The Cuban Five Case Inside-Out

by Dawn Gable

HAVANA TIMES — The endnotes of What Lies Across the Water* opens with: “The truth is — everybody lies.” But I believe author Stephen Kimber when he says that as part of his research for this book he read the more than 20,000-pages of United States of America vs. Gerardo Hernández ” from opening gavel to final sentencing.”

What Lies Across the WaterHis detailed presentation of the case of the Cuban Five– five counter-terrorism agents, who operated in Miami and who refused to plea bargain when the larger network of Cuban agents they belonged to was arrested, is evidence of the painstaking digging Kimber has done to bring readers this full-blown account.

Although the subtitle is The Real Story of the Cuban Five, this book is much more than that.  It peers into all the nooks and crannies of the last couple of decades of the ongoing saga of Miami-originated violence against the Cuban people, its leaders, and anyone perceived as friendly to its government or economy. It shines a light on famous villains such as Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch and introduces lesser known perpetrators like Francisco Chavez Abarca and Santiago Alvarez.

Relying on news articles, interviews, court evidence and government documents, in both English and Spanish, Kimber reports on the failed attempts by the U.S. and Cuban governments, in the late 1990’s, to cooperate on mutual national security concerns, employing a cast of characters ranging from U.S. diplomat Michael Kozak and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez as well as the FBI and Cuban State Security.

He draws from documents obtained through FIOA requests, filed by the National Security Archives and investigative journalists, to give shape to the newest piece of the puzzle– Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor hired to carry out aspects of the State Department’s regime change program inside Cuba, who is currently serving a 15 year sentence in a Cuban prison.

Far from being a boring account of deeds and misdeeds, Kimber employs eloquent prose and an enjoyable style to draw the reader into the tangled layers of terrorism and murder, espionage and deception, propaganda and myths, life sentences and impunity, meanness and hatred, love and sacrifice, romance and solitude, patriotism and delusion, good intentions and bad, and lies, lies, and more lies.

It reads like a page-turner novel, but it’s not. It is the unbelievably tragic history of modern U.S.-Cuba relations. Kimber, a professor of journalism at Halifax University and author of several other books, uses his brilliant turn of phrase to help his readers navigate through the tall tales and “official truths” guiding them to a more realistic view of the landscape and the prospects for diplomatic relations between the two feuding countries, for freedom for Alan Gross and the four Cuban agents still under lock and key, and for a life without fear of violence and intervention for the Cuban people.

I have only one criticism of the writing: the constant use of the term “America” when referring to the United States.

One of hundredsof billboards in Cuba proclaiming that the Cuban Five will return to the island.

The only shortcomings I can mention in terms of content is, in reality, just my desire to keep the conversation going. Kimber begins his book listing its main characters, and ends it with a “where are they now” section. I would like to have seen more names on this lists.

For example, Michael Kozak, who was head U.S. diplomat in Cuba during the hotel bombing campaign and whose role in the FBI-Cuban State Security cooperative efforts are outlined in the book, is currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, which receives large sums of Cuba regime change money, which it funnels into the National Endowment for Democracy.

Hector Pesquera is another. As the book explains, he was the FBI agent in charge who ordered the arrest of the Cuban agents and later ordered the FBI’s files on Posada Carriles to be destroyed. While focusing his attention on the Cubans, he completely missed the 9-11 attackers who were preparing, within his jurisdiction, to murder thousands of U.S. citizens. Pesquera is currently the Superintendent of the Puerto Rico Police and recently there has been speculation that he is in the running to replace Janet Napolitano for Secretary of Homeland Security.

Lastly, whatever happened to the agents who turned state’s evidence against their brothers? Their sentences were up long ago. Surely they were not welcomed back to Cuba, but would they be safe in Miami. The big unsolved mystery in the case of the Cuban Five is how the FBI was originally tipped off to the agent network. Is there any reason to believe that one of those agents was a snitch all along?

I have been following the case of the Cuban Five for over a decade and have translated dozens of articles about their case. I have also translated entire books on exile violence against Cuba, but this book offered tidbits that I was unaware of, drew connections that I had not noticed before, and most importantly to me, confirmed some suspicions and dispelled a few rumors that I was unsure about. I am confident that even expert Cubanologists will find What Lies Across the Water useful, informative, at times infuriating, but always entertaining.

*Fernwood Publishing, 296 pages.  Available for pre-order at

3 thoughts on “The Cuban Five Case Inside-Out

  • Just a tiny point. Stephen Kimber is a journalism professor at “King’s College” in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (There is no “Halifax University”)

  • Other than the obvious fact that the Castro’s intend to continue to wring every drop of useful propaganda from this case, I do not see the value in yet another book on the five convicted Cuban spies. However noble Dawn Gable believes their cause, they committed crimes of espionage, burglary, and fraud among others. Their comrades gave first-hand testimony against them and they were convicted and sent to prison. End of story. A genuine debate can still be held with regards to the fairness of their sentencing but there is no question regarding their guilt. I guess if you like a courtroom-based drama with Cuban players, this new book may have its appeal. Otherwise, I think I will wait for the movie version on the Lifetime channel.

  • It is clear that those that confessed to the actions of the avispa spy ring including its activities in spying on military installations, US companies, organizations based in the US and individuals resident in the US aren’t welcome in Cuba.

    Some were expelled. I have no data where to. Some to Cuba. Strangely enough a lot of members were allowed to go or repatriated.

    “In an act of generosity, spy Olga Salanueva (René González’s wife) and her two children were deported in November 2000.”

    “Adriana Pérez O’Connor was an agent in training when her husband, spymaster Gerardo Hernández Nordelo was arrested in 1998. She was deported in July 2002.”

    From the same article this surprising statistic:

    “By my count, that’s 24 KNOWN Avispa members who were arrested, declared Persona Non Grata, deported on humanitarian grounds, otherwise expelled, or escaped.”

    Marisol Gari, one of the most damning witnesses against what the Cuban propaganda machine started calling the “5” fought being expelled to Cuba on the grounds she feared being tortured in Cuba.
    I don’t know what happened to her.

    “Marisol Gari released from US custody
    Posted September 25, 2005”

    Lets not forget that for three years the Cuban regime denied any link to the avispa red and later created the lie – myth – of the 5 “anti-terrorists” blatantly ignoring the full facts and all other members of the spy-ring that – in their confessions – has exposed the lies and the myth the regime was creating with the help of misguided or dogmatically motivated international helpers.
    Just for their exposure of these lies it is clear that those that confessed won’t be welcomed in Cuba.

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