The Miami Herald
November 2, 1999

 Cuban linked to terrorists may get diplomatic visa


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
 officials added.

 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 no official
 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 Bielsa met
 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 the Cuban
 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 with the
 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 and
 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 Section
 in Washington said only that Garcia Bielsa is still awaiting a State Department
 reply to his visa request.


 Helms, in an angry letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Sept. 21,
 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 to
 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 sponsored any
 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 are several
 Machetero and FALN members and former Black Panther member Joanne
 Chesimard. Washington and Havana have no extradition agreement.