Cubans urged to display yellow ribbons for jailed spies

A Cuban intelligence agent has called on his countrymen to adopt a US custom by wearing yellow ribbons for four fellow spies still in US prison after 15 years.

Rene Gonzalez, who served 13 years in prison in the United States on espionage charges alongside the four, urged Cubans in a televised speech late Tuesday to display the ribbons on September 12 to mark their 15th year in prison.

"On that day, may yellow ribbons appear on the trees, on balconies, on people, wherever it occurs to you, on pets -- you decide -- so that the country is filled with yellow ribbons and can't be ignored," he said.

He said the yellow ribbon is "a symbol for the North American who waits for someone to return from a foreign mission, who waits for a soldier, a loved one.

"And that's the message we want you to convey to the North American people," he said.

Cuba has waged a long campaign to win the release of the so-called "Cuban Five," who were arrested in 1998 on charges of spying on US military installations in south Florida.

The Cuban government later acknowledged they were intelligence agents, but said they were in the United States to spy on Cuban exiles, not the US government.

Cuba's National Assembly has declared the five "Heroes of the Republic."

Gonzalez, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison, was released on probation in 2011 and allowed to return to Cuba for his father's funeral. A US judge then ruled he could stay after renouncing his US citizenship.

Three of the remaining four -- Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino -- are serving life sentences. Fernando Gonzalez was sentenced to 19 years.

cb/jm/sg