'Wasp Network': Recounting the true story of the Cuban Five — the spies who infiltrated America in the 1990s

The countdown for 'Wasp Network' has already begun. The spy story is a riveting tale of five intelligence officials who infiltrated the US


                            'Wasp Network': Recounting the true story of the Cuban Five — the spies who infiltrated America in the 1990s
(Netflix)

The countdown for 'Wasp Network' has already begun.  After premiering at the Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2019, the Penelope Cruz-starrer, written and directed by Olivier Assayas, is all set to hit Netflix this Friday, June 19. Based on Fernando Morais' book, 'The Last Soldiers on the Cold War',  the film follows the lives of Cuban spies in American territory in the '90s. The spy story might not be a 'GoldenEye' but it is a riveting tale of five intelligence officials who infiltrated the US.

The officers, better known as the "Cuban Five" — comprised officers Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, René González and Fernando González. According to reports, the five were sent into South Florida by the Castro government with a mission to collect intel about exile groups. Referred to as the Wasp Network or the La Red Avispa, they would penetrate Anti-Castro groups and send information back to Cuba.

According to an AP report, their description of transferring the messages was best described as "encrypted software, high-frequency radio transmissions, and coded electronic phone messages." A Washington Post report stated that Cuban intelligence was operating in the country for years and their movements were tracked by various government organizations. 

The US took action soon after the incident where Cuban fighters took down two planes in 1996 carrying US citizens. The five officers were arrested in Miami in September 1998. They were convicted on espionage charges and conspiracy to commit murder. René González was released in 2011,  Fernando González was released early 2014 and was deported immediately. The other three were released in December 2014 in the form of a prisoner swap with American intelligence officer Rolando Sarraff Trujillo.



 

The exchange of the trio also corresponded with Cuba's release of American contractor Alan Gross. However, the governments trod carefully and characterized his release as unrelated to the prisoner exchange. The Washington Post report also added that the network played a key role in thwarting the plot to set off bombs in Havana's Tropicana nightclub in 1994. According to the Castro government, these men were arrested only after a meeting between the FBI and Cuban intelligence in 1998. 

While the plot of 'Wasp Network' is largely based on the story, it is interesting to see how the film will be received by the global audience. According to Variety, the film drops on Netflix across the world except for China, Eastern Europe, Greece, Portugal, the Middle East and France. Rating sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic rate the film 41% and 53% respectively. 

The summary, according to Metacritic, reads: "René González (Edgar Ramírez) is a Cuban pilot who leaves his wife (Penelope Cruz) and young daughter behind in the communist island nation to defect to the United States and begin a new life of freedom in the early 1990s. But René is not the upstart American striver he appears to be."

"Joining forces with a group of Cuban exiles in South Florida known as the Wasp Network — led by undercover operative Manuel Viramontez aka. Gerardo Hernandez (Gaël García Bernal) — he becomes part of a pro-Castro spy ring tasked with observing and infiltrating Cuban-American terror groups intent upon attacking the socialist republic." 'Wasp Network' stars Edgar Ramirez, Penélope Cruz, Gael García Bernal, Ana de Armas and Gael García Bernal in lead roles. It premieres on June 19 on Netflix.

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