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'Terror' exiles arrested in Cuba

Updated: 2014-05-09 07:24
By Agencies in Havana, Cuba ( China Daily)

Miami-based men are suspected of planning attacks on military targets

Cuba has arrested four Miami-based exiles suspected of planning attacks on military installations with the goal of promoting anti-government violence on the island.

In a statement late on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry described the men as "terrorists" and said they were linked to Luis Posada Carriles, 86, a Cuban exile and former CIA operative living in Miami who for many years sought to overthrow the Cuban government.

The April 26 arrests could antagonize the already poor relations between Washington and Havana, and the case recalled a series of plots from the exile community in Miami against Cuba.

Cuba said it would contact US officials about the investigation and that the four suspects had admitted to planning the attacks. By reaching out to US authorities, Cuba said it hoped to "avoid acts by terrorist organizations or elements located in that country".

The State Department said it had seen the Cuban statement but had no further information.

"The Cuban government has also not been in touch with us yet on these cases," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

The suspects were identified as Jose Ortega Amador, Obdulio Rodriguez Gonzalez, Raibel Pacheco Santos and Felix Monzon Alvarez, relative unknowns among Miami exiles.

Cuba said they were working for three others in Miami, who are well known, and who had close ties to Posada Carriles, a polarizing figure seen as a terrorist in Cuba.

A lawyer for Posada Carriles denied any connection to the allegations. "No basis at all," attorney Arturo Hernandez said.

Posada Carriles is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela in relation to the bombing of a Cubana Airlines jet in 1976 that killed 73 people. He is also suspected of involvement in hotel bombings in 1997 aimed at destabilizing Cuba and scaring away tourists.

At least two of the three other so-called masterminds, Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat, have been active in the militant, anti-Cuban government exile movement. Both pleaded guilty in 2006 to criminal conspiracy in a plea deal to avoid more serious charges of possessing machine guns, a grenade launcher and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Santiago Alvarez denied any link, saying he had never heard of the men who were arrested.

"This is just a bunch of lies," he said. "They need to shift the blame from the economic situation they are in and entertain people with stories about Miami terrorists."

Another man linked by Cuba to the plot, a well-known Miami-area doctor, Manuel Alzugaray, went on Spanish-language TV in Miami on Wednesday night to deny any link to the arrested men.

"I don't recognize any of their names," he told the Mega TV show, Ahora Con Oscar Haza.

The president of a local charity, Miami Medical Team Foundation, Alzugaray said he had been dedicated to humanitarian work for three decades, including sending medicine to Cuba.

A man who identified himself as Raibel Pacheco was listed as director of a short-lived and previously unknown Florida non-profit, the Fuerza Cubana de Liberacion Inc, according to Florida state records.

Reuters could not confirm if he was the same Raibel Pacheco named by Cuba as one of the arrested suspects.

Cuba has recently intensified its criticism of the United States for what it considers efforts to destabilize the country.

It has also railed against the State Department for once again naming Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism in an annual report.

China warned against double standards in fighting terrorism on Tuesday after the US published its annual list of states that it says sponsor terrorism, putting Cuba alongside Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that nations should avoid double standards in fighting terrorism and that Cuba and the US should establish normal state-to-state relations based on equality and respect.

Reuters-Xinhua

 

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