The Cuban government appointed Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, the only individual arrested in relation to the murder of four American citizens by the Castro regime in 1996, to the State Council, a national regime entity, on Thursday.
The move represents a promotion for the spy, who until this week led the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), Cuba’s specialized neighborhood espionage network.
Hernández was a member of the “Cuban Five,” a spy collective sent to infiltrate pro-democracy groups in Miami. He was serving two life sentences and 15 years in prison for conspiracy to murder when then-President Barack Obama freed him in 2014, allowing them to return to Cuba to a hero’s welcome.
In addition to liberating Hernández despite his role in the murder of four Americans, the Obama administration helped Cuban agents smuggle Hernández’s sperm out of the American jail where he was serving his sentence to use in artificially inseminating his wife in Cuba. It remains unclear to this day if American taxpayers’ dollars were spent in the endeavor.
Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, the rubber-stamp communist legislature, voted in favor of promoting Hernández to the State Council on Thursday. The National Assembly meets only twice a year; the State Council operates as the legislature for routine ordinances and legal issues at other times and has the power to call the National Assembly into session. This means Hernández now officially has the power to draft laws.
Hernández, according the Communist Party propaganda outlet CubaDebate, worked in Angola in the 1980s, when Fidel Castro sent Cuban soldiers to fight and die alongside communists in the African nation. He later accepted a mission to intercept and harm pro-democracy American groups in Miami, where an American court found him guilty of helping the Castro regime kill four American citizens.
As part of the “Cuban Five,” Hernández helped collect intelligence on Brothers to the Rescue, a non-profit run by Cuban-Americans. In the 1990s, Fidel Castro implemented a policy allowing Cubans to leave the country only on their own water vessels towards the United States, resulting in what was later known as the balsero (“rafter”) phenomenon. Cubans built makeshift rafts and attempted to cross the Florida strait, often drowning. Brothers to the Rescue ran flights into international waters seeking stranded rafters to then alter the U.S. Coast Guard and have their rescued.
On February 24, 1996, during one of their routine rescue flights, the Cuban military shot down planes carrying four members of Brothers to the Rescue: Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales, all U.S. citizens. Then-President Bill Clinton did not take any action in response to the serial killing. No evidence surfaced of the planes entering Cuban airspace or otherwise jeopardizing Cuba’s national security in any way.
Hernández was convicted of sharing intelligence that allowed the Cuban regime to know where the Brothers to the Rescue planes were going to be, to be used in killing the Americans. He had served 16 years in prison when Obama freed him in 2014.
“The only person that we had responsible for what happened, to be let go, it’s a slap in the face to my dad,” Marelene Alejandre Triana, Armando Alejandre’s daughter, said at the time of his release.
Shortly after news broke of the deal to free the convicted accessory to murder — part of an agreement to “thaw” relations between America and the Castro regime, at no expense to Havana — Hernández received a hero’s welcome in Havana, reuniting with his wife, who was noticeably pregnant despite not seeing her husband for 16 years. Multiple reports later confirmed that she became pregnant through artificial insemination and that Hernández was the father.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reportedly convinced Obama to help him smuggle sperm samples out of the prison Hernández was serving his sentence in, to be sent to Cuba. Few details of the process, largely believed to be unprecedented, for such an exchange surfaced, though some reports suggested becoming pregnant took two tries for the couple.
Cuban state media has repeatedly featured Hernández in the past six years as a trophy for the victory against America in the Obama era and as a loyal servant of the Communist Party. As the head of the nation’s CDRs, Hernández commands an intricate local networks of chivatos, or “tattles,” tasked with listening in on every possible conversation in their neighborhood block and keeping notes on which individuals are most likely to engage in “counter-revolutionary” behavior. The Party often refers to the CDRs as “the eyes and ears of the Revolution.”
In an interview last year with the Communist Party newspaper Granma, Hernández stated definitively that he would accept the job that led to the murder of the four Brothers to the Rescue volunteers again because he is “a soldier of the Revolution.”
“Sometimes more formally, sometimes informally, they asked me what I wanted to do,” he said of his Party superior, “and I always said, ‘I have no preference but to serve the Revolution. I am a soldier of the Revolution and I will go wherever I am told to go.'”
In the same interview, Hernández referred to his daughter “Gema,” the product of Obama’s diplomacy, as a “symbol of victory” for communism.
“[Gema] was the first and she is in a certain way the symbol, don’t you think? No matter how hard we try to see her for what she is, [a] regular girl from a Cuban couple, many people, and rightly so, also see her as a symbol,” he claimed, “the symbol of victory in the cause of the Five.”
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