US should explore Cuba’s prisoner swap offer: Lula

December 20th, 2008 - 5:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Brasilia, Dec 20 (IANS) Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has called on Washington to consider Havana’s offer to trade jailed dissidents for the five Cuban intelligence agents serving prison terms in the US, EFE news agency reported Saturday.”I am confident that US President-elect Barack Obama understands the significance of the offer made by (Cuban President) Raul Castro,” Lula told reporters here Friday.

Castro’s surprise proposal of a prisoners swap with the US was a “positive step towards the initiation of a dialogue between Washington and Havana”, Lula said reacting to the offer Castro made during a press conference here Thursday.

“If they (US) want the dissidents, we’ll send them tomorrow, with their families and all, but let them return our five heroes to us,” Castro said, referring to Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon LabaƱino and Fernando Gonzalez, who were arrested 10 years ago.

Havana sent the five agents to South Florida to spy on the Cuban exile community. The espionage operation followed several terrorist bombings on the communist island that were allegedly masterminded by Miami-based anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles.

Thursday’s offer by Castro was immediately rejected by Washington, with a State Department spokesperson saying that Cuba should immediately release its estimated 210 political prisoners without conditions.

Representatives of Cuba’s internal opposition also rejected the possible exchange suggested by Castro.

But the Brazilian president said such a swap could end hostilities between the two countries and could also see an end to the 46-year-old US economic embargo on the island nation.

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