Three members of the so-called Cuban Five, who have been imprisoned for 15 years on spying charges, have been released from prison in the United States.
Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino were released from a Florida jail Wednesday and flown back to their native Cuba. The two other members of the five, Fernando González and René González, were released in 2012.
Accused of espionage, the members of the Cuban Five maintained that they never spied on the United States government. They were were convicted of conspiracy and murder charges in 1998.
Their imprisonment prompted criticism of the United States’ government from international non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International.
The release of the three follows Cuba’s release of an American national who had been jailed for five years, as well as an “important intelligence asset” who had been in jail for 20 years, reports the Associated Press.
“The Cuban Five were part of a worldwide movement,” said Ottawa-Cuba Connections member Louis Lang. “The whole thing is very exciting.”
Since the early 2000’s protesters across Canada supporters have staged monthly protests for the release of the Cuban Five, who were imprisoned in 1998.
Vancouver held 109 consecutive protests while Ottawa held 13 in front of the Cuban embassy.
The release of three members of Cuban Five signals a new direction for international relations between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro. The two leaders made simultaneous statements today regarding a renewed diplomatic relationship between the two countries, which will most likely involve the implementation of embassies and ambassadors, Lang said.
The U.S. administration has also increased the allowable remittance fees that Cuban workers in the United States send back to their families in Cuba.
Most significant of all, Lang said, U.S. financial institutions will open their doors in Cuba, integrating the country into the global market.
Removing the 50-year trade embargo on Cuba will require the approval of Congress.
Francella Fiallos is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa. She sits on the Board of Directors for OPIRG-Carleton, edits a campus newspaper and hosts a radio show on CKCU 93.1 FM in the capital region.