The Miami Herald
December 23, 1998

Move may be tied to spying probe

             By RUI FERREIRA
             El Nuevo Herald

             The U.S. government on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of three Cuban diplomats
             at the United Nations, accusing them of ``activities incompatible with their status.''
             The euphemism, created during the Cold War, usually means espionage.

             According to several sources familiar with the subject, the action is a result of the
             investigations conducted after 10 Cubans were arrested in South Florida in
             September and charged with spying for the Cuban government.

             Neither the names nor the positions of the three diplomats were disclosed.

             In the language usually used in such cases, the U.S. government ``requested'' that
             the Cuban government withdraw its functionaries as soon as possible, the sources

             One source said the Cuban government was notified early Tuesday and that it was
             given until 5 p.m. to answer the allegations.

             ``There was no answer,'' the source said, one hour after the deadline.

             Calls made late Tuesday to the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New
             York City were not returned. Neither were calls placed to the Cuban Interests
             Section in Washington and to the Cuban Affairs Desk at the State Department.

             ``The State Department informed me this afternoon that three Cuban diplomats
             would be expelled for espionage and, quite frankly, the news didn't surprise me.
             All of Castro's diplomats are spies,'' said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., when
             reached by El Nuevo Herald.

             According to the lawmaker, the federal authorities told him the expulsion was
             ``imminent.'' The State Department also kept Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.,

             In 1992, the United States expelled a Cuban diplomat serving at the United
             Nations after he was videotaped by a TV station chatting with the former military
             chief of the anti-Castro group Alpha 66, Francisco Avila, in a New York City
             restaurant. Avila was a double agent for the FBI and Cuba, and the Cuban
             diplomat was his contact with Havana.

             Of the 10 spies arrested in September, three of them -- Manuel Viramontes, Luis
             Medina and Raul Campa -- are considered by authorities to be the network's
             leaders, professional intelligence officers especially trained and sent to the United
             States to carry out missions of recruitment and espionage.

             Paul Mackenna, Viramontes' public defender, said he was surprised by the
             expulsion of the three Cuban diplomats and their possible relationship with his
             client's case.

             ``To tell you the truth, every day I find it more difficult to understand U.S. foreign
             policy. I don't see how those diplomats could have anything to do with my client,''
             he said. ``Let's hope there is an explanation for this, even though neither the FBI
             nor anyone else warned me of these developments.''