Miami Cuban American faces long sentence in Havana under alleged espionage charges

Miami Herald, October 24, 2017

Miami Cuban American faces long sentence in Havana under alleged espionage charges

By Nora Gámez Torres
The parents of Alina López Miyares left Cuba in 1969 to escape Fidel Castro’s revolution. But that did not keep her from falling in love and marrying a former Cuban diplomat years later, and then traveling frequently to the island to be with him.

Now López Miyares seems likely to stay on the island for a while, serving a 13-year prison sentence allegedly on charges of spying after an Oct. 2 trial. Her husband, the ex Cuban diplomat Félix Martín Milanés Fajardo, was reportedly sentenced to 17 years in prison.

López Miyares, a 58-year-old former Miami teacher, was arrested in January in Havana after she traveled there to be with Milanés Fajardo, said her mother, Alina López, 89. She added that for months she did not know what had happened to her daughter, and learned about her arrest only after she went to Havana to ask.

The mother told el Nuevo Herald that she was allowed to see her daughter before and after the trial and was allowed to visit her in a Havana prison, but she declined to confirm reports by a son, Eugenio López, and Martinoticias that she was charged with spying.

It’s not clear for which country Cuban authorities allege López and her husband were spying for.

El Nuevo Herald has not seen the court documents in her case, but Eugenio López has said that his sister was accused of spying and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

“My sister is the furthest thing from a spy. They made a fool out of her,” he told el Nuevo Herald. He told Telemundo 51, which first reported the case, that she was also accused of trying to help her husband escape the island.

“That man was evil-minded. He did his dirty business and involved her,” the mother said. She described the husband as a “degenerate” and supporter of the Castro government. But she added that neither she nor her husband had never met him. The couple wed in Cuba.

Her daughter “has lost weight (under arrest), been sick four or five times,” the mother said. “She suffers from high blood pressure, and has never experienced anything like this. She can’t eat that food. I have to go and buy whatever there is.”

According to information posted online, López Miyares worked as an “itinerant teacher” at the Merrick Educational Center and Bruce Ball Educational Center, which are part of the Miami-Dade public school system, teaching special needs students at their homes or in hospitals. 

The school system did not answer questions about her employment.

López Miyares’ brother said she met Milanés Fajardo in 2007 or 2008 in New York, where he worked as a Cuban diplomat. The details of the relationship are not clear, and it’s not known if López Miyares has established legal residency on the island.

Milanés Fajardo, who was reportedly sentenced to 17 years in prison, is well known within the U.S. intelligence community.

A CIA report from 1989 identified him as a diplomat at the Cuban mission to the United Nations. In 1992, two former Cuban intelligence agents who defected to the United States identified him as an intelligence official with the cover title of third secretary at the mission. One of the defectors, Enrique García, confirmed to el Nuevo Herald that Milanes was an intelligence agent with diplomatic cover in New York.

García added that current and former Cuban intelligence officials are rarely authorized to marry foreigners. Approvals usually indicate that the foreign partner has been recruited by Cuban intelligence. The former Miami teacher is not known to have access to sensitive information, but García said Cuban intelligence can recruit foreigners simply to bring and deliver information.

López Miyares’ mother said she visited the U.S. Embassy in Havana to seek help but was told that “the Cuban government do not allow (embassy) people to deal with those problems.”

The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs would not comment on that version, citing privacy restrictions. “We are aware of reports of the arrest of a U.S. citizen in Cuba. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,” a spokesperson for the State Department’s Western Hemisphere Affairs stated in an email.

U.S. consular officials in Cuba have repeatedly cautioned that they can provide little assistance to U.S. citizens who run afoul of the law on the island, especially if they are Cuban Americans. The Cuban government regards everyone born in Cuba as a Cuban citizen, even if they have later adopted another citizenship.

The Cuban government does not regularly notify the U.S. embassy about the arrests of Cuban Americans who are U.S. citizens, and can deny consular officials access to them, the embassy warns on its web page.

The State Department’s travel site also notes that the Cuban government has “detained U.S. citizens who are suspected of engaging in activities perceived to undermine state security.”

The most notorious of those cases involved Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Havana for five years and exchanged for several Cuban spies at the start of the Obama administration’s efforts to improve relations with Havana in 2014.

Since then, bilateral relations have been deteriorating since President Donald Trump’s took office and reports of mysterious “attacks” on 24 U.S. diplomats in Havana went public.

López Miyares’ trial on Oct. 2 took place one day after the U.S. government ordered 15 Cuban diplomats to leave the United States.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres