Fernando Gonzalez, 50, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation in 1998 along with four other Cuban agents and they
were all convicted in 2001 of 26 counts of spying on behalf of Fidel
The case of the "Cuban Five" is widely considered an impediment to
improving tense relations between the United States and Cuba,
separated by only 90 miles of sea.
"Every step has been taken to remove any procedural delays and
Fernando looks forward to returning to his family," Gonzalez's
attorney Richard Klugh said in an email.
The group, called La Red Avispa or the Wasp Network, infiltrated
Miami-based activist group Brothers to the Rescue and attempted to
spy on U.S. military installations, relaying coded messages back to
Havana, with little success.
Cuba considers the agents national heroes, arguing they were
unjustly convicted and were mainly collecting information on Cuban
exile groups suspected of planning guerrilla actions against the
Gonzalez, who also goes by the name Ruben Campa, was sentenced to 19
years, which was reduced on appeal in 2008 due to good behavior.
A U.S. immigration official confirmed late last month that Gonzalez
would be swiftly "removed from the country" as soon as his sentence
ends on Thursday.
Another agent, Rene Gonzalez, was released in 2011 and returned to
Cuba after serving more than 13 years in a U.S. prison. He renounced
his U.S. citizenship to avoid serving the mandatory three-year
parole in Florida.
One of the three remaining agents, Gerardo Hernandez, is serving a
double life sentence after being convicted of involvement in
shooting down two small U.S. planes off the Cuban coast in 1996.
[to top of second column]
Four people aboard the planes were killed. The planes were on a
mission for Brothers to the Rescue, searching for Cubans trying to
cross the Florida Straits in flimsy home-made rafts. Cuba accused
the planes of violating Cuban air space.
The two other agents still in jail, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon
Labanino, also had their sentences reduced. Guerrero is serving 21
years and 10 months and is due for release in September 2017, while
Labanino is serving 30 years and is due for release in October 2024.
The agents' case snarled already hostile U.S.-Cuba relations and
gained greater attention after the arrest of U.S. contractor Alan
Gross in Havana in 2009. Cuba sentenced Gross to 15 years in jail
for his role in a U.S. government effort to set up an underground
Internet network on the Caribbean island.
The U.S. has demanded that Gross be freed, while Cuba has hinted it
might consider a deal to release him if Washington lets the
remaining members of the Cuban Five out of jail in exchange.
The Obama administration has repeatedly said it will not consider an
(Editing by David Adams; Editing by Ken Wills)
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