By Chris Simmons
For some time, the Castro regime has suggested various scenarios for an exchange of Alan Gross for up to six of its spies jailed or on parole in the United States. However, Alan Gross is a hostage, not a spy. As such, trading him for the Cuban Five cannot be seriously considered under any circumstance. However, exchanging Gross for several indicted Cuban officials and all US fugitives on the island could benefit both nations. According to law enforcement sources, as many as 70 US fugitives may be enjoying the protection of the Castro regime.
A precedent for such a prisoner exchange already exists. In 1979, four CIA operatives jailed in Cuba for nearly two decades were exchanged for Oscar Collazo, who tried to assassinate Truman in October 20, 1950, as well as Lolita Lebron and three other Puerto Ricans who shot up the US Congress on March 1, 1954. Additionally, in June 2008, Cuba returned American fugitive Leonard Auerback to the US to face Federal charges of sexually abusing a Costa Rican girl and the possession of child pornography. Cuba also allowed Luis Armando Pena Soltren to return to the US in October 2009 to surrender to FBI officials to face a 40-year old indictment for air piracy.
In this scenario, the Cuban Five would be exchanged for Alan Gross, all 50-70+ fugitives want by the US, and four indicted Cuban officials. The indicted Cubans are all associated with the murder of four Americans during the February 1996 shoot down of two US aircraft flown by the humanitarian group, Brothers to the Rescue. Indicted by the US on August 21, 2003 were General Rubén Martínez Puente, Lieutenant Colonel Lorenzo Perez Perez, and his twin brother, Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Perez Perez. All three were indicted for conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of destruction of aircraft, and four counts of murder for the shoot down of the two aircraft and the death of the crews. Ironically, most of the evidence against them was developed as a result of the 1998 arrests of 10 members of a Cuban spy ring known as the Wasp Network. Another Cuban officer to be included in the proposed exchange is Lieutenant Colonel Juan Pablo Roque, another member of the Wasp Network, also remains under indictment for conspiracy to commit murder and espionage-related charges.
Among the wanted US felons are terrorists Víctor Manuel Gerena and Joanne Chisimard. On the FBI’s “10 Most Wanted” List, a million dollar reward is offered for Manuel Gerena http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/victor-manuel-gerena/view. Similarly, a million dollar bounty is offered on Joanne Chisimard for the May 2, 1973 execution of a New Jersey state trooper http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/dt/joanne-deborah-chesimard. The crimes committed by the dozens of other felons include numerous counts of murder, air piracy, and other heinous acts.
So, regarding the idea of exchanging the Cuban Five for Alan Gross – no, not now, not ever. But trading the Cuban Five for Alan Gross and as many as 74 terrorists, indicted officials, and other dangerous criminals? That’s an idea worth considering. I’d say yes to “75 for 5!”