Cubans Make Yellow - Ribbon Appeal To U.S . Over Imprisoned Spies

13.09.2013 18:06

HAVANA - Cuba held a day of protest on
Thursday over four intelligence agents
imprisoned in the United States ,
displaying yellow ribbons to show
national support for bringing the men
home on the 15th anniversary of their
arrest in Florida.
It was the largest anti -U .S . protest
staged in the communist country since
President Raul Castro took over from his
ailing brother Fidel in 2006.
The men were convicted in 2001 of
conspiring to spy on Cuban exile groups
and U .S . military activities as part of an
espionage ring called the "Wasp
Network ."
A fifth Cuban agent, Rene Gonzalez, who
was released two years ago and now
lives in Cuba, headed the public drive for
the return of his colleagues , who are
considered national heroes at home and
are known in the United States as the
" Cuban Five ".
Raul Castro took part in a televised
cultural event in their honor on
Wednesday evening and a concert with
top Cuban performers was scheduled on
Thursday in front of the U .S . Interests
Section in Havana.
Many of the country's 11.2 million
residents joined the protest , according to
sources in different cities . Yellow ribbons
hung from trees, lamp posts and car
antennas from Havana to Camaguey city
in central Cuba and eastern Santiago .
The Chicago -born Gonzalez, 57, who
returned to Cuba this year after
renouncing his U .S . citizenship , said in a
televised address last week that yellow
ribbons, symbolizing longing for absent
loved ones, were meant to resonate with
the "average American. "
The United States and Cuba do not have
diplomatic relations but have lower level
interests sections in each other' s capital.
The agents' case has dogged the already -
hostile U .S .-Cuba relations and gained
greater attention after the 2009 arrest of
U. S. contractor Allen Gross in Cuba . He
was sentenced to 15 years for his role in
a U .S. government effort to set up an
underground Internet network on the
Caribbean island .
Havana has linked the fate of its agents
with that of Gross, stating a
humanitarian solution is needed for both
cases .
Cuba says its agents were unjustly
convicted and says they were mainly
collecting information on Cuban exile
groups planning violent actions against
One agent, Gerardo Hernandez , is
serving a double life sentence after being
convicted of involvement in the shooting
down of two U. S. planes in 1996 flown
by an exile group that dropped anti -
government leaflets over Havana. He
denied the charge.
The other three are serving sentences
ranging from 18 years to 30 years.