Cuban envoys told to leave
2 at Interests Section in D.C., 2 from U.N. tied to spying case
BY TIM JOHNSON
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration said Tuesday that it is
expelling two Cuban diplomats and asking two others to leave the United
States in retaliation for a U.S.
senior intelligence analyst spying for Havana.
''In response to unacceptable activities, the United States decided
to take strong action,'' said Charles Barclay, a State Department spokesman
for the Bureau of
Western Hemisphere affairs.
Almost three weeks ago, a federal judge handed down a 25-year
jail term to a senior analyst at the top-secret Defense Intelligence Agency,
Ana Belen Montes, for her
lengthy spying career. Montes is the most important spy for Cuba ever unmasked within the U.S. intelligence community.
Two diplomats from the Cuban Interests Section, the island's
diplomatic mission in Washington, were informed last Friday that they had
10 days to leave the country,
Barclay said. He identified them as Oscar Redondo Toledo and Gustavo Machín Gómez, both with a diplomatic rank of first secretary.
''These expulsions represent our response to the unacceptable
Cuban activities for which Ana Belen Montes was arrested and convicted,''
Barclay said. ``The Montes
matter is extremely serious.''
Separately, two diplomats at Cuba's mission to the United Nations
in New York City ''have been requested to leave the United States for activities
deemed outside their
official capacity,'' Barclay said. He did not identify them.
Counter-espionage sources describe the Cuban mission in New York as a nexus for very active intelligence operations within the United States.
While U.S. officials did not say the four Cuban diplomats directed
Montes during her 16-year espionage career, they indicated that the diplomats
One senior Bush administration official indicated their official
diplomatic ranks could conceal higher ranks within the Cuban government.
Asked why more senior Cuban
diplomats were not expelled, the official replied: ``Their ranks are what they tell us they are.''
One of the Cuban diplomats in Washington declared persona non
grata, Machín, has variously served as a spokesman, first secretary
or business affairs secretary since
The other diplomat, Redondo, appeared to keep a lower profile.
Under rules that govern diplomats accredited to the United Nations, the State Department was prohibited from flatly expelling the two Cuban diplomats at that mission.
Machín's expulsion is considered a blow to the Cuban government because he has experience in dealing with the business and congressional community.
''The expulsion of Mr. Machín hits at the epicenter of
the Cuban interface with the business community and the U.S. Congress,''
said John Kavulich, president of the
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which assists companies seeking to trade with Cuba.
Kavulich said that before coming to Washington, Machín
had been deputy head of the U.S. department at Cuba's Foreign Ministry,
frequently dealing with U.S. business
representatives in that role as well. Machín, whose father was killed with Cuba's revolutionary hero Ché Guevara in Bolivia, early last week left the United States for the
birth of a child.
The expulsions are likely to increase tensions with Havana --
even as the Cuban government has found growing bipartisan support on Capitol
Hill for prying open the
4-decade-old U.S. embargo of Fidel Castro's communist regime.
President Bush has vowed to maintain the embargo.
The last time Washington expelled a Cuban diplomat was in February
2000, when it told envoy José Imperatori to leave the country. His
expulsion followed allegations
linking him to a U.S. immigration official, Mariano Faget, accused of spying for Cuba.
Montes, a 45-year-old of Puerto Rican descent, confessed in March
to revealing the identities of at least four U.S. intelligence agents and
providing coded secret and
top-secret information on defense matters to Havana in a spying career that began in 1985.
Montes underwent extensive monthslong debriefing by counterterrorism
experts to determine the extent of her espionage. The FBI has publicly
disclosed only minimal
details about her betrayals, saying it is too sensitive to reveal more.
At her sentencing, an unrepentant Montes declared that U.S. policy
toward Cuba is ''cruel and unfair, profoundly unneighborly.'' She said
she ``felt morally obligated to
help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it.''
Havana kept mum following the arrest of Montes at a Washington
military base in September 2001. But two days after her sentencing, Cuban
Foreign Minister Felipe
Pérez Roque said that he felt ''profound respect and admiration'' for Montes.
''Her actions were moved by ethics and by an admirable sense of justice,'' he said.
Herald staff writer Juan O. Tamayo contributed to this report, which was supplemented with Herald wire services.