September 17, 1998
Alleged Cuban spies had escape plan, attorneys say

                  MIAMI (Reuters) -- A judge denied bond for two alleged Cuban spies
                  Wednesday, after government attorneys said the men were living under false
                  identities and had already made plans to flee the country if their network was

                  The alleged leader of the spy ring, charged under the name Manuel
                  Viramontes, had also discussed a sabotage campaign in coded
                  communications with Cuban agencies, government attorney Caroline Miller
                  said at a bond hearing.

                  U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber said he believed it was likely
                  Viramontes and his alleged lieutenant, Luis Medina, would try to flee if they
                  were granted bond.

                  "Each represents a danger to the community," he said.

                   Alleged spies reportedly followed orders from Havana

                  The two men and eight other people are accused of belonging to a spy
                  network with orders from the communist government in Havana to infiltrate
                  U.S. military bases and anti-Castro Cuban exile organizations in Miami.

                  The 10 were leading apparently ordinary lives in South Florida's Hispanic
                  community.  U.S. authorities believe it is the largest roundup of alleged
                  Cuban agents since President Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

                 Viramontes has described himself as a self-employed graphic artist but is said to
                  be a Cuban military captain with the code name "Giro."

                  But, said Miller: "That is not his true identity ... the name belongs to someone
                  who is dead."

                  Coded documents on computer diskettes seized from his apartment showed
                  the identity and three other covers had been prepared for him. The profiles
                  included personal histories, details of schools and jobs and names of
                  relatives, she said.

                  Diskettes reveal possible sabotage campaign

                  An "arrest alibi plan" laid out four escape routes, two through Mexico, one
                  through Canada and one to Nicaragua.

                  FBI agent Mark de Almeida said the secret documents, contained on
                  "hundreds and hundreds" of diskettes, referred to Cuban agencies and also
                  mentioned "el comandante," which they assumed to be a reference to

                  They also discussed a possible sabotage campaign called Operation Picada
                  against buildings and planes in Florida.

                  One scenario was the sabotage of an aircraft hangar, but the FBI agent was
                  unable to give details.

                  Viramontes, a slim man with receding hair and a goatee beard, sat
                  impassively throughout the proceedings.

                  Although he claimed to be separated from a wife who lived in Mexico, he
                  had a wife in Cuba, whom he addressed by the code name Bonsai in secret
                  messages, Miller said.

                  One letter said, "I am writing five days before our eighth anniversary."

                  Briefcase contains 'espionage paraphernalia'

                  Attorney Guy Lewis said Medina was a Cuban army major who also was
                  living under a false identity. He was assigned to infiltrate the Southern
                  Command, the U.S. military headquarters for Latin America and
                  the Caribbean in Miami.

                  Before his arrest, Medina had planned to flee the United States on
                  Thursday, after a laptop computer was stolen while he was in Los Angeles
                  last week, Lewis said.

                  A briefcase seized from his apartment held "all kinds of espionage
                  paraphernalia" as well as school diplomas, a birth certificate, $5,000 in cash
                  and videos shot in Cuba. Medina was in Cuba as recently as July, Lewis

                  The FBI search of the apartment he shared with fellow defendant Ruben
                  Campa turned up, among other things, 15 to 20 death certificates and a
                  shortwave radio set up for communication with Cuba.

                  Medina has a wife and three daughters in Cuba, although he said on a
                  passport application he was not married, Lewis said.

                  Change of venue needed?

                  Viramontes' lawyer Paul McKenna contended the FBI had no evidence that
                  his client was the "Giro" mentioned in the secret documents.

                  De Almeida said the link was established from the disks, surveillance and
                  wiretaps over a three-year period.

                  The case has caused a sensation among Miami's predominant
                  Cuban-American community, which is obsessed with Castro and dreams of
                  his downfall.

                  McKenna told reporters later he hoped the defendants could get a fair trial
                  in Miami, but it might be necessary to request that it be moved.

                  "This is a very, very unpopular case," he said.

                  Bond hearings for the other eight defendants were put off until Friday, next
                  Tuesday and September 28.