October 20, 1998
In rare admission, Castro says Cuba has dispatched spies across U.S.

                  From Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman

                  OPORTO, Portugal (CNN) -- Fidel Castro has admitted to sending spies
                  to the United States to gather information about "terrorist activities"
                  by anti-Castro political groups, but the Cuban leader denied there were
                  any attempts to spy on the U.S. military.

                  In an exclusive interview to be broadcast Tuesday on CNN's WorldView,
                  Castro said, "Yes, we have sometimes dispatched Cuban citizens to the
                  United States to infiltrate counterrevolutionary organizations, to inform us
                  about activities that are of great interest to us."

                  "I think we have the right to do this," he said. "The United States has spies in
                  industrial quantities."

                  The comments were believed to be the first time the Cuban leader has made
                  such an admission.

                  Ten alleged Cuban spies were arrested in Florida last month in what
                  authorities say is the largest Cuban spy ring uncovered in the United States
                  since Castro came to power in 1959.

                  They were charged with trying to penetrate U.S. military bases, infiltrate
                  anti-Castro exile groups and manipulate U.S. media and political

                  Castro made his comments during an interview in Portugal, where he was
                  attending the Ibero-American summit. He was responding to a question
                  about the arrests, acknowledging that Cuba placed spies in the United

                  "What information in the United States is it that interests us? One bit of
                  information exclusively -- one thing fundamentally -- and that is the
                  information about the terrorist activities against Cuba. The information about
                  sabotage plans," he said.

                  Castro, however, denied sending spies to collect information on the U.S.

                  "We aren't interested in strategic matters, nor are we interested in
                  information about military bases," Castro said.

                  But he said movements of U.S. military near Cuba would be of interest if the
                  moves "translate into an act of aggression against Cuba. But we know that at
                  this time that is not the fundamental thinking of the U.S. government."

                  There was no immediate comment from the State Department late Monday.

                  Fernando Rojas, spokesman for the Cuban American National Foundation,
                  an anti-Castro lobbying group based in Miami, said the interview with
                  Castro was further evidence the Cuban leader continues to be a threat to
                  U.S. national security.

                  "He's now admitting to the fact he's exporting violence here to the shores of
                  the United States," Rojas said.

                  Three of the 10 arrested on espionage charges have pleaded guilty to being
                  an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. Attorney
                  General. The charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in
                  federal prison and a $250,000 fine.