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

 

 

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.

 

Daily Caller Editor Vows To Investigate ‘Bizarre Claim’ Cuban Spies Used His Site To Spread A Fake Senate Sex Scandal Reply

Sen. Robert Menendez

Sen. Robert Menendez

By Hunter Walker, Business Insider

A popular conservative news site is at the center of an alleged plot by Cuban spies to smear New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez with a fake sex scandal.

Daily Caller Editor In Chief Tucker Carlson he’s is looking into a “bizarre claim” made by an attorney for Menendez that Cuban intelligence agents may have planted false stories claiming the senator had encounters with underage prostitutes on the site.

“I guess this means Menendez no longer thinks the story is part of a racist plot against him, as he initially suggested. But Cuban intelligence? It’s a bizarre claim, and self-serving, and they’ve produced no evidence of any kind to prove it. Obviously we’re skeptical, but we’re making calls right now to see what we can dig up,” Carlson told Business Insider in an email Monday night.

According to a Washington Post story published Monday, Stephen M. Ryan, a lawyer for the Democratic lawmaker, claimed U.S. officials believe agents of the Cuban government may have attempted to damage Menendez’s reputation due to his criticism of the Castro regime and position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ryan made his blockbuster claim in a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation into a possible Cuban plot to smear the senator.

Both Ryan and Menendez office did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider about the letter. A spokesperson for the FBI field office in Miami, which was reportedly looking into the initial allegations about Menendez also did not respond.

The Post noted the Cuban government has previously been accused of smearing opponents, including Menendez, with false media reports.

Accusations Menendez employed underage prostitutes at a resort in the Dominican Republic first appeared in the Daily Caller in late 2012. The first story about the scandal was written by Matthew Boyle and featured videos of women who claimed “Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100.”  Boyle, who is now a reporter for Breitbart News, did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

After Boyle’s story was published ABC reported tipsters attempted to bring the videos detailing the accusations against Menendez to other media outlets prior to the Daily Caller. Menendez’s alleged contact with the prostitutes was said to have taken place while he was traveling in the Dominican Republic with a donor, a wealthy doctor named Salomon Melgen.

The Justice Department is currently investigating whether Menendez used his office to aid Melgen’s business interests. In April, new data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed Melgen collected more money from Medicare in 2012 than any other doctor in the country.

According to a Dominican prosecutor, a lawyer for the woman involved in the story later claimed he was offered money to get them to lie about Menendez on tape by a man named “Carlos” who said he worked for the Daily Caller. A man named “Carlos” briefly appeared in one of the video clips showing the women being interviewed. In March of last year, a spokeswoman for the site told ABC News the Daily Caller had no connection to anyone named “Carlos.”

Editor’s Note:  Cuban Intelligence has a long history of using an intelligence technique known as “Active Measures” against U.S. politicians. Within the spy profession, Active Measures are defined as activities which use disinformation, threats, and/or violence to discredit opponents or otherwise manipulate the behavior of an individual or group.

For example, evidence presented during the trial of the Wasp Network spies revealed that the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) ordered Active Measures against no less than six U.S. political figures.

More specifically, DI headquarters ordered the Wasps to use two agents to infiltrate Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s reelection campaign. Once immersed in the campaign, the spy ring planned to publicize derogatory information to discredit, harass, or neutralize Congress’ Cuban-American contingent.

Additionally, Miami Herald journalist Gail Epstein Nieves reported on January 23, 2001 that Havana ordered the Wasp Network’s target list to focus on those officials who “COULD HAVE AN IMPACT ON FORMULATING POLICY TOWARD CUBA.” Furthermore, other Wasp communications referred to the three highly influential and strongly anti-Castro Congressional officers as “THE THREE PESTS”:  Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Senator Bob Menendez. Evidence also proved the DI planned to place one or more agents on the Congresswoman’s staff.

The Herald went on to note that other targets included state Senator Mario Diaz-Balart, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and Hialeah Council President Herman Echevarria. This Active Measures operation was run by Major Ramón Labañino Salazar. It was codenamed Operation Giron, after the beachhead where the Bay of Pigs invasion failed.

 

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.”

Penitentiary Home to One of “Cuban Five” 2

Supporters say Hernandez, four others wrongfully convicted

Rebecca Howes, Staff Writer – Victorville (CA) Daily Press

VICTORVILLE • An inmate housed at the United States Penitentiary-Victorville has drawn support from a wide range of dignitaries as he serves a double-life sentence at the maximum security facility.

Gerardo Hernandez, 48, was arrested by FBI SWAT team members in 1998 along with four other men: Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez.

The men, who have come to be known as the Cuban Five, were Cuban intelligence agents who were tried and convicted in Miami on numerous counts including failing to register as foreign agents, using false identities and conspiracy to commit espionage. Hernandez, the leader of the network, was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder for his alleged involvement with shooting down two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft.

Hernandez was convicted in 2001 and was transferred after his trial to Lompoc U.S. Penitentiary. In 2004, he was transferred to Victorville.

Supporters say Hernandez is innocent and is the victim of political persecution by the U.S. government. “The idea that anyone could live through this and maintain a sense of dignity is remarkable,” Hernandez’s attorney, Martin Garbus, said in a telephone interview. Garbus, a New York-based civil rights attorney, took over representing the Cuban Five after the death of attorney Leonard Weinglass in 2011. Garbus, who has visited Hernandez at the Victorville prison a half-dozen times, said he has a deep respect for his client. “I knew Nelson Mandela. There is the same kind of serenity with Gerardo — this extraordinary quietness and awareness,” Garbus said. “The ability to withstand his incarceration and to stay positive is extraordinary.”

Within days of Hernandez’s 2001 conviction, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five was formed, according to coordinator Gloria La Riva. “Gerardo had nothing to do with the planes being shot down,” La Riva said, claiming that media-created hysteria led to an unjust conviction. According to La Riva, dozens of Miami journalists were covering the trial of the Cuban Five in a “highly prejudicial manner.” “Gerardo was on a mission in Miami to save lives,” La Riva said. “He never had a weapon, nor did he harm anyone.”

The Cuban Five are supported by former President Jimmy Carter and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Feature continues here: Penitentiary Home to One of Cuban Five

Small Number of Leftist Celebrities to Support “Cuban 5” Rally 2

Havana’s Prensa Latina has identified 15 celebrities who support the third annual 5-Day Rally for The Cuban Five, to be held in Washington from June 4-11. Noted leftists include Angela Davis, Danny Glover, Noam Chomsky, Ignacio Ramonet, Alice Walker, Gilbert Brownstone, Tom Hayden, Dolores Huerta, Ramsey Clark, Miguel D’Escoto, John Cavanagh, Jane Franklin, Piero Gleijeses, Stephen Kimber and Fernando Morais.

Directed by the International Free The Cuban Five Committee, the event will once again call for the release of convicted spies Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, and Antonio Guerrero.

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) Case Officer Fernando Gonzalez will be released later this month while Cuban agent Rene Gonzalez is already in Cuba after giving up his US citizenship.

‘I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived’: A New Book For Fighters to Free Cuban 5 1

The Militant, Vol 78/No. 5 – February 10, 2014

I will die the way I’ve lived. That is the name Antonio Guerrero gave to the 15 watercolors at the center of the new book featured here. The way Guerrero and each of his four Cuban comrades have lived is as combatants of the revolution they are imprisoned in the U.S. for fighting to defend. Each of the Cuban Five is an exemplary product of that revolution’s working-class internationalism, its human solidarity, its dignity and courage in the face of oppression and exploitation worldwide.

And that’s how each of them has conducted himself behind prison walls over the past 15 years.

“The moments of prison life recorded — and transformed — by [Guerrero’s] art will touch a deep chord with millions of working people in the US who have themselves lived similar experiences, or know them through the ordeals of their loved ones, friends, and neighbors,” Mary-Alice Waters writes in “The Cuban Five: Who They Are,” the introductory note to I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived.

Waters is editor of the new book. Accompanying Guerrero’s artwork are accounts by him and by Gerardo Hernández and Ramón Labañino of experiences from their first 17 months in a federal detention center in Miami.