by Fernando Ravsberg
HAVANA TIMES — On September 12, 1998, the FBI dismantled a network of Cuban spies who had been monitoring anti-Castro groups based in Miami. A number of these spies negotiated with the prosecution to have their sentences reduced, but five refused to do so. Their convictions, which included life sentences, were the most severe.
One of these five Cuban men was pilot Rene Gonzalez, recently released from a US prison, following nearly 13 years of incarceration and another nearly two years on parole. Now back living in Cuba, he agreed to talk to me about his life as an agent, his activities in the United States and his time in prison.
Why did you agree to go the United States and act as a spy there?
I am part of a generation of Cubans who grew up under the threat of terrorist actions against the country. I’ve never forgotten the hijacking of Cuban fishing vessels and the murder of their crews, which were often perpetrated by terrorist groups based in Miami. I was one of the millions of people who attended the massive gathering held in honor of those who were killed off the coast of Barbados, in the terrorist bombing of a Cuban airliner. So, when I was asked to do this, I didn’t hesitate. I felt it was my duty as a patriot.
Is it ethical to spy on another country?
I believe it is ethical to defend yourself when you are being attacked and that was what I set out to do. The most powerful nation in the world has attacked us for many years and we have the right to defend ourselves, provided we do no harm to the American people. At no point was it our intention to do anyone any harm, we merely exercised our right to defend ourselves.
When you lead that kind of double-life, you probably also meet good people along the way. Did you feel you were betraying those people at any point?
The human element can complicate things. In all of these groups, you find good people who actually believe in what they’re doing, or people who are manipulated or harbor prejudices. You learn to recognize them, to identify those who are good people and those who are not. You realize that many of these people would have stayed on board (with the Revolution) under different circumstances and you begin to treat them with the kindness that they deserve.
I don’t want to mention any names, so as not to cause anyone any trouble over there, but I met people who had been officials in Batista’s army, elderly people, and I’m still like a son to them, just as they are like parents to me.
What kind of information were you after? It’s my understanding some of you were operating in a military base.
One of us was at a military base. He was divulging public information, he never had access to anything classified and never looked for it. His job was to compile as much publicly available information about the Cayo Hueso base as he could, because the base is a place where you can pick up signs of a possible terrorist attack against Cuba.
What did the others do?
Gerardo was in charge of coordinating the network’s activities. I had infiltrated several organizations: Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Rescate), Democracy (Democracia), United Liberation Command (Comando de Liberación Unido) and others. I went through quite a number of different groups, because anyone who needs a small plane for their operations also needs a pilot and I was available.
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