Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A girl meets her spy father

Posted on Tue, Jan. 30, 2007

A girl meets her spy father
The daughter of a convicted Cuban spy recently traveled to a Florida
prison to meet her father for the first time.

Clutching her mother's side, 8-year-old Ivette González describes her
dad as ''handsome'' and says she gave him lots of kisses.

Her father is convicted Cuban spy René González, and she met him for the
first time last month. Location: the Federal Correctional Institution in

''I really wanted to see him,'' Ivette told Cuban state TV. ``I really
wanted to see him. We talked about all the things here [in Cuba], and
about my mom.''

Ivette's father is serving a 15-year sentence for failing to register as
an agent of a foreign nation and fraudulently obtaining and using U.S.
passports to pursue his undercover work. Convicted in 2001, he is one of
the so-called ''Cuban Five'' arrested in 1998 as part of a spy team
dubbed La Red Avispa -- the Wasp Network.


Ivette was just a few months old when her father was arrested, and she
hasn't seen him since. González's wife, Olga Salanueva, deported two
years ago, has been denied a visa to return to the United States to
visit her husband.

So the family tried a different approach: They sent Ivette. Born in the
United States, she wouldn't have to apply for a visa to visit her dad.

She visited him Dec. 30 accompanied by her older sister Irma, who has
visited her father before.

''We've been in a struggle for this encounter to take place for a long
time,'' Salanueva told Cuban TV's Round Table news program Friday night.
``There was a lot of anxiety, a lot of expectations. He was so happy and
content to meet his daughter.''


González and his four co-defendants -- Gerardo Hernández, Ramón
Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González -- are heroes back
home. Cuba has steadfastly claimed the five men were only spying on
Cuban exile groups to avert attacks on the island.

In Cuba, they are called ``the antiterrorists.''

Three of them were convicted of conspiring to gather information at the
Miami-Dade-based U.S. Southern Command and the Boca Chica Naval Air
Station near Key West and received life sentences. Although the Pentagon
said from the start that the spy ring never compromised security at the
two locations, the United States argued that was their objective.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta
threw out the convictions in 2005, finding that Miami's anti-Castro
political climate and intense media coverage made a fair trial
impossible. A full panel of judges later reinstated the convictions.


The case could go before the U.S. Supreme Court. If that fails, the
defendants have a second opportunity to appeal their convictions to the
Atlanta court, claiming insufficient evidence. The appellate court had
postponed that matter until the venue issue was resolved.

Although several of their relatives have visited, visas have been denied
to Salanueva and to Hernández's wife, who was implicated in the case.

U.S. Interests Section spokeswoman Demitra Pappas said she was unaware
of Ivette's visit. The families of the five must apply for visas like
anyone else, she said, and are rejected if they do not qualify under
U.S. law.

''The Cuban government makes a big deal out of the Cuban five; we
don't,'' Pappas said. ``We don't give them preferential treatment, or
unpreferential treatment.''

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