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    Second member of Cuban Five spy ring freed from U.S. prison

    Posted on Thursday, 02.27.14

    Second member of Cuban Five spy ring freed from U.S. prison

    A second member of the “Cuban Five,” the Castro-directed spy ring that
    infiltrated South Florida military installations and the exile community
    in the wake of the Cold War, was released from federal prison Thursday
    and was expected to be deported soon to Cuba.

    Fernando Gonzalez, 50, was convicted for acting as an illegal Cuban
    agent at a 2001 espionage trial of the five men in Miami. He and the
    others are considered “heroes” in Cuba, which is planning festivities to
    honor them this weekend.

    The highly controversial case strained already poor U.S.-Cuba relations
    not only because the five Castro agents infiltrated South Florida, but
    also because they were linked to the Cuban government’s 1996 shoot-down
    of two Brothers to the Rescue planes that killed four exile pilots over
    the Florida Straits.

    Gonzalez, who was serving an 18-year sentence, was released from an
    Arizona federal prison early Thursday after more than 15 years behind
    bars because of time off his term for good behavior and other factors.

    Gonzalez, known to U.S. authorities by his alias, Ruben Campa, is the
    second member of the Cuban Five to be released from prison. Rene
    Gonzalez, who is not related to Fernando Gonzalez, finished his prison
    sentence in 2011 but spent more than a year on probation in the U.S.
    until a federal judge allowed him to return to Cuba. Rene Gonzalez, a
    Chicago native with dual U.S.-Cuban citizenship, renounced his U.S.
    citizenship after returning to Havana.

    “This is slightly different because [Fernando] Gonzalez is not a U.S.
    citizen,” said Maggie Khuly, sister of one of the Brothers to the Rescue
    shoot-down victims, Armando Alejandre Jr. “I would imagine Cuba will
    welcome him with open arms.”

    Fernando Gonzalez was turned over immediately to the custody of
    immigration officials, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez. For security reasons, she said she could
    not disclose exactly where he was being held or when he would be
    returned to Cuba, but a deportation order has already been issued.

    Fernando Gonzalez was part of a 14-person “Wasp Network” sent by
    then-Cuban President Fidel Castro to spy on South Florida. They were
    indicted in 1998 on charges of conspiracy, espionage and failure to
    register as foreign agents in the United States. Five of the original
    defendants pleaded guilty following the FBI investigation and were
    deported. Four others were fugitives.

    The other remaining defendants, who came to be known as the Cuban Five,
    faced trial and were convicted.

    Trial testimony showed they sought to infiltrate the headquarters of the
    U.S. Southern Command and military installations in the Florida Keys.
    They also reported on Cuban exiles and politicians opposed to the
    communist government in Havana, prosecutors said.

    Havana maintained that the agents posed no threat to the U.S. government
    and were only monitoring militant exiles to prevent terrorist attacks in
    Cuba. The most notorious of those was a series of bombings of Havana
    hotels that killed an Italian tourist in 1997.

    In response to Gonzalez’s release, Cuba plans a concert Saturday night
    at the University of Havana in honor of the five men.

    The Communist Party newspaper Granma published interviews Thursday with
    two of Gonzalez’s friends back home. Rafael Hojas said he and Gonzalez
    knew each other as young students and crossed paths on international
    missions in Africa.

    “I hope he spends as little time as possible in an immigration jail and
    can enjoy as soon as possible his mother, his wife, his family, and
    we’ll see when we might be able to meet,” Hojas was quoted as saying.

    Gonzalez’s mother, Magali Llort, told The Associated Press that she
    sometimes thinks her son’s release is a dream “but luckily it’s a great

    “But we can’t feel satisfied with Fernando arriving and Rene having
    come,” she said. “We have to keep up the fight so that the rest, their
    brothers, are here.”

    The Cuban Five have sometimes been linked to the case of American Alan
    Gross, who has spent four years in a Cuban prison after he was arrested
    while working covertly to set up Internet access for the island’s Jewish
    community. He was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for
    International Development, which Cuba considers bent on undermining its

    Cuba has suggested it might swap Gross for the Cuban Five, but
    Washington has rejected any such deal.

    Khuly, who has been an unofficial spokeswoman for the shoot-down
    victims’ families, said they would oppose any exchange of the remaining
    three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States.

    “Our main concern is that Gerardo Hernandez stay in the United States
    and that there be no exchange involving him,” Khuly told The Miami
    Herald Thursday. “The other two are also of concern.”

    Hernandez is serving a life prison sentence on a murder-conspiracy
    conviction for his role in the 1996 killings of the four Brothers to the
    Rescue pilots. For years, the organization had dropped pro-democracy
    leaflets over Cuba and assisted Cuban migrants trying to reach the
    United States.

    Khuly said the only exchange that the victims’ families would consider
    would be for the two Cuban Air Force pilots who shot down the Brothers
    to the Rescue planes over international waters and for the Cuban general
    who gave the order. They have been indicted in Miami federal court.

    Fernando Gonzalez was originally sentenced to 19 years. But a Miami
    federal judge reduced that by one year after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court
    of Appeals said he was wrongly labeled a supervisor of other spies.

    Two other men sentenced to life on espionage conspiracy convictions also
    had their terms lowered as a result of that same court order. U.S.
    District Judge Joan Lenard reduced Antonio Guerrero’s sentence to 22
    years and Ramon Labanino’s to 30 years in prison.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Source: Second member of Cuban Five spy ring freed from U.S. prison –
    Cuba – –