17 Years After Cuba Shootdown, Miami Man Seeks Justice For Brother 2

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

Seventeen years after Cuban MiG warplanes killed his brother and three other South Florida men, Nelson Morales says he still wants to punish the two people responsible.

“We are still searching for justice, to prosecute the two principal murderers, Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro,” said Morales, whose brother Pablo died in the shootdown of two unarmed Brothers to the Rescue airplanes.

So the Miami maintenance worker has filed a legal demand that U.S. federal prosecutors submit evidence to a special grand jury in South Florida showing the Castro brothers’ guilt in the 1996 shootdown.

“I don’t know why they haven’t done this before. I can’t speculate. But it is the right thing to do. Let the grand jury decide whether to indict the Castros,” said lawyer Juan Zorrilla, who is handling the Morales suit.

Zorrilla filed the “writ of mandamus” — a request that a court compel a government entity to take action on a public issue — on July 1 demanding that the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami submit evidence “implicating Fidel and Raúl Castro in the murders.”

Prosecutors also should inform the special grand jury that it can pursue an investigation on its own, force the U.S. attorney’s office to produce evidence implicating the Castros and request that federal charges be filed against the brothers, the complaint added.

Assistant U.S. attorney Eduardo I. Sanchez filed a reply last week asking U.S. District Court Judge Federico Moreno to throw out the demand because Morales does not have the legal standing to file such a complaint.

Morales’ complaint also failed to prove that he was personally harmed by his brother’s death, and showed that he had not exhausted all of the legal avenues available to him for seeking redress, Sanchez added. Moreno has not ruled.

Pablo Morales, Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre and Mario de la Peña were killed Feb. 24, 1996, when Cuban MiG fighters shot down two single-engine Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) airplanes. Their bodies were never recovered.

“They killed him. They assassinated him. They pulverized him,” Nelson Morales said.

Cuba had complained that BTTR airplanes had dropped anti-Castro leaflets over Havana earlier in 1996, and that the two airplanes were shot down in Cuban airspace. An investigation by the U.N.’s aviation branch concluded that the planes were shot down far out in international airspace and in violation of established procedures.

Federal prosecutors in Miami filed murder charges in August of 2003 against Gen. Ruben Martinez Puente, who was head of Cuba’s air defense in 1996, and brothers Lorenzo Alberto and Francisco Pérez Pérez, the pilots of the two MiGs. But they did not indict either of the Castro brothers.

Zorrilla said he has been working for several years on the mandamus demand with the backing of the Juridical Rescue Foundation headed by Santiago Alvarez, a Miami developer and anti-Castro activist jailed for 30 months on an illegal weapons charge.

Former U.S. Attorney Kendall B. Coffey first urged the federal prosecutors to submit the evidence against the Castro brothers to a grand jury about five years ago, Alvarez said.

“They said, ‘We’ll get back to you,’ and they never did. We realized that the government was never going to facilitate this,” Alvarez said, adding that there should be some legal way to seek redress. “If not, this will be a very large stain on American justice.”

Zorrilla said the toughest part of the demand was that it could be filed only when a special federal grand jury, which usually investigates public integrity and national security cases, was active. But the very existence of grand juries is usually secret.

He eventually figured out that no such grand jury was active in South Florida, he added, although U.S. law requires that one always be impaneled in any court district of more than 4 million people. South Florida’s district has 6.3 million people.

On May 10 of this year, a special grand jury was created in the South Florida district, Zorrilla wrote in the demand. Seven weeks later, he filed the writ of mandamus on behalf of Nelson Morales.

Pablo Morales was 29 years old, trained as a cartographer in Cuba but working as a carpenter and delivery-truck driver in Miami, when he volunteered to join BTTR flights designed to spot rafters in the Straits of Florida and assist them if needed.

Nelson Morales, now 66, and their mother, Eva Barbas Arango, came to Miami from Havana soon after the 1996 shootdown on special humanitarian visas issued by the Clinton administration. Barbas died earlier this month at the age of 88.

The families of the three other victims sued Cuba and received $93 million in compensation, but the Morales family could not join that lawsuit because Pablo was not a U.S. citizen.

It rejected an offer of $3 million from the settlement, saying the family wanted only justice.

Fidel Castro declared that he took “responsibility for what took place” in a March 1996 interview with Time magazine. He surrendered power to his brother Raúl, who had been minister of defense since the early 1960s, after emergency surgery in 2006.

Raúl Castro is heard detailing how he planned and ordered the operation to shoot down the BTTR airplanes in a voice recording made public in 2006 by El Nuevo Herald.

The 11-minute, 32-second recording was reportedly made as Raúl Castro spoke off the record to journalists from the state-controlled Radio Rebelde on June 21, 1996, in the northeastern city of Holguín.

After El Nuevo published the recording, the families of the BTTR victims that sued Cuba said they had turned over the same recording to the FBI four years earlier — along with a 400-page archive on the shootdown that repeatedly mentioned the recording — as part of their own push for an indictment of Fidel and Raúl Castro.

An FBI spokesperson said the bureau never received the recording, according to an El Nuevo Herald report at the time.

“Although they claimed responsibility over 17 years ago for ordering the murders of the four BTTR men, Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro have never been indicted or otherwise held accountable in a U.S. federal court for those crimes,” Nelson Morales’ complaint said.

Former FBI Informant Now Living Posh Lifestyle in Cuba 3

Gilberto Abascal’s return to the island revived allegations that he worked with both Cuban intelligence and the United States.

By Juan O. Tamayo, jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Two years ago, Miami FBI informant Gilberto Abascal was the key prosecution witness in the trial of militant Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles. In 2006, he was the main informant in the weapons conviction of Posada supporter Santiago Alvarez.

Today, Abascal is back in Cuba, building a house with a swimming pool — a rare privilege on the communist-run island — driving expensive rental cars and offering a reward equivalent of two years’ average salary for information about whoever burglarized his home, according to several of his neighbors.

“He came back from Miami and is living in his family’s farm” in the village of La Julia, about 15 miles south of Havana, said a democracy advocate who lives in the nearby town of Surgidero de Batabanó and knows Abascal personally.

Abascal’s return to Cuba reinforced long-running allegations, dismissed by U.S. prosecutors, that he served as an informant for both Cuban intelligence and the FBI in targeting Posada, Alvarez and other exiles in Miami.

“This inferentially validates the conclusion that this was an individual who had a collaborative relationship with Cuban security . . . and casts a shadow on the FBI for its dealings with this guy,” said Arturo V. Hernandez, Posada’s defense attorney.

Abascal returned home from Miami more than one year ago, and has been busy improving and adding to his family’s farm, said the neighbors in Batabanó and La Julia, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation by Cuban State Security agents.

In the money now

Nicknamed “El Cano,” the pudgy, 48-year-old Abascal has bought a tractor for his family’s farm, is building a home with a pool for himself on a dirt street in La Julia, and often rents late-model cars from a government-run agency in Batabanó, where prices start at $500 per week, the neighbors said.

A sign posted outside his La Julia home last weekend offered a 10,000-peso reward — about $400, in an island where the official average monthly salary stands at 470 pesos — for information on whoever burglarized his home. Photos taken by one of the neighbors showed what was described as a security camera over his front door.

One neighbor called him “a known security agent,” and another said his family’s farm is “protected” by security officials in civilian clothes who discreetly monitor passersby.
Abascal has told acquaintances in Batabanó and La Julia that he cannot return to Miami, but gave no reasons, and travels often to Mexico and other countries to buy clothes that he then sells on the island, the neighbors told el Nuevo Herald by phone.

He could not be reached in La Julia for comment for this story, but steadily denied that he was a Cuban intelligence agent throughout the Posada and Alvarez cases. “I have never had anything to do with the Cuban government in my life,” he declared in 2006.

Abascal arrived in Miami on a small boat in 1999, and later that year was intercepted by the Coast Guard as he and a married couple headed to Cuba aboard another boat — carrying photos of a paramilitary training camp in South Florida run buy the anti-Castro group Alpha 66.

“It was highly unlikely that the three adults were Cuban agents . . . [but] they may have been, or could have been, planning to use the photographs to ‘ingratiate themselves’ with authorities in Cuba,” U.S. agents wrote in a report on the interception submitted to court during the Alvarez case.

An FBI informant

By 2001, Abascal was living in Hialeah and acting as a confidential informant for the FBI, according to court documents. The FBI and U.S. immigration officials spent almost $80,000 for his housing, food and “services,” the documents showed. The FBI declined to comment for this story.

Alvarez, a wealthy Miami real estate developer, said he met Abascal in 2002 or 2003 as part of secret contacts with Cuban men who identified themselves as officers in the island’s armed forces and opponents of the Castro government.

The “officers” were real, Alvarez said, but he always knew that Abascal was a Cuban infiltrator.

“He always asked too much. He tried to get into everything,” Alvarez said. “And when something seems too good to be true, it usually is.”

Abascal nevertheless was hired as a handyman at some of Alvarez’s properties, and turned up with Alvarez in Panama in 2004 to voice their support for Posada and three other exiles on trial on charges of plotting to assassinate then-Cuban ruler Fidel Castro.

He also volunteered often as a deckhand on Alvarez’s converted shrimper, the Santrina, and testified that he was aboard when it was used to smuggle Posada from Isla Mujeres in Mexico to Miami in March 2005, after Posada and the others were pardoned on the Panama charges.

Wanted by Cuba and Venezuela on separate terrorism charges, Posada later told U.S. immigration officials that he arrived across the U.S. land border with Mexico. U.S. prosecutors charged the CIA-trained explosives expert with 11 counts of perjury.

As the FBI investigated Alvarez’s role in the Posada arrival, the developer ordered Abascal and another of his handymen, Osvaldo Mitat, to move a cache of illegal weapons to a new hiding spot. Abascal made one call to a Miami woman believed to be his Cuban intelligence handler, then called the FBI, according to the court records.

Facing Abascal’s testimony, Alvarez and Mitat pleaded guilty to the weapons charge, and served 30 months in prison. Unidentified friends later surrendered about 60 other illegal weapons as part of the deal with prosecutors.

Abascal also was the key prosecution witness in Posada’s 2011 trial in El Paso, Texas, which saw U.S. federal prosecutors deny attorney Hernandez’s claims that the witness was a Cuban intelligence agent and was lying about Posada’s arrival on U.S. soil.

‘Like a novel’

Hernandez’s argument “reads like a John Grisham novel,’ ” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerome Teresinski objected during the trial. “’It’s fiction. He wants to put Cuba on trial. He wants to put Fidel Castro on trial. He wants to put Mr. Abascal on trial.”

A jury found Posada not guilty of perjury about how he entered the country and his role in nine bombings of Cuban tourist spots in 1997. Abascal then disappeared from the public eye — until word filtered to Miami that he was back in Cuba.

Still unclear is whether Abascal was sent to South Florida by Cuban intelligence — like the five spies convicted in 2001 and sentenced to lengthy prison terms — or ran into economic problems here and decided to sell his services to Havana and the FBI.

Court documents filed in the Alvarez and Posada cases showed Abascal wanted the FBI’s money and its help in obtaining U.S. citizenship and retaining disability payments for a workplace injury, although he had violated income-tax and other regulations.

Abascal’s sole motivation was pure, unadulterated greed,” said Chris Simmons, a retired Pentagon counterintelligence expert on Cuba who reviewed some of the documents on Abascal’s background.

But Simmons added that he has no doubt Abascal was “an agent of Cuban intelligence” prior to his arrival in Miami, and was “trained and targeted” against Alvarez, Posada, Mitat and other exiles.

“Havana’s ability to [also] run Abascal as an FBI informant is reminiscent of its past successes,” he added, like Juan Pablo Roque, a Havana spy and FBI informant who played a key role in Cuba’s shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996 that left four dead.

Informante del FBI tiene una vida privilegiada en Cuba Reply

Juan O. Tamayo el Nuevo Herald, jtamayo@elnuevoherald.com

Hace dos años, el informante del FBI en Miami Gilberto Abascal fue el testigo clave de la fiscalía en el juicio del exiliado militante cubano Luis Posada Carriles. En el 2006, él fue el principal informante en el juicio por armas de Santiago Alvarez, partidario de Posada, quien fue hallado culpable.

En la actualidad, Abascal está de regreso en Cuba, donde vive y se construye una casa con una piscina — un raro privilegio en la isla de régimen comunista —, conduciendo costosos carros de alquiler y ofreciendo una recompensa equivalente a dos años del salario promedio a cambio de información sobre quienes robaron en su casa, según varios de sus vecinos.

“El volvió de Miami y está viviendo en la finca de su familia” en el poblado de La Julia, a unas 15 millas al sur de La Habana, dijo un activista por la democracia que vive en el pueblo vecino de Surgidero de Batabanó y conoce personalmente a Abascal.

El regreso de Abascal a Cuba reforzó alegaciones que se han hecho por mucho tiempo, y que fueron desestimadas por la fiscalía federal, de que él servía de informante tanto a la inteligencia cubana como al FBI contra Posada, Alvarez y otros exiliados en Miami.

“Esto valida por inferencia la conclusión de que este era un individuo que tenía una relación de colaboración con la Seguridad del Estado cubana… y esto arroja una sombra de dudas sobre el FBI por haber lidiado con este hombre”, dijo Arturo V. Hernández, abogado defensor de Posada.

Abascal regresó a Cuba de Miami hace más de un año, y se ha mantenido atareado mejorando y ampliando la finca de su familia, dijeron sus vecinos en Batabanó y La Julia, quienes pidieron conservar el anonimato por temor a represalias por parte de agentes de la Seguridad del Estado.

Conocido por el sobrenombre de “El Cano”, este hombre rechoncho de 48 años compró un tractor para la finca de su familia, está construyéndose una casa con piscina en La Julia, y alquila a menudo carros de último modelo en una agencia gubernamental en Batabanó cuyos precios empiezan en $500 a la semana, dijeron los vecinos.

Un cartel colocado frente a su casa de La Julia el fin de semana pasado ofreció una recompensa de 10,000 pesos — alrededor de $400, en una isla donde el sueldo oficial promedio mensual es de 470 pesos — a cambio de información sobre quien entró a robar en su casa. Fotos tomadas por uno de los vecinos mostraron lo que se describió como una cámara de seguridad sobre la puerta del frente.

Un vecino dijo que él era un “conocido agente de Seguridad”, y otro dijo que la finca de su familia está “protegida” por agentes de la Seguridad vestidos de civil que vigilan discretamente a los transeúntes.

Abascal ha dicho a conocidos suyos en Batabanó y La Julia que él no puede regresar a Miami, pero no dio razones, y viaja con frecuencia a México y otros países a comprar ropa que luego vende en la isla, dijeron los vecinos por teléfono a El Nuevo Herald.

No se pudo contactarlo en La Julia para que hiciera declaraciones para esta historia, pero él negó persistentemente ser un agente de inteligencia de Cuba durante los juicios de Posada y Álvarez. “Yo nunca he tenido nada que ver con el gobierno cubano en toda mi vida”, declaró en el 2006.

Read more here: Informante del FBI tiene una vida privilegiada en Cuba

Cuban Five Art Exhibit Opens September 12 1

By Frank Forrestal, Twin Cities (MN) Daily Planet — Community Voices

The Minnesota Cuba Committee and Obsidian Arts are sponsoring a month-long exhibit of the paintings of Antonio Guerrero, one of five Cuban revolutionaries locked up in U.S. prisons on trumped-up charges. The opening reception will take place on September 12, from 6-8 PM, at the Pillsbury House in South Minneapolis.

The art show, “I will die the way I lived,” features 15 watercolor paintings by Guerrero, who learned to paint and draw from fellow inmates. “After finishing the painting number 15, I made the decision to stop in this number, because it coincides with the number of years that soon will mark our captivity,” writes Guerrero in his introductory note to the exhibit. Most of their time has been in maximum-security prisons, including many months in solitary confinement.

Also at the Pillsbury House, “The Cuban Wives,” an award-winning documentary about the families of the Cuban Five will be shown on September 19 at 7 PM.

Guerrero, along with four other Cubans — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González — were convicted on frame-up charges, including “conspiracy to commit espionage” and, in the case of Hernández, “conspiracy to commit murder,” and received long prison sentences. René Gonzalez was released in 2011 after serving more than 13 years in prison.

Known internationally as the Cuban Five, these revolutionaries were arrested in September 1998 in Miami by the FBI. The five had been gathering information on right-wing Cuban exile groups in Florida that have a long history of carrying out violent acts against the Cuban Revolution, with the complicity of the U.S. government. Their assignment was to keep the Cuban government informed of these deadly operations in order to prevent as many as possible from coming to fruition. Over five decades, more than 3,500 Cubans have been killed and 2,100 injured in attacks, most originating from U.S. soil.

Guerrero was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years. On October 13, 2009, his sentence was reduced to 21 years and 10 months, after an appeals court ruled that the sentences of three of the five — Guerrero, Labañino, and Fernando González — were excessive. The reduction in the draconian sentences was an acknowledgement of the pressure put on the U.S. government from the worldwide campaign demanding freedom for the Cuban Five.

More than 350 committees in 114 countries, hundreds of political organizations, and thousands of individuals around the world are working to win the freedom of the Cuban Five. Support ranges from the National Conference of Black Lawyers to the National Council of Churches, actors like Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, 12 Nobel Prize laureates, to several trade unions, and many others.

The painting exhibit will continue through the month of September.

Dr. Latell’s Monstrosity 3

By Miguel Fernandez

The paperback edition of Castro’s Secrets (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 304 pages) has encouraged its author, former CIA desk analyst Dr. Brian Latell, to lash out against Castro again through the July 31st issue of the electronic flyer The Latell Report, published by the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami.

Under the title “Fidel Castro’s Monstrous Lies,” Dr. Latell´s latest flyer insists in Castro’s foreknowledge of Lee Harvey Oswald’s intention to kill President Kennedy. Castro would have lied on November 23, 1963, by stating “we never in our life heard of him [Oswald]” before the radio and TV audiences. Taking into account that Castro dittoed the statement in his November 27 speech at the University of Havana, Dr. Latell asserts:

• “Contrary to another of his earlier claims, Castro volunteered to Jack Childs that ‘our people in Mexico gave us the details in a full report.’ He meant that his intelligence officers there had kept him fully informed of Oswald’s visits [to Mexico City].”

• “Yet, most remarkably, Castro revealed to Childs that as Oswald was leaving the Cuban consulate in Mexico, he shouted ‘I am going to kill that bastard. I am going to kill Kennedy’.”

Since Dr. Latell uses Childs as the “more compelling” quantum of proof against Castro denial of foreknowledge of Oswald, let’s go into the facts.

Jack Childs was a trusted FBI agent who engaged with his brother Morris in the Operation SOLO (1958-77) to infiltrate the Communist Party of the United States. On May 20, 1964, Jack flew from Moscow to “the beach” [Cuba] in the SOLO Mission 15. He spent ten days there, managed to meet Castro, and reported to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover:

“Castro said ‘I was told this by my people in the Embassy exactly how he (Oswald) stalked in and walked in and ran out. That in itself was a suspicious movement, because nobody comes to an Embassy for a visa (they go to a Consulate). [Castro] stated that when Oswald was refused his visa at the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City, he acted like a madman and started yelling and shouting on his way out, ‘I’m going to kill this bastard. I’m going to kill Kennedy’ [Castro]was speaking on the basis of facts given to him by his embassy personnel, who dealt with Oswald, and apparently had made a full, detailed report to Castro after President Kennedy was assassinated.” (FBI Records: The Vault – SOLO [http://vault.fbi.gov/solo], Part 63, page 59).

In order to make his point, Dr. Latell simply trimmed “after President Kennedy was assassinated” from the Jack Childs report. Thus, Dr. Latell has applied a counter-productive method: fabricating a lie for accusing Castro of being a liar.

Note: On June 17, 1964, the old sleuth Hoover summed up to Warren Commission General Counsel, James Lee Rankin, that “the information furnished by our source [Jack Childs] at this time as having come from Castro is consistent with and substantially the same as that which appears in Castro’s speech of November 27, 1963 (…) No further action is contemplated by this Bureau” (See Warren Commission Document 1359).

Unsealed Indictment Charges Former U.S. Federal Employee with Conspiracy to Commit Espionage for Cuba 1

Defendant Allegedly Helped Cuban Intelligence Service Recuit and Insert Spy into U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency

U.S. Department of Justice April 25, 2013 • Office of Public Affairs (202) 514-2007/ (202) 514-1888

WASHINGTON—A one-count indictment was unsealed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charging Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, with conspiracy to commit espionage, announced John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ronald C. Machen, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

The charges against Velazquez stem from, among other things, her alleged role in introducing Ana Belen Montes, now 55, to the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS) in 1984; in facilitating Montes’s recruitment by the CuIS; and in helping Montes later gain employment at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Montes served as an intelligence analyst at DIA from September 1985 until she was arrested for espionage by FBI agents on September 21, 2001. On March 19, 2002, Montes pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of Cuba. Montes is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.

The indictment against Velazquez, who is also known as “Marta Rita Kviele” and as “Barbara,” was originally returned by a grand jury in the District of Columbia on February 5, 2004. It has remained under court seal until today. Velazquez has continuously remained outside the United States since 2002. She is currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. If convicted of the charges against her, Velazquez faces a potential sentence of up to life in prison.

According to the indictment, Velazquez was born in Puerto Rico in 1957. She graduated from Princeton University in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and Latin American studies. Velazquez later obtained a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1982 and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C., in 1984.

Velazquez later served as an attorney advisor at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and, in 1989, she joined the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as a legal officer with responsibilities encompassing Central America. During her tenure at USAID, Velazquez held a top secret security clearance and was posted to the U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua and Guatemala. In June 2002, Velazquez resigned from USAID following press reports that Montes had pleaded guilty to espionage and was cooperating with the U.S. government. Velazquez has remained outside the United States since 2002.

The indictment alleges that, beginning in or about 1983, Velazquez conspired with others to transmit to the Cuban government and its agents documents and information relating to the U.S. national defense, with the intent that they would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of the Cuban government.

As part of the conspiracy, Velazquez allegedly helped the CuIS spot, assess, and recruit U.S. citizens who occupied sensitive national security positions or had the potential of occupying such positions in the future to serve as Cuban agents. For example, the indictment alleges that, while Velazquez was a student with Montes at SAIS in Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s, Velazquez fostered a strong, personal friendship with Montes, with both sharing similar views of U.S. policies in Nicaragua at the time.

In December 1984, the indictment alleges, Velazquez introduced Montes in New York City to a Cuban intelligence officer who identified himself as an official of the Cuban Mission to the United States. The intelligence officer then recruited Montes. In 1985, after Montes’ recruitment, Velazquez personally accompanied Montes on a clandestine trip to Cuba for Montes to receive spy craft training from CuIS.

Later in 1985, Velazquez allegedly helped Montes obtain employment as an intelligence analyst at the DIA, where Montes had access to classified national defense information and served as an agent of the CuIS until her arrest in 2001. During her tenure at the DIA, Montes disclosed the identities of U.S. intelligence officers and provided other classified national defense information to the CuIS.
During this timeframe, Velazquez allegedly continued to serve the CuIS, receiving instructions from the CuIS through encrypted, high-frequency broadcasts from her handlers and through meetings with handlers outside the United States.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the DIA. It is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Clifford Rones of the Counterespionage Section in the Justice Department’s National Security Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney G. Michael Harvey of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

The charges contained in an indictment are merely allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Ana Montes Did Much Harm Spying for Cuba. Chances Are, You Haven’t Heard of Her 4

by Jim Popkin, Washington Post magazine

Ana Montes has been locked up for a decade with some of the most frightening women in America. Once a highly decorated U.S. intelligence analyst with a two-bedroom co-op in Cleveland Park, Montes today lives in a two-bunk cell in the highest-security women’s prison in the nation. Her neighbors have included a former homemaker who strangled a pregnant woman to get her baby, a longtime nurse who killed four patients with massive injections of adrenaline, and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, the Charles Manson groupie who tried to assassinate President Ford.

But hard time in the Lizzie Borden ward of a Texas prison hasn’t softened the former Defense Department wunderkind. Years after she was caught spying for Cuba, Montes remains defiant. “Prison is one of the last places I would have ever chosen to be in, but some things in life are worth going to prison for,” Montes writes in a 14-page handwritten letter to a relative. “Or worth doing and then killing yourself before you have to spend too much time in prison.”

Like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen before her, Ana Montes blindsided the intelligence community with brazen acts of treason. By day, she was a buttoned-down GS-14 in a Defense Intelligence Agency cubicle. By night, she was on the clock for Fidel Castro, listening to coded messages over shortwave radio, passing encrypted files to handlers in crowded restaurants and slipping undetected into Cuba wearing a wig and clutching a phony passport.

Montes spied for 17 years, patiently, methodically. She passed along so many secrets about her colleagues — and the advanced eavesdropping platforms that American spooks had covertly installed in Cuba — that intelligence experts consider her among the most harmful spies in recent memory. But Montes, now 56, did not deceive just her nation and her colleagues. She also betrayed her brother Tito, an FBI special agent; her former boyfriend Roger Corneretto, a Cuban-intelligence officer for the Pentagon; and her sister, Lucy, a 28-year veteran of the FBI who has won awards for helping to unmask Cuban spies.

In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the FBI’s Miami field office was on high alert. Most of the hijackers had spent time in South Florida, and FBI personnel there were desperate to learn whether any more had stayed behind. So when a supervisor asked Lucy Montes to come to his office, she didn’t blink. Lucy was a veteran FBI language analyst who translated wiretaps and other sensitive communications.

But this impromptu meeting had nothing to do with Sept. 11. An FBI squad leader sat Lucy down. Your sister, Ana, has been arrested for espionage, he informed her, and she could face the death penalty. Your sister, Ana, is a Cuban spy. Lucy didn’t scream, didn’t storm out in disbelief. Instead, she found the news strangely reassuring. “I believed it right away,” she recalled in a recent interview. “It explained a lot of things.”

Major news organizations reported on the arrest, of course, but it was overshadowed by nonstop coverage of the terrorist attacks. Today, Ana Montes remains the most important spy you’ve never heard of.

Born on a U.S. Army base in 1957, Ana Montes is the eldest child of Emilia and Alberto Montes. Puerto Rico-born Alberto was a respected Army doctor, and the family moved frequently, from Germany to Kansas to Iowa. They settled in Towson, outside Baltimore, where Alberto developed a successful private psychiatric practice and Emilia became a leader in the local Puerto Rican community.

Ana thrived in Maryland. Slender, bookish and witty, she graduated with a 3.9 GPA from Loch Raven High School, where she noted in her senior yearbook that her favorite things included “summer, beaches … chocolate chip cookies, having a good time with fun people.” But the bubblegum sentimentality masked a growing emotional distance, grandiose feelings of superiority and a troubling family secret.

To outsiders, Alberto was a caring and well-educated father of four. But behind closed doors, he was short-tempered and bullied his children. Alberto “happened to believe that he had the right to beat his kids,” Ana would later tell CIA psychologists. “He was the king of the castle and demanded complete and total obedience.” The beatings started at 5, Lucy said. “My father had a violent temper,” she said. “We got it with the belt. When he got angry. Sure.”

Ana’s mother feared taking on her mercurial husband, but as the verbal and physical abuse persisted, she divorced him and gained custody of their children.

Ana was 15 when her parents separated, but the damage had been done. “Montes’s childhood made her intolerant of power differentials, led her to identify with the less powerul, and solidified her desire to retaliate against authoritarian figures,” the CIA wrote in a psychological profile of Montes labeled “Secret.” Her “arrested psychological development” and the abuse she suffered at the hands of a temperamental man she associated with the U.S. military “increased her vulnerability to recruitment by a foreign intelligence service,” adds the 10-page report. Lucy recalls that even as a teenager Ana was distant and judgmental. “We were only a year apart, but I have to tell you that I never really felt close to her,” Lucy said. “She wasn’t one that wanted to share things or talk about things.”

Full story here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/feature/wp/2013/04/18/ana-montes-did-much-harm-spying-for-cuba-chances-are-you-havent-heard-of-her/

Case Closed On Wells Fargo Robbery; Except For Missing $7 Million And Top Fugitive 2

By Edmund H. Mahony, emahony@courant.com, The Hartford Courant

When Norberto Gonzalez Claudio was sentenced to prison this month — older, grayer and as devoted as ever to Puerto Rico’s independence — it effectively closed the book on Connecticut’s greatest political crime, so far as a case can be closed when $7 million and the guy who stole it are missing. Gonzalez, now 67, was a leader of the doctrinaire young Puerto Rican militants called Los Macheteros who, in 1983 carried off what was then the biggest cash robbery in U.S. history. They stole the $7 million from a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford and declared that they would use it to wage a war for independence against their colonial oppressor, the United States.

In the days after the robbery, Connecticut was transfixed by its audacity. An unremarkable Wells Fargo employee from Hartford named Victor Gerena had injected two co-workers with a substance intended to subdue them, stuffed $7 million in used bills into a rented Buick and disappeared into the night. Over the decades leading to Gonzalez’s capture last year in the Puerto Rican mountains, the U.S. listed Los Macheteros as a terrorist organization and blamed it and a related group for more death and destruction than any other terror network operating in the U.S. until al Qaeda struck New York in 1994 and 2001. The Macheteros killed two U.S. sailors, blew up eight National Guard jets and attacked two federal courthouses with Cuban supplied rockets, all in Puerto Rico. The related Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by the initials FALN, launched a bombing campaign against mainland targets, including Mobil Oil and the Fraunces Tavern in New York.

The Macheteros led the FBI on a chase around the Caribbean, from Puerto Rico to Mexico, Panama and Cuba, as the organization met to negotiate a division of the money and more guns with the government of their principal supporter and supplier, Cuban President Fidel Castro. The robbery confirmed a belief long held by FBI agents in the Caribbean that Castro had been training and supplying the militant wing of the independence movement since the 1960s.

The FBI was so alarmed by the robbery and related violence that the bureau sent a team to San Juan to end it. When the agents helped draft the first Wells Fargo indictment in 1985, they argued —unsuccessfully — to name senior Cuban government figures as conspirators. Although there was a sense of finality in the courtroom when Gonzalez was sentenced to five years in prison on Nov. 14, analysts say forces more powerful than the FBI had begun years earlier to push the violent, clandestine movement for Puerto Rico’s independence into the past. “I think the sentencing put a period at the end of things,” said Marlene Hunter, who was part of the FBI team that cracked the Wells Fargo robbery and who later retired as the head of the FBI’s San Juan division.

Puerto Rico is saturated by culture and commerce from the north, where more Puerto Ricans now live than on the island. An influential independence party exists and politicians who support the island’s current, territorial relationship with the U.S. swept the election earlier this month. But in an historic, if contentious, Election Day plebiscite, majorities of Puerto Ricans voted displeasure with their territorial status and support for becoming a state.

Story continues here:  http://articles.courant.com/2012-11-24/news/hc-macheteros-cuba-20121124_1_los-macheteros-fbi-s-san-juan-fbi-agents

My Life is a Lifetime Movie with Ana Margarita Martinez Reply

by Reg Seeton, Deadbolt.com

Ana Margarita Martinez learns that her husband was really a Cuban spy in My Life is a Lifetime Movie.

My Life is a Lifetime Movie makes its series debut this week with the real life story of Ana Margarita Martinez who discovered that her husband was a spy for the Cuban government.

With a fresh and irreverent documentary style tone, My Life is a Lifetime Movie combines cinematic recreations and first person interviews with women in peril who recount their jaw-dropping experiences that are so astonishing and so unbelievable, it’s hard to believe they’re true. But the stories are all too real and vivid for those who lived them.

One amazing story on My Life is a Lifetime Movie is that of Ana Margarita Martinez, a twice divorced mother who thought she found her prince charming but turned out to be a Cuban spy. That’s right, a spy! When Ana Margarita met Cuban defector Juan Pablo at her local church back in the early ’90s, he was the perfect man in every way. The two quickly married and things seemed too good to be true until his frequent disappearances and trips away from home raised suspicion. When a plane rescuing Cuban refugees was shot down near Miami, Ana came to the stark realization that her storybook wedding may have been to a dark prince with even darker secrets. “I’ve always said that my life is a soap opera,” Ana Margarita told The Deadbolt ahead of the Lifetime premiere on Wednesday, “so this is very appropriate.” What happened to Ana Margarita, however, is a painful story of secrets, betrayal, denial, and a long road to recovery after being duped by someone who was supposed to be her partner for life.

My Life is a Lifetime Movie debuts Wednesday, October 17 at 10/9c on Lifetime.

In 1996, Ana’s life changed forever. One night her husband was there when they went to bed, the next minute he was gone. “I don’t remember the moment precisely,” Ana continued, “because it was a process when it first happened. He disappeared, telling me that he was going on a business trip for the weekend and that he’d be back on Sunday. He disappeared on Friday morning, 3 a.m. in the morning, and he was scheduled to return on Sunday.”

Although we all encounter the unexpected in life, Ana Margarita could never have prepared for what was about to come next. Working for Brothers to the Rescue, a Cuban-American activist organization that helped rescue refugees lost at sea, Juan Pablo had taken off for Cuba. The following day, two planes from the organization were shot down by the Cuban government, four pilots were killed, and Juan Pablo was allegedly in custody. Or was he? As the real life drama played out, it was all a ruse. Juan Pablo was a spy.

“A lot was going on all at once,” said Ana Margarita about the chaos following her husband’s disappearing act, “and he was nowhere to be found. The rumors began on Monday morning. The press showed up at my house, the FBI showed up at my house, and then I saw him [on television] disembarking a plane in Havana. That’s how I found out he was in Havana.”

So, how did Ana feel at that unbelievably shocking moment? “I saw him in that moment and I was in denial,” Ana added. “I felt that my husband had been forced to return to Cuba. He could not have gone under his own free will. He was a defector. It took therapy to come to the realization that I had been duped and accept the fact that he was actually a Cuban spy, that he was a mole in the United States and had been called back.”

After having her marriage to the spy annulled in civil court, Ana Margarita won two judgments against the Cuban government for their role in the fraud. Despite the victory, however, the debt remains unpaid to this day. Sixteen years later, ahead of My Life is a Lifetime Movie, Ana Margarita is now able to talk about her ordeal with reflective clarity. Although she’s moved on with her life and is now a stronger, much wiser woman, the wounds of betrayal still run deep.

“It’s tough to accept that someone that you spent four years of your life with, who was your partner, your best friend, and you trusted with your life and the life of your children, had a whole different life you weren’t aware of. That’s difficult to fathom. How could he have kept this deep, dark secret from me? I think the hardest thing, the most painful thing, is the sense of betrayal.”

For more on the real story of Ana Margarita Martinez, visit her official website. My Life is a Lifetime Movie premieres Wednesday, October 17 at 10pm ET on Lifetime.