A Miami judge allowed a Cuban spy on parole in the U.S. to visit his ailing brother in Cuba for two weeks, raising the prospect that the communist authorities will soften their approach to a U.S. government subcontractor jailed on the island.
Rene Gonzalez, one of five convicted Cuban spies lauded as national heroes by the communist government, was granted a court request late yesterday to temporarily visit Cuba on humanitarian grounds. Gonzalez will be kept under close supervision before returning to the U.S. to serve out his sentence, the judge said, according to the state-run Gramna news agency.
Gonzalez and the other convicted spies have been a celebrated case for the communist nation, with officials saying that they were trying to prevent terrorist attacks by monitoring the activities of Cuban exiles in Miami. Cuba’s government has rejected exchanging the spies as part of a deal to free American contractor Alan Gross, said Philip Brenner, a professor of foreign policy at American University.
“It’s a start,” Brenner said in a phone interview from Washington today. “But it’s more important for Cuba that Gonzalez serves out parole on the island” rather than in the U.S.
Cuban President Raul Castro has rejected calls by the U.S. to free Gross after a court found the contractor guilty of “acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state” and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. The U.S. says Gross was trying to help Cuba’s Jewish community stay in touch with relatives abroad.
Gross’s lawyer, Peter J. Kahn, petitioned Castro in March to release his client for two weeks to visit his ailing mother in the U.S., saying in a letter that Gross would return to Cuba after spending what could be his mother’s last birthday. There has been no official reply as yet.
“I empathize with Rene Gonzalez’s need to visit a dying family member and am pleased that he has been granted permission for a temporary visit,” Gross’s wife, Judy, said in an e-mailed statement today. “I now hope that President Castro will grant Alan’s request to visit his ailing mother Evelyn who is suffering from inoperable lung cancer. Evelyn’s final wish is to see her son one last time.”