Archive for October 11th, 2011

Olga, Wife of Freed Cuban Agent Interviewed

October 11, 2011

– Olga Salanueva. Foto: Raquel Pérez

by Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES, October 10 — Last Friday, prison became a thing of the past for Rene Gonzalez, one of the five Cuban agents (known internationally as the Cuban Five) imprisoned in the US for the past 13 years.

However Gonzalez still can’t return to Cuba since he’s now required to spend 36 months under “supervised release” in the state of Florida.

According to the Cuban government, Rene and the rest of the agents were members of the “Wasp Network,” who were engaged in monitoring the activities of exile organizations in Miami with the aim of preventing violent actions against Cuba.

Despite having been released, the next three years could be very difficult for Gonzalez since the courts are forcing him to remain in Florida, where the majority of anti-Castro groups that he had been assigned to watch are based.

He will also have to wait that long to see his wife, Olga Salanueva, who was denied a US visa.  She gave an exclusive interview to BBC Mundo this past week just before Rene’s release.

Q:  Within a few hours Rene will leave the prison.  How do you feel?

A:  I never imagined that 13 years would go by and Rene and his companions would still be in jail, and much less that my husband would be denied the right to return to his home in Cuba.  There’s very little chance I’ll be able to see him within the next three years, and that’s horrible.

Q:  How long has it been since you’ve seen him?

A:  Since he was arrested [in 1998].  They tried to blackmail me, but since I didn’t give in, my daughters and I were deported and they continually refused to give me a visa to visit him in prison.  They say that since I was deported I’m permanently ineligible for a visa.

Q:  How many times have you requested a visa?

A:  I asked about ten times, until I got a categorical and unqualified refusal.

Q:  What is your husband expecting now?

A:  He’ll have to spend three years of “supervised release” in the southern district of the state of Florida.  He has an addition to his sentence that states that he cannot get close to those places frequented by people involved in terrorism – that’s the literal wording they used in the court order.  They should start by saying who the terrorists are in Miami so that Rene knows.  Paradoxically, these are people who are free in the US.

What I don’t understand is why — if they’re saying he’s a dangerous person — they want him to pose a “danger” there.  Wouldn’t it be easier and more understandable if he were allowed to leave that country?  The lawyer asked to amend that measure and permit him to come to Cuba where his wife and children are living, but this was turned down.

Q:  Is it common for a foreigner released on probation to be deported?

A:  The lawyers say that if the person is from another country it’s only natural that they be allowed to leave, in fact they almost always leave.

Q:  What does it mean for Rene to live in Florida now?

A:  There’s tremendous hatred on the part of the extreme right in Miami against “the Cuban Five” because many of them belong to the terrorist organizations that Rene and his comrades were monitoring so as to warn Cuba of their actions.  I think the US government should be concerned about the plans of these groups and the protection of Rene, who’s also a US citizen.

Q:  It’s said that former Democratic governor Bill Richardson went to Cuba with the proposal to let Rene leave in exchange for the release of the American Alan Gross.  What do you think of this idea?

A:  It’s opportunistic.  I don’t know who could have come up with something like that.  Gross is just starting his sentence and my husband is a free man.  We need to talk about “the Cuban Five,” particularly the case of Gerardo.  He’s the one who was denied the right to leave prison alive, despite his being innocent.

Rene would never accept being exchanged, leaving his comrades in prison.  He refused that 13 years ago, and much less will he accept that now.

Q:  Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez recently suggested the possibility of an exchange of “the Cuban Five” for Alan Gross.   What’s your view of that?

A: 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.”

Q:  Why do you think the State Department immediately ruled out that possibility?

A:  They don’t want to exchange “The Five,” who were never charged with espionage, yet the US cut a deal to exchange self-confessed Russian spies.  I think this is a punishment that shows the political foundation of the case.  It’s punishment against the people of Cuba so that they never again dare monitor those terrorist groups in Miami and try to prevent attacks.



October 11, 2011

Foto: Bill Hackwell

Edward Asner, Jackson Browne, James Cromwell, Mike Farrell, Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon, Peter Coyote, Bonnie Raitt, Elliott Gould, and Others Send Letter to President Obama for the Safety and Immediate Return of One of the Cuban 5, Rene Gonzalez to Cuba.
(Oakland, CA-October 11, 2011) Several concerned US actors and artists sent a letter today to President Obama asking for Rene Gonzalez’s immediate and safe return to his wife and family in Cuba. The letter is part of the Actors and Artists United for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 campaign.
Gonzalez was arrested in 1998 and sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment on conspiracy to act as a non-registered foreign agent. On Oct. 7th Gonzalez was released after serving his sentence, but a South Florida district judge denied his return to his homeland. “Not only is the order to serve an additional 3 years of parole in the US extraordinary and punitive, it is the kind of gratuitous insult that further aggravates the unnecessary tension between the US and Cuba. It only adds injury to insult that the separation of this family be extended for another 3 years,” states the letter.

During Rene Gonzalez’s 13 years in federal prison, the US government denied his wife Olga Salanueva, entry visas to visit him. The letter to President Obama points out that if Gonzalez remains in the US, his life will be in danger from organizations whose entire mission is premised on the violent overthrow of the Cuban government. The actors and artists ask President Obama; “How, sir, can Mr. Gonzalez’s safety be ensured in the middle of an environment that generates so much insecurity?”
President Obama recently made a statement that he is open to new relations with Cuba. In the letter the actors and artists responded, “Please know that allowing Rene Gonzalez to be reunited with his wife, daughters and parents in Cuba would be the kind of humane gesture that would set the stage for just such a development.”
Actor Mike Farrell reacting when he heard the news said, “I pray that President Obama understands the injustice that has been done to Rene Gonzalez and others of the Cuban 5 in the name of political gamesmanship.  There is no benefit to the United States in the continued persecution of these men, there is only harm.  Mr. Gonzalez has served a wrongful sentence and should now be allowed to rejoin his family rather than be subject to continued persecution, harassment and serious danger by being forced to remain, during his period of parole, among those who wish him harm.  If political retribution is allowed to pervert the justice system, what hope is there for our society?”
US actors and artists signed on to the letter includes; Edward Asner, Jackson Browne, Peter Coyote, James Cromwell, Hector Elizondo, Mike Farrell, Richard Foos, Max Gail, Danny Glover, Elliott Gould, Si Kahn, Greg Landau, Francisco Letelier, Esai Morales, Michael O’Keefe, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Sarandon, Pete Seeger, Betty and Stanley K. Sheinbaum, Andy Spahn and Haskell Wexler.
Formed in September, 2010, on the 12th anniversary of the incarceration of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez and Ramon Labañino,
Actors and Artists United for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, sent a letter to President Obama asking for their release. In April, 2011, they sent a letter to President Jimmy Carter commending him for his recent visit to the island, calling for improved relations with Cuba and for the release of the Cuban 5. This campaign, co-chaired by actor and activist Danny Glover and Ed Asner, is part of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5’s projects, which advocate for the release from US prisons and safe return home for these five men, known in their country as heroes for preventing acts of terrorism against Cuba.,

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