By Stephen Kimber
One of the key moments in the story of the Cuban Five occurred on the morning of May 6, 1998, when Nobel-prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez arrived at the White House in Washington carrying a secret message from Cuban President Fidel Castro.
That message — about an exile terrorist plot to blow up an airplane carrying tourists to Cuba — led to that White House meeting and then, directly, to a meeting a month later in Havana between Cuban State Security and a delegation from the FBI, not to forget, indirectly, to the arrests, less than three months after that, of the Cuban Five.
Among the American participants in the May 6 meeting with Garcia Marquez was a man named Jeff Delaurentis. At the time, Delaurentis was “director of Inter-American affairs at the NSC and special advisor on Cuba.” Earlier this summer, Delaurentis was named the new Head of the U.S. Interest Section (the equivalent of the embassy) in Havana.
It is impossible to be certain of the significance of Delaurentis’s appointment to this position at this time, of course, but it seems a positive move at a time when the case of the Cuban Five is finally becoming better known in the United States. The fact Delaurentis was present at the critical Garcia Marquez meeting means he knows first-hand — in a way few other current U.S. officials do — the context for the case of the Cuban Five.
A career diplomat, Delaurentis was — in the words of author Ann Louise Bardach in her book Cuba Confidential — one of those “gently ushered out of Havana” during the Bush administration, presumably because he was not hard enough hard-line for the anti-Castro zealots running Bush’s Cuba policy.
Here’s an excerpt from my book, What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, that focuses on what happened at the meeting between Garcia Marquez and the American officials. It’s based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s own account of his secret mission on behalf of Fidel Castro.