Convicted Cuban spy Rene Gonzalez is freed, but debate rages on

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REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Few topics illustrate the gulf in perception between official Cuba and official United States like the case of the ‘Cuban Five.’

The five Cuban agents were arrested in Florida in the 1990s and tried and convicted on espionage charges. U.S. federal prosecutors said the men were trying to spy on military installations. But Cuba’s communist government has long maintained the men were trying to monitor Miami-based exile groups that were planning attacks on the island nation.


For the U.S., the five are convicted spies; for Cuba, they are national heroes.

Late last week, one of the five, Rene Gonzalez, stepped out of a Florida prison after serving nearly 13 years of a 15-year sentence. Gonzalez, 55, must, however, remain in the U.S. to complete three years of probation, a condition the Cuban government is vigorously protesting. Here is a take on the release from the official communist newspaper, Granma.

Gonzalez’s wife, Olga Salanueva, told the pro-government website Cubadebate that her husband was ‘euphoric’ at his freedom but lamented not being allowed to go home to Cuba (link in Spanish). She also said he was determined to fight for the release of his companions, one of whom is serving a life sentence. Salanueva has said she was denied a U.S. visa to go to Florida to see her husband, who has dual U.S.-Cuban citizenship, although their children were present at his release.

The case has also gotten tangled up in Cuba’s arrest and imprisonment of U.S. citizen Alan Gross, who was convicted by a Havana court of ‘actions against the state’ for trying to distribute computers and other electronic equipment as part of a U.S.-financed project. Some in the U.S. have suggested a trade of prisoners -- a prospect the Cuban government considers absurd. Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon said over the weekend in an interview with the Associated Press that Washington should not expect a humanitarian release for Gross.


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-- Tracy Wilkinson

on display at a Cuban consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with pictures of the five Cubans convicted in the U.S. Credit: AFP / Getty Images