Commentary: Castro's prisons hold some real heroes

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Raul Castro calls his offer to swap political dissidents held in Cuban prisons for Cuban spies held in this country a "gesture for a gesture." Sounds fair – but it isn't. Actually, it's more like a ransom demand, and one that should be seen by the next U.S. administration – to whom the offer was addressed – as a brazen, contemptible attempt by Cuban leaders to profit from their decades-long practice of suppressing political rights on the island.

A fair exchange consists of swapping soldiers for soldiers, POWs for POWs, spies for spies (a frequent occurrence in the Cold War between U.S. and Soviet espionage agencies). In this instance, Castro is proposing to exchange individuals whose only crime involves a demand for basic civil liberties for espionage agents – he calls them "heroes" – whose job was to spy on the United States.

Castro's victims were tried in kangaroo courts and sentenced by the system's own apparatchik judges. The five Cuban spies of the so-called "avispa" network arrested here in 1998, in contrast, were tried in the federal courts and given all the rights of the U.S. judicial system, including a lengthy appeals process.

One group has nothing to do with the other. By offering to make such an exchange, Castro is suggesting a moral and legal equivalency which does not and never has existed between the two.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.