December 13, 2001

Cuba News


Yahoo! News December 13, 2001.

Cuba Spy's Wife Prepares for Future

By Anita Snow, Associated Press Writer

HAVANA, 13 (AP) - Adriana Perez rushed home after her husband received a life sentence in Miami as leader of a Cuban espionage ring, fearful she would miss the call from the man who lived an existence so secret it was unknown even to her.

"He was in good spirits, because he is sure that his cause is just,'' Perez told The Associated Press late Wednesday as she sat at her kitchen table after talking to her husband, Gerardo Hernandez. She said he told her he felt safe with his mother, who was in Florida for the sentencing, "and that he had been thinking of me.''

After the 15-minute call the phone rang almost continually, with friends and relatives offering moral support. Neighbors looked in to see if the 31-year-old chemical engineer needed anything.

"I was prepared for this,'' Perez said stoically of the life sentence. Harder still will be preparing for a lifetime of separation, pending the planned legal appeals.

"It is a very difficult, very painful situation,'' Perez admitted, growing teary as she began reading through the last letter her husband sent her. "And we won't be able to have children.''

Perez, like the Cuban government, maintains that her husband and four other colleagues convicted on espionage charges in Miami earlier this year were merely protecting their country from U.S.-based

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, speaking in Venezuela, called Hernandez's sentence "a grave injustice.''

"He was doing absolutely nothing that put the United States in danger,'' Perez Roque said Thursday, insisting that Hernandez was in Florida to obtain information about Cuban exile groups who he said were terrorists who operate in the United States with impunity.

Nevertheless, Perez insisted she did not know of her husband's mission when he left Cuba amid a severe economic crisis in 1994. Perez said her husband told her he was going to Argentina, where he had been offered a good job at a commercial firm.

Despite the long periods apart, the marriage endured. The couple stayed in regular contact by telephone. Every year, Hernandez returned to the island for a long visit with his wife and his mother, who still share a home.

But Perez always believed the separations would some day end and the couple would finally have the child they had talked about.

Then, three years ago, Perez received the life-altering news: her husband had been arrested in Miami, where he had been living as an agent gathering information about the Cuban government's enemies.

"I didn't know anything about it, nothing at all,'' Perez said.

Prosecutors in South Florida identified Hernandez during his trial earlier this year as an intelligence captain who took charge of Havana's Wasp Network spy ring in Miami in 1994.

Hernandez, 36, was one of five secret agents convicted over the summer following a rare mass crackdown on spies operating inside the United States.

The first of the five to be sentenced, Hernandez was the only one to be charged with and convicted of murder conspiracy in a MiG attack on two civilian U.S. planes in international airspace off Cuba in 1996.

The event dominated testimony in the six-month trial and enraged many in Miami's large Cuban exile community.

According to trial testimony, Hernandez' supervisors ordered him to alert other agents to stay off planes flown by the exile group Brothers to the Rescue for a four-day period that included the attack.

No evidence was presented at trial to show that Hernandez knew that the Cuban government would attack the planes. Perez said the whole case about her husband's involvement in the shootdown was "premeditated, manipulated.''

In Miami on Wednesday, Hernandez denounced his trial as a "propaganda show'' and blamed his prosecution on the city's Cuban exile community.

Perez, too, said she believed her husband's trial could not have been fair because it was held in Miami.

"In any other state the end result would have been different,'' she said. "Someday the real story on this will come to light.''

Cuba Spy Leader Sentenced to Life

By Catherine Wilson, Associated Press Writer

MIAMI, 13 (AP) - Moments after denouncing his trial as a "propaganda show,'' the leader of a Cuban spy ring received a life sentence for his role in the infiltration of U.S. military bases and in the deaths of four Cuban-Americans whose planes were gunned down five years ago.

Gerardo Hernandez, 36, was one of five secret agents convicted in June after a crackdown on spies operating inside the United States. The six-month trial focused on the two private planes that were shot down by Fidel Castro (news - web sites)'s government in 1996.

"This was a crime against America. The threat was to the country at large and to this community,'' said chief prosecutor Caroline Miller.

Before hearing his sentence Wednesday, Hernandez labeled his trial a "propaganda show'' and blamed his prosecution on the political clout of Miami's Cuban exile community. He plans to appeal.

Ramon Labanino, a Cuban intelligence officer who supervised two agents assigned to infiltrate the U.S. Southern Command, was also expected to receive a life term for espionage conspiracy. His sentencing was set for Thursday.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque called Hernandez's sentence "a grave injustice.''

"He was doing absolutely nothing that put the United States in danger,'' Perez Roque said Thursday, insisting that Hernandez was in Florida to obtain information about Cuban exile groups who he said were terrorists who operate in the United States with impunity.

Speaking in Venezuela, where he had traveled for a Caribbean summit meeting, he said that Hernandez and his colleagues passed that information on to the Clinton administration, but that neither Hernandez's group nor the Cuban government ever received a response.

Hernandez and Labanino were arrested following a 1998 indictment accusing Cuba of planting 14 agents in Miami.

Paul McKenna, Hernandez's attorney, wasn't surprised by the life term.

"It's a big-league case, and you expect big-league sentences,'' he said.

Hernandez is the only spy who has been charged with and convicted of murder conspiracy in the attack on the planes in 1996.

Prosecutors accused Hernandez of knowing about the plot to shoot down the planes because he warned two agents who infiltrated the spy ring not to fly during a four-day period that included the day of the attack. No evidence presented at trial, however, indicated that he knew Cuba would fire on the planes.

The fliers who were shot down were members of Brothers to the Rescue, which patrols the sea looking for Cuban refugees. The group had been warned by the U.S. and Cuban governments that its planes risked being shot down after two years of incursions in Cuban airspace.

Relatives of the four dead fliers spoke in court.

"Every night and every day, I have been praying for justice,'' said Eva Barba, mother of Pablo Morales, one of the victims.

Hernandez's mother, Carmen Nordela, 67, traveled from Havana for the hearing. She sat calmly when the sentence was announced.

"I was told to expect this,'' she said later. "My son told me to be strong.''

After the sentencing, Hernandez called his wife of 13 years, Adriana Perez, 31, in Havana.

"He was in good spirits because he is sure that his cause is just,'' Perez told The Associated Press. "He said that he had felt safe with his mom there and that he had been thinking of me.''

The prosecution's case centered on computer diskettes seized in Hernandez's North Miami Beach apartment. Messages that passed between the spy ring and Havana were peppered with communist rhetoric, denunciations of the United States and snide references to prominent Cuban exiles.

The other three convicted spies - Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez - are scheduled for sentencing later this month.

Cuba to Receive U.S. Corn Shipment

NEW ORLEANS 12 (AP) - The first commercial export of U.S. food to Cuba in nearly 40 years is scheduled to leave the city Friday to begin the journey to the communist nation.

Several companies signed deals late last month to sell food to Cuba for the first time since Fidel Castro (news - web sites) set up his government in 1962. A law passed last year allows humanitarian shipments.

The Cuban government says the food - 24,000 metric tons of corn from eight Midwestern states - will be used to replenish reserves lost when Hurricane Michelle struck Cuba on Nov. 4, destroying crops and thousands of homes. The United Nations (news - web sites) reports that the country could face food shortages in the next few months.

Crews began loading the corn Wednesday onto the M.V. Ikan Mazatlan, said Stephen Pottharst, director of Agri-Energy Shipping Inc. He said if rain does not interfere, the ship should be fully loaded Thursday evening to leave the St. Charles Parish port of Ama for New Orleans.

John S. Kavulich II, president of the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, has said that the food is being sold at a smaller profit than usual.

A shipment of frozen chickens to Cuba is expected to depart later this month.

Chronology of Nuclear Standoff

By The Associated Press,

A chronology of events in the nuclear standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union:

December 2001: President Bush (news - web sites) alerts congressional leaders that he will withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty.

November 2001: During a U.S. summit, Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasize their shared commitment to nuclear arms reductions, but fail to reach a compromise on Bush's plans for a national missile defense, which would violate the 1972 ABM Treaty. Putin vows that the issue would not harm relations between the two nations as it had in the past.

October 2001: The Pentagon announces it has put off several missile defense tests scheduled for the fall to avoid being accused of violating the ABM Treaty. Bush and Putin also hold separate talks following the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders, in preparation for their November summit.

August 2001 - September 2001: Several Bush administration Cabinet members and officials meet intermittently with their Russian counterparts but have little success in breaking down Russian opposition to the notion of scrapping the ABM Treaty.

July 2001: Bush and Putin agree to tie U.S. plans for building a missile defense shield to talks on reducing both nations' nuclear stockpiles.

May 2001: Bush declares, ``We need a new framework that allows us to build missile defenses to counter the different threats of today's world.''

2000: President Clinton (news - web sites) decides not to authorize work to begin on deploying national missile defense.

1997: Members of a congressionally chartered panel chaired by Donald Rumsfeld are named to examine missile threats to the United States.

1993: President George H.W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin sign START II treaty.

1991: Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev sign the START I Treaty. Soviet Union disbands.

1989: Berlin Wall falls. Soviet Union cuts conventional forces in Europe.

1987: President Reagan and Gorbachev sign the INF Treaty, which bans ground-launched, medium-range nuclear missiles.

1986: An agreement to drastically reduce strategic nuclear arms collapses at the Reykjavik summit because of Soviet opposition to American Strategic Defense Initiative development.

1983: Reagan announces during a nationally televised speech that the United States will embark on an extensive research and development program to examine the feasibility of a missile defense program.

1982: Soviets and United States begin Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START).

1979: In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (news - web sites), President Carter withdraws the SALT II treaty from Senate consideration.

1972: President Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev sign the SALT I agreement, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

1968: President Johnson says the United States and Soviet Union will discuss limits on strategic nuclear arsenals and ballistic missile defenses. Talks are canceled when Moscow invades Czechoslovakia in August.

1962: Cuban missile crisis.

1961: Berlin Wall built. Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba fails.

1957: Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first earth-orbiting satellite.

1950s: Cold War accelerates.

1949: The Soviet Union explodes its first atomic bomb.

1945: The United States drops atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima to end World War II.

Sources: Associated Press reports, Center for Defense Information and Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.


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