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Vol. 75/No. 38      October 24, 2011

René González, 1 of Cuban 5,
released from federal prison
(front page)
Cuban revolutionary René González walked out of the federal prison in Marianna, Fla., at 4:30 a.m. October 7. He was greeted by his daughters Irma and Ivette, his brother Roberto, his father Cándido, and his lawyer Philip Horowitz.

The U.S. government prevented his wife, Olga Salanueva, and his mother, Irma Sehwerert, from being present. The State Department refused to grant Sehwerert a visa in time to travel. Salanueva has not been allowed to enter the country or see her husband since the U.S. government deported her in 2000.

González, who was released in the custody of his lawyer, was ordered to report to Federal District Court in Miami on October 11 for a probation hearing.

González is the first of the Cuban Five to be released after serving more than 13 years in jail for “general conspiracy” and “failure to register as a foreign agent.” The other four are Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González.

The five were living and working in southern Florida gathering information for the Cuban government on the activities of counterrevolutionary groups with a long history of violent and at time murderous attacks against Cuba, as well as supporters of the Cuban Revolution in the U.S. and elsewhere. The organizations have for years operated from bases on U.S. soil with impunity.

In 1998 the five were arrested in highly publicized FBI raids. After being held for almost 17 months in solitary confinement, they were tried and convicted in 2001 on a range of trumped-up charges, including conspiracy to commit espionage and, in the case of Hernández, of conspiracy to commit murder. The revolutionaries were given sentences ranging from 15 years in the case of René González to double life plus 15 years for Hernández.

González, who holds dual Cuban and U.S. citizenship, was also sentenced to serve three years of “supervised release.” It is common for citizens of another country to be allowed to return to their own country to serve probation.

On September 16, however, U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard rejected as “premature” a motion from René González that he be allowed to return to Cuba while on parole. Lenard presided over the 2001 trial, and imposed the supervised release as part of his sentence.

González’s lawyer Horowitz said he plans to file a new motion arguing for González to be allowed to return to Cuba.

On October 11 several prominent members of Actors and Artists United for the Freedom of the Cuban Five sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking for René González’s immediate and safe return to his wife and family in Cuba. Among the signatories are Edward Asner, Jackson Browne, Peter Coyote, James Cromwell, Mike Farrell, Danny Glover, Elliot Gould, Bonnie Raitt and Susan Sarandon.

Last month Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, traveled to Havana on what he said was a personal trip and presented an “unofficial” offer by Washington to waive René González’s supervised release in the U.S. in exchange for an agreement by the Cuban government to release Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba for distributing satellite equipment as part of a covert State Department operation to undermine the Cuban Revolution.

Cuba rejected Richardson’s proposition after he arrogantly vowed to stay in Cuba until he met Gross, who he described as a “hostage” of Cuba.

In an October 9 interview in Mexico, Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba’s National Assembly, told the Associated Press that it would be unreasonable to expect “a unilateral gesture” to release Gross.

“I can’t believe someone would seriously think that there could be a negotiation,” said Alarcón, equating González, “a man who was about to complete his sentence … and a man who is just about to start serving his.”

In a September 23 interview in the New York Times, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla spelled out Cuba’s position on the matter: “I do not see any way in which we can move on toward a solution of the Mr. Gross case but from a humanitarian point of view and on the basis of reciprocity.”

“René would never accept being exchanged, leaving his comrades in prison,” said his wife Olga Salanueva to BBC Mundo last week. “We would be more than thrilled to see the Cuban Five return home. If the cost is freeing Gross, then fine. But for the five.”  
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