U.S. blasts Castro claim that it harbors terrorists
Castro talks openly with CNN about spies
October 20, 1998
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rebuttal came quickly Tuesday from the U.S. State Department to Cuban President Fidel Castro's claims that America allows terrorists to live within its borders and attack Cuba.
Castro spoke at length with Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman in an exclusive interview broadcast Tuesday on CNN's WorldView program. After admitting that Cuba sends spies to the United States, Castro said the U.S. does the same to his country, as well as allowing "terrorist activities" against Cuba.
In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin flatly denied that charge. "We hear from time to time these kinds of ridiculous allegations from Fidel Castro. Let me say, as the series of events over the last weeks should make clear, we've arrested people and are committed to vigorously enforce our laws, and those include laws against espionage, and they also include laws against terrorism."
Rubin added, "We are committed to fight terrorism here and in every country in the world, and unfortunately again, Fidel Castro is wrong."
In defense of his own actions, which have placed spies in the United States, Castro told CNN, "I think we have a right to do this.... The United States has spies in industrial quantities.
"We have sometimes dispatched Cuban citizens to the United States to infiltrate counterrevolutionary organizations, to inform us about activities that are of great interest to us," he said.
Castro denied any attempts to spy on the U.S. military. He added the movements of U.S. forces near Cuba would be of interest if they "translate into an act of aggression against Cuba. But we know that at this time that is not the fundamental thinking of the U.S. government."
Castro's admission of sending spies to the United States came as no surprise to exile groups in Miami. They point to 10 alleged Cuban spies arrested in Florida last month. Authorities called it the largest Cuban spy ring uncovered in the United States since Castro came to power in 1959.
The suspects were charged with trying to penetrate U.S. military bases, infiltrate anti-Castro exile groups and manipulate U.S. media and political organizations.
Jorge Mas Jr., of the Brothers to the Rescue group in Miami, told CNN he personally knew of Cuban spies who slipped into his organization.
While U.S. authorities have trumpeted the recent arrests of Cuban spies, there has been some evidence the spying goes both ways. In August, seven Cuban exiles were indicted in Puerto Rico as part of a plot to murder Fidel Castro.
The interview was conducted in Oporto, Portugal, while Castro attended the Ibero-American summit, and it included the Cuban president's opinions on many other subjects, including U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman and Correspondent Pat Neal contributed to this report.
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