On December 17, 2014, the United States and Cuba reached an historic deal. The United States agreed to return Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino and Antonio Guerrero — the remaining three members of the Cuban Five — to their families and homeland in exchange for a previously unknown Cuban national who has spent much of the past 20 years in prison for providing the CIA with the information that enabled the U.S. to identify and ultimately arrest the Cuban Five.
That is the official version.
Unofficially, this was really the long discussed swap of the Five for Alan Gross, the American USAID subcontractor who’d been in jail in Cuba since 2009. But in the world of realpolitik, the US needed to maintain the fiction that Gross was a humanitarian do-gooder whose fate couldn’t be intertwined with that of three Cuban “spies.”
No matter. The end result is the right one.
But there was more. Much more. US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Fidel Castro — after 18 months of secret negotiations, much of it in Canada and all of it with the encouragement and blessing of the Pope — agreed to restore diplomatic relations, including exchanging ambassadors. Obama promised to do what he could — without Congress — to undermine the United States’s 50-year embargo against Cuba and help normalize relations between the two countries.
To tie a bow around this historic week, Gerardo Hernandez confided on the weekend that his wife Adriana would give birth soon to their first child, a daughter named Gema. At the time of his arrest 16 years before, he and Adriana were planning to begin a family. For most of his time in prison, American authorities denied Adriana a visa to even visit her husband in prison. Thanks to the recent intercession of the pope, however, the baby was conceived through in vitro fertilization — even though it was still unclear Gerardo would get to watch his daughter grow up.
Miracles do happen.
Some stories and links:
- Obama’s statement
- Raul Castro’s speech to the Cuban Parliament
- Video of the return of the Five to Havana
- My interview with CNN
- My interview with the CBC about the struggle to win the freedom of the Five.
- Washington Post blog on the release of the Five includes quotes from my 2013 op-ed for the Post on the case.
- Celebrating the return of the Five