Paramount among the reasons many oppose normalizing relations with Cuba is the fact that President Obama’s deal with the rogue regime appeared to demand no concessions from Raúl Castro’s government. Cuba only seemed to yield one thing to the American government: the release of USAID worker Alan Gross.
In exchange for Gross, the Cuban government demanded the release of three of the remaining members of a group of communist spies known as the “Cuban Five.” The media have done their job to portray the Cuban Five as mere spies listening in to conversations among Cuban exiles in Miami, sending information back to Cuba that is of little national security value. The New York Times describes their missions as “tr[ying] to make themselves indispensable to the exile groups whose secrets they stole.” The Associated Press reports that the three released this week came home “to a hero’s welcome,” and diminishes their roles in the United States as “convicted on charges including conspiracy and failing to register as foreign agents.”
The families of those killed because of the work of the Cuban Five have made efforts throughout the week to remind the American public the true nature of their crimes. They were not only spies on private Cuban American citizens–a crime in and of itself–but were involved in the murder of peaceful volunteers attempting to save wayward rafters, as well as espionage operations on sensitive American military bases.
In 1996, close to the peak of the balsero era of Cuban migration, the organization Brothers to the Rescue began airplane missions dedicated to finding lost rafters and bringing them safely ashore. It was a humanitarian mission, dedicated to keeping the ever-increasing death toll in the 90 miles of water between Cuba and the United States at a low.
On February 24, 1996, Brothers to the Rescue sent two planes over international waters to find and save balseros. The Cuban government shot them down, killing four volunteers: Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales. Although all four were United States citizens, President Bill Clinton did not take aggressive actions towards the Castro government for their killing.
The only man to go to prison for this crime is Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Cuban Five convicted of spying on the organization and feeding the Cuban government information that led to their deaths. While many killings are legally ambiguous, Hernandez was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder–not manslaughter or unspecified homicide. As The Telegraph notes, the Cuban government denied that Hernandez and his cohorts were spying on the United States government or any organizations, but just generally on the Cuban American community.
Naturally, the families of the humanitarian workers killed by Hernandez’s actions are outraged by President Obama’s decision to free him. “The only person that we had responsible for what happened, to be let go, it’s a slap in the face to my dad,” Marelene Alejandre Triana, who lost her father Armando Alejandre when she was 18, told Miami’s WSVN News. Miriam de la Peña, one of the pilot’s mothers, echoed that sentiment to Fusion:
— Fusion News (@FusionIsNews) December 17, 2014
Mirta Costa, a mother of another victim of Castro’s attack on the Brothers to the Rescue mission, told el Nuevo Herald that she was “disgusted and confused” by why President Obama would choose to release this particular killer, with the crime of murder to his name. “All my son was doing,” she lamented, “was helping the rafters.”
The relatives of Brothers to the Rescue victims have become just one more American family–joining the loved ones of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and the families of soldiers who died looking for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl–confused and at a loss to explain the motives behind actions by the Obama administration that seem to disregard the sacrifices of their loved ones, at the benefit of sworn enemies of America.