Cuba: four Miami residents arrested as terrorists

The Cuban government arrested four US residents on April 26 and charged them with planning to attack military installations, according to an Interior Ministry note published on May 7. The four suspects—José Ortega Amador, Obdulio Rodríguez González, Raibel Pacheco Santos and Félix Monzón Álvarez—had planned to burst into a military unit, murder soldiers and officers, and "make a call for violence," according to an article dated May 7 but published the next day in the youth-oriented Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde. The article links the alleged plans to the US government's failed "Cuban Twitter," the cell phone-based social network ZunZuneo. "It's quite obvious," the article said, "that these violent actions of attacking Cuban military installations, with the intent of creating panic and confusion, are very similar to the supposed 'social explosion' hoped for by ZunZuneo's creators."

According to the Interior Ministry, three of the four suspects admitted that they were following orders from three rightwing Miami-based Cubans linked to earlier terrorist acts against Cuba: Santiago Alvarez Fernández Magriñá, Osvaldo Mitat and Manuel Alzugaray. Alvarez and Mitat were arrested by US federal agents in November 2005 for possession of a large cache of weapons acquired in a plan to carry out attacks in Cuba. Alvarez, a real estate magnate, was also charged with helping former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) "asset" Luis Posada Carriles—the alleged mastermind of various anti-Cuban attacks, including the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976—to enter the US in 2005. Alvarez was convicted and served nearly four years in federal prison. He has denied any connection with the four suspects arrested in April. "This is just a bunch of lies," he told the Reuters wire service on May 7. The charges had more in common with a James Bond movie than with reality, Omar López, director of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), told the AFP wire service. (Juventud Rebelde, May 8; La Jornada, Mexico, May 8, from Reuters, AP, AFP, Notimex; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, May 8, from AP)

The arrests of the alleged US-based terrorists came just days before the US State Department's April 30 publication of its annual listing of nations accused of sponsoring terrorism. Cuba was listed, along with Iran, Syria and Sudan, for the 32nd consecutive year since 1982. The claim of terrorism sponsorship was based only on Cuba's granting of asylum to a few refugees from the US legal system and to members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) group and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). However, the report noted that the Cuban government had cooperated with Spain in arranging the repatriation of a number of ETA members in 2013 and had hosted peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government. Cuba's Foreign Relations Ministry responded to the State Department's list by insisting that "the national territory never has been and never will be used to harbor terrorists of any origin, or for organizing, financing or perpetrating acts of terrorism against any country in the world, including the US." (Adital, Brazil, May 8)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 11.