Cuba: one of the ‘Five’ returns from US prison

Fernando González, one of five Cuban agents charged with espionage by the US government in 1998, returned to Cuba on Feb. 28 after serving out a 15-year term in US prisons. Released from the federal correctional center in Safford, Arizona, on Feb. 27, González landed around noon the next day at Havana's José Martí International Airport, where he was met by Cuban president Raúl Castro. The Cuban government insists that its agents, who are widely known as the "Cuban Five," were never spying on the US and that their goal was only to gather information on terrorist plots by right-wing groups based in the Miami area.

González is the second of the Five to be freed; René González was released on probation in October 2011 and was allowed to relocate to Cuba in May 2013. The three remaining prisoners are Antonio Guerrero, scheduled for release in September 2017; Ramón Labañino, scheduled for release in October 2024; and Gerardo Hernández, who is serving two life sentences for his alleged involvement in the shooting down of two planes sent into Cuban air space by the right-wing Brothers to the Rescue group in 1996. DC-based attorney José Pertierra, an expert on Cuban-US relations, cautioned on Feb. 27 that González's release shouldn't be interpreted as a favor by the US, since he had served out his full term; if the US wants to signal a thaw in relations with Cuban, President Barack Obama would need to extend executive clemency to the remaining three prisoners, Pertierra said.

Ironically, González was released on the same day as the news spread that former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) "asset" Luis Posada Carriles had been given a medal by the Cuban History Academy at Miami Dade College. The Cuban-born Posada, who was charged by Venezuela in the 1970s with masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner in which 73 people died, is living openly in the Miami area. The US government refuses to extradite him for trial in Venezuela, although it lists him as a terrorist and bans him from traveling by air, according to Pertierra. (, Feb. 27; La Jornada, Mexico, Feb. 28, from correspondent; Prensa Latina, Feb. 28)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 2.