Pablo de Llano, El Pais Corresponsal en Miami
On February 28, in her cell at a maximum security prison in Fort Worth, Texas, Ana Belén Montes turned 60 years of age. Once regarded as one of the Pentagon’s top analysts and an expert on Cuba’s military, the so-called “Queen of Cuba” was arrested in 2001 when her 17-year career as Cuban spy was discovered and she was sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Despite the thaw in relations between Havana and Washington under Barack Obama, which saw three of the last Cuban spies returned home in 2014, Montes remains behind bars in a facility reserved for some of the most dangerous and mentally ill prisoners in the United States.
In 2016, a family member revealed that Montes had undergone surgery for breast cancer, although there has been no official confirmation of this.
Her release is currently scheduled for 2026, by which point she will be 69 years old.
Unlike the three prisoners released in 2014, the Cuban government has never officially campaigned for Montes’ freedom. In June 2016, Miami Spanish-language daily El Nuevo Herald reported that Cuban officials had asked after her during a meeting in the United States. A few months earlier, Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez had called for her release at a concert in Spain. The request was repeated a few days ago at one of his concerts in Puerto Rico. Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, posted a report from Venezuela’s official news agency mentioning that a campaign for Montes’ freedom had been organized in Cuba.
Writing in his blog on Montes’ birthday about her treatment by the regime, Cuban journalist Harold Cárdenas said: “The Cuban Foreign Ministry’s discretion is understandable. In contrast, the silence in the national media is shameful.”
There has been speculation that the United States and Cuba are negotiating Montes’ exchange for Assata Shakur, the Black Panther leader accused of shooting a police officer who managed to escape to Cuba in 1984, claiming political asylum. But a 2016 US State Department internal document rejects the option.
Montes is considered to be the Cuban agent who most deeply penetrated US intelligence. An analyst at the Pentagon, she was recruited by Havana in 1984, and after undergoing training, would report each night to her handlers via shortwave radio without ever having to make copies of documents, thanks to her remarkable memory.
Article continues here: Ana B Montes
Editor’s Note: The El Pais claim that “The Cuban government has never officially campaigned for Montes’ freedom” is false. The current regime has been very public in its efforts to develop and sustain an international movement to force the U.S. to free this convicted spy. Cuba’s effort is led by Colonel (retired) Nestor Garcia Iturbe – believed to be the longest serving Castro spy to have ever operated in the United States. Additionally, Montes was not a “Cuban spy,” but rather an American citizen spying for Havana.