"City Council speaker candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito once lobbied on behalf of five Cuban intelligence agents convicted of spying against the United States. Mark-Viverito told the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva in a 2009 letter that the so-called "Cuban Five" were "unjustly imprisoned in the United States for trying to prevent terrorist attacks against Cuba." In fact, the agents had infiltrated a naval base in Florida and were convicted of espionage conspiracy against the United States, records show. The 2001 convictions were upheld on appeal, and the US Supreme Court refused to review the case. One of the five, Gerardo Hernandez, was also convicted of murder conspiracy for providing information about the flight plans of two small planes that were shot down by the Cuban government in 1996 -- killing four. In her letter, Mark-Viverito pleaded for more family visitation rights for the prisoners. Asked Tuesday about the impetus of the request -- and its connection to the East Harlem district Mark-Viverito represents -- spokesman Eric Koch declined to comment. The councilwoman's intervention on behalf of pro-Cuba agents is part of a pattern of support for far-left causes. In 2010, she generated significant backlash after circulating a petition calling for the release of a jailed leader of the Puerto Rican separatist group, FALN -- which had been deemed a terrorist organization by the FBI. , Mark-Viverito went to Bolivia in 2008 to support socialist and anti-American President Evo Morales during a recall election. Mayor de Blasio, whose ideology is also considered ultra-liberal, has been pressuring councilmembers to back Mark-Viverito as speaker, according to sources. He has maintained that he has only had conversations with councilmembers, but that they will elect whoever they choose -- in a vote scheduled for Wednesday. Asked Tuesday about his involvement in the race -- given his prior criticisms that then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg and then-Council Speaker Christine Quinn were too close -- de Blasio insisted that the comparisons aren't valid. "Michael Bloomberg and I are very different people in ideology and many other ways," he said. "And I just think it's a different reality." Although Mark-Viverito has already claimed victory with the support of 30 of the council's 51 members, sources say her battle with Manhattan Council Member Dan Garodnick is likely to go down to the wire. "They are not throwing in the towel yet," one City Hall insider said of Team Garodnick, which late Tuesday believed it was getting close to picking off a handful of Mark-Viverito supporters. If their effort fails, Garodnick's backers are mulling the launch of their own faction to counter the growing Progressive Caucus -- which is co-chaired by Mark-Viverito and backed by de Blasio, the insider said. "After eight years of Chris Quinn and Mike Bloomberg, the members are talking freely about a way to ensure the council remains independent from the mayor," the insider said."
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