The U.S.-Cuba Spy Exchange

El espía de origen cubano Rolando Sarraff Trujillo.
Rolando Sarraff Trujillo.

The days following December 17 are now a significant part of the close history shared by Cuba and the United States. Regardless of the support or objections that the recent political decisions may inspire, they provide an important historical rupture, a shift from the rigid linear relation between the two countries since 1961. We must therefore be conscious of one thing: “the earth moved.”

"now, at the apotheosis, it is relevant to shine light on the people directly involved in this dramatic exchange"

It is true that beyond the names and conditions of the prisoners released or exchanged, transcends the relevance of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between both countries, though it is worth saying that it will be a complex process and on which abounds with obstacles for both sides. However, now, at the apotheosis, it is relevant to shine light on the people directly involved in this dramatic exchange.

It is important to highlight that Alan Gross, the Jewish-American contractor kidnapped by Cuba’s authorities five years ago, was not exchanged for spies, as the U.S. government had reiterated on multiple occasions that it would not accept this option. Fortunately, his release was due to “humanitarian reasons.” The release of this Jewish-American, just in time for the the first day of Hanukkah, would have undoubtedly been immoral if the U.S. had surrendered spies in the exchange, as suggested by The New York Times or the Church World Service in line with Havana’s immoral proposal.

I thank God that the path chosen was the option I had suggested in my blog Cubano Confesante on September 11, reiterated on November 29, and published again in my December 1 st op-ed piece in 14ymedio titled “ Alan Gross, ‘The New York Times’ and the spies .

"It is unquestionable that understanding the option of an exchange of spies for spies, is more digestible although it still has detractors"

In fact, people accused of spying for the U.S. had been imprisoned in Cuba for decades: Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, sentenced to 25 years in 1995; Claro Fernando Alonso, sentenced to 30 years in 1996; Ernesto Borges Pérez, sentenced to death and commuted to 30 years in 1998; and in more recent years were added members of working group of Ricardo Alarcon, former president of the National Assembly of People’s Power: Miguel Álvarez condemned 30 years, and Mercedes Arce to 14 years. Similarly, Eusebio Conrado Hernández García, a person close to the ousted Carlos Lage and Felipe Pérez Roque, was sentenced to 20 years. It is unquestionable that understanding the option of an exchange of spies for spies, is more digestible although it still has detractors.

I understand the pain, right now, of the families and friends of the “Brothers to the Rescue” martyrs. Armando Alejandre, Jr, Carlos Costa, Mario De la Peña and Pablo Morales were murdered on 24 February 1996 over international waters when their planes were shot down by the Cuban military, thanks to the chief of the spy network, Gerardo Hernández. Hernandez, who was serving two life sentences in a U.S. prison, and who was among the three final exchanges from Obama. Exchanging Alan Gross for this kind of spy would have surely been inadmissible. At least is it comforting to know that it wasn’t for him, but for one of the names I suggested: Rolando Sarraf Trujillo, a true hero thanks to whom the entire Wasp Spy Network was detected and tried. 

In fact, although according to various news media led by Newsweek, as of now not even his family has been informed of Sarraf Trujillo’s whereabouts, he is the spy who was exchanged for the three Cuban Intelligence agents who were still prisoners in the United States. His name was one of the six that appeared in my articles. We hope that the other five whom I referred to, including Ernesto Borges Pérez, with whom I tried to undertake a jail chaplaincy, will also be released now. And by extension, all of the remaining Cuban political prisoners, more than eighty.

Cuban civil society, both on the island and in the diaspora, should not cease its demands for freedom and democracy, and it will surely find among its key allies the future U.S. Embassy in Havana, just as it has to date found the U.S. Interest Section sited in the Swiss Embassy, and many other embassies of the democratic world.

We will not cease until the day that free and fair elections are called, with the participation of all political parties and prior access to a free and open press, submitted to the scrutiny of the people, and when those who have shown themselves to be inefficient and ineffective for more than five decades and who have acted as vulgar delinquents and kidnappers, are forever barred from power.


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