Report: Freed nationalists had links to Cuban intelligence
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The Puerto Rican nationalists offered clemency by
President Clinton were members of two groups with ties to Cuban
intelligence agents, The Hartford Courant reported.
The newspaper reported Sunday that FBI files on a Wells Fargo robbery in
West Hartford document Cuba's support for the Puerto Rican independence
movement. The contents of the files have not been disclosed until now, The
The FBI monitored conversations and meetings between Cuban intelligence
agents and members of the group Los Macheteros, Spanish for ''The Cane
''Numerous court-authorized interceptions of conversations ... have
determined that the Cubans support and direct the Macheteros at a firsthand
level,'' the FBI said in a confidential memo.
In addition to analyzing the FBI investigation of the 1983 armored car
robbery, The Courant said it interviewed 50 sources including former Cuban
agents, FBI agents and congressional investigators.
In September, President Clinton freed 11 jailed nationalists, members of
Macheteros or the FALN, the Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of
The FALN has claimed responsibility for numerous bombings in the United
States; its 1975 bombing of Fraunces Tavern in New York killed four and
injured 63. Los Macheteros, with the exception of the $7.1 million Wells
Fargo robbery, attacked U.S. government targets in Puerto Rico.
None of the prisoners offered clemency were directly involved in violent
Clinton said, and he acted on human rights activists' arguments that the
prisoners had paid their debt by serving an average 19 years in jail.
In its Wells Fargo investigation, the FBI learned that Machetero leaders
regularly with their Cuban contacts in Mexico City, but sometimes also met
According to a former Cuban intelligence officer, Cubans in Mexico City
provided Victor M. Gerena the Wells Fargo guard who stole the money with
forged identity documents which enabled him to escape to Havana.
About a third of the stolen cash went to the Cubans, sources told The
When the FBI closed its Wells Fargo investigation in 1985, some
investigators argued that four Cuban officers should have been listed as
A now-retired FBI counterterrorism officer said he never learned why the
Cubans were left out of the indictment. A Cuban source speculated that the
U.S. Department of State did not want to jeopardize indirect talks between
the two countries.
''The thing that always amazed me was that it didn't cause a ripple,''
retired FBI agent, whom the newspaper did not identify.
White House spokesman Jim Kennedy, asked whether Cuban support for
the nationalists was considered during deliberations on the clemency offer,
said decisions about clemency are confidential.
The president ''made his decision after a careful and balanced consideration
of the facts, the law and the differing points of view on the subject,'' Kennedy
White House spokesman Mike Hammer, contacted by The Associated
Press, said nobody was available Saturday to comment on the specifics of
Filiberto Ojeda Rios, a wanted Macheteros leader who has been in hiding
Puerto Rico for years, angrily denied any ties to Cuba during an interview
with Puerto Rican radio journalist Luis Penchi.
''That is ridiculous, absurd,'' he said. ''I don't know where that version
from, nor am I going to ask you, but I am going to tell you that it is
completely false, ridiculous and there is nothing to discuss.''
A spokesman for the Cuban Interests Section, which serves as Havana's de
facto embassy in Washington, also dismissed the link. The office was
''I have no information on that,'' said Luis M. Fernandez. ''In my opinion,
more science fiction than anything else.''