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    Cuban Spy Unrepentant, but Hopes for Better Ties

    Cuban Spy Unrepentant, but Hopes for Better Ties
    By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ Associated Press
    HAVANA May 6, 2013 (AP)

    A Cuban intelligence agent who spent 13 years in a U.S. prison said
    Monday he still has affection for America and hopes to see the two
    countries reconcile, but added that he does not regret for a moment his
    decision to spy for Cuba.

    Rene Gonzalez also told The Associated Press he would welcome an
    exchange of prisoners that would send a jailed U.S. government
    subcontractor home in return for freedom for four other Cuban agents
    serving sentences in America.

    Speaking soon after renouncing his U.S. citizenship, Gonzalez called on
    President Barack Obama to show “courage” in changing U.S. policy toward
    the Communist-run island.

    “I would like to think that the North American government will meet the
    hopes of the whole world, which is telling it to change its policy
    toward Cuba,” Gonzalez said. “Courage is what President Obama needs now.”

    The interview, conducted in the presence of his lawyer and a Cuban
    government representative, was Gonzalez’s first since U.S. District
    Judge Joan Lenard ruled Friday that he could remain on the Communist-run
    island in return for renouncing his U.S. citizenship.

    Gonzalez had asked for permission to do so several times, but the U.S.
    government initially refused.

    Lenard had earlier granted the 56-year-old leave to travel to Cuba to
    attend a memorial for his father, the second trip home he had been
    allowed to make since his release in 2011.

    Earlier Monday, Gonzalez arrived at the U.S. diplomatic compound in
    Havana accompanied by his wife and children to renounce his citizenship.
    He waved as onlookers shouted his name from surrounding buildings, then
    spent about 30 minutes inside completing the necessary paperwork.

    Under U.S. law, Americans who choose to renounce their citizenship must
    do so at an overseas consular office. They are warned that the move is
    irrevocable, and must pay a $450 fee. Gonzalez’s request must still be
    sent to Washington for approval, at which point he would receive a
    certificate of loss of nationality.

    Gonzalez, who was born in Chicago before moving to Cuba as an infant, is
    one of the so-called “Cuban Five.” The men were convicted in 2001 of
    spying on U.S. military installations in South Florida as well as exile
    groups and politicians.

    Gonzalez was released about a year and a half ago but ordered to stay in
    the U.S. while he served a three-year probation. The other four agents
    remain in jail.

    The Five are celebrated as heroes in Cuba, with their faces staring down
    from highway billboards and restaurant shrines. Their case has received
    renewed attention since the 2009 arrest of Alan Gross, a U.S. government
    subcontractor who is serving a 15-year sentence after he was caught
    bringing communications equipment onto the island illegally while on a
    USAID-funded democracy building program.

    Cuba has suggested it would be willing to free the 64-year-old Maryland
    native in exchange for the five agents, something Washington has
    rejected, at least publically.

    In the interview, Gonzalez said such an exchange would be “a good
    gesture on both sides in order to improve relations between Cuba and the
    United States.”

    He said he hoped his release would give hope to the other four agents
    and their families.

    Of his four co-defendants, 49-year-old Fernando Gonzalez, also known as
    Ruben Campa, is scheduled for release from an Arizona prison Feb. 27,
    according to the federal Bureau of Prisons. Antonio Guerrero, 54, is set
    to walk out of a north Florida prison Sept. 18, 2017. The other two are
    serving much longer sentences.

    Gonzalez flew to Florida in 1990 on a crop duster that he had supposedly
    hijacked in order to defect. In reality, he was a Cuban agent from the
    start.

    Finally reunited permanently with his wife and two daughters, Gonzalez
    insisted on Monday that he had never second-guessed his actions.
    Cuba US Espionage.JPEG

    “Nobody made me do it. They told me the risks, and I said ‘Yes,’” he
    said. “I did it as a Cuban patriot and I don’t have any regrets … I’ve
    never doubted myself for a second.”

    Gonzalez insists his activities never aimed to harm the United States or
    its people, but only to protect Cuba from a wave of bombings perpetrated
    by militant exile groups that aimed to sabotage the island’s tourism
    industry. An Italian man was killed.

    He said he took no pleasure in renouncing his citizenship, though he has
    always felt more Cuban than American.

    “I have family in the United States and I left many friends there,” he
    said. “It is a country with a history that is admirable … One realizes
    that there is more that we have in common than what separates us.”

    ———

    Associated Press writer Paul Haven contributed to this report.

    ———

    Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/cuban-spy-renouncing-us-citizenship-19119841#.UYijasr4LTo