Cuban linked to terrorists may get diplomatic visa
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
WASHINGTON -- A Cuban diplomat linked to Puerto Rican
terrorists will receive a U.S. visa to work in Washington once
Cuba agrees to let in two State Department officials assigned to
Havana, U.S. officials say.
The FBI initially filed a formal veto to Fernando Garcia Bielsa's
assignment to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, but
later reviewed its decision and withdrew the objection, the
Sen. Jesse Helms, R-NC, chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, has called Garcia Bielsa ''a notorious
Cuban intelligence operative'' and hinted at Clinton
administration pressures on the FBI to reverse itself.
The State Department ''now has no legitimate reason to deny
[Garcia Bielsa] a visa, but they're waiting for reciprocity for the people waiting to
go to Havana,'' said one congressional source knowledgeable about the
The State Department and the Cuban Foreign Ministry maintain there's
link between the Garcia Bielsa case and the delays on Cuban visas requested by
two State Department officials assigned to Havana.
U.S. officials said the FBI has intelligence reports showing Garcia
often in Cuba in the 1970s with two radical Puerto Rican pro-independence
groups, the Macheteros and Armed Forces of National Liberation, known as
A wave of FALN and Machetero terror bombings around the United
States in the
early 1970s killed six people and wounded more than 60. Police suspect the
Macheteros of four bombings that injured one person in Puerto Rico last year.
Garcia Bielsa was a top official of the Americas Department of
Communist Party in the 1970s, then tasked by President Fidel Castro with
training and arming leftist guerrilla groups around Latin America.
The FBI based its objection of Garcia Bielsa on his 1970s meetings
Puerto Rican radicals. Under U.S. procedures the veto would have forced the
State Department to deny him a visa.
Queried by the State Department, the FBI later reviewed its evidence
procedures and decided that meetings alone were not enough to deny the Cuban
a visa, congressional officials said.
FBI spokesmen declined to explain either decision. The Cuban Interests
in Washington said only that Garcia Bielsa is still awaiting a State Department
reply to his visa request.
LETTER TO ALBRIGHT
Helms, in an angry letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
hinted that Garcia Bielsa had done far more than meet with the Puerto Rican
radicals but offered no details.
A conservative Washington magazine, Insight, three days later
quoted a U.S.
intelligence official as saying that Garcia Bielsa ''personally oversaw the funding
and direction of the Macheteros.
Cuba has long been on the State Department's list of nations linked
international terrorism, along with others such as Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria
and North Korea.
The 1998 list notes that while there was ''no evidence'' Cuba
attacks in the previous year, ''it continues to provide sanctuary to terrorists from
several different . . . organizations.''
Among the some 90 U.S. fugitives alleged to be living in Cuba
Machetero and FALN members and former Black Panther member Joanne
Chesimard. Washington and Havana have no extradition agreement.