By Jim Wyss, jwyss@MiamiHerald.com
The five Cuban spies recently released from U.S. custody spent a second day in Venezuela being hailed as heroes and bestowed with honors.
On Tuesday, President Nicolás Maduro honored the men at the National Pantheon, where South American liberator Simon Bolivar is interred, saying that they helped stop “dozens” of U.S. attacks on Cuba, including the bombing of hotels and the killing of foreign tourists.
Maduro also blamed the media for describing the men as “spies,” saying news agencies, including Reuters, Associated Press, AFP and EFE were “machines of media manipulation.”
“They declare war when there needs to be war and they pardon and turn people into angels when they need to be pardoned and turned into angels, even if that person is the world’s biggest murderer,” he said.
The five men were convicted in 2001 of infiltrating South Florida military installations and spying on the exile community. They were also linked to the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes that killed four exile pilots over the Florida Straits.
The last imprisoned members of the spy ring were released in December as Washington and Havana began rapprochement talks. Their release coincided with Cuba’s freeing of USAID contractor Alan Gross. The men are expected to be in Venezuela — Cuba’s closest ally — through Saturday.