U.S. Moves to Expel 4 Cuban Diplomats
Removals in Retaliation for Havana's Involvement in Espionage Case, U.S. Says
By Glenn Kessler and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writers
The United States has expelled two Washington-based Cuban diplomats
and requested the departure of two Cuban diplomats at the United Nations
in retaliation for
an espionage case that deeply penetrated the U.S. military for nine years, U.S. officials said yesterday.
Ana Belen Montes, the former senior analyst for Cuban affairs for the
Defense Intelligence Agency, was sentenced to 25 years in prison last month,
sentence she received in exchange for telling investigators the details of the Cuban scheme. The State Department last Friday informed the Cuban interests section
here in Washington and its U.N. mission in New York that the four officials must depart within 10 days.
Cuba and the United States do not have diplomatic relations but operate
interest sections in each other's capital under the auspices of the Swiss
Embassy. A senior
administration official said the two officials at the interests section were declared "persona non grata" to retaliate for the Belen Montes case. But he suggested
strongly that the officials at the U.N. mission -- whose names were not disclosed -- were requested to leave for spying activities.
Under U.N. host country rules, the United States is required to use
language saying a diplomat has been "requested to leave for engaging in
harmful" to the United States that were "outside their diplomatic activities," diplomatic code for serious and illegal acts.
These guys "met the criteria," the official said. "The fact that it
is linked to the Montes case in time is something that is not by coincidence."
He declined to detail their
activities or whether Belen Montes fingered them. "You are drawing a link between the two that is not illogical," he said, adding, "that's about as far as I can go"
because of U.S. obligations under the host country agreement with the United Nations.
Belen Montes worked for the Justice Department in the early 1980s before
moving in 1985 to the DIA, which produces military intelligence about foreign
She worked her way up to become the agency's top official on Cuban affairs by 1992, a job that gave her access to top-secret files. From 1992 until her arrest last
year, Belen Montes passed information to Cuban intelligence officers, including the names of at least four U.S. covert officers working in Cuba and classified U.S.
photographs and documents.
Cuban officials did not return calls at either the interests section
or the mission, and U.S. officials said Cuba has not formally responded
to the expulsions. But they
are bracing for retaliatory steps by Cuba, such as expelling U.S. officials at the U.S. interests section in Havana.
At the Cuban interests section, the two officials ordered to leave --
Gustavo Machin Gomez and Oscar Redondo Toledo -- both held the rank of
first secretary, just
under the ambassador. Machin's expulsion is considered a deep blow to the Cuban government because he is an experienced and well-regarded conduit to the
business and congressional community for the Cuban government.
"The expulsion of Mr. Machin hits at the epicenter of the Cuban interface
with the business community and the U.S. Congress," said John S. Kavulich,
the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which assists companies seeking to trade with Cuba. He said that in 2002, U.S. companies will export about $165
million in agricultural and food products to Cuba on a cash basis.
Kavulich said that before coming to Washington, Machin had been deputy
head of the U.S. department at Cuba's foreign ministry, frequently dealing
business representatives in that role as well. Machin, whose father was killed with Cuban revolutionary hero Che Guevara in Bolivia, early last week left the United
States for the birth of a child. The answering machine at his office says he will not be back in Washington until Nov. 20.
For the past three years, strong congressional majorities in both chambers
have voted to ease economic sanctions and travel restrictions against Cuba
that they haven't accomplished their declared purpose of unseating Cuban President Fidel Castro and are inconsistent policy compared to friendly U.S. relations with
communist governments in China and Vietnam. But the measures have been repeatedly watered down or buried by the House GOP leadership.
Staff writer Charles Lane contributed to this report.