The Washington Post
Saturday, June 6, 2009

Castro questions timing of Cuban spy arrests

The Associated Press

HAVANA -- Fidel Castro called the case of two Americans accused of spying for Cuba "strange" Saturday and questioned whether the timing of their arrests was politically motivated.

In an essay read by a newscaster on state television, the former Cuban leader noted that the retired Washington couple were taken into custody just 24 hours after the Organization of American States voted to lift a decades-old suspension of Cuba's membership in that group.

Though the U.S. ultimately supported the OAS vote Wednesday, the administration of President Barack Obama initially wanted to see more democratic reforms on the communist island before Cuba was readmitted.

Castro called the OAS vote "a defeat for United States diplomacy."

Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, were arrested Thursday in Washington after a three-year investigation that began before Myers' retirement from the State Department in 2007.

The U.S. government says they had been spying for Havana for 30 years, recruited by Cuba after a 1978 trip there. Myers received his orders by Morse code, and he and his wife usually hand-delivered intelligence, sometimes by exchanging carts in a grocery store, according to court documents.

"Doesn't the story of Cuban spying seem really ridiculous to everyone?" Castro asked, without commenting on its validity.

Myers had been under suspicion since 1995 and FBI investigation since 2006.

If the couple had been watched that long, "why were they not arrested before?" Castro asked.

Court documents say the two were such valued spies, they once had a four-hour meeting with Castro, whom Myers described as one of the great modern political leaders.

Castro said he doesn't recall meeting them when he was still president.

"I met during this time with thousands of Americans for various reasons, individually or in groups, on occasion with gatherings of several hundred of them," said the 82-year-old, who ceded power to his brother Raul when he fell ill nearly three years ago and has not been seen in public since.

"Perhaps influencing the case was not only the tremendous reverse suffered (by the U.S.), but also the news that contacts are being made between the governments of the United States and Cuba on issues of common interest," he added.

Cuba agreed to resume talks with the Obama administration on legal immigration of Cubans to the United States and direct mail services after an overture from the U.S. last month.