Cuban agent returns to U.S. after seeing brother

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2012 10:28 PM
Cuban agent returns to U.S. after seeing brother

By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - A Cuban agent on parole who a U.S. judge allowed to return home for two weeks to see his gravely ill brother has gone back to the United States as required, the Cuban government said on Friday.

It said Rene Gonzalez, 55, had spent time with his family, and particularly brother Roberto, who has lung cancer.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard granted Gonzalez his request for the visit with the conditions that he had to obtain permission from the U.S. government and return within 15 days.

Similarly, jailed American contractor Alan Gross has asked Cuban President Raul Castro to allow him a temporary return to the United States to see his 89-year-old mother, who has lung cancer.

Gonzalez, a dual U.S.-Cuban citizen, is one of the so-called Cuban Five convicted of conspiring to spy on Cuban exile groups and U.S. military activities in Florida. Their organization was known as the "Wasp Network."

He served 13 years behind bars and last year was the first of the five men to be released, but was ordered to stay in the United States for a three-year probation.

One of the five is serving a double life sentence for sending information to Cuba that contributed to the shooting down of two private planes in 1996 flown near the island by a Miami-based exile group.

The four people in the planes died in one of the major incidents in the long history of U.S.-Cuba hostilities.

In Cuba, the five men are known as the "Five Heroes" and lauded by the government, which says they were wrongly convicted.

It says the agents were just collecting information on Cuban exile groups planning actions against the island 90 miles from Key West, Florida.

"The Cuban people will not waver in the endeavor that Rene and his four brothers return definitively to the homeland, with the firm certainty they will return," the government said.

So far, Cuba has refused the request by Gross, who is in the third year of a 15-year sentence for illegally setting up Internet networks under a U.S.-funded program the Cuban government views as subversive.

It has hinted at the possibility of swapping Gross, 62, for the four agents still in U.S. jails, but the Obama administration has rejected the idea.

Gross' wife, Judy, had hoped her husband could come home in time for his mother's 90th birthday on Sunday. Their daughter also is suffering from breast cancer.

"I certainly empathize with his (Gonzalez's) family's suffering," Judy Gross said in a recent statement. "I pray that President Raul Castro will find it in his heart to reciprocate the U.S. gesture and give us a positive answer."

The Gross case has stalled modest progress in U.S.-Cuba relations under U.S. President Barack Obama.

(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)