SHAFAQNA –A bizarre “sperm for favours” deal between the US and Cuba emerged yesterday, as it was revealed that the US State Department helped one of Fidel Castro’s top spies to get his wife pregnant by flying his semen to Havana while he was serving two life sentences in a California jail.
The extraordinary story behind the pregnancy of Adriana Pérez, whose husband Gerardo Hernández was freed last week after 16 years, has deepened the controversy over President Obama’s decision to normalise ties with Cuba without securing human rights guarantees for the island’s people.
“At the same time that the Cuban government was beating up dissidents at home, this man who conspired to commit murder in the US on behalf of the Castro regime was receiving special favours such as this?” asked Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the Miami-based Cuban exile group, Movimiento Democracia (Democracy Movement).
“Just how deep did the US go into making concessions to murder conspirators and dictators? What else don’t we know about? It seems that principles have been absent from all of this.”
In return for facilitating the sperm transfer, a deal secured during the 18 months of secret negotiations that led to last week’s announcement of an end to the 54-year “Caribbean Cold War”, Havana agreed to improve conditions for Alan Gross, an American aid contractor imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.
Mr Gross, arrested for “crimes against the state” by trying to deliver phones and computers to the Jewish community in Havana, in contravention of a Cuban ban, was released last week and returned to the US. A number of US spies were also handed over.
Hernández was head of the Wasp Network, a group of undercover agents sent to Miami, Florida, in the 1990s by Fidel Castro, who was Cuban president at the time, to infiltrate Cuban American organisations including Democracy Movement and Brothers to the Rescue, a group of volunteer pilots who assisted Cubans fleeing the island on rafts. Fidel’s brother Raúl, now 83, took over the country’s presidency in 2006.
Intelligence supplied to Havana by Hernández led to the shooting down by the Cuban Air Force of two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft over the Florida Straits in 1996, killing all four volunteers on board. Hernández and four others, known as the Cuban Five, were convicted of espionage and, in his case, conspiracy to murder.
But eyebrows were raised when Hernández’s wife — who was also an agent and banned from visiting her husband in the US — greeted him at Havana airport last Wednesday heavily pregnant. “I had to do it by ‘remote control’,” Hernández joked to Cuban state-run television at the weekend, adding: “It had to be kept quiet.”
The Justice Department confirmed yesterday that it and other US agencies facilitated the sperm handover.
Among concessions US Republicans now want to see in return are the handover by Cuba of Joanne Chesimard — also known as Assata Shakur — an American member of the militant Black Liberation Army who was convicted of killing a New Jersey police officer in 1973 and fled to Cuba after escaping jail in 1979.
In a letter to Mr Obama, Chris Christie, New Jersey’s Republican governor, urged that the US should now seek the transfer of Chesimard, who is on the FBI’s “most wanted” terrorist list.
“If, as you assert, Cuba is serious about embracing democratic principles then this action would be an essential first step,” Mr Christie wrote.
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