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HAVANA – The wife of a Cuban intelligence agent imprisoned in the United States for 10 years has written an unusual public complaint that her husband wasn't chosen as a member of the country's parliament.
The open letter posted on Facebook by Olga Salanueva, the wife of Rene Gonzalez, is a rare example of open dissatisfaction with Cuban political decisions expressed from within the ranks of the socialist system's most loyal defenders.
Gonzalez and four other intelligence agents are considered national heroes for their operations against Cuban exile groups in the U.S. and their 1998 arrests and long prison terms. They are treated as celebrities on the streets of Havana, besieged by well-wishers who shake their hands and ask them to pose for photos.
Two of the ex-agents — Fernando Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez — were listed this week as candidates for the upcoming assembly while Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero were not.
"Three of the five were left out," Salanueva wrote. "This represents, in my opinion, a great injustice against the five heroes of the Republic of Cuba."
"I see no reason for which they can't be deputies," she continued. "They deserve it, they're tried and true, and Cuba also needs them."
Hernandez, Labanino and Guerrero were released as part of the U.S.-Cuban deal that led to the 2015 reestablishment of diplomatic relations. The men work in government-affiliated institutions and made a series of trips abroad after their release but have maintained relatively low official profiles in recent months. Salanueva was publicly lauded in Cuba for her years of work campaigning for the men's release.
The 605 candidates for the National Assembly are selected in a complex process largely controlled by commissions made up of members of government-affiliated groups like neighborhood watch committees, the national small farmers' association and university and women's groups. The candidates then go to a popular 'yes' or 'no' vote.
The official candidates unfailingly pass that vote and are seated in the assembly. The assembly has been the scene of occasionally vociferous debate about the direction of the country, but almost always votes unanimously and its critics charge that it serves as a rubber stamp for proposals handed down by President Raul Castro and his inner circle.
The assembly seated this year will vote in April for Castro's replacement as president, widely expected to be First Vice President Miguel Diaz Canel.
Salanueva confirmed the authenticity of her letter but declined further comment.