The Miami Herald
Nov. 06, 2002

Cuban envoys told to leave

2 at Interests Section in D.C., 2 from U.N. tied to spying case


  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 had intelligence

  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.