25 years ago this month, the FBI broke up the largest Cuban communist espionage and terrorism network ever discovered on American soil. The members of the WASP network not only conducted espionage on U.S. military installations and tried to smuggle in arms and explosives, but also planned acts of terrorism and were involved in the murder of four Americans.
25 years ago the FBI broke up the WASP network, the largest Cuban terror spy ring ever discovered in the U.S.
On Saturday, September 12, 1998, the FBI dismantled the largest Cuban spy ring ever discovered in the United States. Ten people were charged with being Cuban spies. The regime in Cuba is attempting to airbrush this past. This CubaBrief seeks to correct the record.
The ten members of the WASP network captured are: GERARDO HERNANDEZ, 31 (alias Manuel Viramontes), the spymaster; FERNANDO GONZALEZ, 33 (alias Ruben Campa), and RAMON LABANINO, 30 (alias Luis Medina), another Cuban intelligence officer. The remaining seven were mid-level or junior agents who passed their reports to one of these three senior agents. Included were ANTONIO GUERRERO, 39, who observed aircraft landings at the Boca Chica Naval Air Station from his job as a sheet-metal worker there; ALEJANDRO ALONSO, 39, a boat pilot; and RENE GONZALEZ, 42, a skilled aircraft pilot and the only Cuban national among these seven. Both joined the Democracy Movement to report on its nonviolent activities against the Castro regime. Two married couples, all American citizens, also worked in the spy network: NILO and LINDA HERNANDEZ, ages 44 and 41 respectively, and JOSEPH and AMARYLIS SANTOS, both 39.
JUAN PABLO ROQUE, an eleventh spy also charged and linked to the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, had already fled to Cuba, a day before Cuban MiGs launched missiles destroying two planes, and killing four. Three others identified as John Does were also charged.
Five defendants, Alejandro Alonzo, Nilo Hernandez and Linda Hernandez, Joseph Santos and Amarylis Santos, accepted plea bargains and cooperated with prosecutors. These five Cuban spies provided information about the other five.
The other five spies eventually went on trial. The trial revealed that the Cuban spy ring was engaged in both espionage and terrorism.
The Wasp Network engaged in espionage: infiltrated two non-violent exile groups, provided information that led to the extrajudicial killings of Armando Alejandre, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales on February 24, 1996, targeted U.S. military facilities, planned to smuggle arms and explosives into the United States, and carried out other active measures to sow division, shape public opinion, and meddle in U.S. elections.
The Cuban spy network gathered personal information on American military personnel, “compiling the names, home addresses, and medical files of the top officers of the United States Southern Command as well as hundreds of officers stationed at Boca Chica Naval Station in Key West.”
The spies had received orders from Havana to burn down an airport hangar, sabotage planes, first terrorize with warnings that he was “nearing execution,” and then send a mail bomb to murder a CIA operative identified as Jesus Cruza Flor who lived in Bal Harbour.
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