Al Jazeera Interview With Cuban Spy: ‘I will do it again if I have to’ 3

After spending 16 years in US prisons, Gerardo Hernandez shares his remarkable story behind his liberation.

Cuban intelligence officer Gerardo Hernandez was a central character in the frosty relations between Cuba and the United States.

His return to Cuban soil on December 17, 2014 marked a dramatic new beginning for both countries.

After 16 years in US prisons, he was given a hero’s welcome, and remains defiant and loyal to his government.

In 2001 he was convicted by a Miami court and handed down two life sentences for sending intelligence back home to Cuba.

The court said his actions assisted in the murder of Cuban exiles – in the shooting down of two planes – who were attempting to overthrow the Castro government.

He was a spy, but Hernandez, and the other members of the so-called “Cuban Five” spies captured on US soil and now released, have been declared national heroes by Fidel Castro and were decorated by Cuban president Raul Castro earlier this year.

All this time he had been separated from his wife Adriana Perez, yet, to the surprise of many she was nine months pregnant when he returned to Cuba in 2015. What hadn’t been revealed was that in an unusual diplomatic gesture of good will, officials on both sides had worked to send Hernandez’s sperm to Panama, so that the couple could have a child through artificial insemination.

Hernandez’s surprise release, and the story involving his wife and their baby, which may never have been born, was a key ingredient in secret negotiations leading to a historic agreement to end more than half a century of hostilities between the US and Cuba.G

Now, for the first time, Hernandez and his wife share the story of his imprisonment and release, Perez‘s experiences, how Hernandez posed as a Puerto Rican graphic artist in the US before his capture and how their child was conceived in a diplomatic move, as they talk to Al Jazeera in Havana, Cuba.

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.

In Cuba, Wife of Freed Spy Gives Birth to Girl 3

FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2014 file photo, Gerardo Hernandez, right, member of “The Cuban Five,” touches the belly of his pregnant wife Adriana Perez, during a concert, in Havana, Cuba. The wife of the Cuban intelligence agent freed by the United States in December, gave birth to a girl, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, after a pregnancy made possible by negotiations to improve ties between the two countries. U.S. officials helped facilitate a process of artificial insemination for Hernandez and his wife. (Ramon Espinosa, File/Associated Press)

FILE – In this Dec. 20, 2014 file photo, Gerardo Hernandez, right, member of “The Cuban Five,” touches the belly of his pregnant wife Adriana Perez, during a concert, in Havana, Cuba. The wife of the Cuban intelligence agent freed by the United States in December, gave birth to a girl, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, after a pregnancy made possible by negotiations to improve ties between the two countries. U.S. officials helped facilitate a process of artificial insemination for Hernandez and his wife. (Ramon Espinosa, File/Associated Press)

By Associated Press

HAVANA — The wife of a Cuban intelligence agent freed by the United States has given birth to a girl after a pregnancy made possible by negotiations to improve ties between the two countries.

The Communist Party daily Granma says the baby named Gema was born Tuesday and weighs 7 pounds and 1 ounce (3.2 kilograms).

U.S. officials helped facilitate a process of artificial insemination so that convicted spy Gerardo Hernandez and his wife Adriana Perez could have a child. It came during talks that led the U.S. to release Hernandez and two other agents last month and the announcement of plans to restore normal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Cuba, meanwhile, freed imprisoned U.S. aid worker Alan Gross.

Corrected Editor’s Note:  Both Gerardo Hernandez and Adriana Perez work for the Directorate of Intelligence (DI). As part of the Wasp Network, her mission was to courier messages and material between Havana and Miami. She was still in training when her husband and nine other Wasp Network members were arrested in September 1998.

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.

 

 

 

New York Times OP/ED: A Prisoner Swap With Cuba 2

 Supporters of Alan Gross across from the White House last year. Credit Paul J. Richards/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Supporters of Alan Gross across from the White House last year. Credit Paul J. Richards/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Leer en español (Read in Spanish) »

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD Nov. 2, 2014

Nearly five years ago, authorities in Cuba arrested an American government subcontractor, Alan Gross, who was working on a secretive program to expand Internet access on the island. At a time when a growing number of officials in Washington and Havana are eager to start normalizing relations, Mr. Gross’s continued imprisonment has become the chief obstacle to a diplomatic breakthrough.

There is only one plausible way to remove Mr. Gross from an already complicated equation. The Obama administration should swap him for three convicted Cuban spies who have served more than 16 years in federal prison.

Officials at the White House are understandably anxious about the political fallout of a deal with Havana, given the criticism they faced in May after five Taliban prisoners were exchanged for an American soldier kidnapped in Afghanistan. The American government, sensibly, is averse to negotiating with terrorists or governments that hold United States citizens for ransom or political leverage. But in exceptional circumstances, it makes sense to do so. The Alan Gross case meets that criteria.

Under the direction of Development Alternatives Inc., which had a contract with the United States Agency for International Development, Mr. Gross traveled to Havana five times in 2009, posing as a tourist, to smuggle communications equipment as part of an effort to provide more Cubans with Internet access. The Cuban government, which has long protested Washington’s covert pro-democracy initiatives on the island, tried and convicted Mr. Gross in 2011, sentencing him to 15 years in prison for acts against the integrity of the state.

Early on in Mr. Gross’s detention, Cuban officials suggested they might be willing to free him if Washington put an end to initiatives designed to overthrow the Cuban government. After those talks sputtered, the Cuban position hardened and it has become clear to American officials that the only realistic deal to get Mr. Gross back would involve releasing three Cuban spies convicted of federal crimes in Miami in 2001.

In order to swap prisoners, President Obama would need to commute the men’s sentences. Doing so would be justified considering the lengthy time they have served, the troubling questions about the fairness of their trial, and the potential diplomatic payoff in clearing the way toward a new bilateral relationship.

The spy who matters the most to the Cuban government, Gerardo Hernández, is serving two life sentences. Mr. Hernández, the leader of the so-called Wasp Network, which infiltrated Cuban exile groups in South Florida in the 1990s, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Prosecutors accused him of conspiring with authorities in Havana to shoot down civilian planes operated by a Cuban exile group that dropped leaflets over the island urging Cubans to rise up against their government. His four co-defendants, two of whom have been released and returned home, were convicted of nonviolent crimes. The two who remain imprisoned are due for release relatively soon.

Feature continues here: NYT Seeks to Reward Cuban Hostage-Taking

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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

 

Obscure Group Honors Cuban Spy-Trainee Adriana Pérez 3

The husband-wife spy team of Adriana Perez and Gerardo Hernandez

The husband-wife spy team of Adriana Perez and Gerardo Hernandez

Prensa Latina (PRELA) announced that Adriana Perez, wife of imprisoned spy Gerardo Hernandez, “was awarded the Silver Dove international prize” for her efforts in support of the Cuban Five. The honor appears to have been bestowed by a little-known group called the Central Council of the International Union of World Leaders.

The award ceremony was held in Moscow at the headquarters of the Russian presidency. According to PRELA, other honorees included citizens from Russia, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, India,  Ukraine, Poland and Macedonia. PRELA reported that the awards recognize contributions to “social, cultural, moral and spiritual traditions.”

Editor’s Note:  PRELA failed to report was that Adriana Pérez O’Connor was in training as a Directorate of Intelligence (DI) asset when the Wasp Network (La Red Avispa) was brought down in September 1998. She and her children were deported and permanently banned re-entry visas. Her mission had been to courier messages and material between Havana and Miami.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Cuban Spies “Testify” in Show For Castro Supporters in London Reply

From March 7-8th, an “International Commission” was held in London as part of the “Free the Five” campaign. In a grossly bigoted piece of political theater, alleged expert witnesses, pro-Castro attorneys, and family members of the five spies provided “testimony” before an audience said to number roughly 250 persons. Only claims supporting the immediate release of the failed spies were permitted.

The absurd proceedings included Lawyers for the Cuban 5 parroting their long-running denial that their spy-clients had no connection to the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. Even more hypocritical was the “testimony” of expelled spies Olga Salanueva, wife of René González, and Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo Hernández. Completing this 3-ring circus was the appearance of senior Cuban Intelligence officer, Roberto Hernández Caballero.

I will give them credit — what regime supporters lack in credibility, they certainly make up for in chutzpah!

The highly entertaining Press Release from “Free the 5” can be read here: International Commission in London calls on Obama to free the Five