Will the Humidor Open for “The Cuban 5”?
Sometime in the mid-1990s, five Cuban agents recruited by Fidel Castro’s intelligence agency made their way to South Florida. Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzales, and Rene Gonzales were sent to infiltrate U.S.-based Cuban exile groups. Their plan was simple: pretend to be staunchly anti-Castro, gain access to those groups, and report back to headquarters. In addition, make every effort to gather intelligence information about the Navy base in the Florida Keys. The spy ring was known as “The Wasp Network.”
One of the groups targeted by the Cuban spies was a humanitarian group called “Brothers to the Rescue.” On February 24, 1996, three civilian Brothers to the Rescue aircraft were in flight over international waters between Cuba and Florida. Because of information relayed back by the Wasp Network, the Cuban Government had advance notice of the flight plan and dispatched MiG fighter jets to intercept the planes. Two of the aircraft were shot down, killing four people (three of whom were U.S. citizens). The third plane managed to escape.
The spies were subsequently captured, tried, and convicted of charges that included “conspiracy to commit espionage,” “conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent,” and “murder conspiracy.”
The five became known as “The Five Patriotic Heroes,” and the year in which they were sentenced became known as “The Year of the Heroes Held Prisoner by the Empire.”
The trial was proclaimed to be a sham by Fidel Castro. In a speech, the dictator declared that “the political battle has just begun,” and that the five “will return” as “heroes of the Cuban Republic.”
Their cause has been taken up by Marxists throughout the world; “Free the 5” groups have sprung up in places as far-flung as Canada and Lebanon. In the New York studios of Democracy Now!, host Amy Goodman — obviously sympathetic to the Cuban Five — reported:
And three of the five jailed Cuban nationals known as the Cuban Five are up for re-sentencing beginning this week. The five men were convicted in 2001 for spying on the US military and Cuban exiles in southern Florida. All five are serving time in federal prisons across the country. The men say they weren’t spying on the US, but trying to monitor violent right-wing Cuban exile groups that have organized attacks on Cuba. The Cuban Five trial was the only judicial proceeding in US history condemned by the UN Human Rights Commission. Last week, Cuban Five prisoner Antonio Guerrero reached an agreement with prosecutors that will reduce his sentence to twenty years from an original life imprisonment. Guerrero will appear before a judge for sentencing on Tuesday.
It’s entirely possible that quite soon, those Marxists around the world who have been demanding the release of the Cuban spies will join Amy Goodman in celebrating the newfound freedom of their “heroes.” But one can only wonder: what would have happened to five U.S. spies captured by Castro’s regime in Cuba under similar circumstances?