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Cuba Executes Exile, Criticizes U.S. For Not Curbing Exile Militants

January 21, 1992

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ After a Cuban firing squad executed a 38-year-old exile convicted of leading an anti-Castro commando team, his exiled compatriots demonstrated in Miami to proclaim their anger and defiance.

Eduardo Diaz Betancourt of Miami, who was captured while infiltrating Cuba in December, was put to death in Havana on Monday for endangering the security of the state, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina said.

Two men arrested with Diaz Betancourt had also been sentenced to die, but their sentences were reduced to 30 years in prison.

About 100 people gathered Monday night at the Bay of Pigs memorial in Miami, chanting ″Libertad,″ and carrying signs reading, ″Don’t Kill Innocent Men″ and ″When Cuban Mothers Cry, Castro’s Tyrants Tremble.″

Castro ″executed him to scare the people in Havana and to scare them over here,″ said demonstrator Hector Ferro. ″He doesn’t know that by doing something like this he makes the exiles more angry and more anxious to go back to Cuba and finish what we started.″

Diaz Betancourt and two other Miami residents were captured Dec. 29 after landing on a Cuban beach. The Cuban government said they were carrying guns and explosives and planned to attack theaters, stores and other civilian targets.

Human rights organizers in Cuba recently have been jailed in a crackdown on dissent. According to Prensa Latina, Diaz Betancourt carried with him the names of leaders of such organizations as contacts for his sabotage operations.

Cuba brushed aside an international campaign to stop the execution. The United States, Spain and many Latin leaders and cultural figures had called for clemency.

Cuban President Fidel Castro has repeatedly accused the CIA of funding opposition exile groups in Miami and dissidents at home. The Prensa Latina report on Diaz Betancourt’s execution argued that despite trying times for Cuba’s residents, the United States has not eased its aggression.

The United States has denied Castro’s charges that the three men acted on behalf of the American government.

Cuba’s ruling body, the Council of State, refused Sunday to commute Diaz Betancourt’s sentence. The 31-member Council of State, led by Castro, ruled that Diaz Betancourt was primarily responsible for the infiltration.

The other two men - Daniel Santovenia Fernandez, 36, and Pedro de la Caridad Alvarez Pedroso, 26 - had initially been sentenced to death. But the council spared Santovenia Fernandez, and Alvarez Pedroso’s sentence was commuted Wednesday by an appeals court.

Cuba said that since both men spent most of their lives in Miami’s exile community they were simply victims of its virulently anti-Castro environment.

By contrast Diaz Betancourt, who illegally left his island home for Miami only nine months ago, had enjoyed all the fruits of Cuba’s revolution only to betray it, Cuban media said.

All three men had trained with Alpha 66, an anti-Castro group that practices mock invasions each weekend in the Everglades, but were not members.

Even the 30-year prison sentences are harsh compared to those meted out to exiles captured in the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. Santovenia Fernandez’ father served two years in a Cuban jail for his involvement in that debacle.

Castro has tried to use the trial to boost his image as a victim of outside aggression, which he also blames for the nation’s growing problems.

Cuba’s former Soviet bloc patrons have cut shipments of subsidized food and fuel, forcing the government to ration gasoline and electricity, drastically cut bus and airline service and reduce television broadcasts.

Meat, milk and eggs have become luxuries. Cuban money is virtually worthless and farmers are demanding consumer goods such as pants in exchange for produce.

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