U.S. contractor arrested in Cuba is not a spy, officials say

The Miami HeraldJanuary 8, 2010 

This much is certain about the U.S. contractor arrested in Cuba last month: He gave civilian groups communications gear.

But the specific nature of the equipment, which remains a mystery, threatens to complicate his legal case in Cuba — and some experts say it could bolster the Castro government's contention that he was a spy on a mission to destabilize the regime.

It's unclear what Cuba ultimately plans to do with the contractor, whose name has not been released, but experts say that he could be used as a bargaining chip in future discussions between the United States and Cuba.

Washington has long supplied Cuban dissidents with laptop computers and cell phones. But the Development Alternatives Inc. subcontractor arrested Dec. 5 in Havana worked with sophisticated telecommunications equipment.

Analysts say the gear was probably designed to help Cubans talk or surf the web via satellite, circumventing the government network. Critics of U.S. policy say that makes his legal status there murky.

"The detained DAI subcontractor was not working for any intelligence service," company president and CEO James Boomgard said in a statement Thursday. "He was working with a peaceful, non-dissident civic group -- a religious and cultural group recognized by the Cuban government -- to improve its ability to communicate with its members across the island and overseas."

On Wednesday, the Cuban government publicly accused the contractor, whose name has not been released, of working for U.S. intelligence services. In a December speech, Cuban leader Raúl Castro referred to the man's "sophisticated satellite communications equipment," and added: "the enemy is as active as ever."

The U.S. State Department denied the accusation.

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