Cuban Spy Unrepentant, but Hopes for Better Ties
By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ Associated Press
HAVANA May 6, 2013 (AP)
A Cuban intelligence agent who spent 13 years in a U.S. prison said
Monday he still has affection for America and hopes to see the two
countries reconcile, but added that he does not regret for a moment his
decision to spy for Cuba.
Rene Gonzalez also told The Associated Press he would welcome an
exchange of prisoners that would send a jailed U.S. government
subcontractor home in return for freedom for four other Cuban agents
serving sentences in America.
Speaking soon after renouncing his U.S. citizenship, Gonzalez called on
President Barack Obama to show "courage" in changing U.S. policy toward
the Communist-run island.
"I would like to think that the North American government will meet the
hopes of the whole world, which is telling it to change its policy
toward Cuba," Gonzalez said. "Courage is what President Obama needs now."
The interview, conducted in the presence of his lawyer and a Cuban
government representative, was Gonzalez's first since U.S. District
Judge Joan Lenard ruled Friday that he could remain on the Communist-run
island in return for renouncing his U.S. citizenship.
Gonzalez had asked for permission to do so several times, but the U.S.
government initially refused.
Lenard had earlier granted the 56-year-old leave to travel to Cuba to
attend a memorial for his father, the second trip home he had been
allowed to make since his release in 2011.
Earlier Monday, Gonzalez arrived at the U.S. diplomatic compound in
Havana accompanied by his wife and children to renounce his citizenship.
He waved as onlookers shouted his name from surrounding buildings, then
spent about 30 minutes inside completing the necessary paperwork.
Under U.S. law, Americans who choose to renounce their citizenship must
do so at an overseas consular office. They are warned that the move is
irrevocable, and must pay a $450 fee. Gonzalez's request must still be
sent to Washington for approval, at which point he would receive a
certificate of loss of nationality.
Gonzalez, who was born in Chicago before moving to Cuba as an infant, is
one of the so-called "Cuban Five." The men were convicted in 2001 of
spying on U.S. military installations in South Florida as well as exile
groups and politicians.
Gonzalez was released about a year and a half ago but ordered to stay in
the U.S. while he served a three-year probation. The other four agents
remain in jail.
The Five are celebrated as heroes in Cuba, with their faces staring down
from highway billboards and restaurant shrines. Their case has received
renewed attention since the 2009 arrest of Alan Gross, a U.S. government
subcontractor who is serving a 15-year sentence after he was caught
bringing communications equipment onto the island illegally while on a
USAID-funded democracy building program.
Cuba has suggested it would be willing to free the 64-year-old Maryland
native in exchange for the five agents, something Washington has
rejected, at least publically.
In the interview, Gonzalez said such an exchange would be "a good
gesture on both sides in order to improve relations between Cuba and the
He said he hoped his release would give hope to the other four agents
and their families.
Of his four co-defendants, 49-year-old Fernando Gonzalez, also known as
Ruben Campa, is scheduled for release from an Arizona prison Feb. 27,
according to the federal Bureau of Prisons. Antonio Guerrero, 54, is set
to walk out of a north Florida prison Sept. 18, 2017. The other two are
serving much longer sentences.
Gonzalez flew to Florida in 1990 on a crop duster that he had supposedly
hijacked in order to defect. In reality, he was a Cuban agent from the
Finally reunited permanently with his wife and two daughters, Gonzalez
insisted on Monday that he had never second-guessed his actions.
Cuba US Espionage.JPEG
"Nobody made me do it. They told me the risks, and I said 'Yes,'" he
said. "I did it as a Cuban patriot and I don't have any regrets ... I've
never doubted myself for a second."
Gonzalez insists his activities never aimed to harm the United States or
its people, but only to protect Cuba from a wave of bombings perpetrated
by militant exile groups that aimed to sabotage the island's tourism
industry. An Italian man was killed.
He said he took no pleasure in renouncing his citizenship, though he has
always felt more Cuban than American.
"I have family in the United States and I left many friends there," he
said. "It is a country with a history that is admirable ... One realizes
that there is more that we have in common than what separates us."
Associated Press writer Paul Haven contributed to this report.
Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP