US Accuses Ex-Official of Spying for Cuba

Havana Street. Photo: Ken Bell

HAVANA TIMES — A former US government official was accused today of spying for Cuba, including having recruited Ana Belen Montes, the Pentagon analyst who for 16 years worked as a a double agent for Cuba, revealed the US Department of Justice on Thursday.

Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, also known as “Rita Kviele Marta” and “Barbara”, had been indicted in February 2004, but the accusation was kept secret until Thursday, according to an official statement that does not specify the reason for it coming to light at this time, reported dpa news.

Velazquez, who fled the United States in 2002, as soon as Montes had pleaded guilty at her trial, now lives in Stockholm. If found guilty of the charge of “conspiracy to commit espionage” of which he is accused, she could be sentenced to life imprisonment, according to the Department of Justice.

The Puerto Rican woman worked with a high level of access to intelligence information for USAID starting the late 80’s. She is accused of “conspiring with others to convey to the Cuban government and its agents documents and information on US national defense, with the intention that they would be used to harm the United States in favor of the Cuban government.”

Her intelligence contacts are traced back to 1983 when she was still completing her law and international relations studies, according to the official indictment.

Velazquez is considered responsible for having introduced Montes to the Cuban Intelligence Service (ILUC) in 1984, as well as helping her get a Military Intelligence Agency (DIA) job, where he worked from 1985 until her arrest on September 21, 2001.

The Montes case is one of the most embarrassing to US intelligence since it highlighted the degree of penetration of Cuban espionage at the highest levels of security in Washington.

It was learned during her trial that Montes sent her reports to her Cuban contacts by using radio frequency shortwave coded transmissions and telephone calls from public booths.

Montes is considered responsible for having identified four undercover US agents working in Cuba, besides giving Havana the opportunity to access certain defense-related programs and to receive information for the identification of several military bases.

Montes pleaded guilty in March 2002 and was thus spared the death penalty.  She is currently serving a 25-year sentence.

The US said Velazquez, who as an employee of USAID worked in US embassies in Guatemala and Nicaragua, among others, met Montes in the early ’80s, when both were students at Washington.

“Velázquez fostered a strong personal friendship with Montes, who shared similar views on US policy in Nicaragua at that time,” notes the Justice Department.