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Thu Jul 31, 2014, 03:24 PM

The Sad, Outrageous Case of the Cuban Five

The Sad, Outrageous Case of the Cuban Five
Posted on Jan 9, 2014
By Bill Blum

Even the most hardened critics and defenders of Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution should be able to agree on one thing—that the federal prosecution of the group of intelligence officers known as the Cuban Five was a travesty of justice that needs to be remedied, if not by the courts, then by means of a long-overdue diplomatic resolution. Neither outcome, however, appears likely.

In 2001, after a six-month trial in Miami conducted in an atmosphere electric with anti-Castro sentiment and publicity, the five were convicted of multiple counts of espionage against the U.S. military and Cuban exiles in southern Florida. One of the five, Gerardo Hernandez, a group supervisor, was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of four members of the anti-Castro group Brothers to the Rescue, who perished when two airplanes they were piloting were shot down by the Cuban air force in 1996.

Although another defendant, Rene Gonzalez, was released from prison and repatriated in 2011, the other four remain incarcerated. Hernandez is serving a life term with no parole date at the federal penitentiary in Victorville, Calif.

The factual background of the Cuban Five case reads like a mini-history drawn from the last stages of the Cold War and the opening salvos of the current American surveillance state:

The five were members of La Red Avispa—the Wasp Network—of the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence, who were sent undercover with false identity papers to Miami-Dade County. Their mission was to monitor and infiltrate Cuban refugee groups like the notorious Alpha-66 that, since the early days of the revolution, had been dedicated to effecting regime change in their homeland. Evidence produced at the five’s trial showed that, far from being mere propaganda organs, such groups had been implicated in terrorist acts, including assassination attempts against Castro and several bombings of Havana hotels and nightclubs.


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