A senior Cuban official accused a detained U.S. government contractor of spying on Wednesday, a month after the man was arrested on suspicion of handing out communications equipment to opposition groups.
Parliament leader Ricardo Alarcon said the man is under investigation but has not yet been charged. Neither government has identified the man, who was arrested on Dec. 4.
"There is a new institution in the United States which is made up of agents, torturers and spies that are contracted as part of the privatization of war," Alarcon said. "This is a man who was contracted to do work for American intelligence services."
The man was detained as he attempted to board a plane leaving Cuba, but Cuban officials did not grant him access to consular officials from the U.S. Interests Section — which Washington maintains in Cuba instead of an embassy — until Dec. 28.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana could not immediately be reached for comment.
The State Department has said that the man was working as a subcontractor for the Maryland-based economic development organization Development Alternatives Inc., and the company's president has said he was part of a USAID program intended to "strengthen civil society in support of just and democratic governance in Cuba."
The company has referred all further press inquiries to the State Department.
Laws passed by Congress that call for the U.S. government to try to undermine Cuba's communist system also encourage it to support independent organizations on the island. Cuban officials routinely accuse the opposition of being mercenaries paid by Washington to foment dissent.
Alarcon, who made the comments at an event announcing Cuban municipal elections for later this year, would not give any details of the man's condition, or say where he was being held.
"I can assure you that he is much better, much better than the victims of those (U.S. government) contractors around the world," Alarcon said, a reference to evidence that some terror suspects were tortured by American contractors and intelligence agents.
Ruben Remigio Ferro, the chief justice of Cuba's Supreme Court, who was also at the parliamentary event, said the contractor's case had not yet reached the courts. Neither he nor Alarcon would speculate on when or whether formal charges would be brought.
Alarcon's comments were the first by a Cuban official accusing the man of spying.
'Trying to destroy the revolution'
After two weeks of silence on the case, President Raul Castro first acknowledged the detention in an address to Parliament on Dec. 20, saying the American was arrested for distributing illegal satellite communications equipment.
"The United States won't quit trying to destroy the revolution," Castro said, referring to the rebellion led by his brother Fidel, which triumphed on New Year's Day 1959.
"In the past few weeks, we have witnessed the stepping up of the new administration's efforts in this area," he said, adding that the arrest "demonstrates that the enemy is as active as ever."
Relations between the United States and Cuba — once thought to be on the mend — have taken a nosedive in recent weeks. On Tuesday, Cuba called in the top U.S. diplomat on the island to formally protest the countries inclusion on a list of countries whose citizens will be subjected to increased scrutiny when flying to the United States.