Cuba arrests four Miami-based exiles suspected of attack plot

 

Daniel Trotta, Reuters

 

HAVANA.- Cuba has arrested four Miami-based exiles suspected of planning attacks on military installations with the goal of promoting anti-government violence on the communist-run island, the Interior Ministry said.

 

Labeling the suspects as "terrorists," it said in a statement late on Tuesday 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 former President Fidel Castro.

 

The arrests, which it said were made on April 26, could antagonize the already poor relations between Washington and Havana.

 

Cuba has intensified its criticism of the United States for what is 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 on April 30.

 

Cuba said it would contact U.S. officials about the investigation and that the four suspects had admitted to planning the attacks. Three of those arrested had been traveling about the island since mid-2013 to plan its execution, according to the Interior Ministry statement published in official media.

 

By reaching out to U.S. authorities, Cuba said it hoped to "avoid acts by terrorist organizations or elements located in that country that would put in danger the people and safety of both countries."

 

"We have seen the statement by the Cuban Ministry of Interior," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "We don't have any further information at this time. The Cuban government has also not been in touch with us yet on these cases."

 

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

 

Cuba said they were working for three others in Miami who all had close ties to Posada Carriles, a polarizing figure seen as a terrorist by Cuba and a hero to some anti-Castro Cubans in Miami.

 

One of the three in Miami denied the allegations.

 

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

 

Posada Carriles is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela over 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. One Italian tourist was killed.

 

Jose Pertierra, a Cuban-American attorney based in Washington who represented Venezuela in its extradition attempt, said he hoped the U.S. government would cooperate with Cuba's new investigation.

 

"Up to now, Washington has protected rather than prosecuted Cuban-American terrorists," he said. "Perhaps Obama should have put Miami on its list of terrorist countries rather than Cuba."

 

In 2011, a jury in Texas acquitted Posada Carriles on U.S. charges that he lied to U.S. officials about his role in the Havana hotel bombings and how he entered the United States.

 

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