News / Americas

Cuban Agent Released from US Prison Gets Hero's Welcome

Fernando Gonzalez poses with family members after his arrival at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, Feb. 28, 2014.
Fernando Gonzalez poses with family members after his arrival at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, Feb. 28, 2014.
Reuters
— Cuban President Raul Castro and top leaders of the Cuban government and Communist Party greeted a Cuban intelligence agent with a hero's welcome upon his return to Havana on Friday, a day after his release from a U.S. prison.

Fernando Gonzalez, 50, had served more than 15 years for spying on Cuban-American exile groups in Miami and is one of the “Cuban Five” whose detentions have complicated the already tense relations between the United States and Cuba.

The United States deported him on Friday, and he told reporters he was still in handcuffs until the plane touched down at the Havana airport.

Three of the original five remain in prison in the United States, and all are treated as heroes in Cuba, where their cases are considered emblematic of U.S. hostility toward its neighbor 90 miles (150 km) away.

Cuba has suggested it would like to swap its agents for U.S. contractor Alan Gross, an American sentenced to 15 years in Cuba for setting up an illegal communications network. So far the United States has refused to make such a trade.

Cuban state television showed Castro, dressed in his trademark military fatigues, embracing Gonzalez inside the Havana airport. Other top military, party and government officials also hugged Gonzalez, looking very much like pictures taken of him before his arrest with a mustache and short hair.

Gonzalez's mother, Magali Llort, was also present.

“I feel an immense happiness and at the same time something is missing, and it will remain that way until Ramon (Labanino), Gerardo (Hernandez) and Tony (Guerrero) are here in this same place,” Gonzalez told Cuban journalists at the airport, referring to the three other agents still in U.S. prison.

“I didn't experience the sensation of freedom upon leaving prison. I felt it when I stepped down off the plane, because I was handcuffed in the plane until the last minute and they took the handcuffs off me when the plane touched ground,” Gonzalez said.

The U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested all five in 1998. All were convicted in 2001 of 26 counts of spying on behalf of the government of Fidel Castro, who has since ceded power to his brother Raul.

Gonzalez received a 19-year sentence, which was reduced on appeal in 2008 for good behavior. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons on Thursday turned him over to immigration officials for deportation, U.S. officials said.

The group, called La Red Avispa or the Wasp Network, infiltrated Miami-based activist group Brothers to the Rescue and attempted to spy on U.S. military installations, relaying coded messages back to Havana, albeit with little success.

Another agent, Rene Gonzalez, was released in 2011 and returned to Cuba after serving more than 13 years.

One of the three remaining agents, Hernandez, is serving a double life sentence for his involvement in shooting down two small Brothers to the Rescue planes off the Cuba coast in 1996.

Guerrero is due for release in September 2017 and Labanino is due to be released in October 2024.

The agents' case exacerbated already hostile U.S.-Cuba relations and gained greater attention after the arrest of Gross in 2009. Gross was sentenced to 15 years for what Cuba said was his role in a U.S. government effort to set up an underground Internet network on the Caribbean island.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Time Almost Up for Argentina, US Bondholders in Debt Talks

South American nation has until end of Wednesday to either pay in full 'holdout' hedge funds, cut a deal or win a stay on court order that triggeered deadline
More

Football Star's Stepfather Kidnapped, Released

Lawyer for family of Argentina's Carlos Tevez said player's stepfather appeared to be unharmed
More

Video Young Migrants From Central America Risk Life and Limb to Get to US

For tens of thousands of young people trip north is fraught with hardship and danger
More

Mother of Slain Mexican Teen Sues US Border Patrol

Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, was in Nogales, Mexico on October 10, 2012, when US agent shot him through border fence from Arizona
More

Planning Post-2015 Development

UNDP official calls for investing in people
More

Magnitude 6.3 Quake hits Mexico, No Major Damages, Injuries

Earthquake hit southwest of Juan Rodriguez, in eastern Mexican state of Veracruz at a depth of 95 km (60 miles), the US Geological Survey says
More