martes, 7 de mayo de 2013

Cuban agent begins renouncement of U.S. citizenship

Cuban agent begins renouncement of U.S. citizenship
By Jeff Franks
HAVANA | Mon May 6, 2013 7:48pm EDT

(Reuters) - A Cuban agent who served 13 years behind bars in the United
States for his role in an espionage ring began the process of renouncing
his U.S. citizenship on Monday so he can stay in Cuba.

Rene Gonzalez was one of five men convicted in a controversial 2001
trial of conspiring to spy on Cuban exile groups and U.S. military
activities in Florida as part of an espionage ring called the "Wasp
Network." The case has long plagued U.S.-Cuba relations.

Gonzalez, who was born in Chicago and held dual U.S.-Cuba citizenship,
told reporters after emerging from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana
that he had filled out forms and answered questions, and that the
process was not yet complete.

He will still have to formally renounce his citizenship before officials
at the U.S. diplomatic post and then await approval, which he said
should happen before May 16.

"I feel happy to be in Cuba, to be with my family and incorporate myself
to the society I belong to," he said as bystanders in the streets and on
apartment balconies above applauded and called his name.

When he first arrived at the U.S. diplomatic post in a black government
car, Gonzalez waved to the three dozen or so onlookers and clasped his
hands above his head in victory. He was dressed informally in a
short-sleeve blue plaid shirt and black pants.

He was the first of what Cuba calls the "Five Heroes" to complete his
sentence and return to the communist-led island.

The 56-year-old Gonzalez, who has a wife and two children in Havana,
left prison in October 2011 and has been serving a three-year probation
in Florida. He returned to the communist-led island temporarily on April
22 to attend a memorial service for his deceased father.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard had granted the visit a few weeks ago on
condition that he return to Florida within two weeks. But on Friday, in
ruling on a motion by his lawyer, she said he could stay in Cuba for
good if he renounced his U.S. citizenship.

By doing so, he foreswears the right to return to the United States,
where he spent the first few years of his life.


In a reversal of its previous position that Gonzalez had to complete his
full three years probation, the U.S. government did not object.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, speaking to reporters on Monday
during a visit to Brazil, gave no indication that the resolution of the
case would effect the status of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who is
serving a 15-year sentence in Havana for illegally installing Internet
service for Cuban Jewish groups.

Some had hoped it might help Gross get more lenient treatment, but
Rodriguez said Gonzalez had served his sentence, while Gross, jailed
since December 2009, has not.

"It's a case of application of the law. I see no relation therefore
between the two cases," he said in Brasilia.

Cuba has hinted at a possible swap of the "Cuban Five" for Gross, but
the United States has rejected the idea.

Rodriguez, repeating what the government has disclosed before, said Cuba
has told Washington it is open to talks to find a humanitarian solution
to the cases of Gross and the four Cubans.

The Cuban Five case is little known outside the Cuban exile community in
the United States, but the Cuban government has made their release a
national cause, plastering the country with pictures of the men, with
the word "Volveran" - they will return - beneath their images.

Cuba says the agents were unjustly convicted and excessively punished
because they were only collecting information on Cuban exile groups
planning actions against the island 90 miles from Key West, Florida.

The trial was held in Miami, center of the exile community and hotbed of
opposition to the Cuban government, particularly former leader Fidel
Castro and current President Raul Castro.

One of Gonzalez's co-defendants is serving a double life sentence for
his part in the shooting down of two U.S. planes in 1996 flown by an
exile group that dropped anti-government leaflets over Havana. The other
three are serving out sentences that range from 18 years to 30 years.

"One has to continue fighting to get them out of jail. It's an
injustice, it's a crime that they are prisoners," Gonzalez said.

"We need them in Cuba," he said.

(Reporting By Jeff Franks and Rosa Tania Valdes in Havana; Anthony
Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Philip Barbara)

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