HAVANA TIMES, August 12 — If you’re going to spy on the United States, I recommend that you do it for countries like Israel or Russia. It seems that these nations have struck up some type of “exchange agreement” with Washington whereby if their operatives are caught by the FBI, they’re quickly returned to their country.
In such cases, the American justice system does not intervene, and if some judge mistakenly does so, the charges disappear as soon as the White House and the Kremlin reach an agreement on how many of your agents for how many of mine.
What’s not so good is when espionage takes place between Cuba and the US. Here, realism and the good customs cease. To begin with, no one accepts the fact that their spies are spies; to the contrary, all of them are presented as humanitarian activists.
The members of Havana’s Red Avispa (Wasp Network) —convicted and sentenced by US courts to harsh prison terms— are referred to on the island as the “the Five Heroes,” arguing that their task was only to report on violent actions organized from Miami against Cuba.
On the other hand, Washington is selling us the story that Alain Gross converted into some sort of missionary who traveled secretly to Cuba with the noble task of helping the Jewish community connect to the Internet – is an information advocate.
He is described as a mere “contractor,” giving a neutral connotation to his activities. Notwithstanding, contractors normally don’t belong to peace forces, to the contrary, more than 100,000 of them are in Afghanistan carrying out military and intelligence operations.
The good thing for the prisoners on both sides is that their governments have not ceased in their efforts to rescue them. For 10 years Havana has been orchestrating campaign after campaign, while in Washington people have remained quite concerned since Gross was captured last year.
The Cuban government even tried to swap the 75 political prisoners of the 2003 government crackdown for its five agents, but the White House refused the deal. This was a logical attempt on Cuba’s part given the dissidents are doing more harm to the revolution from their jail cells than if they were free.
The situation was such that when the opposition reached its lowest point of activism, the sole flame of hope that remained lit was related to these prisoners; this took the form of regular Sunday marches by the Ladies in White and hunger strikes.
Interest rises when an American is involved
Things have changed however. A colleague who recently returned from Washington commented to me that all the politicians he spoke to asked him about Alain Gross. They seem much more interested now that the prisoner is an American.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the US would exert pressure on the Cuban government, which caused me to wonder how they planned to do this. A few days later, one of the five imprisoned agents was punished by sending him to “the hole” for two weeks.
The Cuban parliament screamed foul, decrying that this was not a disciplinary measure by the prison but a directive from the FBI. Therefore, they demanded Gerardo Hernandez’s immediate return to the “normality” of his cell.
Meanwhile in Cuba, it’s been said that Alain Gross has lost 88 lbs. since he was thrown in jail more than eight months ago. Even so, Havana knows that when negotiating with Washington, the contractor will “weigh” more than all the Cubans political prisoners together.
In any case, the suffering on both sides could be coming to an end if we pay attention to the certainty with which Fidel Castro just announced that his five imprisoned agents would be returned to Cuba before December of this year.
Such a prediction indicates that something’s cooking, and it could only be an exchange. Just as it is sure that Alain Gross might be reunited with his loved ones very soon, it is good news for his family as well as those of the five Cubans.
Havana Times translation of the Spanish original authorized by BBC Mundo.