Fact Sheet on Released Cuban Spy

Saturday, October 8, 2011
With all of the media coverage on yesterday's release of convicted Cuban spy Rene Gonzalez -- pursuant to his completion of a 13-year prison term -- here's a useful fact sheet that helps keep all of the news stories and spin in perspective:

Convicted Spy René González Sehwerert

by Chris Simmons

A founding member of the Wasp Network (La Red Avispa), the largest Cuban spy ring ever discovered in the United States. Staffed with 25 publicly-identified spies, a like number are believed to have eluded detection or capture.

González was jailed for 13 years on espionage-related charges. A dual U.S.-Cuban citizen, he must serve three years’ probation in the United State after his October 7, 2011 release.

A former Cuban Air Force pilot, he arrived in the U.S. in 1990 by flying a crop-duster from Cuba to Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West. Using his fake defection as an elaborate cover, he quickly penetrated South Florida’s large Cuban-American community.

González infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue, the world’s most successful search and rescue organization -- credited with saving the lives of over 4200 Cuban rafters from death at sea.

He also infiltrated the Democracy Movement (a Miami-based Cuban advocacy group) and reported on its anti-Castro flotillas. He later became an assistant director of its air unit.

González performed “active measures” against Cuban-American organizations and individuals, using Havana-provided “scripts” to harass, provoke, and foment division within Cuban-American organizations.

In the mid-1990s, he was ordered to threaten the life of a Federal Agent with a fake book bomb.

On February 1996, González intensified his reporting on forthcoming Brothers to the Rescue flights. His information played a central role in Cuba’s February 24 shoot down of two U.S.-registered, unarmed Brothers aircraft and the death of the four crew members.

After fellow spy Juan Pablo Roque returned to Cuba in February 1996, González frequently visited Roque’s unwitting American wife. Perceived as a close family friend, González provided much-needed emotional support as a means to elicit information from her about her FBI interrogations. He then secretly passed all the information he obtained to Havana.

In early 1996 (following the shoot down), the FBI recruited González to work as a Bureau informant. The FBI then tasked him to spy on Brothers and the Democracy Movement.

González’s wife, Olga Salanueva, joined him in the United States in December 1996. An intelligence officer like her husband, she supported his targeting of anti-Castro groups and the FBI.

The author is an internationally known authority on Cuban intelligence services.