Sunday, December 3

Mom of teacher formerly jailed in Cuba asks for her return to US

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — A former Miami teacher who was jailed in Cuba on espionage charges for five years has not been allowed to return to the United States even though she was released in July.

Cuba’s government gave her conditional freedom, meaning Alina López Miyares, who is Cuban American, cannot leave the island for now, according to her US attorney, Jason Poblete.

Her mother, also named Alina Miyares, who turns 95 in November, is receiving hospice care at her Miami Beach apartment after spending years advocating for her daughter’s release.

Until the pandemic began, she would make monthly trips to Cuba to visit her daughter in prison, carrying food and medicine. She was at the helm of her daughter’s case, speaking often with her attorney de ella, as well as with the media.

Gene López kisses the forehead of his mother, Alina Miyares, in her Miami Beach apartment Friday.Carmen Session / NBC News

Now, in a hospital bed at her apartment, López Miyares’ mother is frail but said a few words about her daughter to NBC News.

“Help my daughter. She has been in Cuba for a long time,” she said, adding “God is great,” as she spoke haltingly.

During an interview in 2021, she told NBC News, “the pain that a mother feels does not compare with anything.”

López Miyares’ brother, Gene López, 60, moved in with his mother to care for her while her son, Michael Peralta, 34, moved from Los Angeles to Miami to be closer to his grandmother.

Peralta is in touch with his mother in Cuba and says she has not expressed happiness over her conditional release because “she is dying to be reunited with her mother.”

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“All she has expressed to me is, ‘I want to be with my mom, I want to take care of my mom,’” he said.

“Hopefully there is some compassion from the Cuban government because of my grandmother’s situation,” Peralta said.

He said his mother spends her days at church and with family. He regularly sends her money to pay for rent and food.

In 2017, López Miyares was sentenced to 13 years in prison by a military court. Her family of her has always maintained she is innocent.

Her husband, Felix Martín Milanés Fajardo — a former Cuban official assigned to the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations — was sentenced to 17 years.

López Miyares is accused of serving as a link between her husband and the FBI and the CIA. The court alleged she was channeling information in exchange for political asylum for her husband of her, at the time, as well as for his relatives of her.

Cuba considers anyone born in Cuba to be a Cuban national and does not recognize dual citizenship once they step foot on the island.

López Miyares was born in Cuba and became a naturalized US citizen after she fled the island with her family when she was 9 years old.

“We are hopeful that the recent release of Alina López, will lead shortly to her return to be with her mother in Miami,” said Poblete, who represents Americans held overseas.

“One of the most important priorities of the Department of State and US embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to US citizens who are incarcerated or detained abroad,” a State Department official said, adding that they are “monitoring the situation.”

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The Biden administration is facing renewed pressure to bring home Americans held overseas, particularly since the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia. She was sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted on drug charges by a Moscow court. The high-profile case has drawn worldwide attention.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order in July aimed at increasing the federal government’s efforts to bring home imprisoned Americans. The executive order declared a national emergency over hostage-taking and the wrongful detention of US nationals.

But some families with relatives imprisoned overseas have said the executive order doesn’t go far enough and want to see higher level engagement by the White House to help get their loved ones released, including prisoner exchanges and visits by high-level officials.

“The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation encourages the administration to prioritize the return of all of its citizens who are held abroad,” said Cynthia Loertscher, director of research and hostage advocacy at the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, named for the journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria and later executed.

The group is advocating for the release of López Miyares who they say is wrongfully detained.

“I don’t think the mainstream media and the government have done enough,” Peralta said. “I don’t hear Biden talking about Americans held overseas.”

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