Leahy: Deal to Help Spy's Wife Was 'A Human Thing,' Not Political

The senator said he was “moved” by the story of the wife of a Cuban spy who wanted to have a baby.
Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

Senator Patrick Leahy said Tuesday that his effort to help the wife of a Cuban spy get pregnant was “a human thing,” not part of larger negotiations with the communist regime. “I heard her plea; I was very moved by it,” Leahy said during an interview on Today.

After meeting with Adriana Perez, the wife of convicted Cuban spy Gerardo Hernandez, in 2013 and hearing her wish to have a child before she was too old, Leahy discussed the case with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “And I told him ‘This is not something that is part of negotiations with Cuba. This is just a human thing,’” said Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. He said he believed Cuban officials were “impressed” that the U.S. acted without demanding something in return. 

Perez became pregnant after a second artificial insemination attempt nearly nine months ago and sent a letter to the Leahys thanking them. Hernandez was sent back to Cuba last week as part of President Barack Obama's move to normalize relations with Cuba.

“I’ve seen the pictures since they were reunited—the joy in his face, especially the joy in hers, and they’re going to have a little girl,” Leahy said. 

According to the Department of Justice, the Perez deal was a goodwill effort to improve conditions for Alan Gross, the American contract worker who was freed last week after more than five years of imprisonment in Cuba.

“We can confirm the United States facilitated Mrs. Hernandez's request to have a baby with her husband. The request was passed along by Senator Leahy, who was seeking to improve the conditions for Gross while he was imprisoned in Cuba,” a Justice Department spokesman told CNN.

Eventually Leahy staffer Tim Reiser returned to Cuba to negotiate improved conditions for Gross, who, according to the New York Times, threatened to commit suicide if he wasn’t released. The deal was an effort to “make clear to them that we cared about the treatment of their people, just as we expected them to care about the treatment of ours,” Reiser told the Times

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