Miami Herald
February 1, 1980, pp. 1c, 5c.

Cuba Used dialogue as Spy Cover, Espinosa Says

By Dan Williams

And Bonnie M. Anderson

Herald Staff Writers

The Cuban exile dialogue with the Fidel Castro government has been a vehicle for "penetration" of Cuban intelligence agents in South Florida' exile community, Manuel Espinosa, who had been one of the dialogue's loudest proponent, said Tuesday.
Espinosa, a flamboyant Hialeah pastor who as recently as last month called for the lifting of the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, said he would "unmask the extensive penetration of intelligence agents that operates in this country." Espinosa said 182 Cuban intelligence agents are based in the United States, most in South Florida.

Last month he called for the U.S. government to stop terrorists from attacking dialogue participants. Tuesday, during a press conference broadcast live over Spanish?language radio in Miami, he named many who he says are agents of the Cuban government.

He offered no documentation to support his charges, but asserted that the U.S. government is investigating.

FBI agents attended the press conference. One agent said, "We're always looking and investigating to find out who's who in the community."

The agent would not comment on the accuracy of Espinosa's statements.

Espinosa's rambling three-hour speech was the latest sign of strain in the dialogue, which opened Cuba for travel to more than 100,000 exiles during the past year and resulted in the release of 3,600 political prisoners.

Recently, the Cuban government has reportedly begun confiscating goods brought to the island by exiles; key Cuban officials have said that the introduction of consumer goods by the travelers has had a "deviant" effect on the Cuba. Last week, four Miami exiles traveling to Cuba were arrested on drug and illegal currency exchange charges.

During Thursday's press conference, held at the Columbus Hotel in downtown Miami, Espinosa said Cuban agents "infiltrate cultural, political and economic organizations" in Miami and other U.S. cities. He defined an agent as a paid member of the security or armed forces of Cuba.

He named more than 20 persons in Miami, Key West and other U.S. cities who he said gather information on the Cuban community in the United States, and he described several others as collaborators.

Espinosa said the Committee of 75, the Cuban exile group that has directed the dialogue, is under the direction of Cuban intelligence agents. Espinosa had been a member of the committee's executive board.

Espinosa claimed that some heads of exile labor groups are "controlled" by Fidel Castro; he claimed that some small­business men, clergy, politicians, educators and at least one Bay of Pigs veteran were intelligence agents.

In addition, Espinosa accused top officials of Havanatur, the company that has operated exile tours to Cuba from Miami, of being high-ranking Cuban intelligence agents. Espinosa said high-ranking Cuban diplomatic personnel in the United states are Cuban intelligence officers.

FROM THE COMMITTEE of 75, Espinosa singled out Albor Ruiz, Napoleon Vilaboa, New Jersey priest Andres Reyes, Maria Cristina Herrera, Osvaldo Estivil, Hildo Romeo, Marcos Raul Correa, Viente Dopico, Manuel de Dios Unanue and Gerardo Moreno as agents.

"It's a big lie," said Vilaboa. "It's matter of defamation."

Espinosa called Vilaboa, a Bay of Pigs veteran, "most dangerous . . . a man capable of shooting me in the back." Vilaboa, 42, said he would sue Espinosa.

Andres Reyes, who has been the victim of terrorist attacks in New Jersey, denied Espinosa's accusation. "He has to prove it," he said. It's a very delicate accusation. I don't understand why he would say something like that."

"I have never belonged to any security organism of Cuba," said Hildo Romeo, 42. "And I'm going to sue to make Espinosa prove his charges."

Estivil, a 68-year-old musician and former director of Espinosa's church choir, said, "I'm not an agent for anyone. He [Espinosa] doesn't even know me, but he has it in for me."

"I have never denied that Iím socialist, but I have never been a Cuban agent or American agent," said Correa.

Dopico, who operates Cuba Travel a travel agency that sells trips to Cuba to exiles, said, "Espinosa has repeated all the rumors of the Miami tabloid newspapers. This isn't the first time I've been accused of being an agent. But I absolutely deny it."

De Dios, a reporter for La Prensa newspaper in New York, asked, 'Was there an ambulance there to take Espinosa to a hospital after the conference? He should see a psychiatrist."

Despite repeated calls, neither Moreno nor Ruiz could be reached for comment.

Espinosa also attacked the Antonio Maceo Brigade, a group that supports renewed U.S. relations with Cuba, as being "dangerous" and ďcompletely communist.'' Last year, Espinosa decried the murder of a brigade member in Puerto Rico and called for U.S. government action against terrorists.

"The Antonio Maceo Brigade categorically denies the accusations," said Andres Gomez, brigade coordinator in Miami. "He has said nothing that has not been said earlier by the most reactionary elements of our community."

Espinosa also named Lourdes Casals, Rafael Betancourt, both of New York, and Francisco Aruca as agents. None could be reached for comment Thursday night.

Havanatur, the Panamanian-registered company that has the exclusive contract with the Cuban government to sell exile trips to the island, was called a "cave of communists" by Espinosa.

"I am a businessman," said Havanatur manager Jorge Debasa, who Espinosa claims holds the rank of colonel in the Cuban intelligence agency, the General Department of Intelligence (DGI). "These are lies. I am here with permission of the U.S. government."

Espinosa also called Fernando Fuentes, who arranges the trips on Iiavanatur's behalf in Miami, a "collaborator" of the agents. Espinosa defined a collaborator. as someone who works under the direction of an agent, but is not a member of the agency. Collaborators are not on the intelligence payroll, but could be paid for individual missions, he said.

"I donít know what he's talking about," answered Fuentes. "I don't have any knowledge of anything that would make him say this."

Espinosa also singled out Carlos Alfonso, Havantur owner, as a high official in the DGI. He mentioned that Miriam Contreras' activities as an intelligence agent are "well known." Contreras was the personal secretary to Salvador Allende, deposed Marxist president of Chile. She now works at Travel Services Inc., a Hialeah company that processes travel document for Havanatur.

He also said Roger Montanez, also an employee of Havanatur, holds the rank of captain in the Cuban intelligence agency.

Neither Montanez nor Contreras could be reached for comment at the Travel Services office. Alfonso was reportedly out of the United States.

Other South Florida residents mentioned as agents were: Salvador Aldereguia, classified as being one of the "most shady and dangerous"; Tomas Morejon, a resident of Key West; Raul Aguilar, a member of the United Musicians, Artists and Composers, which Espinosa said was controlled by the Cuban government; and Roger Redondo, who works for Replica Magazine.

Espinosa also claimed that Jose Menendez, an unsucessful Key West mayoral candidate last year, passed information on the Cuban community in Key West to the Castro Government.

None could be reached for comment Thursday. Thursday night, callers to Aldereguia's home were told he was not in. Morejon's phone was off the hook, according to a telephone operator; Menendez number was unlisted; and numerous calls to Aguilar went unanswered.

Miami banker Bernardo Benes, mentioned by Espinosa as a collaborator, was out of town, according to his wife.

The accusations represented a new role for Espinosa, who for the past five years has spoken in favor of the freeing of political prisoners in Cuba, open travel to the island and the reunification of Cuban families. He has also proposed the lifting of the U.S. economic embargo against the island and defended the dialogue against anti-Castro critics.

Espinosa defended his previous stance, saying they were "conditions" for freeing prisoners from Cuba. "These were ordered by Castro," he said. "I was told to penetrate the community, bribe politicians, publish little newspapers. I was fighting s alone e, accepting all their conditions."

ESPINOSA ALSO said his "180 degree turn" away from the dialogue was prompted partly by what he called a "popular rebellion" in Cuba against the Castro government.

"We are here to give a strong blow against the agents of Castro and international communism," he said.

Espinosa also said that Cuban government suspicions that he is an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency forced him to speak out. "I realized that I was completely circled by agents watching me," he said. "Otherwise, I would have gone on for another year."

He added, "Friends of mine in Cuba had been interrogated. Arrangements were made for my arrest in Cuba Feb. 7 for crimes which would have sent me to the wall to be shot. I know the beast [Castro] will be after my head."

Espinosa said all the names of agents in the United States would not be released "because the U.S. government conducting a wide investigation" of their activities.

While denying he was a CIA agent, Espinosa said "the U.S. government knows everything that I am saying."