AN UNSUSTAINABLE SHAM
From the beginning of this story, some senior FBI officers in Miami were puzzled. They even talked as if those who had concocted the scheme had come to believe their own handiwork. A strange thing happened. We do not remember ever seeing anything like it. The product of their own perfidy and fantasy seemed real to them, a major breakthrough: the brilliant trap set for INS official Mariano Faget on February 11 had worked a miracle. While showing Faget a photograph of Cuban vice-consul José Imperatori, they had told him that the diplomatís defection would become official at any moment. The euphoric authors of the hoax recount that within a matter of minutes, Faget rushed to call Font on his cellular phone. As Granma has already reported, Font was Fagetís childhood friend as well as a business partner and chairman of companies in which Faget had a participation or perhaps dreamed of having some.
"Listen, the guy who talks with us works for the Americans." This is what Faget is reported to have said to Font. That was it: Font was a friend of the Cubans. He had organized a meeting in Connecticut with a group of businesspeople which included Faget, and was attended by Remírez and Molina, the head of the Cuban Interests Section and the vice-consul, respectively. Font had visited Cuba and was on the list of those who had attended events at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington at one time or another. They also had videos and tape recordings of Fagetís meetings with Molina and Imperatori in Miami, which is something that everyone knows is bound to happen with every step a Cuban official takes in the United States.
It was all so perfectly clear! Faget was a spy working for Cuba; Molina and Imperatori had recruited him and Font was the go-between who systematically passed on information from the spy to the Interests Section! Who could doubt it? The FBI was more infallible than the Pope himself. It was never wrong. In the face of such overwhelming proof from a source with such unquestionable credentials, who in America could possibly doubt it?
It was only 11 days before the long-awaited hearing that would decide the fate of the now internationally famous Cuban child Elián González. The INS, and particularly Commissioner Meissner, would lose all credibility. Attorney General Janet Reno would have to keep quiet. Clinton himself, who had voiced his support for the boyís return, would have nothing left to say. The security of the United States had been endangered but the FBI in Miami had saved it. For the American public there would not be the slightest doubt that the Cubans were an incorrigibly treacherous bunch. They would find out exactly four days before the court hearing. What a stroke of luck that all of this happened since February 11!
But a disturbing doubt began to trouble the happy creators of this sham. How very strange! For 34 years that man had worked in the service of the INS. He had an impressive personal history. He had arrived in the United States with the rest of the family to be reunited with his father, who had arrived on January 1, 1959 together with dozens of the worst war criminals. He had been the head of a sinister institution created by the United States in Cuba: the Anti-Communist Repression Bureau, which was so powerful that it struck fear into any citizen with as much as a shadow of progressive tendencies. In the 1960s, Faget Jr., who was not even 20 years old yet, joined the INS. It is now said that he reached the highest rank ever achieved in this institution by a Cuban-American.
Faget rendered a great many services to the United States. How could he have become a spy for the Communist government of Cuba, "when he was known to be totally opposed to it?"
It is certain that among his many great services, Faget must have facilitated the entry and asylum in the United States of a large number of counterrevolutionary henchmen, criminals and terrorists. "No money had changed hands during the investigation which lasted over a year," one of the top officials among the Miami FBI conspirators declared in amazement. The motive, the reason for his conduct became the first major ghost to haunt those who had concocted the scheme. When reporters asked about a motive, nobody knew how to respond to this bothersome question. The man had been arrested, the scandal was all set up: "We expect to keep him in the Federal Detention Center without the right to bail," they viciously declared.
By this time, the accused, of course, has vanished. There is no way for the press contact him. The FBI in Miami is ready to begin the break-down process. Just for what he said to Font, he is threatened with spending many years in jail, and more still as an alleged Cuban spy. His children, to whom he seems to be very attached, will be left completely unprotected. Instead of the companies and business deals he dreamed of, he will not even be eligible for a pension. He is at the mercy of his captors.
He had his first hearing yesterday, February 24,. Of course, he was denied bail. Will he defend himself from the charge of espionage in favor of Cuba? The hellish game-playing of Yankee justice will follow. There will be threats and promises; the give-and-take between prosecutors and judges, and the accused. Font, the New York businessman, has categorically stated from Europe that he believes the espionage charges against Faget are completely baseless. Font never passed on the slightest bit of information from Faget to the Interests Section.
Actually, the conspirators are fighting a lost cause. They do not have, nor could they have, the least bit of evidence to back up the accusation that Faget was a Cuban spy, an accusation they have used to try to deceive the American people and the world.
The deeper we investigate and search out the facts, the more obvious it becomes that, far from a spy or a traitor as he has been called, Faget was absolutely faithful to the interests of the United States. We now have access to a good many more details than those reported in Granma on February 22.
For example, in May of 1999, in Miami, Faget expressed to Vice-consul Molina his concern over the undocumented people arriving on the regular Havana-Miami flights. He voiced his conviction that corrupt workers at the Boyeros airport were facilitating these trips in exchange for money, and that illegal sea journeys were on the rise, something that was interpreted here as a veiled accusation. Based on this, his comments to Imperatori during a meeting in October, in which he related his concern over the possibility of a mass exodus from Cuba and the fact that they would be prepared to confront it, were taken as a warning and an effort to discourage any move in this direction.
All forms of illegal entry into the United States were a source of concern to him and a recurring theme in his observations. He noted that his agency was instructed to act with extreme caution in order to ensure that the migration agreements were not in jeopardy. Perhaps one of the most interesting things Faget mentioned to Imperatori, and which the FBI conspirators in Miami may have taken as an act of treason, is that he said that he had once met with Mas Canosa who had told him that the creation of the Foundationís terrorist arm had been his own mistake. He said this spontaneously. The existence of this terrorist arm is well-known to everyone, and above all to the FBI in Miami, of course. What no one had ever said was that before he died, Mas Canosa had come to regret this stupid and criminal misadventure. Was it true? Did Faget perhaps say this to defend Mas Canosa or to diminish the profound hatred and contempt that our people feel for the hateful crimes he committed against them?
Faget never took the initiative to contact Vice-consul Molina or his replacement, Imperatori. The three times they met, in February, May and October Ė-following the businessmen meeting organized by Font in Connecticut on December of 1998, where they initially met -- it was the Vice-consuls who took the initiative.
The Vice-consuls had to deal with all problems related to our country that took place in Miami, from attending to people who had been kidnapped Ė-as was the case when several Pakistanis assailed two tourism workersĖ- to the reclaiming of boats. On each trip, they met with dozens of people. In July, when problems erupted between rafters and the Coast Guard and there was a steep rise in illegal travel, Molina asked to meet with Faget in order to introduce him to the new vice-consul but Faget said it would be impossible because of the heavy workload he had at the time.
Although Faget was always respectful and courteous during these meetings, and sometimes spoke of his wishes to visit Cuba one day, mentioning the idea of undertaking some sort of business or investment in partnership with Font, he said that he would never do so until relations were normalized between the United States and Cuba. Although he spoke about his father on more than one occasion, and said that he had been a senior officer with Batistaís army, he never mentioned the actual identity of this man whose acts of repression against the revolutionaries had made him a much feared and hated individual.
He never mentioned the repressive organizations his father had directed, all of them notorious.
He never mentioned that the position his father held during the last stage of the dictatorship was that of head of the Anti-Communist Repression Bureau (BRAC), a deeply feared and hated institution imposed on Cuba by the United States and established by Batista on May 5, 1955. He never discussed politics. He never expressed his views. They never saw him again after October of 1999, and four months had passed since then when he was arrested and accused of being a spy.
Molina and Imperatori never asked him anything about the U.S. domestic affairs or matters related to that countryís security, and they most certainly did not make any kind of intimation aimed at eliciting intelligence information or turning him into a spy. This would have been both stupid and insane. It would have also been a grave breach of discipline.
Of the three hypotheses that Granma advanced very recently, we are leaning more and more towards the theory that what happened was the result of a conspiracy hatched by the Cuban-American terrorist mob, with the cooperation of Héctor Pesquera, head of the FBI office in Miami, and Paul Mallet, the agent in charge of Fagetís case. Together, these two set the trap, summoned Faget for a meeting and gave him the false information on the alleged defector whom they identified as Imperatori, on February 11. Then they waited a week, until the eve of Eliánís hearing, to blow the whistle.
Pesquera, born in Puerto Rico, joined the FBI in 1976. In 1982, he was transferred to Tampa. In 1987, he worked at the central office in Washington. In 1992, he was appointed legal attaché in Montevideo. In 1995, he was stationed as head of the office in Puerto Rico where he became renown after the arrest of the six most wanted Puerto Rican pro-independence patriots. Finally, in May 1998, he was assigned to head the Miami office, the fifth largest in the United States with 380 officers in its staff.
Ricardo Pesquera, a practicing lawyer in Puerto Rico and brother of the Miami FBI chief, was the defense attorney for terrorist Ángel Manuel Alfonso, one of the participants in the plot to assassinate the President of Cuba at the Margarita Island Summit. It was thanks to this family tie that no formal charges were brought against Pepe Hernández, a leader of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), despite the fact that one of the heavy-caliber weapons found by the FBI and equipped with a telescopic sight and infrared rays, was registered in his name.
This brother, the defense attorney for mob terrorist Ángel Manuel Alfonso, declared to the Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día on August 28, 1998, that "the Foundation collaborates with all of the accused," but refused to specify if the support provided was economic. He noted that the defense was being handled collectively, not on an individual basis.
He shamelessly stated that the international protegé status does not apply to Castro. As everyone knows, the Puerto Rican court issued a shameful and infamous ruling.
We find it suspicious that yesterday, a reporter from a Miami television station announced that, according to FBI sources, the Bureau has taped conversations and excerpts of a television interview. If this is true, they must be very well arranged, although it would be better if they had the full recordings and published them in whole, since that is all it would take to prove that this is all a colossal lie. Talk of excerpts naturally raises doubts, as this could serve as a pretext for using statements out of context in an attempt to show that Faget is a traitor and a Cuban spy.
However, we do not have excerpts; we have the other side of the coin, the complete true story. Imperatori is totally innocent. He and Molina are being accused of having a spy in the INS working for them and this lie cannot be proven. It is a treacherous, slanderous and mean accusation aimed at the realization of the repugnant crime of kidnapping a six-year-old child, stealing him from his father, his family and his homeland. That child is being psychologically destroyed. And the whole story behind the sinister individual who was granted custody of him is not known yet.
We do not blame INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, Attorney General Janet Reno, the Secretary of State or the President of the United States, who supported and defended the actions of the Attorney Generalís Office and the INS, of this sham orchestrated against the Cuban diplomat. The Miami conspiracy is directed against them as much as it is directed against the United States prestige which will be much affected by these ridiculous stunts.
It is truly regrettable that instead of conducting an in-depth investigation, they have taken the absurd decision of expelling a Cuban official for alleged espionage, thus committing an injustice that hurts the dignity and the image of a young diplomat, the prestige of our Interests Section and the honor of our country. Likewise, it deals a particularly hard blow to the cause of an innocent child who has already been held captive in the United States for three months.
We do not wish to infringe any U.S. laws, nor do we wish to so much as brush the Vienna Convention. For the moment, we shall leave aside the thousands of times that this and other sacred conventions have been violated by the U.S. aggressions against Cuba. But, it is our right to defend our country and our citizens from kidnapping and slanders.
It has been said, and we are being threatened, that serious consequences could result if we do not accept this slander and that in view of the special situation created by the sensitive case of the kidnapped child we should put up with this humiliation and with the story spread to the world about a senior INS official turned spy.
If there were an atom of truth to this claim, why does the U.S. Government want to expel an official who has offered of his own free will to contribute to clearing up the facts while courageously assuming the risks involved in giving his valuable testimony at the trial of a man who could have his life ruined and be sentenced to many years in jail, after 34 years of service to the United States? What damage could this witness possibly do? The Vienna Convention would not be breached. Comrade Imperatori is willing to fully waive all forms of immunity, guarantees and protection in order to defend the truth there, where he is being slandered, and to defend his honor and that of his country. And in doing so, he would have the full moral support of his people.
This is not an act of force and no rules would be breached; it is a moral act. They say that such a thing would be unprecedented. We can understand this statement, if it does not simply refer to a legal procedure that has perhaps never taken place before. It is more than that, it is an unprecedented moral act.
And there is more: Luis Molina, the diplomat who preceded Imperatori at the Cuban Interests Section and who has also been slanderously implicated in this hateful lie, is prepared to travel to the United States, with no immunity or guarantees whatsoever to testify in this trial as well.
There are still more than 24 hours left before the fateful deadline is up. There is still time for rectification.
May the U.S. government declare that the diplomat is innocent of the accusation of espionage that has been spread around the world, then, after a certain time has passed we would ask him to return to Cuba.
May the U.S. public be told the truth. If they turn down the valuable testimony and the contribution to finding the truth and clearing up the facts offered by the two accused officials who are willing to assume any risks and are not asking for any kind of immunity or guarantees, then they should explain to the U.S. and the international public why one is being expelled and the other is not accepted.
Editorial published in Granma daily on February 25, 2000