Cuban Agent Compares Brothers to the Rescue Founder to Osama bin Laden

By Café Fuerte

The Cuban Five together in Havana.  Photo:
Gerardo Hernandez (c) and the Cuban Five together in Havana. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban agent Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo (of the Cuban Five), released from a US prison through a presidential pardon granted him by Barack Obama following long negotiations with Havana, has compared his espionage activities in the United States to those of American agents who infiltrate the terrorist group Al Qaeda and likened Cuban émigré activist Jose Basulto to Osama bin Laden.

During an exclusive interview with Yahoo! News in Havana, Hernandez compared the efforts of Cuba’s Avispa (Wasp) Network, which he led in order to frustrate anti-Cuba operations by exile groups in Miami, with attempts by the CIA to infiltrate terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

“And even in the U.S., where you have drones, you are sending people, dressing them up like al-Qaida people with beards” and infiltrating their training camps. “That’s exactly what Cuba did,” Hernandez said regarding his mission on US soil.

With Special Attentions

Hernandez, 48, answered journalist Michael Isikoff’s questions in the first interview for a US media he’s offered since his release from prison and immediate return to Cuba on December 17, 2014. Isikoff spoke with him and his wife Adriana Perez in the house the Cuban government assigned them for their vacation. Gema, a child born seven weeks ago through a process of artificial insemination which involved the high spheres of power in Washington, is also seen in the video.

The journalist describes the place of the interview as the courtyard of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs villa where the family currently resides, cared for by a team of babysitters, cooks and servants supplied by the government. The interview, published this week, has set off an avalanche of differing opinions on the Internet – at the Yahoo! News forum alone, there are now over 1,600 comments.

Hernandez admitted he was not in a position to decide whether downing the two planes deployed by the Brothers to the Rescue organization on February 24, 1996 was the right call. The incident caused the death of four Cuban-born pilots and led US authorities to dismantle the Wasp Network in 1998, charging Hernandez with conspiracy to commit multiple homicides.

Arrested in September of 1998 and given two life sentences in 2001, Hernandez denies ever having known about Havana’s plans to down the planes, though his messages alerted members of the network not to fly with the Brothers to the Rescue pilots that day. Raul Castro affirms he gave the order for Cuban MIGs to shoot down the light planes over international waters of the Strait of Florida.

“Cuba has the right to see Basulto and the Brothers to the Rescue not as a humanitarian organization that they say they are. Can you imagine somebody like bin Laden now (…) saying ‘From now on, I’m going to be a pacifist, and I’m going to create an organization…  just to drop some food’? Can you imagine a scenario like that?” said Hernandez in connection with the humanitarian activities carried out by Brothers to the Rescue while in search of Cuban rafters.

Cuba’s Surreal World

This is the first time Basulto is compared to Bin Laden, who Cuban State propaganda generally compares to the anti-Castro émigré activist Luis Posada Carriles.

Adrian  Perez and Gerardo Hernandez.  Photo:
Adrian Perez and Gerardo Hernandez. Photo:

“This is part of Cuba’s surreal world,” Basulto told CafeFuerte after learning of the declarations made by the Cuban spy. “Things having to do with Cuba are going from the sublime to the ridiculous more and more and have surpassed all rational limits. One can’t make any serious remark about what is or isn’t real, because we’d be legitimizing the words and accepting the innocence of a convicted murderer,” Basulto, a Bay of Pigs veteran, commented.

The interview touches on the work carried out by influential US Senator Patrick Leahy and his wife, after Adriana Perez asked them for help to conceive a child with her imprisoned husband. Leahy spoke with Justice Secretary Eric Holder to conduct an unusual operation, whereby Hernandez’ semen would be taken at the prison, frozen and transported to Panama, where Perez’ insemination was to take place.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has asked the Federal Prisons Bureau for an explanation about this incident involving Hernandez, which she considers “shameful.”

The child was born on January 8 this year. “This is the baby that changed relations between Cuba and the United States,” Isikoff says in front of the couple. Days before, Fidel Castro had declared the child had a beautiful name and had sent the couple flowers.

“I Am Not Technically a Spy”

During the conversation, Hernandez was asked about Wasp Network’s missions that weren’t specifically related to the infiltration of émigré groups, but rather sought out information from US military bases. Antonio Guerrero, one of the fives agents tried and convicted in 2001, had been assigned to the Key West Naval Station, where he secured a job.

Hernandez justified these actions saying they were merely a “small part” of the missions assigned to the network and that, at any rate, his agents never managed to get their hands on “secret information.”

When the journalist asked him whether he was a spy or not, Hernandez replied: “No, technically I was perhaps a foreign agent, which is different. I mean, it’s a wide-encompassing term. I was spying, but, technically, by law, I wasn’t spying on the government of the United States.”

Under US law, intelligence agents who enter US territory without government consent are by definition spies. The US Federal Code regards as a spy anyone who procures defense information in order to use it to detriment of the United States or for the benefit of a foreign nation.” Even if these agents entered the United States to monitor alleged terrorists, they did so for Cuba’s benefit and, consequently, are legally considered spies.

The Cuban Five in front of a modest shrine to Saint Lazarus in El Romerillo, Havana
The Cuban Five in front of a modest shrine to Saint Lazarus in El Romerillo, Havana

The reporter accompanied the five recently-released spies on a tour of El Romerillo, a poor neighborhood in the outskirts of Havana.

“Women embraced and kissed them, children beseeched them for their autographs and everyone wanted a picture taken with them,” Isikoff reported.

At one point during their tour, Hernandez and the group stopped before a golden statue of Saint Lazarus, the miracle-working saint whom the devout pay tribute to on December 17 every year. That was the date in which Hernandez, Guerrero and Ramon Labañino returned to Cuba, and it also coincided with the beginning of Hanukah (the Jewish New Year) and the release of US contractor Alan Gross.

“The fact that we came back on Dec. 17 — so many Cubans say that’s not a coincidence,” Hernandez said, standing in front of the shrine. “Remember, through 16 years, many Cuban people prayed and asked San Lazaro for a miracle that the Cuban Five will one day come back. So who will tell those people that the miracle wasn’t granted by San Lazaro?”

See the text and video of the interview here:


21 thoughts on “Cuban Agent Compares Brothers to the Rescue Founder to Osama bin Laden

  • What bubble do you think you are busting?
    I replied to John on why people leave Cuba.
    People leave Cuba because they have no hope for a better future. In Cuba the reason why there is no hope is the Castro dictatorship that controls all aspects of life. People leaving Cuba are fleeing that.
    Call them emigrants, refugees, balseros, … all are fleeing the Cuba Castro created. Some go to the US, others go to other countries. The Us is close by (convenient for those on a raft) and has a more favorable immigration law for Cubans. That is why most go there if they have to leave “illegally” from Cuba.

  • You are repeating a thoroughly debunked falsehood. Bin Laden didn’t fight. He sent others out to fight. The U.S. did not provide any weapons or money to Bin Laden’s group. Peter Bergen interviewed Bin Laden in 1998 and asked him. Bin Laden said “The Americans never offered us help and we would not have accepted it if they had.” Ayman Zawahiri added, “we have other sources of support. We don’t need the Americans.”

    The U.S. supported Afghani mujahideen in the fight against Russia, but they never supported Bin Laden’s Arabs.

  • Bin Laden fought in Afgahnistan, we paid for his weapons.

  • Ernesto, sorry to pop your bubble, but you don’t have to be a refugee (read section 208 of the INA) to get LPR under the CAA. All you have to do is be Cuban.

  • There was nothing remotely capitalist about the USSR or Mao’s China or about Cuba. Capitalism is an economic system, not a political system. Capitalism can exist in a democracy or in a dictatorship.

    “Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industries, and the means of production are largely or entirely privately owned and operated for profit.[1][2] Central characteristics of capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labour and, in many models, competitive markets.[3] In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which assets, goods, and services are exchanged.[4]”

    ” The term “State capitalism” is almost never used by any group or state said to be engaged in it or advocating for it; rather it is usually used as criticism of states that named themselves socialist;[2] for instance, many communist and Marxist tendencies argue that the Soviet Union did not establish socialism, but rather established state capitalism.[2][3]

    People who use the term “state capitalism” to describe the USSR are engaging in the rhetorical device known as the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

  • Please cite this poll.

  • N.J.,
    You are in serious error when you claim that it was socialists that resorted to totalitarian rule.
    A socialist economy or a socialist society requires that that economy and that society are controlled by the workers -FROM THE BOTTOM UP – in a democratic/majority rule fashion .
    None of the states run by a Communist Party were ever socialist . In fact , one of the first acts of Trotsky and Lenin upon gaining power was to abolish the democratic workers soviets which were the base for what might have been a socialist Soviet Union.
    The Soviet union, China Cuba etc were all STATE CAPITALIST economies . They were all totalitarian-run from the top -and so could never be socialist.
    The only difference between those state capitalist forms and that of the free-enterprise ) private) capitalism is that instead of an owner or a board of directors, a government official determines how the workplace will be ordered .
    BOTH are top-down.
    Both are totalitarian.
    Neither are socialist but you erroneously think that Cuba’s version is.
    I believe that we share common ground in our belief in democracy but it seems you wish to limit it to the voting booth and not also to the workplace that takes up so much of every person’s life .
    Democracy cannot be a part- time thing.
    The totalitarian aspects of capitalism and the power wielded by the economic control it holds over our heads will always corrupt all other democratic aspects of out lives.
    Look, HALF the world lives on less than US$2.00 per day . Millions starve every year and in countries that are 100% free-enterprise capitalist economies.
    Free-enterprise isn’t preventing that poverty, it causes it as a direct outflow of a philosophy and way of operation that calls for…ENFORCES personal selfishness and a submission to totalitarianism .
    That’s what you’re trying to sell and as as something good.

  • John seems to demands rights for himself that he willingly and purposely denies to others. Not an “anarchist” way of looking at things. Anarchists utterly defend the rights of others in the face of any “authority”.

  • In the 2oth century it was the socialist that resorted to totalitarian rule. It is not accidental that states with private sectors have thrived and state controlled economies have declined.
    The Cuba revolution was sold as socialism. It can be argued that the communitarian experiment was well intended. It just did not work as an economic viable system. They have now started to permit a small private sector to emerge providing greater personal economic freedom and leading to an over all more vibrant economy for all.
    It has proven out that free market type economist lead to a more participatory political form of governance. That is because single party systems tend to nurture a corrupt ruling class. A system with check and balances can best guard against the corruption of unitary governance.

  • John fails to consider the impact of his own words. By his definition of government opposition he should be considered a “counter-revolutionary” to the US government. Yet, I would imagine he believes he has a ‘right’ to oppose his government while denying that same right to Cubans who oppose the Castro regime.

  • You are very warped in your thinking, John. People only leave when they want to. The fact the US offers them – as it does many other refugees – a home is a good thing.
    Cubans lack hope. That is why they emigrate via various ways and why they settle all over the world.
    Emigration was created by the Castro dictatorship, not by any US law.

  • No “bullshit”. Documented facts from inquiries by international agencies.
    The people of Brother to the Rescue were indeed against the Castro regime. You use the Castro propaganda description as “counter-revolutionaries” in the home to make them look more sinister than they were.
    The fact they really cared about the “balseros” is clear from their efforts to find, supply and rescue people. Cubans flee Cuba not because they have a place to go, but because they want to leave the Castro dictatorship. They leave because they have no hope for a better future in Cuba. They are in your terms also “counter-revolutionaries” as they oppose the Castro regime and want to flee.
    Your implication that all those that you consider “counter-revolutionaries” can be killed at will by the Castro regime is very disturbing and marks you as a dangerous extremist.

  • Spare us the bullshit.
    The BTR guys were counter-revolutionaries.
    If they really cared about the balseros , instead of using them as a propaganda tool , they would have worked toward abolishing the “wet foot-dry foot” clause and the entire embargo which were fully intended to embarrass the revolution by making it seem that Cubans were so desperate to escape the evils of non-existent communism which in reality was the poverty created by the embargo that they would risk their lives to escape it.
    The rafters were out there solely because of the WF-DF clause of the CAA that the BTR people fully supported .
    The BTR people were not humanitarians but rather, inhumane people who exploited the situation of people trying to escape the hard lives imposed upon them by people just like the BTR .

  • In a recent poll of some 60,000+ people from countries in and around the Middle East , it was the United States , by a huge margin, that was considered the biggest threat to peace in the area.
    U.S. imperialism has intervened in well over 70 ( SEVENTY) instances into the sovereignty and the democratic choices of various countries in less than 70 years.
    Secondly , socialism has never existed either in classic or in the state form as you chose to call state capitalism in Cuba.
    Thirdly liberal democratic is a political position and does not infer an economic center in TOTALITARIAN capitalism as it should when making these comparisons .
    You’re comparing apples ( economic ) to oranges ( political)
    I will agree that jihadist (Islamic) movements are the growing threat but being even more totalitarian and just as supportive of exploitive capitalism as is the Empire, I would not be surprised if some accommodation could not be reached between the two evils abroad in the world today; imperialism and religion .

  • The planes were:
    – unarmed
    – over international waters
    – fleeing
    – never a threat to anyone in Cuba

    that goes for all three planes.
    So how did Basulto put the others in “harms way”.
    He was fleeing with the rest.
    Like the rest he never was a threat to anyone in Cuba (except the pride of the Castro’s).

  • Bin Laden never risked his life. He hid in his cave while sending others out to fight. He never once joined the battle. Basulto least fought in the Bay of Pigs. I don’t support his terrorist actions, but he was no coward.

  • Chief difference between OBL and Basulto was religion.
    OBL killed for fanatical religious reasons.
    Basulto killed for money and to return Cuba to capitalism; a most totalitarian form of money worship .
    It is said in the Bible that “Ye cannot worship both God and mammon ( money) ” but these two enemies of humanity did it,…..separately.
    You can decide for yourselves whether Islam or capitalism is worse for the moral advancement of humanity .

  • Basulto deliberately put his comrads in harms way during the shoot down. Why was his plane the only one that was spared? Makes you wonder.

  • Each side has their own construct of reality. After 50 years it is time to set aside grievances in order to give peaceful co-existence a try. The liberal democratic vs totalitarian socialist models are yesterday’s divide. The reality is that stare socialism has failed on grand scale and capitalism has morphed into mixed economies with large public sectors. In US 40% of GDP is Government. In Europe state GDP runs in 45% to 55% range.

    The new challenge is Islamic theocratic states and groups that want to set up such states

  • Both are terrorists. Basulto was a coward who shot up Cuban hotels w/ 50mm machine guns in CIA fastboats the Cubans couldn’t begin to catch. Bin Laden at least risked his own life.

  • There are many significant differences between Jose Basulto and Osama bin Laden. And there is one very significant difference between Gerardo Nordelo and a US agent infiltrating Al Qaeda. If the US agent were caught by Al Qaeda, his head would be cut off.

    Nordelo was caught by the US, but his head is still firmly attached to his shoulders.

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