Waldo Mariscal watched his mother and stepfather admit in court to spying for the Russian government.
But he says he believes their admission was nothing more than a lie — "the ultimate sacrifice ... for family."
"I don't know exactly the legal specificities of what they were up against, but I can be very sure they were up against something enormous," the 38-year-old architect told reporters gathered in front of the family home on Friday, a day after Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro were deported with eight others to Russia.
Mariscal says that he and his younger brother, 17-year-old Juan Lazaro Jr., remain convinced their parents weren't leading double lives.
There's "not even a shred of confusion in my mind, my heart and my body," he said. As for his mother: "The only Russian thing that she likes is vodka with passion fruit."
His stepfather said in court that while he told people for decades that he was born in Uruguay and was a Peruvian citizen, he was actually Russian and his real name is Mikhail Vasenkov.
But Mariscal said that was unbelievable.
"Those are formalities. He had trouble pronouncing that Russian name. If those formalities were done, those were sacrifices that he had to do, and I respect those sacrifices very much."
The elder Lazaro is accused of bringing Pelaez, who has been a columnist for one of the United States' best-known Spanish-language newspapers, into the conspiracy by having her pass letters to the Russian intelligence service on his behalf. They both pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign country.
Mariscal said he and his younger brother, a gifted pianist, have been living in uncertainty — first thinking they had to pack up and leave, then being told by American authorities there was no immediate rush.
Asked what the future holds for his younger brother, Mariscal said: "That's up to him, and that's up to our parents. Up to this point we haven't spoken to them (about) what it is they want for him, and I don't know exactly what's going to happen."
The brothers do expect to be leaving their home, Mariscal said, although his brother wants to complete high school in the United States and expects to attend college. The family's many friends would make sure the teenager is well taken care of, he said.