Tags: Castro-Cuba | cuban five | alan gross | prisoner swap | Brothers to Rescue

Murdered Pilots' Families: Prisoner Swap a 'Slap in the Face'

By    |   Thursday, 18 December 2014 08:29 AM

The Cuban swap for the release of Alan Gross set free three Cuban spies who were convicted in a plot that led to the fatal shooting down of American pilots in 1996. Now the families of the pilots are outraged by the exchange, insisting it is a violation of justice.

The three were part of the "Cuban Five," a spy ring that infiltrated exile groups and military installations in South Florida, and were ultimately convicted in 2001 and sentenced to long prison terms.

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One of the agents, Gerardo Hernandez, had been serving two life sentences on a conspiracy for the murder of the pilots, who had been flying missions for Brothers to the Rescue, an anti-Castro exile organization that aimed to help migrants at sea and also dropped propaganda leaflets, NBC News reported.

"For the only person that we had responsible for what happened to be let go — it's a slap in the face to my dad," Marlene Alejandre-Triana, daughter of Armando Alejandre, a Vietnam veteran and one of the four pilots killed by the Cuban air force in 1996 off Cuba's northern coast, told NBC News.

Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero were also released on Wednesday. The other two members of the group were previously released after serving their terms.

The pilots' families said they weren't given notice of the release, according to NBC News.

"We simply cannot understand how this could have happened, especially in the case of Gerardo Hernandez. This was the only modicum of justice we had," Maggie Alejandre-Khuly, sister of one of the pilots, told NBC News.

Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she believes the president may have broken federal law in arranging the swap.

"This is outrageous. The Cuban regime ordered the murder — the assassination of these three American citizens, one resident — and what has been the value of these valiant heroes lives and deaths? An exchange," she said, according to NBC News.

In Cuba, the spies had long been hailed as the Five Heroes, with photographs displayed on billboards across the country, The New York Times reported.

Cuban officials spent years trying to secure their return while using their case as propaganda against the U.S. government.

"I just spoke to them on the phone, and you cannot imagine the emotion," Dimitri Dimis, a member of an international committee dedicated to securing the release of the spies, told the Times.

"It's amazing! We were just at the White House protesting in June. We had another one planned for 2015, and we will happily no longer have to plan any more protests."

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The deal for Alan Gross that set free three Cuban spies — all convicted in a plot that led to the fatal shooting down of American pilots in 1996 — is an injustice and "a slap in the face" say outraged families of the pilots.
cuban five, alan gross, prisoner swap, Brothers to Rescue
Thursday, 18 December 2014 08:29 AM
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