Leftist Attorney and “Journalist” Eva Golinger Interviews Cuban Spies 1

Cuba's Ministry of the Interior -- home to its security and intelligence services

The Ministry of the Interior — home to Cuba’s security and intelligence services

My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five

by Eva Golinger, Counterpunch

It was nearly nine o’clock that Wednesday December 17, 2014 when I saw a tweet by Rene Gonzalez, one of the five Cuban spies who had been imprisoned in the United States for over a decade. THEY RETURNED! I had to look twice. Could it be true? I quickly started searching in newspapers and digital media for any news about the Five, as they were known in Cuba, but all pointed to Rene’s tweet. Minutes later, in three consecutive tweets Rene presented concrete evidence to allay any doubts. The papers for the release from prison of Gerardo, Ramon and Antonio were signed. They were free.

Previously, on December 4, Gerardo was abruptly transported from the maximum security prison in Victorville, California where he had spent most of his 16 year prison term and taken to a penitentiary center in Oklahoma City. Without knowing why he was there he was put in the “hole”, another term for solitary confinement in a cell with no window or contact with other prisoners, subjected to brutal and inhumane treatment by the guards. He was left there for eleven days. On December 15, he was suddenly transferred to a prison hospital in Butner, North Carolina. He was not even given time to gather and bring the few personal possessions he had accumulated over the last 16 years in prison.

Across the country in Florida, Antonio was awoken at five o’clock in the morning on Monday December 15, in his prison cell in Marianna, a medium security penitentiary. He was only told to pack his personal items, nothing more. He complied, not knowing where he was being taken or why. He was then transported in a private jet to the prison hospital in Butner. There, he thought he’d have to adapt again to a new surrounding and make his life in that prison.

That same day, Ramon, still registered under the false name he used during his intelligence mission in the United States, Luis Medina, was also taken from his cell in Georgia to the prison hospital in Butner. He wasn’t given any instructions or information about the reason for his transfer. It was not until the next day, on December 16, that all three – Gerardo, Ramon and Antonio – met face to face in the same place, and they knew from that moment on they were going home.

They found it impossible to contain their happiness. Between smiles, jokes and hugs, US officials got so nervous that when they brought the three of them to the plane on the early morning of December 17, they forced them to speak English. Perhaps the feared Castro-spies would still be conspiring against the country that had deprived them of their freedom for the past 16 years. In a final blow, as the plane approached their homeland, the authorities covered the windows of the plane. They couldn’t even see the arrival into Cuba.

Feature continues here:  Counterpunch

 

 

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A Cynical End for Castro’s Faux-Beloved “Cuban Five” 4

Cuban FiveBy Chris Simmons

Several spies, collectively known as the “Cuban Five,” have been hosted and toasted before adoring socialist crowds around the world for several months. Decorated with much fanfare in Havana, these over-hyped “Heroes of the Revolution” are the latest circus performers in Havana’s theater of the absurd.

You see, in reality, the “Five” have been put out to pasture. “Golden Exile” you might say. Members of the Wasp Network, they were five of an estimated 42 spies in the largest espionage ring ever known to have operated in the United States. A rare joint venture between Havana’s civilian and military intelligence services, it was led by Cuba’s Directorate of Military Intelligence (DIM). Its primary targets were the Pentagon’s regional headquarters responsible for military operations in the Americas (SOUTHCOM) and the Middle East (CENTCOM), as well as US special operations worldwide (SOCOM).

In a massive sweep stretching 152 miles, the FBI arrested 10 of the spies in September 1998. Seven more Wasps were arrested or expelled over the next several years. Many of those arrested accepted plea agreements and turned against their masters in Havana. The “Five” held fast and were found guilty of espionage associated-crimes. Career DIM case officer Gerardo Hernandez, the former head of the deadly network, was sentenced to two life terms for conspiracy to commit murder in the February 1996 deaths of four Americans.

Once convicted, the regime could ill-afford for its lethal cabal to switch sides like their subordinates. The destitute island invested considerable monies to sustain their morale with family visits and a never-ending parade of diplomats from the (then) Cuban Interests Section in Washington and the Cuban Mission to the United Nations. A global propaganda campaign known as “Free the Five” was initiated. During the secret talks to restore diplomatic ties, the United States even helped artificially inseminate Adriana Perez, the spy-wife of incarcerated killer, Gerardo Hernandez. The effort, which tragically misguided Obama officials saw as a goodwill gesture, was prompted by Perez’s personal appeal to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), who passed the request to White House officials.

But to the ever cynical regime, its “heroes” are now little more than famous liabilities.

Moscow’s KGB long ago taught its Cuban allies that incarcerated spies can never again be trusted. The leftist dictatorship sees its freed spies as failures. After all, three were spy-handlers (“Case Officers”). Theoretically the best of the best, it was their mistakes – or that of their underlings – that had attracted the attention of US spy-catchers.

Despite the propaganda mission of the “Felonious Five,” there is an important lesson for America to learn. Given Havana’s extraordinary investment in five men who meant nothing to it — imagine what it can accomplish when it truly cares.

Heroic Homecoming For Cuban Agents Brings Speculation About Future in Politics 6

The "Cuban Five," which includes Ramon Labanino (top left), Gerardo Hernandez (top right), Fernando Gonzalez (bottom left), Antonio Guerrero (bottom right) and Rene Gonzalez (center), have become part of the new political intrigue in Cuba. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

The “Cuban Five,” which includes Ramon Labanino (top left), Gerardo Hernandez (top right), Fernando Gonzalez (bottom left), Antonio Guerrero (bottom right) and Rene Gonzalez (center), have become part of the new political intrigue in Cuba. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

By Nick Miroff, Washington Post

MEXICO CITY — Since their return to Havana last month after 16 years in U.S. federal prison, the remaining three members of the spy ring known as “the Cuban Five” have been a frequent presence on state television. Wherever they go — visiting universities or attending outdoor concerts in their honor — they are celebrated as “Heroes of the Republic.”

They speak with a confidence and a candor unusual among Communist officials of their generation, who rarely veer off-script or show emotion. Despite their years behind bars, the men are relatively young, at least by Cuban leadership standards.

And with each public appearance, more Cubans and Cuba-watchers wonder what role the five, and especially ringleader Gerardo Hernández, might play in the country’s political future.

Although several of them had not set foot on the island in 20 years, Havana’s ceaseless international campaign to free the men has arguably made them the most recognizable faces in the Cuban government after the Castros. A generation of Cuban schoolchildren has grown up memorizing their names and biographies.

Hernández, 49, was serving two life sentences plus 15 years when he was freed as part of the prisoner swap for a long-jailed CIA mole in Cuba that also triggered the release of Alan Gross, an American government subcontractor.

Sent by Havana to infiltrate anti-Castro groups in Miami, Hernández was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, having passed along information that Cuba used in the 1996 downing of two civilian planes operated by the exile group Brothers to the Rescue, killing four.

“We dreamed about this moment for so long,” Hernández told Cuban television soon after his arrival, choking back tears. “The only thing that lifted our spirits was the thought of coming home, to be with the Cuban people again.”

“It was worth it,” he said.

The agents have said nothing specific about their plans. But when the Obama administration agreed to send them back, it possibly gave Cuba more than a group of intelligence operatives.

“We don’t know yet what they’ll do, but they return with tremendous prestige,” said Aurelio Alonso, a member of the small Havana civil society organization Cuba Posible, which advocates gradual reforms. “So far, they’ve demonstrated an extraordinary level of political maturity.”

Feature continues here:  Cuban Spies

Editor’s Note:  The Washington Post is incorrect in reporting the Wasp Network was created “to infiltrate anti-Castro groups in Miami.” It actually targeted US military bases, the FBI, the Miami Herald, local and national political figures, and other groups.

El primer agente cubano de “Los Cinco” que quedó en libertad estrena blog 1

(ARCHIVO) René GonzálezADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images

(ARCHIVO) René GonzálezADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images

(EFE/La Habana) René González, uno de los agentes cubanos condenados en EEUU y en libertad en la isla desde el año pasado, estrenó el blog personal “Soy un espía, dicen”, con el que espera divulgar pormenores del caso de “Los Cinco”, uno de los puntos de fricción en el diferendo entre La Habana y Washington.

González, quien cumplió 15 años de prisión y fue el primero de los agentes en salir de la cárcel y en regresar a la isla, respondió en su primera entrada a preguntas de blogueros que radican en Cuba para explicar así por qué ha decidido entrar a las redes sociales.

“Aspiro a que con el desarrollo del blog vayan apareciendo más respuestas, incluso para muchos otros que no conocen del caso o que conociéndolo, por razones diversas, no están hoy del lado de los cinco”, afirmó González, quien ya se había estrenado en la red social Twitter.

El exagente cubano espera que su bitácora “sea una contribución a la ruptura del muro de silencio que se ha tendido sobre el caso” fuera de la isla y pueda “esclarecer los puntos oscuros del mismo”.

“El blog ofrece una oportunidad de que la historia sea abordada directamente por nosotros Cinco, utilizando un formato que permite el diálogo personal, fluido y permanente con quienes deseen aproximarse a ella”, precisó.

El caso de “Los Cinco” ha marcado en los últimos años el diferendo político que Cuba y Estados Unidos mantienen hace más de cinco décadas, y actualmente se considera uno de los principales escollos para una posible normalización de las relaciones junto a la detención y encarcelamiento en Cuba del contratista norteamericano Alan Gross.

Considerados en Cuba “héroes” y “luchadores antiterroristas”, los espías fueron detenidos en 1998 cuando la Oficina Federal de Investigaciones (FBI) desmanteló la red de espionaje cubana “Avispa”, que actuaba en el sur de Florida.

Todos admitieron que eran agentes “no declarados” de La Habana ante EEUU, pero alegaron que espiaban a “grupos terroristas de exiliados” que conspiraban contra el entonces presidente Fidel Castro, y no al Ejecutivo estadounidense.

René González y Fernando González son los únicos que ya han sido liberados tras cumplir sus condenas, mientras que los otros tres, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino y Antonio Guerrero, permanecen encarcelados.

 

 

 

Art Exhibit By Convicted Cuban Spy Attracts 1300 Spectators During Six-Month Tour of Greece 1

Militant/Georges Mehrabian

Militant/Georges Mehrabian

By George Mehrabian, The Militant

ATHENS, Greece — About 300 people viewed watercolors by Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five, at the Oct. 2-5 annual Syriza youth festival, a major political and cultural event here attended by several thousand people. Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left), a social-democratic coalition founded in 2004, is today the largest opposition bloc in the Greek parliament. On display was a collection of 15 watercolors by Guerrero titled “I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived” that depict the experiences of the five revolutionaries during their first 17 months in the “hole” at the Federal Detention Center in Miami. The exhibit was part of a Cuban booth set up in the festival’s International Corner, which was dedicated to Palestine, Venezuela and Cuba. Showings of Guerrero’s art in Greece have been organized by a joint effort of the José Martí Cultural Association, Greek Solidarity Network-La Red Solid@ria, Hasta La Victoria Siempre and the publishing house Diethnes Vima. “The Syriza youth festival was the 10th stop since the Greece tour was launched in May,” said Loukia Konstantinou, who helped organize the showing. More than 1,300 people have seen the exhibit, some 550 of whom have signed petitions demanding President Barack Obama release the three revolutionaries who remain in prison — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Guerrero. Participants at Guerrero’s 15-watercolor exhibit in Greece have bought a total of 159 books published by Diethnes Vima and Pathfinder Press on the Cuban Five, the Cuban Revolution and other working-class politics.

 

Cuban 5 Activist Lobbies For Spy-Terrorists at Nebraska Peace Conference 1

Jacquie Henderson

Jacquie Henderson

By Chris Simmons 

The leftist newspaper, The Militant, reported on “Free The 5” efforts at a Nebraska Peace Conference in early October. The event reportedly drew over 100 attendees to discuss issues from the war in the Middle East to the environment. When the attendees broke for lunch, Nebraskans For Peace (NFP) President Mark Vasina invited everyone to see an art display by jailed Cuban spy Antonio Guerrero. He also introduced Jacquie Henderson, who helped organize the showing, to share a pro-Castro perspective on the spy-terrorists.

Apparently oblivious to the apartheid practices of the Castro dictatorship, Henderson lauded three of the jailed spies for having served in Angola against a “white supremacist South African regime.” In the end, dozens of people reportedly looked at the paintings. The newspaper also reported that 11 attendees “picked up” books authored by Guerrero or Castro apologists, suggesting that they may have been given away free.

 

 

Castro Apologists Feel Victorious As “Over 125 People” Attend Meeting on Cuban 5 5

The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC

The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC

Meeting in DC marks 16 years in int’l fight to free Cuban 5

By Ned Measel, The Militant

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 125 people attended a meeting here Sept. 13 to demand freedom for the Cuban Five. “Tonight’s event is part of activities taking place all over the world” to mark the 16th anniversary of their arrest on frame-up charges by the FBI, said Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. (See box below.)

The meeting, sponsored by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 and held at the headquarters of the Service Employees International Union, featured the first U.S. showing of 16 new prison paintings by Antonio Guerrero, titled “Absolved by Solidarity.”

The watercolors tell the story of the Miami frame-up trial — from the denial of 11 motions for a change of venue to the long sentences and the sending of the revolutionaries to five distant prisons. The event included music, poetry, a short video, and a panel of speakers.

“It is an impossible task to show the entire trial through just 16 images,” Guerrero said in a statement displayed along with the exhibit. “We knew that we could not receive a fair trial. But nevertheless in that place, we achieved an invaluable victory and that was to denounce terrorism against our people in its own lair.”

Cheryl LaBash, an activist with the International Committee; Maria Naranjo, assistant district leader of SEIU Local 32BJ in Washington, D.C.; and Valarie Long, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union: made brief remarks to kick off the program.

José Ramón Cabañas, chief of the Cuban Interests Section, was the featured speaker. The U.S. government “called it a trial,” he said, “but we called it a political vendetta” aimed at punishing the Cuban Revolution. Cabañas took time to walk through and comment on Guerrero’s paintings.

Each of the watercolors were accompanied by an explanatory note from Guerrero.

Feature continues here: The Militant 

BREAKING NEWS: Alianza Martiana to Host Miami Pro-Castro Conference on Sunday 4

The Prensa Latina (PRELA) news agency – a long-time Cuban Intelligence collaborator – announced earlier today that the Alianza Martiana announced plans for a Sunday forum demanding the immediate release of Havana’s three remaining incarcerated spies. The two intelligence officers — Gerardo Hernandez and Ramón Labañino — as well as their agent, Antonio Guerrero — were part of the Wasp Network, a vast espionage operation run jointly by the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) and the highly secretive Directorate of Military Intelligence (DIM). The spy ring’s main focus was US military targets from Key West, Florida to northwestern Louisiana.

Alianza Martiana planners also intend to again bemoan Cuba’s alleged difficulty in working with US banks and call on President Obama to end the US embargo. Held in central Miami, the gathering has become a quarterly event of South Florida’s tiny but vocal community of pro-Castro supporters.

 

 

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.