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    Havana dresses up with yellow ribbons in campaign to push for Cuban 5 agents’ release

    Havana dresses up with yellow ribbons in campaign to push for Cuban 5
    agents’ release
    By Associated Press, Published: September 12

    HAVANA — Cubans tied yellow ribbons to homes, trees and lampposts across
    the capital Thursday, in an organized mass campaign to press for the
    return of several espionage agents imprisoned in the United States on
    the 15th anniversary of their arrest.

    By using a symbol with deeply held cultural significance for many
    Americans, the campaign aims to raise support for the so-called Cuban
    Five in the United States where the public is largely unaware of their
    case, even if it’s a daily cause celebre in Cuba.

    “The symbolism of the yellow ribbon has a strong impact in the mind of
    Americans. It is a message of love that appeals to emotions,” said Rene
    Gonzalez, the only one of the Cuban Five who has been released from prison.

    “We are trying to send a message that we are human too,” added Gonzalez,
    who has been heading the campaign.

    The Five were arrested Sept. 12, 1998, and convicted three years later
    of spying on U.S. military installations in South Florida, as well as
    exile groups and politicians. Havana maintains that they were only
    monitoring militant exiles to prevent terror attacks in Cuba, and posed
    no threat to U.S. sovereignty.

    Gonzalez was paroled in 2011 after serving most of his sentence. Earlier
    this year a U.S. judge allowed him to renounce his citizenship and
    return to Cuba. The other four remain in prison, with one set to walk
    free in February.

    Thousands of ribbons could be seen around the Cuban capital Thursday,
    from government buildings to private homes and small businesses. A huge
    strip of yellow hung from the iconic lighthouse at El Morro fortress at
    the mouth of Havana Bay. Many people wore yellow clothing, and young
    schoolgirls fixed yellow ribbons in their hair.

    Students held a demonstration on the steps of the University of Havana,
    and Cuba’s association of artists and intellectuals marched from its
    headquarters to the U.S. Interests Section along the Malecon seafront
    boulevard.

    “They’ve suffered too much already,” said Jorge Luis Maresma, 50, who
    took part in the march.

    The U.S. and Cuba do not have diplomatic relations, so they maintain
    interests sections instead of embassies in each other’s capitals.

    The Cuban Five are near-constant fixtures in island state media. Havana
    calls them national heroes and repeatedly demands their repatriation.

    Cuba, meanwhile, has held U.S. government development subcontractor Alan
    Gross in prison for nearly four years, convicted of crimes against the
    state after he was caught bringing restricted communications equipment
    onto the island.

    Talk of a possible swap has so far come to naught.

    On Wednesday night, President Raul Castro and other top Cuban officials
    attended a concert in honor of the Cuban Five at Havana’s Karl Marx Theater.

    And a slick music video featuring an all-star Cuban musical cast singing
    “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” in the style of “We Are
    the World,” has been airing repeatedly on state television.

    The yellow ribbon has long been a symbol in the U.S. of people waiting
    loyally for those at risk or held captive. It was widely to show support
    for U.S. diplomats held captive in Iran in 1979.

    Source: “Havana dresses up with yellow ribbons in campaign to push for
    Cuban 5 agents’ release – The Washington Post” –
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/havana-dresses-up-with-yellow-ribbons-in-campaign-to-push-for-cuban-5-agents-release/2013/09/12/9ba64760-1bca-11e3-80ac-96205cacb45a_story.html