By Jeff Franks, Reuters
HAVANA — A Cuban agent on parole in the United States after 13 years behind bars for his activities in an espionage ring has returned temporarily to the communist island to visit his critically ill brother, state television reported on Friday. Rene Gonzalez, one of what Cuba calls the “Five Heroes,” returned on Friday “on a private family visit,” it said. U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard granted Gonzalez his request for the visit on March 19 with the proviso that he had to obtain permission from the U.S. government and return within 15 days. Gonzalez’s brother is said to be dying of lung cancer. Similarly, jailed American contractor Alan Gross has requested that Cuban President Raul Castro allow him a temporary return to the United States to visit his 89-year-old mother, who has inoperable lung cancer. Gonzalez, 55, is one of the so-called Cuban Five convicted of conspiring to spy on Cuban exile groups and U.S. military activities in Florida. Their organization was known as the “Wasp Network.” One of them is serving a double life sentence for his part in the shooting down of two U.S. planes in 1996 flown by an exile group that dropped anti-government leaflets over Havana. In the United States, the case is little known outside the Cuban exile community, but is a major issue in Cuba where the government repeatedly says they were wrongly convicted and demands their release.