervised release.

He is no longer just an anonymous husband and father of two. His and the other agents’ faces grace billboards across Cuba, where they are lionized as heroes for their clandestine monitoring of militant anti-Castro exiles.

“Now everyone recognizes me in the street,” Gonzalez said.

He has spent the last nine months or so living a relatively quiet existence, readjusting to family life with his wife, Olga Salanueva, and their teenage daughter, Ivette, in a small apartment in central Havana. Their other daughter, Irma, has grown up, married and has a child of her own.

But at a Latin American and Caribbean regional summit last month, Gonzalez was firmly in the spotlight talking to visiting foreign media and arguing Cuba’s case to “free the Five.”

Feature continues here: Cuba: Rene Gonzalez Eyes Fellow Agent’s US Release

Editor’s Note: This AP report contains numerous errors, to include the Havana-created myth that the Wasp Network was limited to “spying on U.S. military installations in South Florida, Cuban exile groups and politicians opposed to Castro’s government.” In reality, the Wasp Network was led by a Military Intelligence officer on loan to the Directorate of Intelligence. As such, it targeted US military facilities from the Florida Keys, north through Florida, and then west along the Gulf of Mexico until it reached Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (home to B-52 long-range bombers).

The Wasp Network also directed several spies against the FBI, the local Chamber of Commerce, and most importantly – was a key participant in “Operation Scorpion,” – the 1996 murder of four Americans flying a Search & Rescue mission in international airspace.

Penitentiary Home to One of “Cuban Five” 2

Supporters say Hernandez, four others wrongfully convicted

Rebecca Howes, Staff Writer – Victorville (CA) Daily Press

VICTORVILLE • An inmate housed at the United States Penitentiary-Victorville has drawn support from a wide range of dignitaries as he serves a double-life sentence at the maximum security facility.

Gerardo Hernandez, 48, was arrested by FBI SWAT team members in 1998 along with four other men: Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez.

The men, who have come to be known as the Cuban Five, were Cuban intelligence agents who were tried and convicted in Miami on numerous counts including failing to register as foreign agents, using false identities and conspiracy to commit espionage. Hernandez, the leader of the network, was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder for his alleged involvement with shooting down two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft.

Hernandez was convicted in 2001 and was transferred after his trial to Lompoc U.S. Penitentiary. In 2004, he was transferred to Victorville.

Supporters say Hernandez is innocent and is the victim of political persecution by the U.S. government. “The idea that anyone could live through this and maintain a sense of dignity is remarkable,” Hernandez’s attorney, Martin Garbus, said in a telephone interview. Garbus, a New York-based civil rights attorney, took over representing the Cuban Five after the death of attorney Leonard Weinglass in 2011. Garbus, who has visited Hernandez at the Victorville prison a half-dozen times, said he has a deep respect for his client. “I knew Nelson Mandela. There is the same kind of serenity with Gerardo — this extraordinary quietness and awareness,” Garbus said. “The ability to withstand his incarceration and to stay positive is extraordinary.”

Within days of Hernandez’s 2001 conviction, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five was formed, according to coordinator Gloria La Riva. “Gerardo had nothing to do with the planes being shot down,” La Riva said, claiming that media-created hysteria led to an unjust conviction. According to La Riva, dozens of Miami journalists were covering the trial of the Cuban Five in a “highly prejudicial manner.” “Gerardo was on a mission in Miami to save lives,” La Riva said. “He never had a weapon, nor did he harm anyone.”

The Cuban Five are supported by former President Jimmy Carter and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Feature continues here: Penitentiary Home to One of Cuban Five

Gleijeses on the Cuban Five 3

By Miguel Fernandez

Piero Gleijeses, a professor of U.S. Foreign Policy at the Faculty of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University, has launched a far-fetched self-promotion campaign using the Cuban Five.

For selling his latest book: Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria and the Struggle for Southern Africa (University of North Carolina Press, 2013), Gleijeses has written a letter to President Obama calling for the immediate release of the Cuban Five. His point is that they are “political prisoners” sentenced by an “operetta court” for “a crime” committed by Fidel Castro: the humiliation of the U.S. You can easily guess what follows: a summary of Gleijeses’s book focused on Castro’s intervention and its impact on the survival of Angola, the independence of Namibia, and the demise of the apartheid in South Africa.

It has nothing to do with the case of the Cuban Five, but Gleijeses devoted more than three quarters of his letter to “the struggle for Southern Africa.” He simply abstains from dealing with the case beyond deeming it as a judicial misjudgment full of well-known juridical flaws. Thus, Gleijeses has wrongfully applied the so-called method of “ascending from the abstract to the concrete.”

What’s really well-known is that Castro ordered his intelligence services to infiltrate the U.S. and the Cuban Five were part of a network trying to gather intelligence from Southern Command (Miami) and the military bases at Boca Chica (Key West) and MacDill (Tampa). They were detected and their communications intercepted and deciphered. This provided the prosecution a prima-facie case of conspiracy to commit espionage.

Instead of a viable defense, the defendants attempted to justify that two unarmed small planes Cessna were lawfully shoot down over Cuban jurisdictional waters by a MiG-29 jet fighter. There wasn’t a quantum of proof and the incident had nothing to do with conspiracy to commit espionage, but two third of the time at the trial were used by the defense for such a frivolous purpose.

Only after the conviction, the counsel of Gerardo Hernandez — the only defendant charged with conspiracy to commit murder because of the shoot down — realized this charge should have deserved a separate trial. Let’s see how long would it take for Gleijeses to realize that using the Cuban Five’s agitprop is an intellectually destitute manner for promoting an academic work.