Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuban agent begins renouncement of U.S. citizenship

    Cuban agent begins renouncement of U.S. citizenship
    By Jeff Franks
    HAVANA | Mon May 6, 2013 7:48pm EDT

    (Reuters) – A Cuban agent who served 13 years behind bars in the United
    States for his role in an espionage ring began the process of renouncing
    his U.S. citizenship on Monday so he can stay in Cuba.

    Rene Gonzalez was one of five men convicted in a controversial 2001
    trial of conspiring to spy on Cuban exile groups and U.S. military
    activities in Florida as part of an espionage ring called the “Wasp
    Network.” The case has long plagued U.S.-Cuba relations.

    Gonzalez, who was born in Chicago and held dual U.S.-Cuba citizenship,
    told reporters after emerging from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana
    that he had filled out forms and answered questions, and that the
    process was not yet complete.

    He will still have to formally renounce his citizenship before officials
    at the U.S. diplomatic post and then await approval, which he said
    should happen before May 16.

    “I feel happy to be in Cuba, to be with my family and incorporate myself
    to the society I belong to,” he said as bystanders in the streets and on
    apartment balconies above applauded and called his name.

    When he first arrived at the U.S. diplomatic post in a black government
    car, Gonzalez waved to the three dozen or so onlookers and clasped his
    hands above his head in victory. He was dressed informally in a
    short-sleeve blue plaid shirt and black pants.

    He was the first of what Cuba calls the “Five Heroes” to complete his
    sentence and return to the communist-led island.

    The 56-year-old Gonzalez, who has a wife and two children in Havana,
    left prison in October 2011 and has been serving a three-year probation
    in Florida. He returned to the communist-led island temporarily on April
    22 to attend a memorial service for his deceased father.

    U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard had granted the visit a few weeks ago on
    condition that he return to Florida within two weeks. But on Friday, in
    ruling on a motion by his lawyer, she said he could stay in Cuba for
    good if he renounced his U.S. citizenship.

    By doing so, he foreswears the right to return to the United States,
    where he spent the first few years of his life.

    NO OBJECTION FROM U.S.

    In a reversal of its previous position that Gonzalez had to complete his
    full three years probation, the U.S. government did not object.

    Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, speaking to reporters on Monday
    during a visit to Brazil, gave no indication that the resolution of the
    case would effect the status of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who is
    serving a 15-year sentence in Havana for illegally installing Internet
    service for Cuban Jewish groups.

    Some had hoped it might help Gross get more lenient treatment, but
    Rodriguez said Gonzalez had served his sentence, while Gross, jailed
    since December 2009, has not.

    “It’s a case of application of the law. I see no relation therefore
    between the two cases,” he said in Brasilia.

    Cuba has hinted at a possible swap of the “Cuban Five” for Gross, but
    the United States has rejected the idea.

    Rodriguez, repeating what the government has disclosed before, said Cuba
    has told Washington it is open to talks to find a humanitarian solution
    to the cases of Gross and the four Cubans.

    The Cuban Five case is little known outside the Cuban exile community in
    the United States, but the Cuban government has made their release a
    national cause, plastering the country with pictures of the men, with
    the word “Volveran” – they will return – beneath their images.

    Cuba says the agents were unjustly convicted and excessively punished
    because they were only collecting information on Cuban exile groups
    planning actions against the island 90 miles from Key West, Florida.

    The trial was held in Miami, center of the exile community and hotbed of
    opposition to the Cuban government, particularly former leader Fidel
    Castro and current President Raul Castro.

    One of Gonzalez’s co-defendants is serving a double life sentence for
    his part in the shooting down of two U.S. planes in 1996 flown by an
    exile group that dropped anti-government leaflets over Havana. The other
    three are serving out sentences that range from 18 years to 30 years.

    “One has to continue fighting to get them out of jail. It’s an
    injustice, it’s a crime that they are prisoners,” Gonzalez said.

    “We need them in Cuba,” he said.

    (Reporting By Jeff Franks and Rosa Tania Valdes in Havana; Anthony
    Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Philip Barbara)

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/06/us-cuba-usa-agent-idUSBRE9450YW20130506