Archive for May 7th, 2013

A future in oil for Cuba?

May 7, 2013

By Roberto Veiga and Lenier González

HAVANA – Progreso Semanal talked with energy affairs researcher Jorge Piñón, a Cuban-American who left the island during Operation Peter Pan and these many years later continues to talk in first-person-singular when referring to Cuba.

Piñón has worked in the oil industry and was president for Latin America of AMOCO Oil Co. At present, he is a researcher for the Center for Energy and Environmental Resources of the University of Texas at Austin. The interview was held at the Meliá Habana Hotel in Cuba.

The future in Cuba for oil exploration in deep waters

Every exploration program, especially in frontier zones, that is, in new areas that have never been explored, has different stages. There is always a very important stage, geological studies, where investigators estimate the potential for the existence of hydrocarbons.

That is the process we have conducted for the past 10 years in Cuba, which includes a study by the U.S. Geological Survey. This study, done for the first time in 2004, estimates that in Cuba’s geological north strip, off shore, from Pinar del Río Province to northern Matanzas province, there are oil reserves.

The surveyors raise the possibility that from 4 billion to 6 billion barrels of crude are still to be found. These geological studies are very environmental, but historically they are highly trusted by our industry. That doesn’t mean that they guarantee the amount of oil, but it’s the first step in that stage.

We are beyond the stage of studies; now we are in the stage of exploration. Four wells have been exploited by serious international oil companies – each well has cost at least $100 million – so, in other words, it wasn’t a political “game.”

So far, the hoped-for results have not materialized; at least, that’s what I’m told by sources I’ve consulted. We still have the rest of the Gulf of Mexico, the deep waters in the rest of the Gulf of Mexico, adjacent to the United States’ exclusive zone. I think that there are possibilities there.

In my opinion, in the next three to five years, unfortunately, I don’t see a high probability that Cuba will maintain the level of exploration in deep waters such as we’ve seen in the past two or three years.

The chances of finding oil; challenges to the effort

Finding oil in Cuba would not be a major problem from a technical point of view. Today, there is a technology to bring offshore oil to dry land, where it can be refined or carried in tankers to other markets.

Reaching maximum production would take from three to five years. Each field could have 5, 10, 15 or 20 wells that could reach an adequate production. Neither I nor the people with whom I’ve talked believe that Cuba’s potential in deep waters will exceed 200,000 or 300,000 barrels per day.

Eventually, if we find what we hope for, within five to seven years, Cuba could produce 250,000 barrels per day.

[B]Other sources of energy for the future of Cuba[/B]

We’re facing a stage of growth and use of natural gas everywhere in the world. Many countries are discovering shale gas, and I think that natural gas will be a very important source for Cuba in the future.

Cuba is thinking of building a terminal in Cienfuegos for the reception of liquefied natural gas. I think that that’s a great potential for Cuba’s future. One of the most interesting factors in our industry nowadays is that the great producers (of crude or gas) are looking for markets, and when there are several producers and only one number of consumers, well, we all try to sign long-term contracts to make sure we get a slice of the cake.

How can we make sure that we get part of that market? Cuba is in a good situation, because many of those countries will come around and say, “I will not only supply you with gas but also build you an electric plant.”

In other words, if you grant me a concession, I’ll build you a power plant. In the concessionary concept, someone else builds it but you own it. I’ll build you a power plant in Cienfuegos, Nuevitas or Mariel and sign a long-term contract with you, say 25 years, to supply you with liquid natural gas for that plant at market prices. The State doesn’t have to spend a cent. That State money can then be used for health care, education or other important projects – and you have an international partner, the concessioner.

That model already exists in Cuba with Energás. The State never loses its sovereignty over hydrocarbons. The State remains forever the owner of the hydrocarbons, of the land, of the concession. All it allows is for a third concessioner to invest risk capital, and all the concessioner wants is a lease that guarantees him a 6-to-10-percent profit for 25 years, so he can regain his investment.

At the end of the 25 years, he says goodbye and goes home. You keep the assets.

I believe that natural gas is an extremely important source of energy for us. Remember that, among hydrocarbons, natural gas is the cleanest source. So, to protect the environment in a country like Cuba, which depends on tourism, natural gas (instead of the oil we’re using, with a high sulphur content) is extremely important.

The other issue is ethanol and the sugar industry in Cuba. I may be one of the few people in the industry who disagree with the use of grain, the use of food, to produce ethanol, a fuel used only by the middle class or the rich, because the poor don’t own cars.

From a social point of view, I recognize ethanol’s high cost. So I agree with those who say that we shouldn’t use corn or other grains, that we shouldn’t engage in deforestation to plant raw materials for ethanol production. I’m against that.

Now, the cases of Cuba and Brazil are totally different, because you’re talking about a raw material that’s sugar cane. In Cuba, you can regain one million hectares of land that historically was always sugar land, so we’re not talking about deforestation.

The studies we’ve done show that a totally recapitalized sugar industry can contribute about $3.5 billion a year to the Cuban economy. That’s because ethanol is priced at $2 per gallon and sugar is priced at 18 to 20 cents.

You can bring in Brazilian companies in a joint venture with Cuban companies. Gentlemen, everyone can participate here, so long as the State grants everyone a concession. It’s not that the land will go into private hands. The land remains in the hands of the State. But you allow that experience, that capital in partnership with the State, to create a Cuban sugar industry that could make an incredible contribution to Cuba, not only in economic terms but also in strategic terms.

If we can sow one million hectares that will produce 60 to 70 tons of sugar per hectare, the harvest will give us much, in terms of ethanol. The advantage of this in the sugar industry (such as Brazil’s), is that when the guarapo \[sweet extract] or honey arrives at the mill, you can choose whether it goes to the distillery or to the sugar factory. In other words, you can now send it to two markets.

If the better profit comes from sugar, you turn to the sugar, but if it comes from ethanol, you turn to the ethanol. Today we have that flexibility. Besides, remember that you’re producing plenty of electricity, because you have all that chaff going into those new, efficient plants, so you’re also contributing with electricity to the national system.

That’s another added value that we sometimes forget but is humongous for Cuba.

Cuba could produce 70,000 barrels of ethanol per day. That means that, in Cuba’s economic future, if you import cars from Brazil – cars that can use either 100 percent ethanol or 100 percent gasoline – you would not need a single drop of oil for transport fuel.

All those different pieces need to be studied long-range. The salvation of a country that is not self-sufficient in energy depends not on one product but on several.

[B]Oil infrastructure and energy future[/B]

There’s the refinery at Cienfuegos, the pipeline from Cienfuegos to Matanzas, the storage for 600,000 barrels that was built in Matanzas. There’s the port of Mariel. Cuba is strategically located. That is why Cuba’s national shield bears the picture of the key to the Gulf. That gives Cuba a very advantageous position.

The Panama Canal will be reopened with more capacity to accommodate larger tankers. Natural-gas terminals are being built in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. So, if Cuba doesn’t find any crude, that’s not a problem, far as I’m concerned.

Because Cuba – due to its geographic location and infrastructure – will have a very preferential position to receive various types of oil-based fuel, at international prices. The oil will not be given away, but you’ll be in a competitive position to obtain that oil at 50 cents or one dollar and pennies per barrel (or less) due to your logistic location.

Puerto Rico has shut down its three refineries and relies 100 percent on imported products. If you look, every month, for the source of the oil that goes into Puerto Rico, you might think that it comes from the United States, because it’s the closest market.

No. They import oil from Russia, gasoline from Russia, fuel oil from Argentina, from different parts of the world, because they have a good storage system, good ports and fuel terminals and are always looking for sources of cheaper oil. They can also import oil that, from the point of view of quality, may not always be the best, but they can alter and improve it in their local plants.

Eventually, Cienfuegos will have a better refinery. What happens in Cienfuegos is that it doesn’t have facilities for improvement, for the processing of crude. That’s what they’re planning to build.

The future refinery at Matanzas is a little bit different. Strategically speaking, the refinery at Santiago de Cuba needs to be maintained and improved to process 50,000 barrels per day. The one in Havana should be closed, because it has worked very hard in the past 50 years. Its operators have done a fantastic job trying to maintain it so it won’t affect the environment and the potential value of Havana Bay, from the point of view of tourism.

\[The Havana plant] is a very high-cost refinery, not only economically, from the point of view of processing, but also from the environmental point of view, etc. Remember that there’s a pipeline connecting Matanzas with the Havana refinery, so the Havana refinery could be turned into a distribution point.

From the terminals in Matanzas you send the gas-oil, diesel or gasoline via pipeline to Havana, where trucks distribute it to the various gas stations. So \[the Havana plant] could still be useful. But from the point of view of remaining a refinery, no.

[B]Model of consumption[/B]

Energy self-sufficiency is not an issue that can be resolved. And Cuba is not the only country with this problem. We \[Cubans] must recognize that. There are many countries in Central America, in other places, that are not self-sufficient. That’s what nature gave us.

But we have many things we \[Cubans] can use – ethanol, the oil we have today, ways to optimize it, our geographic location, the infrastructure – to ensure that we have competitive sources and never be in a position to pay top dollar for energy, compared with other countries in the region. Cuba must have a competitive position from the point of view of energy.

Another issue is related with our model of consumption. If we found oil in Cuba, the mere news would lead us to think, “Goody, now I can turn on all the lights, do all that, and now I don’t care.” Conversely, if we find oil, we must adhere to the concept of savings, recycling, using public transportation.

Do you want to reduce Cuba’s energy dependency? Build good and efficient public transportation. You have the railways. My father was a railroad man, and Cuba’s geography enables us to have a rapid train from Havana to Santiago. Cuban railroads could be the most efficient in the world. You wouldn’t have to drive.

In the future, you could get up in the morning in Havana and ride a train to Camagüey for a business meeting, have lunch and return to Havana that same night. As I did when I lived in Spain: I traveled to Seville in the morning, had a business luncheon, and by 5 in the afternoon I was back at my home in Madrid.

So, Cuba has a great energy potential, not only in energy production but also in the rational use of energy. That is very important and is something that we \[Cubans] need to maintain, not only our generation, which unfortunately had to learn it through the difficulties we experienced.

You’re going to say, “Jorge Piñón, you’re telling me that I must continue to live as I live today, because of the economic difficulties the country is going through.”

And I say to you, yes, you can improve your standard of living, but at least the awareness you developed after the Special Period is a good awareness. Maybe the reasons you came to it were wrong, but it’s an awareness you need to maintain and it’s an awareness that you must hand down to the next generations.

Angela Davis, Danny Glover, Dolores Huerta, Ignacio Ramonet, Mighty Gabby and many others to join “5 Days for the Cuban 5 in Washington DC”

May 7, 2013

( Photo: Bill Hackwell/Rally in front of the White House April 2012 )

From May 30 to June 5th 2013, a number of well-known intellectuals, authors, artists, labor, religious figures, attorneys, and supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to advocate for a dialogue between the United States and Cuba, to raise awareness about the case of the Cuban 5 and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.

This week of activities is a result of a call made in November 2012 during the VIII Colloquium in Holguin for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 and against terrorism.

The Second “5 Days for the Cuban 5 in Washington DC” is being organized by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and endorsed by more than 50 organizations and individuals.


Mighty Gabby, Cultural Ambassador from the Island of Barbados will come to Washington to participate in the week of events. He won the calypso crown in Barbados at age 19 in 1968 and went on to win the Calypso king title again in 1969, 1976, 1985, 1999, 2000 and again in 2010. He has written over 700 songs and was awarded Folk Singer Of The Year in 1977, 1978, 1979. Below is a song he wrote about the Cuban 5 called FREE THEM (See, )



9:00am: Press Conference. Wayne Smith, Dolores Huerta, Ignacio Ramonet, Yeidckol Polevnsky, Fernando Morais, lawyers and other guests. Place: National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, 13th Floor, Bloomberg Room, Washington, DC.

9:30am-5:00pm: Booth with information about the Cuban 5 at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) conference. Place: Washington Marriott Wardman Park, 2660 Woodley Road NW, Washington, DC.

5:00pm: Important orientation meeting: Place: Howard University Hospital 2041 Georgia Ave NW, Ambulatory Care Center/Towers Building, Auditorium, First Floor, Washington, DC 20060, (There is parking in back of the hospital and also an entrance off of 5th street, between Elm and V streets.) The orientation will be followed by the 7pm meeting at the same location.

7:00pm: Role of Cuba in Africa and the Cuban 5 in Angola. Excerpt from the revealing and award winning documentary Cuba: An African Odyssey and an interactive panel discussion with representative of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, representatives from the Embassy of Namibia, Eugene Puryear from the ANSWER Coalition, Mary-Alice Waters from Pathfinder Press and Glen Ford, co-founder and Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report.” Place: Howard University Hospital 2041 Georgia Ave NW, Ambulatory Care Center/Towers Building, Auditorium, First Floor, Washington, DC 20060, (There is parking in back of the hospital and also an entrance off of 5th street, between Elm and V streets.)


9:30am – 5:00pm: Booth with information about the Cuban 5 at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) conference. Place: Washington Marriott Wardman Park, 2660 Woodley Road NW, Washington, DC.

10:00am – 5:00pm: Washington area outreach. Pick up literature and assignments for distributions at busy Metro stops and other public places. Place: Institute for Policy Studies, 1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC.

3:00pm: Meeting of Cuban nationals and Cuban Americans who live in the U.S. to plan new strategies among other issues, about the U.S. campaign to free the Cuban 5 (by invitation only)

7:00pm: Reception (by invitation only)


1:00pm: Rally in front of the White House, across the street from Lafayette Park. Activists are coming from Quebec and many U.S. cities, including a large delegation of Cuban Americans from Miami. The June 1st Organizing Committee based in New York City is organizing buses to join the DC rally. Tickets are $5 roundtrip with lunch included. Buses will be leaving from the Bronx (Hostos Community College), El Barrio/East Harlem (Julia de Burgos Cultural Center), Washington Heights (Port Authority Bus Terminal/179 Street & Broadway) and from D.C. 37-Local 372 and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Labor Center/1199-SEIU, Manhattan. To reserve your seat from NYC, call 347-201-3728. Rally Program will include speakers representing diverse voices from the struggle to free the Cuban 5 from the U.S. and abroad, plus entertainment.

6:00pm: Ecumenical-Cultural Event. Special Guests: Angela Davis, Nacyra Gómez Cruz, Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, Secretary of International Relations of the Christian Conference for Peace for Latin America and the Caribbean, Maria León (from the Venezuela National Assembly) Yeidckol Polevensky (former Vice President of the Mexican Senate). Poetry by Andy de la Tour, English actor and screenwriter. Music by Mighty Gabby, a Cultural Ambassador for the island of Barbados who sings Calypso and the DC Labor Chorus. Place: Saint Stephen Church, 1525 Newton St. Washington DC.


11:00am: Community Event. Gathering at 11am in downtown Takoma Park (between Carol Ave and Laurel) to walk back to Place: Casa Rutilio, 102 Park Ave, for a community event at 1:00pm. This event is organized by the Takoma Park Free the Cuban 5 Committee and endorsed by the DC Metro Coalition to Free the Five and the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. Music by Ismael “Bandolero” Duran and Patricio Zamorano.

2:30pm: Hip Hop Cultural Event with Head Roc and Mighty Gabby. Head Roc, for nearly 20 years has been regarded as the best that DC Hip-Hop has to offer. He has come to embody the passions, hopes and dreams of a wonderfully talented DC Black music scene. Opening remarks by Rev. Graylan Hagler, Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ and National President of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice. Place: Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, 5301 North Capitol Street, NE Washington, D.C


9:00am: Lobby activities. Members of Parliaments from other countries who have confirmed their participation: Yeidckol Polevensky (former Vice President of the Mexican Senate), Maria León (Venezuela) a Member of Parliament from El Salvador, Gianni Vattimo, (Italy), Hugo Gutierrez and Alejandro Navarro (Chile) and others to be confirmed.

11:00am: Meeting with attorneys and jurists from the U.S. and abroad. Convened by Martin Garbus, attorney of the legal team of the Cuban 5 with the presence of lawyers from the U.S. and abroad including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Peter Schey from the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Jose Pertierra, Attorney representing Venezuela in the case of the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela, Rafael Anglada from Puerto Rico, Fabio Martelli and Tecla Faranda from Italy, Beinusz Szmukler from Argentina, Graciela Rosemblum President of the Argentinean Human Rights League, and many others. Sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild. Place: Georgetown Legal Center, 600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.

6:00pm: Meeting of elected union leaders and rank and file members from the U.S. and abroad. Welcome from Dena Briscoe, President, American Postal Workers Union Local 140. Special guests: Dennis Lemelin, National President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Santos Crespo, President, Local 372 New York City Board of Education and more. Find out why unions in Canada, Ireland and Britain support freedom for the Cuban 5 and how the movement is building in the U.S. Place: Postal Workers Union Hall, 6139 Chillum Place NE, Washington, D.C. 20011.

7:00pm: Opening of an art exhibit of new paintings by Antonio Guerrero followed by a panel of intellectuals. This exhibit is comprised of 15 new paintings by Antonio Guerrero reflecting the 17 months the Cuban 5 spent in the “Hole” and will be introduced by by Gilbert Brownstone, artist, curator, collector and philanthropist. The panel will discuss Cuba in contemporary times and will include Ignacio Ramonet, Spanish writer and former editor-in-chief of Le Monde Diplomatique, Jane Franklin, author, historian and expert on Cuba-U.S. relations, Miguel Barnet, writer and current President of the National Union of Artists and Writers of Cuba (UNEAC) and Salim Lamrani, French professor, author and researcher. Place: Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th Street, NW.


9:00am: Lobby activities continue

11:00am: Reception at Capitol Hill hosted by a U.S. Congressman to welcome the Parliamentarians from other countries (Place TBA)

6:00pm: Panel discussion and book presentations by Brazilian and Canadian authors about democracy in Cuba and the case of the Cuban 5. Panelists: Fernando Morais, Brazilian journalist and author of: The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, Stephen Kimber, Canadian journalist, professor and and author of What Lies Across the Water, and Arnold August, writer, and lecturer from Montreal, author of Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion. Celebration of Gerardo Hernandez’s birthday. Place: Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th Street, NW


9:00am: Last day of Lobby Activities

5pm: The 5th for the Cuban 5 closing event: An art exhibit of a motorcycle journey throughout Latin America by graduates from the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba that promoted awareness about the Cuban Five. Video conference with family members of the Cuban Five from Havana and guests in Washington D.C. Special guest: Danny Glover and Ambassadors from ALBA countries. Plenary Session with organizers from the U.S. and abroad discussing work and future actions is support of the struggle to free the Cuban 5. Music by Mighty Gabby. Place: Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela- Bolivarian Hall, 2443 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

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II Annual “5 Days for the Cuban 5 in Washington DC” May 30 to June 5
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Cuba Confirms Readiness to Talk to the U.S. on Alan Gross Case

May 7, 2013


Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez confirmed on Monday in Brasilia that Cuba has expressed to the United States its willingness to begin serious and respectful talks to try to find a solution around the case of Alan Gross.

In this regard, Rodriguez emphasized that exchanges should take into account the reciprocal humanitarian concerns of his country in the case of other Cuban citizens serving sanctions in the United States, as it’s the case of the four antiterrorist fighters unfairly incarcerated there.

Accompanied by the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Patriota, with whom he held talks on Tuesday at the Foreign Ministry, the Cuban FM ruled out any comparison between the cases of Rene Gonzalez and Alan Gross.

He recalled that antiterrorist Rene Gonzalez was unfairly condemned in the United States, served his 13 years of imprisonment, suffered a long period of time in solitary confinement and lacked the guarantees of due process.

The U.S. law foresees that a person in that situation, after serving his sentence, receives a period of probation, which in the case of Rene Gonzalez constituted an unfair and additional punishment, since from the start the return to his country was denied to him, in spite of his willingness to relinquish his U.S. citizenship, highlighted Rodriguez in statements to the press in Brasilia.

On the other hand, he stated, Gross is serving a sentence in Cuba, sanctioned for violating national laws as an agent of a foreign power, while trying to create networks with the use of non-commercial technology to cause a breach of the Caribbean island’s constitutional order. It’s a concept also defined in the U.S law as a crime, he asserted.

The Cuban Minister said that the Judge of the case has allowed Rene Gonzalez to stay in Havana for the rest of his supervised release, after reiterating his willingness to relinquish his U.S. citizenship.

HAVANA, Cuba, May 7 (acn)

Book “Cuba, Revolution or Reform?” Captivates Buenos Aires Readers

May 7, 2013


By Martin Hacthoun

Buenos Aires, Apr 7 (Prensa Latina) The book “Cuba, Revolution or Reform?” by Cuban philosopher, writer and essayist Enrique Ubieta is catching the interest of Argentine readers interested in Cuban issues.
The book has generated interest even before its formal launch today at the International Book Fair of Buenos Aires, with the author being discussed in various circles, like last night at this city’s Center for Marxist Studies and Training.
The book was not written for export, but was designed to foster and stimulate debate among Cubans about who we are and what we aspire to be, as well as among those attracted to or interested in the issue outside Cuba, said Ubieta.
“It presents the war of values between socialism and capitalism in Cuba today, while characterizing and refuting counter-revolutionary discourse,” he told Prensa Latina. Ubieta is also the director of the cultural magazine La Calle del Medio.
Lidia Fagale, Secretary General of Buenos Aires’ Union of Press Workers, said she was curious about and attracted to the book because it raises philosophical questions that are very timely in today’s Cuba.
“All of us who feel attracted to and who identify with Cuba are also interested in and concerned about the paths by which Cubans have tried to move their socialist project forward,” she told Prensa Latina.
This “piques interest in knowing how Cubans interpret their own program and its future.”
Last Saturday at the gigantic Book Fair of Buenos Aires was Cuba Day, with the presentation of the poetry volume “La verdad me nombra” (Truth Calls Me) by Antonio Guerrero, one of the four Cubans imprisoned in the United States for fighting terrorism.
Today, in addition to Ubieta’s presentation of his book, the writer Jesus Curbelo will also present an anthology of is own poetry “Las Quebradas Oscuras” (Dark Ravines) and the novel “Cuestiones de Agua y Tierra” (Questions of Land and Water).
Ubieta will also discuss his work at Buenos Aires’ Human Rights League, while Curbelo will discuss Cuban poetry at a number of the city’s well-known bars, as part of the Eighth International Poetry Festival, taking place alongside the Book Fair.
The marketing firm SoyCubano, part of the Artex agency at the Cuban Book Chamber is presenting 360 Cuban titles at the huge fair, with a booth in the Yellow Pavilion at the La Rural exhibition center.

Cuban agent begins renouncement of U.S. citizenship

May 7, 2013


by Jeff Franks
May 6, 2013
Reprinted from Reuters

HAVANA (Reuters) – A Cuban agent who served 13 years behind bars in the United States for his role in an espionage ring began the process of renouncing his U.S. citizenship on Monday so he can stay in Cuba.

Rene Gonzalez was one of five men convicted in a controversial 2001 trial of conspiring to spy on Cuban exile groups and U.S. military activities in Florida as part of an espionage ring called the “Wasp Network.” The case has long plagued U.S.-Cuba relations.

Gonzalez, who was born in Chicago and held dual U.S.-Cuba citizenship, told reporters after emerging from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana that he had filled out forms and answered questions, and that the process was not yet complete.

He will still have to formally renounce his citizenship before officials at the U.S. diplomatic post and then await approval, which he said should happen before May 16.

“I feel happy to be in Cuba, to be with my family and incorporate myself to the society I belong to,” he said as bystanders in the streets and on apartment balconies above applauded and called his name.

When he first arrived at the U.S. diplomatic post in a black government car, Gonzalez waved to the three dozen or so onlookers and clasped his hands above his head in victory. He was dressed informally in a short-sleeve blue plaid shirt and black pants.

He was the first of what Cuba calls the “Five Heroes” to complete his sentence and return to the communist-led island.

The 56-year-old Gonzalez, who has a wife and two children in Havana, left prison in October 2011 and has been serving a three-year probation in Florida. He returned to the communist-led island temporarily on April 22 to attend a memorial service for his deceased father.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard had granted the visit a few weeks ago on condition that he return to Florida within two weeks. But on Friday, in ruling on a motion by his lawyer, she said he could stay in Cuba for good if he renounced his U.S. citizenship.

By doing so, he foreswears the right to return to the United States, where he spent the first few years of his life.


In a reversal of its previous position that Gonzalez had to complete his full three years probation, the U.S. government did not object.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, speaking to reporters on Monday during a visit to Brazil, gave no indication that the resolution of the case would effect the status of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year sentence in Havana for illegally installing Internet service for Cuban Jewish groups.

Some had hoped it might help Gross get more lenient treatment, but Rodriguez said Gonzalez had served his sentence, while Gross, jailed since December 2009, has not.

“It’s a case of application of the law. I see no relation therefore between the two cases,” he said in Brasilia.

Cuba has hinted at a possible swap of the “Cuban Five” for Gross, but the United States has rejected the idea.

Rodriguez, repeating what the government has disclosed before, said Cuba has told Washington it is open to talks to find a humanitarian solution to the cases of Gross and the four Cubans.

The Cuban Five case is little known outside the Cuban exile community in the United States, but the Cuban government has made their release a national cause, plastering the country with pictures of the men, with the word “Volveran” – they will return – beneath their images.

Cuba says the agents were unjustly convicted and excessively punished because they were only collecting information on Cuban exile groups planning actions against the island 90 miles from Key West, Florida.

The trial was held in Miami, center of the exile community and hotbed of opposition to the Cuban government, particularly former leader Fidel Castro and current President Raul Castro.

One of Gonzalez’s co-defendants is serving a double life sentence for his part in the shooting down of two U.S. planes in 1996 flown by an exile group that dropped anti-government leaflets over Havana. The other three are serving out sentences that range from 18 years to 30 years.

“One has to continue fighting to get them out of jail. It’s an injustice, it’s a crime that they are prisoners,” Gonzalez said.

“We need them in Cuba,” he said.

(Reporting By Jeff Franks and Rosa Tania Valdes in Havana; Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Philip Barbara)

Now René is Free!

May 7, 2013


( René at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana on May 6 with his lawyer Phil Horowitz, in the process of renouncing his citizenship )

by Ramón Labañino ( 1 of the 5 )
May 6, 2013

We are overcome with optimism, with joy, because the long-awaited freedom of one of our brothers is now reality. It was time already! After so much delay and injustice! Above all, we feel very relieved that our comrade is no longer in danger of his life, not having to stay one second more in that scenario surrounded by the threats we all know of.

With him, we four also feel a bit freer. It is as if a part of us is already at home, with our families and friends, in the heart of our people, with our sisters and brothers of the world.

René is our forward detail. He carries with him the embrace and affection of the Five to all of you. With his presence are all the Five: In each action that is carried out for the good of Cuba and humanity, in his new responsibilities and tasks, in his new missions and dreams. He will be there until finally the Five find ourselves free, in that land that we love so much.

We are filled with joy and with the optimism that love and truth always win over injustices!


Five eternal embraces!


FCI Ashland, Kentucky
May 6, 2013. 9:29 AM

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