Cuban Five greeted as heroes in Venezuela
Updated: 2015-05-05 11:33
Rene Gonzalez, member of the "Cuban Five" offers a speech after receiving the keys to Caracas city, in Caracas city, capital of Venezuela, on May 4, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua]
CARACAS - The "Cuban Five", a group of intelligence agents jailed in the United States for more than 16 years, were greeted on Monday at a massive gathering on the capital's main square as they arrived in Caracas for a six-day visit to pay homage to the late head of state Hugo Chavez.
The five men -- Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labaino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez -- were also awarded the keys to Caracas by the city's mayor Jorge Rodriguez in a ceremony on the Bolivar Sqaure. The trip, made at the invitation of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, is the agents' first as a group since their release.
Prior to their arrival, Maduro said they will receive the "love of the Venezuelan people" and greeted them through various messages in his Twitter account. "Chavez's dream came true, the Cuban Five are today in (Simon) Bolivar's homeland. Welcome brothers!" said the head of state in one his posts.
The group paid tribute to Venezuelan national hero, Simon Bolivar, at the Bolivar Square and were greeted by hundreds of Cuban doctors and staff that participated in the welcome ceremony. During the week, they will also meet President Maduro and visit political and cultural venues.
"We're here today, sons of Bolivar, (Jose) Marti, Fidel (Castro) and Chavez, all together. We are all part of the crops that these great men sowed. Our commitment is to help find the historic common destiny of freedom and independence that awaits our continent," said Gonzalez on behalf of the five.
The five agents were arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in Miami in 1998 and convicted of spying on US soil without permission with harsh penalties ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment. However, they only admitted that they worked for the Cuban government to monitor "exiled Cuban groups."
Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez completed their sentences in 2013 and 2014, while the remaining three were released in December as part of a prisoner swap after Washington and Havana decided to re-establish diplomatic relations.