Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Politics Seen in Cuban Accusations of Military Plot by Miami Men

    Politics Seen in Cuban Accusations of Military Plot by Miami Men

    MIAMI — There was a time not all that long ago that Santiago Alvarez, a
    Miami developer, fantasized about swinging an automatic weapon over his
    shoulder and heading back to Cuba to incite an uprising.

    His criminal record shows he did a bit more than daydream.

    A 30-month federal prison stint for illegally possessing a cache of
    weapons behind him, the 72-year-old Mr. Alvarez is among a small group
    of older Cuban exile activists who the Castro government believes are
    still plotting its demise. He and six other Miami men were accused by
    Cuban officials Wednesday of plotting a violent attack on military
    installations in Cuba with the hopes of toppling the Communist government.

    Mr. Alvarez denies any involvement in the alleged plot. Some others here
    raised questions about how much the case is about crime and how much is
    about politics. Four of the men are in custody in Havana in connection
    with an episode that to Mr. Alvarez and others has the feel of something
    more from the past than the present.

    “I wish I could get a rifle and fight the dictatorship, but that is not
    realistic,” he said on Thursday. “We cannot live in the past.”

    Fifty-five years after Fidel Castro won an armed rebellion of his own
    and a week after Washington again kept Cuba on its short list of state
    sponsors of terrorism, the Cuban government publicly announced that
    violent plots persist.

    Cuba-watchers said the case was hard to separate from political theater,
    particularly because the announcement came on the heels of a visit by
    four members of Congress to see Alan Gross, an American imprisoned for
    illegally taking satellite gear to Cuba. With his case on the diplomatic
    forefront and Cuba still pushing for the release of three Cuban agents
    jailed in the United States, experts say Havana is likely to use the
    latest arrests for its diplomatic benefit.

    Although Miami was long the birthplace of conspiracies to overthrow the
    Castros, experts say most aging exiles have embraced nonviolent avenues
    toward democracy.

    “I just don’t see it,” said Andy S. Gomez, a Cuba expert, who retired
    last year from the University of Miami and who voiced skepticism about
    the charges. “There are some old-timers that believe the only way to
    topple the regime is by doing these activities, but over the years those
    numbers have decreased to really nothing.”

    A statement from the Interior Ministry published in the Communist Party
    newspaper Granma on Wednesday said that on April 26 four Miami residents
    “of Cuban origin” were arrested on terrorism-related charges. The men,
    whom the statement identified as José Ortega Amador, Obdulio Rodríguez
    González, Raibel Pacheco Santos and Félix Monzón Álvarez, reportedly
    admitted that they had planned to attack military installations and
    “promote violent actions.”

    The men sought to break into a military unit and kill soldiers and
    officers, according to Juventud Rebelde, another state-run newspaper.

    “Toward this end, three of the individuals had made several trips to the
    island, since mid-2013, to study and practice the execution of their
    plans,” the statement from the Interior Ministry said.

    The suspects in custody said Santiago Alvarez and two other men in their
    70s had helped hatch the plan, the government statement reported. Also
    implicated were Dr. Manuel Alzugaray, an orthopedist who runs an
    international medical humanitarian organization in Miami, and Osvaldo
    Mitat, Mr. Alvarez’s co-defendant in a 2006 weapons-possession case.

    “Osvaldo and I meet every once and a while and drink coffee, but there
    has been no conspiracy going on between us for years,” Mr. Alvarez said,
    adding that he had never met the men arrested in Havana. “Some people
    are saying these guys are infiltrators. To me, these people are real. I
    think they either got misguided or wrong advice or they came up with the
    wrong idea.”

    Little is known about the men who were arrested.

    Florida corporate records show that in 2009, Mr. Pacheco, 31, founded an
    organization called the Cuban Liberation Force.

    “The purpose of this corporation, under the Human Rights Act, is to help
    the people in Cuba to reconquer their democracy and lost liberties,” the
    founders wrote by hand in the state records.

    Attempts to reach their families were unsuccessful. The State Department
    declined to comment.

    “I don’t know these people,” Dr. Alzugaray said. “The Cuban government
    writes something in a controlled Communist fashion, and it resonates
    around the world. They have done tremendous propaganda here.”

    Dr. Alzugaray is the founder of the Miami Medical Team, an organization
    that provides medical assistance internationally. In the 1980s, the
    group went to Nicaragua to help those wounded fighting the leftist
    Sandinista government.

    The Cuban government has accused Mr. Alvarez of terrorist activities
    before. Mr. Alvarez is known as a benefactor of Luis Posada Carriles, a
    former C.I.A. operative linked to both the downing of a Venezuelan
    airliner and a string of hotel bombings in Havana in the 1990s.

    Mr. Posada was arrested in Panama 14 years ago on allegations that he
    planned to assassinate Fidel Castro at a presidential summit meeting,
    and the Cuban government said at the time that Mr. Alvarez was a
    mastermind of the operation.

    The Cuban government later released recordings of him talking to an
    informant discussing placing a bomb in the famed Tropicana nightclub. In
    2005, federal agents raided an apartment of his and found five machine
    guns and a grenade launcher.

    Mr. Alvarez said the weapons were C.I.A. relics, but were not going to
    be used in the plots he had hatched with senior Cuban military officers
    who planned to conspire against the government.

    A version of this article appears in print on May 9, 2014, on page A18
    of the New York edition with the headline: Politics Seen in Cuban
    Accusations of Military Plot by Seven Miami Men.

    Source: “Politics Seen in Cuban Accusations of Military Plot by Miami
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