The United States has charged two members of Cuba's U.N. delegation with "hostile intelligence activities" and ordered them to leave the country "expeditiously," American officials announced today.
Cuba immediately rejected the charges against Rolando Salup Canto, a third secretary, and Joaquin Rodobaldo Penton Cejas, an attache. A Cuban spokesman said his mission might appeal for the intervention of U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar.
American officials refused to specify the acts of espionage in which the two allegedly engaged, but said they were "blatant," thoroughly documented by FBI surveillance, and took place in the New York area within the last month to six weeks.
U.S. Ambassador Charles Lichenstein suggested that the timing of the American move and the official attention given to it were political: "It is not that Cuban espionage activities have necessarily increased, but our sensitivity has increased. You sometimes like to send signals about their activities all over the place."
U.S. officials noted that five members of Cuba's U.N. mission staff have now been ousted within the last 10 months, that Cuba's delegation is the fourth largest--after those of the Soviet Union, United States and China--and that its diplomats have "a record of continuing abuse of their privileges."
American officials have long claimed in private that a large proportion of the 43 accredited Cubans are agents who engage in the illegal procurement of technology, surveillance of a large community of anti-Castro exiles in the United States and attempts to obtain classified data.
Three Cubans were ousted last July and August and charged with violations of the Trading with the Enemy Act. Two were allegedly caught trying to set up a telecommunications monitoring system for eavesdropping on American satellite relays.
But a U.S. official said Salup, 36, who has been here for seven years, and Penton, 35, who has been here since 1980, "were involved in the more classic type of espionage activities such as the suborning of individuals with access to classified data."