Official: Cuba cooperation eased deportation
The surprise deportation of an alleged Cuban spy was the result of unexpected cooperation from Havana, U.S. officials said.
BY NANCY SAN MARTIN AND LUISA YANEZ
The abrupt deportation of an alleged Cuban spy in Miami -- the first such removal to the communist-ruled island -- came after Havana expressed an unusual willingness to take back the spy suspect, U.S. officials told The Herald on Wednesday.
Washington authorities had sought Juan Emilio Aboy's return to his native Cuba since late last year, but it wasn't until Monday that Havana unexpectedly issued a diplomatic note saying his return would be accepted.
Cuba has generally refused to take back exiles. U.S. officials said no special negotiations or deals were tied to Aboy's return.
'As soon as it was clear he had a final order of deportation, sometime in October or November of last year, we went to the Cubans and said, in effect, `We have one of your guys,' '' a U.S. official with knowledge of the bilateral exchanges told The Herald. ``We presented them with two choices: take [Aboy] back or he would stay in detention for the rest of his life.''
The Cuban government gave no response to the deportation request until Monday morning when authorities received a diplomatic note. By noon Tuesday, Aboy, 44, was shackled, placed in a U.S. government plane and flown back to the country he left a decade ago. He left behind a wife and child in Miami.
''He was bound by hand and foot, like the criminal that he is,'' said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ``He had a final order of deportation and good riddance.''
Aboy's deportation came after he began a 38-day hunger strike to demand his freedom from the Krome detention center, where he had been held since his arrest in May 2002. A Miami federal judge last week authorized the temporary insertion of a feeding tube.
''Maybe what inspired them [Cuba] was the hunger strike,'' the U.S. official said.
Aboy's wife disputed the U.S. government's account, and his Miami attorney, Grisel Ybarra, questioned whether a secret deal had been struck between the two countries.
Alina Aboy said Cuba granted her husband a humanitarian visa because U.S. authorities led them to believe he was at risk of dying.
''The U.S. government told Cuba they were holding a man who was on a hunger strike and dying because Cuba wouldn't take him back. So Cuba gave him the visa,'' Alina Aboy said from her Westchester home.
''That's the only reason Cuba allowed him back,'' she said. ``I know some people are saying that because Cuba took him back, he was a spy for them. That's not true.''
Alina Aboy said her husband was in quarantine at a Havana hospital, where he was visited by an adult son, 28, from a previous marriage. He also has a daughter, 14, living on the island.
Aboy grew up in Playa de Santa Fé, just west of Havana, but has no close relatives there, Alina Aboy said. His mother, stepfather and three brothers, along with his third child, all live in Miami.
''He sent me a message saying his body is destroyed from the hunger strike and his soul is dead,'' Alina Aboy said of her husband, adding the deportation came as a total surprise.
''He said heavily armed men came to get him and at first he thought he was being transferred to another detention center. He asked permission to use the phone to call me and they told him no,'' Alina Aboy said. ``He said he realized he was in Cuba when they were landing.''
Aboy left Cuba during the 1994 rafter exodus. He was linked by investigators to the so-called Wasp Network of more than a dozen Cuban government operatives rolled up in the late 1990s. Investigators claimed Aboy served as a network courier and was ordered to infiltrate the Pentagon's U.S. Southern Command, based in Miami-Dade.
Aboy denied the allegations and was never charged criminally. Instead, deportation proceedings were launched. Authorities said he failed to disclose he had received intelligence training upon entry to the United States, a deportable violation. Aboy's residency status was revoked in December 2002 and he had been fighting deportation since then.
Aboy is the only spy suspect known to have been deported to Cuba since Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. Two other deportations involved a stowaway discovered on a ship at the Port of Miami in 1982 and the wife of a convicted spy in the Wasp network in the late 1990s. An agreement reached with Havana in the mid-1980s also allowed the return of Cuban convicts who arrived in the United States during the Mariel boatlift.
''Cuba deserves no credit for taking back Aboy,'' the U.S. official said. ``There are hundreds of other people they should be taking back -- murderers, child abusers, alien smugglers and other intel operatives.''
Alina Aboy said the legal battle for her husband will continue despite the deportation. Ybarra said she will continue to appeal his case to the 11th District Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
''This has been a dirty trick played by this country on my husband,'' Alina Aboy said, adding that not even Aboy's attorneys were notified of his deportation. ``He even had a court hearing set for today.''