Jose Basulto, Leader of Brothers to the Rescue, Sues ‘The Wasp Network’ Film for Defamation

Leonardo Sbaraglia plays José Basulto in the production. (Fotograma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 June 2022 — In the second lawsuit for La Red Avispa, “The Wasp Network,” José Basulto, leader of the Brothers to the Rescue, has sued the Netflix movie that portrays the story of the five Cuban spies, considered heroes by the Havana regime, who were released at the end of 2014 after an exchange with the Barack Obama Administration. Basulto states that the film defames him, spreading a false image of him as a “U.S. puppet,” while idealizing the activities of Cuban agents.

According to the complaint, which was filed on Monday and to which The Hollywood Reporter magazine had access, “this representation of Mr. Basulto, Brothers to the Rescue, and the Cuban exile community was deliberately calculated to create two clear and unmistakable villains for the film.” The lawsuit is addressed to the French director and screenwriter, Oliver Assayas, and to Netflix, the owner of the distribution rights.

The lawsuit indicates that in the film says explicitly that José Basulto was “trained by the United States as a terrorist” and calls Brothers to the Rescue a “militant organization.” The Cuban activist expresses his particular disagreement with a scene in which the association’s planes are shot down for violating Cuban airspace, when, according to his version, they were shot down in international airspace.

The complaint is in addition to the one filed in 2020 by Ana Margarita Martínez, former wife of former Cuban spy Juan Pablo Roque, who allegedly hid his duties and ties to the Wasp Network from her before secretly returning to Cuba. The Cuban wife, whose character is played in the film by Havana actress, Ana de Armas, said that she was portrayed as promiscuous and self-indulgent, which doesn’t correspond to her reality as a mother in Miami.

Two years have passed, and now this new complaint is added, which states that “the film is an obvious attempt to rewrite and whitewash history in favor of the Cuban communist regime and is inaccurate in terms of the facts. (…) It portrays the five as brave heroes who simply defended their homeland when, in reality, they were part of an espionage network that allowed the Cuban government to commit extrajudicial executions.”

“The Wasp Network” is an adaptation of The Last Soldiers of the  Cold War, a book by Fernando Morais, starring the Spanish actress, Penélope Cruz,  the Venezuelan actor, Edgar Ramírez, the Mexican actor, Gael García Bernal, and the Brazilian actor, Wagner Moura. Basulto was played by Argentine actor Leonardo Sbaraglia. Basulto, a Cuban exile, says that the film implies that his organization, Brothers to the Rescue, whose purpose was to provide humanitarian aid to Cuban rafters, had terrorist overtones, in order to justify the espionage of the Cubans, who were convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit murder and espionage, in addition to being unregistered agents of a foreign government.

In the complaint, Basulto maintains that the Cuban Government interfered in the filming, recalling that on the island it’s not allowed to film scripts “harmful to the image of the country and the people of Cuba.”

“These requirements are particularly important when it comes to a defamation lawsuit, since the Communist Party of Cuba exercises prior censorship. It requires that the ’script, storyboard or synopsis of the project’ be presented and expressly establishes that any project that shows something negative about Cuba will be denied permission,” the complaint says. “Filming true and accurate history was never an option.”

It is unknown why Basulto has taken more than two years to file this lawsuit, although he says that it has had a great emotional impact on him and asks that the dissemination of the film be banned, or that certain scenes be edited or deleted. According to his version, Netflix wrote to him after receiving the notification of the lawsuit stating that “modern docudrama audiences understand that they are watching dramatizations, not strict recreations of the facts.”

The film was in the eye of the hurricane after its premiere in 2020 and opened an intense debate between Cubans who considered, like Basulto, that the film gave a good image of the Cuban regime and should be censored and those who defended it, saying that although there were inaccurate events, you shouldn’t try to intervene in an artistic creation.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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