Witness: I was a Castro spy in foundation
By JUAN O. TAMAYO
Herald Staff Writer
HAVANA -- A self-proclaimed spy for Cuba who claimed to have won the trust
of leading members of the Cuban American National Foundation testified
Thursday that foundation President Jose Francisco ``Pepe'' Hernandez offered him
$20,000 to set off two bombs in Havana.
The witness, who identified himself as Percy Francisco Alvarado and appeared
be in his 50s, said he was a Guatemala native who has lived in Cuba since 1960.
As a State Security agent code-named Monk, Alvarado testified, he traveled
to Miami and met with Cuban exiles and foundation officials. He did not claim to
have been part of the foundation staff in the United States, but said he received
money to act as an undercover agent in Cuba.
In Washington, foundation spokeswoman Ninoska Perez said she had never
of Alvarado and denied that he ever had any connection with foundation.
``If he had infiltrated [the foundation], you think he would go unnoticed?''
asked. ``No one's heard of him.''
``This whole thing is a circus,'' she said. ``Last week they had a trial
wouldn't let in journalists. Now they have some guy claiming this. Where's the
``We have repeatedly said this is not the type of activity we would get
Alvarado's allegations, made at the trial of a confessed Salvadoran bomber,
part of the testimony by Cuban security officers alleging the existence within the
Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) of a secret group of officials who
had financed violent attacks on Cuba.
Many attempts alleged
According to the testimony and evidence offered by the prosecution, the
campaign from 1992 to 1998 included 15 bombings carried out or attempted in
Cuba, plus several attempts to kill President Fidel Castro, the last two in the
Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
Parts of the campaign were carried out through Luis Posada Carriles, a
exile and clandestine figure living in El Salvador, apparently to avoid violating U.S.
neutrality laws, Interior Ministry Col. Adalberto Rabeiro testified.
``But CANF played the protagonist and hegemonic role in financing and organizing
these acts of terror,'' Rabeiro said in closing testimony at the trial of Raul Ernesto
Cruz Leon, 27, a Salvadoran who has confessed to six bombings around Havana
Death penalty sought
Prosecutor Rafael Pino wound up the four-day trial by portraying Cruz Leon
wanton terrorist whose bombs killed one Italian businessman and exploded near
children. Pino requested that Cruz Leon be sentenced to death by firing squad.
Defense attorney Daniel Rippes argued that Cruz Leon is a foolish young
adventurer who had no political motives but was in debt and needed the money
offered to him by a Salvadoran friend, Francisco Chavez, to place the bombs. The
five-judge panel has 12 days to issue a verdict.
The unusually detailed testimony presented at the trial appeared to form
part of a
government effort to portray itself as being under constant attacks from Miami
exiles that justify harsh controls on domestic dissent.
``If U.S. officials can't stop these diabolical things, we have to take
measures are necessary to defend our revolution,'' said Rabeiro, chief investigator
for the State Security Department of the Interior Ministry.
Much of the information against foundation members was turned over to ``a
of specialists sent by important U.S. officials'' to Havana last August, Rabeiro said,
``but we're still waiting for results.''
Rabeiro said he could not reveal all the evidence his department had gathered
the trial ``because the battle to protect our nation continues.'' The prosecutor and
Alvarado, the star witness produced Thursday, offered evidence for some of the
allegations but not others.
The evidence included tape recordings of telephone chats and a cellular
allegedly bought by Pepe Hernandez and given first to the spy and later to two
Secret anti-Castro group
Rabeiro charged that several foundation officials had established a secret
``paramilitary group'' within the anti-Castro lobby in 1992 to carry out violent
attacks on Cuban government targets.
He alleged that its members included Hernandez; Luis Zuñiga, head
foundation's human rights branch; Arnaldo Monzon and Horacio Salvador Otero,
members of the 28-member board of directors; employee Roberto Martin Perez;
and Guillermo Novo Sampol, a Cuban exile known to work closely with the
Rabeiro charged that the foundation's late chairman, Jorge Mas Canosa,
the details'' of two of the group's conspiracies, but left him conspicuously out of the
list of alleged members of the secret unit.
Alvarado, the professed spy, testified that he first met Zuñiga
in late 1993 during
one of his visits to Miami -- he did not explain the reason for his trips -- and was
recruited as a foundation agent code-named 44.
Zuñiga told him that several foundation officials had established
``a parallel secret
military organization named the Cuban National Front'' that was dedicated to
organizing violent attacks against Cuba, Alvarado testified.
Zuñiga also told him that half of the foundation's 28 directors
were involved in or
knew about the group, Alvarado said, and paid him to gather information on
strategic Cuban targets like electricity and water installations.
Alvarado said Zuñiga later put him under the supervision of Alfredo
Miami businessman. Otero, 63, is one of seven exiles awaiting trial in Puerto Rico
on charges of plotting to kill Castro when he visited the Venezuelan island of
Margarita in 1997.
Otero gave him ``thousands'' in counterfeit Cuban currency to undermine
economy in mid-1994, Alvarado testified, plus a hand-held satellite position finder
known as a GPS, to mark the exact sites of important government installations in
Alvarado said Otero also gave him a cellular phone to report the GPS data
to Miami, but that the Miami man asked that he return it when he visited Miami
again in late 1994.
Rabeiro said the same cell phone was seized in early 1995 when Cuban police
arrested two exiles, Santos Armando Martinez Rueda and Jose Enrique Ramirez,
who had flown into Cuba using false Costa Rican passports to set off several
Cuban security investigators traced the cell phone back to foundation President
Pepe Hernandez, the State Security official testified, showing copies of what he
said were the phone's registration document.
Martinez Rueda and Ramirez used the phone to transmit information to Guillermo
Novo Sampol, Rabeiro added, showing what he said were Cuban records of calls
made from the phone to a U.S. number registered to Novo Sampol.
Alvarado testified that Pepe Hernandez joined Otero ``in handling me''
of 1994 after asking him to take a lie detector test. ``Having been prepared for it, I
agreed and passed,'' he said.
In September of 1994 the plots turned more serious as Hernandez and Otero
offered him $20,000 to take two bombs back to Havana and detonate them in
public places to sow panic among foreign tourists, Alvarado said.
That November he flew to Guatemala City and received the bombs and instruction
on how to arm them from Posada and Gaspar Jimenez, Alvarado said. Jimenez is
known as a Posada friend who has acted as chauffeur and guard for Dr. Alberto
Hernandez, who succeeded Mas Canosa as foundation chairman.
Alvarado testified that he turned over the bombs to authorities in Havana
his Miami bosses that he was too scared to detonate them. But at a later meeting
in Miami Pepe Hernandez and Arnaldo Monzon ``offered me still another $20,000
on top of that to set them off,'' he added.
Cuban officials have previously identified Monzon, a rich clothing retailer
owns homes in New Jersey and North Miami Beach, as the main financier behind
a dozen bombings by Cruz Leon, his friend Francisco Chavez, another Salvadoran
and two Guatemalans arrested in Cuba last spring.
Prosecutors laid out a wide array of terror implements for the final day
Leon's trial, filling two tables with evidence allegedly seized from Martinez Rueda
and from the two jailed Salvadorans and two Guatemalans.
There were dozens of timers and detonators, a five-gallon paint can filled
explosive, and a crossbow and ``stun gun'' carried by two elderly Miami exiles
captured when they arrived in Cuba last year.
``Today the material author of terror bombings is on trial here. But from
are missing the intellectual authors -- CANF, Pepe Hernandez, Arnaldo Monzon,
Luis Zuñiga, Alfredo Otero, Posada Carriles and Gaspar Jimenez,'' Alvarado told
the courtroom in closing his testimony.
Rabeiro wound up his presentation and all the testimony with a video presentation
on Posada, 68, a CIA-trained explosives expert who was identified by The Herald
in late 1997 as the mastermind behind the Cruz Leon bombings. Posada later
confirmed his role in the blasts, but ultimately denied that the foundation was
involved in the plot.