By Jerry Seper and Tom Carter
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The FBI yesterday charged 10 persons with running a
Cuban spy ring in Miami that sought to penetrate U.S.
military bases, infiltrate anti-Castro groups and manipulate U.S.
media and political organizations.
The eight men and two women, arrested Saturday
following a four-year probe, made their first court appearances
yesterday and were charged with espionage and failure to
register as agents of a foreign power. It was not clear if the
suspected spies are Cuban exiles who remain loyal to the
Castro regime, or agents who entered the country illegally from
Handcuffed and in prison denims, the 10 were ordered
held without bail for what John Schlesinger, spokesman for the
U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, called a "huge" espionage
The network reportedly targeted the U.S. Southern
Command, which includes MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa,
Fla., and the Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West, Fla.,
as well as U.S. military operations in Latin America and the
An FBI affidavit said the group came under investigation in
early 1995, and the network operated with some
sophistication, using code names and developing escape plans
and alibis in case they came under suspicion.
The FBI said the ring infiltrated several Cuban exile
organizations, including the Miami-based Brothers to the
Rescue. One of those arrested was Rene Gonzalez, who
worked with Brothers to the Rescue until 1993. The group
operates search-and-rescue missions from Miami for Cuban
refugees in boats off Cuba's north shore.
Three Americans aboard two Brothers to the Rescue
planes were killed in February 1996 when their plane was shot
down by a Cuban MiG fighter jet over international waters.
Federal authorities at the time investigated to determine if
Cuban spies had played any part in the incident.
Mr. Gonzalez also has been identified as an FBI informant
and had ties to Ramon Saul Sanchez's Democracia movement,
which operates flotillas from the Florida Keys to near Havana
to protest Cuban government actions.
FBI director Louis J. Freeh called Rep. Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen at home on Saturday to inform her of the arrests,
according to Juan Cortinas, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen's spokesman in
The Florida Republican asked the FBI in June for a briefing
by the agency's counterintelligence section on two types of
activities by Cuban officials in the United States: "a significant
increase" in travel by Cuban officials to Florida and New York
for private meetings, and an "inordinate number of meetings
Cuban government officials had with major U.S. corporations
and industry giants."
On July 22, she raised her concerns at the FBI with
Stephen Dillard, the section chief of the National Security
Division, and Larry Torrence, the deputy assistant director for
Anti-Castro Cuban-Americans have long feared being
infiltrated by Cuban government agents, apparently with good
Juan Pablo Roque, a Cuban defector and former MiG pilot
who had been living in Miami, surfaced in Cuba after the
Brothers to the Rescue shooting incident and claimed to have
supplied information to Havana. Mr. Roque, who married in
Miami and often flew on Brothers to the Rescue missions,
returned to Cuba one day before the shootdown.
In 1996, another Cuban immigrant, Roberto Martin
Cabrera, claimed to have been a spy and a hit man for Castro's
government. In 1992, the Cuban exile community was horrified
to learn that a top member of the anti-Castro paramilitary
group Alpha 66 had worked as a double agent for Cuba after
he moved to Miami in 1979.
In 1991, Jose Fernandez Brenes told a Cuban newspaper
he was a double agent who had infiltrated the CIA and TV
Marti, a U.S.-financed television station hostile to Cuba's
communist government, during three years in the United States.
Other suspects in the case were identified as Alejandro
Alonso, Ruben Campa, Antonio Guerrero, Linda Hernandez,
Nilo Hernandez, Luis Medina, Amarilis Santos, Joseph Santos
and Manuel Viramontez.