14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana 27 February 2017 – This Tuesday, a campaign launches in Cuba for the liberation of Ana Belén Montes, a former intelligence analyst for the United States Defense Intelligence Agency, condemned for espionage and considered a “prisoner of conscience” by the government of Havana. The initiative includes concerts, conversations, and publications on social networks with the hashtag #FreeAnaBelenMontes.
The governing party seeks to revitalize the case of the spy, who was not included on the list of prisoners pardoned by Barack Obama at the end of his term. Now, efforts are focused on “getting her released through diplomatic negotiations,” according to official sources consulted by this newspaper.
Montes was arrested in September 2001 in Washington and sentenced to 25 years in prison for espionage assisting the Havana government. Currently, after her cancer diagnosis and mastectomy, she remains imprisoned in the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Carswell, located on a U.S. Navy Air Station in Fort Worth, Texas.
For many years, the analyst provided substantial information to the Cuban Intelligence Agency, including military data following a visit to El Salvador, which Havana passed on to the FMLN guerillas (Marabundo Martî Front for National Liberation). That information served to inform an attack on a barracks in 1987 in which 65 soldiers perished, including an American.
The analyst provided substantial information to the Cuban Intelligence Agency, including military data following a visit to El Salvador, which Havana passed on to the FMLN guerillas.
The cause for the liberation of the ex-official maintains a low profile in comparison to the media coverage that surrounded the campaign for the five Cuban spies belonging to the Red Avispa (Wasp Network). In recent months, however, a photograph of Montes has appeared in various events organized by the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the People (ICAP) and other official entities.
Last year, the life of the Pentagon spy came to the screens through an episode of ‘Declassified,’ a documentary series released on CNN. The presenter of the program, Mike Rogers, former chair of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, guided spectators through the evidence that led to Montes’ arrest.
Like a fast-paced thriller, the documentary included the clue of a purchased Toshiba laptop, which led the FBI right to the spy, found in her apartment with information revealing her connection with the Island’s intelligence services; a code table found in her bag completed part of the investigative jigsaw puzzle.
The promoters of her release rely on International Amnesty’s definition of “prisoner of conscience,” considered as an “individual that has been imprisoned for their race, religion, skin color, language, sexual orientation or beliefs, as long as they have not propagated or practiced violence.” Her Cuban defenders argue that Montes did not receive payments from the Cuban government for her services nor was she recruited through “sordid blackmail.” They define her as someone that faced risks “for love of justice and honorary solidarity for the cause of the Cuban revolution.”
In October 2015 the Cuban Committee for the Liberation of Ana Belén Montes was created in Havana. The organization relies on various global affiliates and for months its objective was to demand a “presidential pardon” for the ex-official. The members systematically sent letters to the American government seeking her liberation.
A rumor about the possible exchange of Montes for Joanne Chesimard, alias Assata Shakur, who is a refugee in Cuba and wanted for the murder of a police officer in New Jersey, faded away without it being confirmed. The fugitive, who is on the Ten Most Wanted List in the United States and for whose capture there is a posted reward of 2 million dollars, continues to live out her days in Havana.
In October 2015 the Cuban Committee for the Liberation of Ana Belén Montes was created, which relies on various global affiliates.
In the weeks leading up to Obama’s White House departure, demands for the liberation of Montes rose to new heights. “She deserves now, more than ever, a presidential pardon, now that the U.S. speaks of normalizing relations with Cuba,” declared organizers of the committee.
This Tuesday Belén Montes turns 60 years old. Her release date is anticipated to be in 2023 and nothing points to her being released before that time.
Translated by Chavely Garcia.