An FBI informant
By 2001, Abascal was living in Hialeah and acting as a confidential informant for the FBI, according to court documents. The FBI and U.S. immigration officials spent almost $80,000 for his housing, food and services, the documents showed. The FBI declined to comment for this story.
Alvarez, a wealthy Miami real estate developer, said he met Abascal in 2002 or 2003 as part of secret contacts with Cuban men who identified themselves as officers in the islands armed forces and opponents of the Castro government.
The officers were real, Alvarez said, but he always knew that Abascal was a Cuban infiltrator.
He always asked too much. He tried to get into everything, Alvarez said. And when something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Abascal nevertheless was hired as a handyman at some of Alvarezs properties, and turned up with Alvarez in Panama in 2004 to voice their support for Posada and three other exiles on trial on charges of plotting to assassinate then-Cuban ruler Fidel Castro.
He also volunteered often as a deckhand on Alvarezs converted shrimper, the Santrina, and testified that he was aboard when it was used to smuggle Posada from Isla Mujeres in Mexico to Miami in March 2005, after Posada and the others were pardoned on the Panama charges.
Wanted by Cuba and Venezuela on separate terrorism charges, Posada later told U.S. immigration officials that he arrived across the U.S. land border with Mexico. U.S. prosecutors charged the CIA-trained explosives expert with 11 counts of perjury.
As the FBI investigated Alvarezs role in the Posada arrival, the developer ordered Abascal and another of his handymen, Osvaldo Mitat, to move a cache of illegal weapons to a new hiding spot. Abascal made one call to a Miami woman believed to be his Cuban intelligence handler, then called the FBI, according to the court records.
Facing Abascals testimony, Alvarez and Mitat pleaded guilty to the weapons charge, and served 30 months in prison. Unidentified friends later surrendered about 60 other illegal weapons as part of the deal with prosecutors.
Abascal also was the key prosecution witness in Posadas 2011 trial in El Paso, Texas, which saw U.S. federal prosecutors deny attorney Hernandezs claims that the witness was a Cuban intelligence agent and was lying about Posadas arrival on U.S. soil.
Like a novel
Hernandezs argument reads like a John Grisham novel, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerome Teresinski objected during the trial. Its fiction. He wants to put Cuba on trial. He wants to put Fidel Castro on trial. He wants to put Mr. Abascal on trial.
A jury found Posada not guilty of perjury about how he entered the country and his role in nine bombings of Cuban tourist spots in 1997. Abascal then disappeared from the public eye until word filtered to Miami that he was back in Cuba.
Still unclear is whether Abascal was sent to South Florida by Cuban intelligence like the five spies convicted in 2001 and sentenced to lengthy prison terms or ran into economic problems here and decided to sell his services to Havana and the FBI.
Court documents filed in the Alvarez and Posada cases showed Abascal wanted the FBIs money and its help in obtaining U.S. citizenship and retaining disability payments for a workplace injury, although he had violated income-tax and other regulations.
Abascals sole motivation was pure, unadulterated greed, said Chris Simmons, a retired Pentagon counter-intelligence expert on Cuba who reviewed some of the documents on Abascals background.
But Simmons added that he has no doubt Abascal was an agent of Cuban intelligence prior to his arrival in Miami, and was trained and targeted against Alvarez, Posada, Mitat and other exiles.
Havanas ability to [also] run Abascal as an FBI informant is reminiscent of its past successes, he added, like Juan Pablo Roque, a Havana spy and FBI informant who played a key role in Cubas shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996 that left four dead.