No sign of release for the last Cuban spy in a US jail
Despite thaw in relations, Ana Belén Montes looks set to serve last nine
years of quarter-century sentence
PABLO DE LLANO
Corresponsal en Miami
Miami 8 MAR 2017 – 16:05 CET
On February 28, in her cell at a maximum security prison in Fort Worth,
Texas, Ana Belén Montes turned 60 years of age. Once regarded as one of
the Pentagon’s top analysts and an expert on Cuba’s military, the
so-called “Queen of Cuba” was arrested in 2001 when her 17-year career
as Cuban spy was discovered and she was sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Despite the thaw in relations between Havana and Washington under Barack
Obama, which saw three of the last Cuban spies returned home in 2014,
Montes remains behind bars in a facility reserved for some of the most
dangerous and mentally ill prisoners in the United States.
In 2016, a family member revealed that Montes had undergone surgery for
breast cancer, although there has been no official confirmation of this.
Her release is currently scheduled for 2026, by which point she will be
69 years old.
Unlike the three prisoners released in 2014, the Cuban government has
never officially campaigned for Montes’ freedom. In June 2016, Miami
Spanish-language daily El Nuevo Herald reported that Cuban officials had
asked after her during a meeting in the United States. A few months
earlier, Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez had called for her
release at a concert in Spain. The request was repeated a few days ago
at one of his concerts in Puerto Rico. Mariela Castro, daughter of
Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, posted a report from Venezuela’s official
news agency mentioning that a campaign for Montes’ freedom had been
organized in Cuba.
Montes penetrated US intelligence deeper than any other Cuban agent
Writing in his blog on Montes’ birthday about her treatment by the
regime, Cuban journalist Harold Cárdenas said: “The Cuban Foreign
Ministry’s discretion is understandable. In contrast, the silence in the
national media is shameful.”
There has been speculation that the United States and Cuba are
negotiating Montes’ exchange for Assata Shakur, the Black Panther leader
accused of shooting a police officer who managed to escape to Cuba in
1984, claiming political asylum. But a 2016 US State Department internal
document rejects the option.
Montes is considered to be the Cuban agent who most deeply penetrated US
intelligence. An analyst at the Pentagon, she was recruited by Havana in
1984, and after undergoing training, would report each night to her
handlers via shortwave radio without ever having to make copies of
documents, thanks to her remarkable memory.
She rose through the ranks from her initial position as a typist,
garnering commendations along the way, one of which was presented by the
then-head of the CIA. Born to Puerto Rican parents on a US army base in
Germany and whose two siblings worked for the FBI, while her former
boyfriend was a Pentagon official, Montes passed on top-secret
information, such as the identity of four US spies in Cuba or US
activities in Central America. She refused payment for her spying,
telling the judge at her 2002 trial she acted out of “love” for Cuba,
which she felt was being treated “cruelly” by the United States.
The Cuban government has never officially campaigned for Montes’ freedom
Former CIA analyst Brian Latell, who worked with Montes, remembers her
as “bitter” and “prepared to risk her life for her love of Fidel Castro
and his revolution.”
Piero Gleijeses, an expert in US foreign policy, was her teacher in the
1980s when Montes undertook a Master’s in International Studies at Johns
Hopkins University. He remembers her as a “brilliant” student regarded
as “conservative” in the classroom. Montes visited him in a decade
later, ostensibly to discuss a paper he had written, but in reality to
scope him for information about Cuba. “I told her that if I had any
confidential information I wouldn’t tell her, because I knew where she
worked and I didn’t agree with US foreign policy.”
A year ago, in a letter to her family, Montes wrote from her cell:
“There are certain things in life that are worth going to jail for. Or
that are worth committing suicide for after doing them.”
English version by Nick Lyne.
Source: US-Cuban thaw: No sign of release for the last Cuban spy in a US
jail | In English | EL PAÍS –