Israeli Contacts With Cuba Revealed -- Agent Helping Noriega Also Met Castro To Seek Diplomatic, Trade Ties
A retired Israeli intelligence officer who served as a senior adviser to Panama's Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega visited Cuba several times to discuss the opening of commercial and diplomatic ties between Israel and Cuba, Panamanian military officers told U.S interrogators after the U.S. invasion of Panama on Dec. 20.
The Panamanians said Mike Harari, who fled Panama after the U.S. invasion, told them he had met with Cuban President Fidel Castro several times and that he was acting ``under Israeli government instructions'' to seek improved ties.
The accounts of Harari's trips to Cuba are contained in more than 140 secret reports written by the Joint Debriefing Center of the U.S. Army's 470th Military Intelligence Brigade after the U.S. invasion of Panama. A British investigative reporter, Paul Lashmar of Granada Television's World in Action news program, recently gained access to the papers.
The reports include exhaustive debriefings of top Noriega loyalists now in prison in Panama, including Maj. Felipe Camargo, a former intelligence officer who served for several years as Noriega's top liaison with the Cubans.
Camargo told the U.S. army debriefers that Harari began dealing with Noriega on a regular basis in about 1980, when the Israeli arranged for the training of members of the Panamanian army's special anti-terrorist forces in Israel. A second group of trainees was sent to Israel in 1983.
In 1985, Harari asked Noriega to put him in touch with the Panama-based agent of Cuba's General Directorate of Intelligence (DGI), because he wanted to meet with Castro, Camargo said. At first, the Cuban agent was reluctant to comply, because no specific reason was given for the proposed meeting. ``But later, Harari says that he has a message from the Israeli government for Castro, and the trip is arranged,'' Camargo said.
Camargo, Harari and the Cuban agent made several trips in 1986, 1987 and 1988 to Cuba in the private plane of Carlos Duque, a Noriega business partner who would later become the Panamanian strongman's hand-picked candidate for the 1989 presidential elections.
In Cuba, Harari dealt with Castro and with former Interior Minister Jose Abrantes, Camargo said. Harari also had regular contacts with the Cuban ambassador to Panama and DGI officers in Panama, Camargo said.
In addition to exploring the establishment of official relations, Harari said he was also seeking the reopening of Jewish synagogues in Cuba and the assistance of Cuban intelligence in locating a Nazi war criminal living in Paraguay whose identity was not disclosed.
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