The Cuban Five: Heroes or Villains?

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary They were convicted of espionage in 2001, and have remained in prison ever since. They are known as the Cuban (also known as the Miami) Five. These men were agents of Cuba’s intelligence agency to try and gather information on the Cuban exile groups in Florida. The five Cuban agents are Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernandez Gonzalez, and Rene Gonzalez. The Cuban government had assigned these five men to infiltrate into known Cuban exile groups such as Alpha 66 and the Cuban American National Foundation to find out what and if any “terrorist” actions these groups may commit. After several bombings perpetrated by the extreme rightist Luis Posada Carriles in Havana in 1997, the Cuban government in 1998 sought to stop any such actions from happening before what they called “terrorist operatives” from getting to Cuba. Hence the Cuban five were sent to stop such attacks.

But this is contradicted by the U.S. government which contends they are indeed spies who not only intended to infiltrate Cuban exile groups but also infiltrate the U.S. Southern Command. And every American court of law has indeed been presented with more than enough evidence to show they were indeed spies who intended to undermine U.S. national security. The Cuban government does not deny they are intelligence agents, but the Cuban government contends that they only intended to find out about terrorist acts being committed and not to spy on the U.S. government. The U.S. government states that the fact they were on U.S. soil suggests that they are spies. To this day the men are considered heroes in Cuba while they are seen as spies and saboteurs in the United States.

One thing is for sure and that is the Cuban government wants them released without condition. The U.S. government, countering that they are still spies, must remain in the United States under constant watch even if they are released from prison during their probationary period. Interestingly enough, these five men have received appeals from around the world as well as some groups in the United States that they had not “received” a fair trial and that their treatment has been less than humane. One group in Brazil, Torture Never Again, has given these men in absentia the Chico Mendes Medal for their “gallant courage” while in a U.S. prison. The group alleges that the U.S. authorities regularly censors their mail and monitors their phone conversations with their families back in Cuba. Many people, even some parliamentarians in Britain, have called for their “humane release from prison.”

Heroes or villains, the Cuban Five still very much stir up tensions between the United States and Cuba, and the Cuban government has made the release of the five a condition for establishing full diplomatic relations between the two countries. The continued imprisonment of the Cuban Five and the continuing soured relations between the United States and Cuba may be one of the reasons why an American named Alan Gross is being held hostage in Cuba. Whether you consider the Cuban Five spies or noble patriots, they like Alan Gross have become pawns in the political game of who will blink between the United States and Cuba.

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