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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Ecuador Is Prime Example at Heart of Pope's Climate Stance

Pope Francis begins his South America tour this weekend in country that is prime example of tensions between politics, business and environment
More

Experts: US-Cuba Moves Likely to Deepen N Korea’s Isolation

Korea University professor sees US-Cuba normalization as 'quite an ideological eye-opener' for Pyongyang, a longtime Havana ally
More

Pope to Tour 3 South American Countries

Grueling, week-long trip will showcase Francis at his unpredictable best: speaking his native Spanish on his home turf about issues closest to his heart
More

Congress Aims to Keep Bans on Dealing with Cuban Military

Proposed legislation would ban Americans from engaging in any financial transactions with the Cuban military or the Cuban Ministry of the Interior
More

Video Rapprochement Opens New, Uncertain Chapter in US-Cuba Relations

Change is result of months of secret negotiations that culminated in December with decision to resume ties, but critics say nothing has changed in Cuba’s human rights record
More

Pirates and Hold-ups: Crime Strikes Venezuela's Oil Industry

National crime pandemic is a growing headache for the oil industry, which accounts for nearly all of the country's export revenues
More