Tuesday, 23 December 2014


It might be the most bizarre
of the closely guarded secrets from last week's
historic agreement between the United States and
Cuba: How did the leader of a Cuban spy ring
serving life in a California federal prison manage to
impregnate his wife 2,245 miles away in Havana?
As part of the most significant diplomatic
breakthrough between the United States and Cuba
in more than 50 years, a prisoner swap was made.
To uphold its part of the bargain, the U.S. released
three Cuban spies, including Gerardo Hernandez,
the head of the spy ring known as the Wasp
Hernandez had an ear-to-ear smile Wednesday as
he arrived at Havana's Jose Marti International
Airport. State TV showed Hernandez as he was
greeted by President Raul Castro and then
embraced and kissed his wife, Adriana Perez.
Cubans watching the nonstop coverage of the
prisoner swap were shocked when the cameras
zeroed in on Hernandez hugging Perez. She was
obviously in the late stages of a pregnancy that had
no easy explanation.
Not only had Hernandez been serving a double life
sentence, but his wife also worked for Cuba's
intelligence services and was banned by U.S.
officials from visiting her husband in prison,
according to the Cuban government.
Rumors swirl in sultry Havana
The subject became the immediate hot topic in
Havana where rumors swirled fast about the baby's
paternity and whether the Cuban government could
have somehow arranged a clandestine conjugal visit
under the nose of U.S. authorities.
The couple appeared at another event on Saturday,
where together with the other freed spies, Castro
and the communist island's top political and military
officials showered them with applause.
A beaming Hernandez stood by Perez, whose round
stomach was clearly visible for viewers of the live
As the couple left the celebration, Hernandez hinted
at the secret surrounding the pregnancy.
"Everyone's asking, and we have had a lot of fun
with the comments and speculations. The reality is
it had to be kept quiet," Hernandez told the
government-run television channel. "We can't give
a lot of details, because we don't want to hurt
people who meant well."
He said his wife's pregnancy was a direct result of
the high-level talks.
"One of the first things accomplished by this
process was this," Hernandez said, gesturing to his
Perez's stomach. "I had to do it by 'remote control,'
but everything turned out well."
Two sources involved with the diplomatic talks,
when questioned by CNN, uncloaked the mystery:
During the negotiations, Hernandez's sperm was
collected and sent to Cuba, where Perez was
artificially inseminated.
The U.S. Justice Department confirmed the story,
without going into the details.
"We can confirm the United States facilitated Mrs.
Hernandez's request to have a baby with her
husband," spokesman Brian Fallon said.
What the U.S. would gain
Why would the U.S. government do this? The
artificial insemination was made possible in
exchange for better conditions for Alan Gross, a
U.S. contractor imprisoned in Cuba. Gross was
released last week as part of the prisoner swap.
"In light of Mr. Hernandez's two life sentences,"
Fallon said, "the request was passed along by
Senator [Patrick] Leahy, who was seeking to
improve the conditions for Mr. Gross while he was
imprisoned in Cuba."
The discretion on both sides makes sense.
For 18 months, officials from both countries refused
to admit that they were even holding high-level
Officials communicated via back channels, knowing
that any leak about the talks could doom the talks.
Impregnating Perez involved cutting through
bureaucratic red tape at multiple U.S. government
As Perez began to show, officials from both
countries fretted over how they would explain her
pregnancy and what to do if the baby arrived before
the talks succeeded.
2001 conviction
Hernandez was convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to
commit murder for his role in the Brothers to the
Rescue shoot down that left four Cuban-Americans
dead after Cuban Air Force MIGs blew up the two
civilian planes as they flew toward Havana to
distribute anti-government leaflets. He received
two life sentences.
Cuban authorities said Hernandez and the other
operatives were trying to prevent terrorist attacks
from being carried out on their homeland by violent
Miami exiles.
That the U.S. government helped a man convicted
of plotting the murder of four Cuban-Americans and
spying on the exile community in Miami will likely
further rankle many of the same Cuban-Americans
who were already furious that Washington is
restoring diplomatic relations with Havana.
But Tim Reiser, an aide to Leahy who worked to
broker the landmark agreement with Cuba, said
helping Hernandez conceive a child led to better
treatment for Gross by Cuban authorities and was
an important concession to help reach a historic
"The expectation was that this man would die in
prison. This was her only chance of having a child,"
Rieser told CNN.
Gerardo Hernandez said he and his wife are
expecting their baby daughter to arrive in two
weeks and they will name her Gema.
Source: Havana, Cuba (CNN).


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