There is no love lost between Cuba and U.S. so I was surprised to see an English version of the newspaper, Granma, taped in a store window with the words, “Obama . . . give me five” printed over an outstretched racially ambiguous hand.
An expression of solidarity? Not even close. It was all about a five Cubans who were arrested as spies in the U.S. back in 1997 and 98.
I’d seen yellow ribbons around trees, and lamp posts, and painted inside windows—a Tony Orlando and Dawn style commemoration of something I had never heard of. Every place we visited there were yellow ribbons, along with signs featuring five faces, I didn’t recognize and the word Volveran (they will return).
The five men were of part of a Cuban intelligence network known as “La Red
Avispa” sent to Florida to gather intelligence on militant anti-communist groups who were seeking to overthrow the Castro government. The men infiltrated a Miami based Cuban exile group, Brothers to the Rescue, and provided information, which aided the Cuban government in shooting down two aircraft that had violated Cuban air space.
When the Castro government took over Cuba they seized the property of political enemies and sent them running for Florida. Generational grudges against the communists were understandable. The disaffected Cuban-Americans launched attacks against their mother country including numerous bombings in Havana. The Cuban government catalogued over three thousand deaths due to the activities of the militant Cuban-American groups. The number may be an exaggeration, but from the average citizen’s point of view, the U.S. government has imprisoned five men for preventing terrorist activities in Cuba.
One of the Miami Five, Rene Gonzalez, was released in October of 2011 after serving 13, years of his sentence. He was supposed to serve three years of probation, but was permitted to return to Cuba after the death of his father, and to remain there if he renounced his “dubious” U.S. citizenship. The other members of the Miami Five are still in prison.
In 2012 a “spy swap” was proposed. The remaining members of the Miami Five would be traded for a USAID worker, Alan Phillip Gross, imprisoned in Cuba for illegally providing equipment allowing Cuban Jews to have Internet access. Ultimately the U.S. government declined.