RANCHO BOYEROS, CUBA (WSVN) — President Obama is just days away from making history in Havana when he arrives there this weekend. Many people have strong opinions about his trip, including a member of The Cuban 5, a convicted Cuban spy who spent time here in South Florida.
At an agricultural fair outside of Havana, Gerardo Hernandez was surrounded by adoring Cubans. He is so well-known, that he travels with body guards. This has been his life since he was released from prison in the United States in December 2014. "He’s a huge pleasure, I’ll say it like that," Hernandez said. "After so many years, now we’re back with our people, with my family so we’re really happy."
Hernandez, along with four others, became known as The Cuban 5. They were convicted in Miami in 2001 on espionage charges. The Cuban government maintained the five posed no threat and were only sent to monitor exiles in South Florida to prevent terrorist attacks in Cuba.
Two were released after serving time, the last three including Hernandez were freed in 2014 as part of a prisoner swap with Cuba for an American Intelligence Officer. The exchange coincided with the Cubans release of American contractor Alan Gross. Both governments maintained that his release was unrelated to the prisoner exchange.
Cuba has turned The 5 into national heroes. Signs with their faces have been placed all over Havana.
Hernandez said he sees a new day for Cuba with President Obama’s visit. "For many years, something like this was impossible because of the U.S. blockade, but right now, the fact that it’s coming from U.S. people is very important," Hernandez said.
The president’s visit is a historic moment Hernandez said he’ll watch on the island, but he would not have witnessed it if not for the prisoner swap.