Guantanamo’s Venceremos Newspaper –- After making his probably most risky flight on December 8th, 1990, René González Sehwerert, the first of the Five to return to his homeland, got infiltrated into Florida-based terrorist organizations such as Hermanos al Rescate, Movimiento Democracia, Partido Unido Nacional Democrático y la Fundación Nacional Cubano-Americana. In exclusive interview with Escambray newspaper and Radio Sancti Spiritus, the Cuban anti-terrorist fighter recalls his life as Cuban State Security agent, without putting aside his own personal life.
“If you say it could be tonight, I will figure out how to go to Havana”, I anxiously said when I made the telephone call to request an interview with René González Sehwerert. “Call us within 10 days”, he answered himself. Taking into consideration his legal condition at the moment, it was the appropriate thing to do.
The interview was scheduled to take place at the headquarters of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People (ICAP, in Spanish), where he would later on said that returning to Cuba without his fellow comrades –Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González – was the nightmare of his imprisonment.
After having served a fifteen-year sentence on October 7th, 2011, Rene was required to complete 3 more years of supervised release. But this decision was modified last May 3rd by Judge Joan Lenard, who accepted his permanent stay in Cuba if he renounced to his US citizenship. On May 9th, Gonzalez received the US citizenship renouncement certification.
It is a cloudy afternoon. The noises of the street can be heard from the large ICAP hall, where Rene Gonzalez arrives accompanied by his wife Olga Salanueva. She attentively looks and his eyes and watches his hands, which he constantly crosses while recalling the few years he lived in Chicago, where he was born on August 13th, 1956.
It is just fragments of memories, he says. The family lived near Michigan Lake. He remembers the wooden pier on the lake, and the trip made to Cuba on board the Guadalupe.
It happened after the mercenary invasion to Playa Giron.
“Yes. My parents were members of the Pro justo trato a Cuba committee, so they demonstrated against the invasion. Thus, they faced retaliations, and were even victims of aggressions by right wing-people. After that they decided to come to Cuba. We came here in October 1961.
Rene Gonzalez, better known as “Beaver” within the State Security bodies -according to Brazilian Fernando Morais’s Los últimos soldados de la guerra fría (The last soldiers of the cold war)- returned to US on December 8th, 1990, after highjacking a plane in San Nicolas de Bari, in the present Cuban western province of Mayabeque.
Before departing, you left Olga some money and the lyrics of a song by Pablito Milanes inside a magazine. Was it a coded message?
It is a difficult thing to leave without letting your family knows what you’re going to do. During all these years, I fulfilled the most difficult tasks in Cuba, both of them in San Nicolas de Bari: saying no to the Cuban Communist Party membership process, and highjacking the aircraft. There are things not are not assignments, but where feelings are involved, leaving the family behind is one of them. It is a very hard thing to do. I left Olga the money I had saved, and the song inside a Bohemia magazine.
How many times did you revise the plan to highjack the aircraft that took you to Boca Chica, where you arrived almost without fuel?
It was not possible for me to check anything. I had to wait for the right moment and take advantage of it. And I did so, even when I knew the fuel was barely enough to get there. It was probably the most dangerous and risky flight I’ve ever made.
Upon arrival in Miami, you made a statement to the so-called Radio Marti radio station saying that after seeing Florida Keys, you felt like a real Cristobal Colon. How did you manage to play the traitor character, and convince public opinion?
I asked myself the question since the very moment I was assigned the mission. I don’t think anyone could be trained for that. Besides, I was all the opposite; I have never been a hypocrite person. Then, the key to play such role is the sense of duty, the satisfaction of deceiving someone who wants to inflict harm on my people.
I remember when I first met Félix Rodríguez, the Cat; it was the same day in which Hermanos al Rescate group was created. I had been invited by the head a group called CUPA (Cuban Pilots Association) to attend a press conference in Miami airport in which the group will be announced.
As soon as I arrived in the airport hall, I was introduced to Félix Rodríguez. I remembered some said: “This is the the man who killed Che”. I don’t know what I really felt. I shook hands with him and said: you are the one. I got amazed to myself, how could I have said that? When I left the place I knew I was ready for the task.
Being an intelligence agent might lead to the assumption that you had a comfortable life. How did you survive during the first months from the economic point of view?
I had the help of the many relatives I had there. I didn’t have any extra money, but I had where to live. I was welcomed by my grandmother. I began to work as soon as I arrived there, but it was my purpose to get closer to aviation people. Sometime after, I managed to get involved in Hermanos al Rescate group. I had to spend a lot on licence applications, which is very expensive. So, I had to do several different jobs. I had a modest life, and moving forward as a pilot was always my major goal.
Story continues here: Rene Gonzalez Recalls his Life as a Cuban State Security Agent