Let Rene Go

News from Cuba | Sunday, 11 September 2011

In the justice system of the US, probation is a means to ensure, through supervision and monitoring, and for the safety of the community, that a person will not commit again the crimes of which he or she has been convicted. It is not a way to extend punishment to someone who has served a full sentence.

In the case of someone accused of spying for another country, such as Rene Gonzalez, the best way to meet the goals of probation would be to have him leave the country. Rene cannot be deported, because he has US citizenship, but he does not need to be expelled; he wants to go to Cuba. He won't be back to try again what he was accused of doing earlier, or anything else.

Federal prosecutors don't see it that way. They want Rene to stay another three years in the US, on probation, before he leaves the country, with the implication that he must show his disposition to be a good citizen of the US as a condition for leaving the US. According to the AP:

Prosecutors say there is no legal justification for Gonzalez to return before the three years' probation is completed. In court papers, they contend that Gonzalez was unrepentant regarding the actions that landed him in prison and a return to Cuba would put him beyond any U.S. supervision.

Rene was in the US to keep track of terrorist activities aimed at Cuba from the Miami area. Probably, he is indeed unrepentant about carrying out that assignment. After all, Luis Posada Carriles and similar terrorists are still at large in that area and protected by the US government, which has shown no remorse for its actions.

The best assurance for the US regarding Rene is for Rene to leave the US and not return.

The trial of The Five took place in the one city of the US certain to create a hostile atmosphere for the defendants. In fact, a three-judge appeals panel agreed with that view, before being countermanded by a full court of appeals. As of yet, we do not know whether the prosecutors specify serving probation in Miami, as opposed to somewhere in, for example, California, Texas, or New Mexico. For Rene, returning to the hostile environment of Miami would guarantee three years of anything from vitriolic assaults on the street to assassination attempts. A forced probation in Miami would be the same as a sentence to three years in a larger, and more dangerous, jail.

Like the other Four, Rene has been a model prisoner, observant of the rules and well behaved. He has spent 13 years in jail, and would like to rejoin his family. It does not seem extreme to consider the prosecution's position as vindictive.

Federal prosecutors are not independent actors. They respond to the Justice Department, and ultimately to the President. The case of The Five has gained international repercussion, and even the UN has raised questions about it. The call is clearly for the White House to make. Letting Rene go would be one small but significant step toward renewing the effort to improve US-Cuba relations and toward negotiating other issues pending between the two countries. Forcing Rene to stay would have the opposite effect, for at least three years.

It's up to the President to decide.

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