Cuban agent who renounced U.S. citizenship now just a "Cuban patriot'"

Wed Jun 5, 2013 6:53pm EDT
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - A Cuban agent who served 13 years behind bars in the United States for his role in an espionage ring showed off a certificate renouncing his U.S. citizenship on Friday and said he was now just a "Cuban patriot."

For Rene Gonzalez, who was born in Chicago but grew up in Cuba and held dual U.S.-Cuban citizenship, the certificate meant he was the first of what the Cuban government calls the "Five Heroes" to complete his sentence and return to the island in a case that has plagued U.S.-Cuban relations since the 1990s.

He agreed to renounce his U.S. citizenship at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana this week in exchange for not having to serve the remainder of a three-year parole in Florida tacked on to the end of his prison term.

"I'm now simply a Cuban citizen, a Cuban patriot, which in all cases I've always been," Gonzalez, 56, said in a Havana news conference as he held up the certificate he received on Thursday.

The men known as the "Cuban Five" in the United States were convicted in a 2001 U.S. trial of conspiring to spy on Cuban exile groups and U.S. military activities in Florida as part of a Cuba-backed espionage ring called the "Wasp Network."

Gonzales flew to Florida in an allegedly stolen crop duster in 1990, posing as a defector from the communist island.

The case is little known outside the Cuban exile community in the United States, but it is a national cause in Cuba where pictures of the five, with the word "Volveran" - they will return - are posted everywhere.

Cuba says the agents were unjustly convicted and excessively punished, and that they were only collecting information on Cuban exile groups planning actions against the island 90 miles from Key West, Florida.   Continued...

Members of the press attend a news conference with Cuban agent Rene Gonzalez in Havana June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan