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.

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CODEPINK’s Itinerary For This Week’s Visit to Cuba – Meet With Spies, More Spies & Even More Spies! 4

CODEPINK at their Havana press conference.

CODEPINK at their Havana press conference.

By Chris Simmons

The left-wing group, CODEPINK, is currently in Cuba as it heads a “a historic delegation” that – from February 8-15, “will have high-level meetings with government officials, visit members of the Cuban 5 who were recently released from US prison, talk to doctors who combated Ebola in Africa, and interact with local people about cultural, economic, environmental and health issues.”

However, a closer review of their agenda finds scheduled meetings with intelligence officers and co-opted agencies, including:

Monday, February 9 @9am:  Meeting with Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), followed by a possible meeting with Fernando Gonzalez and the rest of the Cuban 5.

Friday, February 13 @9:00am: Meeting with Josefina Vidal, an expelled Directorate of Intelligence officer currently serving “undercover” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more details on the intelligence activities of the highlighted groups and individuals, simply use the search tab. For CodePink’s full schedule, click here.

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.

Convicted Spy Makes First Official Visit 4

icapBy Arnaldo M Fernandez

The Vice President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), former spy Fernando González-Llort, arrives in Madrid tomorrow to take part in the annual festival of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). It is the first time González-Llort has traveled abroad after his release. The agenda includes a concert organized by the State Committee to Free the Five and meetings with the Federation of Cuban Residents in Spain (FACRE) and representatives of solidarity groups.

According to Cuban Ambassador in Spain, Eugenio Martínez Enríquez, dozens of Spaniards rallied in Madrid, Valencia, Alicante, Sevilla, and Barcelona last Friday to demand the immediate release of the three Wasp Network spies still in prison.

Editor’s Note: ICAP’s intelligence collaboration with the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) dates back over three decades. It is not a DI entity per se, but is believed to be roughly 90% DI-affiliated due to a large pool of collaborators who serve the small team of ICAP-embedded DI officers.

Cuban Spy is Now ICAP Vice President 1

icapSPECIAL by Arnaldo M. Fernandez

Fernando González-Llort has been just appointed as Vice President of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples, better known by its Spanish acronym ICAP. Although it is not subordinate to the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), ICAP is an intelligence front with a long history since its creation in 1960, with a large pool of collaborators at the service overseen by a small team of ICAP-embedded DI officers.

After graduating in the Higher Institute of International Relations (1987), González-Llort took part (1987-89) at the Cuban military campaign in Angola. Back in Cuba, he was trained to carry out spying operations in the U.S. and was part of the so-called Wasp Network dismantled by the FBI in 1998. He was sentenced to 19 years of imprisonment in 2001 and re-sentenced to 17 years, 9 months in 2009.

González-Llort was released on February 27, 2014, and immediately engaged with René Gonzalez (released October 7, 2011) in the agitprop campaigns for the freedom of the three members of the spy ring still in prison.

On March 29, 2014, González-Llort spoke before the Cuban National Assembly, praising the efforts and constant support of the Cuban government and the Communist Party. He also lauded the agitprop campaigns undertaken by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Five and ICAP.

El Salvador President Meets with Two Cuban Spies Convicted in U.S. 1

Salvador Sanchez Ceren celebrates election results / AP

Salvador Sanchez Ceren celebrates election results / AP

  Experts concerned about his willingness to work with U.S. on anti-drug, anti-gang efforts

By Daniel Wiser, Washington Free Beacon

El Salvador’s purportedly moderate new president met this week with two Cuban spies convicted in the United States, raising questions about his willingness to work with U.S. officials on anti-gang and anti-drug efforts.

Salvador Sanchez Ceren met with the spies as well as Cuban President Raul Castro on the communist island, according to a Salvadoran news outlet. The two men, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez (no relation), were members of the “Cuban Five” that were convicted on charges of conspiracy and espionage in the United States and later released to Cuba.

The visit received scant media coverage but could be a sign that the new president will govern as more of a hardline leftist. Ceren, a former Marxist guerilla leader in El Salvador, promised to govern as a moderate before narrowly winning the presidential election in March.

The other three members of the Cuban spy ring are still serving prison terms in the United States. One of them, Gerardo Hernandez, was linked to the deaths of four Cuban exiles in 1996. The exiles were pilots in the Brothers to the Rescue group that aided thousands of Cuban rafters fleeing the island.

Roger Noriega, former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs during the George W. Bush administration, said in an interview that Sanchez Ceren’s pledge to work together with the United States as a moderate leader now appears to be “pretty hollow.”

“He’s also sort of aligning himself with a failed [Cuban] model obviously in terms of economic policy and totalitarianism, and unrelenting hostility to the United States,” Noriega said. “It bodes very ill for where he wants to take El Salvador.”

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on Sanchez Ceren’s visit to Cuba and referred the Washington Free Beacon to the Salvadoran government. “We continue to work with the government of El Salvador on our many shared interests, including regional security,” the spokesperson said.

The direction of El Salvador’s government has important implications for U.S. security.

El Salvador is “a major transit country for illegal drugs headed to the United States from source countries in South America,” according to the State Department’s 2014 report on international narcotics control. Illicit drug shipments cost American taxpayers about $193 billion in 2007 for the health care and criminal justice systems, the latest data available.

Article continues here:  El Salvador President Meets with Convicted Cuban Spies

 

Released Spy Thanks Supporters & Intelligence-Service Collaborators 2

Fernando González Llort addresses the National Assembly

Fernando González Llort

Prensa Latina (PRELA) reports that released spy Fernando González Llort spoke late last week at a National Assembly session. He was accompanied by fellow spy René González.

Fernando González used the opportunity to thank his Cuban 5 colleagues, the Castro brothers, “the Cuban government and the Communist Party for the efforts and constant support to their cause and family” noted PRELA. He also praised the global propaganda campaigns undertaken by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Five and Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

Editor’s Note: ICAP’s intelligence collaboration with the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) dates back over three decades. It is not a DI entity per se, but is believed to be roughly 90% DI-affiliated due to a large pool of collaborators who serve the small team of ICAP-embedded DI officers.
 

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.