Day in The Five: Heroes of the Republic

On December 29, 2001, the Cuban Parliament unanimously voted to declare five Cuban intelligence agents—who had been sentenced in Miami earlier that month to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life—“Heroes of the Republic of Cuba.”
It is Cuba’s highest honour.


The five—Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez, Fernando Gonzalez and Antonio Guerrero—were part of La Red Avispa, a spy network the Cuban government dispatched to Florida in the 1990s to infiltrate and disrupt terrorist attacks directed at their homeland.

They were arrested in Miami in September 1998 and convicted of espionage and even conspiracy to commit murder after a controversial six-month trial.

The Cuban government argued the men were only doing what the U.S. government claimed, in the wake of 9/11, as its own sacred mission—fighting terrorism—and that they’d been forced to do what they did because the American government had refused to do anything to prevent Florida-based exile groups from launching terrorist attacks against Cuba.

At a special session of the National Assembly, Cuban President Fidel Castro called the sentences “rude, infamous.” He praised the Five as “extraordinary men [on] an extraordinary and human mission,” and thanked them “for completing with exemplary dedication, dignity and steadfastness the sacred mission of defending the nation and protecting it from terrorism.”

Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon read a New Year’s letter the Five had sent to Castro in which they quoted a famous Cuban independence leader, General Calixto Garcia: “I am, before everything, Cuban. And for nothing, and for no one, will I sacrifice my ideals.”

Castro later told the assembly that, as a result of the importance of the men and their mission, 2002 would be officially known in Cuba as the “Year of the Heroic Prisoners of the Empire.”

Despite that—not to mention years of legal appeals, international reports criticizing the trial and sentencing, and an international campaign to “Free the Five” that included calls from more than a dozen Nobel laureates for their freedom—all five men remain in custody in U.S. prisons today.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *