Spy case 'formidable' obstacle in ties with US: Cuba
June 24, 2009
Reprinted from AFP
HAVANA (AFP) — Cuba said the detention of five of its nationals who were convicted of spying in the United States more than a decade ago, remained a major obstacle in normalizing ties with Washington.
"As long as this injustice continues, it will be a formidable obstacle, insurmountable, for having normal relations between the two countries," the communist-ruled island's parliamentary president Ricardo Alarcon said on state television.
The comments come a week after the US Supreme Court refused to hear the Cubans' case, effectively upholding their conviction by a lower court.
The so-called "Cuban Five" -- Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez -- were arrested in 1998 and convicted three years later.
Three of them were sentenced to life in prison and the other two were given sentences of between 15 and 19 years. Cuba regards them as political prisoners and has lobbied intensively for their release.
Alarcon said their continued imprisonment indicated that "the United States continues to be an official supporter of terrorism against Cuba."
The comments run against the grain of an easing in tensions between the two countries, dating back to the Cold War.
In April Obama authorized travel and money transfers to the island by US nationals of Cuban descent and a month later proposed restarting US-Cuba talks on migration issues suspended since 2003.
But while President Raul Castro has said he would be willing to swap jailed political dissidents for the five imprisoned men, the US government has rejected the idea.
Complicating matters between the long-time foes, an elderly retired State Department employee and his wife were arrested earlier this month on charges of spying for Cuba for nearly 30 years.