Puerto Ricans linked to spies for Cuba

November 6, 1999 - AP


- The Puerto Rican nationalists offered clemency by President Clinton were members of two groups with ties to Cuban intelligence agents, The Hartford Courant reported.

In a story in today's editions, the newspaper said FBI files on a Wells Fargo robbery in West Hartford document Cuba's support for the Puerto Rican independence movement. The contents of the files have not been disclosed until now, the Courant said.

The FBI monitored conversations and meetings between Cuban intelligence agents and members of the group Los Macheteros, Spanish for "The Cane Cutters."

"Numerous court-authorized interceptions of conversations ... have determined that the Cubans support and direct the Macheteros at a firsthand level," the FBI said in a confidential memo.

In addition to analyzing the FBI investigation of the 1983 armored car robbery, The Courant said it interviewed 50 sources, including former Cuban agents, FBI agents and congressional investigators.

In September, President Clinton freed 11 jailed nationalists, members of Los Macheteros or the FALN, the Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of National Liberation.

The FALN has claimed responsibility for numerous bombings in the United States; its 1975 bombing of Fraunces Tavern in New York killed four and injured 63. Los Macheteros, with the exception of the $7.1 million Wells Fargo robbery, attacked U.S. government targets in Puerto Rico.

None of the prisoners offered clemency were directly involved in violent acts, Clinton said, and he acted on human rights activists' arguments that the prisoners had paid their debt by serving an average 19 years in jail.

In its Wells Fargo investigation, the FBI learned that Machetero leaders met regularly with their Cuban contacts in Mexico City, but sometimes also met in Cuba.

About a third of the stolen cash went to the Cubans, sources told the newspaper.

White House spokesman Jim Kennedy, asked whether Cuban support for the nationalists was considered during deliberations on the clemency offer, said decisions about clemency are confidential.

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