René González, 55—who was accused of spying on a Cuban exile organization in Florida in 1998—has been released after serving 13 years of his 15-year-sentence, with time off for good behavior. He is the first of the purported espionage agents, the “Cuban Five,” to be released.
Holding dual U.S.-Cuban citizenship, González is still required under his sentence to spend three years of supervised probation in an undisclosed location in the United States. The Cuban government and González’ family and supporters are demanding he be allowed to immediately return to Cuba. They say his safety in the United States might be at risk from possible reprisals by Cuban exile groups in the U.S.
Cuba hails the five convicted spies as heroes and has waged an international campaign for their release. The Cuban government and groups of supporters in the U.S. argue that González and his fellow agents—the remaining four are still serving their sentences—were in the U.S. to detect and prevent violent terrorist attacks against their country, mainly by Miami-based exile groups.
During the Miami trial leading to González’ 2001 conviction, U.S. prosecutors said that as a member of the so-called Cuban espionage “Wasp Network” he infiltrated a Cuban exile flying group, “Brothers to the Rescue,” two of whose planes were shot down by Cuban fighter jets off Cuba in 1996. Four men in the planes were killed. [. . .] At his December 2001 sentencing, González was unapologetic, saying the men “were convicted for having committed the crime of being men of honor.”
González has a wife and two daughters in Cuba; his wife was also implicated in the spy network and was deported after the men’s arrests. She cannot legally return to the U.S. and the couple has not seen each other for over a decade.
On Friday, the U.S.-based “National Committee to Free the Cuban Five” slammed the U.S. for not allowing González to return to Cuba, writing that “He has been a model prisoner, even while suffering the indignity of being inhumanely deprived visits from his wife for more than 11 years.” The case’s chief prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller, said the U.S. opposes allowing González to return to Cuba because he might resume his spy career using his U.S. citizenship. She considers that “He poses a particular, long-term threat to this country.”