The Cuban government quietly commuted the sentence of Alina López Miyares, a Cuban-American teacher from Miami who was convicted of espionage on the island in 2017, an unusual gesture that could signal Havana’s willingness to remove a diplomatic hurdle to improve relations. with the United States.
Citing her good conduct, chronic hypertension and “elementary principles of humanism,” a military court released her on parole last month. However, she cannot leave the country until 2030, when her original 13-year sentence expires, according to a copy of the July 8 court decision obtained by the Herald.
Jason Poblete, one of his attorneys and president of the Global Liberty Alliance, said there had been “remarkable progress” in the case and that his family hoped that ópez Miyares would be able to return home to the United States soon.
Her 93-year-old mother, Alina Miyares, who used to travel to the island to bring food and medicine to her imprisoned daughter, recently had to move to a special nursing home.
López Miyares, 64, was arrested when she arrived in Havana in January 2017. She and her Cuban husband, Félix Martín Milanés Fajardo, 65, an Interior Ministry reserve lieutenant colonel, were accused of passing secrets from Cuba to the FBI and the CIA, allegedly in exchange for help getting Milanés Fajardo out of the country, according to official case documents reviewed by the Herald.
In particular, Milanés Fajardo was accused of passing on the names, telephone numbers and pseudonyms of Cuban intelligence agents, and his wife of being an intermediary with US intelligence agents.
But it is not clear from court documents whether Cuban prosecutors had any evidence of these activities when they arrested López Miyares, who was originally detained for organizing an “illegal outing” for her husband.
Almost the only evidence mentioned in the legal documents are three notebooks with phone numbers supposedly of US officials in contact with López Miyares; bank details that Cuban prosecutors say could be linked to money paid to the couple for their services; and phone numbers and other data allegedly of active and retired Cuban intelligence agents.
But those notebooks were recovered and brought to Cuba by López Miyares’s mother after her daughter’s arrest, as a show of cooperation with Cuban authorities.
The documents also mentioned that Milanés Fajardo allegedly informed MININT that his wife had been approached by US intelligence officials. His defense attorney said the retired lieutenant colonel shared data that did not carry state security risks with the intention of “disinforming” US officials.
In a letter that the Cuban government sent in February to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the island’s authorities maintained that the allegations that López Miyares was arbitrarily detained “were false” and that due process was followed. in your case.
The couple was found guilty of espionage and sentenced in a summary trial behind closed doors in a military court in October 2017. She was sentenced to 13 years in prison and Milanés Fajardo
Throughout the five years he has been in prison in Cuba, López Miyares has maintained his innocence. After her trial, her mother and her brother told el Nuevo Herald that they believed her husband had manipulated her.
According to the original sentencing document, the two had an affair in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Milanés Fajardo, an official with the MININT General Directorate of Intelligence, worked under diplomatic cover at the Cuban mission to the United Nations in New York.
Several years later, they resumed their relationship and married in 2007 without the knowledge of López-Miyares’s family. She traveled to the island frequently to meet him. In 2015, she obtained permanent residence in Cuba through a process called repatriation.
Court documents describe Milanés Fajardo as an alcoholic who was financially dependent on his American wife.
For several months, the family of Miyares López did not know what they were accusing her of in Cuba. Because she has dual nationality—she was born on the island—Cuban authorities denied her access to US consular services.
In April of last year, Miyares López’s lawyers petitioned the Cuban Supreme Court to release her on parole. They also asked for a pardon from Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel and the Council of State.
His release was first reported by the independent Spanish-based media outlet Cibercuba.
Negotiations in progress?
Given the history of the relationship, negotiations to free Americans imprisoned in Cuba are often complicated, with decisions made at the highest level of government.
In December 2014, Alan Gross, a USAID contractor accused by Cuba of committing crimes against state security, was freed in a prisoner swap for three Cuban spies. A Cuban intelligence agent who worked for the United States, Rolando Sarraf Trujillo, was also released in Cuba. At the time, the Obama administration declined to refer to a prisoner exchange and spoke of “parallel humanitarian gestures.”
The State Department did not say whether Miyares López’s parole is the result of negotiations between the two countries. He also did not say whether the US government considers her detention unjust (she has been included in a list of 67 Americans currently being held hostage or unjustly detained in foreign countries compiled by the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation).
“One of the highest priorities of the State Department and US embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to US citizens who are imprisoned or detained abroad,” a State Department spokeswoman said. “We take this role seriously and are monitoring the situation.”
The Cuban authorities have not hidden their disappointment with the Biden administration, which they believed was going to follow Obama’s policies of rapprochement. The harsh response of the Cuban government to the protests of July 11 last year further cooled the relationship. Still, an immigration crisis forced the administration in April of this year to engage in the first high-level talks since Biden took office.
Since then, tensions have eased somewhat, with Cuba’s leader Miguel Diaz-Canel publicly thanking the United States for offering technical assistance in fighting a deadly fire at an oil storage facility in Matanzas earlier this month.
But the jailed July 11 protesters and the López Miyares case stand in the way of better relations, a message that officials from the State Department, the Catholic Church and members of the Cuban-American community have conveyed to Cuban authorities.
Efforts to free López Miyares also dovetail with the Biden administration’s promises to bring home Americans wrongfully detained in other countries.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week that the United States had offered Russia a deal for the release of basketball star Brittney Griner, arrested for drug possession, and Paul Whelan, a US executive accused of espionage by Moscow. Earlier this year, US officials arranged a prisoner swap with Russia for the release of former Marine Trevor Reed. And Venezuela’s strongman, Nicolas Maduro, released two detained Americans after a White House delegation traveled to the country to explore the possibility of lifting some sanctions.
This story was originally published on August 31, 2022 5:17 p.m.