By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com
A top aide to one of Cuba’s veteran political figures, Ricardo Alarcón, and the aide’s wife, have been convicted of spying and sentenced to 30 and 15 years in prison, according to persons close to the case.
Miguel Alvarez and Mercedes Arce, both former Cuban intelligence analysts in their 50s, were tried and convicted in December, the persons said, 22 months after they were detained in Havana for interrogation on March 3, 2012.
Alvarez was sentenced to 30 years on charges that he leaked secret information to Arce, according to the sources. Arce got the lesser sentence for allegedly using the information to write analytical reports on Cuba that she sold to private companies in Mexico.
Alvarez is the most senior Cuban official known to have been convicted of spying against the communist government in decades. At least three other Cubans are imprisoned on the island for spying, including two former Interior Ministry officials.
The Cuban government has repeatedly offered to swap U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross, imprisoned in Havana since 2009, for four Havana spies held in U.S. prisons since 1998. But it has made no mention of the spies held in Cuban prisons.
The island’s state-controlled news media, which almost never reports on politically sensitive crimes, has published nothing on the Alvarez-Arce case. Relatives also have not commented publicly, hoping their silence will lead to better treatment for the couple.
There has been no indication of the seriousness of the breach of security allegedly created by Alvarez and Arce, but the Cuban government jealously guards even routine information such as sugar harvest figures and Fidel Castro’s home address.
Alvarez was a senior advisor to Alarcón on international and political affairs when Alarcón served as president of the legislative National Assembly of People’s Power, sitting in on many of his meetings with foreign dignitaries and journalists.
Alarcón, 77, a veteran specialist on U.S. relations, headed the National Assembly for 20 years but was replaced in February of last year, 11 months after the Alvarez and Arce arrests.
He is believed to remain a member of the powerful Political Bureau of the Communist Party. Alarcón is seen in public now mostly pushing the government campaign to free the four Cuban spies in U.S. prisons.
Former Florida International University professor Carlos Alvarez (no relation to the Alarcón aide), who was convicted of spying for Havana, described Arce in his confession as one of his Cuban intelligence handlers. He and his wife, Elsa Prieto, were sentenced in 2007 to five and three years in prison, respectively.
Read more here: Aide to Cuba’s Ricardo Alarcon Sentenced to 30 Years for Spying